Thursday, September 29, 2016

NDF’s Jalandoni: NPA won’t give up arms as part of peace deal

From BusinessWorld (Sep 30): NDF’s Jalandoni: NPA won’t give up arms as part of peace deal

PHILIPPINE Maoist guerrillas will not surrender their weapons even if a peace deal is reached with the government of President Rodrigo R. Duterte, the rebels’ chief negotiator said on Thursday, a potential deal-breaker in the current talks.
The Philippines and the rebels declared indefinite unilateral cease-fires in Oslo last month as part of an accord to accelerate efforts to end a conflict that has lasted almost five decades and killed at least 40,000 people.

The government expressed hopes that a peace agreement could be reached within a year of the Oslo talks, the first formal meeting for five years.

The guerrillas stopped short of setting a deadline. Luis Jalandoni, the Netherlands-based top negotiator for the National Democratic Front (NDF), the political arm of the communist movement, said the military wing, the New People’s Army, would not agree to disarm.
“We don’t think the New People’s Army should be disarmed or the weapons surrendered and destroyed,” he told reporters in Manila.

An army general, who declined to be named because he was not authorized to speak to the media, said the rebels’ position could be a deal-breaker.

“Can you really have two armies under one government?” he asked. “Our government will not agree to this. Our Muslim brothers had agreed to disarm and demobilize their army under a peace deal. Why can’t the communists?”
In 2014, the mainstream Muslim rebel group, Moro Islamic Liberation Front, signed a peace deal with the government, agreeing to disband its army and surrender weapons in exchange for an autonomous area in the south.

The communist rebels have been waging guerrilla warfare in the countryside since 1969 but entered into an on-off negotiations with the government in 1986, brokered by Norway.

Next week, government and rebel negotiators return to Oslo for a second rounds of talks to accelerate deals on a truce and an amnesty declaration by Oct. 26.

“It’s very difficult yet it is achievable,” Mr. Jalandoni said.

Muktadil Brothers gunned down in surprise raid on Sulu island

From The Star Online (Sep 28): Muktadil Brothers gunned down in surprise raid on Sulu island

Faces of terror: Braun (left) and Nikson were shot dead by Philippines security forces.

Faces of terror: Braun (left) and Nikson were shot dead by Philippines security forces

Two leaders of the notorious cross-border kidnap group known as the Muktadil Brothers were killed after a surprise raid in a Sulu island in southern Philippines.

The brothers, identified as Nelson @ Nikson and Braun @ Brown, were killed on Tuesday, hours after they were captured when they tried to escape while being escorted out of Pata Island near the Abu Sayyaf stronghold of Jolo Island.

The two were among six brothers who led the gang in a series of cross-border kidnappings in the east coast of Sabah, and were high on the wanted list in Malaysia and Philippines.

According to Philippines intelligence sources, Nikson and Braun were fast asleep in a hut in their hideout near Poh Tambulian, Daungdung, in Pata island, when a crack team captured them at around 5am.
The sources said the heavily armed brothers had no chance to fire their weapons and after their capture, were immediately escorted out of the hideout.

However, as they were being escorted in a convoy, the brothers grabbed the firearms of the arresting officers and opened fire in a bid to escape.

The soldiers returned fire, killing both, at around 8.30am, the sources said.

Nelson and Braun were among the five key leaders of the Muktadil Brothers, but Mindas was killed by Jolo police in May 2015 while his twin Kadafi was arrested in Jolo late last year.

The eldest of them, Badong, remains at large but intelligence sources say he alone is unlikely to pose a threat as a little known sixth brother, Sampas, was also killed in the Philippines last year.

“It can be considered the gang has been crippled. They have been on the run and not been involved in any of the kidnappings over the last six months.

“The threat of kidnappings will continue as long as the Abu Sayyaf exists,” a source said.

He said that a key Abu Sayyaf commander, Indang Susukan, who was responsible for Malaysian kidnap victim Bernard Then’s beheading last year, is also facing a setback with two of his key lieutenants killed and two others seriously injured in military operations in their hideout in Jolo.

The source said that another sub-commander, Albahsi Misaya, is in hiding amid mounting Philippines security pressure on the group in their hideout in the hilly jungle terrains of Jolo.

Western Mindanao Command spokesman Major Filemon Tan Jr confirmed that Nikson and Braun were killed.

He said the Muktadil brothers had been involved in kidnappings in which the victims were handed over to the Al Habsy and other Abu Sayyaf groups.

It is a major blow to the group of Abu Sayyaf sub-leader Alhabsy Misaya because the siblings served as sea guides and navigators during the group’s conduct of high-seas kidnappings,” he said, referring to Abu Sayyaf’s cross-border kidnappings since 2013.

The Muktadil brothers are the sons of a notorious pirate who operated in the waters off Sabah’s Semporna from the neighbouring Tawi Tawi chain of islands.

Nikson had lived in Semporna and was involved in drug smuggling before joining with his brothers to form a notorious cross-border kidnap group.

Sabah Police Commissioner Datuk Abdul Rashid Harun said the Malaysian authorities were waiting for official confirmation of the deaths of the two brothers.

Abus in cahoots with drug lords, says military

From the Manila Times (Sep 29): Abus in cahoots with drug lords, says military

THE terrorist Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) is in cahoots with drug lords and is responsible for proliferation of illegal drugs in the ZamBaSulta area, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said on Thursday.

Zambasulta is made up of the provinces of Zamboanga, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi in southern Mindanao.

Citing reports from different units that had engaged the ASG, Col. Rodrigo Gregorio, spokesman for the AFP Joint Task Force Sulu, said the bandits not only kidnap for ransom but also trade in illegal drugs to fund their terrorist and other criminal acts.

The illegal drugs, according to Gregorio, also serve to motivate ASG members to commit crimes.

“These are the findings of numerous units in the ZamBaSulta area… Reports coming from the line units indicate that those engaging the troops are mostly young [ASG] recruits who are most probably ‘high’ on certain drugs particularly shabu [methamphetamine hydrochloride]as evidenced by paraphernalia found in belongings of dead [bandits]and in their lairs,” he said.

Gregorio added that drugs are being used to lure youngsters who are given shabu for free and later on recruited once they are addicted to it.

“Reports also indicate that money generated from shabu is being used to finance the ASG’s daily operations,” he said.

