Saturday, January 12, 2013

China publishes new maps highlighting islands being claimed by PH, Japan

From InterAksyon (Jan 12): China publishes new maps highlighting islands being claimed by PH, Japan

China has published new maps that for the "first time" put disputed islands in South China Sea (West Philippine Sea) being claimed by the Philippines "in equal scale" to that of Chinese mainland, Xinhua, China's official press agency, reported on Friday. The maps also featured islands in East China Sea being claimed by Japan. Quoting information from China's National Administration of Surveying, Mapping and Geoinformation, Xinhua said the country had included in its new vertical-format maps over 130 islands and islets in the South China Sea, "most of which have not been featured on previous maps of China."

Also, the report said that a "zoomed illustration" of the Diaoyu or Senkaku Islands being claimed by Japan had been included in the bottom-left corner of the maps "displaying their positional relations and those of their affiliated islets with the Chinese mainland and Taiwan." In the old horizontal maps, only bigger islands such as the Xisha (Paracel), Zhongsha, and Nansha islands were featured, which were illustrated in the bottom-right corner at half the scale used for the Chinese mainland, the report said quoting Zhou Beiyan, editor of the new maps.

China considers Scarborough or Panatag Shoal (Huangyan Island) as part of Zhongsha Islands. The shoal, located between the Macclesfield Bank and Luzon Island, is being claimed by the Philippines. Also, the Philippines claims portions of Nansha Islands or the Spratly Islands. The new maps published by China's national map publisher SinoMaps Press will be available to the public by end of January this year.

Xinhua quoted Xu Gencai, chief editor of SinoMaps Press, as saying that the new maps "have marked clearly the major South China Sea islands and demonstrated their geographic relations with surrounding island countries as well as surrounding islands and islets. The report further said that according to Xu, "the maps will be very significant in enhancing Chinese people's awareness of national territory, safeguarding China's marine rights and interests and manifesting China's political diplomatic stance."

An earlier report by Xinhua said China's national survey on the resources of its territorial islands would start on the first half of the year and would be completed by 2016. Quoting a circular from China's national conference on maritime affairs, Xinhua said the survey would determine unspecified base points and baselines of the country's territorial waters around the islands.

China will also monitor the geological features of its important islands, including the Xisha, Zhongsha, and Nansha islands in the South China Sea, according to the circular. The distribution, quantity and quality of the islands' resources and the development potentials of such resources, as well as the islands' major environmental and ecological conditions will also be investigated in the survey, the document said.

New peace goal: Bangsamoro unity

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jan 12): New peace goal: Bangsamoro unity

As government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) negotiators apply the finishing touches to a peace road map in Mindanao, a new struggle to achieve Bangsamoro unity to ensure lasting peace has emerged among Moro revolutionary groups on the island. “We have a need to address difficult and sensitive issues affecting Bangsamoro unity,” said President Aquino’s adviser on on the peace process, Teresita Quintos-Deles, when she spoke at the “MILF-MNLF Special Session” during the 4th World Peace Forum in Bogor, Indonesia, on Nov. 24, 2012.

The government has formally asked both the MILF and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) to settle their differences. Both rebel fronts have separately entered into peace processes with the government, basically raising the same issues, including territory. “What is more difficult is getting everybody on the same boat. On this, only you can make this happen, not the government,” Deles told leaders of the two groups in her “Statement of Hope.” The “government can only support the process and we pledge to do so in every way necessary and possible,” she said. The Aquino administration has long wanted a convergence of the MILF and MNLF peace tracks because “it is not possible to talk about separate futures for both,” she said.
A faction of the MNLF has welcomed the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro signed by government and MILF negotiators on Oct. 15 to lay the basis for a peace settlement but the main wing, led by Nur Misuari, has criticized the document for supposedly negating the 1996 Final Peace Agreement (FPA) between the MNLF and the government.

Observer status

Misuari’s following has considerably dwindled through the years but he continues to be recognized as the leader of the MNLF. The group holds an observer status in the influential Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). Since mid-2010, the OIC has been working with both parties to unify their peace efforts. Misuari has not responded positively while the MILF has acceded to the formation of the OIC- brokered Bangsamoro Coordination Forum, which should bring all Moro revolutionary formations together. During its recent meeting in Djibouti, the OIC called on the need to harmonize the FPA and the framework agreement. However, it did not offer any parameters within which this process should be undertaken.
For the government, one manifestation of convergence is the MNLF’s participation in crafting a Bangsamoro Basic Law—the first step in a peace transition envisioned under the framework pact. Saying MNLF involvement will further enrich the peace process with the MILF, Deles has offered its members seats in the Transition Commission, which will draft the Basic Law.

Basic Law

The Basic Law will serve as the charter of the Bangsamoro that will replace the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) once the necessary legal processes to entrench it is done. It also offers an opportunity to fulfill the remaining commitments contained in the FPA, including expanding the powers and geographic scope of the autonomous region.

MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal has said Misuari’s impression that the framework accord will negate the MNLF’s 1996 peace deal with the government is wrong. The MILF, Iqbal said, has remained firm that “any meaningful political settlement for the Moro conflict should embody the full implementation of the FPA.”

Viewed from the larger interest of Moro empowerment, the framework pact—along with an eventual comprehensive agreement—is better than the FPA as it elicits more concessions from the government, he said. “There is no more platform today for achieving this other than the peace process between the government and the MILF,” Iqbal explained. In March last year, Deles categorically told participants of a tripartite review of the FPA that the government would not open any new negotiations with the MNLF.

