Thursday, September 7, 2023

PH, Australia now strategic partners, ink 2 accords

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 8, 2023): PH, Australia now strategic partners, ink 2 accords (By Ruth Abbey Gita-Carlos)

STRENGTHENED TIES. President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. (right) and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese sign the Joint Declaration on Strategic Partnership following their bilateral meeting at the MalacaƱan Palace Reception Hall on Friday (Sept. 8, 2023). The two leaders discussed the potential cooperation on agriculture, education, resources and green energy transition. (PNA photo by Rey Baniquet)

MANILA — The Philippines and Australia on Friday elevated their relationship to strategic partners to have a deeper collaboration in a wide range of areas aimed at bringing a “more dynamic, cooperative, and prosperous future” to both nations.

The Joint Declaration on Strategic Partnership between the Philippines and Australia was signed by President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese following their bilateral meeting at MalacaƱan Palace in Manila.

In a speech delivered after the signing ceremony, Marcos said the elevation of relations from a comprehensive partnership to a strategic partnership is a “very, very important development” for the two countries, citing their “long history of cooperation and an even longer history of friendship.”

“The signing of the Joint Declaration on Strategic Partnership signals our mutual commitment to deepening collaboration across the spectrum of areas that are vital to both our countries’ growth and prosperity,” Marcos said.

“Let the elevation of our relations to a strategic partnership usher in a brighter and more prosperous future for both our people,” he added.

Albanese said the strategic partnership is “an important symbol of the strength of their relationship and a shared commitment to do more together.”

He noted that he and Marcos had “constructive discussion” about the potential cooperation of the countries on four particular sectors, including agriculture, education, resources and green energy transition.

“Australia is ambitious for what we can achieve with the Philippines,” Albanese said.

Twin pacts

Marcos and Albanese also witnessed the exchange of two agreements that seek to deepen the Philippines and bilateral relations on people-to-people exchanges and science and technology.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo and Australian Ambassador to the Philippines Hae Kyong Yu presented the memorandum of understanding (MOU) on a work and holiday visa arrangement to provide an avenue for young people to learn about each country’s cultures through tourism.

Yu and Science and Technology Secretary Renato Solidum Jr. also presented the MOU on cooperation to co-develop initiatives supporting soil health strategy through joint research, capacity-building, experts and knowledge exchange and science-based support to policy.

“I’m confident that these partnerships will drive innovation, create opportunities and foster deeper understanding between our peoples. As we look ahead, our shared responsibilities as strategic partners become even more profound,” the President said.

“The evolving dynamics of our world demand collaboration that is proactive, innovative and adaptable. By leveraging each other’s strengths, we can amplify our collective impact and contribute positivity to the challenges and opportunities that lie before us,” Marcos added.

‘Comprehensive’ discussion

Marcos said he and Albanese had a “comprehensive” discussion during the bilateral meeting, focusing on a wide range of topics such defense and security cooperation, economic and trade relations, maritime affairs and sustainable development goals.

He said they affirmed their shared commitment to peace, security and the development in the region.

“It is heartening to find that our visions for the future are quite closely aligned and our goals for regional stability and prosperity resonate strongly,” Marcos said. “Both the prime minister and I acknowledged that our shared values, the democratic principles, and mutual respect for international law have been instrumental in fostering a strong partnership.”

Puerto Princesa law enforcers to hold joint drills with FBI

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 7, 2023): Puerto Princesa law enforcers to hold joint drills with FBI (By Izza Reynoso)

Puerto Princesa police headquarters.(Photo by Izza Reynoso)

PUERTO PRINCESA, Palawan – Law enforcers here will conduct joint anti-terrorism drills with counterparts from the United States as part of efforts to enhance preparedness and response capabilities in the face of global threats.

Capt. Victoria Carmen Iquin, Puerto Princesa City Police Office (PPCPO) spokesperson, on Thursday announced that the joint exercise, dubbed, “Tempest Wind,” is slated on Sept. 9-12.

She said the U.S. will be represented by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

Aside from the local police, other agencies will also participate in the interoperability training, including the Bureau of Fire Protection and the City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office, among others.

"Tempest Wind's primary objective is to evaluate the city's readiness and capacity to respond to crises brought about by terrorist acts and other forms of violence with international implications. It further aims to assess the coordination and effectiveness of various agencies involved in counter-terrorism efforts," Iquin said.

Some areas in Puerto Princesa will be cordoned off to serve as venues for the exercise.

These include the Tagburos area, particularly the GSMAX Construction Compound, the Maritime Law Enforcement Learning Center of the 2nd Special Operations Unit-Maritime Group in Sitio Magarwak and the Honda Bay area.

