Friday, May 12, 2023

WESTMINCOM: Sara Duterte-Carpio Statement on Designation as Co-Vice Chairperson of the NTF-ELCAC

Posted to the Western Mindanao Command (WESTMINCOM) Facebook Page (May 12, 2023): Sara Duterte-Carpio Statement on Designation as Co-Vice Chairperson of the NTF-ELCAC

4th Civil Relations Group
Congratulations to VP Sara Duterte for being designated as the Co-Vice Chairperson of NTF ELCAC in the latest EXECOM meeting!
Let's continue to work hand in hand towards a peaceful and progressive Philippines.

Follow us in our other social media accounts:

WESTMINCOM: 16 former violent extremists presented to Maguindanao del Sur LGUs

Posted to the Western Mindanao Command (WESTMINCOM) Facebook Page (May 13, 2023): 16 former violent extremists presented to Maguindanao del Sur LGUs

Camp Navarro, Calarian, Zamboanga City – May 13, 2023

Sixteen former members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters-Karialan Faction were presented by the military to the local government units of Maguindanao del Sur on May 11, 2023.
Joint Task Force Central Commander, Maj. Gen. Alex Rillera said the former violent extremists (FVEs) laid down their arms and submitted themselves to the 6th Infantry Battalion. The surrendered personalities handed over one M653 rifle (converted R4/Bushmaster), one 60mm Mortar, two cal .30 Garand rifles, three cal .30 Sniper rifles, two M79 rifles, one Rocket-Propelled Grenade, two cal 7.62 Sniper rifles, one M14 rifle, and one Rocket-Propelled Grenade 40mm High Explosive ammunition.
The FVEs and surrendered were presented to the local government units of Mamasapano under Mayor Akmad Ampatuan, Jr.; Datu Salibo, represented by Atty Sittie Farhanie Uy, BTA member and Samsudin Sandigan, Executive Assistant; and Shariff Saydona Mustapha represented by Mr. Omar Sisay.
Also present during the activity were the representatives from the Police Regional Office-Bangsamoro Autonomous Region, the 601st Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army, the Maguindanao Provincial Police Office, and the PNP and AFP intelligence units.
Surrendered firearms and ammunition were deposited at the H6IB Supply Room for safekeeping.
“Together with the local governments and other law enforcement agencies, we will sustain our campaign to end lawless violence, which will pave the way for the realization of internal security and development here in Mindanao. While employing the whole-of-nation approach, we will not stop our focused military operations to pound down the remaining threats and contain radicalism in our joint area of operations,” Lt. Gen. Roy Galido, Commander of Western Mindanao Command, said.

CPP/NPA-South Central Negros: Mangunguma sa Kabankalan city, gindakop sang militar

Propaganda statement posted to the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) Philippine Revolution Web Central (PRWC) Website (May 12, 2023): Mangunguma sa Kabankalan city, gindakop sang militar (Farmer in Kabankalan city, arrested by the military)

Dionesio Magbuelas
NPA-South Central Negros (Mt. Cansermon Command)
Negros Island Regional Operational Command (Apolinario Gatmaitan Command)
New People's Army

May 12, 2023

Isa ka sibilyan ang gindakop sg mga katapo sang 94th IB sa Sitio Dangalon, Barangay Hilamunan, Kabankalan city. Ginreport sa mga residente sa nasambit nga lugar ang pagdakop sa isa ka sibilyan kag mangunguma nga si Allan Ramos, soltero, residente sa amo nga lugar.

Gindakop si Ramos matapos nagpatarasak sg pagpalupok ang mga katapo sg 94thIB sa balay sa mag-utod nga sanday Tisoy kag Allan Ramos kahapon pasado alas 5 sg hapon Mayo 11. Nagdinalagan ang duha ka mag-utod kag ang iban pa nila nga mga katupad balay bangud sa tuman nga kahadlok.

Suno sa mga residente, nakita na nila si Allan nga gindakop sang mga militar kag tubtob subong wala pa nahibaluan kon diin.

Subong padayon gihapon nga nagapanghalit ang tropa sg 94thIB sa mga sibilyan sa amo nga sitio kag mga katambi sini halin pa sg ligad semana.

Kalinaw News: NPA arms cache recovered in San Jose, Tarlac

From Kalinaw News Facebook Page (May 11, 2023): NPA arms cache recovered in San Jose, Tarlac

Due to resident engagement with the army of 3rd Mechanized Infantry Battalion, arms cache of rebel NPA dug in San Jose, Tarlac.


Kalinaw News: Weapons recovered following encounter with NPA in Oriental Mindoro

From Kalinaw News Facebook Page (May 11, 2023): Weapons recovered following encounter with NPA in Oriental Mindoro

Another victory was recorded by the army of the 76th Infantry Battalion after the troops recovered war materials in an encounter against the NPA in Oriental Mindoro.


2 high powered guns seized by Army

From the Visayan Daily Star (May 13, 2023): 2 high powered guns seized by Army (By GILBERT P. BAYORAN)

High powered firearms and other war materials recovered by Army soldiers in renewed armed skirmishes with NPA rebels in Brgy. Hilamonan, Kabankalan City, Negros Occidental.* PA photo

Armed skirmishes erupted anew as Army soldiers pursuing New People’s Army rebels they had encountered last week, caught up with the fleeing rebels on Thursday, in Sitio Dangalon, Brgy. Hilamonan, Kabankalan City, Negros Occidental.

Lt. Col. Van Donald Almonte, 94th Infantry Battalion commander, yesterday disclosed that the encounter between his troops and about 15 members of the Sentro De Grabidad Platoon, who are remnants of the Central Negros 2, under the Komiteng Rehiyonal Negros/Cebu/Bohol/Siquijor, lasted about 20 minutes.

Almonte said the fleeing rebels left behind an M16 rifle assault rifle, an M4 carbine automatic rifle, with two short magazines containing several ammunition, and other personal belongings.

He added no one was hurt from the government side, while fleeing rebels believed to have suffered at least two casualties, based on heavy traces of bloodstains found at the encounter site.

The encounter was a product of pursuit operations conducted by the 94IB against the same rebel group they encountered on May 3, in neighboring Brgy. Buenavista, Himamaylan City, that resulted in the death of a rebel identified as Crispin Tingal, of Brgy. Hilamonan, Kabankalan City, injuries to two soldiers and a civilian, as well as the recovery of an M653 assault rifle.

In a statement, Maj. Gen. Marion Sison, 3rd Infantry Division commander, lauded the lauded the 94IB operating troops of the 94IB and residents of Barangay Hilamonan for their collaborative effort that resulted in successful combat operations that yielded guns and other war materials.

“As I have always said, they can run, but they cannot hide, for we have the support of the Negrenses, who are already fed up with their deceptions and atrocities,” Sison said.

He added that the people’s support is their motivation to sustain operations against remnants of the communist terrorist group.

Village chair ambushed in Cotabato City

From MindaNews (May 12, 2023): Village chair ambushed in Cotabato City (By FERDINANDH B. CABRERA)

Bullets hit one of the cars of Bimbo Ayunan’s convoy but nobody was hurt. MindaNews photo by FERDINANDH CABRERA

COTABATO CITY (MindaNews / 12 May) — The barangay chair of Kalanganan Mother, Cotabato City and his companions were ambushed before midnight on Thursday.

