Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Video: Policeman killed in raid on station

From ABS-CBN (Dec 12 ): Video: Pulis patay sa paglusob ng NPA sa istasyon (Policeman killed in raid on station)

EXCL: Cop dead in NPA attack on Palawan station

As of 12/12/2012 10:34 PM
Patay ang isang pulis at sugatan ang isa niyang kasamahan matapos lusubin ng mga miyembro ng New People's Army ang kanilang istasyon sa Roxas, Palawan. Tiyempo namang naroon ang ABS-CBN News team nang maganap ang pag-atake. Exclusive nagpa-Patrol, Hazel Salas. TV Patrol, Disyembre 12, 2012, Miyerkules

US to help PH gain credible defense

From the Manila Standard Today (Dec 13): US to help PH gain credible defense

A defense official on Wednesday said the United States planned to increase the country’s “minimum credible defense posture” amid the continuing territorial dispute in the West Philippine Sea and likewise provide assistance to the military in disaster preparedness and maritime security and awareness, among other things. Defense Undersecretary Pio Lorenzo said the US would enhance the country’s security by providing a “combination” of naval troops and defense equipment while engaging the country’s armed forces in military training and exercises. Batino added that the US move was part of the implementation of Manila and Washington’s 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty and the Visiting Forces Agreement.

Although there were no specifics on when and where they plan to increase military presence in the country, Batino said the officials who were present during the meeting had agreed to form a technical working group which would go into the details. “Nothing definitive because this is just a policy consultation meeting. All of these specifics will have to be threshed out to the lower consultation,” Batino told reporters at the sidelines of the press briefing on the PH-US bilateral consultation at the Diamond Hotel in Manila. Batino added that the meeting did not discuss the exact number of troops that Washington would send to the country, saying that “it will be primarily an increase on the defense cooperation activities such as training and exercises all geared for maritime security and disaster relief”.

Based on its joint statement, the bilateral meeting also formulated policies in line with Manila and Washington’s constitution, on how to strengthen the country’s maritime security and maritime awareness, specifically on the development of a National Coast Watch Center. US Assistant Secretary of Defense Mark Lippert said the American Department of Defense Cooperative Threat Reduction Program is also planning to strengthen the capability of the Philippines National Coast Watch System on maritime domain awareness and maritime security coordinating role. “We look forward to continuing this dialogue of shared goal to promote peace and stability in the region” Lippert said.

The meeting, according to Batino, was part of what Lippert discussed last September on the “three-part-approach” on what the US Defense Department will do to assist the Philippines on security-related issues. The first approach would be the repositioning of humanitarian and disaster relief assistance; the second approach refers to developing maritime awareness and the third was continuing the engagement of both countries’ military forces.

The United States is the Philippines’ only treaty ally and one of only two strategic allies. Through the Mutual Defense Treaty signed by both countries in 1951, the Philippines were able to acquire two Hamilton-class cutters and several armaments that will boost the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ and the Philippine Coast Guard’s capacity to protect the country’s coastal waters. US assistant secretary of State Kurt Campbell also re-affirmed Washington’s firm support for the Philippines on its defense treaty with it. “The US stands firmly behind the Philippines on defense treaty,” Campbell. The 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty provides that both countries must come to the aid of each other when faced with possible armed conflict. The treaty also says Washington must help Manila boost its military capability.

PH, U.S. to strengthen security pact; China army told to brace for 'military struggle'

From InterAksyon (Dec 12): PH, U.S. to strengthen security pact; China army told to brace for 'military struggle'

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell (R) joins hands with U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs Mark Lippert (2nd R), Philippines ambassador to the U.S. Jose Cuisia and Philippines Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for Policy Erlinda Basilio (L) during a joint news conference after their meeting at a hotel in Manila December 12, 2012. REUTERS/Cheryl Ravelo

Amid the rising tension with China over territorial disputes at sea, the Philippines will be strengthening its security pact with the United States this week. Meanwhile, without making direct reference to the disputes, new Chinese Communist Party chief Xi Jinping urged his military to prepare for a struggle, Reuters reported on Wednesday. Xi made the comments during his visit to a South China Sea fleet ship in southern Guangdong province, but did not name any potential aggressor. Senior U.S. and Philippine officials met on Wednesday in Manila to discuss strengthening security and economic ties at a time of growing tension over China's aggressive sovereignty claims over vast stretches of the disputed South China Sea.

Increased naval troops, defense equipment

Philippine Defense Secretary Pio Lorenzo Batino said the U.S. is set to increase a "combination" of naval troops, defense equipment, and military training and exercises in the Philippines. The increase of a minimum credible defense posture in the Philippines is part of the implementation of Manila and Washington's 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty and the Visiting Forces Agreement, according to Batino. Although there are no specifics on when and where the U.S. plans to increase military posture and exercises in the Philippines, Batino said U.S> and Philippines officials had agreed to form a technical working group that would determine and implement the details.  "Nothing definitive because this is a policy consultation meeting. And then all of these specifics will have to be threshout to the lower consultation," Batino on Wednesday told reporters at the sidelines of the PH-US bilateral consultation at the Diamond Hotel in Manila."There is nothing have been discussed in respect to number as of this time. It will be primarily an increase of the defense cooperation activities such as training and exercises all geared for maritime security and disaster relief," added Batino. What we are discussing right now is increasing the rotational presence of U.S. forces," Carlos Sorreta, the foreign ministry's Assistant Secretary for American Affairs, told reporters on Wednesday.

Pact inked this week

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff Gen. Jessie Dellosa and Admiral Samul Locklear, commander of the United States Pacific Command (USPACOM) will be the ones finalizing and signing the security pact this week. “The meeting will be on Thursday here in Camp Aguinaldo. It will be the final meeting for the 2012 cycle of the Philippine-US Mutual Defense Board (MDB) and the Security Engagement Board (SEB). The executive committee meetings had been conducted already before so this will be the final one,” military spokesman Col. Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos Jr. said.

The head of the military’s Internal Affairs Division, Col. Nilo Perfecto, said the document that would be signed is the Terms of Reference. “The Terms of Reference which will be signed by Admiral Locklear and Gen. Dellosa will cover five concerns,” Perfecto told reporters on Thursday. Among the terms of reference is the exclusion of the Philippine National Police particularly the PNP chief from the MDB, according to Perfecto. “The PNP will be no longer part of the Armed Forces. It will be removed from the MDB,” he said. But he said the PNP chief would be placed as a member of the SEB with the commandant of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG). “The SEB will be in charge on nontraditional challenges like disaster response, counter-terrorism, anti-piracy, among others,” Perfecto said. The PNP and PCG will also establish the Technology Experimentation Sub-Committee and the National Guard and build partnership with Guam and Hawaii as operational planning group. “The intention of this is to help our reservists in the AFP to have technology experimentation and knowledge and to organize counter-terrorism, humanitarian assistance, and disaster relief working groups,” Perfecto said.

Brace for a 'military struggle'

Wary of Washington's intentions, China is building up its own military. Its claims over most of the South China Sea have set it directly against U.S. allies Vietnam and the Philippines, while Brunei, Taiwan and Malaysia also claim parts of the mineral-rich waters. Xi, who assumed the role of military chief about a month ago, called on the 2.3-million-strong People's Liberation Army to "push forward preparations for a military struggle", state news agency Xinhua said. Xi, speaking during a three-day inspection of the PLA's Guangzhou base starting last Saturday, did not say against whom the struggle might be fought. His remarks echo those he made a week ago and are a common refrain by Chinese leaders. Xi replaced President Hu Jintao as chairman of the Central Military Commission on November 15. Xi also said the army should "modernize" for combat readiness, but gave no specific details.

