Monday, January 22, 2024

595 3ID soldiers get promotion

From Panay News (Jan 23, 2024): 595 3ID soldiers get promotion (By Ruby P. Silubrico)


ILOILO City – A total of 595 enlisted personnel from the Philippine Army’s 3rd Infantry Division (3ID) received their new higher ranks.

Of the number, 314 were promoted to the rank of corporal while 281 others were promoted to the rank of sergeant.

The donning ceremony was held on Monday, Jan. 22, at the 3ID headquarters in Jamindan, Capiz and was led by 3ID commander Major General Marion Sison and assistant division commander Brigadier General Leonardo Peña.

Sison congratulated the newly promoted personnel, several of whom were part of the troops leading the 3ID’s successful campaign against insurgents in 2023.

“The 3ID will sustain the gains, continue the momentum, and focus on the campaign to dismantle the remaining guerrilla fronts in the Panay Front and Central Front of Komiteng-Rehiyon Panay. However, sometimes there were setbacks, but this will inspire us to continue our mission to eliminate and dismantle all existing guerilla fronts in Western and Central Visayas,” Sison added./PN

NPA with frustrated murder, theft cases nabbed

From the Visayan Daily Star (Jan 23, 2024): NPA with frustrated murder, theft cases nabbed (By GILBERT P. BAYORAN)

An alleged member of the New People’s Army who is facing charges for frustrated murder and theft, was arrested by the police and Army soldiers on January 21 in Sitio Cantupa, Brgy. Buenavista, Himamaylan City, Negros Occidental.

The arrested suspect, identified by the police as Rey Vincies de Leon, 29, has a pending arrest warrant for frustrated murder issued by Judge Walter Zorilla, who recommended a bail of P200,000.

The Himamaylan police, assisted by the 94th Infantry Battalion, 2nd Negros Occidental Provincial Mobile Force Company and the Regional Mobile Force Battalion 6, also served another arrest warrant to de Leon, for the crime of theft that has a recommended bail of P5,000.

De Leon is alleged by authorities to be a member of the Sentro De Grabidad Platoon of the dismantled Central Negros 2 guerilla front under the Komiteng Rehiyonal Negros, Cebu/Bohol/Siquijor.*

CSAFP dons higher rank to Negrense general, 4 others

From the Visayan Daily Star (Jan 23, 2024): CSAFP dons higher rank to Negrense general, 4 others (By GILBERT P. BAYORAN)

AFP chief Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr. dons new rank on Brig. Gen Eliglen Villaflor, Commander of Joint Special Operations Group, during the donning of ranks ceremony for promoted senior military officers on Jan. 22 at Camp Emilio Aguinaldo in Quezon City.* AFP photo

Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of staff Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr. yesterday led the donning of ranks ceremony for five promoted senior military officers, including Brig. Gen. Eliglen Villaflor of Bago City, Negros Occidental, at Camp Emilio Aguinaldo in Quezon City, Metro Manila.

Aside from Villaflor, who is the commander of the AFP Joint Special Operations Group, other honored officers were Maj. Gen. Jesus Nelson Morales, Commander of the Presidential Security Command; Brig. Gen Romulo Quemado II, commander of Philippine Marine Corps Coastal Defense Regiment, Brig. Gen Ronaldo Juan, deputy Presidential Security Command commander; and Brig. Gen Daniel Tansip, AFP Chaplain Service chief.

In a statement, Brawner Jr. said that the donning of ranks ceremony is a time-honored tradition of recognizing the well-earned promotions of military leaders, highlighting the principle of meritocracy that the AFP upholds and instills across its ranks.

“These individuals have demonstrated exceptional dedication to their duties in their years of service to the nation and the Filipino people,” he added.

On the other hand, the AFP also designated Col. Francel Margareth Padilla as its new first ever female spokesperson.

Padilla, a member of the PMA Class 2000, succeeded Col. Medel Aguilar, who held the position for more than a year. She was recently installed as the Group Commander of the Media and Civil Affairs Group.*

CPP/Ang Bayan: Revolutionary groups put up streamers and posters in Rizal and Manila

Propaganda article from the English language edition of Ang Bayan posted to the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) Philippine Revolution Web Central (PRWC) Website (Jan 21, 2024): Revolutionary groups put up streamers and posters in Rizal and Manila

This article is available in PilipinoBisaya

January 21, 2024

Revolutionary organizations in Metro Manila and in the adjacent province of Rizal carried out oplan sabit and oplan dikit (streamer and poster operations) to celebrate the anniversary of the Communist Party of the Philippines and the revolutionary movement.

In Rizal, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)-Rizal hang streamers on January 9 in Antipolo City to commemorate the 55th anniversary of the Party and the first anniversary of the death of Comrade Jose Maria Sison. They hung two large streamers in the city market where many people pass by.

On EDSA Avenue in Metro Manila, members of the Artist and Writer of Sambayanan (Armas)-Balangay Marlon Caacbay posted artwork and painted on walls last week to celebrate the 37th anniversary of Armas. The group highlighted their support for the people’s war in the country to overthrow imperialism, feudalism and bureaucratic capitalism. The group also denounced the existing bourgeois-decadent culture rotting the country’s art and literature.

CPP/Ang Bayan: International groups condemn aerial bombing in Bukidnon

Propaganda article from the English language edition of Ang Bayan posted to the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) Philippine Revolution Web Central (PRWC) Website (Jan 21, 2024): Interna-tional groups condemn aerial bombing in Bukidnon

This article is available in Pilipino/Bisaya

January 21, 2024

The International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP) and Friends of the Filipino People in Struggle condemned the Armed Forces of the Philippines for the bombing of a New People’s Army (NPA) camp in Malaybalay City on December 25, 2023. The groups said the bombing, which used excessive or disproportionate force against the small and poorly-defended NPA camp, is against international humanitarian law (IHL).

They said such bombing is “inherently indiscriminate”, endangers the lives and livelihoods of civilians and causes extensive destruction to the environment. It disrupted peace, brought widespread fear, panic and trauma among residents in nearby communities and destroyed forest resources that serve as source of food and livelihood. The disproportionate force also inflicted unnecessary harm and suffering to Red fighters.

Meanwhile, 14 youth groups from the Philippines, India, Myanmar, Palestine, West Papua, the US and Canada came together to call for an end to the bombings in Palestine, India, Myanmar and the Philippines. They say the imperialists and their accomplices are using brazen bombing, strafing and shelling against civilians under the guise of “crushing” armed movements that prevail in the countries mentioned.

