Monday, May 15, 2023

Eastmincom neutralizes 155 rebels in 5 months

From the Manila Times (May 16, 2023): Eastmincom neutralizes 155 rebels in 5 months (By Ruth Palo)

DAVAO CITY: The Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom) reported that 155 members of the communist New People's Army (NPA) have been neutralized by sustained military operations from January to May 2023.

Eastmincom also said the troops also recovered 172 firearms and 28 anti-personnel mines since January this year.

Recently, combined troops of 30th Infantry Battalion (30IB) and 36IB, under the operational control of Joint Task Force Diamond's 901st Infantry Brigade, neutralized three rebels and seized seven high-powered firearms in an encounter at Sitio Katarugan, Barangay Lobo, Cantilan, Surigao del Sur on May 11.

Two of the killed NPA members were identified as Alberto Castañeda alias Bern/JD, commanding officer of the Sandatahang Yunit Pampropaganda 16C, Guerilla Front 16 (SYP16C, GF16) and Eric Mahinay Colon alias Neo, political guide of squad 1, SDG16, GF16.

They are all under the North Eastern Mindanao Regional Committee.

Government troops also seized three AK-47 rifles, an Ultimax 100 light machine gun, an AR18 rifle, an M16 rifle, an R4 rifle, an improvised explosive device with detonator, 13 backpacks with assorted personal belongings, communication and electronic devices, a medical kit, and other war materiel after the gunfight.

Eastmincom commander Lt. Gen. Greg Almerol lauded the troops for their efforts and dedication to pursue the government's goal to eradicate the communist terrorist group (CTG) with the help of local government units.

"The recent accomplishment is a testament to our continuous efforts to finish the dwindling CTG units in our joint operational area and to attain just lasting peace in Eastern Mindanao," he said.

Almerol, likewise, warned the remaining active CTG members to reconsider their refusal to yield, should they wish to avoid the fate of their dead comrades "who continued to terrorize the peace-loving citizens."

He also urged the rebels to avail of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict program of the government.

Red-tagging issue haunts AFP VisCom chief during CA debate

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (May 16, 2023): Red-tagging issue haunts AFP VisCom chief during CA debate (By: Beatrice Pinlac)

Lt. Gen. Benedict Arevalo answers questions from the media after his appointment as commander of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ Visayas Command. FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines — A red-tagging controversy involving Lieutenant General Benedict Arevalo, Armed Forces of the Philippines’ (AFP) Visayas Command chief, was raised on Tuesday during the Commission on Appointments (CA) national defense panel deliberations on the designation of 50 military generals and officers.

Senator Risa Hontiveros pointed out that Arevalo in 2021 was relieved of his post as Deputy Chief of Staff for Civil Military Operations, along with the Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence, “due to his then-department at the AFP releasing and posting an erroneous list on social media of alleged New People’s Army (NPA) guerillas.”

The list, she noted, included an alumni of the University of the Philippines whom the AFP alleged had become a communist guerilla.

“You know that Red-tagging threatens the lives and safety of individuals. This is a massive intrusion into a person’s right to privacy due to surveillance and harassment that may result in unlawful arrests, enforced disappearances and even killings…Red-tagging is disinformation, enabling fraud and violence,” she said in a mix of English and Filipino.

Hontiveros noted that then-Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana had cleared Arevalo, saying he was not “directly responsible” for the wrongdoing.

But, she asked, is Red-tagging a policy of the AFP?

“Definitely not. What happened in that time, I already took responsibility as the Deputy Chief of Staff for Civil Military Operations. And we also learned some lessons from what happened. That’s why the AFP is very careful now in actually crossing the line on these kinds of issues,” Arevalo said.

He said there was a mixup of files, which led to the release of the AFP list.

“The report coming from the Intelligence was mixed up with the reports of the Civil Military Operations. The mixup actually caused the release of the names inadvertently. Maybe an oversight. As I’ve said, there’s nobody to blame except me as the J7 during the time,” Arevalo recalled.

He said a public apology was later posted on his Facebook page following his mistake.

But when asked if there were people on the list who reacted or replied to the apology, Arevalo said the page had been shut down.

“I don’t know if they were able to react or reply to the said information,” he added.

Arevalo said the AFP had also been stricter with its social media policy after the incident.

“It has to really conform with the community standards of social media. Seeing to it that it is strictly supervised not just by the concerned staff but also the chiefs of offices and the commanders themselves,” he said.

Hontiveros lauded Arevalo for taking responsibility for his mistake but asked that the AFP devise means that will directly relay their apology to the affected persons.

Despite his red-tagging issue, Arevalo’s appointment to the rank of Lieutenant General was still approved by the committee and recommended for confirmation to the CA plenary.

