Saturday, January 26, 2013

Group formed to probe preacher’s disappearance

From the Sun Star-Zamboanga (Jan 26): Group formed to probe preacher’s disappearance

ZAMBOANGA City Police officer-in-charge Edwin de Ocampo has formed a task group to handle the investigation over the disappearance of a preacher in Zamboanga City. De Ocampo on Saturday said he designated his deputy for administration, Superintendent Diomarie Albarico to head Task Group Baser.

De Ocampo said the task group has been ordered to conduct deep investigation over the disappearance of Ustadz Baser Mursalon, a resident of Labuan village, 36 kilometers west of Zamboanga City.

Initial investigation showed that Mursalon, 38, was driving his motorcycle on the way to the city proper when a Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV) with unidentified people on board bumped him from behind around 4:45 p.m. Tuesday in Sitio Malandi, Patalon village, 31 kilometers west of Zamboanga City. The SUV riders disembarked when Mursalon crashed on the pavement and open fire, De Ocampo said. Mursalon disappeared and remained missing since then, he said. The SUV, with bloodstains, was later found abandoned with flat right front tire in the village of Sinubong, 26 kilometers west of this city, he said.

De Ocampo said there is no clear motive yet concerning Musalon’s disappearance. The task group has been ordered to explore all possible motives in the conduct of the investigation, De Ocampo said.

Gov’t troops seize NPA camp in Northern Samar

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jan 26): Gov’t troops seize NPA camp in Northern Samar

Government security forces discovered an abandoned rebel's camp at Sitio Catmaalad, Barangay Mckinley, Catarman, Northern Samar at around 9:30 a.m. of January 26, 2013.

Lieutenant Colonel Noel A. Vestuir, 20IB’s commanding officer, in his report, said the camp was seized by the operating troops of 20IB led by 1Lt. Raul Delos Santos. The seized camp was reported to have 15 hastily destroyed bunkers that can accommodate more or less 15 to 20 rebels, one kitchen and a comfort room.

Vestuir said the camp was seized after the soldiers launched sustained combat operations in the area of Catarman in response to the information tipped by some residents about the presence of armed men roaming the area extorting money and food stuffs from the residents.

The recent accomplishments by the 20IB troops against the NPAs have disrupted the impending activities being hatched by the latter. The government troops have dislodged them from their guerilla camps and cut-off their supply support lines that they forcibly take from the residents in the area.

Vestuir commended his troops for a job well done. He also thanked the continued support of the people in the government’s efforts of “Winning the Peace. Moreover, Vestuir called on the fleeing rebels to lay down their arms in order to once again live decent and normal lives along with their families.

AFP chief: Deployment of soldiers in Atimonan done in good faith

From the Philippine Star (Jan 27): AFP chief: Deployment of soldiers in Atimonan done in good faith

The military leadership yesterday said the deployment of soldiers to support the police team in Atimonan, Quezon that resulted in the killing of 13 men earlier this month was done “in good faith.” “According to them they went there in good faith. And what happened next is now the subject of investigation,” Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Lt. Gen. Emmanuel Bautista said.

Bautista made the statement in reference to the 25 Army Special Forces troops led by Lt. Col. Monico Abang involved in the police operation at a checkpoint in Atimonan last Jan. 6.

Bautista said that based on the statements of the 25 soldiers, they were apparently led to believe that they were supporting a police operation. Abang himself maintained they were requested to support the policemen led by Superintendent Hansel Marantan to intercept a group of suspected guns-for-hire. He said he and 24 of his men proceeded to the area in good faith.

The soldiers involved in what the police said was a shootout maintained the first shot came from one of the 13 men in the two-vehicle convoy and they only shot back.

Police confirm arrest of suspected Abu Sayyaf member

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jan 26): Police confirm arrest of suspected Abu Sayyaf member

Police authorities finally admitted to the Philippine Daily Inquirer on Saturday that they have in their custody a man who went missing in Basilan on Thursday after his family and militant groups claimed he was abducted by state agents. But Muin Hamja’s family and officials of a human rights group said as of Saturday, they still could not get confirmation of his arrest as the authorities continued to deny having the man in their custody.

Thursday’s alleged kidnapping of Hamja, according to his relatives and Kawagib, a group fighting for Moro human rights, was the second time he had fallen victim to enforced disappearance, which, under the Anti-Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance Act of 2012 that President Aquino signed last month, is now a criminal offense. But ranking police officials dismissed claims it was a case of kidnapping by state agents, saying Hamja had been arrested.

Abdulbaser Datumanong, coordinator of Kawagib for the Zamboanga, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi, said Hamja was first kidnapped by government agents during the crackdown against the Abu Sayyaf in Basilan in October 2001 but they were forced to release him for lack of evidence.

Hamja’s brother, Muhammadiya, was also allegedly forcibly abducted by state agents during the same crackdown and was released only after four years. He was taken in again in 2008 and remains locked up at the Basilan provincial jail to this day.

Datumanong said another indication that Hamja had become a victim of enforced disappearance was that police authorities continued to deny having him in their custody.

“Jermalyn, Muin’s wife, even appealed to authorities to help her locate her husband (because when she) went to the Regional Intelligence Unit of the Western Mindanao Police Office today the PNP denied having him in their custody,” said Amirah Lidasan, also of Kawagib.

Senior Superintendent Mario Dapilloza, Basilan police director, had told the Inquirer before Lidasan was interviewed that Hamja was indeed in police custody after he was collared by a team from the police and the military on Thursday. He described the man as an Abu Sayyaf suspect “facing five criminal cases for kidnapping and serious illegal detention docketed at the Regional Trial Court 9 in Isabela City.”

Dapilloza said Hamja was also on the government’s list of most wanted persons with a bounty of “P600,000 based on the joint resolution” of the Department of National Defense and Department of the Interior and Local Government. He said the operation carried out by members of the police’s Special Forces against Hamja was legitimate.

Dapilloza said that after Hamja was arrested, he was taken to the headquarters of the 53rd Infantry Battalion in Lamitan City for transport to this city. He is the being held at the headquarters of the Western Mindanao Police Office (here), Dapilloza added.

Chief Superintendent Juanito Vano, Western Mindanao police chief, also made a similar statement. “It was not kidnapping because the one captured by our law enforcers is [the subject] of a warrant of arrest and the person has a bounty,” Vano said by phone.