Bimbo Ayunan told police he and his companions were passing along Amado Papa Street in Barangay Rosary Heights to fetch a barangay councilman who was watching a basketball game in a neighboring barangay when gunshots rang out.

One of the cars of Ayunan’s convoy was hit but nobody was hurt.

Police and Philippine Marines personnel responded to the incident.

The attackers were able to escape but Ayunan’s companions said they were able to identify them.

The ambush happened on the same day that General Benjamin Acorda Jr., chief of the Philippine National Police, arrived in the city for a security summit with military and Bangsamoro officials ahead of the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections in October.

Philippines, Indonesia conclude joint maritime exercises

From the Mindanao Examiner (May 12, 2023): Philippines, Indonesia conclude joint maritime exercises

DAVAO CITY – The Philippines and Indonesia have closed a four-day annual joint maritime exercises held in Manado City.

The 37th Coordinated Patrol (CORPAT) started on May 3 and ended on May 7, according to the Eastern Mindanao Command, adding, the bilateral patrol between the Philippine and Indonesian Navies, carried out four times a year through Harbor and Sea Phases to foster interoperability and secure the maritime borders of both countries against piracy, smuggling, illegal crossing, and other criminal activities.

The 35-man Philippine Border Committee (PHBC) members led by Lt. Gen. Greg Almerol, chief of the Eastern Mindanao Command and also PHBC Chairman; and Commodore Carlos Sabarre, commander of Naval Forces Eastern Mindanao who is also the PHBC Vice-Chairman.

The exercised were also participated by the Tactical Operations Wing-Eastern Mindanao, the Coast Guard District South Eastern Mindanao, Bureau of Immigration, National Intelligence Coordinating Agency, the Department of Foreign Affairs, Bureau of Quarantine, Philippine Statistics Authority and observers from the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations.

Through the joint efforts and assistance of the respective governments, the PHBC and IDBC also facilitated the repatriation of six Filipino fishermen from Indonesia.

Almerol expressed the willingness of the PHBC to revise and improve the provisions of the 1975 Border Patrol and Border Crossing agreement to keep up with the complexities and evolving nature of the current security and defense landscape.

“We welcome endeavors to explore new opportunities for joint development, including countering terrorism and violent extremism, maritime security, and defense industry. The entire Armed Forces of the Philippines commit to strengthen our partnership in all joint endeavors and exert our best efforts to safeguard the maritime borders and best interest of our respective countries,” he said. (Mindanao Examiner)

Hanwha Systems to supply CMS for Philippine Navy's OPVs

From Jane's (May 12, 2023): Hanwha Systems to supply CMS for Philippine Navy's OPVs (By Oishee Majumdar)

South Korea's Hanwha Systems has secured a contract worth USD34.5 million to supply its combat management system (CMS) and tactical datalink (TDL) for the Philippine Navy's new offshore patrol vessels (OPVs), being built by Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI).

Under the contract, Hanwha Systems will provide CMSs worth USD29.5 million and TDLs worth USD5 million for the six 2,400 tonne OPVs that the Philippine Navy will acquire, the company said in a media release on 12 May.

Hanwha Systems' CMS will integrate the various sensors, weapons, and communication systems of the OPVs, and facilitate quick and appropriate response from defence forces by enhancing their ability to analyse any situation or environment, the company said. The TDL will support communication of tactical information in real time, Hanwha Systems added.

Hanwha Systems had not responded to Janes request for more information at the time of publication.

Opinion: The time is ripe for the enhancement of Philippines-India strategic partnership

Opinion piece posted to the Manila Times (May 13, 2023): The time is ripe for the enhancement of Philippines-India strategic partnership (By AMBASSADOR AMIT DASGUPTA AND DON MCLAIN GILL)

THE driving force in a meaningful bilateral partnership is the convergence in perspectives on shared challenges and concerns, coupled with collaborative steps to counter it. Most soft attributes, such as shared commitment to democracy, the English language, a colonial past, to name a few, are essentially peripheral to a relationship, though they can certainly be enablers.

India and the Philippines share many such commonalities. Yet, for decades, the relationship was at best polite and at worst, lacked depth and substance. This has dramatically changed with the shifts that took place within Manila's domestic politics, and the alterations in the overarching regional security architecture brought by the expansionist aspirations of China and the intensifying power competition between Washington and Beijing in the Western Pacific region.

Non-traditional partners With the advent of former president Rodrigo Duterte's independent approach in Philippine foreign policy in 2016, Manila began to notably recalibrate the trajectory of its external relations, which paved the path for more robust strategic ties with non-traditional partners, such as India. This reformed foreign policy approach also coincided with the rising threats posed by an increasingly assertive China. While the Duterte administration sought to manage ties with China, Beijing's narrowly defined regional ambitions continue to provoke the Philippines' sovereignty and sovereign rights, particularly in the West Philippine Sea.

Under Xi Jinping, China has demonstrated scant regard for fraternal relations and international law that could have a lasting and damaging impact on the Indo-Pacific, which would be inimical to global welfare. Both New Delhi and Manila have experienced combative, aggressive and arbitrary Chinese intrusions challenging their sovereignty and strategic interests. This lies at the heart of rapidly enhanced defense and security cooperation between India and the Philippines. The $375-million contract to supply shore-based anti-ship Brahmos supersonic missiles to the Philippines, the increase in regular high-level security meetings from both sides and the enhancement of naval exercises, are reflections of an entirely new way of engaging with each other to counter China's expansionist agenda in the region.

Under the current administration of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., Manila realizes that the gravity of Beijing's hegemonic ambitions is a matter of critical concern for the security of Philippine sovereignty and sovereign rights. Reaching out to like-minded partners to strengthen its defense capabilities is the best way forward to deter and check Beijing. Marcos' desire to deepen and broaden the Philippines' security partnership with the United States, Japan and Australia, along with his visit to Washington from April 30 to May 4, serve as testaments to this acknowledgement.

Convergences It is in this context that the potential remains high for the Philippines and India to further expand the scope of their evolving strategic partnership. Manila and New Delhi converge in several key areas of concern. Both countries seek to maintain the functionality of a democratic, equitable, inclusive and rules-based Indo-Pacific. Both Indo-Pacific neighbors also share apprehensions regarding the possibility for the region to fall deeper into a catastrophic military confrontation that the global community can ill afford.

Manila and New Delhi have also experienced China's notorious attitude of ensuring political cooperation on one hand while congruently disrespecting its neighbor's sovereignty on the other. When Prime Minister Narendra Modi hosted President Xi Jinping in 2019 in the context of improving bilateral relations, Chinese troops were simultaneously crossing into Indian territory in an unabashed manner. Similarly, when Beijing pledged to manage bilateral ties with Manila during the meeting between Marcos and Xi in January, China once again engaged in provocative acts against Philippine sovereignty and sovereign rights within Philippine waters just days after. The same thing occurred days after Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang's Manila visit in April. These continued acts of deception have critically damaged trust vis-...-vis Beijing.

The Philippines is conscious of Beijing's obsession with the belief that the South China Sea (SCS) belongs to them. Marcos is a proactive and astute negotiator, and is acutely aware that Manila's relations with Beijing had started to sour over a decade ago when China unilaterally claimed ownership of the entire SCS. India, similarly, is aware of Chinese claims on vast areas of its territories. Both New Delhi and Manila realize that only a collaborative approach would send an unequivocal message to Beijing.

