Tuesday, April 30, 2024

NTF-WPS scores latest Chinese harassment of PH ships in Panatag Shoal

 From the Philippine News Agency (May 1, 2024): NTF-WPS scores latest Chinese harassment of PH ships in Panatag Shoal (By Priam Nepomuceno)

HARASSMENT. A Chinese Coast Guard (CCG) vessel (with a green deck) blasts a Philippine civilian vessel with a water cannon while on its way for the rotation and reprovisioning of troops at BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin Shoal on March 5, 2024. The National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea on Tuesday (April 30) condemned another incident of Chinese harassment which involved CCG ships water cannoning Philippine vessels on their way to provide humanitarian assistance to Filipino fishermen in Panatag Shoal. (Photo courtesy of AFP Facebook)

MANILA – The National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS) on Tuesday condemned the latest incident of Chinese harassment which involved China Coast Guard (CCG) ships water cannoning Philippine vessels on their way to provide humanitarian assistance to Filipino fishermen in Panatag Shoal (also known as Bajo De Masinloc and Scarborough Shoal).

"Earlier today CCG and Chinese Maritime Militia (CMM) vessels harassed, blocked, water cannoned, rammed vessels of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) en route to Panatag Shoal to conduct a regular humanitarian and assistance mission to Filipino fishing boats in and around the area," it said in a statement.

These Filipino ships are the PCG BRP Bagacay (MMRV-4410) and BFAR's BRP Bankaw (MMOV-3004). The incident also demonstrated China's willingness to obstruct a Philippine humanitarian mission, the task force said.

These illegal actions were witnessed by members of the local and foreign press, who are routinely invited to embed in these regular BFAR humanitarian and assistance missions for fisherfolk throughout the WPS and other maritime areas.

"Today, the embedded press on the PCG and BFAR vessels have not only witnessed but also experienced first-hand, alongside the determined PCG and BFAR personnel, the illegal, coercive, aggressive, and dangerous actions of the agents of the Chinese Communist Party and their CCG and CMM," NTF-WPS said.

At this time, both PCG and BFAR vessels have regrouped approximately 20 nautical miles from Panatag Shoal.

Crew members of the two ships are now conducting damage, assessments and are reorganizing following the severe water cannoning by CCG vessels.

"Initial reports from PCG and BFAR personnel onboard, as reflected by live media reports, indicate that the PCG vessel suffered some damage to a part of its superstructure from targeted high-pressure water cannoning by CCG vessels," the task force said.

Meanwhile, the BRP Bankaw sustained damage to heating,ventilation, and air conditioning systems; electrical, navigation, and radio systems; and superficial hull damage.

The BFAR ship was subjected to at least eight instances of targeted high-pressure water cannoning from Chinese vessels and was rammed a total of three times by both CCG and CMM craft.

"These latest demonstrations of China's illegal and irresponsible behavior highlight their egregious disregard for the Philippines' lawful exercise of its rights and entitlements in our own EEZ. Clearly, China has no regard for the welfare of our fishermen who only want to make a decent living in the WPS. China's act of obstructing civilian ships carrying only supplies for our fishermen calls into question the sincerity of their call for dialogue and peaceful approaches to de-escalate the situation in the WPS," NTF-WPS added.

It also said the Philippines will continue to act peacefully and responsibly, consistent with rules-based international law, based on United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the valid and binding 2016 Arbitral Award.

Peace and stability in the region cannot be achieved if countries, big or small, do not exercise due regard for the well-established and legally-settled rights of others.

"The Philippines will not be deterred from pursuing legitimate and lawful activities in our maritime zones, including in BDM which is a vital source of livelihood for our fisherfolk," NTF-WPS said.


2 NPA remnants arrested, firearms seized in northern Negros

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 25, 2024): 2 NPA remnants arrested, firearms seized in northern Negros (By Nanette Guadalquiver)

BACOLOD CITY – A joint military and police team arrested two suspected remnants of the dismantled Northern Negros Front (NFF) of the New People's Army (NPA) in a remote area of Don Salvador Benedicto, Negros Occidental on Thursday morning.

They were found illegally possessing several firearms, according to a report of the Philippine Army’s 79th Infantry Battalion (IB), whose troops were joined by personnel of the 1st Negros Occidental Provincial Mobile Force Company during the operation.

