Tuesday, February 5, 2013

USS Guardian salvage to cost almost $25-M

From Rappler (Feb 6): USS Guardian salvage to cost almost $25-M

The private salvage company hired by the US Navy to remove the USS Guardian from Tubbataha Reef Natural Park will be paid almost $25 million (about P1.2-B) to complete its task, according to the US Department of Defense.

"SMIT Salvage, Singapore, was awarded on Feb. 1, 2013, a $24,889,904 delivery order against previously awarded indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity, cost-plus-award-fee contract (N00024-12-D-4120) to provide support for emergency response and recovery operations for the USS Guardian grounding on Tubbataha Reef, Sulu Sea, Philippines," the DOD published as an official notice on Wednesday, February 6.

Support provided by SMIT "will include personnel, vessels and equipment required for assessment, planning, stabilization, oil removal and vessel recovery."

The notice added that the salvage operation is expected to be completed by December, not April or early May as earlier announced by the Philippine Coast Guard.

COSTLY SALVAGE. The US Department of Defense published the contract details on its own website, as mandated by US law when private contractors as involved. Screenshot from DOD website

COSTLY SALVAGE. The US Department of Defense published the contract details on its own website, as mandated by US law when private contractors as involved. Screenshot from DOD website

SMIT Singapore is the Asian branch of SMIT, one of the world's leading salvage company based in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.

The firm provides emergency response, wreck removal and environmental care services around the world and has additional global offices in Houston, Texas and Cape Town, South Africa.

SMIT has been hired to work on a number of high-profile maritime accidents, such as the Italian cruise ship Costa Concordia, which crashed off the island of Giglio with over 4,000 passengers on board in January 2012.

The Philippine Coast Guard is expected on Wednesday to give the final green light to the US Navy plan of cutting the USS Guardian into pieces and then lifting each section onto a barge with floating cranes to minimize further damage to the reef at the UNESCO World Heritage site in the Sulu Sea.


Photo Essay: The 114th Anniversary of the Philippine-American War: Youth groups lead call to Save Tubbataha and Junk VFA

Posted to the pro-CPP Arkibong Bayan (People's Archive) (Feb 4): Photo Essay: The 114th Anniversary of the Philippine-American War: Youth groups lead call to Save Tubbataha and Junk VFA


News Release

Youth groups mobilize on anniversary of the Filipino-American War, slam a history of destruction in greater damage to Tubbataha

Reference: Michael Beltran 09159230686

Kabataan Partylist along with other progressive groups rallied to the US Embassy on Filipino American War marking the destructive history of our relations with the United States. Members brought placards shaped like sea creatures in the wake of the USS Guardian docked on the Tubbataha Reef for more than two weeks resulting in more destruction of the reef. The initially estimated damage of 1, 000 sq. meters has now ballooned into 4, 000 sq. meters. The prolonged presence of the minesweeper combined with the Aquino administration’s complacency and support for policies like the Visiting Forces Agreement has been the main culprit in this tragedy.

According to Atty. Terry Ridon, Kabataan Partylist President “these types of incidents have been going on ever since Americans entered the lives of Filipinos. The Fil-Am war which saw 1/6 of the local population wiped out is only one of the destructive events in our relations with the US.”

The size of the damage as recently reported is about the size of 10 basketball courts and will now require P96 million. This amount according to the youth groups is not only small, it underscores just what little regard both the administration and the US has for our sovereignty.

He added that “we don’t subscribe to the fact that the Aquino sponsored Visiting Forces Agreement has nothing to do with US ships doing as they please on our shores as this is exactly what the VFA permit. The USS Guardian has grossly overstayed its welcome.”

The groups also slammed the additional presence of the USS Cheyenne in Subic as reported earlier this week. They pointed out that this is proof of Aquino’s subservience and support for unfair agreements such as the VFA even if they continue to violate our sovereignty.

“While the USS Guardian has remains in our territory with the administration practically silent, hindi nakakagulat na may lakas loob ang US na mag port call nanaman sa may Subic” added Ridon.

“Violations of our sovereignty have now come at the price of our environment and national treasure, our World Heritage site. The VFA had previously been at the core of human rights violations, health and militarization of US troops; it persists as a threat to our patrimony” explained Ridon.

Kabataan called on all advocates of nationalism to unite and act on this issue, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) among others have been vocal on the topic. “It is particularly important to recognize the accountability of the regime for maintaining agreements like the VFA which are made to be abused by superpowers” concluded Ridon.

February 4, 2013

Anakbayan to storm US Embassy on Feb. 4

Various groups led by Anakbayan and Kabataan Partylist push to "Save Tubbataha, Junk VFA" and called for a march to the US Embassy this February 4.

The groups will hold a large protest on what has become known as the Filipino-American Friendship Day.
"Aquino is not intent on holding the US accountable. In fact, pinatakas na ang mga sundalo papuntang Japan," Kabataan Partylist Representative Terry Ridon said.
He said the Aquino administration is diverting the issue from the context of the visiting forces agreement.

"Payment for damages is just an excuse for the US Troops to stay here. It covers up the hand of the VFA in criminal immunity of the US troops here, and it gives the public an illusion that the damage has been fixed," Ridon explained.

"They did not even raise the matter during a meeting with us and concerned individuals," Anakbayan National Chairperson Vencer Crisostomo said.

Anakbayan also pointed out that the US notably made so many port calls and airplane landings last year, and that Aquino had opened the Subic military base once more to the US Troops.

"Basically, they have Aquino's belsisng and permission to use the base for services ther ships may need," Crisostomo said.

The "Save Tubbataha, Junk VFA" groups warned the government of larger and wider protests if it continues to disregard national sovereignty and care for the country's resources.