Getting personal

The MILF is not giving up in wooing Misuari. It has launched an aggressive drive to win the support of former MNLF comrades on a personal basis. Since early last year, it has been holding meetings, reunions and dialogues with MNLF ground commanders. In July last year, the MILF held the Bangsamoro Leaders Assembly, which gathered Moro leaders from grass root communities and consolidated them along an eventual peace agreement with the government.

MILF sources noted that Iqbal and another MILF panel member, Maulana Alonto, have been involved in many of the high-level unity meetings with MNLF leaders. This is to send the message that the front is opening up the peace negotiations to accommodate MNLF political demands, the sources said. Deles noted that the issues facing both rebel groups in relation to empowering the Bangsamoro were similar and “not intractable.”

As stipulated in the framework pact, Bangsamoro self-governance mainly features bigger share in revenue, especially those generated through exploiting strategic natural resources; inclusion of as much Moro-dominated areas into the geographic scope for the autonomous government; an enhanced Shari’ah justice system; and provision of block grants and subsidies to jump-start economic development essential to sustaining peace.

As peace dawns in Mindanao, it is ironic that an unresolved 35-year internal squabble among Moro revolutionaries is creating unwelcome creases. On Dec. 26, 1977, Salamat Hashim led the ouster of Misuari as MNLF chair for, among others, straying the Moro struggle toward a Marxist-Maoist orientation and making its central committee his own “exclusive preserve,” wrote Salah Jubair in the book, “Bangsamoro: A Nation Under Endless Tyranny.” Although they tried to tackle the matter seriously, the OIC and the Muslim World League has not resolved the issue. By March 1984, Salamat’s faction split from the MNLF and formed the MILF.

Troops to conduct rehab works in Pablo-hit towns

From the Sun Star-Davao (Jan 12): Troops to conduct rehab works in Pablo-hit towns

THE Eastern Mindanao Command (EastMinCom) deployed Friday its Joint Task Force (JTF) "Tambayayong" to conduct rehabilitation works in the areas affected by Typhoon Pablo in the provinces of Davao Oriental and Compostela Valley. EastMinCom chief Lt. Gen. Jorge Segovia, in a press conference held at Camp Felix Apolinario in Panacan, Davao City, said a total of 400 military personnel are divided to 40 teams called the "Panagdait Teams". "The military personnel all come from the 4th Infantry Division (4th ID), 6th ID, 10th ID, Naval Forces Eastern Mindanao (NFEM), the Philippine Marines and the 52nd Engineering Brigade," Segovia said.

The teams were dispatched in the hardest-hit towns of Baganga, Boston and Cateel in Davao Oriental and Monkayo, Compostela, Montevista, New Bataan and Laak towns in Compostela Valley. Segovia said the Panagdait teams are set to repair around one to two houses in a week as they are targeting to fix 600 homes in a span of two months. The Department of National Defense collected P1.143 million in donations for the procurement of construction materials. Segovia also encouraged donors to donate galvanized iron (GI) sheets since most of the devastated houses had its roofs blown off by strong winds.

Task Force commander Col. Edgard Clerigo, in an interview at the sidelines of the press conference, said: "Mahirap talaga ang rebuilding process lalo na dito sa mga hard-hit areas dahil devastated talaga ang mga bahay. But we remain optimistic as long as we coordinate with the Local Government Units (LGUs)." Clerigo added the primary objective of the JTF Tambayayong is to rebuild houses so that the evacuees can return to their homes and decongest the evacuation centers. "Most of the evacuation centers are schools. Classes cannot resume because classrooms are being used. So hopefully if the evacuation centers will be vacated already after we rebuild the houses, classes will resume," Clerigo said.

In related development, Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) 11 head community base Perdita Dimakiling said in the same press conference that they are continuing to shell out cash assistance to the victims of Typhoon Pablo. "We are giving P7,000 for those who have lost their relatives while we the cash assistance given to those who are injured will depend on the cost of their hospitalization," Dimakiling said.

Davao Oriental Gov. Corazon Malanyaon, in the same press conference, said the priority concern of the local government is to establish 1,000 houses to reduce the population in the evacuation centers. Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) in Davao Region Director Mariano Alquiza, on the other hand, has already requested some P950 million budget for the rehabilitation of Davao Oriental and Compostela Valley Province. "The budget has not been approved yet but we just need to finish the plans and program by next week so that the budget will be approved," Alquiza said.

Army conducts security awareness campaign to Gigaquit students

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jan 11): Army conducts security awareness campaign to Gigaquit students

The Speaker’s Bureau Team of the 30th Infantry Battalion, Philippine Army has conducted a security awareness campaign for the students of Gigaquit National High School (GNHS) in Gigaquit, this province. The activity was aimed to enhance the security awareness of the students and the teachers in connection with the present insurgency problem in the country and encouraged them to support and be an active partner in every peace and development activities in their respective communities. It also aimed to inform them about their significant roles in the implementation of the Internal Peace and Security Plan (IPSP) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines called “Bayanihan.”

The security awareness campaign of the 30IB, PA through the conduct of school symposium in different public and private high schools in the province is part of the IPSP and peace development activities of the unit within its area of responsibility. The peace development activities of the unit carry out the IPSP Bayanihan program of the AFP which advocates the collaboration of efforts of all the stakeholders in the society to include the teachers and the students in order to achieve a peaceful environment that is conducive for a sustainable development.

Army men help build communities in Kalahi-CIDSS' areas

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jan 11): Army men help build communities in Kalahi-CIDSS' areas

They are out in conflict-ridden areas not as combatants but as community builders. The Bayanihan Team Operators of the 61st and 82nd Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army have tied up with the Kalahi-CIDSS implementers in the province of Iloilo to help reduce poverty in the communities. Col. Arnold Quiapo, commander of the 301st Infantry Brigade said these Bayanihan Team Operators are soldiers deployed in conflict -affected municipalities in their respective areas. Quiapo said as public servants they are always ready to give full support and cooperation to the implementation of the Kalahi-CIDSS.