Iquin told residents and visitors to anticipate temporary traffic route changes and not be alarmed by controlled explosions and gunfire noises associated with the exercise, noting that these are part of the training scenario.

Local law enforcement personnel will also be deployed, she said, to address any inquiries from the public regarding the ongoing drill.

"The PPCPO is seeking the understanding and cooperation of the community to ensure the successful execution of the exercise," Iquin said.

She said the "Tempest Wind" anti-terror drill exemplifies the commitment of Puerto Princesa City and its partner agencies to maintaining preparedness in the face of evolving threats and that the collaboration with the U.S. underscores the importance of international cooperation in addressing shared security challenges.

71 ex-rebels get aid in E. Samar

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 7, 2023): 71 ex-rebels get aid in E. Samar (By Sarwell Meniano)

NEW LIFE. A former rebel (right) receives cash from Borongan City Mayor Jose Ivan Dayan Agda (left) during a ceremony on Tuesday (Sept. 5, 2023) at the Philippine Army 78th Infantry Battalion headquarters in Borongan City. At least 71 former rebels who surrendered to the government last month received financial assistance from the Borongan City government in Eastern Samar province as part of the campaign to encourage more rebels to abandon the communist ideology. (Photo courtesy of Philippine Army)

TACLOBAN CITY – At least 71 former rebels who surrendered to the government last month recently received financial assistance from the Borongan City government in Eastern Samar province, the Philippine Army said Thursday.

In an interview with Brig. Gen. Noel Vestuir, Philippine Army 802nd Infantry Brigade commander, said two former combatants of the New People’s Army received PHP50,000 each, while the 69 others who were either members of the Militia ng Bayan (MB), Batakang Organo sa Partido (BOP) and Underground Mass Organization (UGMO) got PHP10,000 each.

They received the cash assistance during a ceremony last Tuesday at the headquarters of the Philippine Army 78th Infantry Battalion in Lalawigan village in Borongan City.

Vestuir said this was the first cash assistance the 71 ex-rebels received from the government after they had withdrawn their support and taken an oath of allegiance to the government on August 19, 2023.

“The LSIP is from the local government as an initial assistance after their surrender. Regular NPA and MB members are entitled to receive Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program from the national government,” Vestuir said.

Borongan City Mayor Jose Ivan Dayan Agda urged former rebels to live peacefully and not to join the NPA again.

“We are committed to prioritizing helping those who are less fortunate. Since you are already here supporting the government, I hope you don't go back to being a rebel,” Agda said during the turnover of assistance.

Some remote areas in the city have been the hotbed of communist insurgents, prompting the local government to step up efforts to end armed struggle.

Borongan, the capital of Eastern Samar, is located 190 kilometers northeast of this city, the regional capital, which has a population of nearly 70,000 in 61 villages.

NPA team leader yields in South Cotabato

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 8, 2023): NPA team leader yields in South Cotabato (By Edwin Fernandez)

SURRENDER. The M16 rifle and .38-caliber handgun surrendered by a communist New People’s Army team leader in South Cotabato in Lake Sebu, South Cotabato on Thursday (Sept. 7, 2023). The surrenderer, identified only as “Mateo” (inset), said he abandoned his group for fighting a lost cause. (Photo courtesy of 6ID)

CAMP SIONGCO, Maguindanao Norte – A team leader of the communist New People’s Army (NPA) operating in South Cotabato province has decided to abandon the rebel movement and surrender to the military Thursday.

Lt. Col. Carlyleo Nagac, the Army’s 5th Special Forces Battalion commander, identified the surrenderer only as
“Mateo,” 35, who turned over a .38-caliber revolver and an M16 rifle when he showed up at a military detachment in Barangay Lamlahak, Lake Sebu town.

“Mateo is a squad leader of the NPA operational command, Far South Mindanao Region movement,” Nagac said in his report to this camp, the headquarters of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division (6ID).

Mateo told military authorities that he decided to come down after being with the movement for seven years, and reunite with his family after realizing his group’s armed struggle was going nowhere.

Nagac presented Mateo to Brig. Gen. Andre Santos, the Army’s 1st Mechanized Brigade commander, who said the rebel leader’s surrender was an indication of a weakening communist movement.

Maj. Gen. Alex Rillera, 6ID commander, lauded Mateo for choosing the path to peace.

“The government opens its door to all communist rebels who wish to be reintegrated into the mainstream and live a normal life,” said Rillera, also commander of Joint Task Force Central.

Since January, about 50 NPA rebels have been “neutralized” within the 6ID area of operation.