Youths condemned the killing of more than 24,000 Palestinians in Gaza by Zionist Israeli bombing. More than 70% of the victims were women, children and teenagers. They also denounced the aerial drone attacks in Bastar, Chattisgarh and Telengana in India and the ongoing bombing campaign of the Marcos regime in the Philippines. In Myanmar, groups condemned at least 643 airstrikes launched by the military junta that seized state power in 2021.

CPP/Ang Bayan: 62nd IB military abuses in Central Negros continues

Propaganda article from the English language edition of Ang Bayan posted to the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) Philippine Revolution Web Central (PRWC) Website (Jan 21, 2024): 62nd IB military abuses in Central Negros continues

This article is available in Pilipino/Bisaya

January 21, 2024

Units of the 62nd IB carried out a series of murders, attempted murders, harassment and other human rights violations on Negros island in recent weeks.

Soldiers abducted, tortured then killed two civilians in Barangay Sag-ang, La Castellana, Negros Occidental on the morning of January 17. To cover up their heinous crime, the soldiers made it appear that Boy Baloy, 60 years old, and Bernard Torres, 50, were killed in the military’s modus of fake encounter.

Baloy and Torres were picked up from their residence, taken away outside the community, subjected to intense interrogation, beaten and tortured, then shot by the butchers. Baloy is a member of Kaisahan sa Gamay’ng Mag-uuma sa Oriental Negros (KAUGMAON-Guihulngan Chapter), while Torres is a habal-habal driver and a member of the Undoc-Piston-Guihulngan Chapter. Since 2017, the two have repeatedly suffered intimidation and harassment by state forces and agents.

The two were not Red fighters, according to the New People’s Army (NPA)-Central Negros.

Attempted murder. Soldiers shot at farmer Cerilo Bagnoran Jr while riding his motorcycle and traveling in Crossing Cordova, Barangay Manghanoy, La Castellana on January 14. Bagnora was on his way home when three elements of the 62nd IB Charlie Company flagged him down at Crossing Cordova before opening fire.

Before the attempted killing of Bagnoran, he was being sought after by men who identified themselves as police on January 7 in his village. On January 8, 24 62nd IB soldiers operating at Sitio Mandayao-4, Barangay Kamandag, La Castellana were asking for him.

Intimidation. The Carreon family in Sitio Bonbon, Barangay Hinakpan, Guihulngan City was not spared from the state’s brutality and terrorism. About 40 troopers of the 62nd IB forcibly entered and ransacked the family’s house on the morning of January 14. The soldiers illegally ransacked the family’s belongings and searched for the house owner Bimbo Carreon. The military attack caused fear among the family, especially the children.

Meanwhile, in Cavite, farmers of Lupang Ramos in Dasmariñas were subjected to grave threats on January 15. Five Philippine Army Scout Ranger elements entered the said community in a military truck and opened fire on the residents. Farmers here have been fighting for their right to 372 hectares of land since 2014.

CPP/Ang Bayan: Conflicts among the ruling factions leading towards violent clash

Propaganda article from the English language edition of Ang Bayan posted to the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) Philippine Revolution Web Central (PRWC) Website (Jan 21, 2024): Conflicts among the ruling factions leading towards violent clash

This article is available in Pilipino/Bisaya

January 21, 2024

It was confirmed that International Criminal Court (ICC) personnel arrived in the Philippines to investigate the crimes against humanity case filed against Rodrigo Duterte and his accomplices. According to the lawyers of the victims, the investigation against Duterte is complete. The investigation into other named accomplices, including his daughter and current vice-president Sara Duterte, is also almost complete. It is probable that the court will issue an arrest warrant this year.

The court quietly conducted the investigation despite earlier repeated statements by the Marcos regime that it would not allow the ICC to enter the country. Earlier, the regime said it would “study” a resolution in Congress aimed at clarifying the status of the Philippines after it withdrew membership from the court in 2018.

These are part of Marcos’ steps to undermine the political and economic power of the Duterte clique, completely dissolving the alliance they formed during the last election. These are related to the US-Marcos regime’s initiatives to counter and push back China’s influence in the Philippines, in accordance with US dictates.

Since the end of its term, the Duterte clique has been relentlessly maneuvering to preserve its own political and economic interests. In the face of its dwindling power, it made numerous political maneuvers and schemes, including the plan to oust Ferdinand Marcos Jr. from power.

Duterte is mobilizing the generals he has enriched during his term to urge their men to “withdraw support” from the ruling faction.

In the last months of 2023, rumors circulated about the Duterte group’s preparation for a destabilization plan to oust Marcos from power through a coup. Officials close to Gloria Arroyo’s camp were also involved in the call to “withdraw support” from Marcos. There is information that the Duterte group allocated one billion pesos for this plan. Its main operator is former Col. Nicanor Faeldon, an official assigned by Duterte to the Bureau of Customs.

The Marcos clique actively thwarted these plans by further bribing the mercenary military to buy the loyalty of the generals. It withdrew plans to collect pension contributions, and set longer terms for appointed military chiefs to accommodate the generals’ desire to alternate among powerful positions and receive larger retirement bonuses. In collusion with the US, Marcos consolidated his hold on the military by pouring funds for the “modernization” of the AFP and the “repair” of facilities and camps. Such preparation also serves the permanent basing of US troops and military equipment in the country.

At the behest of the US, the Marcos regime revived the Counterintelligence Group (CIG) within the AFP on January 11. The CIG was a special unit set up in 1989 to counter coups launched against Corazon Aquino. According to the AFP, in addition to countering destabilization plans, it will also act against “infiltration, espionage and sabotage.”

Marcos is constantly putting pressure and depriving the Dutertes and Arroyo of power using Congress led by his cousin Martin Romualdez. At the same time, Marcos cancelled the large infrastructure contracts which the Duterte regime forged with the Chinese government and businesses.

The open rivalry between the Marcos, Arroyo and Duterte factions shows that the conflicts between the ruling factions have become irreconcilable. Sooner or later, the clash of these groups will lead to armed conflict. This reflects the depth of the economic and political crisis of the ruling semicolonial and semifeudal system resulting in the shrinking of the loot to be shared among greedy for wealth and power-hungry factions.

CPP/Ang Bayan: The NPA will outlast the US-Marcos regime

Propaganda article from the English language edition of Ang Bayan posted to the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) Philippine Revolution Web Central (PRWC) Website (Jan 21, 2024): The NPA will outlast the US-Marcos regime

This article is available in Pilipio/Bisaya

January 21, 2024

People were incredulous over Ferdinand Marcos Jr’s recent declaration that the New People’s Army (NPA) no longer has an “active guerrilla front” nationwide. Even the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) was forced to contradict it, although said that the supposedly 11 guerrilla fronts are “weakened”. According to AFP, the NPA only has 1,500 Red fighters by the end of 2023.

