Friday, June 7, 2024

Army ops vs. NPA continue, amid disaster response

From the Visayan Daily Star (Jun 7, 2024): Army ops vs. NPA continue, amid disaster response (By GILBERT P. BAYORAN)

Two days after the phreatic eruption of Mt. Kanlaon in Negros Island, the 302nd and 303rd Infantry Brigades have maintained high alert status, with the deployment of 47 Disaster Response Task Units (DRTUs), several military vehicles, and hundreds of Disaster Response Operations (DRO) equipment.

Despite their involvement in disaster response operations, Brig. Gen. Orlando Edralin, 303rd Infantry Brigade commander, yesterday said that they are not lowering their guard, as he entertained the possibility that New People’s Army remnants may take advantage of the situation by hitting Army soldiers actively involved in helping Negrenses affected by the natural calamities.

“That is why we made our presence felt. All boots are on the ground,” Edralin said, as he further stressed that NPA remnants are trying their best effort to recover lost territories.

Army spokesman Lt. Col. J Jay Javines said that the Humanitarian and Disaster Response (HADR) assets of the 3ID, consisting of 464 personnel with 42 military transport vehicles, are equipped and prepared to address potential disasters that may arise from the recent volcanic activity of Mt. Kanlaon.

Aside from the active Army personnel, Javines added that Reserve units in Negros Island were also shifted to a state of heightened alert.

On the other hand, the 42 mobility assets, comprising military trucks and other vehicles, are now strategically stationed to facilitate the fast deployment and efficient movement of HADR personnel, DRO equipment, and logistical supplies, he added.

This ensures an immediate response and vital support and assistance chains in the event of an eruption and other related emergencies, Javines said.

He added that community awareness programs are also being conducted in partnership and collaboration with LGUs and concerned government agencies to educate and inform the residents about evacuation procedures, emergency contacts, and safety measures.

In a statement, Maj. Gen. Marion Sison, 3ID commander, underscored the significance of preparedness and quick response.

“By activating and mobilizing these HADR units and assets, we intend to ensure that we can act swiftly and efficiently in any situation that may arise,” Sison added.*

Bayan Negros slams Israel Ambassadors’ visit

From the Visayan Daily Star (Jun 7, 2024): Bayan Negros slams Israel Ambassadors’ visit

Negros Occidental Governor Eugenio Lacson and other elected officials have bared their complicity to the ongoing genocide at Gaza by welcoming with open arms Israel Embassy ambassador Ilan Fluss during a courtesy visit last June 4 in Bacolod City, a press release from Bayan Negros said.

Governor Lacson, who chairs the Regional Peace and Order Council in Western Visayas, has since been vocal about its unrelenting support of the bogus programs of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Conflict (NTF-ELCAC). As in the apartheid state of Israel, Negros also faces a government equipped by United States arms to displace, bomb, and massacre whole communities in the guise of fighting off “rebels”.

Amidst the IDF’s continuous bombing of the Rafah refugee camp, US Blackhawk aircraft manned by the Armed Forces of the Philippines also bombed rural communities in Escalante earlier this month, forcing hundreds of families to evacuate and damaging crops and the environment. The area has since been cordoned off and underwent strict military encirclement, the statement said.

In many instances, like during the state-sanctioned murder of the Fausto family in June last year, Lacson himself affirms the military’s white-washed narratives which transfer blame to supposed rebels in the state forces’ own massacre of civilians. Akin to Israel alleging Hamas using civilians as shields and fabricating stories of rebels committing violence against children, the NTF-ELCAC falsifies encounters with the NPA to justify their attacks on innocent and unarmed farmers, workers and activists. Rebellion and terrorism, for them, are boogeymen to continue hamletting and militarizing rural communities to pave way for predatory incursions by foreign and local compradors.

The Israeli envoy also was audacious enough to plead with attending officials to send in Filipino workers to Israel. They did not even disguise their intent at harvesting cheap labor from us.

Governor Lacson claims to have been deeply sorry for the death of Negrense OFW Loreta Alacre in Israel, and yet does not seem to see that such death is enabled by the labor export policy imposed on us by US and its allies.

Last March, Governor Lacson chaired the committee that approved the stable internal peace and security (SIPS) status of Negros Occidental and now awaits approval of Pres. Marcos. Local officials and the military all hasten to declare this to further attract investors and paint an illusion of stability in the province.

The press release comments that with the passage of Negros Island Region bill in senate, local landlords and compradors are salivating over prospects of letting in neoliberal projects, privatizing basic services, and building eco-tourism infrastructures that will displace farmers and indigenous peoples. This makes it deeply sinister that the Israeli envoy held a symposium on supposed Israeli innovations on agriculture.

Who are they to discuss with our local officials on the subject, other than to speak of so-called “innovations” on waging war in their conquest for land and resources? Our farmers have yet to recover from the El Niño, and now our provincial government is opening the door for Israel’s opportunism. There is no use appealing to the “moral conscience” of these leaders, as if shaking hands with the Israeli ambassador was merely an act of diplomacy. These leaders, including Vice Governor Jeffrey Ferrer and Bacolod City Mayor Albee Benitez, conscientiously approve of the bombings and the murder of our own fellow Negrenses in the name of maintaining the bloody status quo of landlessness and subservience to US interests, the group stressed.

The biggest expression of our solidarity with the Palestinian people as Negrenses is to weaken US hegemony in our province and our country. We must become actively part of the broader mass movement that struggles toward genuine agrarian reform and national industrialization – the triumph of which is a big stake at the heart of the empire.

As we call on the immediate and permanent ceasefire in Gaza, we must also call to stop the bombings and an end to the militarization of rural communities in Negros. In Gaza and the Philippines, there can be no peace without justice. The US is a crumbling empire that will soon have to pay for its crimes, including the local puppet bureaucrats, at the hands of the toiling masses, the press release concluded.*

[Retired Analyst Note: BAYAN-Negros is a regional affiliate of the main Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) front group the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN-New Patriotic Alliance)

The Bagong Alyansang Makabayn (BAYAN-New Patriotic Alliance is a Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) multisectoral umbrella front organization. The principle of Bayan is National Democracy, which is based on Marxism–Leninism–Maoism, similar to CPP-NPA-NDFP. However, unlike underground revolutionary organizations such as the Communist Party of the Philippines, its armed wing the New People's Army and its united front the National Democratic Front, members of Bayan do not take up arms. They participate in the urban mass movement (protests, riots, demonstrations, and other political activity), which are the dual tactics of the revolution, and participate in the revolution through mass mobilizations.