"P12,000 per sq meter is not enough, we are talking of 250 years of coral formation and decades of atrocities brought by US intervention," Ridon said.

January 28, 2012

Noynoy's Tubbataha statements indicate a whitewash is in the works - youth groups

Youth groups are assailing the statements made by President Benigno 'Noynoy' Aquino III over the weekend as 'indicative' of a whitewash of the U.S warship Guardian's grounding and destruction of a part of the protected Tubbataha Reef.

While claiming that the U.S Navy would be penalized, Aquino claimed that the apology issued by the U.S Navy showed 'sensitivity' on the part of the American military towards Filipinos. He added that since there were no scheduled military exercises in which the erring warship was involved, he saw no reason to involve the controversial Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).

"Sensitivity? What sensitivity? Mas sensitive pa yung coral kumpara sa mga U.S troops (The corals are more sensitive than U.S troops). They have no respect for the Philippine national heritage, environment, and people" said Vencer Crisostomo, national chairperson of Anakbayan

According to Terry Ridon, Kabataan Partylist national president, Aquino's statements were calculated to create the false image that 'the Tubbataha crash is an accident, an isolated lapse in judgement', and to remove the growing public awareness on the issue away from the question of the VFA.

"There was no accident. The statements of the Tubbataha management is clear: the Guardian entered Tubbataha Park despite repeated warnings from them, they were arrogantly told to just report the matter to the U.S Embassy, and even barred park rangers from surveying the damage to the corals" he said.

"In fact, Aquino's own statement should raise the question: what was the Guardian doing there if there were no war games during that time?" said the youth leader.

"This is precisely why the VFA should be the center of the discussion. U.S troops, and the virtual blanket immunity granted by the VFA upon them is the reason they act with such arrogance as telling our park rangers to 'just report to the U.S Embassy'" added Crisostomo.

Both leaders said that unless the VFA was scrapped, more and more incidents of environmental degradation involving U.S military forces would occur.

"As always, prevention is better than cure. It will us hundreds of years to regrow back destroyed corals. But it will take just a simple act of the government, in junking the VFA, to prevent the Tubbataha Incident from happening again" reiterated Crisostomo. ###

Media Release
2 February 2013

Learn from Tubbataha incident, ban US ships – KMU

National labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno condemned the docking of another US nuclear attack submarine at the former US naval base in Subic Bay, Zambales saying the US is blatantly violating our national sovereignty and threatening our environment.

KMU also condemned the Aquino government for upholding the Visiting Forces Agreement which it said is being used by the US government to justify unhampered entry into the country’s territory.

The USS Cheyenne is a nuclear attack submarine which arrived in the country for what the US Embassy said was a “routine port visit.” The sub would travel the same route as the USS Guardian, the minesweeper that scraped the Tubbataha coral reefs.

“They haven’t even removed USS Guardian from Tubbataha, yet here they come again and with a nuclear-powered vessel. They haven’t been held accountable for the damage that they have caused to our environment, yet here they come again arrogantly barging in and violating our country’s sovereignty,” said Elmer “Bong” Labog, KMU chairperson.

“The problem is that the Aquino administration is being a shameless US lackey in continuing to allow US vessels to enter our national territory and undermine our integrity as a sovereign nation at will. The one-sidedness of the VFA as an agreement is swiftly being exposed by the entry of US military forces into the country and Aquino’s puppetry,” he added.

KMU also said that the Aquino administration should have learned from the Tubbataha incident and totally ban US naval vessels from entering our seas so as to prevent them from destroying our national treasures.

“If he really takes the country’s status as a sovereign nation seriously, Aquino should have learned from the Tubbataha incident that US ships pose a threat to our environment. He could have implemented a total ban of US ships at least until the investigation on the USS Guardian is finished,” Labog said.

“Aquino’s callous permission for and defense of the entry of this nuclear powered submarine into our country shows the world just how unthinking his obedience to the US is. The persistence of US vessels in travelling the same route makes us ask: What is the US up to this time?” he said.

“We would have never dicovered the damage in our coral reefs had the USS Guardian not been stuck there. The new submarine would be travelling the same route and we fear that it could cause more damage to our environment without us knowing,” he added.

Reference: Elmer “Bong” Labog, KMU chairperson, 0908-1636597



De Lima: Complaint vs US Navy officials over Tubbataha incident premature

From the Sun  Star (Feb 5): De Lima: Complaint vs US Navy officials over Tubbataha incident premature

Cases against officers and crewmen of the USS Guardian minesweeper that ran aground at Tubbataha Reef will not be initiated by the Department of Justice (DOJ) pending result of the investigation into the incident by the Philippine Coast Guard.

In a chance interview, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said DOJ has to give way for the probe first before taking any action on the letter sent to her office last Monday by militant fisherfolk Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya).

"What would be the basis of the DOJ? It was a mere letter of appeal. The DOJ has no basis at this point to take legal action until the result of the investigation is released," she told reporters Tuesday.

In its letter, Pamalakaya said the DOJ is mandated and morally obliged to undertake legal action against Rear Admiral Jeffrey Harley and Lieutenant Commander Mark Rice of the US Asia Pacific military command and the 79 crew members of USS Guardian.

The group said the ship's damage to the protected reef estimated to be 4,000 square meters should be enough reason to file criminal charges against the Americans.

"We have done our part. The ball is now in her (de Lima) court," Pamalakaya spokesperson Gerry Corpuz told Sun.Star.

Under the law, a fine of $300 for every square meter of damage is imposed on violators. Tubbataha Park Management officials also said an equivalent amount is also needed to rehabilitate the same area of damaged coral.

For its part, environmental group Kalikasan PNE scored the $100,000-pledge of the US government for coral rehabilitation, saying it is just a "dismal amount compared to the actual cost resulting from their actions."