He said the police did not announce Hamja’s arrest early on because the suspect was still being “processed for investigation.” “We are not hiding him. We are just follow(ing) procedures,” Vano insisted.

Lidasan maintained it was simple case of abduction carried out by government agents because Hamja was forcibly taken based on accounts of eye witnesses. “We from Kawagib condemn the abduction and raise this alert that this seems to be the start of another crackdown on the Moro people,” Lidasan said.

Wife shows hubby’s PhilHealth, SSS cards to prove he’s no Red

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jan 26): Wife shows hubby’s PhilHealth, SSS cards to prove he’s no Red

The wife of a security guard arrested by the military for being a Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) leader called on the Court of Appeals Friday to release her husband, whom she said was a victim of “mistaken identity.”

Appearing before the Court of Appeals’ 5th Division, Marites Chioco submitted her common-law husband Rolly Panesa’s birth certificate, baptismal certificate, school records, records of his employment, Social Security System and PhilHealth cards, driver’s license and NBI clearance to refute the military’s claims that he has been leading a double life.

Cioco also submitted a certificate showing that Panesa underwent training for the government’s Citizens Armed Forces Geographical Unit, an irregular auxiliary force of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

“These are all government-issued documents and not one government agency has come out to say that these are fake. The AFP should admit its error because of arbitrariness in arrest Panesa,” said Cristina Palabay, secretary general of the human rights alliance Karapatan, who attended the hearing.

Presiding Justice Rosemarie Carandang ordered the AFP lawyers to present the military’s dossier on a certain Benjamin Mendoza in the next hearing set Feb. 5. Palabay said Panesa would sit on the witness stand the same day.

Panesa was arrested in Quezon City by AFP Southern Luzon Command operatives on Oct. 5, 2012. The military claimed he was Mendoza, alleged secretary of CCP’s Southern Tagalog regional committee and a member of the CPP’s central committee.

Chioco claimed her husband was tortured to admit he was Mendoza, showing to the media a picture of her husband with a swollen face and bruised eye and lips.

How did USS Guardian get into protected Tubbataha area? PNoy wants to know

From GMANews (Jan 26): How did USS Guardian get into protected Tubbataha area? PNoy wants to know

How did a US warship with all its sophisticated equipment wander into a protected area like Tubbataha Reef? President Benigno Aquino III wants to know this even as efforts to get the USS Guardian out of the Tubbataha Reef area are underway one week after the minesweeper ran aground last Jan. 17.

A report on government-run dzRB radio quoted Aquino, who is now in Switzerland to attend the World Economic Forum, as asking “how did they get into a protected area.” He also noted the minesweeper’s navigation system had been expected to be “one of the most sophisticated.”

The USS Guardian entered the Tubbataha Reef area last Jan. 17 and ran aground. The area is a UNESCO heritage site. On Friday, Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya said Task Force Tubbataha is working with the US Navy and a salvage firm from Singapore to remove the ship.

Bishop speaks

Meanwhile, Puerto Princesa Bishop Pedro Arigo said the US government must pay for the damage caused by the ship when it ran aground the reef, considered a UNESCO heritage site. “Whoever is responsible for that should pay for it and should be held liable,” Arigo said in an article posted Saturday on the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines news site. “Our appeal is that the ship should be retrieved as soon as possible to prevent larger damage of the coral reefs. The government should exert all efforts not to aggravate the damage,” Arigo added.

Photo: Grounded USS Guardian and US recovery ship in Tubbataha

Posted to GMANews (Jan 25): Photo: Grounded USS Guardian and US recovery ship in Tubbataha

The latest photo taken by members of the Tubbataha Management Office team on board a US Navy P3 Orion shows the vessel Apollo siphoning oil from the USS Guardian off the northwestern tip of the South Atoll in Tubbataha Reef. As calmer seas prevail, salvage teams are attempting to complete de-fueling on Friday. A team of Filipino scientists, assembled by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, will conduct a preliminary rapid assessment of reef damage. Lory Tan/WWF/TMO

Video: Gov’t, MILF sign terms for 3rd party team

From ABS-CBN (Jan 26): Video: Gov’t, MILF sign terms for 3rd party team

GPH peace panel

On the heels of their latest round of exploratory talks in Malaysia, the Government Peace Panel and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) signed the terms of reference for the third party team that will monitor the implementation of the framework agreement of the Bangsamoro.

Hailed as a milestone agreement, the Malaysian facilitator calls the signing a great step forward.
Government chief negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer calls the development an important achievement, and the MILF is not entertaining failure in the negotiation.

Ferrer says both panels will nominate five representatives from local and international non-government organizations to the third party team, which will be chaired by a mutually-accepted eminent person experienced in addressing conflicts around the world or with the implementation of the agreement.

Unlike in previous peace processes, Ferrer says, this time, the third party monitoring system will be put in place to see the agreement to the very end.

“Here were trying to ensure that all the way thru implementation, we will have a body that will be there with us to monitor and help with the challenges that will come along the way,” Coronel-Ferrer says. The World Tonight, Jan. 26, 2013

Video: US Navy finishes defuelling USS Guardian

From ABS-CBN (Jan 26): Video: Pag-defuel ng USS Guardian, natapos na ng US Navy (US Navy finishes defuelling USS Guardian)

USS Guardian salvage operation

Natapos na ng US Navy ang pagtanggal ng gasolina sa USS Guardian na nakasadsad pa rin sa Tubbataha Reef. Nagpa-Patrol, Jeff Canoy. TV Patrol, Enero 26, 2013, Sabado

5 hurt in Makilala roadside explosion

From the Sun Star-Davao (Jan 26): 5 hurt in Makilala roadside explosion

Five soldiers were wounded, two of them in critical condition, when a roadside bomb went off in a remote village in Makilala town in North Cotabato, at around 11:30 p.m. Friday, a military official said.

Lieutenant Nasrullah Sema, civil military operations chief of the 57th IB, identified the victims as Corporal Muhammad Nur Sali, Corporal Hassan Sarip, Private First Class Allan Urop, Private Michael Purol, and Private Vincent Sumug-oy, all members of the Charlie Company of the 57th IB.
Two of the wounded have remained at the intensive care unit in a hospital here. The victims sustained injuries on their head and other parts of their bodies, Sema said.

