Friday, July 7, 2023

3ID awarded for ISO performance in Regions 6, 7

From the Visayan Daily Star (Jul 7, 2023): 3ID awarded for ISO performance in Regions 6, 7 (By GILBERT P. BAYORAN)

The Army’s 3rd Infantry Division was conferred with four plaques of recognition from the Armed Forces of the Philippines, in recognition of its performance in the conduct of internal security operations in Western and Central Visayas, which led to the devastating losses suffered by the New People’s Army in the two regions.

Two other awards were also conferred to the Army’s 8th Infantry Division stationed in Eastern Visayas.

The awards were distributed to the different military units under the operational control of Visayas Command (VISCOM) during a simple ceremony on July 4 at the AFP General Headquarters in Quezon City.

In a statement, the AFP cited the accomplishments of VISCOM in dealing with the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA), through major armed encounters and strong collaboration with the community.

In receiving the awards, Lt. Gen. Benedict Arevalo, VISCOM commander, cited the military units’ active community engagement as its major tool to effectively address the insurgency problem in the Visayas.

Arevalo said that based on their inventory, the troops have confiscated a total of 223 firearms of different calibers from the 156 rebels neutralized during the last six months’ internal security operations.

Of the rebels neutralized from January 1 to June 30 this year, 103 surrendered, 42 were killed in encounters, and 11 were arrested during joint law enforcement operations.

He cited the strong links between the military and the community in the fight to end the insurgency.

“Much of what we have accomplished is the result of our collaboration and active partnership with the community, the local government units, and the different government agencies who are members of the local task force to end local communist armed conflict,” Arevalo said.

He also thanked the LGUs and the civil society organizations in the Visayas “for their untiring and overwhelming support.”

The VISCOM chief assured that “our relentless focused military operations will be sustained, as we continue our quest for the attainment of just and lasting peace in the entire Visayas region.”

He said the awards will serve as an added boost to the morale of the troops, as they continue to exert their efforts in eradicating the CPP-NPA in the Visayas region, at the soonest possible time.

A son’s wish fulfilled: Army camp building named after war hero in CDO

Posted to MindaNews (Jul 7, 2023): A son’s wish fulfilled: Army camp building named after war hero in CDO (By FROILAN GALLARDO)

The family of Major Jose Manuel Montalvan during the ceremony naming a building inside the 4th Infantry Division after him for his heroism during World War II. Photo courtesy of 4DPAO

CAGAYAN DE ORO (MindaNews / 7 July) — After almost two decades, journalist Ed Montalvan finally got his wish of having at least one facility at Camp Edilberto Evangelista, headquarters of the 4th Infantry Division, named after his late father, Major Jose Manuel Montalvan.

The deceased Montalvan, a local war hero, began serving as the first commander of Camp Evangelista, then called Camp Bulua, on Jan. 1, 1940, almost two years before the Japanese invasion of the country during World War II.

Camp Bulua was the headquarters of the Philippine Auxiliary Tactical Air Group or PATAG, from which the barangay where it was located got its name.

“For 17 years this was my dream and I pursued it, talking to every Army general I’ve met,” Ed, a former president of the Cagayan de Oro Press Club, said.

He said he got his wish fulfilled when he met and talked to MGen Jose Maria Cuerpo, 4ID commander, in a hotel in downtown Cagayan de Oro.

He said Cuerpo agreed to rename the new Division Multi-Purpose Building as Montalvan Hall in honor of his father.

“In less than 30 minutes of talking, Cuerpo agreed to my request. In 30 minutes all that I have worked for in many years was granted by the good general,” he said.

On June 19, Cuerpo and a few members of the Montalvan family unveiled the marker renaming the building into Montalvan Hall.

“He was a hero and a veteran who served with the USAFFE in Mindanao against the Japanese Imperial Army in World War II,” the marker posted at the entrance to the building reads.

Ed said he held back his emotions as Army soldiers also pulled the drape off the marker to reveal a wood frame with the words “Montalvan Hall”.

“I had goose bumps. I did it all for my Papa and now the dream becomes a reality,” he said.

The elder Montalvan, born on March 17, 1903, was a native of Cagayan de Oro known before as Cagayan de Misamis, then the capital town of Misamis Segundo Distrito province.

