Tuesday, July 4, 2023

COPE THUNDER PART 2//PH, US hold air combat exercises

From the Manila Times (Jul 4, 2023): COPE THUNDER PART 2//PH, US hold air combat exercises (By Franco Jose C. Baroña)

AROUND 225 United States and Philippine airmen are expected to take part in the second stage of Cope Thunder, a large-scale joint exercise between the two allied countries that began in 1976 but was halted after the US military closed its bases at Clark and Subic in 1991.

During the three-week US Pacific Air Force (US Pacaf)-sponsored bilateral fighter training that will run from July 2 until July 21, US and Philippine service members will exercise together to exchange tactics, techniques and procedures while improving interoperability.

The primary flight operations will happen at Clark Air Base, Mactan Air Base, and other airfields in the Philippines and will involve C-130 Hercules, A-10 Warthogs and F-22 Raptors from multiple participating units.

During the first stage of the exercise from May 1 to 12, Cope Thunder involved around 160 USAF service members and 400 PAF Airmen from different units with a focus on Air-to-Air Operations and Subject Matter Expert Exchanges (SMEEs).

A key component of the first stage was the Mission Planning Cell (MPC), responsible for planning and coordinating the integration of different aircraft and the execution of Defensive Counter Air (DCA) and Offensive Counter Air (OCA) operations.

The MPC worked closely with SMEEs to ensure that all participating personnel were trained and ready to undertake the mission.

The first week focused on DCA operations involving the identification, tracking and interception of enemy aircraft in the vicinity of friendly forces.

To support these operations, SMEEs on maintenance and security forces training were conducted.

These SMEEs provided participants with the knowledge and skills necessary to maintain their equipment and ensure security in the operational field.

On the other hand, the second week focused on OCA operations, which involved offensive attacks on enemy aircraft and ground targets.

These operations required a high degree of coordination and planning, which was facilitated by the MPC and SMEEs.

According to the US Pacaf, the second stage of Cope Thunder has a specific emphasis on expeditionary operations and is "designed to provide bilateral fighter training" with the PAF.

Cope Thunder began in the Philippines in 1976. It was moved to Eielson Air Force Base in 1992 and eventually renamed Red Flag Alaska.

The US Pacaf said this is the first year that Cope Thunder has returned to the Philippines since 1990.


EDCA, VFA-type partnership with Japan pushed

From the Philippine Star (Jul 4, 2023): EDCA, VFA-type partnership with Japan pushed (By Michael Punongbayan)

Former defense secretary and now Bases Conversion and Development Authority chairman Delfin Lorenzana said possible future cooperation between the two countries could mean forging an alliance anchored on something similar to the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the Philippines and the United States.  Philstar.com / File Photo

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines may well be on its way toward forging a more solid partnership with Japan that will allow both countries to jointly and more effectively counter China’s incursions in the West Philippine Sea and South China Sea.

Former defense secretary and now Bases Conversion and Development Authority chairman Delfin Lorenzana said possible future cooperation between the two countries could mean forging an alliance anchored on something similar to the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the Philippines and the United States.

Such stronger partnership may also give birth to an Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA)-type partnership that will allow Japanese military forces access to military bases in the Philippines.

“I think it’s possible. Now that we are going into a trilateral maritime patrol with the US, I think the next step there is to come up with an arrangement to make the patrol here consistent, constant, because we could not patrol an area for one day and leave them and then come back next year,” he told reporters.

“So the key here is accessibility… and we are very accessible to the areas like West Philippine Sea and South China Sea. And what’s happening now with this joint trilateral patrol between the three countries, we need to step up some more cooperation which is visitation, ship visits, presence maybe of personal gear, to repair ships that are coming here. We may also have to put up depots that could supply fuel and everything that a ship needs to be here,” he added.

Lorenzana said a VFA-like and EDCA-like partnership with Japan was part of the long-term plan when he was defense chief.

Stronger defense relations between the Philippines and Japan are very beneficial, he added, considering that the former is dealing with two very developed countries who are superpowers. He noted that Japan is a regional power with a strong economy and strong armed forces.

“As of now we have not yet any capabilities to protect our area, that’s why we are partnering with other stronger forces,” said Lorenzana, who was joined by Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro, National Security Adviser Eduardo Año and Armed Forces chief Gen. Andres Centino when he received his Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Star award from Japanese Ambassador Kazuhiko Koshikawa.

The Philippines and Japan can definitely help each other and pool resources to become a more credible force, he added.

