Sunday, March 31, 2013

ANAD: CPP-NPA-NDF’s Godless ideology confirmed during Good Friday’s ‘Via Crucis’ attack in Butuan City

From the anti-communist ANAD Website (Mar 30): CPP-NPA-NDF’s Godless ideology confirmed during Good Friday’s ‘Via Crucis’ attack in Butuan City

The Maoist terrorist CPP-NPA-NDF now has bared their true and real character as believers and advocates of Godlessness and unfettered violence. This is the ALLIANCE FOR NATIONALISM AND DEMOCRACY (ANAD) Partylist’s reaction to the Maoist terrorist NPA’s irreverence in the observance of Good Friday and sheer political partisanship when about 15 Maoist terrorist NPAs from SPP 21, GF 21C, NorthEastern Mindanao Regional Committee (NEMRC) led by Marcelino Mandag, aka Marsing, attacked the Phil. Army’s Mahayahay Patrol Base providing road security during the ‘Via Crucis’, particularly at the ‘3rd Station’ in Sitio Iyaw, Barangay Anticala, Butuan City, at 5am yesterday (March 29), killing 2 CAFGU members and sending thousands of Catholic devotees into frenzy and panic.

ANAD Rep. Pastor Alcover said that, once again, ANAD is proven correct when we said that the Maoist communist ideology is whole scale Godlessness, skilled in the use of violence, and fraught with inhumanity. “This we’ve posited time and again. I hope that the entire God-fearing Filipino nation will now heed our call to come out and stand united to peacefully oppose and confront the lies and evil deeds of the bearers of violence and Godlessness,” said the former NPA political and commanding officer in Eastern and Central Visayas.

Reports from ANAD field chapter in Butuan City disclosed that the attack was the NPAs strong message to incumbent Butuan City Mayor Ferdinand Amante who vehemently refused to give in to the NPA’s demand for Permit to Campaign and/or Alliance fee; while at the same time reportedly to prove their support to Mayor Amante’s unidentified opponent.

“Whatever the reasons they may have, only one thing is certain: it is an expression of utter disrespect to the Filipinos’ strong faith and solemn reverence in the observance of the Holy Week, particularly Good Friday,” Rep. Alcover explained as he condoled with the families of two (2) CAFGU members identified as CAAs Ariel Anduhuyan and Arnie Darasin.

At the same time, ANAD scored as truly deceptive and wrought with lies the statement made by Jorge Madlos that the NPA is declaring a unilateral ceasefire during the Holy Week! “Certainly we always take his statements, together with those in the Maoist terrorist leadership, with a grain of salt and utter disbelief because Madlos aka Ka Oris is very well known because of his lies rather than honesty and truth coming out from his mouth!” Rep. Alcover pointed out.

“The NPA attack in Butuan City should serve as a wake up call to our national leaders to stand firm and unwavering in protecting our people and country. ANAD strongly reiterate our call on the government to unleash the full force of the law against the forces of Maoist terrorism. The late President Magsaysay’s Carrot and Stick policy against Communist insurgency still remains as the most potent and truly effective weapon that government should employ,” he

“Magsaysay’s ‘find them, fight them, and finish them . . .and fully support those who wanted to return to the folds of government’ must be fully considered by the present leadership amidst the rise of NPA and Maoist political/legal front groups’ attacks against industries, businesses, and even helpless civilians and rebel returnees as they vainly keep aflame their waning anti-Filipino revolution,” said Rep. Alcover.

Meanwhile, ANAD lauded the 3rd Special Forces Battalion, led by Lt. Col. Potenciano Camba, for the successful raid on an identified NPA lair in the vicinity of Brgy. San Antonio, Remedios Trinidad-Romualdez (RTR), Agusan del Norte, last March 29 and a few hours after the Brgy. Anticala attack. “The success shows how effective a joint effort by the civilian populace and the military could be in pursuing a strong counter-insurgency campaign,” said Rep. Alcover as he said that the area was supposedly the site of the NEMRC’s celebration of the Maoist NPA’s 44th founding anniversary, last March 29.

ANAD: Madlos: A congenital liar!

From the anti-communist Alliance for Nationalism and Democracy (ANAD) Website (Mar 31): Madlos: A congenital liar!

“It was expected! Maoist terrorists surely will disown and never admit responsibility on any incident they’ve perpetrated, more so with the attack in Sitio Iyaw, Brgy. Anticala on Good Friday (March 29), to mislead the Filipinos and instead point the blame on the military and police,” said ANAD Rep. Jun Alcover as he blasted Jorge Madlos, NDF spokesman for Mindanao for continuously lying to his teeth even when ‘caught with his hands on his big mouth’!

“Madlos is a congenital liar!” said the sole pro-democracy solon in Congress.

Rep. Alcover pointed out that incorrigible and hard core Maoist communists like Jorge Madlos do not believe in God! “This is one of the doctrines rammed on us as we were always reminded that Religion and faith in God is the opium of society,” he said while reminiscing his years in the Maoist communist underground movement as NPA political and commanding officer in Eastern and Central Visayas in the mid-70’s.

“Their irreverence to the thousands of Catholic devotees and blatant display atheism were unfortunately yet deliberately displayed by 15 Maoist of SPP 21, Guerrilla Front 21C, NEMRC, reportedly clad in PNP-RMG uniforms that attacked the Phil. Army’s Mahayahay Patrol Base, in the vicinity of the 3rd Station of the ‘Station of the Cross’ in Sitio Iyaw, Brgy. Anticala, Butuan City at about 5am of Good Friday killing 2 CAFGU personnel,” he said.

Media reports say that even Fr. Joesilo Amalla, partish priest of St. Joseph Cathedral expressed disgust and exasperation to the NPA’s “disrespect(ing) the solemnity of the Stations of the Cross. They don’t know when to stop fighting,” the priest added.

Madlos’ devilish mind was unravelled when he chose to be silent and astute on the many Maoist terrorist NPA’s violent and inhuman activities: extra-judicial killings of innocent civilians, particularly rebel returnees (RRs); the cutting down of thousands of banana trees in Surigao del Sur and other parts of Mindanao; the burning of many heavy equipments owned by businessmen who strongly refused to give in to their extortion demands, “Yet was too fast to disown responsibility in the Brgy. Anticala incident,” Rep. Alcover stressed.

“The Filipino people should now open their eyes, in the same manner that the thousands of Butuanons are feeling right now against the Godless, violence, and inhumanity that Maoist communism ideology do espouse but are purposely kept hidden from the people by their minions in the country like Jorge Madlos, Satur Ocampo, Teddy Casiño, and their peers in Bayan Muna, Gabriela, Anakpawis, Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT), and Kabataan partylists aside from their legal front sectoral groups like Karapatan, Bayan and many others,” he added.

“ANAD is now calling on the Filipino people, particularly the PNoy leadership, to make a firm and resolute stand to end this senseless and useless Maoist communist zarzuela of lies and deceit with violence that already has wrought so much damage to our peace and economy. A few can only do as much, but as a united people, we can turn things and even move mountains for the betterment of our people and country,” Rep. Alcover said.

Army announces exams for candidate soldiers and officers

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 30): Army announces exams for candidate soldiers and officers

CATBALOGAN CITY, Samar -- The 8th Infantry Division, Philippine Army based in Camp Vicente Lukban, Catbalogan City announces the Army Officer’s Courses and Candidate Soldiers Course Pre Entry examination.

If you are 21-31 years of age, Filipino citizen (natural-born), single, at least 5 ft. in height (male or female) Baccalaureate degree holder, and will be able to pass the Philippine Army Aptitude Test Battery (PAATB) with a minimum score of 110 points, you can join the Probationary Officer Training Course (POTC) and Officer Candidate Course (OCC).

