Saturday, September 30, 2023

191 neophyte soldiers up for deployment in Visayas

From the Visayan Daily Star (Sep 28, 2023): 191 neophyte soldiers up for deployment in Visayas (By GILBERT P. BAYORAN)

Maj. Gen. Marion Sison, 3rd Infantry Division commander, led the ceremonial turnover of firearms to 191 new soldiers on Sept. 25 at Camp Macario Peralta in Jamindan, Capiz.* PA photo

A total of 191 neophyte Army soldiers are up for deployment to infantry units of the 3rd Infantry Division in Western and Central Visayas, following the completion of four months basic military training on September 26 at Camp Macario Peralta in Jamindan, Capiz.

Lt. Col. J Jay Javines, 3ID Civil Military Operations chief, disclosed that the new graduates underwent four months of training in combat skills enhancement, explosive ordnance reconnaissance, disaster response and rescue, water search and rescue, and air-to-ground operations.

Among the 191 new soldiers, 30 were from Negros Occidental, 68 from Iloilo, 40 from Capiz, six from Aklan, four from Antique, 32 from other parts of Visayas, eight from Luzon, and three others from Mindanao.

The new graduates are composed of 177 makes and 14 females.

Calinog town Mayor Francisco Calvo, assisted by Maj. Gen. Marion Sison, 3ID commander, led the ceremonial entrustment of firearms to the new Army Privates, with emphasis that guns are tools to perform the mandates of the AFP, which symbolizes their responsibility to protect the Filipino people.

In his speech, Mayor Calvo stressed that the firearms issued to neophyte Army soldiers will be used to protect the people.

Take good care of yourselves, pray before you move, and don’t forget the Lord for you to reach your retirement, the mayor further said.

Gen. Sison, who served as the keynote speaker of the activity, reminded them to never forget their military discipline, refrain from abusive behavior and any vices, as well as illegal drug use.

He encouraged them to be a role model to everyone.

After completing the Basic Military Training, the 191 new soldiers still have to undergo a 45-day Infantry Operations Course (INFOC) at the 3ID’s training school, before their distribution to various Army infantry units, Javines said.*

12 armed rebels surrender in northern Negros

From the Visayan Daily Star (Sep 30, 2023): 12 armed rebels surrender in northern Negros (By GILBERT P. BAYORAN)

The 12 rebels who surrendered, along with 12 assorted firearms, to the 79th Infantry Battalion, with Brig. Gen. Orlando Edralin, 303rd Infantry Brigade commander (2nd row, 7th from right), with representatives of various local government units in the 1st and 2nd districts of Negros Occidental, commanders of the different police units, and Lt. Col. Arnel Calaoagan, 79IB commander.* PA photo

The Philippine Army reported another setback suffered by the New People’s Army in northern Negros, as 12 of their members yesterday gave up to the Army’s 79th Infantry Battalion in Sagay City, Negros Occidental, and surrendered 12 assorted firearms with ammunition.

The 12 former rebels, including an amazon, were presented on Friday by Lt. Col. Arnel Calaoagan, 79IB commander, to Brig. Gen. Orlando Edralin, 303rd Infantry Brigade commander, witnessed by representatives of various local government units from the 1st and 2nd district of Negros Occidental, and commanders of the different police units.

Edralin lauded the courage of 12 former rebels, who are among the remnants of the
dismantled Northern Negros Front (NNF) of the Komiteng Rehiyonal Negros/Cebu/Bohol/Siquijor, for their decision to abandon the armed struggle and live a formal life with their respective families.

The rebels surrendered six caliber .45 pistols, two caliber .38 revolvers, a 9mm Ingram automatic pistol, a KG 9 automatic pistol, a carbine rifle, and a caliber .30 M1 Garand rifle.

Through Negros Occidental 1st District Rep. Gerardo Valmayor, each of the 12 former rebels received cash assistance, one sack of rice, and gift packs.

Calaoagan described the surrender of 12 former rebels as an important milestone in the history of 79IB and for the people in northern Negros.

Atty. Charo Tupas Fajardo, City Legal Officer of Escalante City, administered the oath taking of former rebels, who pledged their support to the government.

Last week, six suspected NPA rebels died in an encounter with 47th Infantry Battalion in Brgy. Tabugon, Kabankalan City.*

Army commander says 10th ID must sustain gains vs. communist rebels

From the Mindanao Times (Sep 29, 2023): Army commander says 10th ID must sustain gains vs. communist rebels (By RHODA GRACE SARON)


THE 10TH Infantry Division’s acting commander ordered different units under the division to further sustain their gains to maintain the peace and development in their areas of responsibility.

This was the inaugural guidance of Brig Gen Allan Hambala of Joint Task Force Agila to the brigade, battalion, and combat support unit commanders.

“Let us emphasize our unity of effort and harness the value of teamwork to ensure enduring peace and sustainable development in our AOR,” said Hambala.

In his address, the acting division commander underscored the crucial roles played by infantry brigades, combat support units, and combat service support units.

“We must execute our duties with the utmost dedication to maintain an insurgency-free Davao Region,” Hambala added.

During the same event, Hambala awarded six Combat Support Unit streamer awards to the 25th Infantry Battalion (IB), 27IB, 56IB, 67IB, 73rd IB, and 89IB.

The 11th Regional Community Defense Group also received the Combat Service Support Unit streamer award.

Exclusive: MNLF leaders move to oust Misuari’s son as vice chairman

From the Mindanao Examiner (Sep 26, 2023): Exclusive: MNLF leaders move to oust Misuari’s son as vice chairman

MNLF Chairman Nur Misuari kisses his son Abdulkarim Misuari in this photo from the Facebook page of Abdulkarim Misuari, the MNLF Vice Chairman and Bangsamoro Parliament Deputy Speaker.

ZAMBOANGA CITY – Senior leaders of the former rebel group Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) have passed a resolution seeking to remove the eldest son of group’s chieftain Nur Misuari for betrayal and usurpation and abuse of authority.

The resolution, signed September 15 by Sheikh Mohamad Parid Solaiman Adas, the MNLF’s Secretary General for Islamic Affairs, accused Ustadz Abdulkarim Misuari of betraying the cause of the MNLF for accepting the government’s offer for him to be the Deputy Speaker of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority Parliament.

“It is obvious that the subject person/officer have grossly betrayed the MNLF cause by accepting the government’s offer in the BARMM (Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao) and abandoning the gains of the MNLF-GRP peace processes without a clear and transparent consultation with MNLF Central committee members, and the MNLF general membership as a whole. Since Ustadz Abdulkarim T. Misuari assumed, he and company maliciously cordoned the MNLF Chairman Professor Nur Misuari and prohibited anyone, senior officers or not, to visit him, except for some few, they knew will adhere to their agenda. Likewise, they prohibited anyone from discussing with the Chairman, the MNLF plans and programs beyond what the Office of the Presidential Advisor for Peace, Reconciliation and Unity (OPAPRU) dictates,” read the resolution, a copy of it was seen by The Mindanao Examiner Regional Newspaper.

Misuari along with his half-sister Nurredha Ibrahim Misuari was appointed to the Bangsamoro Transition Authority Parliament by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr on August 12, 2022.

He is the eldest son of six children of Nur Misuari and Desdemona Tan. He was born in December 1974 in Malaysia in the first year of his parents’ life in exile which would last for at least two decades. He spent much of his life in Libya, Egypt, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Syria.

The resolution further said that the young Misuari has long been acting beyond the limits of his position by using his father’s official letterhead and that of the official MNLF Central Committee letterhead.

“The subject person/officer has long been acting beyond the limits of his position by using the MNLF Chairman’s letterhead and the Central Committee. He is solely representing the MNLF in general in his dealings with the OPAPRU undermining the existing peace process such as the 1996 Final Peace Agreement and using his position to bully and malign fellow officers based on his own judgment and conclusion,” it said.

MNLF officials also accused Misuari as an incompetent leader.

“As such, the undersigned officers with their corresponding signatures by virtue of power and authority vested in us by the MNLF Founding Leader and the Central Committee Chairman, Professor Nur Misuari, and by the recommendation of the majority of the MNLF, organs committees, and national units in the Bangsamoro homeland, and in accordance to the grounds above mentioned, Ustadz Abdulkarim T. Misuari is hereby recommended to be terminated of his present position as MNLF Vice Chairman and Chairman of the Security Subcommittee of the MNLF Peace Coordinating Committee,” it added.

The resolution further said that the MNLF as an organization needed to be calibrated, rectified and attuned to the principle of collectivism, consultative and transparency to attain the noble cause of the Bangsamoro struggle, and that it has to refocus on the gains of all signed agreements by letter and spirit and not by adhering to the dictate of the OPAPRU such as the Transformation Program for the MNLF and the like.

