Sunday, December 30, 2012

AFP’s ‘Pinoy Bayanihan’ Yields Results

From the Manila Bulletin (Dec 30): AFP’s ‘Pinoy Bayanihan’ Yields Results

The year 2012 is a good year for residents of far-flung and highland communities. This was because of the “Pinoy Bayanihan” style implemented by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) which included the construction of school buildings to benefit thousands of school children. Organic units of the largest Army division of the AFP in Mindanao, the 4th Infantry (Diamond) Division (4th ID) coordinated with other organizations in order to enhance the standard of living, especially education of the local populace in respective area of jurisdictions ( AORs.)

The 52nd Engineering Brigade facilitated the construction of 14 school buildings in far-flung areas in Northeastern Mindanao (Caraga region). Each school building has two or three classrooms each at different depressed areas. “All these are now being utilized by the Department of Education (DepEd),” said 4th ID chief Maj. Gen. Nestor A Añonuevo.

The 401st Infantry “Unity” Brigade also coordinated with the LGU of St. Christine, Lianga, Surigao del Sur, for the “Gawad Aral sa Nayon” advocacy with St. Christine Day Care Center as the first beneficiary, receiving quality books for their library.

Meanwhile, the 4th Civil-Military Operation Battalion (4th CMO), the 4th ID helped facilitate the conduct of seven youth leadership seminars (YLS) in all the provinces in Northeastern and Northern Mindanao regions with 630 youths successfully completed the seminar before the year-end. A result of the YLS is the formal registration with the Securities and Exchange Commission of the youth groups, Propelling Our Inherited Nation Through the Youth, Inc. (POINTY) whose officers attended the National YLS summit held in Davao City.

The 4th ID’s military operation through the Internal Peace and Security Plan “Bayanihan” yielded good result for the year 2012, declared by the ground commanders of 4th ID.

Looking back at the challenges offered by current year, the AFP said it awakened feelings of awe and gratitude for all the successful exploits accomplished by the division. These strengthened the ties between the local populace and the military and the conviction that peace and development will soon be achieved in Mindanao and throughout the country.

This year the unit welcomed the surrender of 101 rebels coming from the different provinces in the Division’s area of responsibility. At the same time this division was able to destroy a total of 56 assorted firearms, some captured during encounters and others surrendered by rebel returnees. During the period, the command continuously and actively supported various stakeholders in the relief and rehabilitation efforts for the victims of Typhoon “Sendong” by providing necessary assistance in terms of manpower, security, and transportation.

More cops deployed in Sultan Kudarat following bus bombing

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 30): More cops deployed in Sultan Kudarat following bus bombing

More police checkpoints were put up in Sultan Kudarat province as police and Army authorities here blamed the extortion gangs preying on bus firms in the bomb attack on Husky bus Saturday night in Isulan, Sultan Kudarat province. Six persons were hurt when an improvised bomb planted at the baggge compartment of the Husky Bus unit went off at 6 p.m. near the town welcome rotunda. Another bus tailing the Husky unit was also damaged by the explosion. Colonel Prudencio Asto, regional Army spokesperson, said the IED was fashioned from ammonium nitrate with cut nails as its shrapnels. Asto said the bus firm had been receiving extortion demand from armed groups.

Senior Supt. Rolen Balquin, Sultan Kudarat police chief, said the bus firm had been warned by extortion groups that bombing will take place if their demand is ignored. No one has claimed responsibility for the attack. Wounded and treated at Sultan Kudarat provincial hospital were Hapinat Hilmor Bornales, 36, Delfin Jonathan Salmoren, 23, Dolfo Kevin Venus, 19, Catequista Rachel Mayornejo, 27, Yellow bus driver Salutan Robenson Matias and his conductor Sangki Emil Fantilaga.

 More police checkpoints have been established in pubic terminals in Sultan Kudarat province as commuters rush home for the New Year celebration. Army armored personnel carrier were deployed near bus and jeepney terminals in Isulan and Tacurong City, all in Sultan Kudarat to thwart any bombing attempt. Balquin also advised bus firms to pick up passengers ony on bus terminals where soldiers and policemen are strictly checking passengers’ baggage.

Charges filed vs. bomber of Sultan Kudarat mayor's house

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 30): Charges filed vs. bomber of Sultan Kudarat mayor's house

Police have already filed charges against a man arrested for throwing a hand grenade inside the residential compound of a town mayor in Sultan Kudarat and for engaging police in a shootout. Supt. Junnie Buenacosa, Tacurong City police director, said charges of illegal possession of firearms, frustrated murder, illegal possession of explosives, carnapping and physical injury were filed against Ali Abdullah, one of the two suspects who lobbed a hand grenade Thursday night in the house of Mayor Emilio Salamanca of President Quirino, Sultan Kudarat. Salamanca owns a house along Malvar Street, Tacurong City.

