Tuesday, June 13, 2023

Austin says U.S. will continue push for open Indo-Pacific

Posted to the Mindanao Examiner (Jun 11, 2022): Austin says U.S. will continue push for open Indo-Pacific

THE United States will continue to work with regional allies to ensure a free and open Indo-Pacific region, despite challenges emanating from China, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III said in Singapore.

The Indo-Pacific is the U.S. military's No. 1 area of focus and China is the pacing challenge, Austin said. "As you look at our budget request … our budget request is directly linked to our strategy, and you see us continuing to invest in things that are relevant to our efforts in this region," he said.

The United States continues to send its most modern and capable weapons systems to the Indo-Pacific. In addition, the Defense Department has budgeted more than $9 billion to the Pacific Deterrence Initiative. DOD continues to invest in research for systems tailored to the region, including work on hypersonics, deterrence of cyberthreats and more.

Austin was recently in Singapore for the Shangri-La Dialogue – the premier meeting of defense ministers and experts in the region. He addressed reporters traveling with him soon after Chinese Defense Minister Gen. Li Shangfu spoke at the event. "I would just say that … it's interesting to listen to … what he says, what's most important is — watch what they do," Austin said, expressing his concern about China's "irresponsible behavior" in the South China Sea. "We've seen close intercepts and the coercive behavior … in the waterways," he said.

He noted that, as he arrived in Singapore, there were reports of an incident where a Chinese ship came within 150 meters of the USS Chung Hoon and a Canadian vessel, which were transiting the Taiwan Strait. Two weeks ago, a Chinese aircraft intercepted a U.S. Air Force reconnaissance aircraft operating in international airspace. "I call upon leadership to really do the right things, to reign in that kind of conduct because I think accidents can happen that could cause things to spiral out of control," Austin said.

Austin spoke of the April 2001, referring to the "P-3 incident" where a Chinese pilot rammed a Navy P-3 aircraft. The Chinese pilot died, and the Navy plane had to make an emergency landing on China's Hainan island. "In those days, we were talking to, and it was still very difficult to manage that crisis. Imagine now if something happens and we don't have clear communications how difficult that's going to be and what could happen in the short term," Austin said.

He said it's interesting to hear what Chinese leaders have to say, but what they actually do is more telling. He noted the dangerous activities continue. The freedom of navigation operations the United States and other nations engage in are perfectly legal. "They should be interested in freedom of navigation, as well, because … it would affect them," Austin said.

The Chinese also use the international commons. "If there are no laws, if there are no rules, things will break down for them very quickly as well," he said.

Chinese defense leaders have refused invitations to meet with Austin. The Chinese said it's because the United States has sanctioned Li Shangfu. "I am personally sanctioned in Russia," Austin said. "But I can — if I want to — talk to the Russian minister of defense." (Jim Garamone)


Security tightened in the Philippines after failed bombings

From the Mindanao Examiner (Jun 13, 2023): Security tightened in the Philippines after failed bombings

COTABATO CITY - The Philippine military tightened security in the South Tuesday following the failed bombing of a power pylon in the restive region.

Photos released by the 6th Infantry Division show the recovery of the homemade bombs in North Cotabato province in southern Philippines.

The 6th Infantry Division said three homemade bombs were recovered recently in the village of Batulawan in North Cotabato's Pikit town, and another improvised explosive in the village of Kadigasan in the neighboring town of Midsayap.

Lt. Col. Rowel Gavilanes, commander of the 90th Infantry Battalion confirmed the recovery of the bombs, saying villagers tipped off the military about the explosives after a bomb went off in the area.

"The military's Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit, in coordination with the Philippine National Police, immediately disarmed three improvised explosive devices or anti-personnel mines that were intended to be detonated at NGCP Tower No. 39 in the area. The swift action of the soldiers and police prevented a potentially devastating attack," he said, referring to the steel pylon of the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines.

Gavilanes did not say who was behind the foiled attack, but several rebel groups operate in the province where several villages are under the Bangsamoro autonomous region.

Brig. Gen. Donald Gumiran, commander of the 602nd Infantry Brigade, said troops were placed on high alert to thwart any possible attacks targeting power transmission lines. "Our soldiers and police remain on high alert for possible diversionary tactics by the enemies," he said.