Lieutenant Manuel Gatus, commander of the Charlie Company, said his men, on board a military vehicle, were on their way to deliver food and other grocery items to a detachment at sitio Alang-Alang, barangay Kisante when an improvised explosive device went off. A one-hour firefight ensued after the blast, Gatus said.

Authorities recovered from the site a detonating cord, about 200 meters long, and other bomb parts.
Sema hinted the bomb attack was a desperate move of the New Peoples’ Army (NPA) to strike back at them after the rebels suffered heavy casualties during the recent encounters in Makilala town.

On January 22, government troops clashed with the rebels in Barangay Cabilao that led to the killing of Private First Class Rodolfo Minlaud and the wounding of Corporal Batutin Ibad, and Lieutenant Dennis Manumbale, executive officer of the 57th IB’s Alpha Company.

Meantime, Sema denied reports that the Army fired mortars in areas they believed as rebels’ hideouts. He explained there is no need to use 105mm mortars to drive the rebels from their bases.
Sema was reacting to a recent statement made by Ka Galna, spokesperson for the NPA Front 72, that the Army conducted mortar shelling in thickly populated communities in Kisante and Rodero.

NPA claims victory in Cotabato

From the Mindanao Examiner (Jan 26): NPA claims victory in Cotabato

Communist rebels on Saturday claimed responsibility on a series of attacks against government forces in the southern Philippines. Rigoberto Sanchez, a spokesman for the New People’s Army, said rebel forces sustained its campaign against the military’s Eastern Mindanao Command.

He said rebels recently bombed a military convoy of the 57th Infantry Battalion in the village of Kisante in North Cotabato’s Makilala town, wounding 5 soldiers.  “The NPA's ambush in Makilala was aimed at deterring troops who were on their way to its tactical command post in Alang-alang detachment where the AFP mounted two batteries of 105 howitzer that conducted shelling operations towards the village of Cabilao,” Sanchez said in a statement sent to the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner.

He said the NPA used a command-detonated explosive in the ambush directed against the 57th Infantry Battalion which is protecting the Energy Development Company, formerly Philippine National Oil Company, in Kidapawan City and Dole Philippines banana plantation in North Cotabato.

He said another attack killed 4 government troops and wounded over a dozen soldiers belonging to the 28th Infantry Battalion in Lupon town. There was no immediate statement from the Eastern Mindanao Command. The NPA has been fighting for decades for the establishment of a Maoist state in the country.

Sultan Abdurajak: ‘There will never be peace in the country"

From the Zamboanga Today (Jan 26): Sultan Abdurajak: ‘There will never be peace in the country"

“Walang kapayapaan kahit may Framework Agreement on Bangasamoro kasi laro-laro lang yan.” Thus what the declaration of Sultan Mohammad Ghamar Mamay Hasan Abdurajak, the grandson and heir of Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo.

Sultan Abdurajak’s statement came after he was asked by local reporters here to comment on the current peace agreement between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Abdurajak who claimed as the real heir of Sulu Sultanate and his wife, Queen Maria Makiling Helen Fatima Nasaria Panolino Abdurajak, visited Zamboanga yesterday.

“Hanggang hindi pa ako pinapa-upo as the true Sultan of Sulu, there will never be no peaceful solution in this part of the country,” he said.

According to him, the present administration is endorsing Sultan Muhammad Fuad Abdulla Kiram I of the Royal Hashemite of Sulu from the Fuad clan, while Vice President Jejomar is endorsing the Pulalon clan.
“They are favoring the wrong Sultan for election purposes,” Queen Abdurajak said.

“If only they consulted us on the peace pact and if they also install or put me on the throne of the Sultanate of Sulu, then we can resolve the entire problem,” She added.

The Sultan said they recently went public and broke their fifty-year silence to put an end to the history of lies surrounding the many faces of claims about the Sulu Sultanate.

It was learned Abdurajak is the grandson of Jamalul Alam known as Mohammad Hasan Pasang Al Haj or Sultan Jamalul Kiram as the direct nephew of Sultan Kiram II known as Omar Ali Saifuddin II in Brunei.

“I’m determine to rewrite the history of the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo for the complete restoration of our lost Kingdom of Lupah-Sug from the hands of fake tenants of the throne,” Sultan Abdurajak stressed.

During their visit in the city, they appointed several Sultans in the Zamboanga Peninsula including the provinces of Basilan and Tawi-Tawi.

For Queen Abdurajak, there are hundreds of MILF and other groups in Mindanao who are supporting and awaiting the recognition of Sultan and Queen Abdurajak as the true heir of the Sultanate of Sulu.

“This is for peace and order and to really tell them the true bloodline of the Sulu Sultanate coming out already,” Queen Abdurajak said.

She said they have a 109-year-old living witness identified as Shariff Usman Datu Ismael Ali Sultan Toron Lawan Dumaga as the uncle born in Kudat, Sabah, Malaysia of Jamalul Kiram III and the grandfather of Sultan Mohammad Ghammar Mamay Hassan Abdurajak.

She said this living witness is the missing link to the claim of the real heir of the throne and also the brother of Tunku Abdul Rahman, the former Prime Minister of Malaysia and Jamalul Alam Shariff Hassan Pasang.

She said they have already met Speaker Belmonte and Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile as they submitted documents including the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) pertaining to their claim as the true heir of Sulu’s Sultanate.

Moro NGO sends rep to 2nd Burma Regional Students and Youth Exchange

Posted to the MILF Website (Jan 26): Moro NGO sends rep to 2nd Burma Regional Students and Youth Exchange

The United Youth for Peace and Development (UNYPAD), a Moro non-government organization in Mindanao, Philippines, sent its National Deputy Secretary – General for Administration, Dats Magon, to present a topic on ‘Bangsamro Right to Self Determination and Peace Building in Mindanao’ to the 2nd Burma Regional Youths and Students Exchange Program organized by the Students and Youth Congress of Burma on January 19 – 21, 2013 held at the border of Thailand and Burma.  More than 50 youth leaders coming from different organizations in all states of Burma participated in the said historic event.

