Thursday, May 9, 2024

FACT CHECK: PH did not receive 12 AV-8B Harrier aircraft from NATO allies

 From Rappler (May 10, 2024): FACT CHECK: PH did not receive 12 AV-8B Harrier aircraft from NATO allies

No official announcements from the Philippine Army, Philippine Air Force, and NATO regarding the supposed acquisition have been made

Claim: The Philippines received 12 AV-8B Harrier aircraft from members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to further bolster the country’s defense.
Rating: FALSE

Why we fact-checked this: The claim was made in a YouTube video with 5,235 views and 138 likes as of writing. It was posted on May 5 by a channel with 31,200 subscribers.

The bottom line: There have been no official announcements from reputable sources regarding the claim. Neither the Philippine Army nor the Philippine Air Force has released any statements supporting the claim. There have also been no announcements on the NATO website.

The AV-8B Harrier is a single-seat, light attack aircraft in service with the United States Marine Corps (USMC). It is set to be retired in two years as the USMC transitions to the F-35B stealth fighter.

Other Stories

FACT CHECK: PH has not formed its own version of NATO

There are no official announcements about the Philippines establishing its own security alliance ​​similar to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization

The Philippines and NATO: While the Philippines is not a NATO member, the US considers it a “major Non-NATO Ally.” This status grants the Philippines a number of defense trade and security cooperation benefits, such as the eligibility to enter into agreements with the US defense department “for the purpose of conducting cooperative research and development projects on defense equipment and munitions.”

PH-US ties: The video was uploaded amid the 2024 Balikatan exercises between the Philippines and the US, which started on April 22 and ended on May 10.

The annual joint military training is intended to enhance “military cooperation and readiness” between the two treaty allies. 

(Rappler Recap: PH, US troops prepare for ‘worst-case scenario’ in Balikatan drills)

The exercises were held amid ongoing tensions between the Philippines and China in the South China Sea. Last month, China again used water cannons against Philippine ships, an act that the US called “irresponsible behavior.”

Beijing has continued to assert its claim over the entire waterway in defiance of the 2016 arbitral ruling in favor of Manila. China has also insisted on the existence of a supposed gentleman’s agreement to manage tensions in the South China Sea.

For legitimate news on Philippine military acquisitions, check the official Facebook page, X (formerly Twitter) page, and website of the Department of National Defense. – Katarina Ruflo/

CHR launches probe into Negros Occidental killings as NPA admits involvement

From Rappler (May 10, 2024): CHR launches probe into Negros Occidental killings as NPA admits involvement (By ERWIN DELILAN)

The New People's Army owns responsibility for killing seven civilians it accused of being spies

BACOLOD, Philippines – The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) in Bacolod City has announced an official investigation into a series of killings in Negros Occidental. The wave of violence, blamed on communist rebels in the region, raised serious human rights concerns in the province.

The announcement came after eight civilians were killed in a month’s time, with alarming allegations emerging that most of them were targeted by the New People’s Army (NPA) on suspicion that they were government informants.

CHR-Bacolod Director Vincent Parra told Rappler on Thursday, May 9, that the Commission will conduct a motu proprio investigation on the alleged liquidation of eight civilians in the province from April to early May of this year, which seven of whom were allegedly tagged by the NPA as spies or “military agents.”

“This could be a violation of the right to life allegedly committed by non-state actors,” Parra said.

He cited a provision in the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) which states that “everyone has the right to life, liberty, and security of person.”

In a statement, Ka JB Regalado, the spokesman of the NPA’s Leonardo Panaligan Command-Central Negros Guerrilla Front, said they killed the following people in difference places in the province within a period of less than one month:

Danny Boy Bartolome of Sitio Paho, Camandag, La Castellana town on April 11
Barangay tanod Alexander Alquizar of Proper Lagaan, Calatrava town on April 20
Myrna Bilando of Sitio Duga-anon, Barangay Oringao, Kabankalan City on April 21
Jun Habagat of Sitio Cagay, Barangay Camindangan, Sipalay City on April 24
Albert “Tongkai” Golez of Sitio Cuyawyaw, Barangay Inolingan, Moises Padilla town on April 24
Ritoy Pedro of Sitio Kamanggahan, Barangay Amontay, Binalbagan on April 28
Barangay tanod Donie Baculi of Sitio Bactolon, Barangay Camindangan, Sipalay City on May 3

The NPA, however, denied any hand in the May 1 killing of a village councilor, Reynaldo “Jimmy” Jacolbe, in Barangay Puso, La Castellana town. Instead the NPA condemned the killing of Jacolbe.

But as for the seven, Regalado said maintained that they spied for the Army’s 62nd and 94th Infantry battalions based in Isabela and Himamaylan City in Negros Occidental, respectively.

“They cooperated with the Army to the detriment of the members of our ‘pulang hangaway’ (red warriors), so we carried out our revolutionary justice against them,” Regalado said.

Lieutenant Colonel J-Jay Javines, public affairs officer of the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division in Jamindan, Capiz, called on the CHR to conduct a no-nonsense investigation in the wake of the NPA’s statement, admitting to be behind the killings.

Javines said, “They (NPA) are violators of human rights, and they’re terrorists. This should be investigated by human rights groups and advocates.”

He said the NPA suffered major setbacks in the province, and was desperate as it struggled to be relevant.

“This is why they resort to killings of innocent civilians to make their presence felt in the communities and grip people in fear. The NPA is sending the subtle message: ‘This should be done to anyone who cooperates or gives information to security forces,’” Javines said.

The Negros Occidental Police Provincial Office (NOCPPO) condemned the killings, and ordered a separate investigation into the killings in the wake of the NPA statement.

Negros Occidental police chief, Colonel Rainerio de Chavez, said, “Once we have identified the perpetrators, backed by evidence and have completed the requirements, we will immediately file appropriate charges against them.”

“We assure [the families of those killed] that we will not rest until we find out who are behind the killings and bring justice to the death of their loved ones,” De Chavez said.

High-ranking NPA Leader, 43 others surrender in Bukidnon

From the Mindanao Times (May 8, 2024): High-ranking NPA Leader, 43 others surrender in Bukidnon (By RHODA GRACE SARON)


A HIGH-RANKING leader and 42 other communist terrorist group (CTG) members surrendered to the 403rd Infantry Brigade of the 4th Infantry Division in Bukidnon on Wednesday, May 8, 2024.

The surrenderees, including
Randy Bayot alias Gov/Kap,” a spokesperson and finance officer of the North Central Mindanao Regional Committee, were presented to the media during a press conference.

During the brief ceremony, the surrenderees
also turned over 41 high-powered firearms, including five M16 rifles and one M14 rifle.

Governor Rogelio Neil Roque, who was present at the press conference, assured the former rebels of government support through allocated programs and funding.

Bayot, a 48-year-old resident of Bukidnon, cited relentless military operations, fatigue, and a desire for a normal life with his family as reasons for his surrender. He also mentioned ideological disillusionment within the movement in his 19 years inside.

“The theories we practiced don’t align with their strategies anymore,” Bayot said.

They surrendered following a series of focused military operations conducted by the 1st Special Forces Battalion, 8IB, 88IB, 26IB, and intelligence units.

Bayot was one of the top most wanted high-ranking CNTs facing two counts of murder, multiple frustrated murder, destructive arson, kidnapping, and serious illegal detention.

In his statement, Major General Jose Maria R. Cuerpo II, commander of the 4ID, expressed his appreciation for Bayot’s surrender and heeding the government’s call for peace and reconciliation.

“This will eventually lead to the surrender of the remaining demoralized members,” Cuerpo said.

“This progress displays the end of terror of the CTG in Bukidnon and continues the opportunity for development and progress. Hopefully, this will leave a mark on the minds of the remaining personalities that it is not yet too late to return to the folds of the law and start a new life,” he said.

He urged the remaining communist guerrillas to lay down their arms and return to the folds of the law.

“The downfall of the CTG in Bukidnon is inevitable and your only option is to embrace the path to peace and development,” he added.

CPP/Ang Bayan Daily News and Analysis: 6 aktibistang inaresto sa protesta noong Mayo Uno, nakalaya na

Ang Bayan Daily News and Analysis propaganda article posted to the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) Philippine Revolution Web Central (PRWC) Website (May 9, 2024): 6 aktibistang inaresto sa protesta noong Mayo Uno, nakalaya na

May 09, 2024

Nakalaya na noong gabi ng Mayo 7 ang anim na mga aktibistang kabataan na inaresto ng mga pulis sa protesta noong Mayo 1, Pandaigdigang Araw ng Paggawa. Isang linggo silang ikinulong sa kasong iligal na asembliya (paglabag sa Batas Pambansa 880), direct assault, disobedience at malicious mischief.

Pansamantala silang nakalaya matapos magpyansa ng ₱42,000 kada isa (₱6,000 para sa iligal na asembleya at ₱36,000 para sa direct assault) o kabuuang ₱252,000 para sa anim.

Sa kabila ng paglaya ng Mayo Uno 6, dismayado ang mga grupo ng kabataan at karapatang-tao sa mabagal at sinasabi nilang sadyang pinatagal na pagproseso sa kaso at petisyon para sa pyansa ng mga biktima. Noon pang Mayo 3 naghain ng petisyon para sa pyansa ang mga abugado ng mga biktima ngunit Mayo 6 lamang ito dininig ng korte.

Ayon sa Anakbayan, ikinagalak nila ang paglaya ng anim na mga kabataang aktibista. “Tagumpay ito na dulot ng sama-samang pagpapanawagan at pagkilos ng kabataan at iba pang sektor para sa kalayaan ng anim,” ayon sa grupo. Sunud-sunod ang mga aksyong protestang isinagawa ng iba’t ibang mga organisasyon sa hedkwarters ng Manila Police Disrict na nanawagan para sa kalayaan ng anim.

