Friday, January 18, 2013

Tubbataha officials protest U.S. behavior

From Rappler (Jan 18): Tubbataha officials protest U.S. behavior

The management of Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park lodged on Friday, January 18, a formal protest with the US government after the US Navy again barred park rangers from approaching a vessel stuck inside the protected area. "The ship's commander ordered a general alert and deployed personnel into battle position when our rangers tried to approach their ship to assess the situation, forcing them to back off," chief supervisor Angelique Songco told reporters.

Songco explained that it was the "behavior of the ship's commanding authorities" that prompted the park management to file the protest. "They were well inside the marine park, stuck in the North Atoll of Tubbataha and we were being prevented from coming close," she said. A second American vessel -- the USS Champion, another minesweeper like the stuck USS Guardian -- arrived in the area on Friday morning apparently to help get the first ship off the reef.

No coral damage assessment yet

Although the park management is sure the ship damaged the coral, it cannot yet estimate the extent of the damage in an area teeming with marine life. "We don't know yet how much damage has been done. We can only wait till they leave before we take a look at the area," she said.

In a statement, the US embassy in Manila said that to ensure their safety, most of the sailors aboard the vessel were being transferred to a support vessel. "A small complement of engineering and bridge personnel will remain aboard and work with a US Navy team in an attempt to free Guardian with minimal environmental impact," the statement added. The embassy added that the Navy is still investigating what caused the vessel's grounding.

The USS Guardian reportedly hit the upper side of the South Atoll -- one of the two main atolls comprising the Tubbataha Reefs -- at dawn of Thursday, January 17. According to a US Pacific Fleet statement, the Americans notified the Philippine government of the accident but ignored the park rangers, tasked with enforcing a commercial and fishing vessel ban within the 97,030 hectares of the award-winning protected area. "They [US authorities] had not communicated with us so far," Songco said.

Gov't to seek damages

The government will seek damages from the United States after the incident, Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) spokesperson Raul Hernandez said on Friday. Hernandez noted that the US, the Philippines's main defence ally, had provided some information on the incident, but announced Manila would conduct its own probe. "We are now asking our government agencies to investigate the incident and make an assessment on the damage caused by this and the legal obligation," he said. The penalty would depend on the amount of damage caused by the ship, added the DFA official. Once the damage is assessed, the owner of the ship – the US Navy – can expect to pay P12,000 per sqm of destroyed reefs under Section 19 of Republic Act 10067 or the Tubbataha Reefs National Park (TRNP) Act of 2009. The USS Guardian also entered the area without permission, another violation under section 19 of the TRNP Act, according to park officials.

No request for assistance

More than 24 hours after the USS Guardian ran aground in the Sulu Sea, the Philippine military has so far received no request for assistance from the US Navy. Maj Oliver Banaria, Armed Forces of the Philippines 6th Civil Relations Group commander, told reporters one of their gunboats had spotted a foreign "support vessel" in the area, referring to the USS Champion. Bonaria added that as of now the Americans have not asked for help and regarding the damage, he said it will be determined by the park management as Tubbataha is a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1993.

Asked about the incident, Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte said that the government's main concern is for the accident to have "minimal" impact on the protected area. "That is what we are hoping, which is why everybody is working to extricate the minesweeper as quickly as possible. We can hold off on all the other speculations first at this point before we are fully assessed of the extent of the situation," she said.

The partylist Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) warned that the incident raises more questions about the Visiting Forces Agreement between the Philippines and the United States. "Our officials should have the political will to decisively make them accountable," Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. said in a statement.

U.S. Navy Continues Operations to Free Grounded USS Guardian

From the USPACOM Website (Jan 18): U.S. Navy Continues Operations to Free Grounded USS Guardian

While the U.S. Navy continues operations to free the grounded USS Guardian (MCM 5) from Tubbataha Reef, all 79 crew members were temporarily removed today and safely transferred by small boat to the nearby support vessels USNS Bowditch (T-AGS 62) and MSV C-Champion. "Seventh Fleet ships remain on scene and essential Guardian Sailors will continue conducting survey operations onboard the ship as needed until she is recovered," said Vice Adm. Scott Swift, U.S. 7th Fleet commander. "Several support vessels have arrived and all steps are being taken to minimize environmental effects while ensuring the crew's continued safety. Small boats continue to be used to transfer personnel between Guardian and Military Sealift Command ships Bowditch and C-Champion.

After the Sasebo-based Guardian ran aground Jan. 17, initial efforts to free the ship on high tide were not successful. The ship remains stuck on the reef, approximately 80 miles east-southeast of Palawan Island. The Avenger-class mine countermeasures ship had just completed a port call in Subic Bay, Olongapo City, and was en route to her next port of call when the grounding occurred. The U.S. Navy is operating in coordination with the Armed Forces of the Philippines. The cause of the grounding is under investigation.

72 US sailors leave ship stuck in Tubbataha Reef

From the Philippine Daily  Inquirer (Jan 19): 72 US sailors leave ship stuck in Tubbataha Reef


INTRUDER The USS Guardian, a US Navy minesweeper, is still stuck after running aground Tubbataha Reefs, a Unesco World Heritage Site in Sulu Sea, in this Jan. 17 photo released by the Armed Forces of the Philippines Western Command. AP

The US Navy minesweeper that ran aground on a coral reef remained stuck at the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park for the second day on Friday but most of the US sailors had left the ship for safety reasons after initial efforts to free the vessel failed, the US Navy’s 7th Fleet said in a statement on Friday. It said 72 of the 79 crew of the USS Guardian were transferred to a military support vessel by small boat. A small team, including the commanding and executive officers, would remain on board to try to extricate the ship with as little damage to environment as possible, the statement said. How the US warship managed to enter the marine sanctuary puzzles the Philippine Navy.

Commodore Joseph Peña of the Naval Forces West said there are designated sea-lanes where ships could sail, which was outside and “far” from the Tubbataha Reef. “We’re asking the same question, too. How did the US ship get in there?” Peña said.

The US Navy also said that initial efforts to free the Guardian during high tide were not successful. Philippine officials said the weather yesterday was choppy with strong winds and rough seas. The ship ran aground Thursday while in transit through the marine park, a coral sanctuary in the Sulu Sea, 640 kilometers southwest of Manila. There were no injuries or oil leaks, and Philippine authorities were trying to evaluate damage to the protected coral reef, designated by Unesco as a World Heritage Site in 1992. The USS Guardian, a 68-meter long minesweeper, reportedly hit the upper side of the South Atoll, one of the two main atolls comprising the Tubbataha Reefs, at dawn of Thursday.

Park rangers ignored

The World Wide Fund for Nature Philippines (WWF) said that according to an initial visual inspection, the 68-meter-long, 1,300-ton Guardian damaged at least 10 meters of the reef. Aerial photographs provided by the Philippine military showed the ship’s bow sitting atop corals in shallow turquoise waters. The stern was floating in the deep blue waters.
The US Navy said the cause of the grounding, which took place around 2 a.m. Thursday, was under investigation. The US 7th Fleet claimed it had formally notified the Philippine government of the accident but has apparently bypassed the small detachment of park rangers guarding the marine park. “They (US authorities) have not communicated with us so far,” said Angelique Songco, head of the government’s Protected Area Management Board that supervises the marine park.