AFP donates P3M to ‘Pablo’ victims

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Dec 12): AFP donates P3M to ‘Pablo’ victims

The Armed Forces of the Philippines will donate P3 million for victims of typhoon Pablo (international name Bopha), which ravaged Visayas and Mindanao last week.
“The amount will be used to purchase construction materials and equipment to build shelters for the victims who lost their homes during the typhoon,” military spokesman Colonel Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos Jr. said. The AFP has released P1.5 million, while P1 million will be taken from the command to boost the efforts of the troops conducting humanitarian assistance and disaster relief in Mindanao. The AFP has also released P500,000 to purchase medicines for the victims. It has also deployed six medical teams to bring relief to the victims of the recent calamity, Burgos said. Typhoon “Pablo” has killed more than 700, with about 900 missing as of latest. It also left an estimated P7billion worth of damage.

International NGO cites issues to be hurdled in path to Bangsamoro peace

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Dec 12): International NGO cites issues to be hurdled in path to Bangsamoro peace

A Belgium-based non-government organization focusing on conflict prevention has said that the Philippine government’s framework peace agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front must hurdle several issues to achieve lasting peace in Mindanao. The International Crisis Group, in a report ( published December 5, said “it was difficult to predict at this stage whether the framework agreement will produce a lasting peace.” It conceded, however, that the political environment was “far more favourable than it was when the last agreement collapsed in 2008.”

“This time around, the president is popular, has slightly over half his term left, and has shown that he is committed to peace with the MILF. But it is clear that there are serious obstacles on the horizon, including whether the basic law will be compatible with the constitution; possible opposition from Christians, indigenous peoples and the Sulu archipelago; the potential for an MILF splinter to grow if implementation stalls; and the future of MILF fighters and their weapons,” the ICG said in a statement. The ICG report noted that as with earlier scuttled pacts, the framework agreement deferred tough questions “and it is unclear how, if ever, they will be resolved.” “Politics in Mindanao or Manila could get in the way, and it may be impossible to devolve sufficient power to the Bangsamoro government without running afoul of the constitution. The MILF is unlikely to surrender its arms until the process is complete,” the ICG said.

However, the ICG-Southeast Asia project director Jim Della-Giacoma called the framework agreement “a triumph for both sides” pointing out that the breakthrough took place “because government negotiators came to the table with creative ideas, and their MILF counterparts responded by being flexible and pragmatic.” .......

US, PH conclude strategic talks, strongly condemn N. Korea’s rocket launch

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Dec 13): US, PH conclude strategic talks, strongly condemn N. Korea’s rocket launch

Officials from the Philippines and the United States on Wednesday strongly condemned North Korea’s decision to pursue its rocket launch, saying that the two countries would strengthen and increase their alliances with the “current threat to regional security.” The joint statement issued by both sides at the conclusion of their third Bilateral Strategic Dialogue emphasized that both countries viewed the act as “highly provocative” and in direct violation of relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions. Philippine diplomats, defense officials, and their US counterparts convened for the two-day dialogue, which tackled issues on the economy, rule of law, diplomatic engagement and defense.

The talks, held in Manila from December 11 to 12, were co-chaired by Foreign Undersecretary and now new Philippine Ambassador to China Erlinda Basilio and Defense Undersecretary Pio Lorenzo Batino for the Philippine side and for the American side by US State Department Assistant Secretary Kurt Campbell and Defense Assistant Secretary Mark Lippert. Campbell, for his part, thanked the Philippines for standing with the international community in condemning the act, saying that the US would work very closely with its allies to do an assessment of the issue. “We would be taking steps tomorrow at the UN…..working closely with our partners in the security council,” Campbell told reporters on Wednesday.

Increased cooperation

Batino, for his part, noted that there were substantial discussions on the increased rotational presence of American troops in the country, and noted that it would “primarily be an increase of the defense cooperation activities such as trainings and exercises all geared for maritime security and disaster relief.” When pressed by reporters about details, Batino repeatedly said that there were discussions on a possible framework but that the specifics would be determined by technical working groups. “It’s going to be a very significant development in our relations so there is a need to discuss this further,” Batino said. He added that both parties agreed that everything that would be implemented “should be in accordance with Philippine and US laws.” He said that the increased defense cooperation between the two countries would surely benefit the Philippines especially in disaster relief, citing the recent move by the US to deploy C 130 planes to aid in the distribution of relief goods for the victims of typhoon Pablo, the worst storm to hit the country this year.

The officials noted that discussions on the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) dispute were “extensive” but did not elaborate. Basilio noted that that the discussions on the rule of law highlighted the Philippines’ advocacy for a peaceful settlement of conflicting territorial claims in the West Philippine Sea “We just want peace and stability there and it is my task also that we ensure excellent relations with them,” Basilio said.

Campbell also noted that relations between the countries are on a substantial upswing, saying that both sides were active and deepening and strengthening the ties on every level—strategically, politically, economically and militarily. “We believe that we are at a renaissance and building a strong relationship for the future….We want a different kind of relationship based on mutual respect and equality,” he said.

Progressive groups want 86th IB out of Ifugao town

From the Sun Star-Baguio (Dec 12): Progressive groups want 86th IB out of Ifugao town

TINOC, Ifugao – “Stop the political vilification of human rights defenders, people’s organizations and development workers” is the battle cry of the people here. With several human rights violations reported to the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA) from the town, it immediately circulated an urgent action alert to the different institutions, agencies concerned, public, officials, and individuals to force government to pull out and hold the 86 Infantry Battalion(IB) accountable for its alleged crimes. The battalion is currently based in Tinoc.

Among the alleged crimes of the battalion are torture, divestment and destruction of properties, political vilification, threat, harassment, and intimidation to the community. CHRA secretary general Jude Baggo revealed a dialogue was held in November 12 with Governor Eugene Balitang of Ifugao and the 86th IB commander. He said during the dialogue, “the Armed Forces of the Philippines denied the existence of such list and denied the violations took place even in front of their victims.” Baggo claims the AFP, instead, tried to justify their continued presence in communities and even the use of civilian facilities while they are in combat operations. A press release of the CHRA stated “the Provincial Department of [the] Interior and Local Government officer-in-charge Rosario Dumetod believes human rights violations were perpetrated and these need to be investigated.”

The governor committed the Provincial Government will pay for the damages of the crimes allegedly done by the AFP. However, Baggo said “while it was a sign of goodwill for the governor to pay the damages, it stands to rob the people of Ifugao from whatever meager resources the province has. It is the people of Ifugao paying for damages done by the AFP.” He said the people of the town will stand firm in their demand for the pull out of the 86th IB. “They need our support now especially as the leaders and members of the community, the development workers and human rights defenders are attacked by the state security forces,” Baggo calls for the participation of the public. Baggo said if someone is interested to support their call, they may send their petitions to President Benigno Aquino III at Malacañang.