Military unveils victory marker in drive vs communists in Isabela

From the Manila Bulletin (May 16, 2023): Military unveils victory marker in drive vs communists in Isabela (By FREDDIE LAZARO)

CAMP AQUINO, Tarlac City – The military over the weekend revealed what it called an enduring symbol of their victory against communist terrorist groups in Palanan, Isabela.

A victory marker was formally unveiled by the Army 5th Infantry Division (ID) at Digoyo Point where, in July 1972, the MV Karagatan carrying a shipment of armaments intended for the insurgents was intercepted by the AFP.

The seizure of high-powered firearms resulted in the neutralization of a significant threat to national security and shook the foundations of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF), the military said.

The military added this incident marked a turning point in the battle against communist terrorism, crippling their resources and dealing a severe setback to their operations at that ti

In his message during the unveiling, Senior Undersecretary and Department of Defense officer-in-charge Carlito Galvez Jr. said that the victory marker is the manifestation of the valor and unwavering dedication of the Armed Forces in combating communist terrorist groups.

It also signifies the military’s unyielding commitment to safeguard the nation's security and pave the way for a better future for all Filipinos, he added.

Lt. Gen. Fernyl G. Buca, Northern Luzon Command chief, said that the marker is a vivid reminder that through unity and determination, even the most formidable challenges can be overcome, heralding a future free from the clutches of terrorism.

“Our continuous gains against the CTGs in our area of operations are proof of the nearing end of these few remaining communist terrorists,” added Buca.

The unveiling with the theme "Marking the Foremost Victory of the Armed Forces of the Philippines against Communist Terrorist Groups" celebrated the relentless determination and monumental gains achieved by the Armed Forces in its mission to eradicate communist terrorism in the country.

The victory marker was called a powerful testament to the unwavering bravery and selfless sacrifice of the government forces in safeguarding the nation against terrorists.

Gen. Andres C. Centino, chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Major Gen. Audrey L. Pasia, commander of the Army 5th Infantry Division, also graced unveiling with local and national government officials, soldiers, and various stakeholders.

6 NPA rebels surrender in Aurora

From the Manila Bulletin (May 16, 2023): 6 NPA rebels surrender in Aurora (By FREDDIE LAZARO)

FORT MAGSAYSAY, Nueva Ecija – Six New People’s Army (NPA) rebels from Aurora surrendered to the Army 91st Infantry Battalion in Barangay Calabuanan, Baler, Aurora over the weekend.

The surrenderers were members of the Sub-Guerrilla Unit of the Komiteng Probinsiya-Isabela (SGU-KomProb-Isabela) and Renewed Strength Dinadiawan Association.

They were identified as alias “Enok” of Barangay Lawang, Dilasag, and Rolando Blanco, Bernabe Atimama, Thelma Montaṅes, Reynaldo Caderon, and Benedicto Mahinay from Purok 1, Barangay Dinadiawan, Dipaculao.

They turned over rifles, magazines, ammunition, improvised pistols and revolvers, and a homemade shotgun.

Major Gen. Andrew Costelo, commander of the Army 7th Infantry Division, attributed their surrender to the strong implementation of the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program of the national government.

Costelo lauded the continued engagement of the 91st IB with communist rebels in their area of operation to convince them to surrender.

E-Clip aims to encourage communist guerrillas to return to the fold of the law and live a normal life.

EASTMINCOM: Supporting People's Organizations

Posted to the Eastern Mindanao Command (EASTMINCOM) Facebook Page (May 14, 2023): Supporting People's Organizations

67th Infantry "Agila" Battalion

The Community Development Team (CDT) of 67th Infantry(Agila) Battalion assisted the Greenfield Farmers Association (GFA) headed by Mr Ernesto M. Villanueva, PO President, in land prepration for Tilapia Production at So Greenfield,Brgy Santa Juana,Tagbina,SDS on May 12, 2023.


EASTMINCOM: Former Rebels get Gov't housing aid

Posted to the Eastern Mindanao Command (EASTMINCOM) Facebook Page (May 14, 2023): Former Rebels get Gov't housing aid

23rd Infantry "Masigasig" Battalion, Philippine Army
Former Rebels get Gov't housing aid

BUENAVISTA, Agusan del Norte – The 23rd Infantry (Masigasig) Battalion in partnership with the Provincial Government of Agusan del Norte under the leadership of Hon. Ma Angelica Rosedell M Amante and the National Housing Authority (NHA) – Region 13, headed by Ms. Ricamel Dawn A. Obligado, Estate Management Supervisor and Ms. Hyacint Lian Mae P. Maganding, Community Support Service Chief held the Turn Over Ceremony of the Completed Housing Units for the Former Rebels (FRs) who are now members of the Philippine Army on May 12, 2023 at Midland Valley Homes Brgy. Mambuaya, Cagayan de Oro City.