In his presentation, Dats Magon explained that majority of Bangsamoro civil society organizations are engaged in democratic and peaceful assertion by which all their activities are in support to the ongoing Government of the Philippines (GPH) and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) negotiations. “We were urged by the situation to initiate activities popularizing negotiation as the win-win option because it is the most practical way of redefining our current relationship with the Philippine government,” he told his audience.

“UNYPAD, he asserted, “is very active in organizing Moro youth in the ground. We have been doing this because we wanted to raise their awareness on the real situation in our homeland.” “We must prepare them for the inevitable future tasks that await them as future Bangsamoro leaders”, he explained. “We always ensured to provide them with the correct tract of our struggle for self-determination,” he further explained.

Also joining Magon was Mr. Juanda Djamal, a veteran peace advocate currently serving as Secretary General of The New Aceh Consortium, who delivered a topic on Peace Talks: Process and Peace Building in Aceh.

In his introductory message, Jamal said: “I do not want to emphasize that we need tsunami to change the situation in Burma as what happened in Indonesia. No, but I am urging to take the momentum… to take the momentum in our side…to our gain… in our quest for peace and justice.” “GAM who led our struggle encountered several challenges after signing the 2005 Helsinki Agreement with government of Indonesia,” he recalled.

“Due to its leadership’s weak handling of the situation by not providing strategic agenda for the people of Aceh, in 2006 the party was divided between youth and old. The situation became more chaotic when the party was divided into two factions,” he pointed out. “As a result, their poor political capacity and weak experiences impede them to provide clear directions for our people”, he added.

He elaborated that the present CSOs in Aceh are strictly looking into consideration in addressing the following challenges in post-conflict situation namely: Transitional Justice, Human Resources Development, Political Communication between Aceh – Jakarta and Aceh districts, Improvement of the quality of life of the people, Natural Resources development and Managing social structures”.

One of the most important highlights of the activity was the formulation of political platforms for future engagements and strengthening of collaborations among Burma youth organizations. With a population of more than 60 million making it world’s 24th populous country, Burma was under military control after 1962 coup d'état headed by General ne Win. From then, culture of impunity enveloped the whole country.

Since militia government took power, there are at least 300,000 Burmese currently living as refuges in different countries of the world on which 145,000 of them are lavishing indifferent refugee camps in Thai soil.

The victory of Aung San Su Kyi in April 2012 bi-election brought hope for a gradual democratic transition of Burma but military harassment to Civil Society Organizations still exist.

Over the past years UNYPAD has been very active in sending its officers abroad to share with youths in conflict driven countries the active role it plays in the Bangsamoro struggle for self-determination. Last December 2012 Hamsa Landayan, North Cotabato provincial president was sent for a one-month trip to South Thailand to share organization’s peace building experiences with Malay speaking Pattani youths.

‘Free Cheche!’

From the Negros Daily Bulletin (Jan 26): ‘Free Cheche!’

Fr. Jacob Segurola of La Granja says he has known Aniceta Rojo since then and could not believe that she has anything to do with false allegations of murder and other cases hurled against her.*(Owen S. Bayog/NDB photo)

A movement for the release of church worker, Anecito Rojo, one of more than a dozen members and officers of cause-oriented groups (COGs), sectoral organizations human rights defenders’ and partylist political parties, was organized with low church workers, sympathizers, and pro-democracy organizations declaring their support for her and her family, with the announcement made at the Negros Press Club (NPC) led by Bacolod Diocese stalwart, Fr. Ireneo "Baby" Gordonciollo.

Presiding during the press conference were organizers, Fr. Gordoncillo, Fr. Jacob Secugula, her husband, Rodel Rojo and daughter, Roan Tuayon. Numerous members of human rights and cause-oriented groups were present during the press conference.

Data provided by organizers showed that criminal charges linking her to alleged New People’s Army (NPA) punitive operations, have been filed by the Cadiz City Prosecutor’s Office, two cases; and San Carlos City Prosecutor’s Office (one case) and later elevated to the Regional Trial Court in Cadiz, Branch 60, and in San Carlos City. Cheche Rojo filed her counteraffidavit on the San Carlos City case filed against her but Prosecutor Hernane Jardeleza has not ruled on it yet.

In one of the cases filed in Branch 60 in Cadiz, she did not receive a subpoena and therefore, has not filed her counter-affidavit as a response to the cases filed. And in one of the cases specifically in San Carlos City, she was erroneously named as Anecito Rojo. All these cases, the Free Cheche Movement said, were trumped-up charges cooked up by the military and police and with the collaboration of the prosecutors. Fr. Ireneo Gordoncillo, Rojo’s former superior as a church worker said, months back, Rojo had been working as a worker in Bago City.

In a statement distributed by the Free Cheche Movement, it said that they are one in the belief that Cheche Rojo is innocent of the criminal charges filed against her by the Philippine Army (PA), for the death of one of its officers in 2010.

On her work record in the Bacolod Diocese, she started working with the research, documentation and programs desk of the Institute for Socio-Pastoral Concerns in 1989, during which she became a member of the Promotion for Church People’s Response (PCPR).

Continuing the movement said they also knew her as an active organizer of the Basic Christian Communities-Community Organizing of the Diocese of Bacolod City in 1992 during which she was tasked to organize communities and eventually became in-charge of the BCG International Solidarity Desk.

Continuing her church work, she became a bookkeeper for the Center for People’s Resources in 2004, before becoming a volunteer worker and a counsel for the violence against women program of the General Alliance Binding Women for Reform, Integrity, Equality, Leadership and Action (GABRIELA).

She also worked for the Rural Assistance Program Incorporated as its administrative officer in which people-oriented programs for the farmers were implemented.

But on top of her work, she is also a mother to five children who are now bereft of a mother.
While working in the Bago City parish, she was arrested by intelligence operatives of the PNP’s Regional Intelligence Unit on December 7, 2912, forcibly, even dragged into a waiting van.

The Free Cheche Movement declared that her case must be speedily prosecuted as they believe she would be freed because she was innocent of the charges filed against her and many others.

Fr. Ireneo Gordoncillo theorized that behind all these is the military which wants to eliminate all kinds of protests by running after activists and church workers. Also, the armed guerillas of the NPAs cannot be seen nor arrested and whom the military believes are their allies are persecuted and prosecuted. But, the government is sadly mistaken because soldiers are only responsible for increasing the number of armed guerillas opposing the government.

