Monday, July 17, 2023

Palarong Pambansa organizers raise insurgency concerns in Negros Occidental ‘major concern’

From the Sun Star-Bacolod (Jul 17, 2023): Palarong Pambansa organizers raise insurgency concerns in Negros Occidental ‘major concern’ (By TERESA D. ELLERA)

Negros Occidental Governor Eugenio Jose Lacson leads the presentation of Negros Occidental to host the 2024 Palarong Pambansa before the Palarong Pambansa Board at the Department of Education central office on July 14, 2023. (Contributed)

NEGROS Occidental Governor Lacson revealed Monday, July 17, 2023, that the insurgency problem in the province was a “major concern” raised by the organizers of the 2024 Palarong Pambansa.

But Lacson said he assured the organizers of the security of the athletes who will participate if the province wins its bid to host the sports event.

He added that he assured the board that the Philippine National Police and the Philippine Army will secure all athletes.

The security concerns are based on the reports of encounters between the military and the New People's Army (NPA) in Negros Occidental.

"I told them the site of the encounters is more than 80 kilometers from the Capital city of Bacolod. The reason the skirmishes are reported is that government forces are aggressive in its End Local Communist Armed Conflict (ELCAC) campaign. ELCAC will not stop because we are making a bid to host the Palaro next year," the governor pointed out.

The result of the bidding will be announced by Vice President and Education Secretary Sara Duterte during the closing ceremonies of the 2023 Palarong Pambansa in Marikina on August 5.

The provincial government started renovating the Panaad Park and Stadium in Barangay Mansilingan, Bacolod City in 2019.

The budget for the renovation of the sports facility was pegged around P150 million with the track and field oval worth P50 million.

Cebu City and Antique province are also bidding to host the games.

Influx of more investors in Lamitan City, Basilan towns expected

Posted to Notre Dame Broadcasting Corporation News (NDBC News) (Jul 15, 2023): Influx of more investors in Lamitan City, Basilan towns expected (By: John M. Unson)

The seaside gateway to Lamitan City in Basilan province. (John Unson)

COTABATO CITY --- Stakeholders and officials of the Bangsamoro region are anticipating an influx in the coming months of investors to a city now bouncing back from underdevelopment caused by decades of secessionist conflicts.

Ronald Hallid Dimacisil Torres, chairman of the Bangsamoro Business Council, told reporters Saturday they are keen on helping residents of Lamitan City improve the investment potentials of its 45 barangays, now connected to the capitol here of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao via a newly-established shipping route that traders and political leaders had wished for.

Lamitan City is in Basilan, a component-province of BARMM and is near Isabela City, one of the two cities in the island province that also has 11 towns.

Torres, and Omar Pasigan, chairman of the Bangsamoro Regional Board of Investments, separately told reporters Saturday the improvements in Lamitan City’s investment climate were ushered in by the joint projects in the area of Mayor Roderick Roderick Furigay and two BARMM officials, Naguib Sinarimbo and Eduard Uy Guerra, regional local government and public works ministers, respectively.

Torres, a lawyer-entrepreneur, said the newly-established sea route connecting the Polloc Port in nearby Parang town in Maguindanao del Norte and the Lamitan City harbor that the Furigay administration and the office of BARMM Transportation and Communications Minister Paisalin Pangandaman Tago had set up is a “magnet” that can attract investors in Basilan.

“It will make investors from outside realize it is safe now for capital-intensive agricultural and fishing ventures in Lamitan City, in Isabela City and in municipalities around,” Torres said.

He said traders in BARMM are confident of the capabilities and efficiency of the Lamitan City local government unit, covering 45 barangays, for having been awarded with five Seal of Good Local Governance by the central office of the Department of the Interior and Local Government in the past six years.

“It is, thus, easy for us to entice counterparts outside to invest there,” Torres said.

Pasigan said the joint peace and security programs of the Lamitan City LGU and the Ministry of the Interior and Local Government-BARMM is complementing the recovery of Lamitan City from the adverse effects of domestic security issues that hounded the area from the 1970s until the 1990s.

Lt. Gen. Roy Galido, commander of the Army’s Western Mindanao Command, said more than 300 members of the Abu Sayyaf in Basilan had surrendered in batches since 2013 via a local reconciliation program of Basilan Gov. Jim Salliman, the Army’s 103rd Brigade and the Basilan Provincial Police Office.