A total of three (3) housing units, with 44 square meters floor area and lot area of 80 square meters, were awarded to the FR beneficiaries and families.

The expansion of the coverage of the benefits and services under the Enhanced - Comprehensive Livelihood Integration Program (E-CLIP) is a testament to the government's commitment to uplift the lives of the FRs, which will serve as the foundation for the attainment of peace and progress in our communities.

These benefits do not serve as an end, but rather a means to aid the FRs in securing a foothold in restarting their lives. It provides a wider array of benefits based on the particular needs of FRs and their families such as financial assistance, housing, education, skills training, healthcare, legal assistance, and among others through a convergence of various national and local government agencies.


EASTMINCOM: Estimated 800 individuals availed 11 RCDG's Serbisyo Caravan

Posted to the Eastern Mindanao Command (EASTMINCOM) Facebook Page (May 14, 2023): Estimated 800 individuals availed 11 RCDG's Serbisyo Caravan

11rcdg, ResCom

Estimated 800 individuals availed 11 RCDG's Serbisyo Caravan

Davao City – In line with the 11th Regional Community Defense Group, Reserve Command, Philippine Army current initiatives and support to ELCAC in the sustainment areas of 10th Infantry Division, Philippine Army, estimated 800 individuals mostly IPs availed the community outreach program of 11RCDG, RESCOM, PA dubbed as "11RCDG Serbisyo Caravan" at Sitio Qiurorom, Brgy Suawan, Marilog District, Davao City on May 13, 2023.

It was attended by 1003rd Infantry Brigade, 27IB, 10CMOBn, 2202nd Ready Reserve Infantry Brigade, 1105th Ready Reserve Infantry Bn, 6th Technical Administrative Service, LGU Davao City through CSWDO, CHO, and City Information Office, DOH 11, LTO 11, Davao City Police Office, Marilog Police Station, Eastern Mindanao Travellers Club, Philippine Red Cross Davao del Sur and Davao City Chapters, B-85 Transport Cooperative, Reserve Officers Legion of the Philippines, Kawal Atenista Alumni Assn, Inc, 11th RCDG RESCOM Alumni Assn, Inc, The Fraternal Order of EAGLES, The Fraternal Order of Wolf, KIWANIS, Mercy Malaysia, Nissin Monde, 178 Cargo Forwarder, Dekada 90 University of Mindanao High School, Davao City Water District, Philippine News Agency, and Brgy Council as partner units, agencies, and stakeholders/organizations.

The above-mentioned groups and organizations provided different social services such as medical and dental services, operation“tuli", free haircut, BP and laboratory test, legal consultation and services, eye reading and consultation, giving of eyeglasses, distribution of foodpacks, assorted toys, slippers, hygiene kits, educational supplies, used clothings, feeding, PNP Desk, and LTO Desk.

The beneficiaries and the LGU Davao City expressed their gratitude to 11RCDG for bringing the government services closer to the people. The said services will basically uplift the living condition of the people residing in the far-flung areas to counter and prevent the Communist Terrorist Groups (CTGs) from conducting recovery works.

"The conduct of this activity is in support to the campaign of 10ID, PA and its supported units in sustaining the operational gains in close collaboration and partnership with different agencies and stakeholders". And this is part of our Civil-Military Operations efforts in pursuit to lasting peace and development in Davao Region, COL JOSUE M CABERTO MI (GSC) PA, Group Commander, 11RCDG, RESCOM, PA said.

EASTMINCOM: Italian Pack Howitzers Successfully Pass Functional Test Fire

Posted to the Eastern Mindanao Command (EASTMINCOM) Facebook Page (May 15, 2023): Italian Pack Howitzers Successfully Pass Functional Test Fire

4th Field Artillery "Strike From Afar" Battalion, AAR , PA
Italian Pack Howitzers Successfully Pass Functional Test Fire

In a significant development, the 4th Field Artillery (Strike From Afar) Battalion recently conducted a Functional Test Fire Exercise to evaluate the performance of its newly repaired Italian Pack Howitzers (IPH). These revitalized assets are now poised to make a substantial impact in the ongoing campaign against insurgency within their area of operation.

The IPH, a formidable 105mm artillery weapon, has long been recognized for its power, versatility, and effectiveness on the battlefield. After undergoing meticulous repairs, these howitzers have been restored to peak condition, ready to contribute once again to the battalion's artillery capabilities.

During the recent functional test fire exercise, the IPHs exhibited exceptional accuracy and precision, consistently hitting targets with unwavering reliability. This remarkable performance underscores the profound impact of the successful repair and revitalization of the IPHs on the battalion's readiness to support the maneuver units in their combat operations.

The availability of these fully functional assets significantly strengthens the overall operational capacity of the 4th Field Artillery Battalion, enabling them to effectively support combat units. Troops now have access to a reliable and powerful weapon, bolstering their confidence and morale in combat operations.

