Wednesday, January 23, 2013

CPP: Unite and demand justice for all US imperialist crimes against the Filipino people--CPP

From the CPP Website (Jan 23): Unite and demand justice for all US imperialist crimes against the Filipino people--CPP

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) today urged all Filipino patriotic, progressive and democratic forces to raise the banner of Philippine national sovereignty to demand not only reparation over the damaging of the Tubbataha reef, but also to demand justice for all the crimes committed by the US imperialists against the Filipino people.

The CPP called on nationalist-minded students, professors, scientists, environmentalists, health workers, professionals, journalists and personalities to lead the national debate against the continuing US subjugation of the Philippines. “The times call for waging a war of ideas to expose and reject the basic presumptions of the Aquino regime’s policy of subservience to the US as well as claims of ‘friendship’ between the US imperialists and the Filipino people.”

“The brazen intrusion of the US naval warship at Tubbataha, the destruction of the corals and the high-handed display of firepower against Filipino reef rangers is but the latest scornful display of American arrogance against Philippine sovereignty,” pointed out the CPP. “The Filipino people should unite to put an end to the continuing disregard of Philippine territorial integrity and the use of the country as a military outpost for US hegemonism and power projection operations in the Philippines.”

“The present generation of Filipino patriots must condemn the subservient Aquino regime which has presented itself as a shameless apologist of US military in the face of the outright violations of Philippine sovereignty,” said the CPP. “The Aquino regime is serving as a lapdog of the US imperial government in allowing the US military to use of the Philippines as its foreign outpost.”

“Let there be a campaign to study the history of US colonial and semicolonial subjection of the Philippines and to expose the selfish ultra-nationalist economic interests of the US imperialists and the unwavering puppetry of the rulers of the Philippine republic since 1946,” said the CPP.

“Let us be inspired by our revolutionary and patriotic heroes, from Bonifacio to Recto. Let us recall how the Filipino people fought an epic war of resistance against the US colonialists, how the US military used their superior firepower and employed scorched-earth tactics to kill millions Filipinos in the colonial subjugation of the Philippines and how the US government has remained officially unapologetic for their war crimes and crimes against humanity.”

“The Filipino people must demand reparation for the intrusion and destruction at Tubbataha reefs by the USS Guardian. They should also demand an end to the incessant entry, docking and patrolling of US nuclear-capable warships in Philippine seas,” said the CPP.

“Furthermore, the Tubbataha intrusion puts to the fore outstanding crucial issues involving outright violations of Philippine sovereignty in the past,” said the CPP. "Among others, the US government should be castigated and be made to pay for the brutal shooting in the 1970s of an Aeta child scavenging in Clark Air Base whom the US soldiers claim was mistaken for a “wild pig.”

The CPP pointed out that the US government continues to refuse to divulge where and how many nuclear weapons were stockpiled in the former US bases in Clark and Subic. The US government also continues to refuse to take responsibility for cleaning up the toxic waste left at these bases. The CPP also pointed out that American soldiers responsible for the shooting of peasant Buyong-buyong Isnijal in Basilan in 2002 remain unpunished.

The CPP also pointed out that the American soldier convicted of the 2005 Subic rape against a Filipina was whisked off to the US by to elude justice. US soldiers stationed in Zamboanga since 2002 have been involved in various cases of indiscriminate firings, maulings, assaults and various cases involving the cultural insolence of US troops.

MILF: KDFI conducts 2-day Strategic Planning and Workshop

Posted to the MILF Website (Jan 23): KDFI conducts 2-day Strategic Planning and Workshop

The Kalilintad Development Foundation, Inc.(KDFI) conducted a 2- day Strategic Planning and Workshop with a theme“ Organizational Strengthening and Development “ at KDFI Office, Saludes Subdivision, New Rosario, Barangay Buenaflor, Tacurong City, Sultan Kudarat on January 19-20,2013.

The activity was graced by CPC-IMT; and by representatives of the Non-Violence Peace Force Mr. Georgi Engelbert, Ms. Vidushi Kaushika and Mr. Joseph Kaberia.
During the opening program, Ustadz Norodin Epad gave the invocation, followed by opening remarks of Abdulgafor Laguilayan, KDFI administrator.

Prof. Esmael Abdullah, BLMI Steering Committee member and KDFI Consultant explained to the participants the overview of the strategic planning and workshop activities. The participants represented their respective communities where they are assigned and serve. They expressed their hope, expectations and support for success of the KDFI services and endeavors.

KDFI Executive Director Moidjoddin K.Talusob introduced the Non-Violent Peace Force Team in the persons of Mr.Engelbert, Ms.Kaushika and Mr. Kaberia.

MILF: BLMI-BDA held 4-Day Capacity Building Program on Leadership and Management

From the MILF Website (Jan 23): BLMI-BDA held 4-Day Capacity Building Program on Leadership and Management

The Bangsamro Leadership and Management Institute (BLMI) and Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA) successfully culminated its 4-Day Training for Capacity Building on Leadership and Management on January 13-16.2013 held at BLMI Training Center at Simuay, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao for females participants. The first batch was conducted on December 23-26.2012 held at the same venue with male participants. Mixed participants in activities are prohibited by Islam the reason why a separate schedule for women was set.

The 4-day activity was facilitated by the BLMI Steering Committee members headed by Mike Abdula, Head of BLMI Training Division. The 20 Participants came from Davao, General Santos, Lanao, North Cotabato and Maguindanao Province.

