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Archive for September 25th, 2007

2 elite Army men killed, 10 hurt in Basilan clashes

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By Joel Guinto, Julie Alipala, Inquirer
Last updated 11:00pm (Mla time) 09/25/2007

MANILA, Philippines — (UPDATE 4) Two elite Army troopers were killed while 10 others were wounded in three separate encounters in Basilan on Tuesday, breaking a month-long lull in fighting in the southern island province, officials said.

The fatalities include one soldier from the Special Forces Regiment and another from the First Scout Ranger Regiment (FSRR). The 10 wounded were all from the Scout Rangers, said Brigadier General Arturo Ortiz, the Special Forces commander.

At around 7:45 a.m., troops from the 9th Special Forces Company clashed with Abu Sayyaf in Ungkaya Pukan town, followed by a 1 p.m. clash between the Islamic extremists and the Scout Rangers, Ortiz said.

At 2:40 p.m., joint Special Forces and Scout Rangers engaged the Abu Sayyaf for close to four hours, until 6 p.m., he said.

“Abu Sayyaf reinforcements responded from different areas. We’re not sure if they were protecting a high-value target,” Ortiz said, when asked if the troops were met with heavy resistance by the bandits.

The extremists suffered an undetermined number of casualties, though no bodies were recovered, said Ortiz and FSRR Chief Brigadier General Reynaldo Mapagu.

“Our troops saw the bodies of the slain Abu Sayyaf being carried away by their comrades as they retreated,” Mapagu said in a separate interview.

In an earlier interview, Major Eugene Batara, spokesman of the Armed Forces Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom), said at least one Abu Sayyaf member was confirmed wounded.

A Philippine Daily Inquirer report, quoting Basilan police, said 15 people, including 11 soldiers and a 16-year-old student caught in the crossfire, were wounded in two encounters in Basilan on Tuesday.

Senior Superintendent Salik Macapantar, the Basilan provincial police commander, said the Special Forces and the Scout Rangers were conducting operations when they clashed with the group of Abu Sayyaf rebel Nuruddin Mudalang alias “Nod.”

Macapantar said residents fled when the two groups clashed, but 16-year -old Nadzala Zailon was hit by a stray bullet.

Zailon remained in critical condition, he said.

Ungkaya Pukan Mayor Joel Maturan, who deployed militiamen to help the soldiers, said they were conducting clearing operations when they chanced upon the same group again, this time in the village of Silangkom, also in Tipo-tipo Central.

Maturan said the site of the encounter was only about 2.5 kilometers from Baguindan, where the first incident erupted.

Government forces have not encountered the Abu Sayyaf in Sulu Since August 27, when they fired mortar rounds on rebel positions in Tipo-Tipo and Ungkaya Pukan.

There have been two major encounters in Basilan in the last three months. On July 10, 14 Marines were killed, 10 of whom were beheaded, following an encounter with Moro rebels and Abu Sayyaf extremits in Ungkaya Pukan town.

On August 18, 15 Marines were killed in a fierce firefight after they assaulted an Abu Sayyaf lair in Ungkaya Pukan town. An attack helicopter crashed due to engine trouble, after reinforcing the troops, leaving a pilot killed.

In the nearby island province of Sulu, 27 soldiers were killed in three days of fighting from August 7 to 9.

Originally posted at 4:48 p.m.

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Written by joelguinto

Tue+00:002007-09-25T15:26:23+00:00+00:0009b+00:00Tue, 25 Sep 2007 15:26:23 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 pm09

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Navy to seal off southern sea borders

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By Joel Guinto
Last updated 04:41pm (Mla time) 09/25/2007

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine Navy will set up 17 Coast Watch stations, worth up to P17 billion, to guard the country’s porous southern sea borders against terror groups and other transnational criminals, one of the officials on top of the project said.

At the same time, the Navy is awaiting an Executive Order from Malacañang that will define the roles of the Navy and other government agencies like the Coast Guard, the police, and the customs and immigrations bureaus under the Coast Watch South concept, said Lieutenant Commander Jorge Ibarra, chief of the International Affairs branch, under the office of the Deputy Navy Chief for Plans.

