3 ASG surrender to marines in Sulu, turn over 3 high-powered firearms

Three more Abu Sayyaf members on Monday surrendered to the marines of the Joint Task Force Sulu (JTF Sulu) in Jolo, Sulu.

Sulu Map (Photo courtesy of Google Map) Manila Bulletin

Sulu Map (Credits: Google Map | Manila Bulletin)

Hajar Abbang, 38, a resident of Barangay Kan Bulak, Luuk, Sulu; Kirah Ainazri Jawad, 20 ; and Sani S Jawad, 18, both residents of Buanza, Indanan voluntarily surrendered to the Philippine Marine Ready Force 2 of the Joint Task Force Sulu at 9:45 a.m.

According to Abang, he was formerly a follower of the late Abu Sayyaf Group Subleader (ASGSL) Alhabsy Misaya while the other two are followers of the late ASG subleader Abraham Hamid.

“The trio also voluntarily turned over their firearms, an M16 rifle; an M79 rifle; and an M1 Garand rifle to our soldiers,” said Brig. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, commander of the Joint Task Force Sulu.

The three were brought to Kuta Heneral Teodulfo Bautista Station Hospital in Barangay Busbus, Jolo, Sulu for medical checkup and for custodial debriefing.

Sobejana lauded the accomplishment of the marines and said, ‘with the right combination of focused military operations that pressures the ASG and the nonviolent approach that we are introducing, it is expected that more ASG members will be neutralized which may lead to their eventual downfall.

“It is notable that since our proposal for the ASG surrenderer Comprehensive Reintegration Program, more ASG members now returns to the folds of the law with firearms. This is a welcome development for us since we want to end our campaign against the ASG peacefully. After all, they are just misguided individuals and also Filipinos whom we are bound to serve,” he added.

For this year, a total of 23 ASG personalities have already surrendered to the units of Western Mindanao Command. There were 10 in Basilan; 11 in Sulu and two in Tawi-Tawi.

“The command continues to process surrenderers and will not stop exerting effort in reaching out to those who are having second thoughts to surrender,” said Lt. Gen.

Carlito G Galvez Jr., commander of the Western Mindanao Command.

“As of this development, we have already reached a tally of 181 ASG surrenderers since 2017 and it continues to snowball as we sustain our campaign against the ASG in BaSulTa island provinces,” he said.

3 ASG surrender to marines in Sulu, turn over 3 high-powered firearms

Top CPP-NPA leader falls in Agusan

Camp Bancasi, Butuan City – The Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) suffered  another telling blow when one of its high ranking officials  was arrested in Agusan del Sur, a top Army commander in the area said yesterday.

Maj. Gen. Ronald C. Villanueva, commanding general of the Army’s Northeastern and Northern Mindanao Fourth Infantry (Diamond) Division (4th ID), said the CPP-NPA absorbed yet another setback with the arrest of

Pablito S. Campos, Jr., alias “Batik” or “Ponsoy,” believed to be the secretary and political officer of Guerilla-Front Committee 21-A (GFC 21-A) and at the same time the alleged spokesperson of the CPP-NPA Sub Regional Committee of Westland of North Eastern Mindanao Regional Committee (SRCW-NEMRC).

He was arrested in Purok 3, Barangay El Rio, Sibagat, Agusan del Sur last February 23.

Campos had eight warrants of arrest issued against him by courts in Lianga, Surigao del Sur and Bayugan City in Agusan del Sur.

He was placed in the most wanted list for the crimes of rebellion, murder, frustrated murder, multiple attempted murder, kidnapping and serious illegal detention.

“Pablito Campos’ apprehension is a big setback for the NPA terrorists in Caraga region knowing that he is the brains of Front Committee 21-A,” Villanueva said in a statement sent to The Manila Bulletin.

The 4th ID chief said the suspect was also the alleged top propagandist and recruiter in the hinterlands of Sibagat town and neighboring areas, and in Bayugan City, all of Agusan del Sur and San Miguel town and neighboring areas in Surigao del Sur, the root of terrorism in the said areas.

“GFC 21-A will soon experience blind leadership and eventually the downfall of the said front,” Maj. Gen. Villanueva further claimed.

The 4th ID chief said he was calling on the remaining NPAs of that guerilla front committee to come down and lay down their arms peacefully.

Top CPP-NPA leader falls in Agusan

China’s ‘illegal’ research in Benham Rise bared

A CHINESE ship conducted the first “illegal” research in Benham Rise, also known as Philippine Rise,  in 2004, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon said Monday.