Among the primordial objectives of the seminar were to enhance and capacitate the participants and hone them as prospective leaders and managers where the development of the Bangsamoro Region is the utmost concern of every Bangsamoro including other sectors in Mindanao and Sulu. The speakers from the BLMI imparted to the participants essentials of leadership and management; its methodologies and application based on both secular and Islamic perspectives that suits to the situation in the Bangsamoro.

Participant form North Cotabato, Norhanie Ugalingan stressed, “We are thankful for having this kind of training for women where it strengthens our obligations and organizations, and I am also hoping that this endeavor shall happen again to enable us in upholding our Islamic Faith, that I may internalize and apply the imparted knowledge firstly to ourselves and family. I am very grateful to the people and organizations behind this noble undertaking and to the BLMI facilitators for the job well done.

On the 3rd of the training, Mohagher Iqbal, MILF Chief Negotiator and Brother Al Camlian, MILF Peace panel member arrived and gave brief inspirational messages to the participants and challenged them to continuously exert noble efforts for the betterment of their families and the Bangsamoro people and society. “Women have played very crucial roles in the course of history and human struggle”, Sheikh Mahmod Ahmad, BLMI Executive Director emphasized.

The activity was funded by the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA), one of the leading International Non-Government Organizations (NGO) that helps alleviate the welfare of people in armed-conflict (affected areas).

MILF: Ambassador El-Masry invited to 35thGPH-MILF peace talks in KL

From the MILF Website (Jan 23): Ambassador El-Masry invited to 35thGPH-MILF peace talks in KL

Ambassador Sayed Kassem El-Masry has been invited to the 35th GPH-MILF Exploratory Talks in Kuala Lumpur on January 21-25. This was learned from a very reliable source, who requested anonymity but disclosed that the invitation was signed as usual by the Malaysian facilitator, Dato Tengku Ab’Ghafar bin Tengku Mohamed.

If he decides to attend, El-Masry, special envoy and adviser to the secretary-general of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), would be the second highest official of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to attend the peace talks in Kuala Lumpur.

Early last year, Ali Demirci, Director of the OIC Minorities Affairs Department, attended the peace talks, representing OIC Secretary General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu.
In March 2012, the government and the MILF had agreed to approve the request of the Office of the Secretary-General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (formerly Conference) to sit as observer in the 15-year old talks.

The approval of the OIC’s observer status, which was viewed as a giant step towards legitimizing and internationalizing the 16-year old negotiation, was contained in the Joint Statement signed by GPH panel chair Marvic Leonen and MILF panel chair Mohagher Iqbal with Malaysian facilitator Dato Ab Ghafar Tengku Mohamed.

Asked of his comment on the possible attendance of El-Masry, Jun Mantawil, head of the MILF peace panel secretariat, told Luwaran that this is crucial as he comes at the last stretch stage of the talks wherein the two parties are expected to exert all efforts to hurdle the remaining issues before they sign the comprehensive agreement anytime soon in Mindanao. “I welcome him with open arms; it is an honor to have been with us during the talks,” Mantawil added.

Reds taunt govt troops with another checkpoint

From the Manila Standard Today (Jan 24): Reds taunt govt troops with another checkpoint

A day after 100 New People’s Army guerrilas raided a Misamis Oriental town and set up checkpoints, the communist insurgents again taunted security forces and put up another checkpoint in the neighboring province of Agusan del Sur to collect “revolutionary taxes” from a log trader.

Reports reaching Camp Crame said 10 NPA guerillas flagged down a truck loaded with logs at an isolated barangay in Sibagat, Agusan del Sur. The truck, driven by trader Remigio Gala, was en route to Barangay Poblacion from Barangay Kauswagan when the rebels stopped the vehicle and demanded the payment of revolutionary taxes. When Gala refused to pay the monthly revolutionary tax, the communists, supposedly belonging to the NPA Guerilla Front 21 operating Eastern Mindanao, unloaded the logs and set the truck on fire.

On Tuesday, around 100 NPA guerillas raided houses in the town of Kinoguitan in the neighboring province of Misamis Oriental and also set up their checkpoints along the highways around the coastal town some 80 kilometers east of Cagayan De Oro City.
The communists raided the homes of known soldiers and retired policemen and seized their firearms.

Meanwhile, Philippine National Police chief Director General Alan Purisima ordered all PNP units, particularly in known rebel infested areas, to fortify their positions against potential attacks by the NPA. Purisima’s directive is in response to the recent abduction of a policeman and an army soldier at another NPA checkpoint in Compostela Valley. Purisima said that the PNP are in close coordination with the armed forces to safely rescued P01 Ruel Passion and PFC Jezreel Culango who are still held captive by suspected NPA’s.

“We have to be alert all times for possible attacks by NPA rebels and other threat groups on various PNP checkpoints to deter recurrence of this incident,” Purisima told.
He said that PNP units assigned in far flung areas are always targets of NPA’s and “they should be security conscious,” to avert such attacks.

3 NPA rebels killed, 3 soldiers injured in Zamboanga del Sur clash

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jan 24): 3 NPA rebels killed, 3 soldiers injured in Zamboanga del Sur clash

Three communist rebels were killed while three soldiers were injured in a clash in Tigbao, Zamboanga del Sur around 2:45 p.m. Wednesday, a report reaching the military’s Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) based here, said. In that report, sent by the 4th Scout Ranger Battalion, soldiers were patrolling Barangay Mati in Tigbao when the clash took place.