Tubbataha to file protest

Songco said the marine park’s management would file a formal protest with the US government over the behavior of the Guardian’s commander who prevented park rangers from approaching the vessel. She said that park rangers were not allowed to board the ship for inspection and were told to contact the US Embassy in Manila. Their radio calls to the ship were ignored, she said. “The ship’s commander ordered a general alert and deployed personnel into battle position when our rangers tried to approach their ship to assess the situation, forcing them to back off,” she said in a phone interview. “They were well inside the marine park, stuck in the North Atoll of Tubbataha, and we were being prevented from coming close,” she said.

She said it was unclear how much of the reef was damaged. She said the government imposes a fine of about $300 per square meter (yard) of damaged coral. In 2005, the environmental group Greenpeace was fined almost $7,000 after its flagship struck a reef in the same area. Songco said they could not yet estimate the extent of the coral damage done by the US vessel but expressed concern that the area that got hit was abundant with marine life. “We don’t know yet how much damage has been done. We can only wait till they leave before we take a look at the area,” she said.

Maj. Oliver Banaria, spokesperson for the Armed Forces of the Philippines, said the US Navy did not request assistance from the Philippines. The Philippine Navy has deployed a ship to the area to “provide assistance” to the stricken vessel but it said it would be mainly the US Navy that would pull the Guardian out of the reef. “It will need a special ship to pull it out,” said Peña.

A second US vessel, identified by park authorities as the USS Champion, arrived early Friday, apparently to help get the USS Guardian off the reef. “We don’t want to speculate what it’s going to do there … It was probably commissioned by the US,” Banaria said. “Our (Navy) would be on standby because these are still our territorial waters and we would be providing information to our higher headquarters. We would be there for monitoring and to provide any help or assistance if they (US) ask for it,” he said.

US Navy ships have stepped up visits to Philippine ports for refueling, rest and recreation, plus joint military exercises as a result of a redeployment of US forces in the Asia-Pacific region. The Philippines, a US defense treaty ally, has been entangled in a territorial dispute with China in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

Raul Hernandez, spokesperson of the Department of Foreign Affairs, said in a statement: “Relevant agencies of the Philippine government will conduct their own investigation, assess the impact of the incident on the reef, and recommend any and all actions that must be taken.” He said Gen. Edilberto Adan, executive director of the commission on the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) was “in touch with the Tubbataha Management Office as well as the US Embassy.”

“We do not want to rely on the information [of the US Embassy) alone, we would need to conduct our own research and our investigation to find out what really happened. [Philippine officials] will determine the legal violation connected with the incident,” he said.

Palace weighs words

Malacañang on Friday confirmed that the US minesweeper had come from Subic Bay for a “regular port call,” but declined to be drawn into a discussion this early on the subject of seeking damages from Washington. “We don’t want to make any speculations yet at this point. We want to proceed where everything has been thoroughly established before we make any further comment on this matter,” said deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte. Valte stressed that the government was concerned about the possible damage to the reef by the US ship.

“But for now our concern is to make sure that there is very minimal damage. The Department of Foreign Affairs, Department of National Defense and other agencies are coordinating with the US embassy here in Manila just to make sure that it (ship) is extracted the soonest possible time … to avoid further injury to one of our national treasures,” she said. She also tried to discourage the media from treating the incident as an offshoot of the increased US presence in the country following the new US “pivot policy” to the Asian region. “Perhaps at this point (it is) not healthy to speculate,” she said.

“The ship was en route from Subic for a regular port call. We imagine that the other agencies will be launching their own investigation on how and why the ship ended up running aground,” she said. Peña said the Navy had patrolled the area of the Tubbataha Reef last week to make sure that no ship would be crossing the waters of the marine sanctuary. But just as the Philippine ship returned to shore to replenish its supplies, the USS Guardian had struck the coral reef.

Explanation demanded

Sen. Francis Pangilinan, a member of President Aquino’s Liberal Party, called on the DFA to demand a satisfactory explanation from the US government over the reported incursions into Philippine territory of US military forces over the past couple of weeks. “First, it was a US drone. Now, it’s a minesweeper,” Pangilinan said in a statement. “Friends and allies must exercise good faith by coming clean,” he added. Pangilinan finds the US government “sketchy in providing answers in both incidents.” Sen. Loren Legarda, chair of the Senate committee on foreign relations, expressed “extreme concern” over the damage to the Tubbataha Reef. She said those who caused the incident should be made accountable.

‘Soldiers fired in the air’

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer: (Jan 19): ‘Soldiers fired in the air’

“For the military it was an encounter,” Army Lt. Col. Monico Abang on Friday said, describing what happened at a police checkpoint in Atimonan, Quezon province, where 13 alleged criminals were killed in a supposed shootout with government security forces on Jan. 6. Abang, commander of the Army’s First Special Forces Battalion, led the troops who augmented the police team led by Supt. Hansel Marantan at a checkpoint along Maharlika Highway in Atimonan. Abang said that contrary to Thursday’s reenactment of the supposed shootout, which was based on the testimony of two eyewitnesses, his men fired only “warning shots” during the operation. “They fired in the air,” he said.  “It was necessary,” he said. “Shooting had started so we fired warning shots,” Abang said in English and Filipino.

For Maj. Gen. Alan Luga, the commander of the military in Southern Luzon, however, what happened was a shootout and he was going by what Abang and the soldiers involved had told him. “I stand by what my battalion commander said,” Luga on Friday said, referring to Abang’s statements. “That’s what he and the soldiers told me—they were fired at first, that’s why they retaliated,” he said in Filipino.

Soldiers consistent

Luga said that according to Abang, what happened was a shootout between the government security forces and the men in two vehicles. “All the soldiers were consistent in their statement that it was a shootout because they were fired at first and then they fired back,” Luga said. “As the commander, I inquired from the soldiers and that’s what they said,” he said.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, quoting testimony from two witnesses who had seen the supposed gun battle, told reporters on Thursday that what happened was not a shootout. But De Lima did not describe what happened, saying the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) was digging deeper to find out.

Abang spoke to reporters at NBI headquarters in Manila after turning to the investigators the firearms used by the Army troops who backed up Marantan’s team at the checkpoint. He said he did not agree with some parts of the reenactment, although he did not say which parts those were. Abang said he never saw the cargo truck where the two witnesses supposedly were throughout the incident. He said he was in a vehicle positioned near the second of three checkpoints along Maharlika Highway when the shooting happened.

Abang confirmed that a military truck blocked the road when the two vehicles carrying the alleged criminals tried to crash the second checkpoint. He described the shooting as “spontaneous” and said he saw Marantan hit, fall, and carried away from the area. The Army submitted only 15 rifles to the NBI because 10 of the soldiers who were called in to support Marantan’s team remained in the Atimonan police station, Abang said. Submitted for examination were M14 and M16 rifles and a .45-caliber 1911 pistol.

In good faith

The new military chief, Lt. Gen. Emmanuel Bautista, on Friday said the soldiers who were called in as an “augmentation force” for the police team at the checkpoint went there “in good faith.” “That was what they (the troops) told me. They went there in good faith,” Bautista said. Bautista was the Philippine Army commander when the supposed shootout happened. He assumed office as chief of staff of the military on Thursday. He said the military was reviewing the procedures followed when the Philippine National Police (PNP) asks for help in law enforcement.