OPAPRU said the Transformation Program is anchored on the provisions of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement which put an end to the decades-long armed conflict between the government and the MNLF, and brought increased peace, security and stability in the southern region.

It said the MNLF Transformation Program aims to facilitate the transition of MNLF members, especially those who were not integrated into the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police under the peace deal, as well as their families into peaceful and productive civilians.

The young Misuari initially trained as a commander to fight for the MNLF, but became an ustadz of religious teacher instead following the wish of his mother. He also served as chief liaison officer in the Gulf States for the MNLF.

There was no immediate statement from Misuari regarding the move by senior MNLF leaders to impeach him. (Mindanao Examiner)

PNP Chief visits wounded cops in Zambo, awards medals

From the Mindanao Examiner (Sep 28, 2023): PNP Chief visits wounded cops in Zambo, awards medals

ZAMBOANGA CITY – National Police Chief Benjamin Acorda flew Thursday to this southern Filipino city and visited wounded police commandos whose unit clashed with an Abu Sayyaf fighter in Sulu province.

Acorda also pinned medals to the wounded commandos at a hospital where they were recuperating following last week’s fighting in the village of Seit Higad in Panamao town where police forces eventually killed Muksidal Jumadil.

PNP photos show General Benjamin Acorda pinning medals to nine police commandos wounded in a clash with a lone Abu Sayyaf gunman who was eventually killed in Sulu's Panamao town.

The wounded commandos, all members of the 7th Special Action Battalion, were rushed to hospital. Among the wounded were a captain and two of his lieutenants.

Police forces were sent to the remote town to serve an arrest warrant on Jumadil at his hideout after villagers tipped off authorities about his presence. But Jumadil, armed with an automatic weapon, opened fire on the commandos sparking a fierce battle.

Jumadil was wanted for a string of murders in the Sulu, but no other details about his Abu Sayyaf past were made available by the authorities except for the murder of a woman, Nurdija Aminuddin, whom he brutally killed and decapitated in the town of Luuk. The slain criminal was also linked to illegal drugs.

Acorda said he was ordered by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr to visit the commandos and awarded them the prestigious Medalya Ng Kadakilaan and Medalya Ng Sugatang Magiting in recognition of their valor and sacrifice. He also provided the commandos with an undetermined amount of money as financial aid.

Police also released the names of the wounded as Capt. Nolie Agmaliw, Lts. Jhorlino Rico Apal and Earl Abbdurajan III; Pats. Lionel Suarverdez and Edison Ray Paris, Cpls. Reymir Subion, Lindo Macua, Oliver Alviar and Andres Dalang.

Acorda praised the heroism and bravery of the wounded commandos. “While we salute the valor of our personnel, the safety of our colleagues is our paramount concern. Tayo ay palagiang mag-ingat lalo na sa mga notorious individual na katulad ni Jumadil na sumugat sa ating mga kasamahan. Iisa lang ang ating buhay, kaya ito’y ating pahalagahan at pakakaingatan para sa ating pamilya,” he said.

Many of the Abu Sayyaf leaders in Sulu had been killed in military and police operations and their members surrendered the past years to avail of the government’s amnesty program. (Al Jacinto)

PH, US navies to hold naval warfare drills in October

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 27, 2023): PH, US navies to hold naval warfare drills in October (By Priam Nepomuceno)

MANILA – The Philippine Navy (PN)'s warfare capabilities are expected to get a boost in a two-week drill with its US Navy (USN) counterparts, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said Wednesday.

Lt. Col. Enrico Gil Ileto, AFP public affairs office chief, said this year's "Exercise Samasama" slated from Oct. 2 to 12 would be held at the Naval Forces Southern Luzon area of operations, with the opening rites at the PN headquarters in Naval Station Jose Andrada in Manila.

"'Samasama' is a bilateral exercise between the USN and the PN that aims to further strengthen international defense cooperation and advance a rules-based international order," he said in a statement.

Ileto said these naval activities are designed to further enhance the PN’s naval warfare capabilities, including the fundamentals of anti-submarine, anti-surface, anti-air and electronic warfare.

These capabilities are now being provided by the two Jose Rizal-class missile frigates, the BRP Jose Rizal (FF-150) and BRP Antonio Luna (FF-151), which are considered the PN's most modern warships to date and were delivered in 2020 and 2021, respectively.

Interoperability exercises with the USN will focus on warfighting serials, he added.

"The training will also strive to further improve maritime integration and combined interoperability with the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF), Royal Australian Navy (RAN), Royal Canadian Navy (RCN), and the United Kingdom's Royal Navy (RN) through subject-matter expert exchanges (SMEEs) and humanitarian assistance and disaster response table-top events," Ileto said.

He said the French Navy and RAN will send personnel to join the SMEEs while the Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN) and Indonesian Navy would join as observers.

Participating personnel for "Exercise Samasama" include 733 from the PN; 632 from the USN; 244 from the RCN; 169 from the JMSDF; 34 from the RN; seven from the French Navy; three from the RAN, two from the Indonesian Navy and one from the RNZN.

Meanwhile, participating ships include the BRP Antonio Luna from the PN, the USS Dewey and USNS Wally Schirra of the USN, the RN's HMS Spey, RCN's HMCS Vancuver, and the JMSDF's JS Akebono.

Wescom chief: PH military eyes '3 key efforts' to boost WPS presence

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 27, 2023): Wescom chief: PH military eyes '3 key efforts' to boost WPS presence (By Priam Nepomuceno)

HAZARD. A Philippine Coast Guard troop removes the floating barriers placed by the China Coast Guard at the Bajo de Masinloc in Zambales. The PCG said the move is in compliance with the orders of President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. and National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea chair Secretary Eduardo Año. (Photo courtesy of PCG)

MANILA – A military official on Wednesday said they are looking at "three lines of efforts" to further enhance the country's presence in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

Speaking at the Stratbase ADRi forum titled "Implementing a Comprehensive Philippine Maritime Framework to Advance Rule of Law" in Makati City, Armed Forces of the Philippines-Western Command (AFP-Wescom) chief Vice Adm. Alberto Carlos said these consist of effective occupation of all islands now occupied by the country in the WPS, establishing stronger naval presence, and enhancing maritime domain awareness (MDA).

"What is certain is that the solution to the WPS maritime issue is not in the hands of the military alone (but) the whole-of-nation approach because it takes a consideration of all matters, not just the military," he said.

The Wescom chief also defined MDA as knowing "what is happening in our area" and knowing the location of all Chinese Coast Guard, militia and foreign vessels.

He added that naval presence not only refers to the Navy but also includes the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources.

Carlos said the government is coming up with a "National Strategy in the WPS".

"It's forthcoming, I cannot discuss the details but it's (a) more, stronger assertion of (our) rights in the WPS," he added.

Tensions between the Philippines and China have heightened recently due to Beijing's efforts to blockade Filipino resupply vessels and their escorts headed to the Ayungin Shoal detachment.

China has also prevented Filipino fishermen from fishing in Bajo de Masinloc in Zambales through the installation of floating barriers.

The floating barriers were cut during a special operation by the PCG upon orders of President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. to the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea.

Obstacles to be removed

The Wescom chief also said floating barriers near the Ayungin Shoal would also be immediately removed if these are placed there by China.

"So there is already a template in Scarborough (Bajo De Masinloc) so there is no question about that, if they do that in Ayungin we also have to remove the barriers and we do not have to wait for the order of the President to remove that," he added.

Carlos also said that this is why he closely monitored the situation in Bajo de Masinloc as what happened there could also happen in Ayungin Shoal.

"'Whatever ilagay nila (they will install), we will remove," he added.

Meanwhile, Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. assured senators that the agency and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) are open-minded and critical in their approach in maintaining peace in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

Teodoro made the assurance during DND's Senate budget deliberation, presided by Senator Ronald "Bato" dela Rosa, when the military exchange program under the Philippines-China defense cooperation agreement was discussed.

"Hindi lang po natin sinisiyasat ang ating mga kalaban kundi kahit kaalyado. At dapat bukas ang mata natin kaya mahirap po ang sarado ang isip. So, kami po ay bukas ang isip sa lahat (We don't just scrutinize our enemies, but also our allies. And we have to open our eyes. That's why it is difficult if we have a closed mind. So, we have our minds open to all)," he told the senators.

Agreeing with the DND chief's statement, dela Rosa emphasized that the only concern of all Filipinos is to protect the country's sovereignty.

"Lahat ng bugso ng damdamin, init ng pananalita ay hindi pagbubunga sa pagmamahal natin sa China o sa Amerika kundi pagmamahal natin sa Pilipinas, ating Inang Bayan (All the emotions, heated statements are not fruits of our love for China or America but our love for the Philippines, our Motherland)," the lawmaker said.

