Tuesday, August 1, 2023

Army neutralizes 25 NPA rebels in Visayas in July

From the Manila Bulletin (Aug 1, 2023): Army neutralizes 25 NPA rebels in Visayas in July (By TARA YAP)

ILOILO CITY – The military neutralized 25 New People’s Army (NPA) rebels across the Visayas in July.

The Armed Forces Visayas Command described the losses as a setback to the communist movement.

“The losses suffered by the NPA in the Visayas caused irreparable damages to the terrorist group,” said Lt. Gen. Benedict Arevalo, commander of the Viscom.

Viscom said eight NPA rebels died while 17 surrendered.

The most recent setback for the NPA, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), was on July 29 when two members were killed in a clash with the 61st Infantry Battalion (IB) in Leon town, Iloilo province.

A week earlier, two NPA rebels were killed in Pambujan town, Northern Samar province in an encounter with the 19th IB.

Thirty-eight NPA firearms were seized, 22 of which were high-powered, the military added.

The most number of weapons recovered was in the gun battle in Can-avid town, Eastern Samar province on July 19. The 42nd IB recovered from four M16 rifles, five M14 rifles, an M79 grenade launcher, a shotgun, and three anti-personnel landmines.

“Our focused military operations and localized peace engagements will always remain as the bread and butter of our campaign in defeating the CPP-NPA in the three Visayas regions,” said Arevalo.

“These will significantly degrade both their manpower and armed capability which will eventually lead to the fall of the terrorist group,” added Arevalo.


Moro Islamic Liberation Front urges gov’t to fulfill normalization components amid BIAF decommissioning

From the Manila Bulletin (Aug 2, 2023): Moro Islamic Liberation Front urges gov’t to fulfill normalization components amid BIAF decommissioning (By KEITH BACONGCO)

DAVAO CITY – The Moro Islamic Liberation Front has urged the government to fulfill other components of normalization amid the ongoing decommissioning process of its armed wing Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF).

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front  recently issued the statement ahead of the resumption of the third phase of the decommissioning of 1,301 combatants on August 3.

“The decommissioning of the remaining 1,301 combatants under Phase 3 on August 3, 2023 is merely the profiling of the combatants and possibly their receipt of the cash assistance from the Department of Social Welfare and Development,” the Moro Islamic Liberation Front  said.

However, the group further pointed out that the decommissioning is the whole process of transforming the lives of combatants so that they become productive civilians. “We look forward to other interventions that would make this possible. Same is true for those who have been decommissioned since 2015.”

But for the Moro Islamic Liberation Front , the mere disarming of its fighters, through the decommissioning process, will not result in peace and stability if other components of the normalization process will not be fulfilled as well.

“The other components include the disbandment of private armed groups, transitional justice, amnesty, the transformation of six acknowledge Moro Islamic Liberation Front  camps into productive communities, and socio-economic programs, among others,” it added.

The decommissioning of MILF fighters is part of the Annex on Normalization of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), the peace agreement between the government and the MILF signed in March 27, 2014 after 17 years of peace negotiations.

First phase of the decommissioning process took place in 2015 following the signing of the CAB with 145 fighters processed and turned over 75 high-powered firearms in Sultan Kudarat town in Maguindanao.

Four years later, the second phase commenced in the same town but it was completed in March 2020 with the decommissioning of about 12,000 MILF combatants, 2,100 assorted weapons, and at least 500 rounds of ammunition.

The third phase started in November 2021 with 14,000 MILF combatants, or 35 percent of its forces, and about 2,500 weapons had been decommissioned.

Recently, Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito Galvez Jr. said that the Independent Decommissioning Body (IDB) is expected to complete the decommissioning process before the first election in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) in 2025.

As stated in the CAB, the decommissioning of the MILF fighters is supervised by the IDB, which is composed of international and local experts. The IDB will be responsible for putting these firearms beyond use.

“Thus, the successful completion of decommissioning in the future hinges and depends on the parallel and commensurate implementation of the other aspects of normalization. Normalization is not a buffet where parties can choose what they want and disregard others,” the MILF said.

Sources from the MILF communities told Manila Bulletin that many of its former combatants have yet to receive their livelihood assistance package.

“Our neighbor here, who is a seasoned MILF fighter in his 70s, was among the second batch of fighters who were decommissioned about three years ago. Sadly, until now, he has yet to receive his livelihood package,” said a Moro community leader who runs a farmers' organization in North Cotabato.

He added they are assisting some of the former fighters who are now into farming while waiting for livelihood assistance from the government.

The Moro community leader emphasized that the decommissioning of combatants is not just about disarming. “I hope the government will fulfill its promise to help these former combatants in transforming their lives,” he said.

"To dream of the complete decommissioning of MILF combatants and weapons while leaving the other aspects of normalization unfulfilled and unimplemented will not result in peace. Such premature decommissioning weakens the capacity of the MILF to deliver its commitments. Peace partners should not undermine but instead strengthen each other,” the MILF added.


USNI: Maritime COIN Is a Team Sport//China’s insurgency demands a regional response

Posted to the US Naval Institute (USNI) Website (Aug 2023): Maritime COIN Is a Team Sport//China’s insurgency demands a regional response (By Rear Admiral Rommel Jude G. Ong, Armed Forces of the Philippines-Retired)

August 2023  Proceedings  Vol. 149/8/1,446

Gray zone tactics comprise the most pressing and intractable aspect of China’s maritime strategy in the South China Sea. They continue to defy any effective political, legal, or naval response by the Philippines or by any other affected coastal state in the region.

In analyzing the contemporary Chinese challenge, it is useful to return to one of the foundational 20th-century thinkers on insurgency. David Galula, a French military officer and scholar, described an insurgency as “a protracted struggle conducted methodically, step by step, in order to attain specific intermediate objectives leading to the overthrow of the existing order.”1 He further posited that “promoting disorder is a legitimate objective of the insurgent. It helps to disrupt the economy, hence to produce discontent; it serves to undermine the strength and authority of the counterinsurgent. . . . Disorder is cheap to create, and very costly to prevent.”2

U.S. Navy sailors return to the guided-missile destroyer USS Preble (DDG-88) in a rigid-hulled inflatable boat near the Philippine Navy offshore patrol vessel Ramon Alcaraz (the former U.S. Coast Guard cutter Dallas) during Exercise Balikatan. U.S. Navy (Bryan Niegel)

Galula’s ideas allow discernment of the broad strokes of Xi Jinping’s “China Dream” as a “global insurgency.” Within this frame of reference, China can be understood as an “insurgent,” while the responding nations are the “counterinsurgent,” and Southeast Asia is the populace to be influenced. He warned that “once the insurgent has succeeded in acquiring stable geographical bases . . . he becomes ipso facto a strong promoter of order within his own area, in order to show the difference between the effectiveness of his rule and the inadequacy of his opponent’s.”3

Galula was prescient. Using its navy, coast guard, maritime militia, and fishing fleet, China has physically asserted its illegal claims to “indisputable sovereignty” over the South China Sea and coerced adjacent coastal states, including the Philippines, by encroaching on lawful civilian economic activity in their internationally recognized exclusive economic zones (EEZs). In a parallel, decades-long effort, China drove wedges among Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member-states, employed influence operations to co-opt their political and economic elites, and tried to use the ASEAN-China Code of Conduct negotiations to oust the United States from the region.