Counter witness

Crisanto Buela, the soldiers’ lawyer, told a news conference that the military has a witness who will contradict the statements of the government’s witnesses. Buela said the military’s witness would testify that what happened in Atimonan was a shootout. In a phone interview on Friday, Buela denied De Lima’s statement on Thursday that a soldier was one of those who shot environmentalist Tirso Lontok Jr. at the checkpoint.

Quoting the testimony of the two witnesses, De Lima said Lontok and another man got off the second vehicle with their hands raised, but “a uniformed soldier with a rifle and a civilian with a handgun” shot the two men. “The testimonies of the witnesses are not true. There were no soldiers near the vehicle. The checkpoint was being manned by policemen because it was a police operation,” Buela said. Buela said the soldiers from the First Special Forces Battalion were posted some distance away from the checkpoint because they were only acting as a support group to the policemen. “The cops were the ones who flagged down the vehicles and not one of the soldiers,” Buela said.

Sole target

Buela said the checkpoint was a legitimate police operation against the 13 men killed at the checkpoint. One of those killed was Victor “Vic” Siman, alleged operator of the numbers racket “jueteng” in Southern Luzon and the sole target of “Coplan Armado,” the police operation that led to what Quezon police reported was a shootout. The 12 others who were killed, including Lontok, were not listed as targets of Coplan Armado. Lontok was hit 14 times. His body was found in a roadside ditch by crime scene investigators.

De Lima’s statement “only confirmed our theory that what had happened was not a shootout but a massacre,” said Ariel Saliva, a cousin of Lontok’s. “Kuya Jun and his company were mercilessly killed. We demand justice for all of them.”

Col. Donato San Juan, commander of the Special Forces Regiment, said Siman’s group fired first. “We are also waiting for the result of the NBI investigation. I think it is very important to establish who fired first,” San Juan said.

Marantan gives up gun

Marantan, who drew up Coplan Armado, made himself scarce to investigators for several days. But on Friday, NBI doctors got to examine Marantan’s supposed gunshot wounds at St. Luke’s Medical Center. Danielito Lalucis, head of the NBI Death Investigation Division, said Marantan surrendered his 9 mm Glock pistol and 17 rounds of ammunition. NBI ballistician Jasmine Abarrientos said the firearm would be subjected to tests. She said investigators could tell when the pistol was last fired through chemical analysis. Lalucis said Marantan promised to submit to investigators a statement on the Atimonan incident. Lalucis said St. Luke’s doctors turned over to the NBI the slug supposedly extracted from Marantan’s knee. Forensic investigators were examining the slug, Lalucis said.

PAOCC funding

The Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission (PAOCC) disapproved Coplan Armado, which had been submitted to it for approval and funding in November last year. But when he appeared at the NBI on Friday, Chief Supt. Reginald Villasanta, PAOCC executive director, inadvertently confirmed the statement of Chief Supt. James Melad, the sacked chief of the Calabarzon police, that the commission had given Marantan P100,000 in funding for the operation.

In a statement, Villasanta said he had formally told the NBI that the PAOCC did not approve the coplan. “We at the PAOCC, through a board resolution, did not approve Case Operation Plan Armado . . . submitted by Supt. Hansel Marantan, Supt. Glenn Dumlao and Chief Supt. James Melad,” Villasanta said.

Money for intel only

But the same resolution authorized the release of money to Marantan’s team. “Among the directives of the resolution was the release of P100,000 to Marantan’s group to help them in building an airtight case against their targets,” Villasanta said in the statement. He explained that the money was intended for gathering information to back up the proposed police operation. Villasanta clarified that the money released to the proponents was “only for intelligence purposes; it was not intended for operations.”

MILF: 1st Agency for Youth Affairs prov’l assembly held in Sultan Kudarat province

From the MILF Website (Jan 18): 1st Agency for Youth Affairs prov’l assembly held in Sultan Kudarat province

Around 600 Bangsamoro youths attended the First Agency for Youths (AYA) provincial Assembly in Biwang Provincial Committee held in Sitio Da’wah, Malisbong, Palimbang, Sultan Kudarat recently. Also gracing the occasion were officials of the MILF political and military organs, asatidz (pl. of ustadz) women, professionals, politicians, traditional leaders, and members of the Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA).

The newly designated Provincial Chairman of Agency for Youth Affairs (AYA) in Biwang Province Mr. Teng Usman expressed his warmest greetings and thanks to all his colleagues and to the Political Committee Officials headed by Chairman Kingboy Bayang of Biwang Province and Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA) for their generosity and its untiring supports for the realization of this historic and meaningful affair especially to youths. He underscored the roles of the youths in support of the struggle of the Bangsamoro to right to self-determination.

Former Palembang Labualas Mamansual Abdul Al Haj (also known as Comdr. Samroad), one of the keynote speakers, shared his story with the gathered youths on how he was personally involved in the movement as a young man and as cadre officer of the MNLF. He recalled that he and Maestro Montano Pilangking, an MILF leader in later years but now dead, strived to organize and nurture the Biyang Youth Association (BYA) which later became the core of the MNLF leadership in the area.

Samrod also recalled the split with the MNLF the late Salamat Hashim formed what is now the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), even as he strongly urged everybody especially the youths to rally behind the GPH-MILF Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro signed by the MILF and the government last October 15, 2012.

For his part, Chairman of Biwang Province, Kingboy Bayang, expressed thanks to the youth organizers for the success of their assembly and bringing to fore the challenges that the youths have to face after the elder generations of leaders are gone. “Today you have noticed the presence of more MILF political leaders, BIAF, traditional leaders and other entities are now behind you as a manifestation of their pleasure and supports to this youths’ assembly,” he said in his opening lines. He appealed to the parents, political and traditional leaders and others to unite and bind themselves in supporting the youth to become the future leaders in our struggle to continue what we have done.

Dr. Amor Pendaliday, the National Chairman of the Agency for Youths Affairs (AYA) in his message, he pronounced that Palimbang is a “Cradle of the Bangsamoro Freedom”, recalling that when Prof. Nur Misuari came back to Mindanao his first itinerary was Palembang where he established several training camps there. Dr. Amor encouraged the youths to prepare in all aspects before we will become successors of our leaders for the liberation of our people and our territory. Amor also reminded the youths of the statement of the later Chairman Salamat Hashim when he uttered these words: “If I will die, I have already planted the seeds of Jihad in the hearts and minds of the Bangsamoro People as well as to the youths. The present and the next generations of the Bangsamoro will continue the struggle until their liberation in their homeland will not achieved.”

MILF: BDA, BMLI undergo training on project cycle management and proposal making

From the MILF Website (Jan 18): BDA, BMLI undergo training on project cycle management and proposal making

Around 24 staffs of the Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA) and Bangsamoro Leadership and Management Institute (BMLI) undergo training in Project Cycle Management with Writing Proposal and Budget Proposal at Apo View Hotel, Davao City on January 13-19, 2013 geared to enhance their knowledge in managing projects and draft project proposals. The activity was facilitated by the Institute for Socio-Economic Development Initiatives based in Ateneo de Davao University and funded by Japan International Cooperation Agency.