As a result, three New People’s Army rebels had been killed and their firearms recovered, the report added. The Scout Rangers also suffered three injuries, the report said. The fleeing rebels were still being pursued as of late Wednesday, a Westmincom statement, said.

In Makilala, North Cotabato, one soldier was killed while another one was wounded in a clash in Barangay (village) Kabilao, a village bordering the province and Davao del Sur on Tuesday, Lt. Col. Noel Dela Cruz, commander of the Army’s 57th Infantry Battalion, said.

He said soldiers were conducting patrol when they were fired upon by some 40 rebels as they were going uphill on Mt. Matungis in Kabilao. Dela Cruz said some villagers had fled for fear of getting caught in the crossfire and had taken refuge in the village center.  He said the military had also fired artillery rounds against the fleeing rebels.

Soldier killed, 2 others hurt in clash with NPA

From the Philippine Star (Jan 23): Soldier killed, 2 others hurt in clash with NPA

A soldier was killed while two others were wounded Tuesday as they prevented communist rebels from getting close to a hinterland North Cotabato village to collect revolutionary taxes from farmers. Col. Ademar Tomaro, commander of the Army’s 602nd Brigade, said the fatality, whose identity he declined to reveal pending notification of immediate family, was one of three soldiers of the 57th IB wounded in the encounter at Barangay Cabilao in Makilala town in North Cotabato.

The soldiers that clashed with a marauding band of the New People’s Army were dispatched to Barangay Cabilao to check on reports by villagers of New People’s Army guerillas gathering on a hill overlooking their village, as if preparing to mount an incursion.

The villagers told intelligence operatives of the 57th IB they were certain the NPAs were to raid their community to collect “protection money,” having received extortion letters a week earlier.

Tomaro said the NPAs opened fire first on the advancing soldiers, provoking a two-hour running firefight. The firefights waned only when the NPAs scampered away after they ran out of ammunition.

Villagers displaced by the hostilities confirmed seeing the NPAs carry seven wounded companions, mostly adolescents, four of them identified as Maknoku, Adel, Simbung and Maximo. Ranking members of the Makilala municipal peace and order council said the same band of NPAs were behind last week’s execution of a chieftain of a Manobo tribe in nearby Magpet, North Cotabato.

The slain timuay (chieftain), Datu Amante Ansabu Pasayao, was known for his being supportive to the security efforts of the Magpet municipal police and the military in hinterland areas whose residents the NPAs subject to its illegal taxation campaigns. Tuesday’s Army-NPA encounter in Barangay Cabilao forced dozens of families to evacuate to neutral grounds.

NZ, UN envoys visit Maguindanao

From the Philippine Star (Jan 23): NZ, UN envoys visit Maguindanao

New Zealand Ambassador Reuben Levermore (left) listens to Dr. John Magno, chief-of-staff of Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Gov. Mujiv Hataman explain the government's on-going programs for farming communities during the envoy's tour in Maguindanao, where he and Kazuyuki Tsurumi of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, (inset, left) distributed farm inputs and tools to Moro farmers. (John Unson)

Efforts to restore normalcy in conflict-devastated areas in Maguindanao got another push with the visit to the province of an envoy from New Zealand and representatives from the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to distribute farm inputs and tools.

New Zealand Ambassador Reuben Levermore and FAO’s representative to the Philippines, Kazuyuki Tsurumi were accompanied by officials of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, led by Dr. John Magno, when they toured and met with local leaders last Jan. 17.

Magno, who is chief-of-staff of ARMM Gov. Mujiv Hataman, told The Star Wednesday that Levermore and Tsurumi were briefed by officials of the regional Agriculture Department on activities of the ARMM government for ethnic Maguindanaon farmers.

There is fragile peace now in Maguindanao, apparently ushered in by the continuing peace talks between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. The MILF has dozens of government-recognized enclaves in Maguindanao. The rebel group’s main bastion, Camp Darapanan, is located in Sultan Kudarat town in the second district of the province.

Levermore and Tsurumi also met with farmers in Barangay Madia in Datu Saudi town, one of the municipalities badly affected by military-MILF hostilities in recent years. The two dignitaries led the distribution of farm tools and other inputs, such as seeds and fertilizers to local Moro beneficiaries in Barangay Madia.

The FAO and the ARMM’s Department of Agriculture and Fisheries have been providing farmers in conflict-devastated areas in Maguindanao with livelihood technology, including the use of organic fertilizers using ingredients that are readily available in their surroundings.

Both dignitaries were also taught by local farmers, led by a government agriculturist, Nanding Sayutin, on how to produce organic fertilizers in a brief show while in Barangay Madia.

Magno said Levermore and Tsurumi also got insights on the "dividends" being enjoyed now by the public from President Benigno Aquino III’s peace overtures with the MILF. There has been a “zero” encounter between MILF forces and the military in Maguindanao the past 16 months owing to the tight enforcement in the province by the joint ceasefire committee of the 1997 Agreement on General Agreement on Cessation of Hostilities.

The GPH-MILF peace negotiations, which started Jan. 7, 1997, are being assisted by foreign governments and international peace advocacy outfits fused together as the International Contact Group, whose involvement in the talks has written imprimatur from both sides.