“That project of the provincial government of Basilan is essential to efforts of packaging Lamitan City and other areas in Basilan as the new investment destination in BARMM,” Galido said.

Residents of former `CTG' bastions gets help from government

Posted to Notre Dame Broadcasting Corporation News (NDBC News) (Jul 15, 2023): Residents of former `CTG' bastions gets help from government (By John Unson)

An Army officer talks to victims of rebel abuses in Makilala, Cotabato about government livelihood support. (From 39th IB)

COTABATO CITY --- Life is back to normal for more than 400 villagers at the upland border of North Cotabato and Davao del Sur provinces that communist rebels had abused in years past.

The barangays where they reside, once bastions of the New Peoples’ Army now tagged by the Armed Forces and the Philippine National Police merely as a “communist terrorist group,” had been declared “insurgency free” as a result of interventions by local government units, the provincial police in both provinces and the Army’s 39th Infantry Battalion.

In a statement dispatched Saturday to media outfits in central Mindanao, the 39th IB said representatives of the Department of Social Welfare and Development in Region 12 released on Friday a P246,000 livelihood grant for 82 families in Barangay San Vicente in Makilala town in North Cotabato province that got displaced by CTG-Army clashes in recent years.

Another group, the Tapicong Datalcolon Farmers Association. also launched then, with the help of DSWD-11, its general merchandise business in Barangay Bacungan in Magsaysay, Davao del Sur.

The 39th IB and the provincial police offices in North Cotabato and Davao del Sur were cited by national officials who accompanied President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. during his visit to Digos City last month for having been instrumental in setting free from ruthless armed groups the highland barangays at the border of the two provinces.

A villager, Patricio Dumais, told reporters Saturday the forced collection from them of “revolutionary tax” by armed men made life for them so miserable.

“Now we can plant corn and other crops freely, our earnings safe from extortionists,” Dumais said.

Lt. Col. Ezra Balagtey, commander of the 39th IB, told reporters Saturday credit for the recovery of families in hinterlands in Magsaysay and Makilala has to go to the DSWD, the Department of Agriculture and local executives involved in community rehabilitation efforts after communist guerillas had left for good.

Records from the offices of the provincial governors in the two provinces indicate that more than 300 CTG members in the two provinces have surrendered in batches since 2018 through the intercession of local officials and units of the 39th IB.

AFP: LOOK: Philippine Air Force holds Air Battle Management SMEE

Posted to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Facebook Page (Jul 16, 2023): LOOK: Philippine Air Force holds Air Battle Management SMEE

As part of the ongoing Cope Thunder 2023 Exercise, the 580th Aircraft Control and Warning Wing, PAF (Sensor Warriors) together with the US Air Force successfully conducted a three-day Subject Matter Expert Exchange (SMEE) on Air Battle Management at Wallace Air Station on July 10-12, 2023.
USAF personnel were able to share the latest information, best practices, and other essential knowledge to the Air Battle Managers and C2 Battle Management Operators of the Sensor Warriors through interactive discussions and open forum. (Photos by 580th Aircraft Control and Warning Wing, PAF)

AFP: LOOK: Philippine and United States Air Forces conduct Alternate Insertion and Extrication and Search and Rescue Exercises

Posted to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Facebook Page (Jul 16, 2023): LOOK: Philippine and United States Air Forces conduct Alternate Insertion and Extrication and Search and Rescue Exercises

The 205th Tactical Helicopter Wing and the 505th Search and Rescue Group of the Philippine Air Force, together with their counterparts from the United States Air Force, took part in a two-day joint training exercise on Alternate Insertion and Extrication (AIE) and Search and Rescue Exercises (SAREX) from July 5 to 6, 2023, in Palaui Island and Naval Base Camilo Osias in Sta. Ana, Cagayan.