Maj. Gen. Alex Rillera, commander of the 6th Infantry Division, said the bombs were powerful enough to create havoc and disrupt the electricity supply in the South and affect the local economy. "That's why your soldiers are continuously guarding vital government and private sector installations that drive the economy, without compromising the safety of our citizens," he said.


Flag-raising sa dating kuta ng Abu Sayaf sa Mt. Sinumaan, Sulu, isinagawa

From the Radyo Mindanao Network (RMN) Website (Jun 13, 2023): Flag-raising sa dating kuta ng Abu Sayaf sa Mt. Sinumaan, Sulu, isinagawa (Flag-raising at the former stronghold of Abu Sayaf on Mt. Sinumaan, Sulu, performed)

Kasabay ng pagdiriwang ng ika-125 taon ng Araw ng Kalayaan kahapon, nagsagawa ng flag-raising ceremony ang militar at pamahalaang panlalawigan ng Sulu sa tuktok ng Mount Sinumaan.

Ayon kay 11th Infantry “Alakdan” Division Commander Maj. General Ignatius Patrimonio, ang pagtataas ng bandila ng Pilipinas sa dating kaharian ng Abu Sayaff ay patunay lamang ng positibong pagbabago ng security landscape sa lalawigan dahil sa pagtutulungan ng lahat.

Ipinaabot din ni Patrimonio ang mensahe ni AFP Chief of Staff General Andres Centino na ang flag-raising sa Mt. Sinumaan ay simbolo ng kapayapaan at kaunlaran sa lalawigan.

Kasama ng mga tropa ng 11ID at opisyal ng Sulu provincial government ang mga tauhan ng iba’t ibang LGU, mga miyembro ng academe, youth sector, at reservists na nag-hike ng dalawang oras mula sa Sitio Laum, Barangay Danag, Patikul, Sulu para marating ang tuktok ng Mt. Sinumaan.


In conjunction with the celebration of the 125th year of Independence Day yesterday, the military and provincial government of Sulu held a flag-raising ceremony at the top of Mount Sinumaan.

According to 11th Infantry "Alakdan" Division Commander Maj. General Ignatius Patrimonio, the raising of the Philippine flag in the former kingdom of Abu Sayaff is only proof of the positive change in the security landscape in the province due to the cooperation of all.

Patrimonio also conveyed the message of AFP Chief of Staff General Andres Centino that the flag-raising at Mt. Sinumaan is a symbol of peace and prosperity in the province.

Along with 11ID troops and Sulu provincial government officials, personnel from various LGUs, members of the academe, youth sector, and reservists hiked for two hours from Sitio Laum, Barangay Danag, Patikul, Sulu to reach the top of Mt. Sinumaan.


New learning hub in MILF camp fosters children’s education, cultural heritage

From Rappler (Jun 13, 2023): New learning hub in MILF camp fosters children’s education, cultural heritage (By FERDINANDH CABRERA)

A 12-year-old boy finds himself in 2nd grade instead of 6th grade, a result of poverty in a village where the MILF set up a camp during its armed struggle years ago

MAGUINDANAO DEL SUR, Philippines – A learning center constructed inside the Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s (MILF) Camp Omar in remote Lanting village in Talayan, Maguindanao del Sur, has emerged as a symbol of hope for underserved communities.

This initiative has opened doors for children, providing them with an opportunity to pursue education and break free from the limitations imposed by their circumstances.

Opened on May 30, the learning center in Lanting goes beyond academic subjects; it also aims to preserve the cultural heritage, beliefs, and traditions of the Teduray tribe, which constitutes the majority of the community’s residents.

Among the beneficiaries of this learning hub, Mohaimen Ismael stands out as an eager learner, actively joining and helping his peers with reading activities in the center.

Despite being 12 years old, Mohaimen finds himself in the 2nd grade instead of the 6th grade, a result of the challenges his family faced long before the new learning facility was built.

First, they live in a camp of the MILF which, until its 2014 peace agreement with the government, was leading a secessionist armed struggle in Mindanao. The MILF is now leading the Muslim-majority Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), a special political territory created as a result of the 2014 settlement.

Mohaimen’s parents were unable to send him to school due to the distance between their home and the nearest town school, compounded by their extreme poverty. Faced with financial constraints, his parents prioritized farm work to ensure daily sustenance.

As the fourth of six siblings, Mohaimen expressed a strong desire to go to school.

