Thursday, July 13, 2023

US, PH Marines cancel military exercise due to monsoon rains

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jul 13, 2023): US, PH Marines cancel military exercise due to monsoon rains (By: John Eric Mendoza)

U.S. Marines with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 268, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing arrive at the Subic Bay International Airport, Philippines during Balikatan 23 on April 13, 2023. (U.S. Marine Corps file photo by Corporal Kyle Chan)

MANILA, Philippines — Heavy downpours on Thursday prompted the cancellation of the military exercise between the Philippine Marine Corps (PMC) of the Philippine Navy and their counterparts in the United States military.

Elements from the PMC and United States Marine Corps (USMC) were supposed to sink former a vessel named BRP Lake Caliraya 12 nautical miles off the bay of San Antonio, Zambales.

The boat is an old Philippine Navy ship that would have served as a mock enemy target.

A USMC aircraft was supposed to shoot the Navy’s first motor tanker which was decommissioned in December 2020.

But according to PMC Deputy Commandant Brigadier General Jimmy Larida, the “minimum cloud ceiling” and the aerial visibility did not meet the threshold of the agreed safety criteria.

“The weather, at this point, is not really safe for the participants,” Larida told reporters in an ambush interview in Naval Station Leovigildo Gantioqui in San Antonio.

“We are considering the safety of all participants of the maritime strike,” he noted.

On Thursday, the state weather bureau said Central Luzon — which Zambales is a part of — is experiencing monsoon rains.

This is due to the combined effects of a low pressure area spotted 90 kilometers northeast of Infanta, Quezon and the southwest monsoon or habagat.

Meanwhile, when asked if the activity will be rescheduled, Larida said, “We will discuss that matter with our counterparts, and considering this is a bilateral exercise, all decisions should be made by both parties.”

The cancelled activity is part of bilateral drills dubbed as Marine Aviation Support Activity (Masa).

Joined by over 2,700 Filipino and American marine troops, this year’s Masa is the biggest ever in its history.

The exercise will last until July 21.

US Marines Showcase Strength And Capabilities With Philippine Marines

Posted to Naval News (Jul 13, 2023): US Marines Showcase Strength And Capabilities With Philippine Marines (By Jeoffrey Maitem)


US Marines 3rd Aircraft Wing walk towards F/A-18 Hornet fighter jets during an exercise called the semi-annual Philippine-US military exercise Marine Aviation Support Activity (MASA) 23 at Subic Bay, the former US naval base located in north of Manila.

US Marines showcased Thursday their strength and capabilities during an exercise with Filipino Marines, flying their aircraft near South China Sea a day after Manila commemorated the seventh anniversary of an international ruling that dismissed Beijing's expansive claims in the disputed waters.

Two Lockheed Martin F-35C Lightning II flew over South China Sea near in this province as part of the Marine Aviation Support Activity (MASA), an annual drills participated by 2,711 personnel and 43 air assets from both long-time ally countries different military bases in Cagayan, Tarlac, Palawan, Zambales, and Cebu.

At the Subic International Airport, the former US naval base located north of Manila, US marines showed to the media loading of a thousand-pound laser guided bombs to five F/A-18 Hornets tasks to provide air support to the annual exercises. The hornets, along with other air assets of the Philippine Marines, would supposedly launch a mock attack against a Chinese built vessel 12 nautical miles away from San Antonio, a town close to contented South China Sea but was hampered by bad weather.

A US Marine F-35C Lightning fighter jet prepares to land during an exercise called Marine Aviation Support Activity (MASA) 23, at Subic Bay, the former US naval base located in north of Manila, July 13, 2023.

The target was the former BRP Lake Caliraya, a tanker donated by the then Philippine National Oil Corporation to the Philippine Navy in 2014 and decommissioned in 2020.

The 2016 landmark international tribunal ruling was a result of the arbitration case filed by the administration of the late President Benigno Aquino III against China and came just days after Duterte succeeded him in office.

China claims nearly the entire South China Sea, including waters within the exclusive economic zones of Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan. While Indonesia does not regard itself as a party to the South China Sea dispute, Beijing claims historic rights to parts of that sea overlapping Indonesia’s EEZ as well.


US Marines 3rd Aircraft Wing personnel load a missile into F/A-18 Hornet fighter jet during an exercise called the semi-annual Philippine-US military exercise Marine Aviation Support Activity (MASA) 23 at Subic Bay, the former US naval base located in north of Manila.

However, speaking with reporters, 2Lt. Madison Walls, spokesperson for US Marines Corp 3rd Aircraft Wing, said the four Hornets will be integrating with other aircrafts and platforms including with the Philippine assets to conduct exercise, coordination of fires with Filipino and American assets.

“This year’s drills are not targeted to specific concerns in the region. This is to strengthen our partnership with our allies,” Walls told reporters.

Capt. Richard Winter of the US 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, said they are integrating with Filipino assets by practicing coordination for command and control.

“Our goal is to reinforce our alliance with the Philippines and our partners in the Indo-Pacific region,” he said.

Two F/A-18 Hornet fighter jets are seen during an exercise called Marine Aviation Support Activity (MASA) 23 at Subic Bay, the former US naval base located in north of Manila.

The Philippines and US have an existing Mutual Defense Treaty that was signed by both countries in 1951. It binds the two allies to aid each other in times if a foreign power attacks either country, and would allow the U.S. to use former American naval and air bases in the Philippines, a former American colony.

China rips ‘US-led’ SCS effort

From the Manila Standard (Jul 14, 2023): China rips ‘US-led’ SCS effort (By Rey E. Requejo)

China on Wednesday accused the United States of masterminding efforts to rally countries against Beijing and instead support the 2016 decision by the Permanent Court of Arbitration that invalidated its expansive claims to the South China Sea and upheld Manila’s exclusive economic zone in the West Philippine Sea.

In a statement released by the Chinese Embassy in Manila, China accused the US of mobilizing countries to gang-up on Beijing to pressure it into accepting the arbitral ruling.

Meanwhile, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Thursday said it deployed additional assets to the Kalayaan Group of Islands in the West Philippine Sea amid continued Chinese incursions in the disputed waters.

Additional ships were deployed in the islands to hold sovereignty patrols, which AFP spokesperson Col. Medel Aguilar said was part of the military’s mission to “protect Filipinos and the state” together with the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG).

Aguilar did not disclose how many assets were deployed but assured the AFP would devote more time to patrol wider areas in the West Philippine Sea, the part of the South China Sea in which the Philippines says it has sovereign rights, and that sovereignty patrols would be done more often.

On the 7th anniversary of Manila’s win in its arbitration case against China, Beijing on Wednesday night said the US has been pushing more countries each year to commemorate the ruling.

“As the mastermind behind the South China Sea arbitration, the US ropes in allies to play up the issue each year on the anniversary of the illegal award to gang up against China and to exert pressure, and force China into accepting the award,” the embassy statement said.

“We are firmly against this,” it added.

China’s remark came after a growing number of countries openly expressed support for the Philippines in the maritime row—a development welcomed by Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary Enrique Manalo.

Among those countries include the US, an ally of the Philippines; Japan, which also has disputes against China over the East China Sea; Australia, which shares the same waters with the Philippines and China; India, which shares a border with China; and the UK; France and other European nations.

On July 12, 2016, the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) ruled that China’s “nine-dash line,” which it cites as basis to claim the West Philippine Sea, a part of the bigger South China Sea, is contrary to the provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

UNCLOS is an international agreement, which both the Philippines and China ratified, that establishes a legal framework for all marine and maritime activities.

In the same statement, China said it will “never accept any claim or action based on the award.”

Arguing that its rights and interests in the South China Sea were “established in the long course of history,” China said its claims “are solidly grounded in history and the law” and will not be affected by any award.

China then urged countries outside the region to respect its territorial sovereignty and maritime rights.

It also called on them to “stop using the South China Sea issue to drive wedges among regional countries, and refrain from being a troublemaker to peace and stability in the South China Sea.”


Meanwhile, top US and Chinese diplomats will hold their second meeting in as many months on Thursday in Jakarta, seeking to manage tensions that risk flaring anew over alleged Chinese hacking.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Wang Yi, China’s top foreign policy official, will meet on the sidelines of Association of Southeast Asian Nations talks in the Indonesian capital, the State Department’s public schedule showed.

The meeting is going ahead despite Microsoft saying two days earlier that Chinese hackers had breached US government email accounts, including those of the State Department.

The Jakarta talks come nearly a month after Blinken traveled to Beijing, the first visit by a US secretary of state in nearly five years, and met President Xi Jinping as well as Wang and Foreign Minister Qin Gang.

Wang, who leads the foreign affairs commission of the Chinese Communist Party’s Central Committee, is representing China at the Jakarta talks among foreign ministers as Qin is ill, the foreign ministry in Beijing said.

Blinken’s trip opened a flurry of diplomacy, with Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen visiting Beijing last week and a trip by climate envoy John Kerry set for the coming days.

But the United States has still not achieved its key goal of resuming dialogue with the Chinese military, seen as critical to avoiding worst-case scenarios.

Tensions between the world’s two largest economies have soared in recent years over a host of issues including China’s growing assertiveness in the region and sweeping restrictions imposed by the United States on exports of advanced semiconductors.

US officials fear China is readying plans to invade Taiwan, the self-governing democracy it claims, and want to preserve the status quo that has reigned, often uneasily, for nearly five decades.

