AFP to deploy 3 more navy ships to patrol in West PH Sea

Aileen Cerrudo   •   April 15, 2021   •   315

MANILA, Philippines—The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) will deploy three additional navy ships to patrol the West Philippine Sea.

According to AFP Chief Gen. Cirilito Sobejana the navy ships will continue to patrol around the disputed islands and will add more ships.

Ginagawa natin ang ating sovereignty patrol at mayroon tayong (We are conducting our sovereignty patrol and we have) resupply or re-prepositioning of our deployed forces in our different shoals and reef,” he said.

Meanwhile, the United States’ Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group (TRCSG), the Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group (ARG), and the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Port Royal remain in the South China Sea for routine operation.

Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Manuel Romualdez previously stated that the US deployed the said ships in the disputed areas to maintain freedom of navigation and to protect the seaway in the region.

Sobejana said the presence of the US warships would be impactful.

Alam naman ng China na we have an existing Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) with the US. Isa sa topic na napag-usapan namin ay ang coverage ng MDT. Kasi lately napag-alaman ng lahat na (China knows that we have an existing Mutual Defense Treaty with the US. One of the topics we have discussed is the coverage of the MDT. Because, lately, we learned that) there was so-called harassment against a civilian Filipino boat,” Sobejana said.

The Philippines already deployed four navy ships apart from the three additional naval vessels. AAC (with reports from Lea Ylagan)

Duterte: I asked Chinese Pres. Xi Jinping for help on COVID-19 vaccines but no talks on WPS

Robie de Guzman   •   May 11, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday disclosed that he asked help from his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping in obtaining COVID-19 vaccines but insisted that they did not discuss issues on the West Philippine Sea.

During his Talk to the People public address on Monday night, Duterte recalled how he called Xi when the Philippines had yet to get any supply of COVID-19 vaccines.

“Let me just also say na itong history na… for public consumption na ito. Tumawag ako kay President Xi Jinping, sinabi ko kasi noong kasagsagan ng walang dumating talaga, walang makapkap si Secretary (Carlito) Galvez (Jr.), tumawag ako, sabi ko, ‘Mr. President (Xi), I would like to ask for your help until now Philippines is at a loss on how to get vaccines,’” he said.

“Sabi niya, ‘it’s okay we will help you.’ Ganoon lang. Hindi naman sinabi na kalimutan mo yung Scarborough Shoal, bigyan kita… Sinabi niya lang as simple as that,” he added.

The Philippines first received 600,000 doses of Sinovac COVID-19 vaccines that were donated by the Chinese government on February 28. The national government used this supply to roll out its vaccination program on March 1.

In total, the Philippines has received 1 million donated Sinovac vaccine doses from China, including the 400,000 doses that were delivered in March.

Duterte stood by his earlier statement that the Philippines owes a debt of gratitude to China for all its help but emphasized that there would be no compromise on the West Philippine Sea issue.

“It’s never, never wrong to say that I owe you a debt of gratitude. Totoo eh, binigyan tayo, tinanggap natin, ginamit natin,” he said.

“But it does not mean na tanggapin ko ang bakuna tapos sabihin ko kalimutan ko na yung claim diyan sa West Philippine sea, okay na yun dahil sa bakuna… It was never like that, the world does not operate like that,” he added.

He said there would be no compromise on the issue and that China knows it.

“Maski bahain tayo dito ng vaccine, gagamitin ko pa rin pero sabihin ko ‘hindi ito kabayaran’. Iba ito. This is a Philippine national interest, this is not a health issue that nagpasalamat ako,” he said.

Correction:
An earlier version of this article misstated that “they did discuss issues.” 

Why did Duterte tap out of challenge to debate with Carpio?

Robie de Guzman   •   May 10, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday said he is not afraid of facing retired Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio in a debate on issues surrounding the West Philippine Sea.

Duterte last week dared Carpio to square off on the loss of a Philippine territory during the Aquino administration, but later tapped out and instead delegated the task to his spokesperson, lawyer Harry Roque.

“What was in my mind when I challenged Carpio into a debate? Ang problema lang kasi dito nakalimutan ko na si Carpio hindi ang presidente – ako,” Duterte said in his weekly Talk to the People on Monday night.

Duterte said he had to back out of the challenge because anything he might say there could be construed as a “policy statement.”

“I might bind future actions of government pagdating dito sa West Philippine Sea,” he said.

