Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Hard day for the Army

From the Manila Standard Today (Jan 23): Hard day for the Army

THE military took a beating on Tuesday after it absorbed at least 15 casualties, including one fatality, in at least four separate clashes in as many provinces in Mindanao, according to military reports submitted on the very day President Aquino installed new Army commander Lt. Gen. Noel Coballes.

The military reports said a soldier was killed while six others were wounded in ambuscades staged by the communist New People’s Army in the provinces of Davao Oriental, Misamis Oriental and Bukidnon, all within a period of eight hours. At the same time, Abu Sayyaf bandits ambushed a truckload of Army special forces in the hinterlands of Basilan province, resulting in the injury of seven commandos.

The series of incidents started shortly after 12:20 a.m. of Tuesday when two trucks bearing troops of the 28th Infantry Battalion hit a landmine in Lupon, Davao Oriental, according to Lt. Col. Eugenio Julio Osias IV, spokesman of the 4th Infantry Division.

Osias said the soldiers were on their way back to headquarters from security and combat operations when the second truck in the convoy hit the landmine.“Six were wounded and immediately brought to the provincial hospital, but one soldier did not make it. Private First Class Jhasam Diaz died while being treated in the hospital. The rest of the injured are now at the Tagum Regional Hospital and Davao Oriental Provincial Hospital in Mati City,” Osias said.

Five hours later, the second incident happened around 5:20 a.m. when government forces encountered a squad of NPA rebels and engaged them in a 40-minure gunfight in San Fernando, Bukidnon.

As the battle ended in Bukidnon, the third incident happened around 6 a.m. in the coastal town of Kinoguitan in Misamis Oriental with 100 NPA rebels in full-battle gear raided the town, set up checkpoints and ransacked the homes of known soldiers and retired policemen.

The fourth clash occurred 7:40 a.m. in Ungkaya Pukan town in Basilan when Abu Sayyaf bandits ambushed patrolling troops of the 4th Scout Ranger Battalion and wounded seven commandos, according to Western Mindanao Command spokesman Col. Rodrigo Gregorio. disclosed that seven soldiers were wounded when the Abu Sayyaf bandits ambushed them around(missing text).

Gregorio said seven soldiers were wounded in the 20-minute firefight but the Abu Sayyaf bandits fled upon the arrival of reinforcements. The wounded soldiers were airlifted to the Camp Navarro General Hospital in Zamboanga City.


Navy divers ordered to scour Tubbataha area for oil spill

From the Business Mirror (Jan 22): Navy divers ordered to scour Tubbataha area for oil spill

MALACAÑANG confirmed on Tuesday that Coast Guard and Navy divers have been deployed to check for possible oil spill from a US minesweeper that ran aground in Tubbataha Reef causing damage in the supposed to be off limits marine sanctuary that has been declared as a national treasure and a World Heritage site.
Briefing Malacañang reporters on Tuesday, Palace Deputy Spokesman Abigail Valte said the government has set up an operations center at the site where the USS Guardian got stuck since Thursday last week.“Mayroon na pong operation center na itinayo doon at mayroon na pong dalawang assessment teams na nandoon from the side of the US and from the side of the Philippines,” she said as she affirmed that “kailangan magkaroon ng assessment on both sides.”
Explaining the sequence, Valte said the US side will first assess if there is any damage to their ship. “Sa atin naman po, bago magsimula ang actual salvage operation, meron na pong mga Coast Guard and Navy divers na bababa to gather information for a baseline assessment,” she added.
“After the US side has determined how exactly to get the ship out of there, sisimulan po ang salvage operations at pagkatapos po noon, our divers will go back down again to gather more data para magkaroon po ng comparison doon sa before and after matanggal doon ang USS Guardian,” the Palace official said.
Valte reported that Navy divers were given specific orders to gather data for a baseline assessment and “check for any indications of an oil spill.” But she hastened to clarify that “at this point wala pong indication na mayroong oil spill ngayon.”
“Nonetheless, katulad ng binanggit ni [Transportation] Secretary Emilio Abaya kahapon, meron na po tayong mga equipment na pinadala doon katulad nang mga oil [spill] boom in case kakailanganin. And, of course, let us all keep in mind that these operations do take into consideration the weather. So weather-permitting po lahat ng timetable na ito,” Valte added.

Tubbataha management: No timetable for USS Guardian removal

From GMA News (Jan 23): Tubbataha management: No timetable for USS Guardian removal

Citing weather conditions there, caretakers of Tubbataha Reef are not keen on imposing a timetable for the removal of the grounded US minesweeper USS Guardian from the area. Angelique Songco, superintendent of the Tubbataha Management Office, said on Wednesday they do not want to endanger the lives of crews tasked to get the vessel out of the site. "(L)ahat naman ay handa na. Naroon ang bapor, tugboats, naroon na lahat. Yun na lang panahon, kung papayagan sila makakilos doon. Kasi pag ipilit baka may involve na buhay. so nag-iingat talaga nang mabuti sila," Songco said in an interview on dzBB radio. The USS Guardian ran aground at Tubbataha Reef last Jan. 17 amid bad weather conditions.

Winds, big waves

On Tuesday, former PAGASA forecaster and GMA News resident meteorologist Nathaniel Cruz warned of winds and big waves from the northeast monsoon possibly affecting operations to remove the vessel. Earlier on Wednesday, PAGASA forecaster Buddy Javier also indicated big waves may affect such operations. However, Songco noted that as of Wednesday morning, the weather condition in the Tubbataha area appeared to be better than last Jan. 17, when the USS Guardian ran aground. "Tipong gumaganda naman kaunti ang panahon kesa noong 17. so we are hoping maalis na siya," she said.

Violations of PHL law

Meanwhile, Songco said her office will serve the US Navy with a formal notice listing violations of Philippine law. She said her office is not so keen on getting the US Navy to explain its actions as to have it pay the penalties for its violation. Songco said the fine is not so much about the money but making sure the Philippine government can enforce its laws. "This is about panindigan din. Sino ang maniniwala sa iyo kung batas di mo maipatupad?" she said.

In a statement, the Tubbataha Reefs Management Board said it will ask the US Navy to "take responsibility, and immediately pay the fines that can be estimated at this time." It said the violations that are evident at this time, include (http://tubbatahareef.org/news/624):
  • Section 19, unauthorized entry
  • Section 21, non-payment of conservation fee
  • Section 30, obstruction of law enforcement officer
It also cited Section 20, damages to the reef, and Section 26G, destroying resources.


NPA insurgents take out former comrade-in-arms

From the Manila Times (Jan 23): NPA insurgents take out former comrade-in-arms

A former rebel-turned-government militiaman was killed on Sunday by a group of armed men believed to be communist rebel hit men who roused him from sleep in Agusan del Norte province, reports said on Tuesday.

Reports sent to Camp Crame by the Caraga Regional Police Office identified the fatality as Nife Lapora, 23, married and a former communist rebel who became a member of Citizen Armed Forces Geographical Unit (Cafgu). The reports said that the shooting took place at about 9 p.m. on Sunday at District 9, Barangay Camagong in Nasipit, where the victim has been living since becoming a Cafgu member.

Lapora reportedly took a nap on a stockpile of falcata logs near a videoke house when a group of armed men approached and roused him from sleep, the reports said.

The reports added that while Lapora was conversing with one of the armed men, another member of the group pulled out a gun and shot Lapora twice hitting him on the chest and killing him the spot.

Joint elements of the army’s 58 Infantry Battalion and Public Safety Company from Agusan del Norte’s police office were dispatched in the area to chase the fleeing gunmen.


Bad weather delays retrieval of US ship

From the Manila Times (Jan 23): Bad weather delays retrieval of US ship

BAD weather continues to hamper the US Navy’s assessment and subsequent retrieval operation on USS Guardian, which got stuck off Tubbataha National Park in Sulu Sea last week, causing further damage to the reefs. “As of this time, I have no information if they have finished [their assessment] or not. But according to reports coming from the area, the weather has slightly improved and hopefully they can proceed with the assessment,” Commodore Joseph Rustom Peña, commander of Naval Forces West, said on Tuesday.

He added that Rear Admiral Thomas Carney, commander of the Logistics Group of the US Western Pacific Command, has already arrived in the area to oversee the recovery operations. Carney, he further said, has discussed his plans with Coast Guard officials and Transportation Undersecretary Eduardo Oban Jr.

According to Peña, the Department of transportation and communications and the Coast Guard would be the lead agencies for the Philippine side in the salvaging operation, while the Navy would provide the security. Coast Guard Palawan, Peña said, has already set up a command operation center to monitor the retrieval operation.