Senator Robinhood Padilla, for his part, noted that the Philippines should maintain good relations with its neighbors given that it is currently "behind" when it comes to military and economy.

However, he noted the DND should still show its might within the Philippine territory.

The Senate Committee on Finance's Subcommittee "C" approved the proposed 2024 budget worth PHP229.9 billion of the DND and its attached agencies before proceeding into an executive session.

House Deputy Majority Leader and ACT-CIS Party-list Rep. Erwin Tulfo condemned China for circulating news, urging the Philippines not to “stir up trouble” in Bajo de Masinloc in Zambales.

“China has no right to tell us to behave in our own territory,” Tulfo said. “Kahit ano pa ang itawag nila sa Bajo de Masinloc sa Zambales, sa Pilipinas pa rin ito. ‘Yan ang malinaw dito (Whatever they want to call Bajo de Masinloc in Zambales, it is still within the Philippines. That is very clear),” he said.

Tulfo commended the PCG for asserting the country’s right in the area by removing the floating barriers set up by China to block Filipino fishermen.

He said now is the time to bring the issue to the United Nations and seek the assistance of friendly countries, such as the United States and Japan, to help the country patrol the WPS. (With reports from Wilnard Bacelonia & Zaldy De Layola/PNA)

Australia concerned over ‘destabilizing behaviors’ vs. PH in WPS

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 27, 2023): Australia concerned over ‘destabilizing behaviors’ vs. PH in WPS (By Joyce Ann L. Rocamora)

Acting Australian Ambassador to the Philippines Moya Collett (PNA photo by Joyce Ann Rocamora)

MANILA – Australia is concerned over the “destabilizing behaviors” directed against the Philippines in the West Philippine Sea, its acting ambassador said Wednesday following the recent developments in the disputed Spratlys and Scarborough Shoal.

“There have been a number of reports about destabilizing behavior directed towards the Philippines in the South China Sea and we’re very concerned about that,” Acting Australian Ambassador to the Philippines Moya Collett said during a Stratbase Forum in Makati City.

“We want all activities in the South China Sea and throughout the world to be consistent with international law and UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea) in particular,” she added.

The Philippine government earlier discovered and removed the floating barriers placed by the China Coast Guard in the southeast entrance of Scarborough Shoal also known as Bajo de Masinloc in Zambales.

The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) said the barrier posed a hazard to navigation and was a clear violation of international law.

Underwater surveys in the Spratlys, meanwhile, showed extensive coral damage in the Rozul Reef and Escoda Shoal which the PCG earlier linked to the “indiscriminate illegal and destructive fishing activities” of Chinese vessels in the area.

Restoring corals

Australia sees the possibility of expanding its existing coral reef restoration program in the Philippines to Rozul Reef.

“There’s no specific plans for that at the moment but I think there’s potential for us to do that through our existing marine cooperation program,” Collett said.

The Australian government is now supporting the Mead Foundation, the Southern Cross University and the University of the Philippines (UP) Marine Environmental and Resource Foundation to restore coral reefs in Zambales.

They combine various coral restoration methods to maximize the health of the marine ecosystems.

In Palawan, the Australian Institute of Marine Science is helping the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development with its reef monitoring by integrating into its routine an easy-to-use reef monitoring device the Australian team developed.

When used with its accompanying cloud service, users of the reef monitoring device can get real-time reports that help reef management.

“Both of our countries are committed to promoting an open, secure and prosperous region where international law and sovereignty are respected. We are also committed to protecting the marine environment which is critical to supporting the lives and livelihoods of our two peoples,” Collett said.

Under the new strategic partnership between the Philippines and Australia, Collett said projects like these “will only continue to grow”.

Meanwhile, Stratbase ADR Institute president Dindo Manhit said maritime cooperation with like-minded states such as Australia is “reassuring” to the Philippines amid continued threats in its maritime domain.

“Fortunately, amid the traditional, non-traditional and evolving risks that are present in the region, like-minded states are finding the opportunity to work more closely together, driven by their shared values and commitment to the rule of law,” he said.

”The Philippines is right in the middle of these alliances and partnerships – a reassuring place to be, given the difficulties now besetting the region,” he added.

House to realign intel funds of civilian agencies to boost security

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 28, 2023): House to realign intel funds of civilian agencies to boost security (By Jose Cielito Reganit)

File photo

MANILA – The House of Representatives will realign the confidential and intelligence funds (CIFs) of various civilian agencies to augment the budgets of intelligence and security forces tasked to address escalating threats in the West Philippine Sea, House Appropriations Committee chairperson Elizaldy Co said Wednesday.

“The country’s safety and security are of paramount importance. To protect our territorial integrity from external threats, Congress is giving top priority to agencies directly in charge protecting the country’s safety and securing its borders,” he said in a statement following the unanimous decision of all party heads in the House of Representatives.

The unanimous decision of House party leaders came after the Chinese Coast Guard installed a floating barrier in Bajo de Masinloc or Scarborough shoal off the coast of Zambales.

“As discussed, we will realign the confidential funds of various civilian agencies. Now is the time to give our intelligence community the means to perform their duties, especially in these pressing times when we’re facing serious concerns in the West Philippine Sea,” Co said.

He said the House of Representatives will augment funding for the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency, the National Security Council, Philippine Coast Guard and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources to boost the country’s monitoring and operational capabilities in protecting our territorial waters and securing the rights and access of Filipino fishermen to their traditional fishing grounds.

In response to media queries, Co said among those to be affected by the budget cuts are the Office of the Vice President and the Department of Education, which were allocated a combined amount of PHP650 million in CIFs under the 2024 National Expenditure Program.

“So far that’s what we have identified, but we’re still looking at other sources,” he said.

Quick nod on OPAPRU budget shows House' support to peace agenda

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 28, 2023): Quick nod on OPAPRU budget shows House' support to peace agenda (By Priam Nepomuceno)

OPAPRU Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. (PNA file photo)

MANILA – The quick passage of the PHP7-billion "peace investment budget" reflects the House of Representatives' (HOR) genuine support for the peace process, the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity (OPAPRU) said Thursday.

OPAPRU Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. said this was one of the swiftest approvals during the resumption of the plenary deliberations on the proposed 2024 budget of various government agencies on Tuesday.

“The non-objection of the HOR to the OPAPRU’s budget speaks volumes. It reflects the genuine and unwavering support of Congress to the peace investment under the Marcos administration. These projects will be life-changing for the former rebels, their families, and conflict-prone communities as we head towards a Bagong Pilipinas,” he said in a statement.

Galvez was not interpellated nor questioned during the budget deliberation, which lasted only two minutes.

Negros Occidental (6th District) Rep. Mercedes Alvarez, sponsor of the OPAPRU’s proposed budget, reaffirmed Congress’ continued and full support to the country’s comprehensive peace process.

Galvez said the budget would be used to fund transformation, rehabilitation and socio-economic programs that aim to uplift the lives of former rebels, their families, and their communities across the country.

“President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. believes that the sustainability and effectiveness of peacebuilding initiatives will be crucial in addressing pressing peace and security concerns affecting the country. As the President has stated, ‘We cannot afford to go back to square one,’” the OPAPRU chief added.

Galvez thanked House Speaker Martin Romualdez, House Majority leader Rep. Manuel Jose Dalipe and Minority leader Rep. Marcelino Libanan for their steadfast commitment to the peace process.

He also thanked Basilan Rep. Mujiv Hataman, Rep. Joseph Stephen Paduano of the Abang-Lingkod partylist and Rep. Joey Salceda of the 2nd district of Albay for supporting the approval of the OPAPRU's budget, and for championing peace in Congress and in their respective provinces.

Navy frigate BRP Antonio Luna holds another West PH Sea patrol

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 28, 2023): Navy frigate BRP Antonio Luna holds another West PH Sea patrol (By Priam Nepomuceno)

WPS PATROL. Missile frigate BRP Antonio Luna (FF-151) patrolling the West Philippine Sea on Sept. 22, 2023. During this mission, Western Command head Vice Adm. Alberto Carlos was aboard and inspected four Philippine-occupied islands in the area. (Photo courtesy of the Western Command)

MANILA – The Philippine Navy (PN) on Thursday said the missile frigate, BRP Antonio Luna (FF-151), had recently launched another maritime patrol in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

In a Facebook post, the PN said Western Command (Wescom) chief Vice Adm. Alberto Carlos also joined patrol and inspected the Philippine-occupied islands of Pagasa, Parola, Likas, and Lawak on Sept. 22 to 24.

It added that naval and air patrols are done frequently in the WPS to monitor incursions of foreign vessels and other encroachment.

However, patrol intervals are not announced for security reasons.

Carlos lauded the troops manning these remote islands in performing their duties despite their challenging circumstances

“Your dedication and commitment are truly commendable, embodying the strength and resolve of our nation," he added.