According to Buenacosa, Abullah of Kabacan, North Cotabato, also carries the name Muhammad Ali Maranding and claimed to be residing in the border of President Quirino, Sultan Kudarat and Buluan, Maguindanao. The remains of another suspect who was killed in a shootout with policemen remain in a funeral parlor in Tacurong City waiting for claimants. Buenacosa said Abdullah and an unidentified accomplice lobbed a hand grenade inside the residential compound of Mayor Salamanca at about 7:45 p.m. on December 27 that left the mayor’s clerk wounded. One of the mayor’s escort who was outside the compound traded shots with the suspects who were riding in tandem on a motorbike. Minutes later, the police arrived and chased the suspects who fled toward Fernandez subdivision. The suspects also tossed another grenade toward the pursuing lawmen which hurt a lady passerby. Abdullah and his accomplice were cornered inside a school ground. Abdullah surrendered to police after his companion was killed while holding to the third grenade. Police also recovered hand guns from them.

 Supt. Rolen Balquin, Sultan Kudarat police director, said the grenade attack on Salamanca’s house, the second since November 9, was politically motivated. Salamanca is seeking reelection. On Nov. 9, a rifle grenade was fired toward the house of Salamanca but nobody was hurt.

(Yearender) PAF to go local for maintenance needs

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 30): (Yearender) PAF to go local for maintenance needs

With the Philippine Air Force (PAF) poised to acquire several modern platforms this coming years, a ranking official of the military air arm has announced that the PAF will use local industries and support units in maintaining its new aircraft and systems. Major Gen.Raul Dimatatac, PAF vice commander, said that such efforts are now underway. He cited the case of the PAF's latest C-130 Lockheed "Hercules" cargo aircraft which was commissioned and put in active service last Dec. 28 after undergoing overhaul and maintenance with the 410th Maintenance Wing. The C-130, with tail number 3633, was overhauled and put into commission at the cost of P549 million or P45 million cheaper than the P594 million spent to maintain a similar C-130 in the United States.

"We are slowly building up the capabilities of our 410th Maintenance Wing and the ability to conduct structural maintenance program is part of this," Dimatatac stressed. He added that this capability was started in 2010 and as seen by the results, seemed efficient enough. "We could have brought that C-130 in active service as early as June 2011 but the birth pains of doing our very first depot level maintenance and long lines of spare parts slowed down our efforts," Dimatatac stressed.  However, the PAF vice commander said with this behind them, he expects repair and overhaul of aircraft and air systems to be much quicker thanks to the experience gained in refurbishing its very first C-130. Incidentally, the successful maintenance of the 410th Maintenance Wing of the cargo plane boosted the number of C-130s in the PAF fleet to three. The last time the PAF has three operational C-130s in its inventory was in 1989. Dimatatac said that having three operational C-130 cargo planes in service will allow the PAF greater mandate in fulfilling its humanitarian and community development missions, not to mention its airlift capability.

The C-130 is a four-engine turboprop military transport aircraft designed and built originally by Lockheed, now Lockheed Martin. Capable of using unprepared runways for takeoffs and landings, the C-130 was originally designed as a troop, medical evacuation, and cargo transport aircraft. The versatile airframe has found uses in a variety of other roles, including as a gunship (AC-130), for airborne assault, search and rescue, scientific research support, weather reconnaissance, aerial refueling, maritime patrol and aerial firefighting. It is now the main tactical airlifter for many military forces worldwide. Over 40 models and variants of the Hercules serve with more than 60 nations. The C-130 entered service with the US in the 1950s, followed by Australia, among others. During its years of service, the Hercules family has participated in countless military, civilian and humanitarian aid operations. The family has the longest continuous production run of any military aircraft in history. In 2007, the C-130 became the fifth aircraft—after the English Electric Canberra, Boeing B-52 Stratofortress, Tupolev Tu-95, and Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker—to mark 50 years of continuous use with its original primary customer, in this case, the United States Air Force. The C-130 is also the only military aircraft to remain in continuous production for 50 years with its original customer, as the updated C-130J Super Hercules. "

This year has been a very productive year for the PAF and this has certainly been a remarkable achievement and a good way to end calendar year 2012. With this, I am definitely looking forward for more notable maintenance feats in the coming year," Dimatatac concluded.

MILF: Issues affecting Moro and IPs in Gensan tackled

From the MILF Website (Dec 31): Issues affecting Moro and IPs in Gensan tackled

At least 50 Moro and IPs in General Santos (GenSan) City conferred in the Tri-People Dialogue held on December 26, 12012 at the City Agricultural Office Training Center to discuss issues affecting the minority tribes in town. The gathering, which was hosted by the Office of the City Mayor - Office on Cultural Affairs (OCM-OCA) headed by Executive Assistant Raja Muda Alimudin G. Hassan, was attended by B’laan, Tausog, Maranao, Maguindanaon, and Sangir leaders. Hassan said the activity output will be presented to the local government and concerned agencies for possible action. Through a workshop, the participants were grouped according to tribe and discussed issues and concerns affecting them.