In conclusion, the recent functional test fire exercise of the newly repaired Italian Pack Howitzers by the 4th Field Artillery Battalion highlights their exceptional value in combat operations. The revitalized IPHs, with their enhanced accuracy, precision, and rapid deployment capabilities, make a substantial contribution to the battalion's operational success. These assets stand ready to be redeployed, poised to play a crucial role in combat operations and ensure the safety and security of the troops. With their revitalization, the IPHs serve as a tangible symbol of the battalion's commitment to effectively support combat units in their campaign.

EASTMINCOM: EASTMINCOM commits to safeguard maritime borders

Posted to the Eastern Mindanao Command (EASTMINCOM) Facebook Page (May 15, 2023): EASTMINCOM commits to safeguard maritime borders

The Philippines and Indonesia (PHIL-INDO) once again bolstered their cooperation in protecting the borders of both countries, as the 37th Coordinated Patrol (CORPAT) kicked off this year at Manado City, North Sulawesi, Indonesia on May 3 to 7.

EASTMINCOM: 88th IB conducts "Pulong-Pulong" and information drive in Bukidnon

Posted to the Eastern Mindanao Command (EASTMINCOM) Facebook Page (May 15, 2023): 88th IB conducts "Pulong-Pulong" and information drive in Bukidnon

88th Infantry "Maringal" Battalion, Philippine Army
LOOK | The 88th Infantry "Maringal" Battalion, headed by LTC ERIC G DEMA-ALA INF (GSC) PA, Commanding Officer of 88IB, in partnership with the Local Government Unit (LGU) of Cabanglasan, Philippine National Police (PNP), Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP), and Department of Agriculture (DA), facilitated an information drive and awareness campaign entitled "Pulong-Pulong at Pagpanumpa sa Pagsalikway sa Pagsuporta sa CPP-NPA-NDF" with the theme, "Tinud-anay nga Kabag-ohan alang sa Kalinaw ug Kalambuan" to the residences of Sitio Tagbacan, Sitio Tumbaga, and Sitio Saluringan, all of Cabanglasan, Bukidnon. This activity is in line with the whole-of-nation approach in pursuit of the country’s peace agenda.

The populace condemned the deceptions and atrocities of the CTGs and even burned the CPP-NPA flag and took their oath of allegiance to the government. The said declaration happened on May 13 and 14, 2023.

The said Pulong-Pulong sets out to raise awareness of the deception strategies of CNTs, the recruitment of minors, and the Human Security Act (RA 10168). It also directs to inform them on the government plans and programs in Ending Local Communist Armed Conflict to attain durable peace and sustainable inclusive development; Moreover, it levels to change their behavior, emotion, belief, opinion, and attitude (BEBOA) towards the peace and development efforts of the government; Finally, it aims to motivate their return to the folds of the law and abandon their support from the CTGs; and it strengthens the partnership between the community and the government.


EASTMINCOM: EASTMINCOM continues efforts in eradicating the CTG

Posted to the Eastern Mindanao Command (EASTMINCOM) Facebook Page (May 16, 2023): EASTMINCOM continues efforts in eradicating the CTG

The sustained military operations launched by the Eastern Mindanao Command (EastMinCom) under the direction of LtGen. Greg T. Almerol induced more losses to the Communist Terrorist Group (CTG) after neutralizing 155 CTG members and capturing 172 firearms and 28 anti-personnel mines (APM) from January to 2nd week of May this year.

EASTMINCOM: Hatid Serbisyo Caravan Reached The Doors of IP Communities in Kalagangan

Posted to the Eastern Mindanao Command (EASTMINCOM) Facebook Page (May 16, 2023): Hatid Serbisyo Caravan Reached The Doors of IP Communities in Kalagangan

89th Infantry Battalion

Charlie "Crawlers" Company, 89th IB, led by 2LT Jeruly D Vispera PA, Charlie Company Executive Officer took part in delivering services to the far-flung area of Kalagangan, San Fernando, Bukidnon in Hatid Serbisyo Caravan together with the Local Government Unit of San Fernando headed by Municipal Mayor, Hon. Rogelio C Yeke on May 12, 2023.

A bundle of services was provided for the populace of Brgy. Kalangan such as free circumcision, medical check-up, medicines, and implant for adult women. Further, 400 benefited the Hatid Serbisyo Caravan.

Hon. Rommel A. Bartoces, Brgy Captain of Kalagangan conveyed his gratitude for the interventions and programs bought to the community that shows the solidarity of the government and its line agencies for the betterment of the IP Communities.

Finally, 2LT Visperas assuraned their full support in any activities to uplift the communities, particularly in geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas that would help them deny exploitation and influence of the CTG.

