Wednesday, August 2, 2023

9 reservist battalions now being readied for ‘territorial defense’

From the Business World (Aug 2, 2023): 9 reservist battalions now being readied for ‘territorial defense’ (By Rex Anthony Naval)

Nine Ready Reserve Battalions affiliated with the Nueva Ecija-based 7th Infantry Division are now transitioning towards so-called “territorial defense” missions.

This was emphasized by 7th Infantry Division (ID) commander Maj. Gen. Andrew Costelo as the unit celebrated its 35th founding anniversary at Fort Magsaysay, Palayan City, Nueva Ecija on Monday, August 1.

“The 7ID is transitioning to territorial defense. 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,” he added.

Costelo also said this shift to territorial defense is due to the 7ID’s success in counter-insurgency operations.

He also added that reservists from the nine Ready Reserve Infantry Battalions have undergone “personnel leadership enhancement program” as a capacity-building measure for their commanders and senior staff.

Costelo said the program would improve their ability to operate in conjunction with the regular force.

He also lauded the participation of Reserve Officer Training Corps commanders in leadership programs and educational and capability enhancement tours where they were able to interact with Army aviators and Army elite units.

Meanwhile, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr., who was the guest of honor and speaker at the 7ID’s 35th anniversary, lauded the unit for being a “showcase unit of the Philippine Army in its engagements with allied and partner nations.”

“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,” he added.

Abalos says gov’t to turn 400 former Moro rebels into cops before 2024

From Rappler (Aug 3, 2023): Abalos says gov’t to turn 400 former Moro rebels into cops before 2024

The National Police Commission says the recruitment aligns with the peace agreement and a provision in the Bangsamoro Organic Law

GENERAL SANTOS, Philippines – Hundreds of former Mindanao secessionist rebels will be joining the Philippine National Police (PNP) by the end of this year, Interior Secretary Benhur Abalos said during the 15th meeting of the Inter-Governmental Relations Body (IGRB) in Pasay City.

Abalos announced the ongoing recruitment from the ranks of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Moro National Liberation Front, with a commitment to recruit at least 400 before 2024.

He announced this on July 27 while discussing matters of cooperation and issue resolution with officials, including those from the 
Moro Islamic Liberation Front -led Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).

RESOLVING ISSUES. Members of the Intergovernmental Relations Body (IGRB) discuss vital matters of cooperation and to resolve issues. photo courtesy of OPAPRU

Commissioner Alberto Bernardo of the National Police Commission (Napolcom) said the recruitment from the ranks of Moro Islamic Liberation Front and Moro National Liberation Front aligns with the peace agreement and a provision in the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL).

Based on the law, the commission can waive the age, height, and educational requirements for former guerrillas who wish to become policemen, subject to other existing policies and regulations.

Recruits who are accepted into the police force but lack the required educational attainment will be given 15 years to comply.

Their ranks and salary grades will be determined based on existing laws, rules, and regulations in the PNP.

BARMM Education Minister Mohagher Iqbal, the IGRB co-chair, lauded the ongoing recruitment process, as it provides an opportunity for many former rebels, especially those who missed going to school due to their involvement in the secessionist movement, to join the PNP.

The recruitment process began with Napolcom conducting a special qualifying eligibility examination on May 19, 2022, specifically for Moro Islamic Liberation Front and MNLF members who wished to join the PNP.

The examinations took place simultaneously in various schools in Cotabato City and Lamitan City, Basilan, and those who passed are now being considered for recruitment.

Moro Islamic Liberation Front to remain non-partisan in barangay, SK elections

From MindaNews (Aug 2, 2023): Moro Islamic Liberation Front to remain non-partisan in barangay, SK elections (By FERDINANDH B. CABRERA)

COTABATO CITY (MindaNews / 2 Aug)—The Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s United Bangsamoro Justice Party (UBJP) will not endorse or nominate any of their members who will be joining the October 30 barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan local elections.

Maguindanao Gov. Abdulraof “Sammy Gambar” Macacua (2nd from left) chats with lawyer Naguib Sinarimbo, Minister of the Interior and Local Government of the Bangsamoro region, during the Maguindanao del Norte stakeholders’ summit for unity and peace in Cotabato City on Tuesday (1 August 2023), where local officials presented loose firearms seized from their communities to show their support for a peaceful and clean elections. MindaNews photo by FERDINANDH CABRERA

Abdulraof “Sammy Gambar” Macacua, the current appointed governor of Maguindanao del Norte and subsequently the secretary-general of the party, said they will not issue certificates of nomination to any of their members.