The participants learned project monitoring and evaluation, logical framework, objective analysis, stakeholders’ analysis, and the essence of project management team. They also underwent tedious workshops in drafting project proposals. A pool of experts from the academe namely Prof. Roberto Ma. Arquiza, Dr. Gilieta Ruiz, Prof Luz Canave-Anung and Deanna Bandayonon handled the series of lectures and workshops.

BDA Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation Officers, Institutional Development Officers and some Community Organizer Supervisor coming from its six regional offices joined the activity together with three personnel from BLMI namely Zami K. Unti, Administrator, Steering Committee Member Mmhammad Ishaq Macapoli of the BMLI and BDA-BLMI Coordinator Basser Ayob. The BDA is tasked to determine, lead and manage relief, rehabilitation and development programs in conflict affected areas of Mindanao.

On the other hand, the BLMI as a human resource development institution continuously provides capability-building skills on leadership, management and governance to the Moro people through seminars and trainings. To date, the learning institution has served hundreds of Moro community leaders, women, youth, students, development workers and organization leaders. It has a two-storey training center found at Simuay, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao Province. Its construction was funded by Japan and the Philippine Government in support to the GPH-MILF peace process.

Currently, the BDA implements projects supported by United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), JICA and World Bank. Under the UNICEF-funded Tahdeeriyah Program, around 500 Madaris all over Mindanao is being developed to have kindergarten classes that are compliant with the requirements of the Department of Education. Recently, it has translated modules into ten local dialects including Tiboli and Teduray.

The BDA also implements development projects in target communities in Mindanao and islands of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-tawi being funded by the World Bank under the Mindanao Trust Fund-Reconstruction and Development Program (MTF-RDP) and JICA-funded CD CAAM that is still on pilot stage.

Abdulrashid Piang, Community Organizer Supervisor (COS) from BDA-SouthMin implementing MTF-RDP was thankful for the training, citing “it enhanced our knowledge in managing projects and we learned the basics of drafting project proposal.”

“The knowledge we gained in this contributes a lot to personnel development of the BLMI,” Basser Ayob Darwisa Jamilon, BDA MTF-RDP COS from Zamboanga Peninsula said the training indeed enriched her skills in project management. “It’s my first time to learn Project Proposal Writing which is crucial knwoledge for us working in community development,” she disclosed.

US pivot to Asia to help stabilize region

From the Manila  Standard Today (Jan 19): US pivot to Asia to help stabilize region

A United States lawmaker on Friday said the US presence in the Asia-Pacific region would help “stabilize’ security in the region amid the ongoing territorial dispute in the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea). US Representative Ed Royce, chairman of the U.S House Committee on Foreign Relations, made the assurance in a meeting with Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario when the country’s top envoy visited Washington recently. “Representative Royce reiterated his commitment to a strong alliance between the Philippines and the United States,” a statement from the Foreign Affairs Department said.

In recent months, countries belonging to the Association of South East Nations have been rocked by diplomatic spats, mainly because of what they claimed as China’s increasingly aggressive stance in the South China Sea. Royce also downplayed fears that the US budget reduction may impact on its diplomatic relations with Asia, particularly in the areas of security and military alliances.
He said that with the increasing number of Filipino-American lawmakers in the US, Royce said that he does not see that budget reduction would affect Washington’s relations with Manila.

“I don’t believe any sequestration or budget reduction would have any marked impact on US engagement in Asia, particularly in bolstering security and military alliances. Asia represents half of the global economy. We need to keep the peace and keep the shipping lines open. The supremacy of international law must be respected,” Royce said.

Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Cuisia Jr., who was also at the meeting, said that del Rosario and Royce “renewed their commitment to promoting the historic and vital relationship between the two countries.” Del Rosario and Cuisia expressed their gratitude to the congressman for his support for the Save Our Industries Act (SAVE Act), a trade initiative in the US Congress which is aimed at promoting Philippine apparel and US textile industries. Royce said “we have to keep pushing it [the SAVE Act].”

“The US pivot to Asia should lean towards the Philippines, the oldest and one of the closest allies of the US in the region. The SAVE Act is (a) tangible evidence in trade policy of this pivot,” he added. Recognizing the importance of the alliance in the ambit of the US Congress, Royce assured del Rosario that he will help reinvigorate the Philippine-US Friendship Caucus. The Caucus is a bipartisan network of US congressmen which work for a robust bilateral partnership for democracy and regional security and recognizes the dynamic presence of Filipino Americans in the United States.

Royce is a long-time proponent of closer defense cooperation between the Philippines and the US, and has pushed for bilateral efforts against terrorism. He is also a staunch supporter of the rules-based approach to the West Philippine Sea issue and the peaceful resolution of disputes within the framework of international law.

China and the Philippines are embroiled in a simmering territorial dispute over the resource-rich chain of islands in the West Philippine Sea. China claims virtually the entire sea, while parts of it are being claimed in parts by the Philippines, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei Darussalam. The US presence in the region, however, was an unwelcome sight for China who had proposed bilateral talks to resolve the dispute. The United States, however, has backed the Philippine proposal of subjecting the issue in multilateral talks that would include parties with strategic interests to the peace and stability in the region.

U.S. ship remains stuck on Tubbataha Reef; PH authorities to determine extent of damage

From InterAksyon (Jan 18): U.S. ship remains stuck on Tubbataha Reef; PH authorities to determine extent of damage

USS Guardian stuck on Tubbataha Reef. Photo from AFP Western Command

The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and the Tubbataha Management Office will determine the extent of damage on Tubbataha Reef off Palawan after United States Navy minesweeper USS Guardian ran aground in the marine sanctuary Thursday morning. A team, which will include divers, would check on the sanctuary’s pristine coral reef, Lt. Cmdr. Armand Balilo, PCG spokesperson, said.  Balilo added the Coast Guard might also ask for an explanation from the US ship's crew on the circumstances that led to the incident.

The ship remains stuck on the reef.  Major Oliver Banaria, commander of the Palawan-based 6th Civil Relations Group of the military, said a navy gunboat has spotted a foreign "support vessel" in the area, MSV Champion, a civilian vessel which will reportedly provide support to USS Guardian

Banaria said his office had yet to receive any request for assistance from the US Navy ship. "The Tubbataha marine management will determine the damage because that place is a heritage site," Banaria told reporters on Friday.

Meanwhile, the militant group Bayan (Bagong Alyansang Makabayan) said the incident once again raised questions on the Visiting Forces Agreement. "Our officials should have the political will to decisively make them accountable," said Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr.

'US ship had no permit to enter the sanctuary'

For its part, The Tubbataha Management Office said the US warship did not have permit or clearance to enter the protected marine sanctuary, an act required by law. Under Section 19 of the Tubbataha Reefs National Park Act of 2009 (Republic Act 10067), the area is “off-limits to navigation, except for activities that are sanctioned...such as, but not limited to, tourism and research." The law imposes a penalty of not less than six months but not more than one year and a fine of between P100,000 to P300,000. Ruel Alarcon, a research assistant at the Tubbataha Management Office, told Interaksyon that the law also imposes a fine of P12,000 per square meter of damaged corals. This is the first incident where a US warship ran aground at a protected marine sanctuary. Last 2005, environmental group Greenpeace was also fined after its ship struck coral reefs in the same area.