Kalinaw News: MTF-ELCAC Chairman urges unity of efforts against CPP-NPA-NDF

Posted to the Kalinaw News Facebook Page (May 14, 2023): MTF-ELCAC Chairman urges unity of efforts against CPP-NPA-NDF

MTF-ELCAC Chairman urges unity of efforts against CPP-NPA-NDF in visit with 19IB troops to far-flung barangays of Matuguinao, Samar

Kalinaw News: Military operations of the troops of 4th Infantry Division caused heavy defeats to CPP-NPA-NDF

Posted to the Kalinaw News Facebook Page (May 14, 2023): Military operations of the troops of 4th Infantry Division caused heavy defeats to CPP-NPA-NDF

Relentless military operations of the troops of 4th Infantry Division caused heavy defeats to CPP-NPA-NDF with recent neutralization of 3 rebels and capture of numerous war materiel

Kalinaw News: 91st Infantry "Sinagtala" Battalion facilitates surrender of 6 former NPA rebels

Posted to the Kalinaw News Facebook Page (May 15, 2023): 91st Infantry "Sinagtala" Battalion facilitates surrender of 6 former NPA rebels

91st Infantry "Sinagtala" Battalion facilitates surrender of 6 former NPA rebels and their firearms and ammunition in Aurora

WESCOM personnel undergo TCCC, ICS training from Guam national guards

From Palawan News (May 15, 2023): WESCOM personnel undergo TCCC, ICS training from Guam national guards (By Gerald Ticke)

Operatives of Guam National Guard recently trained a total of 80 officers, enlisted personnel, reservists, and civilian employees from various units under Western Command (WESCOM) in Tactical Combat Casualty Care and Incident Command System at the Rizal Reef Hall of WESCOM.

The five-day training was conducted under the State Partnership Program between the Philippines and the United States’ National Guard Bureau. The primary objective of the program is to enhance collaboration efforts between the two allied countries.

During the training, participants had the opportunity to exchange ideas and concepts, thereby allowing them to strengthen their knowledge and skills. This was particularly beneficial for reservists, who act as force multipliers for the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

According to Capt. Duane Sablan, the lead coordinator of the SPP and a member of the US Army Guam National Guard, the training also offered participants a chance to experience firsthand actual operations in the field and at the command post. The simulation exercises provided the participants with the opportunity to react to different emergency situations.

“We had a squad training exercise out in the field where we simulated actual battlefield event, where they were under heavy fire and had to apply what they learned to real life scenarios,” Sablan said.

“With ICS, what they did was similar to a practical exercise in the classroom. They were given a scenario with some kind of an emergency or disaster so they have to be able to articulate how they will setup an IC and how to respond,” he added.

Sablan also mentioned that while they have been conducting training since 2001, it was the first time they visited different unified command units of the AFP to conduct more training.

He added that the majority of the early-stage trainings under the SPP were held at the AFP General Headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo and other AFP reservist centers in the National Capital Region.

“Because Guam is under PACOM (Pacific Command region, our partner is the Philippines and] We have been state partners since 2001 and we share this partnership with Hawaii, and many of the things that we train on is with HADR, we do some subject matter expert exchanges and leadership developments together,” Sablan explained.

“We conduct a whole variety of trainings, historically, because Guam and Philippines are kind of in the typhoon alley, HADR has been a very big exchange that we had. But we do other trainings such as NCO to NCO development, officer development, staff talks, we also bring ROTC cadets to Guam to do cultural understanding and learning program,” he added.

He further stated that the successful conduct of the training in WESCOM is also a strong manifestation of the committed of the US through the SPP in the pacific region, noting the cultural ties between Guam and the Philippines.

“We will be coming back to the different unified commands in the succeeding years to come. In Guam, you know a lot of our soldiers are of Filipino descent so we use this training with the AFP to build our partnerships,” he said.

Meanwhile, in his message delivered by Col. Rolando Saragoza during the graduation ceremony on Sunday, AFP Deputy Chief of Staff for Reservist and Retiree Affairs (OJ9) Maj. Gen. Alejandro Nacnac said the training also paved way for the advancement of the enduring partnership between the two countries through their armed forces in the conduct of the ICS and TCCC expertise exchange.

“This is another manifestation of our engagement geared towards materialization of the AFP’s development aspirations particularly in having a mission capable reserve force… to enable them to contribute more significantly in furtherance of our mutual defense goals and strategic ends,” Nacnac said.

Nacnac also thanked the Guam National Guard as he extended appreciation to their “commitment and desire to help us improve the reserve force as a moving factor for world class armed forces.

“Much has been accomplished and more have to be done in the coming engagements. I believe that we, at the current momentum, are on the right track to realizing our mutual defense. Rest assured that we will persistently move forward towards achieving the missions and objectives of this lasting partnership particularly in enhancing our AF reserve forces in addressing different degrees and levels of emergency situations and challenges,” he stated.