In an interview, 2nd Lt. Dan Carlo Samoza, civil-military operations officer of 79IB, said the government forces received information on the presence of armed men in Barangay Pinoyawan while conducting joint law enforcement operation in the area.

The two arrested NPA remnants, whose identities were withheld by the authorities for now, are already in the custody of Don Salvador Benedicto Municipal Police Station, he said.

Samoza said the troops
recovered from their possession a KG-9 semiautomatic pistol, a caliber .45 pistol, and three 12-gauge shotguns.

Two minors were also found in their company, he said.

“This is still under investigation. We are validating other details with our counterparts,” he added.

Although the Philippine Army has declared the NNF as dismantled, its remnants are still operating in some areas in the northern part of the province.

The 79IB earlier said it continued to conduct focused military operations to prevent the remaining NPA rebels from regaining their lost territory.


Moro Islamic Liberation Front commander slain, 4 nabbed in CIDG anti-firearms sale op

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 26, 2024): Moro Islamic Liberation Front commander slain, 4 nabbed in CIDG anti-firearms sale op (By Edwin Fernandez)

ILLEGAL FIREARMS. Three of the four arrested suspects and firearms (inset) seized from a suspected gunrunning group after an anti-illegal firearms operation of the CIDG-BARMM in Talayan, Maguindanao del Sur on Thursday (April 25, 2024). The leader of the group, an Moro Islamic Liberation Front field commander, was slain in the brief shootout. (Photo from CIDG-BARMM)

TALAYAN, Maguindanao Sur – Police authorities in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) neutralized a Moro Islamic Liberation Front field commander and arrested four others during an anti-gunrunning operation here on Thursday afternoon.

In a report Friday, Lt. Col. Ariel Huesca, regional chief of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG-BARMM), identified the slain suspected gunrunner as Zaldy Usman of Barangay Tambunan in this town.

“Usman’s group (was) about to deal high-powered firearms to a poseur-buyer when (one) of them sensed they were being watched and opened fire on lawmen nearby, triggering a brief firefight near a gasoline station,” he said.

Huesca said Usman, 52, is a battalion commander of the Inner Armed Based Command of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces, the armed wing of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

Arrested were the injured Ibrahim Temanong Satogan, 26, a member of Moro Islamic Liberation Front 28th brigade; Basir Baliwan, 37; Ismael Cabagani, an Moro Islamic Liberation Front training instructor; and Ari Butuan, 43, all from Talitay town, Maguindanao del Sur.

CIDG operatives, backed by military and local police personnel, also seized four firearms, comprising two M16 rifles, a .45-caliber pistol, and a .30-caliber light machinegun, as well as ammunition, mobile phones, and boodle money.

Currently detained at the CIDG detention facility, the suspects are facing charges of violation of RA 10591 or illegal possession of firearms and explosives.


3 NPA rebels killed in Caraga skirmishes

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 26, 2024): 3 NPA rebels killed in Caraga skirmishes (By Alexander Lopez)

NPA REBEL KILLED. The three New People’s Army rebels killed during the series of encounters from March 25 to April 20 in the hinterlands of Surigao del Sur and Agusan del Sur. The military also seized several high-powered firearms and ammunition during the skirmishes. (Photo courtesy of 901Bde)

BUTUAN CITY – Six armed confrontations were recorded by the Army’s 901st Infantry Brigade (901Bde) from March 25 to April 20 this year that resulted in heavy losses on the side of the communist New People’s Army (NPA), particularly the North Eastern Mindanao Regional Committee (NEMRC).

Brig. Gen. Arsenio Sadural, 901Bde commander, said the series of encounters involved the various units under the brigade, including the 30th Infantry Battalion (IB), 36th IB, and 65th IB.

“The conduct of relentless combat operations aims to target the members of the Communist Terrorist Group, particularly the NEMRC in the hinterlands of Agusan del Sur and Surigao del Sur and to defeat them to free these provinces from their terrorist activities,” Sadural said in a statement on Friday.

On March 25, an encounter in Barangay Bitaugan, San Miguel, Surigao del Sur, resulted in the death of an NPA rebel and the recovery of an M-16 rifle.

After a week, another encounter in the same barangay resulted in the recovery of an M-16 rifle, medical paraphernalia, and personal belongings of the rebels.

