Archive for June, 2015


An FA-50 fighter jet. (photo grabbed from KAI website http://www.koreaaero.com/)

An FA-50 fighter jet. (photo grabbed from KAI website http://www.koreaaero.com/)

The Armed Forces’ Central Command in Cebu has started building facilities to host fighter jets and other aircraft which the Air Force will use for territorial defense, military officials said.

Lieutenant General Jeffrey Delgado, Air Force chief, said the Central Command, particularly the 2nd Air Division, was chosen to host new aircraft because of its “strategic location,” which allows it to quickly send planes to Luzon in the north, Mindanao in the south, or Palawan in the west.

“We intend to put up more hangars here for our fighter aircraft and our transport aircraft and helicopters,” Delgado said in an interview by state-run television PTV-4.

Lieutenant General Nicanor Vivar, Centcom chief, said construction of hangars at the 2nd Air Division started about three months ago.

Construction projects presently being carried out fall under the AFP Modernization’s “First Horizon,” which has a total cost of P90 billion, Vivar said.

“A lot of development will be done here soon,” including docks for Navy ships, he said.

The Department of National Defense earlier announced that it allocated P135.99 million for base support systems of fighter jets, particularly the South Korean-made FA-50 lead-in fighter trainer jets.

Aircraft maker Korea Aerospace industries said earlier this week that it aims to deliver the first two of 12 FA-50s ordered by the Philippines by yearend.

Colonel Enrico Canaya, Air Force spokesman, said that aside from the two fighter jets, the PAF expects to recieve 20 other aircraft from suppliers this year.

These include two C-295 medium lift planes, eight combat-utility helicopters, eight AW-109 attack helicopters, and two CN-212i light lift planes, Canaya told reporters in Camp Aguinaldo Friday.

Developments at the Central Command come as the Mactan-Cebu International Airport (MCIA), where the 2nd Air Division is “co-located,” embarks on a project to upgrade facilities, including its runway.

Vivar said that aside from becoming a hub for modern military aircraft, Central Command is also being eyed as the home of the AFP’s “strategic command.”

“External defense, nandiyan na tayo… this will be the home of the strategic command, hopefully, and that will cater to the territorial defense of the country,” he said. (John Roson)

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Outgoing Armed Forces chief General Gregorio Pio Catapang said additional troops have been deployed to Batanes to help prevent intrusions, and suggested that a naval base be built there.

“The next na kailangan i-develop natin, maghanap tayo ng magandang naval base, o i-develop natin na naval base, dun sa Batanes,” Catapang said in an interview by state-run television PTV-4.

The military chief said he has already told the Navy about the plan, which should be implemented after building the naval base in Oyster Bay, Palawan.

The base being built in Oyster Bay is envisioned to guard against intrusions in the West Philippine Sea, where China is reclaiming and building structures on reefs. The planned facility in Batanes should guard against poachers, usually from Taiwan.

“I think this year they will ask for funding,” Catapang said.

Catapang made the remarks as he revealed that an additional platoon of Navy personnel have been sent to Batanes, where Filipino and Taiwanese coast guard members recently figured in standoffs.

“It’s the marching order of the President to also look into that area,” he said.

Navy chief Vice Admiral Jesus Milan, for his part, said forces in Batanes were increased “to secure mission-essential facilities being used for monitoring activities in the maritime domain.”

Navy personnel there are also tasked to plan for “improvements,” including the development of areas where boats can be docked, Millan told reporters by phone.

According to Millan, the Navy currently has no base in Batanes and sailors assigned there are only staying at offices of other government agencies.

Meanwhile, the Navy chief said more sailors were also deployed to Zambales and other “strategic areas” around the country to prevent the entry of poachers.

“Increasing ang poaching activities so we need to improve on our system and procedures… Ang problema lang, wala nga tayong pera to support the modernization of facilities,” he said. (John Roson)

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The Philippines is interested in acquiring P3 Orion surveillance planes from Japan, the Department of National Defense said Thursday.

Peter Paul Galvez, DND spokesman, confirmed the department’s intent after reports indicated that the country may acquire at least four P3s from Japan by yearend.

“Tinitingnan if it will become an excess defense article. When it becomes an excess defense article, then we can get it at a very low price,” Galvez told reporters.

Galvez, however, could not say how many P3s are being considered for acquisition.