“Pero dodoon ako sa kahon, it’s not because I am afraid of debates,” he added, saying that he had faced many debates with political rivals for the presidency in 2016.

“Hindi ako takot sa’yo, ang problema, hindi ko nga alam na hindi ka president,” he further said, addressing Carpio.

Duterte has blamed the previous administration over the loss of the Scarborough Shoal in the West Philippine Sea following a standoff in 2012.

Former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario earlier said that China “deceitfully breached” its agreement with the Philippines to withdraw the ships of both sides to end the standoff.

The Philippines then pursued an arbitral case against China in 2014. The Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled in 2016 in favor of the Philippines and nullified China’s vast claims in the South China Sea, including parts of the West Philippine Sea.

Duterte said he tried pursuing the arbitral ruling but nothing happened.

China has been ignoring the diplomatic protest that the Philippine government has repeatedly filed over the incursion of Chinese vessels in the contested waters.

2 Abu Sayyaf Group leaders, 6 members arrested in Sabah

Robie de Guzman   •   May 10, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — Two alleged sub-leaders and six members of the terrorist Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) were nabbed in Jalan Taman Sri Arjuna, Beaufort, Sabah, a military official said Monday.

In a statement, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Western Mindanao Command (WestMinCom) chief Lieutenant General Corleto Vinluan Jr. said the joint operation that occurred around 3 a.m. on Saturday, May 8, was jointly conducted by troops from the AFP and the Malaysia’s Eastern Sabah Southern Command (ESSCOM).

The military identified the arrested persons as Sansibar Bensio, and Mabar Binda, both sub-leaders of the Eastern Sulu-based Abu Sayyaf Group;

Muayyar Binda, a certain Sansis, and a certain Firdaus, who are all under Mabar Binda; Lugah Sanchez and Bonijar Samsula, both members under the late ASG sub-leader Juhurim Hussein (Patikul-based); and Alim Sukarno, a member under Sansibar Bensio.

According to Joint Task Force Sulu commander Maj. Gen. William Gonzales, Bensio and Binda are both sub-leaders of the Abu Sayyaf Group/Kidnap-for-Ransom Group based on the eastern/second district of Sulu.

“They are involved in the series of armed confrontations with the military including the encounter on July 2011 at Sitio Tubig Magtuh, Barangay Panglayahan, Patikul, Sulu wherein the late 2nd Lt. Michael Baladad of the Philippine Marines was beheaded,” Gonzales said.

The military said the two were also involved in the encounters at Bay Sunog, Bud Bawis Complex in February 2018 that resulted in the deaths of five ASG members;  Sitio Jatih, Bud Bawis Complex in December 2019 that resulted in the rescue of two Indonesian nationals and the death of the late ASG sub-leader Hairulla Abduraja; and the encounter at Bay Takas, Bud Bawis Complex in November 2020 that resulted in the deaths of ASG member Bensio Barahama and sub-leader Hatib Munap Binda.

“Bensio was also involved in the kidnapping of foreign nationals identified as Lorenzo Vinciguerra (Swiss National), Ewold Horn (Dutch National), Samiun Bin Maneu (Indonesian National), Maharudin Bin Lunani (Indonesian National), and Muhammad Farhan (Indonesian National),” the AFP-WestMinCom said.

The group also victimized several Filipinos, including Ronnie Sandagon, Jerel Pepito, Eddie Reubal, Marcial España, Arvin Sabaduquia, Rufino Bustillo, Joseph Bani, Hajan Terong, Joshua Bani, and Michelle Tolentino Panes.

Binda, on the other hand, was also involved in the kidnapping of the Indonesian nationals mentioned above.

According to 4th Marine Brigade Commander Col. Hernanie Songano, the now-apprehended group of ASG bandits fled to Sabah where they established an ASG cell after they were forced out of the province of Sulu due to focused military operations and civil-military cooperation.

“The intensified intelligence operations and the support of the community coupled with the constant coordination between the AFP and the ESSCOM contributed to the successful neutralization of the ASG sub-leaders and their cohorts. The arrest of these terrorists is a big blow to the ASG” Vinluan said.

“My congratulations to the troops of the Joint Task Force Sulu and the ESSCOM for the aggressive measures taken to ensure that these terrorists will not be able to conduct horrendous activities anymore particularly off waters of Sabah” he added.

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