Col. Rozelle Salvosa, OJ9 Reservist Training Division chief on the other hand also expressed gratitude to the oarticipants of the training, saying that the new knowledge and skills they acquired will be a big help in tbeir careers and perfirmance of their duties and missions.

“And this is one of the few things that we will be bringing and it will grow,” Salvosa said.

All the trainings, skills and knowledge that we have imparted, please share them if you have the time. You will be trained more in the HADR and territorial defense operations,” she added.

Marcos wary of military pension reform's impact despite approval

From CNN Philippines (May 15, 2023): Marcos wary of military pension reform's impact despite approval (By Jelo Ritzhie Mantaring, CNN Philippines)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 15) – President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. is "very much concerned" with the impact of the proposed reform to the pension system of military and uniformed personnel (MUP) despite agreeing to the recommendations of his finance secretary.

Defense officer-in-charge Carlito Galvez Jr. appealed to senators during a hearing on Monday that the morale and welfare of Filipino soldiers be given due weight in the deliberation, "considering that the mere notion of modernizing our pension system it created already some sort of apprehension."

"In fact, the President also gave an instruction that he is very much concerned on the impact of this MUP [reform] on the morale and welfare of army personnel and policemen," Galvez said. "He wanted that there should be a continuous discussion to have the common ground."

In March, Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno said he hopes the current administration agrees to overhaul the MUP pension system as the situation is "not sustainable."

"I said if this goes on, there will be a fiscal collapse," he previously said.

Diokno's call was not new, as he also pushed for reform in the MUP's pension system during his budget secretary stint in the administration of former President Rodrigo Duterte, who approved the almost doubling of MUP's base pay.

Proposals for the reform include mandatory contributions, removal of automatic indexation of pension to the salary of active personnel of similar ranks, raising the pensionable age to 57 years old, and that these would apply to all active personnel and new entrants.

The proposals were agreed upon by Galvez and Interior Secretary Behur Abalos during a meeting with Marcos.

According to Diokno, the chief executive "approved" the proposals and that he was "part of the decision making."

"The President is recognizing the need for this. Talagang ipu-push niya [He would really push for it]," Diokno earlier said.

Economic managers reiterated in the Senate hearing that they were alarmed that expense for pension is bigger than the defense department's capital outlay.

Galvez said the Department of Defense is anticipating around 70% to 80% of enlisted personnel to retire if the pension system is reformed.

PH-Australia kick off joint army-to-army exercises

From CNN Philippines (May 16, 2023): PH-Australia kick off joint army-to-army exercises (By CNN Philippines Staff)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 16) — Filipino and Australian troops on Monday launched their joint drills in Camp Capinpin in Tanay, Rizal as part of Exercise Kasangga 2023.

In the opening ceremony, Manila and Canberra traced its long-standing defense ties back to World War II and said the joint training is about "interoperability and keeping our region safe."

"This is only for defensive posture, if our country will be attacked by any threat groups in the future," Philippine Army BGen Jose Agusto Villareal said.

As part of the AUKUS (Australia-United Kingdom-United States) Defense Agreement, Australia also backs freedom of navigation in the South China Sea — a move China has denounced.

A second batch of Australian troops is set to arrive in the Philippines in June for the continuation of the joint exercises.

Pension reform: DND fears majority of enlisted soldiers will opt to retire

From Rappler (May 15, 2023): Pension reform: DND fears majority of enlisted soldiers will opt to retire (By BONZ MAGSAMBOL)

Department of National Defense OIC Carlito Galvez Jr. appeals to senators for a 'middle ground'

MANILA, Philippines – An estimated 70 to 80% of the military’s enlisted soldiers may opt to retire early if the current plan to fix the pension system pushes through, Department of National Defense (DND) officer-in-charge Carlito Galvez Jr. told the Senate on Monday, May 15.

Galvez said that his department has been holding consultations with soldiers on a proposed law to reform the military pension system, which government said has been draining coffers and can no longer be sustained. The plan has “affected morale,” he said.

Among the proposals are to stop the automatic indexation of pension according to the salaries of active-duty personnel; to mandate contributions from the military and uniformed personnel (MUP); and to release their pension only a year after they reach the mandatory retirement age of 56, or when they are 57. The current system grants them pension when they turn 56.

“We anticipated that around 70 to 80% of our enlisted personnel, who are eligible for optional retirement, will gonna retire. Ang gusto nila ‘yung pension ng current systems,” Galvez said. A soldier may opt to retire after serving for 20 years in the armed forces.

Galvez said the department is proposing a “middle ground,” which is that only new entrants to the military should be covered by the new law. “There’s no problem if the new system will be given to the new entrants. They all unanimously agree,” Galvez said. Otherwise, the military might be deluged with thousands of soldiers opting to retire early, causing bigger organizational problems.

