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Friday, June 23, 2017

Malaysia tightens border security due to Sayyaf, Maute threats

ZAMBOANGA CITY – Malaysia tightened its security for fear that ISIS militants fighting security forces in the Philippines may escape the government offensive and slip into Sabah.
It also included Abu Sayyaf chieftain and local ISIS leader Isnilon Hapilon, and jihadist militant Abdullah Maute on its wanted list along with other commanders Idang Susukan, Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan, Majan Sahidjuan and Salvador Muktadil – all implicated in cross-border kidnappings over the years, according to the Malaysian newspaper The Star.
It said the tight security was ordered by the Eastern Sabah Security Command under Datuk Wan Abdul Bari Abdul Khalid, who also appealed to Malaysian citizens to stay vigilant and report suspicious persons to authorities.
Hapilon and Maute were among a group of jihadist leader who occupied Marawi City in southern Philippines on May 23 in an effort to put up an Islamic State province in the restive Muslim region of Mindanao. Some of the jihadist leaders, including Omar Maute and Malaysian Mahmud bin Ahmad had been reported killed in the clashes, although the military is yet to recover their bodies.
Filipino security officials said Malaysian and other foreign militants are fighting the military in Marawi alongside the local ISIS group. They claimed that security forces had killed over 200 militants, including dozens of foreign fighters, but troops recovered just about 45 bodies. At least 62 soldiers and about two dozen civilians were also killed in the violence that gripped the country and forced President Duterte to declare martial law in Mindanao.
The United States also sent a P-3 Orion spy plane to help the local military pinpoint hiding places of militants in Marawi. The military said at least 400 militants are still holed out in the besieged city and that 600 civilians remain trapped in Marawi and this is on top of about 240 people, including a Catholic priest, being held by jihadists. Washington sent a small group of Special Forces soldiers to Marawi to help Filipino army commanders in intelligence gathering.
Australia said it will also deploy a pair of spy planes to help the Philippine government in defeating the local ISIS group. It fears that the radical influence of ISIS poses a serious threat to the security of the South East Asian and Asia-Pacific regions. (With a report from Rhoderick Beñez)
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Thursday, June 22, 2017

Trilateral maritime patrols to boost business confidence in ARMM

ZAMBOANGA CITY – The establishment of the trilateral maritime patrol (TMP) arrangement between Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines early this week will boost business confidence in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), according to lawyer Ishak Mastura, chairman of the ARMM’s Regional Board of Investment.
"This (TMP) is an important development for the ARMM because people from our island provinces have been doing cross-border trade since time immemorial and even before there were borders to cross," Mastura said.
ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman also welcomed the TMP, saying it would ensure security for traders in the Muslim region who are doing business in Malaysia and Indonesia. "This development will shore up trade and commerce in these areas," he said, adding, "this will also help small-scale enterprises in the region."
Gov. Hataman said traders in ARMM have been doing businesses in these neighboring areas for centuries through barter trading. He said tighter security measures in the Sulu Sea would also help as the regional government is pushing for the revival of barter trading to curb smuggling activities in southern Philippines.
“The incidents of piracy and lawlessness in the Sulu Sea did not prevent traditional cross-border trade but international transshipment was affected by it. By conducting trilateral border patrols we believe that transshipment, wherein bigger volumes of cargoes are safely moved among the three countries, can make a comeback,” said Mastura.
The departments of Defense of the three nations have agreed to step-up security measures in the roughly one million square-kilometer tri-border area in the Sulu-Sulawesi Seas. This tri-border area is among the major trade routes in Southeast Asia.
The area is a favorite fishing ground of commercial fishery operators, specifically those into tuna and sardines operations. This route is also used by Indonesian suppliers of coal for power plants in Mindanao and in the transshipment of major goods between Sabah in Malaysia and the island provinces of Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi.
The TMP was agreed upon following a spike in hijacking in the last quarter of 2016, where local terrorist Abu Sayyaf group attacked international vessels and kidnapped sailors. To date, there are still five Vietnamese sailors that are in the hands of the bandits.
Brigadier General Custodio Parcon, commander of the Joint Task Force Tawi-Tawi, who also oversees the operations of the Maritime Command Center in Bongao, Tawi-Tawi under the Joint Task Force IndoMalPhil, said the initiative is also aimed at combating the present threat of jihadist groups, which use this route in setting up cells in the three neighboring countries. (Bureau of Public Information)
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Philippine troops hunt down BIFF militants