On April 17, soldiers engaged a group of fleeing NPA rebels in Barangay Kolambugan, Sibagat, Agusan del Sur, resulting in the death of a rebel and the seizure of a VZ58 (7.62mm) rifle with magazines and ammunition.

On April 20, another encounter took place in the vicinity of Barangay Kolambugan that resulted in the death of another NPA insurgent and the recovery of an AK-47 rifle.

Sadural was also optimistic on the imminent dismantling of the NEMRC, saying government forces are determined to pursue combat operations in the area.


2 NPA militias yield in Surigao Sur

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 29, 2024): 2 NPA militias yield in Surigao Sur (By Alexander Lopez)

BACK TO MAINSTREAM. Members of the Philippine Army’s Mobile Community Support Sustainment Team (MCSST) in Marihatag, Surigao del Sur, welcomed the surrender of two active communist militias of the New People’s Army on Saturday (April 27, 2024). The surrenderers will receive support from the government’s Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program. (Photo courtesy of 75IB)

BUTUAN CITY – Two active Milisya ng Bayan members of the communist New People’s Army (NPA) voluntarily surrendered to the Philippine Army’s Mobile Community Support Sustainment Team (MCSST) in Marihatag, Surigao del Sur, over the weekend.

In a report on Monday, the MCSST identified the surrenderers only through their
aliases “Angkol Lumpot” and “Ante Ison,” both members of the dismantled NPA Guerrilla Front 19, North Eastern Mindanao Regional Committee.

The surrenderers also handed over to authorities one AK-47 rifle with 30 live ammunition.

“The surrender of the two rebels resulted from (our) massive operations in the different villages in Marihatag town,” the MCSST said in their report.

Lt. Col. Jan Molero, commander of the Army’s 75th Infantry Battalion, lauded the decision of the two rebels to surrender.

“The government, through the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program, will support them as they start reintegrating to their families and communities,” he said.


Hunt on vs. killers of IP village councilor in Maguindanao Sur

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 30, 2024): Hunt on vs. killers of IP village councilor in Maguindanao Sur (By Edwin Fernandez)

AMBUSH SURVIVOR. A police officer interviews Ronald Angit, the injured driver of the slain village councilor Juanito Promboy, in Datu Hoffer, Maguindanao del Sur, on Monday (April 29, 2024). Promboy is representative of the Teduray tribe in the village council. (Photo courtesy of Datu Hoffer MPS)

COTABATO CITY – Police are now tracking down two gunmen on a motorcycle who ambushed and killed a village councilor representing the Indigenous Peoples (IPs) in Datu Hoffer town, Maguindanao del Sur, on Monday afternoon.

Lt. Albert Pansoy, town police chief, identified the victim as Timuay (IP senior ancestral leader) Juanito Promboy, 55, representing the IPs of Barangay Mother Tuayan.

“Promboy’s driver-companion, Ronald Angit of South Upi, Maguindanao del Sur, was injured in the 2 p.m. ambush that took place along a dirt road in Tuayan village,” Pansoy said in a report Tuesday.

Police officers rushed the two victims to the Maguindanao del Sur provincial hospital, but Promboy was pronounced dead on arrival.

Angit is still undergoing medical treatment, Pansoy said.

Meanwhile, a member of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA), the provisional lawmaking body of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, has condemned Promboy’s killing.

“This attack on innocent tribal leaders and civilians from the Teduray tribe is a reprehensible act that must be strongly condemned,” said BTA parliament member Froilyn Mendoza, who represents the IPs in the regional parliament.

“We call on the authorities to swiftly investigate this cowardly attack and bring the perpetrators to justice,” she added.

Since 2018, at least 65 IP leaders and members have been killed in the provinces of Maguindanao del Sur and Maguindanao del Norte, as documented by Jen Cornelio of the Timuay Justice and Governance Group in Central Mindanao.


Info officers vow to promote of Caraga’s peace, dev’t gains

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 30, 2024): Info officers vow to promote of Caraga’s peace, dev’t gains (By Alexander Lopez)

CARAGA COMMUNICATORS. The Mindanao Development Authority and the Philippine Information Agency in the Caraga Region lead the Mindanao Communicators Network Congress in Butuan City from April 29 to 30, 2024. Some 150 information officers from government units and government line agencies attended the event, aimed at strengthening the promotion of the peace and development of the region. (Photo courtesy of PIA-13)

BUTUAN CITY – Some 150 Information Officers (IOs) from local government units (LGUs) and government line agencies in the Caraga Region completed a two-day Mindanao Communicators Network Congress here that culminated Tuesday to promote the government's peace gains in the region.