Gregorio also cited claims of some of the former hostages of the group one of them an Indonesian, Herman Bin Manggak, who told authorities during his debriefing that he saw the bandits guarding him taking shabu.

Talking to interpreters, Manggak said he was nearly rescued three times by government troops who were engaged in fierce gun battles.

In those instances, he added, he witnessed effects of drugs on the terrorists who treat such battles as a game.

The military has also claimed that the Abu Sayyaf Group has connections with the drug lords in the distribution of illegal drugs in the ZamBaSulta area.

The group, it said, also backs up drug suspects whenever anti-drug operations are conducted in the area.

Authorities also cited a number of such operations by joint police and military troops that resulted in bloody confrontations.

One of them took place in Sulu where a policeman identified as Police Officer 2 Tirso Mantalaba, 27, of the 24th Special Action Company of the elite Special Action Forces of the Philippine National Police, was killed in a firefight with a drug dealer identified as Anuddin Akiran Daharani, 38, who was also killed.

The anti-drug operation was conducted last Saturday by military forces in Barangay Kaunayan, Patikul, Sulu.

Troops recovered high-powered firearms and drug paraphernalia during the operation.

In Zamboanga City, another ASG member, Arnisar Dangsani Ismaluddin was arrested by police in a buy-bust last Tuesday afternoon.

Gregorio said in Metro Manila, several Abu Sayyaf bandits have also been arrested for drug trafficking.

‘Abus high in battle’

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Sep 30): ‘Abus high in battle’


The Abu Sayyaf terror group is believed to be using illegal drugs to lure new recruits and to fund its operations, the military said on Thursday.

Joint Task Force Sulu (JTFS)—headquartered at Camp Bautista in Sulu—said military units based in Zambasulta (Zamboanga, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi) told of engaging mostly young recruits who were “most probably high on certain drugs, particularly ‘shabu,’” as evidenced by paraphernalia found among the belongings of slain Abu Sayyaf members and in their camps.

“Drugs are being used to lure youngsters who may have been given ‘shabu’ for free and are recruited once they become addicted,” the JTFS said. “Reports also indicate that money generated from ‘shabu’ is used to finance the group’s daily operations.”

 Per hostages

In its report to Armed Forces of the Philippines headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City, the JTFS said this was also indicated by several former hostages of the terror group.

It cited Indonesian hostage Herman Bin Manggak who said in his debriefing that up to seven Abu Sayyaf members guarded him during his captivity and he saw them taking “shabu.”

Talking to interpreters, Manggak said he was nearly rescued three times by government troops who engaged the terrorists in gun battles. In those instances, Manggak said, he saw how the drugs affected the rebels who treated the gun battles like a game.

Drugs tie-up

The JFTS said the proliferation of drugs in Zambasulta was believed to be a result of a tie-up between the Abu Sayyaf and drug lords.

In Sulu, for instance, several antidrug operations by joint police-military forces resulted in big drug hauls and the deaths of some suspects and government troopers.

The latest fatality in the drug war in Sulu was PO2 Tirso Montalba, 27, of the Philippine National Police’s Special Action Force.

In an operation on Saturday in Barangay Kaunayan, Patikul, suspected drug dealer Anuddin Akiran Daharani fired the first shot that killed Montalba but he was also killed in the fire fight.

In Zamboanga City, Abu Sayyaf member Arnisar Dangsani Ismaluddin was arrested by police in a buy-bust operation on Tuesday.

Last of Muktadil brothers killed

From The Star Online (Sep 30): Last of Muktadil brothers killed

The last remaining member of the notorious Muktadil brothers, responsible for kidnap-for-ransom activities has been killed.

Badong Muktadil, the last of the six brothers who rained terror along Sabah’s east coast between late 2013 and 2015, was found dead in a pump boat near Siasi island after fleeing Philippines military operations on Tuesday when two of his brothers, Nelson @ Nikson and Braun @ Brown, were killed near Poh Tambulian, Daung­dung, on Pata island.

All six of the brothers have been neutralised. They will no longer be a threat in cross-border crimes,” an intelligence officer told The Star on condition of anonymity.

He said Badong escaped but sustained injuries in a shootout during the operation against the brothers at their hideout.
“He managed to get into a pump boat and headed towards the Mususiasi area in Siasi island, close to Jolo. On the way, he succumbed to his injuries,” the intelligence source said, adding that the dead man had been confirmed to be Badong.

Early on Tuesday, Philippine crack troops captured Nelson and Braun from the hideout. But they were killed hours later when they tried to escape while being escorted out of Pata island.

BRP Davao Del Sur is Navy’s second Strategic Sealift Vessel

From Update.Ph (Sep 29): BRP Davao Del Sur is Navy’s second Strategic Sealift Vessel

brp tarlac ssv 1

The Philippine Navy (PN)’s second strategic sealift vessel (SSV) was formally launched and christened the BRP Davao Del Sur (LD-602) at the Surabaya shipyard of Indonesian contractor PT PAL (Persero) Thursday morning. She is the sister ship of the BRP Tarlac (LD-601), currently the largest Filipino warship commissioned.

BRP Tarlac was commissioned during short ceremonies at Pier 13, Manila South Harbor last June 1. She arrived in the Philippines last May 14 after a five-day journey from PT PAL shipyard in Surabaya which started on May 9.

PN spokesperson Capt. Lued Lincuna said Philippine Ambassador to the Republic of Indonesia, Maria Lumen Isleta, served as the lady sponsor who led the opening of the curtain to unveil the vessel’s name and the traditional smashing of a sacrificial bottle of champagne over its bow.

Naming the vessel after Davao Del Sur is consistent with its predecessor, BRP Tarlac (LD-601), which was also named after a province.

It further gives recognition to the province as sanctuary of natural wonders and rarities like the country’s highest peak Mount Apo, the most prized Philippine orchid Vanda Sanderiana, and the endangered Philippine Eagle.

Witnesses to the launching and christening ceremonies were Defense undersecretaries Ricardo David Jr. and Raymundo Elefante; Armed Forces of the Philippines vice chief-of-staff Lt. Gen. Gregorio Miranda; and PN vice commander Rear Adm. Rafael Mariano.

