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Saturday, May 27, 2017

White House condemns terrorist assault in the Philippines

Government troops head back to the site as they battle Muslim militants who lay siege in Marawi in southern Philippines Thursday, May 25, 2017. Army tanks packed with soldiers rolled into a southern Philippine city Thursday to try to restore control after ISIS-linked militants launched a violent siege that sent thousands of people fleeing for their lives and raised fears of extremists gaining traction in the country. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)
The Washington Times

The White House on Thursday condemned “cowardly” Islamic State terrorists who have seized Christian hostages and overrun a large city in the Philippines in a firefight with the Filipino army.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer said the U.S. “will continue to provide support and assistance to Philippine counterterrorism efforts.”
“The United States condemns the recent violence perpetrated by an ISIS-linked terrorist group in the southern Philippines,” he said. “These cowardly terrorists killed Philippine law enforcement officials and endangered the lives of innocent citizens.”
Mr. Spicer said the Trump administration “will continue to work with the Philippines to address shared threats to the peace and security of our countries.”
Philippine army tanks have rolled into the southern city of Marawi in an effort to repel the Islamist insurgents. At least 21 people have been killed in the fighting, and thousands have evacuated the city.
The terrorists have raised the black flag of the Islamic State over the city and seized more than a dozen Catholic hostages.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Philippines deploys top commandos, attack helicopters to retake city from Islamist rebels

Islamic State claimed responsibility late on Wednesday for Maute’s activities via its Amaq news agency.



By Romeo Ranoco and Roli Ng
MARAWI CITY, Philippines (Reuters) – The Philippines deployed attack helicopters and special forces to drive out Islamic State-linked rebels holed up in a besieged southern city on Thursday, as efforts to take back control met heavy resistance.
Ground troops hid behind walls and armored vehicles and exchanged volleys of gunfire with Maute group fighters, firing into elevated positions occupied by militants who have held Marawi City on Mindanao island for two days.
Helicopters circled the city, peppering Maute positions with machine gun fire to try to force them from a bridge vital to retaking Marawi, a mainly Muslim city of 200,000 where fighters had torched and seized a school, a jail, a cathedral, and took more than a dozen hostages.
“We’re confronting maybe 30 to 40 remaining from the local terrorist group,” said Jo-Ar Herrera, spokesman for the military’s First Infantry Regiment.
“The military is conducting precise, surgical operations to flush them out … The situation is very fluid and movements are dynamic because we wanted to out-step and outmaneuver them.”
The battles with the Maute group, which has pledged allegiance to Islamic State, started on Tuesday afternoon during a failed raid by security forces on one of the group’s hideouts, which spiraled into chaos.
The turmoil was the final straw for President Rodrigo Duterte, who delivered on his threat to impose martial law on Mindanao, the country’s second-largest island, to stop the spread of radical Islam.
Islamic State claimed responsibility late on Wednesday for Maute’s activities via its Amaq news agency.
At least 21 people – seven soldiers, 13 rebels and a civilian – have been killed and religious leaders say militants were using Christians taken hostage during the fighting as human shields.
The White House condemned the Maute group as “cowardly terrorists” and said in a statement the United States was a proud ally of the Philippines and would continue to support its fight against extremism.
2017-05-25T041654Z_1_LYNXMPED4O08E_RTROPTP_4_PHILIPPINES-MILITANTS.JPG
GETTING OUT
Hundreds of civilians, including children, were sheltering in a military camp in Marawi City as troops helped clear the few remaining people from streets where smoke lingered in the air.
“We’re leaving,” said a resident named Edith, walking along a rundown street carrying a small suitcase.
“We can no longer take it and we need to save our children.”
Sultan Haji Ismael Demasala said he was staying and would leave his fate in God’s hands.
“If Allah wills it so, then we cannot stop it,” he said, pointing his finger in the air.
Hostilities eased overnight but flared late on Thursday morning when troops started their clearing operations.
A major obstacle was an armored vehicle parked across a bridge, which Maute fighters were using for cover, a Reuters journalist said.
Marawi is in Lanao del Sur province, a stronghold of the Maute, a fierce, but little-known group that has been a tricky opponent for the military.
Tuesday’s raid was aimed at capturing Isnilon Hapilon, a leader of radical faction of another militant group, the Abu Sayyaf. The government says Hapilon is a point man for Islamic State and has been collaborating with the Maute group.
“Based on our intelligence, Isnilon Hapilon is still in the city,” Herrera said.
The Maute group’s rise is a source of concern for Mindanao native Duterte, who is familiar with Muslim separatist unrest but alarmed by the prospect of rebels helping Islamic State to recruit and establish a presence in the volatile region of 22 million people.
Duterte has threatened harsh measures and said martial law would remain be maintained for as long as it took to restore order.
The president was due to hold a cabinet meeting on Thursday in Davao, his home city and the biggest on Mindanao.
Security was stepped up in Davao, with more military checkpoints and some businesses sending staff home during daylight hours. Residents were urged to stay vigilant.
In the city where Duterte was mayor for 22 years, and enjoys a cult-like following, residents were supportive of martial law.
“It’s not a hassle. It is good because it prevents harmful events,” said manicurist Zoraida Jakosalem Himaya.
“He is like a father telling his children what to do.”
(Additional reporting by Neil Jerome Morales in DAVAO CITY and Enrico Dela Cruz and Manuel Mogato in MANILA; Writing by Martin Petty)