Facilitated by the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) and the Philippine Information Agency in the region (PIA-13), the gathering also sought the commitment of all communicators to advance the region's tourism and culture.

"This is the first leg of the series of activities of IOs in Mindanao, which MinDA will facilitate," PIA-13 Director Venus Garcia said in an interview on Tuesday.

She said the assembly also served as a venue for IOs to identify challenges and enabling conditions in their workplaces and the mechanisms that help them sustain the information network in their LGUs.

The gathering also revived the formation of an IO communications network in Caraga.

"Participants were also engaged in dynamic discussions and workshops to enhance their communication strategies and skills and effectively showcase Caraga's unique attributes to a wider audience," Garcia said.

Through effective communication, the information officers are also expected to serve as catalysts for positive change, shedding light on the region's progress while highlighting its potential as a prime destination for tourists and culture enthusiasts alike, she added.

Gracing the event was Director Olie Dagala of MinDA's Investment Promotions and Public Affairs, who represented MinDA chair Maria Belen Acosta at the opening of the assembly.


P545-M infra projects to boost morale, capability of soldiers in Bicol

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 30, 2024): P545-M infra projects to boost morale, capability of soldiers in Bicol (By Connie Calipay)

The Philippine Army's 9th Infantry Division headquarters in Pili, Camarines Sur (PNA photo by Connie Calipay)

LEGAZPI CITY – A total of 22 projects amounting to PHP545 million will soon be completed in various camps and headquarters of the Philippine Army's 9th Infantry Division (9ID) in the Bicol Region.

In a phone interview on Tuesday, Maj. Frank Roldan, 9ID Public Affairs Unit chief, said the projects aimed at boosting the morale and enhancing the capabilities of over 6,000 soldiers stationed in Bicol, are undergoing construction with the support of Ako Bicol Party-list (AKB).

"We extend our sincere appreciation to Ako Bicol Party-list led by Rep. Elizaldy Co for their invaluable support in allocating PHP545 million towards infrastructure projects for the 9th Infantry Spear Division. These projects will contribute to more cohesive, motivated, and effective Army troops," Roldan said.

He said the various infrastructure projects are located in the 9ID headquarters in Pili, Camarines Sur; and the military reservations in Barangay Talahib, Daraga, Albay, and in Barangay Lamon in Goa, Camarines Sur.

"The projects mostly focus on the construction of barracks which will improve the living conditions of every trooper and other camp facilities like the perimeter fences, guard posts, solar-powered water system and powerhouses with generator sets that will ensure security and self-sustainability of 9ID camps," he added.

Roldan said the essential facilities are expected to be completed next year.


Military ops yield wins vs. DI, NPA remnants in NorMin

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 30, 2024): Military ops yield wins vs. DI, NPA remnants in NorMin (By Nef Luczon)

Google map of Northern Mindanao.

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY – Two separate military operations in the Northern Mindanao Region have yielded significant wins against the communist New People's Army (NPA) rebels and Dawlah Islamiya - Maute Group (DI-MG) remnants.

On Tuesday, the Army's 48th Infantry Battalion (48IB) welcomed the surrender of four NPA fighters in its headquarters in Maramag, Bukidnon.

The surrenderers were part of the
NPA's Sub-Regional Sentro De Grabidad Sagay led by a certain "Kaloy," the commanding officer. Joining Kaloy were "Muloy," the vice commander; "Sap-Sap," the squad supply officer; and a combatant known as "Bukol."

The 48IB, a unit under the 1003rd Infantry Brigade of the 10th Infantry Division, also received 18 high-powered firearms from the surrenderers.

Meanwhile, Lt. Gen. William Gonzales, commander of the Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom), commended the troops of Joint Task Force (JTF) ZamPeLan for its operations in Munai, Lanao del Norte on Monday.

The operation led to the deaths of five DI-MG combatants during an encounter. The fatalities included
Najib Laguindab, a sub-leader, and Ibn Sali, one of the lookouts in the Dec. 3, 2023 bombing at the Mindanao State University gymnasium in Marawi City.