“Malaya man ang Mayo Uno 6, hindi pa rin napapanagot ang pasistang Philippine National Police at NCRPO na marahas na dispersal at iligal na paghuli [sa mga biktima],” ayon sa grupo. Noong Mayo 6 ng gabi, ipinahayag ng mga grupo sa karapatang-tao sa isang pagtitipon para sa midya sa University of the Philippines (UP) Manila ang plano nitong magsampa ng kontra-asunto laban sa mga elemento ng pulis na sangkot sa marahas na pagbuwag sa protesta.

Ipinanawagan naman ng Kilusang Mayo Uno ang kagyat na pagbabasura sa tinawag nitong mga gawa-gawang kaso laban sa anim na aktibista. “Panagutin ang mga piskal at pulis na tumapak sa karapatan ng Mayo Uno 6. Itigil ang mga batas at panukala na pumipigil sa mamamayan na ipaglaban ang kanilang karapatan,” pahayag ng grupo.

Ang anim, mga estudyante mula sa UP at Anakbayan-South Caloocan, ay marahas na inaresto malapit sa embahada ng US kasunod ng martsa kasama ang iba’t ibang mga sektor para batikusin ang pagpapakatuta ng rehimeng Marcos sa imperyalistang US. Partikular nilang kinundena ang isinasagawang Balikatan 39-24 o mga war games ng pwersang militar ng US at Pilipinas mula Abril 22 hanggang Mayo 10 at ang planong charter change.

CPP/Ang Bayan Daily News and Analysis: Kasinungalingan ng 9th IB sa diumanong engkwentro sa Kabankalan City, inilantad

Ang Bayan Daily News and Analysis propaganda article posted to the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) Philippine Revolution Web Central (PRWC) Website (May 9, 2024): Kasinungalingan ng 9th IB sa diumanong engkwentro sa Kabankalan City, inilantad (Lies of the 9th IB in the alleged encounter in Kabankalan City, exposed)

May 09, 2024

Pinasinungalingan ng Bagong Hukbong Bayan (BHB)-South Central Negros (Mt. Cansermon Command) ang mga pahayag ng 94th IB kaugnay ng sinabi nitong dalawang beses na engkwentro sa hukbong bayan sa Barangay Carol-an, Kabankalan City, Negros Occidental noong Mayo 6.

“Walang yunit ng BHB sa naturang lugar nang maganap ang sinasabing engkwentro,” ayon kay Ka Dionesio Magbuelas, tagapagsalita ng yunit ng BHB. “(L)ahat ng yunit sa ilalim ng BHB-South Central Negros ay ligtas at patuloy na nagpapatupad sa kani-kanilang mga gawain sa saklaw na erya ng kanilang operasyon.”

Dahil walang yunit ng hukbong bayan sa naturang lugar, ipinahayag ni Ka Dionesio ang kanyang pag-aalala sa kalagayan ng mga sibilyan at residente sa Barangay Carol-an. Aniya, “posibleng paglabag na naman sa karapatang-tao ang isinagawa ng mga tropa ng 94th IB sa lugar at pinagtatakpan lamang ito sa pagbabalita ng pekeng engkwentro.”

Katunayan, napilitang magbakwit ang higit 480 residente ng Sityo Tagoc, Bobon, at Matampa ng Barangay Carol-an dahil sa pekeng engkwentro ng AFP. Kabilang sa mga biktima ang hindi bababa sa 146 menor-de-edad at 14 matatanda na naninirahan sa barangay.

Hindi na bago ito sa mga maruming taktika ng 94th IB. “Katulad sa nagdaang mga buwan, bawat balita ng pekeng engkwentro at palabas na pagkakumpiska ng mga armas, mayroon ding mga inosenteng magsasaka na iligal na inaaresto, binubugbog at iniimbestigahan,” aniya.

Ang pinalalabas na engkwentro ng 94th IB ay lubhang taliwas din sa deklarasyon ng 3rd ID na nabuwag na nito ang BHB-South Central Negros noong Disyembre 2023.

Giit ni Ka Dionesio, layunin lamang ng 94th IB na makuha ang pabuya sa palabas na sunud-sunod na mga engkwentro at tagumpay laban sa hukbong bayan sa naturang larangang gerilya. Sa pahayag ng 94th IB, pinalalabas na dalawang beses nilang nakasagupa ang yunit ng BHB, na diumano’y nagtagal ng 10 at limang minuto.

CPP/Ang Bayan Daily News and Analysis: Supreme Court declares Red-tagging a "threat to life, liberty and security"

Ang Bayan Daily News and Analysis propaganda article posted to the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) Philippine Revolution Web Central (PRWC) Website (May 9, 2024): Supreme Court declares Red-tagging a "threat to life, liberty and security"

This article is available in Pilipino

May 09, 2024

In a decision written as early as July 4, 2023, the Supreme Court declared that Red-tagging or the malicious linking of civilians to the armed movement, is a threat to the life, liberty and security of its target victims. The decision is in line with the favorable petition for writ of amparo by Siegfred Deduro, former Bayan Muna Party-list representative. The decision written by Associate Justice Rodil V. Zalameda was only made public yesterday, May 8.

The decision is the first instance a court has given a legal definition to the concept of Red-tagging in the Philippines. The recognition is based on the reports of the United Nations Human Rights Council.

“Labeling a person ‘Red’ often comes with frequent surveillance, direct harassment, and in some instances, eventual death. As being associated with communists or terrorists makes the red-tagged person a target of vigilantes, paramilitary groups, or even state agents, it is easy to understand why a person may fear that being red-tagged puts their life and security at risk,” the Supreme Court wrote.

In this decision, the Supreme Court reversed the lower court’s earlier dismissal of Deduro’s petition. According to the Supreme Court, the writ of amparo can be granted to the victims of Red-tagging, as well as vilification, labeling, and guilt by association because it is “easy to understand” the victim’s resulting fear.

“The Supreme Court decision that red tagging constitutes a threat to another person’s life and security is a major legal victory and affirms our long assertion that red-tagging must be banned,” said Atty. Neri Colmenares, chairman of Bayan Muna. “Red-taggers must be warned that we will file charges against them under our criminal and civil laws.”

He said this decision should serve as a warning to Red-taggers that false accusations and defamation of activists can be charged against them and anyone who commits it can be imprisoned.

The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) welcomed the decision, which it said was “long overdue.” It says this decision is very important because it clearly and without doubt categorizes Red-tagging as a “threat.”

“[This] is not a mere legally meritorious victory, nor a vindication and potential shield of human rights defenders and a tribute to those fallen and already victimized by it, but a strong slap on self-righteous red-taggers before & now,” according to NUPL.

National-democratic organizations also welcomed the decision.

“This landmark decision is a significant victory for all Filipinos who have been victims of state-sponsored harassment and intimidation,” according to Gabriela. It called the decision “a stern rebuke to the past Duterte regime and the current Marcos Jr. regime’s policy of demonizing and terrorizing its critics.”

They called for the repeal of EO 70 and the dismantling of the NTF-Elcac, which mainly red-tags and terror-tags to suppress the people’s resistance and justify widespread violation of human rights.

CPP/Ang Bayan Daily News and Analysis: Protests meet first day of Balikatan in Laoag City

Ang Bayan Daily News and Analysis propaganda article posted to the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) Philippine Revolution Web Central (PRWC) Website (May 7, 2024): Protests meet first day of Balikatan in Laoag City

This article is available in Pilipino

May 07, 2024

Aprotest by fisherfolk and citizens of Laoag City greeted the first day of the Balikatan Exercises at the La Paz sand dunes in Laoag City on May 6.

On the morning of May 6, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-Ilocos hung a placard at the entrance of barangay La Paz that read “NO TO BALIKATAN! THE PHILIPPINES IS OURS! US-CHINA OUT!”

Fisherfolk in the coastal areas of Metro La Paz, Metro Gabu and Caawacan in Laoag City complained about the No Sail Zone imposed on their fishing grounds in favor of the live fire exercises. The Fisherfolk Association ng Barangay Gabu Norte says a fisherman will lose up to ₱22,500-₱36,000 when prohibited from sailing for five to eight days. A fisherman can earn up to ₱4,500 a day.

In this regard, residents demanded compensation from the local government and to replace their lost income for five to eight days. Fisherfolk say the No Sail Zone imposed by Balikatan is a big loss to their livelihood. “Petroleum is very expensive, catches are few due to El Nino, then fishing is now even banned, we must be compensated,” they said.

Among those who protested on the first day of Balikatan in Laoag City was the Kaammoyo ti Kappia (KTK), a church organization that promotes true peace and human rights in Ilocos Norte.

KTK spokesperson Fr. Randy Manicap refuted the cover-up of Mayor Michael Marcos Keon (President Marcos’ first cousin) as well as Governor Matthew Marcos Manotoc (Senator Imee Marcos’ son) that “there is nothing to worry about because there will be no war…” Fr. Manicap says the said war exercises are clearly a prelude or preparation for war between the two imperialist countries US and China.

“That there is nothing to fear is utterly false. US military bases are here in the Philippines and its war exercises are taking place here. If China is provoked, where will it attack if not in the Philippines?” said Fr. Manicap.

“Filipinos should not be dragged in imperialist wars. That is why military bases and military exercises should not be here, and the Mutual Defense Treaty, Visiting Forces Agreement and EDCA should be scrapped because they do not benefit the Filipino people, but instead render them vulnerable to the danger of imperialist wars. The sovereignty of the Philippines should be given highest value,” he said.

