Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Leadership Crisis in the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army

From the Small Wars Journal (Feb 12):  The Leadership Crisis in the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army

After forty-three years of waging war against the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP), the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) continues to project itself as a relevant and well-coordinated organization that is capable of challenging the GRP. Its principal objective is “to replace the current economic and political order in the Philippines with a socialist system”[1] and its main function is “to wage a protracted people’s war to destroy the reactionary state power and the interventionist U.S. imperial forces, protect the people and advance their national and democratic interests.”[2] To achieve its objectives, the CPP-NPA utilizes all tactical means at its disposal: military engagement, mass mobilization, political lobbying, political subversion and International Solidarity Work (ISW) with other left-wing organizations. In addition, the CPP-NPA has announced its intention to engage in peace talks with the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP), although this initiative may have been occasioned by the NPA’s designation by the United States and the European Union in 2002 as a foreign terrorist organization.[3]

Intelligence estimates provided by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) indicate that the CPP-NPA is steadily losing its military strength. Recent estimates reveal that the organization still mobilizes around 5,000 cadres[4], a drastic decrease from its peak of 28,000 cadres in the mid-1980s. The AFP still considers the CPP-NPA as the primary security threat against in the Philippines due to its capacity to operate nationally and its ability to infiltrate various state and private institutions.[5] However, despite of all the activities the organization undertakes, it cannot deny that it is struggling for survival.[6]

In the special anniversary issue of the CPP-NPA’s official publication Ang Bayan[7], the organization’s Central Committee discusses the importance of its “five year offensive plan”, which aims to advance the CPP-NPA’s armed struggle from the current strategic defensive stage to a strategic stalemate stage. While these are powerful statements, they are just standard propaganda lines which the organization uses to project its significance. The real message of the publication is actually a wakeup call: the CPP-NPA is needs to advance its armed struggle because it has nearly lost the war.

One of the basic reasons for the problems facing the CPP-NPA is that it lacks a genuine leader who provides direction to the organization. All militant organizations require some leadership function to exist; and even within relatively small-sized militant organizations there is a diversification of functions. Leaders are critical in turning the organization’s mass base into a well-coordinated force. The leader does not only develop training courses but provides the ideology, identifies the enemy, and articulates the strategy. Therefore, the current leadership crisis that is present within the CPP-NPA will contribute to the downfall of the organization.[8]

Current Power Struggle

The CPP-NPA leadership crisis, which is manifested through the rift between CPP Central Committee members Jose Maria Sison and Benito and Wilma Tiamzon, has developed into a significant conflict that has prompted the Tiamzon couple to consider overthrowing the Netherlands-based Jose Maria Sison. The motivation for this rift was the fundamental disagreement about the strategy of Sison to take advantage of the 2010 National Elections and the peace talks between the Philippine Government and the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) by grabing state power.

The Tiamzon couple disagreed with the idea of the CPP raising an extraordinary amount of money to fund the electoral campaigns of Leftist candidates Satur Ocampo and Liza Masa, because this move was a significant departure from the two-pronged party strategy of People’s Protracted War and United Front. Sison’s strategy of pursuing political participation effectively sidelines the CPP-NPA’s armed struggle that Benito Tiamzon has been directing since Sison moved to Utrecht, Netherlands.
With this situation, Jose Maria Sison now finds himself in a beleaguered position since the Tiamzon Faction controls majority of guerilla fronts and cadres around the country. Furthermore, the Tiamzon couple is supported by their comrades from the Samahan ng Demokratikong Kabataan (SDK), which has been the nemesis of Sison’s Kabataang Makabayan (KM) since its inception in 1968. Prominent SDK leaders who are presently occupying the highest positions within the CPP have rallied around the Tiamzon couple in preparation for Sison’s expulsion.

