Saturday, December 20, 2014

Troops distribute gifts

From the Sun Star-Davao (Dec 20): Troops distribute gifts

MORE than 100 residents from two villages in Mawab town in Compostela Valley received gifts from troops of the Philippine Army’s 10th Infantry Division at Camp Manuel T. Yan in the province on Friday.

Dubbed as “Community Christmas Party,” the event was organized by the 10th Infantry Division troops in partnership with health organizations, such as Department of Health-Davao Region (DOH-11), Kiwanis Club of Golden Tagum, and Fraternal Order of Eagles.

10th Infantry Division’s spokesperson First Lt. Vergel Lacambra said residents from barangays Tuboran and Salvacion of Mabini town were given medical and dental check-up, had parlor games, and gift giving. Also they’re given free transportation back to their homes.

“The officials of the Agila Division decided that instead of spending for a lavish Christmas Party inside the camp, the command would rather celebrate the Christmas season by giving and sharing it with our less fortunate fellowmen here in the province,” Lacambra said.

10th Infantry Division commander Major General Eduardo M. Año, meanwhile, thanked all the local government and residents of the Mawab for sincerely accepting and supporting the division’s campaign and programs in maintaining peace and order in its area.

“Itong Christmas party ay pagpapasalamat narin natin sa mga ka-barangay natin dito sa Barangay Tuboran at Barangay Salvacion kasi nandito yung ating headquarters, at taos puso nila tayong tinanggap sa lugar na ito,” Año said.

“Napagpasiyahan din namin na gawing simple ang Christmas party ng division para maipamahagi natin sa mga kababayan natin ang diwa ng pasko sa pamamagitan nga ng medical at dental mission, gift giving at palaro din para sa mga bata,” he added.

Año also said that in addition, the command has initiated its fund raising activity through Christmas Caroling by the Agila Marching Band to selected partners-stakeholders, and the proceeds of the caroling will be used for the Community Christmas Party.

More NPA rebels yield this year

From the Sun Star-Davao (Dec 20): More NPA rebels yield this year

THE Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom) has noted an increase in the number of the New People's Army (NPA) members who surrendered to the authorities since January 2014.

Eastmincom public information officer Major Ezra Balagtey said they have recorded a total of 455 rebel returnees in 2014 as compared to 2013 with 274.

Balagtey said among those who recently returned to the folds of the law was identified as Ramil Gano Mabulay, alias Pacot, the NPA's squad leader in Agusan del Norte.

“He [Pacot] surrendered to the troops of the Army’s 29th Infantry Battalion a day before the declaration of the Suspension of Military Operation (Somo) by the Government of the Philippines with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP-NPA),” Balagtey said.

Pacot surrendered to the government troops at Lugong in Barangay Putting Bato, Cabadbaran City in Agusan del Norte on December 17.

He also turned over his AK-47 firearm loaded with 318 live ammunitions to the troops.

Pacot said he decided to surrender to live a peaceful life together with his love ones’. This stemmed when he realized the vainness of the movement.

Eastmincom commander Lt. General Aurelio Baladad, on the other hand, welcome the rebel returnee as he urged other NPA rebels to do same like what Pacot did.

“Let this be a gift to your families who are always longing for you to return home. Ramil’s decision to leave the NPA is a manifestation of discontentment that is becoming common among ordinary members of the NPA,” Baladad said.

He said the increasing number of surrenderees is a positive indication that a loaming demoralization among their ranks is now taking place.

The surrenderees will be enrolled in the Integration Program of Cabadbaran, Agusan Norte.

They will be also remunerated with cash worth P15,000 for the firearm and ammunitions each has surrendered to the government.

Duterte to NPA: Free soldiers before Christmas

From the Sun Star-Davao (Dec 19): Duterte to NPA: Free soldiers before Christmas

DAVAO City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte said Thursday that he wants the two soldiers abducted by the New People's Army (NPA) to be freed before Christmas.