Jesse Arcillas, a church worker himself lamented the injustices being done church workers like Aniceta Rojo, who cannot even lift an M-16 rifle. Fr. Jacob Secugula said the government has persecuted a helpless church worker who has given of her services to the church unselfishly.

For husband, Rodel and daughter Roan Tuayon, they said she has been an ideal mother to her children and that they cannot imagine how she could be guilty of the crimes attributed by the government through the army, police and prosecutor’s office.

Activities of the Free Cheche Rojo Movement now includes a visit to her in the Cadiz City BJMP jail, letter already sent to President Benigno Aquino, III; also a letter sent to Vice-President Jejomar Binay, to DOJ Secretary Leila de Lima, Congressman Neri Colmenares and two Gabriela congresswoman SC Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno and Mrs. Editha Burgos, mother of a disappeared victim, reported to have been abducted by the military, Joseph Jonas Burgos, son of well-known journalist, Jose Burgos Jr.

Rebel-infested brgys given P8M farm road

From the Visayan Daily Star (Jan 26): Rebel-infested brgys given P8M farm road

The provincial government of Negros Occidental and the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace Process have allocated P8 million for the construction of a farm-to-market road, that will connect two insurgency-affected barangays of this town and Calatrava in northern Negros. This took place while preparations for the signing of the closure peace agreement between the Revolutionary Proletarian Army-Alex Boncayao Brigade and the Philippine government are still ongoing.

Negros Occidental Gov. Alfredo Marañon and OPPAP Project Management Office chief Roy Bautista, assisted by Board Member Nehemias de la Cruz and local government officials, led the groundbreaking ceremony yesterday of the P8 million farm-to-market road at the Crossing Magticol-Cambayodo project site here.

In previous years, several encounters between government troopers and suspected New People’s Army rebels had taken place in the hinterlands of Brgy. Magticol here and in Brgy. Cambayodo, Calatrava, military records show.

Marañon reiterated his call for the NPA members to join him in the fight against poverty, and not by killing each other.

The farm-to-market road, a joint project of the provincial government of Negros Occidental and OPPAP, a third similar project undertaken by provincial government in the hinterlands of this town late last year, is expected to benefit 4,016 residents of two hinterland barangays, Marañon said.

With farm-to-market road, the cost of delivery of agricultural crops and transportation will be considerably reduced, and public transportation will become more available to students going to the poblacion, or nearby secondary schools, Marañon said.

Cambayobo Brgy. Capt. Letecia Hubahib told Marañon that they have been waiting 12 years for the project to happen, while Magticol barangay chairman Roberto Villasis thanked the provincial government for the road.

Bautista said “This Cambayobo-Magticol link can be called a road to peace.”

The RPM-R/RPA-ABB (Tabara Paduano Group) is also a member of the project implementing team, with the Office of the Provincial Agriculturist as the implementor.

The OPPAP has released so far P27.3 million to the provincial government of Negros Occidental, for the construction of infrastructure projects, under its PAMANA (Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan) program.

Marañon said they have undertaken similar projects in two hinterlands sitios in Brgy. Bug-ang, here, with an allocation of P21.5 million, including the Polopangyan-Pasto-Salvacion and the second road concreting projects at Crossing Onggoy in Brgy. Bug-ang and Sitio Mainit in Brgy. Magticol, all in this town now being implemented by the Army’s 542nd Engineering Construction Battalion.

5 soldiers, civilian hurt in NPA landmine attack in North Cotabato

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 26): 5 soldiers, civilian hurt in NPA landmine attack in North Cotabato

A landmine planted by Communist guerrillas along a road leading to an Army base left five soldiers and a civilian wounded on Friday in Barangay Kisante here.

Lt. Nasrullah Sema, 57th Infantry Battalion civil military operations chief, said the soldiers were on board a military truck on their way to the Charlie Company headquarters when it hit a landmine at about 11 p.m. Friday in Sitio Alang-Alang, Barangay Kisante. Wounded were Cpl. Mohammad Nur Sali, Cpl. Hassan Sarip, PFC Allan Urop, Pvt. Michael Purol and Pvt. Vincent Sumug-oy. Of the five wounded, Pfc Urop was in critical condition and airlifted to a Davao City hospital. A civilian who was asleep in his home sustained minor shrapnel injuries.

Sema said the landmine attack was likely a retaliation by communist New People's Army (NPA) who suffered heavy casualties in an encounter Tuesday in the borders of North Cotabato and Davao del Sur. “Unfortunately, the rebels planted the explosive near populated areas so non-combatants were hit,” Sema said.

A soldier was killed and three others were wounded Tuesday in an encounter with the communist guerillas in the borders of Makilala and Kapatagan, Davao del Sur. Four communist guerillas were killed in that encounter. Sema said the rebels are making their presence felt in areas they used to influence but liberated by government forces because they will implement campaign fees for politicians.

Citing intelligence reports, Sema said the rebels are asking P5 million campaign fees if political candidates enter NPA controlled areas. A candidate for Congress need to shell out P500,000 to campaign in communities the rebels have influenced.

35th round exploratory talks in KL ends with signing of TOR for TPMT

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 26): 35th round exploratory talks in KL ends with signing of TOR for TPMT

The 35th round of formal exploratory talks between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in Kuala Lumpur ended with the signing of the Terms of Reference (TOR) for Third Party Monitoring Team (TPMT). This is the body that will review, assess, evaluate and monitor the implementation of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro and its Annexes.

The TPMT, whose members will be identified within one month, will be composed of representatives from local and international non-government organizations to be nominated by the GPH and the MILF, officials in Manila said Saturday. It will continue to function until an Exit Agreement between the two parties is reached.

“The Parties also agreed to extend the respective tours of duty of the International Monitoring Team and the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group for another year in recognition of their important roles in the peace process, without prejudice to adjustments that may be needed pursuant to developments in the crafting of the Annexes to the FAB," the parties said in their joint statement obtained by the Philippines News Agency.

The Philippine government's peace panel chair Miriam Coronel-Ferrer said the four Technical Working Groups have “arrived at good compromises on many of the remaining issues,” stressing that these tangible results were reaped six months after the panels formed their first two TWGs in August 2012.