History of Infighting

The struggle for legitimacy and power between communist organizations and leaders in the Philippines can be traced to the early 1960s even before the official establishment of the CPP in 1968. The competition between the CPP Jesus Lava Faction and the CPP Armando Guerrero Faction intensified in 1964 when Lava was captured and six months later, Sison established a rival organization the KM.[9] More infighting ensued when Jesus Lava appointed his nephew, Francisco Lava to lead the CPP after his arrest. The continued Party leadership and control of the Lava family generated infighting between the members of the CPP executive committee members. By 1967, the CPP executive committee led by Sison expelled the Lava group from the CPP.[10] Consequently, Sison assumed leadership of the CPP-NPA since it was re-established in 1968.

After his release from prison in 1986, he was re-elected to the Executive Committee of the CPP Central Committee but was not allowed to assume chairmanship due to a decision by the CPP’s Politburo. The decision stated that Sison could only become chairman of the CPP if he returned to the Philippines. Since he was based in Netherlands, Sison could not participate in the day-to-day collective leadership of the CPP and was given the theoretical task of writing CPP anniversary statements (with the approval of the Politburo) and preparing key documents for CPP Congress.

However, starting 1990, Sison started deviating from his designated tasks. In one of the Politburo meetings, he was criticized for submitting the 1989 Party Anniversary Statement to newspapers in Manila even before it was approved by members of the Politburo. This act was followed by several unilateral decisions by Sison that caused embarrassment to local CPP leaders. By the early 1990s, a leadership vacuum dominated the Party. Since then, continued debates about the future direction and strategy of CPP-NPA has widened the rift between Sison and Tiamzons, somehow reinforcing the Politburo’s decision in the 1980s that Jose Maria Sison cannot lead the CPP-NPA by remote control.

Implications for the military

The CPP-NPA is at the weakest point of its 43-year armed struggle. Aside from its significant leadership and organizational conflicts within the CPP-NPA[11], the organization’s physical strength, weapons, and guerilla fronts have been severely depleted due to consistent losses to government forces over the past decades. Considering this trend the CPP-NPA can be considered insignificant.

The AFP now has the opportunity to finally fulfill one of its main objectives of defeating the CPP-NPA with the assistance from other sectors of society. While the AFP’s current strategy of winning the people’s loyalty through development and humanitarian aid (winning people’s hearts, minds and stomachs) has generally been successful, it is critical for the Armed Forces of the Philippines to continue collaborating with other sections such as local government units, non-government organizations and private companies to compliment and reinforce its strategy. This “whole of nation approach” should be institutionalized to effectively counter CPP-NPA operations in rural and urban areas nationwide.[12]

[1]Peter Chalk, Angel Rabasa and others The Evolving Terrorist threat in Southeast Asia: A Net Assessment. (Santa Monica, California: RAND Corporation, 2009): 57.
[2] Alfredo B. Saulo, Communism in the Philippines: An Introduction (Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University Press, 2002): 228.
[3] Chalk, et. al., The Evolving Terrorist threat in Southeast Asia, 57.
[4] Armed Forces of the Philippines, Internal Peace and Security Plan “Bayanihan” (Quezon City: General Headquarters, Armed Forces of the Philippines, 2010): 10
[5] Chalk, Peter, Rabasa, Angel, et. al. (2009). The Evolving Terrorist threat in Southeast Asia: A Net Assessment. Santa Monica, California: RAND Corporation: p. 58
[6]Francisco N. Cruz, The Eventual Demise of the Communist Insurgency in the Philippines (Quezon City: Armed Forces of the Philippines Civil Relations Service, 2010): 7
[7] CPP Central Committee “Strive to make a great advance in the people’s war for new democracy” Ang Bayan Special Issue (2009)
[8] Kim Cragin and Sara Daly, The Dynamic Terrorist Threat: An Assessment of Organization Motivations and Capabilities in a Changing World (Santa Monica, California: RAND Corporation, 2004)
[9] Alfredo B. Saulo, Communism in the Philippines: An Introduction. (Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University Press, 2002): 79-80
[10] Rainer Werning and Jose Maria Sison, The Philippine Revolution, The Leader’s View (New York: Taylor & Francis, 1989): 45-47.
[11] Cruz, The Eventual Demise of the Communist Insurgency
[12] Armed Forces of the Philippines, Internal Peace and Security Plan “Bayanihan”