“Though we cannot stop them from joining this political exercise, we cannot openly support them. We will stay non-partisan,” he said during the Maguindanao del Norte stakeholders’ summit for unity and peace attended by local government officials, security sectors and the Commission on Elections (Comelec) at the Cotabato City Mall on Tuesday.

The summit—organized by the newly installed province with the participation of the 6th Infantry Division, 1st Marine Brigade, Police Regional Office-Bangsamoro Autonomous Region, and the Comelec—aimed for the peaceful conduct of local elections in the barangays and the youth sector.

The mayors and their representatives who attended have committed to help the authorities in bringing out a peaceful and clean elections on October.

They presented a total of 154 long and short firearms from their communities as their share in the campaign to surrender loose firearms in the region.

Lawyer Naguib Sinarimbo, Minister of the Interior and Local Government of the Bangsamoro region, appealed to the local chief executives to remain non-partisan in the upcoming barangay and SK elections.

He advised mayors not to get involved, and instead help so the people can vote freely. “We have to ensure that this will be credible and free from violence,” he added.

Matanog Mayor Zohria “Jo” Bansil-Guro said they will seek assistance from their religious and traditional leaders once aspirants will file their candidacies.

“As of now we can’t say so, but when we can finally learn [who will be competing in the election], we will take measures to prevent tensions with the help of our elders and religious advisers,” she said.

Earlier, BARMM Chief Minister Ahod “Murad” Ebrahim, who is MILF chairman and UBJP head, announced that the party will stand as non-partisan in the October elections.

“We will not participate officially as UBJP party but those brethren who want to express their rights to influence their brother’s attempt will be [on their own],” Ebrahim said in an interview.

Meanwhile, the Police Regional Office-Bangsamoro Autonomous Region (PRO-BAR) has reported to the summit that they will deploy 13,000 personnel, along with the Philippine Army and Philippine Marines, who will watch over security in the upcoming elections for the 2,500 polling precincts in the region.

Brig. Gen. Allan Nobleza, PRO-BAR regional director, said that 900 police personnel will be assigned in Maguindanao del Norte.

In his security briefing, he said that for this year, there have been five incidents of killings of barangay officials in Maguindanao del Norte—three barangay chairmen and two councilors.

During the Maguindanao del Norte stakeholders’ summit for unity and peace in Cotabato City on Tuesday (1 August 2023). MindaNews photo by FERDINANDH CABRERA

Based on police statistics, at least three persons are getting killed every two days or a ratio of 1.6 killed person per day in the region related to murder or homicide.

The region has tallied 340 killings as of July 31.

In Maguindanao del Norte’s police crime data last year, the highest incidence of killing was monitored in Datu Odin Sinsuat with 17 deaths, Sultan Kudarat with seven deaths, and Parang with three deaths.

“In last year’s figure, if you are looking at the national election, a total of 86% of the whole Bangsamoro region was categorized as hot spots and election concerns.”

Nobleza added that among the key concerns they are focusing now are the private armed groups and security personnel of candidates and incumbent officials who are under threat.

“Loose firearms are the major target because firearms in the hands of wrong people will lead to complications, sabotage, and other violence. We will also focus on private armed groups to be tapped by unscrupulous politicians to do the so-called dirty works like harassment of opponents, extortion or even assassination,” added Brig. Gen. Eric Macaambac, commander of 1st Marine Brigade.

Authorities are closely watching over 7,000 loose firearms from several private and armed groups in the region, he added. (Ferdinandh Cabrera / MindaNews)

NTF-ELCAC respects Manila court ruling on Nasino, et al.

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 2, 2023): NTF-ELCAC respects Manila court ruling on Nasino, et al. (By Benjamin Pulta)

(Photo grabbed from NTF ELCAC Facebook page)

MANILA – The government task force to end the communist insurgency “regrets but respects” a Regional Trial Court (RTC) ruling that dismissed the case against three individuals whom authorities said are urban operatives of the terror group.