Kalahi-CIDSS Kapit-Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan-Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services (Kalahi-CIDSS) is the Philippine government’s flagship poverty-alleviation program that uses the Community-Driven Development (CDD) approach, a strategy that has been proven effective in addressing the needs of the poor.

Capt. Vicente de los Santos, Jr., Civil Military Operations Officer, said the Bayanihan Team Operators, underwent a two-day orientation on the Kalahi-CIDSS and how social services are effectively delivered, to make themselves effective partners of the project.

DSWD Kalahi-CIDSS Regional Coordinator Sharon Tusalem, who served as resource person, said there was a need for the teams to help the communities identify their actual needs and the solutions which the people themselves should work on together. Tusalem also said that it was necessary for the teams to help the people tie-up with their respective LGUs so that they can avail of resources through implementation of barangay-level projects.

Col. Quiapo added that the Bayanihan Team Operators are also there with the people to help them bring their issues and concerns to their local officials, to government agencies and other partners as needed. The participating teams were asked to present their proposed programs during the two-day orientation. The Bayanihan Operators are under the supervision of the 301st Infantry Brigade, 3rd Infantry (Spearhead) Division of the Philippine Army, based at Camp Adriano D. Hernandez, Dingle, Iloilo.

7th IB commander Hao turns over post to his executive deputy Sunday

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 12): 7th IB commander Hao turns over post to his executive deputy Sunday

The 7th Infantry Battalion, one of the battalions under the Army’s 6th Infantry Division based in Pikit, North Cotabato, will have a new commander, starting Jan 13. After two years as 7th IB commander, Lt. Col. Benjamin Hao will relinquish his post to his executive officer, Lt. Col. Donald Gumiran. Gumiran has been Hao’s deputy for nine months.

Hao will pursue a teaching job at a military school in Manila after his stay in Pikit town. Hao said among his legacies is taking part in the sealing of several peace agreements between warring clans in Pikit town.  In 2003, a war between Moro rebels and the Philippine troops took place in Pikit town, which displaced thousands of residents in at least 42 villages and nearby towns of Pagalungan and Datu Montawal in Maguindanao province. Sporadic clashes between warring families and clans due to rido also occurred in the area of responsibility (AOR) of the 7th IB, which covers the towns of Pikit, Carmen, Matalam, and Kabacan in North Cotabato; Pagalungan and Datu Montawal in Maguindanao; and northern portion of the Liguasan marsh.

Clan feuds, Hao said, are considered one of the major problems in his AOR because aside from casualties, they also caused damage to properties and crippled local economy. Rido management in the area, he explained,“is very complex,” thus, his strategy was to keep the Army presence in the conflict area and try their best to understand the problem. “The 7th IB did its best in preventing armed conflict to happen in our area of jurisdiction, particularly in Pikit, Pagalungan, and Carmen, which are traditionally source of conflict between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF),” he said.

When the signing of the Framework Agreement on Bangsamoro (FAB) took place on October 15, Hao said they had their own ‘simple celebration’ at the headquarters. “I am glad we’re part of the signing of the peace agreement even in a small way,” he said. The 7th IB said that year 2012 is best remembered for the FAB signing. “We are now experiencing a relevant peace situation locally because of this agreement,” it said.

In his report, Hao said that in August 2012, two months before the FAB signing, a group of bandits tried to disrupt the peace and order in North Cotabato after they were forced to move out of the province of Maguindanao. “Through the efforts of the military, PNP, and the local MILF forces, these bandits fled the area tired and frustrated,” his report added.

The 7IB is also preparing for the national mid-term election in May. “We will enhance our partnership, not only with the COMELEC and the local PNP, but also with a group of civil society organizations to achieve an honest, orderly and peaceful election,” Hao stressed.

During Hao’s two years as commander in war-torn areas in Central Mindanao, he said he learned more about the social, political, and cultural aspect of people. “I need to share this knowledge to my Army so that we can serve Mindanao better in the coming years,” he stressed.

Abu Sayyaf allegedly involved in trader's abduction

From the Philippine Star (Jan 12): Abu Sayyaf allegedly involved in trader's abduction

Security forces blamed today Abu Sayyaf militants for the abduction of a trader here last night. Edwin de Ocampo, chief of police in the city, said the police have noted in this case the usual pattern of the Abu Sayyaf militants: their targets are mostly staying or having coastal properties, and the kidnappers use speedboat in escaping.

De Ocampo said in order to track down the whereabout of abducted victim Edgar Favella, the authorities have already mobilized various intelligence units of both the police and the military in the nearby province of Basilan and Sulu, islands which are known to have strong presence of the Abu Sayyaf militants.

Favella, a small restaurant and trucking business owner, was abducted shortly before 7 p.m. Friday inside his eatery at the seafront village of Maasin by five gunmen, two on board motorcycles as lookout and three others on a speedboat that took the victim away.

The Abu Sayyaf was founded in early 1990s by Islamic extremists, and it has degenerated into a loose alliance of local armed bandit groups over the past decade, carrying out a series of terrorist attacks and high-profile kidnapping.

