Monday, June 3, 2024

French destroyer visits Manila as Paris eyes deeper security ties with PH

From Rappler (Jun 2, 2024): French destroyer visits Manila as Paris eyes deeper security ties with PH ( By PHBEA CUPIN)

Just weeks after a French frigate joins Balikatan, the destroyer Bretagne visits Manila with plans to hold a joint exercise with the Philippine Navy

MANILA, Philippines – The air was thick with humidity at Port 15 of the Manila South Harbor on Friday, May 31, as Captain Gwenegan Le Bourhis, commander of the French Navy’s Bretagne, toured media around the French destroyer.

“I’ll get used to it,” he joked, as he stepped back into the ship’s bridge.

It’s not just brutal heat of Manila’s late afternoons that Le Bourhis, the rest of his crew, or other officers of France will need to come up to speed with. The European country, after all, is eyeing closer defense ties with the Philippines as it enters the preliminary stages of negotiations for a Status of the Visiting Forces Agreement, a deal that would pave the way for French soldiers to engage with their Filipino counterparts more often and more intimately.

In late May, Paris was host to the fourth meeting of the joint committee on cooperation and defense, confirmed French Ambassador to Manila Marie Fontanel. It may take time for such an agreement to finally be completed – Manila is in the final stages of talks with Japan for a similar deal called the Reciprocal Access Agreement, while Canada is also keen to jumpstart talks for a visiting forces agreement.

The Bretagne, the fifth in a series of eight destroyers commissioned into the French Navy in the last 10 years, is a vessel that is “capable of operating in all the spectrum of maritime operations,” according to Le Bourhis. It can engage submarines, track and engage with aircraft, and is decked with radars to detect long-range surface units.

“It’s quite a powerful ship that you are on back on today. And the idea there is really to show the commitments of the French Armed Forces and the French Navy in this region,” said Le Bourhis.
Drills with Philippine Navy

The French Navy Captain said they were in the Philippines not just to flex his country’s know-how and assets, but to learn from Filipino sailors, too.

“The Philippines already knows better the environment that I [do]. So I’m learning everyday in this area. Countries, including your Navy, already know the environments and by sharing together through administrative agreements, or through chats, interactions that we may have sailors to sailors, we are learning a lot in the contact of all our regional partners,” he added.

Le Bourhis said that during a courtesy call with the Philippine military, the Navy brought up a possible joint exercise or joint sail with the Bretagne. Its details have yet to be ironed out, with more concrete talks expected over the weekend up to Monday, June 3. The ship is scheduled to be docked at Pier 5 until Tuesday, June 4.

The scale of the drills, said the French Navy Captain, would likely be less than that of the Vendémiaire, a French frigate that participated in the recently-concluded Balikatan exercises. France joined the yearly US-Philippine military drill for the first time ever.

Manila has sought to expand its defense ties, even as it deepens existing ties with traditional partners like treaty ally the United States and strategic partners like Australia and Japan. The Philippines and its military are in the middle of its pivot to external defense and maritime security, after decades of focus on battling internal secessionists. Among the key concerns for Manila is China’s expansionist dreams, especially at sea.

PH ship personnel pointed guns at Chinese coastguard?

From Panay News (Jun 4, 2024): PH ship personnel pointed guns at Chinese coastguard? (By Adrian Stewart Co)

A China Coast Guard ship monitors a Philippine fisherman aboard his wooden boat during the distribution of fuel and food to fishers by the civilian-led mission Atin Ito (This Is Ours) Coalition, in the disputed South China Sea on May 16, 2024. FILE PHOTO/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

MANILA – Personnel on a Philippine ship has allegedly pointed guns at members of China’s Coast Guard in disputed waters of the South China Sea last month.

According to a report by CCTV, at least two personnel on the Philippine vessel near the shoal were carrying guns on deck and pointed it in the direction of China’s Coast Guard.

The CCTV report was accompanied by a 29-second video where a masked man momentarily holding up a blurred black object that resembled a rifle towards the Chinese Coast Guard.

