Wednesday, July 31, 2013

‘2 brgy heads on NPA hitlist’

From the Visayan Daily Star (Jul 31): ‘2 brgy heads on NPA hitlist’

Two barangay captains and some civilians accused of being military informants in northern Negros are reportedly included in the hit list of the New People’s Army, Lt. Col. Efren Morados, 62nd Infantry Battalion commander, said yesterday.

Morados, who withheld their identities, said they have informed the targeted barangay officials about the death threats, and have also initiated precautionary measures to thwart the rebel liquidation activities.

Police records show that on April 1, suspected rebel assassins shot dead a policeman and a police asset in front of the public market in Escalante City.

Morados said the two barangay officials got the ire of rebels for mobilizing their constituents, and for not allowing insurgents to enter their areas. Meanwhile, civilians tagged as military informants, were accused of being actively involved in anti-revolutionary activities.

Early this year, the NPA Roselyn Pelle Command announced that it has issued arrest warrants against three civilians, including a retired Constabulary officer, accused of alleged landgrabbing, murder and frustrated murder in Calatrava and Toboso towns.

Morados said they are also on guard against possible tactical offensives that may be staged by the NPA in northern Negros, after several attempts of the rebel group to do so were pre-empted.

The Apolinario Gatmaitan Command of the NPA also recently issued an order of arrest against a local official and five members of the Revolutionary Proletarian Army-Alex Boncayao Brigade for the death of Kabankalan Regional Trial Court Judge Henry Arles.

Morados said they have monitored attempts of the NPA in northern Negros, who visited the hinterland barangays of Bandila in Toboso, Malatas and neighboring areas in Calatrava, to discredit the “Marching for Peace, Serving the Countrysides” program, jointly initiated by the provincial government of Negros Occidental, military, police and civil society groups.

The 13-day peace and development program in six hinterland barangays of Escalante City, Toboso and Calatrava, benefitted about 20,000 barangay residents, military records show.

Palace thanks Misuari, denies no progress in ARMM

From ABS-CBN (Jul 31): Palace thanks Misuari, denies no progress in ARMM

The Palace thanked Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) chairman Nur Misuari for his reported statement that he is supporting the peace process.

But the Palace took exception at his reported statement that economic progress in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) has not been achieved.

Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda cited the reforms instituted by ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman in a short time, comparing it to the length of stay of Misuari as the regional governor.

"He was there for five years as governor… He was in a position to make significant changes in ARMM; but here you have Governor Mujiv Hataman in a span of 19 months upon orders of the President, 'You improve the plight of the people in ARMM; you improve the road conditions; you build bridges; you build schools.' That's where it is right now. Where is Mr. Nur Misuari here? We thank him for supporting the peace process. That was the last statement that he said and hopefully he will continue to support the peace process. Because like we said the comprehensive peace agreement that will be signed, that means the Bangsamoro framework agreement and the annexes will benefit all persons in Muslim Mindanao: MI[LF], MN[LF], Lumad and Christians."

Photo: Troops recover BIFF weapons, IEDs in Maguindanao

From GMA News (Jul 31): Photo: Troops recover BIFF weapons, IEDs in Maguindanao

Army troops from the 68th IB show a defused improvised explosive device (IED) and one of two automatic rifles recovered after clashes with members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters in Guindulungan, Maguindanao on Tuesday, July 30. The military claimed the encounters left eight suspected rebels dead.

BRP Ramon Alcaraz to arrive on Aug. 2 -- PN

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 31): BRP Ramon Alcaraz to arrive on Aug. 2 -- PN

The Philippine Navy (PN) on Wednesday announced that BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PF-16) will be arriving on Aug. 2, a day earlier than the announced Aug. 3.

Lt. Cmdr. Gregory Fabic, PN spokesman, said the Filipino frigate's homecoming was advanced to give time to the officers and crew to prepare the ship for the Aug. 6 welcoming ceremonies where the guest-of-honor will be President Benigno S. Aquino III.

Prior to this, meeting point procedures and sail past will be held in Casiguran, Aurora and Bolinao, Pangasinan on coming Aug. 3 and 4.

Fabic said the meeting point procedure will be conducted by the officers and crew of the BRP Gregorio Del Pilar (PF-15), the first Hamilton-class cutter in Philippine service and the sister-ship of BRP Ramon Alcaraz.

Sail past is naval tradition where small merchant ships or fishing boats steam in two columns to greet and cheer a home bound warship.

Meanwhile, the soon-to-arrive BRP Ramon Alcaraz is armed with two Mark 38 Model 2 25mm "Bushmaster" auto-cannons aside from its 76mm Oto Melara main gun.

The weapons are placed at the port (left) and starboard (right) side amidship of the vessel.

The Mark 38 Model 2 25mm is one of the most effective close-in weapon systems in the world.

The weapon was commissioned by the US Navy following the terrorist attack on the USS Cole in 2000, was designed to counter high-speed maneuvering surface targets and will be installed in almost all US surface ships by 2015.

The remotely controlled chain gun system can fire as many as 180 25mm rounds per minute at targets as far as two kilometers.

The new weapons systems are upgraded versions of the Mark 38 M242 Bushmasters that were removed from the vessel prior to its turnover to the Philippines.

The Philippine embassy in Washington earlier reported to the Department of Foreign Affairs that the purchase and installation of two Mark 38 Model 2 25mm auto-canon systems for the BRP Ramon Alcaraz is part of a USD24-million contract the Pentagon awarded to BAE.

Capt. Elson Aguilar, naval attaché at the Philippine embassy, said the BAE contract involves the purchase of 21 units of the remotely controlled naval gun systems and spare parts for both the US and Philippine navies.

“The Mark 38 Model 2 25mm 'Bushmaster' will allow the BRP Ramon Alcaraz and the BRP Gregorio Del Pilar to track and fire at targets automatically in both day and night using single shot, low speed or high-speed automatic fire,” Aguilar said.

He added the auto-canon can be fired manually if the sensors are damaged or if the vessels lose power.

Wounded NPA captured in Tarlac encounter

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 31): Wounded NPA captured in Tarlac encounter
The 7th Infantry Division on Wednesday announced that a wounded New People's Army (NPA) rebel was captured while six others were killed in encounter started Tuesday night in Camiling, Tarlac.

Brig. Gen. Hernando Iriberri, 7th Infantry Division commander, said that the wounded rebel was seized during clearing operations.

The encounter took place around 8:45 p.m. and lasted until Wednesday morning.

Col. Henry G. Sabarre, commander of the 703rd Infantry Brigade, said prior to the encounter, they received information that a group of armed men was planning to attack government troops and vital installations in the area.

Troops from the 3rd Mechanized Infantry Batallion were then deployed to coordinate with the Philippine National Police and prevent the armed group from carrying out their plan.

As the troops were checking the reported location of the armed rebels in Barangay Bubon 2nd, Camiling town, they were fired upon by the rebels, prompting government troops to retaliate triggering sporadic firefight and skirmishes that lasted throughout the night.

BIFF harassment in Maguindanao meant to derail delivery of relief goods to flood victims

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 31): BIFF harassment in Maguindanao meant to derail delivery of relief goods to flood victims

The military here Wednesday said the five-hour road blockade by Moro bandits in Maguindanao Tuesday was meant to prevent the delivery of relief goods to flood victims in Maguindanao's second district.