6 slain NPA rebels in Bohol encounter identified

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 8, 2023): 6 slain NPA rebels in Bohol encounter identified (By Mary Judaline Partlow)

RETRIEVAL. Scene of the crime operatives process the encounter site and help in the recovery of six slain alleged New People's Army rebels who figured in a series of clashes with Army troops in Bilar, Bohol on Thursday (Sept. 7, 2023). All of them were identified, with one of them allegedly the vice squad leader of the remnants of the dismantled Bohol Front Committee. (Photo courtesy of the 3rd Infantry Division/Philippine Army)

DUMAGUETE CITY – The six alleged members of the Communist New People’s Army (NPA) slain in a series of encounters with government troops in Bilar, Bohol, have been identified, including a ranking leader, an Army official said on Friday.

They were Jingler Compoc alias Keth from Bilar, Bohol; Ruben Nabas alias Bogs from Batuan, Bohol; Nelson Lumantas alias Brando from San Miguel, Bohol; Rogelio Jorillo alias Tacoy from Minglanilla, Cebu; Zusimo Estaniola alias Emoy from Catigbian, Bohol; and a certain Okloy.

Compoc was allegedly the vice squad leader of the remnants of the dismantled Bohol Front Committee and son of Domingo Compoc, alias Kumander Cobra, the alleged guerilla front secretary, said Lt. Col. J-Jay Javines, spokesperson and chief of Public Affairs Office of the Philippine Army’s 3rd Infantry Division.

Compoc and the other five rebels were killed in a series of encounters on Thursday with 47th Infantry Battalion troops following a civilian tip-off of their presence in Bilar.

Soldiers recovered seven high-powered firearms, a hand grenade, a fragmentation grenade, two rifle grenades, several rounds of ammunition of different calibers, magazines, and “subversive” documents.

The bodies of Compoc and Nabas were claimed by their families while the four others are still at a funeral parlor, Javines said.

Compoc was identified by his grandmother while Nabas by the barangay captain of Rizal in Batuan town.

6 alleged NPA rebels killed in Bohol encounter

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 7, 2023): 6 alleged NPA rebels killed in Bohol encounter (By John Rey Saavedra and Mary Judaline Partlow)

SEIZURE. Army troopers of the 47th Infantry Battalion seize seven high-powered firearms consisting of five (5) 5.56 rifles and two AK47 rifles at different clash sites in Bilar, Bohol, Thursday (Sept. 23, 2023). At least six NPA were killed in the encounter at Sitio Ilaya, Barangay Cambagao in Bilar. (Photo courtesy of the 3rd Infantry Division /Philippine Army)

CEBU CITY – Six alleged members of the New People’s Army (NPA) were killed in six successive encounters with the Army’s Task Group Bohol and the 47th Infantry Battalion (47IB) in Bilar town, Bohol province on Thursday morning.

In a statement released by the 3rd Infantry Division (3ID), government troopers were conducting peace and security operations when they encountered at least nine suspected NPA rebels in Sitio Ilaya.

Lt. Col. Magno Mapalad, commanding officer of the 47IB based in Mabinay, Negros Oriental, told the Philippine News Agency (PNA) that his troops encountered nine remnants of the dismantled Bohol Party Committee under Domingo Compoc, alias Eloy, in six successive encounters starting at about 7:35 a.m.

Government troops also seized seven high-powered firearms during the clashes.

“We acted on information regarding the presence of armed men in the area, which resulted in the series of encounters that lasted until lunchtime,” Mapalad said.

The rebels were asking residents for food and supplies, he added.

The first firefight lasted about 7 minutes, after which the enemy retreated south.

Another encounter occurred between the blocking force of the troops and the fleeing NPA members, also in Sitio Ilaya at about 8:28 a.m.

Four more clashes ensued between government troopers and the rebels, which later led to the death of NPA fighters.

“These successive clashes resulted in the death of six NPA (rebels), whose bodies were recovered from different encounter sites in Sitio Ilaya, along with the seizure of seven high-powered firearms,” the statement added.

Mapalad attributed the successful military operations to the vigilance and cooperation of the residents in Bohol who provided information to the troops about the movement and attempt of the NPAs to regain their influence in the province.

“Any attempt by the NPA to regain influence with the people of Bohol will not succeed because the people of Bohol are willing to support the soldiers by providing noteworthy information on the whereabouts and activities of these NPA terrorists,” he said, urging the remnants to surrender and avoid experiencing the same fate as their comrades have suffered in previous encounters.

On May 12, alias Jasper, an alleged political guide of the NPA's Bohol Party Committee, was also killed in an encounter with government forces in Antequera, Bohol.