Friday, September 15, 2023

2 K-9s, 66 soldiers get medals

Posted to the Visayan Daily Star (Sep 14, 2023): 2 K-9s, 66 soldiers get medals (By GILBERT P. BAYORAN)

K9 ‘Mugie’ receives a medal from Lt. Gen. Benedict Arevalo, VISCOM chief, during awarding rites held at 302nd Infantry Brigade headquarters in Tanjay City, Negros Oriental.* PA photo

Two Philippine military dogs and 66 Army soldiers in Negros and Bohol were recognized on Tuesday by the Armed Forces of the Philippines Visayas Command (VISCOM), conferring them medals in separate awarding rites held in Tanjay City, Negros Oriental, and Murcia in Negros Occidental.

Lt. Gen. Benedict Arevalo, VISCOM chief, bestowed the ‘Working Dog Achievement Medals’ to Mugie and Puti, in recognition of their contributions to the successful encounters of 11th Infantry Battalion with rebel remnants in Santa Catalina, Negros Oriental, on August 26.

The encounter led to the death and recovery of the cadaver of a slain rebel and the seizure of war materials.

Arevalo also conferred the Gold Cross Medal to 37 Army soldiers, as well as two CAFGUs, for their gallantry in action during encounters with the CPP-NPA in Negros and Bohol islands.

Furthermore, a total of 28 Army soldiers comprising of nine military officers and 19 Enlisted Personnel were awarded with Silver Cross Medal (SCM) for their distinguished achievement and heroism in the conduct of special operations against the NPA remnants in Regions 6 and 7.

In a statement, Lt Gen Arevalo emphasized “Conferring awards to our soldiers is our way of keeping them highly motivated and focused to our campaign. This is to assure them that their efforts and sacrifices in the fight against the CPP-NPA are properly recognized.”

In another statement, Maj. Gen. Marion Sison, 3ID commander, said conferment of medals to deserving Army soldiers “are a testament to your unwavering commitment to fostering peace and progress in Western and Central Visayas.”

Sison also thanked Lt. Gen Arevalo for acknowledging the unrelenting dedication of 3ID in their relentless anti-insurgency operations in Western and Central Visayas.*

32 new soldiers complete Basic Military Training in Bukidnon

Posted to Mindanao Daily News (Sep 16, 2023): 32 new soldiers complete Basic Military Training in Bukidnon

Thirty-two (32) new soldiers under the Special Enlistment quota have completed the Basic Military Training (BMT) in a Closing Ceremony held at the Mindanao Army Training Group, Training and Doctrine Command in Kalilangan, Bukidnon on Thursday, September 14, 2023.

The new breed of soldiers who belonged to the Candidate Soldier Course (CSC) Class 760-2023 composing of 26 males and six (6) females underwent more than four (4) months of rigid training since April this year that measured their physical and mental abilities while transforming them from civilians into fine grown military men and women.

Brigadier General Mitchele B. Anayron Jr. Commander of the 403rd Infantry Brigade, who represented the 4ID Commander in the Closing Ceremony, emphasized the importance of possessing commitment and dedication to service which will help every new soldier in performing their mandate to serve and secure the people and communities amidst difficulties and challenges that may come along their way.

After the BMT, the new graduates who are all under the Special Enlistment quota will be subsequently deployed in different units.

Meanwhile, in his message, Major General Jose Maria R. Cuerpo II congratulated the new soldiers as well as their training staff for successfully hurdling the training. He also added that this is not the end but the beginning of their military careers.

“Even after accomplishing the Basic Military Training, keep in mind that your development as a soldier does not end here, instead it’s just getting started. Ninety-Nine percent of your development will be learned in the field. You have to show your utmost discipline to face all the challenges that you may encounter and focus on your vision,” he said.


Hambala replaces Niembra as 10th ID commander

From the Mindanao Times (Sep 15, 2023): Hambala replaces Niembra as 10th ID commander


BRIGADIER General Allan Hambala will be the acting commander of the 10th Infantry Division, effective Friday, Sept. 15.

Hambala, the assistant division commander, will replace Major General Jose Eriel Niembra who bows out of military service at the age of 55.

The change of command ceremony was conducted on Friday afternoon around 3 p.m. with Lt.Gen. Roy Galido, as the Guest of Honor and Speaker held at its Headquarters in Brgy. Tuboran Mawab, Davao De Oro.

Prior to his designation as acting 10ID commander, Hambala was the current assistant division commander.

He was previously assigned as Assistant Chief of Staff for Personnel, G1, in the Philippine Army, and former Commander of the 401st Infantry Brigade based in Agusan del Sur under the 4th Infantry Division in Cagayan de Oro city.

Hambala is a member of the Philippine Military Academy “Sambisig” Class of 1991, the same class as Niembra.

Meanwhile, Niembra became the 10ID commander for seven months and 18 days since January 28 this year.

Prior to his position, Niembra was the inspector general of the Philippine Army.

He served as Presidential Security Group (PSG) deputy group commander and eventually as PSG commander from April 2018 to January 2020.

He likewise held key posts such as deputy commander of the Task Force Davao of the 10th Infantry Division; executive officer of the 401st Infantry Brigade, 4th Infantry Division (4ID); and battalion commander of the 58th Infantry Battalion, 4ID; and brigade commander of the 701st Infantry Brigade, 7th Infantry Division.

Moreover, during the stint of Major General Niembra as 10ID commander, the region remained insurgency-free and peaceful.

In an interview, Major Mark Anthony Tito, the spokesperson of 10ID, explained that Niembra will bow out of military service earlier than the 56 retirement age since he has not been yet promoted to a 3-star rank for his three years as a 2-star rank.

This happened as based on the new Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) law.

Republic Act No. 11939, signed by Marcos on May 17, amended RA 11709, which had prescribed a fixed three-year term of duty for the AFP chief and other top military officials.