On the first day of Balikatan, the KTK group met with the fisherfolk and citizens of La Paz, Gabu and Caawacan to sympathize with them in the turmoil they suffer due to the heavy gunfire and tremors. Before this, the masses were already overwhelmed by the massive influx of Marines, Navy and Air Force soldiers and powerful weapons in their community.

Even before the Balikatan began, Ilocos Norte people and the patriotic organizations Bayan-Ilocos and Alyansa Dagiti Mannalon iti Ilocos Norte have already expressed their dismay and opposition to the consent by Mayor Keon and Governor Manotoc to the holding of Balikatan Exercises.

The LGU officials of the province, of Laoag city and barangay La Paz also complained because it was not coordinated with them and they also did not agree to hold the war games in the province, because it would risk the lives of the people and disrupt their livelihood. Keon and Manotoc tried to absolve themselves. Manotoc says the decision was not his.

Patriotic groups and masses in the Ilocos region vow to continue to hold protest actions during the Balikatan.

CPP/Ang Bayan Daily News and Analysis: US, AFP ban tens of thousands of fisherfolk from fishing due to Balikatan

Ang Bayan Daily News and Analysis propaganda article posted to the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) Philippine Revolution Web Central (PRWC) Website (May 6, 2024): US, AFP ban tens of thousands of fisherfolk from fishing due to Balikatan

This article is available in Pilipino

May 06, 2024

Tens of thousands of fisherfolk are banned from sailing and deprived of livelihood due to the Balikatan war games the US is conducting in the country. They are prohibited from earning a living during the entire period of the activity (April 22-May 10).

The US and AFP imposed a “no sail policy” in Zambales, Ilocos Norte and Palawan to make way for live-fire exercises on the coasts using missile launchers such as HIMARS. On May 3, the US conducted a missile launch in San Antonio, Zambales. From May 6 to May 10, live-fire exercises and a ship sinking will be conducted in Ilocos Norte.

In Ilocos Norte, this ban covers the towns of Burgos, Pagudpud, Bangui, Pasuquin, Bacarra, Paoay, Currimao, Badoc, and Laoag City.

More than 600 American and Filipino soldiers arrived in Laoag on May 5. War games will be held in the province where soldiers will simulate an attack of invaders from the sea. The Americans will also fire their HIMARS from the sand dunes on the coast of La Paz.

Even before the policy was issued, the fisherfolk’s group Pamalakaya already raised its objections. Its chairman Fernando Hicap last April said we must be vigilant for the US’s attempts to declare a sailing ban for war games that have no relevance for the Filipino people.

In last year’s Balikatan, a similar policy was declared banning the sailing of fisherfolk not only in Ilocos Norte but also in neighboring towns in Ilocos Sur despite not being covered by the war games.

That year, the local government in Ilocos Norte issued a resolution to evict fisherfolk catching fish around Burgos, Pagudpud, Bangui, Pasuquin, Bacarra, Paoay, Currimao, Badoc and Laoag also because of Balikatan. About 13,800 registered fisherfolk were affected by this policy last year.

“Disrupting the livelihoods of Filipino fisherfolk for the provocative and militaristic actions of the US in our waters is unacceptable,” according to Hicap.

The fisherfolk in Zambales also complained about the no-sail policy which they say brings a serious hardship to their livelihood. They said they will lose around ₱1,500 to ₱2,000 due to the ban on fishing in the municipal waters of the province.

Even the boat tour guides are affected because no tourists would certainly hire them while the Americans fire cannons and missiles into the sea. They complain that it is even tourist season.

In Laoag, the city mayor downplayed the impact of HIMARS firing in Barangay La Paz on the livelihood and lifestyle of his constituents and only said that they have nothing to worry about.

In Rizal, Palawan, more than 100 residents of Barangay Kampong Ulay were evacuated on May 2 to make way for another US live-fire exercise in the area.

CPP/NPA-South Central Negros/Negros Island ROC: 94th IB, butigon! Wala sang kamatuoran ang engkwentro sa Kabankalan City

Propaganda statement posted to the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) Philippine Revolution Web Central (PRWC) Website (May 7, 2024): 94th IB, butigon! Wala sang kamatuoran ang engkwentro sa Kabankalan City (94th IB, lies! There is no truth to the encounter in Kabankalan City)

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

May 07, 2024

Indi matuod kag kabutigan ang mga balita nga ginpaguwa sang 94th IBPA nga may natabo nga duha ka beses nga engkwentro sa tunga sang yunit sang Mt. Cansermon Command-New People’s Army (MCC-NPA) kag sa nasambit nga militar sa nabukid nga bahin sa Barangay Lower Carol-an, Kabankalan City, Negros Occidental kagahapon sang hapon petsa 6 sang Mayo, 2024.

Una, wala sang yunit sang NPA sa subong sa amo nga nasambit nga baryo kag tanan nga yunit kag tropa idalom sang MCC-NPA ang matawhay kag padayon nga nagapatuman sa ila tagsa ka hilikuton sa natalana nga lugar sa pihak sang masingki nga operasyon militar sa mga baryo sang Kabankalan City kag Himamaylan City, Negros Occidental nga nagalawig na sang pila ka bulan.

Ikaduha, ginatan-aw subong sang MCC-NPA ang lain naman nga posibleng pagpanglapas sa tawhanon nga kinamatarung ang nakomiter sa tropa sang 94th IB sa amo nga lugar kag ginatabunan nalang sang ila pagbalita sang peke nga enkwentro.

Madumduman nga kaangay sang mga nagligad nga binulan sa kada magbalita sila sang peke nga enkwentro kag kuno may nakuha sila nga mga armas, may ara naman mga inosenteng mangunguma ang iligal nga ginadakop, ginakastigo kag ginaimbestigar.

Sadtong bulan sang Oktubre, Nobyembre kag Disyembre 2023, nagpagwa man sang mga balita sang peke nga engkwentro ang Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) partikular ang 94th IB kaangay sang ila iligal nga pagpangdakop kay Joel Casusa, Jenny Radles kag Pokoy Ribradilla nga ginpang-akusahan nga kuno mga katapo sang NPA.

Kaangay sang amo nga hitabo, ginakahangawa sang MCC-NPA Ang pattern o padron sang panghitabo nga sa kada peke nga balita nga ginpaguwa sang AFP may inosenteng sibilyan ang nabiktima.
Ginkundenar sang MCC-NPA ang amo nga modus sang AFP kag hugot nga ginapakamalaot ang pagtabon sang ila mga kalapasan paagi sang mga peke nga engkwentro.

Dugang dire, katuyuan man sang AFP nga dulaan sang balor ang asud-asod nga mga madinalag-on nga aksyon militar sa nagligad lang nga duha ka semana sa bilog isla. Gusto man ipagwa sang miltar sa publiko nga kuno padayon ang ila pag-angkon sang mga kadalag-an kag lubos na matuman ang ila handum nga mawasak ang NPA sa katapusan sang Hunyo ukon indi man sa katapusan sini nga tuig. Paagi sang ila pagpahamtang sang Isla sang Negros sang SIPS, nagahandum sila sang imposible nga butang kag nagahatag sang sala nga pagpati sang publiko paagi sang pagginahud sa sosyal midya. ###

CPP/Central Negros Front: 62nd IB Nagapanglusob sa mga Komunidad sang Mangunguma sa Central Negros

Propaganda statement posted to the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) Philippine Revolution Web Central (PRWC) Website (May 9, 2024): 62nd IB Nagapanglusob sa mga Komunidad sang Mangunguma sa Central Negros (62nd IB Attacks Farmer Communities in Central Negros)

Central Negros Front
May 9, 2024

Kapin sa 200 ka tropa sang 62nd IB ang kaangay sang mga idu-buang nga nagalambiyong kag nagapanglusob sa mga komunidad sang mangunguma sa Central Negros gikan pa sadtong Mayo 6 sang gab-i tubtob subong nga adlaw Mayo 9, 2024. Makit-an ang mga ini sa mga barangay sang Moises Padilla sang Negros Occidental kag Guihulngan City, Negros Oriental.

Naglab-ot sa lima ka kolum sang pasistang tropa ang nahisayran sang mga pumuluyo sa Barangay Quintin Remo, Moises Padilla halin sadtong Mayo 7 sang gab-i hasta pa subong nga oras sang Mayo 9. Ginlusob sang militar ang mga sityo sang Binataan, Oway-oway, Tibubong kag Tiyos sang nasambit nga barangay. Samtang may kolum man sang militar nga makit-an sa Sityo Cuyawyaw sang Barangay Inolingan, Moises Padilla.

Sini lang nga aga, Mayo 9-may kolum man sang 62nd IB nga nagapanaka-saka sa mga kabalayan sang Sityo Tagbak, Barangay Macagahay sakop man sang Moises Padilla.

Sa Guihulngan City: sa sityo sang Punong, Barangay Trinidad-halin pa Mayo 6 tubtob karun nga adlaw Mayo 9, nagapabilin ang presensya militar sa lugar. Samtang may kolum man sang AFP nga makit-an sa Sityo Maluy-a, Barangay Sandayao, Guihulngan City.

Philippines Fires First Anti-Ship Missile in South China Sea Strike Test with U.S. and Australian Forces

US Naval Institute-USNI News (May 8, 2024): Philippines Fires First Anti-Ship Missile in South China Sea Strike Test with U.S. and Australian Forces (By AARON-MATTHEW LARIOSA)

BRP Jose Rizal (FF-150) fires an SSM-700K C-Star anti-ship cruise missile at the decommissioned BRP Lake Caliraya (AF-81) during Balikatan 2024’s maritime strike activity in the South China Sea. Armed Forces of the Philippines photo

The Philippine Navy sank a decommissioned tanker in the South China Sea with an anti-ship cruise missile during Balikatan 2024’s climactic maritime strike exercise on Wednesday morning.

