Tuesday, January 29, 2013

PMA ’81 becomes military’s ‘ruling class’

From the Manila Standard Today (Jan 29): PMA ’81 becomes military’s ‘ruling class’

THE Philippine Military Academy (PMA) “Dimalupig” Class of 1981 is now the ruling class in the military with the recent appointment of one of its members, Lt. Gen. Emmanuel Bautista, as the Armed Forces chief of staff.
Bautista assumed as chief of staff on January 17, dumping the chance of Class of 1980 to the top after the era of PMA Class of 1979 led by the immediate past chief of staff, retired Gen. Jessie Dellosa. Bautista bested the Air Force commander, Lt. Gen. Lauro Catalino de la Cruz, of PMA Class of 1980. “As the ruling class, expect members of the PMA Class of 1981 to grab key positions in the Armed Forces,” a senior officer said.
The positioning of the ruling class was first felt in the appointment of the commander of the Armed Forces Civil Relations Service (CRS), the military’s psychological warfare office. Strong contenders for the CRS position are the Armed Forces adjutant general, Brig. Gen. Rolando Jungco of PMA Class of 1982 and the Armed Forces Human Rights Office head, Brig. Gen. Domingo Tutaan Jr., a member of PMA Class of 1981.
Another member of PMA Class 1981, Brig. Gen. Jonas Sumagaysay, was appointed assistant commander of the 3rd Infantry “Spearhead” Division based in Jamindan, Capiz.
“Based on a memorandum from the Office of the President to the secretary of national defense dated January 11, 2013 and approved by the commanding general, Philippine Army, on the same date, Brig. Gen. Jonas Sumagaysay will replace Brig. Gen. Lysander Suerte as assistant division commander while the latter will become deputy commander of the Central Command based in Cebu,” 3ID Deputy Spokesman Capt. Ryan Joseph Cayton said.
Reports said that Lt. Gen. Alan Luga, also of PMA Class 1981, is being groomed to be the Armed Forces vice chief of staff, vice Lt. Gen. Noel Coballes (PMA Class 1980), who now commands the Army.
Maj. Gen. Gerardo Layug (PMA Class ’80) and Maj. Gen. Caesar Ronnie Ordoyo, commanders of 8th Infantry “Stormtroopers” Division and 6th Infantry “Kampilan” Division, respectively, are, likewise, being eyed for the top Southern Luzon Command post.
Meanwhile, sources said Mr. Aquino has designated Maj. Gen. Rolando Tenefrancia (PMA Class 1979) to the Office of The Inspector General of the Armed Forces. The three-star position had long been vacant since the appointment of Lt. Gen. Irineo Espino (PMA Class 1979) as PMA superintendent.

Tubbataha damage ‘negligible’–BFAR chief

From the Business Mirror (Jan 29): Tubbataha damage ‘negligible’–BFAR chief

THE Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) has described the direct damage of the marooned USS Guardian on Tubbataha Reef as “negligible” but noted that the long-term effect on the fish habitat may be bigger.

Lawyer Asis Perez, BFAR director, said the direct damage on the reef has been set at 1,000 square meters, or 10 percent of 1 hectare of the World Heritage Site that covers 97,000 hectares.
However, Perez qualified that the direct damage may pale in comparison to the “long-term effects of the fish species that thrive on the corals.”
Perez’s description of the impact of the USS Guardian’s mistaken navigational chart pales in comparison to the criticisms lodged by the fishermen’s alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya), which likened it to a “disaster” that would impact heavily on the habitat of 1,500 species of fish that spawn on the corals.
Moreover, claimed Pamalakaya, it takes more than 250 years for a coral to grow a meter long.
The grounding of the minesweeper will have an impact on the reproduction of fish in the reef and affect the catch of fishermen in Sulu Sea and West Philippine Sea, the group added.
On the other hand, Party-list Reps. Teodoro Casiño of Bayan Muna and Raymond Palatino of Kabataan filed a resolution on Monday to urge the House of Representatives to condemn the refusal of the crew of the US warship to recognize Philippine authority when the ship got stuck in the Tubbataha Reef National Park.
Casiño and Palatino filed House Resolution 3012 the other day and called on the government to halt all port calls, docking of warships and military exercises by US forces in the Philippines.
“This incident simply highlights how destructive—rather than protective—our country’s relationship with the US is. The Filipino people must take this as a cue. It is time that we rise against the bastardization of our national sovereignty,” Palatino said.
The two legislators said the ship illegally entered Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park in Sulu Sea, insisting that what happened was “rest and recreation gone wrong.”
The USS Guardian is still sitting on the reef 80 kilometers southwest of Palawan after slicing precious corals in the area and violating the environmental laws of the republic.
“Tubbataha is one of the best-protected and infamous natural resource of our country, and its haphazard destruction is an affront not just to the country’s biodiversity but also to our sovereignty. We are not buying the US Navy’s claim that the incident was a result of misnavigation: How could a minesweeper that has the capacity to detect Ping-Pong ball-sized mines under the sea not detect that it’s running head-on to a protected coral reef park?” Palatino asked.
Reports from the Tubbataha Management Office also revealed that the US Navy barred park rangers from approaching the stranded warship after ignoring their warnings that the vessel was nearing the reef. The ship captain reportedly refused to communicate with the rangers.
The rangers also noticed the US sailors manning their battle stations as they approached the ship.
Owing to this belligerent posture, the park rangers filed an incident report to inform authorities about the incident.
“Not only did the US Navy illegally enter a protected area, it also refused to communicate with Philippine authorities early into the incident. This pompous act reeks of brazen disrespect to our laws and undermines our sovereignty,” Palatino said. 

Soldiers clash with bandits in Zamboanga del Sur

From the Manila Times (Jan 30): Soldiers clash with bandits in Zamboanga del Sur

Government soldiers clashed with bandits in a sea battle off the province of Zamboanga del Sur killing, or wounding a still undetermined number of gunmen, officials said on Tuesday.

General Ricardo Rainier Cruz 3rd, commander of the First Infantry Division, said that the gun battle lasted for about two hours. The bandits, he said, managed to escape in a coastal village called Bacao in the neighboring Malangas town, leaving their motorized boat behind.

“We still don’t know how many gunmen were killed or wounded, but the bloodstains were all over the boat. Our troops are scouring the area to track down the bandits,” Cruz told The Manila Times, adding that there was no casualty on the military side.

He said that the soldiers were patrolling the sea when they spotted the gunmen and pursued them.

“Initial military reports identified the leader of the gang as Kiyang Balimbingan, a notorious extortionist operating in the province. The gang is also preying on small fishermen in Zamboanga Sur,” Cruz said.


NPA insurgents step up assault, extort activities

From the Manila Times (Jan 30): NPA insurgents step up assault, extort activities

THE communist New People’s Army (NPA) has stepped up its attack against government forces and intensified its forced taxation on civilians, including the collection of permit to campaign fees from candidates in the coming May polls.

Reports reaching Camp Aguinaldo on Tuesday showed that the rebels launched two separate attacks against elements of the Citizen Armed Forces Geographical Unit (Cafgu) in the provinces of Agusan del Sur and Surigao del Sur that left one dead.

Second Lt. Hazel Tabago, commanding officer of the Fourth Civil Military Operations Battalion and the Fourth Infantry Division, identified the slain Cafgu member as Danilo Bacudan, who was off duty when killed by four alleged rebel group members in Purok 12, Barangay Awao, Santa Josefa, Agusan del Sur.

A day after Bacudan was killed, a Cafgu detachment in Sitio Greenfiel, Barangay Santa Juana, Tabgina, Surigao del Sur, was attacked by rebels belonging to the NPA’s North Eastern Mindanao Regional Committee.

First Lt. Jolito Borces, civil military operations officer of the 75th Infantry Battalion and the Sixth Infantry Division, said that one was wounded on the government side and an unknown number on the rebels’ side during the encounter.