No truth to reports of rioting, mobs in typhoon-hit areas in Mindanao — official

From GMA News (Dec 12): No truth to reports of rioting, mobs in typhoon-hit areas in Mindanao — official

A military general in charge of relief operations in areas hit by Typhoon Pablo in Mindanao on Wednesday denied reports that looting and rioting have characterized the situation in calamity areas there. Facing the media at a Palace press briefing, Lieutenant General Jorge Segovia said the reports were “hardly true,” as he himself was there to supervise relief efforts. “Some of the rumors of mobs and rioting, and the lack of so many things [are] hardly true. I’ve been there... I was there during the first delivery in Baganga, I saw the relief goods on trucks,” Segovia told reporters. Segovia, who is chief of the Armed Forces Eastern Mindanao Command, had been designated head of overall rescue and relief efforts by President Benigno Aquino III.

Cabinet Secretary Rene Almendras likewise defended the military, saying the organization has done its job adequately. “There have been criticisms as to the effect of what the military has failed to do. I have been to Davao, and from where I sit and what I have seen, I think our uniformed personnel have done a fantastic job in Davao,” Almendras said “I know that there will always be criticisms because there is always not enough that can be done,” he added.

A week earlier, reports from the ground revealed that hungry survivors of the deadly typhoon looted shops and warehouses in a hard-hit town to stay alive amid stalled aid deliveries. But Segovia maintained that there was no truth to the report, which itself came from a rescue official. “Except for a minor incident involving the locals, the governor of Davao Oriental is very much in command of the situation. The rest of the province is very well organized. In fact, most of the provinces, even Banganga and Caraga is doing well in terms of relief operations,” he said. Baganga and Cateel are two of the towns hardest hit by Pablo, which has claimed 740 lives so far and has left 890 missing. A total of 1,906 people have been reported injured.

Segovia added that in addition to orderly distribution of relief goods, medical aid for victims remains accessible--a far cry from the images presented in media. “I personally talked to the doctors and I saw—they expressed no problems. Of course, they need more medicines but on emergency situations, they are able to go through their business. In fact, during my visit to Baganga, there were hardly long lines ‘no, where the doctors attended,” Segovia said.

More volunteers

At the same press briefing, Almendras reiterated a call for additional volunteers, citing a need for more doctors to treat victims who have lost nearly everything.  “What we need to do is work together. Government will do its share but we need everyone’s help as well. We have resources but it’s not a question of resources. It’s a question of hands and feet that will help bring these goods to where they are most needed. It’s a question of people, doctors,” Almendras said.Still, Segovia praised victims of the typhoon, saying in the midst of adversity, they have remained strong. “The people of these devastated areas are very resilient, they are very patient,” Segovia said.

NDRRMC chairperson Benito Ramos, who was also present at the briefing, expressed optimism that most, if not all of the missing are still alive. Ramos particularly said he has high hopes of recovering lost fishermen. “Basing from our [previous] experiences [with other natural calamities], there are still fishermen that are alive. We recovered fishermen from Camarines Sur last time in the Babuyan Islands of the northern Philippines; 21 days alive,” he said.

Meanwhile, asked about the possible threat of communist rebels known to prowl the area, Segovia admitted that the military is more concerned with relief efforts rather than confronting rebels.“[In times like this] internal security operation takes a back seat. But we know the threats and we make sure that security precautions are made because, of course, syempre baka i-take advantage tayo ng mga rebelde while we are undergoing our relief operations,” Segovia said.

US military to increase presence in PHL

From GMA News (Dec 12): US military to increase presence in PHL

US and Philippine officials are expected to agree on an increase in the number of US military ships, aircraft and troops rotating through the Philippines, Filipino officials said, as tensions simmer with China over its maritime claims. Senior US and Philippine officials met on Wednesday in Manila to discuss strengthening security and economic ties at a time of growing tension over China's aggressive sovereignty claims over vast stretches of the disputed South China Sea, including the West Philippine Sea. Philippine defense and diplomatic officials said they expected to see more US ships, aircraft and troops for training exercises and disaster and relief operations.

"What we are discussing right now is increasing the rotational presence of US forces," Carlos Sorreta, the foreign ministry's Assistant Secretary for American Affairs, told reporters. A five-year joint US-Philippine military exercise plan would be approved this week, he added. The size of the increase in the US military assets in the Philippines, a former US colony, was unclear. But it comes as the Philippines, Australia and other parts of the region have seen a resurgence of US warships, planes and personnel under Washington's so-called "pivot" in foreign, economic and security policy towards Asia announced last year.

US and Philippine officials say there is no plan to revive permanent US military bases in the Philippines - the last ones were closed in 1992 - and that the increased presence would help provide relief during disasters such as a typhoon last week that killed more than 700 people. "The increase rotation presence is in areas where we have been traditionally exercising," said Sorreta. "There are other areas for example where we have been experiencing more disasters. So we might be expanding exercises there."

Wary of Washington's intentions, China is building up its own military. Its claims over most of the South China Sea have set it directly against US allies Vietnam and the Philippines, while Brunei, Taiwan and Malaysia also claim parts of the mineral-rich waters. One US official said Washington was not ready to wade directly into the territorial dispute in the West Philippine Sea and instead would focus on strengthening security ties with long-standing allies such as the Philippines. "I don't think you'll see any real movement on the South China Sea," the US official said. "I'm sure it will come up, but we aren't trying to step in and 'solve' that issue. We really want the solution to be done by the claimants themselves and are hoping the Code of Conduct discussions move forward," said the official, referring to a Code of Conduct aimed at easing the risk of naval flashpoints.

Sorreta told Reuters the Philippines also favored an increased deployment of US aircraft and ships "so we can make use of them when the need arises", citing last week's typhoon. He said they would also welcome more US humanitarian supplies.

Mangudadatu's senior engineering staff slain in Sultan Kudarat

From the Philippine Star (Dec 12): Mangudadatu's senior engineering staff slain in Sultan Kudarat

Two motorcycle-riding gunmen shot dead a senior engineering staff of Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu in a daring broad daylight attack in Esperanza town in Sultan Kudarat on Tuesday.The victim, Engineer Pendi Umal Abpet, chief of the construction and technical division of the office of Maguindanao’s provincial governor, died from gunshot wounds in different parts of his body. Senior Police Officer 1 Jose Gallano, chief investigator of the Esperanza municipal police, said Abpet was standing in front of a roadside eatery when the motorcycle-riding suspects pulled over, approached him casually as they pulled out .45 pistols from their waists and opened fire, hitting him in the head and chest.The gunmen fled towards the direction of Ampatuan town in nearby Maguindanao. Responding civilian volunteers and policemen rushed Abpet to a nearby hospital, where attending doctors declared him dead on arrival.

Mangudadatu, chairman of the provincial peace and order council, said he has tasked Maguindanao’s police director, Senior Superintendent Jaime Pido, to help the Esperanza municipal police investigate on the incident. Mangudadatu said his slain subordinate was a humble, hard-working civil servant who had no known enemies.

Philippines, US military chiefs to meet Thursday

From the Philippine Star (Dec 12): Philippines, US military chiefs to meet Thursday

The military chiefs of the Philippines and the United States (US) will Thursday to discuss mutual security concerns and to reaffirm the two countries’ security ties. The meeting between Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Gen. Jessie Dellosa and US Pacific Command chief Admiral Samuel Locklear is in line with the Mutual Defense Treaty signed by the two countries in 1951. “Gen. Dellosa and Adm. Locklear will reaffirm their commitment to the strategic partnership between the two countries’ armed forces,”

AFP spokesman Col. Arnulfo Burgos Jr. said in a press conference Wednesday. “This will also serve as a mechanism for consultations on mutual security concerns and this will also serve as a venue for mutually-agreed upon activities and arrangements involving both countries,” he added. Under the MDT, the two countries, separately or jointly, will maintain and develop their individual and collective capacity to resist armed attacks.Burgos could not tell if the territorial row in the West Philippine Sea would be tackled by the military leaders.