Speaking during the Senate science and technology hearing on the Philippine Rise, Esperon said the government failed to know what the Chinese were researching at the time because of the lack of capabilities.

Esperon said the unauthorized 2004 research was even used by China to support its request to officially name five underwater features in the Philippine Rise.

“For one, they conducted marine scientific research in 2004. It did not go through the process, they had no permits,” Esperon said.

The research was done during the time of former president and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

While he was concerned with this development, Esperon said they did not have sufficient capabilities to address it.

“If we look at the resources that we had, we have sufficient but limited capabilities. The Northern Luzon Command is also like that,” Esperon said.

Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of naval staff Rear Adm. Erick Kagaoan said the Philippine Navy has monitored foreign ships with no diplomatic clearance, but did not divulge the countries. He also said that they have monitored unauthorized ships that were anchored while in Philippine waters.

In 2017, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana aired his concern after a Chinese survey ship was spotted crisscrossing the underwater plateau for a period of up to three months.

Maritime law expert Jay Batongbacal said it was found that the ship was surveying, not Benham Rise, but the east of Surigao province, which he said was worse because it was closer to the Philippine coast.

“After some digging, we found out they did not do research, but that’s the good news. But they did research on Philippine EEZ, east of Sigurao. It’s worse, it’s even closer,” said Batongbacal.

Esperon also acknowledged this was done without permit. He said there was, this time, a research ship.

“I remember the controversy over that around April last year, that’s why we named the area Philippine Rise, because we got angry,” he said.

Aside from that, Esperon said there have been ships spotted, which initially looked like they are just exercising their freedom of navigation.

The ship stayed in the region starting November 2016, after President Rodrigo Duterte’s visit to China, and left in January.

In January 2018, the Philippine government allowed a Chinese ship to survey the eastern seaboard, including Philippine Rise.

Batongbacal cited three violations of the Chinese government in this case.

“First, the permit states that there would be a team from the Philippines to join the study,” he said.

It was revealed in the hearing that there were only Philippine representatives onboard in three out of six days of the survey inside the country’s exclusive economic zone. There were also problems with the availability of experts from the University of the Philippines’ Marine Science Institute.

Second, Batongbacal said the Chinese vessel came earlier than indicated in the permit. Lastly, he said the ship supposedly turned off its Automatic Identification System, which serves as a tracker.

“Based on the track of the vessel they came earlier than indicated, so they did the research earlier than what they said,” he said.


PH to place markers at Benham Rise

THE Philippine government is set to deploy before June 12, Independence Day, at least 10 “sovereign markers” to assert the country’s claim on the Philippine Rise.

BUOYS, NOT RIGS National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. (right) is summoned to the Senate to discuss the granting of permits for
research expeditions at the Philippine Rise. PHOTO BY RENE H. DILAN

National Security Adviser Secretary Hermogenes Esperon Jr. made the remark on Monday at the sidelines of the Senate inquiry into exploration studies at Philippine Rise, also known as Benhm Rise, and West Philippine Sea, as well as the state of maritime research by Filipino scientists.

“If you’re going to put up a rig there just to say that’s our Philippine Rise, you might have to spend P6 billion. So, why not put up sovereign markers instead?” Esperon said in an interview.

He said the buoys would cost the government P120 million and were being assembled by the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG).

He also said that the commercial development of marine wealth in the Philippine Rise “should be opened for MSR (marine science research) to both Filipino and foreign scientists.”

“By doing so, the Philippines also improves its own capabilities to conduct MSR by joining or partnering with foreign scientists. The country could develop capabilities to exploit marine resources, pharmaceuticals, food and others,” Esperon said.

The Philippine Rise is said to have huge deposits of solid nodules of methane that could potentially turn the Philippines into a natural gas exporter. It is a seismically active undersea region estimated to cover an area of about 13 million hectares located east of Luzon and is 35 meters underwater, with the shallowest point located off the provinces of Aurora and Isabela.

He reiterated that the government had suspended the issuance of permits to foreigners who want to conduct MSR in the area, pending an executive order itemizing the new requirements for the granting of such permits.

Sen. Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino, chairman of the Senate Committee on Science and Technology, said the country must find research partners who will follow the country’s rules, during the hearing of the Committee on Science and Technology on the Philippine Rise.

“It’s hard to partner with someone who is stubborn. We should find partners who will follow our rules,” said Aquino, who led the Senate hearing.

He made the remark amid revelations that in previous years, China violated Philippine sovereign rights when it conducted hydrographic surveys in the Philippine Rise “without required consent” from Manila.

Esperon said each of the sovereign markers or buoys would cost P12 million and would be placed near the Benham Bank. He said it would be “impractical” to put up a rig in the area due to huge waves.