If you are Commissioned 2nd Lieutenant in the reserve force, you can also join the Officer Preparatory Course (OPC) and be a proud member of the Philippine Army Officer Corps.

The examinations will be facilitated by the personnel from the Army Recruitment Office from April 11-18, 2013.

On April 11-12, 2013 examinations will be held at the Headquarters 803rd Brigade, Camp Sumoroy, Catarman, Northern Samar.

On April 13-14 exams will be at the 8th ID Headquarters, Philippine Army, Camp Vicente Lukban, Catbalogan City, Samar.

On April 15-16, 2013 this will be at Leyte Colleges, Tacloban City and on April 17-18 8th Regional Community Defense Group Headquarters, Army Reserve Command, Camp Downes, Ormoc City.

There is also an opening for those in the college level, graduate of any vocational course or high school graduate and interested to join the Candidate Soldier Course.

One must be18-26 years of age, single, Filipino citizen, at least 5 ft. in height, physically and mentally fit and have completed the local clearances, you can also join the Philippine Army through the Non-Commissioned Officers Corps according to a press brief from Cpt Gene Orense, 8th ID Spokesman.

Examinees must bring along the following original documents during the examination: NSO Birth Certificate, Transcript of Record, College Diploma, ballpen and pencil.

Sultan's army gets reinforcements in Sabah

From the Philippine Star (Apr 1): Sultan's army gets reinforcements in Sabah

Some 100 heavily armed men have joined the followers of Agbimuddin Kiram in Sabah to continue fighting Malaysian forces in Lahad Datu, sultanate spokesman Abraham Idjirani said yesterday.

Idjirani said Agbimuddin, brother of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III called him up to report that some heavily armed civilians have joined the fighting in Sabah.

Idjirani said the civilians managed to slip through the sea blockade of the Malaysian and Philippine navy forces in going to Sabah.

“(Agbimuddin) called me about the arrival of civilians with arms who have joined the royal security forces,” Idjirani said.

It was not known where the armed civilians came from but sources said some are Tausugs from various parts of Mindanao who arrived in small groups to avoid the Malaysian and Philippine naval blockade at the Sulu Sea.

Heavy fighting was reported in Lahad Datu yesterday where Malaysian troops are conducting mopping-up operations to flush out the remaining members of Kiram’s forces.

Idjirani also reported that relatives of Kiram who are long-time residents of Sabah went into hiding after Malaysian police began its crackdown on suspected supporters of the sultan’s army.

“The relatives of sultan are now living in fear and have gone into hiding,” he said.

DFA visits 8 accused of terrorism

Last Thursday, Philippine embassy officials in Kuala Lumpur were allowed to visit eight men facing charges for terrorism-related violence for their involvement in the Sabah incident.

Philippine Ambassador to Kuala Lumpur Eduardo Malaya, in a statement, identified the eight as Atik Hussin Bin Abu Bakar, Basad H. Manuel, Habil Bin Suhali, Holland Bin Kalbi, Thimhar Hadil Sultan, Lin Bin Mad Salleh, Kadir Bin Uyung and Lating Bin Tiong.

Malaya did not say if the eight, detained at the prison facility in Tawau, are Filipinos. The Sulu sultanate had earlier said the eight are Malaysians.

He said it is the “standing policy” of the government “to provide appropriate consular assistance to nationals in distress, whether or not we agree with their acts or advocacies... We would like to ensure that their rights as accused are respected and that they have legal representation when court sessions resume on April 12 as promised by Malaysia authorities.”

Malaya said the embassy team, led by First Secretary and Consul Antonina Mendoza-Oblena and director Renato Villa, talked to the eight and asked them about their prison conditions. The team also asked the accused about their places of origin and respective families.

The eight were the first to face charges since about 200 followers of the Sulu sultan assembled at the coastal town of Lahad Datu last month to press ownership over Sabah.

The embassy said it may be difficult to extend consular assistance to the sultan’s brother Agbimuddin. Malaysian Defense Minister Datuk Seri Zahid Hamidi said Agbimuddin is a Malaysian citizen who worked as a civil servant in Sabah.

Twists, turns in bid to free Rodwell

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Mar 31): Twists, turns in bid to free Rodwell

The ransom had changed hands and a day had passed, but Australian Warren Rodwell remained in the Abu Sayyaf’s hands. Basilan Vice Gov. Al Rasheed Sakalahul felt he had been duped and he wanted to unleash hell on the kidnappers.

But that would endanger Rodwell’s life so he reined in his anger and demanded an explanation from the Abu Sayyaf commander he had been dealing with to free the kidnapped Australian.

Sakalahul got it and was relieved when his patience paid off.

But the vice governor also learned how wrong he and the authorities had been about where the al-Qaida-linked Abu Sayyaf bandits had kept the Australian.

The Abu Sayyaf freed Rodwell, 54, early on Saturday last week after his family paid

P4 million to the kidnappers known for beheading captives who refused to pay ransom.

Throughout Rodwell’s 15-month captivity, all of them believed the former Australian soldier was being held in Basilan, the Abu Sayyaf stronghold, or Jolo where the bandits also operated.

As it turned out, Rodwell was held not by the Abu Sayyaf but its accomplices, most likely rogue Moro Islamic Liberation Front guerrillas, in Zamboanga Sibugay, the mountainous southern half of the Zamboanga Peninsula across the strait from Basilan.

That distance and bad weather delayed Rodwell’s release and had Sakalahul given way to his anger, the Australian would have been killed there, as the kidnappers had threatened to do unless ransom was paid before Easter.

Now the authorities, too, know they should look beyond Basilan and Jolo and sniff around some other groups’ backyards in looking for the other captives of the Abu Sayyaf.

Listed as terrorists by the United Nations and the United States, as well as by the Philippines, the Abu Sayyaf is holding two Europeans, a Jordanian journalist, a Malaysian and a Japanese treasure hunter, and is demanding ransom for their release.

Sakalahul had played a key role in successful talks for the release of other Abu Sayyaf kidnap victims, and a threat to Rodwell’s life had made the authorities turn to him again for help.

At first, Sakalahul did not want to have anything to do with Rodwell because he was Australian and he still smarted whenever he remembered how the Australians treated him when he traveled to their country in 2005.

DENR-12 still clueless over identities of SK illegal loggers

From MindaNews (Mar 31): DENR-12 still clueless over identities of SK illegal loggers

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in Region 12 is still clueless on who could be behind the massive illegal logging activities uncovered recently in Bagumbayan town in Sultan Kudarat province, a top official admitted Sunday.

Datu Tungko Saikol, DENR-12 regional director, said no case has been filed against those behind the seized 300,000 board feet of illegally cut lumber, valued at P13.5 million.

“Wala tayo ma file-lan ng kaso kasi di identify kung sino sila (We cannot file a case because we don’t know whom to sue),” he told MindaNews in a phone interview.

But Saikol said that various armed groups, which he did not identify, have surfaced as possibly behind the illegal logging activity, noting though “that the DENR could not pinpoint them.”

With still no one to be held accountable for the seized illegal lumber flitches, Saikol said they would automatically be forfeited in favor of the government.

The official said the sawn forest products are considered illegal with the issuance of President Benigno Aquino III of Executive Order 23 in 2011, which imposed a moratorium on the cutting and harvesting of timber in natural and residual forests.

Saikol said they are planning to haul the seized forest products with the help of the military to the lowlands.

To prevent further illegal logging activities in the mountains of Sultan Kudarat, Saikol suggested for the military to take the lead since the DENR has no capability of going after “these usually heavily armed men.”