In a statement posted on its Facebook page on Tuesday, the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) Legal Cooperation Cluster (LCC) said it "is dismayed with the news that the Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 47, in a resolution dated 17 July 2023 under Hon. Judge John Benedict D. Medina, has granted a demurrer to evidence resulting in the acquittal" of Reina Mae Nasino, Ram Carlo Bautista and Alma Moran.

The three, who claimed to be urban poor organizers, were arrested in Tondo, Manila in Nov. 5, 2019. Nasino subsequently gave birth to a child while behind bars but who later died.

They were charged with illegal possession of firearms and explosives.

Despite of this, NTF-ELCAC said the ruling "never means that the crimes upon which Nasino and her co-accused, Bautista and Moran, were not committed and they are the authors thereof."

The group said it is unmoved by this temporary setback due to acquittals from technicalities and reasonable doubt, adding that many others were convicted like Alexandra Pardilla Pacalda last March 2023.

Gov't economic team, House leaders reach consensus on MUP reforms

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 2, 2023): Gov't economic team, House leaders reach consensus on MUP reforms (By Filane Mikee Cervantes)

TO SERVE AND PROTECT. At least 80 rookie police officers take their oath during the 1st Cycle Attrition Recruitment Program at the Police Regional Office-Soccsksargen headquarters in General Santos City on Nov. 14, 2022. Speaker Martin Romualdez announced on Wednesday (Aug. 2, 2023) the government's economic team and senior leaders of the House have reached an agreement on how to fund the proposed reforms in military and uniformed personnel’s pension. (Photo courtesy of PRO-12)

MANILA – The government's economic team and senior leaders of the House of Representatives have reached an agreement on how to fund the proposed reforms in military and uniformed personnel’s (MUP) pension, Speaker Martin Romualdez announced on Wednesday.

Romualdez said the consensus was reached after a three-hour closed-door meeting upon the instruction of President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. to thresh out disagreements over the MUP pension reforms.

“We all agreed on a solution that we believe will be beneficial to all stakeholders in the MUP pension program,” Romualdez said.

He assured soldiers and uniformed personnel that their pension plan will be fully funded not only in 2023 or 2024 but in the years to come.

“Ang sinigurado namin, mababayaran ang lahat ng pension ng ating mga sundalo at uniformed personnel. Lahat ng ahensya ng gobyerno at kami dito sa Kongreso ay magtutulungan para masigurado ito (We assure you that the pension of our soldiers and uniformed personnel will be paid completely. We, in Congress, and all government agencies will collaborate to ensure this),” he said.

“Kung maiaayos natin ang MUP pension program, masisiguro rin natin na magkakaroon ng dagdag na sweldo ang ating mga sundalo at uniformed personnel taun-taon (If we could fix the MUP pension program, we will ensure that the salaries of our soldiers and uniformed personnel will increase yearly),” he added.

Romualdez said he instructed the formation of an ad hoc committee in the House of Representatives to thresh out other details of the reforms agreed upon by executive officials and House leaders.

He said the ad hoc committee will be chaired by Albay Rep. Joey Salceda, chair of the House Committee on Ways and Means, who offered the win-win formula on the pension fund issue during the closed-door meeting.

Romualdez said the panel will invite stakeholders in the MUP pension to join its public hearings and consultation to ensure that their concerns are heard and acted upon.

“Lilinawin sa mga public hearings ang lahat ng isyu tungkol sa MUP. Didinggin natin ang lahat ng boses. Sisiguruhin natin na sa bagong MUP pension program, tuloy-tuloy ang benepisyo ng mga pensyonado at tutulungan sila ng gobyerno sa pag-iipon ng pera (All the issues regarding MUP shall be clarified during the public hearings. We will hear all voices. We will make sure that in the new MUP pension program, the benefits of the pensioners would be continuous and the government will help them save up money),” he said.

Meanwhile, Salceda said the win-win solution would guarantee "sure salary increase, sure indexation of pensions, and sure funding for the pension system".

"President Marcos has already helped address the problem by being very responsible about any salary increase for the MUP, before a viable pension system is in place. And with this reform, his government will solve the pension problem for decades to come," Salceda said.

He said the proposed solution also enables a salary increase for the MUP since its fiscal consequences on the pension system can be controlled.