The training focused on land and maritime insertions/extrications using techniques such as hoisting, fast-roping, and rope ladders. Meanwhile, the Jungle Warfare Rotary Wing SAREX involved recovering isolated personnel on Palaui Island, utilizing the Fast Rope Insertion Extraction System (FRIES) and hoist operations with the forest penetrators. Ground forces included Philippine and US Air Force Parajumpers. (Photos by 205th Tactical Helicopter Wing, PAF)

AFP: LOOK: Philippines and United States Marines conduct Coastal Defense Live Fire Exercise

Posted to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Facebook Page (Jul 16, 2023): LOOK: Philippines and United States Marines conduct Coastal Defense Live Fire Exercise

The Philippine Marine Corps together with the United States Marine Corps forces successfully conducted Coastal Defense Live Fire Exercise on 15 July 2023 in Rizal Palawan.
The event showcased the exceptional training and coordination between the 3rd Marine Brigade of the Philippine Marine Corps (PMC) and the 5th Marine Regiment of the United States Marine Corps (USMC). (Photos by Philippine Marine Corps)

MBLT-4 credited for dismantling NPA in Palawan

From the Palawan News (Jul 17, 2023): MBLT-4 credited for dismantling NPA in Palawan (By Gerald Ticke)

Western Command chief Vice Admiral Alberto Carlos leads the send-off for Marine Battalion Landing Team 4 (MBLT-4) at the tidepole pier on Monday, July 17, foe their refurbishing and retraining at the Philippine Marine Corps headquarters in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines in the province commended the victories of the Marine Battalion Landing Team-4 in ending the New People’s Army’s armed struggle as it prepared Monday morning to leave for refurbishment and retraining before being deployed to its new duty.

The commanders of Western Command (WESCOM) and the 3rd Marine Brigade (3MBde) in Palawan pinned
the legacy of ending the armed struggle of the rebel group in Palawan to the battalion during the Send-off Ceremony at the Tide Pole facility pier on July 17.

WESCOM chief Vice Admiral Alberto Carlos highlighted that MBLT-4 played an important role in maintaining the peace and order situation in Palawan.

The unit’s efforts were particularly significant in remote areas, he explained, which often faced challenges and felt deprived of government services due to their geographic location. These conditions made them vulnerable to the influence and recruitment of the Communist Party of the Philippines.

“Through their focused military operations and strategic maneuverings, they added immense pressure to the CTGs (communist terrorist groups) resulting to the surrender of key leaders and personalities in Northern Palawan,” Carlos said.

He added that the transfer of the battalion to the southern part of the province also resulted in a “well-secured environment for both local and foreign tourists, with no incident of kidnapping or terrorism-related activities.”

3MBde commander Brig. Gen. Antonio Mangoroban Jr. on the other hand lauded MBLT-4’s efforts in the internal security operation (ISO) which “culminated in the successful raid against the top leaders of the CTGs in Brooke’ Point that eventually led to the dismantling of the lawless group’s presence here in the province.”

Mangoroban also thanked the battalion for its role in securing the country’s territory in the West Philippine Sea.

“We also thank them for their efforts in safeguarding our far-flung stsations in WPS. They have participated in our efforts to provide effective presence in WPS,” He said.

“They have endured loneliness out on that far-flung areas and have been on the watch or a living doer of how we have been doing our part in not losing an inch or even a grain of sand in our territory for the past years,” he added.

Furthermore, Mangoroban recognized the battalion’s efforts in the humanitarian and disaster response operations during calamities.

“Their most notable efforts were during the massive flooding in Brooke’s Point ans Sofronio Española,” he said.

Meanwhile, MBLT-4 commanding officer Lt. Col. Glenn Llorito thanked the leadership of Wescom and local government units who extended thwm support during their stay in the province.

“To our commanders, your clear command guidance has been our beacon in accomplishing our unit missions. To the mayors, other law enforcement agencies and other friendly forces covered by the area of reaponsibility of MBLT4, your support and constant coordination have contributed to the smooth and effective execution of our unit’s line of effort and operations,” Llorito said.

“To the officers and enlisted personnel, let us never forget the sacrifices of those who came before us and those who will follow our footsteps. We must strive to be the epitome of honor, courage and commitment in everything we do,” he added.

MBLT-4 ended its tour of duty in Palawan after 12 years of deployment in the northern and southern parts of the province and will proceed to Philippine Marine Corps headquarters in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City.

“They will undergo massive refurbishing and retraining program to stay atuned to the evolving task, and capacitate them to become always ready for any mission assigned to them,” Mangoroban said.