Before the talks closed, the working drafts produced by the TWGs on the Annexes on Wealth-Sharing, Power-sharing, Normalization, and Transitional Arrangements and Modalities were reported to the panels for discussion and referral to their respective principals.

In all, Coronel-Ferrer said the talks had been very challenging but the two parties “have a clearer process now, and a more definitive estimate of our time frames to complete the comprehensive agreement.”

Sharing the same positive sentiment, MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal said that the panels are “moving towards the right direction.” “Hopefully very soon we would be able to conclude our negotiations on the substantive issues,” he stated. “I think, for now, the light at the end of the tunnel is no longer flickering, it’s very clear. And the continued commitment and decisiveness of all the parties, I think, God willing, we will be able to finish the process.”

Iqbal expressed the MILF’s determination to arrive at a comprehensive agreement with the government despite the challenges. “We are not entertaining any failure in these negotiations. Our minds, our hearts are focused that we must be able to conclude this process successfully,” he added.

“Lastly, I would like to appeal to both sides – the GPH panel and the MILF panel – to start due diligence from the moment we return to our respective places and be able to report to our respective principals,” he added.

For his part, Malaysian facilitator Tengku Dato’ Ab Ghafar Tengku Mohammed said both sides were able to achieve “a great step forward.” “Initially, we are a bit pessimistic because of the slowness of the progress especially on the working groups. But as it turned out I think the working groups are moving fast, especially in the last two days to the conclusion of the agreement,” he stated.

Reporting on the progress of the discussions on the annexes, Ghafar said that three more items need to be completed on Wealth-sharing and two more on Power-sharing. The draft Transitional Arrangements and Modalities annex has already been completed by the TWG and received by the Panels for final review of their principals.

Ghafar thanked the Philippine government for delivering its first political commitment as stated in the FAB, the creation of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission through the passage of Executive Order 120 . Last December, President Benigno Aquino III issued EO 120 creating the TC that will draft the Bangsamoro Basic Law to replace the Organic Act that created the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. The House of Representativesand the Senate issued their respective resolutions of support to the EO.

Palace confirms 2 Jemaah Islamiyah members killed in Mindanao

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 26): Palace confirms 2 Jemaah Islamiyah members killed in Mindanao

Malacanang confirmed Saturday the killing of two terrorists who are alleged members of the Asian terrorist group Jemaah Islamiyah (JI). “We are confirming that Philippine authorities have successfully neutralized two foreign terrorists. Pareho silang miyembro umano ng Jemaah Islamiyah,” Deputy Presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said in a radio interview Saturday over dzRB Radyo ng Bayan.

In November last year, Philippine authorities tracked down Ibnu Gholib Al-Jitli or Ustadz Sanusi in Marawi City, an Indonesian who is suspected to be a senior member of JI.  Sanusi died in a firefight when security forces tried to arrest him, Valte said.

During the investigation, the police recovered electronic devices and large amounts of currency from Sanusi. Prior to Sanusi’s arrival in the Philippines in 2006, he was tagged as one of those involved in the 2005 beheading of three schoolgirls in Poso, Sulawesi, Indonesia, Valte said.

Also, Noor Fikrie Kahar was neutralized by Philippine security forces in December 14 last year, the Palace official said. Valte said Kahar is a suspected Malaysian member of the JI. Kahar attempted to detonate an improvised explosive device in a hotel in Davao City and was killed by the police in an encounter. His Filipino wife, Anabelle Nieva Lee, remains under police custody and is currently undergoing judicial process, she said.

“Maipapakita natin na seryoso talaga ang pamahalaan sa ating pakikipaglaban sa mga ganitong klaseng terorista at umaasa tayong ang dalawang event na ito ay makakapagpadala ng malakas na mensahe sa mga indibidwal na tulad nila na ang Pilipinas ay hindi puwedeng gawing safe haven ng mga terrorista,” Valte said.

US salvage teams repairing damage in USS Guardian's hull

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 26): US salvage teams repairing damage in USS Guardian's hull

With de-fuelling completed, US Navy salvage teams are shoring (strengthening) the hull of the grounded USS Guardian (MCM-5) to prepare it for the lifting operation which will remove it from Tubbataha Reef, Sulu Sea, sometime next week.

Commodore Joseph Rustom Peña, Naval Forces West head, said US salvage teams are now checking and repairing damage to the hull of the stricken minesweeper. He said this effort is done to ensure the integrity of the vessel's hull.

De-fuelling operations started Thursday and its completion mean the start of the retrieval of the stricken ship. "To prevent potential environmental damage, a U.S. Navy-led salvage team on Jan. 25 completed removing all diesel fuel from the tanks of the mine countermeasures ship USS Guardian, which ran aground on the Tubbataha Reef one week earlier."

Rear Adm. Thomas Carney, the on-scene commander of the salvage operation, stressed: “One of our priorities was to get the fuel out of the ship in order to minimize environmental damage," a US 7th Fleet statement earlier said.

Salvage teams are still awaiting the arrival of two heavy lift ship-borne cranes from Singapore, USN personnel will continue to retrieve and transfer weapons and hazardous materials from the stranded minesweeper to another USN ship. The crane vessels contracted to support the salvage operations and are due to arrive at the scene around Feb. 1, while a large salvage vessel of the USN, the USS Salvor, arrived in the area Friday also to help in the extraction of the USS Guardian.

Najib: Thanks to PH, Indonesia, Malaysia efforts, moderate Islam trumps radicals and al-Qaeda in SEA

From InterAksyon (Jan 26): Najib: Thanks to PH, Indonesia, Malaysia efforts, moderate Islam trumps radicals and al-Qaeda in SEA

The threat posed by Islamist militants in Southeast Asia has largely been suppressed thanks to the efforts of nations in the region, Malaysia's prime minister said Friday. Speaking at the Global Economic Forum in Davos, Najib Razak said that cooperation between his country and others including Indonesia and the Philippines had helped to tackle Al-Qaeda-linked groups.

"The whole threat of militant Islam, I think it has receded quite substantially in Southeast Asia," Najib told global politicians and business leaders gathered in the Swiss ski resort. "I think most of it is behind us. I think we've dealt with radical Islam."

Najib pointed in particular to Malaysia's involvement hosting peace talks between Muslim rebels in the southern Philippines, and its deployment of troops to head an international truce-monitoring force in the region.