On the other hand, distinguished members of Indonesian delegation included the Ministry of Defense General Secretary, Vice Adm. Widodo; Deputy of Ministry of State Own Enterprises, Fajar Harry Sampurno; and PT Pal’s Director of Shipbuilding Turitan Indaryo.

BRP Davao Del Sur is also a Makassar-class landing platform dock like her sister ship BRP Tarlac.

Its delivery to the Philippines, tentatively scheduled on the midpart of 2017, will complete the two-unit SSV procurement project with an approved budget contract of PHP4 billion sourced from the AFP Modernization Act Trust Fund.

Just like the BRP Tarlac, the PN’s latest SSV will serve as a floating command-and-control ship especially in the conduct of humanitarian assistance and disaster response and will also serve as a military sealift and transport vessel.

The ship has an overall length of 120 meters, breadth of 21 meters, draft of five meters and carry a payload of 2,800 tons.

She has a cruising speed of 13 knots and maximum speed of 16 knots and a minimum operating range of 7,500 nautical miles.

BRP Davao Del Sur can carry 500 troops, two rigid-hull inflatable boats, two landing craft units and three helicopters.

Leftist group welcomes Duterte statement ending US-PH joint war games

From Update.Ph (Sep 29): Leftist group welcomes Duterte statement ending US-PH joint war games

Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN), an alliance of leftist organizations, welcomed President Rodrigo Duterte’s latest pronouncement ending joint military exercises between United States and Philippines.

"We welcome the most recent pronouncements of President Rodrigo Duterte stating that the upcoming US-RP war games (PHIBLEX) will be the last under his term,” BAYAN’s secretary general Renato M. Reyes, Jr. said in a released statement.

“The move is timely and consistent with his avowed independent foreign policy. It’s about time,” he said.

“Duterte is correct in opposing US intervention in the Philippines and the West PH Sea. The war games serve no other purpose than to project US military might in the region, especially now under the US’ Asia pivot strategy,” Reyes said. “The war games do not help, and in fact may even complicate, our claims in the West PH Sea. The war games are an affront to our sovereignty.”

“Duterte is correct in invoking the favorable ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in asserting our sovereign rights in the West PH Sea against China’s nine-dash line claims. We should avail of the favorable ruling and deal with China, without interference by the US,” he added.

President Duterte said in Vietnam, US is scheduled to hold war games again with Philippines, which China does not want. “I will serve notice to you now that this will be the last military exercise. Jointly, Philippines, the US, the last one.”

US 'committed' as Duterte eyes ending military drills

From Rappler (Sep 29): US 'committed' as Duterte eyes ending military drills

The US says there 'has been no official rendering' of President Rodrigo Duterte's decision to end military exercises between the Philippines and the US

JOINT EXERCISES. US (L) and Philippine (R) navy personnel launch an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) from a speedboat off the naval base in Sangley Point, Cavite City, west of Manila on June 28, 2013, as part of the Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) exercises. File photo by Ted Aljibe/AFP

JOINT EXERCISES. US (L) and Philippine (R) navy personnel launch an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) from a speedboat off the naval base in Sangley Point, Cavite City, west of Manila on June 28, 2013, as part of the Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) exercises. File photo by Ted Aljibe/AFP

The US on Thursday, September 29, stressed its "significant security commitments" to the Philippines after Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said he will end his country's military exercises with the US.

US State Department spokesperson John Kirby, however, said that there "has been no official rendering" of this decision to the US government.

"We've seen these comments, we've talked about them…when they have been made, but the bottom line is that we have significant security commitments with the Philippines. We're committed to meeting those commitments and to furthering this relationship," Kirby said in a media briefing past 2 am on Thursday, Manila time.

On US ties with the Philippines, Kirby also said, "It's built on shared sacrifices for democracy and human rights, and strong people-to-people and societal ties, and obviously we'd like to see that continue."

For more context, Kirby referred journalists to his colleagues at the US defense department. "They might have a context I don't have, but we're not aware of any such decision. We've seen these comments, obviously, and would refer you to the president for – to speak to it," he said.

This comes after Duterte on Wednesday evening, September 28, said the next joint military exercises between the Philippines and the US, scheduled in October, will be the "last" during his term.

Addressing the US, the President said: "You are scheduled to hold war games again, which China does not want. I will serve notice to you now, this will be the last military exercise. Jointly, Philippines-US, the last one."

Duterte officials explain

The military exercises aim to boost the capabilities of Philippine troops in the face of threats such as China's aggression in the disputed West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

Philippine National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr later clarified that Duterte likely meant that the military exercises in October will be "the last for the year," not for Duterte's entire term.

Philippine Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr, for his part, initially said when sought for a reaction to Duterte's statement: "No, no, no, he did not say that at all."

Eventually, Yasay said he "did not hear" such a statement from Duterte, so he cannot issue a comment.

Duterte has said he is "about to cross the Rubicon" or the point of no return with the US, which he has slammed for questioning him over recent killings in the Philippines.

Still, the US recently committed around P320 million ($.7 million) to boost Philippine law enforcement.

In the face of the extrajudicial killings in the Philippines, however, US Senator Patrick Leahy said the Philippines might face "further conditions" on US aid.

OPAPP set to conduct ‘Peace Caravan’ in Agusan del Norte

From the Philippine Information Agency (Sep 29): OPAPP set to conduct ‘Peace Caravan’ in Agusan del Norte

In line with the celebration of National Peace Consciousness Month, the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), in cooperation with the regional line agencies and local government units (LGUs), is set to conduct a convergence undertaking dubbed “Serbisyo Peace Caravan” on September 30, 2016 in Jabonga, Agusan del Norte.

“Relating to the context of the celebration’s theme, ‘Tayo ang Pagbabago, Tayo ang Kapayapaan,’ we feel dutifully bound to sustain peace building efforts by bringing the government services closer to the people living in conflict affected areas, and be able to render our services in ways and extent that will ultimately achieve the purpose of sustaining what the government has initially done in far-flung communities,” remarked OPAPP program manager Oliver Binancilan.

He further said that as agents of change, it should start from becoming peace actors.

“The Peace Caravan activity is just part of the many undertakings that we have to do in advocating peace in the region. And we are truly grateful of the commitment of our partner agencies for the constant support for this endeavor,” added Binancilan.

The Serbisyo Peace Caravan is a venue for strengthened collaboration among public servants in delivering basic services such as distribution of free medicines, vaccination and legal services to the identified strategic areas.