Over in Samar provinces, Captain Gene Orense, spokesman for the Eighth Infantry Division, said that they have recovered subversive documents showing that the rebels were collection campaign permit fees from candidates ranging from P50,000 to P5 million.

Orense said that on top of the campaign permit fees, the rebels were also requiring each candidate to give one high powered firearm, or an equivalent amount of P180,000.

Documents, he added, showed that candidates for governor are charged P5 million; lawmaker, P500,000; vice governor, P500,000, board member, P1000,000; mayor, P100,000; vice mayor, P75,000; and councilor, P50,000.

Orense said that the Maoist rebels have also intensified its extortion activities to businessmen and farmers to generate more funds for their armed violence.

Col. Arnullfo Marcelo Burgos Jr., said that in 2011 alone, the rebels have collected some P300 million from extortion activities and possibly much more during election periods.

Samar, the Negros provinces, Davao and the Caraga and Bicol regions are among the remaining NPA-infested areas in the country.

Meanwhile, Lt. Col. Noel Vestuir, commander of the 201 Infantry Battalion based in northern Samar, said that government security forces have seized another NPA camp in Sitio Camaalad, Barangay McKinley, Catarman. The camp, he said, has 15 hastily destroyed bunkers, a kitchen and a comfort room.

According to Vestuir, the rebels were forced to abandon their camp to evade armed engagement with the operating troops of the 201st Battalion (201B).

“The operation of the 201B troops has disrupted the impending terroristic activities that are being hatched by the NPA,” Vestuir said. “The government troops have disloged them from their guerrilla camps and cut-off their supply support lines that they forcibly take from the residents in the area.”


Bigger Tubbataha Damage Seen

From the Manila Bulletin (Jan 29): Bigger Tubbataha Damage Seen

The extent of the damage on Tubbataha Reef caused by the US Navy minesweeper may be more than the Task Force’s initial assessment of 1,000 square meters, the Philippine Coast Guard bared yesterday.

PCG spokesman Commander Armand Balilo said they expect to get a better idea on what was damaged by the USS Guardian when the salvaging operations on the ship are completed.

“Once the vessel is removed from the area, that is the only time we can determine the total damage to the coral reefs,” he said.

The only thing he made sure was the UNESCO World Heritage Site sustained damage more than what was assessed. “It (damage) could be more than 1,000 square meters. We are not discounting that possibility,” said Balilo.

The 68-meter USS Guardian has been stuck in Tubbataha Reef since January 17 after it ran aground in the area.

Its removal, however, has to wait a little longer, pending the arrival of two crane ships from Singapore that will be used for salvaging operations.

Breaking Up Minesweeper Mulled

Meanwhile, the US Navy (USN) is said to be looking at another option to remove the USS Guardian from the Tubbataha Reef – to dismantle or “break up the ship in place.”

A Philippine military official in the area said Task Force Tubbataha was supposed to meet yesterday with Rear Admiral Thomas Carney, the on-scene commander of the salvage operations, but the meeting did not push through.

“The Task Force is waiting for the US Navy to submit a salvage plan,” said the official, adding that, “A new option (to remove Guardian from the reef) is now emerging... to break up the ship in place.”

“The only problem is the public opinion’s favorability about the option,” said the official.

Carney had earlier said, “The problem is very complex, and both Naval architects and salvage engineers are working together to develop (salvage) plans.”

He also disclosed that the Guardian’s hull has been punctured and several areas of the ship have been flooded. The repeated pounding of heavy seas on the ship, which hampered recovery efforts in the days immediately following the grounding, has also resulted in the loss of much of the fiberglass coating on the port side.

As Carney described the ship as badly damaged, he said the option to tow the ship off the reef is not available.


'USS Guardian' Will Be Dismantled -- US Navy

From the Manila Bulletin (Jan 29): 'USS Guardian' Will Be Dismantled -- US Navy

The "USS Guardian" warship, stuck on Tubbataha Reef for 12 days, will be dismantled, a US Navy (USN) official said Tuesday night. US and Philippine authorities announced last week that the US Navy minesweeper will be removed from the Tubbataha Reef by lifting. But as of last night, a USN official said the warship will, instead, be safely removed "in sections." The official added the operation may take some time, possibly lasting for up to one month.

Earlier in the day, a Philippine military official told the Manila Bulletin "the Task Force Tubbataha is waiting for the USN to submit its final salvage plan," adding adding that "a new option (to remove Guardian from the reef) is now emerging."

He said the option is to break up the ship in place. "The only problem is the public opinion's favorability about the option," he said. The statement was later confirmed by a USN official.

It was learned that the US Navy-led salvage team has been monitoring damage on the ship and that there was "propagation of crack."

Last week, Rear Admiral Thomas Carney, the on-scene commander of the salvage operations, said the USS Guardian's hull had been punctured and several areas of the ship have been flooded.
The repeated pounding of heavy seas on the ship, which hampered recovery efforts in the days immediately following the grounding, has also resulted in the loss of much of the fiberglass coating on the port side.

Carney described the ship as "badly damaged," such that the option to tow the ship is no longer considered.

It can be recalled that USS Guardian ran aground on Tubbataha Reef at 2:25 a.m. on Jan. 17 while transiting the Sulu Sea after it completed a port call in Subic Bay.


Seawater Pumped Into US Ship To Prevent Sinking

From the Manila Bulletin (Jan 28): Seawater Pumped Into US Ship To Prevent Sinking

The United States Navy salvage teams have pumped in 15,000 gallons of seawater into the tanks of the grounded USS Guardian to stabilize the ship and keep it from sinking after the same amount of fuel was sucked out on Friday.

Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) spokesperson Lt. Cmdr. Armand Balilo said yesterday that this was done to ensure the ship would remain stable while awaiting the two US salvage ships that would likely arrive in February to extricate the minesweeper from Tubbataha Reef, Sulu Sea. “An equivalent amount of seawater was pumped on her fuel tanks after US salvage teams have removed the last of 15,000 gallons of diesel fuel last Friday,” he added. The fuel was placed aboard the US-contracted Malaysian tug M/T Vos Apollo.

Balilo stated that PCG ships monitoring the ongoing salvage works include the BRP Corregidor (AE-891), BRP Pampanga (SAR-003), the Philippine Navy’s BRP Mangyan (AS-71), BRP Rizal (PS-74) and BRP Ismael Lumibao (PG-383).

He also added that the USS Guardian is now in a stable position and in no danger of foundering.
As this developed, it was reported that the United States Navy paid Hawaii P610 million or US$15 million for coral damage in 2009 – a generous amount to cover the damage and rehabilitation efforts for the 890-square meter damaged coral reef.

Given that the area damaged by the USS Guardian spans at least 1,600 square meters in Tubbataha Reef, the cost of damage and rehabilitation should also be double the amount paid by the US Navy for the Port Royal incident in 2009, the World Wide Fund for Nature-Philippines (WWF-Philippines) said.

WWF said the grounding of USS Guardian is but the latest in a long line of scrapes between ships and reefs because in February 5, 2009, the USS Port Royal, a guided missile cruiser, ran aground less than a kilometer from the Honolulu International Airport in Hawaii, which destroyed about 890 square meters of coral reef.

The United States Navy promised to pay the State of Hawaii US$8.5 million to settle claims over coral reef damage, plus another US$6.5 million for reef restoration, including the reattachment of 5,400 coral colonies to expedite regrowth.

The total assistance provided by the US Navy amounted to US$15 million or about P610 million.
Tubbataha Reefs Park superintendent Angelique Songco cited that under Republic Act (RA) 10067 or the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park Act of 2009, a fine of about US$300 or P12,000 per square meter is mandatory, plus another US$300 per square meter for rehabilitation efforts.

