Saturday, March 23, 2024

PBBM: Army must be ‘multi-mission-ready, cross-domain capable’ force

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 22, 2024): PBBM: Army must be ‘multi-mission-ready, cross-domain capable’ force (By Ruth Abbey Gita-Carlos)

(File photo)

MANILA — President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. on Friday emphasized the need to turn the Philippine Army (PA) into a “multi-mission-ready and cross-domain capable” force under a “Bagong Pilipinas” (New Philippines).

During the PA’s 127th anniversary at Camp O’Donnell in Tarlac City, Marcos said his administration is committed to boosting the PA personnel’s morale, efficiency, and responsiveness through capacity-building initiatives, rigorous training and education activities.

“Since your foundation 127 years ago, the Philippine Army has endured the test of time, prevailed over battles, and evolved into a force that we can all be proud of. Not only has the organization been successful in its internal security operations, but it also exerted efforts in shifting to external defense,” Marcos said in a speech delivered by Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr.

“As we march onward to the Bagong Pilipinas that we aspire for, we need to transform our Army into a multi-mission-ready and cross-domain capable force that can effectively thwart emerging threats to our country’s stability and sovereignty,” he added.

Marcos also underscored the importance of improving the PA’s cybersecurity capabilities to keep up with the rapid technological advancements and help maintain the country's security and stability.

He also hoped that the Army troops would continue exhibiting “selfless and dedicated” service to the nation.

This, as he acknowledged their important role in maintaining peace and order in the country.

“Equally noteworthy are your peacetime endeavors, which put you at the forefront of rescue and recovery missions aimed at ensuring the safety of our citizens. Our soldiers have become a reliable and calming presence amidst the loss and destruction that come in the wake of disasters and calamities,” Marcos said.

Marcos urged the PA personnel to take into account the lessons and the best practices they have learned from joint operations, as well as their engagements with other major services of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and foreign defense counterparts.

“Let the time-honored creed of honor, patriotism, and duty be your guidepost —in marching towards total victory— as we create a Bagong Pilipinas (New Philippines) that prioritizes peace, progress, and stability,” he said.

Established on March 22, 1897, the PA has evolved into a multi-functional force throughout the years.

This year’s anniversary celebration of the PA carries the theme, ‘“Matatag na Hukbong Katihan para sa Bagong Pilipinas," highlighting its strong resolve to remain steadfast amid the challenges faced by the country.

Marcos was supposed to attend the PA’s founding anniversary celebration but had to skip the event after developing “flu-like symptoms.”

His health condition is improving despite having the symptoms, the Presidential Communications Office (PCO) said in a statement released Thursday.

The PCO said Marcos continues to work in his residence at Malacañan Palace in Manila, while taking medications for his full recovery.

Marcos is expected to resume his full public engagements “soon,” according to the PCO statement.

PH resupply boat heavily damaged after another CCG water cannon attack

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 23, 2024): PH resupply boat heavily damaged after another CCG water cannon attack (By Priam Nepomuceno and Joyce Ann L. Rocamora)

HARASSED. Six Philippine Navy soldiers and essential cargoes are transferred by a rigid-hull inflatable boat from resupply boat Unaizah May 4 and the Philippine Coast Guard vessel BRP Cabra to BRP Sierra Madre at 11:09 a.m. on Saturday (March 23, 2024). Hours earlier, two China Coast Guard vessels trained their water cannons on Unaizah May 4, inflicting heavy damage. (Photo courtesy of AFP)

MANILA – The Philippine resupply boat Unaizah May 4 (UM4) sustained “heavy damage” after a water cannon attack by the China Coast Guard (CCG) on Saturday as it was en route to bring fresh supplies to Filipino troops manning the BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin Shoal.

In a post on X, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said CCG vessel 21551 initially performed a dangerous maneuver of “crossing the bow” against UM4 at 6:08 a.m.

At about 7:09 a.m., the CCG made a “reverse blocking maneuver” that caused a near collision as the resupply boat was approaching Ayungin Shoal.

The CCG then began blasting water cannons at UM4 at 7:59 a.m., “deliberately targeting and hitting the supply boat.”

According to the AFP report, the Unaizah May 4 was subjected to direct water cannoning by two CCG vessels at 8:38 a.m.

"The UM4 supply boat sustained heavy damage at around 08:52 due to the continued blasting of water cannons from the CCG vessels," the military said.