“I had wanted to attend school, but there was none nearby. So, when I learned about this school, I wasted no time and enrolled along with my friends and siblings. I want to study and contribute to the well-being of my mother and our family,” said Mohaimen.

Determined to catch up, Mohaimen has devoted himself to extensive reading to broaden his knowledge. He leads his peers in fostering a reading habit within the school.

The community played an active role in building the learning hub, with parents actively participating in its physical development. They recognize that education is not only essential for their children but also for themselves.

The Abot Kaalaman sa Pamilyang Bangsamoro (AKAP) program, implemented by the Ministry of Basic, Higher, and Technical Education (MBHTE) in the Bangsamoro region, with support from the Australian government’s Pathways program, aims to establish accessible, operational, and functional educational facilities for 106 underserved villages across the region.

The Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (BRAC-Philippines) is facilitating the establishment of these centers in the region.

Dioscoro Eballes, the school head, expressed optimism that the center would educate indigenous children while instilling reading habits among them and their parents, without neglecting their culture and traditions.

Mohammad Kaul, a learning facilitator in Barangay Lanting, stressed the importance of providing adequate reading materials in the library to encourage students to further engage in reading.

Malou Gonzales, a community organizer from BRAC-Philippines, pointed out how the proximity of the learning hub benefits indigenous children, especially those residing in mountain villages.

“Children are now fully immersed in the world of reading and counting. They dedicate 5 to 10 minutes every day to reading, with active participation from both the children and their parents, who share the same enthusiasm and desire for literacy,” Gonzales said.

Riz Barandino from Pathways stressed the need to bring learning institutions closer to indigenous children, eliminating the need for them to travel long distances.

By initiating the learning process at a young age, the center aims to provide education not only for Barangay Ladting but also for children from neighboring villages, fostering their development in reading, writing, and counting, according to Barandino. – Rappler.com

[Ferdinandh Cabrera is an Aries Rufo Journalism fellow.]


Authorities thwart Independence Day bomb plot in Mindanao

From Rappler (Jun 13, 2023): Authorities thwart Independence Day bomb plot in Mindanao (By ROMMEL REBOLLIDO)

Officials say the BIFF had planned to topple a NGCP tower to cause widespread power outages in time for the celebration of the Philippine Independence Day

GENERAL SANTOS, Philippines – A faint explosion alerted authorities and led them into thwarting more potentially powerful explosions that could have caused widespread power outages in the Soccsksargen region and the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) on Independence Day.

After the first explosion, authorities found three more bombs at a power pylon of the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) in Pikit town, Cotabato province, on Monday, June 12.

Lieutenant Colonel John Miridel Calinga, the police chief of Pikit town, identified the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) as the group behind the foiled attempt to topple NGCP Tower No. 39 in Sitio Punol, Barangay Batulawan in Pikit.

Calinga said the bombs found were homemade explosive devices the BIFF has been known for.

The BIFF is not to be confused with the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF), the armed wing of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. The BIFF is a militant group that emerged in the early 2000s after breaking away from the larger Moro Islamic Liberation Front due to ideological and strategic differences.

The BIFF aims to establish an independent Islamic state in the predominantly Muslim areas of Mindanao and has been involved in various acts of violence, including bombings, attacks on government forces, and clashes with other armed groups in the region. It has been designated as a terrorist organization by the government.

Bomb experts disarmed the homemade explosive devices, made out of anti-personnel mines, which have been attached to the power pylon.

Lieutenant Colonel Rowel Gavilanes, commander of the Army’s 90th Infantry Battalion, said the BIFF had planned to topple the NGCP pylon that is being used for power transmission from the Mindanao power grid to Soccsksargen and BARMM as the country celebrated the Philippine Independence Day.

Had the pylon been toppled, it could have plunged many areas in the two Mindanao regions into darkness, Calinga said.

Gavilanes said residents in Batulawan were the first to hear a faint explosion in the area past 8 am, and quickly reported it to authorities.

He said the police and Army sent teams of bomb experts to check and disarmed the devices.

Brigadier General Donald Gumiran, the commander of the Army’s 602nd Brigade, said all military units went on alert in anticipation of more bombing attempts and other forms of violence.

Police and soldiers were sent to immediately check other NGCP power pylons, and security was tightened along power substations and main distribution lines.

“This could be just a diversionary tactic for a possible retaliatory attack by lawless groups in response to the ongoing drive against terrorists and lawless groups,” Gumiran said.