Given the estimated size of damaged reef, the minimum fine would be US$960,000 or P38 million.
Songco said further sanctions should include unauthorized park entry, non-payment of conservation fees, destruction of resources, and the obstruction of law enforcement.

“This is not the first grounding incident in the park – all previous cases paid the appropriate fines for damages. We will not ask for anything more than what the law requires. We wish only for the US Navy to be responsible enough when entering our protected areas,” she said. At present, the USS Guardian still sits on the northwestern portion of the Tubbataha Reefs’ south atoll. Two heavy lift ship-borne cranes are due to arrive in Tubbataha Reef on Friday to support the salvage operations of the mine countermeasures ship USS Guardian (MCM 5), the United States embassy in Manila reported.

“Like a ticking taxi meter, the passing of each minute and hour raises the stakes,” WWF-Philippines vice-chairman and chief executive officer Jose Ma. Lorenzo Tan said. “However, safety must be chosen over speed – hasty efforts might do further harm to the reef,” Tan, a member of the Tubbataha Protected Area Management Board, also said. United States Ambassador to the Philippines Harry Thomas Jr. stated that the US government will take steps to address the environmental issues that have arisen from the incident.

“Clearly, parallelisms between the USS Guardian and the USS Port Royal can be made. In the case of the Port Royal, the US Navy did the right thing by working cooperatively to fund the restoration and continued protection of the damaged reef,” Tan said.


Samar, OPAPP to bring Pamana services package to Samar hinterlands

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jan 29): Samar, OPAPP to bring Pamana services package to Samar hinterlands

An information and services package emanating from the Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan (PAMANA) projects will be bringing government services to Gandara and Matuginao barangays. During the Samar Provincial Peace and Order Council (PPOC) meeting, Monday, member agencies with Samar LGU agreed to bring the government closer to the people in the area.

Lt Col Glenn Calambuhay from the army conceptualized the series of Pamana caravans and presented the plan to PPOC members which gained a rousing approval.

The Pamana projects come from the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) which include road networks , water systems, and other infrastructure needs that would benefit conflict areas.

As the Pamana caravan rolls out, barangay folks may get their chance to air their concerns in a pulong-pulong while their children enjoy a feeding program courtesy of the Samar LGU through the local social welfare.

Member agencies like DILG, DENR, DOH, Philippine Coconut Authority, Agriculture, Department of Trade and Industry, Tesda, Agrarian Reform, and other agencies will present their services to clustered barangays.

“This will also serve as a social preparation for the grand road rehabilitation of a road leading to Matuginao- a frontier town in the heart of Samar,” said Calambuhay.

Rural folks of barangays Natimonan, Sto Nino,Pizarro, Herapayan, Penaplata, Canhumawid, Hampton San Jose de Panaogan of Gandara stand to benefit from the caravan and the lone Matuginao, Barangay Barruz. They will also benefit from the Gandara-Matuginao road rehab spanning 21 kilometers. 

The PPOC set the caravan in the third week of February and beyond while the DPWH Samar First Engineering District vowed to work overtime to make the access road passable with the surge of visitors expected to meet the people.


Phl Army conducts multiservice caravan in Camarines Sur

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jan 29): Phl Army conducts multiservice caravan in Camarines Sur

A total of 842 residents of Barangay Cotmon in Bato, Camarines Sur benefited from the dental and medical services given by the officers and members of the 42nd Infantry Battallion (IB) of the Philippine Army.

Dubbed “Sama-sama’t sari-saring mga Serbisyo para sa Sambayanan” or 4S, the multi-caravan is part of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ (AFP) Oplan Bayanihan Program which unites and encourages the participation of government agencies, private and civic organizations and members of the community in service-oriented activities.

Lt. Col. Lenart R. Lelina, commander of the 42nd IB based in Camarines Sur, said the project aims to build the trust and cooperation of the community and show that the government is serious in its efforts to attain peace in the country. “We want to focus on building communities and unite each member who would pursue one goal towards one direction. We want to focus on winning the peace particularly in the countryside,” Lelina said in an interview.

The 42nd IB personnel braved the rugged terrain of Cotmon to deliver services to its residents, including free medical and dental check-up and medicine.  Residents also received free haircuts, body therapy, manicure and pedicure, motorcycle check-up, repair of electrical appliances, shoes and umbrellas. They were also treated to a film showing and fun games.

Ako Bicol partylist and GCI Construction provided the medicines used for the medical and dental check-up. Other partners include ABS-CBN Sagip Kapamilya Inc., who donated goods and used clothing.

2LT Clive Lebin, also from 42nd IB said in a press statement that the 9th ID’s Camp Elias Angeles Station Hospital also dispatched military doctors and nurses. The Ateneo De Naga University through its Physical Education Department also contributed used clothing, food and sponsored the feeding activity of the children.

Punong Barangay Marlon Argarin expressed his deep gratitude to all the participating sectors, most especially to the 42nd IB for the outreach activity.

He said he did not expect that this barangay, which is isolated due to its poor road condition, will be reached by the multi-service caravan and will be given the privilege to be one of its beneficiaries.

Argarin also called on local government units and other peace advocates to support this endeavor.


Scout Rangers lead operation against Negros Occidental attackers

From GMA News (Jan 29): Scout Rangers lead operation against Negros Occidental attackers

The Philippine Army's elite Scout Rangers backed by helicopter gunships and a battalion of regular infantry have been deployed against communist new people’s army rebels responsible for last Sunday’s ambush in La Castellana, Negros Occidental. The ambush had left eight civilian village guards and a policeman dead.

“One thing is definite, they cannot escape liability… They have to face, ultimately, the judgment of the [courts],” said Army 3rd Infantry Division commander Maj. Gen. Jose Mabanta.

“The rangers are on top of it [the pursuit operation], actually. The man on the ground is Lt. Col. Oriel Pangcog,” added Mabanta, referring to the commander of the 1st Scout Ranger Battalion.

The 3rd Division commander said the military operation was concentrating on the boundary between Negros Occidental and Negros Oriental. “We know that after such incidents, the first thing they will do is they will hide,” he said.

Mabanta also challenged the human rights group Karapatan to look into the ambush. “It's really time for them to come out and show that they are really unbiased when it comes to implementation of human rights,” he said.

Karapatan Secretary-General Cristina Palabay was quick to respond to Mabanta and said the AFP general was resorting to red-baiting.

"When they get defeated on the battlefield, they vent their ire on organizations like Karapatan and individuals whom they allege to be NPA sympathizers,” said Palabay.

She lamented that the government and its security forces seemingly considered Karapatan the enemy.

“Our (Karapatan's) record in the defense, promotion, and protection of human rights speaks for itself--as how we are considered as among the country's leading human rights organizations by our fellow Filipinos and the international community,” Palabay added.


NPA denies using landmine in attack

From the Sun Star-Davao (Jan 28): NPA denies using landmine in attack

The New People's Army (NPA) in Southern Mindanao denied Monday reports saying they used a landmine during an attack on government troops in Makilala, North Cotabato on Friday.

Rigoberto Sanchez, spokesperson for the Merardo Arce Command of the NPA, said they used a command-detonated explosive against a military vehicle where elements of the 57th Infantry Battalion were on board. With that, Sanchez said they did not violate any human rights law and international instruments.

The use of landmines is strictly prohibited under the Anti-Personnel Mine Convention, an international instrument adopted in 1997.

"The NPA violates no laws and international instruments as it continues to use command-detonated explosives in its guerilla warfare. It employs no stealth as it launches tactical offensive against legitimate targets," Sanchez said in a statement relayed to news organizations here.

Earlier, the 57th IB accused the rebels of violating the International Humanitarian Law and the Anti-Personnel Mine Convention when they used a landmine to attack the soldiers who were on their way to a military detachment at Sitio Alang-Alang, Barangay Kisante, around 11:30 p.m. of Friday.