Farmers group continues call for justice in ‘ruthless’ slay of Fausto family in Himamaylan City

From Rappler (Jul 17, 2023): Farmers group continues call for justice in ‘ruthless’ slay of Fausto family in Himamaylan City (By REYMUND TITONG)

Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas-Negros asks the Commission on Human Rights to investigate the killings of Roly and Emily Fausto and their two minor sons

NEGROS OCCIDENTAL, Philippines – Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas-Negros (KMP-Negros) called for justice and urged the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to conduct an impartial investigation on the killings of Roly and Emily Fausto and their two minor sons in Barangay Buenavista, Himamaylan on June 14.

A month after the killings of the Fausto family in Sitio Kangkiling on June 14, the government and other rights groups have been working hard to uncover the truth behind the killings and put culprits behind bars.

Danilo Tabura, the spokesperson of the militant farmers’ group, claimed in a post first published on the KMP-Negros Facebook page that the accusations and witnesses presented by the Philippine Army and the Provincial Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (PTF-ELCAC), were fabricated.

“We have serious doubts about the credibility of these investigations,” the militant farmers’ group spokesman said.

Culprits identified

The police said that it identified a band of 15 alleged communist rebels, including a certain Fernando Hermino, as perpetrators of the massacre belonging under the Central Negros 2 unit, based on their two witnesses.

Captain Arturo Margallo, the deputy chief of Philippine National Police-Himamaylan City, told Rappler that the family has yet to file an affidavit of complaint against the suspects.

If the family shows no interest in formally filing a case, the police will stand as the complainant on behalf of the family, Margallo said.

Margallo, however, was unable to give specifics regarding the window of time given to the surviving family members within which they can file a formal complaint.
Military asset

RTF-ELCAC VI spokesperson prosecutor Flosemer Gonzales said during the press briefing of the PTF-ELCAC in June that Roly, the patriarch, was targeted because he was a former rebel turned military asset; and worked for the surrender of some of his comrades, including the in-laws of his eldest daughter, Emily.

A member of the Fausto family, however, denied this claim and said the slain farmer was not a military nor a police asset.

Tabura also mentioned in the statement that KMP-Negros has documented of some twenty farmers who were purportedly killed by the military during clashes and later reported to be communist rebels.

Prosecutor Gonzales refuted the claims made by KMP-Negros and told Rappler that it would stand firmly by the statements of the PTF-ELCAC during the press conference.

“We will not dignify the baseless and highly bastardized propaganda lies peddled by the KMP-Negros by making a response to their nonsense rantings,” the prosecutor said.
Thorough investigation

The militant group also urged the CHR to conduct an impartial and thorough investigation on the case of Crispin Tingal, Jr., a farmer who died on May 3 in a clash between the state forces and communist rebels in hinterlands of Himamaylan to Kabankalan cities.

The military said he was a rebel. However, surviving kin of Crispin denied the military’s claims and said he was heading home from a seminar on catfish farming as part of the Sustainable Livelihood Program of the Department of Social Welfare Development and the City Agriculture Office of Kabankalan when the military reported him as a casualty.

The NPA had a history of killing residents of Barangay Buenavista, whom they suspected of being criminals, which the local government and the international human rights group Human Rights Watch (HRW) strongly condemned these killings.

Formal peace talks with communist rebels ‘bleak’ under Marcos Jr. – US non-profit

From MindaNews (Jul 17, 2023): Formal peace talks with communist rebels ‘bleak’ under Marcos Jr. – US non-profit (By BONG S. SARMIENTO)

MindaNews file photo

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews / 17 July) – As intermittent fighting between the government and the communist rebels continues in some parts of the country, the prospects for peace under President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. look “dim,” a US-based non-profit said.

In a report titled “The Communist Insurgency in the Philippines: A ‘Protracted People’s War’ Continues” released on July 13, the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED) noted that formal peace talks with the communists under the new Marcos Jr. regime are “unlikely to be revived.”

“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,” the ACLED report, written by Tomas Buenaventura, said.

The late dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr. was ousted by the peaceful EDSA People’s Power revolt in 1986.

ACLED, based in Wisconsin and operating as a non-profit since 2014, has been engaged in disaggregated data collection, analysis and crisis mapping involving conflicts across the globe.

Marcos Jr.’s immediate predecessor, former President Rodrigo Duterte, terminated peace talks between the government and the CPP-NPA-NDF, which stands for the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army- National Democratic Front, in November 2017.

The Duterte administration proclaimed the CPP-NPA-NDF as a terrorist group but a Manila court dismissed the petition in September 2022.

In December 2018, Duterte established the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), a whole-of-nation strategy to defeat the communist insurgency.