"I am telling the NPAs now that I would like the soldiers to be with their families on Christmas Day. It would not be clearer than that," Duterte said in a media interview at the sidelines of the clubhouse blessing of Matina Enclaves and groundbreaking of the first building of its Enclaves Residences first condominium building Thursday afternoon.

Last December 2, two Army soldiers were abducted by the NPA after an attack on a banana plantation at Barangay San Roque in New Corella town, Davao del Norte.

The captured soldiers were identified as Corporal Benjamin Enot Samano, 37, and Private First Class Alvin Ricarte, 23. Both are members of the 60th Infantry Battalion.

Philippine Army's 10th Infantry Division spokesperson First Lieutenant Vergel Lacambra earlier said that the soldiers were abducted after 15 communist rebels, who posed as workers, attacked the said plantation in San Roque.

Lacambra also said the rebels then escaped towards Barangay Napungas in Asuncion town.

The 60IB troops had launched a pursuit operation and conducted checkpoints in coordination with the Davao del Norte Provincial Police Office (DNPPO) for the arrest of the rebels behind the incident.

Armed Forces of the Philippines Awards Harris Corporation an $18 Million Order for Falcon III Radios and Vehicular Communications Systems

From the Business Wire  (Dec 19): Armed Forces of the Philippines Awards Harris Corporation an $18 Million Order for Falcon III Radios and Vehicular Communications Systems

  • Supplies radios for next phase of mission-critical communications and internal security network
  • Delivers integrated voice and data services up to brigade-level
  • Represents continued international standardization on Harris Falcon® platform
ROCHESTER, N.Y.--()--Harris Corporation (NYSE:HRS) has been awarded an $18 million initial order to provide the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) with Harris Falcon III® tactical vehicular radios and intercom systems. The Philippine Army will acquire the radios for its tactical communications modernization program. The order was received during the first quarter of fiscal 2015.
“This order will accelerate tactical radio modernization for the Philippine Army by providing soldiers with enhanced command and control and situational awareness for real-time decision-making”
Harris will modernize the Light Armored Division of the Philippine Army with the latest Falcon RF-7800V Combat Net Radio integrated into the RF-7800I Intercom Systems. This comprehensive solution for in-vehicle voice and data communications delivers secure tactical network connectivity.
“This order will accelerate tactical radio modernization for the Philippine Army by providing soldiers with enhanced command and control and situational awareness for real-time decision-making,” said Brendan O’Connell, president, International Business, Harris RF Communications. “The embedded encryption will provide secure interoperability with more than 13,000 Harris Falcon radios currently fielded within the AFP.”
Harris RF Communications is the leading global supplier of secure radio communications and embedded high-grade encryption solutions for military, government and commercial organizations. The company's Falcon® family of software-defined tactical radio systems encompasses manpack, handheld and vehicular applications. Falcon III® is the next generation of radios supporting the U.S. military's Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS) requirements, as well as network-centric operations worldwide. Harris RF Communications is also a leading supplier of assured communications® systems and equipment for public safety, utility and transportation markets — with products ranging from the most advanced IP voice and data networks to portable and mobile single- and multiband radios.
About Harris Corporation
Harris is an international communications and information technology company serving government and commercial markets in more than 125 countries. Headquartered in Melbourne, Florida, the company has approximately $5 billion of annual revenue and about 14,000 employees — including 6,000 engineers and scientists. Harris is dedicated to developing best-in-class assured communications® products, systems and services. Additional information about Harris Corporation is available at
Forward-Looking Statements
This press release contains forward-looking statements that reflect management's current expectations, assumptions and estimates of future performance and economic conditions. Such statements are made in reliance upon the safe harbor provisions of Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933 and Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. The company cautions investors that any forward-looking statements are subject to risks and uncertainties that may cause actual results and future trends to differ materially from those matters expressed in or implied by such forward-looking statements. Statements about the expected value of the program to Harris are forward-looking and involve risks and uncertainties. Harris disclaims any intention or obligation to update or revise any forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events, or otherwise.