The explosion wounded five elements of the Charlie Company of the 57th IB, according to the battalion's spokesman, Lieutenant Nasrullah Sema.


PH draws up own maritime map

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jan 30): PH draws up own maritime map

A new Philippine map officially renaming maritime areas in the western part of the archipelago the West Philippine Sea and depicting the extent of the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) is awaiting the approval of Malacañang.

The map, produced by the National Mapping and Resource Information Authority (Namria) and covering islands in the West Philippine Sea being claimed by China, was “still being reviewed,” according to the Office of Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr..

The map drawn was drawn up in compliance with Administrative Order No. 29 renaming the maritime areas west of the archipelago, including the Luzon Sea and the waters around, within and adjacent to the Kalayaan Island Group and Bajo de Masinloc or Scarborough Shoal, the West Philippine Sea.

Standoff with China

President Aquino issued the AO in September 2012 amid the escalating standoff with China over Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal, a group of coral and rock formations in the West Philippine Sea where vessels from both countries faced each other in April 2012.

The international waterway is better known as the South China Sea.

The map was submitted to the Office of the President in the last quarter of 2012, Environment Secretary Ramon Paje, who has jurisdiction over Namria, said in a phone interview.

Sovereign right

The new map would reinforce the idea that the country has an exclusive economic zone and a continental shelf covered by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos), said Gilberto Asuque, foreign affairs assistant secretary for ocean concerns.

“Naming waters within our national maritime domain is a sovereign right,” Asuque said also by phone.

China has been claiming sovereignty over the disputed area, which is believed to sit atop vast reserves of oil and gas and is one of the region’s most important fishing grounds. It straddles shipping lanes considered vital to global trade.

The Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan have contending claims over parts of the sea.

The AO provides that a copy of the order together with the official map reflecting the West Philippine Sea be deposited with the secretary general of the United Nations, and that relevant international organizations be notified “at the appropriate time.”

Asuque, however, said that the map would have no bearing on the notification and statement of claim that the government recently filed in the UN.

“Our case stands on its own,” he said.


US lawmakers back PH move in UN

From the Philippine Daily  Inquirer (Jan 30): US lawmakers back PH move in UN

Visiting United States lawmakers are “very supportive” of the Philippine move elevating to a United Nations arbitration tribunal its bid to invalidate China’s claims in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) and to stop Chinese incursions into Philippine-claimed parts of the disputed waters, a foreign official said Tuesday.

Foreign Assistant Secretary for American Affairs Carlos Sorreta said members of the US Congress led by foreign affairs committee chair Ed Royce were “very interested” in Manila’s legal action invoking the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos) against Beijing in hopes of peacefully settling the protracted maritime dispute.

“Members of the US Congress expressed their very strong support for our efforts to resolve the situation in a peaceful manner and in accordance with Unclos,” Sorreta told reporters Tuesday.

“There was some discussion on the details of our action. They were very interested in the merits of our arguments, they’re very supportive of it,” said Sorreta.

Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario briefed the US side on the Philippines’ Notification and Statement of Claim filed against China last week.

“What the US has always maintained is that they don’t take sides in any dispute but they would like to see these disputes resolved peacefully,” said Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Cuisia, who was present at the briefing.

US Representatives Eliot Engel, Gregory Meeks, Vern Buchanan, Matthew James Salmon Thomas, Anthony Marino were part of the delegation that met with Philippine officials, including Environment Secretary Ramon Paje, Energy Secretary Carlos Petilla and Justice Secretary Leila de Lima.

US Ambassador to the Philippines Harry Thomas Jr. was also present at the hour-long meeting at the DFA Tuesday morning.

For his part, Royce said Washington was taking no sides in the territorial conflict but backs up an internationally accepted diplomatic solution.

“It is best that China join the process so that we can move forward under international law,” the California Republican told The Associated Press after meeting with Del Rosario and other diplomats in Manila.

“We want to calm the tensions,” Royce said. “We want this approached from the standpoint of diplomacy, and that is what we are conveying because in that way we don’t create a crisis which roils the markets or creates uncertainty.”

Royce and the US delegation will meet with President Aquino and other Philippine officials before traveling to Beijing on Wednesday as part of their Asian tour.

China, the Philippines and four other countries have overlapping claims across the vast South China Sea. Beijing insists it has sovereignty over virtually all of the region, which is said to be rich in oil and gas and is home to some of the world’s busiest sea lanes.


Soldiers eyed as Atimonan state witnesses

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jan 30): Soldiers eyed as Atimonan state witnesses

Army soldiers of the 1st Special Forces Battalion who were involved in the bloody Atimonan incident that left 13 people dead have been offered to become state witnesses, government and military sources said.

Sources also said that before he left for Davos, Switzerland, last week, President Aquino met with Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Emmanuel Bautista and Southern Luzon Command (SolCom) commander Maj. Gen. Alan Luga, who has jurisdiction over the battalion.

Mr. Aquino had wanted to find out from the military officers and men what exactly transpired in Atimonan on Jan. 6.

Mr. Aquino also supposedly talked with Col. Monico Abang, the battalion commander who is among the military officers and men being investigated by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).

“The soldiers were encouraged to tell everything they know. They might know something that has not been said before. That’s why they were being offered to turn state witnesses,” the source said.

Abang and his men have been restricted to quarters at the Army headquarters in Fort Bonifacio.

Three Philippine Daily Inquirer sources said in separate interviews that there are still “things that have not been said” in the media that the soldiers know.

In an interview last week, Mr. Aquino confirmed that he met with military officials over the Atimonan incident but declined to mention who he spoke to and what was discussed.

As this developed, the lone witness who claimed that the Atimonan incident was a shootout has sought the protection of the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC), claiming that several men have been looking for him.

Rolando Vico Jr., 40, of Barangay (village) Cabugwang in Tagkawayan town, on Tuesday maintained that the Atimonan victims who were in a convoy had fired first at the policemen and soldiers manning a checkpoint who then retaliated.

“There are men looking for me. I do not know if they are real law enforcers. Some of them said they are with the CIDG (Criminal Investigation and Detection Group). Some said they are NBI agents. I do not know if I can trust them. I do not want to just believe them,” he said.

VACC founding chairman Dante Jimenez said his organization would take care of Vico until he is safely under the government’s witness protection program.

A police official present during the Atimonan incident said they had expected three vehicles to pass the checkpoint.

“We were expecting three vehicles, two Monteros and a pick-up,” the police official said.

The police official said the third vehicle was reported to have passed the first checkpoint which was at least 500 meters away from the second checkpoint but suddenly disappeared.


Former Navy officer says human error may have caused Tubbataha incident

From the Philippine Star (Jan 29): Former Navy officer says human error may have caused Tubbataha incident

The grounding of a United States warship in Tubbataha Reef may have been caused by a human error and cannot be attributed solely to faulty charts, a former Navy chief said on Tuesday.

Ferdinand Golez, former flag- officer-in-command of the Navy, said errors can still happen even if a ship has sophisticated navigation charts. “There is such thing as human weakness. Even in the most powerful navy in the world, weakness can come in so errors can happen and so the Tubatahana incident happened,” Golez told reporters. “Since they (US) might have the necessary equipment and necessary references they are not able to use it properly that’s why the incident happened,” he added.

Golez said he was surprised by the grounding of the USS Guardian in the Tubbataha Reef since the area is wide.

“Of course the map by itself cannot cause the grounding,” the former Navy chief said.

“In my recollection in my entire 38 years in the Navy, we never had an incident in the place,” he added.

Golez, now a board member of state-owned Bases Conversion Development Authority, said a few degrees error in a chart can cause a ship to be displaced.

He said it is not unusual to see ships passing by the Tubbataha area, which he described as “a normal sea lane.”