ACLED noted that Marcos Jr. appeared keen in pursuing 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.

The government had 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, ACLED said.

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,” it added.

The last substantial agreement signed between the Philippine government and the communist guerrillas 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.

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.

National Security Adviser Eduardo Año said that Marcos’ marching order is for the NTF-ELCAC to sustain the whole-of-nation approach to peace and development to prevent the communist “terrorists,” their front organizations, and other lawless elements from recruiting, regrouping and regaining power.

“He also directed the task force and the local government units to continue working together to seize the gains in the regions and ensure that we carry this momentum towards total victory over communist terrorism under his administration,” Ano was quoted as saying by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity.

NPAs most active in Negros Occidental, Bukidnon

From June 30, 2016 to June 30, 2023, ACLED said that the NPA rebels were most active in Negros Occidental province in Western Visayas and Bukidnon province in Northern Mindanao.

At least 63 clashes between the NPA and the military were recorded during the period.

“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,” it said.

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, ACLED noted.

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, it added.

But the military and the communists had publicly disagreed 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.

The military, meanwhile, claimed that the number of NPA fronts is down to 22 as of December 2022.

Last May, Año said that of these 22 fronts, the number of “active” guerrilla fronts had gone down to two, while 20 have been “weakened.” (Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews)

France eyes more maritime interactions in PH to promote peace

From the Mindanao Examiner (Jul 17, 2023): France eyes more maritime interactions in PH to promote peace

FRANCE IS planning to increase its maritime interactions in the Indo-Pacific and the Philippines with the deployment of more naval assets, including the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier in 2025.

During the Bastille Day reception at a Makati City hotel on Friday night, outgoing French Ambassador Michele Boccoz reiterated Paris’ interest to work with like-minded states in promoting peace and stability amid growing geopolitical tensions and uncertainties in the region.

“We’re planning the deployments for the next few years little by little but we will have more important visits of carriers, aircraft carriers, and others. The preparations are underway,” she told reporters in an interview.

Boccoz said France would also work closely with Manila on capacity building and technology transfers.

This year, France participated for the first time as an observer in the “Balikatan” military exercises and joined the multilateral “Sama-Sama” (Together) exercises, which sought commitment towards ensuring free and open seas.

Last month, the French Navy Destroyer Lorraine docked in Manila for a goodwill visit before its commissioning.

According to Boccoz, France will send a full-time resident defense attaché to the Philippines this year, signaling its increased interest in the area.

“I believe deeply in this relationship. As you know, France is an Indo- Pacific nation with two million inhabitants in this zone, so close to the Philippines geographically and in terms of values. We believe deeply in democracy, a rules-based international order, and diplomacy,” she said. (Joyce Ann L. Rocamora)

PH, US jets conduct dogfight, AIMT drills over Visayas, Mindanao

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 17, 2023): PH, US jets conduct dogfight, AIMT drills over Visayas, Mindanao (By Priam Nepomuceno)

FA-50PH fleet with assisting maintenance crew at the starting procedures infront of the ACP Hangar, Brig.Gen. Benito N.Ebuen Air Base, Lapu-Lapu City, Cebu (Photo courtesy of PAF)

MANILA – Filipino and American military aircraft conducted air combat and maritime interdiction tactics over the skies of Visayas and Mindanao as part of the aerial exercises of Cope Thunder 2023-2.

"A number of aircraft from the Philippine Air Force (PAF) and (US) Pacific Air Force (PACAF) soared into the skies of Visayas and Mindanao during various flight missions under Cope Thunder 2023-2 from July 12-15, 2023," Air Force spokesperson Col. Ma. Consuelo Castillo said in a statement Monday.

Participating PAF aircraft consisted of four FA-50PH light jet fighters and two A-28B "Super Tucanos", while five A-10 "Warthogs" came from the PACAF.

These aircraft departed Clark Air Base, Mabalacat City, Pampanga last July 11 for Brig. Gen. Benito N. Ebuen Air Base in Lapu-Lapu City, Cebu as preparation for the air drills over Mactan and General Santos City.

The deployment also serves as a simulation of the 5th Fighter Wing’s deployment for next year’s "Pitch Black" exercises in Australia.