South China Sea rivals compared by Global Times

Posted to Want China Times (Dec 19): South China Sea rivals compared by Global Times

An illustration showing the infrastructure the Philippines is building on Thitu island in the disputed Spratly island group. The Chinese cartoon suggests a wobbly Philippine flag on an island stamped as Chinese. (Illustration/CFP)

An illustration showing the infrastructure the Philippines is building on Thitu island in the disputed Spratly island group. The Chinese cartoon suggests a wobbly Philippine flag on an island stamped as Chinese. (Illustration/CFP)
The threats posed to China by each of the other claimants in the territorial disputes over the South China Sea were outlined in an analysis piece in China's nationalistic tabloid Global Times, run by the Communist Party mouthpiece People's Daily.
Over the last year China has engaged in prolonged standoffs and clashes with the Philippines and Vietnam and the rich underwater resources that the region is believed to possess will likely see each claimant build up a substantial military infrastructure to protect their claims over the next few years. The paper listed the threats posed by Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei; as China does not acknowledge Taiwan's sovereignty over itself, not to mention over islands in the South China Sea, Taiwan was conspicuously absent from the list. Taipei officially shares the same claim over the whole of the South China Sea as Beijing does and holds the Pratas islands in addition to Taiping, the largest natural island in the Spratly islands.
Vietnam: Military build-up on nine islands
From the early 1970s to the early 1990s, Vietnam occupied 29 islands and reefs in the Spratlys and strengthened their defensive infrastructure in the region.
Vietnam has used two defensive strategies. The first is to set up defensive positions comprising habitable and permanent defensive structures which can also serve in battle, forming a strategic defensive infrastructure. The second is establishing military outposts and guard houses on stilts, to widen the area of defense. The former are concentrated on nine islands and reefs including Spratly Island and Southwest Cay. The living conditions in these bases are reasonably comfortable, so more soldiers are stationed there. The islands of Spratly and Namyit are the core defensive strongholds of the Vietnamese army in the South China Sea.
Vietnam has 2,200 soldiers stationed in the Spratlys mainly armed with guns, tanks, anti-tank missiles and dynamic armed helicopters, but they do not have any ground-to-ship missiles, due to the complicated support system and permanent firing structure that they require which none of the islands can facilitate.
A photo set featured in the Hanoi-based Vietnam Pictorial shows nine of the main nine islands and reefs administered by Vietnam have 23mm anti-aircraft guns; six of them have 37mm anti-aircraft guns, five have 85mm cannons and two of them have 122mm howitzers and 130mm cannons; six of the islands have Russian made T-54/55 medium tanks, four have the Russian-made PT-76 amphibious light tank, totaling around 120 guns and 60 medium tanks. On Spratly Island and Namyit Island the Vietnamese army have a 122mm howitzer battalion, an 85mm cannon company, an 130mm cannon company, two to three 23mm or 37mm anti-aircraft gun companies and a tank company. Military helicopters can take off from and land on at least five of the islands and reefs.
From this configuration it is likely that when attacked Vietnam will make use of its large-caliber artillery to engage enemy warships in a long-range gunfight. The 130mm cannon has a range of 27 kilometers, a similar range to the gun on China's destroyers. The range of guns deployed by the Vietnamese troops is in preparation for long-distance, medium range and close-range defense against landing troops. To take Spratly as an example, the island has four guns with a range of over 16km, 21 guns with a range over 14km, 31 guns with a range of over 10km and 48 guns with a range of over 2km. The army can also make use of its helicopters to launch air attacks.
In addition to the nine larger islands, the Vietnamese army also has guard posts stationed at islands and reefs that are more vulnerable to attack, but these usually consist of a makeshift concrete or shacks on stilts with soldiers only armed with individual weapons.
Several special units of the Vietnamese army are said to have trained in amphibious warfare in the Spratlys and the 126th rapid response battalion, set up in 2005, is said to be Vietnam's answer to the US Navy Seals.
The Philippines: Cannot sustain low intensity warfare
The Philippines is relatively weak in terms of its economy and military power and its strategy in the region is different. Currently the Philippines administers eight islands in the region, including Thitu Island and Nanshan Island. Thitu is the second-largest island in the Spratlys and hundreds of Philippine civilians live there in addition to 40 soldiers. Conflicting reports put the total number of Philippine soldiers stationed on the islands at anywhere from 60-200.