On March 20, the military conducted an operation, together with DENR-12 personnel, that led to the recovery of the 300,000 board feet of illegally cut lumber.

A 30-minute firefight ensued between the government troops and the armed men behind the illegal logging activity, who later withdrew to unknown directions, Col. Dickson Hermoso, 6th Infantry Division spokesman, said at the time.

A text message from an anonymous concerned resident there that day claimed that the armed men allegedly belong to the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, the armed wing of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement, a breakaway group of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

In a statement issued last Tuesday, the DENR-12 said that the seized forest products are equivalent to 150-truckloads at an estimated 2,000 bd. ft. per load.

The illegal lumber products, in assorted sizes, were stock piled at Sitio Salatan, Barangay Kabulnan in Bagumbayan town, it added.

DENR-12 said the uncovered illegal logging activities fall within the Industrial Forest Management Agreement (IFMA) area of Silvicultural Industries, Inc. (SII).

SII is a private company that has an existing production sharing agreement with the DENR under IFMA 022, hence had the obligation to protect its leased area.

It was the SII management who sought the assistance of the local DENR to quell the encroachment of illegal loggers in their IFMA area, the statement said.

The operation was jointly carried out by elements of the Army’s 46th Infantry Battalion based in Barangay Kamasi, Ampatuan, Maguindanao, and the DENR personnel stationed in Tacurong City.

In the statement, Saikol lauded the efforts of the Army personnel for risking their lives in going after the illegal loggers.

“We need the fire power of the military in pursuing violators of forestry laws who are usually armed. Our forest rangers and other members of the law enforcement teams need all the support of the military during operations to ensure their safety,” he said.

The anti-illegal logging operations in Mindanao was converted from civilian to active military operations on November 8, 2012 by virtue of Anti-Illegal Logging Task Force Resolution 2012-005 due to the presence of insurgency and armed groups, the DENR-12 statement said.

The DENR-12 statement said that the office of Community Environment and Natural Resources Office headed by Jerry Dalauta, in coordination with SII, was “set to conduct further investigation on the case in order to identify the culprits.”

KM: Join the NPA

Posted to  the pro-CPP Davao Today (Mar 31): KM: Join the NPA

Press Statement
31 March 2013

Kabataang Makabayan (Patriotic Youth) in Southern Mindanao deeply salutes the New People’s Army (NPA) in its 44 years of ever-growing existence. We extend our highest respect and honor to our comrade Red fighters who heroically offered their lives for the masses. We also give the same salutation to those who continue in service. In the armed struggle of the NPA, numerous victories have been attained by the people against the oppression of the US-Aquino regime and the ruling class.

When the Martial Law was declared under the fascist Marcos regime, a number of KM members trooped to the countryside to organize the farmers to establish the proletarian army and to put up guerrilla bases. They left the comforts of the urban and selflessly served the people through armed revolution.

Since the Marcos years, there has been no essential change in the condition of the poor. In fact, the Aquino regime’s shortcoming has become more evident. Aquino denied the bloating number of starving and unemployed Filipinos. But his National Statistics Office (NSO) reported that 7.1 percent or more than three million of the 40 million in the labor force are unemployed. Moreover, the illegal ownership of the Cojuangco-Aquino clan over Hacienda Luisita still persists.

Aquino remains a puppet on the issues involving national sovereignty especially in allowing the liberal entry of US warships and other war machines. In the recent crisis in Sabah, Aquino even played as an apologist of Malaysia. Instead of rescuing the families of over 100 Filipinos massacred by Malaysian Special Forces in Sabah, Aquino commanded the Philippine Navy to arrest Filipinos who are going to Sabah.

For more than three years now, the imperialist United States of America and its puppet Noynoy Aquino implemented the Oplan Bayanihan, which aimed the total collapse of the burning revolutionary fervor of the people. The reactionary government has deployed in Southern Mindanao Region the largest block of the AFP. Twenty-one battalions under four divisions of the fascist AFP continue to bring fears and burdens to the poor peasants in the countryside of Davao.

But, like the previous counterinsurgency plans, Oplan Bayanihan is a huge failure. Instead of being shaken, the mass bases in the hinterlands expand even wider, the number of enlisted NPA soldiers grows, and the agrarian revolution intensifies in Southern Mindanao.

The barricade staged last February by typhoon survivors in front the regional Office of DSWD XI was a historical one. Almost 5,000 typhoon survivors from the provinces of Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental who joined the barricade were not only victims of the storm. They were furthermore enslaved by the corruption involving the DSWD and some local politicians. The DSWD refused to distribute to the starving typhoon survivors the 10,000 sacks of rice previously promised by DSWD secretary Dinky Soliman. Because of this, the people were driven by the circumstances to express their rage as a rational necessity and went on to seize relief goods to register their need of humanitarian relief and rehabilitation services.

 The US-Aquino regime, through the AFP, employed fascism as its response to the legitimate woes of the people. A few days after the victorious barricade of the typhoon survivors, their leader in the group Barug Katawhan, village councilwoman Cristina Jose, was shot dead by the elements of 67th IB in Baganga, Davao Oriental.

Another victim of state-fascism was the 16-year old Kristel Tejada, a student of the University of the Philippines-Manila. She was killed by the rotten educational system in the Philippines.

The state is supposedly responsible in providing free and quality education for the people, but Aquino perpetuates the commercialized, colonial, fascist and elitist character of the educational system. This rotten state of education in the Philippines is a result of the neoliberal policies of the United States imposed on the economy and politics of our country.

As the hope of the nation, and in order to effect social transformation, the youth carry the challenge of continuing the national-democratic revolution of the people long started by our heroes such as Gat Andres Bonifacio. The lessons of our history must remind the youth and students of the importance of intensifying the democratic movement in solidarity with the broad masses even outside the schools, just like in the First Quarter Storm in the 1970s. The key to this movement is the strong and expansive membership of Kabataang Makabayan under the leadership of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).

The youth sector, especially the Kabataang Makabayan, is one of the effective providers of revolutionary cadres of the New People’s Army now and in the years to come. In solidarity with the soldiers of the poor in their 44 years of service and commitment to the people, Kabataang Makabayan will continue to foster its ranks and enliven their passionate spirit as what the KM activists of the First Quarter Storm did. Above all, Kabataang Makabayan urges all Filipino youth to directly take part in the armed struggle as the decisive form of resistance against the oppressive forces.

As an active revolutionary force, the youth will strongly uphold the national democratic revolution in all forms of struggle. Together with the Red fighters, the NPA and the CPP, the youth will heed the call to stand for the liberation of the Filipino people from extreme poverty brought by oppression.

(Sgd) Maria Liyab Magtanggol
Regional Spokesperson
Kabataang Makabayan

Malaysian cops name man with alleged money links to Kiram followers

From GMA News (Mar 31): Malaysian cops name man with alleged money links to Kiram followers

Malaysian police on Sunday named a man who they believe may have financial links to the followers of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III.

Sabah police commissioner Datuk Hamza Taib said they are looking for one Datuk Seri Muhammad Ridzwan Sulaiman from Penang, according to a report on Malaysia's The Star Online.

Hamza, who showed a photo of the so-called Datuk Seri at a press conference in Felda Sahabat, said the man is from Georgetown in Penang, and is believed to be the president of Pertubuhan Kebajikan Al-Ehsan Islamiah Malaysia.

The Star Online's report said Muhammad Rizdwan is believed to be in his 50s and is being sought by police over possible "money links for the financing of the Sulu intrusion."