In the political aspect, the participants were amenable how difficult for them to get a seat in the City Council considering the huge cost for electoral campaign and being outnumbered by the majority settlers. Likewise most of the migrant Moros from Central Mindanao and Lanao Regions go back to their hometowns during election to support their respective candidates. The Moro participants urged the city government to provide them Muslim cemetery. They consider it as priority need especially for the Moro migrants residing in the city.

On education, the Moro participants were thankful for the assistance of the City Government of Gensan on the operation of weekend Madaris education through the OCC-OCM which provide Arabic literacy and Islamic Values to the young Muslims. They, however, seek more support from the city government for the improvement of Madaris facilities and provision of scholarship opportunities to both IP and Muslim youth. Marila Talon, IP Women Federation President, said their group lags behind in terms of education compared to Muslims and settlers in the city. She added that land conflict within their tribe which already claimed lives is their major concern on peace and order. The Moro tribes said they have been supportive to the city government in terms of community policing especially on holiday seasons.

On employment opportunities, they lamented discrimination against Muslim job seekers as the lingering issue. “Despite our children are college graduates and qualified for job, they are not hired and no one help us on this matter,” said Mike Domado, Vice-Chairman of Maranao Employees and Businessman Association. Domado is thankful for the city government for giving them opportunity to do business especially in the public market.

They also discussed the prospects of the Bangsamoro Government being worked by the government and MILF panels following the signing of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB). Speaking for the Maguindanaon group, Tong Salim said if the Moro people will show honest and good governance, Christians in Mindanao will seek inclusion in the Bangsamoro territory. The FAB states that the current ARMM plus some towns or villages in Lanao del Norte and North Cotabato constitute the Bangsamoro Territory that will have autonomous government.

Datu Elias Abdusalam, representing Tausog tribe, urged the local and national government to help the Moro in the city in the economic aspect especially in Halal industry. He said Malaysian businessmen have approached and informed him there is market for fresh fruits and other Halal products in Malaysia. Alimudin Hassan urged the participants to strengthen unity with other tribes in the city. He set another schedule to discuss how the Moro people in the city can produce Halal products for local and export markets with the help of concerned agencies.

CPP to AFP: Stop serving as private armies of mining companies

From the CPP Website (Dec 30): CPP to AFP: Stop serving as private armies of mining companies

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) today denounced the hypocrisy of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine Army in challenging the New People’s Army (NPA) to declare a ceasefire in all geo-hazard areas and charged the AFP of complicity with the big mining companies, loggers and big plantations that have long been ravaging the environment and putting the lives of people at risk. The CPP charged Brig. Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang, commander of the 7th ID who aired the demand, of being “locked in a tight embrace with the mining companies in Aurora, Nueva Ecija, Kalinga, Ilocos Sur and Southern Mindanao.” Units of the 7th ID are deployed in provinces of the Northern Luzon area as well as in Davao. “He cries crocodile tears as he feigns sympathy for the people even as his men have been at the beck and call of mining firms in suppressing antimining struggles.” “It will be foolish for the NPA to declare a ceasefire in the areas considered as geo-hazard as this will give the AFP free rein to carry out its campaigns of suppression against the peasants and national minority communities defending their land and livelihood,” said the CPP.

The CPP pointed out that the Aquino regime has carried on the Arroyo regime’s policy of allowing big foreign mining companies and plantations to make use of the AFP and state paramilitary groups as their private security guards under the so-called “Investment Defense Force.” Under the IDF program, foreign mining companies are allowed to fund the acquisition of high-powered rifles and other weapons in order to arm a security force that will be trained and put under the command of the AFP. “What the IDF has done is to legitimize the setting up of private armies by mining companies and plantations in order to suppress the people’s resistance against the destructive and land-grabbing operations of these companies,” pointed out the CPP. “Many of the victims of extrajudicial killings perpetrated by the Aquino regime over the past two and a half years are antimining advocates and peasant and national minority activists defending the people’s economic, political and cultural rights against the mining and plantation companies.” The CPP cited the killing last October 18 of the Capeon family in Kiblawan, Davao del Sur by elements of the 27th IBPA. The Capeon family, together with the entire B’laan tribe to which they belong are strongly opposed to the SMI-Xstrata company which has been trespassing on, and seizing their, ancestral lands.

Military on the defensive during yuletide ceasefire

From the Daily Tribune (Dec 31): Military on the defensive during yuletide ceasefire

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) yesterday vowed to maintain a defensive posture to thwart any possible attempt by anti-government forces to disrupt peace during the New Year celebration in spite of the existing yuletide ceasefire with the communists. In a statement, the AFP-Public Affairs Office (PAO) also warned all its personnel from illegally firing their firearms during the celebration. The AFP vowed to strictly adhere to the provisions of the suspension of offensive military operations (Somo) declared with the communist New People’s Army (NPA).