During his second State of the Nation Address (SONA), Marcos said his administration is “inclusive in our pursuit of social protection.”

“The pension of the military and the uniformed personnel is as important, as urgent, and as humanitarian as that of all other civilian Filipino employees. Efforts are underway to make it fully functional and financially sustainable,” he said.

The government seeks to reform the MUP pension system to address its sustainability and ensure the provision of fair retirement benefits to MUPs while easing the pressure on the government budget over time.

NTF-ELCAC exec says amnesty key to ending insurgency

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 3, 2023): NTF-ELCAC exec says amnesty key to ending insurgency (By Priam Nepomuceno)

MANILA – The National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) said the government's amnesty program is the key to beating the country's long-standing insurgency threat.

"This is a golden opportunity for us to finally put an end to (the) insurgency in our country. We are confident that sooner rather than later, we will be ending the scourge of insurgency in our country," NTF-ELCAC Secretariat executive director Undersecretary Ernesto Torres Jr. said in a post of the body's Facebook page on Thursday.

He also expressed belief that these "communist terrorist groups" (CTGs) will go for the amnesty program due to the "leadership vacuum" currently being experienced by the insurgents following the death and neutralization of their ranking leaders.

"These CTGs will embrace the amnesty because of the 'leadership vacuum' with the death of (Communist Party of the Philippines founding chair) Jose Maria Sison or Joma and other top cadres, some of whom were already either perished or arrested in military and police encounters," Torres said.

He added that there are 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).

Adding to the woes of these remaining insurgents is the "local peace engagement" which Torres said is preventing the CPP-NPA-NDF from getting back the support of its "mass bases" in far-flung barangays (villages) as the government is pouring in basic social services for peace and development.

Torres said the amnesty will be the country's "vehicle towards the path of final victory" against insurgency.

Earlier, Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity (OPAPRU) Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. said President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.’s proclamation of amnesty will "accelerate transformation of former rebels."

He also revealed the proposed National Amnesty Commission (NAC) is determined to fast-track the implementation of the government’s amnesty program for qualified members of revolutionary organizations, including 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)," Galvez explained.

The OPAPRU chief, 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.

Maute supporter linked to high-profile kidnappings in Lanao falls

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 3, 2023): Maute supporter linked to high-profile kidnappings in Lanao falls (By Christopher Lloyd Caliwan)

(Photo courtesy of PNP-AKG)

MANILA – Members of the Philippine National Police-Anti Kidnapping Group (PNP-AKG) arrested a notorious kidnapper involved in a series of high-profile kidnappings in Lanao del Norte.

In a statement Thursday, PNP-AKG director Brig. Gen. Rodolfo Castil Jr. said the suspect
Fahad Makil Lumiguis alias Fahad Lumiguis Alangca/Abdul Raffy/Alu, 33, was arrested on Tuesday in Barangay Basagad, Balo-i, Lanao del Norte.

Lumiguis has standing arrest warrants issued by courts in Tagum City, Davao del Norte and Iligan City, Lanao del Norte for charges of kidnapping with no bail recommended.

He is also listed as the sixth most wanted person (MWP) in the municipal level and the seventh MWP in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

AKG operatives seized from the suspect one Colt .45 caliber M1911 pistol with five pieces of ammunition and one steel magazine of .45 caliber.

Police records showed the suspect is involved in various criminal and illegal drug activities in Balo-i town and other parts of Lanao del Sur.

He is the primary suspect in the Aug. 17, 2019 shooting incident at Upper Payawan, Barangay Sarip Alawi, Balo-i, Lanao del Norte and is involved in the kidnapping of a certain " Amil" in Tagum City, Davao del Norte in October 2022.

Lumiguis was also identified as the primary suspect in a carnapping incident that transpired on June 12, 2023 in Balo-i, Lanao del Norte, where he allegedly stole a multicab owned by his debtor who failed to pay the debt.

He also provided financial support to the DI-Maute Group.

The suspect will face charges related to kidnapping, serious illegal detention, and other relevant offenses. Authorities are confident that the arrest will provide crucial leads and information to unravel other criminal networks associated with the suspect.