A video of the incident, posted by the AFP on X, showed that almost half of UM4's roof decking was torn off from the impact of the water blasts.

While the Chinese were subjecting the UM4 to water cannon blasts, another CCG and two Chinese maritime militia (CMM) vessels were also blocking the Philippine Coast Guard’s (PCG) BRP Cabra (MRRV 4409), one of the designated escort vessels.

At about 7:20 a.m., PCG Commodore Jay Tarriela, spokesperson of the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea, said BRP Cabra was “impeded and encircled” by CCG vessel 21551, along with the CMM vessels bearing bow numbers 00036 and 00314.

“MRRV 4409 has been isolated from the resupply boat due to the irresponsible and provocative behavior of the Chinese maritime forces, who have shown a disregard for the Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea,” he said in a statement.

At 9:53 a.m., BRP Cabra eventually maneuvered and reached UM4 to provide assistance to the resupply boat.

By 11:09 a.m., a rigid-hull inflatable boat (RHIB) managed to ferry six Philippine Navy soldiers and essential cargoes from UM4 and BRP Cabra.

Unaizah May 4 was unable to continue its course while a CMM vessel assisted by RHIBs also installed floating barriers to prevent further entry to the shoal.

China’s latest attack in Ayungin Shoal, located within the 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone of the Philippines, followed the March 5 harassment, using water cannon against the same resupply boat.

The vessel also sustained damage and the crewmembers were injured, compelling it to return to mainland Palawan escorted by the BRP Sindangan.

Indian FM to visit PH; defense, maritime cooperation among top agenda

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 23, 2024): Indian FM to visit PH; defense, maritime cooperation among top agenda (By Joyce Ann L. Rocamora)

India Foreign Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar (PNA file photo)

MANILA – India’s Foreign Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar is visiting the Philippines next week to advance trade and tourism, defense, and maritime cooperation.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Saturday said the Indian top diplomat will undertake his second visit to the country on March 25 to 27.

“In addition to advancing trade and tourism between two of Asia’s fastest growing economies, the foreign minister’s meeting with Secretary for Foreign Affairs Enrique A. Manalo will focus on defense and maritime cooperation, food security, development, healthcare and financial technology cooperation,” the DFA said.

On defense, India has previously made a loan offer to help the country modernize its military.

READ: India markets defense equipment in PH; offers soft loan

Last month, the Indian government also brought to Manila a business delegation to showcase its homegrown military technologies and equipment and scope out possible defense industry tie-ups with the Philippines.

On top of these, New Delhi and Manila are also close partners on development and capacity building.

Through the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation, over 1,100 Filipino public servants have been trained in various development programs in India.

India is also the Philippines 15th trading partner and 13th export market, with total bilateral trade surpassing USD3 billion in 2023.

Jaishankar’s visit is part of his three-country Southeast Asia tour, which also includes Singapore and Malaysia.

He first visited the Philippines in February 2022.

Filipino crew injured; PH reprimands China over latest harassment

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 23, 2024): Filipino crew injured; PH reprimands China over latest harassment (By Joyce Ann L. Rocamora)

ON A MISSION. Philippine Navy soldiers and essential cargoes are transferred from Unaizah May 4 and BRP Cabra to BRP Sierra Madre off Ayungin Shoal on Saturday morning (March 23, 2024). The resupply boat Unaizah May 4 was damaged by yet another water cannon attack by the China Coast Guard. (Photo courtesy of AFP)

MANILA – The Philippines rebuked China over its latest acts off Ayungin Shoal that severely damaged a Filipino resupply boat on its way to resupply troops stationed at BRP Sierra Madre on Saturday morning.

The crew members of Unaizah May 4 (UM4) were also injured after China Coast Guard (CCG) directed water cannons against the resupply boat.

“The People’s Republic of China’s (PRC’s) latest acts of unprovoked aggression, coercion, and dangerous maneuvers against a legitimate and routine Philippine RoRe (routine rotation and resupply) mission to Ayungin Shoal, have once again placed at risk, caused severe damage to property, and caused physical harm to Filipinos on board UM4,” the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS) said in a statement.

“The systematic and consistent manner in which the PRC continues to carry out these illegal and irresponsible actions belies its hollow claims to peace, dialogue, and adherence to international law.”

National Security Adviser and NTF-WPS Chairperson Eduardo Año will meet with Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin and the National Security Cluster on March 25 to craft recommendations that will be submitted to President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.