“As navigators we have to be aware of danger areas and Tubbataha Reef is protected area so you have to be careful once you transit that area,” Golez said.

The 1,300-ton, 68-meter-long USS Guardian ran aground dawn of Jan. 17 at the Tubbataha Reef’s south atoll, raising concerns about its possible impact on the area.

Tubbataha, which covers 130,028 hectares, was named a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization in 1993.

Because of its extensive coral network, the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Marine Park in the Sulu Sea has been declared a protected area.

The USS Guardian was reportedly on its way to Puerto Princesa in Palawan after a port call and supply replenishment in Subic Bay when the incident happened.

The US Navy has blamed “faulty navigation chart data” for the incident.

US Ambassador to the Philippines Harry Thomas, Jr. has expressed regret for the incident and promised to help in assessing the damage and extricating the ship as expeditiously as possible.

The Philippine government, however, would continue to probe the incident with no less than President Benigno Aquino III saying that the US apology does not exempt the ship’s crew from having to comply with the law.


Phl seeks US support on arbitration of disputes with China

From the Philippine Star (Jan 29): Phl seeks US support on arbitration of disputes with China

With the arrival of a US congressional delegation in Manila, the Philippines tries to win U. S. support on its move to bring territorial disputes with China to international arbitration.

According to the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario briefed the US delegation, headed by Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs Congressman Ed Royce, details of the arbitration issue.

Philippine Ambassador to Washington Jose Cuisia, who was present at a meeting with a group of Philippine officials at the DFA, said Del Rosario explained to the US lawmakers that Manila needed to go on a legal track because the country's efforts at diplomacy and moves to settle it through the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), "have not yielded any results."

Philippine DFA Assistant Secretary Carlos Sorreta told media that the five-member US delegation "expressed their full support" to Manila's efforts "to resolve the situation in a peaceful manner and in accordance to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea."

US Congressman Royce said in a chance interview,"We always believe that it's in everyone's interest to resolve these issues through dialogue. We want to calm the tensions, we want this approached from the standpoint of diplomacy."

The delegation arrived in Manila on Monday and will stay in the Philippines through Wednesday.

Philippine government took the disputes with China on South China Sea to an Arbitral Tribunal under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) on Jan. 22.

In response, China urged the Philippines to avoid taking any action that could complicate the South China Sea issue.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said on the following day at a daily press briefing, "China has indisputable sovereignty over the Nansha islands and its adjacent waters. Our claim has abundant historical and legal grounds."

"The key and root of the dispute between China and the Philippines is the Philippines' illegal occupation of some islets and reefs of the Nansha Islands. China has always opposed the Philippines' illegal occupation," he added.

China has been consistently working toward resolving the disputes through negotiations and dialogue, to defend China- Philippines relations and safeguard regional peace and stability. This has shown China's utmost goodwill and sincerity", he said.


8ID appeals to local bets not to fall prey to NPA extortion

From the Leyte Samar Daily Express (Jan 28): 8ID appeals to local bets not to fall prey to NPA extortion

Candidates running in this year’s midterm elections should not succumb to the demand of the rebel group’s so-called permit to campaign or to win fee from the New People’s Army.  This was the appeal issued by Captain Gene Orense, spokesperson of the 8th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army based in Catbalogan City, Samar.

Orense said that the Eastern Visayas Regional Party Committee and its armed group the New People’s Army are currently intensifying their extortion activities not only to ordinary businessmen, farmers but also to candidates for elective position through their permit to campaign and win fees in rebel-controlled areas.

“We are making an appeal to all local candidates for the May 2013 elections to refuse any offer of PTC and PTW fees by the NPAs. Instead let us work together through the spirit of ‘Bayanihan’ in ensuring a secured and fair election,” Orense said.

Communist rebels reportedly are cashing on the 2013 elections by imposing PTC and PTW fees of up to P5 million on political candidates.

Orense added that recently, the military recovered subversive documents revealing that one of the NPA plans in the region is to implement the PTC and PTW scheme to all local candidates for the May 2013 elections.

Based on the NPA documents reportedly recovered by the military troops, the NPA in Eastern Visayas is allegedly collecting PTC/PTW fees ranging from P50,000 to P5 million.

A candidate for congressman is asked P500,000; while governor and vice governor are supposed to pay P5 million and P500,000, respectively.

A board member and a mayoralty aspirant is asked P100,000; vice-mayor, P75,000; and councilor, P50,000.

Orense said that aside from the PTC and PTW fees, the NPA is also extorting high powered firearms or an equivalent amount of P180,000 per candidate.

“In the said document, it disclosed that during the previous local elections, the NPA was able to collect PTC and PTW fees coming from the local candidates in the region,” Orense added.

During the 2004 elections, a reelectionist lady town mayor together with her entire slate in Samar were abducted by NPA rebels while on a campaign trail due to their failure to give to their demand of permit to campaign fee.

But this was denied by the NPA, saying they do not demand any permit to campaign or win fee.
The military, however, said that under the scheme, candidates can conduct their campaign in villages under the “influence” of the rebels and would help to ensure their winning.

Based on their records, there are about 120 barangays across the region which are still considered to be an “NPA-influenced.”


Army, NGO 5-day Medical-Dental Mission Held

From the Negros Daily Bulletin (Jan 29): Army, NGO 5-day Medical-Dental Mission Held

302 Brigade Dental Team headed by 1Lt. Roel R. Morales, the Brigade Dental Surgeon gives free dental services to the poor during the 5-day Medical and Dental Civic Action Program (MEDCAP) in five different municipalities in Negros Oriental, recently.

The Army’s 302 Brigade under the command of Col. Francisco M. Patrimonio, the Brigade Commander in collaboration with the Aba Child Ministries of Tunga Dauin, Kindness in Action headed by Dr. Amil Shapka of Emmanuel Foundation of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada and 79th and 11th Infantry Battalion had successfully conducted the 5-day Medical and Dental Civic Action Program (MEDCAP) in five different municipalities in the province of Negros Oriental from January 21 to 25, 2013.

The 5-day MEDCAP included free medical and dental services, free eye check-up, blood pressure examination, free haircut and massage. The activity was considered a success through the efforts of the NGOs, LGUs and the 302 Brigade, Philippine Army.

The launching of the 5-day MEDCAP was held at Canlaon Complex last January 25, 2013. Some 942 individuals benefitted from the said activity broken down into 208 individuals for free medical consultations; 293 for the blood pressure examinations; 168 for free dental check-up and 57 for tooth extraction/cleaning; 91 for free eye check-up; 47 individuals were given free haircut and 78 for free massage.

The second day of the MEDCAP was held at Municipal Clinic, Poblacion La Libertad, Negros Oriental on January 22, 2013 with 963 beneficiaries broken down into 274 persons given free medical consultation, 259 for free dental check-up and tooth extraction, 257 for the blood pressure examination, 75 for the eye consultation, 32 individuals were given free haircut and 63 for free massage.

The third day of MEDCAP was held at Cultural Center, Bais City, Negros Oriental on January 23, 2013. The activity benefited 528 individuals broken down into 225 individuals given free medical consultation, 121 free dental check-up and tooth extraction, 127 or the blood pressure examination, 38 individuals given free haircut and 17 for free massage.

The fourth day of the MEDCAP was held at Municipal Hall, Poblacion Dauin, Negros Oriental on January 24, 2013 with 1,264 beneficiaries broken down into 297 persons given free medical consultation, 274 free dental check-up and tooth extraction, 213 for blood pressure examination, 310 for surgery and restho 75 for the eye consultation, 32 individuals were given free haircut and 63 for free massage.