“I assure the public that we will continue our unwavering efforts to maintain peace and order, ensuring the safety of all citizens. This operation serves as a stern warning to other criminals that law enforcement agencies will not rest until justice is served,” Castil said.

Castil said more details regarding the arrest and the suspect's criminal activities may be revealed in the course of the investigation.

Castil said the AKG in collaboration with other agencies, will work tirelessly to ensure that the suspect's network is dismantled, and all accomplices are brought to justice.

The accused was brought to AKG Mindanao Field Unit, Iligan Satellite Office for documentation and will be brought to Iligan City Police Station 4, Iligan City Police Office for temporary detention pending the return of the warrant of arrest to the issuing court and for inquest proceedings.

DND chief highlights need to uphold rules-based order, UNCLOS

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 3, 2023): DND chief highlights need to uphold rules-based order, UNCLOS (By Priam Nepomuceno)

RULES-BASED ORDER. Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. (right) and JPPFL chair Moriyama Hiroshi (left) meet at the DND main office on Wednesday (Aug. 2, 2023). In the meeting, Teodoro emphasized the need for a rules-based order and to instill United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. (Photo courtesy of DND)

MANILA – Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. has reiterated the importance of rules-based international order and the need to instill the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) as an archipelagic doctrine.

The defense chief issued this statement following Wednesday's courtesy call of the Japan-Philippines Parliamentary Friendship League (JPPFL) headed by its chair Moriyama Hiroshi.

The JPPFL delegation was also joined by participants from Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Embassy of Japan in the Philippines.

"In response to the support given by Japan for the 7th anniversary of the arbitral award, Secretary Teodoro emphasized the importance of a rules-based international order, and instill the UNCLOS as an archipelagic doctrine," DND spokesperson Arsenio Andolong said in a statement Thursday.

Citing President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.'s state visit to Japan last February, both sides highlighted the two countries’ multi-faceted strategic partnership and reaffirmed their commitment to explore several areas of convergence in the spirit of economic development, disaster resilience, and regional peace and stability.

"Through deepening trilateral cooperation and placing premium on the role of multilateralism, Secretary Teodoro advocated for a fair and just international system wherein the supremacy of international law provides a mechanism for small countries like the Philippines to have a voice against expansionism for the survival of future generations," Andolong said.

He added that the defense chief also expressed his appreciation for Japan’s continued support in enhancing the Philippines’ situational awareness in the maritime domain as well as assisting in the development of humanitarian assistance and disaster response capabilities through civil defense.

"Relatedly, Secretary Teodoro looked forward to Japan’s further support to the Philippines’ self-reliant defense posture in a sustainable and viable manner, particularly in cross-border investment, project execution, and process management," Andolong stressed. The Philippines was among the recipients of Japan’s Official Security Assistance (OSA).

The OSA is Japan’s newly launched grant aid scheme relative to its new National Security Strategy, released last December 2022, for bolstering the transfer of defense equipment and technology.

NPA rebel’s house yields guns, grenade in N. Cotabato

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 2, 2023): NPA rebel’s house yields guns, grenade in N. Cotabato (By Edwin Fernandez)

SEIZED FIREARMS. A police officer accounts for the war materiel seized by government forces during the serving of an arrest warrant against a wanted communist rebel in Magpet, North Cotabato Tuesday (Aug. 1, 2023). The subject of the warrant, Romeo Betil, eluded arrest. (Photo courtesy of PRO-12)

COTABATO CITY – Law enforcement authorities implementing an arrest warrant in Magpet, North Cotabato, missed a suspected NPA rebel but recovered guns and explosives from his home on Tuesday, an official said.

Brig. Gen. Jimili Macaraeg, police director for the Soccsksargen (PRO-12), identified the target of the operation as Romeo Betil, a member of the New People’s Army (NPA) Guerrilla Front 53 operating in the province's second district.

Macaraeg said Betil has several standing arrest warrants issued by local courts in North Cotabato for various crimes, ranging from murder, frustrated murder, and collection of illegal revolutionary taxes.

Personnel of the police’s 1st Provincial Mobile Force Company and Magpet Municipal Police Station and troopers from the Army’s 72nd Infantry Battalion jointly conducted the operation against Betil at his residence in Barangay Don Panaca, Magpet on Tuesday.