However, after the military cleared the highway with bandits and improvised bombs, trucks carrying more than 10 tons of relief supplies from the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), pushed with the delivery to the towns of SK Pendatun and Datu Paglas, two of the communities affected by flooding as a result of incessant rains since Sunday.

Colonel Dickson Hermoso, speaking for the 6th Infantry Division, said they are convinced the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) pulled off their simultaneous attacks in Barangays Bagan and Macasampen, Guindulungan town to take hold of the relief items that include used clothing, rice, canned goods and noodles intended for families displaced by floods.

Citing intelligence information, Hermoso said the BIFF who are all Muslims and into fasting, could have ran out of food supplies and planned to grab tons of relief goods scheduled to be delivered Monday dawn.

Moro bandits numbering about 100 strafed a passing fuel tanker and two cargo trucks in their attempt to paralize the highway. Separate BIFF rebels also simultaneously harassed an Army base of the 45th Infantry Battalion in nearby Datu Piang, Maguindanao.

The relief supplies were from the office of ARMM Gov. Mujiv Hataman in Cotabato City was to depart for Gen. S.K. Pendatun town via the Cotabato-Gen. Santos Highway at 6 a.m. Tuesday, according to regional officials.

Officials from the Regional Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council reported about 50,000 families in Maguindanao's 36 towns have been displaced by floods with the swelling of Rio Grande de Midnanao.

Initially, Hataman led the distribution of relief supplies to evacuees in the flooded Sultan Kudarat and Kabuntalan, two of the 19 towns heavily flooded.

According to ARMM Vice Gov. Haroun Al-Rashid Lucman, concurrently the DSWD-ARMM regional secretary, said the regional government has asked the Army to establish more checkpoints along the highway where the relief goods are to be delivered to ensure the safety of aid workers and to ensure Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), get the emergency assistance.

Hataman has reiterated his calls to the BIFF to consider the plight of Muslims who are performing their religious obligations on fasting since they are the end losers in skirmishes and violence in Maguindanao.

Hermoso said the Army has repeatedly withheld its offensive against the BIFF in deference to the fasting month but the soldiers remained on heightened alert.

Tuesday's violence in Maguindanao left eight BIFF fighters killed, recovery of two IEDs and two Armalite rifles.

Hermoso, meanwhile, appealed to commuters to refrain from traveling the Cotabato-Isulan highway at night to prevent being caught in the cross fire should violence erupts.

North Cotabato Army, PNP told to secure highway from warring MILF, MNLF forces

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 31): North Cotabato Army, PNP told to secure highway from warring MILF, MNLF forces
Convinced the safety of civilians and vital government installations is paramount, North Cotabato Gov. Emmylou Talinio Mendoza on Wednesday directed the Army and the police to secure vital facilities and roads in the province.

Specifically, Mendoza directed Brig. General Ademar Tomaro, 602nd Army brigade chief and PNP police provincial director for North Cotabato Senior Superintendent Danny Peralta, to ensure the safety of commuters passing through North Cotabato's major highway and facilities of the Cotabato Sugar Central Company Incorporated (SOCUCECO) in Barangay Kilada, Matalam, North Cotabato.

Mendoza's directive came as rival Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) continued its clashes over land dispute in the borders of Kidapawan City and Matalam, North Cotabato.

The firefight started last Sunday in Barangay Patadon, Kidapwan City and Barangay Manubuan, North Cotabato when MILF allegedly attacked MNLF positions in Barangay Manubuan, triggering mass evacuation of about 60 families.

Efforts by Moro leaders and local officials have remained ineffective as both the warring MILF and MNLF forces would trade bullets every now and then.

Mendoza ordered Tomaro and Peralta to deploy peacekeeping forces along the Kidapawan City-Matalam highway.

”I want the commitment of both the MNLF and MILF in ending the hostilities because it is detrimental to civilians and students,” Mendoza told members of the Provincial Peace and Order Council (PPOC) meeting.

She said the conflict which could have been prevented had domino effects in the communities.

”The conflict had caused domino effect to the communities because the residents flee and become internally displaced persons who occupy public schools and classes are suspended,” she said.

Mendoza also directed Muslim Provincial Board members Dulia Sultan and Mohammad Kelie Antao to make use of their influence and convince the warring groups to keep their guns shut.

She said she was saddened with the event since most of the displaced families are observing the fasting month of Ramadhan.

Meanwhile, the MILF leadership accused the military of violating the ceasefire agreement when it fired mortars toward MILF positions in Barangay Manubuan.

But Capt. Antonio Bulao, 602nd Infantry Brigade spokesperson, said the mortars were intended not specifically to the MILF but to armed groups, regardless of their affiliations, who have planned to occupy the national highway.

Former rebel enters not guilty plea for murder, robbery

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 31): Former rebel enters not guilty plea for murder, robbery

A former member of the New People’s Army accused of double murder and robbery entered a not guilty plea during his arraignment the other day before the Regional Trial Court Branch 7 in Kalibo, Aklan.

After entering his plea, 47-year-old accused Antonio Cadobla was detained back to the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) in Barangay Nalook, Kalibo.

Tight security measure has been implemented in the court premises during the arraignment of the former rebel.

Cadobla, a resident of Sitio Cabangrusan, Barangay Union, Nabas, was arrested by the combined forces of the Philippine Army’s 303rd Infantry Division and Aklan Police Provincial Office by virtue of an warrest warrant issued by the local court.

The military said Cadobla used to operate in the boundary of Aklan and Antique provinces during his active years as a member of the underground movement.

Military denounces NPA’s disinformation campaign

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 31): Military denounces NPA’s disinformation campaign

The military in Agusan del Sur on Wednesday accused the New People’s Army (NPA) of waging a “disinformation campaign” in an effort to win the support of civilians through deception.

Major Noli Kanashiro, executive officer of the Army’s 26th Infantry Battalion based in San Nicolas, Loreto, Agusan del Sur, said that the NPA rebels had been harassing government troopers who were launching the “Bayanihan” initiative in the municipal town of Loreto.

Army personnel in cooperation with the local government of Loreto launched “Bayanihan,” a program of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) involving the delivery of basic services and dialogue with the local community to hear their problems and concerns, Kanashiro said.

He said that a certain Tony Salumbre of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) from Davao City declared some 200 people, most of them children, as evacuees and hauled them to Kauswagan Elementary School in Loreto as temporary shelter.

Kanashiro said that Salumbre was preventing officials from the municipality of Loreto who wanted to talk and check the condition of the alleged “evacuees” who were housed at the Kauswagan Elementary School.

According to Kanashiro, Salumbre has been recruiting residents to join the evacuees on allegations that an armed conflict between the military and the NPA rebels was going on in the area.

He said that the NPA rebels also create artificial conditions by waging harassment operations against the soldiers who are regularly conducting “Bayanihan” programs. Kanashiro said that Salumbre and his cohorts were openly spreading false information associated with threat while enticing the people to evacuate.

Lt. Col. Jose Leonard B. Gille, commander of the Army’s 26th IB, appealed to the NPA rebels in the area to respect and spare the civilians who want to avail of the basic services extended by the military.

“Let us empower the people by paving the way to develop their potentials and living in a community of peace and harmony,” Gille said.

Kidnappers release university clerk in Jolo, Sulu

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 31): Kidnappers release university clerk in Jolo, Sulu

A clerk of the Islamic research studies at the Western Mindanao State University kidnapped last month was freed by his captors with ties to Abu Sayyaf bandits in Sulu, the military disclosed Wednesday.