Like the Philippines in the West Philippine Sea, Japan also has territorial issues with China, which has claims on Japan’s Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea.

During the Group of Seven (G7) Summit in Hiroshima last May, Japan Prime Minister Fumio Kishida joined US President Joe Biden, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, French President Emmanuel Macron, United Kingdom Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in asking China to stop its militarization activities in the South China Sea.

They also jointly declared that the July 2016 Arbitral Ruling declaring China’s vast maritime claims as void or baseless in favor of the Philippines is legally binding and should be upheld.

The G7 leaders, in a communiqué, said they “remain seriously concerned about the situation in the East and South China Seas” and stressed that “there is no legal basis for China’s expansive maritime claims in the South China Sea, and we oppose China’s militarization activities in the region.”

The Philippines, Japan and the US are now inching closer toward forming a trilateral defense alliance that will allow the conduct of joint maritime activities and naval exercises amid China’s continuing aggressive behavior in the South and East China Seas.

Just two weeks ago, Año and his counterparts Jake Sullivan of the US and Takeo Akiba of Japan met in a historical meeting in Tokyo to discuss how they can work on maintaining peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region.

In a joint statement, the top security officials announced that they have confirmed plans to enhance trilateral cooperation and trilateral defense and security capabilities.


Celebrating milestones as friends, partners, allies

Posted to GMA News Online (Jul 4, 2023): Celebrating milestones as friends, partners, allies (By US AMBASSADOR TO THE PHILIPPINES MARYKAY CARLSON)

This July 4, Americans all over the world are celebrating the 247th anniversary of U.S. independence. Here in the Philippines, we are also commemorating the 69th Philippine-American Friendship Day, making July 4 doubly special – a time to celebrate all that the Philippines and the United States have accomplished together as steadfast friends, partners in prosperity, and ironclad allies.

Since I arrived in July last year, I’ve had the opportunity to see the deep, multifaceted U.S.-Philippine relationship at work. During a recent trip to Cebu, I met talented new friends from the vibrant network of U.S. exchange alumni in the Visayas. In Ilocos Norte, I learned how our development efforts are improving energy efficiency standards, a key part of the Philippines’ clean energy transition. Last October, I had the honor to share the stage with President Marcos in Tacloban to commemorate the Leyte Gulf landing, honoring our shared history; while during a recent visit to Isabela province, I witnessed how U.S. and Philippine troops are working together today to modernize our alliance – training at Camp Melchor Dela Cruz. These trips and the many other milestones mark strong momentum in U.S.-Philippine relations.

This year’s highlight in our bilateral ties was the resoundingly successful visit to Washington, D.C. by President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. During President Marcos’s Oval Office meeting with President Biden, our leaders discussed the full spectrum of our relationship as friends, partners, and allies. President Biden reaffirmed our ironclad commitment to the Alliance and announced a first-of-its-kind Presidential Trade and Investment Mission to the Philippines. Our leaders also discussed new efforts to promote clean energy, expand science and technology cooperation, and protect the environment. President Marcos also met with multiple U.S. cabinet members. I was particularly struck by the lively, substantive discussion President Marcos had with Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, resulting in innovative programs to tackle food and nutrition insecurity.

This year, we also saw the successful conclusion of the largest, most complex iteration of Exercise Balikatan. Over 17,000 troops from the United States and the Philippines, as well as a contingent from Australia, trained shoulder-to-shoulder on land, at sea, in the air, and – for the first time – in cyberspace. Together, we announced four new locations where our countries will make investments to improve Philippine military infrastructure and capabilities under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, or EDCA. Projects implemented at these EDCA locations will advance the Philippine Armed Forces’ modernization goals and bring tangible economic benefits to local communities, creating jobs and opportunities for local businesses. The Philippines is the largest recipient of U.S. security assistance in the Indo-Pacific. Strengthening our Alliance helps secure peace and prosperity for our peoples.

U.S.-Philippine economic partnerships are flourishing. In May, I visited two top-tier U.S. businesses in Cebu, Timex and Teradyne. Like many U.S. companies operating in the Philippines, Timex and Teradyne provide thousands of Filipinos with high-quality, high-paying jobs – including as managers and executives. U.S. businesses value the talent of the Filipino workforce and, more and more, are looking to the Philippines as an attractive place to trade and invest. For example, Moderna has chosen the Philippines as its first-ever operational hub in Asia. We look forward to building on this momentum as partners in prosperity.