China’s consistent and continuing campaigns across multiple lines of effort clearly indicate that Beijing desires nothing less than the acquiescence of Southeast Asia to becoming modern day “tributary-states” to Xi’s empire. This is consistent with Galula’s assessment of the basic objective of an insurgency:

If the insurgent manages to disassociate the population from the counterinsurgent, to control it physically, to get its active support, he will win the war because, in the final analysis, the exercise of political power depends on the tacit or explicit agreement of the population, or at worst, on its submissiveness.4

Chinese President Xi Jinping (right) meets with his Philippine counterpart Rodrigo Duterte in Beijing in April 2019. President Duterte placed the Philippines-U.S. alliance on the backburner in exchange for China’s promised—but never delivered—economic investment. Xinhua/Alamy Live News (Li Tao)

The longstanding tendency of Southeast Asian states to hedge relations between the United States and China underscores the sharp efficacy of Beijing’s hard power. In the Philippines, former President Rodrigo Duterte’s appeasement policy allowed China to challenge the exercise of sovereignty within the Philippines’ territorial waters and sovereign rights in its EEZ.

None of this will convert Southeast Asian nations into believers in Xi’s “dream.” Galula emphasized the need for insurgents to have “an attractive cause” if they want to do more “than simply making trouble.” A cause gives the insurgent “a formidable, if intangible, asset that he can progressively transform into a concrete strength.”5 Here lies the weakness of China’s insurgency. Ultimately, Xi’s end-state has always been about personal and regime survival; the benefits of the “dream” are exclusive to China. They do not offer Southeast Asia “an attractive cause,” and living in a surveillance state holds no appeal.

Former Associate Chief Justice of the Philippines’ Supreme Court Antonio Carpio predicts a grim future for the rules-based international order if China’s activities in the South China Sea remain unaddressed:

At stake is the survival of the legal order, enshrined in the 1945 U.N. Charter, that no state shall use armed force to settle a dispute with another state but must use only peaceful means to settle such disputes. . . . We must prevent China from overturning this fundamental principle, otherwise, we will go back to the “might is right” order that prevailed before.6

The first step in reversing the initial successes of Xi’s insurgency is to look beyond its tactical effects on the ground. Certainly, it has disrupted the decision cycle of many regional navies and coast guards. But this is only one aspect. Deconstructing it further reveals how China strategically employs its “comprehensive national power” to influence the region’s economies while using its diverse maritime capabilities to encroach on its neighbors’ EEZs.7 Moving forward, the United States and nations around the South China Sea can take inspiration from Galula’s “four laws for counterinsurgency” to avert a potential strategic victory for China.

The USCGC Stratton (WMSL-752) with Indonesian Maritime Security Agency patrol boat Belut Laut-406 and Republic of Singapore Navy MSRV Bastion in May 2023. U.S. Coast Guard (Brett Cote)

First: “The support of the population is as necessary for the counterinsurgent, as for the insurgent.”8

An essential battleground can be found in the “hearts and minds” of ASEAN’s political and economic elites. The elites can convince Southeast Asian governments either to stay the course of abiding with an “insurgent” China, or they can swing governments’ support to the cause of like-minded countries endeavoring to maintain a rules-based international order. In eschewing Marx and Lenin, the post-1979 Chinese Communist Party has adroitly exploited Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” to position China as the world’s factory and most lucrative domestic market. This economic appeal allows Beijing to employ its economic capability and relationships across Southeast Asia to gain acquiescence from much of ASEAN. Former President Duterte, for example, placed the Philippines-U.S. alliance on the backburner in exchange for Xi’s promised—but never delivered—economic investment.

Winning back ASEAN’s elite will be an uphill challenge for the United States. The Indo-Pacific Economic Framework is attractive only if the United States is willing to open its economy for trade, but with the current mood in U.S. domestic politics, this is unlikely to happen soon. Instead, Japan and members of the European Union might need to take the lead. Through soft power, Japan has already established a robust engagement with the region’s major economies. But this needs to be synchronized with the high-level dialogues taking place among defense and foreign ministries. This also could present an opportunity to bring more private-sector actors into these conversations to discuss how ASEAN can become the world’s alternative supply chain and break China’s economic stranglehold.

Second: “Support is gained through an active minority.”9

The Philippine frigates Gregorio del Pilar (the former U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Hamilton), left, and Ramon Alcaraz (the former cutter Dallas), right, underway with the USS John S. McCain (DDG-56) in the South China Sea. U.S Navy (Jay C. Pugh)

Under present conditions, ASEAN is not inclined to make any large-scale moves against China. In addition to its use of trade and investment promises for geopolitical gain, China has waged an effective “divide and conquer” diplomatic strategy. Aiding this strategy is the fact that ASEAN states have diverse cultures, distinct histories, different governance styles, and widely varying views of where their countries’ respective national interests reside. For these members to rally to a common cause, many must first overcome their fear of entrapment in a great power conflict, the primary driver of hedging and bandwagoning strategies across the region in the first place.

As of now, the most workable templates are minilateral arrangements, such as the Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines (IndoMalPhi) trilateral cooperation agreement, an effort to combat armed robbery at sea and transnational terrorism along the Sulu-Sulawesi Seascape. Can this specific trio operate in the South China Sea as well? Or can similar arrangements with different sets of members be replicated? While the odds are against such a coalition forming among ASEAN members in the near term, a greater cause for optimism can be found in the emerging trilateral arrangement among the Philippines, United States, and Japan. This development could be the closest to the “active minority” that Galula envisioned. This grouping remains nascent, but if it gains traction, it might encourage the rest of Southeast Asia to stand up to Beijing.

Third: “Support from the population is conditional.”10

As Southeast Asia continues to bow before insurgent China, the United States needs to restore its credibility as the region’s security guarantor. This diminished in the aftermath of Scarborough Shoal’s loss in 2012, and freedom of navigation operations alone are an inadequate tactical response to China’s broad maritime strategy.11 Persistent inaction only emboldens China to continue violating Southeast Asian countries’ sovereign rights at sea. The United States and its friends need to find a way to break China’s continuing quasi blockade around the Scarborough, Second Thomas, and James Shoals, as well as the Senkaku Islands, while still remaining below the threshold of armed conflict.12 Matching the presence of China’s coast guard and militia would be a good start, but the goal should be the removal of Chinese forces from the encroached-upon waters. Without visible successes along these lines, the region will continue to vacillate in the face of China’s brand of international disorder.

Fourth: “Intensity of effort and vastness of means
are essential.”13

In terms of hard power, the naval correlation of forces in East Asia is skewed in China’s favor, even more so when China’s coast guard and militia are factored in. In addition, China has the advantage of interior lines of communication among the mainland, Hainan island, and its island bases in the Paracels and Spratlys, thus enhancing its operational logistics and sea control capabilities.14 All this forms the backdrop for China’s deployment of nonmilitary instruments of power to co-opt the region’s key elites and create a critical mass of support among the general public in various Southeast Asian nations.

Galula rightly argued that a counterinsurgency campaign should prioritize efforts to concentrate available resources. To win back Southeast Asia, a maritime counterinsurgency campaign should consider the following lines of effort:

• Adopting a “whole of alliance” approach to create convergence in diplomatic, informational, military, and economic strategies across like-minded democracies

• Shaping public opinion through continual engagement and dialogues with ASEAN’s elites and the general public

• Developing the capability to counter foreign interference among ASEAN members

• Deterring malign behavior through regionwide naval and military exercises to build interoperability and deliver targeted messaging

• Challenging China’s quasi blockade of Japanese, Malaysian, and Philippine shoals and islands

• Challenging maritime militia presence in EEZs and on unoccupied shoals in the Spratlys

• Sustaining focused naval presence in the South China Sea through coordinated air and maritime patrols.