But Peña stressed that even Carney could not say for sure when the salvaging operation would start as it all depends the result of the US Navy’s assessment and on the weather situation in the area. “The intention is to retrieve [the ship] but they could not say when. It depends on the weather condition,” he further said.

Meanwhile, Lt. Cmdr. Armand Balilo, Coast Guard spokesman, said that the Americans have hired the services of Malayan Towage and Salvage Corp., a Subic-based Filipino firm, to assist in the retrieval of the USS Avenger. The said firm, he said, has already positioned one of its ships, the M/T Trabajador-1 in the area, to determine the best way to extract the stricken ship with the least damage to the reef. Balilo said that the USS Avenger remains in stable condition and no signs of oil leak have been detected so far.


Aquino: What was ship doing in heritage site?

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jan 22): Aquino: What was ship doing in heritage site?

President Aquino on Tuesday said the United States has to explain how and why its ship had run aground in a protected area like the Tubbataha Reefs but the “first priority” was to remove the USS Guardian and contain the damage it made in the world heritage site.

“After they do that and we’re finished with the immediate issue, then they have to answer so many things. What are you doing in an environmentally protected area?” Mr. Aquino told the Philippine Daily Inquirer in an interview following the turnover ceremonies of the new Commanding General of the Philippine Army at Fort Bonifacio. 

Mr. Aquino noted that US Navy ships had “some of the most sophisticated navigational equipment.”

“And when you assess liabilities and culpabilities, exactly what are the mechanisms or what do they have to pay us? Fines? What are the sanctions? But that has to be secondary to removing the ship,” he said.

Mr. Aquino said that in removing the USS Guardian from the reef, “we want to ensure that there would not be more damage created.”

“The first priority is stop the damage being made,” he said.

Mr. Aquino noted that the Coast Guard is already in the area with oil booms to ensure that it could immediately contain any leak from the ship.

Meanwhile, US Vice Adm. Thomas Carney, the Logistics Group Commander for the Western Pacific, left Puerto Princesa, Palawan, for Tubbataha Reef on Monday to oversee the recovery operations for the USS Guardian minesweeper.


4 dead, 6 wounded in clan war in Sultan Kudarat

From the Philippine Star (Jan 22): 4 dead, 6 wounded in clan war in Sultan Kudarat

At least four rebels have been killed while six others wounded in a clan war involving two Muslim rebel commanders in Sultan Kudarat today, local police said. Fierce fighting erupted late Tuesday at Pinguaman village, Lambayong, a town in Southern Philippine province of Sultan Kudarat, between the Commander Bansil's 106th Base Command of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the group's 105th Base Command led by Commander Bausad, town police commander Senior Inspector Emerson Policarpio told Xinhua by phone. The police officer said the skirmishes left four dead and two wounded on Bansil's side while four were injured in his opponent. More than 200 families have fled from their homes for fear of their safety. "We are on alert and we are making ways it will not escalate," he added. According to Mr. Policarpio, Bansil and Bausad have long been locked in dispute involving five hectares of land.


Rebels attack in Caraga, Normin

From the Mindanao Gold Star Daily (Jan 22): Rebels attack in Caraga, Normin

THE New People’s Army (NPA) started flexing its muscles by staging a raid on a banana plantation and attacking soldiers in Caraga and northern Mindanao since last weekend. The attacks came days after the lifting of the cease-fire declarations of the NPA and the government made during yuletide.

Heavily armed NPA rebels raided the banana plantation of Dole Philippines in Barangay Anahaw Daan Tago, Surigao del Sur, on Friday night. The military said the rebels destroyed some eight hectares of fully grown banana plants. 1Lt. Samuel Maglinao of the 29th Infantry Battalion said the rebels also fired at and destroyed four backhoes and a bulldozer.

Lt. Col. Virgulio Luna, the battalion’s commander, said the rebels ran off when troops came.
Luna said he suspected the raid was due to Dole’s refusal to pay a “revolutionary tax” allegedly being imposed by the NPA.

Rebels also attacked in a village, ransacking houses owned by a soldier and a former serviceman and an ex-police officer in Kinoguitan, Misamis Oriental, yesterday morning. Town police chief, Senior Insp. Cecilio Bato-bato, said at least 30 NPA rebels barged into the houses of army Private BenjaminTimbal of the 58th Infantry Battalion and retired sergeant Eliseo Salvacion and retired SPO4 Ananias Requerme at around 6:30 am, in Purok 4, Poblacion, Kinoguitan town.

He said rebels seized a caliber .45 pistol owned by Timbal and his army uniform. Bato-bato said rebels also stole from Salvacion’s and Requerme’s houses. But Lt. Col. Eugene Julio Osias IV, Camp Evangelista’s spokesperson, said the rebels also seized combat boots and other military items.

Osias said rebels set up checkpoints before raiding the houses which are near the town hall.
“No one was hurt,” he said. Osias said operating a team from the 58th Infantry Battalion led by 2Lt. Jeomar Zulueta quickly conducted clearing operations and was out to get the rebels. He also said the town police and military have also established defensive positions especially at the town hall. Another group of soldiers from Salay was fielded to help in the military offensive.

In Bukidnon, rebels and soldiers from the 8th Infantry Battalion exchanged firepower in Barangay Nala in the town of San Fernando at around 5:20 am yesterday. Lt. Co. Jose Maria Cuerpo II said the soldiers were patroling in the village after residents informed them about rebels in the area. There was no casualty report. Cuerpo said the rebels fled and left behind a rifle and bullets. “We are determining if the rebels suffered casualties,” he said.


MILF now probing on pocket hostilities

From the Mindanao Cross (Jan 22): MILF now probing on pocket hostilities

THE Moro Islamic Liberation Front is now investigating on the reported involvement of certain MILF groups in hostilities in Central Mindanao following the January 13 imposition of a nationwide gun ban by the Commission on Elections.

Just after the MILF announced its effort meant to address security issues involving alleged members, Commander Trebol, whose real name is Maguinda Sibangan, and his followers attacked a community of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) at Sitio Malabuaya in Kabacan, North Cotabato, not far from the border of the province with Maguindanao.

Senior Superintendent Danilo Peralta, director of the North Cotabato Provincial Police, said Sibangan targeted the group of Eddie Buisan, also known as Iranon Mansa.

Peralta said Sibangan, who belongs to the MILF’s 108th Base Command, and Buisan and his relatives are locked in a long-time rido, or clan war, which stemmed from a land conflict.

Peralta said the firefight, which lasted for about half an hour, sent villagers running for their lives and forced the closure of the Cotabato-Davao Highway traversing the scene of the encounter.

Two MNLF members, Nari Kamsa and Meno Maganaka, were wounded in the ensuing skirmish. They were rushed to the Kabacan Polymedic Hospital for medication.

Banisilan incident

Von Al-Haq, speaking on the MILF’s behalf, told reporters that the gunmen whot ambushed and killed Tuesday two security escorts of a barangay chairman in Banisilan town in North Cotabato could be guerrillas who have long been dropped from their roster of members due to various offenses.

“Some of them have long allied with local politicians,” Al-Haq said.

The fatalities, Takanda Mamukao and Muslimin Ampuan, were on their way to Midsayap, North Cotabato along with Sonny Kadil, who is the chairman of Barangay Pantar in Banisilan, on board separate motorcycles when gunmen emerged from one side of the road and shot them with assault rifles.

Kadil survived the ambush unscathed but Mamukao and Ampuan were not as lucky. They both died on the spot from gunshot wounds in different parts of their bodies.

“Lawless elements”

The Banisilan Municipal Police said Kadil, in a statement, already implicated a certain Commander Bataga as among the gunmen who perpetrated the attack.

Bataga is a known henchman of Commander Faron, a former MILF commander whom the local police and the military have long tagged as “lawless element” owing to his involvement in criminal activities that drew flak from local villagers.

Al-Haq said they would also look into what could have caused the deep-seated animosity between Kadil and his adversaries to determine possible solutions that can stave off recurring hostilities between them.

“The MILF leadership does not condone any misbehavior of any member. The MILF does not also allow any member to join partisan groups,” Al-Haq said.

Lt. Col. Roy Galido, commanding officer of the Army’s 40th Infantry Battalion, said Faron also has an existing tactical alliance with the group of a certain Commander Tanda, a former leader of the MNLF in Banisilan, who was also booted out of the MNLF for his involvement in lawless activities.

“All of them are of the same feathers now. They are all lawless elements now,” Galido said.

Galido recommended the participation of the government and the MILF’s joint cease-fire committee in addressing the peace and security concerns hounding Banisilan town.