Col. Nilo Perfecto, an official from the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Plans and Programs, said Dellosa and Locklear would sign five terms of reference that would further define their partnership. These are the transfer of the Philippine National Police (PNP) from the Mutual Defense Board (MDB) to the Security and Engagement Board (SEB), the designation of SEB as a body that would deal with non-traditional threats like piracy, cyber security and disasters; the creation of a technology and experimentation subcommittee on civil-military operations; the creation of the humanitarian and disaster response working group and the activation of a counter-terrorism working group. Burgos said the meeting of Dellosa and Locklear would cap the engagements of the MDT and the SEB for this year.

Earlier, Dellosa said the US and the Philippines would sign this month an agreement that would enable them to conduct bilateral exercises in 2013. Among the joint military drills staged by the US and the Philippines are the Balikatan, Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training or CARAT and the annual Amphibious Landing Exercise or PHIBLEX.

Last January, the US announced plans to deploy majority of its naval fleet to the Pacific by 2020.
US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said the move is in line with the US’s efforts to boost its presence in the Asia Pacific. He said the US naval assets would be realigned from a roughly 50-50 split between the Pacific and the Atlantic to about 60-40 split between those oceans. Several US warships have conducted successive “routine port calls” in the Philippines since the US Defense department made the announcement. On Sunday, US submarine USS Emory S Land will arrive in Subic Bay to replenish supplies. The submarine is part of the US Pacific Fleet.

Negros soldier to get full honors

From the Visayan Daily Star (Dec 12): Negros soldier to get full honors

Full military honors will be accorded to Sgt. Maximo Olivarez upon the return of his body to Negros Occidental, Army spokesman Maj. Harry Cabunoc said yesterday. The cadaver of Olivarez was expected to arrive in Negros Occidental last night. Cabunoc also said Olivarez is entitled to a Bronze Cross Medal, in recognition of his heroism. Olivarez, a member of the 66th Infantry Battalion Charlie Company, was not killed in a war, but by the fury of nature. He was among the Army soldiers deployed in the far-flung areas of New Bataan town in Compostela Valley for rescue operations in the wake of super typhoon Pablo.

Lt. Col. Lyndon Paniza, spokesman of the Army’s 10th Infantry Division, said that 66th IB Charlie Company soldiers headed by 1Lt. Alex Deazeta were dispatched to the area to conduct rescue operations when the landslide hit them. Three other 66IB soldiers were also killed, and three injured, including Deazeta, while eight others are still missing, after their temporary command post was swept away by flashfloods, military records show.

Cabunoc said the family of Olivarez will also receive financial assistance from the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and educational assistance for his children, among others. Olivarez is married to a teacher in Moises Padilla town, and they have two children. He had served the Philippine Army for 13 years.

AFP gives P22M to informants in capture, deaths of Abu Sayyaf and NPA leaders

From InterAksyon (Dec 12): AFP gives P22M to informants in capture, deaths of Abu Sayyaf and NPA leaders

AFP deputy chief for intelligence, Maj. Gen. Francisco Cruz Jr., shakes the hand of an informant after handing over a bundle of cash as Maj. Gen. Rolando Tenefrancia, chief of the AFP Civil Relations Service, looks on.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines gave out P22 million to eight informants who led to the deaths or arrests of top leaders of the Abu Sayyaf Group and the communist rebel movement. The rewards were handed out by Major General Francisco Cruz Jr., deputy chief of staff for intelligence, and Major General Rolando Tenefrancia, commanding general of the AFP Civil Relations Service.

Colonel Arnulfo Burgos, AFP spokesman, said among those the informants helped bag was Abu Sayyaf leader Ghumbahali Jumdail, alias Dr. Abu, who was among 15 members of the extremist group killed in an air strike in Parang, Sulu last February. Jumdail had a bounty of P7.4 million from the government.

Other Abu Sayyaf members killed or arrested through the help of the informants were Suhud Tanadjalin (killed, P3.3-million reward), Usman Said, alias Kaiser Said (killed, P1.2 million); Imbo Bayani alias Sahibul Jamaani (killed), Harun Jaljalis (killed), Assan/Bin Laden alias Abu Usama (captured), Burrong Rasul Barro alias Abu Mohammad (arrested), Rommel Abbas alias Abu Nick (arrested), and Samsudin Musa alias Musa (arrested), who each had bounties of P350,000.

Informants also helped in the arrest of alleged communist rebel leaders Allan Jazmines (P5.6-million reward), Robertson Anchez alias Stanley/Felimon (killed) and Edgardo Sevilla alias Palong/Diego (arrested), who each had a P1.2 million reward for cases of murder, robbery in band, and multiple frustrated murder.

The rewards system, facilitated by the National Joint Reward Valuation Committee of the AFP and the Philippine National Police, seeks to encourage civilians to provide the government with information leading to the arrest of wanted personalities. The reward system for the Abu Sayyaf was activated on June 12, 2001, that for communist rebels on June 30, 2006.

GPH, MILF start 34th round of peace talks

From Rappler (Dec 12): GPH, MILF start 34th round of peace talks

The government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), along with their respective Technical Working Groups, reconvened for the 34th Round for Formal Exploratory Talks in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on Wednesday morning, December 12, to draft the annexes that will complement the recently-signed Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro.  This marks the first time that University of the Philippines Professor Miriam Coronel-Ferrer is taking the helm as the government peace panel chair after being appointed to replace now Associate Justice Marvic Leonen.
"We have returned confident of the wide public support back home for a process that has concluded one phase and began another," Ferrer said in her opening statement. MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Igbal for his part expressed confidence on Ferrer's capacity to lead the government peace panel. National Commission on Muslim Filipinos chair Mehol Sadain joined the team for this round of talks while the appointment of the 5th member of the panel is still awaiting the go signal from Malacañang.
Both sides will continue working on the three annexes -- normalization, power-sharing and wealth-sharing -- that will comprise the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro. The annexes are expected to be completed before the end of the year as indicated in the Framework Agreement signed in October. Igbal earlier said this round of negotiations will cover a "substantial part" of the normalization annex, which is seen to be the most difficult part of negotiations as it covers the issues of policing, decommissioning, and gradual redeployment of government forces.
Despite fears and uncertainties surrounding the issue of normalization, Ferrer lauded the MILF for having the "courage and maturity" to understand what it takes to achieve peace.  "This courage and maturity, government will meet with reciprocity. Our processes may be bogged down sometimes by the bureaucratic maze that involves any paper work or the system of check-and-balance that are imposed on us and with due diligence, that we also impose on ourselves," Ferrer said. "But we should not be discouraged by seeming insurmountables," she added. "Among Tausugs, there is a saying: “In maksud mahunit, makawa landu in halga.” As translated by [Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process] Undersectary Joe Lorena, “Ang bagay na kinuha ng mahirap, marami ang makikinabang.” In English, from something achieved the hard way, many will benefit." .......

Segovia: calamity areas ill-prepared to handle strong typhoons

From the Philippine Information Agency (Dec 12): Segovia: calamity areas ill-prepared to handle strong typhoons

A top military officer said areas hardest hit by typhoon Pablo in Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental are not used to strong and destructive weather systems. Lt. General Jorge Segovia, commander of the Eastern Mindanao Command, said facilities like gymnasiums, school buildings and barangay halls were supposed to be the strongest structures where residents took refuge. “These facilities were no match to the strong wind that deformed even steel trusses and flew away roofs like in Baganga and Cateel,” Segovia said. However, he said it did not take too long for government to organize and mobilize in order to respond to the people in need.