"Flight exercises included air interdiction and maritime target (AIMT) to enhance the pilots’ skills on tactical air-to-surface/ground operations against enemy objectives and air combat maneuvers(ACM), also known as 'dogfighting', to enhance skills in air-to-air combat," Castillo said.

No other details were immediately available for security reasons.

One of the highlights of the exercise is the so-called "hot refueling operations" where the aircraft engines kept running throughout the process, allowing the aircraft to quickly return to its mission or flight.

"Known also as 'hotpit' operations, these are especially beneficial in time-sensitive situations where minimizing ground time is crucial," the PAF spokesperson said.

The Cope Thunder exercises started on July 2 and will run until July 21.

The first iteration of Cope Thunder for this year took place May 1 to 12 and focused on mission planning capabilities and execution of defensive and offensive counter-air operations utilizing fighter and cargo aircraft.

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.

Earlier, the PAF's 960th Air and Missile Defense Group (960th AMDG) participated in a three-day subject matter expert exchange (SMEE) on Integrated Air and Missile Defense (IAMD) which was held from July 10-12 at Basa Air Base, Floridablanca, Pampanga.

This served as a forum for the 960th AMDG and the United States Air Force Pacific Integrated Air and Missile Defense Center to share their best practices and the latest information pertaining to IAMD.

"A series of presentations by experts from both air forces covered topics such as air domain awareness, mission planning considerations, rules of engagement, ID matrix, and passive defenses. The presentations provided valuable insights into the challenges and advancements in the field of IAMD," Castillo said.

A criticality vulnerability and threat (CVT) workshop also took place, focusing on critical assets list (CAL) and defended asset lists (DAL).

"This workshop allowed participants from both teams to actively engage in hands-on exercises, simulations, and scenario-based discussions. The collaborative environment fostered a vibrant exchange of ideas and facilitated a deeper understanding on the intricacies of conducting air and missile defense operations effectively," Castillo said.

PNP: No security threat for PBBM's 2nd SONA

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 17, 2023): PNP: No security threat for PBBM's 2nd SONA (By Christopher Lloyd Caliwan)

Philippine National Police spokesperson Col. Jean Fajardo (PNA photo by Christopher Lloyd T. Caliwan)

MANILA – The Philippine National Police (PNP) on Monday said it has yet to detect security threats to President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.'s second State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 24.

Similarly, the Quezon City Police District (QCPD) has yet to receive any application from groups that will hold protest actions but it anticipates the presence of various groups on the day of the SONA.

“As of yesterday (Sunday), so far wala pa naman tayong narerereceive (we have not received anything yet) any credible and serious threat,” PNP spokesperson Col. Jean Fajardo told reporters in a press briefing held at Camp Crame in Quezon City.

Fajardo said the PNP will conduct simulation exercises, communication exercises, walk through, clearing operations and contingency planning in case there are protest rallies.

The PNP spokesperson urged groups to hold their actions at the Quezon Memorial Circle, the designated freedom park in the city.

In case groups will decide to march from the University of the Philippines-Diliman Campus to the Luzon Avenue flyover along Commonwealth Avenue, Fajardo assured maximum tolerance and will allow them to express themselves.

Meanwhile, QCPD Director Brig. Gen. Nicolas Torre III said they have conducted a simulation of what could transpire during the SONA, including a possible face-off with protesters.

“Basically, this is a refresher of our crowd disturbance management technique and tactics. Kasama na dyan ang (including) equipment check, updating the knowledge at batas kung paano i-aaply itong (and laws on how to apply these) techniques and tactics in case may mga (there are) untoward incidents na mangyari (that may happen),” Torre said.

There will be around 5,000 police officers that will be deployed at the House of Representatives and the Batasang Pambansa complex on July 24, half of them from the QCPD.

Torre likewise assured that maximum tolerance will be exercised.

“[It's] a maximum tolerance. We always hope for the best and prepare the worst. Kung pwede pagbigyan ang ating mga kababayan na mag pahayag ng damdamin (We will allow them to express their sentiments) as long as it does not violate the law and done within [the] bounds of law. We will always exert maximum tolerance,” said Torre.

The PNP earlier said more than 22,000 policemen and augmentation forces will be tapped to secure the President’s SONA.