Datu Piang hostilities
Al-Haq said they are also looking into the tension between two feuding groups in Datu Piang, Maguindanao that figured in a series of recent firefights, amidst Commission on Election’ nationwide ban on carrying of firearms, which started January 13.Sources from the Army’s 6th Infantry Division said the hostilities in Datu Piang involved the combined groups of Commanders Benaw and Duma Anayatin and their common enemy, Commander Quiapo, and his followers. Benaw and Anayatin are both identified with the MILF while Quiapo is known for his links with the MNLF.

Col. Hermoso said their commander, Maj. Gen. Caesar Ronnie Ordoyo, wants the conflict involving armed groups in Datu Piang settled peacefully by the town’s Peace and Order Council and the joint government-MILF cease-fire committee.

Hermoso, however, said the 6th ID will uphold its constitutional mandate to prevent innocent villagers from getting trapped in the hostilities between the feuding groups.


Soldiers clash with communist rebels in Bukidnon

From the Sun Star-Cagayan de Oro (Jan 22): Soldiers clash with communist rebels in Bukidnon

SOLDIERS from the 8th Infantry Battalion of the 4th Infantry Division encountered about 10 rebels of the New People’s Army (NPA) in San Fernando, Bukidnon, Monday morning. The troops were conducting combat clearing operation when residents tipped off information about the presence of the NPA rebels at Sitio Kasilaan in Barangay Halapitan.

The residents said the NPA rebels, allegedly led by Reynante Tumbalang alias Jigger of Sangay ng Platon Pampropaganda 3, Front Committee 6, North Central Mindanao Regional Committee, were conducting force taxation and collecting foodstuff from farmers.

A firefight between the soldiers and the NPAs later ensued, which lasted for about 40 minutes.
The soldiers later recovered one US Springfield Single Shot Garand rifle (defaced serial number) with four rounds of live ammunitions and assorted subversive documents.

“We are very thankful to the local residents for their cooperation of giving timely information to our troops. This is a concrete proof of the efforts of the people in the community to thwart the long existing abuses of the rebels towards them. They are now awakened and wanted to end their sufferings in the hands of these rebels,” said Colonel James V. Jacob, Commander of 403rd Infantry “Peacemaker” Brigade.

Lieutenant Colonel Jose Maria R. Cuerpo II, commanding officer of the 8th Infantry Battalion, said the troopers will continue to exert proactive actions to foil any forms of armed threat from hampering normal activities of the community.

Cuerpo stressed that maintenance of peace is their prime objective in carrying out their tasks to pave way for development in their area of operation. “Let us work together to put this extortionists in jail or better, convince them to stop these criminal activities,” added Lieutenant Colonel Eugenio Julio C. Osias IV, 4ID spokesperson.


3 soldiers hurt in Cotabato encounter

From the Sun Star-Davao (Jan 22): 3 soldiers hurt in Cotabato encounter

Three members of the Army’s Alpha Company of the 57th Infantry Battalion were wounded after an encounter with communist guerillas in North Cotabato, on Tuesday, a military official said. Lieutenant Colonel Noel dela Cruz, commander of the 57th IB, said his men were patrolling in Barangay Cabilao, Makilala when they chanced upon a number of New Peoples' Army (NPA) rebels positioned in the area. The firefight, he said, lasted for hours.

He already sent additional troops in the area to ensure safe transfer of wounded soldiers to the nearest hospital. Names of the casualties on the government side are not available as of 5 p.m. Tuesday.
The military hinted the encounter at Barangay Cabilao could be an offshoot of the killing on Monday of a tribal chieftain in Magpet town, also in North Cotabato.

On Monday, unidentified gunmen, believed to be NPA rebels, shot dead Datu Samante Ansabu Pasayao in Barangay Mahongkog, Magpet. Pasayao, reports said, is known in the community as a staunch Army supporter. He is also believed as one of the leaders of the Bagani, a group of armed natives whose task is to run after the NPAs in the area.

Meanwhile, a number of families residing near the encounter site at Barangay Cabilao fled to safer areas to prevent from being hit by cross fires. Village officials also heard mortar shelling nearby. They said at least two 105mm mortars landed at Sitio Alang-Alang in Barangays Kisante and Rodero, both in Makilala town.


MILF urges Aquino to appoint TransCom members

From MindaNews (Jan 23): MILF urges Aquino to appoint TransCom members

With its nominees to the Transition Commission (TransCom) already submitted to the Malaysian facilitator, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) called on President Benigno C. Aquino III to appoint them, including their counterparts on the government side. Ghadzali Jaafar, MILF vice chairman for political affairs, said Monday the front’s Central Committee has approved the composition of the MILF TransCom members.

He, however, did not identify the MILF’s nominees to the TransCom, which shall, among others, draft the Bangsamoro Basic Law. “Hopefully, all the TransCom members will be appointed immediately so that they can start work next month,” Jaafar said in a radio interview.

The creation of the TransCom comes as a result of Executive Order 120 signed by Aquino last December 17. It shall be composed of 15 members all appointed by the President in accordance with the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) that was signed by the government and the MILF in Malacanang last October 15. The TransCom will be composed of eight members from the MILF and seven from the government. As agreed in the FAB, it shall be headed by the MILF. EO 120 said the TransCom shall cease operation upon the enactment by Congress of the Bangsamoro Basic Law.

For its operation, the body will have an initial allocation of P100,000,000 from the contingent fund of the Office of the President. Appropriation for succeeding years shall be incorporated in budget proposals under the Office of the President.

Jaafar said they expect the Malaysian facilitator, Tengku Dato’ Ghafar Tengku bin Mohamed, to hand the MILF’s nominees to the TransCom to the government peace panel. The peace panels of both sides resumed amity talks in Kuala Lumpur on Monday.

In a statement, Miriam Colonel-Ferrer, government peace panel chair, said that in this round of talks, they aim to settle the few remaining issues across the four annexes that together with the Framework Agreement will comprise the Comprehensive Agreement.

These issues, she said, pertain to jurisdiction over natural resources; transportation and communication; the extent of territorial waters; taxing powers; timetables for decommissioning and demilitarization; policing structures; and the transition authority, among others.


MILF: Tulawie’s request for Davao detention not heeded

Posted to the MILF Website (Jan 22): Tulawie’s request for Davao detention not heeded

Temogen "Cocoy" Tulawie, a human rights activist who was accused to be behind a bombing incident in Sulu in 2009, requested that the court transfer him to Davao City had been denied anew, despite presenting enough evidence that his transfer is very reasonable and humane. His family believed that the life of Tulawie is "imminently in danger" if he will be transferred to Manila. They said his transfer in Manila will endanger his life since as he could be "mixed with prisoners with whom the private complainant has influence."
Branch 19 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) Manila has upheld its recent order issued in October last year transferring the trial of Tulawie's case in Manila for various reasons. Lawyer May Ann Arnado of the Mindanao People Caucus (MPC) and one of the legal counsels of Tulawie in Davao City said they are hopeful that the court this time will hear their side and allow Tulawie to be detained in Davao City Jail.

One of the main complainants against Tulawie is Sulu Governor Abdusakur Tan, who was the one who requested the Supreme Court (SC) to transfer the case trial venue from Davao City to Manila. Tan cited several reasons for his motion to transfer the trial venue, which was granted by SC in October of last year, one of these reasons is that Davao City is not a neutral place to try Tulawie since various human rights activists are very active in the city and this might affect the case.

Arnado said they wanted Tulawie to be detained in Davao City while the case is being heard in Manila primarily for security reasons since Tulawie's family received direct threats. Tulawie, he said, is also not safe once he will be permanently detailed in Manila.

The first hearing for Tulawie's case is set on January 25, just a few days away but the court is yet to decide on their pending motion. "We are exhausting all the available remedy to be able to secure him (Tulawie) and protect his safety," Arnado was quoted as telling the press.

In the meantime, pending the decision from the court for the defense's motion to detain Tulawie in Davao City, Arnado said they will coordinate with various groups and with the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) for the safe transfer of Tulawie to Manila for his first trial.

For Tulawie's trial in Manila, several progressive lawyers have already signified to volunteer to be part of Tulawie's legal team Manila. "This is a sensitive case and we already had enough threats that is why we cannot put his safety in jeopardy," Arnado said.


MILF: Nusantara Seminar in Malaysia lauds Chairman Murad

From the MILF Website (Jan 22): Nusantara Seminar in Malaysia lauds Chairman Murad

The esteemed organizers and participants of the Malay Archipelago Seminar Seminar: Islam in Southeast Asia Challenges and Hopes held at Putra World Trade Centre in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia lauded MILF Chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim for his humbling participation and humility in magnanimity. Chairman Murad was invited purposely to speak on the topic “Islam in the Malay Archipelago: The New Rise of the Bangsamoro” but he gracefully continued to participate the three-day Nusantara Seminar.