The United States is committed to supporting the Philippines’ growth and development goals. Through USAID, the United States recently invested one billion pesos to help small and medium-sized enterprises compete in the country’s e-commerce ecosystem. This investment helps build a robust, inclusive, secure, and resilient digital economy. USAID is also supporting the Philippine government and private sector to increase access to fast and reliable internet across the archipelago, train Filipino workers to meet the evolving requirements of the high-tech manufacturing sector, and help youth develop the skills they need to succeed.

This Fourth of July, I hope you’ll agree we have much to celebrate!

[MaryKay Carlson is U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines.]


Subsea fever: Philippines open to acquiring submarines

Posted to the Defense Connect Website (Jul 4, 2023): Subsea fever: Philippines open to acquiring submarines (By: Robert Dougherty)

Credit: PIA NCR

Republic of the Philippines President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr has spoken publicly that there is a plan being developed for the country to build or acquire submarines.

President Marcos made the comments during a speech and media briefing at the 125th Philippine Navy anniversary celebration at the PN headquarters in Manila on 26 May.

The event was attended by senior Defence officials from the Philippines including the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines General Andy Centino, Flag Officer-in-Command Philippine Navy Vice Admiral Toribio Adaci Jr, commanding generals, officers, and enlisted personnel.

“There is a plan (to acquire a submarine for the Philippines). It’s still being developed,” President Marcos said.

“(A) submarine is not a small commitment, it is a very large commitment because the training that is involved, the equipment that is involved, and the operational requirements that are involved are quite significant.

“It is still part of our plan. But right now, we are in the middle of developing mostly our anti-submarine capabilities. Then hopefully, when the time comes and the conditions are agreeable, then we might be able to acquire those submarines.

“Not only to acquire submarines but also to build them here in the Philippines. If they are built here and we can actually build submarines here and provide those submarines to other countries, then that’s another source of jobs, and of income, and increased capability for our Navy.”

Submarines are the flavour of the month in the Indo-Pacific with Australia announcing its intent to buy three US Virginia Class nuclear submarines and build a fleet of its own nuclear submarines under the AUKUS Defence agreement in March.

During the event, President Marcos addressed concerns that Indo-Pacific neighbours are gearing up their navies to face security and humanitarian concerns.

“We’re already doing it, that’s why we partnered with them. We have held the very large-scale Balikatan exercise, then we had another smaller scale exercise with the Australian armed forces,” he said.

“Of course, centre of all of that is going to be in the Navy because we are an archipelago and what we are guarding are our islands.

“There is no need to divide between the forces that are going to be used for external; for defence against external threats and for those used for civil defence.

“We will really look at when we acquire, when we procure materials, equipment we always think of a dual role, not just defence but also helping when a disaster comes here in the Philippines.”

Two new Israeli-made fast attack interdiction craft-missile gunboats (PG-903 and PG-905) were officially commissioned at the event. Each patrol craft can reportedly carry a selection of non-line-of-sight missiles or 30mm main cannons with .50 calibre machine guns.

“As we celebrate the Philippine Navy’s 125th anniversary, we pay tribute to the institution and the men and women behind it, both uniformed and civilian, for they have continued the noble cause of defending the Republic’s sovereignty and keeping the peace,” President Marcos said during the ceremony.

“Considering the changing tides of our national security and the significant gains that we have made in terms of internal security, our Armed Forces is working to recalibrate its focus more towards external defence of our borders.

“In this crucial transition, full support for the Armed Forces must be guaranteed, especially for the Philippine Navy’s priority goals of enhancing its intelligence, defence, and coordinative capabilities.

“With the commissioning of the two vessels today, we look further forward to the completion of the AFP Modernization Program (self-reliant defence posture program), more especially Horizon 3, which is significantly devoted to the naval aspect of our military operations.

“This endeavour will pave the way for the holistic transformation of our AFP into a stronger, modern, and formidable organisation. By then, the AFP will be more effective in its military aims and more responsive to our national goals.

“The seas that stretch before us are not to be seen as boundaries that divide our nations, but they must be seen as channels for mutually beneficial exchanges and collaboration. Our Navy serves not only as valiant guardians of our seas and shores, but peaceful emissaries as well.

“As it sails on towards the next century, the Philippine Navy remains ever relevant in our nation-building and continue to be indispensable to the attainment of the aspiration of a more comfortable and secure way of life for all Filipinos.

“This is an opportune occasion to renew our commitment and dedication to the cause of strengthening our republic, of its peace and prosperity.

“Rest assured that as your Commander-in-Chief, this administration will work tirelessly not only to improve the Armed Forces but are also looking for ways and means to improve your individual welfare and those of your families and loved ones as well.”