Signed by former president Rodrigo Duterte last year, RA 11709 was designed to promote continuity in the AFP’s programs by discarding the “revolving door” policy, which saw some military officials staying in their posts for only a few months.

Wherein, the new law prescribed a maximum tenure-in-grade of three years for generals or admirals, lieutenant generals or vice admirals, and major generals or rear admirals, and five years for brigadier generals or commodores.

Under the new law also, the AFP chief of staff shall have a maximum tour of duty of three consecutive years, which shall start on the date the appointment is signed, unless sooner terminated by the president.

The chiefs of the Army, Air Force and Navy, and the Superintendent of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) shall have a maximum tour of duty of two consecutive years. They shall not be eligible for any position in the AFP unless promoted to the position of chief of staff

Previously, the AFP chief of staff, vice chief of staff, deputy chief of staff, the chiefs of the Army, Air Force and Navy, the chiefs of unified commands, and the inspector-general had a fixed tour of duty of three years while the PMA superintendent had a four-year term.

The new law also states that an officer must have at least one year remaining in active service before compulsory retirement to be eligible for promotion to brigadier general or commodore or higher, except for the posts of AFP chief, Army, Air Force, and Navy chiefs and PMA superintendent.

The retirement age for military officers with the rank of second lieutenant or ensign to lieutenant general or vice general was raised from 56 to 57.

A soldier shall be compulsorily retired if he or she reaches retirement age or upon accumulation of 30 years of satisfactory active duty, whichever comes later.

PH looking to increase WPS patrols – Nat'l Security Council exec

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 13, 2023): PH looking to increase WPS patrols – Nat'l Security Council exec (By Priam Nepomuceno)

National Security Council Assistant Director General Jonathan Malaya (PNA file photo)

MANILA – The Philippines is looking at the possibility of increasing the number of its ships patrolling the West Philippine Sea (WPS) as part of efforts or options to prevent the swarming of Chinese vessels in the area, an official of the National Security Council (NSC) said Wednesday.

"That is one thing that the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS) is considering right now. There are many options on the table. One option, of course, is to increase also our number of ships patrolling in the WPS, both gray ships and white ships," NSC Assistant Director General and NTF-WPS spokesperson Jonathan Malaya said during an interview with CNN Philippines.

He gave this answer when asked on what the Philippines could do to deter or prevent the massing of Chinese ships, especially its maritime militia, in the WPS.

Malaya said the country is also looking at other options but declined to elaborate.

"There are a lot of options that are on the table, which I cannot disclose right now but we are also considering a change of strategy. But let me just state for the record that we will not stop fighting for what is ours and we will continue, of course, to supply our troops of needed supplies and provisions in Ayungin Shoal," he said.

Malaya also expressed hope that China would reciprocate Philippine calls "to reduce tensions and allow the peaceful resupply mission" to prevent untoward incidents.

He noted that the "true colors" of China's maritime militia have been revealed.

"They were usually used in swarming activities, some sort of effective occupation by their presence on the contested features of the WPS but now we see that, you know, their 'true colors' have been bared to the world, that they are not fishing vessels, they are, in fact, part of the structure of the Chinese Communist Party, of the Chinese government, they are instrument of Chinese power in the WPS," Malaya said.

TikTok ban for gov't security sector

Meanwhile, he said they are studying proposals on whether it would be prudent for government personnel in the security sector to be prohibited from using Tiktok.

"The problems with Tiktok arise from two things. Number one is the concerns over data surveillance or data collection, the other thing is on its social influence or the ability to manipulate audiences so what we're contemplating now and what the National Security Council is studying is whether it would be prudent at this time to ban the use of the Tiktok app by government personnel in the security sector," Malaya said.

This refers to personnel of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine National Police, Philippine Coast Guard, and other uniformed personnel, such as the Bureau of Fire Protection and the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology.

Also included are personnel of civilian agencies involved in national security, such as the NSC and the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency.

Another issue with Tiktok is that the app is possibly under the control of the Chinese government, Malaya added.

"I wish to emphasize Tiktok by ByteDance, which is the Chinese technology owned entirely by China and under Chinese law, any Chinese company has to cooperate with the Chinese Communist Party for whatever reason. So given that we have security issues now with China, particularly over the WPS, we feel it would be prudent for the Philippine government to seriously study and consider the banning of this app and possibly other Chinese apps on the devices of security sector employees and personnel. We're currently studying it, we’re considering it and hopefully we could come to a decision very soon," he added.

New Army artillery unit to boost security ops in Western Mindanao

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 13, 2023): New Army artillery unit to boost security ops in Western Mindanao (By Priam Nepomuceno)

NEW ARTILLERY UNIT. Philippine Army chief Lt. Gen. Roy Galido leads the activation ceremonies for the 11th Field Artillery Battalion at Fort Magsaysay, Palayan City, Nueva Ecija on Tuesday (Sept. 12, 2023). The Philippine Army on Wednesday (Sept. 13) said the deployment of the 11FAB in the provinces within Western Mindanao would address the overstretched and oversized field artillery units in the area. (Photo courtesy of the Philippine Army)

MANILA – The Philippine Army (PA) has activated another artillery unit, the 11th Field Artillery Battalion (FAB), as part of its efforts to enhance its available firepower in Western Mindanao.

In a statement Wednesday, PA spokesperson Col. Xerxes Trinidad said activation ceremonies of the 11FAB took place at Fort Magsaysay, Palayan City, Nueva Ecija on Tuesday.

The 11FAB is part of the Army Artillery Regiment (AAR).

"The deployment of the 11FAB will be in the provinces within Western Mindanao to address the overstretched and oversized field artillery units in the said area," he added.

Overstretched units are those handling too much responsibilities while oversized units are those that have a number of personnel that is higher than their authorized strength.

Trinidad also said PA chief Lt. Gen. Roy M. Galido, who was present during the activation ceremonies, lauded the unit "for its remarkable initiatives in making the AAR a reliable, responsive, relevant, and mission-oriented unit of the PA."