BRP Jose Rizal (FF-150), the flagship of the Philippine Navy, fired a C-Star anti-ship cruise missile at the decommissioned tanker BRP Lake Caliraya (AF-81). Donated to the Armed Forces of the Philippines by the Philippine National Oil Corporation in 2014 for underway replenishment duties, the Chinese-built tanker was decommissioned in 2020 due to maintenance issues.

Lake Caliraya was scheduled to be sunk during last summer’s Marine Aviation Support Activity, but bad weather canceled the SINKEX and beached the tanker. For Balikatan 2024, the ship was reused as a target.

Among other highlights, the exercise saw the first deployment of the Army’s Mid-Range Capability in a simulated maritime strike on the first island chain and the refinement of a combined sensor-to-shooter kill-chain network between the three participating forces.

“This exercise was about the collective capability of our combined fires networks and increasing interoperability to sense and shoot targets from a variety of Philippine, U.S. and Australian land, sea and air platforms,” said Marine Col. Douglas Krugman, the U.S. director of the drill’s combined coordination center, in a press release.

Last year’s iteration also involved the sinking of a decommissioned ship in the South China Sea, though not with an anti-ship missile. This year, the exercise planners focused on linking sensors to missile systems and aircraft. A variety of platforms, both on the ground and in the air, passed data to the combined coordination center, which was located hundreds of kilometers south of the maritime strike activity in Manila.

A Navy P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft, a Royal Australian Air Force E-7A Wedgetail early warning and control aircraft and a Marine Corps TPS-80 Ground/Air Task Oriented Radar helped provide data to the command center to target of the decommissioned tanker.

For the exercise’s “shooters,” the three countries deployed a myriad of platforms and munitions. U.S. Air Force F-16s from the Misawa-based 13th Fighter Squadron dropped multiple JDAM guided bombs and Philippine Navy fast-attack boats fired off Spike missiles against the 325-foot-long tanker. An AC-130J Ghostrider also took part in the drill.

A list of “U.S. Critical Capabilities” from the Philippine military stated that B-52H, MQ-1 and MQ-9 drones were expected to be present.

Lake Caliraya slipped beneath the waves after being hit by missiles, bombs and artillery shells for two hours at 10:59 Philippine Standard Time.

Despite the firepower deployed, a press release said the maritime strike was designed “[t]o maximize the training value, the goal was to keep the target vessel afloat for as long as possible before ultimately sinking it.”

U.S. Marine Capt. Colin Kennard, a public affairs officer covering the exercise, highlighted to USNI News that this maritime strike activity came from an Indo-Pacific Command effort called the Pacific Multi-Domain Training and Experimentation Capability program. According to Kennard, the program’s “modernized and distributed training capability will enhance warfighting readiness to compete against peer-level adversaries at speed, scope, scale, and operational distances – both in the near term and in the future.”

This simulation of what was described as “adversarial air and maritime threats” elevates training between U.S. and partner forces across the region that “matches real-world conflict as much as possible.”

Kicking off two weeks ago, Balikatan 2024 took a higher-end approach to training with its focus on four combined joint all-domain operations simulated in field training exercises in key locations across the country. The drills accompany Manila’s new Comprehensive Archipelagic Defense Concept, which pushes the boundaries of Philippine defense to cover the country’s exclusive economic zone. This year’s Balikatan also saw the first activities in the South China Sea and the northernmost territories in the Luzon Strait near Taiwan.

While Balikatan 2024 is set to wrap up on Friday, this summer will see more joint military drills between Washington and Manila as the two pledge to strengthen defense ties in the face of an increasingly assertive China.

U.S. and Philippine Forces Defend Island Chain Near Taiwan in Balikatan 2024 Exercise

Posted to the US Naval Institute-USNI News (May 9, 2024): U.S. and Philippine Forces Defend Island Chain Near Taiwan in Balikatan 2024 Exercise (By AARON-MATTHEW LARIOSA)

U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Merek Katzenmeier, a native of Arizona and a scout sniper with 3rd Littoral Combat Team, 3rd Marine Littoral Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, camouflages himself with vegetation during a subject matter expert exchange on Naval Base Camilo Osias, Philippines, April 25, 2024. U.S. Marine Corps Photo

U.S. and Philippine forces tested their ability to secure a strategic island group only 125 miles away from Taiwan during Balikatan 2024.

A combined Marine Corps and Army force, composed of a company from the Littoral Combat Team of the 3d Marine Littoral Regiment and elements from the 25th Infantry Division and the Philippines’ 4th Marine Brigade, deployed to the Province of Batanes in Manila’s largest annual military drills. The deployment to the region during Balikatan was under “a scenario designed to preserve and protect Philippine territorial integrity,” 1st Lt. Anne Pentaleri, 3rd MLR public affairs officer, told USNI News.

Despite being smaller in size compared to last year’s exercise by about 1,000 troops, this year’s iteration has drastically increased the scope and focus of the exercise to cover the Philippines’ outermost territories in the South China Sea and Luzon Strait, including islands in Batanes.

Located closer to Taipei than Manila, the islands of Batanes have received increased attention over the last few years amid growing cross-strait tensions and a renewed national security push by the Philippines following several incidents with China in the South China Sea.

While American forces have trained in the island chain, this year’s exercise expanded their presence throughout the province to include the northernmost point of the Philippines.

Mavulis, an uninhabited island with a Philippine Navy outpost located only 88 miles away from Taiwan, saw the deployment of U.S. Marines with maritime domain awareness sensors during the drills. Philippine military officials previously eyed the island as an exercise location for U.S. forces in January.

U.S. Marine Capt. Colin Kennard, another public affairs officer working on the exercise, confirmed to USNI News that this was the first deployment of 3rd MLR elements to the island.

In the exercise, combined littoral reconnaissance teams of U.S. and Philippine marines went to Mavulis and the neighboring islands of Itbayat and Batan to establish a maritime domain sensing network in a key training security operations event.

According to the Marine Corps, the LRT is “a low-signature, easily deployable team that uses multi-discipline sensors and collection sources for reconnaissance and counter-reconnaissance in the littoral zone.” The LRT contains existing components from across the littoral combat team’s intelligence section, such as the maritime surveillance and small unmanned aircraft systems teams, and combines them to “enhance 3d LCT’s capabilities in a way that better fits the requirements of stand-in force operations,” reads a service news release.


.S. Marines with 3rd Littoral Combat Team, 3rd Marine Littoral Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, assemble a Simrad HALO24 Radar during a capabilities display on Naval Base Camilo Osias, Philippines, April 28, 2024. U.S. Marine Corps Photo

While the Marine Corps did not specify the equipment it used, a description of the LRT’s capabilities includes radars, drones, and artificial intelligence object recognition. Pentaleri explained that the deployment of these LRTs in Batanes would fulfill reconnaissance and counter-reconnaissance missions that “increase the commander’s battlespace awareness.”

On Basco, the largest island in Batanes, U.S. and Philippine Marines set up a forward fueling and rearming point in the province’s largest airfield. Other activities in the Luzon Strait occurred on islands closer to the Philippines, including an air assault operation by U.S., Australian, and Philippine troops. The Army’s 1st Multi-Domain Task Force, with transport from other services, also deployed High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems in several rapid infiltration drills at a port and airfield in Northern Luzon.

The Philippines has stepped up the deployment of military forces, construction of infrastructure and drills in the region. In 2022, Manila redeployed the 4th Marine Brigade from the southern island of Sulu to Northern Luzon, giving it an area of responsibility that included the northernmost province. The following year saw some of the most intense military activities in Batanes to date, with the deployment of American troops, ships and rocket systems during Balikatan 2023. On Mavulis, the Philippine military recently constructed helipads and living improvements for its garrison on the island.

The 2024 iteration of the exercise comes amid Manila’s new defense plan. Dubbed the Comprehensive Archipelagic Defense Concept, the new strategy aims to expand the scope of the Philippines’ defensive posture to its exclusive economic zone and outermost territories, such as islands in the South China Sea or the Luzon Strait.

Kennard and Pentaleri highlighted Balikatan’s contribution to assisting the Armed Forces of the Philippines in developing its new concept, which they linked with the service’s ongoing Force Design effort.

“As we undergo force design modernization, the AFP is similarly implementing their Comprehensive Archipelagic Defense Concept. The co-development of littoral-focused training activities as part of Balikatan improves our combined capability to operate in and around key maritime terrain,” said Kennard.

He added that Balikatan’s training areas “provide the perfect terrain for the U.S. and Philippine Marine Corps’ to operate as a naval expeditionary force in the littorals.”

Philippines, US simulate mock invasions in largest ever war games

Posted to Al-Jazeera (May 9, 2024): Philippines, US simulate mock invasions in largest ever war games (By Nick Aspinwall)

The annual Balikatan joint military exercises conclude on Friday after weeks of live fire drills and new weapons deployments.

US Army helicopters take off in Ilocos Norte province during this week's joint military exercise [Aaron Favila/AP Photo]

Laoag, Philippines – Troops from the United States and the Philippines have launched Javelin missiles and fired howitzers to simulate repelling a maritime invasion along the coast of the South China Sea, in a show of force capping joint war games held in China’s maritime back yard.