"It is an insult that these American trespassers bring up their previous grants and aid to local marine conservation projects as if 'may utang na loob tayo sa kanila' and these make their violations of our law and the damage done to the Tubbataha Reef easier to swallow," said the group's national coordinator Clemente Bautista.

The US government had already expressed its regrets as it promised to provide appropriate compensation to the Philippine government for damages caused by the grounding of the ship in Tubbataha last month.

As this developed, President Benigno Aquino III said Tuesday that the US government has pledged to send Peace Corps Volunteers to speed up the rehabilitation of the damaged Tubbataha Reef in Sulu Sea.

In an interview in Davao City, the President said the US government will not only compensate for the damage caused by the grounding of the USS Guardian but they also promised to assist in the rehabilitation of the protected marine sanctuary.

"It was Ambassador (Harry) Thomas who said that they are not just going to compensate us in terms of paying the necessary fines, but they are also envisioning how to assist the rehabilitation of Tubbataha to include posting Peace Corps Volunteers to the area to accelerate the rehabilitation of the reef," the President said in an interview following the 2013 Philippines Development Forum (PDF) in Davao City.

Asked if his administration is open at looking at other possible international conventions that can be applied to the incident, the President said he wants to impose the country's laws as a response to the crisis.

He noted that he has not seen the salvage operations plan and he expects Transportation and Communications Secretary Jun Abaya to present the plan Tuesday or Wednesday.

The USS Guardian, a US Navy minesweeper, ran aground on Tubbataha Reef last January 17.
Officials said the grounding caused damage to 4,000 square meters of coral on the reef, which was recognized as a Unesco World Heritage Site.


NPA amazon nabbed in CamNorte

From Malaya (Feb 5): NPA amazon nabbed in CamNorte

A FEMALE leader of the New People’s Army was arrested Monday in Camarines Norte. Nancy Ortega alias Nads and Sads was arrested by soldiers of the Army’s 902nd Brigade and local policemen around 8:30 p.m. Monday in San Roque village, Iriga City by virtue of a warrant for multiple frustrated murder. She did not resist arrest, said Maj. Angelo Guzman, spokesman of the Army’s 9th Infantry Division.

Guzman said Ortega is secretary of the NPA in the province and a member of the executive committee of the Bicol Regional Party Committee of the Communist Party of the Philippines.

He said the operation was launched after security forces received information Ortega would be visiting relatives in Iriga City.

Ortega led an attack on a military team doing community service in Barangay Maot, Labo, Camarines Norte in April last year. The attack left four soldiers, who are engaged in community development work, and a civilian dead.

In Bukidnon also on Monday, an NPA rebel died in a clash with forces of the 8th Infantry Battalion in Halapitan town.

The soldiers were on security operation when they caught up with about 10 rebels. The rebels withdrew after a 10-minute gunfight. They left behind their dead comrade, said Lt. Col. Eugenio Julio Osias, 4th Infantry Division spokesman.

In Northern Samar also Monday, troops from the Army’s 20th Infantry Battalion seized an NPA camp in Luisita village, Victoria town.

Capt. Gene Orense, spokesman of the 8th ID, said the camp is believed to have been abandoned by the NPA four days earlier, apparently to evade soldiers who have intensified counter-insurgency operations in the province. Orense said civilians reported the presence of the rebel camp.


Another US ship docks in Subic

From the Daily Tribune (Feb 5): Another US ship docks in Subic

Barely three days after the arrival of one of its submarines, the US Navy is sending a missile-guided destroyer for another port call at the former US naval base in Subic Bay, Zambales today.

In a statement issued yesterday, the US Embassy announced that the USS Stockdale, an Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer, will arrive in Subic Bay for a routine port visit and to enable the ship to replenish supplies and offer rest and relaxation to its personnel.

“Visiting Subic Bay provides us with a great opportunity to continue the long-term relationship between the Philippines and the United States and that is very important to us,” said Commodore Lex Walker, commanding officer of the USS Stockdale.

He also spoke about the diversity of his crew.

“We have quite a few Filipino-American sailors among our crew, and I hope that the citizens of the Philippines can look at our ship and see that their people and their culture are well represented and respected in the US Navy,” Walker said.

The US official said 15 Filipino-Americans sail on the destroyer, among them sailors with family ties with Baguio City, Manila, Marikina City, Orion, Olongapo City, Quezon City and Santa Monica.

Among the Filipino-Americans detailed at the ship are Geno Uy (GSM2) and Ryan Angeles (AM2), who were born in the Philippines and immigrated to the US in recent years. Others, including Joel Marsigian (AM2) and Dean Rivera-Villanueva (ADAN), were born in the US but still have relatives in the Philippines. Many of the Stockdale’s sailors plan to visit family while in port.

The US Embassy said this was the ship’s first visit to the Philippines as part of its nine-month deployment to the Western Pacific that began last month.

Only last Friday, US submarine USS Cheyenne arrived in Subic Bay for a similar port call. The Los Angeles-class submarine is still in the country.

The docking of the two US Navy assets was allowed as another US warship, the USS Guardian, remained aground on Tubbataha Reef in the Sulu Sea. The minesweeper has been stuck to the World Heritage Site since Jan. 17.

The increased frequency of visits by US naval assets to the Philippines has been linked to the tension between Manila and China over the disputed West Philippine Sea.


Corruption is behind the lies of the 503rd Brigade and PNP-Cordillera

Posted to the CPP Website (Feb 02): Pangungurakot ang nasa likod ng kasinungalingan ng 503rd Brigade at PNP-Cordillera (Corruption is behind the lies of the 503rd Brigade and PNP-Cordillera)

Diego Wadagan
NPA Abra Provincial Operations Command (Agustin Begnalen Command)

Magkatuwang na pangungurakot at pagsisinungaling ang nasa likod ng mga hungkag na pahayag ng 503rd Brigade ng Philippine Army, at ng PNP-Cordillera kaugnay sa mga ilang pangyayari kamakailan sa Abra, na may kinalaman sa NPA.