The NTF-WPS said the Philippines will continue to “act peacefully and responsibly,” consistent with international laws, particularly the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the legally binding 2016 Arbitral Award.

It said the Philippines will remain undeterred neither by “veiled threats or hostility” from exercising its rights over its maritime zones, including the Ayungin Shoal.

“Peace and stability cannot be achieved without due regard for the legitimate, well-established, and legally settled rights of others,” the task force said.

“We demand that China demonstrate in deeds and not in words that it is a responsible and trustworthy member of the international community,” it added.


At around 4 a.m., the NTF-WPS said CCG worked in tandem with Chinese maritime militia vessels and “acted recklessly and dangerously” against UM4 and its Philippine Coast Guard escort vessels, BRP Sindangan and BRP Cabra.

This culminated with two CCG ships water cannoning the UM4, causing severe damage to the boat and injuries to the Filipinos onboard.

The NTF-WPS said the Chinese vessels even attempted to obstruct BRP Sindangan and Cabra from providing immediate relief and assistance to the disabled UM4 and her crew, but the PCG ships broke through.

The injured crew of UM4 received medical attention aboard BRP Cabra.

To complete the RORE mission, BRP Sierra Madre deployed rigid-hulled inflatable boats to UM4 to ferry personnel.

The CCG attempted to again obstruct and impede the RORE by placing a floating barrier at the northwestern entrance of Ayungin Shoal’s lagoon.

Despite these, the NTF-WPS said the RORE was accomplished around 11:59 a.m., with the contingent leaving the vicinity of Ayungin Shoal about 12:09 p.m.

“The actions of the agents of the PRC today in the waters of the Philippine EEZ (exclusive economic zone) showed to the Filipino people, the region, and the world that the PRC recognizes no reasonable or legal restraint nor limitation upon its actions under international law,” the task force said.


Various heads of foreign missions in the Philippines, meanwhile, expressed concern over the latest incident in the West Philippine Sea.

In a post on X, Japanese Ambassador-designate to the Philippines Endo Kazuya said Tokyo stands in solidarity with Manila as confirmed during the first trilateral vice-ministerial meeting with the United States this week.

“Japan reiterates its grave concern on the repeated dangerous actions by CCG in SCS (South China Sea) which resulted in Filipino injuries,” he said.

US Ambassador to the Philippines MaryKay Carlson said the US also stands with the country against China’s repeated dangerous maneuvers to disrupt its lawful activities within its EEZ.

“The PRC’s interference with the Philippines freedom of navigation violates international law & threatens a free and open Indo-Pacific,” she said on X.

European Union Ambassador to the Philippines Luc Veron said the “recurring” acts are concerning and reiterated the bloc’s call for all parties to abide by the 2016 Arbitral Ruling.

“Concerned by recurring dangerous manoeuvres, blocking and water-cannoning from Chinese Coast Guard vessels and Maritime Militia against Philippine vessels engaged in resupply missions,” he said. “The EU reiterates the call for all parties to abide by the legally binding 2016 Arbitration Award and international law to peacefully resolve disputes, guaranteeing safety for all in maritime waters.”

Netherlands Ambassador to the Philippines Marielle Geraedts echoed the EU Delegation’s position and underscored the importance of abiding by the international law.

“New Zealand is deeply concerned at further actions today by Chinese vessels towards the Philippines at Second Thomas Shoal,” the New Zealand Embassy in Manila said. “These endanger lives at sea. It is fundamental to regional stability that maritime disputes are resolved peacefully in accordance with international law, particularly UNCLOS.”

United Kingdom (UK) Ambassador to the Philippines Laure Beaufils said Great Britain opposes any action that raises tensions and threaten regional peace and stability.

"The UK condemns today's dangerous actions by Chinese vessels against the Philippines. This endangered lives and resulted in significant damage to a civilian vessel," she said on X. "We once again urge adherence to UNCLOS."

'Your fault'

As in previous incidents, China justified its harassment, saying the “Philippines should immediately stop its infringement and provocation, and refrain from undermining peace and stability in the South China Sea.”

In a statement posted on the Embassy of China in the Philippines website, the PRC claimed the Philippines sent its supply vessel “without permission from the Chinese government, to intrude into the adjacent waters of Ren’ai Jiao of China’s Nansha Qundao, in an attempt to send construction materials to the military vessel illegally grounded at Ren’ai Jiao for its repair and reinforcement.”

It said the CCG had to take “necessary measures” to safeguard China's rights.