As this developed, the AAR also inaugurated the new administration building of the Artillery Training School and mess hall of its maintenance and service battalion.

"The newly inaugurated facilities aim to provide a conducive learning environment to AAR personnel, which will help boost their morale and welfare, enabling them to accomplish their duties more effectively," Trinidad said.

Teodoro, 4 other officials get CA nod; 11 AFP officers promoted

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 13, 2023): Teodoro, 4 other officials get CA nod; 11 AFP officers promoted (By Leonel Abasola)

Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. (File photo)

MANILA – The Commission on Appointments (CA) on Wednesday confirmed the ad-interim appointment of lawyer Gilberto Teodoro Jr. as Secretary of the Department of National Defense (DND), along with four other officials and 11 officers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

Teodoro was first appointed as DND Secretary during the term of then-President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. He was the youngest to hold the post at 43. He ran for President in 2010 but lost to his cousin, the late Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III. He also tried to win a Senate seat in Eleksyon 2022 but was unsuccessful.

Also confirmed by the CA were Ms. Catherine Cruz Sy as Foreign Service Officer Class IV of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA); Atty. Erlinda Pinera-Uy a member of the Judicial Bar Council (JBC) representing the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP); Kira Christianne Danganan Azucena as Ambassador to Niue, in addition to being Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to New Zealand; and Charlie Pacana Manangan, Chief of Mission Class 1, Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary.

Confirmed to the rank of Brigadier General were Lloyd S. Cabacungan, Fernando Ventura, Jose Jesus Lontok, Ramon Flores, Dennis Pacis, Nasser Lidasan, Ivan DR. Papera, and Benedict Balaba.

Confirmed to Major General was Arvin Lagamon, while Steve Crespillo was confirmed as Lieutenant General. Also confirmed was Peter Jempsun de Guzman as Commodore.

Only Senator Risa Hontiveros questioned Teodoro during the hearing.

Teodoro topped the Bar exams in 1989 after graduating at the top of his class at the University of the Philippines College of Law.

He earned a degree in commerce with a major in financial institutions from De La Salle University and a master's degree in law from Harvard University.

Meanwhile, Senate President Juan Miguel 'Migz' Zubiri applauded the confirmation of Teodoro, vouching for the Defense chief's integrity and capability.

"His impressive academic and military records, diplomacy and integrity, as well as unquestionable dedication in protecting the interests of the Filipino people, make him more than qualified once again to take over the position of Secretary of National Defense," the Senate chief added.

For his part, Teodoro highlighted his mandate as the head of the DND to further modernize the organization and leverage the country’s security partnerships in promoting the Philippines’ national interests.

“The intensity of the need to focus on protecting our sovereignty and sovereign rights is paramount in the global race for resources and influence. (There is a) need for cognizance of sovereignty and sovereign rights. We need to principally use politics and diplomacy, backed up by a strong backbone of a strategic defense posture,” he said.

Asked about his policy direction as Defense chief, Teodoro envisioned modernizing not only the Armed Forces of the Philippines but also the DND Proper and its civilian bureaus to better manage resources and services.

Teodoro also cited the need to set up a trust fund as part of measures to reform the pension system. (With reports from Priam F. Nepomuceno/PNA)

EDCA sites vital for humanitarian aid, disaster relief - US admiral

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 14, 2023): EDCA sites vital for humanitarian aid, disaster relief - US admiral (By Priam Nepomuceno)

EDCA SITES VISIT. US Indo-Pacific Command chief Admiral John Aquilino (left), AFP chief Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr. and US Ambassador to Manila MaryKay Carlson arrive at the Basa Air Base in Pampanga on Wednesday (Sept. 13, 2023) to visit EDCA projects in the area. The three officials also visited EDCA sites in Lal-lo Airport and Naval Base Camilo Osias, both in Cagayan province. (Photo courtesy of AFP)

MANILA – A ranking American military official on Wednesday said the development of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) locations would greatly enhance the interoperability of Filipino and American troops.

"We have identified several projects that benefit the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) and allow the United States and the Philippines to operate together effectively, exercise together and increase our interoperability," United States Indo-Pacific Command chief Admiral John Aquilino said in a press briefing at the Basa Air Base in Pampanga, which houses an EDCA site in the country.

Aside from the Basa Air Base, Aquilino, together with AFP chief Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr. and US Ambassador to the Philippines Marykay Carlson also visited EDCA sites in Lal-lo Airport and Naval Base Camilo Osias, both in Cagayan province.

He also emphasized that all EDCA sites are sovereign Philippine territory.

He added that EDCA sites are very useful for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) missions as proven by the use of the Lal-lo Airfield EDCA site for relief missions during the height of Typhoon Egay last August.

"We were at Lal-lo today (Wednesday), Lal-lo was a place where the United States and the Philippines came together to support the most recent humanitarian assistance to the Philippine people which is the best example of why these EDCA sites are important," he added.

Aquilino also lauded the progress of EDCA projects during their visit.

“The work that [General Brawner’s] team has done in coordination with our team to further advance capabilities here in the Philippines is truly impressive. We're very pleased. I was here a year ago, and the progress of the runway and all the sites is moving at a great pace, thanks to our strong partnership," Aquilino said.

Meanwhile, Brawner also expressed optimism that more of these projects will become operational by next year to support joint exercises and operations.

“We are very pleased with the progress of these projects, and we are highly optimistic that next year, more of these projects will be operational, allowing us to engage in joint exercises and operations immediately,” the AFP chief noted.

The two officials also added that all future projects will undergo vetting by the Philippine government for consideration in future operations and mutual benefit.

The five initial EDCA sites are the Cesar Basa Air Base in Floridablanca, Pampanga; Fort Magsaysay Military Reservation in Nueva Ecija; Lumbia Airport in Cagayan De Oro; Antonio Bautista Air Base in Puerto Princesa, Palawan; and Benito Ebuen Air Base in Cebu.