The spokesman of the mayors’ league in Maguindanao, Northern Kabuntalan Mayor Ramil Dilangalen, said the engagement of Levermore and Tsurumi with local farming sectors was a tacit indication that the province has gradually been reeling off from the adverse effects of armed conflicts.

“All of these developments in the security situation in Maguindanao is a result of the cooperation of all sectors, the provincial government, the league of mayors, the police, the military and the MILF in working together to make the Mindanao peace process succeed,” Dilangalen said.

Rebel leader surrenders in Abra

From the Philippine Star (Jan 23): Rebel leader surrenders in Abra

A ranking rebel leader heading a group of rebels in remote Lacub town in Abra gave up to authorities on Monday, a belated report from the Cordillera police said.
Connie Santiago Valera, 29, who took the nom de guerres as “Ka James, Yasser” surrendered to the police and military operatives on Monday dawn in Sitio Abubutok, Barangay Lenneng, Licuan-Baay town in Abra. Licuan Baay is the gateway to Lacub town from Bangued, the province’s capital town.

Valera is a ranking leader of the Ilocos-Cordillera Regional Committee of the Communist Party of the Philippines, said Cordillera police director Chief Supt. Benjamin Magalong. He is listed as number 5 in the 4th quarter “Order of Battle of 2012," he continued.

The rebel leader reportedly decided to shun hiding as he could no longer stand the suffering and difficulties while with the remaining rebels in the Cordillera mountains. “He was used by the rebels in their various criminal activities in order to generate resources to sustain their existence in the mountains. He decided to surrender to start a normal and peaceful life with the community,” Magalong said.

Operatives from the Regional Public Safety Battalion, Provincial Intelligence Branch of the Abra police, Lacub and Sallapadan policemen, Military Intelligence Group, 41st Infantry Battalion and 503rd Brigade of the Philippine Army joined to convince Valera to surrender. Valera is now with the Abra police for documentation and debriefing.

Valera’s surrender, Magalong said, “is another accomplishment of government forces in their effort to significantly reduce the number of communist rebels operating in the different parts of the region as he called on the remaining rebels to already yield to the government since they will have a better and peaceful life in the mainstream society rather than hide in the mountains and embrace a failed ideology.”

The Cordillera police earlier claimed there is a continuous decrease of NPA rebels in the region placing their number to no more than four dozen.

Bayan stages protest vs. ‘fabricated raps’

From the Visayan Daily Star (Jan 23): Bayan stages protest vs. ‘fabricated raps’

A vigil protest was staged yesterday by members of progressive organizations under the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan at the Fountain of Justice in Bacolod City to condemn what they called the rampant filing of fabricated charges against its leaders, Christian Tuayon of Bayan-Negros, said yesterday. Tuayon who was among the 52 persons implicated in the killing of an Army lieutenant in Cadiz City two years ago, said the theme of the vigil is “Kampuhan: People’s Vigil Against Political Repression.”

This is their first protest this year and it will also serve as the opening salvo of various activities and their continued efforts to call for justice for human rights violations, he said. The vigil is joined by members of Bayan, National Federation of Sugar Workers, Kilusang Magbubukidng Pilipinas, Kilusang Mayo Uno, Karapatan, and Promotion of Church and People's Response.

4 troops wounded in clash with NPA in Cagayan as rebel leader surrenders in Abra

From InterAksyon (Jan 23): 4 troops wounded in clash with NPA in Cagayan as rebel leader surrenders in Abra

Four soldiers were wounded in a clash with New People’s Army fighters early Wednesday, which happened two days after the surrender of what authorities described as a ranking communist rebel leader in Abra province. Colonel Loreto Magundayao Jr., spokesman of the Army's 5th Infantry Division, said troops of the 17th Infantry Battalion were patrolling when they encounter the rebels, who were reportedly led by Rolando Ibis, in Barangay T. Elizaga, Gataran town at 6:45 a.m. The rebels retreated after the hour-long firefight, reportedly taking along their casualties. The military claimed the rebels were reportedly extorting money in the area for the May elections.

In Abra, Chief Superintendent Benjamin Magalong, regional director of the Cordillera police, said Connie Santiago Valera, alias James and Yasser, 29, surrendered Monday in Sitio Abubutok, Barangay Lenneng, Licuan-Baay. He said Valera is a member of the Ilocos-Cordillera Regional Committee of the Communist Party of the Philippines and is listed fifth in the regional police’s 4th Quarter Order of Battle of 2012. Valera is now under the custody of Abra police. During interrogation, Valera reportedly said he was disappointed when he was told to engage in criminal activities to generate resources.

China deplores PH 'illegal occupation' of islands, says U.N. case to complicate issue

From InterAksyon (Jan 23): China deplores PH 'illegal occupation' of islands, says U.N. case to complicate issue

China said on Wednesday that a request by the Philippines for a U.N. tribunal to intervene in its longstanding South China Sea territorial dispute with China would only complicate the issue, and denounced Manila's "illegal occupation" of islands there. Manila has asked the tribunal of the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) to order a halt to China's activities that the Philippines says violates the Southeast Asian nation's sovereignty.

China's claims over islands, reefs and atolls in resource-rich waters off its south coast and to the east of mainland Southeast Asia set it directly against Vietnam and the Philippines, while Brunei, Taiwan and Malaysia also lay claim to parts.