Philippine Coast Guard to receive 10 patrol boats from Japan

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jan 12): Philippine Coast Guard to receive 10 patrol boats from Japan

The Philippine Coast Guard is set to hire some 300 new personnel to man 10 new patrol boats expected to arrive from Japan. PCG spokesman Commander Armand Balilo said they would prioritize applicants who would fit the qualifications of those who will man the new acquisitions. “We need to recruit people with maritime-related courses such as marine engineers and marine navigation course. But we would also be needing technical experts such as those who have mechanical, welding and electrical skills or background,” said Balilo.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario discussed with Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, during the latter’s visit early this week, a loan agreement for the Philippines’ procurement of 10 multi-role response vessels for the Coast Guard. The new patrol vessels, which are expected to arrive in 2014, are expected to boost the country’s territorial defense in the West Philippine Sea.

PCG usually accepts applicants who finished even non-maritime-related courses. “But we should now prepare for our new assets. We should prepare the right people or the crew and asset management team who would be in charge of our new vessels’ maintenance,” Balilo explained. He added that they have one year to hire the needed personnel, who would be assigned for deck operation, navigation, gunnery and engineering. Those who would be selected would undergo one-year training on board the new ships.

Soldiers, NPA rebels clash before truce ends

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jan 12): Soldiers, NPA rebels clash before truce ends

Government troops clashed with communist rebels in North Cotabato on Thursday, five days before the end of their truce. A team of Special Forces soldiers from the 601st Infantry Brigade was on a defensive security patrol in Malire Antipas village at about 4p.m. when the clash occured, a statement from the Army’s 6th Infantry Division said. The troops were responding to reports of the residents that the New People’s Army rebels were planning to attack a detachment of the paramilitary group Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit.

“The firefight lasted for about 45 minutes with no casualties on both sides, but government troops recovered one M16 rifle,one M4 carbine, six pieces magazine with ammunition for M16, five pieces magazine with ammunition for M14, two pieces IED with blasting caps, 50 meters firing wire, one hand grenade, one jungle bolo, and four back packs with personal belongings and subversive documents from the encounter site,” the statement added. Both the Communist Party of the Philippines and the government have agreed to a ceasefire until January 15.

1 killed, another hurt in Basilan clan war

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jan 12): 1 killed, another hurt in Basilan clan war

One person was killed and another critically wounded when armed men belonging to rival families clashed in Sibago Island, off Basilan province on Saturday, officials confirmed. But the number of casualties could actually be higher than what was reported, provincial officials said, as details coming from Sibago Island remains sketchy as of late Saturday. “So far, the reports we have been getting remain sketchy but what was clear, based on the report of the village chief there, was that a group headed by a Gais Mansur attacked members of the Kullong family,” Muhammad Ajul, Basilan Mayor Talib Pawaki told the Inquirer by phone.

Pawaki, who has jurisdiction over the island-village, said the initial figure could go higher as details become clearer. “We were told there’s a number of killed and hurt,” he said. Pawaki said another report he got from policemen and soldiers, who had responded to the 9 a.m. hostility, was that Mansur’s group had suffered one death in the gun battle.

Tahira Ismael, Basilan provincial administrator, said it has become a puzzle for local officials that the feud between the two families, which had been settled two years ago, had been rekindled. She said with the incident, the provincial government has requested the military and the police to deploy more forces to the area to prevent the violence from going out of hand.

Pawaki said he was still trying to negotiate for a sea vessel at the Lamitan wharf, which could bring him and other officials to Sibago Island, so they could determine what started the fresh clash. He said that from the initial report they got, Mansur’s group had initially shot a Pujong Arasad, who is a relative of the Kullong’s, before proceeding to the community where the family lives. “Arasad remains in critical condition at the Basilan Provincial Hospital in Isabela City,” Pawaki said.

Feuds between prominent families are common in areas of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), where many civilians possess firearms. In most cases, unless settled, these feuds erupt into major violence that would sometimes drag in members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. A case in point was the feud between the Mangudadatu and the Ampatuan families of Maguindanao. The said feud, which was political in nature, erupted into what is now known as the country’s bloodiest politically-related violence. At least 58 people – 32 of them journalists – were killed in November 2009 when alleged members of the Ampatuan family, led by then Datu Unsay mayor Andal Ampatuan Jr., flagged down a convoy of supporters and relatives of then Buluan town vice mayor Esmael Mangudadatu.

The convoy, which included vehicles bearing the journalists, was on its way to Shariff Aguak for the filing of Mangudadatu’s certificate of candidacy for the Maguindanao gubernatorial race against Andal Jr. Andal Jr. and most members of the Ampatuan family had been arrested over the incident while Mangudadatu became governor of Maguindanao after the elections held a few months later.

Acting ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman admitted that feuds were among factors that have stunted the growth of the five-province region. ARMM Assemblywoman Samira Gutoc-Tomawis of Lanao del Sur said that family and clan feuds are characterized by sporadic outbursts of retaliatory violence between families and kinship groups, as well as between communities. Hataman said some feuds indeed start from a simple spat such as in the case of an incident in Sumisip, Basilan a few years back.  He said the violence involving two families there started when a man, whose clothes got splattered with dirt by a passing tricycle, shot to death the driver. Hataman said efforts were continuing to patch up feuding families and there had been successes.

Revolutionary Movement Gets Stronger Through the Years? Rebel Leader Asks

Posted to the Negros Daily Bulletin (Jan 11): Revolutionary Movement Gets Stronger Through the Years? Rebel Leader Asks

The revolutionary movement represented by the Communist Party of the Philippines, New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) its armed wing, and its alliance organization, the National Democratic Front (NDF) has not weakened but have grown stronger every year, contrary to what the military claims, its Negros topranking leader, former priest, Frank Fernandez, said in a statement issued December, 2012 yet but which the Negros media was only able to secure this month, for some reasons.