PH to place markers at Benham Rise

Gov’t to summon Benham researchers

The government plans to summon researchers in Beijing-led exploration of Benham Rise due to a breach of agreement regarding such scientific missions.
It has been revealed that China’s Institute of Oceanology of Chinese Academy of Sciences (IOCAS) did not comply with the Philippines’ condition to bring along with them Filipino scientists in the maritime scientific research (MSR) approved by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) last January 19.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque, a known expert on international law, promised the government will call on Chinese and Filipino scientists behind the MSR to gather its results.

“The researchers will have to be summoned,” he said.
University of the Philippines-Marine Science Institute’s (UP-MSI) Dr. Cesar Villanoy, in a Senate hearing yesterday, said that there were no Filipinos in three out of the six-day MSR led by the Beijing-based think tank.
In a Palace media briefing, Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said that he cannot tell whether or not IOCAS has complied or not with Manila’s research requisite.

“I cannot answer that with being definite because I do not know why they were not there,” Roque said.
“It could be that they were engaged in scientific research, it could be that their presence was not required because it was not a material step, it could be preparatory,” he added.

During the Senate hearing, opposition Senator Bam Aquino said that if Filipino researchers were not ready for those three days, their Chinese counterparts should have been asked to postpone its exploration.
“We have been too nice. If our (Filipino) research team was not ready, we could have insisted to postpone it,” Aquino said.
“It’s our territory, it’s our prerogative,” he added.
Benham Rise, officially renamed by President Duterte as the Philippine Rise through an Executive Order, is a seismically active undersea region and extinct volcanic ridge located in the Philippine Sea approximately 250 250 Gov’t to summon Benham researcherskilometers east of the northern coastline of Dinapigue, Isabela.

The Philippines claimed it as part of its continental shelf in a claim lodged with the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf in April 2009. It was approved under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) in 2012.

EDCA may make RP a target

The Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) that the country has with the United States may be an invitation for US rivals in the region to mark the Philippines as a ballistic missile target.

This was how retired army General Victor Corpuz sees the current situation on the silent war that the US and China are engaged in as the Chinese had been flexing its muscle over the construction of a number of artificial islands at the contested South China Sea.

At the weekly Tapatan sa Aristocrat forum, Corpuz presented two scenarios that he believes can happen in case war erupts in the region. The presence of US troops at the RP soil will be a sure priority of the Chinese military base established in the contested maritime areas.

The first scenario which he called the “win-lose” is to oppose the presence of the Chinese which will provoke a war which would mean suicidal for the nation due to its weak defense force.

A second approach in dealing with China is what he termed the “win-win” strategy wherein a status quo is maintained that would result in an economic bonanza from China which is what the Duterte administration is doing.
Corpuz defended the China interest in the disputed islands saying that it is in accordance with their country’s survival and protection.

Former Paranaque Representative Roilo Golez for his part deplore the Chinese move on occupying several sea island inside the Philippine territory which he dubbed as “Chinese invasion” by saying that despite losing in the case filed with the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) at the Hague they continue to do their unhampered buildup of structures.

Golez further said that the real intension is to put up their artilleries to have control over the sea going vessels passing through the ocean path.

A Naval expert, Golez said that the US forces has no intension of entering the sea areas controlled by the Chinese in the South China Sea and noted that after intruding and occupying some of our sea territory surprisingly we have discovered they intension of claiming another sea waters of our which is the Benham Rise.


Esperon: Benham, WPS research to benefit PH

National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. on Monday told the Senate committee on science and technology that it would be to the Philippines’ national interest to encourage maritime scientific research (MSRs) in its own territorial waters.

Speaking at a Senate joint committee hearing into the maritime scientific studies conducted in the Philippine Rise, formerly known as Benham Rise, Esperon said that the government stands to benefit from MSRs on its own territorial waters, be it done by local or foreign entities.

As chairman of the Task Force for the West Philippine Sea, Esperon said he agrees that the University of the Philippines Marine Scientific Institute (UP-MSI), and the Philippine Council for Aquatic, Agriculture and Natural Resources Research and Development and the Philippine Council for Industry, Energy and Emerging Technology Research and Development Center “should conduct studies at the Philippine Rise and the West Philippine Sea to account for the aquatic, mineral and oil and gas deposit in the maritime territory.”

“MSRs should not even be confined to these entities, but any national government agency and state university that have statutory mandate to do research and development should be encouraged and supported to do MSR,” Esperon told the committee chaired by Sen. Paolo Aquino IV.