A June 2023 meeting among the national security advisers of the Philippines, the United States, and Japan could be the first step in such a campaign. There, the three countries agreed to undertake multilateral joint naval exercises within the region; to advance cooperation on bilateral agreements by the Philippines with the United States and Japan such as the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement and reciprocal visits of officials; to promote maritime domain awareness using Japan’s Official Security Assistance mechanism and the Indo-Pacific Partnership for Maritime Domain Awareness; to deepen cooperation in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief; and to promote economic security and resilience and address economic coercion.15

This is not a call to prepare for war with China—going kinetic would not be the right option. Instead, the defenders of the rules-based international order must work to gain a strategic victory without fighting. To apply Galula’s sense of what a “strategic victory” entails: A South China Sea maritime counterinsurgency campaign should involve a maritime coalition, requires a multidomain approach, and demands interagency collaboration at regional and national levels. It will likely be a gradual, grinding, and cumulative process, focusing efforts against the structural and critical vulnerabilities of China’s insurgency. The desired end-state must be a condition in which the nations of Southeast Asia can unshackle themselves from China, breaking free of the tributary-state mindset, and instead act to secure their own interests.


1. David Galula (10 January 1919–11 May 1967) was a French military officer and scholar who gained practical experience in counterinsurgency in the Algerian War. See David Galula, Counterinsurgency Warfare: Theory and Practice (Westport, CT: Praeger Security International, 1964), 2.

2. Galula, Counterinsurgency Warfare, 7.

3. Galula.

4. Galula, 4.

5. Galula, 12–14.

6. Excerpt from statement to the author by former Associate Chief Justice Antonio Carpio of the Philippine Supreme Court.

7. Susannah Patton, Jack Sato, and Herve Lemahieu, “Asia Power Index: 2023 Key Findings Report,” Lowy Institute, 2023.

8. Galula, Counterinsurgency Warfare, 52.

9. Galula, 53.

10. Galula, 54.

11. See James Holmes, “You Have to Be There,” U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings 148, no. 7 (July 2022); and CAPT Joshua Taylor, USN, “A Campaign Plan for the South China Sea,” U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings 148, no. 8 (August 2022).

12. See Col Wendell Leimbach and LtCol Eric Duckworth, USMC (Ret.), “Prevailing Without Gunsmoke in the South China Sea,” U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings 148, no. 11 (November 2022); and CDR Phillip E. Pournelle, USN (Ret.), “It Will Take More Than an MLR to Fight a Maritime Insurgency,” U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings 148, no. 12 (December 2022).

13. Galula, Counterinsurgency Warfare, 55.

14. Brad Lendon and Haley Britzky, “U.S. Can’t Keep up with China’s Warship Building, Navy Secretary Says,” CNN, 22 February 2023.

15. RADM Rommel Jude G. Ong, PAF (Ret.), “Trilateral Cooperation among PH, US, Japan: Acceptability, Implications, Impact on Regional Security,” Rappler, 29 June 2023.

[Rear Admiral Rommel Jude G. Ong, Armed Forces of the Philippines (Retired): Rear Admiral Ong retired in 2019 as Vice Commander of the Philippines Navy. He previously commanded Naval Forces West, Naval Task Forces 11 and 80, Naval Intelligence Security Force, and three commissioned naval vessels. He is a graduate of the Philippines Military Academy, the National Defense College of the Philippines, and the U.S. Naval War College.]


Kalinaw News: Top NPA leader voluntarily surrendered in Bansud, Oriental Mindoro

From Kalinaw News Facebook Page (Aug 1, 2023): Top NPA leader voluntarily surrendered in Bansud, Oriental Mindoro

Top NPA leader voluntarily surrendered to the troops of 76IB in Bansud, Oriental Mindoro
Read: https://bit.ly/3OkwAL0




Kalinaw News: 4 former NPA rebels receive financial assistance thru E-CLIP

From Kalinaw News Facebook Page (Aug 2, 2023): 4 former NPA rebels receive financial assistance thru E-CLIP

4 former NPA rebels receive financial assistance thru E-CLIP to reintegrate into the mainstream society
Read: https://bit.ly/3O91O7O



PH draws up cybersecurity plan

From Panay News (Aug 1, 2023): PH draws up cybersecurity plan

MANILA – A five-year national cybersecurity plan that lays out the government’s overall strategy in fighting in a new battleground where the Philippines could be at par with potential foreign adversaries is awaiting approval by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

The strategy will cover the protection of targets vulnerable to cyberattacks that could cripple the economy and national security even before the first enemy missile is fired at the Philippines, according to Information and Communications Technology Secretary Ivan John Uy during a forum on governance and security last week.

The “National Cybersecurity Plan (2023-2028)” was recently presented to the Cabinet, he said.

“It actually identifies the areas where the critical infrastructures that need to be secured and what particular aggrupation of agencies that will be addressing that on the civilian side and on the military side, and then how all of us will work together to coordinate all efforts in defending our country,” Uy said during Wednesday’s forum.

“As most of us have seen today, in warfare, the first attack is not done with a bullet or a missile,” he said. “When you launch a cyberattack and you shut down the entire financial system of a country, the damage of the impact is many, many times bigger.”

‘Great equalizer’

“That is where we’re looking — how we need to put importance in securing our cyberspace,” he added.

Speaking at the same forum, Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of Staff Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr. said the military also had plans to develop its cyberwarfare capabilities.

“This is one capability where we could excel in the Armed Forces of the Philippines and we could be at par with even the modern countries,” he said.

When he took over the helm of the AFP on July 21, Brawner said cyberspace was “a great equalizer.”

“Whether you are a big nation or a small nation — you can fight in that cyberdomain. There’s no need for large equipment in order to fight in the cyber domain. I believe we have great potential here in the Philippines,” he told reporters.

The AFP chief recalled that the “I Love You” virus—a worm that infected millions of computers worldwide in 2000, resulting in billions of dollars in damage—was created by a Filipino. “So we are not lacking in potential and in talent when it comes to cybersecurity,” he said.

The US cybersecurity company, Insikt Group, reported in 2021 that the AFP, particularly the Philippine Navy, the Department of Foreign Affairs, and the Presidential Management Staff, were allegedly being persistently targeted by Chinese state-sponsored hackers.

It said that China had a “strategic and tactical interest” in Southeast Asian government and private sector organizations.

Espionage target

Mark Manantan, director of cybersecurity and critical technologies at the Hawaii-based think tank Pacific Forum, said the Philippines remains a target of Chinese state-backed hacking groups.

“Most operations are linked to espionage to gather geopolitical intelligence on issues relating to South China Sea, but increasingly so with heightened attention to potential contingencies in Taiwan,” he told the Inquirer.

Cyberespionage, he said, is “an effective tool in gathering geopolitical intelligence, providing countries a forward advantage in negotiating with other nation states or in the event of war, a preemptive strategy to disable an adversary’s critical national infrastructure.”


New Army chief Galido vows to sustain peace and dev’t efforts in Mindanao

From MindaNews (Aug 1, 2023): New Army chief Galido vows to sustain peace and dev’t efforts in Mindanao (By FERDINANDH B. CABRERA)

Lieutenant General Roy Galido. MindaNews photo courtesy of Western Mindanao Command

COTABATO CITY (MindaNews / 1 August) – Lieutenant General Roy Galido, the newly-installed chief of the Philippine Army, has vowed to continue the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ (AFP) peace and development efforts, especially in Mindanao.

“(Peace and development) efforts will still continue. I will now be managing the Army, I know how to guide them on how to be more effective there in the (Mindanao) area,” he said in a phone interview Monday evening.

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has appointed Galido, a member of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Class of 1990, as the next commanding general of the Philippine Army, the Department of National Defense (DND) announced Monday.

“His extensive experience and well-honed skills resulted in the significant victories of his command against lawless elements, especially in Mindanao,” DND spokesperson Arsenio Andolong said.