KIDAPAWAN CITY – Government forces continue to hunt down some 200 Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters who attacked military posts and schools in the southern Philippine town of Pigcawayan as military offensive agains the jihadist group tied to ISIS entered its second day, officials said Thursday.
Officials said at least 2 pro-government militias were killed in the fighting and troops safely secured about 5 dozen civilians trapped in their village. They said many BIFF militants were killed, but Abu Misry Mama, a spokesman for the jihadist group, said one one was “martyred” and two others injured in the fighting that began June 21.
Security forces also cleared the villages of Malagakit and Simsiman from the raiders and officials have identified BIFF leaders Commander Abunawas, OB10, Abu Saide, Sala and Agila as behind the attack, and accused the militants of taking civilians and using them as shield from pursing soldiers.
Officials said more troops were sent to pursue the BIFF which pledged support to the Islamic State.
The BIFF raid coincided with the on-going battle between local ISIS fighters and security forces in Marawi City in Lanao del Sur province. But a military spokesman, Brigadier General Restituto Padilla, was quick to say that the BIFF attack was not connected to the Marawi crisis, now entering its second month.
It was unclear how the BIFF managed to launch attacks without being detected by the police and military in the town and during the state of martial law imposed by President Rodrigo Duterte in the region in an effort to quell the ISIS rebellion in Marawi and other parts of the Mindanao. Security officials would not say if there was failure in intelligence gathering or lapses in security in the province. (Rhoderick Beñez)
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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Citizens, OFWs write ‘Letters of Hope’ for troops, Marawi evacuees

COTABATO CITY - People from other regions and those living overseas can now reach out to government troops as well as displaced residents of Marawi through "letters of hope."
The campaign was started by a group of private individuals in Luzon in coordination with the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao’s (ARMM) Cabinet Secretary Khal Mambuay-Campong.
"Actually, this idea started when a doctor who visited Marawi City launched a donation drive for garments and thank you notes to the soldiers in the city fighting the local terror groups," Sec. Campong said. 
Assisted by her colleagues from Luzon, Sec. Campong initiated the delivery of the letters not only to soldiers but also to civilians affected by the month-long fighting between government troops and local terror groups. 
Official data from ARMM’s Crisis Management Committee, as of June 15, showed a total of 252,282 individuals, or 51,651 families, were displaced by the crisis and are now in evacuation centers, or are staying with their relatives.
Rinz Araneta, a teacher from PAREF Woodrose School in Ayala Alabang in Metro Manila, said her group has seen the positive impact of this campaign to the soldiers thus extending the campaign to include civilians, especially those most affected by the crisis. 
The campaign also allows sending messages of hope through the email address: mgzaraneta@gmail.com.
"As our letters make their way to our noble soldiers, let us also extend this spirit of love and oneness to those severely affected by this war – our displaced brothers and sisters," Araneta said. "Let us send them letters that express love, that give hope, that show, or maybe, even just attempt at understanding."
She explained that a page with a heartfelt message can motivate the victims.
The Education department’s provincial office in Cavite also issued a memorandum requesting all the schools to encourage teachers and students to send letters to the victims.

