New Philippine military chief vows to drive Daesh out

New AFP Chief of Staff Carlito Galvez, center, inspects the honor guard during the Armed Forces of the Philippines change of command ceremony at the military headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo in Manila on Wednesday. (AFP)
Updated 20 April 2018

New Philippine military chief vows to drive Daesh out

  • New military chief seeks cooperation of mainstream Muslim groups in fighting violent extremists
  • For the first time, leaders of the two major Muslim rebel groups attended the Philippine military's change of command ceremony

MANILA: The new armed forces chief in the Philippines took up his post with a pledge to drive Daesh from the Philippines while also extending an olive branch to Filipino militants and insurgents.
Army Lt. Gen. Carlito Galvez became the country’s 50th military chief on Wednesday, replacing the retiring Gen. Rey Leonardo Guerrero. 
President Rodrigo Duterte led the change of command ceremony at Camp Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo.
In a speech at the ceremony, Galvez called on all enemies of the state to choose peace. “It is time for rebuilding and reconciliation among Filipinos,” he said.
“It is the best time to walk the path of peace. I now extend to our misguided brothers and sisters a chance to end all conflicts,” he added.
He noted that that for decades, Filipinos have fought fellow Filipinos. Communist rebels, Galvez said, have brought misery and enmity among Filipinos, while Abu Sayyaf and other local groups have terrorized communities. He added though that many members of these insurgent and militant groups had already abandoned their illegal activities and begun rebuilding their lives.
“Hundreds of our comrades have already stocked arms and abandoned your hopeless cause. They have seen by themselves that our government is a just and fair government. Your armed forces... invite you to abandon your pointless struggle and return home to your families and your community,” said Galvez.
Galvez pointed out that violent extremism remains a threat as shown by the destructive fighting in Marawi City, which was attacked by members of the Daesh-inspired Maute Group in May last year. 
The Marawi crisis lasted almost five months.
“Daesh and the battle of Marawi have just very recently shown us how truly destructive violent extremism can be. We have won many battles but we have yet to win the war,” he said.
“Violent extremists and their corrupted ideology remain a threat. Too much (blood) has been spilled. Too many lives have been lost to terror and hate,” he added.
He called on all peace-loving Filipinos, including “our Muslim brothers and sisters,” to join the AFP in the fight against all forms of violent extremism. 
“We will pursue with even more vigor our campaign to end insurgency and terrorism. And with your indispensable help, we will ultimately win,” he said,
“Together, we shall render the cause of insurgency irrelevant for it can only thrive where discord prevails. Together we shall defeat the Abu Sayyaf and all other terrorist group for terrorism only works when people are divided and afraid. Together we shall drive Daesh and other violent extremists from our shores for extremism dies in the light of a people united and strong,” he added.
For the first time, leaders of the two major Muslim revolutionary groups, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), attended the change of command ceremony.
Galvez expressed his full support to the peace process with the armed groups.
“Even though we soldiers are warriors, we shall always prepare the path of peace. Hence we shall support all peace initiatives of the government,” he said.
“We shall more vigorously work hand in hand with government agencies, non-government organizations and other stakeholders to address the underlying cause of conflict. We shall keep our door open with all peaceful possibilities.
“We look forward to the final peaceful political resolution of conflict in Mindanao,” Galvez continued, as he vowed to further strengthen existing peace mechanisms and revitalize the peace and development offices of AFP unified command levels.

The Philippine Rise: An untouched treasure

Map of the Luzon and Philippine Rise (Benham Rise) region. (Philippines' NAMRIA via Wikipedia)
Updated 21 May 2018

The Philippine Rise: An untouched treasure

  • The Benham Bank exhibits a rich marine biodiversity. Its reefscapes contain corals, algae, sponges and Halimeda, which sustain a variety of fish. 
  • The UN approved the Philippines’ claim to the area in April 2012. On May 16, 2017, Duterte signed an order renaming it the Philippine Rise.

MANILA: A team of Filipino scientists last week sailed to the Philippine Rise, situated on the eastern side of the country, to explore unknown treasures in the resource-rich undersea region.

A ceremony was held on May 15 aboard the Philippine Navy’s amphibious landing dock vessel BRP Davao Del Sur. 

President Rodrigo Duterte led the send-off of the team, which will undertake the Coordinated National Marine Scientific Research Initiatives and Related Activities (CONMIRA).

Duterte was supposed to visit the Philippine Rise and ride a jet ski around the area, but instead he led a program aboard the BRP Davao Del Sur while it was docked in Casiguran Bay in Aurora province. 

The activity was to commemorate the awarding of the Benham Rise to the Philippines by a UN tribunal. 

The UN approved the Philippines’ claim to the area in April 2012. On May 16, 2017, Duterte signed an order renaming it the Philippine Rise.

He also signed a proclamation formally declaring parts of the undersea feature a marine resource reserve.

After Duterte left, a flotilla with the BRP Davao Del Sur sailed to the Philippine Rise. The flotilla included eight other ships.

A flag-raising ceremony was held on May 16 aboard the BRP Davao Del Sur, simultaneous with the laying of an underwater flag marker at the Benham Bank, the shallowest point in the Philippine Rise.

Gil Jacinto of the Marine Science Institute at the University of the Philippines told Arab News that the two-day event raises awareness among government agencies and the Filipino people “about this part of the country that we have sovereign rights over,” and “the needed work by the scientific community.” 

He lauded Duterte’s commitment to support marine science research, adding that the Benham Bank contains a “very good coral cover” and “almost wall-to-wall carpeted corals.”

Jacinto said: “Studies related to tuna fisheries, biology and migration patterns can also be pursued.” 

Oceanographers want to understand physical processes, such as major currents and the movement of water from the Pacific to the eastern side of Luzon island all the way to Mindanao island.

“Our understanding of physical processes and features of the Pacific side can perhaps be useful in some of the models that project the trajectory and intensity of typhoons,” said Jacinto. 

“That’s of interest and perhaps of benefit not just to the Philippines but also in the West Philippine Sea and South China Sea region.”

Scientists will also be looking at prospects for energy sources in the area, and the possibility of obtaining compounds on marine organisms that may benefit the medical and pharmaceutical fields.

“One thing I’m very glad about for this event is this part of the country is now in the mindsets of our people,” said Jacinto. “There’s so much that can be done here.”

The scientists opted to sail to the Philippine Rise instead of the West Philippine Sea because they can work in the area “relatively unimpeded,” whereas in the West Philippine Sea there are security issues due to maritime border disputes, he added. 

The Philippine Rise is a 13-million-hectare underwater plateau located some 250 km east of northern Luzon. 

Its original name came from American geologist Andrew Benham, who surveyed the area in the 1930s. 

The Benham Bank exhibits a rich marine biodiversity. Its reefscapes contain corals, algae, sponges and Halimeda, which sustain a variety of fish. 

Results of exploratory fishing suggest that the Philippine Rise yields the highest catch rate of tuna species compared with other areas of the country.

The Philippine Rise may also contain seabed resources such as cobalt-rich ferromanganese crusts, and hydrothermal polymetallic sulphides that contain minerals used in the aerospace industry.

Experts have revealed vast deposits of methane hydrate in the area, believed to be a larger hydrocarbon resource than the world’s oil, gas and coal resources combined.