Exec refutes China accusation vs. US as ‘mastermind’ in SCS case

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 17, 2023): Exec refutes China accusation vs. US as ‘mastermind’ in SCS case (By Joyce Ann L. Rocamora)

State Department Counselor Derek H. Chollet. (Photo by Joyce Rocamora)

MANILA – A ranking State Department official on Monday refuted China’s accusation that the United States was the “mastermind” behind the South China Sea arbitration case that ruled in favor of Manila in 2016.

China made the accusation on the 7th anniversary of the ruling and claimed that the US is roping in allies to raise the issue each year.

“Any statement that somehow says the US was putting a partner like the Philippines up to this is preposterous. Frankly, I think it's an insult to the Philippines,” State Department Counselor Derek Chollet said in an interview in Makati.

“We believe that the enforcement of the Peoples’ Republic of China’s unilateral fishing moratorium in areas of the South China Sea that are part of the Philippine exclusive economic zone is inconsistent with the 2016 arbitral tribunal and international law as it is reflected in the Law of the Sea Convention,” he added.

Chollet said the US will continue to oppose any attempt to intimidate parties involved in the maritime row as he reiterated support for the 2016 arbitral ruling.

He said he made this clear during his meetings with officials both in Indonesia and the Philippines.

Chollet visited Manila from July 15-17 and met with Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo and National Security Advisor Eduardo Año to discuss a range of bilateral and regional issues, including “the latest conditions in the South China Sea”.

“My point with our colleagues today was to stress that we will remain committed to working alongside our allies to safely and responsibly fly, sail, and operate anywhere that international law allows and that we stand by our Philippine allies and upholding regional security,” he said.

He clarified that Washington does not seek conflict or confrontation but “will not flinch in the face of bullying or coercion”.

BARMM satisfied with PBBM's handling of Mindanao peace process

 From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 17, 2023): BARMM satisfied with PBBM's handling of Mindanao peace process (By Edwin Fernandez)

The Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao administration building in Cotabato City.

COTABATO CITY – The leadership of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) has expressed satisfaction with the way President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. is handling the Mindanao peace process.

Andrew Alonto, director of the BARMM Bureau of Public Information, recalled that one of Marcos earliest actions in the region was the appointment of the new set of Members of Parliament.

Alonto was referring to the President’s adherence to the implementation of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) and the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL).

“A clear indication the President is faithful to what is stated in the CAB and BOL – that the transition period shall be MILF led,” Alonto said in an interview Monday. “No doubt the BARMM leadership is satisfied with the current administration of President Marcos.”

Alonto added that they see the continuous progress in the implementation of the provisions of the agreement, like the Intergovernmental Relations Body.

He also noted that Marcos supports the immediate return of a Department of Foreign Affairs office in Cotabato City and the establishment of the Professional Regulatory Commission in the region.

“Just recently, we also witnessed how President Marcos supports the signing of a circular on Intergovernmental Energy Board, allowing us to jointly award Petroleum Service Contracts and Coal Operating Contracts in BARMM,” Alonto said.

In the political landscape, the official said Marcos "also excellently and competently" managed the situation in the division of Maguindanao province.

“It was very problematic at first but through the supportive intervention of the President, issues were ironed out peacefully,” he said.

It's also noteworthy to remember that the President personally visited BARMM in November days after Severe Tropical Storm Paeng, which damaged many communities in BARMM.

Alonto also noted that it was unprecedented that the President has repeatedly invited BARMM Chief Minister Ahod Balawag Ebrahim in Malacañang to grace important events.

Touching the hearts of the Bangsamoro

Bai Maleiha Candao, a parliamentarian at the 80-member Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA), echoed Alonto’s statement, saying Marcos has truly touched the hearts of the people for continuing the cause of peace in the region.

“I was amazed by the way he stood up for the Bangsamoro Muslims when he welcomed with sincerity the leaders of the BARMM headed by Chief Minister Ebrahim in Manila recently,” she said.

She said the President showed he is a true leader who looks beyond history and continued the task left by former president Rodrigo R. Duterte.

“Alhamdullilah (Praise be to the God). I can feel the sincerity of President Marcos and I want to thank him from my heart for his support to our leaders of the BARMM and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front,” Candao said.

Assistance roadmap workshop seen to boost PH-US defense ties

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 17, 2023): Assistance roadmap workshop seen to boost PH-US defense ties (By Priam Nepomuceno)

Participants and facilitators of the three-day Security Sector Assistance Roadmap Working Group Workshop during the closing ceremony on July 13, 2023. (Photo courtesy of AFP)

MANILA – More concrete progress has been made in enhancing the defense ties and interoperability of Filipino and American military forces following the successful conclusion of the Philippines and US Security Sector Assistance Roadmap (SSAR) Working Group Workshop.