Member organizations include the following:

-Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU)
-Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP)
-League of Filipino Students (LFS)
-Student Christian Movement of the Philippines (SCMP)
-National Alliance of Women’s Organizations
-Kilusan ng Manggagawang Kababaihan (KMK)
-Health Alliance for Democracy (HEAD)
-Ecumenical Movement for Justice and Peace (EMJP)
-Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT)
-Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA)
-Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Govt. Employees (COURAGE)
-Promotion for Church People’s Response (PCPR)
-Kalipunan ng Katutubong Mamamayan sa Pilipinas (KAMP)
-Migrante International
-Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (KADAMAY)

BAYAN and all of its member organizations tow the CPP propaganda line, are pro-Palestinian, anti-Israeli and are also stridently anti-US & opposed to any US military presence in the Philippines.]

Government, military officials declare Lantawan in Basilan ASG-free

From MindaNews (Jun 6, 2024): Government, military officials declare Lantawan in Basilan ASG-free (By FRENCIE CARREON

ZAMBOANGA CITY (MindaNews / 6 June)—Government and military officials declared on Wednesday the municipality of Lantawan in Basilan as free from the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG).

Government, police and military officials release white doves and balloons as Lantawan is declared ASG-free. Photo courtesy of WestMinCom

Lt. Gen. William Gonzales, Western Mindanao Command chief, confirmed to MindaNews that Lantawan has been declared by the Task Force on Ending Local Armed Conflict (TF-ELAC) as ASG-free.

Basilan Gov. Hadjiman Hataman-Salliman also made the pronouncement during a ceremony in Lantawan on Tuesday, as quoted in a press statement from the Western Mindanao Command (WestMinCom).

During the ceremony, various firearms surrendered by or seized from ASG personalities over the years were presented. These include a caliber .50 Barret sniper rifle, four M16A1 rifles, two M1 Garand rifles, one MAC-11 machine pistol/submachine gun, one shotgun, one M79 grenade launcher, and two caliber .45 pistols.

Brig. Gen. Alvin Luzon, commander of the 101st Infantry Brigade, said the declaration of Lantawan as ASG-free is a historic milestone. “This achievement is a direct result of the unwavering resolve of the people of Lantawan, who chose peace over violence. It is a powerful symbol of hope and a testament to the strength of collaboration between the military, the local government, and the community,” he said.

Lantawan is the birthplace of Isnilon Hapilon, one of the ASG top leaders involved in the 2000 Dos Palmas kidnappings of 17 Filipinos, 3 Americans, and the beheading of American citizen Guillermo Sobero. Hapilon was eventually killed during the Marawi Siege in 2017 in a military operation that rescued 17 hostages.

Salliman said that declaring Lantawan as ASG-free is a significant achievement in terms of enhancing security, promoting development, and ensuring the well-being of its townsfolk.

Basilan Gov. Jim Salliman (rightmost) inspects the firearms once owned by Abu Sayyaf Group fighters. With him are (L-R) Lantawan Mayor Nasser Abubakar, 101st Infantry Brigade Commander Alvin Luzon, and Basilan Provincial Police Director Carlos Madronio. Photo courtesy of 4SFBn

Lantawan Mayor Nasser Abubakar led stakeholders in setting free white balloons and white doves to symbolize the welcoming of a peaceful economic development, expressing that with reduced security threats, there can be greater opportunities for economic activities, investments, and development projects. (Frencie L. Carreon / MindaNews)

Task Force Davao maintains tight security at checkpoints

From the Mindanao Times (Jun 6, 2024): Task Force Davao maintains tight security at checkpoints (By RHODA GRACE)

THE TASK Force Davao (TFD) remains vigilant at border checkpoints following recent drug busts.

In an interview with the Davao City Disaster Radio on Wednesday, TFD commander Col Darren Comia highlighted the effectiveness of stricter inspections.

“Strict border controls led to the interception of significant amounts of illegal drugs and firearms at Davao City entry points last week,” Comia said.

“We continue to strengthen city security in close coordination with the Davao City Police Office (DCPO) and other law enforcement agencies,” he added.

On May 29, 2024, a joint operation by TFD and DCPO seized drugs at the Lacson checkpoint in Calinan District.

Comia confirmed that charges were filed against the suspect. He commended both agencies for preventing the contraband from entering the city.

Beyond checkpoints, TFD promotes a “culture of security” through anti-terrorism forums for various groups. They’re also finalizing a security plan for the upcoming Duaw Dabaw festivities.

Bergante takes helm of EastMinCom; vows to end insurgency (Limited Bio Data)

From the Mindanao Times (Jun 8, 2024): Bergante takes helm of EastMinCom; vows to end insurgency (By RHODA GRACE SARON)

MAJOR General Luis Rex Bergante officially assumed command of the Eastern Mindanao Command (EastMinCom) on Friday, June 7, 2024, during a ceremony presided over by AFP Chief of Staff General Romeo Brawner Jr. in Camp Panacan.

Bergante, in his speech, vowed to work toward ending the insurgency problem within the EastMinCom area.

“It is good to be back this place has been a home for me for a good number of years. Since 2017, this is where I got my first star as a brigade commander and also I realized there is a glimmer of hope na kaya pala natin tapusin ang insurgency,” he said.

“With the guidance of my idol who was then the division commander (10th ID) Retired General Reuben Basiao, we have zero one guerilla front, zero firearms, zero strength, and zero barangay affectation,” he added.

He emphasized the importance of community engagement and post-conflict reconciliation efforts.

“The basic underlying concept on this is that dapat maintindihan at maisapuso ng lahat ng tropa from the commanders down to the most junior soldier, sailor, and airman, is the intent to really help our communities and make their lives better,” Bergante said.

“And to the commanders, what will happen after the last shot is fired? Think about mitigating the negative effects of this war, paano natin maipadali ang healing and reconciliation?,” he said.

” I have a very large shot to kill for the commanders that came before me did exceptionally well addressing the security threats and contributing to the development of vibrant regions 10 in Northern Mindanao, 11 in Davao Region, and 13 in Caraga,” he added.