“The AFP is one with the whole nation for a peaceful and safe celebration of the New Year. While we strictly adhere to the provisions of the Somo, our units will remain on guard and are maintaining a proactive defense posture to thwart any possible attempt to disrupt the peace and stability of our nation,” the AFP-PAO said. “We would like to assure our people that their soldiers continue to be professional and accountable in handling their issued firearms during the New Year celebration,” it added. The AFP-PAO stressed that soldiers are disciplined and are under strict orders to used their firearms only in the discharge of their official duties and functions. “All unit commanders are responsible enough to ensure that such a directive is adhered to by every military personnel under their commands,” AFP-PAO said.

The military also maintained that while thousands of troops and some equipment are still preoccupied with the relief operations in typhoon-ravaged areas in Mindanao, it will remain prepared for any eventualities during the New Year festivities. Intelligence operations have been intensified to thwart any attempts by anti-government forces to disrupt peace. “Even though most of our troops and assets are still currently deployed in Mindanao and undertaking relief and humanitarian operations, we are still maintaining a high degree of operational readiness and mission effectiveness,” the AFP-PAO said. “Our intensified intel collection and monitoring efforts will be sustained. We will not let our guards down and will continue to be very vigilant and alert to ensure a safe and secure New Year revelry for our people,” it added. Both the military and the NPA had declared a Somo in the spirit of the yuletide season.

Video: Sultan Kudarat bus blast injures 15

From ABS-CBN (Dec 30): Video: Bus pinasabot sa Sultan Kudarat; 15 sugatan (Sultan Kudarat bus blast injures 15)

Sultan Kudarat bus bombing

Sa Sultan Kudarat, pinasabog ng hindi pa nakikilalang grupo ang isang bomba sa loob ng bus sa bayan ng Isulan. (In Sultan Kudarat, an unidentified group detonated a bomb in a bus in Isulan.)  Nagpa-Patrol, Anne Santos. TV Patrol, Disyembre 30 2012, Linggo

7 wounded in Saturday blast in Mindanao

From the Manila Standard Today (Dec 31): 7 wounded in Saturday blast in Mindanao

A bomb exploded in a passenger bus and wounded at least seven people in Mindanao in an attack by suspected extortion gangs, police said Sunday. The homemade bomb exploded in the rear portion of the bus as it traveled late Saturday in Isulan town in Sultan Kudarat province, damaging the vehicle and sparking a brief fire but causing no injuries among the vehicle’s passengers and crew, police Chief Superintendent Rolen Balquin said. The blast shattered the windshield of another passenger bus nearby, wounding its driver and two passengers. Four bystanders along a roadside were wounded by shrapnel from the blast, Balquin said.

The bombing occurred despite a security alert over possible attacks by armed extortion gangs, which have targeted passenger buses in the south in the past. Balquin said his men captured a member of the notorious Al Khobar extortion gang who detonated a roadside bomb last month in Sultan Kudarat’s Tacurong town and later told investigators the attack was part of an attempt to extort money from a bus company. The bombing prompted the provincial police to go on full alert with intensified patrols of public areas and road checkpoints. Intelligence agencies also went on alert Sunday, the anniversary of five near-simultaneous bombings by al-Qaida-linked Filipino extremists that killed 22 people and wounded about 100 in Manila on Dec. 30, 2000.

Disarmament hinges on MILF

From the Manila Standard Today (Dec 31): Disarmament hinges on MILF

The Aquino administration said the normalization process with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front will also result in the disarmament of other private armed groups in Mindanao. “You don’t just talk about the arms of the MILF, but also of everyone else. That is part of normalization,” presidential peace adviser Teresita Deles said. “How can you ask the MILF to completely disarm if other groups or some families are armed? We are looking for a real partnership among the government, the MILF, and other governance constituencies to look at this matter on how to make a life more secure, to trust in the state forces to make them secure, and be engaged in other productive activities,” she said. Both parties would also work in partnership on the reduction and control of firearms in Mindanao, she said.

“As put in the framework agreement, decommissioning is phased and calibrated and will start once political commitments are delivered. We agreed that substantial decommissioning happens when the basic law is delivered,” she said. “The MILF shall undertake a graduated program for decommissioning of its forces so that they are put beyond use,” Deles added, citing the framework pact. A joint normalization committee will also be formed for the coordination between the parties towards full decommissioning, which will be overseen by a third-party monitor composed of domestic and international partners of the peace process.

The government and the MILF failed to meet the target set under the framework agreement of finishing all the annexes before the end of the year. Deles said the signing of the four annexes, instead of three as originally planned, will be pushed back to January at the latest. Deles said the annexes on power-sharing, wealth-sharing, normalization and transitional arrangements are all “moving forward.” According to the MILF, “the work on power-sharing is 95 percent settled; 60 percent on wealth-sharing; 99 percent on transitional arrangement; and 30 percent on normalization.” President Benigno Aquino III earlier said he wanted a new law creating the Bangsamoro to be enacted by 2015.