The Reception convoked for Chairman Murad, YB Dato’ Seri Abdullah Bin Md. Zin, Adviser for Religious Affairs for the Government of Malaysia, propounded the gratitude and appreciation, in behalf of the organizers and participants, for Chairman Murad. “His Excellency Brother Chairman Murad, indeed, we highly appreciated your kind acceptance of our invitation, much more, encourage by your active participation,” Dato’ Seri Abdullah Bn Md. Zin said.

“Insya-Allah, this will not be our first and last engagement. We will always pray and be ready to support the endeavour for the success of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro between the government and the MILF,” said Dato’ Seri Abdullah.

Chairman Murad thanked the organizers and participants from Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, Cambodia, and Burma that numbered to more than 1000 for the warm welcome and reception. A diplomat representing the embassy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia also participated.

“We are deeply honored of the invitation extended to MILF and we put premium on our participation as an obligation in order to be with our brothers Muslims in Southeast Asia working in the fields of religious and academia concerns which augur well with our determination to ensure the success of the Framework Agreement toward the ideological, political, economic and social empowerment of the Bangsamoro,” Murad stressed.

Murad also thanked the Government of Malaysia and His Excellency Dto’ Sri Mohd Najib Tun Abdul Razak for the exemplary facilitation and commitment of continuing support to the peace process that significantly help both the government and MILF forged the Framework Agreement. The Chairman expressed optimism that the peace treaty with the Government of the Philippines will lead to the entrenchment of Bangsamoro government under a system and rules of law serving the general welfare of all its constituents regardless of ethnicity and religion.

Murad cited significant weight put in by the seminar in the prioritization of support and cooperation for the peace process and development of the Bangsamoro. Dato’ Seri Abdullah personally handed the invitation to Chairman Murad at Camp Darapanan in December last year.


CPP/NDF: Benigno Aquino III carries on with the bloody tradition of the Mendiola Massacre

Posted to the CPP Website (Jan 22): Benigno Aquino III carries on with the bloody tradition of the Mendiola Massacre

Jorge Madlos (Ka Oris)
NDF Mindanao Chapter

Twenty-six years past the 1987 massacre at Mendiola, justice continues to be elusive for the families and friends of the victims of one of the bloodiest crackdown on peasants in Philippine history. Even until her death, Corazon Cojuangco Aquino was never held accountable for her hand, being the highest Philippine official then and AFP Commander-in-Chief, on the massacre. Even her cohorts, who continue to wield power, have escaped justice.

On that fateful day, thirteen died from among 20,000 protesting farmers, who were demanding for genuine land reform. The Filipino people awoke to the truth and bore witness to the brutal display of state fascism; it became clear that the fulfillment of genuine land reform was impossible under Cory’s haciendera hands. Corazon Aquino, being an heiress of one of the biggest and most vicious landlord families in the country, was unmasked unequivocally, despite her much-vaunted CARP, as anti-peasant.

Three years ago, Benigno Aquino III, the scion of the icon of “democracy," won in an electronically-rigged election by pretending to be a “champion” of “peace, development and good governance.” Now on his mid-term, his fascist agenda has exposed him both as rabidly anti-peasant and as out-and-out pro-imperialist. Let us not forget that it was Benigno Aquino III who, still a senator then, gave the go signal for state troopers to fire at will at protesting farmers, which became known as the infamous Hacienda Luisita massacre of 2004.

Across the nation, moreover, Filipino peasants continue to suffer from feudal and semi-feudal exploitation and oppression under conditions of landlessness and abject poverty. Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco, a prominent and despotic member of the clan, has long subjected thousands of peasants to feudal enslavement, exploiting them, to cite one in particular, by stealing the coco levy funds.

Presently, numerous massacres against the peasantry occur with merciless impunity amid centuries-old feudal & semi-feudal exploitation in the countryside. Continuing what his mother began, Benigno Aquino III had his government extend the lopsided, pro-landlord CARP, presently titled Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program-ER (CARPER) which virtually gives more leverage to landlords and imperialist agri-business and, ironically, deprives land from millions of peasants. And worse, he openly favored, despite people’s protests, foreign monopoly capitalists by signing into law Executive Order No. 79, giving foreign large-scale mining more latitude to plunder the nation’s natural resources and the environment.

What the Mendiola massacre did to shatter the façade of Corazon Aquino’s “democracy,” Oplan Bayanihan (OPB) did to expose the hypocrisy of Benigno Aquino’s “daang matuwid.” Since its inception, the OPB has combined extensive combat operations with deceptive civic-military operations to terrorize peasant, Lumad and Moro communities in the countryside, exacerbating all kinds of human rights violations. It has done nothing to stop extra-judicial killings from its bloody tracks, so far killing over a hundred individuals, which include people from the religious, mass media and other activist groups.

The “Mendiola massacre” under Benigno Aquino III should not stop Filipino peasants from asserting genuine land reform through various anti-feudal mass struggles. With landlords and big bourgeois compradors still at helm of power, it is clear as day that the people cannot hope for the attainment of genuine land reform under the present reactionary government.

Thus, only through the national democratic revolution, the main content of which is agrarian revolution, can the Filipino people liberate themselves from feudal exploitation and oppression and fascism perpetuated by the big landlord, such as the Cojuangcos and the Aquinos, and their imperialist master. Alongside armed struggle and base-building, it is imperative to strengthen and sustain agrarian revolution on the basis of the anti-feudal united front in the countryside.


CPP: The Philippines between two greedy giants

Posted to the CPP Website (Jan 22): The Philippines between two greedy giants

Prof. Jose Maria Sison
Founding Chairman
Communist Party of the Philippines

Interview with Prof. Jose Maria Sison
Founding Chairman, Communist Party of the Philippines
By John Toledo
Features Editor, Philippine Collegian

1. Historically, who are the original claimants of the West Philippine Sea? Where did this dispute come from? Who are the claimants today?

Prof. Jose Maria Sison (JMS): Let us first put into context what you refer to as the West Philippine Sea. The Spratlys are a group of 250 islets plus the shoals and reefs spread over 265,542 square kilometers. They are claimed entirely by China, Taiwan and Vietnam and in part by Malaysia, Brunei and the Philippines. The part of the Spratlys claimed by the Phiippines is what it calls the Kalayaan group of islets located in the West Philippine Sea.

China, Taiwan and Vietnam claim ownership of all the Spratlys supposedly since ancient times on the basis of historical references, seasonal visits by their fishermen and assertions of claims against colonizers as well as yielding of the Spratlys by the Japanese to the French and thus to Vietnam in the San Francisco peace treaty after World War II. Malaysia, Brunei and the Philippines claim parts of the Spratlys that are geographically closest to them and within the 200-mile exclusive economic zone under the UN Convention on Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) plus prehistorical and historical claims that the islets concerned have long been the fishing grounds of their respective fishermen.

2. Why is the West Philippine Sea being claimed by China and Philippines? Is it economically and politically useful? Why or why not?

China arrogantly claims not only the entire Spratlys but also the entire sea south and east of China as its property and by making military shows of strength to assert its claims. But the Kalayaan group of islets, the Recto (Reed ) and Panatag Shoal (Scarborough) are all within the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines under the UNCLOS. It is for China to claim these.

In economic terms, the contested islets and shoals and the waters around them are at least rich fishing grounds and sources of corals but they also have a high potential as sources of gas and oil. The Recto Bank is well known for having rich gas and oil deposits as a result of explorations. In political and military terms, the contested islets and shoals can serve as outposts for military vessels and for controlling navigation and commerce or evoking power and influence.

3. Why is US joining in the conflict? Why is it strategic for US to support the Philippines with many armed forces and materials?

The US is fishing in troubled waters. As a matter of fact, it is responsible for stirring up trouble in the first place. It has undertaken controlled trouble-making just to make the Philippine reactionary puppet government run to it for support, to have the reason for entrenching US military forces in the Philippines and to have the Philippines as a base for influencing policies and development within China. The US has strategic objectives in using the Philippines as a strategic base in the US encirclement of China.

4. Is it logically possible that China will wage war on the Philippines because of this West Philippine Sea dispute? Or is it just a ploy for US to wage war with China? Why or why not?

China will not wage war on the Philippines but it will continue to take calculated actions, including shows of force, to discourage and prevent Philippine attempts to control and occupy the contested islets and develop the gas and oil resources there. Neither will the US wage war with China to support the Philippines in the territorial dispute. It has far more economic and political interests in good relations with China than in those with the Philippines.