The fifth day of the MEDCAP was held at Sports Complex, Poblacion Bacong, Negros Oriental on January 25, 2013 with 891 beneficiaries broken down into 298 persons given free medical consultation, 274 free dental check-up and tooth extraction, 163 for blood pressure examination, 15 for surgery and restho 75 for the eye consultation, 22 individuals given free haircut and 44 for free massage. Indeed, a total of 4,588 individuals were benefited by the 5-day MEDCAP in five different Municipalities of the province.

Meanwhile, Col. Patrimonio said that the 5-day MEDCAP was made possible through the series of coordination and meetings of the said sponsors and concerned Local Government Units (LGUs), Local Government Agencies (LGAs) and other participating agencies and NGOs.

He added that the involvement of different stakeholders consistent with the spirit of "Bayanihan" to address the health concerns of Negrenses was a manifestation of commitment and dedication by peace loving citizens in order to serve the needy Filipino people.


NPA camp seized by government troops in Northern Samar

Posted to Samar News (Jan 26): NPA camp seized by government troops in Northern Samar

NPA camp

By 20th Infantry Battalion, 8ID PA
January 26, 2013

BRGY. MAGSAYSAY, Lope de Vega, Northern Samar A newly abandoned communist terrorist’s camp was recently discovered by government security forces at Sitio Catmaalad, Barangay Mckinley, Catarman, Northern Samar at around 9:30 in the morning today, January 26, 2013.

Lieutenant Colonel Noel A Vestuir, 20IB’s Commanding Officer, in his report to 803rd Brigade Commander, Colonel Rolando Malinao, said the camp was seized by the operating troops of 20IB 1LT Raul Delos Santos.

The camp has fifteen (15) hastily destroyed bunkers that can accommodate more or fifteen to twenty communist terrorists, one (1) kitchen, one (1) comfort room, and has just been abandoned by the CTs as they evade armed engagement with the operating troops.

The camp was seized after 20IB launched sustained combat operations in the area of Catarman in response to the information tipped-in by some residents in the nearby barangays of the presence of armed men roaming in the area extorting money and food stuffs from the peace-loving people.

The recent accomplishments by the 20IB troops against the NPAs in the area of 1st district of Northern Samar have disrupted the impending terroristic activities that are being hatched to be conducted by the NPA. The government troops has dislodged them from their guerilla camps and cut-off their supply support lines that they forcibly take from the residents in the area.

The discovery and seizure of the said camp in the area was made possible by the information provided by local populace and is a clear indication that enemy revolutionary organization has already alienated the people and the communities where they got their support through their forced extortion activities.

LTC Vestuir, 20IB’s Commanding Officer 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”.

“Through the timely and accurate information tipped by the residents, our troops were able to discover the NPA encampment, a staging place of their terroristic activities in the area. The seizure of the said NPA encampment is a big blow to the CTs considering that we have denied them of their safe haven and sanctuary and once again proven that the people are with us in our pursuit for peace in this part of the country”, Vestuir said.

Vestuir also calls for the fleeing Communist Terrorists to lay down their arms in order to once again live decent and normal lives along with their families.

‘Ambushers may not be local rebels’

From the Visayan Daily Star (Jan 29): ‘Ambushers may not be local rebels’

The police are looking into the possibility that the suspects in what they call the “barbaric attack” Sunday in La Castellana, Negros Occidental, that claimed the lives of nine, and injured 12 others, may not be “local rebels” but those from other areas of the country.

Senior Supt. Celestino Guara, caretaker of the Negros Occidental Police Provincial Office, yesterday said the “local boys” cannot afford to do it, as they have families and relatives in the area. If they are not NPA, then who? Guara asked.

Based on the accounts of eyewitnesses and survivors, as well as their intelligence reports, Col. Francisco Patrimonio, 302nd Infantry Brigade commander, maintained that the ambush was initiated by the NPA.

The NPA has not issued any statement yet claiming or denying responsibility for the ambush.

Guara said some of the suspects spoke in Cebuano, while Patrimonio said others spoke in a language survivors could not understand that he believes to have been “Waray”.

The military has confirmed the merging of Bohol, Samar and Leyte rebels with the local NPA command in the southeastern portion of Negros island.

Edwin Sevilla, a member of Barangay Peacekeeping Action Team, stationed at a police outpost in Brgy. Cabacungan, La Castellana, and who survived the ambush, said the suspects, who positioned themselves on the left side of the road, in an area planted with sugarcane, had shouted “Mabuhay ang NPA!”

While withdrawing from the ambush site, Guara claimed that some rebels helped their injured comrades, who may have been hit, when the two injured policemen briefly fought back against them.

A resident of Brgy. Puso, La Castellana, who requested anonymity said in an interview with DYEZ Aksyon Radyo, that she believes that the group of NPA men were from Samar and Leyte, and not local ones, and may have used a local guide.

They may also have targeted members of the BPAT, who are rebel returnees and possess firearms, she added.

Chief Supt. Agrimero Cruz, regional police director of Western Visayas, yesterday called on the Commission on Human Rights and non-government organizations involved in the promotion and protection of human rights, to help the police and the military in the investigation.

Cruz also said, “This is an opportunity for all human rights advocates to show their support against dastardly acts of the NPA”.

Army spokesman Col. Arnulfo Burgos Jr. said the NPA perpetrated the attack despite openness of the AFP with rebels returning to the democratic fold.

"While we support the efforts of the government for peace and development, our focused combat operations will continue to target those who continue to pursue armed violence that has caused suffering to our people and loss of innocent lives," Burgos said.

He added that the NPAs continue to wage armed violence, disrupt the peace-building initiatives of the government, and even disrespect the peace process by violating past ceasefire pronouncements.

Burgos added that Sunday's attack on non-combatants is clearly another violation of the Comprehensive Agreement on Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law they signed.

The AFP is now coordinating with the Philippine National Police and activated Task Force La Castellana to undertake pursuit operations against the perpetrators.

"Our troops in the area will strictly follow the rules of engagement and will respect and promote human rights in all our operations," Burgos added.


Army's 3rd ID begins RH program for female troops, personnel

From InterAksyon (Jan 29): Army's 3rd ID begins RH program for female troops, personnel

The Philippine Army’s 3rd Infantry Division based in Western Visayas has begun implementing a comprehensive reproductive health program for its 62 female troops and 30 civilian employees.
“In order to ensure the free exercise of maternal rights and the protection of women and their well being without prejudice to their career development program, the Philippine Army provided a reproductive health program for the Army personnel consisting of comprehensive health information, education, examination and prevention,” division deputy spokesman Captain Ryan Joseph Cayton said.

The Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012, which was signed on December 21 by President Benigno Aquino III, took effect on January 17. The 3rd ID’s RH program includes:
  • maternal care, including include pre- and post-natal services
  • prevention and management of reproductive tract infections
  • responsible, ethical, legal, safe and effective methods of family planning
  • education and counseling on sexuality and sexual and reproductive health
  • prevention and management of reproductive tract cancers and other gynecological conditions and disorders
  • promotion of healthy lifestyle activities as one of the strategies to prevent related diseases
The division also launched a “Human Papiloma Virus (HPV) Awareness and Screening Program,” including the conduct of pap smears, anti-cervical cancer vaccination, breast cancer awareness and screening.


PH defense sector at 'very high risk' of corruption - Transparency Int'l survey

From InterAksyon (Jan 29): PH defense sector at 'very high risk' of corruption - Transparency Int'l survey

The Philippines is among the countries whose defense sectors were at “very high risk” of corruption, according to a survey that showed more than two-thirds of countries, including many of the world's largest arms traders, have inadequate safeguards to prevent graft.

Sought for reaction, Philippine National Police spokesman Chief Superintendent Generoso Cerbo Jr. did not brush off the findins but stressed that they continue to implement reforms in their procurement processes.

The survey, conducted by Transparency International UK showed only Germany and Australia among the 82 countries surveyed with strong anti-corruption mechanisms. The anti-corruption watchdog said Tuesday the survey is the first index measuring how governments counter corruption in defense.