Segovia also expressed his appreciation to the provincial governments of Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental which immediately packed relief goods for the affected families. “The local governments were functioning harnessing the government resources around responding immediately to the needs of the people despite the situation where the injured and the dead bodies were situated close to each other in the command post,” he said.

Segovia said even if all affected areas have already been identified, government has to race time to look for the missing victims. He said the missing victims are the reason why President Benigno Simeon Aquino III gave to the military the task to conduct search and rescue operation. Segovia said the president wants to reach out to survivors cut off by means of communication and impassable roads and to give closure to families whose members are missing. “We sought for more K-9s and volunteer rescue groups which also came to assist us,” he said.

Segovia also noted that the delivery of relief goods maybe fast in Davao Oriental, but assistance cannot be given immediately to the recipients due to the destroyed bridge in Caraga. He said the restoration of the bridge is very important to hasten the rescue and relief operation. “Right now, the residents have improvised by using the bancas in ferrying relief goods and medicines from Caraga to other areas not accessible by land,” Segovia said.

Segovia also said that land, air and sea searches are now conducted regularly to reach out to the survivors. He reported that the sea search being conducted by the Naval Forces Eastern Mindanao east of Davao Oriental Tuesday morning yielded three survivors. He said the air assets of the Philippine Air Force were not also available a day after the storm since many of the helicopters were brought away from the path of the storm for safekeeping.

Segovia also called for consideration on local government officials who did not seem to respond to the needy during the onslaught of typhoon Pablo.He said it is a natural consequence for officials in hard hit areas not to respond immediately to distress calls of their constituents since they themselves were victims of the disaster. Segovia said the local government, police and even the military were victims of the disaster.

He said that since the military has other forces outside the disaster area, soldiers can be sent immediately to provide assistance. Segovia said since the soldiers assigned in the disaster areas have no immediate families there, they could easily attend to the community. “Normally, the police and the local government unit are paralyzed on the first blow of the disaster while the soldiers could easily conduct disaster response,” Segovia said. He said damage to soldiers in disaster areas is negligible compared to the residents who lose either life or property.

Captain Robert Emperad, chief of the Joint Task Group Sea/ Maritime Rescue confirmed the rescue of three fishermen by the Philippine Navy Tuesday morning off the coast of Davao Oriental. He said the survivors are companions of the 301 fishermen earlier reported by their fishing firm in General Santos City as missing day during the storm. Emperad identified the survivors as Peter Madlase, Dennis Codilla, Rene Maulas, all from General Santos City. He said the survivors were rushed to a hospital in Mati City, Davao Oriental for medical treatment.

Colonel Rand yTibayan, wing commander of the Tactical Operations Group XI revealed Mt. Diwalwal in Monkayo and Barangay Andap in New Bataan, Compostela Valley are the only communities no accessible to the rescuers because of the debris that block going to these communities. He said the rescue crew was able to reach out to these areas delivering relief goods in small quantities due to the limited load of the helicopters. “We continue to conduct search and rescue operation right now,” Tibayan said.

As of 12 a.m. Tuesday the Office of Civil Defense XI reported the total number of evacuees at 43,112 families or 198,287 persons in 49 towns among 27 towns and three cities affected in the region. The death toll reached at 850 with 611 missing and 1,792 injured.

AFP anniversary ushers care for the people, environment

From the Philippine Information Agency (Dec 12): AFP anniversary ushers care for the people, environment

The 77th Year celebration of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has diverted from the usual pomp and pageantry, this time focusing on its care for people and the environment through the conduct of simultaneous bloodletting and tree planting activities in all major military camps nationwide.  At the camp of the 8th Infantry (Stormtroopers) Division (8ID), army elements and the officers held a bloodletting and tree planting on December 3 and 11. The same activity was done in all other army camps nationwide.

On December 3, with the Philippine National Red Cross Leyte Chapter, Local Government Unit of Catbalogan, Regional Community Defense Group, Army Reserve Command of the Philippine Army, Samar Provincial Police Office and other Civic Organizations conducted a bloodletting activity dubbed as “Dugo ko, Buhay mo” in line with the AFP’s Anniversary Celebration at the 8ID’s covered court. The activity generated 70 units or 31,500 cc of blood coming from generous blood donors. “The bloodletting activity is our continuing commitment in serving the Filipino people, we are donating our own blood not just intended for our own personnel but rather to the civilians who are in need of blood for any medical purposes.”, said 8ID Commander Major General Gerardo T Layug.

In a related event, the 8th ID together with partner government agencies, Philippine National Police and other Civic Organizations planted a total of 1,500 mahogany and star apple trees at the 8th ID grounds.  A total of 500 military personnel, City Government employees of Catbalogan City, Kabalikat Civicom members, and Samar Police Provincial Office personnel joined the environmental activity. (PIA Samar with Capt. Gene Orense DPAO)  

Armed men storm PNP Roxas police station in Palawan

From the Philippine Information Agency (Dec 12): Armed men storm PNP Roxas police station in Palawan

Suspected communist rebels stormed the PNP Station in Roxas municipality this morning, leaving one police dead and one officer injured. Shots were heard inside the PNP station located within the Roxas municipal hall compound when the PNP officers wrestled with the armed men to protect and secure the station, said Rosemary Paguia, municipal information officer, in a phone interview.The fatality was identified as SPO3 Ramoncito Rabang while SPO4 Pablo Acosta Jr. is now being treated at the Roxas Baptist Hospital.

Paguia and other local government officials, including Mayor Maria Angela Sabando, were in the nearby municipal gymnasium for the opening program of a training attended by all public elementary teachers in the municipality. Paguia said that the armed men numbering about 20 were in full-battle gear and went to the PNP station on pretext that they were to turn over detainees. But when the armed men got inside, they announced that they were NPA and took the guns found in the rooms they searched. They fled going south inside two vans which were reported to have been abandoned in Barangay Abaroan, a few kilometers south of the town proper.

After the raid of the station, leaflets containing the alleged reason for the raid were scattered about by the fleeing armed men. These were signed by a certain Samuel Caballero, spokesman of the Bienvenido Valleber Command – NPA Palawan.

In a radio interview over local radio, 2nd Lt. Ann Abrigo, public information officer of the Western Command, said the Wescom is on top of the situation and immediately dispatched truckloads of reinforcements to Roxas town. As of now, the OV-10 of the Philippine Air Force and its Sikorsky helicopter are doing reconnaissance of areas to help in the pursuit of the armed rebels.She said that the Wescom has initiated the setting up of check points along the national highway and some other provincial roads. Abrigo assured the public that the Wescom will uphold foremost the safety of the people in its hot pursuit operation, and that it committed to the maintenance of peace and order in the province.