On Sunday, June 11, a tricycle driver alerted soldiers in the remote village of Kadigasan, Midsayap town, Cotabato, about a package. Bomb experts checked and found an 81mm explosive inside.


BARMM governors send security manifesto

From the Manila Times (Jun 13, 2023): BARMM governors send security manifesto (By Al Jacinto)

ZAMBOANGA CITY: The five provincial governors of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) have submitted a manifesto and a letter to President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. outlining serious security problems in areas under the Muslim provinces following a recent peace and order meeting in Sulu province.

The Bangsamoro autonomous region is ruled by Chief Minister Ahod Ebrahim, the leader of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) which signed a peace deal with Manila in 2014.

The governors — Mamintal Adiong Jr. of Lanao del Sur; Jim Hataman Salliman of Basilan; Sakur Tan of Sulu; Mariam Mangudadatu of Maguindanao del Sur; and Yshmael Sali of Tawi-Tawi (except for Gov. Abduraof Macacua of Maguindanao del Norte who was not in the caucus) — who launched the Bangsamoro Governors' Caucus (BGC) on June 6, also reiterated their call for the postponement of the Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections set in October until the decommissioning of all MILF forces are completed as part of the implementation of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro.

As the region is still in the transition period after the ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law in a plebiscite in 2019, the Bangsamoro Transition Authority is currently the interim government in the BARMM. The BTA is composed of 80 members — the majority of which are MILF members.


Troops stop BIFF plot to bomb NGCP tower in Cotabato

From the Manila Bulletin (Jun 13, 2023): Troops stop BIFF plot to bomb NGCP tower in Cotabato (By JOSEPH JUBELAG)

COTABATO CITY – Security forces thwarted an alleged Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters plot to bomb a transmission tower of the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines in Pikit, Cotabato on Independence Day.

Police Lt. Col. Rowel Gavilanes, 90th Infantry Battalion commander, said personnel of the Army Explosive Ordnance Unit detonated at least three improvised explosive devices (IED) at the perimeter of NGCP Tower No. 39 in remote Barangay Batulawan.

THE military foiled a plot to bomb an NGCP tower in North Cotabato (Army FB)

He said the recovery of the IED came after residents reported to authorities a bomb explosion in the area at past 8 a.m.

Major Gen. Alex Rillera, 6th Infantry Division commander, said the prompt recovery of IEDs thwarted the possible bomb attacks on NGCP transmission towers by suspected local terrorist group out to destabilize the peace and security of Central Mindanao.

Security forces also recovered on Monday an unexploded 81mm mortar ammunition in Barangay Kadigasan, Midsayap, Cotabato.

Authorities have tagged the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, an Islamic State-inspired local terror group, as behind the terror plot.


Northern Samar governor condemns NPA landmines attack on 2 civilians

From the Manila Bulletin (Jun 13, 2023): Northern Samar governor condemns NPA landmines attack on 2 civilians (By MARIE TONETTE M. MARTICIO)

TACLOBAN CITY – Northern Samar Gov. Edwin Ongchuan called the recent landmine explosion that killed two civilians in Las Navas town a display of violence by the New People's Army.

GOV. Edwin Ongchuan (NEDA FB)

The victims who were residents of Barangay Quirino, Las Navas were construction workers on an ongoing farm-to-market road.

They were reportedly on their way home late Saturday, June 3, 2023, when the landmines were detonated on the roadside, which caused their untimely death.

"It is a clear reflection of the desperate tactic of the NPAs to sow fear among our people, especially in remote areas where they find civilians, children, and women, easy targets," he lamented.

He stressed that the use of landmines, which is a violation of the Ottawa Convention or the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Treaty, should stop.

"While we grieve for the loss of two men from our community, we cannot, and will not yield to their twisted revolutionary cause," the governor said.

He said they will pursue our peace and development initiatives primarily in geographically isolated and displaced areas of the province where help is needed most to increase people’s access to government services and reduce poverty.

Ongchuan added that they look forward to having the perpetrators brought to the bar of justice.

"May this unfortunate event push us to unite more, and help the government in its efforts to build a peaceful community, that which is free from atrocity and violence. We call on our communities to stay firm, keep our resolve to fight terrorism and unjust killings."

Northern Samar is known as the last bastion of local insurgency in the country.