Mr. Aquino said an interim authority should already be in place by 2015, or a year before the next national elections. “We need the organic act enacted into law by 2015. This will be passed through Congress and approved in a plebiscite and we hope to install the new government with a mandate after 2016 elections. There will be an interim authority from 2015 to 2016,” Mr. Aquino said. The President acknowledged that spoilers of the peace process between the government and the MILF will remain, but he expressed optimism that they be a spent force by the time the Bangsamoro is put in place. “There will be some groups that will still want to maintain that nefarious habits but they will be more and more marginalized. They will no longer have their support bases,” he added.

MILF says 8 nominees ready for interim body

From the Daily Tribune (Dec 31): MILF says 8 nominees ready for interim body

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has completed its list of eight nominees for the 15-man Transition Commission which is an interim body that will have the primary task of drafting the basic law for the Bangsamoro new political entity that will be formed under a recent agreement between the government and the rebel group. The MILF in its luwaran website said the eight members to the Transition Commission are already chosen but their identities will not be disclosed and will be transmitted first to the Malaysian facilitator “who will officially communicate them to the government through its peace panel.”
MILF Secretariat chairman Muhammad Ameen said the selection process was deliberated on by the MILF central committee during two separate plenary sessions. Ameen disclosed that included in the MILF nominees were one woman, a member of the indigenous peoples (IP), a senior military commander of the MILF and an aleem (learned in Islam). He said the most contentious issue was the slot allotted for Western Mindanao which was only settled after the MILF central committee decided on a draw from two nominees.

The recent negotiations in Kuala Lumpur to flesh out the Bangsamoro framework agreement ended in a technical impasse, according to the MILF, after a disagreement between negotiators over who would lead the Transition Commission.  In choosing its nominees, the MILF said it has set three criteria: sincerity to the Bangsamoro cause, capability to discharge the task, and geographical or sectoral consideration.

Maguindanao Gov. Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu also recommended three noted Maguindanaoans to form part of the Transition Commission to represent the government. In an interview, Mangudadatu said he had asked the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) to include Maguindanaoan lawyers Didagen Dilangalen, Suharto Ambolodto, and Maguindanao 2nd District Rep. Simeon Datumanong to the government nominees. Dilangalen was former congressional representative of the first district of Maguindanao while Ambolodto was active as leader of non-government organizations helping push for the peace process between the government and the MILF.

President Aquino earlier issued Executive Order 120 creating the Transition Commission that will draft the Bangsamoro Basic Law that will serve as basis for the creation of new autonomous political entity and replace the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. “We give our all out support to the recommendation of Gov. Mangudadatu for the three of them to become members of TransCom,” Mayor Ibrahim Ibay of Parang town, said. Ibay said Dilangalen, Datumanong and Ambolodto can all speak well of the intricacies of the Mindanao Moro issue. According to Ibay, Datumanong’s experience as lawmaker and Muslim leader is beyond doubt. Datumanong has been a public servant since 1960s. He helped craft the 1976 Tripoli AGreement between the Marcos government and the Moro National LIberation Front which wassigned in Libyan capital of Tripoli.

Mayor Ramil Dilangalen of Northern Kabuntalan and president of Maguindanao Mayor’s league, welcomed Mangudadatu’s recomendees saying the province, being the hotbed of rebellion should have enough representation in the Commission. Mangudadatu said he has “set aside” politics in recommending the three Maguindanaon lawyers to become members of the newly-created TransCom.

The MILF is expected to name its eight nominees to the TransCom next week.  Government peace panel chairman Miriam Coronel Ferrer said the tasks of the Transition Commission were separate from the process involving the crafting of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, and any delays in the drafting of annexes will not have a significant impact on the peace process.  “The rest of the roadmap is to release the executive order to form the Transition Commission even if the panel is still finalizing the annex. That was the whole idea, to finish the Framework Agreement first in order to get the next mechanisms in place,” Ferrer said.

As indicated in the Framework Agreement, both sides committed to finish drafting the annexes before the end of the year but this deadline has always been flexible, Ferrer said.  “That was the target but we are always flexible. Let’s not rush. It’s the better part of prudence to really go through the documents and the issues to really study this and to really agree. We can mutually adjust the target,” Ferrer said.

The MILF earlier said both sides have managed to accomplish 95 percent of the work on power-sharing; 60 percent on wealth-sharing; 99 percent on modalities and arrangement; and 30 percent on normalization. Ferrer downplayed the alleged deadlock, saying that the “technical impasse” revolved around formulating the right language to use in certain provisions of the BTA in the Annex on Transitional Arrangements and Modalities. “The government, of course, acknowledges that the MILF is our main partner in this. But we are also balancing that with the government’s policy of inclusivity,” Ferrer said.

R2.3-B Radars To Boost Air Force

From the Manila Bulletin (Dec 29): R2.3-B Radars To Boost Air Force

As the military builds up its air-defense capabilities, the Philippine Air Force (PAF) is acquiring three radars with a project cost of about P2.3 billion, said PAF vice commander Maj. Gen. Raul Dimatatac. Interviewed at the Villamor Airbase in Pasay City, Dimatatac told reporters: “We are looking at installing three radars for our three major sites.” The radars, he said, are among those listed in the PAF’s wish list for the P75-billion military modernization budget for the next five years. “Although we were given by the government P75 billion for the next five years . . . we have a lot of concerns insofar as security is concerned so we really have to prioritize,” said Dimatatac. He said for the air force, among the items lined up for acquisition aside from the radar system are surface attack aircraft (SAA), light lift and long range patrol aircraft, and additional UH1H helicopters.