Neither the United States nor China has predicted breakthroughs from the renewed diplomacy, but both have spoken of making sure that disagreements do not lead to outright conflict.

Blinken spoke in unusually sanguine terms about China after his trip to Beijing, avoiding the Cold War-like talk of a long-term global confrontation with the rising Asian power that was popular under former president Donald Trump’s administration.

“At least in the near term, maybe even in the lifetimes of most people in this room, I don’t think (there is) a clear finish line,” Blinken said of US goals in China during a recent appearance at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.

“This is more about getting to a place where we have peaceful and maybe somewhat more productive coexistence between us.”

But incidents have repeatedly crept up to overshadow the relationship.

Microsoft this week said that a Chinese hacking group had gained access to nearly 25 organizations with the goal of espionage.

The State Department said it detected “anomalous activity” but stopped short of publicly blaming China, saying an investigation was underway.

Blinken’s first plan to visit Beijing was scuttled in February after Washington said it detected a Chinese spy balloon over the mainland United States.


The South China Sea is set to be a major topic at the ASEAN talks in Jakarta, where Washington and Beijing will both take part in an 18-nation East Asia Summit with foreign ministers’ on Friday. (See full story online at

China claims almost the entirety of the strategic waterway and several ASEAN members complain about Beijing infringing on their own overlapping territorial claims.

Wang addressed ASEAN ministers before talks Thursday morning as did Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who will be in the same room Friday as Blinken for the East Asia Summit meeting.

It will be their first encounter since a brief March meeting in India but no bilateral talks are expected between the two diplomats as Moscow’s widely-condemned invasion of Ukraine grinds on.

ASEAN will also meet jointly with the foreign ministers of China, Japan and South Korea, a dialogue in place since the 1997 Asian financial crisis.


The crisis in coup-racked Myanmar that has divided ASEAN members will also be on the list of topics addressed, said Teuku Rezasyah, international relations expert at Padjadjaran University.

“Japan and South Korea have an interest to prevent Myanmar from joining China’s orbit,” he said.

Thailand’s foreign minister on Wednesday said he met with ousted Myanmar democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi last week and Bangkok has sought engagement with Myanmar’s ruling junta, drawing criticism that it is undercutting ASEAN efforts.

A Southeast Asian diplomat said a joint ASEAN communique after thebloc’s two-day ministerial meeting earlier this week was still being worked out and would come on Thursday, a day later than expected.

In other developments:

* Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel III and Senator Grace Poe warned against the filing of another case versus China before international courts to assert the country’s sovereignty over the West Philippine Sea. “Let us not re-litigate what we already won. When we file something, we are actually giving the other side a chance to bring up their planned original argument—which they did not bring up because they boycotted the proceedings,” Pimentel said in an ANC

interview on Thursday. Poe added that if the country files another case, the ruling might change. “Usually the ones that reopen the case are the ones that lose,” she said.

* Australian Ambassador to the Philippines HK Yu said Canberra’s strengthened military alliance with the Philippines is only a form of “deterrence” and “diplomacy” and will not necessarily create tension in the South China Sea. Yu said Australia’s enhanced military partnership with the Philippines, which includes more joint maritime exercises, is not a form of escalation.

US Marine jets fly over South China Sea during Philippine drills

From BenarNews (Jul 13, 2023): US Marine jets fly over South China Sea during Philippine drills (By Jeoffrey Maitem)

U.S. Marines 3rd Aircraft Wing members inspect a missile on an F/A-18 Hornet fighter jet during a joint training exercise at Subic Bay, Zambales province, Philippines, July 13, 2023.  Jeoffrey Maitem/BenarNews

The U.S. Marines showcased their aerial strength and capabilities during a joint exercise with their Philippine counterparts on Thursday by flying sophisticated warplanes over the South China Sea amid fresh tensions in the maritime region.

Two Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II fighter jets flew over Zambales province as part of the Marine Aviation Support Activity (MASA), annual two-week drills involving more than 2,700 allied personnel.

Apart from the training drills staged at Subic Bay in Zambales, exercises are planned for Cagayan, Tarlac, Palawan and Cebu provinces through July 21. Subic Bay is the site of a former U.S. Navy base that closed in the early 1990s, at the end of the Cold War.

At the Subic International Airport on Thursday, the U.S. Marines demonstrated loading 1,000-pound laser guided missiles on five F/A-18 Hornets. The Hornets were supposed to launch a mock attack to sink a ship about 12 nautical miles from San Antonio, a coastal town facing the South China Sea, but were hampered by storms.

Second Lt. Madison Walls, U.S. Marines Corps 3rd Aircraft Wing spokesperson, said four Hornets were deployed in the exercises to integrate with Philippine assets in coordinated attacks.

“This year’s drills are not targeted to specific concerns in the region. This is to strengthen our partnership with our allies,” Walls told reporters.

U.S. F/A-18 Hornet fighter jets are seen on the tarmac during a joint training involving U.S. and Philippines troops, July 13, 2023. [Jeoffrey Maitem/BenarNews]

The drills are taking place amid continuing Chinese harassment of the Philippine Coast Guard, according to the government in Manila.

They are also unfolding against the backdrop of tensions between China and the United States over Taiwan, which Beijing considers a renegade province.

As the Chinese military conducted military drills off Taiwan on Thursday, Chinese air force jets monitored a U.S. Navy plane as it flew through the Taiwan Strait, the Reuters news agency reported.

The joint U.S.-Filipino exercises came a day after the Philippines marked the seventh anniversary of an international arbitration court’s ruling for the Philippines, in a landmark case that Manila brought against Beijing in their territorial dispute over the South China Sea.

Beijing has refused to abide by the ruling and claims nearly the entire South China Sea. This includes waters within the exclusive economic zones of Taiwan, as well as Southeast Asian neighbors Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam. Indonesia has a separate conflict with China over the Natuna Islands.

A U.S. Marines F-35 Lightning fighter jet comes in for a landing during joint exercises with the Philippines at Subic Bay, north of Manila, July 13, 2023. [Jeoffrey Maitem/BenarNews]

Earlier this week, Sen. Imee Marcos called on Philippine government agencies to monitor the presence of U.S. military aircraft and Chinese naval ships in the country “equally” as she questioned the presence of U.S. Air Force C-17 aircraft in Manila and Palawan.

Sen. Marcos, who is the older sister of President Ferdinand Marcos, called on Philippine military, defense and foreign affairs officials to investigate whether undisclosed U.S. military flights have exacerbated volatile conditions in the region.

“Too little is known about ongoing U.S. military activity in our territory while we constantly call out the presence of Chinese vessels in the South China Sea,” Sen. Marcos said in a statement on Sunday.

“The same zeal in tracking any violations in our maritime territory and EEZ (exclusive economic zone) must also apply where Philippine air traffic rules and joint military agreements with the U.S. are concerned,” she said.

In February, the Marcos administration granted the American military greater access to bases in his country, alarming nationalist groups into suspecting that the Philippines may be drawn into a war if China invades Taiwan, a U.S. ally.

The allies have an existing Mutual Defense Treaty signed in 1951 binding them to aid each other if a foreign power attacks.

According to Philippine Air Force spokeswoman Col. Ma. Consuelo Castillo, all personnel involved in the joint exercises are covered diplomatically.

“As long as they are covered by diplomatic clearances and communicated to us by the DFA, there is no threat because it went through the proper process,” she said, referring to the Department of Foreign Affairs. “All those involved in the training went through the proper process of getting the proper diplomatic clearance.”

DSWD DROMIC Report #2 on the Armed Conflict in Brgy. Carabalan, Himamaylan, Negros Occidental as of 12 July 2023

From the Philippine Relief Web (Jul 12, 2023): DSWD DROMIC Report #2 on the Armed Conflict in Brgy. Carabalan, Himamaylan, Negros Occidental as of 12 July 2023

Download Report(PDF | 284.44 KB)

I. Situation Overview

On 07 July 2023 at around 9AM, an armed conflict transpired between the troops of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and members of the New People’s Army (NPA) in Brgy. Carabalan, Himamaylan City.

Source: DSWD Field Office (FO) VI

II. Status of Affected Areas and Population

A total of 167 families or 765 persons are affected in Brgy. Carabalan, Himamaylan City (see Table 1).

Acorda to NPA surrenderers: Full gov't assistance underway

From Sun Star-Davao (Jul 13, 2023): Acorda to NPA surrenderers: Full gov't assistance underway

PHILIPPINE National Police Chief Benjamin C. Acorda Jr. assured the 43 New People’s Army surrenderers from Bukidnon that they will be receiving government assistance in full.

Acorda said that the weapons they also surrendered will likewise be included in the assistance in the form of cash payment.

The former NPA guerrillas were presented to Acorda inside the police Camp Alagar.

Acorda also witnessed the distribution of sacks of rice, buckets of canned goods, and other food items during the NPA surrender, as he assured them of “full government support” in their bid to go back to civilian life.

“A lot of money has been wasted in buying bullets and armaments when these should have been used to rev up the economy,” he told them.

He said government assistance would be given to them immediately after they surrender “so that you can start to begin your journey back to civilian life.”

“I want you to feel and receive the social services that the government wants you to get. And as your Chief PNP, I will make sure that you get this government support to put your life back in order,” he said in a late morning program inside the police’s Camp Alagar headquarters.