Meanwhile, the additional four sites are Naval Base Camilo Osias in Sta. Ana, Cagayan; Lal-lo Airport in Lal-lo Cagayan; Camp Melchor Dela Cruz in Gamu, Isabela; and Balabac Island in Palawan.

China's expansionist moves, not US presence, hiking tensions: DND

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 15, 2023): China's expansionist moves, not US presence, hiking tensions: DND (By Priam Nepomuceno)

Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. (File photo)

MANILA – Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. on Thursday denied claims that the United States' presence in the Philippines is escalating tensions in the region.

In an interview with ABS-CBN News Channel (ANC), Teodoro said it is actually China's "expansionist policy" that heightens tensions.

"Actually, in terms of the Philippines, I respectfully disagree, it is the expansionist policy of China that is actually escalating the tensions not only between us but with Vietnam and other actors and their 10-dash line actually is the best proof that they want to escalate tensions within the area," he added.

Teodoro said the real issue right now is the harassment activities by China because they do not recognize the country's 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone.

"They do not recognize our other claims, so we are not trying to contain China but enforcing international law which is on our side. Now China keeps on saying that we are containing them, if you use the word contain that means to say you have an intention to expand, so it's disingenuous for them to use that term for me," the DND chief noted.

Teodoro also said the Aug. 5 water cannoning incident by the Chinese Coast Guard against Filipino resupply boats and their escorts in the Ayungin Shoal highlights that the Philippines is not depending much on the US.

"The water cannoning proves that we are not leaning too much on the US because if we lean too much on the US. We would have asked them to escort us there which we don't want to do because we want to do things our way and we want a balanced foreign policy. We really need, of course, the first priority is their resolve to stick to our rights under international law," he added.

Teodoro also said the Philippines is willing to engage with China as long as there is a "framework for proper engagement and that is international law."

Meanwhile, the Western Command (Wescom) on Thursday released new aerial photographs showing a fresh “swarm” of Chinese maritime militia vessels in key areas of the West Philippine Sea (WPS), and raised concern over Beijing’s aggressive behavior in disputed waters.

Commander Ariel Joseph Coloma, Wescom’s spokesperson, said the gathering of Chinese ships was observed by aerial patrols on Sept. 6-7.

There were 23 militia vessels spotted at Rozul (Iroquois) Reef, five at Escoda (Sabina) Shoal, and two at Baragatan (Nares) Bank.

"The expanded presence of Chinese fishing vessels raises alarms regarding its potential impact on the Philippines' maritime security, conservation of fisheries, territorial sovereignty, and the protection of the marine ecosystem. These actions have been a root cause of tension in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) and have added to the instability in the area," Coloma said.

He said while a greater number of militia vessels were observed at Iroquois Reef on Sept. 7, the recorded Chinese militia vessels at Sabina Shoal, located within the exclusive economic zone of the country and serving as a navigation point for approaching Ayungin Shoal, indicates a persistent pattern of swarming.

Sabina and Iroquios are the areas where Chinese surveillance and tracking of Philippine vessels occur frequently.

Coloma noted that the repeated swarming incidents in both areas highlight the continuous violation of the country's sovereign rights and jurisdiction along its western border.

"While Chinese swarming activity makes a comeback, the Philippines remains committed to staying alert and implementing essential measures to protect its crucial national interests and preserve regional stability," he added.

He said collaborative efforts involving defense forces, law enforcement agencies and international partners are vital for tackling these challenges, defending the Philippines' sovereign rights and jurisdiction, and ensuring stability in the region.

Coloma said the latest swarming case recorded by the Philippine Navy occurred on Aug. 24, involving the sighting of 33 Chinese militia vessels at Iroquois Reef.

Past occurrences of swarming in these areas have coincided with reports of extensive coral harvesting, intensifying worries about their detrimental effects on the environment.

In August, Vice Admiral Alberto Carlos, Wescom chief, said the water cannoning episode near Ayungin Shoal provided evidence confirming that the Chinese vessels frequently seen in the WPS are, in fact, militia vessels posing as fishing boats, and they have been following directives from Chinese Coast Guard authorities.

Carlos said as of Aug. 9, there had been a notable surge in the number of foreign vessels intruding into the WPS, totaling approximately 400, with 80 percent of them being China militia vessels. (With a report from Izza Reynoso/PNA)

Ranking PH, US military officials eye more EDCA sites

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 14, 2023): Ranking PH, US military officials eye more EDCA sites (By Priam Nepomuceno)

BOOSTING COOPERATION. US Indo-Pacific Command chief Adm. John Aquilino (left) and AFP chief Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr. hold a press briefing at Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City on Thursday (Sept. 14, 2023), shortly after the annual Mutual Defense Board-Security Engagement Board (MDB-SEB) meeting. The two officials are looking to recommend the creation of more EDCA sites in the Philippines. (PNA photo by Priam Nepomuceno)

MANILA – Ranking Philippine and American military commanders on Thursday said they would recommend the creation of more Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) sites in the country.

"Gen. (Romeo) Brawner (Jr.) (Armed Forces of the Philippines chief) and I may make recommendations to our senior leaders for the consideration of additional sites but there is still work to do there before we get to that answer," US Indo-Pacific Command chief Adm. John Aquilino said in a press briefing at Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City, shortly after the annual Mutual Defense Board-Security Engagement Board (MDB-SEB) meeting.

Aquilino said these recommendations will be forwarded to their superiors.

"We are in discussions but everyone has a boss and we both have bosses, we'll have those conversations I think in private and give our bosses some decision space on how they'd like to go forward," he added.

Aquilino said another 63 projects in the nine approved EDCA sites were added aside from the 32 projects that were earlier approved.

"And (the) United States has identified investment of almost USD110 million to those sites to build capability capacity for the AFP to use everyday and for the United States to fall in when invited," he noted.

Meanwhile, Brawner also said EDCA sites are located in existing AFP bases or camps and that these are being opened for shared use with their American counterparts.