The statements of Marcos and the AFP serve the purpose of enticing foreign capitalists. They make it appear that the NPA is non-existent or weak to give large foreign companies all the opportunity to plunder the country’s land and natural resources.
Pouring funds and forces

The regime’s own actions belie their statements. Despite repeated declarations of a “paradigm shift” by the AFP, a large part of its battalions remain deployed in NPA territories. No military forces have been shifted to prepare for the much touted “external defense.”

Around 60,000-70,000 military and police combat troops (or 150 battalions of AFP and PNP counterinsurgency units) remain arrayed against the people’s army across the country. There are also the 50,000-strong paramilitary force and the construction of military camps in hundreds of barangays across the country. If the regime’s numbers of “remaining” Red fighters are true, the ratio of soldiers, police and paramilitaries to Red fighters will be 80:1.

Marcos also inflated the AFP budget by almost 40% from ₱203.4 billion last year to ₱282.7 billion this year. This includes the last-minute insertion of ₱6.17 billion by the bicameral committee of the Senate and Congress. Much of the military’s funding are for buying US-supplied jet fighters and drones used for the frenzied and decadent war of aerial bombing, artillery and all-out military operations in the countryside. The National Task Force-Elcac also received ₱3.18 billion.

In fact, focused military operations continue and are relentless, squandering large funds in many regions of the country. In Southern Mindanao, 19 battalions remain deployed under the control of the 10th ID despite the region being declared “insurgency-free” for more than a year. The regime also maintains and funds about 400 CAFGU detachments and 13 paramilitary forces in the region.

In Eastern Visayas, the 8th ID itself announced that it will continue to mobilize 14 battalions (or equivalent to 5,600 soldiers) throughout the region to “pursue” the alleged 119 remaining Red fighters in the provinces here. The division commander also said he will use all military weapons to already “annihilate” the people’s army.

In Cagayan Valley, the 5th ID sent 100 new soldiers on January 16 to “completely eliminate insurgency throughout the division’s jurisdiction.” This is contrary to the 5th ID commander’s boast last December 2023 that the people’s army is “no longer capable” of launching politico-military work in the region and that they foresee “complete victory” against the NPA early in the year.
Just struggle

In fact, the NPA operates in 14 regional commands each having its own number of guerilla fronts.

The Red army is far from defeated despite the setbacks it suffered in recent years due to internal weaknesses. Since the struggle is just and the NPA represents the aspirations of the farmers and workers who make up the vast majority of the Filipino people, it is bound to persist and move forward.

The NPA continues to carry out guerrilla maneuvers to break out from the AFP’s encirclement, steadily build a wider mass base and expand its guerrilla fronts. It will continue to launch tactical offensives to hit the enemy’s weak points where they are least expecting it.

The NPA vow to outlast Marcos, just as it outlasted his father and all US-backed governments in the past 35 years which all boasted of crushing the NPA. Under the guidance of the Party, the NPA has learned its lessons and is determined to frustrate the brutal offensives of the AFP.

CPP/Ang Bayan: NPA-Mabate harasses 96th IB

Propaganda article from the English language edition of Ang Bayan posted to the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) Philippine Revolution Web Central (PRWC) Website (Jan 21, 2024): NPA-Mabate harasses 96th IB

This article is available in Pilipino/Bisaya


January 21, 2024
A unit of the New People’s Army (NPA)-Masbate hit the 96th IB troopers operating in Sitio Lantawan, Barangay Gangao, Baleno, Masbate on January 13. The said military unit was shook and immediately hid their casualties to cover up their losses.

According to Ka Luz del Mar, spokesperson of NPA-Mabaste, the armed offensive is part of their efforts to obtain justice for the victims of military abuses and defend the people against the ongoing military rule in the province.

Among those referred to by Ka Luz include the 24 victims of political killings in Masbate under the US-Marcos regime. Residents are also very indignant at the persistent encampment of counter-insurgency units of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) in schools in the province.

Prostitution also became rampant in the areas where military camps were built.

In addition, the military unit is also involved in instigating drinking inside and outside their camp and when they get drunk, they fire guns and cause distress among residents. Residents have also complained of prostitution within the military camp itself.

CPP/Ang Bayan: Editorial--Fight the pro-imperialist “chacha” of the US-Marcos regime

Propaganda editorial from the English language edition of Ang Bayan posted to the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) Philippine Revolution Web Central (PRWC) Website (Jan 21, 2024):  Editorial--Fight the pro-imperialist “chacha” of the US-Marcos regime

This article is available in Pilipino/Bisaya

January 21, 2024

Based on the end-goal of “changing the economic provisions” to give foreign capitalists greater freedom to possess and plunder the country’s wealth and amass super profits, the hands of US imperialism is clearly behind the current push of the US-Marcos regime to change the reactionary 1987 constitution.

Hundreds of millions of pesos were poured by the ruling regime to coordinate the mobilization of Marcos’ men in congress, senate and local governments. The two separate initiatives in the Lower House and the Senate have the same goal, despite differences between some politicians regarding the method and scope of the constitutional amendments.

Initiated by the Marcos-Romualdez camp, a sham “people’s initiative” was launched to insert into the 1987 constitution the provision for joint voting by the Upper and Lower Houses of Congress (as opposed to voting separately) in adopting proposals for constitutional amendment. It clearly aims to give the Lower House the controlling power to easily change the constitution.

On the other hand, a Resolution of Both Houses is now being pushed by the Senate to insert the words “unless otherwise provided by law” in some key provisions. It aims to empower the reactionary congress to simply enact legislation to allow foreign ownership or control of land, public services, education, mass media and advertising.

The resistance of various forces and sectors spread like wildfire when the news broke of the push for “chacha.” The “people’s initiative” was met with widespread criticism when it stank after it was revealed that signatures were paid for with ₱100, or was obtained in exchange for the promise of aid or threats to deny it. The prospect of pushing the “term extension” or extending the terms of the president and other officials of the reactionary government was also met with resistance; as well as the push for neoliberal amendments that will completely kill the economic independence of the Philippines.

As the constitution of the semicolonial and semifeudal ruling system, the 1987 Constitution is reactionary and serves the interests of the oppressive and exploitative ruling classes. Since it was developed and adopted after the EDSA uprising in 1986 and in the face of the rising wave of the democratic mass movement, the ruling state was compelled to accept democratic and patriotic embellishments, including declaring a policy to preserve the national patrimony, promotion of democratic rights, setting limits on the term of the president and other officials and on imposing martial law, prohibiting foreign military bases and nuclear weapons, and others.