The PNP listed a total of 43 NPA guerrillas under the North Central Mindanao Revolutionary Command who surrendered on different occasions between March last year and March this year.

Nine of them operated in San Fernando and 18 in Talakag, both in Bukidnon; 13 in Cagayan de Oro City; and three others from Bukidnon who are still awaiting their surrender papers.

The PNP presented 16 firearms to Acorda, including a caliber 50 improvised sniper rifle and three CZ rifles.

The Communist Insurgency in the Philippines//A ‘Protracted People’s War’ Continues

Posted to the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED) Website (Jul 13, 2023): The Communist Insurgency in the Philippines//A ‘Protracted People’s War’ Continues


When Philippine President Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos, Jr. came to power on 30 June 2022, he confronted a decades-long communist insurgency that began during the regime of his father, the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, Sr. Notably, this insurgency had a mixed fate under Marcos, Jr.’s predecessor, former president Rodrigo Duterte, who initially oversaw ambitious peace talks before a dramatic about-face toward all-out war. Consistent with Duterte’s later turn, Marcos, Jr. has shown little interest so far in resuming formal peace talks with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), alongside its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA), and its political wing, the National Democratic Front (NDF), collectively referred to as the CPP-NPA-NDF.1 That disinterest, coupled with the death of CPP founder Jose Maria Sison due to natural causes in December 2022 and the killings of several high-profile rebel leaders in the last three years, raises questions about the road forward for the insurgency.

This report examines the fighting between the state and the communist rebels under the Duterte and current Marcos, Jr. administrations. ACLED data show that fighting between state forces and the communist rebels has persisted since the end of the Duterte-era peace talks and into the new Marcos, Jr. regime, though dipping toward the end of 2022 amid the loss of top rebel leaders. A resurgence in fighting occurred in March 2023, while Marcos, Jr. moved to further empower a Duterte-era anti-communist body in May 2023. The report also looks at attacks targeting civilians in the context of the communist insurgency, particularly attacks on activists and other civilian actors related to the state’s practice of red-tagging. Amid this charged political environment, this report concludes by considering the prospects for peace under the Marcos, Jr. regime.

History and Ideology of the CPP-NPA-NDF

The ongoing rebellion being waged by the CPP-NPA-NDF dates back to the early presidency of the late Marcos, Sr., the current president’s father, when Sison reestablished the CPP under a Maoist line on 26 December 1968. The establishment of its armed wing, the NPA, followed on 29 March 1969. Sison’s CPP, which broke away from the older Moscow-aligned Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas (PKP) established in 1930, would quickly eclipse PKP in significance and provide a formidable challenge to the Marcos military establishment, growing the NPA to a peak of around 26,000 fighters in the 1980s.2

The CPP’s basic analysis of Philippine society, largely based on Sison’s writings – an application of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism to the Philippine context – has remained largely unchanged since the rebellion started in the late 1960s. The CPP believes the Philippines is a semi-feudal, semi-colonial country, meaning one where formerly feudal structures have been transformed to serve neo-colonial monopoly capitalism. The CPP holds that there are three basic problems in Philippine society: imperialism, feudalism, and bureaucrat capitalism – to which the answer is a national democratic revolution with a socialist perspective. Their revolution is to be waged in the Maoist vein of a “protracted people’s war,” which involves the gradual encirclement of cities from the countryside, carried out primarily by workers as its leading class and peasants as its main force.3

The basic goals and the fundamental strategy of the protracted people’s war pursued by the CPP-NPA-NDF have remained the same since the insurgency’s inception, and they continue to characterize the movement today. This continuity exists despite a schism in the post-Marcos, Sr. environment of the 1990s that led to a division between the party’s ‘reaffirmists’ (RAs) and the ‘rejectionists’ (RJs), following deadly purges against military infiltrators within the party that brought it to near collapse. The RAs, who reaffirmed Sison’s basic analysis of Philippine society and the strategy of protracted people’s war,4 continue to lead the CPP-NPA-NDF today. The RJs have dispersed into other leftist groupings, often with testy relations with the CPP-NPA-NDF and their allies in the legal, activist, and parliamentary arenas.5 The communists’ specific political program today is expressed in the NDF’s 12-point agenda, which also forms the backbone of the communists’ basic demands in the peace process.6

The endurance of the communist insurgency through several decades is an oft-raised question. By the rebels’ own account, however, this endurance reflects the persistence of the basic problems of Philippine society, which provides fertile ground for the recruitment of peasants and other supportive classes, such as workers and even students from the cities. The strong ideological character of the insurgency seems to ensure an ample supply not only of occasional fighters, but of revolutionaries committed to pursuing their vision for Philippine society long term.7

The national government itself has long acknowledged that the root causes of the armed conflict are related to long-standing socio-economic issues. In the comprehensive Philippine Development Plan of the Duterte administration, the government resolved to implement “peace-promoting and catch-up socio-economic development in conflict-affected areas” as a key measure toward a “just and lasting peace.”8 Meanwhile, the succeeding plan under Marcos, Jr. emphasizes the importance of a reintegration program for surrendering rebels and of socio-economic interventions in barangays (sub-city or sub-town districts) affected by conflict, such as the Barangay Development Fund managed by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).9

The continuing sustainability of the NPA insurgency, then, seems to be the result not only of the revolution’s very design as a protracted people’s war, but also of the persistence of conditions that create impoverished rural communities receptive to the CPP-NPA-NDF’s message of revolutionary change.

Rural Unrest and Armed Insurgency

The CPP’s strategy of protracted people’s war stresses the peasantry’s role in providing the revolutionary army’s main force, which then aims to gradually encircle the cities from the countryside as the rebels win over rural communities. This strategy explains the NPA’s scant activity in the biggest urban centers, particularly Metropolitan Manila. Conversely, most clashes between the NPA and the military occur in remote, mountainous terrain in rural agricultural areas, particularly in the western islands of the central Philippines, and in the northern part of the main southern island of Mindanao (see map below).

ACLED data illustrate that the NPA is most active in Negros Occidental province in Western Visayas and Bukidnon province in Northern Mindanao (see inset maps above). This does not come as a surprise for a revolution with an agrarian base. Western Visayas and Northern Mindanao are both known for agrarian unrest, being two of the country’s most important agricultural centers, and therefore serve as ideal staging grounds for the CPP’s revolution. As of 2019, Western Visayas had the largest number of persons employed in agriculture in the country at 873,000, while Northern Mindanao ranked third with 776,000 persons employed in agriculture.10 Additionally, Northern Mindanao and Western Visayas rank among the top three regions in terms of their share of national agricultural production.11

Negros Occidental in Western Visayas is particularly well-known for being the bastion of sugar hacenderos, owners of thousands upon thousands of hectares of sugarcane plantations or haciendas that have provided immense wealth to the local elite since the Spanish colonial era.12 The province continues to have the most haciendas in the Philippines, despite decades of a formal government-sponsored agrarian reform program aiming to solve the problem of farmer landlessness.13 The province still dominates sugar production, accounting for 50.8% of national sugar production in 2014.14

Despite this wealth from sugar production, the province continues to be associated with profound inequality, notorious for widespread famines in the 1980s and continuing abuse, maltreatment, and even outright violence against farm workers during times of unrest.15 A characteristic example is the massacre by unidentified assailants of nine sugarcane farmers of Hacienda Nene, unemployed during the tiempo muerto (the ‘dead season’ between planting and harvesting) in Sagay in October 2018. The incident demonstrates the intersection of agrarian unrest and the communist insurgency. Security forces accused the victims of the Sagay Massacre of being NPA-affiliated provocateurs due to their participation in a bungkalan (collective cultivation work, specifically tilling, on idle lands for survival) as members of the National Federation of Sugar Workers (NFSW).16 Just a month later, the lawyer of the Sagay Massacre victims, also accused by authorities of being a communist, was also murdered.17

Meanwhile, Northern Mindanao also harbors its share of agrarian issues. Bukidnon, for example, is particularly well-known for its vast pineapple and banana plantations operated by leading transnational corporations such as Del Monte and Dole. However, human rights groups have sounded the alarm over abuses and attacks committed against local farmers and Indigenous peoples in the province by actors with ties to the largest agribusiness players in the region.18

These deep-seated socio-economic issues in Western Visayas and Northern Mindanao continue to persist against the backdrop of widespread poverty among agriculture workers. The latest poverty statistics in the Philippines show that farmers and fishers continue to be the poorest sectors nationally, respectively recording poverty rates of 30.0% and 30.6% in 2021,19 against the national figure of 18.1%.20

Despite the higher levels of fighting between the NPA and state forces in Western Visayas and Northern Mindanao, fighting between both sides was seen in practically all parts of the country from the start of the Duterte regime and into the Marcos, Jr. regime. This means that the NPA has been present in every region, mirroring the prevalence of agrarian issues across the country and widespread poverty of agricultural workers. Sometimes, fighting has even spilled over to the cities, with two of 33 cities classified as highly urbanized – Davao City and Butuan City in Mindanao21 – seeing considerable NPA activity. There is also elevated NPA activity in smaller regional cities, such as Himamaylan, Guihulngan, Gingoog, and Malaybalay.