8ID, NTF-ELCAC units vow to beat 2 remaining NPA fronts in Samar

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 13, 2023): 8ID, NTF-ELCAC units vow to beat 2 remaining NPA fronts in Samar (By Priam Nepomuceno)

(Screengrab from NTF-ELCAC Facebook live video)

MANILA – The Catbalogan, Samar-based 8th Infantry Division (8ID) and local front-liners of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) will be able to eliminate the two remaining New People's Army (NPA) fronts in its area of operation within this year.

“I am confident that we will finally end this armed conflict by the third quarter of this year, or safe to say by the end of the year,” 8th Infantry Division commander Maj. Gen. Camilo Ligayo said during the NTF-ELCAC's weekly forum dubbed “Tagged Reloaded: Debunking The Lies By Telling the Truth” on Monday.

Ligayo said this is possible as the 8th Infantry Division and local units of the NTF-ELCAC are closely working to eliminate the two remaining NPA fronts.

The 8ID operates in Samar and other parts of the Eastern Visayas.

By the end of third quarter, he said one of the active fronts will be downgraded to a “weakened” status.

“Pa-konti na ng pa-konti (They are dwindling),” Ligayo said, defining the remaining two NPA fronts, whom he added has no village to turn to, and choose to go deep into the mountain to escape annihilation from intensified focused military operations.

The 8ID commander also condemned the newest atrocities of communist rebels for killing two construction workers last week in Las Navas town.

On June 3, Rowel Lebico and Hersan Cabe of Barangay Quirino died from an anti-personnel mine attack of the NPA.

He said the civilian victims were workers of a farm-to-market road project being implemented by the government.

Reacting to the NPA violence, Alma Gabin, former education deputy secretary of the Eastern Visayas Regional Party Committee of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), said the remaining NPA units in the region are trying to blocked the government’s efforts of giving farm-to-market roads in far-flung barangays formerly used as the "communist terrorist group" (CTG) lair.

“We call them (the) road to hell,” she recalled, referring to the NPA’s term for farm-to-market road.

Gabin said this is because the NPAs are using lack of roads as a big issue against the government to encourage village residents to join and support them.

He said if the NPA members see roads being constructed in these areas, the insurgents will immediately coerce residents, burn equipment or even kill individuals to stop its constructions.

Gabin also noted that building roads is a “significant leverage” for the government as this will force insurgents to go to the mountains.

Asked about the case of Lebico and Cabe, Commission on Human Rights (CHR)-Eastern Visayas director Desiree Pontejos vowed to take actions against the perpetrators of the killings.

He said their quick reaction team have already investigated the incident and are now in the process of identifying the suspects regardless of being NPA members.

Meanwhile, Ligayo urged all local government units (LGUs) to actively join in the fight to end the reign of terror of the local communist armed conflict.

“We're only running against two remaining active fronts of the NPA in the region and the national government through the NTF-ELCAC is making great strides. To reciprocate this, it is vital to gain the support of local officials and their constituents,” he said.

Ligayo said if residents in far-flung villages would see for themselves how the government is trying to help them, they will turn their backs from supporting or sympathizing with the NPA.

“Mahirap mag-operate kung ang kasama mo ay sumusuporta sa kabila (It is hard to fight when your partner supports the enemy),” he lamented.

Ligayo hinted that some local government officials are sympathetic to the communist movement.

“We just celebrated the 125 years of our independence. Let’s end this together, without traitors,” he said.


BRP Andres Bonifacio returns after 'Komodo' stint in Indonesia

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 13, 2023): BRP Andres Bonifacio returns after 'Komodo' stint in Indonesia (By Priam Nepomuceno)

BRP Andres Bonifacio (Photo courtesy of Philippine Navy)

MANILA – The Philippine Navy's offshore patrol vessel, BRP Andres Bonifacio (PS-17), arrived in time to celebrate the country's 125th Independence Day on Monday shortly after its successful participation in the "Komodo" naval exercises in Indonesia.

"After a successful and meaningful participation in Multilateral Naval Exercise 'Komodo' 2023 in Makassar, Sulawesi, Indonesia, BRP Andres Bonifacio arrived in the Philippine waters just in time for the celebration of 125th Philippine Independence on 12 June 2023," the ship said in its Facebook page late Monday.

For security reasons, the BRP Andres Bonifacio did not post its exact location in Philippine waters.