It also quoted sources who said the man "might not be a holding a Malaysian 'Datuk Seri' title but might be from the family of the self-proclaimed Sulu Sultan."

Police still believe the man is still in Malaysia, with his last known address at Weld in Georgetown, the report said.

It also cited sources who said several other Malaysians are also being investigated for funding the armed group.

Kiram's followers entered Sabah last February and engaged Malaysian security forces in a three-week standoff until March 1, when deadly clashes broke out.

Bangsamoro transition team holds workshop on education

From the Business Mirror (Mar 31): Bangsamoro transition team holds workshop on education

The transition team that would formulate the basic law to govern the Moro Muslims in Mindanao held its first planning workshop in the area of education, with experts calling on blueprints that would “yield higher returns on basic education” and for the private sector “to contribute significantly to higher education delivery.”

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), with eight members in the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC), said the “Ittihadul Madaris Bi Bangsamoro” organized the planning workshop on Bangsamoro Education Road map in Cotabato City.
The activity was intended to formulate the road map for Bangsamoro education “that can be possibly incorporated in crafting the Bangsamoro basic law [BBL] by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission,” the MILF said on its web site.
About 50 educators from secular and Arabic institutions attended the activity held at the conference room of Kutawato Darussalam College Inc.
Results of the workshops were not immediately made available in the three clusters on basic education, public tertiary education and private tertiary education. But workshop speakers, like Alzad Sattar, the undersecretary for madaris education of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao’s (ARMM) Department of Education, dissected the issues and challenges of basic education in the ARMM in the areas of health and demand-supply, as well as the needs that would move the ARMM education framework toward the new political entity under the Bangsamoro framework.
Tomanda D. Antok, vice chancellor of the Maguindanao campus of the Mindanao State University, also called on hiring faculty members with masteral and doctoral degrees in their areas of specialization to compose the higher education teachers.
He said these faculty members should “participate in research and development activities in their respective disciplines as evidenced by refereed publications, and other scholarly outputs [and to embark on] viable research programs in specific [disciplinary and multidisciplinary] areas of study that produce new knowledge as evidenced by referred publications, citations, inventions and patent.”
Antok said Bangsamoro education in the tertiary level should be supported with “comprehensive learning resources and support structures [e.g., libraries, practicum laboratories, relevant education resources and linkages with relevant disciplinal and professional and sectors] to explore basic, advanced and even cutting edge knowledge in wide range of disciplines or professions.”

DND wants US testing for soldiers’ protection kits

From the Business Mirror (Mar 31): DND wants US testing for soldiers’ protection kits

AN official of the Department of National Defense (DND) said the required testing of protection gear for Filipino soldiers will be done in the United States.
That’s non-negotiable, Defense Assistant Secretary Efren Q. Fernandez said citing that the testing will be done in accredited laboratories of the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), Office of Science and Technology of the US.
“There are five NIJ-accredited laboratories to conduct the testing [and] all [are] located in the US.”
The laboratories will test for NIJ 0101.06, which “establishes minimum performance requirements and test methods for the ballistic resistance of personal body armor designed to protect the torso against gunfire.”
Fernandez, chairman of the DND Bids and Acquisition Committee (BAC), made this statement during the pre-bid conference last week for the Force Protection Equipment (FPE), for which the government alloted some P1.76 billion.
The government is ordering 44,080 FPE sets, composed of basic vest, plate inserts and soft-ballistic panel.
Each FPE weighs from 5.8 kilograms to 6.8 kg. Fernandez rejected the request by a bidder to add two to 3.7 kg. to the weight of the overall system.
“This [increase in weight] would not be allowed because weight and size is defined based on the actual body measurement of the Filipino soldier.”
The ballistic test will be done in laboratories that are in the states of Maryland (two), New York, Oregon and Kansas during the post qualifications and pre-delivery inspections phase.
The BAC expects the winning bidder to deliver 15,000 sets within 120 days of the opening of Letter of Credit. The remaining 29,080 sets will be delivered later.
However, the BAC said it will amend this two-tranche delivery into multipletranche delivery system “as long as [deliveries] comply with the schedule.”
The DND expects all FPE delivered before the end of the first half of 2014.

Agents deployed against NPA rebels

From the Manila Standard Today (Apr 1): Agents deployed against NPA rebels

The military has deployed undercover agents to monitor the extortion activities of the Communist New People’s Army (NPA), demanding payments of up to P5 million from candidates to allow them to campaign in rebel-infested areas called the “red zones,” a military spokesman said on Sunday.

Col. Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos said the intelligence units were part of efforts to thwart the NPA extortion and candidates have been warned that permit-to-campaign fees paid to the rebels was illegal.

“We will not let our guard down as we continue our intensified intelligence and monitoring efforts, intelligence exchange with other law-enforcement agencies, and active cooperation with the Philippine National Police to thwart any atrocities, violence and extortion activities,” Burgos said.

Under the NPA “election rates” in Eastern Visayas, candidates for mayor are charged P750,000; candidates for vice mayor, P500,000; candidates for councilor, P5,000. A candidate for governor is charged P5 million.

In Southern Mindanao, the candidates for mayor are asked to pay P150,000; vice mayor, P100,000; and councilor, P20,000.

Burgos said the NPA has sent letters to candidates in Northern Luzon and Eastern Visayas since February informing them of the “election rates.”

“Records show that in 2012, the NPA has collected a total of P25.5 million through their extortion activities,” Burgos said.

Palace confirms wealth, power sharing schemes under review

From the Daily Tribune (Apr 1): Palace confirms wealth, power sharing schemes under review

The Palace said yesterday that proposals of wealth and power sharing for the Bangsamoro substate contained in the annexes being drafted for the Framework Agreement on Bangsamoro is under review of President Aquino that effectively stalled the negotiations being held in Malaysia between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said the 15-man panel of the Transition Commission (Transcom), however, is expected to have an output for the finalization of the Bangsamoro project of Aquino.

“We expect them to come out with the Basic Law that will be reflective of aspirations of the government and all the stakeholders,” Lacierda said.

Lacierda said there are certain in the annexes that have to be addressed.

Lacierda said Aquino “wanted more time to discuss the remaining issues in the annexes” of the Framework Agreement.

“There are two annexes that are in discussion. One, there’s a draft annex already in the wealth-sharing, in the power-sharing, as well as the normalization,” Lacierda said.

Lacierda maintained that the peace efforts of the administration with the MILF would have to continue.

“By no means we are stopping. We wanted to clear all the issues before we move to the next exploratory talks and so we decided to ask for a resetting of the talks to April,” Lacierda said.

Lacierda cited the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) that had issued an explanation on the result of the exploratory talks and” there was a firm commitment on both sides to continue.”

Lacierda added that on the matter of the peace efforts with the MILF, the Sabah issue is excluded. “There is no issue on Sabah. Did Sabah have a hand here? No, it did not. The primary concern here was, let’s discuss all the remaining issues in the annexes,” Lacierda said.

Lacierda said the OPAPP has been optimistic the panels could meet its deadline to finish the work.

“On our end, there will be a negotiation. It’s both substance and form. Substance as to the what need? What are the issues and the form in terms of language? Language is just as important in any negotiations as the substance,” Lacierda said.

Lacierda said the details of the annexes could not be discussed because of the need for an approval from Aquino as principal.

“Because it has to have the approval of the principal and the principal here is the President of the Philippines. It has to be discussed with the President and the President wants these issues discussed thoroughly. So they cannot go into a meeting without the mandate coming from the Chief Executive,” Lacierda said.

Lacierda said that there parts in the peace talks that are “not something that we are at liberty to discuss.”