Carlos also commended these military personnel for their "unwavering resilience and sacrifices in defending the country’s national interest and protecting its people" and assured them of adequate supplies to allow them to do their duties more effectively.

Bill on 'Self-Reliant Defense Posture' revival reaches Senate plenary

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 28, 2023): Bill on 'Self-Reliant Defense Posture' revival reaches Senate plenary (By Wilnard Bacelonia)

SELF-RELIANT DEFENSE POSTURE. Senator Jinggoy Ejercito Estrada sponsors Senate Bill No. 2455 or the proposed Self-Reliant Defense Posture Revitalization Act on Wednesday (Sept. 27, 2023). Estrada said the bill aims to strengthen the Philippines' defense against present and future security threats by developing a national defense industry and incentivizing the domestic production of defense assets. (Photo courtesy of Senate PRIB)

MANILA – The bill seeking to revive the country's Self-Reliant Defense Posture (SRDP) program was brought in the Senate plenary on Wednesday night.

Senator Jinggoy Estrada, sponsor of Senate Bill (SB) No. 2455 known as the SRDP Bill or the Self-Reliant Defense Posture Revitalization Act, said the measure seeks to ensure adequate defense assets and hardware for the country through domestic production and manufacturing, development of a national defense industry and lessening dependence on foreign and overseas suppliers.

Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri, who co-sponsored the measure, said while it is vital that the Department of National Defense (DND) is given the proper budget for procurement, a self-reliant defense posture must also be built.

"Hindi tayo nagkukulang sa puso at tapang. Kailangan lang matapatan rin natin ng tamang kagamitan (We do not lack heart and courage. We just need to have the right equipment)," Zubiri said in his co-sponsorship speech.

He said currently, the Philippines is just depending on other countries "on what they can produce, what they are willing to offer, and on what terms they can offer their equipment to us."

"To be honest, I think maybe 90 to 95 percent of our defense needs have to be bought abroad," Zubiri said.

"We cannot depend just on our allies. We also have to be able to produce for our own needs in our own time. We understand our terrain. We understand our waters, our skies, our threats, and our people the best. So, we can develop equipment that best suits our needs," he added.

During the public hearings by the Senate Committee on National Defense and Security, Peace, Unification and Reconciliation chaired by Estrada, the DND said the majority of the country's defense acquisitions are done through government-to-government procurement.

"In 2022, military-related imports totaled approximately USD305 million, while arms-related exports amounted only to USD85 million. We aim to cure this significantly lopsided trade imbalance by providing incentives and government support to the local defense industry, and in the process stimulate job generation, promote transfer of advanced technologies, and expand our exports sector," Estrada said in his sponsorship speech.

"This representation firmly believes that we have enough resources we need in our midst – manpower assets, natural resources, and Filipino ingenuity forged by our long history and tradition of seafaring and craftsmanship. No doubt, we have the capability to develop our own. We just have to throw our full support and lay down policies that will catalyze its growth, and exercise political will and strategic foresight to sustain its development," he added.

Estrada said the SRDP Program was initially conceived and implemented during the 1970s which successfully met the basic requirements of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) through joint ventures and partnerships with the private sector to produce all-terrain light vehicles, radio for the operating troops, rifles, pistols and small arms ammunition, and textile industry that supplied close to 100 percent of the military's clothing requirements.

Under SB 2455, the SRDP shall be designed to prioritize local employment and contribute to foreign currency exchange savings; incentivize manufacturers to establish or relocate production or assembly of materiel in the Philippines, while ensuring protection of local counterparts against unfair competition; promote technology transfer; drive proactive research and development efforts and the adoption of innovative technologies; and promote the export of locally-made materiel to other countries.

It also proposes the rationalization of defense acquisition by providing preferential terms to domestic suppliers and in-country enterprises, under the "Filipino First" policy.

Comelec, DND, AFP fortify partnership for peaceful BSKE

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 29, 2023): Comelec, DND, AFP fortify partnership for peaceful BSKE (By Stephanie Sevillano and Priam Nepomuceno)

PARTNERSHIP. Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairperson George Erwin Garcia (2nd from left) holds a signed memorandum of agreement (MOA) with Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. (center) and AFP chief Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr. (2nd from right), during the signing ceremony held at the Department of National Defense, Camp General Emilio Aguinaldo in Quezon City on Thursday (Sept. 28, 2023). The MOA aims to boost their partnership in support of the poll body's campaign for the Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections. (Photo courtesy of Comelec)

MANILA – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Thursday inked a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with the Department of National Defense (DND) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to ensure a safe and peaceful Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections (BSKE) on Oct. 30.

"Nagpirmahan kami ng memorandum of agreement (MOA) para tulungan nila tayo hindi lamang sa tinatawag nating kontra bigay, na laban sa vote buying at vote selling, kundi hiningi na rin natin ng tulong ng Armed Forces of the Philippines sa mga areas na binanggit ko kanina gaya ng sa Bangsamoro (We signed a MOA for them to help us, not only in Kontra Bigay or [the campaign] against vote buying and vote selling, but we also asked help from the AFP [in monitoring] areas I have earlier mentioned, like the Bangsamoro [Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao])," Comelec chairperson George Erwin Garcia said in a press conference.

Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr., meanwhile, said his department and the military would work with the poll body to ensure orderly village and youth polls, which he described as a vital foundation of the country’s democracy.

Under the MOA, the DND would assist the poll body’s Committee on Kontra Bigay that was formed to combat vote buying and promote collective efforts to remove its influence on the democratic process.

“Ito po ay talagang talamak na nagpo-pollute sa ating demokrasya. Ang tao, naiimpluwensyahan ng mga bagay na hindi kanais-nais. Kaya po ang fault niyan ay nasa namimigay (These actions pollute our democracy. People get influenced by undesirable things. That is the fault of those giving [bribes during elections])," Teodoro said.

Meanwhile, AFP chief Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr. signed a separate MOA with Garcia, where the poll body deputizes the military to ensure free, orderly, and peaceful barangay elections.

The AFP chief subsequently received from Comelec a check worth PHP40 million as a support fund for the military’s administrative, operational, and logistical needs as they perform their functions relative to the upcoming elections.

Election hotspots

Garcia, meanwhile, confirmed that he has received the initial list of 246 barangays under the red category of the election hotspot list from the Philippine National Police (PNP).

He, however, said the poll body has yet to look into the list of these barangays for monitoring.

Garcia said he also plans to meet with authorities in Socorro, Surigao del Norte this week, even though it is not classified as an area of concern.

He noted that Socorro’s residents must be able to cast their votes "without pressure," despite hounding issues involving the Socorro Bayanihan Services, Inc. (SBSI).

"Sana di maapektuhan yung ating halalan (We hope that the election would not be affected), otherwise, the Comelec will have to enforce the law and utilize all the resources and the powers provided for by the Constitution to ensure that the right to suffrage is protected," Garcia said.

Two polls in 2025

Garcia said its partnership with DND and AFP for the 2023 polls would help them prepare for two consecutive elections in 2025 – the midterm elections and the next BSKE.

He, however, mentioned how the DND and AFP underscored the need to attain peace and order before the election proper for them to focus on external defense.

"Nafo-focus ang kanilang pwersa, ang kanilang energy, ang kanilang resources dito sa pagsisigurado na magiging maayos at malinis ang ating halalan (Their forces, energy, and resources are focused on ensuring an orderly and clean elections)," Garcia said.

"Samantalang kung tayo ay masisiguro na nating maayos prior to elections, focused sila sa panlabas, alam naman natin ang kinakaharap na problema (While if we could ensure that everything is in order before the elections, [they can be] focused on external affairs, we know the problems we are facing right now)."

To date, the poll body is also planning to file a motion for reconsideration to move the conduct of the BSKE 2025 to 2026, following the decision of the Supreme Court.

In June, the high court declared unconstitutional Republic Act 11935 moving the village and youth polls from Dec. 5, 2022 to the last Monday of October 2023.

However, it recognized the legal practicality and necessity to proceed with the polls this year.

"Handa naman ang Comelec, kaya lang medyo magkakaroon tayo ng sobra na extra effort para lang po mapaghandaan 'yung eleksyon para sa 2025 (The Comelec is ready, but we might need extra effort to prepare for the 2025 elections)," he said.

The poll body said the motion for reconsideration shall be based on the grounds of "shortened term of BSKE, regularity and periodic election, and administrative and operational considerations."

DILG chief eyes mandatory peace education in all barangays

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 29, 2023): DILG chief eyes mandatory peace education in all barangays (By Christopher Lloyd Caliwan))

DILG Secretary Benjamin Abalos Jr. (File photo)

MANILA – Peace education efforts must be made mandatory in all villages nationwide and included in the criteria for the Seal of Good Local Governance (SGLG) awards.

Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Benjamin Abalos Jr. said he has started discussions with the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity (OPAPRU) to make the plan possible within three years through a training program to be led by the Local Government Academy.

Institutionalized under Republic Act 11292 or The Seal of Good Local Governance Act of 2019, the SGLG gauges local government units’ performance in governance areas such as financial administration and sustainability; disaster preparedness; and social protection and sensitivity, among others.

“This could be part of our program in peace, going to the grassroots and having a dialogue with the people. Knowing their needs and responding to them,” Abalos said in a news release Friday.

He also cited the possibility of holding peace education seminars for all elected Sangguniang Kabataan officers after the Oct. 30 village and youth polls.

Aside from the DILG, other government agencies such as the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) and the Department of Education (DepEd) also expressed their commitments to mainstreaming peace education in barangays and in basic and higher learning institutions during the 2nd National Peace Education Summit held Sept. 26 and 27.

CHED chair J. Prospero De Vera, in his message delivered by Commissioner Ronald Adamat, underscored the important role that higher education institutions have in building a more peaceful world.

“Our institutions of higher learning have a pivotal role to play in shaping the future of our society and by embracing peace education, we can pave the way for a more harmonious and just world. We should also promote peace and conflict-resolution research [and] creating a knowledge-based system that informs policies and practices worldwide,” read de Vera’s speech.

De Vera said the CHED has issued Memorandum Order (CMO) No. 1, s. 2019 which calls for the integration of peace education/studies into relevant higher education curricula, and CMO No. 42, s. 2021 which recommended guiding principles and practices on peace education for higher education institutions.

Vice President and DepEd Secretary Sara Z. Duterte extended her support to the OPAPRU for its “consistent efforts in promoting peace and unity across the country.”

“The 2nd National Peace Education Summit highlights the importance of reigniting education for peace and sustainable development towards a resilient Philippines. The event contributes to establishing a solid foundation for the future, bolstering national security, and molding the minds of our youth,” she added.

Duterte said the recently launched MATATAG curriculum teaches students to support peace, assist their families and communities, and prioritize education and vocations.

The MATATAG Curriculum primarily aims to decongest the current K to 12 curriculum and includes a reduction in the number of competencies. It is more focused on the development of foundational skills such as literacy, numeracy, and socio-emotional skills for kindergarten to Grade 3. (with report from Priam Nepomuceno/PNA)

Prompt, comprehensive benefits for PH troops assured under PBBM admin

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 29, 2023): Prompt, comprehensive benefits for PH troops assured under PBBM admin (By Ruth Abbey Gita-Carlos and Che Palicte)

GOV’T AID. President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. (4th from left) leads the distribution of assistance under the Comprehensive Social Benefits Program at the Dusit Thani Residence in Davao City on Friday (Sept. 29, 2023). The President is assisted by Interior and Local Government Secretary Benhur Abalos and Vice President Sara Z. Duterte (2nd and 3rd from left) in releasing aid for wounded military and police personnel and the beneficiaries of those killed in action. (PNA photo by Robinson Niñal)

MANILA – President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. on Friday directed concerned government agencies to ensure the effective implementation of the Comprehensive Social Benefits Program (CSBP) for the police and the military.

Marcos gave the order during the “PBBM: Pagpupugay Para sa Mga Bayani ng Bansang Makabayan” thanksgiving event with CSBP beneficiaries at the Dusit Thani Residence in Davao City.

He acknowledged the contributions of government troops who died or were wounded while performing their duties.

“Ang mga tulong medikal, pinansiyal, edukasyon, trabaho, pabahay, at iba pang mga social welfare assistance na kalakip ng CSBP ay nararapat lamang para sa inyo (at) sa mga pamilyang naulila ng mga magigiting nating kawal sa gitna ng labanan (The medical, financial, educational, employment, housing, and other social welfare assistances included in the CSBP are meant for you and the families bereaved by our brave soldiers in the line of duty),” the President said.

“Kung kaya naman, inaatasan ko ang mga kinauukulang ahensya na tiyakin ang maayos na implementasyon ng mga ito. Siguruhin ninyo ang mga benepisyo ay mabilis na makakarating sa ating mga mamamayan. Sa pagsulong ng Bagong Pilipinas, lahat ng mga Pilipino ay uunlad at magiging katuwang sa transpormasyon na ito (That is why I am directing the concerned agencies to ensure the proper implementation of this program. Make sure the benefits reach our citizens immediately. As the New Philippines advances, all Filipinos will prosper and be partners in this transformation).”

Marcos assured that his administration would continue to provide support to military and police personnel who are fulfilling their mandates to serve and protect the country.

The country, he said, could never repay the service they provide to keep it “peaceful, safe, and orderly.”

“Ang kanilang sakripisyo ay hindi natin malilimutan. Ito ay bahagi ng ating kolektibong kamalayan. Sa puntong ito, nais din nating ipagdiwang ang tagumpay ng programang Comprehensive Social Benefits Program o CSBP. Sigurado akong lahat kayo (rito) ngayon ay natulungan na nito (Their sacrifice will never be forgotten. It is part of our collective consciousness. At this point, we also want to celebrate the success of the Comprehensive Social Benefits Program or CSBP. I'm sure all of you here now have received assistance from this),” he said.

Under Executive Order (EO) 110 signed by former president Rodrigo Duterte on April 7, 2020, the CSBP provides different types of benefits and assistance, such as “special financial assistance, scholarship, special welfare assistance, health and medical care assistance, shelter assistance, and employment assistance.”

Wounded military and police personnel, as well as the qualified beneficiaries of killed soldiers and police officers, are eligible to avail of the assistance.

Uniformed personnel of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology, Bureau of Fire Protection, and Philippine Coast Guard and members of the Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit (CAFGU Active Auxiliary Units) may also benefit from CSBP.

“There is a need to enhance and rationalize existing assistance and benefits given to police, military, and their support units through a comprehensive social benefits program in recognition of their invaluable contribution to the pursuit of just and lasting peace,” read EO 110.

Since 2016, the government has provided PHP777.20 million worth of financial and shelter assistance to the beneficiaries of uniformed personnel who were killed in action or operation.

Meanwhile, Davao City Mayor Sebastian Duterte, whose message was read by his sister, Vice President Sara Z. Duterte, thanked uniformed personnel for continuing to dedicate their lives to the service and protection of the country.

“We extend our deepest gratitude to each one of you for joining us in this assembly. Together, let us move forward in the spirit of gratitude, unity, and service to our nation,” Mayor Duterte said in his statement.

CSBP stands as a living tribute to the "bravery, gallantry, and unwavering resilience demonstrated by the heroes of our nation in the face of adversity," the mayor added.

Darean Dyn Camilosa, wife of Pfc. Philip Dante Camilosa who died in a C-130 crash in Jolo, Sulu in July 2021, thanked the national government for remembering their loved ones and paying tribute to their services.

“I thanked President Marcos for this opportunity and for honoring the contribution of our men in uniform,” she said in an interview.

Some of the beneficiaries received houses and lots worth PHP400,000 per unit, employment, scholarships and financial assistance.

Canadian Navy vessel docks in PH for ‘Samasama’ drills

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 30, 2023): Canadian Navy vessel docks in PH for ‘Samasama’ drills (By Joyce Ann L. Rocamora)

PORT CALL. The Canadian Navy frigate HMCS (His Majesty's Canadian Ships) Vancouver docks in Manila on Saturday (Sept. 30, 2023) for a goodwill visit and to show Canada’s commitment to its partnership with the Philippines and the broader Indo-Pacific region. It is the third Canadian ship to make a port call in the Philippines this year after the visits of HMCS Ottawa and MV Asterix. (PNA photo by Yancy Lim)

MANILA – The Canadian Navy frigate HMCS Vancouver has arrived in the Philippines to participate in the military drills between the Philippines and the United States next week.

Commander Meghan Coates, commanding officer of the HMCS Vancouver, said this is the first time for Canada to join the Exercise Samasama.

The HMCS docked in Manila on Friday.

“Vancouver's participation in ‘Samasama’ is to promote regional security cooperation, maintain and strengthen maritime partnerships, and enhance maritime interoperability,” Coates said at a press conference aboard the warship on Saturday.

“We are honored by the opportunity to participate in this complex exercise, highlighting the collaboration between like-minded partners, training and real-world environments.”

The Canadian Armed Forces members, she said, would participate in the medical, legal, women, peace, and security activities during the drill’s shore phase.

The vessel's sea phase participation, on the other hand, will focus on partner building, maritime domain awareness, search and rescue, and humanitarian and disaster relief operations, among others.

Coates said this participation reflects Canada’s commitment to increasing its engagement with regional partners and keeping the Indo-Pacific stable.