He acknowledged the growing threat to national security and pledged to work alongside his team to address it.

“To the men and women including the 4th Infantry ‘Diamond’ Division, 10th ID, Tactical Operations Wing Eastern Mindanao, and the Naval Forces of Eastern Mindanao of Team EastMinCom, let us continue working together to achieve our mandate. Tapusin na natin kaagad ang insurgency at merong lumalabas na mas malaking concern, that is the threat to our national territory,” he further said.

Bergante replaced EastMinCom acting commander Maj Gen Jose Maria Cuerpo II, the current 4th Infantry Division commander based in Cagayan de Oro City, in a change of command ceremony on Friday morning.

Brawner recognized the challenges faced by EastMinCom and highlighted the successes achieved through dedicated resources and leadership. He praised Bergante’s team and urged him to utilize them effectively.

“You have big shoes to fill in, this area command for a long time the priority area the priority unified command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and it paid that we made this the priority, so we poured in resources, we poured in units, we brought the best officers to this command, in order for us to be able to achieve what we have achieved already,” Brawner said.

“You have a very good team here in Eastmincom. You have very good components and brigade commanders. Because the success of Eastmincom and Division lies on our brigade commanders. Take advantage of them and use them to their fullest in order to achieve what we have set for here in EastMincom,” he said.

Also in his message, Cuerpo expressed gratitude for the opportunity and emphasized his focus on maintaining operational momentum.

“Just barely a week ago I stood here as the acting commander of EastMinCom seeking your support as I feel this demanding position in a temporary capacity,” Cuerpo said.

Cuerpo added, “While I may have served as acting commander for a very limited time, I take this as an opportunity to showcase your leadership skills to learn from the experience and to contribute to the organization. I fully subscribe to the idea that greatness to the leadership is not measured by tenure but by impact, the lives you get to change and task.”

“To the new commander, may you sustain the standard set by the previous leadership with your branded credibility in decision-making processes and admirable leadership we at least know that the suitable leader for the command is stirring is help, to the team EastMinCom daghan kaayong salamat,” he further said.

Prior to the appointment of Bergante, he served as the 59th commander of the Training and Doctrine Command, Philippine Army on Feb. 27, 2023.

Throughout his career, Bergante held significant positions, he was the assistant commander of the 7th “Kaugnay” Division, based in Fort Magsaysay, Palayan City, Nueva Ecija.

He also served as commander of Bravo Company, 66th Infantry Battalion, 3rd Infantry (Spearhead) Division, Battalion Commander of the 31st Infantry (Charge) Battalion, and 22nd Infantry (Cadre) Battalion under the 9th Infantry (Spear) Division in the Bicol Region, Brigade Commander of the 1001st Infantry Brigade, 10th Infantry (Agila) Division, where he led the brigade in the neutralization of all four front secretaries of the Guerilla Fronts being confronted in Davao and the total dismantling of Guerilla Front 33.

He was also the commander of the Army Marksmanship Training Unit (AMTU), now the Marksmanship Training School, Training and Doctrine Command, tasked to implement Army-wide marksmanship training programs and participate in local and international shooting competitions.

His leadership characteristics and dedication to duty were further honed when he was assigned as the Assistant Chief of Staff for Operations of the 9th Infantry Division, Division Inspector General, and Chief Staff of the 10th Infantry Division.

Bergante is a proud member of the Philippine Military Academy “Bigkis-Lahi” Class of 1990 where he graduated number 7. An academic achiever, he also graduated number one in the Infantry Officer Basic Course and took up his command and General Staff Course at the Australian Defense College in Canberra, Australia in 2006.

He has a Master’s Degree in Business Administration from the University of the Philippines Diliman, a Graduate Diploma in Strategic Studies from the University of New South Wales, Australia, and took the Comprehensive Crisis Management Course at the Asia Pacific Center for Security Studies in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Bergante was born on Nov. 17, 1968, in Jaro, Iloilo City and happily married to former Miss Nadine Victoria Sevillano. They are blessed with two daughters namely Rexine and Jan.

Marcos vows support for military modernization during Davao visit

From the Mindanao Times (Jun 8, 2024): Marcos vows support for military modernization during Davao visit (By RHODA GRACE SARON)

PRESIDENT Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. visited the 10th Infantry Division headquarters in Mawab, Davao de Oro, on Thursday, June 6.

During his visit, he pledged government support by providing necessary resources and training programs to further develop the capabilities of Filipino soldiers.

He also highlighted the importance of bolstering the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) for potential external threats, reflecting a shift from primarily internal operations.

Major General Allan Hambala, the 10th Infantry Division commander, briefed the President on the division’s achievements.

Hambala committed to ending the remaining insurgency within the area by the end of June 30.

President Marcos was accompanied by Special Assistant to the President Anton Lagdameo and AFP Chief of Staff General Romeo Brawner Jr.

Former rebels, supporters surrender in Capiz

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jun 6, 2024): Former rebels, supporters surrender in Capiz (By: Alex A. Lumaque) 

ROXAS CITY, Capiz (PIA) — Two Communist Terrorist Group (CTG) members and a supporter have surrendered to police authorities in the province on separate occasions in May.

They are part of the 10 CTGs who voluntarily surrendered to local police stations from January to May 28 to start a new and productive life.

Alias Nono from Dumarao town surrendered and withdrew his support with the rebels after realizing the CTG had misled him for a long time.

The 45-year-old CTG supporter disclosed that he gave relevant information on government troop movements to CTGs and acted as a courier of the rebel’s food supplies.

Further, he was a former member of Sangay Partido sa Lokalidad and Yunit Militia of CTG SPP East Komiteng Rehiyon-Panay from 1992 to 2017.

He surrendered after a series of negotiations conducted by the 2nd Capiz Provincial Mobile Force Company under Lt. Col. Elmer S. Magbanua.

The Capiz Police Provincial Office has also recorded 13 CTG supporters who withdrew their support to the communists and nabbed a CTG member with a warrant of arrest from January to May 28.

In February this year, 16 former rebels (FRs) received financial assistance from the government through the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP).

Five out of 16 FRs were former members of the New People’s Army, while the 11 were Militia ng Bayan or supporters of the NPA rebels.