"We were involved in solving the southern Philippines problem," Najib said. "That meant that the whole potential of that area being radicalised, being linked up with Al-Qaeda directly or through the various groups, that has been eliminated. "That's a huge contribution towards peace and a more moderate form of Islam in Southeast Asia."

The Philippines government signed an accord last October with Muslim rebels the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), who have been fighting since the 1970s for autonomy in the southern Philippines. The lawless area had become a hideout for members of two Al Qaeda-linked militant groups in Southeast Asia, Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) and Abu Sayyaf.

The Malaysian leader added that neighbouring Indonesia had meanwhile been "more effective" recently in tackling the threat from madrassas - Islamic schools that have been a source of radicalism in both countries.

Najib said that although in the past some form of military-type actions was "unavoidable", the task was now to engage with fundamentalist Muslims and persuade them to embrace more moderate forms of Islam.

Malaysia was one of a number of countries in Southeast Asia that was threatened in the past by militants, particularly from JI. JI carried out dozens of attacks in Indonesia in the past decade including the 2002 Bali bombings, but a Malaysian minister said last year that the group had also planned to bomb Kuala Lumpur's iconic Petronas twin towers.

Palace bares deaths of 2 JI operatives in MIndanao

From InterAksyon (Jan 26): Palace bares deaths of 2 JI operatives in MIndanao

Malacanang on Saturday announced the deaths of two foreign members of the Jemaah Islamiya terror network in Mindanao late last year. “We are confirming that Philippine authorities have successfully neutralized … two foreign terrorists. Both are members of the Jemaah Islamiyah,” deputy Palace spokesperson Abigail Valte said in a radio interview over state-owned Radyo ng Bayan.

Valte said Ustadz Sanusi, alias “Ishak,” an Indonesian, was tracked down in Marawi City on November 21 and died when he tried to shoot it out. He fled to the Philippines after he was linked to the beheading of three schoolgirls in Sulwesia in 2005.

On the other hand, police killed Kahar, a Malaysian, in Davao City on December 14 when he resisted arrest and instead attempted to set off a bomb. His Filipina wife was arrested and is on trial.

Valte said the deaths of the two proves “that we are serious in our fight against this kind of terrorism and we are hoping that through these two consecutive events (we) would send a strong message among terrorists … that they must not use the Philippines as their safe haven.”

New Chinese harassment in Scarborough led to bid for UN arbitration - Aquino

From InterAksyon (Jan 26): New Chinese harassment in Scarborough led to bid for UN arbitration - Aquino

President Benigno Aquino III accused China of harassing two Filipino fishing boats in the disputed Scarborough (Panatag) Shoal, allegedly driving out one that had sheltered from rough seas.

Speaking on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Switzerland, Aquino said the two incidents had led Manila to seek United Nations arbitration this week over the territorial dispute over the shoal, which the Philippines also calls Bajo de Masinloc.

Aquino, who did not say when the incidents occurred, said "Chinese vessels" approached to within nine meters of a Filipino fishing boat near the shoal. "While they (Chinese vessels) were approaching, their horns were supposedly blaring at full blast, causing apprehension to our fishing vessel," he said, according to a transcript released by the government on Saturday.

A second boat was driven out by the Chinese shortly after it took shelter near the shoal, he added.
"According to the (crew’s) affidavit, they were told to go back to the rough waters." The shoal, which is near Luzon, has been a source of friction since April last year when Chinese vessels stopped the Philippine Navy from arresting alleged poachers.

Aquino, saying only that the incidents were the latest in a series of assertive Chinese actions in the area, stressed Scarborough Shoal -- which China calls Huangyan Island -- and its surrounding waters are part of the Philippines' exclusive economic zone.

China claims most of the South China Sea, called the West Philippine Sea by Manila, including waters and islands close to the shores of its neighbors.

Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario this week said Manila had taken China to a UN tribunal to challenge its claim to most of the sea, including territory belonging to the archipelago, and would ask the arbitration panel to declare Chinese claims in the area invalid.

Aquino said he could not allow China to claim "effective control over Bajo de Masinloc by ordering our vessels out" as this could encourage Beijing to move into the Philippine-claimed and allegedly resource-rich Reed Bank.

"We are not threatening anybody, but if we don't stand up for our rights, who do we expect will be standing up for our rights?" Aquino said. China's embassy spokesmen could not be reached for comment Saturday.

Aquino accepts U.S. apology for Tubbataha fiasco but says Americans must face the music

From InterAksyon (Jan 26): Aquino accepts U.S. apology for Tubbataha fiasco but says Americans must face the music

President Benigno Aquino III has accepted the United States’ apology for the grounding of a minesweeper on Tubbataha Reef but stressed that this did not exempt the Americans from any penalties for breaking Philippine laws.

“I think they are showing that they respect us as a sovereign state, and we’d like to thank them that they are respecting our sovereignty and are very careful about our sensitivities,” Aquino told Filipino reporters at a meeting in Davos, Switzerland where he attended the World Economic Forum.

“But that doesn’t exempt them from having to comply with our laws … Pero wala naman ‘yung apology, napapag-isip tayo na, ‘Excuse me, may nasira sa amin eh. Ganoon na lang ba ‘yon (But an apology is nothing, it made us think, ‘Excuse me, we suffered damage. Is that all there is to it)?” he said.

Nevertheless, Aquino acknowledged the need to address the issue step by step and said the priority at the moment is to remove the USS Guardian, which has been stuck on the reef, a world heritage site, since January 17.

“Our first priority is remove the ship,” Aquino said. “When we say remove the ship, the draft, as I understand, of the ship is something like 12 feet. The portion when they first ran aground has a high-tide level of 1.1 meters, roughly about three feet, so there are some nine feet of draft that the waters have not … accommodated for the buoyancy of the ship.”

“So until the ship is stuck there, there is a wave action, there is wind action, the damage will continue, so our interest has to be to remove the ship first,” he added. Once the ship is removed, which the US Navy said it intends to do by lifting the minesweeper, the penalties to be imposed will be determined.

Aquino said the body investigating the incident should determine the following: “How did they actually get into a protected area? How did the navigation systems that are supposed to be some of the most sophisticated failed?”