Col. Jose Johriel Cenabre, Joint Task Force Sulu commander, said the victim, Alrashid Rojas, was freed around 4 a.m. Wednesday at the port area of Jolo, the capital town of Sulu.

Rojas, 56, was seized in front of his residence in the evening of last June 22 at Amping Drive, Barangay Campo Islam, 4.5 kilometers west of this city.

Rojas was dragged into a waiting motorized banca that sped into the high seas.

Cenabre said the victim was held captive for one month a nine days in the jungles of Talipao, Sulu, by the kidnappers linked with the group of Abu Sayyaf bandits led by Idang Susukan.

Cenabre said Rojas was recovered by combined troops who rushed to the Jolo port following information that the victim was released in the area.

Cenabre, who is also the commander of the 2nd Marine Brigade, said Rojas was immediately brought to his headquarters in Barangay Busbus, Jolo and was placed under medical treatment and debriefing.

It was not immediately known whether or not Rojas’ family paid ransom in exchange for his release, according to Cenabre.

He said Rojas was flown to this city from Jolo Wednesday afternoon and eventually reunited with his family.

NPAs free 5 soldiers held for 43 days

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 31): NPAs free 5 soldiers held for 43 days
The New People’s Army First Pulang Bagani Battalion led by Ka Parago released the five captive soldiers at 3:45 p.m. Wednesday in an undisclosed area of Paquibato District here to Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte and peace advocates from Exodus for Justice and Peace.

They were immediately brought to the Philippine National Police regional command office at Camp Panacan, Buhangin, this city where they were also met by their respective relatives.

The five soldiers, Cpl. Emmanuel Quezon, Pfc. Vernie Padilla, Pvt. Marteniano Pasigas, Pfc. Ronald Gura and Pfc. Donato Estandian.

They were captured by the NPAs on June 17 in a checkpoint mounted by communist guerillas in Bangkaan, Paquibato District.

Davao Region of late has seen many government soldiers implementing its counter-insurgency campaign Oplan Bayanihan in the hinterland being captured by communist guerrillas, but were released on humanitarian grounds.

PH warship test-fires weapon off Zambales

From Rappler (Jul 31): PH warship test-fires weapon off Zambales

Philippine Navy warship BRP Gregorio Del Pilar test-fired on Monday, July 29, its main weapon off the coast of Zambales, a province near the disputed Scarborough Shoal.

Navy spokesman Lieutenant Commander Gregory Fabic said it was a scheduled test firing. He said the Del Pilar only happened to be in Subic in preparation for the arrival later this week of the country's second warship, BRP Ramon Alcaraz.

READ: Navy warship arrives in August, helicopters in December

"It was a coincidence that it was there pending the arrival of PF16 (Alcaraz). Del Pilar can be accomodated anywhere as long as its deep," Fabic said.

"We always schedule the test firing of all the ships of the Philippine Navy," Fabic said. It was a scheduled test fire meant as a "refresher" for the crew, he added.

The test fire showed that the Oto Melara gun is "very effective," he said. "It only took 5 rounds to hit the target....It's vert accurate," he added.

The target, a red balloon called "killer tomato," was 2 nautical miles or 4 kilometers away from the warship.

The Deparment of National Defense (DND) also has plans to move the navy camp from Sangley Point in Cavite to a former American naval base in Subic.

READ: Why DND plans to move navy, air force to Subic

Defense Sec Voltaire Gazmin was quoted by the Associated Press as saying the move would be “for the protection of the West Philippine Sea.”

Philip Goldberg next US envoy to PH

From Rappler (Jul 31): Philip Goldberg next US envoy to PH

NEXT US ENVOY TO PH. US Assistant Secretary of State for Intelligence and Research Philip Goldberg testifies before a full committee hearing on "Current and Projected National Security Threats to the United States"at the Hart Senate Office Building in Washington, DC, on March 12, 2013. AFP PHOTO/Jewel Samad

NEXT US ENVOY TO PH. US Assistant Secretary of State for Intelligence and Research Philip Goldberg testifies before a full committee hearing on "Current and Projected National Security Threats to the United States"at the Hart Senate Office Building in Washington, DC, on March 12, 2013. AFP PHOTO/Jewel Samad

US President Barack Obama has nominated Philip S. Goldberg as the next Ambassador to the Philippines, the White House said Tuesday, July 30 (US time).
The 57-year-old Goldberg was among 8 nominations made by Obama Tuesday for key government posts. Of the 8, at least 7 were for diplomatic posts.

He will replace Harry K. Thomas, who has been Washington's envoy to Manila since April 2010.

Goldberg is "a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Career-Minister, is Assistant Secretary for Intelligence and Research at the Department of State, a position he has held since 2010," the White House said.

Previously, he served as US Ambassador to Bolivia (2006-2008), and was Chief of Mission in Pristina, Kosovo (2005-2006).

He was also Charge d'Affaires and Deputy Chief of Mission at the US embassy in Santiago, Chile (2001-2004), and Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs (2001).

He also served as Special Assistant and then Executive Assistant to the Deputy Secretary of State (1996-2000) and Bosnia Desk Officer (1994-1996). Other postings brought him to the US embassies in Bogota, Colombia, and Pretoria, South Africa.

Prior to working at the US State Department, he was a Liaison Officer for the City of New York for the United Nations, the White House said.

Back in 2008, Goldberg and officials of the US Drug Enforcement Administration were expelled by Bolivian President Evo Morales after accusing them of taking part in a right-wing conspiracy against him. Washington reciprocated by kicking out the Bolivian ambassador to Washington.

In 2009, he was also the envoy in charge with implementing the North Korean sanctions imposed by the United Nations.

Other nominees

Aside from Goldberg, Obama nominated the following:
  • Michael L. Connor – Deputy Secretary, Department of the Interior
  • Robert Blake – Ambassador to the Republic of Indonesia, Department of State
  • Thomas Frederick Daughton – Ambassador to the Republic of Namibia, Department of State
  • John L. Estrada – Ambassador to the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, Department of State
  • Michael Stephen Hoza – Ambassador to the Republic of Cameroon, Department of State
  • Noah Bryson Mamet – Ambassador to the Argentine Republic, Department of State
  • Eunice S. Reddick – Ambassador to the Republic of Niger, Department of State
"I am grateful that these impressive individuals have chosen to dedicate their talents to serving the American people at this important time for our country. I look forward to working with them in the months and years ahead," Obama said, as quoted by the White House.

The US Senate has to confirm their appointments.

Music video vs Chinese 'aggression'

From Rappler (Jul 31): Music video vs Chinese 'aggression'

FILIPINO SOUND. Abby Asistio takes part in video. Screengrab from YouTube (FILIPINOSUNITENOW)

FILIPINO SOUND. Abby Asistio takes part in video. Screengrab from YouTube (FILIPINOSUNITENOW)

It's a demonstration of solidarity, perhaps in the original communal spirit behind the People's Republic of China. Except that this campaign is directed at the Chinese government.

More than 30 Filipino artists, based here and in the United States, have taken a concerted stand in what they denounce as Chinese "aggression" in the West Philippine Sea. Calling themselves Filipinos Unite or the FU Movement, this collective has released a video of their song, "Change the World."

The song and video serve to hype up the protest campaign aimed at Beijing. More songs and videos are being planned for this cause, and FU urges Filipinos here and abroad to support their movement or add their voice.