A former rebel received cash aid from President Roxas Mayor Receliste Escolin during his voluntary surrender last May through the facilitation and negotiation of the President Roxas Municipal Police Station. (Photo by President Roxas, MPS)

ASEAN Coast Guard Forum 2024 to build SEA-PEACE

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jun 6, 2024): ASEAN Coast Guard Forum 2024 to build SEA-PEACE (By: Michael L. Uy)

DAVAO CITY (PIA) – – Coast guards from member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) will aim to establish common procedures under the proposed South East Asian Protocols on Engagements at Sea for ASEAN Coast Guards and Maritime Law Enforcement Agencies (SEA-PEACE).

The protocols will guide them in dealing with maritime law enforcement operations at sea.

These include engagements on marine environment protection and preservation, search and rescue, and security and law enforcement like drug trade, human trafficking, and illegal fishing, according to Coast Guard commandant Admiral Ronnie Gil Cavan during the opening ceremonies of the ASEAN Coast Guard Forum 2024 held in Discovery Samal recently.

“One of the aspirations of this platform is to develop a common protocol that governs or guides the engagements of all coast guards in ASEAN so that we will be doing this in the same way, and in the long term, we will be creating a common norm,” Admiral Cavan said.

Cavan added that with the protocol, anyone who will enter or is within the common waters of the region should behave the way the ASEAN coast guards do.

Solicitor General Menardo Guevarra, in his message, also affirmed the need for such a protocol, hoping that this will “sufficiently address both traditional and emerging challenges to maritime law enforcement and help ensure that the peace and stability which the region has enjoyed for decades will continue to flourish.”

Hosted by the PCG, the third conduct of the regional forum, slated until June 8, is attended by the heads of coast guards from Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Myanmar, the People’s Republic of Laos, and Vietnam, as well as the forum’s partner, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes (UNODC).

The PCG commandant said that the coast guards of Brunei Darussalam and Timor-Leste will soon form part of the forum. (RVC/MLU/PIA Davao)

ASEAN Coast Guard Forum 2024 held in Discovery Samal is attended by the heads of coast guards from the ASEAN countries, namely Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Myanmar, the People's Republic of Laos, and Vietnam, and the forum’s partner, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes (UNODC).

Insurgency-free town gets aide; lives improve

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jun 7, 2024): Insurgency-free town gets aide; lives improve (By:Joyah Mae C. Quimoyog)

Residents of a town in Ilocos Sur are starting to see progress after it was declared insurgency-free by the government.

In fact, livelihood associations have been organized to receive assistance for their businesses.

Since the deployment of army troops in Quirino town in Ilocos Sur province, the residents there have experienced positive transformations.

Joy Bentir, a farmer from Sitio Madapoy in Barangay Patungcaleo, expressed her gratitude to the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and the Philippine Army for constantly assisting their community.

The DOLE turned over some 768 heads of chicken that are ready to lay; vitamins, chicken feeds, chicken cages, and disinfectants to the 81 members of federated associations in egg-laying production of barangays Patungcaleo, Namitpit, and Suagayan.

In an online conversation on June 4, Bentir said, “Gapu ti tulong ti Philippine Army, isuda ti nangtulong a nangpatakder daytoy nga organisasionmi, sadakami tinulungan a nagaramid ti resolusion a naipasa iti DOLE iso itan dagiti sagsarapenmi a tulong.”

(The Philippine Army assisted us in establishing our organization and aided in crafting a resolution submitted to the DOLE, which is the reason for the various government assistance we are receiving.)

Bentir, a single mother and a former overseas Filipino worker, said she has been seeking additional income to support her mother alongside farming.

She said, “Dakkel a tulong kaniami dagitoy a livelihood ta kalaksidan ti panagtalon ket addan nayon a pag-incomemanmi. Isu a dakkel a tulong kaniak ken iti pamiliak lalo kaniak ta single mom ken adda pay ni inak nga umas-asa kaniak.”

(This livelihood aid is beneficial for me and my family. As a single mother who also supports my mother, the additional source of income will surely provide much-needed support alongside our farming activities.)

According to DOLE provincial head Charity Ubilas, this was the second time the people’s organization had received such assistance since September 2022 as part of the DOLE Livelihood Assisted Project: Egg-Laying Production Project (Enhancement).

Bentir mentioned that they generated a net income of P129,700 from the initial batch of chickens provided by the DOLE and then expanded their operations by offering low-interest loans to organization members.

When asked about their sales after receiving additional chicken heads, she replied, “Madamada agit-itlogen, maka-dua tray [ti itlog] kami pay agmalem.”

(The chickens we received recently have already started laying eggs. We are now harvesting at least two trays of eggs every day.)

The organization sells the eggs in their barangay and when they have more eggs than usual, they also sell them in their local market.

Bentir added that some of their organization’s members are former members or relatives of former members of Underground Mass Organizations or UGMO.

“Dakkel ti naitulong ti kasundaluan lalo ti 69th Infantry Battalion ta isuda ti nanghikayat ti tattao ken inanusanda nga inpakaawat ti tattao dagita amin a banbanag ket ditoy met a nakitami a manipud idi immaydan immadu ti tulong a naggapu ti gobierno a dumandanon kaniami,” she said.

(The Philippine Army, particularly the 69th Infantry Battalion, has played a significant role in informing our constituents about the activities of communist terrorist groups. They have carefully explained vital information about these groups, and their presence in the community has facilitated better access to government agencies and offices despite the distance.)

She said their community has since been peaceful and no conflict has since been recorded.

The Army troops were deployed in their community in 2020 as part of its intensified Community Support Program (CSP) that aims to address the issues that are being exploited by the communist rebels.

According to the Philippine Army, the CSP program and the numerous activities and programs implemented for the conflict-affected and cleared barangays are one of the results and outcomes of the collaboration among the members of the Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict.

Seventeen members of the egg-laying association in Barangay Marozo in Narvacan town were also provided with the same assistance last May 14. (JCR/MJTAB/JMCQ, PIA Ilocos Sur)

PBBM praised for correcting 'greatest misconception' on PH territory

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 5, 2024): PBBM praised for correcting 'greatest misconception' on PH territory (By Joyce Ann L. Rocamora)

KEYNOTE ADDRESS. President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. delivers his historic keynote address for the 21st edition of the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore on May 31, 2024. Marcos was the first Philippine leader to deliver a keynote message for the IISS Shangri-La Dialogue, Asia’s premier defense forum. (Photo courtesy of the Presidential Communications Office)

MANILA – President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. was praised for articulating that Philippine territory is not limited to islands within the Paris Treaty lines.