Japan’s navy is currently using P3 Orions in a joint training with Philippine Navy sailors in waters off Palawan, near the disputed West Philippine Sea.

Fernando Manalo, defense undersecretary for modernization, said the plan to acquire P3s is “separate” from the DND project to buy two long-range patrol aircraft (LRPA).

Manalo made the remark when asked on reports that the acquisition of P3s has been substituted for the LRPA project, which is currently suspended because President Aquino has yet to approve parts of the AFP Modernization Program.

The DND plans to buy two long-range patrol aircraft for the Air Force for P5.97 billion. (John Roson)

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Four persons were killed while almost 4,000 were affected by floods and landslides caused by heavy rain in four provinces of Central Mindanao, authorities reported Thursday.

Floods and landslides affected 43 barangays in nine towns and two cities of South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, North Cotabato, and Sarangani, said Minda Morante, director of the Office of Civil Defense-12.

Tupi town of South Cotabato and Brgy. Rajah Muda of Tacurong City, Sultan Kudarat, declared a state of calamity because of the floods, Morante said in an emailed report.

Couple Nonoy, 74, and Monita Ga, 71, of Brgy. Bunao, Tupi, South Cotabato; Diron Tamarang, 70, of Brgy. Lunen, also in Tupi; and Anita Ochova, 63, of Glan, Sarangani, died in landslides caused by heavy rain, she said.

Five persons, identified as Mercy Magbanua, 27; Kathlyn Magbanua, 1; Jay Argal, 24; Cristy Ochova, 31, and one Jojit Mangisel were injured, she said.

Of the 3,985 individuals affected by floods, 1,798 were evacuated and are currently staying in barangay halls, daycare centers, gymnasiums, and homes of relatives, Morante said.

Most of the evacuees came from Tacurong City and Isulan, Sultan Kudarat; Koronadal City and Tupi, South Cotabato; and Glan, Sarangani.

Floods also left at least four bridges impassable to motorists and caused at least P6.9 million in damage to agriculture, Morante said.

More than 500 hectares of rice fields, more than 80 hectares of cornfields, and at least 7.5 hectares of fishponds were damaged because of the floods, which also left at least 50 farm animals dead or missing, she said.

Heavy rains brought by an intertropical convergence zone hit South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, North Cotabato, and Sarangani from Tuesday night until Wednesday morning, causing the floods, according to Morante.

Local governments are now providing relief goods to the evacuees and are still monitoring the situation in affected areas, she said. (John Roson)

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A cameraman of the local affiliate of international media network CNN died after being shot by a still unidentified assailant in what police initially see as a work-related killing, in Imus City, Cavite, early Thursday.

Jonathan Oldan, a driver and assistant cameraman of CNN Philippines, died after being shot several times, Cavite provincial police director Senior Superintendent Jonnel Estomo said.

The 29-year-old Oldan was shot along Bukaneg st., Brgy. Pinagbuklod, around 5:15 a.m., Estomo said in a text message.

“He (Oldan) was shot to death on the way to work this morning,” CNN Philippines said in a statement.

“Naglalakad siya papunta sa sakayan ng jeep right after bumili ng sigarilyo,” Estomo said.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), citing information from Oldan’s colleagues, said he was seen talking to somebody but witnesses saw him running a few minutes later, then he was shot to the head.

After the incident, the assailant fled with the weapon used, Estomo said, adding that Imus police have interviewed some bystanders who might have seen the incident.

Estomo said investigators see a possible link between the killing and Oldan’s work as a cameraman.

“Yes, pero hindi pa enough ang evidence namin,” the police official said.

CNN Philippines, meanwhile, condemned the incident and demanded justice for the slain cameraman.

“We deplore the killing of our colleague… We demand that his assailant/assailants be brought to justice. CNN Philippines condemns this act and will spare no effort to bring the criminal/criminals to justice,” the company said.

“If proven to be work related, Oldan will be the third journalist to be killed this year, 27th under the Aquino presidency and 167th since 1986,” the NUJP said.

Estomo said he has created Special Investigation Task Group “Oldan” to conduct a deeper probe into the incident. (John Roson)

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The Philippines’ first lead-in fighter trainer (LIFT) jet successfully completed its first flight in South Korea, aircraft maker Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) announced Wednesday.

The “FA-50PH” made its maiden flight on June 19, after the Philippines signed a contract to buy 12 units in March 2014, KAI said in its Facebook page.