The video is a distinctly Filipino production fusing such modern pop genres as hip-hop and R&B.

The group's motto: “We’re here to fight, but we’re doing it right. We’re using our voices to spread the light. FU, Filipinos Unite!”

Watch the video of 'Change the World':

FU took part in an earlier initiative by the West Philippine Sea Coalition that seeks to raise civic awareness in this international controversy and foster participation in the cause of upholding the Philippines' sovereignty. The group conceptualized the video before this initiative.

Roxee B, a co-convenor and artist of Filipinos Unite, emphasizes the collaborative character of this enterprise. “If we are calling on Filipinos to unite, we have to lead by example. This is why all the work is collaborative in nature,” she said.

READ: Coming up: Celebs sing for PH fight vs China aggression

The actress-singer had also stepped out of the studio to uphold this advocacy in the streets. She was among those who led the protest rally in front of the Chinese Embassy on Wednesday, July 24, denouncing China's actions in the disputed seas.

Despite the movement's activist tone, Vonz Santos, chairman of FU and one of the leaders of US Pinoys for Good Governance, says the song is intended to help "resolve the conflict through peaceful methods."

“I believe a new type of dialogue needs to be introduced into the matter, a positive one," he said. "The Philippines is running out of options with respect to China’s aggressive tactics. We are simply trying to help and do our part.”

"Change the World" features such rap and singing lines as "Enemy is just a friend misunderstood," and the hortatory “Rise up today before it’s too late, we were born to be great, we are stewards of our own land, our children’s future we hold in our hands…”

Hip-hop artist Knowa Lazarus of Q-York says the song is a "call to all those who love the Philippines to stand up as one for what rightfully belongs to our nation."
The artists featured in “Change the World” include:

• Jay R
• Kris Lawrence
• Mica Javier
• Knowa Lazarus of Q-York
• Flava Matikz of Q-York
• Janjay Coquilla
• Roxee B (Roxanne Barcelo)
• Gian Magdangal
• Nimbus Nine
• Izz (Izz Maranan)
• Abby Asistio
• Quest

NPA frees 5 soldiers in Mindanao

From InterAksyon (Jul 31): NPA frees 5 soldiers in Mindanao

The New People's Army (NPA) on Wednesday afternoon freed five Philippine Army soldiers at an undisclosed area within the Paquibato District in Davao City.

The soldiers were captured by the NPA on June 17 in a checkpoint mounted by communist guerillas in the district's Bangkaan area.

The soldiers were released to Mayor Rodrigo Dureterte and peace advocates from the non-government group Exodus for Justice and Peace.

Duterte brought the soldiers to the headquarters of the Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom).

Eastmincom spokesman Navy Capt. Severino David confirmed that the Army were already in custody of Cpl. Emmanuel Quezon, Pfc. Vernie Padilla, Pvt. Marteniano Pasigas, Pfc. Ronald Gura, and Pfc. Donato Estandian, all members of the 10th Infantry Division.

The released soldiers arrived with Duterte at the Eastmincom parade ground on board a helicopter, according to David.

Recently, many soldiers implementing the government’s counter-insurgency campaign “Oplan Bayanihan” in the Davao Region’s hinterlands had been captured by communist guerrillas but were later on released on humanitarian grounds.

US raises military assistance to the Philippines

From InterAksyon (Jul 31): US raises military assistance to the Philippines

Washington will raise its military assistance to the Philippines by about two-thirds, Manila's foreign ministry said on Wednesday, helping its oldest security ally in Asia defend vast maritime borders against what it sees as Chinese assertiveness.

Albert Del Rosario said Washington had increased its military assistance package from $30 million next fiscal year to about $50 million, the highest level since US troops returned to the Philippines in 2000.

"For military financing, it's an allocation that is worked out by the US Congress, and it’s usually for acquisition and maintenance," Del Rosario told reporters.

Del Rosario said the Philippines may acquire a third Hamilton-class cutter to boost its efforts to patrol sea borders in view of recurring standoffs with China over territory in the South China Sea.

The Hamilton-class high endurance cutter is the largest and newest warship in the Philippine Navy. The first two ships were acquired free of charge under the US Excess Defense Article and Military Assistance Program under which Washington provides old equipment no longer in active use. But $25 million was spent to refurbish them.

The second cutter is to arrive next week in Subic Bay, a former US Navy base, 50 km (30 miles) northwest of Manila, where it will be repainted before joining its sister ship on patrols.

A senior military official, however, told Reuters that the Philippines may shelve the plan to acquire the third cutter and use the funds to upgrade the two vessels now in its fleet with a missile system.

Since 2002, the United States has provided the Philippines a total of $312 million in military aid as well as various types of military equipment.

Until the early 1990s, US troops operated from two large military bases in the Philippines, providing a security umbrella in the country's decades of fighting against Maoist and Muslim insurgents.

There are now plans to allow Washington wider access to civilian and military bases to help its former colony enhance its defense capability.

PH likely to keep troops in Golan - DFA chief

From InterAksyon (Jul 31): PH likely to keep troops in Golan - DFA chief

Members of the Philippine contingent to the UN peacekeeping force in the Golan Heights (InterAksyon file by Elmer Cato)

The Philippines will likely keep its 340 soldiers in the Golan Heights as part of a United Nations peacekeeping force, amid improved security for the troops.

Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario told reporters the UN was close to fulfilling three conditions on upgrading safety set by the Philippines that would allow the Filipino soldiers to stay beyond August 11.

"The conditions look fine to me," del Rosario said, adding he had recommended to President Benigno Aquino III that they stay for at least another six-month mission.

"I still have to go back to the President for his blessing but I don't think it will be a problem."

The Philippines is one of the major contributors to the UN Golan force, which has been monitoring a ceasefire between Syria and Israel there since 1974.

Other countries have pulled out their contingents as violence from the Syrian civil war has spilt over into the area.

The Philippines said in May that it was considering withdrawing after two groups of Filipino troops were briefly kidnapped by Syrian rebels in separate incidents.

Both groups were released unharmed, but the wounding of another Filipino soldier from shelling in June added to the security concerns.

Del Rosario said one of the three conditions set by the Philippines was that the total peacekeeping force returns to its regular strength of 1,250 soldiers.

Another was extra military equipment for the soldiers and the third was that the Philippines be able to review the mission every six months.

Del Rosario said he was confident the numbers in the peacekeeping force would climb to 1,250 by October.

Fiji has already emerged in recent months as a savior for the peacekeeping force, agreeing to deploy 562 soldiers.

Del Rosario also said the UN had committed to the extra military equipment.

And he said the Philippines was allowed to review its mission every six months, rather than annually, until at least 2015.

The Philippines was due either to extend its mission, or withdraw, on August 11.

STRUGGLE FOR THE SHOALS | Why does PH need to secure Ayungin, Scarborough?

From InterAksyon (Jul 31): STRUGGLE FOR THE SHOALS | Why does PH need to secure Ayungin, Scarborough?

A little more than a hundred nautical miles from the island of Palawan, a standoff involving half a dozen Filipino soldiers aboard a rusting and grounded World War II- era LST and several Chinese maritime surveillance and PLA Navy vessels is taking place at Ayungin Shoal (Second Thomas Reef). Though this maritime drama is small in nature, with only a tiny motley array of vessels and personnel on both sides deployed there, it does have a significant effect on the current security environment in the Asia Pacific Region.