It is also designed to serve as a platform for information campaign to present the menu of government programs and projects and an opportunity for consultations and dialogues between the community and participating government agencies on various peace, development and security concerns.

The venue for service delivery will be at the covered court of Brgy. Beleguian and Beleguian Elementary School.

According to Binancilan, the indigenous peoples (IP) community in Brgy. Can-away of the municipality of Kitcharao will be joining the Peace Caravan. Around 2,000 IPs are expected to participate in the activity.

1FAB deploys soldiers to augment troops in Sulu

From the Philippine Information Agency (Sep 27): 1FAB deploys soldiers to augment troops in Sulu 

Some 31 soldiers from the 1st Field Artillery Battalion (1FAB), Army Artillery Regiment headed Saturday for Jolo, Sulu to augment the troops from the Western Mindanao Command (WeMinCom) conducting military operations against terror groups and lawless elements.

Col. Jacinto Bareng, chief of staff of the 1st Infantry (Tabak) Division, led the sendoff ceremony at Kuta Major Cesar Sang-an with soldier’s friends, families and loved ones as well members of the media.

Bareng expressed high hopes that as one of the best performing units of the Army Artillery Regiment, the soldiers and officers of the 1FAB will be able to execute and fulfill their mission in Jolo.

Lt.Col. Hubert Acierto, commanding officer of the 1FAB said the team would join the military units in Jolo in support of the directive of President Rodrigo Duterte to intensify the government’s campaign against the terrorism.

 “Our troops-- Bravo battery of the 1st Field Artillery Battalion will be deployed in support to the military offensive against ASG,” Acierto said .

“Pinapakita po natin ang ating suporta at respeto sa mga sundalo na itatalaga sa Jolo, Sulu sa  pagbibigay sa kanila ng simpleng seremonya na kung saan sinaluduhan natin at binigyan ng blessing sa pamamagitan ng pagdilig sa kanila at ng kanilang armaments ng holy water,” Acierto said. (We show our support and respect to the soldiers to be assigned in Jolo, Sulu by providing them a simple but fitting sendoff ceremony where we give them salute and have their armaments sprinkled with a holy water).

“We also keep them in our prayers as they fulfill their mandate in protecting the lives of our people,” he added.

Capt. Dandy T. Nelmida, the Bravo battery commander said the troops were happy that their superior officers paid respect on them.

 “We are ready to fulfill our mission to save lives and protect the property of our people,” Nelmida added.

Gov’t sets to rebuild conflict-ridden Baguindan in Basilan .

From the Philippine Information Agency (Sep 30): Gov’t sets to rebuild conflict-ridden Baguindan in Basilan .

For four decades this small barangay of Baguindan in Basilan had been the battleground for the Abu Sayyafs and the military where countless died and many of the civilians were on the run from the bandits.

Most of the more than 2,000 residents have fled to nearby Tipo-Tipo town and they are assisted by the military each time they visit their lands and tend to their livelihood. There was no room for development nor improvement, and progress.

Last Sept. 18, the ARMM regional government, the provincial government of Basilan, and a number of government agencies set foot for the first time in about four decades at infamous Baguindan to launch its rebuilding and ceremonial return of its residents in the community, calling it the people’s event.

“First time ko rin mula noong nag-politiko ako (This is my first time since I became a politician),” ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman said, as he cited the longing of the community to experience peace there once and for all.

He said that the people of Baguindan are fed up with the conflict brought about by the notorious Abu Sayyafs and that the local government has been asking for a permanent military detachment to provide security and protection to the residents from the bandits.

With the other government agencies, the regional government brought there the ARMM HEART (Humanitarian Emergency Action Response Team) complete with the medical and dental team as well as psychosocial interventions and relief goods from the DSWD.

In speaking before his constituents, Governor Mujiv stressed that the solution to the problem does not only depend on the government but more importantly, the solution lies on the determination of the community to end atrocities and not to be governed by fear of the bandits.

He urged the Muslims not to be swayed by the promise of heaven when people would cling to the extremist ideals of the ASG.

Speaking in Filipino, the regional governor said that the ASGs are not the only Muslims here that love our country, as they claim to be; that they are not the only Muslims who want to go to heaven.

He, however, lamented that the problem with the ASGs’ ideals is that they follow the extremist way from the Middle East that kills and destroys lives.

“Ang hamon ko sa kanila kung matapang talaga sila, huwag silang makipag-gyera kung saan madaming mga sibilyan. Bakit kung dumarating yung mga kalaban ay tumatakbo sila at pumupunta sa mga inosente. At kung handa naman silang mamatay at naniniwala sila na pupunta sila sa langit maraming lugar na pwede nilang puntahan na walang mga inosente,” Mujiv said. (My challenge to them is, if they are really that brave as they claimed to be, they should spare civilians from the war and engage the military face to face. And if they are prepared to die and believe that they will go to heaven, then there are areas where they can fight the military and no innocent lives are at stake.)

 Meanwhile, Basilan Governor Jim Hataman-Salliman revealed that in terms of security, the local government is implementing the next level of campaign versus terrorism in the province.

“Before the bandits were occupying a certain area, but now they are on the run because of the relentless military operations,” Salliman said.

While strengthening the security measures in Baguindan and neighboring barangays in Tipo-Tipo, the local government will also pursue socio-economic activities, build infrastructures, and establish political stability and local governance.

“For so long Baguindan has been a symbol of lawlessness in Basilan. [Now] the local government has resolved that steps will be undertaken so that the institution of government is felt by the people of Baguindan,” Salliman said.

He assured the government would start developing Baguindan, Bohe Piang, and Silangkum areas in Tipo-Tipo. Barangay Captain Bisahri Hantian was grateful for the government efforts to rebuild his village, as “people have longed to go back and live a normal life.”

However, many of the villagers are still afraid to go back to the area until the peace and order situation becomes stable with the hope that the people can rebuild Baguindan in the coming months.

Chief peace negotiator stresses the need to address the root cause of armed conflicts

From the Philippine Information Agency (Sep 30): Chief peace negotiator stresses the need to address the root cause of armed conflicts

Labor Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III, concurrent government chief negotiator on the talks with communist rebels, stressed on addressing the root causes of armed conflicts through socio-economic reforms in order to achieve permanent peace in the country.