The live fire exercises were held throughout the week along the shores of the coastal city of Laoag in northern Ilocos province, the closest mainland Philippine province to China.

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They capped the largest ever Balikatan, or “shoulder-to-shoulder,” joint military exercises between US and Philippine troops, cementing a dramatic policy shift that has seen Washington and Manila become close allies since Ferdinand Marcos Jr became president in 2022.

Tensions have risen amid multiple confrontations between Philippine vessels and the China Coast Guard in the South China Sea. China claims almost the entire area under its nine-dash line, which was rejected by an international tribunal in 2016.

While the US and Philippine militaries would not name their adversaries, this year’s exercises were concentrated around the northern and western shores of the Philippines — close to the South China Sea and the Taiwan Strait.

Parts of the drills were also staged in waters outside the Philippines’ 19km (12-mile) territorial limit, and also outside Manila’s exclusive economic zone, which extends for 200 nautical miles (about 370km).

“The Philippines and US have a shared vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific,” US Marines Lieutenant General Michael Cederholm, commander of the Balikatan joint task force, told reporters on Monday. “It’s grounded in the seeking of peaceful solutions.

“Make no mistake, if there can’t be a peaceful solution, we have an obligation to our countries to train together.”

Philippine army personnel fire their Autonomous Truck Mounted howitzer system (ATMOS) during this week’s Balikatan drills [Ted Aljibe/AFP]

Ilocos province lies southeast of China and just south of Taiwan, near areas of the South China Sea that would probably be at the centre of any regional conflict over the disputed waters.

The US and Philippine militaries fired missiles and used howitzer guns stationed along the shore to sink five platoons standing in for amphibious warships.

In northern Batanes, an island province just south of Taiwan, US and Philippine forces simulated the recapture of Itbayat, the country’s northernmost municipality.

The war games elicited a strong response from China, which managed to disrupt at least one live fire exercise in the South China Sea. The Chinese embassy in Manila did not respond to a request for comment from Al Jazeera.

A Chinese warship and two other vessels were spotted near Itbayat as the exercises were held, the Philippine Coast Guard said on Wednesday. The ships left after the coastguard issued a challenge over the radio.
New weapons, equipment

This year’s exercises also showcased new US weapons that could be stationed in the Philippines during a conflict.

For the first time in the Asia Pacific, the US military deployed a new mid-range missile launcher, called the Typhon.

This year’s exercises took place in territories in the north of the Philippines [Nick Aspinwall/AL Jazeera]

From the northern Philippines, it is able to reach targets in Taiwan, along with Chinese bases and infrastructure in the South China Sea and mainland China.

It is the first such weapon deployed in the region since the US withdrew in 2019 from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty that barred the development of ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges between 500 and 2,500km.

While the Typhon system was not fired during Balikatan, its deployment now serves to identify launch sites that can be used during a conflict, said Collin Koh, a senior fellow at the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore.

“During wartime, all you need to do is just go straight to these launch sites and you can set it up and fire immediately without further preparation,” Koh said.

The US and Philippine militaries also used a hovercraft to land a HIMARS missile system on the western island of Palawan, close to contested areas of the South China Sea.

Last year, the militaries tried and failed to land a HIMARS system at the main port of Batanes. This year, the US military upgraded the port, along with a warehouse and other military infrastructure, as part of an effort to develop functional seaports to offload equipment and troops.

“The longer you stay in the port, the more vulnerable you are,” Koh said. “When you are unloading all your equipment and your troops, that is when you are exposed essentially as a sitting duck.”

Local anxieties

Last year, Washington and Manila announced that four military bases would be added to the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, allowing US troops to utilise a total of nine military sites in the Philippines for training, refuelling and other operations.

A C-Star surface-to-surface, antiship missile is fired from the BRP Jose Rizal towards a mock enemy during a maritime strike exercise this week [Armed Forces of the Philippines via AFP]

Three of those bases are in the northern provinces of Cagayan and Isabela, both close to the Luzon Strait running between the Philippines and Taiwan.

The increasing presence of military troops in civilian areas has alarmed some civilians, worried their location puts them in the path of any future war between the US and China.

“We don’t have to choose between the two,” said Manuel Mamba, governor of Cagayan province. “I do not like foreign forces in my province because I feel we could be dragged into a war which is not ours.”

Mamba has vocally opposed the development of bases in his province for US troops and is among a small yet stubborn contingent of regional and local politicians who have resisted Manila’s turn towards Washington. Marcos Jr’s predecessor Rodrigo Duterte was far closer to Beijing.

Cagayan has received substantial investment from Chinese companies, including an ongoing effort to dredge and develop an international port in the coastal town of Aparri.

The US military builds schools and distributes humanitarian aid during its yearly Balikatan exercises, but Washington has never competed dollar for dollar with the investment promises Beijing can make to local politicians.

Last month, the US and the Philippines announced a new economic investment corridor in Luzon focused on ports, railways and clean energy.

Manuel Mamba, governor of Cagayan province, worries about the risks posed by the US military presence [Nick Aspinwall/Al Jazeera]

Such US investment would be welcome in Cagayan “if it is not military in nature”, Mamba said. “Maybe [it could be used] only by the Armed Forces of the Philippines if there’s an emergency.”

In Laoag, where live-fire exercises were held, fishermen were ordered not to sail for more than one week. The order cost some fishing boats up to $60 per day in lost income, said Arvin Mangrubang, a priest at the Laoag branch of the Iglesia Filipino Independiente church.

Some communities gave relief stipends of about $9 per day to families that are registered to vote, which Mangrubang said is hardly enough to cover the cost of the exercises to working families.

“We cannot gain anything from that,” he said. “If China reacts to these exercises, the Filipino people will suffer.”

Group notes alarming spike in Central Mindanao conflict

Philippine Headline News article posted to Head Topics Philippines (May 9; 2024): Group notes alarming spike in Central Mindanao conflict

Philippines Headlines News

DAVAO CITY – An independent peacebuilding group has noted an alarming spike in conflict in Central Mindanao due to feuding clans as well as political violence in the first half of the year. In a statement, the Council for Climate and Conflict Action Asia reported that the alleged fractured alliances within the Moro Islamic Liberation Front have fueled an alarming spike in violence.

Since January 2024, the CCAA bared that they have monitored more than 20 clashes and firefights involving the MILF and the Moro National Liberation Front , mostly concentrated in Maguindanao del Sur, Maguindanao del Norte, and the Special Geographic Areas in the Bangsamoro. These clashes, which have displaced at least 13,000 residents, only goes to show the stark contrast of insecurity and instability in what should be a region transitioning to peace, CCAA said.

Japan, UNDP to promote food security, economic growth in Bangsamoro

From the Philippine News Agency (May 9, 2024): Japan, UNDP to promote food security, economic growth in Bangsamoro

MANILA – The Government of Japan and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)-Philippines have partnered to promote food security and economic empowerment in the Bangsamoro region's Special Geographic Area (SGA).

As part of the project “Enhancing Food Security and Livelihood in Bangsamoro”, this collaboration sought to provide food security and livelihood assistance to conflict-affected, marginalized, and underserved Bangsamoro communities within and outside the core territory of the Bangsamoro region.

“On a larger scale the collaboration, fosters peacebuilding and sustainable development in communities affected by conflict,” stated in a news release on Wednesday.

In 2023, with support from Japan, UNDP facilitated peaceful resolutions in the Moro Islamic Liberation Front community in Zamboanga del Norte's Pigcawayan cluster.

After a community dialogue, the Sirawai local government repaired a damaged mosque, thanks to the “bayanihan” effort involving local authorities, security forces, and community members.

Japan's backing also supported the UNDP to provide 7,000 oil palm seedlings to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front  community, supporting the establishment of a 50-hectare plantation.

This initiative boosts local economies by creating long-term livelihood opportunities for former Moro Islamic Liberation Front  combatants and their families. Japan's contribution extends to technical guidance through the Sirawai Plywood and Lumber Corporation (SPLC), ensuring proper farm techniques and market security for future harvests.

The assistance by the Government of Japan, in collaboration with the UNDP Philippines, not only reduced tensions within the community but also created a new long-

Assistance for Pigcawayan

The Japan embassy through the UNDP also provided food and livelihood assistance to communities in Pigcawayan, Cotabato.

These include the turnover of a fish truck and 50 ice boxes to the Datu Mantil Makangguna Association, the installation of a solar-powered ice block-making machine in Barangay Datu Binasing and distribution of food assistance to the Datu Mantil Makangguna women’s association and their families in Barangay Datu Mantil.

These projects form part of the "Enhancing Food Security and Livelihood in Bangsamoro" – a collaborative initiative between the Government of Japan and UNDP Philippines. These aim to ensure food security, enhance supply chain, and improve livelihood for sustaining peacebuilding and recovery efforts in the Bangsamoro region.

Together with this recent initiative, Japan has been contributing to the Mindanao Peace Process for more than two decades. Several projects have been undertaken under the Japan-Bangsamoro Initiatives for Reconstruction and Development (J-BIRD), which aims to enable the people and the communities in target areas to enjoy the “dividends of peace” through Japanese ODA.

Japan remains steadfast in its commitment in supporting the progress of the Peace Process and in furthering development in Mindanao.