[the yoke of corruption and dishonesty is behind the false statements made by the 503rd Brigade of the Philippine Army and the PNP-Cordillera regarding some recent events in Abra related to NPA.]

Una ay ang di-umano’y pag-surrender ni Connie Santiago Valera, 29 na taong-gulang, ng Poblacion Lacub, Lacub Abra. Sinabi ni Cordillera Police Director Chief Supt. Benjamin Magalong na si Valera ay isang mataas na lider ng Ilocos-Cordillera Regional Committee ng CPP at #5 daw sa 4th Quarter “Order of Battle” ng 2012. Hindi opisyal ng Agustin Begnalen Command si Connie Santiago Valera, at lalong hindi si mataas na lider ng Ilocos-Cordillera Regional Committee ng CPP. Modus Operandi na ng mga opisyal ng AFP at PNP na markahang matataas na opisyal ng CPP-NPA-NDF ang mga ordinaryong mamamayan na hinihinala o idinidiin nilang kasapi ng rebolusyonaryong kilusan, upang kolektahin ang “reward money” na nagkakahalaga ng ilang milyon. Matatandaang nagtalaga ng mahigit P400M ang Pamahalaan ni Pnoy para sa pabuya sa pagkakadakip ng mga lider ng CPP-NPA-NDF. Kaya’t ilang mga ordinaryong mamamayan na ang arbitraryong dinadakip at pinaparatangang matataas na opisyal ng CPP-NPA-NDF.....

[First is the alleged surrender by Connie James Valera, 2a 9-year-old from Poblacion Lacub, Lacub Abra. Cordillera Police Director Chief Supt. Benjamin Magalong Jesus said that Valera is a senior leader of the Ilocos-Cordillera Regional Committee of the CPP and (is listed) # 5 in the 4th Quarter, 2012 "Order of Battle." There is no such official in Agustin Begnalen Command as Connie James Valera, and she was not a senior leader of the Ilocos-Cordillera Regional Committee of the CPP. The Modus Operandi of the officers of the AFP and PNP is to tag ordinary citizens suspected or emphasized to members of the revolutionary movement as senior officers of the CPP-NPA-NDF in order collect the "reward money" worth a few million (pesons). Remember that the Government has offered over P400M pesos reward for the capture of leaders of the CPP-NPA-NDF..... ]


NPA Punished a Large Quarrying Company in Rizal

Posted to the CPP Website (Feb 4): Malaking Kumpanya ng Quarry sa Rizal Pinarusahan ng NPA! (NPA Punished a Large Quarrying Company in Rizal)

Macario Liwanag (Ka Karyo)
NPA Rizal Provincial Operations Command (Narciso Antazo Aramil Command)

Ni-raid ng isang platoon ng NAAC-NPA-Rizal ang Pacific Concrete Product Incorporated noong Pebrero 3, 2013 sa ganap na ika-5:00 ng hapon sa Sitio Catmon, San Rafael Rodriguez, Rizal. Milyong halaga ng mga kagamitan ang sinunog ng mga kagawad ng NAAC-NPA kabilang ang makina ng gilingan ng bato, isang (1) backhoe, isang (1) pay loader, at isang (1) truck. Nakakumpiska rin ng isang (1) Shotgun at dalawang (2) cal. 38 revolver mula sa mga gwardiya at mahahalagang dokumento kabilang ang dalawang (2) CPU ng computer.

[ A platoon of the NAAC-NPA-Rizal raided the Pacific Concrete Product Incorporated on February 3, 2013 at 5: 00 pm in Sitio Catmon, San Rafael Rodriguez, Rizal. A million (pesos) worth of equipment (was destroyed) by the members of NAAC-NPA including a mechanical grinding stone, one (1) backhoe (1) pay loader, and one (1) truck. Also confiscated one (1) Shotgun and two (2) cal. 38 revolvers from the guards and important documents including two (2) computer CPUs.]

Kalahating kilometro ang layo ng kumpanyang ito sa kampo ng 59th IB-PA at dalawang (2) kilometro mula sa kampo ng PNP-SAF. Matapos maisagawa ang naturang raid ay ligtas na nakaatras ang mga kagawad ng NAAC-NPA pabalik sa pusod ng Sierra Madre. Samantalang galit na galit at walang habas na nagpaputok ang mga army at police nang wala na silang naabutan sa kanilang pagresponde kundi ang mga nagliliyab na mga kagamitan......

[This took place a half kilometer away from the camp a company of the 59th IB-PA and two (2) kilometers from the camp of the PNP-SAF. After conducting the raid the members of NAAC-NPA safely returned back to the (stronghold) of the Sierra Madre. While the army and police engaged in rampant and indiscriminate firing there was nothing to meet their response but the burning equipment.....]


Lanao del Norte Kalahi-CIDDS counterpart now P31M

From the Philippine Information Agency (Feb 4): Lanao del Norte Kalahi-CIDDS counterpart now P31M

The provincial government of Lanao del Norte has shared more than P31 million as counterpart for the project implementation of KApit Bisig LAban sa KaHIrapan–Comprehensive Integrated Delivery of Social Services, or popularly known as KALAHI-CIDSS, to different towns in the province.

For the year 2009, more than P3 million was given to the municipalities of Bacolod and Salvador. Among the infrastructure projects successfully completed were potable water systems, farm-to-market roads, and day-care centers.

While in 2010, over P6 million was given to the municipalities of Bacolod, Lala, and Kapatagan for its identified projects.