The PAF vice commander earlier expressed his pleasure at the activation of the third C-130 Lockheed “Hercules” cargo plane in their inventory. Last Friday, the military recommissioned some of its air and ground assets that underwent major refurbishment, with all the work done locally. Among the recommissioned assets aside from the C-130, was a Cessna 210, the PAF’s platform for rainmaking; one UH1H combat utility helicopter; and 12 M-35 trucks. “This is definitely a big improvement to the PAF’s airlift capability considering that for the past years, we only have one C-130 aircraft in service,” said Dimatatac. He said the three C-130 cargo planes will allow the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to support the government in its various development and relief missions.

Aside from improving the PAF’s cargo lift capability, Dimatatac said the three aircraft will definitely boost the morale of their aircrew as they now know that they have a sufficient number of planes to perform their missions. The last time the PAF had three operational C-130s was in 1989, or 23 years ago. Dimatatac also said their C-130s have no lifespan or shelf life to speak off as long as they meet or comply with their maintenance checks.

Top rebel nabbed in Cagayan Valley

From the Manila Times (Dec 30): Top rebel nabbed in Cagayan Valley

POLICE intelligence operatives arrested on Friday in Cagayan province a top officer of the New People’s Army operating in Northern Luzon, police reports said on Saturday. Chief Supt. Rodrigo de Gracia, Cagayan Valley regional police commander, in a report sent to Camp Crame, identified the arrested rebel as Rene Emondo Abiva. De Gracia said in the report that Abiva was apprehended by intelligence operatives at about 4:35 p.m. on Friday at Taft Street, Bagumbayan, Tuguegarao, Cagayan. The arrest was made base on a warrant of arrest for murder issued by a regional trial court in Ifugao, the police official said in the report.

This time it’s PH vs Taiwan

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Dec 30): This time it’s PH vs Taiwan

Another conflict is brewing in the West Philippine Sea, this time between the Philippines and Taiwan over oil and gas exploration around Ligao Island, the largest islet in the Spratlys group. The Philippine government on Saturday asserted its sovereign right to “explore and exploit” resources in the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) as Taiwan announced plans to begin looking for oil and gas in disputed areas of the Spratlys islands chain. Assistant Secretary Raul Hernandez, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) spokesperson, said Saturday that only the Philippines could explore in those parts of the Spratlys that lies within the country’s 200-nautical mile continental shelf.

Reports from Taiwan said island nation’s Bureau of Mines and state-run oil supplier CPC Corp. were keen on starting exploration for oil and gas in waters around Ligao Island, the largest Spratlys island that the Taiwanese call Taiping. China, Vietnam and the Philippines have claims to Ligao Island.

The Philippines earlier this year offered oil exploration contracts in its claimed part of the Spratlys, a move that drew criticism from counter-claimants, especially China. Without directly criticizing Taiwan for the move, Hernandez said foreign exploration within the Philippines’ EEZ must be signed off by Manila in compliance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos). “The Philippines has exclusive sovereign rights to explore and exploit all types of resources in its continental shelf within the 200 nautical miles measured from the baselines in the western side of the Philippine archipelago,” Hernandez said. “No country can conduct oil exploration in the PH continental shelf in the West Philippine Sea without the permission of the government, as provided for under Unclos,” he said.

Known to be dependent on oil imports, Taiwan is initiating the oil exploration to build up its oil resources, the reports said. Taiwan’s announcement came amid renewed tensions between China and the Philippines over reports of Chinese ships patrolling in the West Philippine Sea and plans to fortify Sansha City, an administrative domain established to govern all of the Spratlys. The Philippines called both developments violations of international law and disrespectful of the Philippines’ sovereign right to its EEZ.

China this week deployed an oceangoing ship in the disputed waters, the first time for a Chinese vessel to patrol beyond its coastal waters. The patrol started ahead of the implementation of a new policing law allowing Hainan province’s authorities to board and inspect foreign ships that will pass by the South China Sea, a critical international trading route.

Fil-Am accused in terror plot pleads not guilty

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Dec 30): Fil-Am accused in terror plot pleads not guilty

The Filipino-American accused of being involved in a plot to join Al-Qaeda insurgents for military training in Afghanistan appeared in federal court for the first time, with his fellow defendants on Wednesday, December 19, to plead not guilty on charges of conspiracy to support terrorists. Ralph Deleon, a 23-year-old permanent resident from Ontario, CA, is among the four men accused of planning to unleash ‘violent jihad’ against US armed forces and other Americans abroad, in a criminal case based on intelligence gathered from a paid FBI informant. Other defendants include Pomona resident Sohiel Omar Kabir, Riverside resident Arifeen David Gojali, and Upland resident Miguel Alejandro Santana Vidriales.