“We will our best to deliver initial two aircraft by the end of this year,” the company said.

Fernando Manalo, defense undersecretary for modernization, said KAI may deliver two of the jets by the third quarter of 2015.

“It will be possible for the FA-50s to feature in the Armed Forces’ 80th anniversary,” he said in an interview during the military’s 79th anniversary last December.

Colonel Enrico Canaya, Air Force spokesman, called the first jet’s maiden flight a “positive development.”

“It’s a good sign that we are about to become a more modern PAF soon,” Canaya said in a text message to reporters.

The government signed a contract to buy 12 brand-new FA-50s for P18.9 billion in March 2014, amid China’s buildup in the West Philipppine Sea (South China Sea).

Three Air Force pilots are presently in South Korea to train in operating the FA-50s.

The pilots were chosen for the jet project after registering more than a thousand hours flying Marchetti S-211 planes, Colonel Miguel Ernesto Okol, director for operations of the Air Force’s Air Defense Wing, told reporters in December.

The Philippines’ air defense was reduced to the S-211s when the country retired its last seven F5 fighter jets in 2005, after the latter had served for 40 years.

The S-211s were originally designed as trainers and secondary attack planes, but were refitted with avionics equipment and machine guns in recent years to take on air defense.

KAI’s FA-50 jets rake the sky with speeds of up to 1.5 times the speed of sound, compared to the S-211s that fly at a maximum 667 kilometers per hour.

It can be fitted with missiles like the AIM-9 “Sidewinder” air-to-air and heat-seeking missile, aside from light automatic cannons.

The FA-50 will act as the country’s interim fighter until the Philippines gets enough experience of operating fast jets and eventually acquire “multi-role fighters.” (John Roson)

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Members of the Philippine and Japanese navies will hold more trainings this month to beef up maritime awareness amid China’s continuing buildup in the region.

Colonel Edgard Arevalo, Philippine Navy spokesman, the trainings will be held when members of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) visit the country from June 22 to 26.

“The Philippine Navy and Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) are exploring areas of training and cooperation — among them humanitarian assistance and disaster response, maritime search and rescue, and maritime situational awareness… These are the activities lined up for the JMSDF visit,” he said.

Arevalo said a JMSDF aircraft will take part in the exercises but declined to reveal its type, as well as the area where the trainings will be held.

Japanese broadcaster NHK reported earlier that the JMSDF will send a P-3C Orion surveillance plane for the drills while the Philippine Navy is set to use a vessel and aircraft.

It said the exercises will be held in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

Staff-to-staff talks will also be held to strengthen and institutionalize information-sharing in a bid to “step-up maritime situational awareness,” Arevalo said.

“This navy-to-navy engagement envisions to share new tactics, techniques, and procedures as well as best practices to further maritime operations,” he added.

This month’s drills come amid tensions stemming from China’s reclamation activities in the West Philippine Sea.

They will be the third between the Philippine and Japanese navies in just two years.

The two navies held “passing exercises” in parts of the West Philippine Sea off Palawan and Zambales provinces — where China has been building up its presence — on September 25, 2014 and last May 12, respectively.

The upcoming drills also come a week after President Benigno Aquino III and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe agreed on a transfer of defense equipment and stronger cooperation between the two countries’ militaries.

Japan and the Philippines are presently locked in a common maritime dispute with China in the East Sea and West Philippine Sea, respectively. (John Roson)

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Five suspected communist rebels were killed while another was captured in a clash with policemen in Mexico, Pampanga, early Tuesday, police said.

Killed were four men and a woman who are all believed to be members of the Marxist-Leninist Party of the Philippines-Rebolusyunaryong Hukbong Bayan (MLPP-RHB), Pampanga provincial police director Senior Superintendent Rodolfo Recomono said.

The five were later identified as Roel Gomez alias “Ka Remy,” 32; Ruth Liberty Vudade-Abalong, 29; Evan Balaguis alias “Ka Lina,” 23; Renato Nucum alias “Toys,” 52; and Aries Nucum alias “Ka Amy, 25.

They were brought to the Mexico Community Hospital for treatment after the clash, but all were pronounced dead by doctors, provincial police spokesperson Superintendent Anna Liza Guzman said.

One Ryan Lising, 28, was arrested after authorities found him carrying a loaded caliber-.45 pistol, she said.

The clash occurred around 1:20 a.m. in Brgy. San Jose Matulid.