During the second cycle implementation of Kalahi-CIDDS, the towns of Lala, Kapatagan, Salvador and Sapad also received cash counterpart of more than P7 million in 2011.

With the on-going implementation of Kalahi-CIDSS in Lanao del Norte, the provincial government has provided close to P15 million as its cash counterpart to the towns of Lala, Kapatagan, Sultan Naga Dimaporo, Tangcal, Poona Piagapo, Magsaysay, Tagoloan, Kolambugan, and Matungao.

Projects implemented included barangay health centers, drainage canals, farm-to-market roads, potable water systems, solar dryer, improvement of barangay roads, and construction of public market.

Kalahi is the national government’s framework program for a focused, accelerated, convergent, and expanded strategy to reduce poverty. It aims to provide interventions on asset reforms, human development services, capacity building and participation in governance.

Kalahi-CIDSS is a community-driven development project which aims to empower communities through their enhanced participation in community projects that reduce poverty.

CIDSS is a precursor poverty alleviation program of Kalahi-CIDSS. It has facilitated meeting of unmet needs of communities. It established community structures as vehicles for people’s participation and empowerment. It has been maintained by three administrations, from 1994 to present.

“The provincial government will always be there to help support the needs of the people especially those communities who work together to realize projects that will benefit the most number of residents,” Governor Khalid Dimaporo said.

Dimaporo added, indigent senior citizens have also been receiving a social pension of P500 on a quarterly basis since 2011.

This fast-rising province will also be one of the provincial beneficiaries of the newest poverty-alleviation program o the national government dubbed as National Community Demand Driven Program (NCDDP)which will soon be implemented on July 2013.


Peace forces, MILF attend peace advocacy convention

From the Philippine Information Agency (Feb 4): Peace forces, MILF attend peace advocacy convention

Officials of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) participated recently in the peace advocacy convention initiated by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) unit in Basilan.

The attendance of these high-ranking officials and the presence of the local government of Basilan province representative displayed the commitment of these stakeholders toward the attainment of lasting peace in Basilan.

Basilan police chief PS/Supt M. Dapilloza said in a statement that the PNP’s participation in the convention, dubbed as the Bangsamoro Framework Peace Advocacy with the MILF commanders, held at Baag, Sumisip town in Basilan last Jan. 21 was to uphold and support the realization of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB).

“In order to uphold peace in our midst, the earnest participation and commitment of the MILF group is vital, which will erase public’s negative perception on the FAB and more essentially in defusing the tensions on both government and MILF forces,” Dapilloza said.

At this level, he added, both parties could preempt atrocities and avoid armed confrontation and hostilities which usually paint a bad image of the province and affect development and progress.

Dapilloza also conveyed his appreciation to the MILF group for initiating the peace advocacy, which he said, is needed, “To address issues and concerns on both parties that would help build better understanding and strong relationship, bounded by the commitment to attain one common goal—to build a safe and peaceful Basilan.”

For their part, the MILF commanders has called on the public to support the on-going peace process between government and the MILF. The commanders are united in their desire to build a strong MILF organization that will fully realize the commitment it made in the framework agreement.

With the peace advocacy on FAB initiative, the MILF promises a beginning and a better foundation of unity among the MILF, the PNP and the AFP, the local government unit, the civil society organizations, and the people of Basilan.

The police chief also thanked the presence of the Philippine Army 104th Brigade Commander Col. Carlito Galvez and Provincial Administrator Tahira Ismael in the peace convention.


Army recovers firearms after an encounter with NPAs

From the Philippine Information Agency (Feb 4): Army recovers firearms after an encounter with NPAs

The 87th Infantry (Hinirang) Battalion troops under Lt Col Cerilo C Balaoro recovered an M 16 rifle, one rifle grenade, two long magazines with 58 live ammunition, 21 live ammunition for M1 Garand rifle, and NPA subversive documents.firearms. This, after an encounter with rebels at a NPA camp near Barangay Rizal, Basey, Samar recently.

Cpt Tuguinay L Agoy led the military troops in a 45-minute gun battle against the local NPA insurgents. There was no reported casualty on the government side, according to information released by Division Public Affairs Officer (DPAO) Capt Gene Orense.

“The armed encounter is a result of the successive security operations coupled with "Bayanihan" activities of 87th IB in the area of Samar,” Balaoro said.

“In spite of the armed conflict with the NPAs in the area, the Bayanihan teams will continue conducting their activities to help uplift the living conditions of locals,” Balaoro added.

“The 87th IB will pursue its quest for peace in the communities of Samar. We will act deliberately and proportionately against all armed threats perpetrated by the NPA or any armed groups which hamper peace and development in the communities,” Balaoro added.

In a related event, on January 28, 2013, the Bayanihan team of 87th IB encountered undetermined number of NPAs near Barangay Canvais, Motiong, Western Samar.

The Bayanihan teams of 8th ID continue to facilitate the delivery of basic services to the communities.


Army: NPAs losing ground in Samar

From the Philippine Information Agency (Feb 5): Army: NPAs losing ground in Samar

Major Gen Gerardo T Layug AFP, commander of 8th Infantry Division, Philippine Army said the NPA is losing ground.

“The discovery of several NPA camps is a clear manifestation that the NPA in the Samar provinces is losing ground literally and losing their influence over the people which eventually will lead to their downfall and collapse.”

Based on a press statement by Capt Gene Orense, composite teams from the 20th Infantry Battalion, 803rd Brigade, 8th Infantry Division, Philippine Army led by 1Lt Florencio Tayo while conducting security operations discovered an abandoned NPA camp in the hinterlands of Barangay Luisita, Victoria, Northern Samar, Monday February 4.