The HMCS Vancouver is the third Royal Canadian Navy ship to visit the Philippines this year after the HMCS Ottawa and Naval Replenishment Unit MV Asterix.

This is also Vancouver's second deployment to the Philippines after a port visit in 2022.

“Samasama,” scheduled from Oct. 2 to 13, is a bilateral exercise between the United States Navy and the Philippine Navy to boost the latter’s warfare capabilities for maritime security operations.

Apart from Canada, the drills also involve Japan, Australia, France, and the United Kingdom through subject-matter expert exchanges (SMEEs) and humanitarian assistance and disaster response (HADR) tabletop events.

Indonesia and New Zealand will send observers.

Canadian Ambassador David Hartman said Canada’s “augmented presence” in the region is a result of its 2022 Indo-Pacific Strategy (IPS), which places the Philippines as a core partner.

”The physical manifestation of having three of our naval vessels here in the last two weeks is a very concrete illustration of our commitment to the Philippines, our commitment to our regional partners,” he said.

Canada’s non-resident Defense Attaché to the Philippines, Col. Stewart Taylor, said Ottawa would increase its vessels in the region and join more naval exercises similar to “Samasama” in the future.

“We have a very friendly relationship that continues to grow. And the IPS really gives us the impetus and the resources that we need to bring it to the next level,” he added.

Starting Oct. 1, the Embassy said Canada would also post a permanent defense attaché in the Philippines.

NICA chief bats for disciplined, patriotic ‘modern-day’ leaders

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 30, 2023): NICA chief bats for disciplined, patriotic ‘modern-day’ leaders (By Noemi Reyes)

MODERN-DAY LEADERS. National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA) Director General Ricardo de Leon (left) delivers a speech during the Alumni Homecoming of the Master in Public Safety Administration and Master in Crisis and Disaster Risk Management programs of the Philippine Public Safety College, at the Heroes Hall of PPSC in Old Balara, Quezon City on Friday (Sept. 29, 2023). De Leon urged the PPSC leadership to inculcate discipline, love, and patriotism to build more modern-day leaders under the Bagong Pilipinas program. (PNA photo by Ben Briones)

MANILA – National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA) Director General Ricardo de Leon has urged the Philippine Public Safety College (PPSC) to keep inculcating national discipline, love, and patriotism to build more “modern-day leaders” under the Bagong Pilipinas program of the Marcos administration.

De Leon made this call in his speech during the Alumni Homecoming of the PPSC’s Master in Public Safety Administration (MPSA) and Master in Crisis and Disaster Risk Management (MCDRM) programs, held at the Heroes Hall of PPSC in Old Balara, Quezon City on Friday.

“The foundations of knowledge and skills you have received have empowered you to make a positive impact in our nation and the world,” he said. “Let us build and sustain academic programs that nurture responsive and capable leaders that are proficient in navigating the complex and dynamic challenges of our times.”

The former president of PPSC said the institution has pursued academic programs that empowered and equipped individuals with the vital skills, knowledge, and leadership qualities “that make you capable of overcoming obstacles that jeopardize the well-being of the people and prosperity of the nation.”

“I would like to veer away from the word ideology, but it is really the ideology. When we will have that kind of national discipline, when we have that love and patriotism already inculcated until we are now sure of the national identity of the Filipinos, I think we can go farther,” he said.

De Leon said the foundations of knowledge and skills that the PPSC has taught have empowered every individual “to make a positive impact in our nation and the world.”

“Let us build and sustain academic programs that nurture responsive and capable leaders that are proficient in navigating the complex and dynamic challenges of our times,” he added.

De Leon, a former police general, cited the MPSA and MCDRM as examples of innovative approaches to governance and disaster management, which he had initiated during his presidency.

He expressed optimism that under the leadership of Ding Sevilla, the PPSC would continue to mold modern-day leaders with new ideas to build the Bagong Pilipinas.

“Yes, kayo po ang modern-day leaders, but the responsibility nasa ating kamay. Tanggapin po natin yan at ako po’y naniniwala na tayo po’y magkakaroon ng Bagong Pilipinas (Yes, you are the modern-day leaders, but the responsibility is in our hands. Accept that and I believe we will have a new Philippines),” he said.

The Bagong Pilipinas program of President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. is a new governance characterized by a "principled, accountable and dependable government reinforced by unified institutions of society, whose common objective is to realize the goals and aspirations of every Filipino."

During the event, Assistant Secretary Adolfo Ares P. Gutierrez, Deputy Director General of the Philippine Information Agency; Assistant Director General Jonathan Malaya of the National Security Council; and PPSC president, retired Brig Gen. Ferdinando G. Sevilla, were given awards.

The PPSC is one of the bureaus under the Department of the Interior and Local Government that is dedicated to training members of the Philippine National Police, Bureau of Fire Protection, and Bureau of Jail Management and Penology.

US exploring options to help PH, SEA states boost maritime defense

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 30, 2023): US exploring options to help PH, SEA states boost maritime defense (By Joyce Ann L. Rocamora)

Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Lindsey Ford during the US congressional hearing on the situation in the South China Sea (Screengrab from US House of Representative Committee on Foreign Affairs feed)

MANILA – The United States is identifying ways to help boost the maritime security capabilities of Southeast Asian states, including the Philippines, in the South China Sea, the US Department of Defense (DOD) said Friday.

Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Lindsey Ford made the statement at a US congressional hearing as she took note of China’s “broader efforts” to expand its military footprint in the South China Sea.

“While our allies and partners have taken great steps to stand up for our shared vision, the DOD is taking an increasingly proactive approach to counter PRC (People’s Republic of China) coercion,” she said.

“We are laser-focused on identifying new and cost-effective emerging technologies that will bring greater capability to our allies and partners more quickly.”

Ford said since 2016, the DOD has allocated more than USD475 million in capabilities to allow its partners in Southeast Asia “to sense, share, and contribute to regional maritime security” in the region.

She said the DOD is exploring the possibility of providing its allies with unmanned surface and subsurface systems for situational awareness, mesh networks for at-sea communications, undersea sensing, and expeditionary logistics capabilities, such as 3D printing and modular at-sea resupply.

Delivery of these systems, she said, will also be complemented with system-specific training, tactics, techniques, and procedures for creative employment options.

In her submitted statement to the US House of Representative Committee on Foreign Affairs hearing, “Lasers and Water Cannons: Exposing China’s Harassment in the South China,” Ford argued that China’s actions over the contested region are not isolated incidents.

“These actions demonstrate a pattern of increasingly risky and coercive behavior, a manifestation of PRC’s growing willingness to use its military instrument of power to achieve its foreign policy objectives,” she said.

Ford pointed out that China, over the past decades, added “more than 3,200 acres of land to its seven occupied outposts” in the Spratlys, which now feature airfields, berthing areas, and resupply facilities.

Since 2018, she said, China has “steadily equipped its Spratly Island outposts, including Mischief Reef, Subi Reef, and Fiery Cross, with an increasing array of military capabilities.”

Ford said China uses these outposts “to support People’s Armed Forces Maritime Militia (PAFMM) vessels, People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) deployments, and China Coast Guard (CCG) operations in the South China Sea, including routine harassment of Southeast Asian nations’ vessels and assets, undermining these nations’ sovereign rights under international law.”

“We’ve witnessed a sharp uptick in coercive and risky operational behavior by the PRC, threatening the safety not only of US forces but of allied and partner forces operating in the South China Sea,” she said.

Rep. Young Kim of California's 40th congressional district, chair of the House Subcommittee on Indo-Pacific, said she has witnessed the situation over the disputed waters and agrees that the US must support the small littoral states in the region.

Kim last month led a bipartisan congressional delegation to the Philippines and flew on a mission with the US Navy over the South China Sea.

“(What) we saw is congestion. Instead of open water, we saw civilian fishing fleets from South Asian countries, patrols from the Philippine Coast Guard, and vessels from PLA Navy and Chinese Coast Guard – by far the largest and the most common vessels in the sea, all vying for the same waters and islets,” she said.

She added that when they flew near the BRP Sierra Madre in the Ayungin, the Chinese Navy radioed their aircraft and demanded that their plane turn around while claiming they were flying over “Chinese territorial waters.”

“This was clearly a bullying tactic, intimidation tactic. Our partners in the region need our help, and our allies are questioning if the US will be there to help if CCP (Chinese Communist Party) escalates aggression in the South China Sea,” she said.

“Congress must take the CCP’s aggression in the South China Sea seriously and ensure that our allied nations are getting the assurances that they need. This starts with ensuring our military is supporting these countries’ maritime domain awareness missions.”

Kim said the US must also strengthen its economic relations with Southeast Asian states, adding that the Biden administration’s rhetoric about trade in the region has been positive “but has not been met with deliverable.”