[Robert Dougherty is a senior journalist who has previously worked for Seven West Media in Western Australia, as well as Fairfax Media and Australian Community Media in New South Wales. He has produced national headlines, photography and videography of emergency services, business, community, defence and government news across Australia. Robert graduated with a Bachelor of Arts, Majoring in Public Relations and Journalism at Curtin University, attended student exchange program with Fudan University and holds Tier 1 General Advice certification for Kaplan Professional. Reach out via email at robert.dougherty@momentummedia.com.au or via LinkedIn.]


5 BARMM governors press anew full deactivation of 40,000-strong Moro Islamic Liberation Front

From MindaNews (Jul 4, 2023): 5 BARMM governors press anew full deactivation of 40,000-strong Moro Islamic Liberation Front (By BONG S. SARMIENTO)

Moro Islamic Liberation Front combatants in a military formation at Camp Darapanan in Sultan Kudarat town, Maguindanao. MILF fighters will be decommissioned in line with the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, the final peace deal between the government and the MILF signed in 2014. MindaNews file photo by BONG S. SARMIENTO

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews / 04 July) – The BARMM Governors’ Caucus (BGC) on Tuesday sought anew the complete decommissioning of the 40,000-strong Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), “for peace and prosperity to reign in the Bangsamoro region.”

The BGC is composed of governors Mamintal Alonto Adiong Jr. of Lanao del Sur, Bai Mariam Sangki-Mangudadatu of Maguindanao del Sur, Abdusakur M. Tan of Sulu, Hadjiman S. Hataman-Salliman of Basilan and Yshmael “Mang” I. Sali of Tawi-Tawi.

The group made the appeal after meeting Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. and Interior Secretary Benjamin Abalos Jr. in Manila on July 1 to discuss their peace and development initiatives in the Bangsamoro region.

Only Maguindanao del Norte Gov. Abdulraof Macacua, head of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces, the military wing of the MILF, is not part of the BGC.

In pushing for the full decommissioning of the MILF combatants, the BGC said they are hoping that the two Cabinet secretaries will “take into account their position and recommendations to promote peace and security” in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) leading up to the October 2023 Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections, and the mid-term and the first Bangsamoro Parliamentary elections in May 2025.

In a statement, the governors, reaffirming their support for the Bangsamoro peace process, noted that the “genuine and meaningful decommissioning of the MILF faces several significant challenges.”

One major obstacle “is the lack of a reliable baseline data, which undermines the credibility of the decommissioning process and erodes trust among the involved parties,” the group said.

“(The) absence of a comprehensive list detailing the whereabouts of the alleged 40,000 “combatants,” their base commands, and whether they face criminal charges make it difficult to ensure proper execution of the decommissioning (process),” the statement said.

Citing reports, the BGC pointed out that “those who have been decommissioned so far may not be genuine MILF combatants” and that the dismantling of MILF base commands is progressing slowly.

The group recommended making the list of the 40,000 MILF combatants designated for decommissioning readily available for validation by concerned parties.

The Philippine government and the MILF have created the foreign-led Independent Decommissioning Body (IDB) to oversee the process of decommissioning of MILF forces and weapons. It is a key component of the normalization structure in accordance with the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), which the parties signed in 2014 after 17 years of peace negotiations.

The IDB is chaired by Türkiye along with Norway and Brunei, and two representatives each from the Philippine government and the MILF.

Bangsamoro Minister on Interior and Local Government Naguib Sinarimbo, a member of the MILF technical working group during the peace negotiations, noted that the decommissioning of MILF forces is just one of the many aspects of the normalization track.

“This process is agreed between the government of the Philippines and the MILF and must proceed in parallel and commensurate to the implementation of the other aspects of the agreement, including the disbandment of private armed groups,” Sinarimbo, a lawyer, earlier told MindaNews.

According to the BGC, the presence of MILF base commands in certain areas “poses complications for law enforcement agencies and peace mechanisms, as they face challenges in maintaining law and order.”

“Attempts to serve warrants of arrest in these areas have resulted in armed encounters, with the MILF accusing government agents of operating without prior coordination. This situation raises suspicions of criminal elements being harbored in MILF camps or base commands, further complicating the overall decommissioning process,” their statement said.

Sinarimbo, also the Bangsamoro government spokesperson, said there has been “no conclusive studies post-CAB on the correlation of violence and the existence of MILF base commands.”