PAF choppers drop relief goods; local gov’t, police officials help evacuees in 3 Davao's isolated towns

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 12): PAF choppers drop relief goods; local gov’t, police officials help evacuees in 3 Davao's isolated towns

As damaged roads and bridges hampered the distribution of food aid for victims of typhoon "Pablo" in this eastcoast province, choppers from the Philippine Air Force (PAF) are used to drop relief goods in mountainous and far-flung villages of the towns of Boston, Cateel, Baganga and Caraga that are left isolated since Dec. 4. “As it is impossible for us to distribute relief goods in the mountainous far-flung villages of these typhoon-ravaged towns, we are now using military choppers to help us distribute relief items. Almost all roads and bridges are destroyed and the people are starving already,” according Freddie Bendulo, head of the Incident Command Post, the emergency response system being put up by the provincial government here. He said there are no evacuation camps as these were all destroyed by the typhoon so choppers drop relief goods from the air to these villages and we are striving to reach out to all villages left isolated by the typhoon.

“Relief workers trekked for two days just to reach the mountainous Barangay Botay in the town of Caraga where several people died and seriously injured by the typhoon. They are homeless and starving,” he said.  There are 45,000 displaced families in the three isolated towns of Boston, Cateel and Baganga that needs to be fed, he said. At least 18,000 packs of relief items composed of rice, noodles, sardines and clothes are being transported every day for the town of Baganga alone.

Philippine Navy ships travels for eight hours to transport the relief items from the provincial capital Mati City to Baganga town.....

Army troops install water purification system for ‘Pablo’ victims

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 12): Army troops install water purification system for ‘Pablo’ victims

Troops from the Army’s 67th Infantry Battalion and 525th Engineer Battalion installed a temporary water purification station to provide additional potable water for the victims of typhoon Pablo, a military official announced Wednesday. Lt. Col. Chester Ordonio, commander of the 525th Engineering Battalion, said the purification station was installed on Tuesday in Embarcadero, Centro, Baganga, Davao oriental, one of the hardest hit provinces. Ordonio said the purification facility system catered the water needs of about 200 residents by distributing 900 gallons in one day. “The water purification system hopes to provide clean water in evacuation areas so we can prevent the outbreak of waterborne diseases,” Ordonio said.

 He said a team of medical personnel, under Major Dino Anthony Flores, arrived at Incident Command Post (ICP) in Baganga will beef-up medical teams from the local municipal and provincial health offices. The medical team will be sent to the most devastated Barangays of Ban-ao and Kinablangan to attend to the medical needs of the residents in the two areas, he said.

He said joint teams from the Army’s 67th Infantry Battalion and the Municipal Police Station escorted relief teams from Baganga municipal government to distribute food, medicines and water in Barangays Binondo, Batiano, Mikit, Campawan, Batawan and Mahan-ub.

Smart Philippines and Telecom Sans Frontieres based in Bangkok, Thailand installed a local internet capability to ensure ICP's connectivity and provide free calls for residents.

US extends financial assistance to victims of typhoon "Pablo"

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 11): US extends financial assistance to victims of typhoon "Pablo"

Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) chair Lualhati Antonino thanked the United States for extending assistance to the typhoon victims in Davao Oriental and in Compostela Valley. She said the US has always provided aid and support to the Philippines but their “help has become more meaningful given at this time of disaster.” US Charge’ d’Affaires Brian L. Goldbeck led the team of officials who went to Davao City Monday to announce the additional USD3million aid from the US Agency for International Development Office-US Foreign Disaster Assistance (USAID/UFDA). He said the US has previously conducted humanitarian assessments to determine where the US can best assist the typhoon-affected areas in Mindanao and Visayas.

The US has previously given USD100,000 to the Catholic Relief Services (CRS) for the WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) and emergency relief commodities, the ambassador said. "However, we realized that the effects of the typhoon were “much more devastating” than they initially thought of that is why the additional support was sent," he said.

Up to five C130 planes landed in Davao City Monday to haul off the relief goods from the US. Three water purification systems were also sent to Davao on Dec. 7 to support the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in their relief operations efforts. Goldbeck said a team of planning experts, from the Balikatang Planning Conference, who can best make an assessment of the ground situation in disaster areas were also sent to support the relief efforts. “They were immediately asked to set aside the process and shift their focus on the affected regions so they can help expedite the process of providing aid to the people,” he said.

Troops recover 8 remains of ‘Pablo’ victims in Davao Oriental

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 12): Troops recover 8 remains of ‘Pablo’ victims in Davao Oriental

Search and rescue teams retrieved on Tuesday eight dead bodies from the shores and hinterland villages of Davao Oriental, one of the Mindanao provinces hard-hit by typhoon "Pablo" last week, a military official disclosed Wednesday. Army’s 701st Infantry Brigade commander Col. Paterno Morales said that six of the cadavers, which were found Tuesday, were recovered in Cateel, one in Baculin, Baganga and another one in Cabugao Island, Boston. The teams were composed of barangay recovery and retrieval units, Philippine Army (PA) and Philippine National Police (PNP) personnel. “The recovery of missing persons is a priority effort of our government,” Morales said. Morales said that relief goods for victims of typhoon Pablo were coming both from the province and other non-government organizations (NGOs).

Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Secretary Corazon Soliman and Davao Oriental Governor Corazon Malanyaon led local officials, military, police and NGOs in distributing relief goods in barangay Saoquegue, Baganga town.

Meanwhile, a feeding program initiated by Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom) chief Lt. Gen. Jorge Segovia has benefited a total of 800 residents of Barangays Saoquegue and Poblacion, Baganga. Feeding program will also be held in the towns of Cateel and Boston......

NPAs attack Palawan police station, killing cop and hurting several others

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 12): NPAs attack Palawan police station, killing cop and hurting several others

Three days after a small group of communist New People's Army (NPA) rebels torched a backhoe owned by a mining firm in southern Palawan town of Sofronio Española, a band of 20 armed men, also believed to be NPA members, attacked the Roxas municipal police station here Wednesday morning, killing a policeman and injuring several others. The attackers, clad in fatigue uniforms and armed with short and high-powered firearms, came aboard two UV Express shuttle vans, according to municipal government spokesperson Rose Paguia.

The group, who initially introduced themselves as members of the Marines, alighted and entered the Municipal PNP Station, which is just several meters away from the Roxas Municipal Building, a bus and jeepney terminal station, and a gymnasium filled with teachers who are on training, at about 10:30 a.m., Paguia said. The armed men claimed they would just turn over a detainee. “They alighted and entered the front desk where they told the policeman assigned there that they will just turn over a detainee. Then they started entering the Admin Office – they entered all the other rooms. One of the policemen was approached by a rebel to take his M16, but the policeman refused to give it. Then firefight ensued inside the station,” Paguia said.

 She said that after the armed rebels had collected the guns at the municipal police station, they fled while yelling they were members of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army (CPP-NPA). “They said the policemen should not fight them because they are members of the CPP-NPA. They are in full battle gear, and they also took with them the cellphone for the municipal hotline of the PNP,” she said.  Lt. Ann Adele Caluya, spokesperson of the Western Command (WESCOM) told the Philippine News Agency (PNA) that a joint pursuit operation is now being conducted by the Provincial Police Office (PPO) and troops of the Marine Battalion Landing Team 4 against the armed rebels for killing Police Officer Monisito Rabang, and injuring a few others. “We are still verifying raw reports from the field. The Marine Brigade 3, which is on alert since Sunday after the torching of a backhoe in southern Palawan is now in the area for a pursuit operation with the provincial police,” Caluya said.