The Coast Watch stations will encircle the southern portion of the country from Palawan to Davao province, to curb the movement of terror groups and other criminal groups, Ibarra said.

“Once we monitor unusual movement, we will intercept it immediately,” he said in a phone interview on Tuesday.

Planning for Coast Watch South, a long-running proposal in the Navy, started in 2006 under then Navy Chief Vice Admiral Mateo Mayuga.

In a recent news forum, Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. stressed the need to tighten security in southern waters.

“Our southern backdoor is especially prone to the incursion of terrorists, smugglers, pirates, and traffickers of firearms and explosives. It is also used as a transshipment point of illegal drugs,” he said.

“The Coast Watch South stations would enhance the Philippine Navy’s capability to conduct surveillance and interdiction against various threats that are taking advantage of our porous borders,” he added.

Asked if the Coast Watch South would stop terrorist movement within the country, and between the Philippines and neighboring countries, Ibarra said: “Yes, we will be monitoring all illegal activities.”

Earlier this month, authorities arrested six Abu Sayyaf members in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan province. The Islamic extremists reportedly escaped a military dragnet in Jolo Island.

The suspects in the 2002 Bali bombings, Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) members Umar Patek and Dulmatin, are the subject of a manhunt in Jolo, after they escaped Indonesian authorities.

Depending on when the funding would be released, Ibarra said the Navy plans to procure N-Shore Patrol vessels, patrol gunboats, and rigid-hull inflatable boats to set up the 17 stations in three phases.

The N-Shore Patrol vessel and gunboats would patrol a 12-nautical mile radius in open sea, while the rigid-hull inflatable boats would patrol waters closer to the coastlines, Ibarra said.

The 17 stations, worth between P16 billion to P17 billion, will augment the existing five stations in southern waters, the official said.

In a separate interview, Navy spokesman Giovanni Carlo Bacordo said the 17 stations would stretch from Mangsi Island off Palawan province to the Davao coast, forming a U-shaped “barrier.”

Ibarra said the testing for the Coast Watch concept would start this year, once the Palace releases the EO. He said a workshop of all agencies involved is set at the Navy headquarters in Manila next week.

He said helicopters would provide air support to the sea patrols, in coordination with land stations.

“There will be a triad, with a sea, land, and air component,” Ibarra said.

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Written by joelguinto

Tue+00:002007-09-25T10:20:18+00:00+00:0009b+00:00Tue, 25 Sep 2007 10:20:18 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am09

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Army promises to settle P7M in unpaid electric bills

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By Joel Guinto
Last updated 03:18pm (Mla time) 09/25/2007

MANILA, Philippines — Determined to avoid a cut-off in power supply in its camps, the Philippine Army has assured electric companies that it would pay its balance of P7 million in unpaid bills and that the budget for the payment was being programmed, a spokesman has said.

The amount is on top of the P30 million that the Army paid in October 2006 after it was discovered that some camps had exceeded their allocation for electricity, Lieutenant Colonel Ernesto Torres Jr., Army public affairs officer, told reporters.

The budget that was supposed to have been given to some field units stayed in the “programming” stage, and were not released on time, Torres said.

“The Army paid overdue electrical bills worth P30 million. After this, we have reports there is P7 million [more in unpaid bills]. It will be programmed. This will be settled,” he said.

Asked if electric firms could cut off electricity in camps due to the overdue bills, Torres said: “Of course, because the military is not the one who produced [the electricity], these are private companies.”

While Army camps have back-up generators, Torres said this was not enough to meet their power demands.

He said the P30-million bill was settled in October 2006 during the time of then Army chief Lieutenant General Romeo Tolentino, who retired last August 24. He could not immediately ascertain over what period the bill was accumulated.

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Written by joelguinto

Tue+00:002007-09-25T10:19:47+00:00+00:0009b+00:00Tue, 25 Sep 2007 10:19:47 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am09

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