Friday, September 30, 2016

Police, army conduct 24/7 checkpoint operations in Maguindanao-Sultan Kudarat border

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 1): Police, army conduct 24/7 checkpoint operations in Maguindanao-Sultan Kudarat border

Police and Army authorities here have taken measures to prevent the transport of improvised bombs, unlicensed guns and illegal drugs by putting up 24/7 checkpoints along the Sultan Kudarat-Maguindanao highway.

Chief Insp. Bryan Bernardino, Esperanza town police chief, and 1Lt. Jano Reyes, commanding officer of the 57th Infantry Battalion Alpha Company, led the inspection of all types of vehicles on a rotation basis to ensure the 24/7 checkpoint operation in Barangay Saliao, Esperanza, Sultan Kudarat.

Bernardino said in a statement that the move was in response to the directive of Philippine National Police Chief Dir. Gen. Ronald dela Rosa.

The 24/7 checkpoint operation also aims to monitor the movement of Private Armed Groups (PAGs), criminal groups, guns for hire, terrorists of the Abu Sayyaf Group and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), and kidnap-for-ransom gangs at the borders of Sultan Kudarat and Maguindanao.

Esperanza is the last town of Sultan Kudarat in its border with Maguindanao where suspected bombers, illegal drug pushers and kidnap-for-ransom gangs emanate.

On Thursday, residents alerted the police about the presence of a suspicious bag left unattended in front of a roadside restaurant. A check by police bomb experts showed the bag was not a bomb.

Assorted weapons, equipment seized in Basilan operations

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 1): Assorted weapons, equipment seized in Basilan operations

Units of the Western Mindanao Command (WMC) have seized two automatic weapons, assorted ammunition and explosives during law enforcement operations conducted in Tuburan town, Basilan Friday morning.

Seized were an M-14 carbine with eight magazines containing 39 rounds, an M-16 automatic rifle with targeting scope and 88 5.56-mm. bullets packed in two long and eight short magazines, four rifle grenades, a binocular, two bandoliers, a pair of combat boots and one hammock.

Maj. Filemon Tan, WMC spokesperson, said these weapons and other items were seized at about 10:30 a.m. during operations in Barangay Katipunan.

Troops who participated in the operation are from the 7th, 14th and 3rd Scout Ranger Companies.

The military personnel were patrolling the areas when they sighted a suspicious-looking person who fired at them before making his escape, prompting troopers to search the area. This led to the recovery of the weapons and other equipment.

ADAS 2016: Vendors wait for Philippine CAS relaunch

From Shephard News (Sep 28): ADAS 2016: Vendors wait for Philippine CAS relaunch

ADAS 2016: Vendors wait for Philippine CAS relaunch

A requirement for six close air support aircraft (CAS) for the Philippine Air Force (PAF) is in limbo right now, but vendors hope a competition might kick off again in the not too distant future.

RfIs for a CAS platform have been launched three times in recent years but with no result. Aircraft manufacturers are now waiting for a fourth tender. The PAF currently relies mainly on the Rockwell OV-10 Bronco and Alenia Aermacchi SF-260TP for this role.

Reflections at the ADAS 2016 exhibition in Manila were that the PAF set its specifications too high, which ruled out some contenders and resulted in bids that were more expensive than the air force could afford.

The requirement currently seems tied up in bureaucracy, although the PAF may be adjusting its requirements to a more realistic level. President Rodrigo Duterte has prioritised this CAS requirement, which may give the project greater impetus.

Embraer’s EMB 314 Super Tucano is considered by many to be the frontrunner. Embaer demonstrated its offering to the PAF in the Philippines earlier this year.

Philip Windsor, Embraer’s business development manager in Asia-Pacific, said his company’s offering is a ‘fully compliant solution’, More than 250 examples have been purchased by 13 different air forces, including 16 by neighbouring Indonesia.

Air Tractor is offering its AT-802U, which has 11 hardpoints, strengthened wings, armour protection for the cockpit and self-sealing fuel tanks.

Chuck Miller, Air Tractor’s VP of business development, noted that Air Tractor’s offering is probably a third cheaper than its main competitor’s. Original specifications listed a pressurised cockpit, ejector seat and retractable landing gear, for example, but Air Tractor hopes the Philippines might reduce its specifications and thus give the AT-802U a better chance.

The AT-802U has been acquired by the UAE, Jordan, Egypt and Kenya.

The other primary contender is the Beechcraft AT-6B Texan II. However, the AT-6 has not been purchased by any nation to date, which could be problematic given that Philippine procurement regulations require the winning platform to be in use by either the manufacturing nation’s military, or at least two other foreign militaries.

Tom Webster, Beechcraft Defense’s VP of business development Asia-Pacific, deemed this not to be an obstacle. He noted that the T-6 trainer, on which the AT-6 is based, is in widespread service.
Webster said there were ‘a handful and a half’ potential customers for the AT-6.

The AT-6B has seven hardpoints, with the centreline hardpoint usually accommodating a sensor ball for ISR purposes. Lockheed Martin performs mission integration on the AT-6B, with its mission computer the same as that used on the A-10.

At ADAS 2016, Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) also showed a scale model of its armed KT-1C available for export. In South Korean service it is known as the KA-1. KAI could be another contender depending on the specifications that the Philippines issues in the next round of bidding.

Some company representatives suggested the Philippines may relaunch the CAS project before the end of the year.

ADAS 2016: PTDI provides details behind delays of Philippine Air Force's NC212i deliveries

From IHS Janes 360 (Sep 30): ADAS 2016: PTDI provides details behind delays of Philippine Air Force's NC212i deliveries

State-owned aircraft manufacturer PT Dirgantara Indonesia (PTDI) has denied media reports that delays to two light utility turboprop transport aircraft on order for the Philippine Air Force (PAF) stem from manufacturer faults.

The Philippine government awarded a contract for two NC212i aircraft to PTDI in 2014 and was originally scheduled to receive the platforms in mid-2016.

"The two platforms are ready and have been completed according to manufacturing schedule," said Teguh Gratio, an area sales manager for PTDI, in a meeting with IHS Jane's at the ADAS 2016 exhibition in Manila. "However, there has been a delay in the integration and certification of the aircraft's auto-pilot system."

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ADAS 2016: OEM support of PAF helicopters proving critical

From Shephard News (Sep 30): ADAS 2016: OEM support of PAF helicopters proving critical

ADAS 2016: OEM support of PAF helicopters proving critical

In recent years the Philippine Air Force (PAF) has introduced several new helicopter platforms from disparate manufacturers. For a service used to keeping robust but simple machines like the UH-1N Huey flying, there are challenges in keeping more modern rotorcraft operational.

James Williamson, business development manager at Bell Helicopter, stated during ADAS 2016 in Manila, ‘Support is important,’ and he believed his company is doing a commendable job in servicing the PAF’s eight 412EP helicopters which were delivered ‘ahead of time and on budget’ last year.

Bell also helps support a large fleet of older UH-1D and UH-1H rotorcraft. The company currently gives nationwide engineering support and technical assistance through rotational fulltime personnel, but Bell will have someone permanently based in the Philippines ‘soon’ to further support customers.

Bell is also expanding its spare parts supply in Singapore and Manila, while training capacity is expanding in Singapore too.

This 412EP sale was completed through the Canadian government, giving the air force three aircraft in VIP configuration for presidential transport, and five combat utility helicopters.

The other manufacturer to gain major sales success in the Philippines is Leonardo Helicopters, which has sold 13 AW109 power units to the PAF and Philippine Navy, while two AW159 Wildcats will be delivered to the PN in September 2018.