“With Lt. Gen. Galido at the helm, the Philippine Army will undoubtedly and excellently pursue the strategic path set by the Commander-in-Chief in pursuit of the country’s stability amid the changing security landscape,” he added.

Galido was assigned in Mindanao as a young lieutenant at the 6th Infantry Division (ID), became the commander of the 40th Infantry Battalion, then headed the 601st Infantry Brigade and was the 6th ID commander from August 2022 to January 2023.

He then moved up to lead the Western Mindanao Command, which oversees military operations in the Zamboanga Peninsula (Region 9), Northern Mindanao (Region 10), and the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

Galido succeeded General Romeo Brawner Jr., who is now the AFP chief.

Galido and Brawner are mistahs or batchmates under PMA “Bigkis Lahi” Class of 1990. (Ferdinandh Cabrera / MindaNews)


DND welcomes appointment of Galido as new PH Army chief

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 1, 2023): DND welcomes appointment of Galido as new PH Army chief (By Priam Nepomuceno)

Incoming Philippine Army chief Lt. Gen. Roy Galido (Photo courtesy of PCO)

MANILA – The Department of National Defense (DND) lauded the appointment of Western Mindanao Command chief Lt. Gen. Roy M. Galido as the new commander of the Philippine Army (PA).

"Lt. Gen. Galido has led a sterling military career, which includes his tour as Commander of the 6th Infantry (Kampilan) Division and Western Mindanao Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). His extensive experience and well-honed skills resulted in the significant victories of his command against lawless elements, especially in Mindanao," DND spokesperson Arsenio Andolong said in a statement Monday night.

Galido was appointed by President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr., replacing Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr. who was named as AFP chief.

The new PA chief is a member of the Philippine Military Academy Class of 1990.

"With Lt. Gen. Galido at the helm, the PA will undoubtedly and excellently pursue the strategic path set by the Commander-in-Chief in pursuit of the country’s stability amid the changing security landscape," Andolong said.

No other information was immediately available regarding Galindo's assumption of the command of the PA.


Gov't tags Teveses, Maute members as terrorists

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 1, 2023): Gov't tags Teveses, Maute members as terrorists (By Benjamin Pulta)

Suspended Negros Oriental 3rd District Rep. Arnolfo Teves. (File photo)

MANILA – The Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC) on Tuesday said it has designated suspended Negros Oriental 3rd District Rep. Arnolfo Teves and members of his alleged armed group as terrorists, following their implication in the March attack on Negros Oriental Gov. Roel Degamo.

Along with Teves, who was identified as mastermind, also named terrorists were his brother and former governor Henry Pryde Teves, Nigel Electona, Hanna Mae Sumero Oray who the ATC said handles operational funds, and Marvin H. Miranda, who serves as the group's organizer and recruiter.

The Teves group has been implicated in masterminding the commando attack on the house of Degamo last March 4, which left nine dead, including the governor, and 18 others injured.

Also named as terrorists were Hafida Romato Maute and Nahara Kharita Sitie Hamim, both connected with the Maute Group behind the five-month siege of Marawi City in 2017.

Maute is the wife of Abu Zacharia, the former emir of the Islamic State - East Asia, while Hamim is the wife of Abu Mursid, the sub-leader and finance and logistics officer of the organization.

The siege was part of the group’s plan to declare the city as a wilayat or Islamic State. The siege ended on October 17, 2017 after the deaths of the group's leaders Omar Maute and Isnilon Hapilon.

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.

“The designation of the Maute and Teves Groups as terrorists serve as a strong signal that the government is prepared to take decisive measures against any individual or organization that poses a threat to the safety and security of our citizens," the ATC said.

Meanwhile, Teves' defense counsels denounced the development.

Lawyer Ferdinand Topacio said the designation was "an obsessive attempt to blame him (Teves) for a crime at the expense of his Constitutional rights."


OPAPRU chief hopes amnesty proclamation out this August

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 1, 2023): OPAPRU chief hopes amnesty proclamation out this August (By Priam Nepomuceno)

OPAPRU Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. (PNA file photo)

MANILA – Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity (OPAPRU) Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. expressed optimism that the amnesty proclamation, announced by President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. during his second State Of the Nation Address (SONA), would be out sometime this month.

"So yung timeline po natin nito most likely, baka yung proclamation, magkakaroon po tayo ng proclamation this August, and then immediately, we will ask the Congress and the Senate to immediately ma-ratify po itong, ma-concur po itong proclamation so that we can immediately implement yung tinatawag nating, yung amnesty proclamations (In our timeline, most likely, the proclamations (would be out) this August, and then immediately, we will ask the Congress and the Senate to immediately ratify this, concur with this proclamation, so that we can immediately implement what we call amnesty proclamations)," Galvez said during a press conference of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) on Tuesday.

Once the proclamation gets the concurrence of both chambers of Congress, Galvez said they will then publish the implementing rules and regulations (IRRs) and organize the local amnesty boards.

"After the local amnesty boards (are) fully organized and we can now receive (these amnesty applications) applications and also maybe ang National Amnesty Commission (NAC), through our office will also send yung mga safe conduct passes para sa ating mga former rebels na meron mga kaso (for those former rebels with pending cases)," he added.

Galvez also thanked the Presidential Management Staff for "initiating some of the actions right now with the directive of the President' to finalize the "language" and the "vetting of the Office of the President" of the comments of the different agencies consisting of the security, justice and peace sector regarding the "final language" of the proclamation.

"Saka binubuo pa rin kung, kung ilan po ang magiging duration kasi (we are still crafting the duration of the amnesty period), we are recommending na habaan po ang (to lengthen the) duration (of the) amnesty application kasi aayusin po kasi ang yung ating yung ating mga local amnesty boards (as we are still organizing the local amnesty boards)," the OPAPRU chief added.

During his second SONA, the Chief Executive said he will issue a proclamation granting amnesty to rebel returnees and requested the help of Congress to make it happen.

"To complete this reintegration process, I will issue a Proclamation granting amnesty to rebel returnees, and I ask Congress to support me in this endeavor," Marcos said.

A new proclamation is needed to extend the application process of the amnesty program, which lapsed in January this year.

The previous proclamations were issued during the time of former President Rodrigo R. Duterte.

Marcos earlier appointed Leah Tanodra-Armamento as chairperson and Jamar Kulayan and Nasser Marahomsalic as commissioners of the NAC.

As this developed, Galvez said Marcos' proclamation of amnesty will "accelerate transformation of former rebels."

He added the proposed NAC is determined to fast-track the implementation of the government’s amnesty program for qualified members of revolutionary organizations, including the secessionist Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Galvez said the amnesty would not only “give former rebels relief for the crimes they have committed, but will provide an opportunity for them to rebuild their lives.”

"Nakikita nila (former rebels) ang sincerity ng government, offering civil protection while their offenses will also be extinguished (through this amnesty)," he explained.

Galvez, who is also an amnesty recipient in 1989 for joining a military coup against the late President Corazon Aquino, believed that aside from transforming former rebels’ lives, amnesty gives socio-economic programs that will help them sustain and improve their quality of life/

Meanwhile, NTF-ELCAC Executive Director Undersecretary Ernesto Torres Jr. said the amnesty will be the country's "vehicle towards the path of final victory" against insurgency.

With only an estimated 1,865 remaining listed members of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army- National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF), Torres said these "communist terrorist groups" (CTGs) will embrace the amnesty because of the “leadership vacuum” with the death of Jose Maria Sison or Joma and other top cadres, some of whom were already either perished or arrested in military and police encounters.

The local peace engagement (LPE), according to Torres, is also giving the CPP-NPA-NDF a hard time in taking back the support of residents whom they call “mass bases” in far-flung barangays, as the government is already pouring basic social services for peace and development

The two officials believed that the road to lasting peace is already at hand as the Marcos administration is determined to move forward through inclusive and sustainable development under the principle of a “whole-of-nation” approach.