Montalvan studied at the Philippine Dental College in Manila and graduated with honors with a degree of Doctor in Dental Surgery.

He pursued a military career and joined the U.S. Army Reserve and was commissioned as a first lieutenant. He later joined the newly formed Philippine Army and was again commissioned as a first lieutenant.

“My father succumbed to the lure of a full-time military career. He joined the newly formed Philippine Army,” Ed said.

Unveiling of the marker naming a building inside Camp Evangelista after Major Jose Manuel Montalvan for his heroism during World War II. Photo courtesy of 4DPAO

During WWII the elder Montalvan was taken prisoner and detained at the campus of Xavier University, which was converted into a prison camp by the Japanese.

According to a narrative provided by Lt. Col. Arthur Eamiguel, commander of the 4ID Installation Management Battalion, Ed’s father escaped and joined the guerrillas under US Army Colonel Wendel Fertig.

Eamiguel said for his wartime services, Montalvan was awarded the Philippine Defense Medal, American Defense Medal, Asia-Pacific Campaign Medal, World War II Victory Medal, Philippine Republic Unit Citation Badge, and the US distinguished Unit Badge.

Ed said his father died on September 11, 1978, forgotten by the new generation of military officers and residents.

“I pleaded to every general about my father’s case but all I got was empty promises,” he said.

Cuerpo said he knew about Ed’s predicament while he served as aide to Lt. General Cardozo Luna, then commander of the Army Joint Task Force Mindanao in 2005.

“I saw that Ed’s crusade for his father was deserving. Renaming the building for his father gives honor to a World War II hero and most all as the first camp commander who started it all in Camp Evangelista,” Cuerpo said. (Froilan Gallardo/MindaNews)

48 Chinese fishing vessels spotted near Iroquois Reef: Wescom

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 7, 2023): 48 Chinese fishing vessels spotted near Iroquois Reef: Wescom (By Priam Nepomuceno)

SPOTTED. Chinese fishing vessels are seen swarming the Iroquois Reef, which is located south of the oil and gas-rich Recto Bank in the West Philippine Sea (WPS), based on the air patrol conducted by the Western Command (Wescom) on June 30, 2023. The Wescom on Friday (July 7, 2023) said a detailed report on the incident would be forwarded to higher authorities. (Photo courtesy of Wescom)

MANILA – The Western Command (Wescom) reported that 48 Chinese fishing vessels (CFVs) have been spotted swarming the Iroquois Reef, which is located south of the oil and gas-rich Recto Bank in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

The Wescom, in a Facebook post on Friday, said this was based on information from their air patrol on June 30.

"During multiple flights over Iroquois Reef in the past week, pilots aboard NV-312, a Britten Norman Islander light patrol aircraft of the Philippine Navy, observed an alarming presence of Chinese fishing vessels," it said.

It noted that the presence of these CFVs is visible from the air, based on the reports of the pilots of the patrol aircraft.

"The CFVs were observed to be anchored in groups of five to seven, and no fishing activities were noticed. They seem to just loiter in the area," Wescom said.

These recent observations by the Britten Norman Islander patrol aircraft confirm earlier intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance flights conducted in the area, which indicated “an increasing trend of CFVs."

In February, Wescom reported the sighting of only 12 CFVs, compared to the 47 spotted on June 12.

"Simultaneously with this surge at Iroquois Reef, an increased presence of Chinese maritime assets has also been noted at Sabina Shoal. Three China Coast Guard ships and two People's Liberation Army Navy vessels are regularly loitering there compared to two wooden resupply boats from the Philippines and two Philippine Coast Guard vessels," it said. “These developments raise an alarming concern about China's intentions and actions within these disputed waters.“

Recto Bank, a significant feature for the Philippines holding immense potential for the country’s energy security and economic growth, “stands as a focal point in this rising concern over China’s recent behavior,” it added.

“Recto Bank is a vital feature within the Philippine’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), and China must cease its swarming of vessels to respect our sovereign rights," Wescom spokesperson, Navy Commander Ariel Coloma, said in an earlier statement.

Wescom said a detailed report on the incident would be forwarded to higher authorities “as a crucial step that aims to facilitate the potential filing of a diplomatic protest, reinforcing our commitment to safeguarding Philippine sovereignty and territorial rights in the West Philippine Sea.”