However, Shephard has been made aware of problems in the level of support for the AW109s, which is causing frustration within the armed services. A Leonardo spokesperson confirmed that there have been problems in the logistics chain.

However, he assured that Leonardo is addressing the problem as it is ‘getting closer to its customer’ with spare parts and swifter assistance. He stated, ‘We’ve already invested here, so we will continue to do so.’

Manufacturers expect future helicopter procurements in the Philippines to replace an ageing fleet, with the possibility of an RfI being issued next year. The level of support shown by OEMs to date will surely figure highly in the Philippine government’s future selections.

In anticipation of future orders, Williamson said Bell demonstrated the 412EPI with a fully integrated glass cockpit to the PAF over two periods in June/July and August/September. Air force pilots received ‘a lot of stick time’ during these two demo tours, he revealed.

It is unclear what the service status of eight PZL-Swidnik W-3A Sokol helicopters acquired from Poland is, but this manufacturer is now part of the Leonardo stable.

ADAS 2016: Philippine Air Force outlines procurement priorities

From IHS Janes 360 (Sep 30): ADAS 2016: Philippine Air Force outlines procurement priorities

The Philippine Air Force is looking to procure additional KAI FA-50 aircraft, as well as additional rotary-wing, transport, and combat aircraft. ce: IHS/James Hardy

Key Points

  • Philippine Air Force (PAF) wants to buy an additional KAI FA-50s and Leonardo AW109 helicopters
  • Saab's Gripen in pole position to secure PAF multirole combat aircraft requirement
The Philippine Air Force (PAF) has identified several procurement priorities as it continues its medium-term modernisation programme, Flight Plan 2028.

Speaking at the Asian Defence and Security 2016 (ADAS 2016) exhibition in Manila, a senior PAF officer involved in the planning of Flight Plan 2028 said these priorities include securing orders of additional light combat aircraft and attack helicopters.

The PAF ordered 12 FA-50 light combat aircraft in March 2014, with deliveries starting in December 2015 and scheduled to conclude in late 2017. The officer said the PAF is aiming to procure an additional 36 FA-50s in order to meet a requirement specified in Flight Plan 2028 to "detect, intercept, and neutralise" any perceived threat in its exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

He also confirmed that the PAF would look to secure government approval for the additional FA-50s following the delivery of the initial 12 aircraft.

In addition, the official said the PAF is seeking to procure 12 more AW109 Power light attack helicopters produced by Finmeccanica (Leonardo from January 2017). The PAF has already acquired eight AW109s ordered in November 2013 and delivered from 2014.

The official confirmed that the requirement for additional AW109s had become more urgent for the PAF since president Rodrigo Duterte took office in June 2016.

He said Duterte has tasked the PAF with focusing on addressing anti-terrorism and anti-insurgency, and as a result the Philippine administration has moved the new AW109 acquisition into the so-called 'second horizon' procurement plan, which runs from 2018-23. The requirement was previously scheduled for the third horizon, he confirmed.

According to the official, other near-term procurement priorities include close air-support (CAS) aircraft and additional transport aircraft, while a longer-term requirement is multirole combat aircraft.

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DVIDS: Air Contingent proves U.S. committment to Philippines

From Defense Video Imagery Distribution System (DVIDS) (Sep 29): Air Contingent proves U.S. committment to Philippines

The Air Contingent is helping build the capacity of the Philippine Air Force and increases joint training, promotes interoperability and provides greater and more transparent air and maritime situational awareness to ensure safety for military and civilian activities in international waters and airspace. Its missions include air and maritime domain awareness, personnel recovery, combating piracy, and assuring access to the air and maritime domains in accordance with international law.

The deployment of the air contingent detachment is another example of how the United States and the Philippines are committed to maintaining credible combat power throughout the Indo-Asia Pacific region while the U.S. continues to work closely with the Philippines and our network of partner nations. This is just one way we are exercising continued presence and demonstrating our commitment to our partners and allies in the region. As part of the engagement, U.S. experts in mass casualty response from across the Department of Defense will exchange ideas and techniques with their Filipino counterparts in the critical skills of triaging, staging, treating and transporting victims of a mass casualty event, a critical skill in an area of the world long-affected by disasters of various size and scope.

“Thirty years ago, if a mass casualty event struck the Philippines, the U.S. military would’ve been called upon to assist in any number of ways,” said U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Brian Pecha, U.S. Pacific Command surgeon general. “Now, [the Filipinos]… may need our assistance with airlift and some logistics, but we can have a true subject matter exchange in which they share lessons learned from previous disasters and we’re able to share with them lessons learned from recent operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Armed Forces of Philippines Brig. Gen. Mariano Mejia, AFP surgeon general, noted that preparedness is key in this situation.

“Our partnership with the U.S. and civilian sectors is very important,” Mejia said. “We should have awareness, innovations and policies in place for all stakeholders. With close cooperation, we know each of our contributions and also the capabilities of the civilian sectors in the event of a disaster.”

The relationship between the U.S. military and both civic and military leaders throughout the Philippines is marked by a long tradition of cooperation.

According to Filipino officials, there is never a bad time to prepare for the next disaster.

“This training is very timely,” said Mejia. We have all the disasters of the world right here: typhoons, tsunamis, earthquakes, all of them, so we need partners like the U.S. both before and during the disaster so we can be prepared.”

“There is an old saying, ‘In a crisis, you don’t rise to the level of expectations, you fall to the level of your training,’” said Pecha. “It takes continual training to be able to work effectively amongst the different organizations.”

Rehab center in 30,000-hectare Army camp to open in November

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Sep 30): Rehab center in 30,000-hectare Army camp to open in November

THE MYTHICAL Mt. Arayat in Pampanga is a serene refuge for drug users trying to kick their addiction while inside the Central Luzon Drug Rehabilitation Center. The mountain has also become a hidden enclave for a Chinese syndicate manufacturing “shabu” that authorities reckon to be capable of producing 400 kilograms daily. TONETTE T. OREJAS/INQUIRER CENTRAL LUZON

THE MYTHICAL Mt. Arayat in Pampanga is a serene refuge for drug users trying to kick their addiction while inside the Central Luzon Drug Rehabilitation Center. The mountain has also become a hidden enclave for a Chinese syndicate manufacturing “shabu” that authorities reckon to be capable of producing 400 kilograms daily. TONETTE T. OREJAS/INQUIRER CENTRAL LUZON

MAGALANG, Pampanga—A rehabilitation center rising on a 2-hectare lot inside the country’s biggest military reservation in Nueva Ecija province will be ready to treat patients in November, the Department of Health (DOH) said here on Thursday.

The first building of the Drug Abuse Rehabilitation Center (DARC) inside the 30,000-ha Fort Magsaysay in Palayan City is scheduled to be completed by the end of October, said Dr. Leonita Gorgolon, DOH director in Central Luzon.

The facility will host five DARC buildings although the Army will “not interfere with the DOH operations there,” Gorgolon said.

She made the announcement at the Central Luzon Drug Rehabilitation Center where the Pampanga government led the blessing of two buildings that would serve as rehabilitation centers for drug users with mild to moderate levels of addiction.

The two structures were built years ago by the provincial government and the city government of San Fernando.

Gorgolon said the Fort Magsaysay center can accommodate 2,200 patients in the five buildings that are being financed through donations of the Chinese-Filipino community. She said the DOH has contributed P10 million for operations.

Similar centers are being built in Capiz province in the Visayas and Sarangani province in Mindanao, she said.

The DOH rehabilitation program to be used at these centers would require 12 cycles of treatment, Gorgolon said, adding that community-based reformation and after-care programs are equally important elements of the treatment.