The NPA’s expansive reach notwithstanding, the military and the communists publicly disagree on the strength of the NPA. In its latest anniversary statement in December 2022, the CPP claimed that the NPA had established 110 fronts across the country, while the party itself had set up committees of leadership and branches in more than 70 out of 82 provinces.22 The military, meanwhile, claimed that the number of NPA fronts is down to 22 as of December 2022.23 In May 2023, the Philippine national security adviser said that of these 22 fronts, the number of “active” guerrilla fronts had gone down to two, while 20 have been “weakened.”24

The NPA’s operations against the state go beyond armed clashes with state forces (see figure below). The rebel group also carries out ambushes and executions against individuals perceived to be state collaborators, as well as government officials and off-duty soldiers or police officers. NPA attacks against civilians, which human rights groups have condemned, are usually pronounced by the rebels as ‘revolutionary justice’ for supposed offenses against the people or the revolution. However, the ‘people’s court’ trials that make judgments “don’t meet the most basic standards of fairness,” according to Human Rights Watch.25 From the start of the Duterte regime on 30 June 2016 to 30 June 2023 under Marcos, Jr., ACLED data show over 270 events of NPA violence targeting civilians, consisting mostly of physical attacks but also including incidents of forced disappearances, sexual violence, and the use of explosives.

Duterte and the Communists: From Peace Talks to All-Out War

In June 2016, Rodrigo Duterte took office as president and promised to pursue peace with the communists. Duterte also made significant overtures to leftist social movements, appointing prominent leftist politicians to key positions in his government. Duterte’s outreach to the communists and leftist politicians reflected the good relations he had with the rebels as longtime mayor of Davao City.26 These good relations were rooted in Duterte’s involvement in leftist politics in his younger years, when he first became part of the leftist Kabataang Makabayan (Patriotic Youth) and BAYAN (New Patriotic Alliance). Duterte was also a student of Sison during his university years.27

Duterte and the CPP-NPA-NDF had initially set on reviving the dormant peace process as he was about to take power following his election in May 2016. The peace negotiations, which started on 22 August 2016 in Oslo, were initially promising. The peace negotiators reaffirmed agreements from previously aborted peace talks and started to pen further agreements on socio-economic issues.28

Coinciding with four rounds of peace talks held in Oslo, Rome, and Amsterdam, both the government and the CPP-NPA-NDF declared multiple unilateral ceasefires. The government also freed several rebel leaders so that they could participate in the peace process, most notably the husband and wife serving as the highest-ranking CPP officials, Executive Committee Chair Benito Tiamzon and Central Committee Secretary-General Wilma Tiamzon, last arrested in 2014.

However, talks broke down and the ceasefires were later terminated after the release of more political prisoners became a sticking point, with Duterte saying he conceded “too much, too soon.”29 The actual termination of the ceasefires was then followed by an intense surge in fighting (see graph below), with Duterte declaring an “all-out war” against the rebels. In February 2017, the highest level of fighting between the two sides during the Duterte regime was recorded. Duterte also ordered the rearrest of the freed rebels, many of whom had gone into hiding. Additionally, Duterte soured on the leftist politicians he had earlier appointed to his government (who were not confirmed by the Commission of Appointments), even accusing them of funneling funds to the NPA.30

Multiple attempts to salvage the talks in the following months through backchannels failed, as Duterte and Sison engaged in tirades against each other.31 Backchannel talks were canceled in July 2017 amid a surge in fighting. Duterte officially canceled the peace process in November 2017. By December 2017, Duterte signed a proclamation designating the CPP-NPA as a ‘terrorist’ group.32 A year later, in December 2018, Duterte established the NTF-ELCAC. This new body was tasked with leading a “whole-of-nation” strategy against the communist insurgency, coordinating between state forces and civilian government offices.33 Another new body, the Anti-Terrorism Council established by the controversial anti-terror law of 2020,34 gave ‘terrorist’ group designations to the CPP-NPA in December 2020,35 and to the NDF in July 2021.36 Thus, fighting continued largely unabated, with an average of nearly 22 clashes per month between state and rebel forces from February 2017, the end of the ceasefire, to June 2022, the end of Duterte’s regime.

In Duterte’s last few months in office, the military leadership said that it wished to cap the Duterte years by doing its best to quell the remaining rebels.37 Thus, the last few months of the Duterte regime saw an upward trend in fighting between the military and the NPA. This upward trend saw highs in December 2021, the 53rd anniversary month of the CPP, and in April 2022, right before the May elections.

An Uncertain Path Under Marcos, Jr.

As Duterte marked his last year in office, and as the country geared up for voting in the May 2022 elections, ACLED records an uptick in violence related to the communist rebellion (see graph above). This uptick coincided with the killings or arrests of several rebel leaders, which would continue beyond the elections into the first few months of the Marcos, Jr. administration. The military also frequently reported the large-scale surrenders of rebels, though some of these surrenders were later questioned as supposedly forced or fake surrenders. In any case, these developments, alongside the death of Sison at the end of 2022, have contributed to government claims that the communist insurgency is nearly crushed.38 Accordingly, violent interactions between state forces and the NPA decreased slightly in the latter half of 2022.

The biggest blow to the NPA came on 22 August 2022 when the two highest-ranking CPP-NPA-NDF leaders, the aforementioned couple Benito Tiamzon (also known as Ka Laan) and Wilma Tiamzon (also known as Ka Bagong-tao), were reportedly killed in an explosion during a waterborne clash between the rebels and state forces. The CPP only confirmed the deaths on 20 April 2023 after a supposed months-long investigation. In the CPP’s announcement, they disputed earlier military accounts, claiming that the Tiamzons were tortured and killed on 21 August 2022, a day earlier than the military claims, before being set on a boat that exploded the next day.39

The Tiamzons’ deaths were preceded by other major losses during the Duterte regime. One of the party’s supposed intellectual stalwarts, Menandro Villanueva (also known as Ka Bok), was killed by state forces in Mindanao on 5 January 2022. Before this, the NPA’s top leader in Mindanao and nationally prominent rebel spokesperson, Jorge Madlos (also known as Ka Oris), was killed on 30 October 2021. Additionally, on 13 March 2020, state forces killed the chair of the CPP’s National Military Commission and acting chair of the CPP Politburo, Julius Giron (also known as Ka Nars).

All these losses were then capped by Sison’s death on 16 December 2022 while in exile in the Netherlands. While Sison had long been uninvolved in the day-to-day operation of the insurgency, he maintained an important role as the chief political consultant of the NDF in peace negotiations with the government, and, in general, by providing revolutionary guidance to the movement, as the CPP confirmed in tributes to Sison upon his death.40

ACLED data show a slight general downward trend in armed interactions between state forces and the NPA in the immediate months following the Tiamzons’ deaths in August 2022. Fighting was even more muted in December 2022, the month of Sison’s death, especially compared to the Decembers of previous years. Fighting normally spikes in the last month of the year as the communists mark the CPP anniversary on 26 December – though less so some years when both sides declare a Christmas ceasefire for about two weeks. However, the last time such a Christmas ceasefire was declared was in December 2019, although later both sides traded accusations of ceasefire violations.41 Since then, both sides have rejected Christmas ceasefires, and in the last few years, the lead-up to the December anniversary usually sees intensified offensives by both state forces and the NPA.

While the lower volume of fighting in the last few months of 2022 perhaps reflected the immediate aftermath of the Tiamzons’ and Sison’s deaths, possibly indicating weakened communist forces, fighting again rose in the first quarter of 2023. This upward trend reached a high in March 2023, which saw the largest number of armed interactions since December 2018. Much like in December, March sometimes sees an intensified push by both state and rebel forces, as the communist movement marks the NPA’s anniversary on 29 March. The volume of NPA activity in March 2023 suggests that the rebels might have been able to regroup and re-strategize following their losses in 2022. This latest peak in March 2023, however, was again followed by a downward trend in fighting from April to June 2023.

As things stand, the war waged by the communists in the Philippines remains the world’s longest-running communist insurgency,42 continuing to defy military pronouncements of their defeat as they have several times in the past. Nevertheless, the military asserts that the Tiamzons’ and Sison’s death has created a “leadership vacuum” that “leaves the underground movement without a sense of strategic and operational directions and the reason for its existence.”43 However, while the CPP acknowledged the “great loss” and “heavy impact” of losing the Tiamzons, Sison, and other rebel leaders, the party said that “the Central Committee and other leading organs of the Party were quickly reconstituted and revitalized.”44

Red-Tagging and the Communist Insurgency

The Philippine armed forces’ campaign against the communist insurgency has been accompanied by acts of violence targeting civilians, particularly in the context of ‘red-tagging.’ Red-tagging, also sometimes referred to as red-baiting, is the practice of vilifying or labeling groups or individuals critical of the government, such as human rights defenders, labor leaders, public interest lawyers, journalists, the political opposition, religious groups, and other targeted individuals as ‘communists’ or ‘terrorists.’ In the Philippines, authorities also often conflate the terms ‘communist’ and ‘terrorist.’45

The 1957 Anti-Subversion Law, which outlawed membership in the Communist Party, was repealed in 1992 in order to legalize the party and pave the way for peace talks. Thus, mere membership in the CPP is no longer a crime, as acknowledged in 2019 by the Department of Justice.46 Nevertheless, many of those red-tagged by authorities are exposed to physical violence, with some being killed or wounded.47 In the past few years, particularly under Duterte, red-tagging has become a fraught political issue in the Philippines. In the May 2022 national elections, for example, even opposition politicians not usually identified with the main leftist formations, such as de facto leader of the opposition and then Vice President Leni Robredo of the Liberal Party, were red-tagged.48 International non-partisan organizations such as Oxfam have also not been spared.49

Between 2020 and 30 June 2023, ACLED records nearly 50 red-tagging related violent events targeting civilians, dispersed throughout the country (see map below). Thirteen of these events took place after Marcos, Jr. took power on 30 June 2022. These numbers include events where a person is physically harmed or killed. In line with ACLED’s methodology, this count is not inclusive of cases of arrests, imprisonment, or other intimidation, and thus offers insight into only one component of the red-tagging phenomenon.