"We believe that doing certain things together would bring more value, for instance training together so some of these EDCA sites would be designed specifically for joint training. Let me emphasize however that while the United States is spending for these EDCA sites through the implementation of several projects, I would like to say that the Philippine government is also spending for these EDCA sites sites primarily because these are our own camps and we have to maintain our camps, we have to make sure that our camps are liveable and of course sustainable," the AFP chief noted.

The MDB and SEB, established in 1968 and 2006, respectively, form the framework which directs and enables defense and security cooperation between the US and the Philippine forces.

Meanwhile, Brawner said the successful conclusion of Thursday's MDB-SEB meeting further demonstrates the "steadfast commitment of the Philippines and the United States in safeguarding our nation and the Indo-Pacific Region".

He said this also highlights AFP's dedication in addressing the dynamic and evolving challenges that confront the nation's security including those caused by natural disasters and calamities.

"Just yesterday (Wednesday) Admiral Aquilino and I, together with Ambassador (Marykay) Carlson and top Filipino and US military officials visited the EDCA sites in Lal-lo Airport and Naval Base Camilo Osias in Sta. Ana, Cagayan; and Basa Air Base, Pampanga. We conducted an extensive tour of the completed EDCA projects and we were able to gain first-hand knowledge of the bases' potential for the development of key facilities to support humanitarian assistance and disaster response operations," Brawner said.

He added that this visit underscores the continued partnership and collaboration between the Philippines and United States militaries in enhancing national defense capabilities, as well as the shared commitment to regional security and disaster response efforts.

"It signifies our commitment to further strengthen our cooperation, ensuring that both militares are prepared and well-equipped to respond to evolving security challenges and humanitarian crises," Brawner said.

Nothing unusual with PH, US warships' joint ops - US admiral

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 15, 2023): Nothing unusual with PH, US warships' joint ops - US admiral (By Priam Nepomuceno)

BOOSTING COOPERATION. US Indo-Pacific Command chief, Adm. John Aquilino (left), and AFP chief Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr. hold a press briefing at Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City on Thursday (Sept. 14, 2023), shortly after the annual Mutual Defense Board - Security Engagement Board (MDB-SEB) meeting. Aquilino said joint operations of Philippine and American warships would continue to ensure that freedom of the seas and peace are maintained. (PNA photo by Priam Nepomuceno)

MANILA – There is nothing unusual with Filipino and American warships conducting joint patrols as the two nations’ militaries have been operating together for decades, a ranking American military official said Thursday.

"The Philippines and the United States have been operating together for decades, so under the title of joint patrols, just recently on the 4th of September, we executed the first one that was aligned, designed, and built by (Armed Forces of the Philippines chief) Gen. (Romeo) Brawner's (Jr.) team and my team executed with approval from our leaders," US Indo-Pacific Command chief, Adm. John Aquilino, said in a presser on the sidelines of the Mutual Defense Board - Security Engagement Board (MDB-SEB) meeting in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

"And we'll continue to do that for a long term, ultimately to ensure that we can maintain the freedom of the seas, freedom of airspace so that all the nations in the region can enjoy peace and prosperity."

On Sept. 4, Filipino and American warships conducted a "bilateral sail" in waters off the western part of Palawan province.

The activity highlights the "robust maritime cooperation" between the two nations.

"The activity is done under the MDB-SEB framework that aims to develop operational interoperability between the navies of the two countries," the AFP said in an earlier statement.

The AFP deployed the Navy's guided-missile frigate, BRP Jose Rizal (FF-150), while the US Navy deployed the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer, the USS Ralph Johnson (DDG-114).

Meanwhile, Brawner said they are coordinating with other countries interested in participating in the "joint sail.”

"Aside from the United States, several countries have given their intention of joining the 'joint sail' and for us in the Philippines, this is a very good indication of the intent of like-minded countries to come together to promote the rules-based international order and to make sure that security in the Indo-Pacific region is maintained at all times," he said.

OPAPRU touts gains of peacebuilding initiatives

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 15, 2023): OPAPRU touts gains of peacebuilding initiatives (By Priam Nepomuceno)

OPAPRU Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. (File photo)

MANILA – The Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity (OPAPRU) on Friday touted the successful outcomes of its peacebuilding efforts in the country.

"As a result of the agency’s various peacebuilding interventions, thousands of our fellow Filipinos who were former combatants, rebels and extremists throughout the country have turned away from armed struggle and are now living as peaceful, productive, and law-abiding citizens. They have come to realize that good things come to those who walk the path of peace," OPAPRU chief Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. said in his message for the agency's 30th founding anniversary.

Galvez also cited the peace gains achieved by the nation through the "dedicated, selfless and hard-working personnel and executives" who are at the frontlines "not only to spearhead peace dialogues and conversations but to co-develop and implement innovative programs and initiatives with our peace constituency, that have addressed the root causes of armed conflict."

Galvez said among the OPAPRU’s key accomplishments in the last 30 years are:

--the promotion and embedding of the culture of peace across all levels of society

--propagation of the values of tolerance, inclusivity and understanding. It has replaced the sword of conflict with the embrace of peace.

--crafting and signing of landmark peace agreements with armed groups

--genuine peace and sustainable development to communities in the Bangsamoro region in Mindanao, and in conflict-affected and conflict-vulnerable areas in the country

He said OPAPRU facilitated meaningful dialogue between parties, helped pave the groundwork for peace agreements to be forged and transformed conflict-affected communities into show windows of peace and development.

"The agency has also helped promote the principles of good governance, accountability, and justice among local government units, national government agencies, other government institutions and the security sector while helping to address historical grievances among victims of armed conflict by ensuring that the wounds of the past are acknowledged, healed, and prevented from resurfacing," he added.

Meanwhile, Galvez reminded Filipinos that promoting peace is everyone's responsibility.

"May you all continue to be a beacon of hope, a facilitator of peace, a bridge for reconciliation, and a catalyst for unity," he said.