“The suspect evaded arrest after sensing the approaching government team by quickly fleeing to an unknown direction,” Macaraeg said in a statement Wednesday.

The team confiscated several weapons and ammunition from the suspect's residence consisting of an improvised shotgun, a homemade break-barrel pistol, a rifle grenade launcher and a hand grenade.

Macaraeg said the recovered guns and explosive were presented to the court and subsequently submitted to Provincial Forensic Unit-12 in Kidapawan City for examination and proper disposition.

Bicol-based 9th Infantry Division scouts for 800 new soldiers

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 2, 2023): Bicol-based 9th Infantry Division scouts for 800 new soldiers (By Connie Calipay)

INVITATION TO SERVE. The 9th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army is looking for 800 individuals to fill this year's officer slots. The pre-entry examination is scheduled at Bicol University on Aug. 14-16 and at Pili Capital College on Aug. 18-20, 2023. (Infographic courtesy of 9ID)

LEGAZPI CITY – The 9th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army (PA) is now looking for 800 individuals to fill this year's officer slots.

In an interview on Wednesday, Maj. Frank Roldan, Army's 9th Infantry Division Public Affairs Office chief, said the ongoing recruitment paves the way for qualified men and women to have an opportunity to serve the country.

“We are encouraging all qualified applicants to submit their applications from Monday to Friday in different screening and registration areas designated in Bicol Region. We have in SM Legazpi City, Sorsogon State University, and in a satellite office in Camp Martillana in Pili Camarines Sur," Roldan said.

Interested applicants can visit or scan the QR (quick response) code to register. They can also contact Technical Sergeant Cesar E Regil Jr., recruitment officer of Satellite Bicol, through mobile number 0915-049-9165.

To qualify, one must be a baccalaureate degree holder, natural-born Filipino citizen, single with no parental obligation and at least 5-foot tall for both male and female.

They must be physically and mentally fit, at least 21 years old but not a day older than 27 years old upon oath-taking and have no pending case in any court.

The pre-entry examination is set at Bicol University on Aug. 14-16 and at Pili Capital College on Aug. 18-20.

"For fresh graduates who were not able to get their diploma or transcript of records, they may present their graduation certificate," Roldan said.

He said applicants who will pass the series of examinations -- physical, mental and written -- would be part of the military service to protect the country.

"They will have healthcare benefits, billeting and housing privileges, leadership, and other skills training, free medical and dental service, and job security with high compensation that can help their families," Roldan said.

PH, Vietnam reinforce strategic partnership amid maritime security threats

From GMA News Online (Aug 1, 2023): PH, Vietnam reinforce strategic partnership amid maritime security threats (By MICHAELA DEL CALLAR)

The Philippines on Tuesday said it must step up maritime cooperation with Vietnam under a key strategic partnership accord as both nations confront maritime security threats in the South China Sea.

In a speech before the Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam, Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo underscored the importance of the two nations' strategic partnership amid evolving geopolitical tensions, including long-running disputes in the resource-rich waters.

"Our geographies and status as major littoral and claimant states in the South China Sea make maritime cooperation a vital point of interaction between our two countries, as economic and security partners," said Manalo, who is currently in Hanoi for an official visit.

Under the administration of the late President Benigno Aquino III, the Philippines and Vietnam in 2016 signed a strategic partnership agreement, which aims to increase their cooperation on several fronts, including defense and maritime security.

The accord remained dormant as the Philippines under Aquino's successor, Rodrigo Duterte, sought friendly ties with Beijing.

Manila and Hanoi face a common security concern in the South China Sea: China's increasingly aggressive postures to assert territorial claims that the two Asian nations say have impinged on their fishing rights and obstructed efforts to explore undersea hydrocarbon resources well within their territorial waters recognized under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea or UNCLOS.

The Philippines refers portions of the South China Sea as the West Philippine Sea.

Manalo said Manila and Hanoi "must press further on in exploring novel modes of cooperation in maritime safety, search and rescue, marine scientific research, and marine environmental protection."

"Achieving maritime security is a powerful impetus for our Strategic Partnership," he said.

China claims a huge swathe of the South China Sea as part of its territory, but the Permanent Court of Arbitration tribunal in The Hague invalidated this claim in July 12, 2016 following a case filed by the Philippines in 2013.