Yearly, too, the government is increasing the military and PNP’s strength in the island, including increasing the number of its paramilitary forces in the form of CAFGUs, continued Fernandez which can only indicate that by deploying large number of its forces in Negros Island, it betrays the fact that it wants to match rebel strength which is also increasing every year, the revolutionary leader added.
But Fernandez did not go into specifics, although, in news reports years back, leaders of the guerilla underground in media interviews said, they will establish guerilla fronts also in every congressional district nationwide, which also means doing the same in the island.

As a result of the increased number of military forces in the countrysides, in urban communities and in school campuses, human and democratic rights violations of the people, also increased, corollary to the growing number of government forces, Fernandez said. Previous counter-insurgency operations under various governmental administrations have not succeeded but have dismally failed through the years.

The present anti-insurgency operation, Oplan Bayanihan, have also failed as similarly does Oplan Bantay Laya One and Two carried out by the US-Macapagal Arroyo regime, Oplan Makabayan under former President Joseph Estrada, Oplan Lambat-Bitag One and Two during the Cory Aquino administration and Oplan Lambat-Bitag three and four during the period that then President Fidel V. Ramos held sway. Under the dictator, Ferdinand Marcos’ Oplan Mamamayan, instead of constricting the CPP-NPA-NDF units, it grew by leaps and bounds.

No fundamental changes took place during these administrations, many changes pushed for by the revolutionary movement being nationalist industrialization and genuine agrarian reform.
Instead, the various administrations including the present one, said, Fernandez is selling the people’s birthright, its national patrimony, continuing to place the country under foreign economic and political domination. The country’s mineral and agricultural resources are being placed in the hands of foreign capitalists and big landed classes, said Fernandez.

Also, the country’s armed forces are being utilized to protect the economic interests of foreign capitalists and landowners against those who want fundamental changes. The revolutionary underground is on the way to its complying with the requirements for the attainment of a stalemate stage, ended Fernandez.

U.S. anti-mine ship to arrive in Subic on Sunday

From InterAksyon (Jan 12): U.S. anti-mine ship to arrive in Subic on Sunday

File photo of USS Guardian (MCM-5) from

The United States has sent another battleship to the country. The anti-mine vessel is expected to arrive in the Philippines on Sunday, the US Embassy in Manila said in statement released Saturday. “[The] USS Guardian (MCM-5), a U.S. Navy Avenger-class mine countermeasures ship, will arrive in Subic Bay on Sunday, January 13, for a routine fuel stop. This visit will allow the ship to replenish supplies as well as give the crew an opportunity for rest and relaxation. After an overnight visit in Subic, the ship will proceed to Puerto Princesa for another brief visit,” the embassy said.

It added: “The USS Guardian is assigned to the U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet and is forward-deployed to Sasebo, Japan. Her crew of around 80 officers and enlisted personnel includes eight Filipino-Americans. Notably, the ship’s highest ranking Enlisted Sailor on board is a Filipino-American originally from Olongapo City.”

U.S. battleships have been a common sight in the Philippines since last year after China renewed its aggressive claims over the Spratly Islands in the West Philippine Sea. Other countries such as Vietnam, Taiwan, Brunei and Malaysia also partly claim portions of the Spratlys. China and the Philippines are also in dispute over Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal about 198 kilometers west of Subic Bay.

'Mistah' of Aquino's sisters named Centcom chief

From InterAksyon (Jan 12): 'Mistah' of Aquino's sisters named Centcom chief

President Benigno Aquino III has named a member of Philippine Military Academy “Mapitagan” Class of 1980, which adopted his four sisters Viel, Pinky, Balsy and Kris, the new commander of the Central Command.  Rear Admiral Edgar L. Abogado, currently vice commander of the Philippine Navy, will assume his post at the Cebu-based Centcom in turnover ceremonies on January 14, military spokesman Colonel Arnulfo Burgos Jr. Abogado will be filling the position left vacant in December when Vice Admiral Jose Luis M. Alano was named Navy flag-officer-in-command. Abogado was formerly chief of Naval staff, deputy commander of the Philippine Fleet, and commander of the Assault Craft Force. He previously commanded the following vessels: BRP Gen. Mariano Alvarez (PS 38), BRP Artemio Ricarte (PS 37), BRP Apolinario Mabini (PS 36), BRP Bagong Silang (PG 104), BRP Bagong Lakas (PG 102), BRP Liberato Picar (PG 377), and BRP Filipino Flojo (PG 386).

Maguindanao to be placed under WestMinCom

From Business World (Jan 11): Maguindanao to be placed under WestMinCom

Maguindanao province, which is known as a bailiwick of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), will soon be under the jurisdiction of the Western Mindanao Command (WestMinCom) based here. Col. Rodrigo T. Gregorio, newly appointed spokesman of WestMinCom, said the transfer of the province from the jurisdiction of the Davao City-based Eastern Mindanao Command (EastMinCom) will take effect before the mid-term elections in May.  "This is to simplify command and control," he told BusinessWorld. The transfer of jurisdiction over Maguindanao was discussed after Major General Rey C. Ardo assumed the position as the chief of WestMinCom in October last year.

Prior to his appointment, Mr. Ardo served as commander of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division in Maguindanao, which took charge of military operations against rebels in the area. Mr. Gregorio said there would be less movement of troops during the turnover process, noting the 6th Infantry Division in Maguindanao will maintain its position. Military officials said the change in area of responsibility is part of a strategy to effectively weed out armed groups while maintaining a ceasefire with the MILF. Mr. Ardo said the new measure is in preparation of the signing of the comprehensive compact agreement between the government and the MILF.