The agency, formerly known as the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, was established on Sept. 15, 1993 under Executive Order (EO) 125 signed by the late former president Fidel Ramos.

It was later renamed OPAPRU under EO 154 signed by former president Rodrigo Duterte on Dec. 27, 2021.

Armed clashes displace 70 IP families in Maguindanao Sur

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 13, 2023): Armed clashes displace 70 IP families in Maguindanao Sur (By Edwin Fernandez)

DISPLACED. Several families displaced by sporadic clashes between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and terrorist group Dawlah Islamiya in Datu Hoffer, Maguindanao del Sur, which broke out Monday (Sept. 11, 2023), take shelter in an unfinished village center in Barangay Poblacion. Some of the evacuees stayed with their relatives in the town center. (Photo courtesy of Maguindanao Sur PDRRMO)

SHARIFF AGUAK, Maguindanao Sur – Ongoing sporadic clashes between a Moro Islamic Liberation Front group and Dawlah Islamiya (DI) local terrorists in Datu Hoffer town of this province have sent more than 70 families fleeing to safer areas.

Ameer Jehad Ambolodto, Maguindanao del Sur Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (PDRRM) officer, said the displaced families belonging to Teduray Indigenous Peoples (IPs) are temporarily housed in an unfinished building in the area.

“As of today, no word yet from the military if the IPs can return home,” Ambolodto said in an interview Wednesday.

Brig. Gen. Oriel Pangcog, Army’s 601st Infantry Brigade commander, said the clashes between Moro Islamic Liberation Front commander Saga Malandag of 118th base command and DI-Hassan Group under commander Abdulnasser Guianid, started since Monday in Barangay Mother Tuayan, Datu Hoffer town.

Government troops also found two dead DI combatants at the clash site.

Residents claimed they could still hear gunshots believed to be from both sides of the warring groups as of this posting.

Pangcog said a long-standing “rido” (family feud) between Guianid and Malandag triggered the skirmishes.

Lt. Albert Pansoy, Datu Hoffer town police chief, said the police and military forces in Datu Hoffer, an upland town, remained on heightened alert.

Ambolodto said the provincial government is ready to augment the emergency assistance to the evacuees estimated at 360 individuals.

2 NPA officials, member surrender in Albay, Camarines

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 13, 2023): 2 NPA officials, member surrender in Albay, Camarines (By Connie Calipay)

Police Regional Office 5 headquarters in Legazpi City. (PNA file photo)

LEGAZPI CITY – Two New People’s Army (NPA) officials and one member voluntarily surrendered to government troops in Albay and Camarines Norte, respectively, on Tuesday, the Police Regional Office (PRO) 5 (Bicol) said Wednesday.

In a report, Lt. Col. Malu Calubaquib, PRO-5 spokesperson, only identified the surrenderers as
Ka Dona, Ka Jun, and Ka Badeth.

"In Daraga, Albay, the two NPA officials
Ka Dona and Ka Jun voluntarily turned themselves in. Ka Dona was previously a coordinator for the Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay) and a former Gabriela provincial chairwoman/coordinator under the Provincial White Area Committee (PWAC) and a member of the Bicol Regional Party Committee (BRPC). Similarly, Ka Jun was a former Kadamay regional chairman and also a member of the WAC and BRPC," Calubaquib said.

She said on the same day,
Ka Badeth, who was operating in Camarines Norte, returned to the fold of the law and also surrendered one unmarked .38 revolver and one rifle grenade with markings M76 63-600-P97-11.

"Following their surrender, these individuals underwent debriefing procedures and will be enrolled in the government's complete package assistance called the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP). Under the E-CLIP program, they will receive financial aid and participate in a series of free skills and livelihood training programs, in collaboration with various sectors," Calubaquib said.

She said the surrender of the three NPA rebels was another step towards a more peaceful and orderly future for the Bicolano communities.

"The government continues its commitment to promoting peace and providing avenues for former rebels to reintegrate into society," Calubaquib said.

Gov’t peace adviser vows continued support for CAR's dev’t

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 15, 2023): Gov’t peace adviser vows continued support for CAR's dev’t (By Liza Agoot)

PEACE WEAVING. Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity Secretary Carlito Galvez joins Cordillera leaders during the commemoration of the 37th anniversary of the Mt. Data Sipat agreement in Mt. Data Hotel, Bauko, Mountain Province on Wednesday (Sept. 13, 2023). During the event, the leaders wove 37 "strings of peace" made from local fabric to symbolize the continuing peace and development in the region. (PNA photo by Liza T. Agoot)

BAUKO, Mountain Province – Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity (OPAPRU) Secretary Carlito Galvez on Wednesday said the government would continue to bring socioeconomic interventions to the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) as part of honoring the peace agreement in the area that was signed 37 years ago.

Galvez made the assurance during a speech at the commemoration program of the 37th anniversary of the Mt. Data Sipat agreement.

The agreement was part of the indigenous “Bodong” (peace) process signed on Sept. 13, 1986 by the national government, led by then President Corazon Aquino, and the local armed group Cordillera Bodong Administration-Cordillera People's Liberation Army (CBA-CPLA), led by late former priest Conrado Balweg.

Galvez noted that the Cordillera is one of the seven geographical zones selected and prioritized to complement peace process lines under the government's “Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan” (Pamana) program for 2024, which has been allocated with a PHP700,568,003 budget for education assistance, health insurance, livelihood, roads and bridge projects.

“OPAPRU’s strong support to Cordillera’s quest for meaningful regional autonomy is anchored on the Philippine Development Plan 2023-2028. Our agency also has a parallel framework in which it works closely with stakeholders as we continue to strengthen the foundations where long-lasting peace and sustainable development can take root and flourish here in the Cordillera,” Galvez said.

The Mt. Data Sipat led to the issuance of Executive Order 220 which created the CAR in preparation for its conversion as an autonomous region.