Asked about the Philippines' move, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said its southern neighbour was occupying some of China's islands in the South China Sea."China has consistently opposed the Philippines' illegal occupation," he told a daily news briefing.

China supports talks, but only on a bilateral basis with the countries directly involved, as previously agreed on by China and members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Hong added. "We hope that the relevant country honours its promises, and ... does not take any action to complicate or expand the problem," he said, without elaborating.

It was not clear how the tribunal could help. While all its decisions are binding on countries concerned, it has no power to enforce them.

Barring rangers in Tubbataha 'unfortunate' - US Navy

From Rappler (Jan 23): Barring rangers in Tubbataha 'unfortunate' - US Navy

The US Navy admitted that ignoring and barring Tubbataha Reef Natural Park rangers to board the USS Guardian when it first crashed into the coral was "unfortunate" and will be investigated. “That was an unfortunate incident that happened right at the start of the event,” a Navy official was quoted in a report published on Tuesday, January 22 (Wednesday, January 23 in Manila) by the Navy Times. The official added that “since [then] we’ve had good communications with the Philippines throughout this incident.”

According to the Navy source, park rangers arrived on the scene within hours of the grounding but while the ship was at "general quarters." “They were still trying to determine the ship’s state,” the official said. General quarters or battle stations is a security condition that precludes taking aboard visitors, even if they are entitled under law to approach the vessel. The incident will be part of the overall investigation into the grounding, the Navy Times added.

Park superintendent Angelique Songco filed last week a formal protest with the US Embassy in Manila over the "behavior" of the Americans after the crash and on Monday revealed they disregarded warnings when the rangers informed the vessel that it was approaching the reef.
The incident was initially blamed on faulty navigation chart by the US Navy, which on Sunday apologized for the grounding of the USS Guardian.

Legarda calls for Senate probe

Sen Loren Legarda, a known environment advocate, filed on Wednesday a resolution calling for the Senate to open an inquiry into the grounding of the USS Guardian inside the protected area of the multi-awarded natural park and UNESCO World Heritage site. Legarda, Chair of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, in particular wants to clarify why the ship's commanding officer deployed armed sailors on deck to deter park rangers from boarding or even approaching the vessel.

“A full investigation should be conducted by concerned agencies in order to strengthen existing mechanisms for protecting the World Heritage Site. Republic Act 10067 or the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park (TRNP) Act [of 2009] clearly states that any damage to the reef shall subject the responsible person or entity to the payment of administrative fines set by the TPAMB based on current valuation standards, as well as the cost of restoration," she said.

The park management board agreed on Tuesday it will fine the US Navy both for violations that are now evident as well as future offenses once the ship is pulled out of the reef and damage to the coral is assessed. No jail time will be sought. "Those responsible for the damage on the Tubbataha Reef should own up and pay up,” Legarda stressed.

According to the senator, the grounding of a foreign vessel inside a protected area "highlights the need to ensure full protection of the Philippines’ marine resources by all vessels, foreign or domestic, within territorial waters amidst geo-political developments in the region.”

Rebels chided anew for DavOr ambush

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jan 23): Rebels chided anew for DavOr ambush

The military chided the communist rebels anew for the explosion of an improvised explosive device that left one soldier killed and six injured last Tuesday (Jan.22) in Sitio Mainit, Barangay Calapagan, Lupon, Davao Oriental. Lt. Colonel Lyndon Paniza, spokesperson of the 10th Infantry Division said the New People’s Army 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 guarantee the protection of lives and human rights.

4ID soldiers scores anew against NPA rebels

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jan 23): 4ID soldiers scores anew against NPA rebels

CAMP EVANGELISTA, Cagayan de Oro City -- Soldiers from 8th Infantry “Dependable” Battalion, 4th Infantry “Diamond” Division encountered around 10 NPA rebels at Sitio Kasilaan, Barangay Halapitan, San Fernando, Bukidnon at around 5:20 a.m., Tuesday. The troops were conducting combat-clearing operation when the civilian residents tipped them off about the presence of the NPA rebels who were conducting force taxation and collecting foodstuff from the poor farmers in the area.

A firefight ensued that lasted for about 40 minutes which resulted to the recovery of one US Springfield single shot Garand rifle (defaced serial number) with four rounds of live ammunition and subversive documents. No casualty was reported on the government side while the rebels were believed to have suffered casualties based on the unconfirmed information from the locals.

Colonel James V Jacob, commander of 403rd Infantry “Peacemaker” Brigade said, “We are very thankful to the residents for their timely information that resulted to the successful encounter with the rebels and recovery of high-powered firearms and subversive documents from the NPA rebels. This is a concrete proof of the efforts of the people in the community to thwart the long existing abuses of the rebels. They are now awakened and want to end their sufferings in the hands of these rebels.”

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

He also said that maintenance of peace is their prime objective in carrying out their tasks to pave way for development in their area of operation.

Lieutenant Colonel Eugenio Julio C Osias IV, 4ID spokesperson said, “Let us work together to put this extortionists in jail or better, convince them to stop these criminal activities.” (8IB/4ID/PA/PIA10)

Army official tells politicians not to give in to the NPA's permit to win extortion

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jan 23): Army official tells politicians not to give in to the NPA's permit to win extortion

An army official appealed to politicians in Samar to repulse any offer of permit to campaign or permit to win in exchange for monetary consideration this coming election. During the Municipal Peace and Order Council (MPOC) meeting in Paranas town, Monday Lt Col Cerilo Balaoro made his appeal. “The extortion schemes like permit to campaign and permit to win will start anytime before the campaign period,” he added. Balaoro is the 87th Infantry Battalion Commander based in San Jose De Buan.