DFA: Govt to conduct own investigation

The Philippines will be conducting a separate investigation on the incident, Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman Raul Hernandez said on Friday. “We do not want to rely on the information [of the US embassy] alone, we would need to conduct our own research and our investigation to find out what really happened to the grounding of the ship,” Hernandez told the reporters. Officials will also “determine the legal violation connected with the incident,” he added.

“The Visiting Forces Agreement commission Executive director General Edilberto Adan is in touch with the Tubbataha management office as well as with the US embassy,” Hernandez said. Guardian forward-deployed to Sasebo, Japan, was commissioned on December 16, 1989, and has a crew of about 80 officers and crews, including eight Filipino-Americans.

Sailors evacuated

The U.S. Embassy announced late Friday that the crew members of USS Guardian had been evacuated.  Most of the sailors aboard theship were transferred to MV Champion, the military vessel deployed to provide assistance to the grounded vessel. Transfer should have been completed Friday afternoon. The embassy said initial efforts to the free the navy warship were unsuccessful and that the transfer of the crew was done as a "precautionary measure."

"A small complement of engineering and bridge personnel will remain aboard and work with a U.S. Navy team in an attempt to free Guardian with minimal environmental impact. The remaining seven Sailors, which include the commanding officer and executive officer, will also be transferred if conditions become unsafe," the embassy said.

The US Embassy further said that, "The US Navy recognizes that the Tubbataha Reef is a unique and treasured environment, and every effort is being made to ensure the safety of the coral reef." "We are in close communication with the Philippine authorities, including the Tubbataha Management Office and we very much appreciate their cooperation," it added.

Reds to thwart Bautista’s objective to crush them

From the Daily Tribune (Jan 19): Reds to thwart Bautista’s objective to crush them

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) has vowed to frustrate newly installed Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff Lt. Gen. Emmanuel Bautista’s objective to render its armed-wing, the New People’s Army (NPA), irrelevant when he retires in 2014. “General Bautista cannot stop the momentum of growth of the New People’s Army,” the CPP said in a statement.

Instead, the CPP warned that the NPA will continue to strengthen its rank and lead more attacks. “The NPA continues to grow in number and in terms of firepower and is bound to increase in a more rapid pace in the coming years as the crisis of the ruling system worsens and subjects the mass of workers and peasants and middle class sectors to more intolerable conditions of oppression and exploitation,” said the CPP.

“Over the next few years, the NPA and the people’s militias will be able to initiate more frequent and widespread tactical offensives (on) the front, regional, inter-regional and national levels,” it added. In his assumption speech on Thursday, Bautista vowed to render the insurgents irrelevant before he retires on July 2014, through the military’s internal peace and security plan Bayanihan. However, the CPP vowed to frustrate Bautista.

“The worsening abuses committed by the AFP and its attached paramilitaries under the Oplan Bayanihan war of suppression further incite the Filipino people to wage armed resistance in their effort to advance their struggle for land reform, resist the incursion of foreign mining and plantation operations, fight for better working conditions and higher wages, stand against the demolition of communities and oppose the government’s abandonment of education, health and other public services,” it said.

“As during the time of Marcos, the abuses committed by the reactionary military and police are among the biggest reasons for the initial motivation of people to join the New People’s Army,” the CPP added.

With Bautista, who is credited with being the chief architect of IPSP Bayanihan, the CPP said it expects worsening cases of human-rights abuses accompanied by more publicity gimmicks to cover up such abuses.’s-objective-to-crush-them

MILF: Bangsamoro deal needs Cha-cha

From the Daily Tribune (Jan 18): MILF: Bangsamoro deal needs Cha-cha

While the Aquino administration had insisted that Charter change (Cha-cha) is not needed to put up the so-called Bangsamoro substate under an agreement between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is forged, MILF spokesman Mohaguer Iqbal said the Bangsamoro Framework Agreement can be implemented only after the Constitution is amended.

Before a forum held by the Foreign Correspondents Association, Iqbal said while the government believes there is no need for Charter change and the present set-up can accommodate it, the MILF believes Charter change is required, Iqbal said. He hinted that the government side in the peace negotiations already knows the position of the MILF on the need for constitutional amendments for the agreement to take effect.

The so-called memorandum of agreement for ancestral domain (MoA-AD) signed between the MILF and the previous administration was struck down by the Supreme Court for being unconstitutional. That agreement also required amendments in the Constitution for its implementation.  “We will finish peace talks first before discussing Cha-cha,” Iqbal added. Iqbal was accompanied by Abdulla Camlian, also member of the MILF peace panel, and MILF peace panel consultant, Sukrey Saaber. The forum also tackled prospects for the country in 2013 in the areas of security, politics and economy and business.

The framework agreement has been assailed by some sectors as not being different from the MoA-AD and that the Bangsamoro homeland was similar to the Bangsamoro juridical entity which was declared as unconstitutional by the SC. The agreement also was very vague on specifics including the terms on power and wealth sharing and the decommissioning of firearms.

The MILF has said it will order its fighters to lay down their arms only after the Bangsamoro government is in place and operational in Mindanao, southern Philippines.  MILF chairman Al-Haj Murad Ebrahim said at this point the issue of decommisioning of firearms by the MILF fighters was still under discussion with the Philippine government. He disclosed this to Malaysian government-run news service Bernama when approached while attending the just-concluded 8th World Islamic Economic Forum.

Murad reminded that the relevant parties needed to create the proper situation on the ground first, before kick starting the process of decommissioning of firearms by his fighters. He said the issue of decommissioning of firearms should not concern the MILF fighters only, but also involved the government militias called the Civilian Volunteers.  “They should also be subjected to decommissioning (of firearms),” according to him.

The MILF and the Philippine government successfully inked a framework agreement, ending the long-running conflict between both parties which claimed thousands of lives and left the resource-rich Mindanao region impoverished. The framework agreement between MILF and Manila was brokered by Malaysia and signed at the Malacanang Palace Oct 15. The historic event was witnessed by the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and President Benigno Aquino III.  The rebel leader said that the people in Mindanao would not have any need to carry firearms if there was prevailing peace and security on the ground.

RP to seek damages for US navy ship mishap

From the Daily Tribune (Jan 19): RP to seek damages for US navy ship mishap

The government will seek damages from the United States after a navy ship ran aground on a coral reef in a protected marine reserve, an official yesterday said. The USS Guardian remained trapped on the Tubbataha Reef, about 130 kilometers southeast of Palawan, even after most of its crew members were removed in a bid to get it refloated. Officials said the 224-foot minesweeper, based in Susebo, Japan, was destroying coral in the Unesco World Heritage Site where entry is restricted and permits are required.

Foreign Undersecretary Raul Hernandez said the United States, the country’s main defense ally, had provided some information on the incident but the government would conduct its own investigation.
“We are now asking our government agencies to investigate the incident and make an assessment on the damage caused by this and the legal obligation,” he stressed.

The penalty would depend on the amount of damage caused by the ship, Hernandez said. The superintendent of Tubbataha marine park, Angelique Songco, said the ship was lying on about 10 meters of coral and that strong winds and waves were pushing it along the reef, causing further damage. “The winds are getting stronger, the waves are getting larger and the hull is destroying the reef,” she told Agence Fracne Presse.