“We have certain meetings, a number of meetings with the President, so we need to clear everything, and the peace panel has to clear the negotiation terms. So that’s something that would require the mandate of the President,” Lacierda explained.

Meanwhile, a group of Bangsamoro Civil Society Organization (CSOs) staged last week a simultaneous peace rally in Cotabato City, North Cotabato City and Davao City.

In Cotabato City, the CSOs staged a peaceful rally at the Sultan Kudarat Monument, Tantawan Park, to call on the goverment and the MILF to preserve the gains of the peace process and remain steadfast in upholding the supremacy of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro.

“We staged again a series of peace rally in protest to the government of the Philippines, not to postponed the peace talks with MILF. The peace talks must be given priority rather than the Sabah issue as it is a clear manifestation of sabotage of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro,” Dats Magon, spokesman of the CSO, said.

The group called on to preserve the gains of the peace process and continue the negotiations on the other unresolved annexes so that they can sign a comprehensive compact agreement at the soonest possible time.

Also, the group urged the peace panels to ignore unscrupulous politicians, ill-minded groups and individuals, and carpetbaggers who are bent to destroy the peace process for their personal gain.
“The Philippine and Malaysian governments should consider the Sabah crisis as a separate issue that shall not in any way derail the peace process,” the group said.

The Transcom, which was created by President Aquino through Executive Order 120, is tasked to draft the Bangsamoro Basic Law that will create the “New Autonomous Political Entity” to be called Bangsamoro.”

The new entity will replace the 23-year-old Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), which will have its last elections on May 13.

The three-year term of office of ARMM officials who will be elected next month will be cut short as soon as the Basic Law shall be passed by Congress and ratified by the people.

Chaired by MILF peace panel chairman Mohaqher Iqbal, the Transcom will meet at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Ortigas, Pasig City.

China sends biggest ship to West Philippine Sea

From the Manila Bulletin (Apr 1): China sends biggest ship to West Philippine Sea

China has commissioned its largest patrol ship to carry out a law enforcement mission in the disputed West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), a Chinese fishery official has announced.

The Chinese official was quoted by Chinese newspapers as saying that Yuzheng 312, the Chinese fleet’s largest in terms of displacement, had left Guangzhou and sailed to the South China Sea to better safeguard the interests of Chinese fishermen there.

The vessel has a displacement of 49.5 million tons and a navigation capability of 2,400 nautical miles with a maximum speed of 14 knots.

The move came after the South China Sea Fleet under the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) recently dispatched several modern warships to carry out high-sea training mission in the disputed region.

Reports emanating from Beijing said Chinese Navy’s high-sea training include complex scenarios close to actual combats, which will effectively enhance its capability to accomplish diversified military tasks.

This is the second time the Chinese Navy has organized routine military training this year in the South China Sea.

The warships participating in the training include the Lanzhou, a guided missile destroyer, the Yulin and Hengshui, guided missile frigates, the Jinggangshan, an amphibious dock landing warship.

According to reports these ships are all equipped with long-range air-defense and anti-ship missiles, short-range quick air-defense guns and ship-borne helicopters, and are of comprehensive combat capabilities such as strong regional and point air defense as well as anti-submarine and anti-ship capabilities.

The warships will sail across the Bashi Channel and carry out a series of actual combat confrontation drills in the Western Pacific on such training subjects as maritime maneuver operation, maritime sovereignty protection, high-sea escort, support operation, and so on.

Chinese officials said these trainings will fully display the determination of the Chinese government and the armed forces to safeguard territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests in the region.

Moreover, they said the training will test and improve the commanding and coordination capability as well as comprehensive combat capability to accomplish diversified military tasks of the Chinese naval forces.

China already confirmed that these high-sea trainings conform to international laws and international common practice.

NPA attacks decline in first quarter

From the Manila Times (Mar 31): NPA attacks decline in first quarter

NEW People’s Army (NPA)-initiated violent incidents (NIVIs) during the first three months of the year has significantly decreased by 33 percent with 61 cases, according to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

During the last quarter of the previous year, 91 NPA attacks were tallied.

Military spokesperson Col. Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos Jr. on Sunday attributed the decrease to the NPA’s shift from the imposition of revolutionary tax to the imposition of permit-to-campaign (PTC) and alleged permit-to-win (PTW) fees on politicians running for the coming mid-term election.

According to Burgos, of the 61 NIVIs this quarter, 49 percent were harassments of AFP and Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit (CAFGU) Active Auxiliary (CAA) detachments while the rest were alleged criminal activities.

Burgos, however, stressed that the AFP will not let its guard down.

“We will continue our intensified intelligence and monitoring efforts, intelligence exchange with other law-enforcement agencies, and active cooperation with the Philippine National Police to thwart any atrocities, violence and extortion activities in relation to PTC/PTW,” he said.

In February, documents recovered by the military confirmed reports that the rebels, specifically those in Northern Luzon and in Eastern Visayas, have started sending quotes for PTC and PTW fees to candidates vying for public office in the May election.

The said documents showed that those running for governor are charged P5 million; congressman, P500,000; vice governor, P500,000, board member, P100,000; mayor, P100,000; vice mayor, P75,000 and councilor, P50,000.

Records show that in 2012, the NPA has collected a total of P25,005,000 through the imposition of the cited fees.

According to Burgos, the AFP will continue to undertake serious actions to put a stop to the NPA’s “extortion schemes and terroristic activities”.

The military likewise encouraged candidates, owners of businesses, as well as ordinary citizens to speak out and immediately report to proper authorities incidents of extortion.

The AFP, at the same time, also reiterated its appeal to politicians and businessmen alike not to give in to the NPA’s demands.

Sabah radio: Sultan’s men decimated

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Mar 31): Sabah radio: Sultan’s men decimated

Malaysian police claimed on Saturday it had “nearly decimated” armed supporters of the Sultanate of Sulu which recently attempted to reclaim its historical ownership of Sabah.

Speaking over Sabah-based radio, whose broadcast was monitored here, Sabah Police Commissioner Hamza Taib said the operation against “Sulu terrorists,” which entered its 25th day on Saturday, was coming to a close. He said the Sulu gunmen had significantly dropped to less than 10 from more than 200 when the operation began on March 5.

“They were either killed or captured,” Hamza said.

The latest to be killed, according to Hamza, was a “60-year old terrorist” who tried to hack a member of the Malaysian police during a search in Simunul, Semporna district on Thursday.

On the same day, a brief clash also took place in Lahad Datu, he reported.

Hamza said the man’s identity had not been fully established but initial investigation showed he was “the bodyguard and an aide to (another) Sulu terrorist, known as ‘Imam Tua.’”

“Imam Tua” was among those reported killed in the clash that ensued following an alleged ambush by the Sulu forces in Semporna, during which, six policemen were also slain.

The Malaysian government said since the launching of their “Operassi Daulat” (Operation Sovereignty) last month—during which Malaysian Air Force planes dropped bombs on an area in Felda Sahabat while some 5,000 ground forces backed by armored personnel carriers combed the grounds—68 “Sulu terrorists” were killed while 121 people were detained under the Security Offenses Act and Special Measures or Sosma.

“I can’t say that there are no more terrorists. I believe they still exist but their number is small, probably less than 10,” state-run Berita Nasional Malaysia quoted Hamza as telling journalists during an earlier press conference in Lahad Datu.

Basilan vice governor’s help sought for release of 2 European hostages

From the Philippine Star (Mar 31): Basilan vice governor’s help sought for release of 2 European hostages

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines – Swiss and Holland officials have reportedly sought the assistance of Basilan Vice Gov. Al-Rasheed Sakahalul for the possible release of two European hostages in Sulu after Abu Sayyaf bandits freed Australian Warren Rodwell last week.