“The discovered NPA camp was believed to have been abandoned by the NPAs four days ago,” said Ltc Noel A Vestuir, commander of the 20th IB.

“We commend Barangay Victoria for always coordinating with us in ensuring peace in their area; the community strongly denounces the presence of the NPAs conducting extortion activities not only to businessmen but to ordinary farmers and populace in the area,” added Vestuir.

The 8th ID is intensifying its efforts in securing communities against all forms of armed threats through sustained security operations and constant coordination and linking up with the stakeholders through the spirit of "Bayanihan" to attain peace throughout the region, added Layug.

To recall, on January 30, military troops from Charlie Company, 34th Infantry Battalion led by 1Lt Harold Bryan Llandado discovered NPA abandoned harboring site near Sitio Cagutsan, Rombang, Laoang, Northern Samar which could accommodate around 50 NPAs.

Then again on January 26, troops of Alpha Company of 20th Infantry Battalion, 8th ID headed by 1Lt Raul Delos Santos also discovered an abandoned NPA camp at Sitio Catmaalad, Mckinly, Catarman, Northern Samar.

And another NPA camp near Sitio Cagutsan, Rombang, Laoang, Northern Samar was seized by troops from Alpha Company, 34th Infantry Battalion, 8th ID under 2Lt. Glenn De Ramos.

The army reported that 131 NPA camps were seized/discovered by the military troops.


Military warns politicians against forging tactical alliances with rebels

From the Philippine Information Agency (Feb 5): Military warns politicians against forging tactical alliances with rebels

A military official in Bohol has warned that communist insurgents operating in Central Visayas are negotiating for alliances with politicians seeking office in 2013.

Col. Dino Dolina of the Task Group SugBohol (TGSugbohol), Philippine Army warned politicians against going into alliances with the communists as these may extend beyond the May 2013 elections.

Dolina said this tactical alliance strategy is part of the communist movement’s goal of achieving strategic stalemate in 2015. The movement comprises the Communist Party of the Philippines, National Democratic Front and the New People’s Army (CNN)

Communist insurgents operating in the region have veered from their strategic direction of generating logistics and financial support from collecting permit to campaign (PTC) fees, the army official said.

Military sources said the standard operating procedure for the rebels is to create high profile incidents involving a show of armed force with the main objective of sowing fear and project the picture that they are in control.

But with the failure of generating the arms and the show of force, they could hardly exact the fees to raise funds for their operations. This is the reason why they have resort to other means to advance their strategic goals, the military reported during a recent Regional Peace and Order Council meeting.

Military authorities said insurgency in Cebu and Bohol is no longer a threat, but this should not be taken for granted.

Dolina said the upcoming May 2013 elections have given the communists perfect cover to revive and reorganize their dormant organizations not only in urban centers but also in the rural areas.


Army intensifies internal security operations to avoid ‘permit-to-campaign fees’

From the Philippine Information Agency (Feb 4): Army intensifies internal security operations to avoid ‘permit-to-campaign fees’

The Philippine Army (PA) unit based here has intensified internal security operations to eliminate an armed group’s modus of collecting fees for "permit-to-campaign" to candidates of this province and ensure peace and order in the May 2013 elections.

Lt. Col. Michael M. Buhat, commanding officer of the Army's 49th Infantry Battalion, said during the Philippine Information Agency's "Talakayan" held here recently, that the army unit has initiated internal security operations in 61 villages out of 70 rebel-infested barangays. Camarines Norte is comprised of 282 barangays.

Buhat said out of the 61 bayanihan activities conducted last year, 41 were declared cleared barangays while 20 have on going operations.

He said the army will deploy personnel in these barangays while conducting nine bayanihan activities in the towns of Labo with four and Sta. Elena with five infested with the armed New People’s Army (NPA).

Buhat said the unit will also conduct clearing operations in the barangay according to the request of the candidates on the campaign period.

He added that they were in pursuit of the armed group after the encounter which happened on January 23 in the town of San Lorenzo Ruiz where there were no casualty on both sides.

Police Senior Supt. Moises Pagaduan, provincial director of the Camarines Norte Police Provincial Office (CNPPO), on the other hand, said the police is strictly implementing the gun ban and Commission on Elections (Comelec) checkpoint in the province.

He said they also plan to conduct anti-gambling operations regarding the virtual game if it is legal or jueteng as previously ordered by the PNP Regional Director Police Chief Supt. Clarence Guinto.


Bayanihan IPSP humanitarian mission benefits Sorsogon, Cam Sur residents

From the Philippine Information Agency (Feb 4): Bayanihan IPSP humanitarian mission benefits Sorsogon, Cam Sur residents

The Team Naval Forces of Southern Luzon (Navforsol) of the Philippine Navy based here held two consecutive medical and dental missions last Jan. 26 and 27 in Barangay Dangcalan, Donsol, Sorsogon and in Barangay Ombao Polpog, Bula, Camarines Sur.

Navforsol provided the outreach program with medical, dental and EENT (eyes, ears, nose and throat) check-ups, giving out free eyeglasses, haircuts and therapeutic massages to more than 945 beneficiaries.

Command surgeon Maj. Renato Esmabe MC of the Navy led the Team Navforsol contingent composed of medical-dental teams and civil affairs team from Naval Station Julhasan Arasain, based in this city.

The humanitarian mission was also supported by the Tulong Mo, Kinabukasan Ko Foundation Inc., the 903rd Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army, the Donsol District Hospital, the rural health unit of Pilar, Philippine National Police, St. Vincent Ferrer Parish, medical volunteers and the local government of the recipient areas.

Commodore Manuel Natalio A. Abinuman, commander of the Navforsol, said search and rescue, disaster relief and evacuation operations are just among the many administrative functions that the major units of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in the Bicol region have been doing to help the Bicolanos.