In a statement Monday, AFP public affairs office chief Lt. Col. Enrico Gil Ileto said the SSAR was conducted from July 11 to 13 at the AFP Commissioned Officers’ Country in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

"SSAR involves the provision of support, training, and assistance by the United States to help partner nations strengthen their security sectors, including defense forces. These partnerships aim to promote stability, build capacity, and enhance the effectiveness of the partner country's security forces," he added.

The activity is part of the commitment of the two nations to push through with its earlier commitment to further boost Philippine defense capability and interoperability with the American forces.

The three-day Philippine-US SSAR Working Group Workshop is an offshoot of the agreements made during the 2+2 Ministerial Meeting between then Defense officer-in-charge Senior Undersecretary Carlito Galvez Jr. and Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo and US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and US State Secretary Anthony Blinken held last April 11 in Washington, D.C.

During the 2+2 Ministerial Meeting, both countries agreed to develop a long-term plan to address the AFP’s defense capability requirements and to further enhance joint interoperability between the US and the Philippines as envisioned in the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT).

Ileto said the recommendations of the work group will be further deliberated, refined, and approved by the Mutual Defense Board – Security Engagement Board (MDB/SEB) co-chaired by the AFP chief of staff and the commander of the US-Indo Pacific Command.

The next MDB/SEB Board Meeting will be held in the Philippines this coming September.

4 village heads yield guns to Maguindanao Norte police

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 17, 2023): 4 village heads yield guns to Maguindanao Norte police (By Edwin Fernandez) July 17, 2023, 8:31 pm

WAR MATERIEL NO MORE. Capt. Joel Albao (5th from left), Talitay municipal police station chief, and four village officials show the unlicensed guns turned over to police on Monday (July 17, 2023). The surrender of the firearms, according to the village officials, was in support of the government’s peace efforts. (Photo courtesy of PRO-BARMM)

COTABATO CITY – Four village chiefs in Talitay town, Maguindanao del Sur surrendered unlicensed guns to the police on Monday.

Brig. Gen. Allan Nobleza, police regional director of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), said he was elated at how the village officials responded to his call for support and cooperation.

“My calls continue for the remaining private individuals and local officials to lay down their unlicensed firearms for the overall peace and security in the region,” Nobleza said, even as he vowed to intensify the campaign against loose firearms.

He said the village officials are from the conflict-affected areas of the province and are involved in deep-seated animosities with other families, mostly stemming from land conflicts.

Capt. Joel Albao, Talitay municipal police station chief, said the firearms were handed over to Col. Salman Sapal, the provincial police director.

The village officials included chiefs Solaiman Buisan of Barangay Poblacion, Kuli Mama Datulukes of Barangay Kilalan, Azmy Guiamadel of Barangay Bintan, and Mamatanto Manap of Barangay Kuden, all of Talitay town.

They yielded a .50-caliber Barret sniper rifle, a 7.62-mm sniper rifle, a homemade shotgun, a .38-caliber revolver, and ammunition.

Albao said the firearms are now in the custody of Talitay police for documentation before their turnover to the BARMM police’s regional forensic unit for ballistic examination and firearms verification.

3 NPA members yield in Sultan Kudarat

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 17, 2023): 3 NPA members yield in Sultan Kudarat (By Edwin Fernandez)

ISULAN, Sultan Kudarat – Three members of the communist New People’s Army (NPA) here have surrendered to police authorities in Palimbang, Sultan Kudarat, over the weekend, police said Monday.

Col. Christopher Bermudez, Sultan Kudarat police director, said the three rebels turned themselves in to the municipal police office of Palimbang town on Saturday night.

“They surrendered two .38-caliber revolvers and a 12-gauge shotgun,” he said.

Bermudez said the surrenderers used to operate under the Baghdad Platoon of the NPA Guerrilla Front 73, Far South Mindanao Regional Committee.

The trio claimed that their group is “weakening” and will soon dissolve due to massive military operations, according to Bermudez, who lauded the Palimbang police for facilitating the surrender.

“We are also calling on the remaining members of the NPA to return to the folds of government and we assure to help them to live safely and peacefully,” he said.