She said family support would be crucial at every step of the rehabilitation process.
Gov. Lilia Pineda expressed concern at the discovery of two “shabu” (methamphetamine hydrochloride) laboratories in Pampanga this month.

“I have been stepping up our efforts against illegal drugs. The provincial government has been spending large amounts to improve the knowledge and skills of barangay officials and volunteers. Our logistical support to the police is more than adequate,” she said.

“But despite these, drug syndicates are still able to operate in our province because of our open network of roads and airports,” the governor said.

“Let us all resign if we can’t stop this problem,” she added.

Pineda proposed the creation of a task force to lead the antidrugs campaign in light of a theory offered by Director General Ronald de la Rosa, Philippine National Police chief, that the province may have been serving as a transit point or a supply center of shabu owing to its strategic location in Central Luzon.

Ash Carter: U.S. will sharpen 'military edge' in Asia

From the Military Times (Sep 29): Ash Carter: U.S. will sharpen 'military edge' in Asia

ABOARD THE USS CARL VINSON -- The U.S. will seek to “sharpen our military edge” in the Pacific even as it hopes China will improve relations with its neighbors, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Thursday.  

As a result, Carter today announced what he described as a “third wave” of the Obama administration’s rebalance to the Pacific, commonly referred to as the “Pacific Pivot.”  

As he has in every speech focused on the Pacific since taking over as secretary, Carter attempted to thread the needle between criticizing China for its aggressiveness in the South China Sea while holding out a hand towards the Asian power.  
“Everyone gets a voice [in the region], and no one is excluded -- and by the way, that includes China, and its military, and we hope China doesn’t exclude itself,” Carter said in prepared remarks. Defense News is travelling with Carter this week as he heads to a meeting of the defense ministers from the ASEAN nations.
“The United States still has serious concerns with some of China’s recent actions on the seas, in cyberspace, and elsewhere,” Carter added. “Beijing sometimes appears to want to pick and choose which principles it wants to benefit from and which it prefers to try to undercut.” 
But in order to assure the U.S. and its interests remain secure in the region, the Pentagon is focused on modernizing capabilities that fit the wide distances of the Pacific. That includes the well-known Air Force modernization trio of the KC-46A tanker, B-21 bomber and F-35 joint strike fighter, as well as investments in undersea drones and advanced torpedoes.
Carter also pledged “a few surprises” on the technological front, perhaps referring to capabilities under development by the Strategic Capabilities Office, whose head, William Roper, told reporters last month that they are trying to broadcast some new technologies in order to deter potential near-peer adversaries.   
“I can’t share all the details on these for obvious reasons, but what our friends and our potential adversaries – and all of you – should know is that these new capabilities will help us keep our decades-old commitment to undergirding security in the Asia-Pacific,” Carter said.
In the meantime, the Obama administration is launching a “third phase” of the rebalance, which comes with a trio of focus areas.
The first step involves American forces deploying more frequently in the region, in order to  “help us solidify military-to-military relationships, strengthen security cooperation, and enhance deterrence,” with a focus on improving interoperability on common systems among the U.S. and its allies.

Carter added that many of the regional military exercises already planned for the Pacific will “grow more frequent and complex,” without sharing details.  
A second step involves increasing Coast Guard “engagement” with the ASEAN nations, and a push from the State Department to increase security assistance programs in the region. Once again, that comes with a focus on interoperability among the partner nations.   
As an example of the kind of program that could help in the region, Carter highlighted the Southeast Asia Maritime Security Initiative, a $425 million fund he announced in 2015. 

Finally, Carter hopes to see a new focus on working with regional nations to develop new cyber capabilities. 

“Because the network is so rich with nations with cyber expertise, including Japan, Korea, India, and Singapore, as each of our countries develop their cyber capabilities, we can learn from each other and cooperate together in this important domain,” Carter said. 

At the core of U.S. plans for the region is a network of partner nations able to operate together, both from a technological standpoint and from a doctrinal one. 
Navy AAV
U.S. Navy AAVs (Amphibious Assault Vehicle) maneuver in the water facing the South China Sea during the 20th Cooperation Afloat Readiness And Training (CARAT) joint naval exercise with Philippine Navy, June 30, 2014, at the Naval Education and Training Center at San Antonio township   Photo Credit: Bullit Marquez/AP
“After a future typhoon, we may see an Australian P-8 with Singaporean personnel aboard coordinate with an American destroyer in search and rescue operations,” Carter said. “And freedom of navigation may also be upheld, in part, by joint – and networked – patrols, as networked navies and air forces fly, sail, and operate together everywhere that international law allows, to ensure the region’s waterways remain safe and open.” 

The speech also provided an opportunity for Carter to stump for the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, an Obama administration initiative that faces major political hurdles, both in Congress and from the presidential candidates running for election in November. 

“TPP is an opportunity the region and the United States cannot afford to miss,” the secretary said.

'National Maritime Week' kicks off with sea drills

From the Sun Star-Cagayan de Oro (Sep 29): 'National Maritime Week' kicks off with sea drills

CAGAYAN DE ORO. Combined elements of the Philippine Coast Guard, the Philippine Navy, the Maritime Police, Philippine Ports Authority (PPA), and other law enforcement agencies conduct a rescue and response drill off Macajalar Bay, this city, as part of the maritime security exercise in time for the National Maritime Week celebration, Thursday, September 29. (Jigger J. Jerusalem)

PROTECTING public ports from threats is one of the objectives of seaborne law enforcers as the National Maritime Week is being observed nationwide until Friday, September 30, the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) in Cagayan de Oro City said.

To effectively protect the ports from attacks and other forms of sabotage, PPA manager Isidro Butaslac Jr. said all the stakeholders, the Philippine Coast Guard, the Maritime Police, and the Philippine Navy, among others, must have proper coordination.

“In case of any emergency, we need to be properly coordinated since time is of the essence,” Butaslac told reporters at the sidelines of the maritime security exercise held at the Macajalar Bay and at the Cagayan de Oro port Friday.

He said it is very important that the protection of the passengers coming in and out of the sea ports is maintained.

The conduct of the maritime drill, said Captain Leovigildo Panopio, commander of the Philippine Coast Guard District Northern Mindanao, is crucial to determine the preparedness of the law enforcement agencies concerned.

For its part, the Coast Guard, Panopio said, is on standby round-the-clock to respond to any emergency.

“We are prepared for any eventuality. We are for prevention [so no untoward incidents will occur],” Panopio said.

He said the Coast Guard can deploy its personnel and patrol boats immediately, most especially if there are reports of sinking ships or a fisherman is lost at sea.

Hundreds of personnel from the Navy, Coast Guard, Maritime Police, partner agencies, and students from various schools participated in the drill which included rescue, attacks, and simulated fire.

The theme for this year’s celebration is “Shipping: Indispensable to the World” which was conceived by the International Maritime Organization, the maritime policy-making body of the United Nations.

By virtue of Presidential Proclamation 1094 issued in 1997, the National Maritime Week is celebrated annually.

ADAS 2016: Israel seeks to deepen defence relationship with the Philippines in light of 'common challenges'

From IHS Janes 360 (Sep 30): ADAS 2016: Israel seeks to deepen defence relationship with the Philippines in light of 'common challenges'

Key Points

  • Israel wants to enhance its defence relationships with the Philippines by offering technology transfer arrangements
  • Israeli-designed military platforms might be produced in the Philippines through the initiatives
The Israeli government is taking steps to deepen its defence relationship with the Philippines by offering military-industrial collaborations to meet various requirements of the Philippine Armed Forces (PAF).