Fifty-seven of the countries -- almost 70 percent -- had poor controls against corruption, according to the survey, which rated governments by criteria such as the strength of parliamentary oversight of defense policy and the standards expected of defense firms.

The 82 countries surveyed account for 94 per cent of global military expenditure -- $1.6 trillion -- in 2011, while the global cost of corruption in the defense sector is estimated to be at least $20 billion a year, the watchdog said.

Mark Pyman, director of Transparency International UK's Defense and Security Program, said he hoped the survey would lead governments to improve anti-corruption policies. Corruption was dangerous, because troops "may well have equipment that doesn't work" and it was wasteful, he said.

"Particularly at times of austerity, the idea that it is somehow acceptable that there should be corruption in defense because it has always been so is just an outrageous suggestion," he told Reuters.
Countries with poor anti-corruption controls included two-thirds of the largest arms importers assessed in the survey and half of the biggest arms exporters, Transparency International said.

High risk

China, Russia and Israel, all leading arms exporters, were considered to be at high risk of corruption in their defense sectors.

Among top arms importers, India, United Arab Emirates, Singapore, Thailand and Turkey were in the high-risk category.

Nine countries -- Algeria, Angola, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Eritrea, Libya, Syria and Yemen -- are at "critical risk" of corruption in their defense sector, lacking basic accountability measures, the survey said.

Countries classed as being at "very high risk" of corruption include Afghanistan, Bahrain, Iran, Philippines, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Sri Lanka.

The United States, Britain, Sweden and South Korea were among countries judged to be at low risk, while France, Spain, Italy and Poland were in the moderate-risk group.

The survey looked not only at the potential for corruption in defense contracts, but also at the risk of abuse of defense budgets and the risk of corruption in the armed forces.

Governments surveyed were given the chance to review Transparency International's findings.
Pyman said a "shocking" result of the survey was that in half of the countries surveyed, the defense budget was either not public or it contained no breakdown of defense spending.

Only 12 percent of countries surveyed had "highly effective" parliamentary scrutiny of defense policy and only a handful protected whistleblowers who reported defense corruption.

Europe has been swept by a wave of high-profile cases of alleged corruption in defense deals in recent years.

Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa has been charged with bribery over a now-abandoned 2006 deal to buy armored vehicles. He has denied wrongdoing.

European aerospace and defense group EADS, facing investigations in Austria, Britain and Germany, has launched an external review of its anti-corruption rules.

In the Philippines, several police generals and the husband of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo are facing charges over the purchase of secondhand helicopters that were refurbished and handed off as brand new.

Charges have also been filed over the anomalous purchase of police rubber boats and the irregular repair of police armored vehicles. Cerbo said the officers accused in the anomalous chopper and rubber boat purchases have either been dismissed from the service or meted severe penalties.

"The PNP is fully supportive of the administration's campaign of matuwid na daan (straight path). the PNP's objective now is to be truthful, transparent, and we will never tolerate corruption in the organization," he said.
The PNP has implemented several reforms in the Bids and Awards Committee to make it stricter and more thorough, he pointed out.


Spain to turn over some 70 historical maps to strengthen PH claim over disputed territories

From InterAksyon (Jan 29): Spain to turn over some 70 historical maps to strengthen PH claim over disputed territories

Two days before China comes out with its official maps that highlight territories in South China Sea, which are also being claimed by the Philippines, Spanish Ambassador to Manila Jorge Domecq said his country was wiliing to turn over to the Philippines some 70 of the latter's historical maps.

Domecq made the annoucement on Tuesday at the sidelines of the sixth Tribuna España-Filipinas, a high-dialogue between the two countries held at the AIM Conference Center in Makati City. During the event, Domecq was asked what could Spain contribute to further strengthen the Philippines' claim over the disputed territories in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) given that Madrid and Manila shared hundreds of years of historical heritage.

“I think that is something that you probably have to dig into the archives… I can send it to you, where you have around 70 maps, which are a private collection, and then you can draw your conclusion," Domecq replied.

Sen. Edgardo Angara, also owns a vast collection of Philippine maps dating back to Spanish colonial times, which include an old map showing that Scarborough (Panatag or Bajo de Masinloc) Shoal belongs to the Philippines. China refers to the rock fomation as Huangyan Island.

According to Angara, it is clear that the shoal is part of the Philippines' cartography during the Spanish colonial area. The senator said there is map made in 1734 that shows that Panatag was already part of the Phillippine Islands, which was then under Spanish colonial rule.

China has been firm on its stand that it owns the entire South China Sea, citing its historical inheritance and the nine-dash-line on its ancient map.

But a senior official from the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), who requested anonimity for lack of authority to speak on the matter, said that with or without the old maps from Spain, the Philippines would win its case against China.

Earlier this month, the Philippines filed a case against China over its excessive territorial claims before the Arbitral Tribunal of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos).
“China’s claim is not base on the Unclos, it is base allegedly on some other laws. Ours is an entitlement, therefore legally, we have territorial sovereignty [over the West Philippine Sea]. So between the two of us, I don’t have the burden of truth, you [China] have the burden of truth,” the senior DFA official told InterAksyon.com in an interview on Tuesday.

According to the DFA official, the Philippines is entitled to the 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone provided by the Unclos. “We are the one who has entitlement, theirs are [just] claims. We don’t have to prove ourselves...the law already proved it. They are the ones with a claim that’s not base on a written law, but on their own concept of laws, so why put a burden on me [Philippines]?,” the official said.

China is set to come out with its new official maps showing the 130 islands and islets of the South China Sea or the nine-dash-line claims, including the islands and waters that the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei and Malaysia also claim.

The new maps, which for the first time put the disputed islands in South China Sea in equal scale to that of the Chinese mainland, are published by China's national map publisher SinoMaps Press and will be available to the public by end of January this year. The maps also feature islands in East China Sea being claimed by Japan.

DFA spokesman Raul Hernandez on Tuesday said the department was still waiting for the Philippine Embassy in Beijing to verify the existence of the new map highlighting the disputed territories.
“As we have said, we are still asking our embassy in Beijing for verification regarding the map and the extent of the coverage of the map,” Hernandez told reporters.

He said the DFA would "act accordingly" as soon as it sees the new China maps and the extent of their coverage.  If the maps cover parts of the Philippine territory the DFA will again "file a protest" against China’s action, according to Hernandez.


New photo of kidnapped Aussie posted on FB

From Rappler (Jan 29): New photo of kidnapped Aussie posted on FB

DEATH THREAT. In a Facebook post, bandits threaten to kill kidnapped Australian Warren Rodwell. He holds an Inquirer issue dated Jan 25, 2012. Photo from Facebook

DEATH THREAT. In a Facebook post, bandits threaten to kill kidnapped Australian Warren Rodwell. He holds an Inquirer issue dated Jan 25, 2012. Photo from Facebook

Behind his skinny figure, a black flag looms. And for the first time, 3 armed men surround him in a picture, signs of the fate to befall him if a Facebook message is to be believed.

Posted on Tuesday, January 29, the message on Facebook threatened to kill kidnapped Australian Warren Rodwell. The threat was made by a group calling itself Al Harakatul Al-Islamiyyah, an apparent reference to the formal name adopted by the terrorist group, the Abu Sayyaf.

The post told the Australian government, "We will give you a chance to save his life before it's too late." Sources told Rappler negotiations for his release are ongoing.

In his newest picture, Rodwell holds a January 25, 2013 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
Speaking to Rappler, Filipino intelligence sources confirmed the post is authentic. One of them said they were warned “about it in advance.”

“To the Australian government, in behalf of the majlisus Shura of Alharakatul Islamiyya in southern Philippines, we officially inform you that your citizen Warren Rodwell is in our custody and control since he was abducted at Ipil, Sibugay Province, Mindanao Philippines last December 5, 2011 and now facing Islamic sharee’ah,” the Abu Sayyaf said.