This current standoff followed an earlier one last April 2012 when the Chinese sought to physically challenge Philippine control of Bajo de Masinloc (Scarborough Shoal). Initially the Philippine government sought to confront the Chinese vessels deployed at the shoal but subsequently withdrew on the assumption that China would abide by an agreement on mutual withdrawal forged behind closed doors. Unfortunately, China reneged on that agreement and instead of pulling out, refused to withdraw its own vessels even after the Philippines did.

That act by the Philippine government of pulling out its own vessel from Bajo de Masinloc was a mistake that may cost the country its claim to the shoal as China has begun to consolidate its occupation of the area.

This confrontation over shoals is not something totally new between China and the Philippines in the West Philippine Sea. In the late 1990s, both sides had been involved in terse diplomatic exchanges brought about by unilateral Philippine actions that China at that time was still not ready to physically challenge. BRP Sierra Madre, a Philippine Navy ship was run aground at Ayungin Shoal in 1999 and this was protested by the Chinese.

During the same period, there were several initiatives proposed within the Philippine government on what to do to strengthen its claim to Bajo de Masinloc, which during the time of the US bases had been used as a training site by American and even Philippine military forces. One such proposal was to erect a lighthouse in the shoal to serve as a navigation aid for ships travelling through the area. However, as is typical of Philippine initiatives and proposals, much talk was spent on this without anything happening and Manila sought other ways to reinforce its claim in the shoal.

Plans for the West Philippine Sea

The first decade of the 21st Century may be characterized as a period of wasted opportunities for the Philippines. Both the Estrada and Arroyo administrations became bogged down in internal security and even political destabilization that managed to bring down the former and almost toppled the latter administration.

This left the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs bereft of anything more substantial than diplomatic declarations against Beijing as the Philippine defense establishment was preoccupied with fighting terrorists in Mindanao (this became a priority for Manila following the 9-11 attacks), monitoring political opponents of the administration, and finally even trying to neutralize a resurgence of military disgruntlement that manifested itself in the large military mutinies of 2003 and 2006.

All of these made the Philippines neglect modernization of its security and defense sectors. Instead, Manila anchored its approach to dealing with the territorial disputes on mobilizing international opinion through diplomacy and the establishment of environmentalist policies. As an example, through the years, Bajo de Masinloc was the site of a project by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources and the University of the Philippines for raising and protecting large clams.

Fortunately, at Ayungin a continuous physical presence has been maintained for more than a decade which now in hindsight is a better approach in protecting sovereignty over the shoals and islets than by air or naval patrols or environmental policies.

There was hope at that time that the Chinese could still be won over to act more responsibly through confidence-building measures and track-2 informal levels of diplomacy which had become buzzwords in engagements with Beijing in the 1990s up to the first decade of the 21st Century.

Unfortunately it was a mistake to have relied on Chinese willingness to voluntary abide through codes of conduct and to even assume that Beijing was thinking in the same level as Manila. In fact as it turned out, the Philippines provided China with good catch for its ravenous fishing fleets at Scarborough Shoal when the BRP Gregorio del Pilar was pulled out from the shoal last year during that earlier standoff with the Chinese.

The Philippine strategy on the defense of Bajo de Masinloc was similar to defenders setting up a minefield against an attacking enemy and leaving it unguarded thus allowing the attacker to conveniently remove one mine after the other without any form of harassment. Leaving Bajo de Masinloc unguarded and occasionally visited by a Philippine vessel was tantamount to handing it over to the Chinese as every nation involved in the disputes in the West Philippine Sea are aware that physical occupation is ownership and China had made no secret of its desire to occupy that shoal.

As successive administrations in the Philippines hemmed and hawed on modernization and as the Philippine military debated about which threats to prioritize with internal security gaining dominance over external security, the Chinese continued with a massive build-up of its assets.

From limited presence in the 1990s the Chinese not only improved their structures in the West Philippine Sea but also increased the number of floating and even flying assets in the area. From 2009 onward, Beijing began to notify rival claimants that it would begin deploying maritime surveillance vessels at disputed areas.

In 2012, feeling that it was sufficiently equipped to make another grab against the Philippines, which Beijing saw as not serious in physically protecting its interests in the WPS, Chinese maritime vessels challenged the attempt of the BRP Gregorio del Pilar to accost Chinese poachers at Bajo de Masinloc. A few months later, Beijing announced the establishment of the Sansha Administrative Region that has administrative and military jurisdiction over the WPS.

These heralded a new phase in the confrontation at the WPS between Manila and Beijing. Whereas before the PN and PCG could still blow up Chinese markers and arrest Chinese poachers, these actions stopped as Manila sought to physically disengage from the area in the face of Chinese aggressive patrolling. This emboldened China as it realized that a few CMS/FLEC vessels backed by several old frigates aggressively deployed at the WPS are more than enough to prevent the PN and PCG from fully carrying out its missions to protect the maritime territorial and resource interests of the Philippines.

Chinese focus has now been directed at engaging and threatening Philippine garrisons at the Kalayaan Island Group. The first directly threatened was the tiny garrison at Ayungin Shoal.

Again, due to Manila’s indecision to modernize the Philippine military, particularly the Philippine Air Force, command of the air over the KIG has passed to the Chinese, whose combat aircraft have been patrolling in force over the WPS. No PAF aircraft now and even the planned purchase of Korean light combat aircraft which will take several years to complete can challenge that current Chinese air presence. This then leaves the PN and PAF totally ill-equipped in facing the Chinese challenge at Ayungin Shoal and despite these limitations, the personnel of these two services remain totally dedicated and committed to their duties and missions.

What the shoals represent

Recently, a Chinese general, Major General Zhang Zhaozhong spoke about a cabbage strategy which called for layers of defenses in Chinese claims at the WPS which would be set up following the ouster of Philippine presence in the area.

 China’s strategy for the area of which the shoals play a very important role is to provide a capability for the Chinese to interdict Philippine lines of communication between metropolitan Philippines and its garrisons at the WPS. Philippine supply runs to and from the KIG will be put to an end through a series of intimidations and threats ranging from statements coming from Beijing to harassments by PLA Navy and CMS/FLEC vessels of PN, PCG and civilian vessels.

If China manages to secure Ayungin Shoal, it will be a dagger pointed at both the garrisons at the KIG and at military and civilian installations at Palawan itself. The construction of a Chinese garrison at Ayungin will provide them with a means to effectively restrict Philippine vessels to Palawan’s immediate coasts and interfere with freedom of navigation there as Beijing will naturally project 200 nautical miles from it towards the Philippines as part of its own definition of an EEZ.

Worse is what a Chinese presence at Bajo de Masinloc represents for the Philippines. Although Manila simply saw that shoal as either a fishing area or even as a former training area of the Americans during the time of the bases, what it failed to realize is that this maritime geographic feature is a threat toward the centers of gravity of the Philippines. Consider that the shoal is a mere 124 nautical miles away from Subic, Zambales, which is a major economic and military hub of the Philippines. It is also near Clark Airport and Metro Manila with its extensive transport hubs as well as being the capital of the Philippines.

What will stop the Chinese from using Bajo de Masinloc as a forward operating base to initially monitor Philippine movements, contain them eventually, and even threaten them through the deployment of area denial missiles once structures are built there?