India also maintains close and robust strategic relations with the Philippines' major defense partners. India continues to deepen and broaden its multifaceted security relations with Australia, the US and Japan bilaterally, and through several multilateral formats like the Quad, the Malabar and the Group of 20. The China threat is multidimensional and accords possibilities of enhanced cooperation between India and the Philippines, including in areas, such as cybersecurity and critical technologies, AI (artificial intelligence), robotics, satellite technology and space research, at a time when Beijing's approach toward the West Philippine Sea relies heavily on asymmetric and non-military means of pursuing strategic objectives in a slow but sure fashion.

The rise of the Philippines-India strategic partnership has just recently begun. Marcos and Modi must continue to strengthen the momentum of their evolving strategic partnership. The recent indication of willingness from both sides for India to deploy a defense attaché for its embassy in the Philippines is a step in the right direction. Moreover, India's offer to enhance Manila's cyber defense capabilities, and the completion of the first-ever maritime exercises between India and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) this month are other welcome developments.

For the rest of the globe, struggling to recover from the pandemic, to cope with the negative spillovers of the war in Eastern Europe and to craft policies to address China's increasing assertiveness, it will be a proactive and pragmatic step for the Philippines and India to further enhance and elevate the status of their improving partnership.

[Amit Dasgupta was formerly Indian ambassador to the Philippines, and is a Fellow with the Society of Policy Studies, India.  Don McLain Gill is the director for South & Southeast Asia, Philippine-Middle East Studies Association (PMESA) and a lecturer at the Department of International Studies, De La Salle University (DLSU).]

Exercise in Philippines offers chance to assess progress of Multi-Domain Task Force

Posted to DVIDS (May 12, 2023): Exercise in Philippines offers chance to assess progress of Multi-Domain Task Force (By Jonathan Koester, Joint Modernization Command)

Photo By Jonathan Koester | Maj. Adam Schinder, cyberspace and electronic warfare integrator at the U.S. Army Joint Modernization Command, and others observe the 1st Multi-Domain Task Force’s use of Transportable Tactical Command Communications at Camp Magsaysay, Philippines, during Balikatan/Joint Warfighting Assessment 23.

As one of Army Futures Command’s first forays into in-theater persistent experimentation, a team of observers/assessors is in the Philippines looking at the 1st Multi-Domain Task Force’s capabilities in the Pacific.

This Joint Warfighting Assessment (JWA) team is looking at the 1st MDTF’s concepts and capabilities during Balikatan 23, a Marine-led exercise. The JWA23 team is led by the U.S. Army Joint Modernization Command and includes experts from various Capability Development Integration Divisions. The assessment is meant to build on the lessons learned during past Joint Warfighting Assessments and Project Convergence capstone events. With persistent experimentation, regular assessments like this throughout each year will allow Army modernization and transformation efforts to maintain momentum and speed.

Brigadier General Bernard Harrington, Commander of the 1st MDTF, underscored the significance of initiatives like JWA23 in shaping the future of the Army in the Indo-Pacific.

“JWA23 is an opportunity to get multiple teams together to figure out how we get the Joint force into position in the Indo-Pacific” Harrington said. “Over the last two years, USARPAC [U.S. Army Pacific] has steadily increased investments in the First Island Chain, placing combat-credible forces on key terrain to build interoperability with key partners. JWA23 is one feedback mechanism to evaluate how we prevent conflict and prevail in competition.”

The MDTF is the newest formation in the Army and is at the forefront of Army experimentation. Many of the new capabilities the Army is looking to in the future would come from the MDTF. During JWA 23, the JMC-led team is assessing the 1st MDTF’s ability to integrate with Joint partners and allies, Joint sensor to shooter efforts, Joint networking, and Joint force protection. As part of preparing for future conflict, the MDTF is being asked to do things the Army has never done before.

Balikatan is the largest annual bilateral exercise conducted between the Philippines and the United States. This year’s exercise, which took place in late April, was the largest to date, with more than 17,600 participants. Balikatan advances combined military modernization and capability development efforts by providing realistic rehearsals of concept, as well as numerous subject matter expertise exchanges.

From the beginning, the build of the MDTF was designed to be a Joint force enabler. Looking specifically at the Pacific, adversaries have spent the past 20 years designing a network to keep out the Army’s Joint force partners, focusing on high-flying aircraft and large maritime vessels, said Lt. Col. Ben Blane of the 1st MDTF.

“When we talk about the Balikatan exercise, we do have this relationship with the partners here in the Philippines,” Blane said. “But we’re also bringing in our partners from the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Marines. We’re connected with our partners afloat in the Pacific and also in our main operations center at Joint Base Lewis-McChord who are helping us with some of these concepts. It’s that partnership, and then together, really building those capabilities forward in the Pacific. So, if we do rise to the point of conflict, we have some survivable positions here that can support the Joint force.”

The Joint Modernization Command and its Joint Warfighting Assessments have been important to the MDTF’s experimentation and development from the start, Blane said. And as part of AFC’s persistent experimentation efforts, JWAs continue to be an integral part of developing the right capabilities with the right people for the future of competition and warfare.

“To take you all the way back to JWA19, the assessors saw the value in filling some of these gaps that we were talking about,” he said. “There was a quote in the final document that said the Army needs to immediately prioritize this formation and get into both PACOM and EUCOM as fast as possible. You saw the activation of the MDTF soon after.

“Bringing in this team here during JWA23, we refine these ideas, talk about these concepts, talk about the things we’re learning, and then get it through that other lens where we’re bringing in experts with the JMC team and all of the Army Modernization Enterprise,” Blane said. “We’re really honing in on what we’re doing here, why it's important, and then taking that refined message and then being able to push that back out to the rest of the force. That’s huge. And I’ll tell you what, the Soldiers are super excited about what they’re doing.”

MDTF experimentation is critical to getting the formations and capabilities of future warfare correct. Joint and Combined multidomain operations are key to the future, and the MDTF is at the cutting edge of that concept. As they operate during Balikatan/Joint Warfighting Assessment 23, JMC will be there to assess their capabilities and gaps, as persistent experimentation helps transform the Army.

US-Philippines ties: From military partnership to the comprehensive strategic defence alliance

From The Times of India (May 12, 2023): US-Philippines ties: From military partnership to the comprehensive strategic defence alliance (By SD Pradhan)

Notwithstanding the Philippines’ wavering policy in the past, the current approach reflects that the Philippines has firmly moved closer to the US. President of the Philippines Marcos, during his visit to the US, met President Biden and discussed the bilateral relations amid the increasing tension in the South China Sea (SCS)/West Philippines Sea (WPS). He also paid a visit to the Pentagon, where he and Austin, the US Secretary of Defense, Austin discussed the strengthening of defence ties and modernisation of the Philippines’ forces aimed at developing additional maritime capabilities.

While Austin reiterated the United States’ ironclad commitment to the Philippines under the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) stating that this treaty ‘applies to armed attacks on our armed forces, coast guard vessels, public vessels, or aircraft in the Pacific, including anywhere in the South China Sea or elsewhere in the region,’ Marcos declared that his visit will push up the efforts to strengthen relationships between the two nations.

In April, the two nations held “two-plus-two” talks with defence and foreign affairs leaders in Washington. According to the US Department of Defense website, the two militaries are deepening coordination and interoperability at all levels. Recently, the Balikatan exercise was hosted in the Philippines. It was the largest Balikatan exercise in history with 17,000 troops from the Philippines, the United States and Australia.