"Komodo" is a military exercise by the Indonesian Navy annually held between the Indian and the Pacific Oceans.

The first iteration of the naval exercise took place in 2014 in Indonesia's Batam City.

This year's exercises took place from June 4 to 8. The BRP Andres Bonifacio left Naval Operating Base Subic last May 29 to participate in these naval drills.

"With a complement of 187, the sailors and marines aboard PS-17 sail back full of vigor and enthusiasm for getting home on one of the most important days in Philippine history," it added.

The post said that BRP Andres Bonifacio became the epitome of a freedom defender patrolling the entire archipelago, protecting critical areas, and promoting the country’s maritime interests.

"As the nation celebrates Independence, the Katipuneros of PS-17 reaffirms its commitment to the land and the Filipino people to uphold the mandate of protecting the country’s Freedom, Future, and History," it further stressed.


Transfer of Army brigade to help end insurgency in Samar Island

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 13, 2023): Transfer of Army brigade to help end insurgency in Samar Island (By Roel Amazona)

NEW HOME. Philippine Army's 802nd Infantry Brigade commander Brig. Gen. Noel Vestuir points to a facility during his visit to one of the army camps in Eastern Samar in this undated photo. The Philippine Army’s 802nd IBde has been transferred from Leyte province to Eastern Samar to help suppress the insurgency in Samar Island. (Photo courtesy of Philippine Army)

TACLOBAN CITY – The Philippine Army’s 802nd Infantry Brigade (802nd IBde) has been transferred from Leyte province to Eastern Samar to help suppress the insurgency in Samar Island.

The brigade, which was based in Camp Downes in Ormoc City for more than two decades, was officially transferred to Borongan City in Eastern Samar to help meet the target of ending insurgency in Samar provinces within the year.

“We are here to help the campaign of ending the local communist armed conflict in Samar Island,” said Brig. Gen. Noel Vestuir, the 802nd IBde commander, in a phone interview on Tuesday.

With the addition of the 802nd IBde in Eastern Samar, all three brigades under the 8th Infantry Division are now operating in Samar Island.

The 801st IBde is based in Hinabangan, Samar with operations covering some parts of Samar, Eastern Samar and the Pacific towns of Northern Samar province.

Based in Catarman, Northern Samar, the 803rd IBde covers some areas in the northern part of Samar province and the rest of Northern Samar province.

Areas under the newly transferred brigade are the nine towns in Samar province and 15 towns and one city in Eastern Samar province.

Under the brigade are three battalions -- the 46th Infantry Battalion in Calbiga town, 63rd IB in Basey town, and 78th IB in Borongan City.

Government forces in the region are targeting to end the threat of the New People’s Army before the end of 2023.

Of the four communist guerrilla fronts operating in Samar Island, two are already dismantled by the military with two still operating in Northern Samar province and some parts of Eastern Samar and Samar provinces.

Meanwhile, Vestuir assured the public that the government troop’s presence will still be felt in the provinces of Biliran, Leyte and Southern Leyte since the two battalions with camps in Leyte province -- the 93rd IB in Kananga town, and 14th IB in Mahaplag town will remain in the island.

He added that the Joint Task Group Tandaya headed by Army's 8th Infantry Division assistant division commander Brig. Gen. Perfecto Pe┼łaredondo will supervise the military operations in Leyte and Biliran provinces.

“We will do our best. Just like what we did in Leyte, we maintained a peaceful environment and negate the remnants of the CPP-NPA-NDF to do harm to our people,” Vestuir added.

The 802nd IBde was activated on Nov. 10, 1981. It took more than a year to complete its organization, training and equipping before it arrived in Catbalogan, Samar on March 3, 1983.

In the past 40 years, the brigade has been assigned in Sta. Rita and Hinabangan in Samar; Borongan and in Eastern Samar; Catarman, Northern Samar, and Lanao Del Sur. The brigade was based in Ormoc City in Leyte from 2002 until May 2023.


Bomb try to topple NGCP tower in N. Cotabato foiled

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 13, 2023): Bomb try to topple NGCP tower in N. Cotabato foiled (By Edwin Fernandez)

RECOVERED BOMBS. Army and police bomb disposal experts secures three improvised bombs attached to an NGCP pylon in Barangay Batulawan, Pikit, North Cotabato on Monday (June 12, 2023). The local police said the bombs bore the signature style of the lawless Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters operating in the area. (Photo courtesy of 6ID)

PIKIT, North Cotabato – Army and police bomb experts foiled an attempt by lawless elements to topple a transmission tower of the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) in this town, military and police officials said Tuesday.