“If this is still financially impossible, we are very amenable and open to modifications in the system so long as these are fair and equitable to the military and the MUP and also this is based on the financial soundness and scientific actuarial science.”

Galvez cited one issue that has spawned “adverse reactions” from enlisted men: That the lump sum they are going to receive will be reduced “from 36 months to 18 months.”

“While we fully support the enactment of legislative measures to address the current issues hounding the pension system, the DND and the AFP respectfully appeal that the morale and welfare be given due weight in this deliberations, considering that the mere notion of modernizing our pension system already created some sort of apprehension,” Galvez said.

During the Senate hearing, the Department of Finance presented the following key reforms on the pension system of the military.The new policy will cover all active personnel and new entrants, meaning mandatory contributions begin with those currently or about to enter service.
It will seek the removal of automatic indexation of pension to the salary of active personnel of similar ranks. This means pensions will no longer increase according to the salary increases of active personnel.
Military uniformed personnel will receive their pensions at the age of 57. The current policy allows them to receive their pensions at 56, the mandatory retirement age.
Mandatory contributions will be required for active personnel and new entrants, similar to the pension fund for government employees, the Government Service Insurance System. The percentage of the mandatory contribution will be staggered over a uniformed personnel’s years of service – from 5% in their first three years, to eventually 9% of their salary.

National Treasurer Rosalia de Leon echoed a statement of Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno in March, saying that the current pension system is “unsustainable.”

“The threat for the government would be unable to meet its pension commitments or improve the country’s defense posture is real. We’re already spending significantly on pension liabilities than keeping our military and uniformed services safe, competent, and in fighting shape,” she said.

If the system is not fixed, De Leon said that pension spending is projected to increase in the next years, and is projected to go up to P1.5 trillion in 2040.

Data from the Department of Finance showed that the share of unfunded MUP pension liabilities in the gross domestic product of the country in 2020 stands at 53.4%, or P9.6 trillion.

Slide from Department of Finance’s presentation

Careful study

Senator Ronald dela Rosa said this should be studied carefully.

“Ayusin natin ito. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Pag nagkaroon ng fiscal collapse dahil pinapaboran natin ang MUP, tayo ang sisihin ng taumbayan. In the same manner, kapag nagkakaroon tayo ng weak national defense because of a very demoralized soldiers, dahil pinaboran natin ang economic managers, tayo ang sisihin. Kaya nag iingat kami ngayon dito,” he said.

(We need to fix this. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. If there will be fiscal collapse because we favored the MUP, the public will blame us. If we would have weak defense because of demoralized soldiers, because we favored our economic managers, we will also be blamed. That’s why we’re looking into this carefully.)

There were talks to introduce MUP pension reforms under the Duterte administration, but those proposals fell through, partly through lobbying from former military personnel who are pensioners themselves – officials who held key posts in politics and governance.

MUP refers to personnel from the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Bureau of Fire Protection, Bureau of Jail Management and Penology, Philippine Coast Guard, the Philippine Public Safety College, the Bureau of Corrections, and the Philippine National Police.

NPA suffers more Visayas setbacks

From the Visayan Daily Star (May 15, 2023): NPA suffers more Visayas setbacks (By GILBERT P. BAYORAN)

Following the recovery of 15 firearms from New People’s Army rebels in northern Samar, the Armed Forces of the Philippines Visayas Command reported that the communist terrorist group in the region suffered another series of setbacks against the government troops.

In a statement, the Visayas Command referred to separate encounters in Negros and Bohol on May 11 and 12, respectively, that resulted in the neutralization of two more rebel combatants who died in gunbattles, and recovery of two M16 and M4 carbine rifles, a 45 .caliber pistol, and other war materials.

Several NPA rebels were also believed to have been wounded during the firefight in Brgy. Hilamonan, Kabankalan City, Negros Occidental, as manifested on the bloodstains seen in the engagement area, according to a report of the 94th Infantry Battalion.

Lt. Gen. Benedict Arevalo, VISCOM commander, said that the continuous fall of the CPP–NPA implies that the terrorist group continues to weaken.

Last week, Army soldiers recovered 15 firearms following an encounter with NPA rebels in Samar.

Arevalo said that the whole-of-nation approach has indeed gained ground in the Visayas region.

As such, we will sustain our gains to further push the terrorist group to a point of irreversible collapse, he stressed.

Two top leaders of the Komiteng Rehiyonal Negros/Cebu/Bohol/Siquijor, including its secretary, Rogelio Posadas, and regional commander identified by the military as Romeo Nanta, alias Juanito Magbanua, died in separate encounters with 94th Infantry Battalion in Binalbagan and Himamaylan City, Negros Occidental.

For the nth time, Arevalo called on rebel remnants in the Visayas to surrender.

“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,” he stressed.