However, for more than three and a half decades, past reactionary governments did not allow themselves to be restrained by the 1987 Constitution. Its provisions were circumvented or outrightly violated through various laws and policies which indiscriminately trampled on democratic rights, opened various areas of the economy to foreign capitalist control and domination, granted extraterritorial rights to American troops, and increased the power of political dynasties.

The purpose of the “chacha” plan, which has been attempted by previous governments, is to completely remove the patriotic and democratic embellishments from the 1987 constitution. This plan is anti-people, anti-poor, anti-national and anti-democratic, and will serve the interests of imperialism, feudalism and bureaucratic capitalism. Marcos specifically aims to erase the anti-Marcos legacy in the 1987 constitution. In the face of the severe social and economic crisis, oppression and repression, the US-Marcos regime’s “chacha” scheme is certain to bring only more suffering to the Filipino people.

The people must vigorously fight the “chacha” because it will further worsen the backward system dependent on foreign investment and imports, which drives up commodity prices, suppresses wages, and promotes corruption by political dynasties. This will permanently cripple the economy and take away the country’s ability to stand on its own two feet, and completely turn the country into a launching pad for US wars of aggression.

The push of “chacha” opens a new field of resistance for the Filipino people to advance their patriotic and democratic interests. The national-democratic forces must thoroughly engage in this battle to unite and mobilize the largest number of people to frustrate the dark scheme of the US-Marcos regime.

A broad and intensive campaign of education, propaganda and mass agitation should be carried out in communities, factories, schools, markets, churches and so on. Exert all possible efforts to reach millions of citizens through various forms of mass propaganda (written statements, mass discussions, assemblies, cultural performances and so on). Promote a comprehensive antifascist, anti-imperialist and antifeudal position against the “chacha.” Expose the roots of the crisis in the economy and people’s livelihood. Expose how the country is tied to the political and economic interests of the US, and how the lack of independence is now allowing the country to be dragged into the rivalry and strife between the imperialist powers.

The opportunity must be seized to expand and strengthen mass organizations and unions. At the same time, different forms, levels and breadth of anti-“chacha” alliances (against one or several aspects of it) must be formed to win over a wide range of middle forces, including the millions who took part in the 2022 mass actions against the Marcos-Duterte clique.

The determined and militant resistance of the Filipino people will stop the anti-people and pro-imperialist “chacha.” The fight to oppose Marcos’ plot to remove the anti-dictatorship legacy of the 1987 Constitution adds historical significance to the upcoming commemoration of the anniversary of the EDSA uprising on February 25, and will serve as an ideal opportunity to rally the people against the US-Marcos regime.

No destabilization plot vs. PBBM admin – retired military generals

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 22, 2024): No destabilization plot vs. PBBM admin – retired military generals (By Filane Mikee Cervantes)

REAFFIRMATION OF SUPPORT. Retired Gen. Raul Gonzales (2nd from left), chairman of the Philippine Military Academy Retirees Association Inc. (PMARAI), reads their group statement reaffirming support for President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. and his administration on Wednesday (Jan. 22, 2024). The PMARAI and other organizations of retired military officials met with Speaker Ferdinand Martin G. Romualdez (middle) at the House of Representatives in Quezon City. (Photo courtesy of Speaker's office)

MANILA – Four major groups of retired military generals on Monday said there is no truth to allegations of a destabilization plot against the administration of President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr.

Twenty-two retired generals also reaffirmed their support to the Marcos administration and the leadership of both Houses of Congress during their meeting with Speaker Martin Romualdez.

The meeting was facilitated by the Philippine Military Academy Alumni Association, Inc. (PMAAAI); Association of Generals and Flag Officers (AGFO); Philippine Military Academy Retirees Association, Inc. (PMARAI); and National ROTC Alumni Association, Inc. (NARAAI).

“We are all here today, united, to air our support to President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., his administration, and the leadership of the House of Representatives and the Senate,” said retired Admiral Danilo Abinoja, chairman and CEO of PMAAAI. “We continue to abide by and vow to defend the Constitution, and the duly-constituted authorities. That is our oath, then and until now."

Aside from the PMA, Abinoja noted that the Association of Service Academies of the Philippines will be issuing a manifesto of support to President Marcos and his administration.

For his part, Retired Maj. Gen. Marlou Salazar, vice president of NARRAI, said stability in government is the key to peace and progress.

“Ayaw naming magkagulo (We don’t want any trouble). A kingdom should not be divided if we want it to succeed,” Salazar said.

Retired Gen. Raul Gonzales, chairman of PMARAI, showed a resolution issued by PMA Class ‘75, of which he is the president, condemning “abhorring acts that undermine the economic, social, and political gains that the current administration has put up over the years.”

“In the light of the numerous misinformation and propaganda prevalent in social media that tend to polarize certain groups in our communities, our class would like to manifest in compelling terms, that we stand in unanimity and conformity with the duly constituted authorities, and to obey the laws, legal orders, and decrees promulgated by them,” the resolution read.

Gonzales said his group is "duty-bound" to defend the Constitution even now that they are out of service.

"Some have different beliefs, but the general membership is united in defending this government,” Gonzales said.

Retired Gen. Gerry Doria, vice chairman of AGFO, also said their members are united behind duly-constituted authorities all the time.

Romualdez, meanwhile, thanked the retired generals for visiting his office and spending time to share their sentiments with him and other House leaders.

“We, in the House of Representatives, are happy to receive you here and listen to you. Words are not enough to express our gratitude to all of you. We are always sensitive, responsive, and reflective of what you have to say even after you left the service,” he said.

BARMM hails peace gains as reg'l gov't marks 5th anniversary

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 22, 2024): BARMM hails peace gains as reg'l gov't marks 5th anniversary (By Edwin Fernandez)

QUINQUENNIAL FESTIVITY. BARMM Chief Minister Ahod Ebrahim strikes the ‘gong’ on Sunday (Jan. 21, 2024), signaling the start of the regional autonomous government's weeklong 5th foundation anniversary celebration. Regional officials have hailed the peace gains the BARMM is enjoying, as evident in the regional government's performance in economic, social, infrastructure, peace, security, and governance. (Photo by Bangsamoro Information Office)

COTABATO CITY – Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) Chief Minister Ahod Balawag Ebrahim led here Sunday the opening celebration of the weeklong regional government’s 5th foundation anniversary by sharing the "peace dividends now enjoyed by Bangsamoro people."

Ebrahim thanked President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr., international partners, local stakeholders, civil society organizations, non-government organizations, and local government units in BARMM, which continuously played instrumental roles in achieving peace through the process.