Gov’t, MILF to jumpstart socio-economic development as part of transition today

From the MILF Website (Feb 12): Gov’t, MILF to jumpstart socio-economic development as part of transition today

No less than Philippine President Benigno Aquino III and MILF Chairman Al haj Murad Ebrahim will lead officials of both Parties in the launching of socio-economic development today for civilian communities in Mindanao especially highly depressed ones including those of indigenous communities and migrants.

The venue for this launching, code named Sajahatra Bangsamoro, will be at the Bangsamoro Leadership and Management Institute (BLMI) Training Center in Crossing Simuay, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao.

Sajahatra, which means peace or blissful, is a word common to most Moro ethnic tribes with some m
inor variations in pronouncement. The word has Malayo-Polynesian root. In Malaysia, it is pronounced as sejehatraan.

These socio-economic program for Bangsamoro communities in Mindanao is one of the functions of the Transition Commission (TC), whose membership is expected to be named very soon.

According to a well-placed source, who requested anonymity for lack of authority to speak on the issue, disclosed that President Aquino has already signed the appointment papers for the 15-man TC and will be announced soon.

The source further said that three members of the TC come from Sulu, two men and one woman, one from Basilan, a Christian woman with Moro blood, two from Maguindanao, one of whom is a member of the T’duray tribe, and one from Lanao. Both TC members from Maguindanao are reportedly women.

According to Cabinet Secretary Jose Rene Almendras and Esmail Pasigan, a member of the MILF Peace Panel Secretariat and coordinator of the project on the part of the MILF, the program signifies the partnership of the government (GPH) and the MILF in working towards peace and development of Bangsamoro communities.

To join Aquino and Murad are Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos Deles, the GPH peace panel led by Chair Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, the MILF Peace Panel led by its Chair Mohagher Iqbal, and other members of the central leadership of the MILF as well as representatives of involved government agencies, such as the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Department of Health (DOH), Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth), Department of Education (DepEd), Commission on Higher Education (CHED), Department of Agriculture (DA) and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA). Other officers of the MILF are likewise expected to attend. Also invited is Malaysian facilitator Tengku Dato Ab' Ghafar Tengku bin Mohammed and Malaysian head of secretariat Che Khasna, but only the latter has arrived so far.

Sajahatra Bangsamoro will focus on health, education, and livelihood services.


Oplan Bayanihan’s PsyWar Cannot Fool the People All the Time!

From the CPP Website (Feb 12): Oplan Bayanihan’s PsyWar Cannot Fool the People All the Time!

Spinmasters of the AFP’s Oplan Bayanihan have a penchant for inventing positions and promotions of NPA alleged surrenderees in order to fleece millions from the reactionary government coffers. In the case of the reported alleged surrenderee Connie Santiago Valera aka Yasser from Lacub, Abra, only the fertile but ridiculous imagination of the AFP and PNP can place the 29-year old Valera as occupying the supposed number five position in the Ilocos-Cordillera Region’s CPP heirarchy after only a few years’ stint in the revolutionary movement. If that is their best system of promotion in the AFP/PNP, definitely the revolutionary movement has its sound and contrary system.

The AFP’s psy-war attempt to make mountains out of molehills fails to fool the people even while the AFP/PNP generals line their pockets of “reward money” for bounty-hunting. Last November 13, 2012, the Department of National Defense (DND) and the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) came out with Joint Order No. 14-2012, raising the bounty for some 235 revolutionary leaders to P466.88 million. From then on, bounty hunting became the preoccupation of generals who inflicted human right violations against the oppressed masses. Every alleged revolutionary captive or surrenderee is tagged a high ranking official of the armed revolutionary movement ostensibly to qualify for the reward money.