Thursday, May 25, 2017

‘We need modern weapons’: Duterte meets Putin, cuts trip short over Philippines terrorist crisis


by RT
The Philippines wants modern Russian weapons to combat ISIS-linked terrorists, the country’s president Rodrigo Duterte told his Russian counterpart after declaring martial law for 60 days in the South and cutting short his trip to Moscow to deal with the crisis.
The meeting between President Vladimir Putin and Duterte was scheduled for Thursday but was brought forward to Tuesday evening after the Philippines president declared martial law and was forced to return home. The declaration followed a shootout between government troops and Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS, ISIL) aligned militants in the southern city of Marawi.
“I came [to Moscow] to secure your support and to confirm our friendship,” the Philippines President said as he met Putin.
Duterte expressed regret that he had to leave Russia early after “ISIS units occupied the province [Mindanao], and there are still fighting and clashes there.”
Duterte, who called Russia a “reliable partner,” also emphasized that Manila is ready to develop relations with Moscow and is looking forward to purchase Russian arms to fight terrorists in his country.
“Of course, our country needs modern weapons. We had orders in the United States, but now the situation there is not so smooth, and in order to fight with ISIS, with their units and factions, we need modern weapons,” Duterte told Putin.
Prior to his Monday’s arrival in Russia, Duterte said Manila signaled his interest in buying small arms, helicopters and jets from Moscow to fight its drug war and terrorist insurgency.
While Washington used to supply weapons to Manila, Duterte previously said that procuring arms from the United States might be challenging because the US was heavily criticizing the alleged human rights abuses in his country.
“Of course, cooperation in the military-technical field is possible,” Putin told Duterte at the Kremlin, adding, that the countries have many other prospective areas of cooperation, including in the areas of power, engineering, energy and transportation.
Putin also expressed his condolences over the killing of two soldiers and one police officer after the Islamic State-aligned Maute Group of terrorists occupied parts of Marawi City.
“I want to express my condolences in connection with the death of people in your country that happened as a result of the terrorist attack,” Putin told Duterte, saying that he and Russian people “fully understand” why Duterte was forced to cut short his trip.
“I want to express hope that the conflict will be resolved as soon as possible with minimum losses,” Putin added.
The Russian leader also said despite Duterte’s early leave, the two countries will still sign the full set of documents that had been prepared by the delegations.
“Your ministers will stay here and tomorrow this package of documents which is aimed at the development of our bilateral relations, will be signed,” Putin said.
Duterte was also forced to cancel his Wednesday meeting with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev because of the developments in the Philippines.
“The government is in full control of the situation and is fully aware that the Maute/ISIS and similar groups have the capability, though limited, to disturb the peace,” presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella told a news conference in Moscow.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Clashes in Marawi City: Duterte declares martial law in Mindanao



MANILA, Philippines (Updated May 24, 12:23 a.m.) 

— President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law in Mindanao on Tuesday night in response to clashes in Marawi City that began on Tuesday afternoon.

Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella, in a press conference in Moscow, said that details of martial law will be "forthcoming" and that it covers the whole island of Mindanao and island groups in the region.

"The president has called me and asked me to announce that as of 10 p.m., Manila time, he has already declared martial law for the entire island of Mindanao," he said.