“On Jan. 21, 2019, we witnessed the result of our courage and hope. We saw how our people decidedly and unanimously ratified the Bangsamoro Organic Law that paved the way for establishing the BARMM,” Ebrahim said in a statement on Monday.

The chief minister, who leads an extended transitional government following the signing of the Government of the Philippines-Moro Islamic Liberation Front peace deal and the ratification of the organic law, admitted that the road ahead remains "tough and challenging."

“Five years on, our journey towards building an empowered, cohesive, and progressive Bangsamoro continues to be filled with positivity and inspiration,” Ebrahim.

He said peace and socio-economic development "have reigned on the island," particularly the BARMM, obviously as "dividends" of the peace process.

“This year is the last full year of the extended transition period; let us make the most of the opportunity given to us to be of service to the people,” he said, referring to the fledgling region’s first parliamentary election that will coincide with the May 2025 midterm polls.

Ebrahim also recognized the national government’s implementation of the provisions of the BOL and the commitment offered by the Marcos administration to help ensure the Mindanao peace process will never fail.

This year’s celebration carries the theme: “A Journey Towards Mutual Understanding, Peaceful Co-existence, and a Shared Future in the Bangsamoro.”

DOLE, NGOs give ex-NPA rebels equipment for small businesses

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 22, 2024): DOLE, NGOs give ex-NPA rebels equipment for small businesses (By Zen Trinidad)

NEW BEGINNINGS. Former communist rebels receive livelihood equipment, groceries and cash from the Department of Labor and Employment-Rizal and civil society groups in this undated photo. DOLE-Rizal said on Monday (Jan. 22, 2024) the material assistance will help the rebel returnees start their lives anew. (Photo courtesy of Pau Mojar)

CALAMBA CITY, Laguna – The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), in collaboration with several non-government organizations, distributed over the weekend various livelihood equipment to six former New People’s Army (NPA) members to help them return to being productive citizens.

Victoria Natanauan, supervising labor and employment officer at DOLE-Rizal, said in a follow-up interview on Monday the unnamed beneficiaries from Barangay San Jose, Antipolo City received from the government and supportive NGOs machines to be used in operating welding shops, car wash stations and coffee shops, among others.

“The livelihood packages will enable the surrenderers to start their lives anew through income-generating activities,” she said.

Good Neighbors International Philippines, a developmental and humanitarian organization, collaborated with DOLE on the project.

Meanwhile, another surrenderer from Rizal province received a sack of rice, groceries and a cash gift from two other civil society organizations – the Advisory Council and Sinag Elite Lady Eagles Club – which have committed to helping end insurgency in the country.

Personnel of the Philippine National Police's 404th A Maneuver Company (AMC) of the Regional Mobile Force Battalion 4A assisted with the turnover of livelihood packages in an undisclosed location in Barangay San Jose.

During the turnover ceremony, the former rebels expressed their gratitude to the government and civil society groups for giving them a new lease on life.

5 NPA rebels yield in S. Cotabato, S. Kudarat provinces

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 22, 2024): 5 NPA rebels yield in S. Cotabato, S. Kudarat provinces (By Edwin Fernandez)

Image courtesy of Police Regional Office-12

KORONADAL CITY – Five communist New People’s Army (NPA) rebels decided to return to the fold of the law in South Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat provinces over the weekend.

“Police withheld their identities as requested by the surrendering rebels for security reasons,” Brig. Gen. Jimili Macaraeg, police director for the Soccsksargen Region, said in a statement Monday.

Macaraeg said the first to surrender were three NPA members under Guerilla Front Musa, Far South Mindanao Region before operatives of the police’s 1202nd Maneuver Company, Regional Mobile Force Battalion - 12 in Bagumbayan, Sultan Kudarat on Sunday morning.

In the afternoon of the same day, two rebels turned themselves in to the police’s Provincial Mobile Force Company in Barangay Hanoon, Lake Sebu, South Cotabato.

The two have handed over a .38-caliber revolver and a hand grenade upon their surrender.

Macaraeg lauded the police for facilitating the peaceful surrender, which he said is an “encouraging” development. 

CPP/NPA-South Central Negros: Tatlo ka mangunguma, gindakop sa nabukid nga bahin sang Himamaylan City

Propaganda statement posted to the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) Philippine Revolution Web Central (PRWC) Website (Jan 19, 2024): Tatlo ka mangunguma, gindakop sa nabukid nga bahin sang Himamaylan City (Three farmers were arrested in the rural part of Himamaylan City)

Dionesio Magbuelas
NPA-South Central Negros (Mt. Cansermon Command)
Negros Island Regional Operational Command (Apolinario Gatmaitan Command)
New People's Army

January 21, 2024

Gindakop sang mga katapo sang 94th IB bisan wala sang kaso ang mag-amay nga sanday Deloy kag Vences de Leon, kag Remy Villacanao, mga mangunguma, sa Sityo Cantupa-Pisok, Barangay Buenavista, Himamaylan City pasado alas 2:00 sang hapon subong nga adlaw, Enero 21.

Ginsakay ang tatlo sa salakyan sang 94th IB nga nakaparking sa Sityo Alolong sa amo nga baryo.

Mga katapo sang Kauswagan sang mga Mangunguma sa Buenvista (KMB) ang iligal nga gindakop. Isa man ka lider simbahan si Deloy de Leon.

Ranking NPA leader falls in Misamis Occidental

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 22, 2024): Ranking NPA leader falls in Misamis Occidental (By Christopher Lloyd Caliwan)

(Photo courtesy of CIDG)

MANILA – Members of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) have arrested a ranking leader of the New People's Army (NPA) in Misamis Occidental.

In a statement Monday, CIDG director Maj. Gen. Romeo Caramat Jr. said the CIDG-Northern Mindanao served another arrest warrant against Matias Gaquit at the Tangub City Jail on Jan. 19.

The Sindangan, Zamboanga del Norte Regional Trial Court issued on Jan. 10 the arrest warrant for murder against the suspect.

Caramat said Gaquit was already arrested by the CIDG Misamis Occidental on Jan. 4, at the Mayor Hilarion A. Ramiro Sr. Medical Center in Barangay Gango, Ozamiz City, Misamis Occidental for murder, rebellion and frustrated homicide charges.

Gaquit is the first deputy secretary of the Guerrilla Front Sendong of the NPA's Western Mindanao Regional Party Committee, according to information from the Philippine Army's 1st Infantry Division.