In a statement dated June 4, former Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio said this corrected what he called the "greatest misconception" about Philippine territory.

"This is the first time that a Philippine President has stated that Philippine territory is defined by the 1898 Treaty of Paris, as clarified by the 1900 Treaty of Washington, which stated that Philippine territory includes all islands of the Philippine archipelago lying outside the lines of the Treaty of Paris," he said.

"This is factually, legally, and historically correct."

Marcos, during his policy speech at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, referred to both the Treaty of Paris and the Treaty of Washington as the basis of the country's territorial scope.

"When we established our Commonwealth in 1935, we put together a constitution that defined our territory in accordance with the international treaties that became the basis of our archipelagic unity," he said.

"The Treaty of Paris between Spain and the United States crystallized our islands into a cohesive whole. The Treaty of Washington clarified (that) the extent of our sovereignty and (our) patrimony (transcends the) lines set by international powers."

In the Treaty of Washington, Spain relinquished to the United States all title to any and all islands belonging to the Philippine archipelago, including those lying outside the lines defined in the earlier Treaty of Paris, particularly the islands of Cagayan, Sulu, and Sibutu and their dependencies.

Carpio said Marcos' clarification is a "watershed moment" in the country’s fight to defend its maritime zones in the Philippines.

"This finally corrects the greatest misconception in Philippine history that Philippine territory is limited to the islands within the Paris Treaty lines. A watershed moment in our fight to defend our island territories and maritime zones in the West Philippine Sea," he said.

PH Navy: Chinese ships spotted in WPS slightly up to 125

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 5, 2024): PH Navy: Chinese ships spotted in WPS slightly up to 125 (By Priam Nepomuceno)

PN spokesperson for WPS Commodore Roy Vincent Trinidad (PNA file photo by Yancy Lim)

MANILA – A total of 125 Chinese ships were spotted in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) from May 28 to June 3.

In an advisory Tuesday night, Philippine Navy spokesperson for the WPS Commodore Roy Vincent Trinidad said these include nine China Coast Guard Vessels (CCGVs), 11 People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) ships, and 105 China Maritime Militia Vessels (CMMVs).

The number is slightly higher than the 122 Chinese vessels spotted in the WPS from May 21 to 28, Trinidad added.

He said these ships were spotted in the following locations in the WPS:

--Bajo de Masinloc - three CCGVs and 15 CMMVs;

--Ayungin Shoal - four CCGVs, two PLAN ships, and 26 CMMVs;

--Pagasa Island - one CCGV, two PLAN ships, and 33 CMMVs;

--Parola Island - one CMMV

--Likas Island - one CMMV;

--Lawak Island - one PLAN ship;

--Panata Island - four CMMVs;

--Patag Island - two CMMVs;

--Sabina Shoal - one CCGV, six PLAN ships, and 23 CMMVs.

PH not going to war but beefing up AFP vs. external threats – Marcos

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 6, 2024): PH not going to war but beefing up AFP vs. external threats – Marcos (By Darryl John Esguerra)

President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. (Presidential Communications Office File Photo)

MANILA – Although the Philippines is not going to war, President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. on Thursday vowed to provide the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) with the necessary resources, training, and equipment to enhance its external defense capabilities.

During his camp visit to the Army’s 10th Infantry Division in Mawab, Davao de Oro, Marcos cited the need to boost the AFP’s capabilities as it transitions from dealing with internal security threats such as the communist insurgency to a more outward-looking defense posture.

“Now, I am sure that all of you are aware now that the internal threat has been reduced. We now have to also think about the external threat and that again is a different strategy that we will have to employ,” Marcos was quoted as saying in a Presidential Communications Office (PCO) news release.

“But we in the civilian government and together with the military commanders are doing all that we can to make sure that our men and women [in military] are completely capacitated,” he added.

The Philippines is adopting a paradigm shift in the country’s defense strategy through the Comprehensive Archipelagic Defense Concept (CADC) which was adopted by the Marcos administration amid China’s aggression in the West Philippine Sea.

The Commander-in-Chief assured the military that it would have ample support from the civilian government in its quest to beef up its forces.

“Gagawin natin ang lahat para may kakayahan kayo (We will do everything to ensure that you have the capability). You have the capability to do the job, that is this new job that you have to face. You have the capability. You have the training. You have the equipment and that we will be able to present at least a deterrent force,” the President said.

But Marcos clarified that the Philippines was not seeking war with any nation, stressing that the AFP would only be in a “defensive” mode when it comes to the country’s territories.

“Hindi naman tayo nakikipag-giyera kahit na kanino. Wala naman tayong gustong pasukin. Tayo ay defensive lang naman tayo at dinedepensahan lang natin ang bansa natin (We’re not seeking war with anyone. We don’t intend to conduct any offensive. We’re just on the defensive, and we’re only defending our country),” Marcos told the soldiers.

“Kaya’t ‘yan ang ating bagong threat na hinaharap ngunit kagaya ng sabi ko, kung nagawa ninyo ito dahil sa internal threat, ako’y malakas ang loob ko na kaya rin ninyong gawin pagka dumating sa tinatawag na external threat (So that is the new threat that we are facing; but like what I said, you’ve succeeded in addressing the internal threat, that’s why I’m confident that you can do it again with this external threat)," he added.

In his message, the President also congratulated the troops of the 10th Infantry Division for their successes through hard work, skills, and courage, and urged them to be peacekeepers by encouraging communist insurgents to return to the fold of the law.

Barbaric acts

Meanwhile, Surigao del Norte 2nd District Rep. Robert Ace Barbers said criminal complaints should be filed against China for recently attacking Philippine vessels and intercepting supplies for soldiers stationed at the BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin Shoal in the West Philippine Sea.

He condemned the “barbaric” acts that have no place in an already civilized world.

“The latest uncalled for barbaric and inhumane attacks by the trespassers that are all caught on video deserves the highest condemnation from the international community,” the lawmaker from Mindanao said on Thursday.