In a statement to reporters after the press conference, Abella added the declaration of martial law was necessary "in order to suppress lawless violence and rebellion and for public safety."

He added "the government is in full control of the situation and is fully aware that the Maute/ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) and similar groups have the capability, though limited, to disturb the peace." 

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, who is in Russia with the members of the Cabiner, said the declaration would entail the suspension of writ of habeas corpus, curfews and setting up of checkpoints. 



Marawi clashes

Lorenzana, who is in Russia with the president's delegation, said that the fighting in Marawi City started Tuesday afternoon as police and military were moving to serve a warrant of arrest on Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon. 

He said that members of the Maute Group occupied parts of Marawi City in response.

"A firefight ensued and our troops reacted properly, but as of tonight, in the Philippines, the Maute group burned several facilities (in the city)," Lorenzana said.

He said that among the structures confirmed to have been set on fire are St. Mary's Church, the city jail,Ninoy Aquino school and Dansalan College. Some houses have also been reported burning. 

"Maute fighters still occupy the main street of Marawi City... Quezon Street and two bridges into the city," the Defense secretary also said.

He said that there is no power in the entire city and that there are Maute snipers "all around."

Lorenzana said reinforcements have already been sent to Marawi City, with more troops coming in from Zamboanga City and Manila.

He stressed that the situation in Marawi City is under control and that security forces are only holding position to give reinforcements time to arrive. 

He said he believes there was no failure of intelligence in the Marawi sitaution but that there was "lack of appreciation" of information. 

He said security forces did not anticipate the number Maute sympathizers that may have helped the militants slip into the city.

Lorenzana added Isnilon had been backed up by around 100 fighters.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines Western Mindanao Command said Tuesday night, before the declaration of martial law was announced, that "our soldiers and policemen continue to conduct mopping up operations to clear Marawi from remnants of the Maute in order to protect our citizens." 

Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said at the same press conference that the president will be cutting his visit to Russia short because his presence is needed in the country.

The signing of bilateral agreements with Russia will push through but the meetings with Russia President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev were postponed. Cayetano said Duterte may just speak with the two leaders via phone.


Martial Law

Under the 1987 Constitution, the president can declare martial law "in case of invasion or rebellion, when the public safety requires it." 

The president must also submit a report to Congress, whether in person or in writing, within 48 hours of the declaration.

If Congress does not agree that martial law should be declared or the writ of habeas corpus suspended, it can "voting jointly, by a vote of at least a majority of all its members in regular or special session" revoke the proclamation or suspension.

No declaration of martial law or the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus can last for more than 60 days unless a majority in Congress, again voting jointly, votes to extend it "if the invasion or rebellion shall persist and public safety requires it."

"A state of martial law does not suspend the operation of the Constitution, nor supplant the functioning of the civil courts or legislative assemblies, nor authorize the conferment of jurisdiction on military courts and agencies over civilians where civil courts are able to function, nor automatically suspend the privilege of the writ," the constitution also says.

The entire Philippines has been under a state of national emergency since the Davao City bombing in September 2016. 

The last Philippine president to declare martial law was Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who did so in Maguindanao on Dec. 4, 2009 in the aftermath of the Ampatuan massacre. - Philstar


Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Poctoy White Beach, Torrijos: Perfectly perfect pa rin

Poctoy White Beach and Mt. Maindig. Photo: Eli J Obligacion

It's more than a kilometer stretch of powdery white sand and has become the most popular in mainland Marinduque - the Poctoy White Beach. More resorts and small buildings are on the rise now closer to the beach. This is one place where thousands have come and gone to also enjoy the view of Mt. Malindig rising from the waters. 

Malindig is one volcano with seemingly ever-present bright-white clouds that collect over its peak. You wonder if something's being exhaled by the volcano all the time. All the time.

But soon you forget about it for you've come to enjoy the beach and amenities around, play with the waves or just frolic in the sand. Or just think of ways to make your stay more perfect.

Photos of Poctoy White Beach below are more current. But images of what is was like some 12 years ago could be conveyed by the following story I wrote then.

Photo: Toper Matienzo

Poctoy White Beach, Torrijos: Perfectly perfect baya!

An article about Marinduque appeared in a glossy airline magazine where the popular white sand beach of Poctoy in Torrijos, east of the island, was mentioned for its 'imperfections'. Grasses and shrubs were just left to grow supposedly and did not seem inviting. I had the opportunity to visit the beach with two other friends to check those 'imperfections'.