Although Bajo de Masinloc in Chinese hands serves to threaten the global commons in terms of commerce and freedom of navigation, it has an even more sinister role in threatening the political and economic centers of gravity of the Philippines itself.

(Editor's note: Jose Antonio A. Custodio is a security and defense consultant and was a technical adviser for a US defense company working for the US Pacific Command. He also specializes in military history and has post-graduate studies in history from the University of the Philippines. He also teaches history and political science at several universities in Metro Manila.)

'WE'D LIKE THEM TO BE THERE' | DFA chief Del Rosario backs US air patrols over Spratlys

From InterAksyon (Jul 31): 'WE'D LIKE THEM TO BE THERE' | DFA chief Del Rosario backs US air patrols over Spratlys

A P3C Orion

Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario on Wednesday defended American air patrols over disputed territories in the West Philippine Sea, also known as the South China Sea, saying such overflights would help both to protect the country and boost the arbitration case it has filed before the United Nations against China.

Del Rosario made the remarks after the Japanese news agency Kyodo reported Tuesday that classified Philippine documents confirmed that US P3C Orion aircraft have been carrying out patrols over the Spratlys.

The Orion was developed in the 1960s for the US Navy and is used mainly for anti-submarine surveillance and warfare.

“I think that it (US air patrols) is (of) significant importance for us because we do have an interest in terms of what’s going on in (our) EEZ (exclusive economic zone) …” del Rosario told the reporters at a press conference at the sidelines of the celebration of the DFA’s 115th foundation day.

He said the intelligence reports gathered during the American patrols would not only help the Philippines monitor Chinese intrusions and activist and protect the country’s maritime rights and territory, “I think it is also useful for us to be gathering information which can also be utilized for our arbitration case.”

Del Rosario did not say anything about the number of US aircraft and the frequency of their patrols over the West Philippine Sea.

But he did confirm that the US has been patrolling the West Philippine Sea even before he took his oath of office in 2011.

“We have this initiative of reaching out to our partners including the United States in terms of assistance with regards to our minimum credible defense posture strategy,” Del Rosario said.

The DFA chief also said the American surveillance flights are undertaken as part of joint military exercises between the two countries and comply with the Philippine Constitution.

“I think for the most part they just come in during the exercises. This is part of the training exercises and military and security cooperation with the United States,” he said.

“There (are) certain protocols that are being followed to ensure that the Constitution is not being violated by such activities,” he added.

Last year, President Benigno Aquino III admitted that the Philippines had sought the deployment of the Orions over the disputed territories because of the country’s incapacity to undertake its own monitoring.

To counter China’s growing military presence, the US has embarked on a “pivot” towards Asia, repositioning more military assets in the region as part of its “strategic interest” in maintaining freedom of navigation and unimpeded economic activities in the commercially vital sea lane.

"As our treaty ally, we should be working with them (US),” Del Rosario said. “It is advisable for us to work with them in accordance to our agreement … that we should be relying on one another. I think it is in that context that we believe they have a right to be there."

"And we'd like them (US) to be there,” he added. “It is consistent with the rationale in asking them to help us in the (establishment of a) minimum credible defense posture.”

Very recently, the government broached the idea of allowing the American and Japanese military access to the country’s military bases, a proposal that was met with criticism by those who said such an arrangement would violate the Constitution’s prohibition against the permanent presence or basing of foreign forces.

RP says US spy planes monitoring China at sea

From the Daily Tribune (Aug 1): RP says US spy planes monitoring China at sea

The Philippines said Wednesday that US spy planes were providing crucial intelligence on Chinese military activities in disputed areas of the South China Sea.

US Navy P-3 Orion surveillance aircraft frequently fly over areas that the Philippines says are within its legal territory but where China has deployed military vessels, said Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario.

“I think it’s of significant importance for us,” Del Rosario told reporters, when asked about the value of the information gathered by the spy planes.

“We do have an interest in terms of what is going on with our exclusive economic zone, within our continental shelf, and we want to know if there are any intrusions.”

China claims nearly all of the sea, even waters close to the Philippines and other neighbors.

Analysts have long warned that China’s overlapping claims with the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan could be a flashpoint of armed conflict.

Tensions have risen in recent years as China has adopted more aggressive diplomatic and military tactics to assert its claims to the potentially resource-rich waters.

The Philippines has repeatedly called on the United States, its former colonial master and close military ally, for help in resisting China.

While the United States insists it will not take sides in the South China Sea dispute, it has helped to upgrade the Philippines’ military capabilities.

When asked if the spy plane surveillance on China may jar with the United States’ insistence of neutrality in the maritime dispute, Del Rosario emphasized the close US-Philippine ties.

He pointed out the allies had a mutual defense treaty, which calls on each party to help the other in times of external aggression.

He also said the United States was keen to maintain peace in the Asia-Pacific and ensure freedom of navigation in the South China Sea.

“I think it is in that context that we believe they have a right to be there,” he said.
“It is also because we’d like them to be there, that is the bottom line.”

When asked how long the spy planes had been flying over the Philippine-claimed waters of the South China Sea, Del Rosario said since at least he became foreign secretary in 2010.

He gave no further details on the timeframe but said the spy planes operated mostly, but not exclusively, during times of joint military exercises between the Philippines and the United States.

Troops kill 7 NPA rebels, seize 11 firearms in Tarlac

From the Business Mirror (Jul 31): Troops kill 7 NPA rebels, seize 11 firearms in Tarlac

SEVEN New People’s Army (NPA) guerrillas were killed and 11 high-powered firearms were recovered after fierce fighting between soldiers and rebels on Tuesday in Camiling, Tarlac, the military said.
Capt. Mark Anthony Ruelos, public affairs chief of the Army’s 7th Infantry “Kaugnay” Division, said soldiers from the 3rd Mechanized Infantry Battalion encountered an undetermined number of rebels at around 8:45 p.m. in Sitio Bobon, Barangay Caarosipan.
The Army troops were supported by the National Police’s Provincial Public Safety Company (PPSC) of Tarlac City.
“The firefight broke out when the blocking force of 3Mech and PPSC sighted the withdrawing NPA from said barangay, which resulted in an undetermined number of casualties on the enemy side. No casualties were reported on the government side,” Ruelos said.
He said clearing operations yielded the bodies of seven rebels, including a female. An M-60 machine gun, an M-14 rifle, an M-653 carbines and three M-16 rifles were also recovered.
Col. Henry Sabarre, commander of the 703rd Infantry Brigade, said the soldiers were led by the 3Mech commander, Lt. Col. RJ Atencio.
The 73rd Division Reconnaissance Company (73DRC) provided an augmentation force.
“The armed group encountered by our troops operate in the tri-boundary of Tarlac, Pangasinan and Zambales,” Sabarre said.
“We have been conducting a series of combat operation in these areas for so long now, side by side by our peace and development teams. As a result, civilians in the area are the ones giving vital information on the presence of NPA’s in their locality, at the end of the day, these insurgents will have no more rooms to hide and eventually fall in the hands of our law,” he added.