Sustaining the peace: EU-UNDP project helps transform six camps into productive communities

From UNDP Philippines (May 8, 2024): Sustaining the peace: EU-UNDP project helps transform six camps into productive communities

The European Union (EU) in the Philippines and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in the Philippines continue to bolster the transition and transformation of previously-acknowledged Moro Islamic Liberation Front camps into peaceful and productive communities. In March 2024, ten cooperatives across six major camps — Abubakr, Badre, Omar, Bilal, Bushra, and Rajahmuda — received agriculture-based livelihood support from the Programme on Assistance for Camp Transformation through Inclusion, Violence Prevention, and Economic Empowerment (PROACTIVE), a project co-funded by EU and UNDP. Of these, eight cooperatives received farm machinery with farm implements (six tractors and two combine harvesters), benefiting 466 individuals (350 male and 116 female members) who are mostly decommissioned combatants and their next of kin. Meanwhile, in Camp Abubakr, two female-led cooperatives received support for climate-smart agriculture subprojects on fish and vegetable production.

With the handover of the different livelihood support coinciding with the 10th anniversary of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), members of the cooperatives shared their gratitude and hope, seeing it as a significant progress towards the promise of normalization. Amidst the series of commemoration activities, they reflect on their past struggles as they transition to civilian life.

Abubakar G. Akmad, or Bob, was a member of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF)-Moro Islamic Liberation Front had to leave his family during the war. During the ceasefire, he had to work abroad to find a job and provide for his family. “During the all-out war, I spent most of my time on the battlefield than with my family,” he said.

Coming back and remaining committed to the Bangsamoro struggle, Bob is among the active community leaders in their village working to help in the current development and transformation of the camps. He is a member of the Sitio Malabaw Agriculture Cooperative, a group of farmers in Brgy. Sifaran who are among the recipients of the farm machinery from PROACTIVE.

“I joined and founded the cooperative hoping that it might provide us with more opportunities and access to assistance from government and non-government agencies,” he said. “We are happy for the support as the tractor is what our community needs considering the current conditions of the land, and this also indicates that we are not lagging or being left behind in the implementation of the peace process.”

Meanwhile, Mondingan Kagui Kabasalan, a 71-year old widow from Brgy. Kilangan, Pagalungan, recalled how their lives changed due to famine and war as she navigated the struggle of being the wife of a mujahideen or warrior. She is now fondly called Babu Ina ni Gunda. “Babu” is the Maguindanaon term for an elderly woman, while “Ina ni” means “mother of”.

“Instead of taking care of laundry, education, and leisure time for my children, I was battling to secure my kids from famine and war. It was hard for us mothers being evacuees, especially with children,” Babu Ina ni Gunda shared.

As peace and development continue to progress in their communities, Babu Ina ni Gunda has also taken an active role in her family and community as the matriarch to her ten children and 20 grandchildren. Her grandson was among the members of the Sustainable Farmers Agriculture Association in their village. She actively participated in community meetings and showed eagerness to learn new topics, especially about livelihood. It was during this time that she decided to join and become a member of the cooperative, one of the recipients of livelihood support from the project.

“We are happy and grateful for this support. If you look around our community, farming is what we do best. The farm tractor will be of great help. It is timely as it rained today. Tomorrow, the tractor will be immediately put to work,” she added.

Bob and Babu Ina ni Gunda are among the decommissioned combatants and their next of kin who were provided with livelihood support. Additionally, they also underwent capacity-building activities to strengthen their organizational capacity through Operations and Maintenance, Marketing, Strategy, Financial Management, and Values Transformation Training, in partnership with the Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA). To date, PROACTIVE has provided livelihood support to 21 cooperatives as part of a larger EU assistance package for BARMM on normalization, specifically through its Mindanao Peace and Development Program-Peace and Development in the BARMM (MINPAD-PD BARMM).

ACLED Regional Overview Asia-Pacific: April 2024

 Posted to Relief Web (May 9, 2024): ACLED Regional Overview Asia-Pacific: April 2024 

 Source: ACLED 

 Posted: 9 May 2024 

 Originally published: 9 May 2024 

 Origin: View original

Attachments:  Download Report(PDF | 1.56 MB)

India: General elections underway amid ethnic and militant violence

The 18th Indian general elections started in April, and two out of the scheduled seven phases of polling were completed on 19 and 26 April. The elections will continue until 1 June, with the results set to be declared on 4 June.1 Amid the elections, there was an approximately 34% increase in political violence across the country in April compared to the month prior, including increases in the restive Manipur state and the Jammu and Kashmir Union Territory. Meanwhile, security forces intensified their crackdown on Naxal-Maoist rebels as several states in the ‘Red Corridor,’ the epicenter of the Naxal-Maoist insurgency, went to the polls. At least 29 Naxal-Maoist rebels were reportedly killed during a counter-insurgency operation in Chhattisgarh state on 16 April, marking the deadliest clash between Naxal-Maoist rebels and state forces in three years.

In Manipur, videos showing the mutilated bodies of two Kuki assailants, reportedly killed during a clash between the Meitei and Kuki communities in Kangpokpi district, were widely circulated on social media, further escalating ongoing inter-ethnic tension amid the elections.2 Meanwhile, re-polling was organized in several polling locations amid claims of armed assailants, including those from the Meitei militia Arambai Tenggol, intimidating and attacking voters and opposition supporters, mainly from the Indian National Congress.3

In Jammu and Kashmir, where voting for its five constituencies has been spread over five phases due to security concerns,4 armed clashes between security forces and militants increased in April to eight events, up from four in March. Escalating clashes come against the backdrop of a fresh spate of targeted attacks by militants against nonlocal migrant workers and government officials, resulting in at least two reported fatalities in April. Attacks against migrant workers have been a growing concern in Kashmir since the abrogation of Article 370 in 2019, which ended special protections for locals with regard to jobs and land ownership. Many in Kashmir fear that the government, led by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, aims to change the demographics of India’s only Muslim-majority region.5

For more on the unrest around the 2024 Indian elections, see ACLED’s Special Election Series on India.

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Indonesia: Intensified conflict in Papua puts civilians at risk

The conflict between Indonesian security forces and the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB) intensified in April, endangering civilians’ safety in the Highland and Central Papua provinces. In Yokatapa village, Intan Jaya, one child was killed and another seriously injured when they were caught in the crossfire between police and the TPNPB, which was trying to free a detained member of the group. In Highland Papua, the rebels killed the son of a Papuan village head and a non-Papuan local public servant. Both were accused of being spies for the Indonesian authorities.6 ACLED records 11 reported fatalities in April in events involving the TPNPB, compared with six during the previous month. Civilian deaths contributed to at least four of the fatalities. Amid the increase in violence, the Indonesian military forces announced they would return to using the term OPM (‘Free Papua Movement’) to describe the TPNPB, rather than KKB (‘Armed Criminal Group’). The military has changed the way it categorizes the TPNPB several times, with this most recent change emphasizing its view that the TPNPB is an enemy made up of soldiers or combatants. The change alters the group’s status under humanitarian law, leading to less legal oversight of military operations against the TPNPB.7

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Myanmar: Conflict escalates over control of Myawaddy border town

Fighting between the military and resistance forces led by the Karen National Union/Karen National Liberation Army (KNU/KNLA) intensified in April as both sides clashed over the control of Myawaddy town in Kayin State, a major trade hub on the Thailand border. The violence escalated in early March, when resistance forces launched offensives to seize control of key military bases on the town’s outskirts, and continued in April, which is usually quieter due to the Buddhist New Year holiday. Political violence levels in both March and April were three times higher than in February. On 5 April, resistance forces captured the strategically important Thin Gan Nyi Naung base, under the Eastern Military Command, which has maintained a presence in the area since 1968.8 On 11 April, about 200 soldiers from the last military battalion guarding the town retreated and sought refuge near the Thai-Myanmar Friendship Bridge No. 2, which connects Myawaddy to Thailand, resulting in the military losing control of Myawaddy proper.9 Thailand authorities ordered tightened security at the border and instructed the air force to strike Myanmar aircraft if they entered Thailand’s airspace.10 The military then launched Operation Aung Zeya to reassert control of the town, deploying a large convoy of hundreds of soldiers to march east toward Myawaddy. The KNU/KNLA and its allies ultimately withdrew, allowing the military to reoccupy the base and town. Thousands of residents were forced to flee to Thailand amid the escalating clashes and the military’s airstrikes.11

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Pakistan: Separatist violence rises in Balochistan province

Political violence in Pakistan’s Balochistan province increased in April by nearly 50% compared to the month prior, as Baloch separatists continued to target ethnic Punjabis, politicians, suspected government employees, and polling infrastructure. On 12 April, Balochistan Liberation Army militants enforced a blockade on a strategic highway connecting Iran and Pakistan, stopping a bus and reportedly killing nine passengers after identifying them as ethnic Punjabis. Separatist Baloch groups have often targeted ethnic Punjabis, who dominate Pakistan’s military and political establishment, as part of their decades-long separatist movement against the Pakistani government, which they accuse of exploiting Balochistan’s natural resources and oppressing the local population during counter-insurgency operations.12 ACLED data show a recent spike in targeted attacks by Baloch separatists against ethnic Punjabis residing in Balochistan, with more events recorded in the first four months of 2024 than in all of 2023.