PBBM cites importance of continued partnership with Japan

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 1, 2023): PBBM cites importance of continued partnership with Japan (By Ruth Abbey Gita-Carlos)

STRONG PARTNER. President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. on Tuesday (Aug. 1, 2023) meets with officials of the Japan-Philippines Parliamentarians Friendship League led by chairperson Moriyama Hiroshi at the President’s Hall of Malacañan Palace in Manila. During the meeting, Marcos acknowledged Japan as a “strong partner” of the Philippines. (Screenshot from Radio Television Malacañang)

MANILA – President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. on Tuesday stressed the need to continue the Philippines’ partnership with Japan in various fields, including agriculture, infrastructure and defense.

Marcos made the statement during his meeting with officials of the Japan-Philippines Parliamentarians Friendship League (JPPFL) led by its chairperson Moriyama Hiroshi at Malacañan Palace in Manila.

“The support that we are receiving from Japan in this regard, in terms of our equipment, in terms of our interoperability operations, are valuable, I think, for both our countries and I believe that we should strengthen that,” he said.

“We should continue that and continue to be in partnership as we face the different, the volatile situation that we have in our region,” Marcos added.

Marcos acknowledged that Japan has been the Philippines’ partner for years now when it comes to infrastructure and agricultural development, citing assistance from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) as well as loans and financial support from the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

Marcos said the Philippines and its Japanese partners, especially in infrastructure development, could reap benefits from several arrangements such as public-private partnership (PPP), and government-to-government (G2G) partnerships, and even joint ventures.

Marcos also reiterated that his administration would put a premium on agriculture to ensure food security and transform the Philippine economy.

“It is something that we feel is important, not only for the survival of our populace, the food supply of our populace, but also it is necessary….. If the rest of our industrialization can continue, if the rest of our digitalization can continue, it must be based on a strong foundation of agriculture sector,” he said.

“In this regard, certainly Japan has been a very strong partner of the Philippines, in terms of transfer of technology, in terms of support that has been given by Japan to Filipino farmers and the Philippines’ agricultural sector,” the President added.

During the meeting with Marcos, Moriyoma expressed support for the Philippines’ development initiatives, particularly in agriculture, infrastructure, defense and security, as well as the Mindanao peace process.

“We’d also like to see government-to-government cooperation on strengthening the defense industry, which is a priority. That’s why regarding the OSA, Official Security Assistance, the Philippines is one of the first candidate countries for OSA,” he said.

Moriyama said Japan is pleased to see the Philippines’ achievement on defense, particularly the implementation of joint training in the past months.

Marcos said the trilateral agreement with the United States is also “another very important step” to guarantee the peace and safety of the shipping lanes, as well as to protect territorial rights and sovereignty.

The JPPFL is composed of parliamentarians who promote Japan’s relations with the Philippines at the National Diet (House of Parliament). It is vital and instrumental in sustaining Japan’s development and technical assistance to the Philippines.

The meeting with JPPFL officials coincided with the Philippines-Japan Friendship Month, which is celebrated every July.

Present during the meeting at Malacañan were Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin, Communications Secretary Cheloy Velicaria-Garafil, Philippine Ambassador to Japan Mylene Garcia Albano and other officials from the Embassy of Japan to the Philippines.

Formed in 1986 to advance legislative initiatives that promote positive engagement between the Philippines and Japan, JPPFL also leads Japan’s cultivation of inter-parliamentary relations with the Philippine Congress.

The Philippines-Japan Parliamentarian Association was established in 1987 following the JPPFL’s visit to the Philippines.


PH seeks stronger maritime cooperation with Vietnam

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 1, 2023): PH seeks stronger maritime cooperation with Vietnam (By Joyce Ann L. Rocamora)

DFA Secretary Enrique Manalo (File photo)

MANILA – The Philippine government is looking to advance its maritime cooperation with Vietnam to further promote safe seas and stability in the region, especially in the South China Sea where both nations are claimant states.

In a speech at the Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam on Tuesday, Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo said Manila and Hanoi’s geographies and status as major littoral states in the South China Sea “make maritime cooperation a vital point of interaction” between the two states.

The official said both countries must explore “novel modes of cooperation” in maritime safety, search and rescue, marine scientific research and marine environmental protection.

“As maritime nations at the heart of this seascape, it is a given that we consider safe and secure seas and sound marine ecosystems as integral to the future of our peoples and our region,” Manalo said.

“Our two countries have in the past set a precedent for the responsible stewardship of these waters with a series of joint marine research expeditions of our scientists in the 1990s,” he added.

For Manalo, achieving maritime security in the region would be a “powerful impetus” for the two states’ strategic partnership.

He said the partnership should also serve as an affirmation that both countries are invested in keeping the seas open and free, and that “disputes must be managed and resolved peacefully in accordance with international norms and laws, including the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea as well as the 2016 Arbitral Award on the South China Sea”.

“Along these lines and until the resolution of these disputes, the Philippines and Vietnam share a distinctive responsibility in working to achieve a substantive and effective Code of Conduct in the South China Sea, and seeing to its conclusion at the earliest opportunity,” he said.

Through the Philippines-Vietnam Joint Permanent Working Group on Maritime and Ocean Concerns, Manila and Hanoi discuss challenges and explore joint initiatives for the effective management of their competing claims over the South China Sea.

Manalo is in Hanoi to lead the 10th Meeting of the Joint Commission for Bilateral Cooperation together with his Vietnamese counterpart Foreign Minister Bui Thanh Son.

Apart from maritime cooperation, Manila and Hanoi seek to strengthen collaboration on defense, trade and investment, maritime security, agriculture, education, tourism, environment, and information and communication technology.


100 IP families displaced by armed attack get BARMM aid

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 1, 2023): 100 IP families displaced by armed attack get BARMM aid (By Edwin Fernandez)

DISPLACED. Some of the displaced indigenous peoples in Talayan, Maguindanao, who fled their homes due to harassment by gunmen over the weekend patiently waited for their turn to receive relief aid from the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao on Monday (July 31, 2023). The IPs are seeking the deployment of soldiers in their village to protect them from lawless armed groups. (Photo courtesy of BARMM READi)

COTABATO CITY – At least 100 indigenous people (IP) families displaced by an armed attack in a remote village in Talayan, Maguindanao del Sur, were given emergency assistance by the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), an official said Tuesday.

BARMM Interior Minister Naguib Sinarimbo said the Bangsamoro Rapid Emergency Action on Disaster Incidence (READi) relief teams were immediately sent to Barangay Marader, Talayan, on Monday to attend to the displaced families.

“The food assistance includes rice and canned goods,” Sinarimbo said in a statement, adding that the adjacent town of South Up, the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, and the local police also joined the relief mission.

The Talayan local government unit also provided non-food essentials like drinking water, mats, and mosquito nets to the displaced IPs to protect them from dengue-carrying mosquitoes.

Maj. Zukarnain Kunakon, Talayan town police chief, said the initial investigation showed that a member of the Teduray Lambangian tribe was slightly injured when unidentified gunmen attacked the village on Sunday afternoon, firing at houses that forced villagers to flee.

The attackers also burned three houses and the tribal worship hall of the ethnic group.

“The gunmen told us to leave our village. I could not understand why they are forcing us to leave, this is our ancestral land, we will stay,” resident Juvelyn Anggong said in the vernacular.

“We are glad BARMM assistance came,” she said, adding that the village leaders are asking the military to put up a detachment in the village to protect the villagers.