The 35-year-old Kabir is the alleged ringleader of the group. He was captured in Afghanistan on November 17, a day after the three other men were arrested by federal agents in Chino, California. According to the criminal complaint filed by the FBI, Kabir recruited two co-conspirators Deleon and Santana who were to join him in training under Al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan. The FBI said that the two men were influenced by Kabir to convert to Islam before he flew abroad in 2011. The pair, in turn, allegedly recruited the fourth man, Gojali, to complete the group.

The FBI’s complaint alleged that Deleon and Santana divulged to an FBI informant their plans to travel to Afghanistan to carry out ‘violent jihad’ on American targets. Deleon was quoted by the informant, saying that he wanted to fight in the front lines or carry explosives. Santana allegedly wanted to become a sniper. The three co-conspirators were captured by authorities two days before their allegedly planned flight from Mexico, to join Kabir overseas. Each of the four men is charged with a single count of conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists. The maximum penalty is 15 years of jail time. In a hearing in early December (in Riverside County that lasted no more than five minutes) all four defendants pleaded not guilty on charges held against them. A tentative trial date was then set for August 2013.

In the meantime, the Philippine Consulate General in Los Angeles has declined to make any comment on the case of Deleon, as they were still awaiting further developments on the matter.....

Rizal’s martyrdom remembered

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Dec 30): Rizal’s martyrdom remembered

In solemn rites, President Benigno Aquino on Sunday morning laid a wreath at the monument of Jose P. Rizal, capping the 116th anniversary of his martyrdom and centennial of the transfer of his remains from Binondo to Luneta Park. The President said the double celebration challenged Filipinos “to forge unity in the face of differences.” As “Bayan Ko” played, the President, Dr. Maria Serena Diokno of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines, and Armed Forces Chief General Jessie Dellosa walked from a platform to the monument, as two ceremonial elements in gray uniform carried the wreath.

Standing before the monument, Aquino gave a salute as a cackle of gunfire filled the air. Rizal’s descendants, Amelia Garcia Yulo, Victor Reyes, Malou Villaroman, Marlene Jacinto and Gemma Cruz-Araneta, among others, stood close by. Shortly after, a funeral dirge was played. Minutes earlier at around 7 a.m., as a large crowd gathered around Rizal Park, the President hoisted the flag on the Independence flagpole in front of Rizal’s monument, which was simultaneously held in Rizal shrines across the country. Joining him were Vice President Jejomar Binay Jr., Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario, Diokno, Dellosa, Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim, Reghis Romero II, supreme commander of the Order of the Knights of Rizal; and Santiago Gabionza Jr., grandmaster of the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of the Philippines.

Sunday’s commemoration of Rizal Day was doubly significant because it coincided with the 100th anniversary of the transfer of Rizal’s remains from his sister’s home in Binondo to the Luneta Park, where they were interred at the base of the monument on December 30, 1912. “This year, we’re marking the 100th year of the interment of our national hero’s remains at the Rizal Park where Filipinos can freely honor his important contribution to the shaping of our country,” the President said in a statement posted on the government website. “For his memory’s sake, we continue to respond to the challenge of the times: how to weave unity in spite of differences? How to inflame concern for others and flag? We hope that we will be more determined in paddling toward the same direction to achieve the full potential of our National Language,” he added.

Before dawn Sunday, in a reenactment of the funeral march from Narcisa’s house, an urn containing a piece of a bone from Rizal’s spine was transported on a motorized caisson and escorted by the Knights of Rizal from Binondo to Luneta. The bone was part of Rizal’s spinal column which was shattered by a bullet during his execution on December 30, 1896. After his execution, Rizal’s remains were clandestinely interred in Paco Park. After exhumation in 1898, these were kept by the Rizal family until December 30, 1912, when these were interred in the foundations of the monument.

“Rizal‘s devotion to truth, justice, and the civic virtues impelled him to deplore and expose the abuses of colonialism, resulting in his incarceration and eventual execution. It was through the gift of language and the written word that our national identity was formed: as the late Leon Ma. Guerrero described him, he was, indeed, the First Filipino,” Secretary Edwin Lacierda, presidential spokesperson, said in a statement.

Gov't, MILF to cooperate to disarm private armies

From the Philippine Star (Dec 30): Gov't, MILF to cooperate to disarm private armies

The government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) will work in partnership to reduce and control firearms in Mindanao, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Deles said today. Deles said disarmament of private armed groups along with the MILF forces in the southern region will be part of the "normalization process" under the framework agreement that the Aquino administration and the Muslim rebels signed on Oct. 15. "You don't just talk about the arms of the MILF, but also of everyone else. That is part of normalization. How can you ask the MILF to completely disarm if other groups or some families are armed? We are looking for a real partnership among the government, the MILF, and other governance constituencies to look at this matter on how to make a life more secure, to trust in the state forces to make them secure, and be engaged in other productive activities," she said.