Western Visayas and Calabarzon lead the count of violent events related to red-tagging as recorded by ACLED, with at least 12 such events each over the time period. While Western Visayas is a hotspot for agrarian unrest, as discussed above, Calabarzon, a largely urban region to the south and east of Metropolitan Manila, is also a busy area for activist organizing, especially in its significant rural pockets and industrial zones. Activists in Calabarzon faced heightened pressure from the Duterte administration in the latter part of his presidency, at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Government and military officials openly used red-tagging to suppress those organizing for labor rights amid pandemic-related hardships, as well as those opposing large-scale government projects feared to negatively impact Indigenous peoples.50

Such violence targeting civilians in Western Visayas and Calabarzon led to the two deadliest months for red-tagging-related attacks from 2020 to 2023. The deadliest month for red-tagging-related attacks was December 2020, largely due to state forces’ killing of nine red-tagged leaders of the Tumandok tribe in Capiz province in Western Visayas on 30 December, in operations that were intended to only be executions of search warrants. State forces accused tribal leaders, who belonged to a local farmer association that opposed a dam construction project in the area, of being NPA members.51 A few months later, on 3 March 2021, a lawyer representing the survivors of the attack was wounded in a stabbing attack by unidentified assailants. The lawyer had written on the issue of red-tagging as state policy, which was published around the time of his stabbing.52 This contributed to the second deadliest month for red-tagging – March 2021, which also saw what was later called in the media the ‘Bloody Sunday’ killings of 7 March, where nine local activists were reportedly killed in joint police and military operations across the Calabarzon region.53

Human rights groups have raised the issue of red-tagging numerous times. In a September 2022 report, the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said red-tagging has been linked to many reports of “killings, arbitrary detention, physical, and legal intimidation” against members of civil society, such as human rights and environmental defenders, journalists, lawyers, labor rights activists, and humanitarian workers.54 Meanwhile, in its submission to the UN Human Rights Committee in 2022, Amnesty International noted that the breakdown of peace talks between the government and the rebels in 2017 and the establishment of NTF-ELCAC in December 2018 have “led to an increase in red-tagging and security operations.”55 This coincides with the International Commission of Jurists’ observation that red-tagging was “applied with greater intensity” in President Duterte’s government.56 Amnesty International noted that red-tagging continues under the Marcos, Jr. administration, whom it asked to “end the vicious and at times deadly practice.”57 In January 2023, Human Rights Watch also raised concern about the Philippine government’s use of red-tagging to silence Indigenous opposition to projects sponsored by the government.58

Legal persecution is also a major part of the red-tagging phenomenon, with those red-tagged often subjected to dubious cases without substantial basis, or based on evidence alleged to be planted outright by state forces.59 In its 2022 year-end report, Karapatan said it had documented 4,298 illegal arrests (with or without detention) effected by state forces under Duterte from July 2016 to June 2022, and a further 197 under Marcos, Jr. from July to December 2022. Many of these arrests were described as being related to red-tagging. Karapatan also counted 591 political prisoners arrested under Duterte, and 26 under Marcos, Jr. as of December 2022.60 Public scrutiny has thus also been directed toward the Philippine justice system, with human rights groups and legal organizations expressing concern that a small number of courts have become search warrant ‘factories’ targeting red-tagged activists.61

Another manifestation of red-tagging is the allegedly forced or fake surrenders of those identified by the military as having ties to the NPA. Often, the supposed surrenders reported by the military are not of actual NPA armed combatants, but rather of those the military calls NPA ‘supporters’ or of members of activist or sectoral organizations which the military has connected to the communist insurgency. This explains why the number of surrenders reported by the military is often difficult to reconcile with the number of NPA fighters as also reported by the military. The military sometimes reports thousands of surrenders in a single region for a limited timeframe, even though the latest military estimate of the number of NPA fighters nationwide is 2,112 as of December 2022.62

The dubious surrenders thus disproportionately implicate members of red-tagged workers’ unions or farmers’ associations. Some farmers’ groups have objected to the alleged ‘fake surrenders,’ which they brand as another form of red-tagging that compels farmers to self-identify as NPA fighters against their will in highly publicized official ceremonies.63 The government’s Commission on Human Rights has launched inquiries into the supposed fake surrenders.64 Karapatan documented 3,991 “forced and fake surrenders” under the Duterte administration from July 2016 to June 2022, and 151 under the Marcos, Jr. administration from July to December 2022.65 It is worth noting that such surrenders, forced or not, carry a significant reward for the local government units involved, because barangays are incentivized when they can show that they are ‘NPA-free.’ In 2021, the NTF-ELCAC released 16.4 billion pesos (around US$324 million) to barangays that are supposedly cleared of communists, as part of the NTF-ELCAC’s Barangay Development Fund.66

Prospects for Peace

As fighting between the government and communist rebels continues unabated, and civilians continue to be caught in the crossfire, the prospects for peace under the new Marcos, Jr. regime are dim. Formal peace talks between the government and the communist leadership, which have taken place in over 40 rounds since 1986,67 look unlikely to be revived under Marcos, Jr. This would make Marcos, Jr. the first Philippine president after the fall of his father’s dictatorship not to seek peace negotiations with the CPP-NPA-NDF.68

Marcos, Jr., however, looks keen to pursue the NTF-ELCAC’s favored style of ‘localized peace talks,’ where the government negotiates directly with individuals identified as communist rebels in local areas, rather than with the CPP-NPA-NDF leadership.69 The government has described the NTF-ELCAC’s localized peace talks as effective, saying that this approach has convinced rebels to surrender and avail themselves of government assistance.70 The government’s full backing of the NTF-ELCAC’s activities was further signaled by Marcos, Jr.’s high-profile appointment of Vice President Sara Duterte, daughter of former President Duterte, as co-chair of the anti-communist body in May 202371 – a development that has worried activist groups mindful of the vice president’s alleged history of red-tagging.72

For its part, the CPP has repeatedly rejected the NTF-ELCAC-backed localized peace talks, asserting that this approach is “a smokescreen for psychological warfare, pacification, and suppression operations” and does not address the “long-standing problems of landlessness, oppression, and exploitation.”73 Instead, the CPP continues to demand national-level peace talks. In February 2022, months before his death, Sison gave an interview as the NDF chief political consultant. In this interview, he asserted the CPP’s view that the peace talks should conform with previous agreements between the two sides and hew to the agreed agenda already set forth in the Hague Joint Declaration of 1992,74 meaning basic social, economic, political, and constitutional reforms.75 The last substantial agreement signed between the Philippine government and the communists dates back to 1998 and was the first item in the Hague Joint Declaration agenda: the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law.76 The CPP insists that the next step in the peace process should be to negotiate the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms, followed by the Comprehensive Agreement on Political and Constitutional Reforms, and finally the Comprehensive Agreement for the End of Hostilities and Disposition of Forces.77 By the latter half of Duterte’s term, however, the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process had begun to question the constitutionality of the previous agreements between the government and the NDF.78

The fate of the communist insurgency under the Marcos, Jr. presidency is of particular interest given the long history between the Marcos family and the communists. The elder Marcos often invoked the threat of communist rebellion for the severe military measures he implemented during his dictatorship, particularly when he placed the country under martial law.79 The younger Marcos would repeat this claim in 2022 to defend his father’s strongman rule.80 However, such military measures greatly contributed to the widespread violation of human rights under the Marcos dictatorship.

In 2022, amid the younger Marcos’s rise to power, Amnesty International warned against a “disturbing revisionist narrative” that minimized the human rights abuses under the elder Marcos as a necessary response to the communist threat. Against this narrative, the human rights group reminded the public that it had documented “tens of thousands of people arbitrarily arrested and detained, and thousands of others tortured, forcibly disappeared, and killed” during Marcos, Sr.’s dictatorship, targeting individuals “critical of the government or perceived as political opponents.”81 The government’s very own Human Rights Violations Victims’ Memorial Commission, established by law in 2013 to provide for state reparations for abuses under the Marcos, Sr. regime, also lists 11,103 officially recognized victims of human rights violations under Marcos’s martial law to date.82 The revisionist narrative, which obscured these facts and enabled the political rehabilitation of the Marcos family, plays into the hands of those in the present security establishment who wish to return to martial law-era approaches to peace and order. The CPP-NPA-NDF’s existence is thus invoked anew as justification for red-tagging and other human rights abuses.

Now, with Marcos, Jr.’s campaign against the communist insurgency bolstered by the vast powers of the Duterte-era NTF-ELCAC, and with the communist insurgency vowing to march on despite recent setbacks, the two sides look further than ever from a peaceful resolution.