“The Philippines has a water area of 1,830 square kilometers and the coastline that stretches for 36,289 kilometers. For obvious reasons, it is about seven times our land territory. For obvious reasons, the country’s maritime assets are as important as the land,” Esperon said.

“Therefore, their sustainable development is included in our national plans and good stewardship over all the bodies of waters within the archipelago and the maritime receives of which the Philippine is entitled under the UN convention of the law of the sea is a collective responsibility of all Filipinos,” he stressed.


Gov’t seeks revocation of China named Rise features

The government might after all contest China’s naming of five undersea features in the Philippine (Benham) Rise after initially downplaying the issue.

At the hearing of the Senate committee on science and technology chaired by Sen. Paolo Benigno Aquino IV on the Philippine Rise, officials from the National Mapping and Resource Information Authority (NAMRIA) said they are urging the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to initiate the nullification of the Chinese names for the undersea features.

It was the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO) that allowed Beijing to give Chinese names to five features in Benham Rise, now called Philippine Rise.

NAMRIA said China vio- lated certain rules in naming features under the IHO’s Sub-Committee on Undersea Features Names (SCUFN).

NAMRIA assistant director Herbert Catapang said the naming of the Institute of Oceanology Chinese Academy of Sciences (IOCAS) of the features found in a 13 million-hectare undersea plateau was not in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

“The way the submitted data were collected is not in accord with the UNCLOS since China was not granted consent by the Philippine government to undertake hydrographic surveys within our maritime jurisdiction,” Catapang told the hearing.

He also said IOCAS did not consult with the interested parties in naming the features as strongly encouraged by the SCUFN.

Catapang also stated that apparently SCUFN violated its own Rules of Procedure, specifically Article 2.10 that states: “The Sub-Committee will not consider undersea feature name proposals that are politically sensitive.”

“We can consider these proposals as such considering our dispute with China over the West Philippine Sea and the result of the recent arbitral ruling on the South China Sea,” the NAMRIA official said.

The IOCAS reportedly discovered the undersea features in 2004 and proceeded to apply for their naming in 2014 and 2016.

National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. and lawyer Jay Batongbacal of the University of the Philippines Institute for Maritime Affairs and the Law of the Sea backed the proposal of NAMRIA.

Esperon, however, said President Duterte may also issue an executive order to name the features as it did with the Philippine Rise.

Officials also confirmed reports that IOCAS and apparently other Chinese agencies had been surveying Philippine Rise in the past without permits from the government.

Batongbacal said a Chinese scientific vessel has installed at least three instrument platforms in the eastern side of the country that measures salinity, temperature, currents and other aspects of the sea.

He said the data can be used for scientific and military purposes.

He also lamented the lack of available personnel to accompany foreign expeditions in the area as required by the government. Batongbacal cited a sixday Chinese scientific survey in which Filipino scientists took part for only three days.

“Let’s be honest, the reason why we’re here is because of the problem, the infraction on the western side (West Philippine Sea), so what’s happening in the eastern side is a bit alarming,” Aquino said.

Esperon said the Coast Guard is installing this year 10 sovereign buoys at the cost of P120 million around Philippine Rise to reiterate the country’s sovereignty over the area.

The funding is included in the 2018 national budget as approved by Congress.

Esperon and Lt. Gen. Emmanuel Salamat also told the inquiry that the government is closely monitoring the passage of ships in the area, especially those that are suspiciously “loitering.”

They said some foreign vessels, including one of IOCAS, turned off their automatic identification system to avoid tracking.

Rear Adm. Erick Kagaoan, Chief of Naval Staff, said the Navy is doing its best to deploy assets to track suspicious vessels in the area.

At Malacañang, presidential spokesman Harry Roque said he was not aware of any Chinese research activities in Philippine Rise conducted without the presence of Filipino scientists.

“I do not know that as a fact. So, we’d be interested to know what the resource persons have to say,” Roque said at a press briefing yesterday.

“It could be that they were engaged in scientific research, it could be that their presence was not required because it was not a material step, it could be preparatory, I do not know. As I said, the researchers will have to be summoned,” he added.


3 Reds surrender

BAGUMBAYAN, Sultan Kudarat – Three suspected members of the New People’s Army (NPA) yielded to military authorities here on Wednesday. Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc, 33rd Infantry Battalion commander, identified the surrenderees as Tikay Ambag, Wilhard Basalo, and Crisanto Colano, who were allegedly designated as NPA leaders operating in a remote village in Barangay Ned, Lake Sebu, South Cotabato. The three are just the latest in a wave of surrendering guerillas in Sultan Kudarat. At least 120 other NPA members yielded in the region earlier.

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