On Thursday, Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin said the Philippines is “seriously” studying the case buildup against China in the wake of its installation of floating barriers at the Scarborough Shoal, also known as Bajo de Masinloc.

The barriers have been removed as ordered by President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.

“We have always conducted our relations, (our) foreign policy on a strictly diplomatic tact. Wala tayong (We do not have) aggressiveness or aggression or what,” Bersamin said in an interview. “But whether or not we will file another case against China is one of the options, and I think our lawyers are seriously giving this a study.”

In a media interview on the sidelines of rice distribution in Siargao Island, Surigao del Norte on Friday, Marcos said he would always assert the country’s rights over Philippine waters, but clarified that he is not picking a fight with China.

“Hindi tayo naghahanap ng gulo. Basta gagawin natin, patuloy nating ipagtatanggol ang Pilipinas, ang maritime territory ng Pilipinas, ang mga karapatan ng mga fishermen natin na mangisda doon sa mga areas kung saan sila nangingisda daang-daang taon na (We are not looking for trouble. What we will do is continue defending the Philippines, the maritime territory of the Philippines, the rights of our fishermen who have been fishing there for hundreds of years),” he said.

He added that he would not allow foreign entities to put up a barrier “that is within the Philippines.”

“But in terms of taking down the barrier, I don’t see what else we could do dahil talaga ‘yung mga fishermen, noong pinutol ‘yong tali, ‘yung mga nakapasok na fishermen noong araw na ‘yun, nakahuli sila ng 164 tons na isda. So, sa isang araw pa lang ‘yun (because when the barrier was removed, the fishermen who entered that day caught 164 tons of fish. So, that was just in one day),” Marcos said.

Army rejects HR violation claims, welcomes probe on Negros clash

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 26, 2023): Army rejects HR violation claims, welcomes probe on Negros clash (By Nanette Guadalquiver)

RECOVERED. The Philippine Army’s 47th Infantry Battalion recovered a caliber .45 pistol with serial number 005075 AFP issued to the late Sgt. Regie Glindro after an encounter that claimed the lives of six CPP-NPA rebels in the hinterlands of Kabankalan City, Negros Occidental on Sept. 21, 2023. Glindro was one of the two soldiers executed by the communist terrorists in Sipalay City in November last year. (Photo courtesy of 47th Infantry Battalion, Philippine Army)

BACOLOD CITY – The Philippine Army’s 3rd Infantry Division (ID) has dismissed claims of human rights violation as it welcomed any independent investigation on the clash that claimed the lives of six Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) fighters in Kabankalan City, Negros Occidental last week.

Maj. Gen. Marion Sison, commander of 3ID, said soldiers “strictly follow” the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) rules of engagements “at all times” and are “reminded to always observe and abide by the provisions of the International Humanitarian Law and the Rule of Law”.

“We are confident and we firmly believe the said encounter was a legitimate one. We welcome any inquiry to this effect by any independent party,” Sison said in a statement Monday night.

He added that the investigation would “eventually clear and vindicate” them from various allegations of human rights violation.

On the night of Sept. 21, troops of the 47th Infantry Battalion engaged a group of communist rebels who fired at them in Sitio Lubi, Barangay Tabugon, the 3ID said in a previous report.

Soldiers responded to the reported presence of armed men demanding food and money from the residents, it added.

Sison said the claims against the soldiers are “mere propaganda designed to discredit security forces and purposely crafted to ignite the ire of the populace against the government.”

“Those who died in the said encounter were top cadres of the communist-terrorist group. Their long record of notoriety is well-known in southern Negros or the CHICKS (Candoni, Hinobaan, Ilog, Cauayan, Kabankalan, and Sipalay) area,” the Army official said.

The fatalities, all from NPA South West Front (SWF) Squad 2 of Sangay Yunit Propaganda Platoon 3, were identified as Alejo “Peter/Bravo” de los Reyes, squad leader, and his wife Melissa “Diane” de la Peña; Marjon “Kenneth” Alvior, vice leader of Squad 2; Bobby “Recoy” Pedro, vice leader of Squad 3; and Mario “Reco/Goring” Fajardo Mullon, medic of Squad 1.

The sixth fatality, a female, has yet to be identified.

Information released by the 3ID showed that in the past three years, the group was responsible for various atrocities, including the killing of church pastor Lonie Lahaolahao, the ambush of two soldiers, and the burning of construction equipment in Sipalay City; the ambush of two other Army personnel in Cauayan; torching of construction equipment in Kabankalan City; and shooting to death of an Ilog resident.

One of the firearms recovered by troops after the encounter was a caliber .45 pistol, with serial number 005075 AFP issued to Sgt. Regie Glindro, one of the two soldiers executed by the NPA rebels in Sipalay City in November last year.

Sison enjoined Negrenses to be “more discerning about the (CPP-NPA) narratives.”

“We should not simply accept and believe their messaging hook, line and sinker. We appeal to the public to exercise discretion towards this end,” he added.

On Monday, Vincent Parra, officer-in-charge of the Commission on Human Rights in Negros Occidental, said their team will proceed to Kabankalan City this coming Sept.28 to start an investigation into the encounter.

“We have to know who were the six who died. We don’t have information on it yet. There is a claim that the six were ambushed. We have to validate it. All these are still allegations,” he told reporters.

Parra said they also have to conduct a motu proprio investigation since among those involved were from the vulnerable sector, particularly women, one of whom was believed to be pregnant.

Kin of 6 slain NPA rebels in Negros get gov’t aid

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 27, 2023): Kin of 6 slain NPA rebels in Negros get gov’t aid (By Nanette Guadalquiver)

GOV’T AID. 1Lt. Charmaine Sancho (2nd from right), civil-military operations officer of the 47th Infantry Battalion, helps family members of the slain New People’s Army fighters during the release of the cash assistance by the Department of Social Welfare and Development at Kabankalan City Social Development Welfare Office on Monday (Sept. 25, 2023). Six communist rebels died in a clash with government troops in the hinterlands of Kabankalan City, Negros Occidental on Sept. 21 . (PNA photo courtesy of 47th Infantry Battalion, Philippine Army)

BACOLOD CITY – The Department of Social Welfare and Development-Western Visayas (DSWD-6) has provided financial and funeral assistance to the families of the six New People’s Army (NPA) rebels who were killed in a clash with troops of the Philippine Army’s 47th Infantry Battalion (IB) in Kabankalan City, Negros Occidental on Sept. 21.

47IB civil-military operations officer 1Lt. Charmaine Sancho on Wednesday said all bodies were identified and claimed by their respective next of kin.

Together with Kabankalan Mayor Benjie Miranda, Sancho witnessed the release of the PHP10,000 cash aid to each family representative of the five fatalities from Negros Occidental at the City Social Development Welfare Office (CSWDO) on Monday.

The fatalities, all from NPA South West Front Squad 2 of Sangay Yunit Propaganda Platoon 3, were identified as Pedro Pillar Jabalde, 31, of Barangay Malabuyucon Buenavista, Guihulngan City, Negros Oriental; the squad leader initially identified as Alejo “Peter/Bravo” de los Reyes; Ruben de la Cruz Gaitan, 31,of Barangay Camansi, Kabankalan City; Bobby Totin Pedro, 28, of Barangay Tabu, Ilog; Mario Fajardo Mollon, 60, of Barangay Cabia-an, Candoni; Melisa Hiro de la Peña, 23, of Barangay Inayawan, Cauayan; and Janesa Malasabas Romano, 22, of Barangay Buenavista, Himamaylan City.

The release of the cash assistance for the family of the fatality from Guihungan is being processed, Sancho said.

The Kabankalan City government also provided cash assistance and food packs to Gaitan’s family, while the other local governments, where the other fatalities came from, also granted burial assistance to their families.

Troops of the 47IB clashed with the group of communist rebels, led by Jabalde, who fired at them in Sitio Lubi, Barangay Tabugon while responding to the reported presence of armed men demanding food and money from the locals.

Maj. Gen. Marion Sison, commander of the 3rd Infantry Division, dismissed claims the soldiers committed human rights violations during the encounter, saying the operation was legitimate and welcomed any inquiry by any independent party.

“Those who died in the said encounter were top cadres of the communist-terrorist group. Their long record of notoriety is well-known in southern Negros or the CHICKS (Candoni, Hinobaan, Ilog, Cauayan, Kabankalan, and Sipalay) area,” he said in a statement on Monday.

E. Samar town remembers America’s defeat at Balangiga encounter

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 29, 2023): E. Samar town remembers America’s defeat at Balangiga encounter (By Sarwell Meniano)

HISTORIC. The public plaza of the historic town of Balangiga in Eastern Samar in this photo taken on Sept. 28, 2023. The town marked on Thursday (Sept. 28, 2023) the 122nd Balangiga Encounter Day, remembering America's greatest defeat at the hands of Filipinos. (Photo courtesy Contessa Maricar Amano)

TACLOBAN CITY – The historic town of Balangiga in Eastern Samar marked on Thursday the 122nd Balangiga Encounter Day, remembering America's greatest defeat at the hands of Filipinos.