Speaking to IHS Jane's at ADAS 2016 in Manila, an official from the Israel Ministry of Defence's International Defence Co-operation Directorate (SIBAT) said this commitment is demonstrated by the country's presence at the defence exhibition.

"We are the biggest exhibitor here at ADAS 2016, and this is a signal that we are seriously looking to enhance defence co-operation between the Philippines and Israel," said the official.

The official pointed to several potential Philippine programmes in which Israel is offering technology transfer arrangements. These include the Philippine Navy's requirement for a fast littoral attack craft and maritime unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) is offering its Super Dvora series of fast patrol craft and the Heron medium-altitude long-endurance UAV for these requirements.

State-owned IAI, which is already in talks with the Philippine government to supply the Super Dvora Mk IIIi platform, has said it is open to producing it fully in the Philippines in collaboration with a local partner and to manufacturing locally "some components" of the UAV, although these were not specified.

A model of IAI's Heron UAV on display at ADAS 2016 in Manila. IAI has said it is open to producing some components of the UAV in the Philippines. (IHS/Ridzwan Rahmat)

A model of IAI's Heron UAV on display at ADAS 2016 in Manila. IAI has said it is open to producing some components of the UAV in the Philippines. (IHS/Ridzwan Rahmat)

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ADAS 2016: Israel in talks to supply Philippine Navy, Coast Guard with Super Dvora patrol craft

From IHS Janes 460 (Sep 30): ADAS 2016: Israel in talks to supply Philippine Navy, Coast Guard with Super Dvora patrol craft

A model of IAI's Super Dvora fast patrol craft on display at ADAS 2016. Israel is currently in talks with the Philippine government over the platform's acquisition. Source: IHS/Ridzwan Rahmat

Key Points

  • Israel is in discussions to supply the Super Dvora patrol craft to the Philippines
  • Platform may be deployed in the country's southern regions given spate of kidnap-for-ransom operations
Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) has confirmed that it is currently in discussions with the Philippine government to provide a number of Super Dvora Mk III-type fast attack craft (FAC) for the country's navy and coastguard services.

Speaking to IHS Jane's at the ADAS 2016 exhibition in Manila, an official from IAI's international marketing division emphasised that the talks are still at the preliminary stages, and the Philippine government has yet to decide on the number of platforms to be procured.

The Philippine Navy (PN) has a requirement for fast attack craft under a phase known as 'Horizon 2' in the service's capability upgrades programme. The requirement seeks to equip the PN with fast littoral interdiction capabilities.

"The number of vessels that are required has yet to be decided," said the IAI official, who added that the acquisition may also be jointly executed with the Philippine Coast Guard as part of the service's requirements for similar platforms.

"Either way the [Super Dvora Mk IIIi] is a very configurable and can be customised according to the customer's requirements whoever they may be."

According to specifications provided by IAI, the Super Dvora Mk IIIi has top speeds in excess of 40 kt, and a standard range of 300 n miles at 30 kt. The 20 m platform can operate up to Sea State 3, with survivability at up to Sea State 5. Customers can also opt between articulating surface drive (ASD) or waterjet for the vessel's propulsion systems.

Weapons that can be included on the platform include 23 mm, 25 mm, or 30 mm stabilised naval gun systems at the primary position, and a manned cannon of up to 20 mm at the stern position.

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Around the world: Indonesian medical vessel wows Philippines

From the Jakarta Post (Oct 1): Around the world: Indonesian medical vessel wows Philippines

The Philippine government is considering ordering a medical support ship from state-owned shipbuilder PT PAL Indonesia after previously procuring two ships of the Strategic Sealift Vessel (SSV) class, an Indonesian Defense Ministry official said on Thursday.

Philippine National Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana held talks on the defense industry with the Indonesian delegation on the sidelines of the 2016 Asian Defense & Security (ADAS) exhibition in Manila.

“The Secretary of National Defense and the Philippine Navy chief of staff are impressed with the medical support vessel that will be fit for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief [HADR] operations,” the head of the Indonesian delegation, Brig. Gen. Jan Pieter Ate, told The Jakarta Post from Manila over the phone.

“The secretary has talked to the Navy chief of staff about the importance of having the medical vessel.”

Jan Pieter, the Defense Ministry’s director for defense technology and industry, said the vessel could carry numerous helicopters to evacuate victims of natural disasters.

“The vessel is very suitable for the Philippines, which is located in a disaster-prone region,” he said.

He added that Lorenzana showed deep interest in the 123-meter hospital ship and spent a long time looking at a mock-up of the vessel.

Pamana connects Mt. Province and Abra

From the Sun Star-Baguio (Sep 30): Pamana connects Mt. Province and Abra

MOUNTAIN Province and Abra are now connected with the completion of the P 144 million road opening project.

Funded under the Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan (Pamana), the road opening of the 16.502 kilometers starting in Tamboan, Besao, Mt. Province until Dilong, Tubo, Abra was implemented in three phases starting 2013 with the Department of the Interior and Local Government as partner agency and local governments or other entities as implementing partners.

Pamana is the national government’s convergence program that extends development interventions to isolated, hard-to-reach and conflict-affected communities, ensuring that they are not left behind.

Starting in 2012, DILG served as the partner agency of the Office for Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process for access roads funded under Pamana. To fast track project implementation, DILG-CAR entered into a Memorandum of Agreement with local governments to implement the project.

This Pamana project covers 16.502 kilometers of road through mountainous area from Tamboan, Besao to Dilong, Tubo with a total budget of P144 million. According to the project completion report, insurgents have infiltrated the area because of its inaccessibility.

First to be opened in 2013 was the 7.2 kilometers in Besao, Mt. Province worth P50 million benefitting at least 803 households of barangays Tamboan and Dandanac in Besao. Indirect beneficiaries are residents of adjacent barangays of the municipalities of Cervantes and Quirino in Ilocos Sur, most of whom have kinship ties with Tubo residents of Abra.

This was implemented by the Provincial Government of Mt. Province.

The next 5.235 kilometers worth P41 million was implemented by the Department of Public Works and Highways – CAR in 2015, followed by the P53 million road opening from Poblacion, Dilong, Tubo, Abra to Besao, Mt. Province covering 4.067 kilometers which was completed in May this year.
The latter was implemented by the Provincial Government of Abra and was monitored by the Regional Project Monitoring Team headed by DILG-CAR assistant regional director Jonathan Leusen, Jr, together with LGCDD Chief, Engr. Rene Valera, Engr. Marlon Walang, and Tubo MLGOO Brahmie Mina, and OPAPP representative Adonis Bringas on July 27-29, accompanied by Engineers Hector Camcam, Edwin Callo, and Ediver Valera from the Abra Provincial Engineering Office.

The road opening improved the existing foot trail into an access road to enable vehicles to pass through and shorten the current time travel of at least six hours via the Bontoc-Cervantes- Quirino Road and nine hours via Halsema Road – Baguio-La Union-Tirad Pass Road.

 It also improved the community’s access to basic services such as education and health.

“More importantly, these road projects have connected families and communities. And no one can peg monetary value to that connectivity because it is invaluable,” said DILG-CAR regional director Marlo Iringan.

Since the start of Pamana in 2012, 70 projects have already been funded through DILG-CAR amounting to P 772.3 million with 42 projects completed.

In 2016 alone, 24 projects in all six provinces in the region were funded amounting to P 386.5 million.

Pamana projects were identified by the Local Peace and Order Councils, certified by the Philippine Army and endorsed by the Cordillera Regional Peace and Order Council.