US concerned over China’s ‘coercive’ behavior near Ayungin

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 7, 2023): US concerned over China’s ‘coercive’ behavior near Ayungin (By Joyce Ann L. Rocamora)

The Pentagon logo

MANILA – The United States expressed its concern over what it called China’s “coercive and risky operational behavior” in the South China Sea, including the Ayungin Shoal.

This was conveyed during a phone call between US Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III and Defense chief Gilberto Teodoro Jr. on Friday. In the call, Austin reiterated Washington D.C.'s commitment to the defense of Filipino public vessels in the vital sea lane.

“Secretary Austin noted with concern the PRC's (People’s Republic of China) recent coercive and risky operational behavior directed against Philippine vessels operating safely and lawfully in the South China Sea, including around Second Thomas Shoal (Ayungin),” the Pentagon said in a readout.

Austin, it said, highlighted the United States' “ironclad alliance commitment with the Philippines and reiterated that the Mutual Defense Treaty extends to Philippine public vessels, aircraft, and armed forces—to include those of its Coast Guard—in the Pacific, including anywhere in the South China Sea”.

The Philippine Coast Guard earlier reported that some Chinese Coast Guard vessels had “constantly followed, harassed, and obstructed” its ships when it undertook a naval operation with the Armed Forces of the Philippines Western Command last June 30 off Ayungin.

In the report, it said two People’s Liberation Army Navy vessels were also sighted near the shoal.

In a separate tweet, US Ambassador to the Philippines MaryKay Carlson said China’s behavior is “irresponsible” and threatens the security and legal rights of the Philippines.

“We call on the PRC to comply with international law, including implementing the legally binding 2016 award in the Philippines v. China Law of the Sea Convention arbitration as a starting point to achieve a free and open Indo-Pacific,” she said.

The two Defense secretaries discussed opportunities to partner with like-minded nations such as Japan and Australia to further ensure a free and open Indo-Pacific region.

Austin and Teodoro also agreed to meet in person for in-depth discussions on defense and security priorities.

The Pentagon said both officials look forward to expeditiously conclude a Security Sector Assistance Roadmap, which will advance shared defense modernization goals over the next five years, as well as a General Security of Information Agreement to enable future transfers of advanced and interoperable US technology.

“Their discussion reaffirmed the United States and the Philippines' enduring commitment to standing shoulder-to-shoulder as allies to bring greater security, prosperity, and stability to the Indo-Pacific region and beyond,” the Pentagon said.

Ironclad alliance

The Department of National Defense, meanwhile said the phone call between Teodoro and Austin reaffirmed the "ironclad" alliance between the Philippines and the US.

"After congratulating Secretary Teodoro on his recent appointment as the Philippines’ defense chief, US Secretary Austin emphasized the US’ commitment to working with the Philippines in modernizing the alliance as close partners in the Indo-Pacific region. It was underscored that much progress has been made between the two defense establishments within a short period of time," DND spokesperson Arsenio Andolong said in a statement.

And with the recent establishment of the Bilateral Defense Guidelines, Teodoro reaffirmed the DND’s commitment to sustaining dialogue platforms and bilateral mechanisms with the view of enhancing interoperability not only at the level of the armed forces but to include between the two defense departments.

"Secretary Austin re-echoed previous statements of the US that the Mutual Defense Treaty extends to public vessels to include aircraft and the coast guards anywhere in the South China Sea. Secretary Teodoro welcomed the US’ commitments and looked forward to working with US counterparts on ongoing bilateral initiatives as well as pursuing other areas of cooperation," Andolong said.

Both sides also committed to working together on the proposed General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA), a Security Sector Assistance Roadmap, joint patrols, and working with other regional partners, as well as other concrete initiatives.

"Secretary Teodoro welcomed more regular interactions with Secretary Austin not only through in-person engagements but also through other means," Andolong said. (with Priam Nepomuceno/PNA)

PAF, US PACAF open 2nd edition of 'Cope Thunder' drills

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 7, 2023): PAF, US PACAF open 2nd edition of 'Cope Thunder' drills (By Priam Nepomuceno)

(Photo courtesy of PAF)

MANILA – The second iteration of the Cope Thunder (CT) exercise between the Philippine Air Force (PAF) and the United States' Pacific Air Forces (PACAF) formally opened Friday, with the drills focusing on interoperability between the two services.