Elements of the provincial police’s intelligence branch, Special Weapons and Tactics unit, and Mexico Police carried out an operation after learning of the presence of MLPP-RHB members in the area, Recomono said in a text message.

The suspects were allegedly involved in incidents of robbery/hold-up, car thefts, as well as gun-for-hire and extortion activities, in Pampanga and nearby provinces, he said.

Operatives seized four short firearms, two Carbine rifles, an M16 rifle, a hand grenade, a bow and three arrows, a crossbow, subversive documents, electronic gadgets, and a pair of binoculars from the suspects, Guzman said.

Four unregistered motorcycles were also found at the scene, Recomono said.

The MLPP-RHB, whose members are mostly based in Central Luzon, is a group that broke away from the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army in the 90s. (John Roson)

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Taiwan's cutter 118 (photo from Taiwan Coast Guard website)

Taiwan’s cutter 118 (photo from Taiwan Coast Guard website)

A Taiwan Coast Guard ship launched speedboats and threatened to shoot a Philippine patrol vessel during their standoff over an apprehended fishing boat in waters near Batanes last week, a security official said Wednesday.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, revealed the incident as the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) confirmed the standoff.

“There came a point na ang sabi nila (Taiwan Coast Guard), ‘Stop, or we will shoot you. Release the boat,'” said the official, who asked not to be named because of the issue’s sensitivity.

That incident occurred inside the “contiguous zone” of the Philippines, the official said.

Earlier Wednesday, PCG spokesman Commander Armand Balilo confirmed the standoff, saying it occurred 18 nautical miles northeast of Batanes last May 25.

MCS vessels of BFAR. (photo from the Philippines' Official Gazette website)

MCS vessels of BFAR. (photo from the Philippines’ Official Gazette website)

It involved PCG members on a Monitoring, Control, and Surveillance (MCS) vessel of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources’ (BFAR) and the Taiwan Coast Guard cutter number 118, he said.

The standoff began when Coast Guard personnel apprehended the Taiwanese fishing boat Min Jiang Tsai 6 around 6:25 p.m., Balilo said.

“The PCG was towing the fishing boat when Taiwan Coast Guard cutter 118 appeared and blocked the BFAR vessel and asked for the release of the fishing boat,” Balilo said.

Members of the PCG later released the fishing boat as per instruction by BFAR officers, after “four hours of negotiation” with the Taiwan Coast Guard cutter’s crew, he said.

The source, for his part, said things did not go as smoothly because Taiwan’s Coast Guard made several aggressive attempts to have the fishing boat released.

The cutter, according to the official, launched two speedboats in an apparent attempt to board the fishing boat and wrest it from Filipino law enforcers.

A BFAR MCS vessel docks side by side with a Navy patrol boat in Sta. Ana, Cagayan, one of the staging points of patrols to Batanes (May 2014 photo)

A BFAR MCS vessel docks side by side with a Navy patrol boat in Sta. Ana, Cagayan, one of the staging points of patrols to Batanes (May 2014 photo)

Taiwan’s ship also suddenly “cut” the path of the BFAR MCS-3004 vessel, risking a collision, he said.

A collision would have proven dangerous for the MCS-3004, which is only about 30 meters long as compared to the 63.5-meter Taiwanese cutter, according to the source.

That prompted the MCS-3004 to maneuver away and it went on sailing with the fishing boat in tow, until the cutter made the threat to shoot, the source said.

Only two Philippine Coast Guard members on the vessel had firearms at the time while the cutter, because of its size, is believed to be packing heavy weapons.

“They were outnumbered, outgunned, overpowered… Considering their predicament, ni-release na lang ‘yung fishing boat instead na may mapahamak,” the official said.

The source, meanwhile, revealed that a second incident involving another Taiwan Coast Guard ship occurred on May 28.

This occurred some 12 nautical miles from Batanes’ northernmost Amianan Island which is well within Philippine territory, he said.

The Taiwan Coast Guard ship appeared after PCG personnel drove away another Taiwanese fishing vessel, the source said.

Jovita Ayson, director of BFAR Region 2, said her office is now preparing reports on the incidents and will submit these to BFAR administrator Asis Perez.

Perez, in a text message, said he is out of the country and is still waiting for the reports.

Members of the Philippine Coast Guard and BFAR will continue patrolling waters off Batanes despite the incidents to “deter” foreign poachers, Ayson said. (John Roson)

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