Instead, there is conclusive evidence of a downtrend in violence between MILF members and government forces since the signing of the CAB and the establishment of the BARMM, he added.

“In the past elections, it was never the MILF that caused violence in elections. It has always been the goons of the politicians,” he added.

Data from the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity (OPAPRU) showed that at least 24,844 of the 40,000 strong MILF members have been deactivated as of April 2023.

At least 4,625 weapons and about 6,852 ammunition have also been decommissioned since the program started in 2015, it added.

The parties agreed to resume the decommissioning process of the remaining 1,300 combatants under Phase 3 in mid-2023. Phase 3 involves 14,000 combatants or 35 percent of the 40,000-strong MILF.

Phase 4 or the last phase also involves the deactivation of 14,000 MILF fighters, or the remaining 35 percent of the front’s forces.

OPAPRU had revealed that at least P3.15 billion have been poured by the government for the socio-economic aspect of the normalization phase.


Police ask MNLF help in finding Sulu vice mayor wanted for murder

From the Manila Times (Jul 4, 2023): Police ask MNLF help in finding Sulu vice mayor wanted for murder (By Franco Jose C. Baroña)

THE Philippine National Police (PNP) has sought the assistance of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in locating former Maimbung, Sulu Vice Mayor Pando Mudjasan who is facing multiple murder charges.

Col. Jean Fajardo, PNP spokesman, admitted on Tuesday that it is hard for the PNP to pinpoint the exact location of Mudjasan, whose group clashed with combined police and Philippine Army personnel last June 24 in Maimbung that resulted in the death of a Special Action Force (SAF) commando and the wounding of 13 others, including two civilians.

Fajardo noted that Mudjasan, who was a former MNLF commander, knows certain areas in Sulu where he can hide and not be located. There is also the possibility that he is being coddled by other terrorist groups.

Fajardo said they were hoping that the MNLF will be able to convince Mudjasan to surface and face the cases filed against him.

The former local chief executive coddled Abu Sayyaf bandits which is one of the reasons why he was disowned by the MNLF.

Fajardo said the PNP has partnered with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in continuing pursuit operations against Mudjasan who they believe is still in the province of Sulu.

Authorities were supposed to serve arrest warrants for murder and frustrated murder and a search warrant for illegal possession of firearms and explosives against Mudjasan when the firefight occurred on June 24.

The former vice mayor slipped out of the area, according to a police report, during the firefight.

Five of Mudjasan's supporters were also killed in the shootout.


NPA’s ‘fund handler’ nabbed in Sultan Kudarat

From the Philippine Star (Jul 4, 2023): NPA’s ‘fund handler’ nabbed in Sultan Kudarat (By John Unson)

KORONADAL CITY, Philippines — A woman who reportedly helped bankroll funds for New People’s Army guerrillas has been arrested in Kalamansig, Sultan Kudarat.

Aileen Villarosa, 41, of Cagayan de Oro City, was arrested on Saturday in Barangay Poblacion by police officers from Northern Mindanao and Soccsksargen (South Cotabato, Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani and General Santos) as well as agents of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group.

Brig. Gen. Jimili Macaraeg, Soccsksargen police director, said they did not immediately announce the arrest of Villarosa to give informers, who helped locate the suspect, enough time to move out of the town for their safety.

Villarosa is reportedly an employee of a non-government organization that has community projects in Northern Mindanao.

The suspect reportedly left Cagayan de Oro and hid in Kalamansig after learning that authorities have filed criminal cases against her in different courts in the region.


Govt continues aid to villages despite NPA attacks

From the Manila Times (Jul 4, 2023): Govt continues aid to villages despite NPA attacks (By Alexandra J. Furio)

THE government will continue its support for villages despite disruptions by the New People's Army (NPA), Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Director Rene Valera said.

The Support to the Barangay Development Program (SBDP) of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict or NTF-Elcac is ongoing, he said.

In the hour-long program "TAGGED Reloaded: Debunking Lies By Telling the Truth," Valera discussed the SBDP program updates from 2021, 2022, and 2023 as well as the challenges they encountered with the NPA.

Despite these encounters, NTF-Elcac said that all SBDP projects will proceed.

SBDPs for 2022 are already 41 percent or 690 out of 1719 completed for 1496 villages. These are 397 farm-to-market, 80 water sanitation, 50 school buildings, 61 health stations, and 102 rural electrification projects.

Valera said that in 2021, 82.07 percent, or 1,904 out of 2,320 projects for SBDP had been completed that benefited 822 villages.