Some of the displaced residents temporarily sought shelter in the houses of relatives and friends in Barangay Biarong, South Upi, and in Barangay Tamar, Talayan, both in Maguindanao del Sur, officials said.


N. Samar steps up tourism drive as insurgency weakens

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 1, 2023): N. Samar steps up tourism drive as insurgency weakens (By Sarwell Meniano and Roel Amazona)

PICTURESQUE. Lulugayan Falls, a 30-meter tall and imposing waterfall inside a dense forest in Silvino Lubos town. The Northern Samar provincial government is preparing local tourism stakeholders for the influx of tourists in the province as insurgency dwindled this year. (Photo courtesy of Northern Samar provincial information office)

TACLOBAN CITY – The Northern Samar provincial government is preparing local stakeholders for the influx of tourists to the province as the insurgency situation dwindled this year.

Local tourism officials have been undergoing capacity-building activities to enhance the municipal tourism development council’s knowledge of tourism concepts, relevant laws, product development, destination marketing, sustainable tourism, resilience, inclusive growth and tourism planning.

Provincial tourism officer Maria Josette Doctor said they continue capacitating local tourism stakeholders although some areas in the province are threatened by armed rebels.

“We should not sit and do nothing just because there is an insurgency problem in Northern Samar. We are making all efforts to promote our province and it is a good thing if we are declared insurgency-free,” Doctor said in a phone interview Tuesday.

The local tourism office has been posting photos and information about destinations in areas infiltrated by the New People’s Army (NPA).

One of these is the Lulugayan Falls, a 30-meter tall and imposing waterfall inside a dense forest in Silvino Lubos town.

To get to this magnificent beauty will take about 15 minutes trek from the main road just before the town center of Silvino Lubos, down to a narrow path of rich vegetation.

Another destination in town is Isla de Sulong, which offers a delightful experience of overnight accommodation in a tent to an infinity pool with breathtaking views of the mountain.

Recently, officials celebrated the completion of the bridge that completed the new road network leading to Silvino Lubos, a town previously influenced by rebels.

Also included in the promotion list is Pinipisakan Falls in Las Navas, Northern Samar, a four-layered waterfall. Near the falls is the Sulpan Cave, a five-kilometer-length underground cave chamber with giant stalactites and stalagmites.

Several clashes between government forces were reported in Las Navas, a town considered by NPA as a center of their armed struggle in Northern Samar.

The province is also known for historical places such as Palapag, where the first revolution against the Spanish government led by Agustin Sumuroy took place in 1649 to 1650; and Catubig, the place of the four-day deadly siege organized by Filipino guerrilla against American forces in 1900.

Some remote villages in Palapag and Catubig are still affected by armed conflict.

Northern Samar is the most insurgency-affected province in Eastern Visayas, where two active NPA guerilla fronts operate.

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

Front committee 2, which used to operate on the boundary of Samar and Northern Samar, has been dismantled this year after the capture and surrender of some of its combatants and the recovery of several firearms.

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

The Philippine Army targets to wipe out insurgency in Northern Samar before the year ends.


Negros Oriental armed group ‘crippled’ with death of key member

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 1, 2023): Negros Oriental armed group ‘crippled’ with death of key member (By Mary Judaline Partlow)

NEUTRALIZED. Negros Oriental acting police provincial director Col. Ronan Claravall (left) and Lt. Stephen Polinar brief the media on Tuesday (Aug. 1, 2023) on the death of suspected hired gun Alex Mayagma. Claravall says Mayagma's private armed group has been 'crippled.' (PNA photo by Judy Flores Partlow)

DUMAGUETE CITY – A private armed group (PAG) responsible for the series of killings in Negros Oriental has been neutralized following the death of a key member, a police official said Tuesday.

In a press briefing, Col. Ronan Claravall, acting police provincial director, said the death of alleged hired gun Alex Mayagma on Monday will lead to the eventual downfall of the group.

“Mayagma is a PAG member operating in Negros Oriental. There are still members, but they are already crippled due to previous arrests as a result of intensified operations,” Claravall told reporters in a briefing held at the Negros Oriental Police Provincial Office (NOPPO) headquarters in Sibulan town.

Mayagma, tagged as the topmost wanted person in the Central Visayas region, was shot dead in Barangay Malabugas, Bayawan City after he allegedly pulled out a gun and engaged cops into a scuffle.

Claravall said that even before he was assigned to Negros Oriental, police and military personnel were already searching for Mayagma after his name cropped up several times during a Senate inquiry into the assassination of Gov. Roel Degamo last March 4.

Lt. Col. Stephen Polinar, NOPPO information officer, said records show Mayagma was facing charges related to the killing of Board Member Miguel Dungog in 2019; Lester Bato (2019); Randy Rabin (2021), Juvim Esteñoso (2022), Ramon Jalbuna (2022) and Winchita Laag (2023).

The status of the cases were not immediately known, Polinar said.


Assistance has arrived in #Laoag.

Posted to US Embassy Manila Facebook Page (Jul 29, 2023): Assistance has arrived in #Laoag.The U.S. Marine Corps is working hand-in-hand with the government to offload and deliver emergency supplies for our #FriendsPartnersAllies affected by Typhoon #EgayPH.



Part of our ongoing effort to help #FriendsPartnersAllies affected by Typhoon #EgayPH

Posted to US Embassy Manila Facebook Page (Jul 29, 2023): Part of our ongoing effort to help #FriendsPartnersAllies affected by Typhoon #EgayPH

As part of our ongoing effort to help #FriendsPartnersAllies affected by Typhoon #EgayPH, the U.S. Marine Corps and Philippine Marine Corps conduct cleanup operations in #Laoag.



US is committed to helping our #FriendsPartnersAllies

Posted to US Embassy Manila Facebook Page (Aug 1, 2023): US is committed to helping our #FriendsPartnersAllies

The United States is committed to helping our #FriendsPartnersAllies, especially in times of need. After the completion of Marine Aviation Support Activity (#MASA23), the U.S. Marine Corps helped communities affected by Typhoon #EgayPH at the request of the Philippine government.
The U.S. Marine Corps helped deliver nearly 5,500 kilograms of food and water to Batanes using U.S. military aircraft. #FriendsPartnersAllies #SaferTogetherUSPH (USMC photos by Cpl. Sean A. Potter)



Helping friends in need: US Marines deliver relief aid to Egay victims

Posted to Politiko (Aug 1, 2023): Helping friends in need: US Marines deliver relief aid to Egay victims

In a display of solidarity and friendship, the United States has sprung into action to help communities affected by typhoon Egay in the Philippines.

The US Marines took to the skies to deliver food, water, and other essential relief supplies to storm-hit Batanes and Ilocos Norte. Updates on the latest humanitarian mission have been shared on social media by the US Embassy in Manila.

“The United States is committed to helping our #FriendsPartnersAllies, especially in times of need. After the completion of Marine Aviation Support Activity (#MASA23), the U.S. Marine Corps helped communities affected by Typhoon #EgayPH at the request of the Philippine government,” the embassy said in a Facebook post.

“The U.S. Marine Corps helped deliver nearly 5,500 kilograms of food and water to Batanes using U.S. military aircraft,” it added.

The US troops also teamed up with the Philippine Marines to clear the debris left by the typhoon in Laoag. The US relief and rehabilitation mission is “part of our ongoing effort to help #FriendsPartnersAllies affected by Typhoon #EgayPH,” according to the embassy.

“The U.S. Marine Corps is working hand-in-hand with the 🇵🇭 government to offload and deliver emergency supplies for our #FriendsPartnersAllies affected by Typhoon #EgayPH. #SaferTogetherUSPH,” the US embassy said in another Facebook post.