[Visuals in this report were produced by Christian Jaffe]

[For more information about ACLED go to the following URL:

CA orders AFP, PNP to present missing Cordillera activists

From Rappler (Jul 13, 2023): CA orders AFP, PNP to present missing Cordillera activists (By SHERWIN DE VERA)

The Court of Appeals directs AFP and PNP officials to come to court with the two missing activists on July 14

BAGUIO, Philippines – The 13th Division of the Court of Appeals (CA) has ordered the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Philippine National Police (PNP) to present missing Cordillera indigenous peoples rights activists Dexter Capuyan and Gene Roz Jamil De Jesus.

In a July 10 resolution, the CA found the petition for a writ of habeas corpus filed by relatives of the two University of the Philippines (UP) alumni to be “sufficient in form and substance.”

Capuyan’s mother and daughter and De Jesus’ sister filed the petition on July 5 against AFP chief of staff Lieutenant General Andres Centino, PNP chief General Benjamin Acorda, PNP-Rizal provincial director Colonel Dominic Baccay, and Criminal Investigation and Detection Group chief Brigadier General Romeo Caramat.

Human rights groups alleged that armed men, who introduced themselves as CIDG personnel, snatched Capuyan and De Jesus at Golden City Subdivision in Taytay, Rizal, on the evening of April 28.

RuRi is holding a group buy of dragonfruit sourced from the farmers of Barangay Galintuja in Maria Aurora town, Aurora

The appellate court directed the respondents “to appear before this Court and produce and bring the bodies and persons” of the two missing indigenous peoples’ rights advocates on Friday, July 14.

The CA also told them to “show cause why the subject persons should remain in their custody.”

The court’s decision gave the De Jesus family hope “that everything would be clearer, and the end of their suffering is nearing.”

“When we were informed that the Court of Appeals granted the Writ of Habeas Corpus for Bazoo (De Jesus) and Dexter, my first thought was that we are halfway towards our journey. We see hope,” said De Jesus’ mother, Mercedita on Thursday, July 13.

She and her husband are overseas workers in Italy.

“I asked for a copy of the court order, and I cried when we read the content. I started hoping again that they would surface the two of them alive,” she said.

Peace advocates gather in Davao to revitalize support for BARMM peace process

From Rappler (Jul 13, 2023): Peace advocates gather in Davao to revitalize support for BARMM peace process (By LUCELLE BONZO)

The Principles for Peace aims to create a paradigm shift in the field by establishing an independent feedback loop for decision-making, aligning with BARMM's peace-building practices

DAVAO, Philippines – Some 200 peace advocates gathered in Davao City on Tuesday, July 11, for the Southeast Asia launch of the Principles for Peace (P4P). The event aimed to revitalize support for the Bangsamoro peace process.

Gus Miclat, the executive director of the Initiatives for International Dialogue (IID), stressed the importance of identifying critical steps and strategies to ensure the full implementation of the peace process during the gathering at the Insular Waterfront Hotel.

The P4P emerged from an extensive two-year consultation involving 100,000 people across 61 countries. Participants reflected on the factors that contribute to lasting peace and those that lead to its breakdown.

Former Dutch Foreign Minister and P4P chair Bert Koenders said these principles serve as a guide for joint action, diagnostic tools, and better decision-making.

RuRi is holding a group buy of dragonfruit sourced from the farmers of Barangay Galintuja in Maria Aurora town, Aurora

P4P aims to create a paradigm shift in the field by establishing an independent feedback loop for decision-making, aligning with the region’s peace-building practices.

The peacemaking covenant, which outlines four shifts to peacemaking and eight core principles of peace, emerged from two years of deliberations and extensive engagements with grassroots and high-level voices. It involved dialogue, practical experience, and data research.

The launch, jointly organized by the Geneva-based Principles for Peace Foundation, Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict, and local counterparts IID, International Center for Innovation, Transformation and Excellence in Governance Incorporated, and Gaston Z. Ortigas Peace Institute, carried the theme “Reimagining and Re-energizing Support for the Bangsamoro Peace Process.”

Mohagher Iqbal, chair of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Peace Implementing Panel and member of the Bangsamoro parliament, said the Bangsamoro is currently in a critical and historical moment as the transition period ending in 2025 approaches. He pointed out that peace encompasses justice, equality, and dignity, and aims to build a better future for all.

The Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) was established as a significant phase of the MILF and government collaboration through the ratification of Republic Act 11054 or the Bangsamoro Organic Law.

BARMM has expanded its territory to include Cotabato City, 63 barangays in North Cotabato, and the provinces of Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi, which were previously part of the now-defunct Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

The agreement also encompasses transitional justice and reconciliation as integral aspects of the annex on normalization, along with the commitment to decommission the 40,000 MILF troops, transform six MILF camps into communities, and disband private armed groups.

Miclat said that in the remaining two years of the Bangsamoro transition and leading up to the 2025 elections, challenges such as horizontal conflicts among Moro clans and local politicians, as well as conflicts between Moro and non-Moro indigenous peoples within BARMM, need to be addressed.

He expressed concern over reports about potential regression to corruption and nepotism in the region.

Special Assistant to the President Antonio Ernesto Lagdameo Jr. said peace-building should be a longstanding and inclusive process involving multiple stakeholders who make politically conscious decisions to achieve lasting peace, as demonstrated in the BARMM.

AFP boosts aerial, naval assets in West PH Sea

Posted to the Panay News (Jul 13, 2023): AFP boosts aerial, naval assets in West PH Sea

‘PART OF MY JOB’. Vice Adm. Alberto Carlos, commander of the Palawan-based Western Command, which oversees the West Philippine Sea, visits the BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal on June 9, 2023. PHOTO FROM THE AFP WESTERN COMMAND

MANILA — The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Tuesday said its aerial and naval presence in the Kalayaan Island Group in the West Philippines Sea “dramatically increased” in view of the ongoing maritime dispute in the area.

As of 2023 so far, the branches of the armed forces maintain its presence in Kalayaan Island Group (KIG) for 90 percent of the time compared last year, when they could only maintain its presence 30 percent of the time, according to AFP chief of public affairs Lieutenant Colonel Enrico Gil Ileto.

“A shift to External Security Operations is on the horizon as we strengthen our security posture with the increased conduct of aerial and surface maritime patrols through our naval and air force air assets and ground forces,” Ileto said in his opening speech in a press conference in Camp Aguinaldo.

“The deployment of additional surface patrol ships increased the AFP’s presence in the KIG to about 90 percent of the time,” he added. “This is a dramatic increase from the baseline of 30 percent in 2022.”

This, Ileto said, allowed AFP to monitor the sea lines of communications complemented by the AFP’s littoral monitoring stations and detachments to “detect and monitor foreign ships, track, and subject them to interdiction operations.”

The official announced this development after AFP’s Western Command (Wescom) spotted a total of 48 Chinese fishing vessels in Iroquois Reef during its latest air patrol conducted last June 30.

The AFP’s Wescom also found Chinese maritime assets near Sabina Shoal, specifically three Chinese Coast Guard ships and two People’s Liberation Army-Navy vessels.

China’s actions are anchored on its “nine-dash line,” which claims almost the entire South China Sea, including the West Philippine Sea.

But the Philippines challenged China’s claim before the Permanent Court of Arbitration, which later invalidated China’s claim. (John Eric Mendoza © Philippine Daily Inquirer)

Gov’t troops, rebels clash in Leon

From Panay News (Jul 13, 2023): Gov’t troops, rebels clash in Leon (By Ruby P. Silubrico)

Government troops and around nine the New People's Army rebels in Leon, Iloilo on Tuesday, July 11. Photo shows the belongings the rebels left behind after fleeing. 61ST INFANTRY HUNTER BATTALION PHOTO

ILOILO City – Troops of the Philippine Army’s 61st Infantry Battalion and New People’s Army (NPA) rebels clashed on Tuesday, July 11, in Barangay Camandag, Leon, Iloilo.

The army responded to the information sent by residents that there were armed men in the area.

Around 10:45 a.m., an encounter ensued between soldiers and nine rebels under the Sibat Platoon, Southern Front, Kometing Rehiyon-Panay.

The gunfire lasted for about eight minutes before the rebels fled toward the northwest.

An AK-47 rifle, four smartphones, three analog cellphones, one tablet phone, seven backpacks and subversive documents were recovered from the encounter site.

No government troops died or got injured.

This was the second encounter between the military and rebels in Leon in two months.

On June 5, an encounter took place in Sitio Talibong, Barangay Carara-an, Leon.

Brigadier General Michael Samson, commander of the 301st Infantry Brigade, expressed appreciation to the troops and was also thankful for the vigilance and cooperation of concerned citizens.

“Defeating the insurgency is not the sole responsibility of the AFP [Armed Forces of the Philippines] and PNP [Philippine National Police]. It is a collective concern and responsibility of every member of the society. The Ilonggos are actively contributing to the success of this operation,” Samson said.

On the other hand, the brigade commander assured the community of their safety.

“I urged the remaining terrorists to renounce armed struggle and return to mainstream society, for numerous opportunities await them,” he added. “Ku-konti na lang sila dito kasi we were able to stop them from recruiting and neutralize them from asking revolutionary tax from the businessmen.”

Full deactivation of 40,000 Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters eyed in May 2025

 From MindaNews (Jul 13, 2023): Full deactivation of 40,000 Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters eyed in May 2025 (By BONG S. SARMIENTO)

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 13 July)—The decommissioning of the 40,000-strong Moro Islamic Liberation Front could be completed “before the first parliamentary elections in the Bangsamoro region” in May 2025, the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity (OPAPRU) announced.