Crucially, the two countries established ‘the Bilateral Defense Guidelines’ to modernise and strengthen the alliance. They address both conventional and non-conventional security challenges of their shared concern. This document, mentioning the importance of the past defence agreements between the two countries since 1952, stated that the alliance has evolved from a military partnership to a comprehensive strategic defence alliance that institutionalised policy-level consultations through the inauguration of the Bilateral Strategic Dialogue (BSD) in 2011 and the Two-Plus-Two (2+2) Ministerial Consultations in 2012.

There were five important dimensions in the guidelines. First, the two sides agreed to have a system for close cooperation in the decision-making process. They agreed to develop “adaptable decision-making processes and effective communication procedures to support flexible, timely, and effective bilateral coordination and action tailored to each situation through interagency coordination.”

Second, they agreed to broaden information sharing on the principal threats and challenges confronting the alliance to identify at the earliest possible stage. They stressed the real-time intelligence sharing to support deeper interoperability and operational coordination.

Third, the two sides agreed to provide financial assistance for the procurement of interoperable defence platforms by the Philippines from the US. The US agreed to expand investments in non-materiel defence capacity building in the form of education and training exchanges.

Fourth, the two countries decided to improve cyber defence and cyber security cooperation to secure critical infrastructure and build protection against attacks emanating from state and non-state actors. This aspect is important as the Chinese-sponsored cyber-attacks are on the increase.

Fifth, they agreed to enhance cooperation in countering terrorism to deter the perpetrators and address the root causes of radicalisation and violence. They agreed to capacity-building activities to respond to chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear-related (CBRN) attacks as well as to counter the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) through efficient information sharing.

In addition, according to the US, Marcos and Austin discussed plans to swiftly operationalize the four new EDCA (Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement) sites in Northern Luzon and Palawan. These new sites will enable combined training, exercises, and other cooperative activities – including to support the U.S. and Philippine Armed Forces’ (AFP) maritime security, maritime domain awareness, and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief capabilities – to address a range of shared challenges in the Philippines and across the Indo-Pacific.

Significantly, the US and the Philippines agreed to press for the implementation of the PCA Ruling. Marcos and Austin also discussed ways to coordinate more closely with like-minded nations—including Australia and Japan—to strengthen shared principles, including the rule of law, freedom of the seas, and respect for territorial sovereignty. They reaffirmed the United States and the Philippines’ enduring commitment to stand shoulder-to-shoulder as allies to bring greater security, prosperity, and stability to the Indo-Pacific region and beyond.

The above reflects enduring relationship is emerging between the two counties. While most other countries in the region are maintaining either a balanced approach between the US and China or are moving closer to China, this country has adopted a different approach. The close ties between the US and the Philippines and availability of new sites certainly help the US operationally in taking necessary steps against China. The US-Philippines alliance has been made stronger and they may soon start joint patrolling in the SCS. Besides, the US-Japan-South Korea alliance and AUKUS are there in the SCS. Whether they deter China or not only time will tell. However, China will have to keep these alliances in its calculus while making aggressive moves toward the Philippines or other countries in the region. Simultaneously, the demand for a legally binding Code of Conduct (CoC) is growing. Indonesia, Vietnam, and the Philippines are pressing for it.

[S D Pradhan has served as chairman of India's Joint Intelligence Committee. He has also been the country's deputy national security adviser. He was chairman of the Task Force on Intelligence Mechanism (2008-2010), which was constituted to review the functioning of the intelligence agencies. He has taught at the departments of defence studies and history at the Punjabi University, Patiala. He was also a visiting professor at the University of Illinois, US, in the department of arms control and disarmament studies. The ministry of defence had utilized his services for the preparation of official accounts of the 1971 war and the counterinsurgency operations in the northeast. In the JIC/National Security Council secretariat, he was closely involved with the preparation of the reports of the Kargil Review Committee and the Group of Ministers on national security as also with the implementation of their recommendations. His publications include two books and several articles.]

PNP Chief oversees mass surrender of 50 BIFF combatants in BARMM

From the Manila Bulletin (May 12, 2023): PNP Chief oversees mass surrender of 50 BIFF combatants in BARMM (By MARTIN SADONGDONG)

  • Fifty combatants of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) surrendered in Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) on Thursday, May 11.
  • The mass surrender was witnessed by Police General Benjamin Acorda Jr., Chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP), at the headquarters of the Police Regional Office (PRO) BARMM in Camp Brig. Gen. Salipada K. Pendatun, Parang, Maguindanao del Norte.
  • The surrendered BIFF combatants received the "PEDTABANGA TANU" livelihood assistance program from Acorda which they can use for their transition to the mainstream society.
Police General Benjamin Acorda Jr., Chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP), personally witnessed the mass surrender of 50 combatants of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) on Thursday, May 11.

(PNP Chief Police Gen. Benjamin Acorda Jr. / Photo by PRO-BARMM)

Acorda graced the event during his visit at the headquarters of the Police Regional Office (PRO) BARMM in Camp Brig. Gen. Salipada K. Pendatun, Parang, Maguindanao del Norte.

Police Brig. Gen. Redrico Maranan, chief of PNP public information office, said the mass surrender of the insurgents marked a crucial step towards attaining lasting peace and reconciliation in the Bangsamoro region.

“Police General Acorda expressed his appreciation for the brave decision of the 50 BIFF members to embrace peace and work towards a better future for their communities,” Maranan said on Friday, May 12.

The surrendered BIFF combatants received the "PEDTABANGA TANU" livelihood assistance program from Acorda which they can use for their transition to the mainstream society.

“Through livelihood training, skills development, and financial aid, the PNP and its partners are committed to ensuring that the former combatants have sustainable means of income and livelihood,” Maranan said.

The PNP Chief also presided over a stakeholders summit at Camp Pendatun which brought together key leaders and representatives from various sectors including the government, civil society, religious groups, and the private sector.


(PNP Chief Police Gen. Benjamin Acorda Jr. / Photo by PRO-BARMM)

“During the summit, General Acorda emphasized the importance of inclusive and participatory governance, highlighting the need for sustained efforts in addressing the root causes of conflict and promoting social cohesion,” Maranan noted.

“The discussions centered around collaborative initiatives, capacity-building programs, and community engagement strategies to build a united and prosperous Bangsamoro region,” he added.

Acorda then led a command conference with the PRO-BARMM headed by its regional director, Police Brig. Gen. Allan Nobleza, “to discuss key issues and strategic plans for maintaining peace and security in the region.”

50 BIFF members surrender to Bangsamoro police

From the Philippine Star (May 12, 2023): 50 BIFF members surrender to Bangsamoro police (By John Unson)

The 50 members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters who surrendered Friday are now in the custody of the Police Regional Office-Bangsamoro Autonomous Region. / John Unson

COTABATO CITY, Philippines — Fifty members of the outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters surrendered Friday, the largest group ever to return to the fold of law through the intercession of the police.

The group turned in assault rifles, grenade launchers, mortar rounds and components for improvised explosive devices before renouncing their membership with the BIFF in a symbolic rite at Camp SK Pendatun in Parang, Maguindanao del Norte.

The event was jointly presided over by Police Gen. Benjamin Acorda Jr., the newly-installed national police chief, and Brig. Gen. Allan Nobleza, director of the Police Regional Office-Bangsamoro Autonomous Region.