He said it did not only show unprovoked aggression, but it placed the lives of Filipino people in grave danger as well.

Barbers considered the incident quite worse than the illegal water cannon aggression because it was almost like hand-to-hand combat with the Philippine personnel scrambling to get back the air-dropped supplies that were snatched by the Chinese, unmindful of their safety.

“These Filipinos deserve the highest commendation from our government for their heroic deeds. They are willing to risk their lives to bring food supplies to their fellow Filipinos and uphold the interest and honor of the country against all odds,” he said.

“I strongly urge the President through the appropriate departments and agencies to initiate the filing of criminal complaints before the international bodies with jurisdiction over such criminal behavior, especially committed within our internationally recognized territory. We should not let this pass,” he added.

DND chief seeks Brunei help vs. extremism via Islamic education

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 6, 2024): DND chief seeks Brunei help vs. extremism via Islamic education (By Priam Nepomuceno)

COUNTERING EXTREMISM. Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. (right) and Brunei Darussalam's defense attaché, Lt. Col. Suzana Binti Haji Antin (left) during the latter's introductory call at the DND headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City on Wednesday (June 5, 2024). Teodoro sought Brunei Darussalam's support in countering violent extremism in the country through Islamic education initiatives. (Photo courtesy of DND)

MANILA – Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. has sought the support of Brunei Darussalam in countering violent extremism in the country through Islamic education initiatives.

Teodoro made the remark during the introductory call of Brunei Darussalam's new defense attaché, Lt. Col. Suzana Binti Haji Antin, at the Department of National Defense (DND) headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City on Wednesday, DND spokesperson Arsenio Andolong said in a news release Thursday.

"In line with the efforts to maintain stability and spur development over the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, Secretary Teodoro enjoined Brunei Darussalam to provide education opportunities for Imams in the Armed Forces of the Philippines, who are developing their individual capacities on the correct interpretation of the Holy Qu’ran, counter-radicalization, and violent extremism in the country," Andolong added.

The DND chief also emphasized that this would be one of the ways the Sultanate would cement itself “as an exporter of religious scholarship on the basis of non-violence, peace and stability,” as espoused under the concept of “Darussalam” (Abode of Peace).

"Following the state visit of President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr., Secretary Teodoro recalled the crucial role of Brunei Darussalam towards the attainment of lasting peace and prosperity in Mindanao," Andolong noted.

Teodoro also shared the DND’s current implementation of the Comprehensive Archipelagic Defense Concept (CADC) which outlines the country’s strategic shift to external defense.

"The Defense Secretary saw the opportunity to establish linkages between the cyber defense institutions and defense industries of the Philippines and Brunei Darussalam, and collaborate in strengthening interoperability and overall capabilities of the militaries of the two countries," Andolong noted.

As founding members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Philippines and Brunei Darussalam are committed to working towards the promotion of regional peace and security, and peaceful resolution of differences in the spirit of ASEAN Centrality.

Both countries also commemorated the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations this year.

Swedish defense chief in PH

On Thursday, Teodoro met with Swedish Defense Minister Pål Jonson, highlighting the strengthening relations between the two nations.

Andolong said this was the first visit of a Swedish defense minister to the Philippines, which also coincided with the celebration of the National Day of Sweden.

"Both ministers underscored that the security of the Indo-Pacific and North Atlantic are interlinked, which necessitates a deeper understanding of each other’s regional concerns amid shifts in the geopolitical architecture. Minister Jonson also shared Sweden’s increasing interest in deepening its engagement and understanding of the Indo-Pacific region through cooperation with like-minded nations such as the Philippines," Andolong said.

During the meeting, Jonson also invited Teodoro to visit Sweden on a mutually convenient date.

In June 2023, the Philippines and Sweden concluded the Memorandum of Understanding on the Cooperation in the Acquisition of Defense Material (MOU ADM) on the margins of the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore.

The framework paved the way in advancing cooperation in the areas of logistics, technology research and development, defense industry development, and exchange of related information.

AFP: China's destroyed fish nets claim another 'malign influence' move

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 7, 2024): AFP: China's destroyed fish nets claim another 'malign influence' move (By Priam Nepomuceno)

AFP spokesperson Col. Francel Margareth Padilla (File screengrab)

MANILA – The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Thursday said China's accusation that Filipino troops in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) destroyed and seized fishing nets of its fisherfolk is just part of its "malign influence" tactic.

"This latest accusation is yet another example of China's malign influence operation, which seeks to distract from the real issue at hand: their ongoing illegal, coercive, aggressive, and deceptive actions and activities in the West Philippine Sea," AFP spokesperson Col. Francel Margareth Padilla said in a message to reporters.

She said Manila remains committed to upholding its sovereignty and protecting its sovereign rights in the WPS.

"We will not dignify these claims with a detailed response. It is important to reiterate that the presence of Chinese vessels within the Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) is illegal and provocative. The Philippines has sovereign rights over these waters, as recognized under international law, specifically the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea," Padilla added.

China's state news agency Xinhua reported that Philippine Navy troops from the BRP Sierra Madre (LS-57) in Ayungin Shoal have been destroying and cutting the nets of Chinese fisherfolk in adjacent waters.

Hasten passage of key legislative codes, OPAPRU urges BARMM lawmakers

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 7, 2024): Hasten passage of key legislative codes, OPAPRU urges BARMM lawmakers (By Priam Nepomuceno)

OPAPRU Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. (File photo courtesy of OPAPRU)

MANILA – Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity (OPAPRU) chief, Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., on Friday called on the Bangsamoro parliament to expedite the passage of two priority legislative codes of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) to further solidify peace gains.

“To realize our common vision, I respectfully urge the BTA (Bangsamoro Transition Authority) to expedite the passage of the two remaining priority codes. These codes are not merely legislative instruments. They are vital tools that will pave the way for more effective governance and sustainable development in the region,” Galvez said in a statement.

He was referring to the Revenue Code and Indigenous Peoples' Rights, which the BTA earlier pledged to pass within the year or before the first BARMM parliamentary polls, which coincides with next year's midterm elections.

Galvez noted that addressing key issues that affect the BARMM's progress is crucial as the polls draw near.