Security exec scores latest Chinese harassment of fisherfolk in WPS

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 22, 2024): Security exec scores latest Chinese harassment of fisherfolk in WPS (By Priam Nepomuceno)

China Coast Guard (File photo)

MANILA – A ranking National Security Council (NSC) official on Monday condemned China's latest harassment of Filipino fisherfolk in the Bajo de Masinloc in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

"We were hoping na ngayong 2024 ay mas magiging tahimik ang WPS ngunit dito sa huling kaganapan kung saan nagkaroon na naman ng pagtataboy o harassment ng ating fishermen sa kamay ng mga CCG (Chinese Coast Guard) ay ikinababahala natin ito and we condemn this latest provocative action on the part of the CCG laban sa ating mangingisda (We were hoping that this 2024, the situation in the WPS will be more peaceful but this latest incident that showed our fishermen being driven and harassed by the CCG personnel is alarming and we condemn this latest provocative action on the part of the CCG against our fishermen)," NSC Assistant Director General Jonathan Malaya said in Bagong Pilipinas Ngayon briefing.

He was referring to the Jan. 12 incident where five CCG personnel aboard a rubber boat approached a group of Filipino fishermen from the fishing boat "Legendary Jo", who were gathering seashells at the south entrance of Bajo de Masinloc.

These CCG personnel reportedly forced these fishermen to throw back to the sea the shells they had collected before allowing them to leave.

Malaya, also the spokesperson for the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea, said both the Philippines and China have agreed to deescalate the tensions in the maritime area by improving their maritime communication mechanism.

This hope for a more peaceful WPS was further bolstered by the fact that initial resupplying missions to Philippine-held features went off without a hitch.

Malaya also appealed to China to match their actions in the ground with what has been agreed upon by the two governments.

"It is not in the interest of the Philippines nor with China na tumaas ang tension ngayong (to escalate tensions this) 2024," he added.

Army unit commander bids farewell to Basilan

From the Sun Star-Zamboanga (Kan 17, 2024): Army unit commander bids farewell to Basilan

ZAMBOANGA. Colonel Bernard Samin, 4th Special Forces Battalion commander (right), hands over a Plaque of Appreciation to Basilan Governor Hadjiman Hataman-Salliman as a gesture of gratitude for the latter’s invaluable support to the peace and order campaign in the province. Samin paid an exit visit to Salliman on Wednesday, January 17, as he has been reassigned to a higher position in the national headquarters. (SunStar Zamboanga)

COLONEL Bernard Samin, 4th Special Forces Battalion commander, bided farewell to Basilan during his exit call on Governor Hadjiman Hataman-Salliman at the Provincial Capitol in Isabela City on Wednesday, January 17, 2024.

Samin, as a gesture of gratitude, handed over a Plaque of Appreciation to Salliman for his invaluable support to the peace and order campaign in the province.

Samin had served Basilan for one year and six months, and under his leadership the 4th Special Forces Battalion has achieved exceptional accomplishments, foremost of which were the surrender of some members of the Abu Sayyaf Group and the recovery of several loose firearms under the Small And Light Weapon (SALW) Program, which was strongly supported by Salliman.

Samin also led his troops in the conduct of a series of medical outreach activities to the different municipalities.

Samin has been designated to a higher position at the General Headquarters of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Lieutenant Colonel Ian Garceron, his executive officer, replaced him.

Meanwhile, Salliman wished Samin the best of luck on his new journey in the military service and thanked him sincerely for all the good work he has done for Basilan province.

Slliman made special mention of Samin’s support of the efforts and programs of his administration in maintaining peace and order in the province of Basilan. (SunStar Zamboanga)

Ulama-Bishop dialogue meeting joint statement to address MSU-Marawi bombing incident

Posted to the Sun Star-Davao (Jan 22. 2024): Ulama-Bishop dialogue meeting joint statement to address MSU-Marawi bombing incident

Contributed Photo

COTABATO CITY – In Commemoration of the 10th Anniversary of the January 24 Peace Day, 11 Muslim and 7 Christian religious leaders in Mindanao, together with Presidential Peace Adviser Sec. Carlito G. Galvez, Jr., convened in Cotabato City on January 16 to 17 for a significant dialogue meeting and joint statement on the bombing incident during the Catholic Mass at the Mindanao State University - Marawi on December 3, 2023.

The released joint statement marks the initial collaborative communication among the religious leaders following the ‘barbaric’ incident. The statement aimed to address the concerns about security which raised questions about the sustainability of the peace process between Christian and Muslim communities in Mindanao.

"We are comforted and inspired by the mutual assistance of Muslims and Christians given to the victims in the aftermath of the bombing, a sign of continuing fraternity amidst violence. We pray that such assistance, given especially by the national and local governments, would significantly contribute to the complete healing of the trauma suffered by the victims and their families," the statement said.

As the leaders come together, their dialogue played a pivotal role in shaping the narrative of interfaith relations and reinforcing the importance of harmony among diverse religious communities. The meeting is not only an opportunity for healing but also a crucial step towards building a resilient and peaceful society in the aftermath of such tragic incidents.

Presidential Peace Adviser Sec. Carlito G. Galvez, Jr. from the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity (OPAPRU) said, "On behalf of OPAPRU we will always be supporting the interfaith dialogue... to revive our interfaith dialogue with our brothers and sisters. Rest assured that the Marcos administration and with the Special Assistant to the President, we will make way to revive all the things that we have started. And I would like to thank all the religious [leaders] for really guiding us on the way towards peace. We will always be with you in really promoting peace and development in Bangsamoro and also for our Filipino brothers to have lasting peace in our country."

The lead convenor, Heavenly Culture, World Peace, Restoration of Light (HWPL), is an international peace organization that has been conducting interfaith dialogues around the world since 2014, as one of its core initiatives. HWPL facilitated the meeting in commemoration of the 10th Anniversary of the January 24 Peace Day, which was declared by Chief Minister Ahod Ebrahim to acknowledge the civilian-led peace agreement signed between Muslim and Catholic leaders in 2014. The agreement was mediated and proposed by Korean war veteran and HWPL Chairman Lee Man-hee.

In the statement, the religious leaders also expressed, "Our heart-felt thanks especially to the Heavenly Culture, World Peace, Restoration of Light (HWPL), for generously supporting and facilitating our dialogue. Our assembly is a concrete expression of the objectives of HWPL through its Religious Peace Academy (RPA) to promote inter-religious dialogue towards harmony and peace by means of quality scripture education, rooted in the teachings of the Glorious Qur’an and the Holy Bible."

The RPA is an interfaith academic platform launched by HWPL where lectures of religious leaders on fundamental topics can be accessed by the general public for free. It aims to foster a culture of peace, harmony, and unity among all religions through scriptural studies.