Fort Magsaysay hosts rehab center

From The Standard (Oct 1): Fort Magsaysay hosts rehab center

The first drug rehabilitation center inside a military camp is being built here, Col. Benjamin Hao, Philippine Army spokesman, said.

Hao said construction started in late August on a 10-hectare land in this reservation, which is home to the 7th Infantry Division (7th ID), the Special Operations Command (Socom) and the Army Artillery Regiment (AAR).

The 7th ID has jurisdiction over two brigades, five battalions and three reconnaissance companies with a combined strength of 6,000 troops.

The reservation, which was spread on 73,000 hectares of lands, was reduced to  45,837 hectares by various presidential proclamations that segregated parcels of land for specific purposes.

Hao said the project is a joint venture of the Department of Health and the Army’s real estate office.

During his first State of the Nation Address last July 25, President Rodrigo Duterte announced that the government will build rehabilitation centers inside Camp Macario Peralta in Jamindan, Capiz and Camp Tecson in San Miguel, Bulacan.

Group hails ‘revitalized’ peace monitoring body

From the Manila Times (Sep 30): Group hails ‘revitalized’ peace monitoring body

MILITANT human rights group on Friday welcomed efforts to revitalize the Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC) on the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law.

Members of the JMC, led by Efren Moncupa of the Philippine government and Fidel Agcaoili of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) held a joint meeting on the matter last September 20 at the Royal Norwegian Government Embassy in Makati City (Metro Manila).

Norway is brokering the peace talks in Oslo between the Duterte administration and the communist NDFP.

 Karapatan said in a statement that legal consultants of the NDFP, staff members of the Joint Secretariat and independent observers, including recently designated independent observer Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay, also attended the meeting.

“After years of attempts by the Arroyo and Aquino regimes to derail the work of the JMC, all efforts to ensure and pave the way for the full operationalization of its work and mandate to receive and investigate complaints on violations of human rights and international humanitarian law are very welcome,” Palabay said in the statement.

Karapatan also called on the Philippine government to investigate 4,569 complaints that were filed at the Philippine-nominated section of the Joint Secretariat from June 4, 2004 to March 13, 2014. Most of the complaints were filed by the human rights group, its member organizations and victims of rights abuses.

Among the complaints filed were those by relatives of victims of human rights and international humanitarian law violations in connection with operations of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in Lacub, Abra on September 4-5, 2014.

In these military operations, seven members of the New People’s Army (NPA)–Pedring Banggao, Robert Beyao, Arnold Jaramillo, Brandon Magranga, Recca Noelle Monte, Robert Perez and Ricardo Reyes—were killed by soldiers from the 41st Infantry Battalion (IB) of the Philippine Army.

Karapatan said in the statement that the retrieved bodies of the slain NPA members bore signs of possible violations of the International Humanitarian Law.

It added that two civilians, engineer Fidela Salvador of the Cordillera Disaster Response and Development Services, who was on a monitoring visit for various socio-economic projects, and Lacub resident Noel Viste were also killed.

The military also indiscriminately fired upon civilians and used them as human shields and guides in the conduct of their operations, Palabay said in the statement.

“In the midst of these violations, medals and commendations were accorded by the AFP to 2nd Lt. Joe Mari Landicho and Capt. Deo Martinez, head of operating troops and operations officer of the 41st IB. It is appalling how such violations were encouraged and even applauded,” she added.

The JMC will hold another meeting in Oslo in the next round of the formal peace talks under the Duterte administration.

Pentagon chief reassures Asean over future US commitments

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Oct 1): Pentagon chief reassures Asean over future US commitments

U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter gives his opening remarks for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) defense ministers meeting in Ko Olina, Hawaii, on Friday, Sept. 30, 2016. (AP Photo/Eugene Tanner)

U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter gives his opening remarks for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) defense ministers meeting in Ko Olina, Hawaii, on Friday, Sept. 30, 2016. AP Photo

Pentagon Chief Ashton Carter met Friday with Southeast Asian defense ministers to discuss regional security issues and reassure them America’s “rebalance” to Asia will continue under the next US administration.

The rebalance — or “pivot,” as it is sometimes called — has been a cornerstone of President Barack Obama’s foreign policy, with a shifting of focus away from the Middle East and toward the Asia-Pacific region.

In opening remarks at an informal summit in Hawaii, Carter told defense ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) that the United States would reaffirm its commitment to strengthen cooperation on the shared security challenges in the region, including the return of hundreds of jihadists from Iraq and Syria.

“And we’ll make plans to further catalyze the Asia-Pacific’s principled and inclusive security network,” he said.

Key among these is China’s growing reach across the South China Sea.

Beijing has in recent years rapidly expanded its physical presence in the strategically vital waterway, turning small maritime features, islets and reefs into much larger islands capable of holding military facilities.

Carter, who was expected to speak to the press later Friday, has repeatedly stressed that the US military will ignore Beijing’s contentious South China Sea claims, and keep operating in waters and airspace surrounding the islands.

READ: US one with allies in upholding rights over South China Sea—Kerry

“The United States would like to help all our nations see more, share more, and do more to keep Southeast Asia’s vital waterways open and secure,” Carter said.

A senior US defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said he was confident America would retain its Asia focus whatever the result of November’s presidential election.
“We’ve got a good thing going,” he said.

“There are a lot of opportunities left over. And we want to make sure that our position in the region is solid for the next president.”

The Pentagon chief was due to meet privately with all 10 defense ministers, including the Philippines’ Delfin Lorenzana.

READ: US-PH military alliance ‘ironclad,’ says Pentagon chief

The dialog comes after Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte this week vowed to end joint military exercises with the United States.

The firebrand leader’s comments were just the latest in a string of attacks against America. He has called Obama a “son of a whore” and extended overtures to China, potentially upsetting a strong US-Philippine alliance dating back more than 60 years.

Duterte won elections in May in a landslide after a campaign dominated by his pledge to eradicate drugs in society by killing tens of thousands of people.

On Friday, he drew parallels between his campaign to wipe out the drug problem and Adolf Hitler’s genocidal drive, saying he’d be “happy” to slaughter millions of drug addicts.

Duterte’s Hitler remarks ‘deeply troubling,’ says Pentagon chief

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Oct 1): Duterte’s Hitler remarks ‘deeply troubling,’ says Pentagon chief
U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter speaks at a press conference during a defense ministers meeting of ASEAN , Friday, Sept. 30, 2016 in Kapolei, Hawaii.  AP PHOTO

U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter speaks at a press conference during a defense ministers meeting of ASEAN , Friday, Sept. 30, 2016 in Kapolei, Hawaii. AP PHOTO

Pentagon chief Ashton Carter on Friday blasted the “deeply troubling” remarks by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, in which he likened his deadly war on crime to Hitler’s efforts to exterminate Jews.

“Speaking personally for myself, I find those comments deeply troubling,” Carter told reporters during a regional security summit with defense ministers from Southeast Asian partner nations, including the Philippines.

Duterte won elections in May after a campaign dominated by his pledge to eradicate drugs in society by killing tens of thousands of people.
In comments Friday, he drew parallels between his campaign to wipe out the drug problem and Adolf Hitler’s genocidal drive.

READ: Heil Digong?

“Hitler massacred three million Jews. Now there are three million drug addicts (in the Philippines). I’d be happy to slaughter them,” Duterte told reporters in his home city of Davao.

“At least if Germany had Hitler, the Philippines would have,” he said, then paused.

“But you know, my victims, I would like to be (sic) all criminals to finish the problem of my country and save the next generation from perdition.”