He aired his concern as Samar is considered a priority area, based on its history of intense political rivalry. “This is because of the presence of armed group, not only PAGs but also NPA, this group impose threats to the civilians, especially to the politicians,” said the army official. “The advocacy of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is to have a safe, honest and fair election.” The military joins the mandate of the COMELEC in joint checkpoints that started on January 13, 2013.

Military continues pursuit vs. NPA rebels in MisOr

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 23): Military continues pursuit vs. NPA rebels in MisOr

The military continued its pursuit against suspected rebels of the New People’s Army (NPA) who raided houses in Misamis Oriental Tuesday morning. Lt. Col. Eugenio Julio Osias, Jr., spokesperson of the army’s Fourth Infantry Division here, said the soldiers have not established contact with the enemy in the last 24-hour. He said two teams from the Army’s 58th Infantry Battalion based in Salay, Misamis Oriental jumped off Tuesday morning to pursue NPA rebels who raided houses in Kinoguitan, Misamis Oriental.

Some 25 fully armed NPA rebels of Guerilla Front B of the North-Central Mindanao Revolutionary Command swooped down on houses of active and retired military officers in Kinoguitan about 7:00 a.m. Tuesday. He said the rebels seized issued firearms, military uniforms, combat boots, and other belongings before fleeing toward the mountainous villages of Kinoguitan. A team from the 58th IB that conducts clearing operations in the hinterlands of Kinoguitan and the neighboring town of Sugbongcogon immediately established blocking forces in the hinterlands on receiving the report, Osias said. He said another team from the 58th IB’s based company were dispatched to conduct to chase after the rebel forces who withdrew to unknown direction.

3 NPA rebels killed, 3 soldiers wounded in Zambo Sur clash

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 23): 3 NPA rebels killed, 3 soldiers wounded in Zambo Sur clash

Three New People’s Army (NPA) rebels were killed while three soldiers were wounded in a clash Wednesday in the hinterlands of Zamboanga del Sur, a military official disclosed Wednesday. Western Mindanao Command (Wesmincom) spokesman Col. Rodrigo Gregorio said the soldiers were conducting security patrol when they clashed with a group of NPA rebels around 2:45 p.m. Wednesday in Barangay Mate, Tigbao, Zamboanga del Sur.

Gregorio said the NPA rebels fled as they were outmaneuvered by the troops, leaving behind their three slain comrades. Their remains were turned over to the local government officials for identification and eventual turnover to their families, he said. Gregorio said the troops have recovered three high-powered firearms from the possession of the slain rebels. He did not identify the wounded soldiers except in saying they belong to the 14th Scout Ranger Company of the Army’s 4th Scout Ranger Battalion.

President Aquino leads Philippine Army change of command

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 23): President Aquino leads Philippine Army change of command

President Benigno S. Aquino III led the change of command of the Philippine Army Tuesday in Fort Bonifacio expecting the new army chief to carry out the reforms in the service for the benefit of the people. The President acknowledged the outstanding leadership of former Army chief Lt. Gen. Emmanuel Bautista, adding his successor must be equally capable.

General Bautista assumed the post of chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). A decorated officer like Lt. Gen. Noel Coballes could perform the same feat achieved by General Bautista, the President said during Tuesday’s change of command ceremony. “Mataas ang tiwala’t kumpiyansa ng sambayanan sa iyo, Lieutenant General Coballes, kaya naman umaasa akong hindi ka madidiskaril sa iyong sinumpaang mandato,” he said.

The President said he is excited about the improvements and development that the Armed forces could have with the approval of the New AFP Modernization Act, which will provide P75 billion in the next five years. Under the present administration, the AFP had a lot of improvement like the acquisition of a new Navy ship, helicopters, military trucks and other vehicles as well as modern firearms for the soldiers, the Chief Executive said.

Another challenge is achieving an ideal population-to-soldier ratio, the President said. He added that since 1986, the number of soldiers remains the same despite the tremendous increase in the population. “Ang atin pong tugon: ang ipadama sa kasundaluhan na nasa likod nila ang pamahalaan; na habang ibinubuwis nila ang kanilang buhay sa serbisyo ay nariyan ang estado upang pangalagaan ang kanilang kapakanan,” he said. Part of this is providing soldiers with better skills through active deployment and training, as well as rest and recreation particularly for those who came from battle.

The President also noted the important role that the police and the military will play during this year’s midterm election. “Ang pagharap ng sambayanan sa panibagong sangandaan sa halalan sa Mayo, ay hudyat din ng panibagong hamon para sa ating kasundaluhan. Habang kaliwa’t kanan ang pagbuhos ng mga patalastas, at ang paminsan-minsang pagtatagisang-dila ng mga kandidatong nangangampanya, tungkulin ng ating mga pulis at sundalong mapanatili ang kapanatagan sa ating taumbayan,” the President said.