The PACAF is a major command of the US Air Force based at the Hickam Air Force Base portion of Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. It is also the air component command of the United States Indo-Pacific Command.

Opening ceremonies took place at Clark Air Base, Mabalacat City, Pampanga with ranking officials of both services present.

Air Defense Command chief Maj. Gen. Augustine Malinit served as the event's guest-of-honor and speaker, PAF spokesperson Col. Ma. Consuelo Castillo said in a statement.

"As he addressed the attendees, Maj. Gen. Malinit expressed his gratitude for the successful completion of the first phase of this bilateral exercise with our U.S. counterparts, Cope Thunder 23-1, which was held in May this year," Castillo said.

The first edition of the exercise took place from May 1 to 12 and focused on mission planning capabilities, and execution of defensive and offensive counter-air operations utilizing fighter and cargo aircraft.

"Officially opening this year's bilateral exercise, he (Malinit) affirmed that Cope Thunder 23-2 is an opportunity to assimilate forces and augment interoperability between the Philippines and the United States," Castillo said.

Meanwhile, the ranking American representative was Brig. Gen. Sarah H. Russ, mobilization assistant to the director of strategy plans, programs and requirements of PACAF headquarters.

Russ was welcomed by 5th Fighter Wing commander Brig. Gen. Leo A. Fontanilla.

The original Cope Thunder exercises, which provided regular flight training for US pilots and those of allied nations, were first held in 1976 and continued annually in the Philippines until 1990.

Following the opening ceremony, an aircraft tour was conducted at the Haribon Hangar featuring a USAF F-22 "Raptor" fifth generation stealth jet fighter and A-10 "Warthog" close air support aircraft from the US Air Force and an FA-50 light jet fighter aircraft from the PAF.

The bilateral exercise will engage approximately 585 PACAF service members and 687 airmen from various PAF units.

Spanning from July 2 to 21, the activities will encompass subject matter expert exchanges and field training exercises to be held at several PAF air bases, including Basa Air Base and Clark Air Base in Pampanga, Col. Ernesto Ravina Air Base in Tarlac, Brig. Gen. Benito N. Ebuen Air Base in Lapu-Lapu City, Cebu, and General Santos City.

The second edition of the Cope Thunder bilateral air operations exercises will primarily focus on large-force deployment of aircraft.

PBBM vows sustained modernization efforts for PH Army

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 7, 2023): PBBM vows sustained modernization efforts for PH Army (By Ruth Abbey Gita-Carlos)

CONTINUED MODERNIZATION. President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. leads the Philippine Army (PA) Officer Candidate Course (OCC) "Gaigmat" Class 58-2023 Graduation Ceremony at the Philippine Army Officers’ Clubhouse in Fort Andres Bonifacio, Taguig City on Friday (July 7, 2023). In a keynote speech, Marcos said his administration will continue to support the PA's modernization efforts. (PNA photo by Joey Razon)

MANILA – President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. on Friday assured the graduates of a Philippine Army (PA) course that his administration is committed to providing continued support for its modernization efforts.

Marcos made the assurance during the graduation ceremony of the PA Officer Candidate Course (OCC) “Gaigmat” Class 58-2023 in Fort Bonifacio in Taguig City.

“While this graduation ceremony marks the end of this chapter in your training, your journey does not end here— an even bigger challenge awaits you as you start to assume leadership roles in our Army,” he said in a keynote speech.

“Be assured, the government’s dedication to your advancement and welfare goes beyond providing modern equipment alone. We continue to prioritize retooling and retraining to arm you with intellectual fortitude, with tactical prowess, and strategic acumen to thrive in the modern battlefield,” Marcos added.

Marcos urged the graduates to serve as “guides and exemplars of excellence” among the Philippine troops, adding that they must hold firm to the core principles of honor, integrity and service that have helped shaped them to become “formidable warriors.”

Leadership, Marcos said, stems from being able to demonstrate initiative and flexibility amidst uncertainty; show resilience and tenacity under pressure; and, instill hope, courage and unity even in the most difficult of times.

“As you step into the ranks of commissioned officers of the Philippine Army, remember leadership does not emanate from titles or positions alone,” he said. “Lead by example, command with respect, [and] execute with excellence as you confront the challenges ahead.”