 In a forum on the peace talks between the Philippine Government (GRP) and the National Democratic Front (NDF) organized by the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila (PLM) on Monday, September 26, Bello identified extreme poverty, injustices, and corruption in government as underlying factors that bred insurgency and that these concerns must be immediately resolved.

“The signing of the agreements is not the peace itself nor the assurance of lasting peace. In order to achieve peace in our country, we should not be signing peace agreements alone but, we should be addressing the root causes of conflict,” Bello said.

Bello explained that the Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms (CASER) with the NDF seeks to address these concerns.

CASER—which according to Bello is the “heart and soul of the GRP-NDF peace process”—is one of the remaining substantive agenda on the talks, aside from the political and constitutional reforms and the end of hostilities and disposition of forces.

As embodied in the Joint Statement signed last August 26, both panels agreed to finish the CASER within a period of six months.

CASER and the two remaining substantive agenda are set to be tackled during the next round of peace negotiations in Oslo, Norway on October 6 to 10.

Aside from resolving the root causes of conflicts, Bello also shared the current initiatives of both panels to come up with a joint, bilateral ceasefire leading to permanently ending the hostilities on the ground.

In the said Joint Statement, the GRP and NDF panels decided to reconcile their respective unilateral ceasefire declarations into a single, unified, and bilateral document within 60 days.

Prior to the first round of talks last August, President Rodrigo R. Duterte issued an indefinite ceasefire declaration with the communist rebels.

The NDF reciprocated the President’s pronouncement by also extending indefinitely their week-long unilateral ceasefire declaration that only covered the duration of the talks.

“In 60 days, the respective unilateral indefinite ceasefire will become a joint, bilateral, and permanent ceasefire that will eventually lead to the end of hostilities and disposition of forces,” Bello explained.

With these developments, Bello said that he is optimistic that negotiations with the NDF will be concluded within a nine to 12-month time frame.

Bello’s counterpart, NDF peace panel chair Luis Jalandoni, also attended the event—which is the first time that both the GRP and NDF peace panel chairs participated in a same public forum.

Defense chief awaits clear Duterte order on PH-US war games

From Rappler (Sep 29): Defense chief awaits clear Duterte order on PH-US war games

The Philippine defense establishment says it will also have to sit down with Americans to discuss future plans

AWAITING ORDERS. Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana did not join President Rodrigo Duterte's working visit in Vietnam. Photo by Carmela Fonbuena/Rappler

AWAITING ORDERS. Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana did not join President Rodrigo Duterte's working visit in Vietnam. Photo by Carmela Fonbuena/Rappler

Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana will ask President Rodrigo Duterte to clarify a statement he made about ending annual war games with the country's treaty ally, the United States.

"The Department of National Defense will await further orders from President Rodrigo R. Duterte regarding the AFP’s exercises with the US forces," reads a statement from the defense department on Thursday, September 29.

"As to succeeding exercises, we will have to sit down with our US counterparts to discuss them," the statement added.

The US State Department also said that there "has been no official rendering" of this decision to the US government.
"We've seen these comments, we've talked about them…when they have been made, but the bottom line is that we have significant security commitments with the Philippines. We're committed to meeting those commitments and to furthering this relationship," US State Department spokesperson John Kirby said in a media briefing past 2 am on Thursday, Manila time.
Duterte made the announcement in Vietnam Wednesday night, September 28, a few days before 1,400 US sailors and marines were scheduled to arrive in the the Philippines for the start of the regular Philippine-US Amphibious Landing Exercises (Phiblex). Lorenza did not join the President's two-day official visit.

"I would serve notice to you now that this will be the last military exercise. Jointly, Philippines-US, the last one. Ayaw ko lang mapahiya si Defense Secretary ko (I just don't want my defense secretary to be embarrassed)," Duterte told Filipinos in Vietnam.

His 2 other Cabinet secretaries who were with him in Vietnam gave different interpretations of his statements. Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr flatly denied the President ever said that, while National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr said he thought Duterte meant it would be the last joint exercise this year, not throughout his term.

On Sunday, October 2, American troops will arrive in the Philippines for Phiblex, one of two regular joint military training exercises held in the Philippines that are allowed under the Visiting Forces Agreement ratified by the Senate in 1998.

Duterte, who is vocal about his dislike of the US, said he will honor the country's treaties with the superpower while strengthening alliances with China and Russia.

Duterte's foreign policy deviates from the previous Aquino administration, which cut communication lines with China over the West Philippine Sea conflict and relied on US assistance.

Former foreign secretary Albert del Rosario, commenting on the new government's foreign policy, warned about the economic costs of a policy shift.

"I think the foreign policy of equating the US vis-à-vis China should not be a zero-sum game. In foreign affairs, you try to get as many friends as possible. You don't get one friend at the expense of another friend," Del Rosario said.
"Playing a zero-sum game is illogical and we should get away from this."

Duterte to Vietnam's Quang: Bilateral talks with China 'necessary'

From Rappler (Sep 29): Duterte to Vietnam's Quang: Bilateral talks with China 'necessary'

President Rodrigo Duterte and Vietnam President Tran Dai Quang agree to avoid 'provocative acts' in the South China Sea

OFFICIAL VISIT. President Rodrigo Duterte exchanges pleasantries with Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang following their bilateral meeting at the State Palace in Hanoi on September 29. KING RODRIGUEZ/PPD

OFFICIAL VISIT. President Rodrigo Duterte exchanges pleasantries with Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang following their bilateral meeting at the State Palace in Hanoi on September 29. KING RODRIGUEZ/PPD

President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday, September 29, explained to Vietnam President Tran Dai Quang why he believes it is necessary for the Philippines to have bilateral talks with China on the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) dispute.

Duterte did this during his bilateral meeting with Quang on the second day of his official visit to this country, according to Philippine officials who attended the meeting.

Vietnam, for its part, pushed for both multilateral and bilateral means to resolve the dispute, a member of Duterte's delegation said.

