AFP vows support for further development of Pag-asa, Kalayaan Island Group

Robie de Guzman   •   July 21, 2021   •   114

MANILA, Philippines – Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief General Cirilito Sobejana on Wednesday pledged the military’s support for the further development of Pag-asa Island and the protection of the Kalayaan Island Group (KIG) in the West Philippine Sea.

In a statement, Sobejana said there is a need to turn the Pag-asa Island into a logistics hub to protect Kalayaan’s biodiversity and the livelihood of its fishing communities.

He said this need was acknowledged during a virtual meeting with Palawan governor and chairperson of the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development Jose Alvarez on Monday, July 19.

“We are glad that we are on the same page in the future of the province of Palawan, that we view it as a strategic and critical national security frontier, particularly in the interests of ecological balance and sustainable development,” Sobejana said.

Also discussed in the meeting is the further development of Pag-asa as “haven for Filipino fishermen as well as a possible tourist destination.”

“Such move will require expansion and construction of facilities that are aimed at sustaining an increase in economic activity in the island,” Sobejana said.

The AFP chief also lauded the initiatives of the Palawan provincial government to protect the nation’s interest through its proposal to declare the KIG as a protected area under the Expanded National Integrated Protected Areas System (Republic Act 7586).

“We are at a point when we have to stick together as one nation and we are glad that the Provincial Government of Palawan is already on board,” he added.

Sobejana last visited Pag-asa Island in June over plans to convert it into a logistics hub.

AFP, PNP, PCG ink deal to boost operations vs terrorism, insurgency

Robie de Guzman   •   July 23, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the Philippine National Police (PNP), and the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) on Friday signed a tripartite accord that seeks to further enhance interoperability during internal and external security operations.

In a statement, the PNP said the tripartite mechanism was officially adopted by the three agencies through Resolution Nr. 11-2021 which included the PCG in the Joint Peace and Security Coordinating Center (JPSCC).

The move is in line with the government’s ‘whole-of-nation’ approach towards peace and security; engaging the PNP, AFP, and PCG to work together in keeping the country safe and secure.

AFP Chief of Staff General Cirilito Sobejana, PNP chief General Guillermo Eleazar, and PCG commandant Admiral George Ursabia Jr. will serve as co-chairs of the National JPSCC.

As a new JPSCC member agency, the PCG will play a vital role in forming various concepts of operations that will address the country’s complex and evolving maritime threats.

“We look forward to future collaborative efforts among agency members in terms of maritime safety and security, maritime law enforcement, and the protection of the country’s marine environment,” Sobejana said in the same statement.

“The present challenges offer a great opportunity for us to enhance our coordination and interoperability. This has been a journey built from the ground by men in uniform service who selflessly serve for years and further stimulated and sustained at the policy side. For the PCG Team, we are so fortunate today that we are here to solidify the PCG as the third arm service in our lifetime,” Ursabia said.

Aside from the joint accord, the three agency heads also signed the JPSCC Letter Directive Nr. 03-2021, which called for the reorganization of the JPSCC.

In the revised structure, the National JPSCC will now be headed by the PNP Chief, AFP Chief, and PCG Commandant while PNP Directors for Integrated Police Operation, AFP Unified Commanders, and PCG Area Commanders will exercise supervision over the Regional and Provincial JPSCCs.

The accord also stipulates that cooperation and coordination among the AFP, PNP, and PCG complemented by collaboration and consultation with all stakeholders shall be the guiding principle in addressing peace and security concerns.

“Despite differences in our respective uniforms and in the scopes of our respective work and mandates, we are all bound together by our common oath to serve and protect the Filipino people and our country as well as safeguard the national interest,” Eleazar said.

“But most importantly, we all have the same faith and hope for humanity. That is, perhaps the most fundamental reason why we need to foster and strengthen our cooperation and collaboration – to promote the common good” he added.

The joint accord was signed in Camp General Emilio Aguinaldo in Quezon City.

5 alleged Abu Sayyaf Group members surrender in Basilan

Robie de Guzman   •   July 20, 2021

Five suspected members of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) have surrendered to authorities in Lamitan City, Basilan, the military said on Tuesday.

In a statement, Lt. Gen. Corleto Vinluan, Jr., Commander of the Armed Forces of the Philippines Western Mindanao Command (AFP WestMinCom), said the bandits turned themselves in at the 68th Infantry Battalion Headquarters in Campo Uno on Monday.

The military identified the bandits as alias Nori, 32 years old; alias Ansar, 44; alias Dam, 44; alias Miyo, 42; and alias Sharim, 30.

The five were said to be members of the ASG unit under the late Isnilon Hapilon.

They also surrendered their firearms, which include four M1 Garand rifles and one KG9 semi-automatic pistol along with one magazine and five cartridge 9mm ammunition.

The alleged ASG members and their firearms were presented to Joint Task Force Basilan Commander, Brig. Gen. Domingo Gobway.

Gobway said the Joint Task Force-Basilan together with the provincial and local government officials, will assist the former violent extremists in their reintegration into mainstream society.

“We are optimistic that those bandits who are still hiding will soon come out and avail of the programs and projects that the government offers,” Vinluan said.

The WestMinCom said that since January 2021, a total of 21 ASG members have surrendered to the JTF Basilan. Eighteen of them were regular members and three were supporters of the group.

AFP confirms death of another critically wounded C-130 survivor

Maris Federez   •   July 16, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Friday (July 16) confirmed the death of a survivor in the C-130 aircraft crash in Patikul, Sulu.

In a statement posted on the AFP website, the armed forces said it “is saddened to confirm the death of Pvt. Jesfel Mequiabas, PA (Philippine Army) of Misamis Oriental who expired at 2:30 a.m. this 16 July 2021.”

Mequiabas was one of the critically wounded survivors of the C-130 mishap.

The AFP said they have reached out to his family and that his remains are being prepared to be transported to his hometown.

Mequiabas’ death brings the total fatality of the ill-fated aircraft to 53.

Twenty-nine (29) remains have already been identified, while others are still undergoing the tedious process of identification to ensure that they are properly brought to their families as soon as possible, the AFP said. —/mbmf


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