The agreement is expected to create a new Bangsamoro region, which will include Isabela City in Basilan, Cotabato City in Maguindanao, six municipalities in Lanao del Norte, and some villages in North Cotabato, in addition to the five provinces of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao namely, Basilan, Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi. He said the move would help ease the work of the two military commands in Mindanao. EastMinCom could focus on its anti communist insurgency campaign, which is active in the Davao Region, while the WestMinCom will continue to concentrate in running after radical groups and bandits in the southwestern areas, including the island provinces of Sulu and Basilan.

This is the same strategy when the defunct Southern Command (SouthCom) was divided into two creating what are now the WestMinCom and EastMinCom. The SouthCom, which is based in this city, was split on 2006 during the time of Gen. Hermogenes C. Esperon, the chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines under the Arroyo administration.

DND to bid 21 chopers for AFP’s use

From Business World (Jan 11): DND to bid 21 chopers for AFP’s use

THE DEPARTMENT of National Defense (DND) has called on firms on Friday to bid for Armed Forces Philippines’ (AFP) acquisition of 21 helicopters. "The DND/AFP now invites bids from eligible bidders for the acquisition of 21 units of refurbished UH-1 helicopters," a notice published in a newspaper on Friday read. "The guiding principles for this project shall be based on affordability and sustainability while conforming to the requirements of our Air Force in furtherance of accomplishing its mission," it further read.

The DND/AFP "intends to apply the sum of" P1.26 billion for 13 UH-1 and eight UH-1 upgraded helicopters and "delivery of the goods is required on or before March 31, 2013." "A complete set of Bidding Documents may be purchased by interested bidders from January 11, 2013... upon payment of a non-refundable fee for the bidding documents in the amount of P75,000," the notice said. Pre-bid conference will be held on Jan. 18, while bid opening will be on Jan. 31. The fund for the purchase of the helicopters is "through the AFP Modernization Act Trust Fund with Special Allotment Release Order dated May 15, 2012.’s-use&id=64146

Defense Usec Benito Ramos resigns

From the Business  World (Jan 11): Defense Usec Benito Ramos resigns

THE PALACE has confirmed on Friday the resignation of Defense Undersecretary Benito T. Ramos due to family reasons. Presidential Spokesman Abigail F. Valte told BusinessWorld via text that Mr. Ramos, also the executive director of the National Disaster of Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) and the administrator of the Office of Civil Defense, has given his resignation letter to Defense Secretary Voltaire T. Gazmin.  "Yes, Usec Ramos has submitted his resignation to Sec. Gazmin, to care for his ailing wife," she said. However, there has been no confirmation yet if Mr. Ramos will be allowed to go. "There is no word as to the acceptance of the resignation yet," she added.

Before being appointed as a Defense official, Mr. Ramos served the military for 36 years until he retired in 2007 with the rank of major general as commander of the Special Operations Command in the army.  He is also the country’s focal point to the disaster management committee of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Mr. Ramos cannot be immediately reached for comment as of writing.

US drone accused of spying in PH

From the Bicol Mail (Jan 10): US drone accused of spying in PH

Following the recovery of a US drone believed to be used for reconnaissance off the waters of Ticao Island, Masbate, the National Democratic Front (NDF) in Bicol accused the United States government of spying within the country’s territory in violation of our sovereignty. Gregorio Bañares, National Democratic Front regional spokesman in Bicol told Bicol Mail that the spy plane smashed into the waters off Tacdugan Reef, Barangay Bagahanglad in Ticao, Masbate on Sunday evening (not Monday as reported by some national papers). “This is a violation of our sovereignty. We strongly condemn the United States government for superseding internal conflict in Philippines,” Bañares told Bicol Mail.

The spy plane with aerial target drone BQM-74E Chuckar 111, Part No. 98500, Contract No. N00019-05E004 is remote controlled, subsonic aerial target, capable of speeds up to Mach 0.86 and altitudes from 30 to 40,000 ft (10 to 12,000 m), which is capable of simulating enemy threats for gunnery and missile training exercises, according to Wikipedia.

Bañares lashed at Army Col. Julian Pacatan, commanding officer of the Army’s 9th Infantry Brigade, for the latter’s statement that the recovered US Navy machine is of vintage type. Bañares also blamed the Aquino administration for allowing the US forces to enter the Philippines’ territory through Balikatan exercises.

Balikatan exercises

Army Major Angelo Guzman, spokesman of Army’s 9th Infantry Division regional command told Bicol Mail that based on the report he got, the BQM-74 Chukar-Aerial Target Drones is a three-meter long non- explosive which was used for Balikatan training exercises. He admitted though that he is not competent enough to discuss BQM-74 Chukar-Aerial Target Drones as he needs to ask first the Southern Luzon Command (Solcom) because according to him only the higher officials could explain why such sensitive machine was found drifting in the waters off Masbate province.

Sr. Supt. Heriberto Olitoquit, PNP regional commander said the fishermen initially thought they had hauled in a bomb and alerted the police. “A technical evaluation determined that the object is one unmanned aerial vehicle,” Olitoquit told reporters. Olitoquit said the drone had been turned over to the Philippine Navy, which would conduct a thorough investigation.

“It appears to have been floating for quite some time,” Captain Rommel Galang, deputy commander of naval forces in the area was quoted as saying. “We will first study this drone but initially it appears to be a UAV used largely in reconnaissance.” Galang said the US embassy had been informed of the discovery and local authorities would eventually turn it over to them.

In an interview last year, President Benigno Aquino confirmed US drones were allowed to fly across the Philippines for reconnaissance purposes, but were not allowed to conduct strikes. The Philippines is a close American ally and has long relied on its former colonial ruler for help in dealing with its many security threats. The United States is also the Philippines’ biggest supplier of military hardware. About 600 US forces have been rotating in the southern Philippines since 2002 to help train local troops to deal with Islamic militants.