“If you have concerned (sic) with your men, we will give you a chance to save his life before it’s too late, as soon as possible time (sic), otherwise he will suffer unusual way of Death,” the group added.
Rodwell was last seen on Facebook and Youtube on Dec 26, 2012, when he delivered a video message “to say that I am alive.”

In Rodwell's latest picture, the black flag behind him is a symbol used by al-Qaeda – a sign of the apocalypse that would bring about the triumph of Islam. The flag's symbolism is linked to a “narrative that convinces them that they’re part of a divine plan,” according to former Federal Bureau of Investigation agent Ali Soufan in his book The Black Banners: The Inside Story of 9/11 and the War Against al-Qaeda. (Read: Al-Qaeda's blag flag seized in ASG camp.)

SIGN OF APOCALYPSE. Filipinos carry the black flag in the southern Philippines

SIGN OF APOCALYPSE. Filipinos carry the black flag in the southern Philippines

Read the Abu Sayyaf's full Facebook post below. It appears in unedited form.

In the Name of Allah, the Merciful, the Compassionate.

All praise is for Allah, the Lord of the Universe. May Allah bestow peace and blessings upon our Leader Muhammad, Leader of those who strive in Allah's way and Imam of the pious. May He also bestow peace and blessings upon his family and his companions, and all those who strive for the Sharee’ah until the Day of judgment.

We the Alharakatul Islamiyya in southern Philippines, Our Jihad will continue with the permission of Allah azza wa jalla, we will raise the flag of Islamic Sharee’ah and we would not be perturbed by the people who dispute with us and also not the people who aggress us, until you witness the dignity and the supremacy in our Ummah, or we will be meeting Allah azza wa jalla while in the advance and not in retreat.

To the Australian government, in behalf of the majlisus Shura of Alharakatul Islamiyya in southern Philippines, we officially inform you that your citizen Warren Rodwell is in our custody and control since he was abducted at Ipil, Sibugay Province, Mindanao Philippines last December 5, 2011 and now facing Islamic sharee’ah, if you have concerned with your men, we will give you a chance to save his life before it’s too late, as soon as possible time, otherwise he will suffer unusual way of Death.

To our brothers in Islam we would like to make it clear that our activities like this are not for personal interests or just to gain money for personal use, let it be known to everyone we are on war against the forces of shaytan in the Philippines, its allies and supporters, and whatever we gain from this war is to be used for our future operations and other necessities.


US Navy needs PH approval of Tubbataha salvage plan

From Rappler (Jan 29): US Navy needs PH approval of Tubbataha salvage plan

WAITING TO BE LIFTED. The mine countermeasures ship USS Guardian (MCM 5) sits aground Tuesday, January 22, 2013 on the Tubbataha Reef in the Sulu Sea, Philippines, where it ran aground on January 17th. Operations to recover the ship while minimizing environmental effects are being conducted in close cooperation with allied Philippines Coast Guard and Navy. AFP PHOTO / US NAVY

WAITING TO BE LIFTED. The mine countermeasures ship USS Guardian (MCM 5) sits aground Tuesday, January 22, 2013 on the Tubbataha Reef in the Sulu Sea, Philippines, where it ran aground on January 17th. Operations to recover the ship while minimizing environmental effects are being conducted in close cooperation with allied Philippines Coast Guard and Navy. AFP PHOTO / US NAVY

The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) on Tuesday, January 29 requested the US Navy to submit its plan to extricate a ship stuck in Tubbataha Reef Natural Park for approval before the salvage operation starts.

After ruling out other options like dragging the vessel with a tugboat or dismantling it piece by piece, the Americans last week decided to lift the USS Guardian with a crane and then transfer it to a barge. "We need to see and approve the salvage plan because we want to ensure that it will not inflict further damage on the coral reefs," said PCG Cmdr Efren Evangelista.

Two cranes from a Singapore-based salvage company hired by the US Navy are expected to arrive on Friday, February 1, but that does not mean the operation will start already that day. "We don't have a timeframe when the salvage operation can start as we are still waiting for the arrival of the salvage ship," Evangelista noted.

Hoisting ship 'dangerous'?

Meanwhile, a group of PCG divers is assessing the damage to the reef. At least 17 of the ship's hull are buried in the coral near the upper side of Tubbataha's South Atoll, placing the damage at between 1,000 and 1,600 sqm of reef, based on initial estimates from the government and park officials.

The USS Guardian ran aground inside the 97,030-hectare protected area of the marine park on January 17 when the US Navy minesweeper was on its way to Indonesia after a port call in Subic, Zambales.

A military officer in Palawan said he's not sure that hoisting the vessel is the best idea, as this could be potentially "difficult and more dangerous" than the other two options discussed. The officer, who requested to remain anonymous, suggested cutting the hull into smaller parts before lifting it out of the water to avoid damaging more coral when it is moved from its current location.


Troops pursue pirates in Zambo Sibugay

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 29): Troops pursue pirates in Zambo Sibugay

Government troops are scouring the sea of Zamboanga del Sur for the five pirates they engaged in a firefight on Monday. Army’s 1st Infantry Division Commander Maj. Gen. Ricardo Rainier Cruz III said on Tuesday the troops were scouring Barangay Bacao, Malangas, Zamboanga Sibugay, where the pirates have fled following the encounter at sea.

Cruz said the pirates were led by Kiyang Balimbingan, whose group was responsible for a series of atrocities at the provincial waters of Zamboanga del Sur and Sibugay. Cruz said the troops from the Army’s 44th Infantry Battalion were conducting seaborne patrol when they clashed with the group of Balimbingan at 10 a.m. Monday near the shore of Barangay Talanusa, Margosatubig, Zamboanga del Sur.

Some of the pirates who fled to Barangay Bacao, Malangas were believed to have been wounded, Cruz said. This as the motorized banca they have abandoned at the shore of Barangay Bacao have bloodstains, Cruz said.

Meanwhile, Cruz has ordered his troops to intensify the conduct of seaborne patrol to ensure the protection of the people particularly the marginal fishermen.


Slain cop target of NPA ambush in Negros Occidental, says NOPPO director

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 29): Slain cop target of NPA ambush in Negros Occidental, says NOPPO director

The slain policeman was the target of the ambush staged by members of the New People’s Army (NPA) that killed nine victims and wounded six other civilians in La Castellana, Negros Occidental early Sunday morning.

Negros Occidental Police Provincial (NOPPO)officer-in- charge Director Senior Supt. Celestino Guara, who is also the head of the Task Force La Castellana to investigate and track down the suspects, theorized that hatred was the motive behind the ambush hatched by the NPA rebels against slain PO1 Richard Canja. He also cited earlier investigation made by the La Castellana Police Station that the killings were the handiwork of the communist rebels.  Guara's claim was corroborated by survivors and civilian witnesses who heard shouts from the armed group introducing themselves as members of the NPA before they left the crime scene.

A native of Brgy. Puso, La Castellana, PO1 Canja was a vocal critic of the rebels’ unlawful activities in the hinterland barangays of their hometown. Guara said no less than PO1 Canja himself organized the Barangay Peace-keeping Action Team (BPAT) with rebel returnees as majority of its members. This drew the ire of the leftist group against the police officer as the group has been deprived easy access to the area for mass-based support from hinterland residents.

It was Sunday morning when heavily armed rebels chanced upon Canja alongside PO2 Jeffrey Alvare and PO3 Costantino Villegas together with BPAT and tanod members and several civilians onboard the Fuso Canter truck when ambushed.  They were on their way back to their home base in Cabacungan onboard the Fuso Canter truck when ambushed early Sunday morning by rebel insurgents who sprayed them bullets of high caliber firearms.