The activity started with a civic-military parade and wreath-laying ceremony at the monument of Valeriano Abanador, a local hero.

During the commemoration, Mayor Dana Flynch de Lira reminded her constituents of the struggles of the past generation to gain the freedom that the town earned today.

“The Balangiga Encounter serves as a reminder that we should never forget the struggles and sacrifices of those who came before us as they have laid the foundation for the freedom and independence we enjoy today,” de Lira said as she led the simple ceremony, attended by Department of Tourism 8 (Eastern Visayas) Director Karina Rosa Tiopes.

Tiopes, who served as the guest speaker, thanked the people of Balangiga for keeping the spirit of heroism in their town, which she said, has figured prominently in both Philippine and American history.

“This historic encounter has since turned the once quiet town of Balangiga into a national symbol of unity. The history reminds us of enduring Filipino courage,” she said during her speech.

In a video message, United States Ambassador to the Philippines MaryKay Loss Carlson extended her greeting to the town and recalled her visit to the historic municipality on Oct. 19, 2022.

“I was honored to be the first US ambassador to see the famous bells in their rightful place and to hear from your leaders about your rich history and prospects of the future. These are memories I will always treasure,” Carlson said.

The Balangiga Encounter happened on Sept. 28, 1901, when town residents led by Valeriano Abanador initiated the attack against US soldiers.

The villagers killed 54 American soldiers using bolos.

It was the biggest defeat of the foreign troops during the Philippine-American war.

However, about 2,500 Filipinos were killed by the Americans’ retaliatory attack.

The Americans took the Balangiga Bells after they turned the town into a “howling wilderness.”

After 117 years, the US government returned the bells to the country nearly two years ago.

Then President Rodrigo Duterte witnessed the repatriation ceremony held on Dec. 15, 2018, in Balangiga.

Balangiga is about 98 km. east of Tacloban City. It is a fourth-class town in Eastern Samar, with a population of 14,085.

12 NPA rebels surrender in northern Negros

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 29, 2023): 12 NPA rebels surrender in northern Negros (By Nanette Guadalquiver)

SURRENDER. A former combatant of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army hands over his firearm to Brig. Gen. Orlando Edralin, commander of the Philippine Army's 303rd Infantry Brigade, in rites held at the 79th Infantry Battalion headquarters in Sagay City, Negros Occidental on Friday (Sept. 29, 2023). He is one of the 12 rebels under the dismantled NPA Northern Negros Front who surrendered to the authorities in recent months. (Photo courtesy of 79th IB, Philippine Army)

BACOLOD CITY – Unfulfilled promises and hunger while on the run led 12 Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) rebels, including a ranking front official, to surrender to government forces in northern Negros Occidental in recent months.

The surrenderers, who belonged to the
Northern Negros Front (NNF), were from the cities of Escalante, Sagay, and San Carlos and the municipalities of Toboso and Calatrava.

“This event is a milestone. It marks a step towards achieving lasting peace and stability in northern Negros,” said Lt. Col. Arnel Calaoagan, commander of the Philippine Army’s 79th Infantry Battalion (IB).

Calaoagan, together with local officials of the Philippine National Police (PNP), presented the surrenderers to Brig. Gen. Orlando Edralin, commander of 303rd Infantry Brigade, and representatives of concerned local government units (LGUs) in rites held at the battalion headquarters in Sagay City on Friday.

They took their oaths of allegiance to the Philippine government before Escalante City legal officer Charo-Tupas Fajardo.

The former rebels, who also turned over several firearms with ammunition, received cash assistance and sacks of rice from their respective LGUs, 79IB, PNP Special Action Force and Negros Occidental Provincial Mobile Force Company.

Capt. Dan Carlo Samoza, civil-military operations officer of 79IB, said the former rebels are now in their custody while processing documents for their benefits under the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (ECLIP).

ECLIP provides a financial package for immediate assistance, provision of the reintegration process, starting capital for livelihood, and remunerating surrendered firearms.

Samoza said among those who surrendered were the secretary and squad leaders of the dismantled NNF, whose ages range from early 20s to 40s.

Some stayed in the armed struggle for about a year, while others were communist rebels for over five years.

“This is a result of the massive campaign operation of the 79IB together with the PNP to encourage them to surrender. There were promises made by the CPP-NPA that were never fulfilled. They also experienced hunger. They also realized they lost so much time to be with their families,” Samoza said.

Military warns NGOs ‘aiding’ CPP-NPA

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 29, 2023): Military warns NGOs ‘aiding’ CPP-NPA (By John Rey Saavedra)

Visayas Command chief Lt. Gen. Benedict Arevalo. (PNA file photo)

CEBU CITY – The Visayas Command (Viscom) on Friday said non-government organizations (NGOs) aiding the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) should stop activities of raising revenues to help fund the operation of the underground movement as it will get them in trouble.

“Aiding, conspiring, and providing financial support to the terrorist group is a crime punishable under our law. For those who are doing this, we urge you to stop,” Visayas Command chief, Lt. Gen. Benedict Arevalo, said in a statement.

The military and the police, he said, are determined to end the local communist armed conflict in the Visayas and “will not hesitate to enforce the full extent of the law to bring justice for our people who have been the victims of these nefarious acts.”

Arevalo’s statement came as the Department of Justice (DOJ) conducted Thursday a preliminary hearing against 25 members of the
Community Empowerment Resource Network (CERNET) who are facing charges of violation of the Republic Act 10168 or the Terrorism Financing Prevention and Suppression Act of 2012.

The case against CERNET was filed by Brig. Gen. Joey Escanillas, chief of 302nd Infantry Brigade, before the Office of the City Prosecutor in Cebu.

“They cannot hide under the guise of cause-oriented and advocacy support groups forever. The law will not turn a blind eye on their deception, corruption, and terrorist acts. Justice will be served for all the menace they’ve caused to the Filipino people,” Arevalo said.

The NGO is registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission here but operating in the entire Visayas.

According to Escanillas, the organization has been utilized allegedly by the CPP-NPA as a front for its fund generation scheme since 2001.

Meanwhile, at a rally in front of the entrance road leading to the DOJ-Cebu on Thursday, a representative of CERNET, who refused to be named, said they will work for the dismissal of the case, saying their act of helping the poor and marginalized should never be branded as terrorism.

The funding agencies that helped the NGO have been validating their proposals, he said.

3 NPA rebels killed in clash with soldiers in Iloilo town

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 29, 2023): 3 NPA rebels killed in clash with soldiers in Iloilo town (By Perla Lena)

ENCOUNTER. Philippine Army troops scour the site of a clash with the Communist Party of the Philippines- New People's Army (NPA) in a remote barangay of Leon, Iloilo in August. Leon Municipal Police Station officer-in-charge PLt. Danilo L. Noca said three rebels were killed in another encounter in a far-flung area of Leon town on Friday (Sept. 29, 2023). (File photo courtesy of P/Lt. Danilo L. Noca/Leon MPS)

ILOILO CITY – Three fighters of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army (NPA) were killed in an encounter with troops of the Philippine Army's 61st Infantry Battalion (6IB) in the boundary of far-flung barangays of Leon, Iloilo on Friday.

“There were three casualties on the part of the NPA and none from the 61st IB. They recovered two M-16 armalite rifles, assorted belongings, and subversive documents,” Leon Municipal Police Station (MPS) officer-in-charge PLt. Danilo L. Noca, said in an interview.

The rebels who fought with the soldiers were members of the
NPA's Sibat Platoon, Southern Front, Komiteng Rehiyon-Panay.

The encounter happened at the boundary of Barangays Cagay and Danao, approximately 1.5 to two kilometers from the last clash in Barangay Camandag on Sept. 12.

Barangay Cagay is around 25 kilometers from the town proper, while the site of the encounter is five to six kilometers or a 12-hour walk from the barangay proper.

Noca said the remains of the fatalities would arrive at the nearest accessible barangay probably in the afternoon of Sept. 30, given the terrain and the distance that would be trekked by government troops.

“It is almost at the boundary of Leon and San Remigio, Antique,” he said, adding that the area already serves as a corridor of the NPA.

Last month, a political instructor and finance officer of the Southern Front were also killed after sustaining injuries in a three-minute firefight with government troops in another remote barangay in Leon.

Meanwhile, the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division (3ID), in a statement, said the government troops responded to information from residents about the presence of armed men engaged in extortion and other criminal activities in the area.

The Philippine Army also reiterated its call for the rebels to lay down their arms.