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Mario J. Mallari

AFP mum on ongoing quarantine of Liberia peacekeepers

Thursday, 27 November 2014 00:00 Published in Nation

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is now mum on the ongoing quarantine of Filipino peacekeepers from the Ebola virus-stricken Liberia.
At a press briefing, Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc, AFP-Public Affairs Office chief, said that he was instructed by AFP chief of staff Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr. that the Department of Health (DoH) should be the one discussing issues concerning the ongoing quarantine of the peacekeepers.
“Information regarding the condition and whatever is happening to our peacekeepers while undergoing quarantine would be discussed by the DoH,” said Cabunoc.
“So whatever updates concerning our peacekeepers undergoing quarantine is with the DoH,” he added.
According to Cabunoc, the set up was agreed upon even before the four last Filipino peacekeepers, who arrived in Manila last Saturday, were placed under quarantine at the AFP Medical Center.
“They (DoH) are the authority when it comes to the quarantine issues, health status. They know more on what messages to be relayed to the public,” said Cabunoc.
The first batch of peacekeepers — composed of 108 Air Force personnel, 24 policemen and a jail officer, were made to undergo the 21-day quarantine on Caballo Island in Cavite upon their arrival last Nov. 13.
Cabunoc earlier said that the decision to place the four peacekeepers — composed of two Air Force officials and two enlisted personnel, under quarantine at the AFP Medical Center was the call of DoH.
The four were left in Liberia to attend to equipment, used during their extended 11-month tour of duty in Monrovia, for repatriation.
Relatedly, Cabunoc said that preparations are now ongoing for the hero’s welcome of the 137 Filipino peacekeepers to be held immediately after the 21-day quarantine period is over.
Tentatively, Cabunoc said, the scheduled hero’s welcome is at 4:30 p.m. on Dec. 3 — the 21st day of the quarantine of those in Caballo Island. They will receive United Nations medal.
The scheduled hero’s welcome would coincide with the lighting of a giant Christmas tree in Camp Aguinaldo, said Cabunoc.

‘Full blast’ security preparations for papal visit

Thursday, 27 November 2014 00:00 Published in Nation

Government authorities are now on a “full blast” in security preparations for the visit of Pope Francis to the country early next year, readying up all intelligence units to ensure public safety and security.
A security official, who asked not to be identified, said that the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency and the Philippine National Police (PNP) are the primary agencies doing the security preparations.
“We already met regarding the visit of the Pope in Manila and Cebu. Right now, we are gearing up because the route (of the papal visit) is long, we have to solve that problem,” the official said.
“We should be ready, so all intelligence units from the major services including the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) must be ready just in case we are tapped by the President,” he added.
The PNP earlier activated its Joint Task Force Papal Visit 2015, led by Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina, to ensure public safety and security during the visit of Pope Francis this January.
On the other hand, the Presidential Security Group was tapped to serve as close-in security to the Pope’s entourage.
“The preparations are on a full blast. In fact, we are studying all scenarios that needed to secure the Pope,” the official said.
As of now, the official said that government authorities have not established any threat to the papal visit.
It will be recalled that prior to the 1995 visit of the late Pope John Paul II in Manila for the celebration of World Youth Day, a plot to assassinate the Pontiff was unearthed.
The plot, part of the Oplan Bojinka involving al-Qaeda-linked terrorist Ramzi Yousef, was disrupted after a fire at Dona Jose Apartments along Quirino Avenue in Manila drew the attention of the PNP. The PNP recovered evidence detailing the alleged plot.
The security official, however, assured that the government is doing its best to ensure peace and order during the papal visit.
“Rest assured that we are doing everything we can to make our country safe that’s why we are busy,” the official said.

5 Abus killed in Basilan; another camp captured

Wednesday, 26 November 2014 00:00 Published in Nation

Five Abu Sayyaf bandits were reported killed while another terrorist camp was captured during the continuing all-out law enforcement operation by government security forces in Basilan province last Sunday, a military official said yesterday.

Col. Rolando Bautista, commander of the Army’s 104th Brigade, said that elements of the 64th Infantry Battalion (IB) clashed with more or less 30 Abu Sayyaf men at around 7:50 a.m. along the outskirts of Barangay Baiwas in Sumisip town.
Citing human intelligence, Bautista said that the Abu Sayyaf sustained casualties during the firefight that lasted for more than two-and-a-half hours.
“Based on human intelligence, there are informants here who saw they (ASG) were dragging cadavers…and that will confirm that they suffered casualties, there were ASGs killed,” Bautista said.
There were reports stating that at least five Abu Sayyaf were killed.
On the other hand, Bautista said that there was no casualty on the government side.
According to Bautista, the troops managed to seize the Abu Sayyaf encampment, which was discovered through information provided by civilian populace in the area.
The camp was described as having 10 nipa huts with several bunkers that can accommodate about 50 persons.
Recovered from the scene were shotgun, various ammunition, solar charger, wet cell battery and documents.
The seizure of another ASG camp brought to more than a dozen terrorist lairs and harboring areas being recovered by government security forces in the provinces of Basilan and Sulu, where all-out law enforcement operations were launched against the Abu Sayyaf.
Meanwhile, a newly-established artillery battalion was deployed to Zambasulta or Zamboanga, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi Tawi areas, apparently to boost the military operation against the ASG.
Maj. Rosa Ma. Cristina Manuel, information officer of Army Artillery Regiment (AAR), said that the newly-formed 8th Field Artillery Battalion (FAB) was sent to Zambasulta last Nov. 23 to provide general support to operating troops.
The 8th FAB, activated only last Oct. 16, was created as a provisional 105mm artillery battalion to provide command and control over three batteries currently deployed in the provinces of Basilan and Sulu.

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