"I think this [Religious Peace Academy] is very important because it is like a merchandise. There are people looking for this, they enter and enroll, and it is free. It is very important so that both can better understand peace," said Dr. Muhammad Nadzir S. Ebil, Bangsamoro Darul-Ifta' in a press conference. PR

Philippine Army names new 4SFBn commander

From the Sun Star-Zamboanga (Jan 21, 2024): Philippine Army names new 4SFBn commander

ZAMBOANGA. The Philippine Army installs Lieutenant Colonel Adolf Ian Garceron (right) as the new commander of 4th Special Forces Battalion replacing Colonel Bernard Samin (left), who was designated to a higher position at the general headquarters of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.  SunStar Zamboanga

THE Philippine Army has initiated changes in the leadership of the 4th Special Forces Battalion (SFBn), an elite unit based in Basilan province.

The Basilan-based 101st Infantry Brigade said Sunday, January 21, 2024, that Lieutenant Colonel Adolf Ian Garceron has assumed as the new and the ninth commander of 4SFBn.

Garceron has replaced Colonel Bernard Samin, who was designated to a higher position at the general headquarters of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

The time-honored tradition of the Change of Command Ceremony was held on Thursday, January 18, at the 4SFBn headquarters in Cabunbata village, Isabela City, the capital of Basilan province.

Colonel Rosendo Abad Jr., the deputy commander of the Special Forces Regiment (Airborne), officiated the ceremony.

Garceron is currently faced with the challenge of performing his best, as he follows in the footsteps of Samin.

Brigadier General Alvin Luzon, 101st Infantry Brigade commander, Colonel Frederick Sales, his deputy, and other stakeholders graced the change of command ceremony.

The 4SFBn operations under the operation and control of the 101st Infantry Brigade.
(SunStar Zamboanga)

UK defense deal may boost Philippine military modernization program

From the Business World (Jan 21, 2024): UK defense deal may boost Philippine military modernization program


A DEFENSE agreement between the Philippines and United Kingdom (UK) could help fast-track Manila’s military modernization program through the latter’s state-of-the-art weapon systems, political analysts said at the weekend.

“London can help bridge the third leg of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ military modernization by introducing its nuclear-powered submarines and sophisticated hardware and software,” Chester B. Cabalza, founding president of Manila-based International Development and Security Cooperation, said in a Facebook Messenger chat.

“The UK is one of the prime movers in the Indo-Pacific region and given its global reputation and World War victories, the Philippines could gain a lot from the bilateral defense and security of the two democratic countries,” he added.

On. Jan 11, Philippine Ambassador to the UK Teodoro L. Locsin, Jr. and UK Minister of State for Defense Timothy Minto signed a deal for defense and security cooperation.

The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) earlier said the framework outlines training and capacity-building, peacekeeping operations, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, as well as research and technology.

Don McLain Gill, who teaches foreign relations at De La Salle University, said the defense pact is crucial because about 12% of the UK’s annual seaborne trade passes through the South China Sea, which is being claimed by China almost in its entirety.

“It is imperative to work with like-minded resident partners toward the security and stability of the maritime territory,” he said in a Facebook Messenger chat.

“This is a good opportunity for the Philippines to broaden its defense network and potentially work toward a more comprehensive agreement on capacity-building,” he added.
Britain in December condemned what it called “unsafe and escalatory tactics deployed by Chinese vessels” against the Philippines in the South China Sea.

During a visit to Manila on Jan. 11, German Foreign Minister Annalena Charlotte A. Baerbock said Germany would work with the Philippines in boosting maritime cooperation in the South China Sea and ensure international law is being followed amid tensions with China.

Germany is willing to work with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the Philippines in resolving maritime tensions, she said.

Indonesian Minister for Foreign Affairs Retno L.P. Marsudi said Indonesia is ready to cooperate with the Philippines to finalize a code of conduct for the South China Sea.

Tensions between the Philippines and China have worsened amid Chinese efforts to block Philippine resupply missions at Second Thomas Shoal.

The tensions threaten regional peace, ASEAN Foreign ministers said in December, as they sought freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea.

Last week, Philippine Defense Secretary Gilberto C. Teodoro, Jr. said the Philippines is seeking to sign an agreement with Japan that would allow the deployment of military forces in each other’s territories.
“The signed agreement to craft a framework for defense and security cooperation is a strong building block to forge missing links in the collective deterrence that Manila and its strategic partners are pushing,” Mr. Cabalza said. — J.V.D. Ordoñez

Padilla: AFP vows to eliminate NPA by end of 2024

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jan 22, 2022): Padilla: AFP vows to eliminate NPA by end of 2024 (By: John Eric Mendoza_

ELITE TROOPS Members of elite units of the Armed Forces of the Philippines march in Camp Aguinaldo in this 2016 photo.—FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines — The Armed Forces of the Philippines vows to defeat the communist New People’s Army by the end of 2024, its spokesperson, Col. Francel Margareth Padilla, said on Monday.

Padilla said this target was announced during AFP’s recent command conference.

“We were given specific deadlines to do such, so within a span of a year, we are looking at eliminating the threat of the internal insurgency situation,” Padilla said in a press briefing when asked about the AFP’s plans on the NPA.

The NPA is now down to about 1,500 members as of Dec. 2023, far from its peak of around 25,000 in 1987, according to former AFP spokesperson Col. Medel Aguilar.

READ: NPA down to around 1,500 fighters–AFP

Established on March 29, 1969, the NPA has been waging the longest-running Maoist insurgency in the world.

CPP’s political wing, the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, is now exploring the possibility of resuming peace talks with the government.

READ: CPP admits NPA setbacks, denies defeat

CPP spokesperson Marco Valbuena admitted that NPA suffered “setbacks” but is “far from being defeated.”

Resupply mission to Ayungin Shoal postponed -- AFP

From the Manila Bulletin Jan 22, 2022): Resupply mission to Ayungin Shoal postponed -- AFP (By MARTIN SADONGDONG)

AFP chief Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr. (right) takes a photo with Vice Adm. Alberto Carlos (left), commander of Western Command, and soldiers manning BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin Shoal, West Philippine Sea on Dec. 10, 2023. (Photo by AFP)

The latest rotation and reprovision (RORE) mission to Ayungin Shoal by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) over the weekend was postponed after one of the vessels involved in the mission was deemed unfit to sail.

Unaizah Mae 1, one of the two supply boats used during the previous resupply missions, encountered a "technical difficulty" which made it not seaworthy, according to AFP spokesperson Col. Francel Margareth Padilla.