Photo: Toper Matienzo

In just one day last Holy Week, the beach reportedly netted close to P 100,000. 
Photo: Armop (Warren) Valenzuela Roldan


5:00 pm till 11:30 pm: Coming from the Torrijos Municipio for a word with some officials we arrived in Poctoy beach via the mayor's service vehicle. We entered a gate and realized that it was actually a small resort that had been in operation for sometime, judging by the numerous small structures that greeted us. 'Rendezvous' it is called, concealed somewhat as the beachfront is blocked by what looked like an unfinished multi-purpose hall built by the municipio.

"Welcome" says Mr. Fetalvero the resort owner, "feel at home while we prepare dinner." 'Home' is a two-bedroom guesthouse with two huge beds each. Two morion masks and costumes were displayed in a cozy receiving room accented by other native bric-a-bracs. So his son who built this small resort is an architect based in Manila. This explained why many found materials were fashioned into frames, sculptures or simple installations in the guestroom, in the other buildings and cottages. Design ideas any visitor might be tempted to replicate in his/her own home.


Photo: Toper Matienzo

For dinner we had sinigang, chicken and pork adobo and rice. Mr. Fetalvero couldn't wait to take us to the videoke bar where we saw live the off-key voices we'd hear while eating. They smiled, we smiled back and they were happy to share with the world their gift of music.


I rose after the concert to try one of four billiard tables, left after a round of misses for the beach. It was a moonlit night, but not a single soul could be seen there. Just as well. But it felt kind of strange and sad to be alone in the middle of some twenty desolate cottages. When thick rain clouds soon covered the moon darkening the entire powdery sand beach, I went back to the noise.

Grace was singing 'Pamulinawen' "Ngayon lamang kinanta 'yan dito", one of the boys remarked. She was encouraged and sang more Ilocano songs. "I was in grade three the last time I sang these!", she said. Didn't know if anyone cared.

Mr. Fetalvero talked about native Poctoy songs such as one called "Boracay". "Boracay? What is Boracay?" They're actually huge white birds seen in Poctoy from time to time, he says. Sea gulls? He first heard the song as a child and therefore it had nothing to do with Boracay, the famous beach.

Maybe Boracay, the birds, fly from Boracay, the beach, to Poctoy, the beach and return and fly again because it is just a fly away and they like white beaches? I was thinking quietly. Makes sense? No.

6:00 am till 9:00 am: Poctoy faces east. I woke up early to be able to watch the sun rise. Our host was also up and walked with me to the beach to check the morning's catch. It was cloudy. Then it drizzled. No sun visible. We ran to seek cover in one of the cottages beside a wild giant pandan. "This was where we found the mother pawikan laying eggs", he said. 


"Pawikan?" Beach folks recently found a giant sea turtle with eggs, informed the municipio, aware that sea turtles were an endangered species. The municipio assigned technical people to keep watch until the eggs were hatched. The whole barangay rejoiced when more than seventy baby sea turtles came into being and were eventually set free with their mother to the sea. So you see.

Photo: Toper Matienzo

Mr. Fetalvero says the area of Poctoy is actually part of a community marine reserve so people are being made constantly aware that fish and sea turtles are not forever. There are talks that cyanide fishing is still rampant in the nearby Talisay and Cagpo areas but authorities are hopeful this deadly method would no longer be resorted to through their continuing information drive. But no morning catch. Tough luck for us!

In summer, the beach is teemed with peole from all over Torrijos, says the host. "The cottages were actually built the last couple of years by sitio people and youth groups. Proceeds from rentals go to their community projects," he says. "Note the many small stalls around. They'll make good money when summer vacation starts this Holy Week. The big event is beach volleyball. Come back!"

We returned to Rendezvous for breakfast of fried eggs, corned beef, bread and coffee. No, I disagree with that magazine write-up, I muse. What grass? Poctoy Beach is perfectly perfect as it is. Like the seascape that changes colors by the by, it offers many surprises. But one has got to find them. Then all becomes perfect!



Susong Dalaga Hill

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Susong Dalaga Hill from Bagtasan isthmus

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Quick news, photos, videos, culture, tourism, history and all that there is on the island of Marinduque, Philippines. "VIVA MARINDUQUE!" www.marinduquegov.blogspot.com

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