READ: Human rights advocates find Du30 ‘Hitler’ comparison ‘dangerous, lamentable’

Duterte this week also said he would soon end joint military exercises with the United States, a symbolic blow to a military alliance dating back more than 60 years.

Carter said Duterte’s Hitler remarks were not discussed at Friday’s summit.

Soldier arrested in North Cotabato for drugs, disturbance

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Oct 1): Soldier arrested in North Cotabato for drugs, disturbance
PIKIT, North Cotabato – Police authorities here on Saturday said they arrested a soldier for public disturbance and possession of prohibited drugs.

Senior Inspector Sindatu Karim, Pikit town deputy police chief, identified the soldier as Corporal Abraham Pader of the Army’s 38th Infantry Battalion based in Aleosan, North Cotabato.

Karim said Pader, who supervises a unit of the government militia force in Pikit, was under the influence of liquor when police accosted him on Friday afternoon.

Earlier, a resident complained that Pader, who was armed, was creating disturbance in the village.
Karim said prohibited drugs and an improvised “tooter” was found in Pader’s possession. He appeared to be high on illegal drugs, he said.

Army claims NPA still extorting, kidnapping in Mindanao despite ceasefire .

From GMA News (Sep 30): Army claims NPA still extorting, kidnapping in Mindanao despite ceasefire

The Philippine Army said members of the New People’s Army (NPA) are still engaging in extortion and kidnapping of residents in Sarangani province and Davao Occidental despite the indefinite ceasefire agreement signed by the National Democratic Front (NDF) last August.

In a press release on Friday, the 73rd Infantry Neutralizer Batallion of the Philippine Army said that several incidents have been reported in barangays of said provinces.

The commander of the 73IB asked the rebels to stop the criminal activities as it may jeopardize the ceasefire agreement signed by the NDF and the Philippine government last August in Oslo, Norway.

“We are calling the rebels in Sarangani Province to stop kidnapping and extortion of the poor residents and elected officials as it would put in jeopardy the spirit of the ceasefire declared by the National Democratic Front in Norway, which is to have an atmosphere of peace while peace talk is going on,” said Lieutenant Colonel Ronnie Babac.

In the guise of dialogue, NPAs have allegedly been inviting small businessmen and store owners to meet, only to demand cash from the victims.

Three of the incidents involved barangay councilors in Barangay Datal Anggas in Alabel, Saranggani Province.

Last Sunday, September 25, a certain Mr. Calibay and one Mr. Baan were fetched by Arnel Culano, a known NPA sympathizer, for a dialogue with rebels led by "Joey."

Once the councilors arrived at Sitio Tangis for the meeting, Joey had threatened to kill them if they fail to give him P25,000 each and a M16 rifle.

The demand was reportedly payment for allegedly giving information to government troops, leading to the death of one Brigol, an NPA official, as well six others in 2015.

On September 27, barangay councilor Romeo Masiguil was abducted by five rebels led by a certain L3. Masiguil was released on Thursday with a demand that he produce P50,000 by October 2.

Earlier in August, a store owner in Malita, Davao Occidental also met with the rebels for a dialogue. After the meeting, he was prevented from leaving unless he paid P20,000.

The store owner, one Mr. Ompong, was able to pay only P12,000, but the rebels released him and his companion.

14 ex-rebels receive P700,000 aid

From the Manila Bulletin (Sep 30): 14 ex-rebels receive P700,000 aid

Fourteen former members of the New People’s Army (NPA), who earlier surrendered to military authorities, received a total of P700,000 as livelihood assistance.
Lt. Col. Ronnie Babac, 73rd Infantry Battalion commander, said the funds were sourced out by the provincial government of Davao del Sur from its Comprehensive Local Integration Program (CLIP) that has been designed to provide intervention for former rebels who wish to return to mainstream society.
Babac said the former NPA rebels used to belong to a local guerrilla unit operating in the boundary of Davao del Sur and Sarangani provinces.
He said the former rebels will receive P50,000 each that they can use as capital in livelihood projects.
Davao del Sur Gov. Douglas Cagas led the distribution of the checks to the beneficiaries last Thursday.
“With the distribution of livelihood package to former rebels, I am calling the other members of the NPA to avail of this program and live a normal in the mainstream society,” Babac said.
Col. Tyne Banas, 1002nd Brigade commander, said the CLIP project was a convergence effort of the military, local government units and concerned national government agencies to undertake intervention programs and initiatives to entice local insurgents to lay down their arms and return to the folds of the law.

Malaysian army to probe possible leak of info on Esscom ops

From the Malaya Mail Online (Sep 30): Malaysian army to probe possible leak of info on Esscom ops

The Malaysian Armed Forces are investigating a possible leak of information on the Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom) security forces’ operations.

Chief of Defence Forces Gen Tan Sri Zulkifeli Mohd Zin said today the concerns expressed by Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi on the matter were being taken seriously.

“I hope Esscom will study and evaluate his views because the kidnap on Tuesday had so many coincidences.

“The owner of the boat happened to be on the boat. Usually, boat owners won’t go fishing. In our opinion, the kidnappers had received certain information,” he said.

Zulkifeli spoke to reporters after the pinning of ranks for senior MAF officers and handing over of duties at Wisma Perwira, Defence Ministry, here.

Asked whether it was an inside job or involved the public, Zulkifeli said this had to be investigated.
“It is impossible for the kidnappers to zoom in on their target right away. I personally believe there may have been a mastermind who planned the kidnap.

Zulkifeli also reminded the military personnel in Esscom to look at this possibility.

“We don’t want information leaks or any such thing,” he said.

On Sept 28, Ahmad Zahid spoke of the possibility of certain quarters leaking information on Esscom and causing kidnappings to be rampant in the area.

The Home Minister had said that such action would give the enemies ample time and space to carry out criminal acts against the country.  

At 9.30pm on Tuesday, Ruslan Sarapin, 39, was kidnapped by six armed men while fishing with his boat’s 26 crew members.

Thirty minutes later, the same armed men robbed a 19-crew fishing boat in the waters off Tungku, Lahad Datu.

At the handing-over ceremony today, Second Division commander Lt Gen Datuk Fadzil Mokhtar was appointed as the new Joint Forces Commander, replacing retired Lt Gen Datuk Shahrani Mohd Sany. — Bernama

No ransom paid for kidnapped Indonesian sailors: Govt

From the Jakarta Post (Sep 30): No ransom paid for kidnapped Indonesian sailors: Govt

No ransom paid for kidnapped Indonesian sailors: Govt

Safe return -- Deputy Foreign Minister AM Fachir (center left) speaks during the handover of four Indonesian hostages released by the Abu Sayyaf group to their family representatives in Jakarta on Monday.(Courtesy of the Foreign Ministry/File)

The government says it has not paid a ransom to secure the release of Indonesian sailors taken hostage by Philippine militant group Abu Sayyaf.

"The process is costly, however, the basic principle is that the government will never pay a ransom," the Foreign Ministry's director for the protection of Indonesian nationals and entities abroad, Lalu Muhammad Iqbal, told reporters on Thursday.

Iqbal was responding to media questions about funds the Abu Sayyaf group reportedly received to let the Indonesian citizens go. He said the government did not engage directly in any transactions with terrorists.

"Rumors always circulate whenever similar cases occur," Iqbal said.

The Abu Sayyaf group released four Indonesian crewmen last week after holding them as hostages for more than a month. Another five sailors, all crewmen of the Indonesian-operated tugboat Charles, remain in captivity with the militant group.

The government was continuing efforts for the release of the five men through an intelligence operation across the Philippines and Malaysia, Iqbal said.