The WESCOM has been on heightened alert since a group of six armed rebels were reported to have torched a backhoe in the southern Palawan town of Sofronio Española last Sunday owned by Citi Nickel Mining and Development Corp. (CNMDC). Asked if the attack may have something to do with December being the graduation month for the CPP-NPA’s new recruits, Caluya said as far as WESCOM is concerned, it has not received any report of new recruits being trained and are graduating in Palawan. “What we are monitoring are old members of the CPP-NPA, we have no reports that there are new recruits who trained in Palawan and are now graduating,” she said, adding they are now verifying other reports related to the attack in Roxas and the Lt. Gen. Juancho Sabban is on top of the situation.

Road blocks are now being set up in the town of Roxas starting from Barangay Macarascas, where a Marine detachment is located, Caluya furthered. An S-76 Sikoursky chopper and an OV-10 Bronco of the 570th Composite Tactical Wing have been dispatched too, to conduct aerial reconnaissance flights in support to the pursuit operations. “The municipal station that was attacked is 16 kilometers far from the Marine detachment of MBLT 4, whose troops are now responding to the situation,” she said. Roxas is a municipality located along the eastern shoreline of the island of Palawan. The municipality comprises of barangays or towns running from South to North from Tinitian to Ilian.

AFP chief to meet with ranking American official Thursday

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 12): AFP chief to meet with ranking American official Thursday

Armed Forces of the Philippines chief-of-staff Gen. Jessie D. Dellosa will meet with US Pacific Command head Admiral Samuel J. Locklear at AFP headquarters in Camp Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo, Quezon City on Thursday. Col. Arnulfo M. Burgos, Jr., AFP spokesperson, said that the two ranking military officials would discuss the 2012 cycle of the Philippine-US mutual defense and security engagement board. The event will be held at the AFP Commissioned Officers Club around 3 p.m. Burgos said that the duo would finalized this year's meeting between the two nations. The Philippines and the US had already conducted the standing and executive committee meetings early this year. "This will be the final meeting and this will maintain the security relations between the two countries," Burgos said. The AFP spokesperson said both service chiefs would also reaffirm their commitment to the treaty obligations pursuant to the Mutual Defense Treaty and Visiting Forces Agreement.

GPH, MILF 34th exploratory talks open in Kuala Lumpur

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 12): GPH, MILF 34th exploratory talks open in Kuala Lumpur

The Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on Wednesday resumed their 34th formal exploratory talks in Kuala Lumpur that will tackle the most contentious issues of the peace process with the end in view of resolving the long-drawn armed conflict in Mindanao. Expected to be discussed thoroughly during the negotiations will be power and wealth sharing.

In her opening statement, newly named GPH chief negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer said “the government is ready to give all the support necessary to jumpstart the process.” This is the first time that Ferrer sits as GPH chair after former GPH chief peace negotiator Marvic Leonen vacated the post after the latter was appointed as associate justice of the Supreme Court by President Benigno S. Aquino III recently. Ferrer submitted her credentials to the Malaysian government as host of the negotiations, through third-party Facilitator, Tengku Datu Abdul Ghafar bin Tengku Mohamed. She also provided a certified copy of her appointment paper to Mohager Iqbal, MILF chief negotiator.

Ferrer said she is formally joining at opening “the 34th Exploratory Talks, the 15th formal meeting under the incumbent administration, today on 12-12-12.” “I do this now in a different capacity from the past times that we have come to Kuala Lumpur. Today, I come as the new chair of the Government Panel for Talks with the MILF -- so designated to this position of responsibility by the President of the Republic of the Philippines Benigno S. Aquino III,” she said. “We have returned here in Kuala Lumpur with high hopes. After the fateful 32nd Exploratory Talks last October 1-7 when we completed the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro, and the 33rdround where we auspiciously convened for the first time our Technical Working Group on Normalization, we have come back to Kuala Lumpur with fortitude to resume our work,” Ferrer stressed.

She also said that “we have returned confident of the wide public support back home for a process that has concluded one phase and began another.” Ferrer pointed out that the wide range of government offices involved in various meetings in Kuala Lumpur and in the Philippines “indicates the high level of support the peace process with the MILF enjoys in the whole government under PNOY’s leadership.” “It reflects the firm determination of the bureaucracy, through the crucial coordinative and kulit-ative role of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos Deles, to finish the work. That is, to finish it well, with eyes wide open to the difficulties that then and now have confounded the negotiations, and with arms ready to embrace innovative solutions and practical approaches,” she said.

Ferrer disclosed that the government’s technical working group on power-sharing is ready to complete with their MILF counterparts the text that will make up the Annex on Power-sharing. Upi Mayor Ramon Piang, and Office of the Presidential Adviser on Political Affairs Undersecretary Chito Gascon and OPAPP Undersecretary Joe Lorena shall be navigating once more with their counterparts the three lists of allocation of powers.According to Ferrer, they will do this knowing that: the categories are not airtight nor strictly defined; and that all aspects of exercise of power are ideally practiced under the governing principles of cooperation, parity of esteem, autonomy and subsidiarity, check-and-balance, the need to harmonize and to meet norms and standards, and ultimately the shared goal of ensuring the safety, welfare and the needs of the parts and the whole, especially in the face of natural disasters and dangers to national survival due to unusual weather disturbances brought about by climate change and the wanton exploitation of God’s or Allah’s gifts to humankind. “In previous meetings, the Government’s Technical Working Group on Wealth-sharing had shared with their MILF counterparts all the relevant data that reflect the challenges to the reconstruction and financial sustainability of the future Bangsamoro,” she said.

Ferrer said that another ticklish matter to be discussed is “the decommissioning of combatants and weapons we understand very well is normally what any armed revolutionary group fears to tread.” “There is fear of being left defenseless in a landscape populated by so many other armed groups and individuals,” she said. Ferrer said “there is uncertainty of combatants and their families of what future awaits them under a new phase where different skills, trainings and orientation would be needed; where protection shall be weaned away from reliance on the barrel of the gun toward faith in what the power of communal efforts, nonviolence and resiliency can achieve for individuals, families, communities and the Bangsamoro at large.” “There is insecurity that the reforms anticipated would be stalled; that the political commitments fall behind the road map that both parties have plotted; that even good intentions would be waylaid by insidious agents of the unacceptable status quo,” the new GPH chair said.

Ferrer point out that It took a mature social movement like the MILF:  To learn from experiences around the world that ultimately, the choice of peace would mean putting beyond use the need for arms and the use of political violence to achieve political ends.  To strategically envision the transformation of an armed movement into a socio-political force able to mobilize communities for social and economic development.  To have the courage to take the risk to navigate previously abhorred, unchartered terrain such as the legislature, governance and election. To be able to stand up, act, implement and compete fair and square over ideas, programs under the precept: May the best man, woman or party win.  “This courage and maturity, government will meet with reciprocity. Our processes may be bogged down sometimes by the bureaucratic maze that involves any paper work or the system of check-and-balance that are imposed on us and with due diligence, that we also impose on ourselves,” Ferrer said, “But we should not be discouraged by seeming insurmountable,” she said.

At the same time, the GPH panel hand carried a special gift with them. “We were not aware what this gift was all about. Our office was just asked to pick up a package at the Palace with the instruction to bring it to Kuala Lumpur during this round,” Ferrer said. It is a gift for Mrs. Murad from no other than the President’s sister, Kris Aquino and requested Iqbal “to deliver, in behalf of Ms. Aquino, to the family of MILF chair, Ebrahim “Kagi” Murad, this framed and autographed photo of Ms. Aquino with an entourage of MILF women. Ms. Aquino had thoughtfully remembered her charming encounter with the MILF ladies at the signing of the Framework Agreement in Malacanang last October 15.” “We have also added other photos as souvenir for chairman Murad,” she said.