Acorda said he is thankful to officials of PRO-BAR and local executives in different Bangsamoro provinces for having secured the surrender of the 50 BIFF members via backchannel dialogues.

Local officials told reporters 13 of the BIFF members who surrendered at Camp SK Pendatun were experts in fabrication of improvised explosive devices.

Two of the bomb-makers, who asked to be identified only as Tasil and Pagal, separately said they decided to yield, as an initial step to their reintroduction to mainstream society, after learning that those who surrendered ahead of them have returned to their barangays and rejoined their families.

In their messages, Acorda and Nobleza said credit for the surrender of the 50 BIFF members also has to go to different agencies in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao that have continuing humanitarian interventions that helped transform those who turned themselves in ahead and availed of BARMM and PRO-BAR’s joint reconciliation programs for violent religious extremists.

The BIFF and its allies Dawlah Islamiya and the Al-Khobar, all fashioned from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, are known for fomenting deep-seated animosity towards non-Muslims.

No fewer than 200 BIFF members had surrendered since 2019 to units of PRO-BAR that covers the provinces of Maguindanao del Norte, Maguindanao del Sur, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi and the cities of Cotabato, Marawi and Lamitan.

The 50 BIFF surrenderers each received from PRO-BAR initial food supplies, hand tractors and water buffaloes that they can use as draft animals for rice and corn farming.

Abra court quashes rebellion charge against community journalist, six others

From Rappler (May 12, 2023): Abra court quashes rebellion charge against community journalist, six others (By SHERWIN DE VERA)

(1st UPDATE)'Trumped-up charges are not matters we can just brush off when dropped/junked, else state forces will just pile charges upon charges against activists,' says Cordillera People's Alliance chair Windel Bolinget

BAGUIO CITY — The Abra Regional Trial Court on Thursday, May 11 granted the motion to quash rebellion charges that the military filed against a community journalist and six other activists and development workers in the Cordillera and Ilocos regions.

“… Jennifer Awingan, Sarah Abellon-Alikes, Stephen Tauli, Windel Bolinget, Lucia Lourdes Gimenes, Nino Joseph Oconer, and Florence Kang were NEVER identified…. (and) hereby EXCLUDED from the information for lack of probable cause,” Judge Corpuz Alzate of the Bangued RTC Branch 2 said in his decision.

He also ordered the quashing of all warrants issued against the seven petitioners.

Oconer is the Ilocos Correspondent of Northern Dispatch. Bolingert, Tauli, and Awingan are leaders of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance. Abellon-Alikes and Kang are development workers, and Gimenez is a peasant rights activist.

The CPA and Nodis welcomed the decision and thanked those who supported the campaign.

“The case of rebellion/insurrection against us is baseless and fabricated…. I hope this will be the last of trumped-up charges against me, my colleagues, and all activists,” said CPA chair Windel Bolinget.

“However, trumped-up charges are not matters we can just brush off when dropped/junked. Justice and accountability should still prevail, else state forces will just pile charges upon charges against activists,” he added.

Nordis said charges filed against activists prove the government’s desperation “to silence dissent” and “criminalize activism and critical reporting”.

“This is the Nth time the court unraveled the lies and deceit of state security forces,” the outfit said.

“As we continue to call to stop the attacks, we also savor this win for press freedom, this triumph for activists. Today’s victory proves that no matter how hard, the truth shall always prevail against those who weave lies,” Nordis added.
Flawed claims

The 24th Infantry Battalion implicated them in the October 2022 ambush by New People’s Army guerrillas in Malibcong, Abra, that resulted in the death of two soldiers.

QUASHED. The May 11, 2023 decision by Judge Corpuz Alzate of the Bangued (Abra) Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 2 quashed the rebellion charges filed by the military against a community journalist and six other activists and development workers. Cordillera Human Rights Alliance

The judge said the two survivors from the attack did not identify the seven individuals. They only named Jovencio Tangbawan and Dalcedo Dumayon as perpetrators, he pointed out.

His decision also noted that the seven petitioners were added on the information just on basis of the claim that they are leaders of the guerrilla unit linked to the two other suspects.

Police arrested Awingan last January 30 in her home in Baguio City. She posted bail on February 12, followed by the six individuals on February 20.

The respondents experienced red-tagging and harassment from state security forces before filing the case.

Several of them have also faced charges filed by the police and military in the past, which the courts eventually dismissed.

Human rights lawyer and co-counsel for the accused Rene Cortes urged the government to focus its effort on curbing the rampant corruption and abuses instead of wasting resources in filing bogus cases against activists.

Cortes is confident that the court will deny any appeal from the prosecution because “there is not even a strand of evidence to link” the activists to encounter.

Meanwhile, human rights group Karapatan said the case should not have reached the court.

“In the first place, such cases should not have been filed and given course because these are baseless and fabricated cases meant to persecute the defenders,” said Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay.

[Retired Analyst Note: This case, along with a number of others, highlights the difficulties that government prosecutors have in proving direct links between known Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) legal front group organizations and personalities and the clandestine, illegal insurgent activity of the New People's Army.]

Hundreds displaced in Kabankalan clash

From Panay News (May 13, 2023): Hundreds displaced in Kabankalan clash (By DOMINIQUE GABRIEL G. BAÑAGA)

BACOLOD City – Around 553 individuals fled their homes while two high-powered firearms were recovered as a result of the gun battle between the Philippine Army’s 94th Infantry Battalion (94IB) and the New People’s Army (NPA) in the hinterlands of Sitio Dangalon, Barangay Hilamonan, Kabankalan City, Negros Occidental on Thursday night, May 11.

Brigadier General Orlando Edralin, commander of the 303rd Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army, said the soldiers engaged about 15 fighters of the NPA’s Sentro De Grabidad Platoon – Central Negros 2 after the rebels were spotted asking for medicines for their comrades wounded during a clash last week in adjacent Himamaylan City.

The 94IB soldiers did not suffer any casualty, although several of the rebels may have been wounded as bloodstains were discovered in their withdrawal route after about 20 minutes of gun battle, according to Lieutenant Colonel Van Donald Almonte, 94IB commander.

During the clearing operation, troops recovered an M16 rifle, an M4 rifle, two magazines for M16, 11 rounds of 5.56mm live ammunition, a bandolier, a backpack, and personal belongings.

Data from the Philippine Army as of Friday noon showed there were 15 individuals from three families staying at the barangay hall of Buenavista in Himamaylan City; 136 individuals from 24 families (Paloypoy Integrated School); 170 individuals from 34 families (Paloypoy Church); and 232 individuals from 61 families (Barangay Hilamonan gymnasium).

All internally displaced persons have been provided food packs by the City Social Welfare and Development Office of their local government units.

On May 3, an encounter took place in Sitio Paloypoy-Daku and Sitio Ulo-Tuburan, Barangay Buenavista. The Army reported one rebel casualty it identified as Crispin Tingal, 36, of Sitio Dangalon, Barangay Hilamonan. (With a report from the Philippine News Agency)/PN

NPA member killed in clash with gov’t troops in Antequera, Bohol

From the Manila Bulletin (May 12, 2023): NPA member killed in clash with gov’t troops in Antequera, Bohol (By CALVIN CORDOVA)

CEBU CITY – A member of the New People’s Army (NPA) was killed in an encounter with government troops on Friday, May 12, in Antequera, Bohol.