The US has repeatedly proclaimed that it is neutral in the territorial dispute between China and Philippines. The most it can say is that it is militarily entrenching itself in the Philippines in order to discourage China from attacking the Philippines. However, it will not act militarily against the calculated military moves of China to prevent Philippine attempts to explore and develop the gas and oil resources in the contested islets and shoals.

But China and the US might even make a deal to exploit the gas and oil resources for the benefit of US and Chinese corporations and some big comprador Filipino-Chinese firms or the Indonesian-Chinese firm (Salim group) being managed by Manuel V. Pangilinan. The whole world knows that the mineral ores of the Philippines are being wantonly excavated by US, Japanese, Canadian, Australian, Swiss, Chinese and other foreign firms, together with their big comprador allies. And China has been a major destination of the mineral ores.

In an attempt to look nationalist, the US-Aquino regime is obviously play-acting against China over the well-hyped territorial disputes. It is well within the bounds of the collaboration between the US and China. The US is steering the Philippine government towards the attainment of the narrow self-interest and strategic objectives of the US.

One more reason why the US is entrenching itself militarily in the Philippines and using this as part of the US encirclement of China is not to wage war soon but to influence policies and developments in China. The US is trying to realize the complete privatization of the most strategic state-owned enterprises in China and to promote the liberalization of Chinese politics to the point of doing away with the authoritarian rule and causing the weakening or even disintegration of the bureaucrat monopoly capitalism.

5. What are the implications of the Sino-Philippine territorial dispute in relation to the sovereignty of the Philippines?

What is tragic about the Philippine ruling system of big compradors and landlords is that it is weak and servile to imperialist powers and that both the US and China take advantage of the Philippines. The US pretends to protect the Philippines but it is a bantay salakay. Having long become a capitalist country, China cannot be expected to be a gentle and generous giant.

The Filipino people can best assert their national sovereignty and defend their territorial integrity by overthrowing the ruling system and establishing a people´s democratic state that is truly independent and democratic, determined to carry out land reform and industrialization, realizes social justice and aims for socialism. Such a state is capable of using effective diplomacy and defending its territory against intruders.


CPP/NPA: AFP's desperate measures vs. NPA POWs, revolutionary struggle

Posted to the CPP Website (Jan 21): AFP's desperate measures vs. NPA POWs, revolutionary struggle

Aris Francisco
NPA Comval-North Davao-South Agusan Sub-region Sub-regional Command

The prisoners of war currently under the custody of the New People’s Army Comval North Davao South Agusan Sub-regional Command are legitimate military targets who were on active duty when apprehended in an NPA checkpoint January 17, 2013. Held as prisoners-of-war in compliance with the NDFP Unilateral Undertaking to Implement Protocol II of the Geneva Conventions are Private First Class Jesreel Maata Culango, (serial No. 898158), 23, who is part of the Special Operations Team of the 60th Infantry Battalion deployed in San Isidro, Davao del Norte, and Police Officer 1 Ruel Pasion (Badge No.194812), 31, deployed at the San Isidro police station. Culango was on off duty January 15 and was back to work January 16 until he was captured by the NPA. Pasion’s.45 caliber pistol (firearm license ctrl # 1B907458) was confiscated at the time of the arrest.

Proper procedures are being undertaken by the Sub-regional command custodial unit to ascertain possible acts of commission by POW Culango and POW Pasion in violating human rights and international humanitarian law (IHL) in the course of their direct participation to the GPH’s counter-revolutionary and anti-people’s war.

The January 17 NPA checkpoint/POW-taking was a punitive action against the 60th IB-AFP and PNP for its abuses and violations of human rights. It is within the jurisdictional authority of the People’s Democratic Government and its people’s army to arrest enemy active combatants that harm the people and base areas.

The 60th IB committed serious abuses of human rights and IHL in its psychological warfare against the masses, forced surrender of civilians, conduct of checkpoints and intelligence network building while the GPH-NDFP December 20, 2012-January 15, 2013 temporary ceasefire was in force. The PNP is part of the brigade-sized combat formation of the AFP and PNP that launched offensive military operation in Davao del Norte and Comval since the past months that resulted in various cases of human rights violations.

The AFP is desperate to turn the tide of people’s wrath against them; the enemy has resorted to harassing leaders of Typhoon Pablo victims who have put up a legitimate struggle against the US-Aquino regime’s ineptness, neglect and pro-imperialist-anti-people stance towards climate change and environmental protection. In the NPA’s custody of prisoners of war, the same distressed AFP spokespersons and spin-doctors resort to more desperate measures. To relieve their fascist egos, they misrepresent the two prisoners of war as “doing nothing belligerent” and were “unarmed” at the time of the latter’s capture. The AFP also insults the public’s intelligence when they say that the NPA’s POW-taking was meant to deter them from their supposed heroic efforts towards Typhoon Pablo victims. They have swapped their historical pro-logging, pro-mining and pro-environmental destruction notoriety with publicity blitz-fueled disaster response.

It is illusory for these frantic enemy spokespersons to deny the legitimacy of the political and military victories in the armed struggle and revolutionary mass movement. The Red fighters shall continue to frustrate unwarranted military operations of the AFP and the PNP that serve the greedy interests of capitalists and the reactionary power.


Environmental groups slams US troops for damaging Tubbataha Reef

From the Bicol Today (Jan 22): Environmental groups slams US troops for damaging Tubbataha Reef

Kalikasan PNE strongly denounces the US military forces for trespassing on Philippine waters and destroying environmentally-vulnerable areas in the Tubbataha Reef National Park thursday. “This incident shows us how the United States military forces have brazenly disrespected our laws and damaged our country’s environment and national treasures,” said Clemente Bautista, coordinator of environmental activist group Kalikasan PNE (Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment).

A US Navy minesweeper ran aground in Tubbataha Reefs National Park, January 17, damaging marine-resource rich areas, according to the report of Tubbataha Park Management Officer Angelique Songco.

The US Pacific Fleet has confirmed that their ship USS Guardian, an Avenger-class mine countermeasures ship, ran aground at 2.25 am, 98 nautical miles from Puerto Princesa City. The area is part of a protected national park and is classified as a world heritage site for the richness of its marine biodiversity. The report revealed that the US ship entered these areas without permission and failed to coordinate with environmental officials.

“We denounce how the US military forces responsible for the damage have barred our environmental officials from inspecting the USS Guardian to immediately assess the incident. They are the intruders and violators, yet they still have the gall to disrespect Filipino officials and bar them from doing their environmental duties. This is the height of US military arrogance and brazenness,” Bautista said. “What is the US military doing in Tubbataha Reef and its environs? What other environmentally-critical areas has the US military presence damaged or destroyed?” Bautista asked.

“This incident again underscores the problem with the current Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), which allows the US military to move around unhampered in Philippines territory and destroy our natural resources with impunity,” stressed Bautista.

US Navy ships regularly participate in joint military exercises within the country under the bilateral military agreement VFA.

“This is just one of the recent environmental crimes that the US military should be held accountable for. Last October 2012, Glenn Defense Marine Philippines Inc., a US Navy contractor, was proven to have dumped human and toxic waste into Subic Bay,” Bautista noted.

“In almost 15 years of implementation of VFA, US military forces have routinely infringed on our sovereignty, violated the right of our people, and destroyed the environment. It is most urgent for the government to review and junk this unjust, onerous agreement. THe VFA clearly only serves the interests of US military forces and will never be advantageous our country,” Bautista ended.


School official denies link to Army man’s slay

From the Visayan Daily Star (Jan 22): School official denies link to Army man’s slay

A division head of Bata National High School in Bacolod City yesterday vehemently denied allegations of his involvement in the killing of an Army lieutenant two years ago in Cadiz City.

Gualberto Dajao, a values education and social studies head who is also chair of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers-Region VI, said his name was implicated and included in the affidavit-complaint of rebel-returnee Freddie Sanchez among those behind the killing of 1LT Archie Polenzo.

Polenzo, company commander of the 62nd Infantry “Unifier” Battalion, was killed in a gunbattle with the platoon-size Kilusang Larangan Northern Negros of the New People's Army on March 7, 2010 in SitioAluyan, Brgy. Caduhaan, Cadiz City.

This is totally absurd, false, and I can prove my innocence,” Dajao said. He said his biometric daily time record shows that a week before, and after the killing of Polenzo, he was at the school. He added that he was also designated as the OIC-Principal of BNHS from March 11 to 14.

Dajao said that action of the government in oppressing the leaders of progressive organizations inspires them and validates their reason to increase their commitment to fight the society.

He also said that these people should clear his name as it is his only capital. “My students will never believe in me knowing that their teacher is implicated in a murder case,” he added.