Marcos also enjoined the graduates to help his administration build a “better, safer, and more secure nation for all Filipinos in the years to come.”

During the graduation rites, Marcos also led the awarding of five outstanding graduates led by 2Lt. Jhun Lyndon Zamora who was awarded the Philippine Presidential Saber for Excellence.

Composed of 106 members, the OCC Class 58-2023 bears the class name “Gaigmat,” which stands for “Gabay na Iginawad ang Sarili Bilang Makabayang Tinatangi.”

The Visayan word conveys ‘vigilance and being watchful of everything at all times,’ as the Class prepares to become future leaders of the PA.

Graduating at the top of his class is Zamora from Urdaneta City, Pangasinan. He was the designated Brigade Adjutant and Program Officer of the PA Officer Candidate Corps.

The OCC is a training program designed to produce commissioned officers for the PA. It is a rigorous and comprehensive course that selects and trains individuals who aspire to become officers in the Army.

Upon completion of the training, the officer candidates will be commissioned as Second Lieutenants.

The OCC traces its beginnings to the creation of the Reserve Officer Service School in 1935 at Camp Henry T. Allen, Baguio City.

Moro Islamic Liberation Front 'member' nabbed in GenSan for murder charges

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 7, 2023): Moro Islamic Liberation Front 'member' nabbed in GenSan for murder charges (By Edwin Fernandez)

(Image courtesy of PRO-Soccsksargen)

KORONADAL CITY – Police arrested an alleged member of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) facing murder charges in Barangay Apopong, Gen. Santos City, Thursday afternoon.

In a statement Friday, Brig. Gen. Jimili Macaraeg, police regional director for the Soccsksargen region, identified the suspect as Wahab Tacbil (alias Commander Bravo Dats), who claimed to be an MILF member residing in Palimbang town, Sultan Kudarat province.

Tacbil did not resist arrest when authorities presented him with two warrants of arrest issued by the Gen. Santos City Regional Trial Court.

Police records showed that Tacbil has been tagged in various crimes in Palimbang that included murder, frustrated murder, and frustrated multiple murder charges.

"This significant development brings hope for justice and closure to the victims' families, as the individual responsible for this appalling act will now face legal consequences for his actions,” Macaraeg said.

Army expands book donation drive in N. Samar

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 7, 2023): Army expands book donation drive in N. Samar (By Sarwell Meniano)

BOOK DRIVE. Beneficiaries of books and school supplies donation drive in Roxas village in Northern Samar. The Philippine Army has expanded the initiative in a bid to help suppress the insurgency. (Photo courtesy of Philippine Army)

TACLOBAN CITY – The Philippine Army has expanded its books and school supplies donation drive, covering a remote campus in Catubig, Northern Samar, in a bid to help communities suppress the insurgency.

The donation drive in Roxas village that benefitted 400 learners and out-of-school youth is the fourth school reached by the Philippine Army’s 20th Infantry Battalion (IB).

Lt. Col. Joemar Buban, 20th IB commander, said Friday they donated on July 2 storybooks, school supplies, slippers, and bags containing small toys and goodies. They also turned over reference textbooks to the school teachers of Roxas Elementary School.

After the distribution of gift packs, conduct of parlor games, and storytelling, soldiers also initiated a feeding program that catered to almost the entire village, composed of 290 families with a total population of 1,648.

Dubbed as KinaBOOKasan Project, the initiative is in its second year of reaching conflict-affected areas and geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas since its launch in December 2021.

“This project showcases the commitment to helping the student sector, which is usually exploited and became a victim of the deceptive recruitment of the New People’s Army (NPA), as it aims to put a premium on the continuous learning of the students amidst the challenges of poverty and insurgency,” Buban said.

Launched in December 2021, the project has already covered Rizal Elementary School in Rizal village in Las Navas, Northern Samar; Siljagon Elementary School in Siljagon village, Mapanas, Northern Samar; San Jorge Elementary School in San Jorge village in Las Navas, Northern Samar; and Roxas Elementary School in Roxas village in Catubig, Northern Samar.

Roxas village is situated 15 kilometers away from Catubig town center and can be reached through a five-minute motorboat ride and another one-hour single motorcycle ride. The village is hardly accessible during rainy days.

The community is considered one of the conflict-affected villages and was infiltrated by the NPA in Northern Samar through intimidation and extortion.