She questioned why the ship, which had just made a port call in Subic Bay, was passing through Tubbataha. “There was an absence of good faith here. They did not even report (the grounding.) Our rangers just discovered them there. I don’t know what they wanted,” she said. The US navy should be liable for entering the marine reserve without a permit, damaging corals and for non-cooperation with local officers, she said, adding the fine would depend on the extent of the damage.

The local office of the environmental group the World Wildlife Fund also criticized the US navy, saying it was “both baffling and lamentable” that the USS Guardian would enter Tubbataha without a permit.
The Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment said: “This incident shows us how the United States military forces have brazenly disrespected our laws and damaged our country’s environment and national treasures.” Tubbataha is popular among divers for its walls of coral and diverse ecosystem that environmentalists say rivals that of the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.
The US navy said the USS Guardian was on its way to an unidentified “port of call” when the incident occurred. The Philippines, which once hosted large US military bases, has been improving its defense ties with the US in recent months as a counterweight to increased Chinese aggression.

CPP: US incursion in Tubbataha Reefs and damage to wildlife underscore demand to abrogate VFA--CPP

From the CPP Website (Jan 18): US incursion in Tubbataha Reefs and damage to wildlife underscore demand to abrogate VFA--CPP

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) condemned the US military for its incursion into the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park in the Sulu Sea causing damage to the corals after the marooning of its naval warship within the wildlfe protected area. Reports yesterday indicate that the USS Guardian, a US naval countermeasure ship, ran aground at around 2:30am within the Tubbataha Reefs, a marine park designated in 1993 as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. US naval personnel barred Park rangers from approaching the grounded ship which entered the heritage park without prior authorization.

“The entry of the USS Guardian in the protected area without prior notice or authorization shows the arrogance of the US military who swagger around Philippine territory in complete disregard of Philippine sovereignty,” said the CPP. “They are doing so with the all-out support of its puppet Benigno Aquino Jr. who has openly fawned on the US military as its guardian and benefactor.”

“The failure of the Aquino government to stand up against the persistent incursions of the US in Philippine territory reveals its puppetry to the US imperialists,” said the CPP. “It reveals the hypocrisy behind Aquino’s rhetorics against China. He raises protests over China’s claims to territories in the Southern China Sea which are within the 200-mile economic zone of the Philippines, but is overjoyed at the sight of a cavalcade of US nuclear-warships sailing in our sovereign waters and docking wherever and whenever they want,” said the CPP.

“The damage of the corals at Tubbataha caused by the USS Guardian is only a small part of the bigger damage being caused by the permanent presence of US troops, ships, drones and jetfighters in the Philippines,” said the CPP. “The much bigger picture involves the subjection of the Philippines to US military dominance, in order to use the Philippines as a platform for US hegemonist power projection in the Asia-Pacific region to achieve military and economic dominance in the region.”

“The damaging of the Tubbataha reefs underscore the demand of the Filipino people for the immediate abrogation of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA),” said the CPP. “They demand an end to the permanent presence of US troops, the involvement of US advisers in the domestic armed conflict, the participation of American soldiers in local combat operations, the persistent entry and rotational docking of US naval warships and flying of US jet fighters and unmanned drones in Philippine sovereign airspace.”

CPP: NPA takes prisoners of war, defeats military raid vs AFP operations in Typhoon Pablo-ravaged towns

From the CPP Website (Jan 18): NPA takes prisoners of war, defeats military raid vs AFP operations in Typhoon Pablo-ravaged towns

As the AFP and the US-Aquino regime resumed its fascist counterrevolutionary campaign in typhoon-ravaged countryside, the New People’s Army (NPA) secured two Prisoners of War and defeated a military raid against a detached team of NPA political officers in Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental provinces. This, after the Merardo Arce Command-Southern Mindanao Regional Operations Command-NPA has directed all its units to take active military offensive stance after it lifted its temporary ceasefire last January 15.

In an NPA checkpoint, operatives from the Guerilla Front 34 Operations Command arrested and detained 60th Infantry Battalion’s Pfc. Jesrel Colanggo, and PNP’s SPO1 Ruel Pasion on January 17, 2013 at around 8:00 AM in Brgy. Mangloy, Laak town. The NPA also confiscated a 45 caliber pistol in their possession. The two prisoners of war are being treated well, their safety are of primordial consideration, as the NPA abides the tenets of international humanitarian law.

The NPA checkpoint was conducted to prevent undesirable elements and to counter the fascist Special Operations Team of the 60th IB under the AFP’s Oplan Bayanihan. The 60th IB’s bloody record against the masses included the summary execution of peasant Totong Mabinse of Brgy. Datu in Laak town, and the forced recruitment and coercive surrender of peasants.

The day before, on January 16, the 67th Infantry Brigade and 72nd IB troops raided a detached team of NPA political officers belonging to the Guerilla Front 15 Operations Command in Sitio Limot, Brgy. Binondo, in Baganga town, Davao Oriental at around 7 AM. The Red fighters were alerted and battled it out in a counter-defensive measure, but the team left its two high-powered rifles at the scene.

The Red fighters have detached from the main front guerilla unit at the time of the ceasefire to solicit goods for the relief and rehabilitation program of the People’s Democratic Government for the Typhoon Pablo victims.

In the ongoing brigade-wide operations of the 67th IB and 28th IB of the 701st Brigade in the towns of Baganga, Manay, Mati and Lupon in Davao Oriental, the AFP troops have gone berserk in violating the human rights of the poor, suffering Typhoon Pablo victims. The fascist troops blocked the entry and exit of residents in Sitios Tigbawan, Limot, Mantapay and Bagangan of Brgy. Binondo in Baganga town, and Sitios 72 and Tangaan of Brgy. Manurigao in New Bataan town.

The NPA perseveres in taking part of the People’s Democratic Government’s medium-term program for the recovery of damaged farms and livelihood of suffering masses in Typhoon Pablo-hit areas in the region. As the people’s war escalates, it will defeat the abusive and deceptive Oplan Bayanihan that has made the lives of Pablo victims worse than ever.

CPP/NDF: Worsening crisis, a favorable condition to revolt to achieve genuine peace and development

Posted to the CPP Website (Jan 18): Worsening crisis, a favorable condition to revolt to achieve genuine peace and development

Frank Fernandez
NDF Negros Island Chapter

At the onset of 2008 until now, the CENTCOM-AFP Visayas and the 3rd ID Phil Army has made Negros a priority area for their counter-revolutionary campaign. If we are to base on their press statements and media interviews on their political and military accomplishments, the NPA forces are described to be fast dwindling and the Negros revolutionary movement as weakening. However the truth speaks otherwise because every year the revolutionary forces accumulate strength. Furthermore every year, more and more AFP and PNP troops including the para-military are added for deployment in Negros. In the midst of the militarization of the countrysides, urban communities, school campuses in Negros island , fascist crimes are also on the rise along with human rights violations committed by members of the reactionary army and police.

The failures of Oplan Bayanihan in suppressing the revolutionary movement is also the same with the failures of Oplan Bantay Laya 1 and 2 of the Macapagal-Arroyo regime, Oplan Makabayan of the Estrada Regime, Oplan Lambat Bitag 1,2,3 and 4 of the Aquino and Ramos regime and Oplan Mamamayan of the Marcos regime. Their repeated failures are not in the forms of the president in power and the changing of “Oplans” of the AFP, but on the essence of the bases and nature of the wars of the AFP and the PNP as pro-imperialists and pro big landlords and compradors and being anti-people, anti development and anti- Peace for the perpetuation of the oppressive semi-colonial and semi-feudal system of the Philippines.