A native of Tuguegarao, Cagayan, Coballes was born on February 7, 1958. He started his military career upon graduating from the Philippine Military Academy on February 1980. Posted mostly in Mindanao, Coballes led the assaults for the capture of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s (MILF) Camp Omar and Camp Abubakar. Coballes is a recipient of five Gold Cross Medals for his gallantry in battle. He also took military courses in the US and had participated in trainings and seminars in the US, Mongolia, Thailand, India and Australia. The 55th Army chief is married to the former Ms. Lorna Paglinawan of Kauswagan, Lanao del Norte and the couple has four daughters.

Also present during Tuesday’s event were Vice President Jejomar Binay, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas, Transportation and Communication Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya and Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Sonny Coloma.

Grounded US minesweeper causes around 1,000 sq.m. damage to Tubbataha reef -- Task Force

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 23): Grounded US minesweeper causes around 1,000 sq.m. damage to Tubbataha reef -- Task Force

The Philippine Task Force on Tubbataha reported that around 1,000 square meters of the reef were damaged in the grounding the United States minesweeper USS Guardian in Tubbataha Reef National Park last week. "There were dives made by the US Navy to assess the extent of damage to the ship and also a dive made by our Philippine assessment team to determine the extent of damage to the reef itself. The damage, based on the initial dive, was approximately 1,000 square meters," said Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda during Wednesday's press briefing in Malacanang.

As regards the damage of USS Guardian, Lacierda said there were severe damage to the rudder and the propeller of the vessel based on the initial assessment of the divers.

Under Republic Act 10067 or "The Tubbataha National Park Law," the Tubbataha Reef National Park covers an approximate area of 97,030 hectares. "This (Tubbataha Reef) is a national treasure and a world heritage site and, therefore, it is important to us. It is precious to us. The primary consideration right now is to remove the ship from the reef," the Presidential Spokesman said.

Lacierda stressed that the first and the paramount responsibility right now of the task force is to take away the ship. "The (Philippine) Coast Guard is there precisely to act as a marine protection agency. We cannot emphasize (more) the fact that this is a national treasure, this is a world heritage site and, therefore, we will do the best that we can to ensure that the extrication of the ship shall be done with minimal damage to the reef," he said.

As to the issue if the Philippine government will claim damages from the US government, Lacierda said the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) will be the lead agency in discussing this matter with their US counterparts. "Nag-usap (na) kami ni (DFA) Secretary (Albert) del Rosario. Do not be worried about our claims. We have the law. We will enforce the law," he noted. But, he said that before discussing anything else, "we have to ensure that we cause minimal damage to the reef itself during the period of salvaging the ship away from the reef."

Lacierda said the US salvage operators have already fine tuned their plan subject, of course, to the discussions with their Philippine counterparts, on how to best salvage the ship with minimal damage to the reef. He also said that President Benigno Aquino III was already informed of the latest development on the Tubbataha Reef incident.

"The instruction of the President is very, very clear. Let’s make sure, first priority, let’s take out the ship and let’s take out the ship with minimal damage (on the reef). It just goes to show that we are very concerned with the situation on the reef," he stressed.

Malacanang expects rule of law to prevail in resolving West PHL Sea dispute

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 23): Malacanang expects rule of law to prevail in resolving West PHL Sea dispute

The Palace expects international law will prevail in finally settling the disputed West Philippine Sea issue after the Philippines elevated its cause to the international tribunal. Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said in a press briefing in Malacanang Wednesday that the Palace also expects China and the Philippines, being signatories to United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, to observe the laws and the rules of UNCLOS.

“We feel that now is the time to raise (it) before the arbitral tribunal. This is on the basis of a rules-based approach to resolving the issues in the West Philippine Sea,” he said. Referring to a statement of Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario, Lacierda said the Philippines has already exhausted almost all possible means to settle the dispute peacefully based on the government’s three-way track—legal, political, and diplomatic.

“The Palace has taken the position that this is a rules-based approach. Our approach in going through the arbitral tribunal is the legal way that we have been saying and Secretary Del Rosario has the full confidence of the President—the President being the chief policymaker,” he added. Despite the case being brought to the international tribunal, it’s not the end-all and be-all for the Philippine-China relations, Lacierda said. He said the two countries have an active engagement with each other in several other fields and they can continue to move forward with their people-to-people engagements and trade relations.

“This matter has been given over to the international tribunal and we’ll let the international tribunal decide on this matter. This is not the crux of our RP-China relations and certainly we do not intend, and China itself does not intend, to view the RP-China relations as the West Philippine Sea (being) our only issue”

In a briefer released by the Dept. of Foreign Affairs, it said it is the constitutional mandate of the President to pursue the national interest and defend the Philippine territory and maritime domain, which is why the Philippines is bringing the issue forward for international arbitration.

In anticipating the possible impact on overseas Filipino workers by the recent government action, the DFA said the government is ready to provide appropriate safety nets for the OFWs. With regards to possible effects on the country’s tourism sector, the DFA said the Philippines and China have good people-to-people engagement and the government is looking forward to enhancing the sector through an effective tourism program.

Philippines to insist on claims for damages of Tubbataha Reef, Palace say

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 23): Philippines to insist on claims for damages of Tubbataha Reef, Palace say

Malacanang said the Philippine government is determined to press its claim for the damage caused by a US Navy ship running aground in the Tubbataha Reef last week. In a press briefing in Malacanang on Wednesday, Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said the Department of Foreign Affairs will discuss the country’s claims with US officials after the US Navy ship is removed from the Tubbataha Reef.