“Rest assured that the OPAPRU stands behind you in this concerted effort. By effectively utilizing all available resources and maximizing available support mechanisms, we can ensure the prompt and effective resolution of critical issues,” he said.

Galvez also echoed the sentiments of BARMM Chief Minister Ahod Ebrahim and President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr., urging all parties to prioritize serving the Bangsamoro people.

“The forthcoming BARMM elections represent a watershed moment in the history of the Bangsamoro people. This political exercise is not only critical in ensuring the continued resilience of democracy in the region, but more importantly, sends a clear and strong message that the BARMM government is determined to build on and sustain the gains of the Bangsamoro peace process,” he said.

To date, the BTA Parliament has passed the Bangsamoro Administrative Code on Oct. 28, 2020; the Bangsamoro Civil Service Code on Feb. 24, 2021; the Bangsamoro Education Code on May 18, 2021; the Bangsamoro Electoral Code on March 9, 2023; and the Bangsamoro Local Governance Code on Sept. 28, 2023.

AFP: PH Navy ship shadows Chinese naval vessels passing Basilan Strait

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 7, 2024): AFP: PH Navy ship shadows Chinese naval vessels passing Basilan Strait (By Priam Nepomuceno)

MANILA – The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Friday said it sent a Philippine Navy ship to shadow two Chinese naval vessels spotted passing through the Basilan Strait on Thursday.

"On June 6, 2024, the AFP through the Naval Forces Western Mindanao monitored the presence of two PLA (People's Liberation Army) Navy vessels—a training ship with bow number 83 and an amphibious transport dock with bow number 999—passing through the Basilan Strait within the Zamboanga Peninsula," the AFP said in a statement.

In line with standard operating procedures, the AFP said it immediately deployed the FAIC (fast attack interdiction craft), the BRP Domingo Deluana (PG-905) to "shadow/monitor the passage of the two PLA Navy vessels."

It added that BRP Domingo Deluana also issued a "standard challenge" to these Chinese naval vessels.

"One of the vessels, Qi Jiquang (BN-83) responded that it was conducting normal navigation from its last port of call in Dili, Timor Leste en route to Dalian, China," it added.

The Basilan Strait is recognized as an international sea lane allowing innocent passage of vessels from various nations, the AFP statement said.

The AFP assured the public that it remains vigilant in monitoring all activities within our maritime zones and is committed to ensuring the safety and security of Philippine waters.

"We continue to uphold international maritime laws while safeguarding our territorial integrity," it added.

NTF-WPS: Chinese vessel rams PH boat carrying sick military personnel

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 7, 2024): NTF-WPS: Chinese vessel rams PH boat carrying sick military personnel (By Raymond Carl Dela Cruz)

RAMMING. Filipino soldiers jump out of the way of the ramming of a China Coast Guard boat during a medical evacuation in Ayungin Shoal in the West Philippine Sea on May 19, 2024. National Task Force for the WPS spokesperson, Philippine Coast Guard Commodore Jay Tarriela called such moves "barbaric and inhumane." (Screen capture of PCG video)

MANILA – The National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea (NTF-WPS) on Friday called the actions of the China Coast Guard (CCG) “barbaric and inhumane” after its vessels blocked and rammed a Philippine boat during a medical evacuation in Ayungin Shoal in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

In a statement, NTF-WPS Spokesperson, Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) Commodore Jay Tarriela said the incident happened on May 19 when PCG Commandant Admiral Ronnie Gil Gavan ordered the deployment of a high-speed response boat (HSRB) from Buliluyan Port to rendezvous with a Philippine Navy (PN) Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat (RHIB) carrying sick personnel of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) for medical evacuation.

“The barbaric and inhumane behavior displayed by the CCG has no place in our society. What should have been a simple medical evacuation operation was subjected to harassment,” he said.

The incident happened 15.43 nautical miles southeast of the northeastern entrance of Ayungin Shoal in the WPS.

During the attempt to bring the PCG HSRB alongside the PN RHIB, the CCG deployed two vessels (21551 and 21555), two small boats, and two rubber boats to harass the two Philippine vessels.

“Despite informing the CCG via radio and public address system about the humanitarian nature of our mission for medical evacuation, they still engaged in dangerous maneuvers and even intentionally rammed the PN RHIB while transporting the sick personnel,” he said.

Despite the harassment, the transfer of the sick personnel was completed and later reached Buliluyan Port safely.

“Despite the challenges posed by the interference from the CCG, the PN and PCG displayed remarkable cooperation, professionalism, and determination. They successfully outmaneuvered the numerous CCG assets,” he said.

After reaching the port, the AFP personnel were transported to the nearest hospital and received immediate medical attention.

299 cops in barangays to help prevent resurgence of insurgency

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 5, 2024): 299 cops in barangays to help prevent resurgence of insurgency (By Perla Lena)

POLICE IN BARANGAYS. Police officers for the Revitalized Pulis sa Barangay (RPSB) Program are officially deployed to 17 selected barangays in Western Visayas in a ceremony on May 31, 2024. Police Regional Office 6 Regional Director Brig. Gen. Jack Wanky, in an interview on Wednesday (June 5, 2024), said the cops are tasked to know the concerns of barangays where they are assigned and not just focus on peace and order. (Photo courtesy of PRO6)

ILOILO CITY – A total of 299 police officers who completed training under the Revitalized Pulis sa Barangay (RPSB) Program are currently deployed in 17 Geographically Isolated and Disadvantaged Areas (GIDAs) and urban barangays in Western Visayas.

“They are required to conduct environmental scanning and interview families so they will know the concerns of the barangay and not just focus on peace and order. It will continue for six months,” Police Regional Office 6 (PRO6) Regional Director Brig. Gen. Jack Wanky said in an interview on Wednesday.

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

“This aims to prevent the resurgence of insurgency, insulate unaffected communities from the recovery efforts of the communist terrorist group, and to assist the communities address their peculiar concerns and facilitate in availing the basic services of the government they need to avail,” the regional police said in a statement.

The deployment included one barangay each in Aklan and Antique, two in Iloilo City and Negros Occidental, three in Capiz, and four each in Iloilo province and Bacolod City.

“We have created an oversight committee to assess the performance of 299 cops having an immersion in villages. Weekly, they will visit RPSB teams to determine if they are exercising their mandates. They have a checklist on what to do during their six-month immersion period,” the Region 6 top cop added.