"Bilateral engagements with China (are) necessary in this respect because the arbitration tribunal's decision has no enforcement capability or mechanisms on its own," Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr told Philippine media, when asked about the outcome of the bilateral meeting held at the State Palace.
"The President expressed that his bilateral talks with China is a necessity because he has to feel them out first," said Senator Alan Peter Cayetano, part of the Philippine delegation as Senate committee on foreign relations chairman. (READ: Duterte expects bilateral talks with China to start 2016)
"Ang kanyang appeal is kung problema natin baka kaya nating i-solve na tayo-tayo. (His appeal was that if it's our problem, maybe we can solve it among ourselves). We thank and respect foreign powers, world powers, but isn't it better if we open doors and start talking?" said Cayetano.
The Philippines, even under the Aquino administration, has always eyed bilateral talks after getting a favorable decision on its case against China. Manila's legal victory is viewed as a leverage against Beijing, which dwarfs the Philippines in terms of economic and military might. 
Vietnam, for its part, is known to favor multilateral talks to resolve the South China Sea dispute. It too is claiming parts of the disputed sea.
Like the Philippines, Vietnam has experienced aggression from China. In May 2014, Beijing's announcement that it would move its deep-water drilling rig in contested waters triggered violent anti-China protests in Vietnam that later prompted China to evacuate 3,000 of its nationals from that country.
Yasay said the Philippines and Vietnam positions on the dispute are "convergent" and are not conflicting. The presidents of both countries agreed on their commitment to the rule of law and pursuing "legal and diplomatic processes" for the peaceful settlement of disputes.
Both leaders also agreed to avoid "provocative acts."
"We should be more restrained in our deportment in our actions to make sure we do not do any provocative acts that would undermine the peaceful settlement of these disputes," said Yasay.
ASEAN and Duterte's 'ace card'
But it seemed Vietnam leaders also pushed for multilateral talks during the meeting, at least according to Cayetano's account.
"Vietnam said we should do this (settlement of maritime disputes) through the principles of ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations), and we should have multilateral and bilaterals through the ASEAN," said the senator.
Both Vietnam and the Philippines are members of the ASEAN. Two other members, Brunei and Malaysia, also have claims on the South China Sea.
But only the Philippines has won an international case against China and obtained an affirmation of its claims from an international court.
This ruling, which Duterte calls his "ace card" against China, was also discussed in the meeting with Vietnam officials.
Yasay said Duterte made assurances he would bring up the ruling with China at "one point in time."
"Our Philippine position is quite clear: that we will at one point in time – maybe this time is not right for it – but at one point in time, when we begin bilateral talks with China, in so far as coming out with a solution for the peaceful settlement of this dispute in the South China Sea, it must be within the context of the arbitral decision," said Yasay.
Beijing, while preferring bilateral talks with the Philippines, said it does not recognize the ruling and will reject any talks that use the ruling as basis.
Philippine and Vietnam officials also agreed to "fully implement" the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC), a declaration signed by all ASEAN members and China, said Yasay.
But they also concurred on the need to "fast track" the crafting of a binding Code of Conduct itself, since the DOC is a non-binding agreement. For years, ASEAN and Chinese leaders have failed to come up with these implementation guidelines on how claimants can work together as the disputes are being resolved.
With the Philippines as the new ASEAN chairman and the country's hosting of the ASEAN Summit in 2017, the region is waiting to see if Philippine leadership can find a way forward in the dispute.

PH seeks to learn from Vietnam's approach to China

From Rappler (Sep 29): PH seeks to learn from Vietnam's approach to China

What Vietnam can learn from the Philippines' experience of taking China to court is also discussed during President Duterte's meeting with Vietnam officials   

The Philippines and Vietnam, both claimants of parts of the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), both forced to confront China's aggression, have much to learn from each other.

These lessons were part of the discussion during bilateral talks between Philippines and Vietnam officials, led by President Rodrigo Duterte and President Tran Dai Quang, on Thursday, September 29 in Hanoi, Vietnam. (READ: Duterte to Vietnam's Quang: Bilateral talks with China 'necessary')

The talks happened on the second day of Duterte's official visit to Vietnam.

Senator Alan Peter Cayetano, who participated in the talks as chairman of the Senate committee on foreign relations, said Vietnam may have suffered from China's assertiveness in the West Philippine Sea, but Vietnam and China continue to enjoy alliances in trade and economy.

The worst point in Vietnam and China relations involved the deaths of Vietnamese soldiers in a 1988 naval battle in the Spratlys yet the two countries managed to preserve their economic, cultural, and diplomatic ties.

"If you look at the number of (Chinese) tourists, investments, exchanges in Vietnam, it's much more than the Philippines when in fact their security problem with China is also of a higher pitch, so what was discussed was, we can share the common experience," said Cayetano during a Thursday press briefing.

Vietnam and China also have 4 "hotlines" for their defense, foreign, and agriculture ministries, and one connecting the leaders of their communist parties, which are used to prevent or diffuse tensions in the West Philippine Sea.

The Philippines is eyeing a "two-track" diplomatic approach towards China that would allow them to cooperate in some areas while separately handling contentious issues like the maritime dispute.

Meanwhile, Vietnam can also learn from the experience of the Philippines, the only country to have won against China in an international arbitration on claims in the West Philippine Sea. In July, the Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled in favor of the Philippines, rejecting China's claim over the disputed sea.

Vietnam welcomed the ruling and has said it might pursue similar legal action against China.
If Vietnam does file a case, Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr said, "They can certainly use the arbitral decision as a precedent in supporting their legal claims and strenghtening their legal claims."
Yasay said the historic Hague ruling is the Philippines' "contribution to the jurisprudence" on maritime law and the interpretation of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
"They would also like to learn from us but we’d like to learn from them," said Cayetano.
During the bilateral talks, Vietnamese and Philippine officials affirmed their common desire for peace and security in the region in order to provide the stability needed for their economies to grow.

China armed forces warn Japan against South China Sea patrols

From InterAksyon (Sep 29): China armed forces warn Japan against South China Sea patrols

A China Maritime Surveillance ship races a Japan Coast Guard vessel near disputed islands, called Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, in the East China Sea, in this photo taken by Kyodo April 23, 2013. REUTERS/Kyodo

Japan is "playing with fire" with plans to step up activity in the contested South China Sea through joint training patrols with the United States, China's Defence Ministry said on Thursday, warning it would not sit watching from the sidelines.

China claims virtually the entire South China Sea and has repeatedly denounced what it views as interference there by the United States and its ally, Japan.