These projects include 763 farm-to-market roads, 415 water sanitation, 132 health stations, 116 school buildings, 163 rural electrification, and 53 other infrastructures.

He stressed that for every region, it is very noticeable that Regions 5 and 6 have slow movement. Valera emphasized the usual locations of encounters are within these regions.

Valera added that they are monitoring these projects. "When it comes to monitoring and evaluation of DILG, we conducted a regional dialogue with chief local executives. The local chief executives committed to fast track, to complete the implementation of these projects," Valera said.

The DILG director also cited that there is already an approved P6.1 billion budget for 2023 and there are reasons why they cannot start the SBDP for this year yet. Valera stressed that Covid-19 and 2022 elections affected the process of the Department of Budget and Management or DBM.

"These projects aren't overnight. It has a process," NTF-Elcac Media Bureau chief Joel Egco said, citing that they are aiming for the approval of P10 million for each barangay in 864 target villages for 2024.


Three NPA leaders in CAraga region, two followers surrender in Agusan del Norte

From the Manila Bulletin (Jul 4, 2023): Three NPA leaders in CAraga region, two followers surrender in Agusan del Norte (By MIKE CRISMUNDO)

CAMP RAFAEL C. RODRIGUEZ, Butuan City – Three Communist New People’s Army (NPA) leaders in Caraga region, along with their two regular fighters, abandoned their armed struggle and voluntarily surrendered to government forces in Agusan del Norte.

A sketchy report reaching the regional command and action center of Police Regional Office 13 (PRO 13) based here identified the three NPA leaders as a certain ‘Ka Luis/Lance/Bestre/Macar,’ 46, executive committee (Execom) member and finance officer of the Sub-Regional Committee 5 (SRC5) of the CPP-NPA North-Central Mindanao Regional Committee; ‘Ka Admin/Nesan/Arro,’ vice-commanding officer and Platoon leader of Huawei-SRC-5; and ‘Ka Mikay/Lyka,’ 20, medical officer of Platoon Huawei, SRC-5, NCMRC.

The three rebels came out of their hiding place and voluntarily submitted themselves before the officers of the Agusan del Norte Police Provincial Office (PPO) and the Philippine Army’s 23rd Infantry Battalion (23rd IB) on Sunday, July 2.

Thorough negotiations conducted by field units and the full support of barangay officials and community leaders also helped the three NPA leaders and their two followers decide to abandon the struggle.

The surrenderees, along with village officials, were officially presented to Agusan del Norte PPO and 23rd IB officials on Monday.

The former rebels are now under the custody of 23rd IB for further custodial debriefing and processing for “E-CLIP” Enrollment, said Assistant chief of the PRO 13-Regional Public Information Office Police Lt. Ryan Comajeg Cagula.

The command group of PRO 13 is hoping that the surrender of these former NPAs will bring positive attention to the remaining blinded members of the doomed NPA in some areas in the region.

“Our government is willing to welcome those remaining rebels who are still hiding so they could avail the government’s peace and development program,” said PRO 13 Regional Director Police Brig. Gen. Pablo G. Labra ll.

The rebel returnees are set to be enrolled in the government’s Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program or ECLIP.


16 alleged NPA rebels yield in Batangas, Laguna

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jul 4, 2023): 16 alleged NPA rebels yield in Batangas, Laguna (By: Delfin T. Mallari Jr.)


LUCENA CITY — At least 16 alleged New People’s Army (NPA) rebels surrendered to government forces in Batangas and Laguna provinces.

The Region 4A police, in a report on Tuesday, July 4, identified the rebel returnees as Apolinar Rosales and his wife Levie, both listed in the Philippine National Police’s periodic status report (PSR) as NPA rebels operating in Batangas. The NPA is the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines.

The report said the duo surrendered around 1 p.m.on Monday, July 3, to police and Army soldiers in Barangay Dayapan in Lemery town.

The rebel returnees had no firearms with them when they turned themselves in to the government forces.

In Los Baños City, Laguna, 13 former NPA rebels also surrendered around 4:30 p.m. on Monday, to police and military representatives at Camp General Macario Sakay.

Six of the rebel returnees were on the PSR list in Laguna.

The report said one of the former rebels surrendered a caliber .45 pistol loaded with four bullets and bomb-making equipment.

On Sunday, July 2, an alleged veteran NPA rebel, Gilbert Moreto surrendered to the police in Lemery.

Police disclosed that Moreto, also PSR-listed, admitted his participation in numerous encounters with government forces in the province, particularly the NPA attack in January 2017 on the ritzy tourist haven Hamilo Coast in Nasugbu.