Dajao was among the 52 persons allegedly involved in the killing of Polenzo as stated in the affidavit-complaint of Sanchez.


New Army, SOCOM chiefs named

From the Visayan Daily Star (Jan 22): New Army, SOCOM chiefs named

Two generals, have been named new commanding generals of the Philippine Army, and its elite Special Operations Command. Lt. Gen. Noel Coballes will be installed today by President Benigno Aquino III as commander of the Philippine Army at Fort Andres Bonifacio in Taguig City, Metro Manila, Major General Maximo Carto, Army chief of staff, said yesterday.

Coballes, who used to command the Army’s elite Scout Ranger Regiment, will replace Lt. Gen. Emmanuel Bautista, who is now the Armed Forces chief of staff. It was not determined, however, who will replace Coballes as AFP Vice-Chief of Staff.

Brig. Gen. Jet Joel Velarmino, meanwhile temporarily assumed yesterday as SOCOM chief, replacing Maj. Gen. Romulo Bambao, who retired yesterday from the military service, as he had reached the mandatory retirement age of 56.

Velarmino, who used to command the defunct 6th Special Forces Battalion in central Negros in 1996, is supervising the Army’s elite SF and Scout Ranger Regiments, as well as the counter-terrorist Light Reaction Battalion unit, as SOCOM chief.

As commander of the Scout Ranger Regiment, Coballes, was responsible for the neutralization of three notorious foreign terrorists including Abu Sayyaf leader Umbra Jumdail, alias Doctor Abu, and two leaders of the Jemaah Islamiyah, in Mindanao.

Velarmino reportedly headed the Army’s elite troopers who captured kidnappers of Giuseppe Pierantoni in Zamboanga del Sur in April 2002, military records show.

Army spokesman Major Harry Cabunoc said Velarmino will be SOCOM chief in an acting capacity, until the permanent commander is designated.

Before his appointment, Velarmino was the deputy commander of Socom and also served as commander of the 101st Infantry Brigade of the 1st Infantry Division in Mindanao.

Velarmino, 52, is a member of the Philippine Military Academy Class 1982, while Coballes belongs to PMA Class 1980.


'An embarrassing incident,' US diplomat says of American ship stuck on Tubbataha Reef

From InterAksyon (Jan 22): 'An embarrassing incident,' US diplomat says of American ship stuck on Tubbataha Reef

John Negroponte, former US ambassador to the Philippines, emphasizes a point during his talk in Makati. (Bernard Testa, InterAksyon.com)

An embarrassing incident. This was how a former United States ambassador to the Philippines described the case of a US Navy vessel that remains stuck on the Tubbataha Reef, a marine preserve in the Sulu Sea. "It wasn't done on purpose," said John Negroponte, a co-chairperson of the US-Philippines Society, during a meeting in Makati.

Negroponte also said that it was "up to the US to confront the issue," which involves the grounding of the USS Guardian on the reef, considered a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO for being one of the last richest marine biodiversity places on the planet.

The British-born diplomat, who co-chairs the US-Philippines Society with TV5 chairman Manuel V. Pangilinan, delivered remarks regarding US foreign policy on the second term of US President Barack Obama.

"The US is very carefully balancing [its relationship] with China vis-a-vis other alliances and friendships in Asia," Negroponte said during the event at the Tower Club, a joint meeting of the Asia Society, the Carlos P. Romulo Foundation, and the American and European business chambers. "The Obama administration has also reaffirmed alliances with Asian countries such as South Korea, Thailand, and the Philippines."


26 YEARS AFTER | Farmers, peasants remember Mendiola Massacre

From InterAksyon (Jan 22): 26 YEARS AFTER | Farmers, peasants remember Mendiola Massacre

Mendiola Massacre protest rally, Jan. 22, 2013. PAULO VECINA/InterAksyon.com

Farmers and workers on Tuesday marched to Don Chino Roces Bridge to commemorate the 26th anniversary of the Mendiola Massacre that saw 13 farmers martyred on the historic bridge leading to Malacanang. Workers from the Kilusang Mayo Uno joined the march from Quezon City in solidarity with the farmers, mostly from Southern Tagalog.

The marchers called on President Benigno Aquino III to implement a “genuine agrarian reform” program – the same call they made to Aquino’s mother and former president Corazon Aquino, 26 years ago.

In a statement e-mailed to media outfits, KMU condemned the “snail-paced” implementation of the Supreme Court decision on Hacienda Luisita ordering its distribution to the farmers who till it.
“We mark the anniversary of the Mendiola Massacre by reiterating the demand of the 13 farmers who died 26 years ago – genuine land reform. Countless farmers have died over the years fighting for land reform yet successive governments have refused to heed their call,” said Roger Soluta, KMU secretary-general.

The labor center also slammed the government for its efforts to revive banana and coconut plantations as well as mining operations in Mindanao.  KMU said Mindanaoans need land reform for their own food security. It said plantations and big mining operations cater to the global market, not the domestic demand; they also destroy the environment.

“The land reform program implemented by the Cory Aquino government was a failure in distributing land to farmers and only resulted in the further concentration of lands in the hands of a few families. Despite its failure, the program was extended, merely 'prettified' with with so-called ‘reforms,’ as it continues to deny lands to farmers,” Soluta said.

Oplan Bayanihan

KMU also called on the government to scrap its Oplan Bayanihan, an anti-insurgency program that has violated the human rights of the country’s farmers and working people.  “Twenty-six years after the Mendiola massacre, farmers fighting for land are still being killed by state forces with impunity. Their human rights are being violated in an attempt to weaken their fight for land reform,” Soluta said.

“In the few years that it has been implemented, Oplan Bayanihan has resulted in the deaths of farmers and the violations of their rights. The Aquino government is intensifying the implementation of this Oplan in order to defend landowning families’ monopoly of land,” he added.

Crowd control

To keep enterprising protesters from penetrating the police's multi-layered perimeter security around Malacanang, the Manila Police District closed down the Don Chino Roces Bridge and all the roads leading to the Palace. MPD spokesperson Erwin Margarejo told reporters that both lanes of the bridge have already been closed to traffic since early today.

He added that MPD personnel have also been deployed to man other roads leading to the Palace.
Margarejo urged organizers of the protest march to maintain order for the duration of their demonstration, even as he vowed to observe maximum tolerance.


US fined, but Tubbataha execs bristling: 'Ship was warned. They told rangers to talk to US embassy'

From InterAksyon (Jan 22): US fined, but Tubbataha execs bristling: 'Ship was warned. They told rangers to talk to US embassy'

Philippine authorities said Tuesday they have fined the US Navy for "unauthorized entry" after an American minesweeper went aground on a World Heritage-listed coral reef.

As this developed, however, officials tasked with managing and protecting the restricted area said their rangers had tried to warn the US ship, only to allegedly be rebuffed by the vessel's captain with advice to take any complaints to the US embassy.
Manila announced the initial penalty amid growing anger in the Philippines over the January 17 stranding of the USS Guardian on the Tubbataha Reef, for which the US Navy has apologized. A government-led board that manages the reef served formal notice Tuesday initially citing the US Navy for "unauthorized entry", Jose Lorenzo Tan, a member of the board, told AFP.
The site is protected by Philippine law, and is off-limits to navigation except for research or tourism approved by the marine park superintendent. The law prescribes a maximum penalty of up to a year in prison plus a fine of up to 300,000 pesos (about $7,300) for unauthorized entry, but Tan said the penalty agreed by the board does not include the jail option.
"We initially decided to fine them," said Tan, also the country president of the World Wildlife Fund. He declined to disclose the amount. A board statement issued by Tan said the US Navy would also be fined for "non-payment of conservation fee" and "obstruction of law enforcement officer".
The Tubbataha marine park superintendent, Angelique Songco, said Monday that park rangers had warned the USS Guardian by radio that it was nearing the reef, but the ship captain insisted they raise their complaint with the US embassy. Fines for "damages to the reef" and "destroying resources" would be assessed after the vessel is retrieved, the board added.
The US embassy declined comment on the alleged violations.
Tubbataha is a UNESCO World Heritage Site on the Sulu Sea about 130 kilometers (80 miles) off the western island of Palawan.
The commander of the US Navy's 7th Fleet, Vice Admiral Scott Swift, apologized for the incident in a statement from Japan on Sunday. The US Navy said the 68-meter (224-foot) vessel, which remained stranded above the reef Tuesday, had been en route to Indonesia after visiting a Philippine port north of Manila when the accident happened.