Japan is strengthening its ties in the region, in particular with the Philippines and Vietnam, which contest China's claims to parts of the sea, and it aims to help build the capacity of coastal states in the busy waterway, its defense minister said this month during a visit to Washington.

Chinese Defence Ministry spokesman Yang Yujun, asked about Japan's plans, said it had constantly been trying to stir things up in the South China Sea for its own purposes.

"We must solemnly tell Japan this is a miscalculation. If Japan wants to have joint patrols or drills in waters under Chinese jurisdiction this really is playing with fire," Yang told a monthly news briefing.

"China's military will not sit idly by," he added, without elaborating.

Ties between Asia's two largest economies have long been overshadowed by arguments over their painful wartime history and a territorial spat in the East China Sea, among other issues.

Ships carrying about $5 trillion in trade pass through the South China Sea every year.

Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan also have claims in the sea, which is also believed to be rich in energy resources and fish stocks.

In July, an arbitration court in the Hague said China's claims to the waterway were invalid, after a case was brought by the Philippines. China has refused to recognize the ruling.

Pentagon chief stresses 'ironclad' U.S. alliance with Philippines

From InterAksyon (Sep 29): Pentagon chief stresses 'ironclad' U.S. alliance with Philippines

The United States has an "ironclad" alliance with the Philippines, U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said on Thursday, countering statements by the southeast Asian nation's president that have thrown bilateral relations into deepening uncertainty.

Carter spoke a day after Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who has branded President Barack Obama a "son of a bitch," declared upcoming U.S.-Philippines military exercises "the last" and ruled out any joint navy patrols.

"As it has been for decades, our alliance with the Philippines is ironclad," said Carter.

Through a "landmark" recent agreement, "the United States is supporting the modernization of the Philippine Armed Forces," he said.

Duterte has engaged in near-daily outbursts against the United States for the last month, raising questions about whether Manila's next moves could complicate regional diplomacy.

Among other measure, the firebrand leader has said he will order the pullout of the remaining U.S. special forces stationed in the Philippines' restive south.

The comments have cast doubt over an alliance that both countries have sought to strengthen amid shared concerns about China's military clout and pursuit of broad maritime claims. The Philippines and China have long sparred over sovereignty in the South China Sea.

Carter noted that the United States provides tens of millions of dollars to the Philippines as part of the Maritime Security Initiative.

Despite his inflammatory comments, Duterte has said the Philippines will maintain security agreements with Washington, and Philippines Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay said Duterte had only ruled out joint patrols beyond the Philippines' 12-nautical mile territorial waters. U.S. officials said this week that they had not seen formal requests from the Philippines to stop the joint patrols.

Carter also spoke broadly about the U.S. "rebalance" toward the Asia-Pacific region, and touted strong bilateral relationships with countries in the area, including Thailand, Japan, South Korea, and Australia.

Carter is due to host defense ministers from southeast Asian countries in Hawaii this week, including the Philippines. Such gatherings have recently been dominated by China's claims on parts of the South China Sea. Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, the Philippines and Taiwan have rival claims.

In a visit to the Philippines in April, Carter announced expanded military ties, including regular rotations of U.S. troops and military equipment and joint patrols in the South China Sea.

Duterte rejects Misuari’s proposal to grant amnesty to Sayyafs, include them in peace talks

From the Mindanao Examiner (Sep 29): Duterte rejects Misuari’s proposal to grant amnesty to Sayyafs, include them in peace talks
President Rodrigo Duterte has rejected proposals by Moro National Liberation Front’s Nur Misuari to grant general amnesty to Abu Sayyaf militants and include the notorious terrorist group in the peace talks with the government.

Misuari, chieftain of the former rebel group, earlier asked the government to suspend all military offensives against the Abu Sayyaf militants, whose group is tied to the Islamic State, to allow peaceful negotiations for the safe release of kidnapped Malaysian and Indonesian tugboat crew members being held in the southern Philippines.

This proposal was also rejected by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.

Duterte said if Misuari would not abandon his proposal to include the Abu Sayyaf in the talks and grant them amnesty, then the peace negotiations with the MNLF are unlikely to push through.

“You wait for another President. Ayoko ng ganoon, as a matter of principle, I will not accept that. Either Nur abandons the Abu Sayyaf or he will take care of the Abu Sayyaf,” Duterte said in rejecting Misuari’s proposals.

Duterte said he has been waiting for Misuari to start the peace talks until the former Libyan firebrand came up with the Abu Sayyaf proposals. “Si Nur Misuari, I have been waiting for him. Ang bagong proposal is pati Abu Sayyaf isali na niya. At pagdating ng panahon kung magka-okay tayo, isali niya sa general amnesty. Pagka ganoon, huwag na lang tayong mag-usap. I will not. For the life of me, I will not. Why should I talk to animals? What’s the point?” he asked.

But MNLF spokesman Emmanuel Fontanilla strongly denied that Misuari wanted the Abu Sayyaf in the peace talks. According to a report by The Philippine Star, Fontanilla expressed concern that some people might have been feeding Duterte false information to disrupt the resumption of peace talks with the government.

“We vehemently deny that chairman Misuari wants Abu Sayyaf to be included in the negotiation, we condemn terrorist actions,” Fontanilla was quoted as saying.

He said Misuari, in a gesture of goodwill, heeded the call of Duterte to help secure the release of the Abu Sayyaf hostages in Sulu and even engaged the militants in armed clashes that killed some MNLF members.

Duterte May Talk Big, But Philippines Won’t Break Ties With the US Any Time Soon

Posted to The Wire (Sep 28): Duterte May Talk Big, But Philippines Won’t Break Ties With the US Any Time Soon (By Richard Javad Heydarian)

The foul-mouthed, tough-talking president of the Philippines is ironically a pragmatist on foreign policy.

President Rodrigo Duterte (C) clenches fist while wearing a Blue Bird jacket given by the Philippine Air Force (PAF) during the 250th Presidential Airlift Wing (PAW) anniversary at the villamor air base in Pasay city, metro Manila, Philippines September 13, 2016. Credit: Reuters/ Romeo Ranoco - RTSNIND

President Rodrigo Duterte (C) clenches fist while wearing a Blue Bird jacket given by the Philippine Air Force (PAF) during the 250th Presidential Airlift Wing (PAW) anniversary at the villamor air base in Pasay city, metro Manila, Philippines September 13, 2016. Credit: Reuters/ Romeo Ranoco – RTSNIND
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has said he will visit Russia and China to “open alliances” with the two states.