Abinuman said these activities are far from the common experiences of the uniformed men and women who usually carry guns and go after the enemy of the state.

He explained that these types of operations are classified as non-traditional roles of the AFP but vital in the pursuit of public peace and order and welfare especially in the Bicol region.

“These activities are just a fragment of the numerous socio-economic and environmental development programs of the Navy being conducted jointly with other stakeholders in line with the Armed Forces of the Philippines Internal Peace and Security Plan (IPSP) “Bayanihan,” Abinuman said.

“Such activity highlights the role of the sailors, marines and soldiers not just as defenders of peace but also as good ambassadors for socio-economic development and we in the Navforsol will continue our commitment to support inter-agency initiatives towards the achievement of lasting peace and development in the region,” Abinuman said.


One killed, nine hurt in two explosions in Northern Mindanao

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 5): One killed, nine hurt in two explosions in Northern Mindanao

Two separate explosions occurred in Northern Mindanao in less than 12 hours, wounding nine and killing one on Monday.

The first explosion occurred in Tubod, Lanao Del Norte near a bus stop past 11 a.m. Monday, wounding five persons. The second explosion took place in a remote farming village in Baungon, Bukidnon past 6 p.m. Monday, wounding four and killing one.

An Army report identified those wounded in the Tubod explosion as Judith Padilla Gomez, Pamela Dalman, Cherrie Molina, and Peter de la Vega, all of Iligan City. The other was Saipuden Bucay of Bulod, Tubod, Lanao Del Norte. Rescuers brought the victims to a hospital in Baroy, Lanao Del Norte.

Maj. Edgardo P. Amores, spokesperson of the Army’s 1st "Tabak" Division based in Pagadian City, said that an improvised explosive device placed in a motorcycle went off in front of Ysmael Restaurant along the national highway in Tubod, Lanao del Norte past 11 a.m. Monday.  

Amores said that investigators were looking at politics as possible motive of the explosion since town Mayor Sultan Johnny Tawantawan of Salvador, Lanao Del Norte, and his lawyer Yusop Omar were eating at the restaurant when the explosion occurred.

He said the military and police were trying to establish the identities of the suspects and the ownership of the motorcycle parked by an unidentified person near a bus stop in front of the eatery.

On the other hand, Inspector Christian Relebo of the Baungon police, said that an unidentified person lobbed a grenade and strafed the house of the Puklawan family past 6:30 p.m. Monday in the farming village of Balintag, Baungon, Bukidnon, wounding four and killing a member of the family.

He identified the lone fatality as Ramil Blanela Puklawan, who went missing Monday night. Police recovered his body with various shrapnel wounds and a bullet wound early morning Tuesday in the rabbles of lumbers demolished in the explosion.

Relebo said that police also recovered a magazine with live ammunition of a carbine rifle and several empty shells in the place of explosion.  Police were still looking into the motive of the grenade throwing and strafing of the house of Puklawans.

Relebo said that the police were suspecting a group of armed bandits roaming in the hinterlands of Bukidnon as responsible for the grenade throwing and strafing of the Puklawans' house.


De Lima "hands off" on grounding of USS Guardian in Tubbataha Reef

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 5): De Lima "hands off" on grounding of USS Guardian in Tubbataha Reef

Justice Secretary Leila M. De Lima Tuesday maintained a "hands off" stance on the grounding of USS Guardian in Tubbataha Reef in Palawan.

According to De Lima, she is still waiting for the result of the investigation being conducted by Task Force Tubbataha before they take any action. De Lima said it will be very premature for the DOJ to take action now because they do not have in their possession supporting documents in connection with the incident.

This was the reaction of De Lima on the letter-request of the Pambansang Lakas ng Mamamalakaya asking her to take the legal move against the US Navy officials and the 79 crew of the USS Guardian.


Aquino: US gov't to send volunteers for immediate Tubbataha Reef recovery

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 5): Aquino: US gov't to send volunteers for immediate Tubbataha Reef recovery

The United States government will send Peace Corps Volunteers to speed up the rehabilitation of the damaged Tubbataha Reef aside from the compensation it promised, President Benigno S. Aquino III said Tuesday.

“It was Ambassador (Harry) Thomas who said that they are not just going to compensate us in terms of paying the necessary fines, but they are also envisioning how to assist (in) the rehabilitation of Tubbataha to include posting Peace Corps Volunteers to the area to accelerate the rehabilitation of the reef,” the President said during an interview with the media at the Marco Polo Hotel following the 2013 Philippines Development Forum (PDF) here.

Asked if his administration is open at looking at other possible international conventions that can be applied to the incident, the President insisted that he wants to impose the country’s laws as a response to the crisis.  “Palagay ko una muna rito ‘yung ating laws. There is a specific law governing Tubbataha,” the President said, adding he already met with US Ambassador Thomas and US Navy Rear Admiral Thomas Carney.

He noted that he hasn’t seen the salvage operations plan and he expects Transportation Secretary Jun Abaya to present the plan today or tomorrow.

The USS Guardian, a US Navy minesweeper, became grounded on the Tubbataha Reef on January 17 after visiting the Philippines. The reef is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in a remote part of the Sulu Sea. The incident damaged 4,000 square meters of reefs, officials said.

American authorities said they plan to dismantle the 224-foot ship to ensure that the reef will not be further damaged by salvage operations, which is expected to take a few months.


Aquino: US government committed to assist in rehab of Tubbataha Reef

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 5): Aquino: US government committed to assist in rehab of Tubbataha Reef

President Benigno Aquino III Tuesday said the United States government has committed to assist in the rehabilitation of the Tubbataha Reef, including the posting of a Peace Corps volunteers to accelerate rehabilitation effort. This was aside from paying the compensation for the damage caused by the grounding of minesweeper USS Guardian on the reef.