The first group of civilians were sent to live on Thitu in 2001. The island has a town hall, a school, a clinic, a military barracks, a water treatment plant, a deep well, a small jetty, a 1,300m runway, a telecommunications base, an electricity generator and some greenhouses. There are flights between Thitu and Puerto Princesa in the Philippines.
On other islands, such as West York and Northeast Cay, the Philippines has only built a few simple structures and some islands, such as Flat Island and Lankiam Cay, are extremely small, so the army has erected a 10m tall watch tower on Nanshan and Loaita islands to watch over these islands with the naked eye, so troops are not actually stationed on them.
A documentary aired by Philippine TV station GMA7 described the daily lives of soldiers posted to the South China Sea islands. According to the documentary, there are four soldiers currently posted to Nanshan. A simple wooden structure has been erected on the island and army ships visit every month to bring fresh supplies and to change personnel. The four guards are armed with M-16 rifles and hand grenades.
In May, a high-ranking Philippine army officer told Japan's Kyodo News that the country plans to deploy two coast guard patrol boats and two surveillance craft to Thitu; as well as deploying permanent patrol boats to Nanshan and Commodore Reef; and establishing a Spratlys group (Kalayaan) army task force. The Philippine officer also said that the country plans to renovate the airport on Thitu and its bases and observation stations on Nanshan. In October, however, Manila announced that it had called a temporary halt to its renovation work on the islands in order not to influence an arbitration judgment which is still pending.
The Philippines is unlikely to be able to maintain even low-intensity warfare in the region, however. The army and the air force are mostly concerned with maintaining order domestically and tackling guerrilla fighters, while the navy is tasked with maintaining the country's territorial claims in the South China Sea. The Philippines has three main naval bases in Cavite, San Vicente and Mactan in Cebu and the majority of its warships and marine corps are located in the west of the country, bordering the South China Sea — or the West Philippine Sea, as Manila redesignated it relatively recently. According to a defense expert cited by the paper, though the Philippines has spent a large sum on modernizing the army it is still incapable of facing off against China.
Malaysia: Long-term military deployments on five islands
After engaging in military exercises with Australia, New Zealand, the UK and Singapore in August 1983, Malaysia sent marines to occupy the disputed Swallow Reef and has administered it since then. In 1986 the country also took over the administration of Mariveles Reef and Ardasier Reef and in May 1999 it took control of Investigator Shoal and Erica Reef.
Malaysia has opened a resort on Swallow Reef and has built an airport there. Currently Malaysia has just over 100 soldiers stationed on five islands and reefs, mostly at Lima Naval Station on Swallow Reef, Uniform Naval Station on the Ardasier Reef and Mike Naval Station on the Mariveles Reef.
Malaysia at one time occupied Louisa Reef, which is claimed by Brunei, but later quietly retreated from the island. Malaysia has placed emphasis on infrastructure in recent years, importing 18 MiG-29 fighters from Russia and 32 US-made F-18 Hornet and F-15 Eagle fighters, as well as buying 54 new naval vessels. Malaysia is also building up its submarine fleet, buying two Scorpene-class attack submarines and a decommissioned French Agosta-class submarine.
In its 2014 defense report, UK-based Jane's Defence Weekly stated that Malaysia is modernizing its navy. In October a Malaysian leader stated that the Royal Malaysian Air Force Butterworth base was transferring an F-16 Falcon fighter to Labuan island, to put it within closer range of Malaysia's claims in the region.
Brunei: No military presence
After Brunei declared independence in 1984, it declared sovereignty over the Louisa Reef. Brunei bought three coastal patrol boats in 1994 after China claimed the island as part of its territorial waters and then bought fighters from the UK. Although Brunei administers Louisa Reef it has no military presence on the island, or in the entire South China Sea.
Brunei has a small-scale military, owing to its small land mass and small population, so it does not present much of a threat to other claimants in the region, the paper said.
Li Mingjiang, an expert on South China Sea relations at Singapore's Nanyang Technological University's Rajaratnam School of International Studies, stated that in terms of infrastructure and weaponry Vietnam is the biggest threat to China in the South China Sea, followed by Malaysia and then the Philippines