The alleged incident occurred during a Philippine mission to supply troops stationed aboard the BRP Sierra Madre, which was run aground on the Ayungin Shoal, also known as the Second Thomas Shoal, in 1999.

Confrontations between the Philippines and China in the South China Sea have grown more tense and frequent during the past year, including China’s Coast Guard using water cannons and accusations by Manila that it had rammed Philippine vessels.

China claims almost the entire South China Sea, a conduit for more than $3 trillion in annual ship commerce. Its territorial claims overlap with those of the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei.

Scarborough Shoal, also known as Bajo de Masinloc, is located 124 nautical miles west of Zambales and within the country’s 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone.

In 2016, an international arbitration tribunal in The Hague ruled that China’s claims over the South China Sea have no legal basis, a decision that Beijing does not recognize./

299 policemen for deployment in former NPA controlled areas

From the Visayan Daily Star (Jun 3, 2024): 299 policemen for deployment in former NPA controlled areas (By GILBERT P. BAYORAN)

A total of 299 police officers are up for deployment in 17 selected barangays in Western Visayas, including Negros Occidental and highly urbanized Bacolod City, to prevent remnants of the New People’s Army from recovering lost territories, and to insulate unaffected areas from infiltration.

PMaj. Gen. Bernard Banac, head of the PNP Directorate for Police Community Relations and PBrig. Gen. Jack Wanky, regional police director of Western Visayas, led the sendoff ceremony for the 299 police non-commissioned officers on May 31 at Camp Martin Delgado in Iloilo City.

Six barangays in Negros Occidental, including four in Bacolod City, will be among the areas to where some of the 299 police personnel will be deployed by for the Revitalized – Pulis sa Barangay (RPSB) program of the PNP.

The RPSB program was implemented to sustain the gains of the Community Support Program of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Retooled Community Support Program of the local government units.

PLt. Col. Arnel Solis, regional police spokesman, disclosed that the RPSB program aims to prevent the resurgence of insurgency, insulate unaffected communities from the recovery efforts of the communist terrorist group, assist the communities address their peculiar concerns, and facilitate in availing the basic services of the government they need.

This also developed as the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division prepares for the eventual declaration of Negros Occidental as having in a status of Stable Internal Peace and Security, following the dismantling of all five NPA guerilla fronts in Negros Island.

In a statement, Wanky emphasized the need for the 299 PNP personnel to extend their best services to the community where they are deployed.

The 299 RPSB personnel underwent a 12-day stringent training program before their deployment in Geographically Isolated and Disadvantaged Areas (GIDA) and in selected urban barangays.*

ASEAN Coast Guard forum tackles Regional Maritime Security in Davao City

From the Mindanao Times (Jun 3, 2024): ASEAN Coast Guard forum tackles Regional Maritime Security in Davao City (By RHODA GRACE SARON)


THE TEN member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) are scheduled to meet in a Coast Guard and Maritime Law Enforcement Forum on June 5 to 8 to be held in Davao City.

CGDSEM chief of staff Lt Commander Angel Tobias, said the initiative aims to strengthen cooperation toward regional security. The forum came on the heels of the recent defense summit in Singapore attended by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

Tobias said the unity of the ten countries will be discussed in the Davao City meeting, especially the fight against drug trafficking, human smuggling, illegal fishing, piracy, as well as the entry of weapons of mass destruction.

Information sharing and expression of cooperation to protect Southeast Asia’s marine resources will also be conducted.

In addition, the ASEAN Coast Guard Forum aims to expand relations among its members, particularly on safety and security in the West Philippine Sea.

She said this would serve as a way for the entire ASEAN region to have a single voice and call for the various trials and dangers in free navigation.

According to PCG Spokesperson, CG Rear Admiral Armando Balilo, the regular conduct of such a forum is important to discuss the plans, actions, and operations of various maritime law enforcement agencies in the ASEAN region towards maintaining security and order in the vast waters of Southeast Asia.

Meanwhile, the Coast Guard District Southeastern Mindanao is ready to host the ASEAN Coast Guard Forum.