There was also significant separatist violence associated with re-polling in two constituencies for the February elections, with militants targeting polling booths and party offices with gunfire and explosives.13 The February elections, held amid a steep increase in separatist violence and organic boycotts by the local population, featured widespread allegations of rigging, with regional Baloch parties leading demonstrations against the results.14 These demonstrations followed a sustained protest movement, mainly led by Baloch women, demanding an end to the enforced disappearances of Baloch youth and accountability for those involved in disappearances and alleged extrajudicial killings.15 Some experts attribute the rise in Baloch separatist violence to dissatisfaction among the local population with the political process following the disputed February elections and the suppression of demonstrations over enforced disappearances.16

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Philippines: Top BIFF commander killed

Fighting persisted between the Karialan faction of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and state forces in April, following a resumption in March, with multiple deadly firefights between the groups during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. On 22 April, the military killed the top commander of the Karialan faction, Mohiden Animbang (also known as Kagui Karialan), and 11 other militants in Datu Saudi-Ampatuan town, Maguindanao del Sur, Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).17 This offensive took place approximately one year before the first-ever BARMM parliamentary elections, set to be held in May 2025 in fulfillment of the 2014 peace agreement between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the national government. Military officials expressed hope that their offensive would lead to peace and stability in the area and thanked the 
Moro Islamic Liberation Front for their assistance.18 The BIFF broke away from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in 2010 as they opposed the peace negotiations that later led to the 2014 peace deal.19

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Thailand: ​Separatist violence surges during Ramadan and Hari Raya Aidilfitri

The Deep South saw an increase in separatist activities during Ramadan and subsequent Hari Raya Aidilfitri celebrations. On 7 April, Malay Muslim Separatists ambushed rangers during an inspection of the construction of a Hari Raya celebration arch, reportedly killing two rangers and injuring 10 others.20 The separatists then set off explosions at two power plants in Pattani and Songkhla, on 25 and 26 April, respectively. The 2024 Ramadan period, which ran from 12 March to 10 April, marked the deadliest Ramadan in three years, with seven reported fatalities. The Ramadan periods in 2022 and 2023 each saw three reported fatalities. The failure of the government to negotiate a ‘Ramadan truce’ with separatists calls into question the new civilian government’s ability to address longstanding conflict in the Deep South and its role in the ongoing peace talks with Barisan Revolusi Nasional, the primary insurgent entity in the Deep South. At the same time, the government extended the enforcement of the Emergency Decree until 19 July, the 76th time it has done so since the decree was enacted in 2005, prolonging military presence in the region.21

PCG to build sub-station in Dipaculao, Aurora

From the Philippine News Agency (May 9, 2024): PCG to build sub-station in Dipaculao, Aurora (By Raymond Carl Dela Cruz)

OFFSHORE VESSEL. The BRP Gabriela Silang is the largest aluminum hull offshore patrol vessel of the Philippine Coast Guard. The 83.60-meter vessel is capable of transporting about 500 people at one time. (PNA photo by Hilda Austria)

MANILA – The Philippine Coast Guard is set to build a sub-station in Dipaculao, Aurora following a land grant from the municipality.

The PCG said the 500-square-meter lot was donated by Dipaculao Mayor Danny Tolentino to the PCG District North Eastern Luzon and was received by District Commander, Captain Ludovico Librilla Jr., in a ceremony.

During the ceremony, Librilla said the land grant is a “step towards safeguarding the nation’s interest.”

“With this new acquisition as a result of the partnership, the PCG ensures the safety and security of our coastal waters, protecting our marine environment and maritime resources by activating PCG sub-stations to every municipality in the coastal areas of the Philippines,” he said.

The PCG has vessels or aerial assets patrolling the Philippine Rise, a 13-million-hectare underwater plateau located near Aurora.

PCG Commandant, Admiral Ronnie Gil Gavan thanked Dipaculao for the land grant and said the donation is a “testament to the trust and unwavering support of the municipality of Dipaculao and its residents to the PCG.”

The initiative to establish the sub-station was proposed during a courtesy call of Librilla to Tolentino.

It was later followed by the attendance of officers of the PCG Station Aurora to committee meetings of the Committee on Land Use and Utilization that paved the way for the Sangguniang Bayan resolution authorizing Tolentino to donate the lot.

Estrada: Chinese claim on alleged recorded call plain ‘disinformation’

From the Philippine News Agency (May 9, 2024): Estrada: Chinese claim on alleged recorded call plain ‘disinformation’ (By Wilnard Bacelonia)

Senator Jinggoy Estrada (PNA photo by Yancy Lim)

MANILA – Senator Jinggoy Estrada on Thursday denounced the alleged recorded audio communication between a Chinese diplomat and a high-ranking Filipino military official as "nothing but another apparent disinformation campaign by the Chinese government."

In a statement, the chairperson of the Senate Committee on National Defense further called it a "trap" to divert attention from China's claims and aggression against Philippine vessels in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

"China’s claim is nothing more than smoke and mirrors. We will not be swayed by falsehoods," Estrada said.

The Chinese Embassy earlier said the Western Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines made an agreement with China on the “new model” for managing the situation at the Ayungin Shoal to ease the tensions in WPS.

"Ayungin Shoal is an integral part of our exclusive economic zone and this has been already upheld by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague in 2016," Estrada emphasized.

He called on the Filipino troops to "remain loyal to the flag that represents our nation’s sovereignty" and "be vigilant against any underhanded tactics that may weaken our position."

Estrada also called for unity in defending the country's territorial rights "as our strength lies in our unity."

Diplomacy still best approach in WPS dispute – lawmakers

From the Philippine News Agency (May 9, 2024): Diplomacy still best approach in WPS dispute – lawmakers (By Filane Mikee Cervantes)

DIPLOMATIC APPROACH. Chinese vessels are seen trespassing in Iroquois Reef, a body of water within the West Philippine Sea (WPS), in this photo taken on June 30, 2023. The House of Representatives on Thursday (May 9, 2024) said the best way to respond to China's continued aggression in the West Philippine Sea is still through diplomatic means. (Photo courtesy of Philippine Navy)

MANILA – Lawmakers at the House of Representatives on Thursday said the best way to respond to China's continued aggression in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) is still through diplomatic means.

In a press conference, TINGOG Party-list Rep. Jude Acidre said the OCTA survey result showing that 72 percent of Filipinos prefer diplomacy in addressing the WPS issue indicates mass support for the policies of President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.

“That's a good indicator of how much trust the President and the administration has in pursuing a diplomatic solution … we're still pursuing the diplomatic channels … Kung nakikita niyo, palaging naghahain tayong diplomatic protest, pero (As you can see, we are still filing diplomatic protests, but) at the same time we also making sure that we are capable of defending our boundaries,” Acidre said.

The recent survey also found that about 73 percent of the respondents said the current administration should assert the Philippines' territorial rights in the WPS through military action, which includes expanded naval patrols and troop presence in the disputed areas.

Acidre said the survey results reflect the Filipino people's consensus on the importance of defending and upholding the country's sovereignty against foreign intrusion, whether through diplomatic or military action.

Manila Rep. Ernesto Dionisio Jr. said multilateral talks with countries who have a similar situation as the Philippines also form part of the diplomatic solution.

“Hindi natin gusto ng giyera. Pero (We don't want war. But) it is our right to defend the sovereignty of our country. Kaya ‘yung mga sinasabi ng iba na maliit tayo, hindi natin kaya ang China, meron tayong mga kakampi, (That's why those who say that we're small, that we can't stand up to China, we have allies), like-minded countries who are willing to support our country,” Dionisio said.

Isabela Rep. Faustino Dy, for his part, assured that Congress would consider increasing the funding for improved surveillance and other capabilities for the Philippine Coast Guard and other relevant agencies.

“Kinakailangan po nila ng mas marami pang suporta para mas magawa nila nang mas maayos ang kanilang mga katungkulan (They need more support so that they could effectively fulfill their duties),” Dy said.

President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. earlier said the Philippines would not use water cannons to retaliate against China’s continued harassment in the WPS.

Marcos stressed that it was not the country’s mission to increase tension in the disputed waters.

He said the Philippines would continue to file diplomatic protests to address China’s aggression in the WPS.

WPS new model probe

Acidre, meanwhile, stressed the need for a thorough investigation into the origins and motive behind the alleged recorded audio communication between a Chinese diplomat and a high-ranking Filipino military official regarding the “new model agreement” on the Ayungin Shoal in the WPS.

In the alleged recording, Western Command chief Vice Admiral Alberto Carlos was talking with an unidentified Chinese diplomat on how to conduct the rotation and resupply mission to Ayungin Shoal, where a Marine detachment is manning the BRP Sierra Madre (LS-57), can proceed without interference.

“Bakit lumalabas ang mga ganitong misinformation or mga wiretapping? Nagpapakita lang na medyo act of desperation na po ito, ano, para to muddle the entire issue (Why is this kind of misinformation or wiretapping surfacing? This just shows an act of desperation to muddle the entire issue),” Acidre said.

Dy called the alleged wiretapping incident a breach of trust and a violation of Philippine laws.

He said whoever is responsible for the wiretapping or recording of the conversation should face consequences for their actions.

Regarding the next steps, Dy deferred to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to handle the investigation.

“Again, I will leave it to our DFA on how to proceed ito pong investigation na ito (with this investigation),” he said.

PBBM donates P80M to AFP hospital in Zamboanga City

From the Philippine News Agency (May 9, 2024): PBBM donates P80M to AFP hospital in Zamboanga City (By Darryl John Esguerra)

PRESIDENTIAL VISIT. President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. and Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. visit the Camp Navarro General Hospital (CNGH) in Zamboanga City on Thursday (May 9, 2024). The President turned over nearly a PHP81-million donation from the Office of the President to help improve the military hospital’s services. (Presidential Communications Office Photo)

MANILA – President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. on Thursday visited Camp Navarro General Hospital (CNGH) in Zamboanga City and turned over nearly PHP81-million donations to help improve the military hospital’s services.

In a Facebook post, the Presidential Communications Office (PCO) said the PHP80.909 million donation came from the Office of the President.

“Nagpasalamat ang Pangulo sa mga tauhan ng CNGH para sa kanilang paglilingkod sa mga sundalo at sibilyan sa lalawigan (The President thanked the CNGH personnel for their service to the soldiers and civilians in the province),” the PCO said in the post.