His announcement follows weeks of toxic rhetoric from the president about relationships between the Philippines and Western partners, both US and EU.

Since his election, the Filipino leader has made invective-laden speeches against Western partners and their leaders, including the US President Barack Obama, decrying them for interfering in Philippine’s domestic affairs.

At the heart of this emerging dispute is not some fundamental geopolitical clash, but the issue of human rights.

Duterte is incensed by increasingly focused criticism of his campaign against drugs, which has led to a spike in murders and provoked uproar among human rights advocates.

Not only has the president rebuffed calls for an independent investigation by the UN and other concerned organisations, he has also threatened to downgrade military ties with America.

Constitutional duty?

Duterte may be inflaming tensions, but on foreign policy he has the law on his side. The Philippines’ 1987 constitution enshrines the principle of independence. It says:
The [Philippine] state shall pursue an independent foreign policy. In its relations with other states, the paramount consideration shall be national sovereignty, territorial integrity, national interest and the right to self-determination.
This policy of independence mandates that the country should not align itself with either the West or the East, but instead pursue friendly relations with all relevant international actors depending on the national interest.

So on the surface, Duterte is simply fulfilling his constitutional duty as the new national commander-in-chief. But a closer look reveals that the Filipino president has something more specific in mind.

Conscious uncoupling

It’s the emphasis on non-dependence on America that is unique to Duterte’s foreign policy preference. For almost a century, the Philippines has stood shoulder-to-shoulder with US, first as a colony and later as a staunch regional ally.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines and the broader Philippine security establishment have, over the decades, heavily depended on financial assistance, logistical support and intelligence cooperation from the US. In many ways, Washington is indispensable to Philippine national security interests.

And, in light of rising tensions in the South China Sea – with Beijing expanding its military, para-military and construction footprint across Philippine-claimed waters – Manila has become ever more dependent on American military assistance.

For Duterte, however, his country has become too subservient and too dependent on a foreign power that isn’t reliable enough. He has, on multiple occasions, openly questioned the US’s commitment to the Philippines amid the maritime spats in the region.

Washington has never clarified whether the US-Philippine mutual defence treaty covers the specific areas of dispute in the South China Sea. And US military assistance to the Philippines pales in comparison to that enjoyed by European and Middle Eastern allies.

Manila has become ever more dependent on American military assistance, in light of rising tensions in the South China Sea. Credit: Reuters

Manila has become ever more dependent on American military assistance, in light of rising tensions in the South China Sea.  Credit: Reuters
As a self-described socialist and long-term mayor of the frontier city of Davao in southern Philippines, Duterte also harbours some misgivings about the role of the US in the conflict in the Mindanao region during his tenure.

Everybody needs good neighbours

Duterte has always emphasised the necessity of forging close and friendly ties with other Asian countries, particularly economic giants such as China and Japan, which are crucial to the Philippines’ economic development.

Despite the bitter disputes in the South China Sea, he has consistently called for dialogue and peaceful management of territorial spats, while welcoming large-scale Chinese infrastructure investments in the country.

In this sense, the foul-mouthed, tough-talking president of the Philippines is a pragmatist on foreign policy, especially when compared to his more urbane predecessor, Benigno Aquino, who went so far as likening China to Nazi Germany.

In itself, a policy geared towards less dependence on  the US and more engagement with China seems sensible for a country like the Philippines. And realistically, the Philippines isn’t forging military alliances with Moscow and Beijing anytime soon.

Some critics are likening Duterte to Hugo Chavez, the staunchly anti-American Venezuelan president who served from 2009 until his death in 2013, suggesting he will plunge an erstwhile American ally into the embrace of Eastern powers.

But given the depth of economic and strategic ties between Manila and the West and the hard-to-resolve territorial tensions between Manila and Beijing, it is likely that the Philippines will, at most, move along the path of Turkey under President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Erdoğan has had occasional diplomatic dust-ups over democracy and human rights issues with the West, but the fundamentals of military-to-military and investment relations remained intact.

Just as Erdogan’s Turkey, Duterte’s Philippines is unlikely to decouple from the West, though bilateral relations are no longer sacrosanct.

[Richard Javad Heydarian is an assistant professor in International Studies at the De La Salle University.]

[This article was originally published on The Conversation.]

Industry/ADAS 2016: Saab targets Gripen at Philippines

From IHS Janes 360 (Sep 28): Industry/ADAS 2016: Saab targets Gripen at Philippines

Saab is opening an office in the Philippines to pursue an opportunity for the Gripen. Source: Saab

Saab is to open an office in Manila by the end of 2016 to support the company's campaign to sell its JAS 39 Gripen fighter aircraft to the Philippine Air Force (PAF), an official from the Swedish company told I HS Jane's on 28 September.

Speaking on the opening day of the Asian Defence and Security 2016 (ADAS 2016) exhibition in Manila, Carl-Erik Leek, Saab's executive vice-president in the Asia Pacific, said the new office would be the centre of the company's marketing activities in the country.

At present, these are undertaken from Saab's regional headquarters in Thailand, although the company does not currently have a major presence, in terms of previous defence sales, in the Philippine market.

The new office will also be supported by the Swedish government's intention, announced in December 2015, to open an embassy in Manila to support growth in bilateral trade and investment.

Both Saab's office and the new embassy are expected to be operational by November.

Leek, who will head up the new Manila office, said Saab's primary target in the Philippines is the PAF's requirement - outlined in the service's modernisation programme, Flight Plan 2028 - for 12 multirole combat aircraft. "Saab can fulfil the PAF requirement for an affordable fighter aircraft," said Leek. "We think we are a strong contender."

He added that the offer would include a package of support systems, similar to the capabilities that Saab has supplied the Royal Thai Air Force, which procured 12 Gripen C/D aircraft ordered in two phases in 2008 and 2010, with deliveries completed in 2013. "[The PAF offer] will be a whole system including ground infrastructure, an integrated command-and-control system, sensors, and datalinks," he said.

In addition, Leek highlighted opportunities for Saab to meet Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) requirements for naval systems - such as combat management systems - radars and air defence....

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