PHL to use info gathered by US surveillance plane in case vs China

From the Business Mirror (Jul 31): PHL to use info gathered by US surveillance plane in case vs China

FOREIGN Secretary Albert del Rosario on Wednesday said information gathered by the US P-3C “Orion” could be used by the Philippines in its arbitration case against China.
It’s useful for us to be gathering this information which can be utilized for our arbitration case. I think to that extent, it might be useful,” del Rosario said.
He said the information provided by the American plane is of significant importance to the Philippines “because of our interest of what’s going on within our exclusive economic zone [EEZ] and our continental shelf.
“We want to know if there are any intrusions.”
Currently, a five-member panel of the International Tribunal of the Law of the Sea (Itlos) based in the Netherlands is hearing the case filed by the Philippines against China for intruding into the country’s EEZ and occupying islands that the country claims as part of its continental shelf.
This week the Department of Foreign Affairs confirmed that American P-3C Orion surveillance aircraft have been monitoring the South China Sea and the US is sharing the data that the aircraft gathered with Philippine military authorities.
A classified government document seen by Kyodo News on Friday confirmed that the US Navy surveillance planes conduct routine maritime patrols at the South China Sea, particularly in the contested Spratly Islands.
Del Rosario admitted that the surveillance plane had been patrolling the area even before he assumed office.
“I think this assistance had been there for a while since when I came to DFA. I have heard of P-3C Orion already being helpful in terms of bringing information of what’s going on in the area.”
He added that, “this is all part of the joint training exercises and the defense and security cooperation that we have with the US, which also includes providing facility for our treaty allies such as re-provisioning and refueling.”
Del Rosario said that it is not only the information from the surveillance plane that the Philippines have shared with the Americans but other forms as well.
He did not go into specifics.
Asked if the agreement does not compromise the Philippine position, del Rosario said: “I don’t think so, no, I don’t know what’s in store in terms of what else is coming from the US in terms of equipment, but we do have FMF [Foreign Military Financing] and I don’t have a list of what that might be, you may want to ask that from [Defense] Secretary [Voltaire] Gazmin.”
Del Rosario added that the Philippines has the initiative of reaching out to our international partners including the US, while Japan, through its official development assistance, has pledged to provide our Navy with 10 patrol boats.
The Philippines and China are locked in a dispute over some areas on the South China Sea, part of which the country renamed West Philippine Sea to delineate the limits of its EEZ and continental shelf.
China and Taiwan claim the entire South China Sea, while the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei and Malaysia have overlapping claims over some areas, particularly in the Spratly Islands.
Del Rosario is scheduled to meet with Vietnamese Foreign Minister Phm Bình Minh on Thursday.
Although he said Vietnam has entered into an agreement with China, del Rosario said that the Philippines and Vietman will also discuss the extent of that agreement.
“I think Vietnam, like the Philippines, has challenges to address in terms of West Philippine Sea or South China Sea disputes.”

Sayyafs free kidnapped Filipino professor in Southern Philippines

From the Mindanao Examiner blog (Jul 31): Sayyafs free kidnapped Filipino professor in Southern Philippines

Kidnappers have freed a Filipino professor at dawn Wednesday after more than 5 weeks in captivity in the southern Philippines, police told the Mindanao Examiner.

Police said Al Rashid Rojas was released in the town of Jolo. It was not immediately known whether ransom was paid for his freedom, but kidnappers originally demanded P20 million for his safe release.

Rojas - who is also a researcher at the Western Mindanao State University here - was kidnapped June 22 in his house in Campo Islam village in Zamboanga City by gunmen clad in military uniform on June 22.

Authorities have linked Abu Sayyaf rebels under Idang Susukan to the kidnapping of Rojas.

Police said Susukan’s group was also involved in the kidnappings of a local school principal Flordeliza Ongchua in November 2012 and a restaurant owner Edgar Fabella in January this year. Both had been freed unharmed after their family paid ransom to the gang.

The Abu Sayyaf is still holding a number of Filipino and foreign victims in the southern Philippines.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Kidnapped Philippine researcher released by Abu Sayyaf gunmen

From the Global Times (Jul 31): Kidnapped Philippine researcher released by Abu Sayyaf gunmen

Abu Sayyaf rebels freed unharmed its male captive in Sulu province of southern Philippines on Wednesday dawn, following alleged payment of ransom, police said.

The 56-year-old Alrashid Maha Rojas, a clerk of the Islamic Study Center in Western Mindanao State University (WMSU), was released by the Abu Sayyaf members led by Hatib Susukan at 3 a.m. Wednesday in the downtown of Jolo.

The victim was abducted on June 22 in his residence in Campo Islam village in Zamboanga and later was brought to Sulu.

Police authorities who were alerted of the presence of the Rojas immediately recovered the victim and brought him to the police camp for debriefing and provided with medical check-up.

The 380-strong Abu Sayyaf group (ASG), founded in the early 1990s, is a violent Muslim terrorist group operating in southern Philippines. The ASG engages in kidnappings for ransom, bombings, beheadings, assassinations, and extortion.

Navy to open bidding for brand new warships

From the Philippine Star (Jul 31): Navy to open bidding for brand new warships

Despite having acquired two second-hand warships from the United States, the Philippine Navy is still keen on purchasing brand new frigates.

Philippine Navy flag officer-in-charge Vice Admiral Jose Luis Alano said the new acquisitions are still part of the Armed Forces of the Philippines' bid for modernization.

"(The frigates are still) part of the modernization program. (We are) now in the process of coming up with the final documents for the bidding," Alano said.

He added that five countries have so far expressed interest in joining the bidding namely the US, Israel, Croatia, Australia and South Korea.

DND bought two Hamilton-class cutters BRP Gregorio del Pilar (PF-15) and BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PF-16) the past year. While the Del Pilar has started its service under the Navy, the Alcaraz is set to arrive in Philippines on August 3 and will be commissioned by September.

Alano, however, said that once the bidding process has concluded, the Department of National Defense will determine the start of the new frigate project seen to boost maritime security.

DND had announced that the upcoming new warships will cost the government P18 billion, higher than the earlier P11-billion budget.

President Benigno Aquino III said in his fourth State of the Nation Address the primary necessities in education, health and jobs creation  will be the administration's priority.

However, Aquino assured the troops that the plans to beef up the armed services will continue.

"To those who have doubts, let me stress that we will continue to strengthen the armed forces through honest and reasonable means. And I myself will do this as soon as possible," he said.

Obama nominates intelligence expert as ambassador to Phl

From the Philippine Star (Jul 31): Obama nominates intelligence expert as ambassador to Phl

President Barack Obama recently nominated senior diplomat Philip Goldberg (right) to become the next Ambassador to the Philippines. AP PHOTOS/SUSAN WALSH

American President Barack Obama nominated a State Department official specializing in intelligence to become the next US Ambassador to the Philippines, the White House announced.

Once confirmed by the US Senate, assistant secretary for intelligence and research Philip Goldberg will succeed Ambassador Harry Thomas at the helm of the embassy in Manila.

Goldberg, a senior American diplomat, has headed the State Department's arm involved in harnessing intelligence to guide the US' diplomatic affairs, foreign policy and national security since 2010.

His bureau is among the 17-member coalition under Obama forming the powerful US intelligence community that collects information on international terrorist and narcotic activities, other hostile activities of nations, groups and individuals as well as foreign intelligence activities.

Goldberg served as ambassador to Bolivia from 2006 to 2008, when he was asked to leave the country by the Bolivian government following accusations that the US has been funding opposition leaders against Bolivian President Evo Morales.

In an interview with Newsweek on his ouster, Goldberg said that his expulsion was partly due to Bolivian leaders' attempt to distract the public from other political matters in the country.