This week, the police officers are expected to pay courtesy calls to barangay and municipal officials to explain their tasks.

The police officers came from the mobile forces who completed the 12-day stringent RPSB training that culminated on April 29.

They were officially deployed through a send-off ceremony last week at Camp Martin Delgado in Iloilo City.

Wanky said there will be training for replacement two months before the six-month tour of duty of the current teams ends while they determine if there is still a need to deploy more.

“We wanted to maximize deployment in identified areas, but due to lack of personnel, we only train enough police officers for that purpose,” he added.

CIDG-BARMM agents arrest wanted BIFF commander in MagSur

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 6, 2024): CIDG-BARMM agents arrest wanted BIFF commander in MagSur (By Edwin Fernandez)

NABBED. A senior field leader of the outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters is arrested in Datu Piang, Maguindanao del Sur on Wednesday (June 5, 2024). Although armed with a .45-caliber pistol, Abunawas Ibad Damiog (in green shirt) did not resist arrest. (Photo courtesy of CIDG-BARMM)

COTABATO CITY – Agents of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) apprehended a senior field commander of the Islamic State-linked Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) with multiple murder cases in Maguindanao del Sur on Wednesday afternoon.

Lt. Col. Ariel Huesca, chief of the CIDG in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), identified the suspect as 65-year-old Abunawas Ibad Damiog of Barangay Alongan, Datu Piang town.

“Armed with search warrants, CIDG operatives arrested Damiog near his home in Datu Piang. He was armed with a .45-caliber pistol when arrested around 1 p.m.,” Huesca said in an interview on Thursday.

Damiog is the third most wanted person in BARMM, CIDG records showed.

According to Huesca, Damiog is facing a string of murder, double frustrated murder, multiple attempted murder, and destructive arson charges before local courts.

He is also accused of violating the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020.

Damiog's group allegedly attacked the town of Datu Piang on Dec. 3, 2020, setting ablaze a police car and strafing the Roman Catholic Church in the area.

He also allegedly led the BIFF harassment against an Army detachment in Barangay Meta, Datu Unsay, Maguindanao del Sur, killing a soldier and injuring two others several years ago.

Damiog was one of the trusted lieutenants of BIFF founder Ameril Umra Kato, who died of a heart ailment in April 2015.

In 2021, Damiog was among the five BIFF combatants who surrendered to the Army’s 1st Mechanized Infantry Brigade in Ampatuan, Maguindanao Sur.

Wounded NPA fighter captured after Northern Samar clash

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 6, 2024): Wounded NPA fighter captured after Northern Samar clash (By Sarwell Meniano)

INJURED REBEL. Policemen and soldiers visit the wounded fighter of the New People's Army in a hospital. The military captured the rebel after a clash on June 5, 2024 in Pambujan, Northern Samar. (Photo courtesy of Philippine Army)

TACLOBAN CITY – The Philippine Army captured on Wednesday a wounded fighter of the New People's Army (NPA) following clashes with soldiers in an upland village of Pambujan, Northern Samar.

Lt. Col. Marvin Maraggun, commander of the Army's 19th Infantry Battalion, said in a statement Thursday that the military captured the rebel following a text message from a villager about the presence of a wounded person near the Pambujan River.

The wounded rebel was identified as Lagi Cabides of the NPA's sub-regional guerilla unit. His comrades abandoned him after he sustained gunshot wounds in his left ear and cheek.

Soldiers and civilian volunteers applied first aid treatment and rushed him to the Pambujan rural health unit. He was then referred to the hospital for further medical treatment.

Maraggun thanked the Local Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict of Pambujan for its support and the civilians for their cooperation to end insurgency.

“The information provided by concerned citizens regarding the presence of armed rebels indicates that the community completely realized that they also have a role in solving decades-long insurgency,” Maraggun stated.

Troopers heightened their focused military operation following information from a civilian that a group of armed men was carrying extortion in Igot village of Pambujan town.

Early Wednesday, the troops encountered the rebels. After the five-minute firefight, the government troops seized one M16 rifle and other personal belongings of rebels.

Meanwhile, while the troops were conducting pursuit operations, they encountered a group of eight rebels in the nearby Cagbigajo village, also in Pambujan town.

The firefight lasted for about three minutes and the armed rebels scampered in different directions leaving behind two improvised shotguns and a banned anti-personnel mine.

Northern Samar is considered the country's last bastion of insurgency.

Recently, the military dismantled two NPA front committees, prompting its remnants to regroup into a sub-regional guerilla unit.

Although there are still active fighters in Northern Samar, they are no longer in control of any village in Samar Island, according to the Philippine Army.

Maritime interoperability drills in Mactan Island set

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 7, 2024): Maritime interoperability drills in Mactan Island set (By By John Rey Saavedra)

MARITIME DRILLS. Naval sailors carry a rubber boat in front of the Naval Forces Central (NAVFORCEN) headquarters in Canjulao, Lapu-Lapu City, in this file photo. The six-day exercises will be conducted from June 25 to July 1, 2024, off the seawater of Mactan Island, along with five other law enforcement agencies. (PNA file photo)

CEBU CITY – The Philippine Navy and other law enforcement agencies will conduct maritime drills off waters in Mactan Island, the Naval Forces Central Philippines (NAVFORCEN) said on Friday.

The six-day Exercise Bantay Kadagatan 2024 is set from June 25 to July 1, Lt. Bernabe Jay Zambale Jr., public affairs officer of NAVFORCEN, said.

Zambale said five law enforcement agencies – Philippine Coast Guard-7, Bureau of Customs-Port of Cebu, Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency-7, Bureau of Fishery and Aquatic Resources-7, and Lapu-Lapu City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office– will join the exercise.

He said the exercise is aimed at enhancing interoperability and strengthening coordination among all participating agencies to effectively address maritime security challenges within Visayas Command’s (VisCom) joint operational area.

The activity would comprise four phases that include a pre-exercise where participants will ensure the logistical requirements of the activity and the shore phase where the opening ceremony, briefing, and table-top exercises will be held.

During the sea phase, sortie out, division tactics, as well as high-risk visit board search and seizure, search and rescue, and oil spill response, will be conducted.

The drills will culminate with the post-exercise phase where the participants will indulge in critiquing sessions.