During Rodwell’s send off to Manila, Sakahalul said three European officials, whom he failed to identify, approached him and asked if he could negotiate with the kidnappers for the possible release of two foreign bird watchers kidnapped in Tawi-Tawi last year.

Swiss Lorenzo Vinceguerre, 47, and Dutch Elwold Horn, 52, were bird watching in Panglima Sugala, Tawi-Tawi in February 2012 when they were kidnapped along with Filipino Ivan Sarenas, who managed to escape.

The victims were allegedly held hostage by Abu Sayyaf militants in the nearby island province of Sulu.

“We had a meeting. They were asking for my assistance. It seemed they were envious that Rodwell has been freed,” Sakahalul said.

The Basilan vice governor did not promise to help the European officials, saying the kidnapping happened outside his jurisdiction.

But he said he is willing to help if there is a clearance from the government for him to work on the negotiation for the release of Horn and Vinceguerre.

“It really feels good to help without expecting anything in return, but so sad and painful to be accused of skimming,” he added.

Sakalahul had been instrumental in at least 10 successful hostage negotiations in Basilan since 1995.

Army launches 5-day ‘Bayanihan’ in Antique

From the Philippine Star (Mar 31): Army launches 5-day ‘Bayanihan’ in Antique

The Philippine Army in Western Visayas, in coordination with its partner agencies, has launched a five-day Bayanihan Challenge in depressed and formerly insurgency-stricken communities in San Remegio, Antique.

Bayanihan Challenge was simultaneously held in 33 provinces aimed at rebuilding formerly conflict-stricken communities through the spirit of voluntarism.

Col. Arnold Quiapo, 301st Infantry Brigade commander, said the soldiers repaired several schoolbuildings and civilian houses in Barangays Alingalan and Osorio in San Remegio town with the help of volunteers.

“Instead of assault rifles, our troops were armed with shovels, hammers, nails and other carpentry tools to help the poorest of the poor in San Remegio,” Quiapo said.

Quiapo said the Army and civilian volunteers are also building 27 new houses for rebel returnees as well as multi-purpose hall through the P3.4 million funding provided by a foundation and the Gawad Kalinga.

San Remegio town was the former stronghold of the New People’s Army rebels operating in the eastern part of Panay Island in the 80s until the 90s.

But early this month, the military and police declared Antique as development-ready area after stamping out the insurgency problem in the province.

NPA atrocities down as rebels shift to poll activities

From the Philippine Star (Apr 1): NPA atrocities down as rebels shift to poll activities

Atrocities staged by communist rebels declined in the first quarter as they shifted their focus to election-related operations, according to the military.
Armed Forces spokesman Col. Arnulfo Burgos Jr. said the New People’s Army (NPA) initiated 61 violent incidents from January to March, lower than the 91 incidents recorded in the fourth quarter of 2012.

“The decrease was due to the NPA’s shift to electoral conflicts and permit-to-campaign/permit-to-win extortion activities,” Burgos said in a statement.

Burgos said 49 percent of the violent incidents involved harassment of military and militia detachments.

“The rest were criminal and terrorist activities,” he said.

The military earlier said the insurgents were demanding as much as P5 million from local candidates.

Citing documents gathered by field troops, it said the fees demanded range from P50,000 to P5 million depending on the post being eyed by a candidate.

The rebels’ extortion campaign persists, even as the military insists that it has achieved gains against insurgency.

Reports about the rebels’ extortion activities have been confirmed by Team PNoy campaign manager Sen. Franklin Drilon, who said insurgents are collecting fees from local bets.

Mayors are reportedly being asked to shell out P800,000 to P1 million to be able to campaign without any harassment in supposed rebel-influenced areas.

“Although the rebels’ armed violence decreased in this year’s first quarter, the Armed Forces is not letting its guard down as it continues its intensified intelligence and monitoring efforts, and intelligence exchange with other law enforcement agencies,” Burgos said.

The military reiterated its call for ordinary citizens to report to authorities the extortion activities of the NPA.

“The more the candidates and the voters are made aware of this extortion scheme, the more they can guard themselves against it,” Burgos said.

He also discouraged candidates from giving in to the rebels’ extortion demands, saying this would only worsen the insurgency problem.

The military has admitted that the rebels extorted more than P25 million from individuals and businesses last year.

Military data show that there are about 4,000 communist insurgents in the country.

Salvaged parts of USS Guardian to be sent to Japan

From InterAksyon (Mar 31): Salvaged parts of USS Guardian to be sent to Japan

PUERTO PRINCESA, Philippines - Salvaged parts of the decommissioned US Navy mine sweeper vessel, now referred to as Ex-USS Guardian, will be transported to the US Fleet Naval base in Japan, the Philippine Coast Guard said on Sunday.

According to Commodore Enrico Efren Evangelista, Chief of PCG Palawan District, all of the four main parts of the USS Guardian are now loaded onto the S-7000 barge and officials are waiting for the manual debris cleanup to be completed before proceeding to Japan.

"The cut parts will be brought to Sasebo, Japan, where there is a US Navy Facility. Accordingly, they will then sort out the parts,” said Evangelista.

The still functional parts of the ship will be checked and repaired at the home port of the US Navy Pacific Fleet in San Diego, he added.

The manual debris clean-up is expected to be completed early next week.

Tubbataha Protected Area Supervisor Angelique Songco earlier told that on April 8, they will start the joint assessment of the Philippine and US authorities on the extent of the damage caused by the grounding of the USS Guardian on the Tubbataha Reef.

Both the Philippine Coast Guard and the Tubbataha Management Office are tightlipped about the terms of negotiations on how the US will be fined for damages to UNESCO World Heritage Site.
According to the Philippine Coast Guard, the Department of Foreign Affairs is the lead agency on matters concerning the compensation.

Meanwhile, fisherfolk and environmental groups on Monday asked President Benigno Simeon Aquino III to stop the transfer of the salvaged parts of USS Guardian to Japan until the U.S. government "has truthfully settled its obligations" arising from the grounding of the American minesweeper.

In a joint statement, the Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) and Anakpawis partylist said Aquino through the Department of Foreign Affairs should first see to it that the following requirements are met before they proceed with the transfer of the ship to the U.S. homeport in Japan:
1) The US government will allow the extradition of military officials and the other 79 crew members of the USS Guardian to the Philippines to face criminal and other appropriate charges before the local court in connection with the grounding of the American minesweeper in the UNESCO declared heritage site.

2) The US government should immediately agree to urgent pullout of all US troops, warships and aircraft currently inside the Philippine territory to prevent another disaster and stop Washington from repeatedly violating the country's sovereign and territorial rights.

3) The US must agree to an independent investigation of the January 17 grounding of USS Guardian in Tubbataha. It should also get out of any assessment body that would look into the extent of damage caused by the American minesweeper to the protected national reef park.

4) The US government should agree to pay for the cost of a long-running rehabilitation of Tubbataha Reef.

5) The US government should not discourage the Philippine government or any Filipinos from filing criminal and other appropriate charges against the American state before the International Criminal Court (ICC) or International Court of Justice.

6) The US government should primarily consider the abrogation of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), the Mutual Logistics and Support Agreement (MLSA) and the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) with the Philippine government to prevent Tubbataha like environmental disaster in the near future and to respect the sovereign rights of the Filipino people at all times.

"The 99 million Filipinos have a score to settle with US government and that is sovereignty, territorial integrity, social justice and rehabilitation. And all these concerns should be highly consider in dealing with Yankees in Washington D.C," said Pamalakaya vice chairperson Salvador France and Fernando Hicap, vice chair of Anakpawis partylist.