"We are dependent on the vessels that's gonna be used. At this point, we identified that there was a technical difficulty on the vessel that was supposed to be used for such mission," Padilla told reporters at Camp Aguinaldo on Monday, Jan. 22.

Padilla did not reveal what problem the Unaizah Mae 1 specifically encountered but the indigenous boat has been the subject of repeated harassment by the China Coast Guard (CCG).

During its last resupply mission in December last year, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), which supported the undertaking, accused the China Coast Guard of ramming Unaizah Mae 1 and another supply vessel motor launcher (M/L) Kalayaan. 

M/L Kalayaan sustained serious engine problem because of the incident.

The CCG usually conducts blocking operations to prevent Philippine supply vessels from accessing the marines manning BRP Sierra Madre, a Philippine Navy warship deliberately ran aground in Ayungin Shoal in 1999 to serve as a Philippine outpost.

Maritime security experts have pointed out that China's deliberate attempt to block the resupply mission was meant to drive the troops to hunger so they would abandon the post.

"Our soldiers are trained for any eventuality," Padilla said, expressing belief that the troops could be "very creative" just to survive harsh conditions in Ayungin Shoal.

She noted that using aircraft to deliver provisions to the soldiers could be done by the military but only in extremen conditions.

"There are certain ways, aircraft is one way of doing this but it is only conducted during emergency situations and if there is a need for immediate deployment," Padilla explained. 

For now, the troops have to find ways to gather food including catching fish amid the threat of the presence of Chinese vessels around them.

"Until such time that we determine the vessel to be used is seaworthy, that’s the time that we can reschedule another RORE mission," Padilla said.

Envoy says US, PH to resume joint patrols in WPS

From the Manila Standard (Jan 22, 2024): Envoy says US, PH to resume joint patrols in WPS (By By Rey E. Requejo & Vince Lopez)

Photo from Google Maps

The United States and the Philippines have agreed to continue their defense cooperation, including a series of joint patrols in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) this year.

US Ambassador to the Philippines MaryKay Carlson offered this assurance after meeting with Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. and officials of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to discuss plans for defense cooperation.

“Certainly, this coming year, we expect both of our militaries to continue to cooperate and to exercise and to do whatever it takes both bilaterally, multilaterally to ensure the safety of our peoples,” Carlson said in an interview with GMA.

The US ambassador did not elaborate on the specifics of future joint patrols.

This developed as the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) confirmed the reported harassment of Filipino fishermen from the China Coast Guard at Bajo de Masinloc in Zambales, which is the southeast entrance of the Scarborough Shoal.

PCG Commodore Jay Tarriela said they tracked the origin of the videos circulating online, which showed personnel from the China Coast Guard accosting Filipino fishermen after the latter were spotted collecting seashells in the area.

“The PCG have successfully identified the origin of the videos and have taken steps to gather sworn statements from the individuals involved,” said Tarriela.

“Mr. Jack Tabat from Zambales has admitted that the video came from their boat, FB Legendary Jo. According to his statement, on 12 January 2024, Filipino fishermen who were collecting sea shells near the South entrance of BDM experienced harassment from the China Coast Guard.”

“The fishermen were instructed to return the shells they had gathered to the sea and were subsequently driven away,” Tarriela added.

Based on Tabat’s testimony, five Chinese Coast Guard personnel on board a rubber boat approached them. Four of them disembarked the boat and went after the Filipino fishermen.

“He also documented one Chinese Coast Guard personnel grabbing the fishing boat and preventing it from departing unless the fishermen threw back their gathered seashells into the sea,” said Tarriela.

“Currently, the PCG is awaiting the arrival of the fishing vessel this evening, which was subjected to the China Coast Guard’s harassment. We intend to gather testimonies from the fishermen as well.”

AFP chief General Romeo Brawner Jr. earlier stated that the joint patrols were necessary to better enforce a rules-based international order.

Retired Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, a staunch advocate of asserting the Philippine sovereignty over the West Philippine Sea, backed the need for the Philippines to continue joint patrols with foreign powers in the area.

“We should have a series of joint patrols every year especially because we will be sending our service ship and drilling ship to Reed Bank, and when we send our service ship and drill ship there should be a joint patrol just in case the Chinese Coast Guard will try to shoo away our service ship and drill ship,” he said in a television interview.

The first Philippine-US joint patrol was conducted last November in the WPS and other areas of the South China Sea that are within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.

China protested these patrols claiming that it interfered with existing negotiations with other countries regarding the South China Sea.

Carpio earlier said the Philippines should not be intimidated by China and must act now by securing Reed Bank.

“We should be sending our survey ship and drill ship already to Reed Bank, accompanied by our Navy. At the same time, we should be conducting joint maritime patrols with the US,” Carpio told CNN Philippines.

He said it was the same strategy that Malaysia and Indonesia did to get gas in their exclusive economic zone (EEZ) despite threats from China.

“We don’t need China to recognize our EEZ. As long as we get our natural resources in our EEZ, then we are winning,” Carpio said.

Also called Recto Bank, the Reed Bank reportedly holds the most oil and gas reserves in the West Philippine Sea. The 2016 ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration declared it as part of Manila’s 200-nautical mile EEZ, meaning the Philippines has the sole right to exploit resources in the area. But China has refused to recognize the arbitral ruling.

Carpio noted that while diplomatic protests preserve the country’s legal rights, these are not enough to ensure that the Philippines will have access to its natural resources, and the country needs to secure the area to establish its rights.

Developing the Recto Bank is also important for the Philippines as supply from the Malampaya gas field is expected to dry out in two to three years, Carpio added.

Carpio said the Reed Bank is two to three times larger than Malampaya, so it is a good source of gas for at least 60 years. To protect the Reed Bank, he said the Philippines should build a monitoring station on the Ayungin Shoal, which is the gateway to the area.

He also pointed out that if the country is unable to secure the Reed Bank, importing liquefied natural gas (LNG) will continue which will push power rates up by at least 50 percent and will also increase inflation.

Carpio said a service contract was already issued to Forum Energy, a British oil and gas company where businessman Manuel Pangilinan owns a controlling stake of 79.13 percent.

“There is already a concession that has been awarded over Reed Bank so it’s just a matter of implementing [it],” he said.

Ten days after the Philippines and China agreed to ease tensions in the region, at least 27 Chinese ships were monitored in the WPS, said retired US Air Force Col. Raymond Powell, a maritime security expert who monitors developments in the area.

The 27 Qiong Sansha Yu-class ships were spotted south of the Spratly Islands and east of Bajo de Masinloc (Panatag or Scarborough Shoal), he said.