Li Mingjiang 李明江

China’s Energy Demand And South China Sea Dispute – Analysis

From the Euraisa Review (Dec 19): China’s Energy Demand And South China Sea Dispute – Analysis (by Selcuk Colakoglu)

The South China Sea is known for its complex maritime disputes. Though parties involved in the disputes have been careful to keep the issue of sovereignty discussed within the frame of diplomatic debate, the problem has nonetheless seen recent escalation. From an energy security perspective, it seems that the situation might make the global agenda that much busier.
The South China Sea (SCS) has hosted and still hosts the world’s most complex system of maritime disputes. Besides disagreement on the border of the continental shelf and the delineation of exclusive economic zones, there are disputes in the Sea over who has sovereignty over various small islands and skerries.

Bordering the SCS, there are seven parties involved in the disputes over sovereignty of the islands, namely, Brunei, China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam. The Paracel and Spratly island groups, consisting of rocky archipelagos, are more or less controlled by all of these seven countries. Here, each party’s sovereignty claims overlap with those of at least two or three of the other countries, regardless if the island is a livable habitat, a rock, an atoll or a reef. Among the parties to the problem: (i) China cites two thousand year-old legislation that claims all maritime areas in the territorial waters of the other countries, including all the islands; (ii) Vietnam claims rights to the Paracel and Spratly islands, as well as the western half of the SCS; (iii) the Philippines, claims rights to the Spratly islands and the area surrounding them (iv) Taiwan claims the Paracel islands; and (v) Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia have overlapping exclusive economic zones and claims to the continental shelf.

The risk of escalation

Seeing that it is an area over which multiple actors claim sovereignty, preventing the risk of escalation in the SCS is the most important item on the agenda for the involved parties as well as the international community. In fact, in 1974 and in 1988, bloody clashes broke out between China and Vietnam over control of the Spratly and Paracel islands. In recent years, growing tension has risen among the involved countries as a result of the SCS disputes. In 2012, China created a new prefecture named Sansha that consists of the Paracel and Spratly islands, an act that was met with strong protest by Vietnam and the Philippines. Again in 2012, the blockade of Vietnamese research vessels in the SCS by the Chinese navy caused a rise in political tension between the two countries.

In 2013, the Philippines appealed to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) because of the disputes with China in the SCS, citing the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. Generally, China prefers resolving SCS disputes through bilateral negotiations, and has thus stood in total opposition to the involvement of the ICJ in the matter.

Other countries, however, would like to resolve the problem by way of international mediation and with the help of the skillset possessed by the ICJ, thereby avoiding the assumption of a direct stance against China. Barring China and Taiwan, all five other states involved in the disputes are ASEAN members, and with the spirit of cooperation enshrined within the framework of this organization, these countries were able to adopt a common position to resolve, or at least manage, the problem without escalating political tensions. Taiwan, a nonmember of ASEAN and not even recognized as an independent state, is of a similar opinion, namely, that the issue should be resolved through negotiations as to avoid a deterioration of the matter.

On the other hand, in recent years, China is not only vocally reiterating its sovereignty claims over the SCS, but has also been pursuing a more active approach to assert these claims. In this way, the South China Sea problem is the most important issue in China-ASEAN relations.

The importance of South China Sea energy resources for China’s energy needs

China, as the world’s largest oil importer, is highly dependent on oil from the Middle East and Africa. However, the long sea route to reach these regions also poses a risk in terms of energy security for China. Therefore, China is formulating various strategies to diversify its energy suppliers and to develop its own domestic energy resources; therefore, it has begun to explore the potentials hidden beneath the SCS, which it considers to fall under Chinese sovereign territory.