However, Masbate, where the drone was found, is many hundreds of kilometers from the Muslim insurgency-wracked southern regions and no US troops are known to operate there. One major security problem in Masbate is the support there for communists who have been waging a decades-long rebellion that continues to claim dozens of lives every year.

US Embassy statement

The US embassy in Manila released a statement on Monday saying it was looking into reports of the drone’s recovery, without confirming the plane belonged to the United States. “We are aware of reports that an apparently US-made unmanned aerial vehicle was recovered in the waters off Masbate this weekend,” the statement said. “The recovered vehicle appears to be of the sort that is used as an air defense target in training exercises. This type of vehicle is not armed and not used for surveillance. We are trying to confirm this interpretation and to determine how and when it may have landed in the sea,” the statement added.

Meanwhile, Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casiño also called for an investigation of the incident even as he demanded the United States government to halt its espionage operation because it violates the sovereignty of the country. “Dapat talaga eh imbestigahan ang pangyayaring ito dahil tila minamanmanan tayo ng mga dayuhan sa sarili nating bansa at napakaraming tanong na dapat sagutin,” the Party-list lawmaker said. “This incident is alarming and a potential infringement on our territorial sovereignty. The US as well as Philippine governments have a lot of explaining to do,” Casiño said in a statement sent to Bicol Mail.

Casiño said there are at least 5 questions that need to be answered by Philippine and US authorities. First, what was the drone doing in that area and what was its mission; second, was the PH government aware of its presence and operation; third, who gave the clearances for such an operation; fourth, what was the legal basis if indeed clearance was given, and last; if no clearance was obtained, will the Philippine government file a protest? “The answers to these questions are of paramount importance and have to be provided at once lest a cover up is being done. It appears that the US is infringing upon our territorial sovereignty with impunity and we from Makabayan will not take this sitting down,” Casiño said.

Rights group on drone: Who are they fooling?

From the Bicol Mail (Jan 10): Rights group on drone: Who are they fooling?

A rights group on Tuesday accused American Embassy officials of lying for saying that the US-made target drone found drifting in Masbate waters by fishermen on Sunday was not used for spying. Paul Vincent Casilihan, spokesperson of Karapatan-Bicol, said the diplomatic officials were defensive. “Who are they fooling? Drones are remotely controlled and have spying capabilities, and Philippine Navy officials are saying that the recovered drone is largely used in reconnaisance,” said Casilihan in a statement sent to Bicol Mail.

On Sunday morning, a 4-meter long, US-made unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) or drone was recovered by fishermen Jolly Llacer and Ricky Cantoria in the waters off San Jacinto town in Ticao Island in Masbate. The Philippine National Police (PNP) in the island-province identified it through the markings found on the UAV.

Casilihan said the US drone “slyly flying Philippine airspace” could have been been used in the counterinsurgency campaign of the government. He said its presence in Philippine territory violated the sovereignty of the country.

The drone was retrieved on Monday morning by the Philippine Navy in Southern Luzon, said Senior Supt. Heriberto Olitoquit, Masbate PNP chief. As of Tuesday afternoon, no government official could explain how the drone found its way to Masbate waters.

Tina Malone, spokesperson of the US Embassy in Manila, was quoted on Monday as saying that the drone found in Masbate “was the kind typically used in military training as an air defense target.”
She said the recovered drone was the unarmed type and not used for surveillance.

But Major Harold Cabunoc, spokesperson of the Philippine Army, in a text message, said Philippine and US troops did not have joint military exercise in Bicol. The last time there was a joint military training in the region, Cabunoc said, was in the second quarter of 2009. He also denied that drones were taking part in the fight against communist guerillas.

Olitoquit said they had no idea why the drone found its way to Masbate. A provincial official said even Masbate Gov. Rizalina Seachon-Lanete did not receive a report on the recovery of the supposed drone in the seas off the southernmost province of Bicol.

Army scores high vs rebels

From the Bicol Mail (Jan 10): Army scores high vs rebels

The Philippine Army conducting counterinsurgency operation in the six provinces of Bicol scored high in the so-called Internal Peace and Security Plan “Bayanihan” at the end of 2012. Maj. Gen. Romeo V. Calizo, commander of the Army’s 9th Infantry Division, in the 2012 year-end report to Lt. Gen. Emmanuel T. Bautista, Commander of the Philippine Army, declared a continued reduction of the number of communist rebels and their capabilities all over the Bicol region.

From January to December last year, there were 46 government-initiated encounters as against 27 encounters initiated by New People’s Army (NPA) rebels, armed fighters of communist rebel movement; that left 23 NPA rebels and 12 government forces dead.

The Army’s count of the NPA strength was 546 in 2008, which declined to 406 in 2010 and increased to 437 by mid-year of 2011, but was reduced to 427 at the end of 2011, and by the end of 2012 the NPA strength further declined by 16 percent with 359 NPA rebels scattered in the four mainland provinces and two island provinces in Bicol region.

Calizo reported the confiscation of firearms from the NPA rebels which include 36 high-powered firearms, 31 low-powered firearms, and 33 improvised explosive devices (IEDs) employed as anti-personnel and anti-tank landmines while the Army lost seven high-powered firearms to the NPA rebels. He cited intelligence information regarding validation of the identities of NPA rebels whether they were killed in action, captured, apprehended or surrendered, including reference to captured documents and revelations from former communist rebels. “As a result of these validations, there were also a number of new recruits in the rebel organization,” Calizo revealed.