“The Sipat stands as a testament to our ironclad partnership of cooperation, trust and respect and to sustain the gains we have achieved. The OPAPRU has continued to carry out peace-building interventions to our (CBA-CPLA) communities. And today, we are pleased to be here as we recognize the grantees of the OPAPRU-NCIP Special Education Assistance Program (SEAP),” Galvez said.

“The education program is among the socio-economic interventions that we promised to give to the CBA-CPLA members or their next of kin as they embark on a new journey. May these youth fulfill their dreams for themselves and their families and become agents of peace in the Cordillera and the nation,” Galvez said, even as he vowed to help SEAP graduates get employment.

Continuing peace

Edna Tabanda, co-chair of the Regional Development Council (RDC) and a private sector representative in the RDC, cited RDC strategies that align with the national government’s socio-economic agenda under the leadership of President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.

These include strengthening of a "normalization program" particularly on socio-economic interventions that would include former CBA-CPLA members as peace advocates; strengthening peace and development through regional autonomy advocacy; and continuing to lobby for the creation of the Cordillera Autonomous Region.

While the national police would remain as the peacekeeping force in the proposed autonomous region, it should be supported by the indigenous knowledge and practices of settling conflict and peace negotiations, especially among tribes and communities, Tabanda said.

“Remembering the signing of Sipat is a great avenue to remind everyone of its significance which was a commitment to establish autonomy in response to peace and development, strengthen our stand that Cordillera autonomy is a strategy to bring the National Government closer to the people and strengthen participatory governance,” she said.

“The establishment of a Cordillera Autonomous Region is the best option for a just and lasting peace and inclusive growth where indigenous knowledge, practice, and culture-sensitive governance will be adopted,” she added.

30 ex-NPA rebels venture into tilapia farming in Agusan Norte

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 15, 2023): 30 ex-NPA rebels venture into tilapia farming in Agusan Norte (By Alexander Lopez)

PRODUCTIVE LIVES. Thirty former communist rebels are now into tilapia fishpond production after receiving some 5,000 fingerlings from the government on Thursday (Sept. 14, 2023) at the Army’s 23rd Infantry Battalion headquarters in Barangay Alubihid, Buenavista, Agusan del Norte. The former New People's Army combatants surrendered to the government on separate occasions last year and in the early part of 2023. (Photo courtesy of 23IB)

BUTUAN CITY – Around 30 News People's Army (NPA) surrenderers to the Philippine Army’s 23rd Infantry Battalion (23IB) in Agusan del Norte are engaged in a tilapia fishpond production project.

The former insurgents, who formed themselves into an organization named New Life Masigasig Farmers Multi-Purpose Association, received some 5,000 tilapia fingerlings and feeds from the Provincial Agriculture Office of Agusan del Norte on Thursday.

The fishpond area is situated inside the headquarters of the 23IB in Barangay Alubihid, Buenavista town.

“While processing our benefits from the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (ECLIP), we need to make ourselves productive to provide support to our families,” said Lolong, one of the members of the association, in a phone interview on Friday.

Lolong surrendered to the 23IB last year and is now close to completing the processing of his ECLIP.

“Among the values I learned from the government after I abandoned the communist group is how to become productive to support my family and render services to my community,” Lolong said.

He mentioned that he earlier received training on farming and fishpond development.

“I want to go into tilapia fishpond production once I return to my community. During the training, I learned that tilapia production is profitable which could help my family, especially in providing for the needs of my children,” he said.

Another ex-NPA rebel, a certain “Tang” who surrendered earlier this year, said: “Life is different now, compared to the time when I was inside the rebel movement. I live now in peace with my family unlike before when my life was filled with hardships, anger, and violence.”

In a statement, the 23IB said the initial 5,000 tilapia fingerlings will be stocked in a 40 by 20-meter fishpond.

“The members of the association are already knowledgeable in the production since most of them have undergone training related to said livelihood venture,” it said.

With the support of government agencies and local government units, 26IB will aid the former rebels in finding markets for their harvested tilapia products.

The former NPA members yielded to the military on different occasions in the middle of 2022 and earlier this year.

200 widows of Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters get livelihood aid

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 15, 2023): 200 widows of Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters get livelihood aid (By Edwin Fernandez)

INDEMNIFIED. Widows of slain Moro Islamic Liberation Front combatants while fighting for the right to self-determination in the past get financial aid from the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM). Lawyer Naguib Sinarimbo, BARMM interior minister, led the distribution of financial and livelihood aid to about 200 Moro Islamic Liberation Front  widows in Carmen, North Cotabato on Thursday (Sept. 14, 2023). (Photo courtesy of MILG-BARMM)

CARMEN, North Cotabato – At least 200 widows of Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters were honored by the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) by providing them livelihood opportunities on Thursday.

Lawyer Naguib Sinarimbo, BARMM interior minister, led the distribution of PHP50,000 in financial and livelihood assistance each to widows from the Midsayap and Carmen clusters of the autonomous region’s Special Geographic Area (SGA) in the province.

The payout, totaling some PHP20 million, was held at the government center in Barangay Manarapan, Carmen, North Cotabato.

"The BARMM cannot replace the lives of our former comrades in the Bangsamoro struggle," Sinarimbo said in a statement Friday, adding that an indemnity to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front widows would be a good start in honoring their late husbands.

"Nonetheless, this assistance from the BARMM government with the help of the BIRD (Bangsamoro Integrated Rehabilitation and Development) Program is expected to help the livelihood of the widows," he said.

Sinarimbo emphasized the importance of meeting the immediate needs of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front widows while also providing long-term sustainable development programs for them.

He said the goal is to transform them through capacity building, rural infrastructure development, and livelihood opportunities.

“The purpose is to raise the standard of living of the widows,” he said.

Sinarimbo, the concurrent BARMM spokesperson, said plans are also underway to organize the widows as a cooperative to help their livelihoods grow further.

He said the ongoing construction of the public market near them will also allow the widows to establish sustainable livelihoods to support their families, paving the way for them and their communities to have a stable future.