Beijing has ignored and belittled the ruling, maintaining it has "indisputable" and "historical" claim over nearly the entire waters even as it encroaches on the territories of its smaller neighbors like the Philippines and Vietnam.

"As in centuries prior, this body of water connects our peoples, despite some differences," Manalo said.

"Beyond its strategic significance, the South China Sea is the lifeblood of millions of Filipinos and Vietnamese people who depend on the sea for livelihood."

Vietnam is one of the Philippines’ two Strategic Partners, and the only one within the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN). Manila's other strategic partner is Japan.

"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," he added.

The strategic partnership, Manalo stressed, "must affirm that we are invested in keeping the seas open and free for the enjoyment of our peoples, 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."

Until the resolution of disputes, Manalo said the Philippines and Vietnam both share "a distinctive responsibility in working to achieve a substantive and effective Code of Conduct (COC) in the South China Sea, and seeing to its conclusion at the earliest opportunity."

A regional code of conduct aims to prevent conflicting territorial claims in the vast potentially-oil rich region from erupting into violent confrontations or worse, an economically-devastating major conflict.

Some ASEAN members have long held the position that the code of conduct must be legally-binding, but China opposes this. It's not clear how this basic difference will affect progress of future efforts by both sides to negotiate the code.

Manalo said Manila and Hanoi recently held discussions on current challenges in the South China Sea and agreed to explore joint initiatives for the effective management of their competing claims in the area, "with the overarching goal of preserving regional peace and stability."

"The Philippines and Vietnam also benefit from the rules-based order which has been the bedrock of peace and prosperity in our region," he said, citing "responsible stewardship of these waters with a series of joint marine research expeditions of our scientists in the 1990s."

"Our Strategic Partnership infuses the age-old connection between our two countries with a shared sense of responsibility to be engaged partners, for our mutual benefit, and for preserving and enhancing the conditions for peace and prosperity in our region," Manalo said. — RSJ, GMA Integrated News

BCDA vows to support AFP’s continued modernization

From Politiko (Aug 2, 2023): BCDA vows to support AFP’s continued modernization (By Prince Golez)

The Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) has committed to support the modernization efforts of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) under newly appointed Chief of Staff General Romeo Brawner Jr.

“The BCDA welcomes the appointment of General Romeo S. Brawner Jr. as the new AFP Chief of Staff. The AFP, under the leadership of General Brawner, can be assured of BCDA’s usual commitment and support to modernize our armed forces,” BCDA Chair Delfin Lorenzana said in a news release.

Lorenzana said the BCDA believes that with Brawner’s” strong leadership and proven professionalism,” the AFP will maintain its reputation as a professional organization and will sustain its significant accomplishments.

The former defense chief also expressed confidence that the new AFP chief will demonstrate resolute commitment in fulfilling the marching orders of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. of modernizing the armed forces.

Under Republic Act No. 7227, the BCDA is mandated to raise funds for the AFP Modernization Program and to convert former US military bases into economic hubs.

Since its establishment in 1992, BCDA’s contribution to the AFP has reached P59.71 billion. Of this amount, P48.59 billion went to the AFP Modernization Program and P11.12 billion to the replication of military facilities.

Navy chief welcomes new PMA cadets

From the Manila Standard (Aug 1, 2023): Navy chief welcomes new PMA cadets (By Vince Lopez)

Philippine Navy’s Flag Officer in Command, Vice-Admiral Toribio Adaci Jr. graced the incorporation rites of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) “Mandaraig” Class of 2027 as the guest of honor and speaker at Fort Del Pilar in Baguio City over the weekend.

Adaci congratulated the cadets for being officially incorporated into the Cadet Corps of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

“The road to becoming an officer of the AFP is long, so I encourage you to face each obstacle with the conviction that you have what it takes to overcome them. Believe in yourselves, support one another, and uphold the values instilled in you at the academy.” he added during his remarks.

The Navy chief likewise expressed his deepest gratitude to the PMA for shaping the finest leaders of the AFP as the institution remains the cradle of military leadership, instilling in its cadets the values and principles necessary for a strong and unified military organization.

Incorporation Rites is the culmination of the rigorous and transformative summer camp as members of the New Cadet Battalion, two months after their reception at the Philippine Military Academy. Vince Lopez