NDF-Negros strongly condemns the combined elements of the intelligence units of the Phil Army and the PNP-Negros Oriental under the operational control of Col. Patrimonio of the 302nd Bde. Phil Army in the arrest of an innocent civilian mistaken to be Filemon Mendres allegedly considered as the number 6 most wanted NPA commander last December 25, 2012 in Brgy Tubod, Manjuyod, Negros Oriental.

Col, Patrimonio and his men including the PNP in Negros should be ashamed when they boast of “big accomplishment” that resulted to the weakening of the revolutionary movement. They should also stop the physical and mental torture of the innocent victim they forced to admit to be “Filemon Mendres”. We challenge Maj. Gen. Jose Mabanta of the 3rd ID Infentry Division, Phil Army to order Col. Patrimonio and the provincial commander of Negros Oriental to immediately release the innocent arrested, make a public apology and penalized the responsible officials of the Phil Army.

The failure of the intelligence units and strike operations of the Phil Army and the PNP is just a result of their desperate acts to recover from their disgrace and demoralization of the Phil Army units under the operational control of the 302nd Brigade, Phil Army. They cannot accept their failures last of the December 13, 2012 encounter between the the combined forces of the Scout Ranger unit and the 11th IB in Sitio Mapaho-paho, San Agustin, Isabela. Despite the superiority of their forces and firepower and training, they were routed by a platoon size guerrilla force of the NPA, that according to the statement of the Leonardo Panaligan Command- Central Negros, enemy forces suffered 3 KIA, 2 missing, more than 4 wounded on the side of the AFP. The NPA confiscated 2 highpowered firearms, excluding 1 that was damaged, and other military logestics. On the part of Col. Patrimonio, beside his share on the P5.5 million bounty for the head of Felimon Mendres, he tried to make a sensational operation in order not to jeopardize his promotion for a higher position on 2013.

Col Patrimonio was more desperate on the latest case of the arrest of an innocent civilian. This only expose the true nature of the AFP and PNP as fascist instruments of the local exploiting class and imperialist power and also depicts the nature of Oplan Bayanihan of the US –Aquino regime which is anti-people, anti-development and anti-Peace.

Cols Patrimonio and Lactao of the 303rd Bde Phil Army and Gov. Alfredo Maranon Jr demonstrate the true image of the ruling state of the big compradors and landlords that is primarily represented by the Aquino regime. After the encounter between the units of the AFP and the NPA, they went to San Agustin, Isabela and further sow fascist terror and psy-war against the people thru CMO related activities. The high officials of the military and civilian government collaborated with one another to cover up their fascist crimes against the indigenous people (tumandok). The fascists insist that they didn’t commit human rights violations despite the insistence of the indigenous people, victims and the local barangay captain on the threats and intimidations , forced labor, torture and illegal arrest of 19 members of the local indigenous people. Later they were force to release 11 of those arrested, however because of the arrogance of the said military officials and the governor , 8 of the arrested innocents remain in jail and were slapped with fabricated cases and perjurious evidences.

The worsening fascist brutality and intensification of the counter revolutionary campaign of the AFP and the PNP is but a reflection of the aggravating crisis of the economic and political of the backward semi-feudal Philippines, that is now being shaken by the policies of the “neo-liberal” and the so called “war against terror” of US imperialism that is obediently followed by President Aquino.
Under the Aquino regime, national patrimony and sovereignty , and all sectors of the economy and market were put under the control and domination of the foreign capitalists in collaboration of the big compradors and landlord and bureaucrat officials to accumulate big profits and kick-backs. If these pests are happy when they say that the economy is improving, this only mean that under the Aquino administration, the imperialist policies were implemented more swiftly to include the economic and political programs for the country.

On the other hand, the concentration of the wealth and resources of the country is now just limited to a few foreign capitalists and local ruling class that resulted to the worsening poverty and hunger of the majority of the people. The unrestricted and aggressive mining operations, agri-business and eco-tourism ventures in the countrysides also aggravate the ejection of national minorities in their ancestral domain and the poor peasants from their land even if they are CLOA holders, fisherfolks have also lost their fishing grounds. Workers are also suffering because of low wages and lack of benefits, more and more laborers are losing their jobs as small and medium enterprises and even the big manufacturing sector close down their operations or were absorbed by bigger business monopolies.

The urban poor cannot escape the cruelty of the “neo-liberal” policy. Local government units (LGU)has forcefully demolished urban poor communities to give way to the business interest of foreign capitalists and their local partners-business groups like the Sy, Ayala, Gokongwei, Pangilinan, Razon, Cojuangco, Lopez, Aboitiz and others. Because of the lack of funds and the big loans of the reactionary government, the payment of loans is pass over to the people thru the collection of all kinds of high taxes. On the other hand the reactionary government condones big capitalists, oil cartels and local big business by collecting only a small percentage on their taxes despite their big profits incurred on the prices of their goods and services that further worsen the sufferings of the people.
In order to diffuse or soften the explosion of the social crisis, the government has become a big labor recruitment agency in order to absorbed a small portion of jobless professionals, skilled and semi-skilled workforce and there is the much bigger percentage of the labor force that is being exported to other countries that need their skills. The reactionary government answers the peasants and national minorities with the 4 Ps program and other “relief only livelihood projects” in coordination with the military offensives of the AFP and PNP in order to terrorize the people not to launch legal or illegal, armed and unarmed mass struggles.

In order to give the big foreign investors a peaceful business environment, the AFP and PNP launch sustained and large military operations against the CPP-NPA and other revolutionary forces in order to crush them according to the schedule of the Aquino government’s Oplan Bayanihan in three years. Alongside with this scheme the Aquino government tries to trick the CPP-NPA and NDFP to enter into a trap by entering into a peacetalk that is based on an unprincipled reactionary constitution of the GRP and also promote localized peace talks that is aimed to weaken and the surrender of the revolutionary forces.

Because the Aquino reactionary government is in no position to solve the basic needs of implementing genuine agrarian reform and nationalist industrialization and in going against the intervention of US imperialism in the internal affairs of the country, the economic and political crisis is bound to worsen even more. This enflames the people’s anger and restiveness against the US-Aquino government and demand for the fundamental changes in Philippine society.

The revolutionary forces in Negros have long been tempered by the valuable lessons from the negative and positive experiences in confronting the brutal and intensified military offensives in 2008-2012. Their revolutionary stand has become firmed and determined to exploit the favorable situation to fulfill the essential requisites in strengthening the revolutionary forces and contribute to the advance of the armed struggle to strategic stalemate, in a just and protracted peoples war and until the victory of the democratic revolution of the people for national freedom and democracy.

Filipino youth group slams U.S. Navy destruction of protected Philippine atoll

From the Mindanao Examiner (Jan 18): Filipino youth group slams U.S. Navy destruction of protected Philippine atoll

A Filipino youth group called Anakbayan has slammed the U.S. Navy for damaging Tubbataha Reef and blocking Philippine investigation on the incident. It said the presence of the USS Guardian, a mine sweeper, is poison to the seas and sovereignty of the Philippines. "The area is off-limits to the ship yet the U.S. Navy has the gall to keep the probe to themselves and make us wait, this is a grave offense to our independence," Anakbayan Chairperson Vencer Crisostomo said in a statement to the Mindanao Examiner.