The AFP psy-war experts are quick to put words in the alleged rebel returnee’s mouth. They would impute to Yasser concocted tales of supposed criminal activities of the CPP-NPA as reason for his surrender. In truth, the AFP fear most is the revolutionary movement’s “crime” of halting the historical perpetuation of national oppression against the indigenous people that has reached ethnocidal levels. Among the nefarious atrocities against the national minorities that the NPA combats is the non-respect for the integrity of ancestral lands, and the widespread plunder through destructive large scale corporate mining, hydropower power dams and geothermal plants. The military, on the other hand, exacerbates the social discrimination of the minorities by garrisoning and occupying schools, health centers and barangay facilities, thereby depriving the indigenous people’s rights to basic services. The pressure of national oppression with its multifaceted manifestations at present against the indigenous continues unabated.

It is right and legitimate for the indigenous people to form revolutionary mass organizations to resist development aggression, or blocks the drilling activities of the large scale corporate mines, but the military is quick to denounce these as “criminal activities”. These are not “crimes” to the indigenous people, but heroic acts to stop the eradication of national minorities in genocidal proportions. What the AFP spins fail to obscure is the military’s crime of protecting and securing the economic aggression of multinational firms acting as “investment defense forces”.

The military’s latest atrocity is the illegal arrest, torture and arbitrary detention of several civilians, including a 14-year old minor, in Lagangilang, Abra, after an encounter with the NPA last January 30 which resulted in the wounding of two soldiers. Four farmers from Kayapa, Lagangilang, accosted near the encounter site were held for three days, then freed after being cowed into silence for fear of retribution. Another civilian working in a small-scale mine nearby was manhandled with no apparent reason by an intelligence asset wearing a bonnet who was accompanying the soldiers. Two other youngsters who were tending their carabao in nearby Palpalitpit, Lagangilang were also accosted by the operating troops. Sensing danger, one scampered for safety but his other companion, Jeboy Lunes, a 14-year old. was illegally detained, harassed and accused as an NPA. He was dragged to the municipal hall the next day to be presented as a captured NPA. Only after it was found out that the kid was not an NPA but a relative of the Mayor did the soldiers of the 503rd Bde from nearby Barbarit, Lagangilang, admit their mistake and released the minor.

These are real crimes of the AFP against the people, one which the NPA will surely bring to justice alongside the advancing people’s war.

Rebolusyon kayet! #


10 patrol boats from Japan to arrive next year–DFA

From the Business Mirror (Feb 12): 10 patrol boats from Japan to arrive next year–DFA