He noted that the process for the release of the sailors, who were abducted in southern Philippine waters in late July, was taking longer than in earlier hostage cases due to a more complex situation.

The hostages were held by two militant sub-groups, and a complicated political situation in the field exacerbated the situation, he added.

Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi maintained close contact with a top Philippine negotiator involved in the rescue effort and continued to closely monitor the situation, Iqbal said.

Indonesian sailors freed by Abu Sayyaf to be repatriated

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Sep 30): Indonesian sailors freed by Abu Sayyaf to be repatriated

Indonesian hostages

Indonesians Lorens Koten, Arakian Emmanuel and Theodorus Kopong (right) pose with Indonesian Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu (third from left) and Lt. Gen. Mayoralgo de la Cruz on Sept. 18 after their release from captivity by the Abu Sayyaf Group. JULIE ALIPALA/ INQUIRER MINDANAO

The Bureau of Immigration (BI) has given the go-signal for the repatriation of seven Indonesian sailors recently freed by Abu Sayyaf bandits.

BI Commissioner Jaime Morente said he signed last week an order allowing all seven Indonesians to leave the country without paying any immigration fees or fines or securing clearances normally imposed or required by the bureau on departing foreigners.

 READ: Abu Sayyaf frees 3 Indonesian hostages–MNLF

Morente said he immediately granted requests by the Indonesian Embassy to waive the immigration requirements on the freed hostages so they could be immediately repatriated to their homeland.

“We granted the requests for humanitarian reasons and in consideration of the sad ordeal they went through while in captivity,” the BI chief said.

The kidnapped Indonesians are Lorens Koten, Arakian Emanuel, Theodorus Kopong, Herman Bin Manggak, Mohammad Sofyan and Ismail.

They were abducted in June while aboard their ship in the Sulu Sea near Sabah, Malaysia.

Abu kidnappers seize 7 Indonesians
Indonesian urges Duterte: Finish off Abu Sayyaf

Will Duterte's offensive against Islamist militants in the Philippines backfire?

From the Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN): Will Duterte's offensive against Islamist militants in the Philippines backfire?

 Marines soldiers patrol a community in Zamboanga City. One year after a deadly Muslim rebel siege on the city, the area remains insecure.

At dusk, the blue-grey peaks of Basilan look serene, rising out of the tranquil sea that separates them from the Philippine city of Zamboanga on the southernmost tip of the large main island of Mindanao.
But the peaceful scene is a mirage. In reality, Basilan and the remote islands of Sulu, further south but still part of the Mindanao group, are home to Abu Sayyaf. 
The Islamist militant group has been active since 1991 and had early ties to al-Qaeda. More recently, Abu Sayyaf members have pledged allegiance to so-called Islamic State. But mostly, the group is feared for its beheadings and frequent kidnap for ransom operations, which occur mainly in the maritime junction between the Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia.
Rodrigo Duterte, the recently elected strongman president of the Philippines, has ordered the army to “destroy” Abu Sayyaf. During a 17 September speech to soldiers, he said the group is “hungry to establish a caliphate”. 
The first three months of Duterte’s presidency have been characterised by a toxic mix of blood and bluster. In his latest gaffe, responding to criticisms of his war on drugs, which has seen more than 3,000 people killed by police and vigilantes, he likened himself to Hitler and said he’d be happy to “slaughter” three million drug addicts.
Some of Duterte’s remarks about the ramped-up war against Abu Sayyaf have been similarly off-colour. In an angry outburst during a recent regional summit in Laos, Duterte warned Abu Sayyaf: “I will open your body – just pass me the vinegar and salt and I will eat you.” 
Strong words have been followed by strong actions: 10,000 troops were deployed to Sulu and Basilan along with the country’s newest and biggest warship, the BRP Tarlac.
But will the new offensive succeed in defeating Abu Sayyaf or might it actually help foster more militancy?
Critics accuse the campaign, which has largely consisted of shelling Abu Sayyaf locations, of having limited impact on militants, who flee into the jungle, whilst displacing tens of thousands of civilians. 
David Doyle/IRIN
Basilan island looms in the distance from the seawall in Zamboanga
If the military continues to use such tactics, it could actually drive young men to join the group, said Sheikh Loderson Gustham, a religious leader from Sulu.
“Most of the people in the province work in either fishing or agriculture,” he said in an interview in Zamboanga. “People are not being allowed back onto their land, because military operations are there.
“It will even contribute to the violence, because if people are without jobs and Abu Sayyaf has its own money, they can just recruit,” said Gustham.
As of 19 September, the campaign against Abu Sayyaf had displaced 18,783 people on Basilan and 23,920 people on Sulu, according to the Department of Social Welfare and Development.

Cycle of displacement

 The Philippines is an overwhelmingly Catholic country, but Muslims make up the majority population in some parts of Mindanao, which has been wracked by conflict since the late 1960s. The government is still battling communist insurgents, as well as an array of Islamist groups. It is all too common throughout Mindanao that civilians have to flee their homes. 
Three years ago, fighting broke out in Zamboanga between the Armed Forces of the Philippines and a splinter group of the Moro National Liberation Force rebel group: 100,000 people were displaced and several civilians killed. Thousands of civilians remain in camps like the Mampang Transitory Site on the outskirts of the city.
“We don’t want it to happen again. The conflict is there in Sulu, and we just want it to stay in Sulu,” said Alfonso Hassan, a 30-year-old pedicab driver who lives in Mampang. “People here are already in trauma.”
David Doyle/IRIN
The Mampang camp on the outskirts of Zamboanga for people displaced by 2013 fighting between government troops and Islamist rebels
The Mampang camp is run by a local NGO, Integrated Resource Development for Tri-People, which has partnered up with international NGOs including Action Against Hunger.
Kalma Isnain, executive director at IRDT, says the continual cycle of violence in Mindanao, and particularly on Sulu and Basilan, means recruitment by Abu Sayyaf has become normalised.
“The tension is already there and the children are the ones most affected,” she said. “These children, they have nothing to do with their lives, so they will join.”

Peace on the rocks

 The government is in the process of negotiating an end to the conflict with the MNLF, and is in similar discussions with another rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. But there appears to be little chance that peace will be negotiated with Abu Sayyaf.
After the MNLF asked the government to include the group in the current talks, President Duterte responded unequivocally: “I will not, I will never.”
"There will be no amnesty for so much killing,” he added, speaking to Marines on Tuesday.
There may be little public support among residents of Mindanao for Abu Sayyaf, which is notorious for beheading prisoners and carrying out bombings like the 2004 SuperFerry 14 attack, which killed 116 people. But there is also a lot of distrust towards the military, especially in places like Basilan and Sulu.
Zamboanga, Philippines - Black smoke from burning houses rises in the background as a military cargo plane bearing relief goods arrives in the besieged city of Zamboanga in Mindanao, where troops are locked in a battle with Muslim rebels opposed to peace
Smoke from burning houses in Zamboanga rises behind a military aircraft delivering supplies during fighting between government troops and Islamist rebels in 2013
Sheikh Gustham said some young people see the military operation as “Christian soldiers coming to Muslim lands – a kind of crusade”.
That plays into a narrative that favours Islamist militant groups like Abu Sayyaf.
Underdevelopment and widespread poverty in Mindanao may also be factors in radicalising youth.
“One thing that does concern us generally is what could be a trend towards increasing extremism,” said Mark Bidder, head of office in the Philippines for the UN emergency aid coordination body, OCHA. 
“Perhaps it is driven in part by the expectations of the youth not being met,” he said. “There are communities that have been frustrated by the lack of progress over the years – particularly in terms of dealing with age-old issues: challenges of underdevelopment, lack of jobs, lack of opportunities.” 
The Armed Forces of the Philippines did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
(TOP PHOTO: Government troops patrol Zamboanga in 2014, one year after Islamist rebels beseiged the city. CREDIT: Jason Gutierrez/IRIN​)
From Rappler (Sep 30): Duterte's pivot to China won't be easy for Americanized AFP

Regular war games have synchronized the tactics, techniques, and procedures of the two militaries, allowing the Americans to quickly respond in the aftermath of typhoon Yolanda while other foreign militaries struggled to assist

President Rodrigo Duterte's plan to terminate war games between the Philippines and the US, a move that would significantly push his pivot to China, could hurt the capabilities of the Philippine military that has closely worked with the Americans for decades.