AFP steps up intel work vs NPA 'permit-to-campaign' imposition on bets

From InterAksyon (Mar 31): AFP steps up intel work vs NPA 'permit-to-campaign' imposition on bets

Military intelligence units have been fielded to blunt alleged extortion by the New People’s Army (NPA) in areas where candidates for the May 13 polls were monitored to be negotiating for so-called permit-to-campaign (PTC) fees just to enter rebel-controlled villages.

Many candidates have been reported desperate to campaign in “red zones” despite earlier warnings by the government they face prosecution for giving money to rebels.

Col. Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos Jr., military spokesman, said, “We will not let our guard down as we continue intensified intelligence and monitoring efforts, intelligence exchange with other law-enforcement agencies, and active cooperation with the PNP to thwart any atrocities, violence and extortion activities in relation to PTC.”

Burgos claimed rebels even sent “election rates” through letters last February to certain candidates in Northern Luzon and Eastern Visayas.

He cited data showing that in 2012, “the NPA has collected a total of P25.5 million through their extortion activities.”

Based on new information of the AFP Civil Relations Services (CRS) chief Brig. Gen Rolando Jungco, the NPA’s demand for election fee varies across positions.

He cited as an example the NPA under the Samar Provincial Party Committee (SPPC) under the Eastern Visayas Regional Party Committee (EVRPC). The NPA was demanding from mayoral candidates P750,000; for vice mayoral bets, P500,000; and councilor, for P5,000. “The NPA assigned collectors with instructions that payments can be paid completely or on installment basis,” Jungco said.

A gubernatorial candidate was asked to pay of up to P5 million, the military said.

According to Jungco, “the same extortion scheme the NPA was imposing on candidates in Southern Mindanao. The Southern Mindanao Regional Committee’s (SMRC) GF-51 reportedly imposed these permit-to-campaign fees on politicians running for local seats in Davao del Sur: mayor, P100,000-P150,000; vice mayor, P50,000-P100,000; and councilor, P10,000-P20,000.”

Military intelligence units are now watching groups and individuals being used by the NPA to collect fees from poll bets. They are called “white area committee” and serve as conduits and facilitators, he said.

Director General Alan Purisima of the Philippine National Police (PNP) earlier warned candidates, especially incumbent officials vying for re-election, that should evidence turn up showing they payelection fees to the NPA, they could face criminal charges.

"The Armed Forces of the Philippines previously assured the candidates that it will continue to undertake serious actions to put a stop to all of NPA’s extortion schemes and terroristic activities. The military likewise encouraged election candidates, owners of businesses, as well as ordinary citizens to speak out and immediately report to the proper authorities if they encounter similar incidents of extortion. The more the candidates and the voters are made aware of this extortion scheme the more they can guard themselves against it,” Burgos said.

PH presses payment for damaged reef, but activists want US Navy men tried

From InterAksyon (Mar 31): PH presses payment for damaged reef, but activists want US Navy men tried

The government Sunday welcomed the removal of a US minesweeper that had been stuck on a protected coral reef for 10 weeks, but stressed that compensation must be paid for the environmental damage.

Salvage crews contracted by the US Navy Saturday extracted the last remaining piece of the USS Guardian from the Tubbataha reef, a UNESCO World Heritage site in a remote area of the Sulu Sea.

"We maintain there must be accountability and we will enforce our existing laws," said Herminio Coloma, a spokesman for President Benigno Aquino III.

"We will adopt needed measures to prevent a repetition (of the incident)," he said.

Initial investigation showed that the ship had damaged about 4,000 square meters (43,055 square feet) of the reef, famous for its rich marine life that divers say rivals that of Australia's Great Barrier Reef.

Tubbataha is a protected marine park under Philippine law, and is off limits to any vessel unless permission is granted by park authorities.

Fines can reach up to $585 for every square meter that has been damaged, officials said.

While only a small portion of the marine park has been damaged, the incident has stoked nationalist sentiment and revived debate about a controversial agreement that allows a US military presence in the country.

The United States has repeatedly apologized for the incident, but has not clearly explained why a naval vessel with state-of-the-art equipment ran aground in an area that local officials said was clearly visible in any map.

The US embassy in Manila said the 68-meter (223-foot) vessel was en route to Indonesia when the incident happened in January.

Angelique Songco, head of the Tubbataha Management Office that oversees the marine park, said US and Philippine divers would remain in the area for further clean-up operations to ensure no debris was left behind.

No case against US Navy

Despite Coloma’s statement the government will press for compensation for the damage, activist groups noted that it has apparently dropped for good the idea of filing a legal case against the US Navy for destroying a portion of the 130,028-hectare UNESCO World Heritage Site in Sulu Sea, Palawan.

The Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) and Anakpawis partylist insist the Philippine government should go to court and to bring back to the country the Navy officials and the 79 crew members of USS Guardian (MCM5) minesweeper.

Right after the warship was grounded on January 17, the US Navy whisked its crew to Sasebo, Japan in what activists saw as a bid to evade arrest and legal responsibility.

But President Benigno Aquino III did not order the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of Justice to work on the extradition of the culprits.

Songco’s office had earlier acknowledged that they warned the officials and crew of the warship not to enter the UNESCO-declared heritage site because it is unlawful to pass or navigate there.

“The US Navy officials and crew of the American Navy sweeper never recognized this warning and pushed through with their military escapade, a clear indication that they reject Philippine authority and treat Tubbataha and the rest of the archipelago as an American military base outside Washington D.C. or worse, the Philippines as slave state of the USA,” said Pamalakaya and Anakpawis.

On Sunday, Songco said they will conduct a full assessment on April 2, followed by area inspection on April 3, joined by government agencies, marine experts and a Hawaii-based biologist of the US Navy.

“We’re expecting a joint assessment with the US Navy and then we will proceed to Tubbataha to determine the exact and final measure of the damage because that will be the basis of the fine they will have to pay for,” Songco said.

According to her, based on the law the fine would be P12,000 per square meter of damage and at least P12,000 for the restoration of damage.

“So we are looking at least P24,000 per square meter,” Songco said.

The estimated damage on the reef was 4,000-sqm, so at that rate of compensation, the US Navy should be paying at least P96 million.

Songco acknowledged that despite initial apprehensions, the salvage operation of the minesweeper did not cause more damage on the reef. “They have been really careful in the conduct of salvage operations; in fact, if you look at this picture so I don’t see that happening here. So any further damage beyond the 4,000 sq.m. would be very minimal.”

Malaysia forms Eastern Sabah Security Command

From Rappler (Mar 31): Malaysia forms Eastern Sabah Security Command

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak announced the creation of the Eastern Sabah Security Command (ESSCOM) in early March "to protect the sovereignty and security" of the state.

The command will be activated on Monday, April 1, following the appointment of Sabah Immigration Director Datuk Mohammad Mentek as ESSCOM director. Malaysian state media Bernama reported his appointment on Friday, March 29.
ESSCOM will watch the 1,400-km coastline of Sabah villages Lahad Datu, Kudat, Tawau, Kunak, and Sandakan. It will be headquartered in Lahad Datu, where followers of Sultan Jamalul Kiram III were holed up during a standoff with Malaysian security forces.
"I believe in his qualification, experience, knowlede and credbility will enable him to help ESSCOM well and ensure public order and security in the sepcial security zone," said Chief Secretary to the Government Datuk Seri Dr Ali Hamsa when he announced Mohammad Mentek's appointment.
Three Immigration, Customs, Quarantine and Security (ICQS) inspection centers will start operating in ESSCOM on Tuesday, Bernama also reported.