Deles said that decommissioning of the estimated 12,000 MILF forces will be phased and calibrated and will start once the political commitments are delivered. "We agreed that substantial decommissioning happens when the basic law is delivered," she said. She added that a joint normalization committee will be formed for the coordination between the parties towards full decommissioning, which will be overseen by a third-party monitor composed of domestic and international partners of the peace process. Details of the decommissioning process are being discussed on the annex on normalization of the framework agreement. The other annexes include power-sharing, wealth-sharing, and transitional arrangement and modalities.

China now extracting oil from disputed waters

From the Philippine Star (Dec 30): China now extracting oil from disputed waters

China’s largest offshore oil and gas producer has announced that two of its oil fields in disputed waters in the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea) have started production.A report of the state-owned China Daily yesterday said the China National Offshore Oil Co. Ltd. (CNOOC) announced on Friday the operation of the oil fields in the contested waters. In a statement, the CNOOC said both oil fields are located in the Pearl River Estuary Basin. The report said the Panyu 4-2/5-1 field, one of the two oil fields, is expected to reach its peak output level in 2014. The CNOOC owns 75.5 percent of the field, while Burlington Resources China Llc. owns the rest. The other field was identified as Liuhua 4-1. The company owns it completely and expects its production to peak next year.

In June, the CNOOC announced it would open nine new blocks in the South China Sea to bids for exploration and development. The blocks are in disputed waters directly off Vietnam’s coast, in some cases within 100 nautical miles of Vietnam’s shores. A few days later, the Chinese Defense Ministry announced that it was preparing to start regular naval patrols in the waters around the Spratly Islands, which are being claimed also by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam. Vietnam protested the CNOOC announcement on the opening of nine oil and gas lots for international bidders in areas overlapping with existing Vietnamese exploration blocks. Vietnam said the lots lie entirely within its 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone and continental shelf.

Malacañang, on the other hand, said the Philippine government would continue to call on China to respect the country’s territorial integrity and sovereignty as stipulated in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Malacañang issued the statement after the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) protested China’s sending of an oceangoing patrol vessel to disputed waters in the West Philippine Sea on Thursday. “The Philippines again calls on China to respect our territorial sovereignty and EEZ (exclusive economic zone). The Philippines strongly objects to the Chinese patrol of Philippine maritime domain in the West Philippine Sea,” the DFA said. “Such patrol will not validate the nine-dash lines and is contrary to China’s obligation under international law including UNCLOS,” the DFA added.

China announced the deployment of Haixun 21, the first oceangoing patrol vessel equipped with a helipad, to conduct maritime patrol in the West Philippine Sea.Haixun 21 is the first of its kind to be put into service in the West Philippine Sea and will be under the administration of the Hainan Maritime Safety Administration, according to state-run Xinhua news agency. Haixun 21, which is equipped with a helipad, is under the control of the Hainan Maritime Safety Administration. Huang He, deputy head of the maritime bureau of the Ministry of Transport, said the vessel’s principal mission is to monitor maritime traffic safety, investigate maritime accidents, detect pollution, carry out search and rescue work, and fulfill international conventions. The Chinese Defense Ministry said China only intends to build “harmonious oceans” and protect its maritime sovereignty with its deployment of patrols in the disputed waters.

Malacañang said it remains committed to finding a peaceful resolution to the dispute and avoiding provocative actions. It said President Aquino is now being recognized in the global community as a champion of peace with his vigorous effort to bring the issue to a multilateral and diplomatic conclusion. The government earlier in May asked the Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry Inc. (FFCCCII) to consider investing in Philippine companies undertaking exploration activities in the country’s continental shelf. Assistant Secretary Gilberto Asuque of the DFA’s Ocean Concerns Office encouraged the federation’s members during a meeting organized by the FFCCCII in Manila to invest in an energy exploration project in the Philippines’ continental shelf that includes Recto Bank (Reed Bank), which China is also claiming as its own.

Scientific data showed the West Philippine Sea contains vast deposits of oil and natural gas. The area around Recto Bank alone has an estimated 16.6 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, enough to last for a century, according to the Department of Energy. Asuque also assured the public that the government is protecting the rights of Filipinos in their territory as well as the Philippines’ marine resources as provided for under local and international laws, including the UNCLOS.

Fire guts building inside Army HQ in Fort Bonifacio, 1 hurt

From InterAksyon (Dec 30): Fire guts building inside Army HQ in Fort Bonifacio, 1 hurt

A fire of still undetermined origin gutted a building inside the Philippine Army headquarters in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City Sunday. Army spokesman Major Harold Cabunoc said the fire started at the administrative building of the Army Support Command at 12:14 a.m. It was put out at 1:40 a.m. The duty officer at the time, Sergeant Rodeline Sobrapena, sustained slight injuries on the hand and was immediately rushed to the Army General Hospital located inside the camp. Cabunoc said the fire destroyed office equipment and administrative files of the command. Cost of damage is placed at around P30 million. The command, Cabunoc said, was supposed to relocate to Tarlac City soon.