In this vein, the China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) has been appointed to prospect for deep sea oil and natural gas. In 2009, CNOOC declared a budget of $30 billion for over 20 years allotted to deep-sea resource prospection, thus showing the importance of the maritime area for the country. China now aims to complete the construction of a second deep-sea drilling platform in 2016.

China’s riparian regions that border the SCS are thought to be rich in energy resources. Here, even though there are proven energy reserves located under China’s Pearl River Delta and offshore from Hainan Island, the main wealth of the SCS is thought to be located in its southern half, off the coasts of Indonesia, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam.

According to a recent geological survey, there are 11 billion barrels of oil and 4 trillion cubic meters of gas beneath the SCS. These figures better explain why China persistently refuses to recognize the other parties’ exclusive economic zones and claims to the continental shelf of the SCS. For logistical convenience and to minimize the security risks, after the projects around Hainan Island, China plans to start prospection and production in a region just a bit further out to sea – the Paracel Islands.

While Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei have already commenced extraction in the SCS, the Philippines and Vietnam are also preparing to begin their own extraction operations. Vietnam is exploring the Nam Con Son and Cuu Long fields, while the Philippines is doing the same around Malampa and the Reed Bank area. Additionally, as a non-oil exporter that still imports refined petroleum products, Vietnam concedes to allow some European, American, Russian, Indian and Malaysian companies to conduct prospections in various areas of the SCS. Here, Malaysia’s Petronas company, with its foreign partners, has attained the capacity to explore both coastal regions and the deep sea.

As a result, the SCS, in terms of the overlapping and contentious claims to sovereignty as well as energy security, is most likely to feature more heavily on the global agenda. The parties have been trying their best to keep the sovereignty debate within the field of diplomacy. However, at the same time, tensions regarding China’s claims to the SCS, particularly with regard to opposition posed by Vietnam and the Philippines, have exhibited a tendency of escalation in recent years. This situation may accelerate the development of the proposed military alliance between Vietnam and the Philippines, who feel that they are not strong enough in the face of the Chinese Navy. Considering this, it would not be a coincidence if the Philippines were to seek to expand its security cooperation with the US while Vietnam does the same to deepen its strategic relationship with the US.

[JTW - the Journal of Turkish Weekly - is a respected Turkish news source in English language on international politics. Established in 2004, JTW is published by Ankara-based Turkish think tank International Strategic Research Organization (USAK).]

NPA dared to be sincere

From the Visayan Daily Star (Dec 19): NPA dared to be sincere
in declaration of ceasefire

Despite the announcement of the Communist Party of the Philippines that it will observe a suspension of military offensives during the yuletide season celebration, the Philippine Army is not lowering its vigilance, especially on December 26, which is the 46 th founding anniversary of the CPP.

Maj. Gen. Rey Leonardo Guerrero, 3rd Infantry Division commander, challenged the NPA local leadership to prove their sincerity in the declaration of the ceasefire, saying that they have faithfully complied with it ever since.

The CPP will observe ceasefire on Dec. 24 to 26, Dec. 31 to Jan. 1 and Jan. 15 to 19.

Guerrero, however, said that, even without SOMO, they continue to remain vigilant through the conduct of pro-active defensive patrol in communities, as their assistance to law enforcement.

He said SOMO only covers offensive military operations, which they are observing.

But it does not mean that they will not continue with other functions related to their mandate, particularly in support to humanitarian assistance, since there are still victims of typhoon Ruby, assistance to law enforcement and of securing vital installations, he said.

The AFP and the Philippine National Police have unilaterally declared a suspension of offensive military and police operations (SOMO) against the NPA from December 18, 2014 to January 19, 2015, covering the yuletide season and the visit of Pope Francis.

AFP chief of staff Gen. Gregorio Catapang Jr. said that while he wished their dates matched, they would just have to exercise greater vigilance in the period that only the AFP is on ceasefire.