Grateful widows

Zokria Abas, a resident of the SGA-BARMM Carmen cluster, thanked BARMM for being one of the recipients of the timely assistance.

“The BARMM government is aware of our struggles (without our husbands). This is only the beginning of the many more help we were promised,” she said in an interview.

Another widow, Bai Aniza, said she was only 37 when her husband, an Moro Islamic Liberation Front combatant died in a clash with the military while defending the former Moro Islamic Liberation Front camp Rajah Muda in Barangay Buliok, Pikit, North Cotabato in 2003.

"It’s hard to lose a husband while you have four young children. Raising the kids alone with an unstable source of income is a constant struggle,” she said.

Initially, Aniza said the aid allows her to improve her family’s income from farm work.

Weeklong ops net 107 firearms, 11 explosives in Caraga

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 15, 2023): Weeklong ops net 107 firearms, 11 explosives in Caraga (By Alexander Lopez)

(Graphics photo courtesy of PRO-13)

BUTUAN CITY – A total of 107 firearms and 11 explosives were confiscated by field units of the Police Regional Office in the Caraga Region (PRO-13) during the conduct of Simultaneous Anti-Criminality Law Enforcement Operations (SACLEO) from Sept. 6 to 12, an official said Friday.

“This is part of our effort to ensure the security and orderliness of the upcoming Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections (BSKE) in our region,” said Maj. Jennifer Ometer, PRO-13 information office chief, in a phone interview.

Of the recovered firearms, Ometer said 43 were from Agusan del Sur, followed by Surigao del Sur with 23, Agusan del Norte (16), Surigao del Norte (15), Butuan City (6) and Dinagat Islands (4).

Ometer said 70 of the firearms were turned in under the Oplan Bakal operations, 32 in Oplan Katok, three were recovered during police operations and two during the service of search warrants.

Meanwhile, of the 11 explosives seized, five were from Surigao del Sur and two each from Agusan del Norte, Surigao del Norte, and Butuan City.

These included two hand grenades, three improvised explosive device materials, one M203 ammunition, and five rifle grenades.

“Five individuals were also arrested during the SACLEO, three of whom were from Agusan del Sur, one in Surigao del Sur and one from Agusan del Norte,” Ometer said.

The campaign period for the Oct. 30 BSKE will be on Oct. 19 to 28.

OPAPRU to give P50M for Bicol University’s proposed peace hub

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 15, 2023): OPAPRU to give P50M for Bicol University’s proposed peace hub (By Gladys Serafica)

PARTNERS FOR PEACE. Presidential Peace Adviser Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. (right) and Bicol University president Dr. Baby Boy Benjamin Nebres III (left) visit one of the booths in the KaPEACEtahan Peace Fair at BU in Legazpi City, Albay on Friday (Sept. 15, 2023). With the proposed construction of the national peace and development hub in the Daraga Campus, BU is hopeful to be the center of peace education in the region. (PNA photo by Gladys Serafica)

LEGAZPI CITY – Recognizing the crucial role of the academe in promoting and sustaining peace, the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity (OPAPRU) is set to award PHP50 million to Bicol University (BU) for the construction of its proposed national hub for peace and development in Daraga, Albay.

In his message during the opening ceremony of the KaPEACEtahan Peace Fair at BU on Friday, Presidential Peace Adviser Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. said he is eyeing the university to become the bridge towards mainstreaming peace education in the region.

Galvez said they will come up with an executive order that will strengthen and mainstream peace education in basic higher education and other institutions, with the end goal of establishing peace, unity and development centers in state universities and colleges (SUCs).

In an interview, BU president Dr. Baby Boy Benjamin Nebres III said the university is looking forward to the OPAPRU grant as the construction of the hub is aligned with his vision to make Bicol University a “university for humanity.”

The proposed peace hub is slated to be constructed in 2024 or early 2025.

Aside from the construction of the peace and development hub, Nebres bared they were also eyeing another project that aims to integrate peace studies in the general education curriculum (GEC).

As proposed by lawyer Alex Nepomuceno, dean of the College of Social Sciences and Philosophy, Nebres said he is hopeful that OPAPRU can fund the training of the teachers who will take on the project.

As the leading university in the Bicol region, BU has been a staunch supporter of peace education in the region, offering degree courses in Peace Studies and Peace and Security Administration.

Holistic approach to sustain peace

Lauding the local initiatives of Albay in promoting and sustaining peace in the province, Galvez bared that Bicol is poised to receive PHP654 million under the PAyapa at MAsaganang PamayaNAn (PAMANA) Program, which will be used to finance various projects for conflict-affected areas in the region.

By implementing a “holistic approach,” through the provision of livelihood, infrastructure, education and water system programs, he said the government aims to end the local communist insurgency by the end of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s term.

In a speech delivered by Polangui Mayor Adrian Salceda, Albay Rep. Joey Salceda underscored “peace is a fiscal issue” as “peace makes prosperity, and prosperity makes peace.”

He cited the townships of Guinobatan, Camalig, Daraga and Legazpi as models of how peace spurs economic activity, as some barangays in these towns were once considered heavily-conflicted areas.

Salceda stressed the importance of putting in place an aggressive social development platform to address the causes of conflict.

In a province ravaged by multiple hazards, he said Albay’s initiative to produce a college graduate in every family and its thrust to make disaster risk reduction a focal point of governance has transformed these townships into economic and tourism centers in the Bicol region.

In his message to local insurgents, Galvez urged them to avail of the amnesty and transformation program offered by the government.

Citing the case of Sulu, which is now “Abu-Sayyaf free,” he called for the “end of the arm struggle.”

“Let’s give peace a chance. We should end the arm struggle…abandon the arm struggle. We need to cooperate, unify with the government, and we can find peace in our country,” Galvez said.

The two-day KaPEACEtahan Peace Fair in Albay is part of the activities lined up for the celebration of the National Peace Consciousness Month. The opening ceremony kicked off with the “Bike for Peace” activity and ended with a peace concert.