MILF combatants at Camp Darapanan in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao del Norte. MindaNews file photo by BONG S. SARMIENTO

OPAPRU Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. and MILF chair Ahod “Al Haj Murad” Ebrahim, also the interim Chief Minister of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), made the projection during a July 4 meeting in Malacañang.

“During the meeting, the parties also agreed to complete the decommissioning process of the remaining combatants… It is projected for [the] decommissioning process to be completed before the first [parliamentary] election in the BARMM in 2025,” the OPAPRU said in a statement.

To date, at least 24,000 out of the 40,000 MILF combatants have successfully been decommissioned, the agency added.

“The decommissioning process is not only limited to the physical aspect of putting the firearms beyond use but more importantly is the changing of the mindset that requires a complete transformation process from being a combatant into a peaceful and productive civilian,” Galvez said.

The Independent Decommissioning Body oversees the decommissioning process. It is chaired by Turkey (represented by Ambassador Mehmet Suat Akgün). With him in the board are a representative each from Norway and Brunei, and two representatives each from the Philippine government and the MILF.

The BARMM will hold its first election for the 80-member Bangsamoro Parliament in May 2025, simultaneous with the mid-term national and local elections.

The Bangsamoro region was scheduled to hold its first parliamentary election in May 2022 but this was reset to May 2025 by Republic Act 11593.

The postponement effectively extended the mandate of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority, the MILF-led body tasked to govern the interim Bangsamoro government, to June 30, 2025 when the first set of elected officials of the parliament shall have taken their oath of office.

The filing of certificates of candidacy for the May 12, 2025 mid-term and the Bangsamoro parliamentary elections will be on October 2024 or 15 months from now.

On July 1, the Philippine and the MILF peace implementing panels met for the first time under the administration of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., who assumed power on June 30 last year.

During the meeting, both panels recognize the “urgency and centrality of the full implementation of the decommissioning program” through the delivery of socio-economic development packages for the combatants.

The panels agreed to create a socio-economic study committee that would discuss and recommend for the panels’ approval the components, implementation framework, and funding strategies for the socio-economic development packages for the decommissioned combatants and camps transformation.

Early this month, the BARMM Governors’ Caucus (BGC) had sought the completion of the decommissioning process “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.

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 BARMM leading to the October 2023 Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections, and the mid-term and the first Bangsamoro Parliamentary elections in May 2025.

The BARMM was created after the ratification of Republic Act 11054 or the Bangsamoro Organic Law in 2019.

The creation of a Bangsamoro autonomous region is the key component of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, which the government and the MILF signed in 2014 after 17 years of peace negotiations.

Part of the implementation of the peace agreement is the normalization track, which includes the security component that deals with the decommissioning of the MILF combatants and their weapons, the disbandment of private armed groups, managing the number of small arms and light weapons throughout the BARMM, and the strict implementation of loose firearms, the OPAPRU said.

These are all being done simultaneously, it added. (Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews)

Abandoned, slain rebel gets decent burial

From the Visayan Daily Star (Jul 12, 2023): Abandoned, slain rebel gets decent burial (By GILBERT P. BAYORAN)

Army soldiers deliver the slain NPA member to his final resting place at a public cemetery in Himamaylan City, Negros Occidental.* PA photo

Abandoned by comrades and unclaimed by family members, the suspected New People’s Army combatant who was recently killed in an encounter with Army’s 94th Infantry Battalion soldier in Brgy. Carabalan, Himamaylan City, Negros Occidental, was given a decent burial on July 10.

The slain rebel was only identified through his alias, Chan or Bambam, based on a tattoo on his right arm, according to Lt. Col. Van Donald Almonte, 94IB commander.

Almonte believes that the slain rebel was among those critically injured when his group of about 10 armed men clashed with Army soldiers on July 7. His comrades consequently abandoned him to avoid slowing down their escape from pursuing military troops, he added.

A Remington R4 assault rifle, two backpacks containing extortion letters, and personal belongings were recovered by Army soldiers from three encounter sites, aside from a homemade 12-gauge shotgun and a fragmentation grenade also retrieved by troopers of the 2nd Provincial Mobile Force Company of the Negros Occidental Police Provincial Office.

In a statement, Brig. Gen. Orlando Edralin, commanding officer of the 303rd Infantry Brigade, criticized the CPP-NPA-NDF for forsaking their injured comrade, resulting in his demise. At the same time, he also commended the Himamaylan City TF-ELCAC for their efforts in organizing the burial of the abandoned NPA.

“These terrorist group have once again revealed their true nature as ruthless human rights violators, demonstrating a complete disregard for the sanctity of life, even towards their fellow members,” Edralin said.

Authorities serve arrest warrant on Amazon following manhunt

From the Mindanao Times (Jul 13, 2023: Authorities serve arrest warrant on Amazon following manhunt (By RHODA GRACE SARON)

A HIGH-RANKING communist rebel was arrested by the joint elements of the police and Army during a manhunt operation at around 11:30 a.m. on July 7 in Purok 8, Barangay Poblacion, Monkayo, Davao De Oro.

Hannah Alcorin Hitgano, 23, alias Kat, was served with an arrest warrant issued by Marie Estrellita Suya A Tolentino-Rojas, Presiding Judge of 11th Judicial Region, Branch 17, Davao City, on October 10, 2022, for rebellion and insurrection under Article 134 of the Revised Penal Code.

The CIDG Davao City Field Unit led the operation in coordination with the Davao City Police Office and the 25th Infantry Battalion.

Major General Romeo M Caramat Jr, CIDG director, said that Hitgano was the secretary general of Anakbayan and the cultural staff of the Youth Sector of Regional White Area Committee (RWAC), Southern Mindanao Regional Committee (SMRC).

“In our pursuit to end armed conflict in the country, the CIDG will remain steadfast in its relentless and aggressive police operations based on the CPNP, PGen Benjamin C Acorda Jr’s 5-Focused Agenda against radicals who threaten to raze the peace and security of the nation,” the director said.

Hitgano is now in the custody of the 25IB headquarters in Monkayo, Davao De Oro.

French defense firm keen on helping PH develop submarine base

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 13, 2023): French defense firm keen on helping PH develop submarine base (By Priam Nepomuceno)

Naval Group corporate sales director for the Philippines Loïc Beaurepaire (PNA photo by Priam Nepomuceno)

MANILA – French defense manufacturer Naval Group has expressed willingness to help the Philippine Navy (PN) develop Subic Bay in Zambales into a modern naval base capable of handling submarine operations once it bags the contract for the sophisticated warship capable of underwater operations.

"Naval Group will support the PN in designing and retooling the location in Agila Subic to make it a modern naval base. Naval Group will also support the PN in the implementation of its national support system to ensure the country's full autonomy of use and throughout the maintenance and life cycle of the submarine force," Naval Group corporate sales director for the Philippines Loïc Beaurepaire said in a presentation with a group of select reporters Thursday.

The PN has earlier announced that Subic Bay will be the location of its submarine base.

This includes proposals for docks capable of handling more than two submarines and surface ships needed to support the growth of the force, operation zones for the squadron's command center, maintenance yards and logistics depots, and the Philippine Submarine Force Training Center that includes classrooms and simulators.

Beaurepaire also said they will also support the "training of maintenance specialists" along with the development of partnerships with "local industry to transfer our know-how and technology for maintenance operations."

He added that they will also work for the "qualification of a local supply chain."

Naval Group is the manufacturer of the Scorpene diesel-electric submarine which is included on the list of preferred submarine platforms of the country and was evaluated by naval and defense officials in 2019.

The firm opened on Wednesday its Philippines Office symbolizing French commitment in supporting the country's bid to "strengthen its sovereignty and developed its maritime security capacities."

Under the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Modernization Program, the country is planning to acquire two to three submarines to beef up its fleet.

Defense experts earlier said that having submarines in its inventory will allow the AFP to achieve a credible defense posture aside from enhancing the PN's maritime defense capabilities.

Acquiring submarines is part of the desired force mix of the PN which consists of frigates, corvettes, offshore patrol vessels, landing docks, fast attack interdiction craft-missiles or FAIC-Ms, along with multi-purpose attack craft (MPAC) and amphibious assault vehicles.

Under this plan, the PN is planning to acquire six anti-air frigates, 12 anti-submarine corvettes, and three submarines along with other naval assets.

This force mix will enable the AFP to achieve a credible defense.

Also, the acquisition and development of submarine warfare capability will better equip the Navy to fulfill its primary mandate on territorial defense, security and stability.

Defense experts said submarines will enhance the country's maritime defense capability and can effectively carry out anti-access/area denial, maritime surveillance, maritime interdiction, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance.

The submarine is the most effective ISR (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) platform and the best killing machine in the Navy inventory.

A submarine capability will provide deterrence against aggressors, credibility to the PN, international consideration of the Philippines, and recognition of the AFP from other armed forces.

"Submarines are undetectable and could be anywhere patrolling around the WPS (West Philippine Sea) to act firmly if necessary. Having an operational submarine at sea will be a game-changer for the PN. Contenders will have to take into consideration the probability of facing a submarine at any time, anywhere, without any warning, hence will affect their entire assessment of the tactical situation and their behavior," they added.