Soldier killed, 5 hurt in Davao Oriental landmine blast

From InterAksyon (Jan 22): Soldier killed, 5 hurt in Davao Oriental landmine blast

Soldiers conducting rehabilitation efforts in Davao Oriental areas hit by Typhoon "Pablo" in Davao Oriental were hit by a landmine explosion past midnight Tuesday, killing one. Lieutenant Colonel Lyndon Paniza, spokesman of the Philippine Army's 10th Infantry Division said members of the 28th Infantry Battalion were en route to their headquarters after conducting rehabilitation efforts when a landmine exploded along the highway in Sitio Mainit, Barangay Calpagan, Lupon town. 

The soldiers were on board two military vehicles when the explosion occurred at around 12:20 a.m. The explosion hit the rear portion of the second vehicle, hitting six soldiers. Private First Class Jhasam Diaz died while being treated at the provincial hospital. The rest of the wounded were brought to Tagum Regional Hospital for treatment. Paniza blamed the incident on the communist New People's Army (NPA).

"This is a clear manifestation that the NPA violates and does not respect the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and the International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL). Landmine is strictly prohibited in this agreement," Paniza said.

Meanwhile, Army troops from the 60th Infantry Battalion clashed with NPA rebels Monday afternoon while conducting rescue operations on the soldier and policeman abducted by the rebels last January 17. The Army vows to pursue the rebels as investigation continues.


New Philippine Army chief vows to prioritize personnel's welfare

From InterAksyon (Jan 22): New Philippine Army chief vows to prioritize personnel's welfare

File photo of Philippine Army chief Noel Coballes

Newly-installed Philippine Army (PA) commanding general Lieutenant General Noel Coballes vowed to empower all Army personnel "from the lowest private" to the highest ranking officer.

In his assumption speech Tuesday afternoon, Coballes promised to strengthen the capabilities of non-commissioned officers, giving "primordial importance" to training, force development, human resource growth and logistical equipage. He said there would also be a re-study of combat standard operating procedures and rules of engagements while strictly adhering to human rights.

The Army chief said he wanted to boost the morale of soldiers by equipping them with basic first aid knowledge, which will help them during combat.

"Sisiguraduhin natin na ang ating mga sundalong masusugatan ay may mapupuntahang Army hospital na kumpleto ang gamit at serbisyo. Pag-aaralan natin ang sistema ng serbisyo para sa mga naulila ng mga yumaong sundalo upang mabilis na maibigay ang mga kaukulang benepisyong laan sa kani-kanilang mga pamilya," he added.

[We will make sure that there will be Army hospitals with complete facilities and service for all our wounded soldiers. We will study the service system for those orphaned by soldiers who have died so that we could readily provide the benefits to their families.]

Coballes said the patriotic zeal of every soldier should be reinvigorated, ready to respond to security threats and during calamities.

"Together we will bring back the glory of the soldiery values of valor and honor. I strongly commit to lead an Army that is 100 percent loyal to the Constitution and to the chain of command," he said.

Coballes, a member of the Philippine Military Academy Class of 1980, was named as the PA's 55th commanding general replacing Lieutenant General Emmanuel Bautista, who was named Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of staff.


New Davao province created, but polls unlikely

From Rappler (Jan 22): New Davao province created, but polls unlikely


A new province to be called Davao Occidental in Mindanao has been created 4 months before the midterm polls, but the election of its provincial officials will be unlikely until 2016. Republic Act 10360, which carved out the new province from Davao del Sur, was signed by President Benigno Aquino III on Jan 14. It will take effect 15 days after it was published in newspapers on Monday, January 21.

Proponents of splitting Davao del Sur into two provinces originally expected the law to be passed and a plebiscite for its approval held by the end of 2011. It would have paved the way for the election of Davao Occidental’s own governor and other provincial officials and a lone congressman in May 2013.

However, the Senate approved the bill only in October 2012, and the final version of the charter signed just as the election period for 2013 had officially started. RA 10360 says a plebiscite should be conducted by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) “within 60 days from the effectivity of this Charter,” or within two months from February 5. “The first set of officials of the Province of Davao Occidental will be elected in the next national and local elections following the effectivity of this Charter.”

Earlier, the Comelec, as a policy, decided to postpone until after the May 13 polls all the plebiscites that had been scheduled. They included the conversion of Cabanatuan in Nueva Ecija from being a component city into a highly urbanized city that would have created its own legislative district, and the creation of Barangay Paglaum in Bacolod City.

In an interview with reporters on Tuesday, January 22, Comelec chair Sixto Brillantes Jr said no elections will be held in the newly created Davao Occidental. “We cannot hold an election on a divided province, because the prerequisite is, there has to be a plebiscite. We have a previous resolution. We are not holding any plebiscite before May 13, 2013," Brillantes said in a mix of English and Filipino.

“The problem really is that, as of now, it’s physically impossible for Comelec to hold any plebiscite considering the proximity of the elections,” a Comelec source privy to the poll preparations told Rappler earlier. “The configuration of the PCOS and the ballots have started, which obviously didn’t include the new province—unless we re-start everything, which we cannot afford to do at this time,” the source said.

Without a plebiscite before May, Davao del Sur will be intact until the 2016 elections. The gubernatorial fight is a one-on-one between 1st district congressman Marc Douglas Cagas of the Nacionalista Party (son of the current governor) and former congressman Claude Bautista of the Nationalist People’s Coalition.

Davao del Sur has two congressional districts. In 2010, the province was placed under Comelec control because of incidents of violence between the supporters of the Cagas and Bautista clans. The poll body is reportedly considering placing it under control again in 2013.

The newly created Davao Occidental will be composed of 5 municipalities from the 2nd district of Davao del Sur: Malita, Sta. Maria, Don Marcelino, Jose Abad Santos, and Sarangani. The remaining towns of the 2nd district – Kiblawan, Malalag, and Sulop – will be part of the current 1st district to comprise Davao del Sur. The two provinces will then have one congressional district each.

Senator Ferdinand Marcos II, chair of the Senate committee on local governments, had said that the 2nd district’s distance to Digos City, the capital of Davao del Sur, has impaired the delivery of services to the residents and slowed down economic progress in the districts.,“For instance, the town of Sarangani takes about ten hours by boat to reach the municipality of Malita, the proposed site of the new province of Davao Occidental, and about three hours from the municipality of Malita to Digos City,” Marcos had said.

Under Section 450 of the Local Government Code of 1991, as amended by Republic Act 9009, a province can be created if it has a land area of at least 2,000 square kilometers, as certified by the Land Management Bureau; a population of at least 250,000, as certified by the National Statistics Office; and a minimum annual income of P20 million.

Davao Occidental has a land area of 2,183.97 square kilometers; a population of 293,780 as of 2010; and an average annual income of P113.22 million for 2008 and 2009.


Fort Magsaysay to be converted a tourist destination

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jan 22): Fort Magsaysay to be converted a tourist destination

Philippine Army’s 7th Infantry Division (7ID) is eyeing the conversion of certain portions of its Fort Magsaysay Military Reservation (FMMR) into a tourist destination. Officials of 7ID led by commander Brigadier General Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr met with representatives of the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (Tieza) to explore such possibilities.

“During our meeting with Tieza representatives, we discussed some of the activities that tourists can do here such as wall climbing, hiking, downhill mountain biking, camping, motocross riding, 4x4 off-road driving, zip-line, and horseback riding as well as water sports in our coastal areas in Dingalan, Aurora namely kayaking, scuba diving, windsurfing, jet ski, and para-sailing,” Catapang said.

“Now that we are seeing the death of insurgency and birth of peace and prosperity in Regions 1 and 3, it's high time that we transform certain parts of our camp into a place of leisure where families and friends can bond. We want them to say that you haven’t been to Nueva Ecija if you haven’t visited Fort Magsaysay- the home of Kaugnay troopers,” Catapang added.

The FMMR was conceived by virtue of Presidential Proclamation No.237 dated December 19, 1955 with a total land area of 44,970 hectares. It consists of the Cantonment area, Training Circuit, Kalinga sa Kawal off-based housing for military personnel, Jethropa Plantation, National Training Center (Balikatan area), and the Libingan ng mga Bayani.


NPA rebels attack DOLE Company

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 22): NPA rebels attack DOLE Company

Armed men believed to be members of the communist New People’s Army (NPA) attacked DOLE Plantation and damaged equipment in Tago, Surigao del Sur on Friday. A belated Army report here said that eight armed men accompanied by an undetermined number of people raided the company’s banana plantation past 7:00 p.m. Friday and destroyed six-hectare banana plantation.

Lt. Col. Virgilio F. Luna, commander of the army’s 29th Batallion, said that the unidentified group also indiscriminately fired at the company-owned heavy equipment damaging four backhoes and one bulldozer. He said army troopers failed to capture the the armed group who withdrew towards the hinterland of barangay Anahaw Daan.