In a report by the Bohol Provincial Police Office (BPPO), the fatality was identified as a certain “Jasper,” a political guide of the Sandatahang Yunit Propaganda (SYP) Platoon of the Bohol Party Committee (BPC).

A .45 caliber pistol was recovered after the firefight.

The report added that personnel of the 47th Infantry Battalion, Bohol Regional Intelligence Unit, Provincial Intelligence Unit, Provincial Mobile Force Company, Maneuver Company, Regional Mobile Force Battalion, Antequera Municipal Police Station, and San Isidro Municipal Police Station figured in a firefight with at least five members of the BPC.

The firefight lasted for about five minutes before the rebels retreated, the BPPO said.

There were no injuries or casualties on the government side.

Lt. Gen. Benedict Arevalo, commander of the Visayas Command, commended the continuing operations to ensure peace and security in the area.

“I commend our troops for their steadfast commitment in ending the local communist armed conflict in the Visayas region,” said Arevalo.

“This is a clear manifestation of our strong desire to attain just and lasting peace and sustain the democratic way of life for all the people in this part of the country,” added Arevalo.

Arevalo said the Communist Party of the Philippines-NPA (CPP-NPA) continues to suffer setbacks.

"We are resolute in our ceaseless campaign to end the local communist armed conflict which has disrupted the lives and progress of our people in the Visayas. We, therefore, reiterate our call to the few remaining members of the CPP-NPA to lay down their arms and return to the folds of the law. Heed the call of our government for genuine peace before the long arms of justice will catch up with you,” said Arevalo.

400 individuals displaced anew in Negros clash between gov’t troops and NPA rebels

From the Manila Bulletin (May 12, 2023): 400 individuals displaced anew in Negros clash between gov’t troops and NPA rebels (By GLAZYL MASCULINO)

BACOLOD CITY – The Army 303rd Infantry Brigade (IBde) reported that 122 families composed of 441 individuals were evacuated following a clash between government forces and the New People’s Army (NPA) in Sitio Dangalon, Barangay Hilamonan, Kabankalan City, Negros Occidental on Thursday, May 11.

MAYOR Benjie Miranda visits some residents who were affected by a clash between the military and New People’s Army (NPA) in Barangay Hilamonan, Kabankalan City, Negros Occidental on Thursday, May 11. (Photo courtesy of Bulig ni Mayor Benjie Miranda via Facebook)

Capt. Melvin Rosal, civil military operations officer of the 303rd IBde, said the clash also affected some residents of Barangay Buenavista, Himamaylan City since the fighting happened at the boundaries of the two cities.

Sixty-one families or 232 individuals were evacuated to the gymnasium of Barangay Hilamonan, while three families or 15 individuals were brought to the Barangay Buenavista Hall.

Also, 24 families or 136 individuals were admitted to the Paloypoy Integrated School, and 34 families or 170 individuals stayed at the Paloypoy Church, both in Barangay Buenavista.

Rosal said the local government of Himamaylan and Kabankalan distributed food packs to the evacuees. He added that they already gave a clearance for them to go home.

According to the Army, the encounter happened while the troops of the 94th Infantry Battalion (IB) were conducting combat operations in response to information about the alleged presence of about 15 armed members of SDG Platoon, Central Negros 2 in the area, who were allegedly extorting medicines for their wounded comrades involved in the May 3 encounter in Barangay Buenavista.

Seized from the encounter site were an M16 rifle, M4 rifle, two short magazines for M16, 11 rounds of 5.56mm ammunition, a bandolier, backpack, and personal belongings.

The May 3 encounter also displaced some residents, and brought injuries to two soldiers and a civilian. An NPA rebel was also killed.

Brig. Gen. Orlando Edralin, 303rd IBde commander, said the recovery of high-powered firearms will surely weaken the capability of the NPA to stage their activities in the province.

Edralin warned the NPA rebels of relentless and more aggressive combat operations in the coming days and weeks, as they are determined to wipe out the NPA rebels in Negros.

“If they refuse to surrender peacefully, we will hit them hard to prevent them from conducting more illegal activities and atrocities,” he said.

Suspected NPA rebel slain in Bohol clash

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (May 12, 2023): Suspected NPA rebel slain in Bohol clash (By: Leo Udtohan) FILE PHOTO

TAGBILARAN CITY — A suspected New People’s Army (NPA) rebel was killed in an encounter Friday, May 12, with government troops in Antequera town, Bohol.

The firefight at 6:10 a.m. in the boundaries of Barangays Tabuan in Antequera town and Abehilan in San Isidro resulted in the death of a rebel and the recovery of a .45 pistol with magazine and several live ammunition, according to the Bohol police.

The Bohol Police Provincial Office reported that NPA surrenderers knew the fatality only as “Jasper.”

On May 11, soldiers under the 94th Infantry Battalion, clashed with NPA rebels for about 20 minutes in the Barangay Hilamonan, Kabankalan City, Negros Occidental.
Recovered after the firefight were an M16 rifle; an M4 rifle; two M16 magazines with live ammunition; a bandolier; a backpack, and personal belongings.

Several rebels were believed to have been wounded during the firefight as shown by bloodstains in the area.

Lieutenant General Benedict Arevalo of the Visayas Command, lauded the troops for their unwavering commitment to peace and security.

PBBM returns from successful ASEAN summit in Indonesia

From the Philippine News Agency (May 11, 2023): PBBM returns from successful ASEAN summit in Indonesia (By Filane Mikee Cervantes)

ARRIVAL HONORS. President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. arrives at Villamor Air Base Pasay City on Thursday (May 11, 2023). The President participated in the 42nd ASEAN Summit in Labuan Bajo, Indonesia from May 10 to 11. (PNA Photo Alfred Frias)

MANILA – President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. arrived in Manila on Thursday following his participation in the successful 42nd Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit and Related Summits in Labuan Bajo, Indonesia.

The plane carrying Marcos and the official Philippine delegation, including First Lady Liza Araneta-Marcos, arrived at the Villamor Air Base in Pasay City around 5:54 p.m.

During the meeting with ASEAN leaders, Marcos emphasized the importance of upholding the international rules-based system, which has underpinned regional security, peace and order in the region.

Marcos also expressed the Philippines' commitment to the principles of free trade and the multilateral trading system.

He called for enhanced support for nano businesses, as well as micro, small, and medium enterprises, and their integration into the global economy.

"We continue to work towards long-term food and energy security, and to address the impacts of climate change, amongst other things," Marcos said in his arrival speech.

The Philippines, he said, likewise expressed support for the community-building efforts of the regional bloc, including the strengthening of ASEAN's institutions.

Marcos thanked Indonesian President Joko Widodo for the warm hospitality extended to him and his delegation.

He described the ASEAN summit as a success, as he expressed hope to see progress on both the economic and political fronts.

"I believe that the summit was a success and that it chartered the new directions that were initiated by the chairman, President Widodo, and with the concurrence of all the member-states. And, many new ideas were ventilated and many of those were adopted. And, we hopefully see some progress on the political front, and certainly on the economic front," he said.

Marcos shared that the ASEAN leaders also discussed regional and international developments, such as the situation in Myanmar, the conflict in Ukraine and the South China Sea dispute.

He called for Myanmar to adhere to the peace plan, known as the Five-Point Consensus and expressed support for Indonesia's enhanced initiatives in its implementation.

"We also came into agreement that we will adjust our approach on the situation in Myanmar and to try to engage Myanmar at every level and to all political factions that are active and are involved in that crisis situation in Myanmar," he said.