The raiders burned the staff house, sleeping quarters and stole several firearms and ammunition from the resort security unit.

The rebel returnees will be assisted under the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-Clip).

E-Clip offers free medical treatments, education, housing, and legal aid to rebels who surrender.


NPA's continuing attempts to disrupt dev't projects bared

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 4, 2023): NPA's continuing attempts to disrupt dev't projects bared (By Priam Nepomuceno)

MANILA – The New People's Army (NPA) continues to stage attacks targeting various development projects of the government aimed at improving the quality of life in formerly rebel-controlled barangays, the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) said on Monday.

In an online press briefing, Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Director Rene Valera, who heads the agency's Project Development Services, said military and police units have foiled at least 10 NPA attacks targeting various development projects.

“So, hindi naman po nagtatagal 'yong disruption kasi base sa ating nakalap na mga impormasyon, nagpaparamdam (NPA) lang uli. Alam naman natin 'yong gawain na nila, paparamdam lang then tatakbo na (disruptions did not last long, base on the information we gathered the NPAs were just making their presence felt, and then they will flee)," he added in a statement Monday night.

Based on DILG records, government forces repelled the NPA rebels' attack on Nov. 26, 2022 against a development project being implemented in Sitio Ibayasaya, Barangay Tigbanaba, Igbaras, Iloilo.

This was followed by a 16-man rebel attack in San Remegio, Antique.

On Jan. 27, a twin attack was conducted by the NPA in the barangays of Kabladdan and Kabanbanan in the town of Sibalom, Antique that killed three unidentified rebels.

Armed encounters between government security forces and the NPA were also recorded in San Miguel, Catanduanes.

On May 11, another encounter happened in Sitio Dangalon, Barangay Hilamonan, Kabankalan City, Negros Occidental and then this was followed by an encounter on May 20 between 14 NPA rebels and government forces in Sitio Uway-uay, Barangay Quentin Remo, Moises Padilla, Negros Occidental.

In late March, government forces repelled a series of NPA attacks in Sitio Gimbaloran, Barangay Alipuaton, Salay, Misamis Oriental and in Barangay Buga, Riro-an, Taytay, and Tabiac to Barangay Batga in Tubungan area in Igbaras, respectively.

Valera said the Interior Department together with the NTF-ELCAC, military and police, and local government units will not be cowed by the economic sabotage being waged by the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army-National Democratic Front along with their front organizations.

Meanwhile, the DILG reported that 82.07 percent of the 2021 Support to Barangay Development Program has been completed -- 1,904 completed projects out of the 2,320 projects with 822 barangays as recipients.

For 2022, 41 percent of the 690 projects out of the 1,719 proposed projects for 1,406 barangays have already been completed. The projects include 763 farm-to-market roads, 415 water and sanitation, 132 health stations/centers, 116 school buildings, 163 rural electrification, 53 infrastructure projects, among others.


Internal security gains allow AFP to shift to external defense

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 4, 2023): Internal security gains allow AFP to shift to external defense (By Priam Nepomuceno)

COMMAND CONFERENCE. Armed Forces of the Philippines chief Gen. Andres Centino (left) leads a command conference for the first semester of 2023, with senior defense officials and military officers, in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City on Tuesday (July 4, 2023). Centino said successful internal security operations against insurgents and local terrorist groups will allow the military to shift its resources to external defense operations or missions concerning territorial defense. (Photo courtesy of AFP)

MANILA – Successful internal security operations (ISO) against the New People's Army (NPA) insurgents and local terrorist groups will allow the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to shift its resources to external defense operations or missions concerning territorial defense.

AFP chief Gen. Andres Centino made this remark during Tuesday's first semester command conference with other ranking military commanders held in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

“The AFP under the banner of ISO continues with the aim of totally defeating the communist terrorist group (CTG) and other local terrorists. Our efforts have resulted in success with the significant reduction of their numbers and firearms and the clearing of areas where they used to maintain presence; and those countering their propaganda, and suppression of their financial and logistics support,” he added.

Centino said the AFP's success in ISO was highlighted by the fact that of the five NPA guerilla fronts known as active in 2022, only one is active as two were reported dismantled while the other two are weakened.

"With these, we have safeguarded the safety and welfare of our fellow citizens. Thanks to the tireless efforts, support and cooperation of government agencies and different sectors of society,” the AFP chief noted.