The BRP Gabriela Silang (OPV-8301) is already at Davao Port with Coast Guard personnel from the Coast Guard Special Operations Force and Coast Guard K9 Force on board.

PCG quick response teams are also on standby to ensure the safety of all participants from the Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar, Vietnam, and Thailand.

Senators slam China's seizure, dumping of food for PH soldiers in WPS

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 3, 2024): Senators slam China's seizure, dumping of food for PH soldiers in WPS (By Wilnard Bacelonia)

DESPICABLE BEHAVIOR. Philippine Navy soldiers and essential cargoes are transferred from Unaizah on May 4 and BRP Cabra to BRP Sierra Madre off Ayungin Shoal after a cannon attack by the Chinese Coast Guard on March 23, 2024. Senators on Monday (June 3, 2024) condemned the continuing harassment and provocations of the CCG against Philippine vessels at the WPS as “despicable and callous.” (Photo courtesy of AFP)

MANILA – Senators on Monday condemned the China Coast Guard (CCG) for its seizure and dumping of food supplies meant for Philippine soldiers in Ayungin Shoal, as well as preventing a medical evacuation of injured soldiers in separate incidents in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) on May 19.

Senate Deputy Minority Leader Risa Hontiveros said the incidents showed China's disregard for valuable resources and disrespect for human life.

"Kasuklam-suklam rin ang pagharang nila sa serbisyong medikal ng mga sundalo (Their obstruction of the soldiers' medical services is also despicable) and callous," Hontiveros said in a statement.

"Wala na nga silang respeto sa soberanya ng Pilipinas, wala pang pinapakitang respeto sa kapwa nila tao (Apart from having no respect for the sovereignty of the Philippines, they have also shown no respect for their fellow human beings)," she added.

Senator Ramon "Bong" Revilla also denounced China's harassment activities as “inhumane.”

"Pwede pa nga yang (It can even be qualified as) piracy in the sea," Revilla said in a separate statement.

He noted that President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. has clearly articulated the country's position in the WPS during the recently concluded 21st International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore.

"We will not cede any inch of our territory and territorial rights, and we are taking notice of the bullying and provocations against our countrymen and our nation," Revilla said.

Meanwhile, Senator Nancy Binay emphasized the violation of basic principles of humane treatment and international norms.

"Be it in times of war or in peace, it is imperative that all nations uphold the principles of empathy, compassion, and respect for human life as enshrined in the Geneva Convention," Binay said in another statement.

She said the Philippines is prepared to raise the issue at international forums to seek justice and protect its citizens' rights.

Senator Sonny Angara also urged China to show restraint and not obstruct regular and non-hostile activities of Philippine personnel, including essential resupply and medical missions.

"This act from the CCG endangers the lives of our Filipino troops stationed at the Ayungin Shoal and could be deemed as a violation of their human rights," Angara said in a statement, stressing that the Philippines has not provoked the CCG in the same manner.

Angara said disputes should be resolved “diplomatically and lawfully.”

Senator Joel Villanueva, during a press briefing, reiterated that China's narratives are "ridiculous" and their claims are "unfounded."

"I admire what the President mentioned, marami siyang ginamit na (he used several) adjectives but I like the word 'deceptive' because that's what China has been doing for quite some time," Villanueva said.

Navy's modernization, better skills vital for external defense

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 3, 2024): Navy's modernization, better skills vital for external defense (By Darryl John Esguerra)

NAVAL DEFENSE. President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. presides over the 2nd Quarter Command Conference of the Philippine Navy on Monday (June 03, 2024). During the meeting, Navy Chief Vice Adm. Toribio Adaci Jr. said the Navy will continue to defend Philippine waters and protect Filipinos despite "formidable challenges" present in the current defense landscape. (Photo courtesy of Presidential Photojournalists Association)

MANILA – The Philippine Navy (PN) on Monday outlined to President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. its current status and plans and emphasized the importance of modernization and capability enhancement of the Armed Forces’ naval warfare service as the country focuses on external defense.