THE 10 multirole patrol response vessels (MRRV) that the Philippines asked Japan to finance through official development assistance (ODA) will be delivered in 12 to 18 months.
Half of the boats will be manufactured in the Philippines.
Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said two of the boats would be given by the Japanese government and the eight would be acquired by the government through a soft loan.
Soft loans are loans that have low interest rates with flexible payment terms under Japan’s ODA.
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said procurement of the 40-meter long boats, costing $11 million each, is not aimed at any one country but were acquired to enhance the capability of the Coast Guard to patrol the country’s extensive shoreline.
“The boats are multirole, meaning they could be used in search-and-rescue, to assist during calamities, to conduct surveillance and other functions of the Coast Guard,” Foreign Affairs Spokesman Raul Hernandez said.
He added that Japanese experts are already training some of the Filipino sailor who will man the boats.
“There’s such cooperation, exchanges have already started,” Hernandez said.
The Philippines and Japan are currently locked in an increasingly tense game of one-upmanship over contested islands, shoals and reefs on the East China Sea and the South China Sea, part of which the country had named West Philippine Sea.
The China Daily took note of the patrol boats purchased by the Philippines, and asked how far Manila and Tokyo can enhance their strategic partnership.
“With Japan being involved in its own dispute with China over the Diaoyu Islands and the strong anti-Japanese sentiments in Philippine society, how far Manila and Tokyo can enhance their strategic partnership is open to question,” a China Daily senior writer wrote.
The newspaper added: “Neither country should make strategic misjudgment and underestimate China’s determination to safeguard its territorial waters.”
The article started by citing a Chinese proverb which says: “While the tree craves calm, the wind will not subside.”
China Daily said this is a proverb the Chinese media frequently quoted when commenting on the rifts between China and the Philippines over the South China Sea.
“At the start of the new year, the wind from Manila is again blowing in the wrong direction, as politicians in the country have made irresponsible remarks that will stir up new tensions on the disputed waters.”
China Daily said that recently, del Rosario asked China to explain its deployment of a patrol ship to guard islands and waters on the South China Sea, saying the move has sparked new tensions over the disputed waters.
“This is a false accusation and Manila’s top diplomat should not forget that his own country raised the tensions in the disputed waters in the first place last year.”
The article added that “If Manila takes further steps in this regard, it is sure to meet with strong opposition as well as countermeasures from China. It is now crystal clear that Manila is determined to play the role of a troublemaker and seeks every opportunity to escalate tensions in the South China Sea.”
“To confront China over the issue, Manila has painstakingly enlisted support from other countries, including some from outside the region,” referring to the Philippines asking help by citing its Mutual Defense Treaty (MTD) with the United States.
The MDT dictates that both nations would support each other if either were to be attacked by an external party.
The Chinese mouth piece said that last year, the Philippines took steps to strengthen its military alliance with the United States, with the intention that once its disputes with China slip out of control the sole superpower will be dragged into a head-on confrontation with China.
The Philippines has also pledged support to Japan, which wants to play a bigger role in the region, and has proposed bilateral maritime security cooperation, the newspaper said.
Last week del Rosario and visiting Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida discussed how Japan could help in improving the Philippines’s Coast Guard capability.

Army troops, NPA rebels clash in Zamboanga Sur

From the Mindanao Examiner (Feb 12): Army troops, NPA rebels clash in Zamboanga Sur

Patrolling government troops clashed Tuesday with communist rebels in the southern Philippine province of Zamboanga del Sur, officials said.

Officials said the fighting erupted on a village in the town of Kumalarang where troops engaged some 30 New People’s Army rebels in a running gun battle.

“The firefight lasted for about 30 minutes and there was no military casualties in the clash that left a still undetermined number of rebels dead or wounded,” Major Edgardo Amores, a spokesman for the 1st Infantry Division.

He said soldiers were tracking down the rebels who broke into smaller groups and escaped in the hinterlands.

There was no immediate statement from the NPA which is fighting for decades now for the establishment of a communist state in the country.


Army school to revise curriculum

From the Philippine Information Agency (Feb 11): Army school to revise curriculum

Tarlac-based Training and Doctrine Command (Tradoc) of the Philippine Army (PA) is currently holding a three-week workshop to revise its curriculum.

“The workshop seeks to establish a standard of training and systematic approach for education and training in order to increase Tradoc’s responsiveness essential to the delivery of training excellence,” said Colonel Leouel Santos, director of the Training Development Center (TDC).

TDC is a unit of TRADOC tasked to develop a responsive and dynamic training methodologies and instructors to enhance quality of training.

“The workshop is an offshoot of the recently concluded Army Transformation Roadmap cascading activity where one of the identified objectives is to institute an adaptive and responsive curriculum development system and the result of the Curriculum Review Priming - another related seminar attended by school commandants, army training commanders and coordinating staff - that gave impact to the urgency of revising the training curriculum. This is in preparation to the major changes of personnel training requirements of the Army units,” Santos added.

TRADOC Review and Revision Board is chaired by Deputy Commander Colonel Medardo Geslani with the Command’s Chief of Staff Col. Ramon Bombais Jr., TDC Director Col. Santos, Doctrine Center Director Col. Jose Antonio Carlos Motril, Combat Arms School Commandant Col. Milfredo Melegrito, Combat Service Support School Commandant Col. Jimmy Maala, Army Command and Staff School Commandant Col. Dario Quindoza, Combat Support School Officer-In-Charge Major Francisca Dapiton, and Assistant Chief of Staff for Plans, G5 Major Richard Servito as members.