Marcos, meanwhile, expressed deep concern regarding the humanitarian crisis and the continued economic impacts of the Russia-Ukraine war, which contributes to global food and energy insecurity.

On the South China Sea issue, he reaffirmed the Philippines' commitment to the peaceful resolution of disputes and advocated for a rules-based maritime order anchored on the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

Marcos also called for increased collaboration among concerned nations in the Brunei Darussalam-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines-East ASEAN Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA) for further development of the region.

Marcos participated in the ASEAN Leaders’ Interface with Representatives of ASEAN-Interparliamentary Assembly (AIPA), and ASEAN Leaders’ Interface with Representatives of ASEAN Youth.

He also attended the ASEAN Leaders’ Interface with Representatives of ASEAN Business Advisory Council (ASEAN-ABAC), ASEAN Leaders’ Interface with High-Level Task Force on ASEAN Community Post 2025 Vision (HLTF-ACV).

PBBM eyes talks with Vietnam over reported presence in PH EEZ

From the Philippine News Agency (May 12, 2023): PBBM eyes talks with Vietnam over reported presence in PH EEZ (By Ruth Abbey Gita-Carlos)

(File photo)

MANILA – President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. has emphasized the need for the Philippines and Vietnam to reach an agreement to avoid potential maritime disputes.

Marcos discussed with Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh his intent to hold a dialogue with Hanoi to avoid a repeat of sightings of Vietnamese vessels in the Philippines' exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

This was after the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) spotted Vietnamese vessels in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) in March.

"Nag-usap kami ng Prime Minister (The Prime Minister and I talked). We have to find a way. Sabi ko huwag ‘yung ganito na nag-a-ano tayo, mag-usap tayo nang mabuti (I told him we have to have a thorough discussion on the issue)," Marcos said in a media interview on Thursday while on board PR001.

"And that’s why I have asked our foreign ministers, ating Foreign Secretary and then the Foreign Minister of Vietnam to begin, develop the talks so that we can have an agreement na hindi na siguro magkaproblema ng mga ganyang klase (to avoid any problem)."

In a report last month, the PCG said it spotted at least 20 Chinese and Vietnamese vessels near the Sabina Shoal during its maritime patrol from March 16 to 21.

Getting no response despite multiple radio challenges, the PCG deployed its personnel through rigid-hull inflatable boats in and around the shoal to disperse the foreign-flagged vessels.

Marcos said the talks between the Philippines and Vietnam should start as early as possible.

"Dahil hindi naman (Because it's not) contentious, it’s something that we never had to worry about before, ngayon lang (just now)," he said. "Kaya’t kailangan habang maaga eh pag-usapan na natin at makahanap na tayo ng sarili nating usapan. Mainam nga na hindi magkagulo, hindi magka-incident ng mga nangyayari sa atin ngayon (That's why we need to talk as early as now and find a way to avoid tension and a repeat of incidents like that)."

On May 1, Marcos directed the Department of Foreign Affairs and the PCG to map out the Philippines' fishing ground in the WPS.

His order came after the near-crash incident off Spratly Island between a Chinese coast guard ship and a Philippine patrol vessel.

During his intervention at the 42nd Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit Retreat Session in Labuan Bajo, Indonesia on Thursday, Marcos urged all parties to abide by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) to prevent the South China Sea (SCS) from becoming the focal point of armed conflict.

The President also ensured that the Philippines is committed to the implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct (DOC) of Parties in the South China, as well as the early conclusion of an effective and substantive Code of Conduct (COC) in the South China Sea.

ASEAN and China signed the DOC on Nov. 4, 2002 to exercise self-restraint and promote non-militarization within the busy waterway.

ASEAN Fleet Review highlights PH commitment to maritime security

From the Philippine News Agency (May 12, 2023): ASEAN Fleet Review highlights PH commitment to maritime security (By Priam Nepomuceno)

(Photo courtesy of Philippine Navy)

MANILA – This year's Association of Southeast Asian Nations Fleet Review (AFR) held in Subic Bay, Zambales on Thursday is a testament to the Philippines' "unwavering commitment" to promoting maritime security in the region.

Philippine Navy (PN) chief Vice Admiral Toribio Adaci Jr., in a statement Thursday night, said AFR participants highlighted their naval capabilities and readiness in the event.

He added that it sends a clear message to the world -- the Philippines is dedicated to safeguarding "our shared waters, countering maritime threats, and ensuring the stability that underpins our economic growth and prosperity."

“As we embark on the ASEAN Fleet Review and the second edition of the ASEAN Multinational Naval Exercise (AMNEX) under the auspices of the PN, I would like to extend my deepest appreciation to the Royal Thai (RT) Navy for setting the stage and spearheading the very first ASEAN Fleet Review and AMNEX in 2017. The RT Navy played a pivotal role in shaping AMNEX into a remarkable platform for addressing common regional maritime problems and enhancing military responsiveness,” Adaci said.

Participating ships in the AFR were the PN's BRP Antonio Luna (FF-151) and BRP Andres Bonifacio (PS-17); RSS Supreme (73) from the Republic of Singapore Navy; KRI Gusti Ngurah Rai (332) from the Indonesian Navy; KD Leiku (FF-G30) from the Royal Malaysian Navy; OPV 512 (Patanni Class) from the Royal Thai Navy; KDB Daruttaqwa(09) and KDB Afiat (20) from the Royal Brunei Navy; Trang Hung Dao (015) from the Vietnam People’s Navy.

With the theme “Synergy at Sea: Regional Cohesion for Peace and Stability,” the AFR 2023 provides an opportunity for the ASEAN members to be ambassadors of goodwill and catalysts of ASEAN centrality and cooperation.

Highly successful

Meanwhile, Department of National Defense (DND) chief Carlito Galvez Jr. who witnessed the AFR with Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Gen. Andres C. Centino and Adaci called the event a success as two PN ships and another seven from ASEAN navies were able to participate in the event.

“The fleet review that we have witnessed today was indeed a pleasure to behold. More than the thrilling sights and sounds that delighted our senses, we are immensely elated for being able to bring together two PN and seven vessels from other ASEAN navies,” he added.

Galvez also said that even countries with no standing navies like Cambodia, Myanmar and Lao People’s Democratic Republic sent their observers to the event -- a laudable gesture of unity and solidarity to the ASEAN community.

“We are confident that this year’s AFR, conducted alongside the 2nd ASEAN Multilateral Naval Exercise, will further foster interoperability and cooperation among ASEAN member states in the conduct of responsible maritime security operations,” he stressed.

Galvez also emphasized that this activity was not a show of force, but rather a showcase of the ASEAN centrality and to show the oneness and unity of the different countries.

He added that the ASEAN navies come together to promote rule-based and safe maritime operations with our brothers and family of like-minded nations.

“If all the armed forces are talking to each other, we can prevent war from happening because we are talking about peace and understanding, and we are reaching out to everybody,” Galvez said. “To the Team Philippine Navy, congratulations and carry on! I commend you for graciously hosting the AFR 2023. Indeed, what a way to cap your 125th anniversary two weeks from now… to all our sailors and marines, I and the One Defense- AFP Team-Philippines wish you fair winds, clear skies, and following seas always,” he concluded.