The strong typhoon brought heavy rains and floods to many areas in Luzon and Visayas in recent days. The death toll has reached 25 based on Monday’s government data. Around 290 families or over a million persons have been affected by the typhoon’s wrath. More than 4,000 families have been left their homes and sought refuge in evacuation in different calamity areas.


NPA leader wanted for rape in Himamaylan City nabbed

From the Manila Bulletin (Aug 1, 2023): NPA leader wanted for rape in Himamaylan City nabbed (By GLAZYL MASCULINO)

BACOLOD CITY – A New People’s Army (NPA) leader wanted for rape was arrested in Sitio Cunalom, Barangay Carabalan, Himamaylan City, Negros Occidental on Saturday, July 29.

The warrant of arrest for
“Jude,” 68, was issued by Presiding Judge Walter Zorilla of Regional Trial Court Branch 55 and implemented by the Army 94th Infantry Battalion (IB) and police.

Brig. Gen. Orlando Edralin, commander of the 303rd Infantry Brigade (IBde), said the arrest of the leader of the Yunit Militia of the NPA serves as a testament to the significant role each member of the society plays in upholding peace and order and safeguarding their community from any threats posed by lawless elements.

The 303rd IBde commended the 94th IB and the police for their strong commitment to maintain peace and security in Negros.

"As we commend our troops for arresting the suspect, we also attribute the successful operation to the vigilance and cooperation of the residents of Himamaylan City,” Edralin said.

The suspect is under the custody of Himamaylan City Police Station for further investigation.


No troops pullout amid lifting of state of emergency, Eastmincom says

From the Sun Star-Davao (Jul 31, 2023): No troops pullout amid lifting of state of emergency, Eastmincom says (By ROJEAN GRACE PATUMBON)

THE Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom) will not withdraw troops despite President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr.'s Proclamation No. 298, which lifted the state of national emergency because of lawless violence in Mindanao.

Proclamation No. 55, in effect since September 4, 2016, had placed Mindanao under a state of emergency due to the threats posed by private armies, local warlords, bandits, criminal syndicates, terrorist groups, and religious extremists across the region.

However, on July 25, 2023, President Marcos lifted the state of emergency following the success of military operations in restoring peace and order in Mindanao.

PLtGen. Filmore Escobal, Commander of Area Police Command-Eastern Mindanao, during a press conference held at SM Ecoland on Monday morning, July 31, clarified that despite a significant reduction in violence in the region, there would be no troop pullout. The current state of deployment will remain effective.

Escobal acknowledged past mistakes in dealing with insurgency and emphasized the need to sustain military operations until the armed groups pose no further threat.

“Medyo nagkamali tayo don ‘yong problema natin sa insurgency madaling nag resurge kaya with those lesson we have, sustainment operation must continue until the time na wala nang threat sa armed group (We acknowledge that we made a mistake in the past, and it became problematic as the insurgency resurged. This served as a valuable lesson, highlighting the need for us to persist with the sustainment operation until armed groups no longer pose any threat)," Escobal said.

According to Escobal, Mindanao's peace and order situation has improved considerably, especially in the eastern part of the region.

He underscored that only a few remaining communist/terrorist groups, specifically guerilla fronts, continue to exist, primarily in North Cotabato and Caraga, with efforts underway to dismantle them under President Marcos' directive to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP).

Meanwhile, Eastmincom Commander LtGen. Greg Almerol reported no recorded criminal incidents related to the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF). This indicates a positive development in the region's security situation.

"This declaration will change the image of Mindanao from a war-torn island to a peaceful island," Almero said.

He said Eastmincom, AFP, and the PNP will continue collaborating with all stakeholders geared toward development in Mindanao.


Army ‘rescues’ 2 wounded rebels in Sultan Kudarat

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Aug 1, 2023): Army ‘rescues’ 2 wounded rebels in Sultan Kudarat


COTABATO CITY, Maguindanao del Norte, Philippines — The Philippine Army has announced the rescue of two wounded New People’s Army (NPA) women guerillas following clashes in Kalamansig town of Sultan Kudarat province on July 28.

Lt. Col. John Paul Baldomar, commander of the Army’s 37th Infantry Battalion (IB), said the two women — Wayda Gumpay alias “Mika” and Layna Ampit alias “Lyn-Lyn,” both in their early 20s — were found with slight injuries following the firefight in the town’s remote village of Sangay.

The two women were treated at the Sultan Kudarat District Hospital in Lebak town before they were brought to the 37th IB headquarters, also in Lebak, where they were secured by female soldiers.


Govt tags Teves, armed group as terrorists

From the Manila Times (Aug 1, 2023):  Govt tags Teves, armed group as terrorists (By Franco Jose C. Baroña)

THE Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC) has tagged suspended Negros Oriental Rep. Arnolfo Teves Jr. and his armed group as terrorists.

According to the ATC, this comes after a thorough investigation into the activities of the "Teves Terrorist Group," which has been allegedly involved in various violent incidents that have caused harm to the residents of Negros Oriental.

"The decision to designate Cong[ressman] Teves and his armed group as terrorists was made based on compelling evidence and factual incidents," the ATC said in a press statement issued on Tuesday.

The Council noted that Negros Oriental "has witnessed a series of killings, threats of bodily harm or injuries, and harassment with the intention of intimidating its general populace."

"These heinous acts have created an atmosphere of fear, severely affecting personal life and liberty of the residents within the region," the ATC said.

The Council cited the March 4, 2023 incident in Negros Oriental during which a group of former military personnel and a former member of the New People's Army, disguised as military men and equipped with high-powered weapons, including a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG), stormed the residence of then governor Roel Degamo.

"Tragically, nine individuals, including gov[ernor] Degamo, lost their lives instantly, and another individual succumbed to injuries two months later. This has likewise caused injuries to 18 other individuals," the ATC said.

According to the Council, investigations undertaken by law enforcement agencies have uncovered "a well-defined organizational structure within the Teves Terrorist Group, with Rep. Teves identified as the leader and mastermind."

Other key members, such as Pryde Henry Teves and Nigel Electona, have been found to provide material support, the ATC said.

Additionally, the Council said the investigation revealed that Hannah Mae Symero Oray supposedly handles the operational funds for the group, while Marvin H. Miranda apparently serves as the organizer and recruiter of personnel for specific terrorist attacks.

After a thorough examination of the evidence presented, the ATC said it has found probable cause to warrant the designation of Teves and his armed group as terrorists under Sections 4, 6, 10, and 12 of the Anti-Terrorism Act.

These sections cover offenses related to "committing terrorism, planning, training, preparing, and facilitating terrorist acts, recruitment and membership in a terrorist organization, as well as providing material support to terrorists."

"The designation of Cong. Teves and his armed group is a significant step towards addressing the presence of private armed groups within the country, as it sends a clear message against their proliferation," the ATC said.

"Furthermore, it brings us closer to the goal of combating impunity, as these designations mark progress in holding accountable those who perpetrate acts of terrorism and violence," it added.


Senate OKs option of taking West Philippine Sea to UN Assembly

From the Philippine Star (Aug 2, 2023): Senate OKs option of taking West Philippine Sea to UN Assembly (By Cecille Suerte Felipe, Marc Jayson Cayabyab)

This March 22, 2021 aerial photo shows Chinese vessels still present in the Julian Felipe Reef in the West Philippine Sea, well within the Philippine exclusive economic zone and continental shelf.
Armed Forces of the Philippines

Resolution strongly condemns China intrusions at sea

MANILA, Philippines — Crossing party lines, senators adopted yesterday a strongly worded resolution condemning China’s incursions in the West Philippine Sea and providing the executive department with several options to deal with the matter, including raising it before the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).

The senators unanimously adopted Senate Resolution 718, which was largely based on SR 659 of Sen. Risa Hontiveros and SR 707 of Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri.