With significant gains in ISO, Centino said a shift to external security operations (ESO) is on the horizon as the AFP strengthens its security posture with the increased conduct of aerial and surface maritime patrols, employment of air surveillance radar systems, monitoring of sea lines of communications and redeployment of naval special operations units and the Philippine Marines Corps.

Also, he noted an increased capacity and capability and professionalism brought by the AFP modernization and transformation programs.

“We have improved our capabilities and our presence in strategic locations with the increase in the number of naval vessels and the effective presence of our maritime detachments in the Batanes group of islands and the West Philippine Sea,” he added.

“These are complemented by partnering with our ally and strategic partner armed forces from our global and regional allied countries that enables leveraging of capabilities through information sharing, subject matter expert exchange, and joint and combined maritime patrols. All of these are with the help of an interagency-wholistic effort through the National Task Force-West Philippine Sea," Centino said.

Centino also said he wants further improvements on reserve force development, cyber defense, resource programming and prioritization, and human resource competencies.

He had ordered a review and assessment of the AFP modernization program, emphasized the need to look after the morale and welfare of soldiers, and reiterated his order to military commanders to personally oversee the situation of deployed personnel in their areas of operations.

“Looking forward, we will continue to prioritize the safety and welfare of our personnel, emphasizing their professional development and well-being,” Centino added.

In order to keep up with its adversaries, the AFP chief said efforts must be made to boost interoperability, strengthen intelligence sharing, and pursue efficiency and innovations in all operations.

The AFP remains committed to the ideals of unity, loyalty, and service to the country, the military chief stressed.

"We will forge ahead with determination, vigilance and be ready to face any challenges that may arise,” Centino stressed.

Command conferences are regular activities done with the presence of commanders on the ground, aimed at evaluating the status of different programs and campaigns of the AFP.

It also serves as a table for discussing plans and ways ahead based on assessments and recommendations that are documented in the AFP chief's guidance.


Army battalion moves to Northern Samar boundary

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 4, 2023): Army battalion moves to Northern Samar boundary (By Roel Amazona)

Lt. Col. Rudyard Garcia, commander of the Philippine Army's 52nd Infantry Battalion. (PNA photo by Roel Amazona)

TACLOBAN CITY – The Philippine Army has transferred the 52nd Infantry Battalion based in Oras, Eastern Samar to nearby Jipapad town to help suppress insurgency in remote communities near the boundary of Samar and Northern Samar provinces.

The relocation of troops is a strategy to strengthen the government's presence in the tri-boundary of Samar Island where the remaining fighters of the New People’s Army (NPA) are hiding.

Lt. Col. Rudyard Garcia said on Tuesday that although they are transferring, their presence in remote areas in the towns of Maslog, Dolores, and Oras will continue as there are troops assigned to maintain peace and order.

“There are no signs of enemy resurgent in our area because the communities are very supportive and cooperative and they immediately report to us any presence of enemies,” Garcia said in an interview.

The battalion has been based in Dao village, Oras town for several years.

Their new camp in Jipapad town is in the northeasternmost part of Eastern Samar province, near the boundary of Northern Samar province. It is about an hour's trip away from Oras.

“We are now located in a strategic location to properly secure the northern part of Eastern Samar,” Garcia added.

The battalion covers the towns of Jipapad, Maslog, Dolores, Oras, San Policarpo, and Arteche in Eastern Samar; and Lapinig in Northern Samar province.

The troops’ presence in Jipapad town will also help in ensuring the security of government infrastructure projects, including the Jipapad-Las Navas road network that connects Northern Samar to Eastern Samar, providing alternative roads to travelers passing along the Samar Pacific Coastal Road.

They are also tasked to secure the Support to Barangay Development Program (SBDP) in five Jipapad villages previously influenced by rebels.

Among the projects are farm-to-market roads, water systems, and rural electrification.

Garcia said they will likewise capacitate the communities through the creation of people’s organizations for livelihood opportunities such as the management of eco-tourism sites in partnership with other national government agencies and local government units.

“Military operation is not the only solution to this battle. We need cooperation and support from the members of our society, national government agencies, and especially the local government units,” Garcia said.

Northern Samar is the most insurgency-affected province in Eastern Visayas with the operation of two active NPA guerilla fronts.

The military said although front committees 1 and 15 are still active, they are not in control of any village in Northern Samar.

Front committee 2 operating in the boundary of Samar and Northern Samar has been dismantled this year after the capture and surrender of some of its combatants and the recovery of several firearms.

The NPA front committee 3, which operates near the boundaries of Northern Samar and Eastern Samar provinces, has also been weakened after the series of operations by government forces.