PH Fleet conducts first-ever PFDEX

In a related development, the Philippine Fleet (PF) showcased its modern naval platforms and desired future capabilities of the PN at the first-ever Philippine Fleet Defense Expo (PFDEX) 2023 at the Naval Base Heracleo Alano, Sangley Point, Cavite City Thursday.

PFDEX 2023 will run from Thursday to Saturday and is open to all enthusiasts and interested individuals.

This event, in partnership with EXPOASIA as the event organizer, is part of the preluding activities for the 125th PN anniversary later this month.

It gathers maritime and naval defense industries in an exhibition area to showcase their products and technology developments.

Considered as the first of its kind in the AFP, the PFDEX also features lectures/symposium from industry experts, and gives a glimpse of the Navy’s upcoming assets like submarines, offshore patrol vessels, unmanned systems, naval weapons and combat systems, cyber and electronic warfare, ISR systems, naval aviation, force protection, logistical systems, and support systems.

This activity highlights the Navy’s stepped-up efforts to bolster its capabilities in maritime defense while also providing an enabling platform for the defense and security sector to expand networks and explore opportunities for collaboration with policymakers and industry leaders.

Manalo, visiting Australian FM to discuss defense, security ties

From the Philippine News Agency (May 12, 2023): Manalo, visiting Australian FM to discuss defense, security ties (By Joyce Ann L. Rocamora)

Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong (Photo courtesy of Australia Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

MANILA – Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong will discuss with her Filipino counterpart, Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo, the two nations' growing defense and security partnership, as well as other areas of cooperation, during her official visit to the Philippines next week.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Friday Wong would be in Manila from May 16 to 19 at the invitation of Manalo.

Manalo will meet with Wong on May 18 and discuss a broad range of issues of mutual interest, including development cooperation, trade and investment, and people-to-people ties.

“This bilateral meeting will allow both countries to assess the current state of their bilateral relations and chart the course for further collaboration,” the DFA said.

Wong will also pay a courtesy call on President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. and Vice President Sara Z. Duterte.

The Australian official’s Manila trip follows a series of high-level exchanges between the Philippines and Australia as both have sought to upgrade their comprehensive partnership to a “higher level.”

“This visit is also an excellent opportunity to renew and deepen the friendship between the two nations and explore new areas of cooperation,” the DFA said.

This will be Wong’s first visit to the country since assuming office in May 2022 after the election of Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s Labor Government.

Meeting to bolster 'positive momentum' in PH-US defense alliance

From the Philippine News Agency (May 12, 2023): Meeting to bolster 'positive momentum' in PH-US defense alliance (By Priam Nepomuceno)

United States Army chief Gen. James McConville (left) and DND chief Carlito Galvez Jr, (right) (Photo courtesy of DND)

MANILA – The meeting between Department of National Defense (DND) chief Carlito Galvez Jr. and United States Army chief Gen. James McConville highlights the positive momentum of the defense alliance between Manila and Washington DC.

"The meeting between the two officials builds on the positive momentum of the Philippines-US defense alliance and further reinforces the close and cooperative military relationship between the two nations," DND spokesperson Arsenio Andolong said in a statement Friday.

He added that McConville's visit to the DND chief on May 10 is part of a series of high-level visits by American officials, which indicate the US government's desire to strengthen the alliance between the two nations.

Other US officials who have visited the Philippines during the Marcos administration were Vice President Kamala Harris; Secretary of State Anthony Blinken; Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin; Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall III; Admiral John Aquilino, US Indo-Pacifc Command chief; Admiral Michael Gilday, US Chief of Navy Operations; Lindsey Ford, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Defense for South and Southeast Asia; and Mira Resnick, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Political and Military Affairs, Department of State.

The two officials also discussed the strong and enduring defense partnership between the Philippines and the United States.

Andolong said the meeting highlighted the productive outcomes of high-level engagements between the two countries such as President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.'s recent official visit to the US
"Senior Undersecretary Galvez expressed his deepest appreciation for the warm hospitality accorded by the US Government to the President and the Philippine delegation during his visit to the US Department of Defense. President Marcos was given military honors with a 21-gun salute at both the Pentagon and Arlington Memorial Cemetery -- a rare, one-of-a-kind privilege given to a visiting dignitary," he added.

During the meeting, Galvez welcomed the successful execution of the largest iteration of the "Balikatan" Exercise as well as the conduct of Exercise "Salaknib," the annual Army-to-Army exercise geared at strengthening the interoperability between Filipino and American soldiers.

"He also recalled that both activities featured live-fire exercises and utilized capabilities such as the Javelin anti-tank weapon system, and the high mobility artillery rocket system (HIMARS)," Andolong said.

Meanwhile, McConville highlighted the importance of both armed forces working together and building long-lasting relationships.

"He mentioned that in the region, there is peace through strength, and strength comes from allies and friends working together," Andolong said.

Both officials emphasized the strong people-to-people engagements between the Philippines and the US, recalling fond memories and shared experiences of junior officers participating in joint courses with the US Army and other prestigious multi-level International Military Education and Training program being provided by the US Armed Forces.

"Gen. McConville was amazed when Senior Undersecretary Galvez shared that no less than six cabinet secretaries in the previous administration were graduates of US training programs in Fort Benning, Georgia and other military courses and institutions," Andolong said.

The Philippines and the United States have a longstanding and strong defense alliance forged through decades of cooperation and mutual support.

DTI fund for ELCAC beneficiaries in Negros Oriental used up

From the Philippine News Agency (May 11, 2023): DTI fund for ELCAC beneficiaries in Negros Oriental used up (By Mary Judaline Partlow)

LIVELIHOOD AID. The Department of Trade and Industry in Negros Oriental is hopeful to get funding aid from local government units in the absence of funding from the national government this year under the End Local Communist Armed Conflict program. The DTI said it already distributed some PHP1.8 million worth of livelihood kits last year to former rebels and other individuals in conflict-affected areas. (PNA file photo)

DUMAGUETE CITY – The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) on Thursday called on the local government units and congressional representatives in Negros Oriental to allocate funds for livelihood assistance to barangays affected by the communist insurgency.

This developed as DTI-Negros Oriental provincial director Nimfa Virtucio said that agency funds intended for the government’s whole-of-nation approach through the Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (TF-ELCAC) have already been fully exhausted.

“We already distributed last year some PHP1.8 million worth of livelihood projects to several former rebels (FRs) and organized groups in areas identified under the TF-ELCAC but unfortunately, we no longer have the money for this year,” Virtucio said during the Kapihan sa PIA forum.

“This is a reality. Government agencies were not given funds for this year,” she said.

Virtucio added that they had to be innovative in using funds intended for DTI’s regular projects and other purposes to continuously accommodate displaced individuals in conflict-affected areas.

Her statement comes as 34 new barangays in Negros Oriental have been identified this year to be included in the TF-ELCAC list of areas already “cleared” of the insurgency and are set to benefit from the government’s various interventions.

Virtucio said the DTI cannot give cash to pre-identified beneficiaries in conflict areas as it is prohibited hence, they distribute goat, cattle, and/or sari-sari store livelihood packages that they procure themselves.

She admitted that with the new barangays identified in the ELCAC list, it is now a “dilemma” for them to find ways to be able to provide livelihood packages, especially for FRs who are promised a new life once they surrender to authorities.

The DTI official is hopeful that the National TF-ELCAC will allocate more funds this year to continue the programs and projects that were initiated during the time of then-President Rodrigo Duterte to end the communist insurgency.