After the chamber moved to adopt SR 718, Zubiri clarified that the original points raised by Hontiveros in her resolution were “never watered down.” Hontiveros’ resolution called on the government to raise the issue of Beijing’s bullying and acts of provocation in the West Philippine Sea before the UNGA.

One of the options the government may take to drum up international support for its position, according to SR 718, is filing a resolution before the UNGA “to call for the cessation of all activities that harass Philippine vessels and violate the Philippines’ established rights in the West Philippine Sea and pursuing such other diplomatic modes as the Department of Foreign Affairs may deem appropriate and necessary.” It said any Philippine action would be in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the 2016 ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration based in The Hague invalidating China’s massive claim over almost the entire South China Sea and reaffirming the Philippines’ maritime entitlements.

Zubiri said SR 718 was crafted during an all-members caucus of the Senate attended by Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary Enrique Manalo, National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea chairman Secretary Eduardo Año, Armed Forces of the Philippines chief Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr. and other senior officials.

“We have agreed to merge the provisions between the two resolutions and pass a resolution condemning the harassment of the Filipino fishermen and continued incursions of Chinese Coast Guard and militia vessels in the West Philippine Sea,”

Zubiri said. “It was a very cordial, straightforward and productive meeting between the senators and our key government officials dealing with the West Philippine Sea.”

“We came out with a strong consensus yesterday after the discussion with the WPS Task Force together with our colleagues, with General Brawner and DFA Secretary Manalo,” Zubiri said during yesterday’s session.

“Actually, we’ve never watered down resolutions that we filed; we actually strengthened the first resolutions that we initially filed with Senator Risa,” he said.

“I think what happened is we strengthened the position of government. Now we gave them several options to choose on how to deal with our neighbor in the north. And the beauty of this is with proper consensus and, of course, consultation amongst our colleagues, we had come out unanimous with these options,” Zubiri pointed out.

The Senate President lauded his colleagues for standing by each other “regardless of political color, regardless of where we come from politically, we are together when it comes to the sovereignty of our country and I’m very proud of this Senate for doing so.”

Hontiveros, meanwhile, thanked fellow opposition Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel III for his advice and Zubiri for helping build a consensus on a resolution that she said strongly captures the anger and frustration of the Filipino people.

“The fight against China’s reckless behavior in the West Philippine Sea does not end here. The fight continues,” she said.

She also thanked her fellow senators “for this concerted effort to not only make the WPS issue a part of our national conversation but for ensuring that the Philippine government takes the necessary steps to consolidate global support over our historic 2016 Arbitral Award.”

“This bipartisan effort tells the Filipino people that when it comes to matters of national sovereignty, we will never be bullied into submission. In the face of relentless China propaganda since last week, we held our ground. Despite fake news and lies, we stood firm,” Hontiveros added.

She called the unanimous approval of the resolution an “important victory not only for the Senate, but for the entire Philippines.”

“The Senate crossed party lines to stand unified for our country,” she added.

The resolution does not rule out negotiations as it expects the DFA to continue holding dialogues with the Chinese government.

“If such efforts are continuously ignored by China and the harassment of our fisherfolk, navy and Coast Guard persists, the DFA is further urged to pursue the following courses of action, including bringing international attention to China’s harassment of Filipino fishermen in the Philippine EEZ and its continued violation of the Hague Ruling and the UNCLOS,” the resolution stated.

The resolution cited the necessity of “utilizing international fora to rally multilateral support for the enforcement of the Hague Ruling and raise awareness on the real situation in the West Philippine Sea.”

It also calls for “engaging like-minded countries in various international organizations, meetings and other fora to call on China to respect the Hague Ruling and the UNCLOS, subject to necessity and prudence,” the resolution stated.

Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, who had earlier tried to block Hontiveros’ resolution, said he decided eventually to join his colleagues in adopting SR 718 after concluding that it was “stronger and more comprehensive.”

“We are happy that this is the best language we can come up with. I don’t believe it’s watered down,” Cayetano said of SR 718 during a press briefing.

He stressed he did not agree with Hontiveros’ position that raising the WPS issue before UNGA was the next best option for the Philippines.

Cayetano served as foreign affairs chief during the administration of former president Rodrigo Duterte, which was known for its pivot to Beijing and for setting aside the arbitral ruling in exchange for Chinese loans and investments.

He said he found agreeable a clause in the resolution that says, “If such efforts are continuously ignored by China and the harassment of our fisherolk, navy and Coast Guard persists,” the DFA is “urged to pursue” other courses of actions.

“This resolution is not arguing for the sake of arguing, or for the sake of being brave at the expense of being smart,” Cayetano said in Filipino.
External defense

Meanwhile, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said its training program for reservists is transitioning from internal security to territorial defense.

At the Philippine Army’s 7th Infantry Division (ID) headquarters in Fort Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija, nine Ready Reserve Battalions operating in Central Luzon are being readied for the transition, said AFP public affairs office chief Lt. Col. Enrico Ileto.

“We shall utilize both our regular and reserve forces that have proven to be solid pillars of our country’s defense. We are strengthening their interoperability, enhancing their capability to supplement each other’s strengths,” Maj. Gen. Andrew Costelo, commander of the 7th ID, said in a speech during the unit’s 35th founding anniversary yesterday.

Costelo noted that reservists from the nine Ready Reserve Infantry Battalions under the 7th ID have launched Personnel Leadership Enhancement Program as a capacity-building measure for their commanders and senior staff.

He also praised Reserve Officer Training Corps commanders for participating in leadership programs and in educational and capability enhancement tours where they were able to interact with Army aviators and other elite units.

“As we transition from internal security operations to territorial defense, I commend your aptitude in integrating different assigned forces during peace and conflict. I am happy to see all of the developments, the new establishments and innovations,” said AFP chief Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr., who was guest of honor at the event.

The AFP has declared the coming end of the armed communist rebellion led by the New People’s Army (NPA) and that new challenges for the military have emerged, particularly protecting the country’s territory from external threats.

China has stepped up its provocative activities in the West Philippine Sea where it has built island fortresses and restricted fishing by Filipinos and patrol operations by the Philippine Coast Guard and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources. — Pia Lee Bravo


Gov’t execs say Laguna town now NPA-free

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Aug 1, 2023): Gov’t execs say Laguna town now NPA-free (By: Delfin T. Mallari Jr.)

LUCENA CITY – Government authorities declared Santa Maria town in Laguna province liberated from the influence of the communist New People’s Army (NPA).

Local officials, representatives from different national government agencies, the military, and police in Laguna attended the declaration ceremony held on Monday, July 31, in Gumaca, Quezon province.

Mayor Ma. Rocelle Carolino said the declaration of their town with Stable Internal Peace and Security (SIPS) status is “a victory for Santa Maria.”

“If there is no peace and order, there will be no progress,” Carolino said in her message during the ceremony, the Army’s 1st Infantry Battalion said in a report posted on their Facebook page.

The military and police evaluated and validated the declaration.

The SIPS status means that the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), the National Democratic Front, the NPA, and the rebels’ politico-military organizations “no longer pose a threat to peace and order” in the town, according to the military.

Santa Maria is the second municipality in Laguna to have an “insurgency-free” status.

On July 4, Kalayaan town, once known as a lair of Maoist-inspired guerrillas, became the first NPA-free locality in the province.

During the ceremony, a CPP member and four “people’s militia” formally surrendered to the government.

The military refers to the “people’s militia” as part of the insurgent’s mass base, which secures the NPA rebels while in the community. Sometimes, they are armed to reinforce the communist guerrillas during encounters.

Government authorities are preparing assistance for the former rebels in their reintegration protocol under the government’s Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program.