During its 2nd Quarter Command Conference with the President, Navy Chief, Vice Adm. Toribio Adaci Jr. also vowed to continue guarding the country’s territorial waters and ensure the safety of Filipinos despite what it called “formidable challenges” in the country’s archipelagic defense.

The Philippines recently adopted the Comprehensive Archipelagic Defense Concept (CADC), a deliberate initiative to enhance maritime security and the defensive posture of the country amid Chinese aggression in the West Philippine Sea.

“The Philippine Navy remains steadfast in its duty to defend our nation's interests, safeguard our waters, and protect our people. While we face formidable challenges, our commitment to accomplishing the mission remains unwavering,” Adaci said.

“The Philippine Navy will continue to fight until our nation realizes genuine freedom and security in our waters. As you have said, Sir, ‘Filipinos do not yield’, ” he added, quoting the oft-repeated remark of the Commander-in-Chief when discussing the territorial row with China.

The command conference was also attended by Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Romeo Brawner Jr., Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr., Army Commanding General, Lt. Gen. Roy Galido, and Air Force Chief, Lt. Gen. Stephen Parreño.

It also provided a platform for other major AFP services to discuss collaborative efforts and integrated defense strategies.

For his part, the President “expressed his continued support to the ongoing efforts of the Philippine Navy and other branches of the AFP,”

He highlighted the “critical role of the Navy in maintaining national security and underscored the need for continuous improvement of defense capabilities to address evolving security challenges.”

Teodoro previously stressed the need to adapt defense strategies for the evolving security landscape, prioritizing the fortification not only of maritime borders, but also the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.

He said the CADC will allow the AFP to address contemporary threats to Philippine territorial integrity and sovereign rights. (with a report from Priam F. Nepomuceno/PNA)

9 rebel returnees in Rizal get cash aid from gov't

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 3, 2024): 9 rebel returnees in Rizal get cash aid from gov't (By Zen Trinidad)

PATH OF PEACE. Interior Secretary Benhur Abalos Jr. (7th from left) poses with the nine former communist rebels who returned to the fold of the law in Rizal province. The former insurgents, whose identities were withheld for their protection, received cash assistance amounting to more than PHP700,000 from the provincial government on Monday (June 3, 2024). (Photo courtesy of the 202nd Infantry Brigade, PA)

ANTIPOLO CITY – Rizal’s provincial government on Monday welcomed nine former rebels of the New People’s Army (NPA) back into the fold of the law with some cash and a chance at a fresh start.

In ceremonies held at the Ynares Center Complex in this city, the former insurgents divided among themselves a total of PHP716,663 from the provincial government through a program overseen by the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG).

DILG Secretary Benhur Abalos Jr., who was present during the payout ceremonies, explained that the cash assistance package covers immediate subsistence aid, livelihood support, reintegration assistance, and remuneration for the firearms that they turned over upon their surrender.

"The department remains steadfast in aiding former rebels as they reintegrate into society, fostering brighter futures for themselves and their communities. Together, we can forge a more tranquil and prosperous nation," he said.

Governor Nina Ynares of Rizal, meanwhile, underscored the initiative's importance, calling it a holistic approach to ending the insurgency that does not completely rely on an armed solution.

"Collectively, we are shaping our destiny through the care and solidarity we extend to one another. Let us persist in working together for the advancement and harmony of our communities," she said during the ceremonies.

Meanwhile, Brig. Gen. Cerilo C. Balaoro Jr., commander of the Philippine Army's 202nd Infantry (Unifier) Brigade, hailed the event as evidence of the government's commitment to fulfilling promises to former comrades.

"The benefits under E-CLIP (Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program) serve as a testament that we have not forsaken those who have opted for peace," he said.

He urged remaining members of the NPA to lay down their arms and reintegrate into society, noting the government's dedication to transforming former rebels into valuable contributors to society.

"Together, we can construct a future marked by peace and prosperity," he said.

E-CLIP is a government program aimed at facilitating the reintegration of former communist rebels, their spouses, and immediate family back into society through financial and livelihood assistance.