The USS Guardian ran aground on Wednesday and damaged the coral reef in Tubbataha. The US Navy has reportedly secured the area and would not let local park official near the ship. "Tubbataha is a World Heritage Site. Damaging the corals is tantamount to killing the species that thrive in it. The presence of the U.S. ship is poison, a plague to our seas and sovereignty," Crisostomo said.

The youth leader added that Aquino's silence on the matter and lack of outrage is sign of puppetry. "The Aquino administration must also be held accountable for allowing unbridled entry of US ships, his being an Amboy is costing us our natural resources," Crisostomo said. "This is proof that Visiting Forces Agreement (between the two countries) should be scrapped and U.S. troops should stop operations in our country." The Visiting Forces Agreement grants immunity to U.S. military personnel deployed in the Philippines.

"We have been calling to junk VFA with all its one-sided provisions, but government did nothing. Now look at the US Navy leaving the government in powerless to even probe the damage," Crisostomo said. "The agreement gives them the nerve to act like we are their subordinates, that they can disregard our laws. It's time to junk the VFA before further damage is done to our seas and our sovereignty."

Most crew leaves US Navy ship stuck in Philippines

From the Philippine Star (Jan 18): Most crew leaves US Navy ship stuck in Philippines

The U.S. Navy says for safety reasons, most crew members have left a minesweeper that ran aground on a coral reef in the Philippines. The Navy's 7th Fleet said Friday that initial efforts to free the USS Guardian during a high tide were not successful. As a precautionary measure, 72 of the 79 crew were transferred to a support vessel.

It says a small team of personnel will remain aboard and attempt to free the ship with minimal environmental impact. The remaining seven sailors, including the commanding and the executive officer, will also be transferred if conditions become unsafe.

The ship struck a reef Thursday while in transit through the Tubbataha National Marine Park, a World Heritage Site in the Sulu Sea, 640 kilometers (400 miles) southwest of Manila.

Leftist rebels seize policeman, soldier in Compostela

From the Philippine Star (Jan 18): Leftist rebels seize policeman, soldier in Compostela

Leftist rebels have abducted a soldier and a policeman in the southern Philippines and operations have been launched to rescue the victims, the military said today. About 30 New People's Army guerrillas, at least a dozen of whom in military uniforms, set up a checkpoint along a village road in typhoon-devastated Compostela Valley province in Mindanao, and snatched a soldier and a policeman, according to Jacob Obligado, commander of the army's 10th civil-military operations battalion.

Obligado said the incident happened around 9:30 a.m. on Thursday in Imelda village, with the insurgents stopping motorists and conducting personal checks. "(The soldier) was on his way to visit his girlfriend at the nearby village when seized," Obligado told Xinhua in a text message. He said the victims had happened to pass by the rebel checkpoint when abducted. The kidnappers then fled, bringing along with them the two victims.

Hundreds of families flee as clan war erupts in Maguindanao

From the Philippine Star (Jan 18): Hundreds of families flee as clan war erupts in Maguindanao

Hundreds of families have fled dawn today as fierce fighting between two warring clans erupted in the restive southern Philippines, a local military official said. Col. Dickson Hermoso, head of the military's 6th Division public affairs, said local MILF fighters leaded by Commander Bigcog surprisingly launched attacks around 2:30 a.m. against followers of Otto Montawal, mayor of Datu Montawal, a town in Maguindanao.

Hermoso said hundreds of families have evacuated to safer grounds as the fierce gun battle spread out in nearby villages. There have been no reports of casualties from both sides. "Firing of guns can still be heard along the national highway. Local officials are trying to pacify both parties involved," he said. The military official said the fighting has something to do with long standing land feud between Bigcog and Montawal.

In Mindanao, clan war is common among warring clans and sometimes the hostilities could last for decades until a peace pact is reached by protagonists, usually through mediation by religious leaders and the payment of blood money.

US gov’t boosts response for ‘Pablo’ victims

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 18): US gov’t boosts response for ‘Pablo’ victims

The government of United States, through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), has allocated an additional $ 4 million (P164 million) to the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) to further boost the Philippine government’s typhoon Pablo (international name Bopha) response.

The additional funding allocation brings the total U.S. Government commitment to the Pablo humanitarian response to $ 12.4 million (P508.4 million), according to a statement released Friday by the U.S. Embassy. This latest contribution, given through the Emergency Food Security Program of USAID’s Office of Food for Peace, enabled WFP to purchase 3,400,000 kilograms (3,400 metric tons) of rice enough to feed 170,000 people for two months, as well as to roll out cash-for-work activities.

USAID Mission Director Gloria Steele, Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) Executive Director Janet Lopoz, Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Regional Director Priscilla Razon, and WFP Country Director Stephen Anderson led Friday the handover of an initial 1,750,000 kilograms (1,750 metric tons) of rice at the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Depot in Barangay Panacan, Davao City. The balance of the contribution is expected to be handed over in February.

“This additional support will help thousands of affected Mindanaoans recover from the impact of the disaster and enable them to rebuild their lives,” Steele said in a statement Friday. The US assistance will complement DSWD and WFP early recovery activities for affected communities through the cash-for-work (CFW) program, which will be rolled out in areas where local markets are functioning properly. CFW is aimed to address immediate food security needs, while also stimulating the local economy in affected areas by giving communities the ability to purchase food items of their choice from the market.

“WFP warmly welcomes this timely and generous cash donation from the U.S. Government, which will greatly boost our ability to flexibly support the Government of the Philippines in this enormous task of helping families and communities severely affected by Typhoon Bopha,” Anderson said. This latest rice contribution from USAID is in addition to 2,100,000 kilograms (2,100 metric tons) of rice valued over $ 2.5 million (P106.6 million), which U.S. Ambassador Harry Thomas, Jr. announced last December 21.

“We are pleased to support the families and communities in typhoon-affected areas who are trying to return to their normal lives. We will continue to work closely with the Philippine Government to respond to their needs,” U.S. Chargé d’Affaires Brian L. Goldbeck noted.

Warring clans clash anew in Maguindanao town

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 18): Warring clans clash anew in Maguindanao town

Residents in three villages in Datu Montawal town in Maguindanao province fled after warring clans clashed anew in Poblacion, around 2 a.m. Friday, a former village official said. Abdul Pandita of Poblacion, Datu Montawal said the displaced families, mostly from villages in Tunggol, Dungguan, and Talapas, have sought temporary shelter at Dungguan Elementary School and Ligawasan Elementary School, both in Datu Montawal and situated along the Datu Montawal-Pikit highway.

Pandita said the fighting started when the group of a certain Commander Bigkog of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) attacked the position of the private Army of Datu Andy Montawal. Datu Andy is with a certain Medtalicop Montawal, Pandita said. Datu Andy, records from the police said, is wanted for murder and rape charges filed against him since 2008. Pandita said the deployment of Datu Andy’s own Army in some areas outside the Poblacion had angered Commander Bigkog. He explained he happened to know Bigkog’s plan because he was once part of the group.