Once acquired, these submarines will be equipped with a large number of weapons.

"It can infiltrate an enemy task force to hunt aircraft carriers and landing docks, and provide decisive superiority with a single lethal hit," defense experts pointed out.

These same defense experts also opined that the Philippines could have awarded the winning bidders to the PN submarine acquisition program in 2021 if the Covid-19 pandemic did not break out in March 2020.

The timeline for the submarine contract signing would have been in the second quarter of 2021.

However, the pandemic forced the government to devote much of the funding to the Covid-19 pandemic response, forcing a postponement of the program.

The budget for the PN's submarine acquisition program is estimated at PHP70 billion to PHP100 billion.

This includes two submarines and their integrated logistics support package, along with the initial basing requirements.

ATC designates 6 alleged CPP-NPA members as ‘terrorists’

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 13, 2023): ATC designates 6 alleged CPP-NPA members as ‘terrorists’ (By Benjamin Pulta)

MANILA – The Anti Terrorism Council (ATC) has designated six individuals as terrorist members of the Communist Party of the Philippines - New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) .

In a statement on Wednesday, the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) said the ATC designated the following as terrorists:

-- Sarah Abellon Alikes, also knowns as Sarah Abellon, Sarah Alikes, Tina, Kaylie or Kylie, Secretary of the Regional White Area Committee of the CPP-NPA’s Ilocos Cordillera Regional Committee (ICRC);

-- Jennifer R. Awingan or Jennifer A. Taggaoa, also knowns as Klara, Leni or Aw, Secretary of the Regional Urban White Area Committee (RUWAC) of the CPP’s ICRC;

-- Windel Balag-ey Bolinget, also knowns as Tunged, member of the Cordillera White Area Committee (CWAC) of the CPP-NPA and Secretary of its Regional Alliances;

-- Stephen Ambucay Tauli, also knowns as Steve, Amber, Husto or Teban, First Deputy Secretary of CWAC, RUWAC of the CPP’s ICRC;

-- Jovencio Sannadan Tangbawan, also knowns as Jonas or Dexter, Commanding Officer of the Kilusang Larangang Gerilya of North Abra or the Agustin Begnalen Command of the CPP-NPA; and

-- May Rodriguez Vargas-Casilao, also knowns as Gab, Yam or Mic-mic, Plenary Member of the Southern Mindanao Regional Committee of the CPP-NPA and a Member of its Regional City and Town Committee (RCTC).

The ATC found probable cause for violations of the ATA (Anti Terrorism Act) for committing terrorism; planning, training, preparing and facilitating the commission of terrorism; recruitment to and membership in a terrorist organization; and providing material support to terrorist organizations or groups organized for the purpose of engaging in terrorism.

NTF-ELCAC executive director Undersecretary Ernesto C. Torres Jr. said the recent designation of these individuals by the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC) as leaders of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) under ATC Resolution No. 41 is "a crucial step in safeguarding national security and ensuring the safety of our communities."

PH, Italy keen on further enhancing defense ties

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 13, 2023): PH, Italy keen on further enhancing defense ties (By Priam Nepomuceno)

(Photo courtesy of DND)

MANILA – The Philippines and Italy are both interested in further enhancing their defense relations in the interest of global peace and freedom.

This was after Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. received the Italian delegation led by Ambassador Marco Clemente and visiting Deputy Defense Minister Perego di Cremnago during their courtesy visit on July 11.

"Both maritime nations looked forward to enhancing the defense partnership between the Philippines and Italy as both countries share interest in global peace and the freedoms guaranteed by the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)," said DND spokesperson Arsenio Andolong in a statement Thursday.

Both nations also noted the seventh anniversary of the South China Sea (SCS) Arbitration Award on July 12, 2016, which upholds the primacy of the UNCLOS as the law of the sea, and for which Italy, among other states, has expressed firm support.

The DND chief also stressed the significance of broad international recognition of and support for the Arbitral Award which would be beneficial for all countries.

"Further to cooperation in terms of acquisition of hard assets, Secretary Teodoro emphasized the importance of laying down a framework for defense cooperation, which will help build a foundation for resilience against future security challenges and also cover the enhancement of personnel capacities, including in the areas of maritime domain and the law of the sea," Andolong said.

The Italian defense official's visit to Manila coincided with the four-day goodwill visit of the Italian offshore patrol vessel Francesco Morosini which took place from July 8 to 11.

The Francesco Morosini is one of the Italian Navy’s latest and most advanced multipurpose offshore patrol vessels.

"The Morosini is in the region to promote naval diplomacy and freedom of navigation in the SCS (South China Sea) The Deputy Minister’s visit as well as that of the Morosini signal Italy’s keen interest in fostering closer relations with the Philippines," Andolong said.

Also on July 11, Teodoro and National Security Adviser Eduardo Año met a delegation from the US Business Executives for National Security (BENS) led by its president and chief executive officer, retired American Army Gen. Joseph L. Votel, and accompanied by US Ambassador to the Philippines, MaryKay L. Carlson.

BENS is exploring investment opportunities in support of common national security objectives.

"During the meeting, both Philippine security officials welcomed US investments that align with the Philippines' national security priorities and seek to foster an environment conducive to mutually beneficial collaborations," Andolong said.

Teodoro underscored three priority areas for the defense sector, specifically the implementation of the Philippines' Self-Reliant Defense Posture (SRDP) Program; reorganization of the Defense Department; and the creation of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Retirement Trust Fund.

"Secretary Teodoro emphasized the importance of partnerships with US investors to strengthen defense industries and develop advanced technologies, as well as contribute their expertise and collaborate with Philippine defense agencies to further enhance the overall defense capabilities of the Philippines," Andolong said.

He added that this engagement between the Philippine security officials and BENS underscored the commitment to building strong partnerships and leveraging private-sector expertise to bolster the defense sector.

"The meeting concluded with a shared commitment to continued dialogue and cooperation between the Philippines and the US, with the aim of advancing national security objectives and fostering a secure and prosperous future," Andolong said.

Ex-rebels, militias in Negros showcase handicrafts in agro-fair

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 13, 2023): Ex-rebels, militias in Negros showcase handicrafts in agro-fair (By Mary Judaline Partlow)

LIVELIHOOD. Former rebels and Civilian Active Auxiliary members display their handicrafts at the Agro-Fair in Guihulngan City, Negros Oriental province on Wednesday (July 12, 2023). The 10 FRs and 20 CAAs completed a 6-day training on mat weaving and making handicrafts from pandan leaves. (Photo courtesy of the 62IB)

DUMAGUETE CITY - Ten former communist rebels and 20 Civilian Active Auxiliary (CAA) members of the Philippine Army have completed training on handicraft-making which will boost their income.

They displayed their finished handicrafts such as woven bags during the charter day anniversary Agro-Fair on Wednesday in Guihulngan City, Negros Oriental province.

Lt. Col. William Pesase, commanding officer of the 62nd Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army, told the Philippine News Agency on Thursday that the former rebels and CAAs completed last week a six-day training on pandan weaving in cooperation with the Department of Trade and Industry.

During the training, two FRs also received certificates of recognition from the Technical Education Skills and Development Authority (TESDA) in Region VII as community-based trainers on pandan bags, decor, and mat weaving.

"This program aims to capacitate the participants to enhance their skills through production and marketing of high-quality pandan leaf products and help FRs and the CAAs who are force multipliers to have an additional source of income," Pesase said.

The training is also part of government efforts under the whole-of-nation approach to end the Communist insurgency, he added.

The training was also in collaboration with the local Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, the Guihulngan local government, and the provincial government.

Ex-rebel granted P100K Landbank loan

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 13, 2023): Ex-rebel granted P100K Landbank loan (By Che Palicte)

FINANCIAL LOAN. Doming Estrera, a former rebel from Davao Oriental province, is the surrenderer of the New People’s Army to be granted by the Landbank of the Philippines a loan amounting to PHP100,000. Speaking to the media Wednesday (July 12, 2023) in Davao City, Estrera says he opened a sari-sari store and is currently engaged in online selling of clothes after his surrender to the government in 2016. (Photo courtesy of 10ID)

DAVAO CITY – A former rebel from Davao Oriental province is the first-ever in the Davao Region to be granted a financial loan amounting to PHP100,000 by the government-owned Landbank of the Philippines.

Doming Estrera, president of the Davao Oriental Former Rebel's Association (DOFRA), said he was granted the loan because he managed to properly invest the PHP65,000 that he received in 2018 from the government's the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (ECLIP).

Estrera, a former communist New People’s Army member, returned to the folds of the law in 2016 and used the money from ECLIP to open a sari-sari store.

“We are now living normal lives. The majority of us have engaged in small business ventures," he said in a press conference organized by the Army in this city Wednesday afternoon.

Estrera, a former supply officer in the NPA, credited the success of his small business to his business management skills.

This trait, he said, convinced Landbank to loan him PHP100,000 in 2018 to start an online business selling ready-to-wear clothes. He said the business is being directly-managed by his daughter.

Accordong to Estrera, DOFRA is a federated organization of NPA surrenderers in Davao Oriental with 1,235 members and 11 chapters.

The group, he said, is engaged in various livelihood ventures with the assistance of the government.

This year, Estrera said the association's furniture shop received a livelihood grant mounting to PHP300,000 from the Department of Social Welfare and Development, which he said has generated a PHP100,000 income within six months.