“The DFA will be the lead agency in discussing this matter with their US counterparts,” Lacierda said about the Philippine claim for damages. As of the moment, however, Lacierda said the prime consideration is removing the naval ship from the area before Philippine and US official discuss compensation.

“Nag-usap kami ni (We have already discussed this with) Secretary Albert del Rosario. Do not be worried about our claims. We have the law. We will enforce the law,” he said. “This is a national treasure and a world heritage site and, therefore, it is important to us. It is precious to us. But, you must remember, the primary consideration right now is to remove the ship from the reef,” Lacierda added noting any salvage operation must ensure minimal damage to the reefs.

The President’s instruction is to prioritize taking the ship out with minimal damage to the reefs, he said. Lacierda added that the President is concerned with the situation on the reefs. Asked by reporters whether the 1,000 square meters of damaged to the reefs is significant, the Palace official said: “It’s a damage to a world heritage site. It’s a damage to our natural resources. It’s a damage to an important site. We cannot but put emphasis on the importance of this reef as a heritage site.”

A local task force monitoring the situation reported that around 1,000 square meters of reefs were damaged. The US Navy’s commitment so far is for the speedy extrication of the Navy ship and it is currently working with Philippine authorities, Lacierda said. The US Navy also issued a formal apology to the Philippine government through a press release, he added.

According to the report of the task force, US Navy men made dives to assess the extent of damage to the ship and a Philippine assessment team also made underwater surveys to determine the extent of damage to the reefs. There was severe damage to the rudder and the propeller of the vessel, Lacierda said citing reports released by the task force.

The USS Guardian, a 68-meter long minesweeper, ran aground Thursday last week while in transit through the marine park. Philippine authorities said there were no injuries or oil leaks caused by the incident. The Tubbataha Reefs, designated by Unesco as a World Heritage Site in 1992, provides an important habitat for internationally threatened and endangered marine species. The reefs support many species of corals, cetaceans, sharks and other fishes.

PHL seeks support of intl community on its case against China

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 23): PHL seeks support of intl community on its case against China

The Philippines has sought the backing of the international community for its decision to challenge China’s far-reaching claims in the South China Sea before a U.N. arbitration body, a move likely to anger Beijing, which opposes foreign intervention in the disputes.

Manila had always argued that a rules-based approach is the only legitimate way in addressing disputes through a legal framework such as the 1982 U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Alarmed by China’s expansionist moves, which the Philippines called “unlawful” and “invalid,” the government of Benigno S. Aquino III took a bold step on Tuesday when it elevated its long-standing maritime rift with Beijing before the U.N.

“We ask the countries to support the Philippine effort for a peaceful and durable solution to this dispute,” Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary for Ocean Affairs Gilberto Asuque told a news conference.

The South China Sea, part of which is known in the Philippines as West Philippine Sea, is an international waterway where more than 50 percent of the world's merchant fleet tonnage passes each year. It had been a source of conflict among rival claimants China, Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan. China is citing historical entitlements as its basis for its huge claims over the waters said to be rich in oil and natural gas.

Foreign diplomats and representatives of international organizations were briefed by Foreign Affairs officials on its legal action against China right after the department summoned the Chinese Ambassador on Tuesday to receive a diplomatic note containing the Philippines’ Notification and Statement of Claim filed at the U.N., where the Philippines is believed to have a strong case.

Circulars were likewise sent to all Philippine diplomatic missions to inform host governments that Manila is bringing China before a U.N. tribunal. Asuque said the posts were instructed to send notes verbale and to present the copy of the notification and statement of claim to their host governments and relevant agencies.

“We’re asking them if they can convince their own political leaders that this is the right course of action taken by the Philippines as a peaceful way to resolve the dispute because this is prescribed under international law,” Asuque said.

China, which vehemently opposed efforts to bring the disputes to any international fora, has 30 days to respond to the Philippine notification. Beijing prefers to negotiate one on one with other claimants which would give it advantage because of its sheer size compared to rival claimants which are smaller and have less military force.

US Navy looking at 3 options in retrieving stricken USS Guardian

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 23): US Navy looking at 3 options in retrieving stricken USS Guardian

The Philippine Coast Guard Wednesday said the US Navy is looking at three options to recover the USS Guardian (MCM-5), still grounded at Tubbataha Reef at the Sulu Sea. Lt. Cmdr. Armand Balilo, PCG spokesperson said options being look into, in recovering the USS Guardian, include lifting (by heavy duty cranes and placing into a massive barge), towing, and dismantling on site.

But he said the decision to exercise this depends on the US Navy, the owners and operator of the stricken vessel. Citing weather conditions there, caretakers of Tubbataha Reef are not keen on imposing a timetable for the removal of the grounded US minesweeper from the area.

Angelique Songco, Tubbataha Management Office supervisor, said Wednesday they do not want to endanger the lives of crewmen tasked to get the vessel out of the site. The USS Guardian ran aground at Tubbataha Reef last Jan. 17 amid bad weather conditions. 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.

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 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.

In a statement, the Tubbataha Reefs Management Office 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, evident at this time, include:

Section 19, unauthorized entry
Section 21, non-payment of conservation fee
Section 30, obstruction of law enforcement officer I

t also cited Section 20, damages to the reef, and Section 26G, destroying resources.