"It is an expression of motivation and hope. We, the people of Marawi, need the prayers and words of hope," said Campong, who is a native of Marawi City.
She said those who are interested in sending letters to children and parents in Marawi City can send through Araneta's e-mail address, or through drop-off points at Quezon City Science High School and at Veritas Catholic School in Paranaque. She noted that many individuals have expressed their interest in delivering the letters.
In the first week of July, the group of Sec. Campong and Araneta will distribute the collected letters to the evacuation centers in Lanao del Sur and Lanao del Norte. (Bureau of Public Information)
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Jihadist group raids Philippine town

KIDAPAWAN CITY – Jihadist fighters armed with automatic weapons swooped down early Wednesday on a southern Filipino town and attacked military posts and schools and escaped with at least 5 civilian hostages used as shield against pursuing army soldiers, officials said.
Officials said more troops were sent to pursue the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters in Pigcawayan town following the daring raid. Fighting broke out in at least 2 villages and sent civilians fleeing into safer areas to avoid getting trapped in the battle.
At least 200 militants, whose group pledged support to the Islamic State, were said to have attacked and ransacked several schools, but there were no reports of civilian casualties. Abu Misry Mama, a spokesman for the BIFF, confirmed his group launched simultaneous attacks against military targets and said they took several civilians during their escape.
The BIFF raid coincided with the on-going battle between local ISIS fighters and security forces in Marawi City in Lanao del Sur province. But a military spokesman, Brigadier General Restituto Padilla, was quick to say that the BIFF attack was not connected to the Marawi crisis, now entering its second month. “It was purely an opportunistic attack and is not connected to the Marawi fighting,” he said.
The Department of Education in North Cotabato has suspended classes in the town, citing the breakout of violence in the area. It did not say when classes would resume, although the fighting was reported in the villages of Malagakit and Simsiman.
It was unclear how the BIFF managed to launch attacks without being detected by the police and military in the town and during the state of martial law imposed by President Rodrigo Duterte in the region in an effort to quell the ISIS rebellion in Marawi and other parts of the Mindanao. Security officials would not say if there was failure in intelligence gathering or lapses in security in the province.
Just recently, security forces also killed 2 aalleged BIFF members in a firefight in Maguindanao’s Shariff Aguak town. Officials said policemen, backed by soldiers, were trying to arrest Raul Angkay and Edz Dalending when they engaged security personnel in a gun battle.
Angkay was also included in the list of wanted terrorists. Troops also recovered a .45-caliber pistol and a fragmentation grenade from Angkay.  No other details were made available by officials. (Rhoderick Beñez)
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Tuesday, June 20, 2017

5 dead, 7 injured in road mishaps in 2 provinces

NORTH COTABATO – Five persons were killed and 7 others wounded in separate road accidents in Sarangani and South Cotabato provinces in southern Philippines, police said Tuesday.
Police said a car collided with a passenger bus on a highway in Banate village in Malungon town in Sarangani on Monday.
Senior Inspector Richard Pabalinas, of the town’s police force, identified the dead as Enriquita Rano and Vladen Silver Orbesido, of Polomolok town in South Cotabato. The injured car passengers were rushed to hospital in General Santos City. Their identities were still being verified by the police.
Pabalinas, citing an initial investigation report, said the car collided head on with the bus, owned by Mindanao Star, after it overtook another vehicle.
Two motorcycle drivers, Rene Diale, 23, and Luz Loagan, 27, were both killed and also Diale’s 11-year old passenger following a collision in the village of Landan in South Cotabato’s Polomolok town. Two of the driver’s passengers were also injured. (Rhoderick Beñez)
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13 LTO employees fired due to corruption charges

KIDAPAWAN CITY – Over a dozen employees of the regional Land Transportation Office were sacked from their posts due to corruption allegations.
Regional LTO Director Macario Gonzaga said 13 employees were all fired from their jobs and he warned employees to shun away from corruption and do their duties honestly.
He said they would hire new employees to fill up the positions vacated by the disgraced personnel. He also urged the public to report to LTO any employees engaged in corruption.
Gonzaga reminded traffic violators to pay the fines or penalties at LTO office only and ask for official receipts. He said LTO employees and traffic enforcers must wear their identification card at all times, and issue temporary operator’s permit for violators of traffic laws. (Rhoderick Beñez)
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