Maj. Gen. Gabriel Viray III, commander of JTF ZamPeLan, said five soldiers were wounded during the encounter and were immediately given medical attention.

According to Westmincom, seven of the eight key perpetrators in the MSU Gymnasium bombing have been neutralized, and only Nasser Daud remains at large.


No pullout of gov't troops from Negros Oriental: Army exec

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 30, 2024): No pullout of gov't troops from Negros Oriental: Army exec (By Mary Judaline Partlow)

NO TROOP WITHDRAWAL. Soldiers of the Philippine Army's 11th Infantry Battalion based in Siaton, Negros Oriental, stand in attention during a formation in this undated photo. The Philippine Army said on Tuesday (April 30, 2024) that it would not withdraw its forces from the province despite its declaration as under a state of Stable Internal Peace and Security. (PNA file photo by Mary Judaline Partlow)

DUMAGUETE CITY – Government troops deployed to Negros Oriental will not be pulled out despite the province being declared already under a state of Stable Internal Peace and Security (SIPS), a military official said Tuesday.

Brig. Gen. Joey Escanillas, commander of the Army's 302nd Brigade based in Tanjay City, said the transition from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to the Philippine National Police (PNP) as the lead agency in counter-insurgency operations would be gradual.

"This is not going to be a paradigm shift, but little by little, we will transition our role to supporting the PNP under the SIPS," Escanillas said during a Kapihan sa PIA forum here.

He said the transition, stipulated in the memorandum of agreement between the AFP and PNP, may take up to five years to complete.

This came after the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (Provincial Board) passed a resolution last month for the SIPS declaration, following the recommendation of the Provincial Peace and Order Council.

Escanillas said the declaration meant that all guerilla fronts of the New People's Army – the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines – on Negros Island have been dismantled, with just a few remnants left.

This means, he said, a shift in focus of the government's anti-insurgency campaign to primarily law enforcement, involving not just the police but the local government units (LGUs) and government agencies in a whole-of-nation approach.

Meanwhile, Lt. Col. Don Richmond Conag, deputy police provincial director for operations, assured in the same forum that they are ready to take over the lead role from the AFP.


9 NPA remnants with high-powered firearms surrender

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 30, 2024): 9 NPA remnants with high-powered firearms surrender (By Che Palicte)

GIVING UP THE FIGHT. The high-powered firearms of the five members of the NPA Guerrilla Front 33 operating in the borders of Davao de Oro, Davao del Norte, and Agusan del Sur who surrendered to the military on April 24, 2024. The military vows to continue pursuing NPA remnants even after the declaration of Davao del Norte as an insurgency-free province. (Photo courtesy of 1001Bde)

DAVAO CITY – Nine remnants of three dismantled New People's Army (NPA) units in the Davao region recently surrendered to authorities, bringing along various high-powered firearms and war materiel, the Army said in a statement Tuesday.

Brig. Gen. Ronnie Babac, the Philippine Army's 1001st Infantry Brigade commander, said the surrenderers previously operated in their area of responsibility.

In Monkayo, Davao de Oro, four rebels voluntarily surrendered to the Army's 25th Infantry Battalion (IB) on separate occasions—one on April 15, another on April 22, and one each on April 24 and April 27.

Two surrenderers were members of the NPA Dismantled Regional Headquarters of the Southern Mindanao Regional Committee, while the other two belonged to the Dismantled Guerrilla Front (DGF) 2.

Babac said the surrenderers turned in four improvised explosive devices and other war materiel.

On April 24, four former members of the DGF 33 operating in the borders of Davao de Oro, Davao del Norte, and Agusan del Sur and one former member of the Dismantled Pulang Bagani Command operating in the periphery of Davao de Oro and Davao Oriental surrendered to the 60IB.

The group brought five high-powered firearms consisting of an AR-15 rifle, a Bushmaster rifle, two M16 rifles, and an M14 rifle when they yielded.

"I commend the efforts of the two battalions operationally controlled by the 1001st Infantry Brigade (101Bde) in facilitating the surrender of the remnants of the NPA," Babac said.

He assured that the 1001Bde "remains relentless" in going after NPA remnants despite the declaration of its area of responsibility as insurgency-free.

Davao del Norte was declared insurgency-free on June 13, 2022, and Davao de Oro on June 22 of the same year.