Lt. Col. Rowel Gavilanes, Army’s 90th Infantry Battalion commander, said the Army and police bomb disposal team safely disarmed at 10:30 a.m. Monday three improvised explosive devices (IEDs) attached to NGCP Tower 39 in Sitio Punol, Barangay Batulawan, Pikit.

Gavilanes said at about 8:30 a.m. a mild explosion had occurred in Sitio Punol. Civilians who heard the blast alerted authorities about it.

“We sent troops to check on the blast and they found three more bombs attached to the NGCP steel tower,” Gavilanes said.

The bombs were rigged from two mortar explosives and a rocket-propelled grenade head duct-taped together to a mobile phone as a trigger mechanism.

Security in the locality has been raised following the bombing attempt.

Lt. Col. John Miridel Calinga, municipal police station chief, the EIDs bore the signature style of the Daesh-inspired Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters operating in the area.

“It was not meant to harm civilians but only the NGCP tower,” Calinga said, adding that the site is far from residential areas.

Meanwhile, Maj. Gen. Alex Rillera, the Army’s 6th Infantry Division commander, has placed all Army units in Central Mindanao on alert to ensure the safety of communities.

Rillera, also the commander of Joint Task Force Central, said the plot could have caused massive power service interruption had it not been averted in parts of North Cotabato, Maguindanao del Sur and Maguindanao del Norte provinces.

The discovery of IEDs here came a day after residents of Barangay Kadigasan, Midsayap town, North Cotabato, also found a homemade bomb fashioned from an 81-mm mortar explosive. Bomb experts safely deactivated the ordnance.


2 NPA fighters killed, residents displaced in Negros clash

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 13, 2023): 2 NPA fighters killed, residents displaced in Negros clash (By Nanette Guadalquiver)

ENCOUNTERS. A site map shows the site of the series of encounters between New People’s Army fighters and troops of the Philippine Army’s 62nd Infantry Battalion in Barangay Macagahay, Moises Padilla, Negros Occidental on Tuesday (June 13, 2023). The firefights led to the death of two unidentified communist rebels. (Image courtesy of 62nd Infantry Battalion, Philippine Army)

BACOLOD CITY – Two unidentified New People’s Army (NPA) fighters were killed in a series of encounters with troops of the 62nd Infantry Battalion (62IB) in the remote village of Macagahay in Moises Padilla, Negros Occidental on Tuesday, a report of the Philippine Army said.

The encounters came almost a month after similar clashes took place in the neighboring Barangay Quintin Remo that claimed the lives of five communist rebels.

“No casualty on the government side while two fatalities left behind by their comrades were discovered,” the 62IB, led by commander Lt. Col. William Pesase Jr., said in a statement.

At 9:08 a.m., the first encounter took place in Sitio Cupad, where the troops engaged six NPA rebels for about 20 minutes, and was followed by another clash at 9:42 a.m., which transpired for about 15 minutes.

A third firefight happened at 10:20 a.m. in Sitio Mantauyan.

During the clearing operation, the troops recovered one M16 rifle, one 12-gauge shotgun, one .38 caliber revolver, one rifle grenade, four short magazine assemblies for M16, two rounds of ammunition for a shotgun, six rounds of ammunition for a caliber .38 revolver, and 79 rounds of 5.56mm bullet for M16.

They also found two bandoliers, a binocular, two backpacks, two sling bags and a power bank.

Meanwhile, the report said the skirmishes displaced at least 32 families, who sought shelter at the evacuation center in Sitio Mantauyan and were provided food assistance by the Moises Padilla Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict through the Municipal Social Welfare and Development Office.

“We again call on the wounded and fleeing rebels to voluntarily surrender. The government forces are giving you a chance to return to the fold of the law. The troops of 62IB and Philippine National Police will not stop hunting you to ensure peace and development in central Negros,” the 62IB further said.

In April, an encounter in Sitio Lower Tiyos, Barangay Quintin Remo also led to the death of Jose “Jojo” Albores, one of the leaders of the “kangaroo court” under the Central Negros Front 1 of the NPA’s Leonardo Panaligan Command.