“Ipinagtibay din niya ang suporta ng pamahalaan sa paghahatid at paglalapit ng abot-kayang healthcare services sa ating mga kababayan sa Western Mindanao (He also affirmed the government's support in delivering and bringing affordable healthcare services to Filipinos in Western Mindanao),” it added.

The President was accompanied by Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr.

Philippine defense chief urges probe into alleged South China Sea ‘deal’ recording

 From BenarNews (May 8, 2024): Philippine defense chief urges probe into alleged South ChiSea ‘deal’ recording (By Jason Gutierrez)

Manila accuses the Chinese embassy of violating the Philippines Anti-Wiretapping law if tape is real.

Vice Adm. Alberto Carlos (left), joined by Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr., speaks to reporters during a news conference at the Western Command in Puerto Princesa, Palawan, Philippines, Aug. 10, 2023.  Eloisa Lopez/Reuters

The Philippine defense chief on Wednesday called for a probe into whether China violated wiretapping laws during an alleged phone conversation between a Chinese official and a senior Filipino military commander about a new bilateral arrangement over a contested South China Sea shoal.

The Chinese embassy in Manila released to selected news outlets what it described as a transcript of a call in January between Philippine Vice Adm. Alberto Carlos and an unidentified Chinese official, during which they allegedly agreed to a “new model” for resupply missions to Second Thomas (Ayungin) Shoal.

“If it is true that the Chinese embassy had a recording with someone from the Philippines, then they are admitting they violated the laws of the Republic of the Philippines, particularly the Anti-Wiretapping Law,” Philippine Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. told reporters.

“If it’s true the embassy did record it, they have also violated international relations and Philippine laws, because they failed to coordinate with the [Philippine] Department of Foreign Affairs and operated covertly, if this is true,” Teodoro added.

Manila’s anti-wiretapping law prohibits the unauthorized wiretapping and secret recording of private communications to protect the privacy rights of individuals.

Carlos serves as chief of the Philippine military’s Western Command (WESCOM), which oversees Manila’s defense of the Palawan and Kalayaan islands, including the disputed Spratly chain. He has filed for a leave of absence amid the controversy and has not replied to requests seeking comment.

The Philippine military designated Rear Adm. Alfonso Torres Jr. as acting WESCOM commander effective May 6.

“In this light, we are leaving it to the Department of Foreign Affairs to find out the truth because this is a clear violation of the laws of the Republic of the Philippines and that person [responsible for the recording] should be expelled,” Teodoro said.

The defense secretary said he had ordered security measures be strengthened amid alleged disinformation by foreign agents in the Philippines.

Necessary steps would be taken by the defense department and the military to protect Philippine interests, he said.

Only President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. in consultation with the foreign department, Teodoro said, can enter into a binding agreement when it comes to matters relating to the West Philippine Sea, the part of the South China Sea that Manila claims within its exclusive economic zone.

“The president has not given any cabinet official authority over this, that is why it is wrong for the Chinese Embassy officials to claim such,” he said. “I will repeat, if this is true that this [purported leak] came from the Chinese Embassy, then they are admitting that they violated the laws of the Republic of the Philippines.”

Meanwhile, military officials said they would not dignify the claim they had agreed to a “new model” for conduct in the disputed shoal.

“China’s claim of an audio recording allegedly between Vice Adm. Carlos and a Chinese diplomat does not merit significant concern as it appears to be a malign influence effort from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP),” Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr. said in a statement Wednesday.

“Transcripts can easily be fabricated, and audio recordings can be manufactured by using deep fakes. These reports only [aim] to serve as a distraction from the China Coast Guard’s ongoing aggressive behavior in the West Philippine Sea,” he said.

Philippine troops wave from the dilapidated BRP Sierra Madre anchored near Ayungin Shoal (Second Thomas Shoal) in the Spratly group of islands in the South China Sea, May 11, 2015. [Ritchie A. Tongo/Pool/Reuters]

Manila maintains the BRP Sierra Madre, a World War II ship deliberately grounded in the Ayungin Shoal in 1999, to serve as the country’s outpost in the contested region.

In recent days, Chinese officials have claimed that Manila and Beijing agreed on a model for resupply missions to the Second Thomas Shoal “after multiple rounds of discussions through the diplomatic channel and the AFP WESCOM.”

“The Philippine military has made repeated confirmation[s] that the new model has been approved by all key officials in the Philippine chain of command, including the Secretary of National Defense and the National Security Adviser,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lin Jian said during a press briefing on Monday.

Lin said that the Philippines had carried out one such mission on Feb. 2, “before abandoning it as well.”

Embassy silent

The Chinese Embassy in the Philippines was deluged by requests from journalists to confirm the alleged transcript of the phone call on Wednesday, but did not respond to those requests or to release the actual taped conversation.

“Yesterday, the Chinese Embassy in the Philippines released details about the relevant communication between the two sides. The facts are clear and backed by hard evidence that cannot be denied,” Lin said Wednesday.

“The Philippines has insisted on denying these objective facts and seeks to mislead the international community. This hurts its own credibility and puts peace and stability in the South China Sea in jeopardy,” Lin said.

He did not provide more details about the alleged conversation.

Last month, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. accused his predecessor, Rodrigo Duterte, of entering into “secret deals” with China over the sea dispute. Duterte had denied the accusations, but acknowledged that he and Chinese leader Xi Jinping agreed to maintain the “status quo” in the South China Sea to avoid escalation of tension.

Senate investigation looming

On Wednesday, Philippine opposition Sen. Risa Hontiveros, who has been vocal about China’s alleged harassment in the South China Sea, said Beijing appears to be waging information warfare.

Hontiveros said Teodoro had already warned senators of China’s alleged tactic of “divide and conquer” to divert the public’s attention from “violent, aggressive and dangerous moves against [Philippine] vessels.”

She said Manila’s Senate foreign relations committee chaired by the president’s sister, Sen. Imee Marcos, could soon call a public hearing on the issue.

Hontiveros also said she wanted to hear Duterte explain at a future Senate inquiry whether concessions were made to China over the disputed waters.

“We need to ask if a former president had the power to require future leaders who are the architects of our foreign policy to allow BRP Sierra Madre, a very important marker of our West Philippine Sea sovereignty, to just deteriorate,” Hontiveros said.

Mark Navales in Manila contributed to this report.

Philippine, US, Australian forces show off combined fires capabilities, destroy ship in Balikatan training event

From US Indo-Pacific Command Website (May 8, 2024): Philippine, US, Australian forces show off combined fires capabilities, destroy ship in Balikatan training event (By Courtesy story, Exercise Balikatan)

CAMP AGUINALDO, Quezon City, Philippines –

Philippine, U.S. and Australian military forces integrated land, sea and air platforms to simultaneously sense, target, strike and destroy a decommissioned ship off the western coast of Northern Luzon today.

The live-fire event demonstrated the capability of the force’s combined fires networks, joint and combined interoperability, and the high state of readiness between the U.S. and Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Over the course of the morning, Philippine and U.S. platforms fired various types of ordnance including the C-Star (SSM-700K), a Spike NLOS missile, GBU-38 joint direct attack munitions, and 2.75 inch advanced precision kill weapons system rockets, among others. Incorporated through virtual and constructive fires, the Medium Range Capability, or MRC, added to the firing options in the scenario.

Incorporating as many combined sensing and shooting platforms as possible, the objective of the maritime strike exercise was to test and validate the combined fires networks. To maximize the training value, the goal was to keep the target vessel afloat for as long as possible before ultimately sinking it.

“We know the lethality and capability of our munitions to sink maritime targets,” said U.S. Marine Col. Douglas Krugman, U.S. director, combined coordination center. “This exercise was about the collective capability of our combined fires networks and increasing interoperability to sense and shoot targets from a variety of Philippine, U.S. and Australian land, sea and air platforms.”

Sensing platforms, like the TPS-80 Ground/Air Task Oriented Radar and the Australian E-7 Wedgetail, relayed data to firing units who then launched ordnance at the target. Integrating sensor networks was a key component of the exercise and allowed coordinated strikes from multiple platforms.

During the maritime strike, the U.S. and AFP led execution from the combined coordination center on Camp Aguinaldo. The CCC is responsible for integrating combined command and control functions between the U.S. and Philippine joint task forces executing the training. Establishing the CCC during this year’s Balikatan is an additional step in the continued modernization of the exercise and growing complexity of the training.

By integrating all-domain systems and processes across the combined and joint force, the three nations enhanced their interoperability and mutual defense capabilities both in the Philippines and in support of their Allies and partners within the region.

Participating units included: the Philippine Navy’s BRP Jose Rizal (FF-150); the Philippine Air Force’s 7th tactical fighter squadron, flying the FA-50; the U.S. Air Force’s 13th Fighter Squadron, flying F-16 Fighting Falcons; Royal Australian Air Force No. 2 Squadron flying the E-7 Wedgetail; Marine Air Control Squadron-4, 3d Marine Littoral Regiment operating a TPS-80 Ground/Air Task Oriented Radar; Marine Air Control Group 38; 16th Special Operations Squadron, 27th Special Operations Wing, Air Force Special Operations Command, flying the AC-130J Ghostrider, and U.S. Navy VP-10 flying the P-8A Poseidon.

Balikatan is an annual exercise between the Armed Forces of the Philippines and U.S. military designed to strengthen bilateral interoperability, capabilities, trust and cooperation built over decades of shared experiences. This year’s exercise marks the 39th iteration of the annual event, showcasing the ironclad Alliance and enduring friendship between the two nations. Approximately 16,000 Philippine and U.S. military personnel are participating.