16 former rebels get financial assistance

From the Visayan Daily Star (May 16, 2023): 16 former rebels get financial assistance (By GILBERT P. BAYORAN)

Sixteen more former rebels have received financial assistance of P10,000 each from the Department of Social Welfare and Development, as facilitated by the administration of Mayor Raymund Tongson and the Army’s 303rd Infantry Brigade.

A total of P160,000 in cash were distributed to the former rebels by Tongson, assisted by Brig. Gen. Orlando Edralin, 303rd Infantry Brigade commander, and city DSWD personnel, during turnover rites held at the Himamaylan City Hall on May 12.

In previous months, 25 former rebels in Himamaylan City, Negros Occidental also received P10,000 each in livelihood aid from the DSWD.

NTF-ELCAC hails SC decision dismissing petition vs. MIF

From the Philippine News Agency (May 15, 2023): NTF-ELCAC hails SC decision dismissing petition vs. MIF (By Priam Nepomuceno)

MANILA – The National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) lauded the Supreme Court's move to dismiss the petition filed by progressive lawmakers seeking to declare the Maharlika Investment Fund (MIF) bill unconstitutional.

"The dismissal of the petition is a clear blow against the 'Makabayan' bloc's penchant for abusing legal processes by precipitately filing petitions that do not even satisfy the conditions sine qua non of judicial review," the task force's Legal Cooperation Cluster (LCC) said in a statement over the weekend.

In a six-page resolution, the SC ruled that “there is no actual case or controversy here, nor is the dispute ripe for adjudication. Colmenares et al.’s mere allegation of the unconstitutionality of the President’s certification of HB (House of Representatives Bill) 6608 and the House's passage of the bill is insufficient to warrant review by the Court.”

As pointed out by the SC, “To date, no law has been passed and HB 6608 remains pending with the House for further revisions, eliminating petitioner legislators’ concerns regarding the expedited passage of HB 6608 in the House.”

It also added that it had no reason to give due course to the petition filed by the bloc led by Bayan Muna chair Neri Colmenares, former Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate, ACT Teachers party-list Rep. France Castro, Gabriela party-list Rep. Arlene Brosas, and Kabataan party-list Rep. Raoul Manuel as the same is not ripe for adjudication.

"The (NTF-ELCAC) LCC lauds the SC for being a bastion of justice and champion of the rule of law," it added.

DFA to promote rules-based order, stronger PH-Japan ties

From the Philippine News Agency (May 15, 2023): DFA to promote rules-based order, stronger PH-Japan ties (By Ma. Teresa Montemayor)

Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo (PNA photo by Avito C. Dalan)

MANILA – Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo is set to discuss with Japanese Foreign Minister Hayashi Yoshimasa the next steps to implement understandings and agreements reached between President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. and Prime Minister Kishida Fumio in February.

In a news release issued Monday, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Manalo is in Tokyo, Japan to participate in the Munich Leaders Meeting (MLM) from May 14 to 16.

During Marcos' bilateral visit, he and Kishida witnessed the signing and exchange of key agreements in the areas of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief infrastructure, agriculture, and digital cooperation and communications technology, which are included in Marcos' priority agenda.

In the meeting, Manalo will also deliver a policy address to touch upon Philippines-Japan Strategic Partnership and the rules-based order at Japan’s National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies.

“The relationship between the Philippines and Japan is a remarkable journey of friendship, cooperation, and mutual respect. From the ashes of war, we have forged a comprehensive and largely outcomes-based Strategic Partnership that is anchored on shared values,” he said.

Japan is the first country with which the Philippines has forged a Strategic Partnership and is among the two strategic partners of the Philippines aside from Vietnam.

It is also the only country with which the Philippines has a bilateral free trade agreement, the Philippines-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement.

“As the world undergoes profound transformations, driven by new technologies, power dynamics, and societal changes, the Philippines and Japan must continue to work together to ensure that the principles enshrined in the UN [United Nations] Charter and the rules-based order that has been the bedrock of international peace and stability these past decades are upheld and strengthened,” he added.

The MLM aims to connect European and American leaders with their counterparts in the Indo-Pacific region to discuss ideas on how to contribute to regional and global stability.

The meet happens days ahead of the 49th G7 Summit to be held in Hiroshima, Japan on May 19 to 21.

Manalo, policymakers, and experts are expected to share insights on the Indo-Pacific security architecture, nuclear security, and new partnership opportunities arising from the shifting geopolitical landscape in the region.

Manalo will also meet with Maldives Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid in line with the country's 50th year of bilateral relations with Maldives.

Shahid served as the president of the 76th United Nations General Assembly when Manalo was the Philippine Permanent Representative to the UN in New York.

Shahid and Manalo will discuss ways to enhance bilateral relations and further cooperation between the Philippines and Maldives in regional and global fora, including on climate change.