"The situation in Bolivia had deteriorated to the point of confrontation. And I think it became very easy to blame the United States for that. Secondly, I think there were external factors at work," Goldberg said.

Bayanihan Peace Mural in EDSA inaugurated

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jul 30): Bayanihan Peace Mural in EDSA inaugurated

People from government and private sector gathered Saturday, July 27 at the People Power Monument for the inauguration of the “Bayanihan Peace Mural” also known as the “Lakbay Para sa Kapayapaan sa EDSA”

The peace mural is a a collaboration of the various sectors and stakeholders of society that have worked together to paint the almost four-kilometer wall (Bonny Serrano Avenue-White Plains Avenue) of Epifanio Delos Santos Avenue (EDSA) and make a collage of images inspired by the themes Bayanihan (Solidarity with the People), Pagmamahal sa Bayan (Love for Country), and Kapayapaan (Peace).

The event was highlighted by a symbolic painting of the Bayanihan Peace Mural along White Plains Avenue and the unveiling of marker (beside Camp Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo Gate) led by Bai Rohaniza Sumndad-Usman, Country Director of Asia America Initiative (AAI) along with Gen. Emmanuel Bautista, Chief of Staff of Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP); Asec. Jennifer Oreta of Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP); Gen. Manager Corazon Jimenez of Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA); AG Saño, Founder of Dolphins Love Freedom Movement (DLFM); and other representatives from different private companies and organizations. 

Bai Usman said that the AAI will be organizing the so-called “EduPeace Tours” so more people would get to know the wonderful stories behind the making of the longest peace mural and promote understanding between different religion, culture and history in the country.

“Sometimes people are just looking for a chance, a chance to share what they have… May the peace murals serve as a reminder that as members of the society we have our own share in making the world a better place,” Usman said.

Usman added that people from all walks of life, from different faiths, "they became our strength, our pillars, our voices and our positive forces that made a strong foundation for us to be able to finish the Philippines’ big portrait of peace."

MMDA general manager Corazon Jimenez, who delivered the solidarity message in behalf of Chairman Francis Tolentino said that the peace mural bespeaks of hope, “ hope that as long as we join hands and work together, there is no limit to positive results we can achieve.”

AFP Chief of Staff, gen. Emmanuel Bautista for his solidarity message said, “What we achieved here opened the reality that we need to be united, that we are the solution to our problems… the solution lies on the spirit of Filipinos, the spirit of bayanihan… and that’s what we need to do as one nation, as a Filipino.”

The painting of Peace Mural started last May 26, 2013 with over 3000 Filipino volunteers and artists, lending a hand to complete what is considered the longest peace mural in the world.

Military fire mortars at Matalam rebel camp

From the Sun Star-Davao (Jul 30): Military fire mortars at Matalam rebel camp

At least 15 mortars landed on a rebel camp located in a village in Matalam, North Cotabato, around 10 p.m. Monday, a top commander of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) said.

Despite the heavy mortar shelling, no one was hurt among the villagers and members of the MILF positioned in Barangay Manubuan, said MILF Commander Noa Sabel of the 108th Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF).

The camp under attack is led by a certain MILF Commander Oscar Matiyagal.

Sabel blamed a number of members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the government’s peacekeeping forces stationed at barangays Manubuan and West Patadon for the series of atrocities in Matalam.

But residents of Barangay Manubuan are telling different stories.

Sammy Matuguel, 36, farmer, and a native of Sitio Leonard, Barangay Manubuan said it was the MILF forces, together with some Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), that attacked them while they were on their way to their farming village to harvest their produce.

Matuguel has five hectares of land at sitio Leonard planted to corn and fruit trees.

Village councilman Daud Tigkanan of Manubuan said some 30 armed Moro rebels positioned along the road to Sitio Leonard fired shots towards them when they were about to return homes last week.

The attack led barangay officials from Manubuan to request for additional troops from the Special Forces and members of the 602nd Brigade to secure them from the MILF and BIFF.

Captain Antonio Bulao, chief civil military operations officer and spokesman for the 602nd brigade, said they received last week several requests for military intervention from the village officials.

"It's already a month since the fighting broke out in Manubuan. The school in Manubuan has been used as temporary shelter of the evacuees. Pupils have not gone to school for at least a month because of the ongoing fighting," Bulao said.

Classes at the Manubuan Elementary School located along the highway in Barangay Manubuan, Matalam are still suspended as of this posting Tuesday night. At least 67 families from Sitio Leonard are housed in school.

On Monday, their troops, while patrolling along Manubuan highway, were harassed by armed lawless group.

"Our soldiers were attacked by M203 grenade launcher. Our detachment in Manubuan was also fired at using barrette. That was a clear harassment. So we have to discipline these groups," Bulao said.

Bulao admitted that on Monday night they fired mortars towards the direction of a base located just a few kilometers away from the detachment of the Special Forces and the Task Force Cotabato.

"We don't know who those people were staying there. But they already dug fox holes and they’ve been harassing commuters, farmers, and those using the barangay and national highway. We can’t allow this group of people to control the highway so we have to send them away, that's why we fired mortars towards their directions," Bulao said.

Magdalo seeking hike in combat pay

From the Visayan Daily Star (Jul 30): Magdalo seeking hike in combat  pay

Ten years after staging the Oakwood mutiny on July 27, 2003, Magdalo leaders, now Reps. Gary Alejano of Sipalay City, Negros Occidental, and Ashley Acedillo of Cebu, made good on their promise to stand up for the rights of members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, including the retirees.

Alejano and Acedillo, who ran under the Magdalo party-list group, have filed six legislative measures, including one for the increase of the combat pay of AFP officers and enlisted personnel from a minimum of five percent to a maximum of 25 percent of the base pay of a private.

This measure, if enacted into law, will increase the pay of soldiers in the frontlines of the wars government chose to fight, Alejano, said in a statement he issued.

Alejano, who used to be a Marine captain, during the short-lived military, which was participated in by almost 300 junior officers, also said, “While it is still my belief that the courage and valor our soldiers display on the battlefield cannot be measured by any monetary standard, an increase in compensation would help in boosting their morale.”

Negrense Army Capt. Milo Maestrecampo was among the Oakwood leaders, granted amnesty by then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Alejano, was granted amnesty by President Benigno Aquino III in 2010.

The two Magdalo representatives also filed separate bills, among them, those for the establishment of Philippine Veterans Authority, increase of the group term insurance of AFP and PNP members, and Anti-Private Army law, which seeks to dismantle private armies and other armed groups not recognized by duly constituted authorities.

Another Magdalo leader, then Navy LTSG Antonio Trillanes, was also reelected as Senator.

“We have a strong ally in Senator Trillanes. We are confident that, working together, we will see these measures enacted into law,” Alejano said.

On July 27, 2003, Trillanes, Alejando Maestrecampo and about 300 soldiers occupied the Oakwood Hotel in Manila, placed bombs around it, and demanded the resignation of then President Arroyo, former Defense Secretary Angelo Reyes , then PNP chief Hermogenes Ebdane, and other top military officials for alleged corruption, including the sale of arms and ammunition to rebels.

They were charged with the non-bailable crime of coup d’etat and detained for several years. In November 2007, they staged another protest at the Manila Peninsula Hotel.
In an interview, Alejano was quoted as saying , “Clearly, what we are now, and what we are doing now, are results of our desire for change for the better in our country 10 years ago when we staged a protest at the Oakwood hotel in Makati.”