China refers to Ayungin Shoal as Ren’ai Jiao and Spratly Islands as Nansha Qundao. (With reports from Priam Nepomuceno/PNA)

5 BIFF men yield to Army in Maguindanao Sur

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 22, 2024): 5 BIFF men yield to Army in Maguindanao Sur (By Edwin Fernandez)

BIFF SURRENDER. Three of the five guns surrendered by five Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) to the Army in Maguindanao del Sur after they decided to return to mainstream society on Thursday (March 21, 2024). The rebels were involved in harassment of state forces before their surrender, military officials said. (Photo courtesy of 33IB)

RAJAH BUAYAN, Maguindanao Sur – Five members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) have voluntarily surrendered to military and local authorities here.

“Four surrenderers belonged to the
BIFF-Kagui Karialan faction while the fifth surrenderer is under the BIFF-Bungos faction with both groups operating in Maguindanao del Sur,” Brig. Gen. Oriel Pangcog, the Army’s 601st Infantry Brigade commander, said in a report to the Army’s 6th Infantry Division on Friday.

Pangcog said the former extremists conveyed their intention to rejoin mainstream society through Lt. Col. Udjie Villan, commander of the Army’s 33rd Infantry Battalion (IB).

Villan presented the surrenderers at the 33IB headquarters in Barangay Sapakan, Rajah Buayan, Maguindanao del Sur, on Thursday afternoon.

The group turned in a homemade 50-caliber Barrett sniper rifle and four Garand rifles to the military. In exchange, they initially received monetary and food packages from the government.

On March 10, nine BIFF members also surrendered to the military after the death of their comrade and the arrest of their sub-leader as a result of military operations in the fringes of this town.

NPA combatant yields to Caraga cops

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 22, 2024): NPA combatant yields to Caraga cops (By Alexander Lopez)

BUTUAN CITY – Through a series of negotiations, authorities managed to convince a New People’s Army (NPA) combatant to abandon the communist movement and return to the fold of the law, the Police Regional Office in the Caraga Region (PRO-13) said Friday.

The PRO-13 said
“Andie,” 43, of Davao Oriental, decided to embrace a new and peaceful life by yielding to the personnel of the 2nd Agusan del Sur Provincial Mobile Force Company, the Bunawan Municipal Police Station, and the 11th Special Action Company of the PNP Special Action Force on Thursday.

In a statement, the regional police said the former rebel belonged to the
dismantled Guerrilla Front 34, Sub-Regional Committee 4 under the NPA Southern Mindanao Regional Committee.

Andie handed over to authorities three homemade shotguns, two homemade .357 revolvers, and 31 live rounds of assorted ammunition.

“May his submission to the authorities inspire others to do the same because it is never too late to yield and avail handfuls of government assistance,” PRO-13 director, Brig. Gen. Kirby John Kraft, said.

Kraft said the surrenderer will undergo the process for him to avail of the services of the government under the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program.

BIFF training officer killed in clash with Army

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 23, 2024): BIFF training officer killed in clash with Army (By Edwin Fernandez)

CAMP SIONGCO, Maguindanao Norte – A ranking officer of the extremist Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) was killed during an encounter with government forces in Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Maguindanao del Sur, an Army official said Saturday.

Brig. Gen. Jose Vladimir Caraga, commander of the 1st Brigade Combat Team, identified the slain rebel as
Abu Halil, the training officer of the BIFF headed by Ustadz Kagi Karialan.

Caraga said a 20-minute firefight erupted in Sitio Binakuyan, Barangay Lower Salbu, Datu Saudi Ampatuan, at about 2:30 a.m. on Friday while the soldiers were checking on reports from civilians about the presence of heavily armed men in the village.

“Most people are awake even during the wee hours of the night because they are observing the fasting month (of Ramadan),” he said.

Caraga said Abu Halil is the brother of Khadafi Abdulatif, the chief of staff of the BIFF Kagui Karialan faction. Soldiers conducting clearing operations in the encounter site found the body of Halil left by his comrades. Found near his body was an M16 rifle with ammunition.

Maj. Gen. Alex S. Rillera, 6th Infantry Division commander, said that while the operation was successful in protecting the people, especially during Ramadan, he was sad one has to die for pursuing a meaningless ideology.

“I commend the 1st Combat Brigade for the successful operation, but I reiterate my call for the extremists to consider returning to the mainstream so you will not suffer the fate of Halil,” said Rillera, also the commander of the Joint Task Force Central.