Ferrer also said that “to the hardworking members of the Malaysian secretariat under Madame Che Kasna, and to the illustrious members of the International Contact Group who have kept the faith with us every step of the way: our traveling companions from the governments of UK, Japan, Turkey and Saudi Arabia; from the INGOs, CR, The Asia Foundation, CHD and Muhammadiyah.”

Joining the GPH panel members in addition to former Agriculture Secretary Senen Bacani, Undersecretary/Presidential Adviser for Muslim Concerns Bai Yasmin Busran Lao,and MSU Professor Dr Hamid Barra “we have asked the Chair of the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos, lawyer and professor of Islamic jurisprudence at the University of the Philippines, and former commissioner of the Commission on Elections, Secretary Mehol Sadain, to join the panel while the appointment papers for the 5th Panel member are being processed in Malacanang.” The GPH team that has worked tirelessly with the different agencies the last three weeks include Senior Police Adviser Police Chief Superintendent Noel de los Reyes, and GPH’s chair of the CCCH, Brig. Gen. Jose Gilberto Roa. Lt. Gen. Emmanuel Bautista, commanding general of the Philippine Army, and Philippine Ambassador to Malaysia Eduardo Malaya will join the GPH panel on Thursday.

On the other hand, Ferrer said, National Economic Development Authority Region 12 Director Lourdes “Babes” Lim, the Department of Finance’s Bureau of Tax Director, Trinidad “Ning” Rodriguez and Assistant Secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources Anselmo Abungan are ready to continue collaboration on drafting a working text that will lay down the parameters for short to long-term economic sustainability of the future Bangsamoro. “Given the development needs and fiscal realities in the region, achieving a good measure of economic viability and fiscal autonomy for the long haul cannot but happen in a gradual and phased manner. The Government is ready to give all the support necessary to jumpstart the process,” Ferrer added.

She said the GPH Technical Working Group on Normalization looks forward to coordinate with their counterparts. The group is led by Deputy Director General of the National Security Council, Zenonida “Zen” Brosas. The other members are: Colonel Francisco Ariel Felisidario, representing Senior Military Adviser of the GPH General Crescencio Ferrer; and alternate members from the OPAPP, Undersecretary Luisito Montalbo and incoming Assistant SecretaryJennifer “Apple” Oreta. “Among Tausugs, there is a saying: “In maksud mahunit, makawa landu in halga.” As translated by Usec Joe Lorena, “Ang bagay na kinuha ng mahirap, marami ang makikinabang.” In English, from something achieved the hard way, many will benefit,” Ferrer said.  “Let us not lose heart, forgetting the forest, as we walk through the trees,” she added. “In the same spirit of reciprocity, we anticipate the difficulties that the MILF will have to face similar to other vibrant organizations that went through a paradigm shift before,” she said.

Ferrer warned that “there will be recalcitrants inside: mga pasaway sa organizational command at disiplina ng mga pinuno ng MILF. There will be malcontents to the gradual and evolutionary approach that we have taken.” “Outside, there will be one too many agitators,those who will invoke religion, ethnicity, nationality, constitutionality and so on, NOT in the sincere desire to contribute to peaceful, progressive and inclusive reform, but to provoke violent dissent or to advance personal interests,” she said. “All these humps and bumps, roadblocks, diversions, pitfalls we will be able to overcome if we remain honest and committed to the partnership, a partnership that is not only between the Government and the MILF, but for our peoples. May our trust and friendship grow,glow…go forth and multiply by three dozens, from today 12-12-12,” Ferrer concluded.

PHL military working with Indonesian authorities

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 12): PHL military working with Indonesian authorities

 The Philippine military has coordinated with the Indonesian authorities for assistance in the maritime search and rescue operations following the devastation by Typhoon Pablo in Mindanao. Philippine Navy’s Capt. Robert Empedrad, the commander of the joint task force for maritime search and rescue, said they have been working with Indonesian authorities hoping that Filipinos lost at sea during the height of the typhoon could still be saved. “The good news is that we also coordinated with the Indonesians because when we assessed the situation there is a possibility that some of our missing fishermen drifted to the Indonesian waters,” Empedrad told a press briefing in Malacanang Wednesday. “We requested the government of Indonesia to send ships also and they sent one ship in the area where (there is) a possibility that the fishermen who were lost may be located in the south of Central Mindanao—down Balut Island,” he added.

 The navy assumed the missing individuals may have drifted 100 nautical miles east of Bislig Island, he said, noting that based on the navy’s assessment they could have reached Indonesian waters because of the prevailing wind condition in the northeast. The National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council said there are 313 missing fishermen based on its latest count. The navy has recovered 35 bodies from sea, Empedrad said. The navy isn’t losing hope in finding survivors because fishermen with enough supply of food and water could survive at sea for several days, he said. The NDRRMC said there are 890 missing as a result of the typhoon. As of Wednesday morning, the death toll was pegged at 740, expecting the figure to rise, considering the number of the missing persons.

Lt. Gen. George Segovia of the Eastern Mindanao Command said the biggest challenge that the current search and rescue operation is facing is the magnitude of the disaster. “The magnitude of the disaster is a challenge in itself. Reaching people in remote areas had been quite difficult but we were able to do that using our air assets. For our aerial capability, the weather continues to be a challenge because, especially in the afternoons, the low cloud ceiling prevents our helicopters from flying over these areas,” Segovia said during the same press briefing in Malacanang. President Benigno S. Aquino III has designated Segovia to oversee the overall search and rescue operations following the onslaught of Typhoon Pablo.

The President ordered a wide-scale search operation, to account for all of the missing and return them to their families. President Aquino visited the devastated areas last week, particularly Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental. He also coordinated efforts for effective relief and reconstruction efforts.

MILF: IMAN & SACA Conduct 3-day Seminar on Community Organizing in Basilan

From the MILF Website (Dec 11): IMAN & SACA Conduct 3-day Seminar on Community Organizing in Basilan

Isabela City, Basilan Province, December 9, 2012. The Integrated Mindanaoan Association for Natives (IMAN) Inc. in collaboration with the Sahaya Alnour Community Association (SACA) Inc. one of local NGOs in Basilan conducted a 3-day seminar-workshop on Community Organizing which commenced on December 6 and ended on the 9th of this Month. The said training workshop was held in Gersal Farm, Barangay Sumagdang, Isabela City, Basilan.
The said training workshop was hosted by IMAN with office in Kabacan and in partnership with the SACA, a Sumisip-based organization in Basilan. This is the first activity of its kind held in Basilan with participants coming from Sibugay, Zamboanga del Norte, Zamboanga City, Basilan and Sulu. Participants from Tawi-Tawi were not able to attend because of Typhoon Pablo. The Facilitators were headed by IMAN Chairman Mike Davao, Cris T. Yano, the main Facilitator, Arman Armada, Arnorld Pulindao; Abubakar and Junjun as assisting staff......

..... Topics discussed was about Community Organizing and facilitated by Mr. Yano. He asked the participants about the meaning of community organizing? Almost all them shared their ideas in one or two words but rarely gave their answers in phrases. Since the issue was crucial because of its relevance to the topic at hand there were lengthy discussions and the session ended at 10PM. On the 2nd day the topics discussed were about the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro and about leadership. They were handled on by Mr. Armada, Arnold and Cris, while on the 3rd day the topic on leadership was continued. Action planning was made in the succeeding activities......