"There is a specific law governing Tubbataha. We met with the US Ambassador (Harry) Thomas... He said they are not just gonna compensate us in terms of paying the necessary fines, but they are also envisioning how to assist the rehabilitation of Tubbataha to include posting parang peace corps volunteers to the area to accelerate the rehabilitation of the reef," the President said in an interview at the sidelines of the Philippine Development Forum held in Davao City.

President Aquino said Transporation and Communications Secretary Joseph Emilio "Jun" Abaya will be presenting to him the details of the plan on how to salvage the ship. "I haven’t seen the operations plan. Conceptual lang na... ika-cut up ‘yung ship kaysa ida-drag mo ‘yung ship through the reef; kaysa ilalapit mo ‘yung salvage ship to the reef also na baka pagbuhat ay sumama ‘yung salvage ship doon sa sina-salvage na ship (USS Guardian)," he said.

When asked if the Philippine government is open to applying other international conventions to seek a higher fine from the US government, the President said this is being studied by the relevant agencies, including the Department of Justice, Dept. of Foreign Affairs, and the Department of Transportation and Communications. "This (looking at other international conventions) is being studied intensely by the council that governs Tubbataha, by our Secretary of Justice, by the Dept. of Foreign Affairs, and the Department of Transportation and Communications, which under whose auspices the Coast Guard exists," he said.

Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda earlier said the US government has promised to provide assistance for the restoration of the Tubbataha Reef. "That’s not compensation, that’s assistance. We still have to determine the amount of fines that are going to be imposed based on a final assessment on the damage caused to the reef and that has not been done yet," he said. "They’re (US) going to do that over and above the fines that we are going to impose based on the law that we have in place. And certainly we have seen their commitment to preserving the reef as part of their ongoing efforts, previous efforts, and certainly these are acknowledgments of the importance of the richness of the biodiversity that is found in Tubbataha Reef," he noted.

Lacierda said the Philippine government is just awaiting for the final assessment to determine the extent of the damage caused by the grounding of USS Guardian, which will happen only after the ship has been extricated from the reef.


MNLF attack on ASG not sanctioned by gov't -- Aquino

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 5): MNLF attack on ASG not sanctioned by gov't -- Aquino

President Benigno Aquino III Tuesday said the reported attack by Moro National Liberation Front forces against the Abu Sayyaf Group in Patikul, Sulu was not sanctioned by the government. "Walang sanction, walang clearance. They (MNLF) didn’t tell us that they’re gonna attack the Abu Sayyaf," the President said in an interview at the sidelines of the Philippine Development Forum in Davao City.

President Aquino said that when he heard about the incident last Sunday, "unang priority natin syempre ‘yung mga citizens or our civilians who might be caught up in the conflict areas." "We directed both the security services -- meaning, the AFP and the PNP -- and also Secretary (Corazon) Soliman of the DSWD, to ensure that the civilians who might be caught up in the areas are evacuated to safe areas and are taken cared of," he stressed.

Reports said over 300 families have been affected by the fighting between the MNLF and the ASG in Sulu. Local officials said the affected residents are from Barangays Tarayat, Buhanginan and Talom in Patikul. They have sought refuge in the Danag Elementary School.

The clashes broke out Sunday with the MNLF forces reportedly were trying to free kidnapped Jordanian journalist, Baker Atyani. Atyani's Filipino crew, Ramelito Vela and Rolando Letrero, were released by the bandit group last Saturday. President Aquino said he ordered government forces to contain the area so that violence won't spread to other villages in Patikul.


PH, U.S. agree to cooperate on probe of USS Guardian grounding in Tubbataha

From InterAksyon (Feb 5): PH, U.S. agree to cooperate on probe of USS Guardian grounding in Tubbataha

The Philippines and the United States "have agreed to cooperate" in the investigation on the grounding of the USS Guardian on Tubbataha Reef, which damaged 1,000 square meters of the marine park, according to a joint statement from the two countries issued Tuesday.

The two countries said that since the January 17 incident off Palawan, a series of meetings had been held between the Philippine government and U.S. Embassy officials to address the problem.

"The two governments agreed to continue to work closely together as the salvage operation and the investigation into the grounding proceed. Both governments agree that preventing further damage to the reef is a top priority," the statement read.

Representatives from the Department of Foreign Affairs, Department of Justice, Department of Transportation and Communications, and Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) along with representatives of the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Embassy had been involved in the meetings.

In the latest meeting held on Monday, Februaty 4, U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines Harry K. Thomas Jr. "reiterated his regrets over the grounding incident and assured Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert F. del Rosario that the United States will provide appropriate compensation for damage to the reef caused by the ship."

The Philippine government said the PCG had started its "independent inquiry " into the grounding of USS Guardian.

It said that upon receipt of information about the incident, the PCG formed the Maritime Casualty Investigation Team (MCIT) "to establish the circumstances and causes" of the ship's grounding and "formulate safety measures to prevent a repetition" of the incident.

The procedures that the MCIT uses in investigating the incident is in accordance with the processes and resolutions of the International Maritime Organization on serious maritime incidents, according to the Philippines govermment.

The US government said that, "With an emphasis on protecting the marine environment, preparations for the salvage of the USS Guardian began shortly after the grounding occurred and include the removal of 15,000 gallons of fuel and other potentially harmful material."

The two countries' statement said a salvage plan had been submitted to the PCG for approval and clearance. The plan will be shared with the Tubbataha Managament Office.

"It is expected that the start of the salvage operation will be announced shortly. In the meantime, the United States is coordinating closely with PCG in the salvage operation to extract the USS Guardian from the reef," the statement further said.