Luna urged witnesses in the area to provide information to authorities that would lead to the arrest of the perpetrators. He said the Army was coordinating with government line agencies to ensure peace and security in the area.


Army mounts hot pursuit operations against raiding NPA rebels

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 22): Army mounts hot pursuit operations against raiding NPA rebels

The military has deployed two teams from the Army’s 58th Infantry Batallion to pursue the communist rebels who raided houses in Kinoguitan in Misamis Oriental Tuesday morning.
Lt. Col. Eugenio Julio Osias, spokesperson of the Army’s 4th Infantry Division here, said that the 58th IB’s C Company led by Lt. Joemar Zulueta shifted operations to intercept the withdrawing New People's Army (NPA)rebels.

Zulueta’s troops were conducting clearing operations in the hinterlands of Kinoguitan, a coastal town 80 kilometers east of Cagayan De Oro City, when the rebels laid siege on the town about 6:00 a.m. Tuesday. Osias said that another group led by Lt. Nowelle Tominio jumped off from the 58th IB’s company based in Salay in Misamis Oriental to conduct hot pursuit operations against the rebels.

He said that about 25 fully-armed rebels belonging to Guerilla Front 4B of the North-Central Mindanao Revolutionary swooped down on the municipal town of Kinoguitan early morning Tuesday. The rebels simultaneously raided the adjoining residences of PFC Benjamin Timbal, an active military assigned with the 58th IB, retired SSgt. Eliseo Salvacion and retired PO4 Anianas Requerme, Osias added. The rebels carted off the service firearms of Timbal, military uniform, combat boots, and other military items owned by the victims. Osias said nobody was hurt during the incident.

He said the rebels fled towards the hinterlands of Kinoguitan and are now being pursued by troops. Town Mayor Junjun Lagbas said that the houses of the victims were only about 40 meters from the town’s municipal hall. Lagbas prevented law enforcers to retaliate fearing that civilians might be caught in crossfire. Lagbas, however, ordered the police to defend the municipal hall at all costs had the rebels attacked the town hall.


Tubbataha PAMB cites 5 violations by USS Guardian

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 22): Tubbataha PAMB cites 5 violations by USS Guardian

Citing that the grounding of the USS Guardian is “an unfortunate incident,” the Tubbataha Reef Natural Park (TRNP) Protected Areas Management Board (PAMB)said in an official statement on Tuesday that it is sending a formal notice of the list of violations to the U.S. Navy.

In the official statement of the PAMB, it said the grounding incident “is an unfortunate incident. No one wanted this to happen. But the damage has been done.” “We are duty-bound to enforce the law,” said in the official statement by Palawan Governor Abraham Kahlil B. Mitra, the chairman of the Tubbataha PAMB.

Under Republic Act 10067, the Act that established the TRNP in Palawan as a marine protected area, it is the Tubbataha PAMB’s mandate to protect, preserve and promote the resources of the reef. Mitra said in order to fulfill the PAMB’s mandate and uphold the rule of law it will be issuing the U.S. Navy a formal list of violations of the Act in the grounding incident involving the USS Guardian.

“We will ask them to take responsibility, and immediately pay the fines,” he said, adding this will be done as soon as assessment of the damage has been done. Cited violations of the Act this time are for unauthorized entry; for non-payment of conservation fee; for obstruction of law enforcement officer; for damages to the reef; and for destroying resources.

These actions are being done without prejudice to the results of subsequent assessments that have yet to be done to determine the extent of damage to the park and its resources as a direct result of the grounding, as well as incidental damage arising out of the ongoing retrieval operations.

Subsequent to ship retrieval and the assessment of park damage, the Tubbataha PAMB intends to serve a second formal notice of violation to the U.S. NAVY that will quantify the estimate of destruction and the fines that must be paid.


Military blames NPA rebels in exploding IED anew in Davao Oriental

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 22): Military blames NPA rebels in exploding IED anew in Davao Oriental

The military chided the communist rebels anew for the explosion of an improvised explosive device (IED) that left one soldier killed and six injured 12:20 p.m.Tuesday in Sitio Mainit, Barangay Calapagan, Lupon, Davao Oriental.

Lt. Colonel Lyndon Paniza, spokesperson of the 10th Infantry Division said the New People’s Army (NPA) once more showed its cruelty by disrupting a humanitarian activity intended for the survivors of typhoon "Pablo." He identified the lone fatality as Private First Class Jhasam Diaz, a member of the 28th Infantry Battalion.

Paniza said Diaz passed away while undergoing treatment at the provincial hospital of Davao Oriental. He said the six other survivors are being treated for their injuries. “The soldiers on board two Army trucks were going back to their headquarters from security and rehabilitation operation of the typhoon 'Pablo' when an improvised landmine exploded hitting the rear portion of the second vehicle,” he said.

Paniza lamented that with the use of IEDs, the rebels continue to defy international agreements that guarantees the protection of lives and human rights.


Group hails appointment of Gen. Bautista as new AFP Chief of Staff

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 22): Group hails appointment of Gen. Bautista as new AFP Chief of Staff

The “Yes for Peace—Bayanihan" para sa Kapayapaan on Tuesday hailed the appointment of Lt. Gen. Emmanuel T. Bautista as the new Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines as formidable ally in the quest for long lasting peace in the country. The nationwide peace movement also cited the contributions of Gen. Jessie Dellosa, who reached the mandatory retirement age of 56 last January 20, for pursuing programs aimed at creating public awareness on the military’s peace initiatives and programs.

Social activist Ricardo Penson, chairman of the National Advocacy Council of the Yes for Peace movement, said that “Gen. Bautista’s impeccable credentials and track record as field commander of the Philippine Army will definitely keep him in good stead in leading the entire AFP in finding a lasting solution to our country’s perennial peace and order problems.”

Penson, who is among the 33 contenders for running a senatorial seat in the coming national and local elections, expressed his support to Bautista’s aim of rendering the communist insurgency and further armed struggle irrelevant before the end of his term as AFP Chief in July next year.

He also lauded the counter insurgency plan crafted by Bautista--the Internal Peace and Security Plan (IPSP) Bayanihan—a multi-sectoral approach to ending the country’s insurgency problem by fostering community development instead of combat operations.

In their letter to Bautista, Penson and Ernesto Alcanzare, lead organizer of the Yes for Peace movement, expressed their belief that “the multi-sectoral approach of IPSP Bayanihan coupled with the education and advocacy focus of Yes for Peace will bring the Filipino people to the forefront of addressing the roots of the armed struggle being waged by those who claim to represent us.”


Tubbataha board meets on best method to remove stranded USS Guardian

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 22): Tubbataha board meets on best method to remove stranded USS Guardian

The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) in Palawan has been tasked to set up containment booms around the USS Guardian for any possible oil leak as the U.S. minesweeper remained stuck stranded at the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park.

Rear Adm. Rodolfo D. Isorena, commandant of the PCG, said this in a meeting of the Tubbataha Protected Areas Management Board (PAMB) Tuesday morning. He said early measures must be undertaken against anything that might possibly happen, particularly now that the U.S. Navy minesweeper has turned 90 degrees and is completely on top of the corals on the South Atoll.

A spokesman of the U.S. Navy said if an oil spill would occur, it would not endanger Tubbataha because the USS Guardian uses a type of fuel that evaporates after spillage at sea.

Isorena is in Palawan with Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) Undersecretary Eduardo Oba Jr. to take charge of the situation. Isorena said if the weather settles in the following days from now, it just might take a week to lift the USS Guardian from the South Atoll in Tubbahata. The possibility of pulling off the minesweeper vessel off the atoll has been ruled out as the PCG said the method might just incur more damages on the corals.

The U.S. Navy has allegedly informed that it will be bringing to Palawan in Tubbataha the USNS Salvor (T-ARS-52), a Safeguard class rescue and salvage ship that serves as an element of the Combat Logistics Support Force that provides rescue and salvage services to the U.S.’ navy fleets at sea. USNS Salvor is reportedly “designed to perform combat salvage, lifting, towing, off-ship firefighting, manned diving operations, and emergency repairs to stranded or disabled vessels.”

Strong winds remain in the Sulu Sea, making it difficult for any rescue and salvage efforts, and might also place other rescue vessels in danger. Another difficulty the salvage team is facing is communications. Isorena said signal is often overwhelmed by statics even if they are already using satellite phones.

Estimates of destroyed corals in the 10-hectare South Atoll remain at 10 square meters. But Isorena said this might have already been enlarged after robust winds and waves hoisted the ship 90 degrees on the said atoll.