Outside the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) conflict, the two militaries cooperate on disaster response and counter-terrorism.
The Philippines and the US also regularly hold two major exercises annually.
The Balikatan war games involve all services (army, navy, and air force) while the amphibious landing exercises (Phiblex) involve only the marines and sailors. Up to 1,400 American troops will be in the Philippines on Sunday, October 2, for the Phiblex 2017 that Duterte said would be the last of the Philippines-US war games under his term.

On top of this, the US allocated this year at least US$40 million (about P2 billion*) in military assistance to the Philippines, which will also receive more hand-me-down assets such as a 3rd warship and at least one more C130 cargo plane.

But Duterte said the country will buy defense assets from China and Russia instead of the US, which has already donated or sold to the the AFP some of its most capable defense assets such as two warships patrolling the West Philippine Sea, armored personnel carrires for the army, and a research vessel (Click here for list of big ticket items from the US).

Synchronized moves

Years of regular war games have synchronized the tactics, techniques, and procedures to make command posts – generals issuing orders – and the troops of the longtime allies interoperable.

Recent exercises were in fact focused on the maritime conflict, allowing the swift deployment of joint patrols to deter threats of China's construction in Scarborough Shoal off the coast of the country's mainland Luzon.

"Perhaps the President may reconsider to allow the holding of non-traditional exercises like humanitarian assistance and disaster response (HADR), counter-terrorism, and other transnational crimes like drug trafficking under the Security Engagement Board (SEB)," said former Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) executive director and retired Armed Forces of the Philippines chief Eduardo Oban Jr.

Oban said it is important to proceed with these exercises even if war games such as joint patrols and live fire exercises are discontinued. He said training exercises may even include joint efforts against drug trafficking.

The interoperability between the US and the Philippines proved crucial in the aftermath of the November 2013 Super Typhoon Yolanda, when American soldiers were among those who took the first C130 cargo flight to Tacloban City to check the extent of damage and determine forms of assistance.

The US deployed 12,000 troops to the Visayas after Yolanda, pulling out of the area only 4 weeks later.
At the height of rescue and relief operations after Yolanda, Americans immediately knew how to send cargo planes for the transport of people and relief goods, while other foreign militaries struggled to coordinate with the overwhelmed Philippine government where and when their own cargo planes can land. (READ: Soldiers of the world deployed for Haiyan victims)

“When Yolanda happened, the first responders were the AFP and the US forces. Together they established a comand post in strategic locations, where they served as the hub of relief and rehabilitation operations," Oban recalled.

Developing the same interoperability with a new ally "will take time," said a retired general concerned with the policy shift but who refused to be identified.
China belatedly sent a hospital ship then, following international criticism over its failure to aid a neighbor.
Anti-terror drive
SIDE BY SIDE. US and Philippine soldiers regularly hold Balikatan and Phiblex war games in the Philippines. File photo by AFP/Jay Directo
SIDE BY SIDE. US and Philippine soldiers regularly hold Balikatan and Phiblex war games in the Philippines. File photo by AFP/Jay Directo
Americans are also assisting the country's anti-terrorism drive, training elite troops and sharing intelligence and technology, although this was tainted by the bloody Mamasapano incident in January 2015, an operation that involved American intelligence and the participation of elite Philippine cops.
A Senate probe into Mamasapano later showed that one of the 6 American soldiers who tagged along the ground Filipino police commander had tried to order the military around. "One of the Americans ordered [Army Major General] Pangilinan to fire the artillery. However, Pangilinan refused and told him, 'Do not dictate to me what to do. I am the commander here!'"revealed the complete draft of the Senate report released on March 17, 2015.
Prior to this, in March 2012, the Philippine military used US smart bombs in an attack against the Abu Sayyaf in Sulu. Various intelligence reports obtained by Rappler said that the first smart bombs, PGMs or Precision-Guided Munitions kits, arrived in the Philippines on November 1, 2010. Weapons training began the following year, on Jan 24, 2011. (READ: US smart bomb used in Sulu attack)
These forms of involvement reinforce criticism of American presence in the Philippines. (READ: Independent foreign policy: It's about time)
First left Philippine president
And the critics are led no less than by the commander in chief.

Duterte, a self-declared "first leftist president," has never hidden his dislike of Americans even before he fumed over the superpower's criticism of his deadly war on drugs.

When he was mayor of Davao City, Duterte exposed and blocked US plans to use his city as base of its drone operations.

As president, he said he doesn't want any more joint exercises with US forces. "Hindi natin kaya ang China sabi ko (We are no match to China)— even with the help of America – so we talk.... I am not ready to commit the soldiers of this country just to be massacred," Duterte said during a recent trip to Vietnam.

The Americans have made informal inquiries to clarify Duterte's pronouncements, but Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenza said no action will be taken until the President gives them clear orders. Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr denied the President ever talked about stopping the exercises, claiming Duterte only meant to end joint patrols.

The pronouncements have also raised questions about the President's plans regarding a new military-to-military agreement, the Enhanced Defence Cooperation Agreement, that allows Americans to put up facilities and preposition assets inside Philippine military bases and which has been upheld by the Philippine Supreme Court as constitutional.

Yes to China's preconditions
Jay Batongbacal, who heads the University of the Philippines Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea, said Duterte's pronouncements "signal" that he is "ready to grant China's pre-conditions for negotiation of a settlement of the West Philippine Sea issues: principally on China's terms and without the supporting role of the US." (READ: Sun rises 'beautifully' on Philippine ties – China envoy)
Apart from terminating war games, Duterte also seeks to end joint patrols within the country's exclusive economic zone and limit unliateral patrols to the country's 12 nautical mile territorial zones.
Former foreigh affairs secretary Albert Del Rosario warned of the economic cost of the foreign policy shift, arguing that the Philipipnes should keep "as many friends as possible."
It was, ironically, the same criticism hurled by some camps against the Aquino administration, which cut communication lines with China over the West Philippine Sea conflict, negotiated EDCA to rely on the US to defend its maritime territories, and won a historic arbitration case against China.
The Philippine Left, which is talking peace with the government, welcomed the policy shift as a mark of the country's independent foreign policy.

Kabayan party-list representative Harry Roque, who argued against EDCA before the Supreme Court, said Duterte is "warming up to China because he wants to solve the problem of fishermen in Scarborough."

"It is important to stress to China, so that we can come to an immediate solution to the problem of our fishermen in the West Philippine Sea, that we have a separation of national interests with the US. I'm in favor of elimination these war games," said Roque.

Indeed, Duterte's friendliness is credited for the slowdown in China's buildup in the West Philippine Sea. But it is believed to be temporary.

"No matter what comes of discussions between China and the Philippines, the long-term objective of control of the South China Sea remains," said a New York Times report quoting Renmin University international relations professor Shi Yinhong.
Time will tell whose approach is right.