"Twelve cabins will be used as temporary offices -- 6 would be at the ICQS Lahad Datu, 4 in Kudat, and 2 in Pualu Banggi. All the cabins had arrived at the locations on Thursday," it quoted Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein.


Najib announced the creation of ESSCOM on March 7 but it took weeks to finalize details. Various articles in Bernama cited the involvement of the armed forces, police, and maritime forces. There were also reports that Semporna wants to join ESSCOM.

Bernama also reported that the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) received an allocation of RM5 million "for equipment upgrades." The amount is supposed to fund the purchase within a month of mobile containers, bullet-proof jackets, weapons and ammunition, and forward-looking infrared (FLIR devices) "to help MMEA boats and vessels to spot floating debris and other boats in total darkeness or poor weather."
The allocation is meant to support the East Sabah Safety Zone (ESSZONE), which was created on March 25 to provide legal basis for ESSCOM. The ESSZONE take effect on Monday, April 1.
Malaysian police officers are also considering increasing police presence in Sabah. New police stations are being built.
ESSZONE covers 10 districts. Aside from the 5 villages covered by ESSCOM, ESSZONE includes Kota Marudu, Pitas, Beluran, Kinabatangan, and Semporna. It is chaired by Sabah Chief Minister Seri Musa Aman.
ESSCOM has been compared to the Rajang Security Command (Rascom) that operated in Sarawak between 1972 to 1995. It successfully ended the communist insurgency there. 
Filipino evacuees from Sabah have been talking about the so-called "operasi," an alleged operation to deport undocumented Filipinos in Sabah.
In Zamboanga City, DILG-ARMM Asec Sharifa Pearlsia Dans previously told reporters at least two evacuees told her about the operasi that was supposed to start on March 25.

In Bongao, Jalil Jaladil talked about the same thing. A registered Filipino resident in Sabah, he has houses in Bongao Tawi-Tawi and Kunak in Sabah. He didn't give a date, but he said news reports in Malaysia said it would be implemented "in a month."

About 5,000 Filipinos have fled Sabah so far. Reports in Bernama have not verified the supposed deportation plans. ESSCOM was reportedly set up to deter illegal entry to Sabah.
Undetected, about 200 of Kiram's men were able to sail to Lahad Datu sometime in February.
"ESSCOM will play a major role in maintaining peace in Sabah and it will monitor the coastline and detect any suspicious activities including preventing any terrorist intrusion in future," state media Bernaman quoted Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Ismail Omar in an earlier report.

PH demands payment for reef damage

From Rappler (Mar 31): PH demands payment for reef damage

The Philippines on Sunday, March 21 welcomed the removal of a US minesweeper that had been stuck on a protected coral reef for 10 weeks, but stressed that compensation must be paid for the environmental damage.

Salvage teams contracted by the US Navy Saturday extracted the last remaining piece of the USS Guardian from the Tubbataha reef, a UNESCO World Heritage site in a remote area of the Sulu Sea.
"We maintain there must be accountability and we will enforce our existing laws," said Herminio Coloma, a spokesman for President Benigno Aquino III.

"We will adopt needed measures to prevent a repetition (of the incident)," he said.

Initial investigation showed that the ship had damaged about 4,000 square meters (43,055 square feet) of the reef, famous for its rich marine life that divers say rivals that of Australia's Great Barrier Reef.

Tubbataha is a protected marine park under Philippine law, and is off limits to any vessel unless permission is granted by park authorities.

Fines can reach up to $585 for every square meter that has been damaged, officials said.

While only a small portion of the marine park has been damaged, the incident has stoked nationalist sentiment and revived debate about a controversial agreement that allows a US military presence in the country.

The United States has repeatedly apologized for the incident, but has not clearly explained why a naval vessel with state-of-the-art equipment ran aground in an area that local officials said was clearly visible in any map.

PH team to conduct damage assessment

Now that the ship has finally been removed, an all-Filipino team is ready to start assessing the extent of the coral reef damage caused by the grounding of the USS Guardian in the UNESCO World Heritage site.
The Tubbataha Management Office (TMO) said that experts from University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute (UP-MSI), National Institute of Physics (NIP), Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), De Lasalle University (DLSU-SHIELDS) and the World Wide Fund (WWF) will sail to Tubbataha on April 2 to measure the coral reef damage and determine if restoration efforts are feasible.
The assessment comes 10 weeks after the USS Guardian ran aground the Tubbataha Reef on January 17.
The assessment team is composed of the following:
  • TMO Park Superintendent Angelique Songco
  • Dr. Maricor Soriano from the National Institute of Physics
  • WWF-Philippines Tubbataha Reefs Project Manager Marivel Dygico
  • Dr. Wilfredo Licuanan, Dr. Cesar Villanoy, Miledel Quibilan, Patrick Cabaitan, Narida Eznairah and Norievill España from UP MSI
  • November Romena and Elsa Furio from BFAR
WWF-Philippines Vice Chair and CEO Jose Ma. Lorenzo Tan said the assessment would help ascertain the fines that should be imposed on the US navy.
"The results will give us an objective basis for the fines that must be collected not just to expedite reef recovery but to upgrade our capacity to conserve our country’s most productive reef system."
Republic Act 10067 or the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park Act of 2009 specifies a fine of about $300 or P12,000 per square meter of damaged reef plus another $300 or so per square meter for rehabilitation efforts.
Total fines might exceed $5 million or P200 million for 4,000 square meters of damaged reef.
Tubbataha Reefs Park Superintendent Angelique Songco said they would not ask for "anything more than the law requires."
"This is not the first grounding incident in the park – all previous cases paid the appropriate fines for damages. We will not ask for anything more than what the law requires. We wish only for the US Navy to be responsible enough when entering our protected areas. However, we are quite confident that the United States Navy – an institution long held in high esteem for its strict adherence to honor and duty – shall honor the rule of law."
In 2011, the US Navy paid Hawaii $15 million or P610 million for a 2009 grounding incident, which ravaged about 890 square meters of coral reef near O’ahu island.

Transition Commission on Bangsamoro to meet April 3

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 31): Transition Commission on Bangsamoro to meet April 3

The government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) peace panels will formally introduce to the public the 15-man member of the Transition Commission on April 3 during which the Transcom members will hold its first meeting.

Created by President Aquino through Executive Order 120, the Transcom is tasked to draft the Bangsamoro Basic Law that will create the “New Autonomous Political Entity” to be called “Bangsamoro.”

The new entity will replace the 23-year old Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) which will have its last elections on May 13.

But the supposed three-year term of office of ARMM officials who will be elected next month will be cut short as soon as the Basic Law shall be passed by Congress and ratified by the people.

Chaired by MILF peace panel chair Mohaqher Iqbal, the Transcom will meet at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Ortigas, Pasig City.

In a press statement, President Benigno C Aquino III's peace adviser Sec. Teresita Deles said: "We are pleased to announce that the first en banc meeting of the 15-member Transition Commission has been set in the first week of April”.

Earlier, the President requested the postponement of the March 25-27 exploratory talks to further study the remaining issues still to be resolved by both panels.

While the formal talks was suspended, both panels met in an executive meeting, also in Kuala Lumpur, and issued a joint press statement saying they agreed to meet on the second week of April.

Iqbal said the the supposed meeting of Transcom was scheduled last week but moved to first week of April in deference to the Holy Week celebration.

Of the 15-man Transcom, eight were recommended by the MILF while the rest were named by the government.

In announcing the composition of the Transcom, President Aquino said it was well represented, including indigenous peoples and women sector.