The US Navy, which said the Guardian was sailing from Subic Bay to Indonesia to participate in a military exercise, has attributed the incident to faulty navigation date.

Aquino also pointed out that foreign vessels need diplomatic clearance to pass through Philippine waters. “This is (an) internationally recognized zone, they violated it, there are penalties … but we should take it step by step” he said.

Gov't, MILF hope to sign comprehensive peace pact by March

From Rappler (Jan 26): Gov't, MILF hope to sign comprehensive peace pact by March

GAINS. The government peace panel holds a video conference from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia after the 35th round of peace talks.

GAINS. The government peace panel holds a video conference from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia after the 35th round of peace talks.

The government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front are getting closer to arriving at a final peace agreement.  In a video conference from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on Saturday, January 26, government peace panel chair Miriam Coronel-Ferrer said a comprehensive peace agreement on the Bangsamoro -- one that will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao -- can be signed by March.

After the 35th round of formal exploratory talks, the government and the MILF now have "a clearer process" and "a more definitive timeframe" to complete the comprehensive agreement, Ferrer said, as both sides expect to sign all 4 annexes on power-sharing, wealth-sharing, normalization, and transitional arrangements and modalities, on February.
A number of "milestones" were achieved during the latest round of talks.  The draft annex on Transitional Arrangements and Modalities has been completed by the technical working groups and approved by the peace panels. It is now due for review by the panel's respective principals. This development indicates that both parties have overcome the apparent "technical impasse" over whether the MILF should lead the Bangsamoro Transition Authority.
But Ferrer said there was never any conflict on the idea that the MILF would have a lead role on the transition authority.  "It was really the question of how to put in the proper language to reflect the fact that, of course, this is a peace agreement with the MILF, that the new government emerged out of this peace process and therefore, that in the transition, the MILF will play a leading role," Ferrer said.
The government and the MILF also signed the terms of reference for the Third Party Monitoring Team that will "review, assess, evaluate and monitor" the implementation of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro and its annexes.
Power-sharing and wealth-sharing
Ferrer said talks on the power-sharing and wealth-sharing annexes are now on their final stages, and only 3 remaining issues have to be threshed out.  For the power-sharing annex, both parties are still discussing items on:
  • allocation of power regarding natural resources
  • transportation and communication
  • matter of regional waters
For the wealth-sharing annex, the remaining contentious issues are:
  • how taxes will be devolved
  • the automatic appropriation and release of block grants and subsidies to regions and local governments
  • shares and revenues from mineral and other natural resources.
Meanwhile, work on the normalization annex is expected to take longer than the other annexes as this includes one of the most contentious aspects of the current stage of the talks -- decommissioning.
Ferrer said the TWGs on normalization are in the process of drafting indicative timetables that will merge together all the different elements needed in the polital process, side by side socio-economic and transitional justice elements. These are the issues that are still under consideration:
  • security component
  • loose firearms in the regions
  • Bangsamoro police force
  • maintenance of the ceasefire
Although talks on the normalization annex only started after the signing of the Framework Agreement, Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Deles said that unlike other provisions on the annexes on power-sharing and wealth-sharing, items under the annex on normalization do not have to go through legislation and can be implemented right away.
These items include the development track for education, health and livelihood services for communities and combatants that, Deles said, can be rolled out "even by next month."
Ferrer said the inventory of firearms owned by the MILF can begin as early as March.
"[The process of normalization] will definitely start within this year because that's the first that's the first step and that first step is accompanied by some deliverables in the politcal process such as the Executive Order, creation of the Transition commission and all other elements," Ferrer said.
Transition Commission to be named within 2 weeks
Members of the 15-member Transition Commission can be named within two weeks, Deles said.
Both parties have already submitted their respective shortlists to the President, who will appoint the members. A total of 8 members will be nominated by the MILF while 7 members will be nominated by the government side.....

Aquino to US: Comply with our laws

From Rappler (jan 26): Aquino to US: Comply with our laws

No amount of apology will compensate for the damage caused by a grounded US naval marine sweeper, and the Philippine government will pursue damage claims, President Benigno Aquino III said.

On the sidelines of the World Economic Forum, Aquino told reporters Friday night in Davos that fines will have to be levied on the US for the damage caused in Tubbataha Reef, designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1993. "Excuse me, may nasira sa amin eh. Ganoon na lang ba 'yon?" the President quipped. (Excuse me, you damaged something. Will we leave it at that?) While thankful that the US respects the Philippines as a sovereign state, Aquino said this does not exempt the US from "having to comply with our laws."

The United States had already issued an apology to the government for the incident.
The President said he had instructed Transportation and Communications Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya to conduct the investigation and to "dot all of the i’s and cross all of the t’s." He had likewise asked the Philippine Coast Guard to prioritize removal of the USS Guardian, which has remained stuck since January 17.

Earlier, the Tubbataha Protected Area Management Board said it would serve the US Navy a formal notice of violations committed under Republic Act 10067 or the Tubbataha Reefs National Park (TRNP) Act of 2009.

Aquino said once the assessment of the damage is completed, the investigation must determine why it happened and how it could be prevented in the future. Aquino also said the investigation will also try to determine how the naval vessel got to enter Tubbataha Reef in the first place, and why the ship's navigation systems failed to adequately guide the vessel. Possibly faulty navigational charts were pointed to by the US Navy as reason for the intrusion in the protected area.

"Our laws are very specific, and when they got the diplomatic clearance to pass through our waters, this is a recognized — internationally recognized zone that is an exclusive zone. They violated it, there are penalties. Then they will have to address all of these violations of our pertinent laws," Aquino said.

No relation to VFA

The President also said the incident cannot be linked to the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) because the area is not covered by the pact. "What's the connection of the VFA in their venture to Tubbataha? There are no exercises there. Again, this is really a question of violating certain ecological laws that we already have in the books," Aquino said.

Protected area superintendent and head of the Tubbataha management office Angelique Songco told Rappler that the ship "entered without a permit" in violation of section 19 of Republic Act 10067 or the Tubbataha Reefs National Park (TRNP) Act of 2009.

The Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park official explained that the amount of damage to the coral will be determined by a joint team of the USS Guardian and personnel from the marine park.
Songco added that once the damage is assessed, the owner of the ship, the US Navy, can expect to pay P12,000 per sqm of destroyed reefs.