But he said the implementation of stricter campaign against the insurgency in the countryside led to the surrender of 29 NPA rebels last year. Calizo reported shaking the organization of the communist rebels in Bicol with the capture or death of eight ranking NPA leaders as a result of Army and Philippine National Police operations.

Among the suspected ranking NPA rebels listed slain in encounter were Antonio Perelonia alias Eddie, alleged member of the executive committee of the NPA unit in Albay province; and a certain Rafael Llanto alias Gopi, alleged member of the NPA regional elite force; and another NPA rebel identified as Benjamin Manzera.

The Army in Bicol further reported to have captured top ranked officers of the communist movement including the alleged finance officer of an NPA unit in Albay province identified as Edgardo Sevilla, who was captured in a clash in Iriga City, in Camarines Sur on Sept. 5, 2012. Two ranking NPA rebels in the province of Sorsogon were apprehended by the 31st Infantry Battalion and the Sorsogon Public Safety Company on Aug 21, 2012. They were identified as Florence Galos alias Audrey and Alex Gerandio alias Monique. Galos is the alleged logistics and finance officer while Gerandio was supposed to be the squad leader of an NPA rebel unit in Sorsogon.

Top Sorsogon NPA leader Felix Marcaida a.k.a. Megs was arrested by joint elements of 903rd Brigade together with operatives Albay PPO on Apr 5, 2012 in Barangay Tagas, Daraga, Albay. “(Marcaida’s) arrest created a leadership gap in the NPA organization in Sorsogon resulting to series of encounters and capture of major NPA camps by the 31st IB,” according the report. Another suspected top NPA leader was apprehended in Laguna early last year. Identified as Henry Arguenza, the Army tagged him as top NPA leader in the island province of Catanduanes. Arguenza was arrested together with his companion and another suspected high-ranking NPA leader named Alicia Cenon.

According to the Army report, the arrest of Arguenza and Cenon was initiated by Cabuyao PNP on March 27, 2012 after the driver of the taxi they had rented complained against them of grave threats. The taxi driver sought the PNP assistance center along the national highway. They are now detained in Sorsogon Provincial Police Station facing murder raps against them.

Pull all stops to block US-designed "chacha" drive this year

From the CPP Website (Jan 12): Pull all stops to block US-designed "chacha" drive this year

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) today called on all patriotic and democratic sectors to exert all efforts to block the US-designed drive to push for neoliberal and antipeople amendments to the 1987 Philippine constitution. The CPP call came amid pronouncements by House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte that charter change (chacha) will be among the priorities of the reactionary Philippine Congress when it convenes its 16th session after the May 2013 elections. At the same time, the CPP also denounced the pro-“chacha” campaign launched a few days ago by the so-called Centrist Democratic Party calling for the removal of what it claims are “restrictive economic provisions.”

“The Filipino people and their patriotic, democratic and progressive forces should aggressively counter the US-designed chacha campaign,” said the CPP. “At the same time, they must fight for a reversal of the neoliberal policies of the past 30 years and assert their aspirations for a progressive and sovereign economy.”

“They should build a broad anti-chacha alliance of patriotic and progressive-minded students, nationalist economists and academics, professionals, small and medium-scale businessmen in order to effectively oppose and frustrate the efforts of the US imperialists and its puppet Aquino regime to push the neoliberal agenda to amend the 1987 constitution,” said the CPP. “They can invoke the nationalist spirit of Andres Bonifacio whose sesquicentennial birth anniversary is being celebrated this year in order to unite the Filipino people against the chacha.”

“They must expose how the neoliberal policies of liberalization, privatization, deregulation and denationalization were imposed by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank since the 1980s in successive ‘structural adjustment programs’ undertaken by the reactionary governments in exchange for foreign funding,” added the CPP.

“Over the past 30 years, such neoliberal policies have resulted in the grave oppression and exploitation of the Filipino people, the depression of wages, all-out attacks against workers’ rights, massive landgrabbing by foreign mining companies and big plantations, intolerable rates of unemployment, spiralling prices of commodities and the deterioration of education, health, housing and other social services,” added the CPP.

“These neoliberal policies have resulted in the massive destruction of local productive forces and the surrender of Philippine economic sovereignty and have drawn the Philippines deeper into the semicolonial and semifeudal economic rut.”

AFP breaks SOMO anew in NCotabato offensive vs NPA

From the CPP Website (Jan 12): AFP breaks SOMO anew in NCotabato offensive vs NPA

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) today denounced the Aquino regime and its Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) for violating the temporary synchronized ceasefire by carrying out a military offensive yesterday against the New Poeple’s Army (NPA) in Barangay Malire, Antipas, North Cotabato.

Initial reports indicate that elements of the Philippine Army’s Special Forces and troops of the 602nd Brigade initiated combat operations after getting wind of the presence of an NPA unit in the area, said the CPP. The AFP offensive resulted in an armed encounter with the local NPA unit. “The AFP offensive operation is another act of contempt against the temporary synchronized ceasefire agreement between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GPH) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP),” pointed out the CPP. The synchronized ceasefire agreement was forged in a meeting of special representatives of the Aquino regime and the NDFP last December 17-18 in The Netherlands.

The agreement was witnessed by Ambassador Ture Lundh of the Royal Norwegian Government, which serves as third-party facilitator of the NDFP-GPH peace negotiations. The synchronized ceasefire covers the period December 20, 2012 to January 15, 2013. “Over the past three weeks since December 20, the Aquino regime has launched widespread offensives and deployment of troops, reducing the synchronized ceasefire agreement to a meaningless piece of paper,” said the CPP.