Also joining the Board are TRADOC Command Sergeant Major Chief Master Sergeant Rogelio Mendoza and Non-Commissioned Officer Academy Commandant CMS Mirando Baldiviso.

Officers from the PA Headquarters along with retired military experts were likewise invited as resource speakers.


Salvage of USS Guardian to be completed by March 23- PCG

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 12): Salvage of USS Guardian to be completed by March 23- PCG

Barring equipment failure or adversely inclement weather, the salvage operation for the grounded USS Guardian (MCM-5) will be completed by March 23, the Philippines Coast Guard (PCG) said on Tuesday.

According to Lt. Cmdr. Armand Balilo, Coast Guard spokesperson, this is was stressed by the US Navy salvage team who will be removing the grounded minesweeper off Tubbataha Reef, in Sulu Sea.

"In their latest salvage proposal submitted to us, they are looking at finishing the salvage works by March 23. Of course, this timeline will only hold if everything works out to plan," he added.

In the same proposal, the US Navy said the pipelay vessel, the Gibraltarian-flagged "Jascon 25", will act as the primary vessel in the salvage operation with the Singaporean-based crane ship "Smit Borneo" acting only as support.

"Salvage teams will live aboard the 'Jascon 25' while the work is ongoing. The 'Smit Borneo' will only be a support ship in the project," Balilo added.  "Jascon 25" is expected to arrive at Tubbataha Reef 9 p.m. on Feb. 15.

The PCG spokesperson said cutting operations, depending on the weather, will quickly commence after that.  Salvage teams will first cut into manageable sections the topside area of the minesweeper which includes its bridge, funnels and masts before dismantling areas below the waterline.

Chopped off areas will be then be hoisted by the crane ships.  The USS Guardian ran aground off Tubbataha Reef last Jan. 17 in still unknown circumstances.


Lawmakers want VFA terminated

From the Philippine Star (Feb 12): Lawmakers want VFA terminated

Lawmakers on Tuesday urged the government to terminate the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the Philippines and the United States citing the unrestricted use of US drones in the country’s airspace as one of the reasons.

Reps. Luzviminda Ilagan and Emmi de Jesus (Gabriela Party-list), authors of House Resolution 3003, said the unrestricted use of US drones and the illegal entry of US navy ship to the Tubbataha reef in Palawan are “clear violations of the country’s national sovereignty”.

De Jesus cited reports that a US-made unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), drifting some 300 meters from the shore of Sitio Tacdugan, San Jacinto town in Ticao Island, Masbate, was recovered on January 6, 2013 by fishermen.

Reports said the UAV which was identified as a BQM-74E Chukar III target drone manufactured by US-based Northrup Grumman Corp., which, according to the Chukar III data sheer published online by the Borthrup Grumman Corp. itself, is 3.93 m long and 71 cm high with a wingspan of 1.75 m, and normally used in reconnaissance mission by the US military although it is capable of delivering payloads and conducting surveillance operations.

De Jesus also cited an article by Mark Mazzetti published on July 6, 2012 by the New York Times reported that in 2006 an American Predator unmanned aerial vehicle, or drone, fired a “barrage of hellfire missiles” in the jungles of the Philippines. The drone strike was an attempt to kill Indonesian Bali-bomber Umar Patek.

Ilagan said there are no clear guidelines on the use of these unmanned aerial vehicles in the Philippine territory and it appears that the US government has been using the VFA to gain unrestricted movement in the country’s airspace.

“Aircraft operated by or for the United States armed forces should observe local air traffic control regulations while in the Philippines,” Ilagan said, citing Article 8, Section 3 of the VFA which deals with the treatment of visiting US troops entering the country to conduct bilateral exercises and other defense cooperation activities approved in the Philippine government.

"The unrestricted use of US drones in the Philippines airspace is a clear violation of our national sovereignty as no sovereign nation would allow a foreign power unhampered use of domestic airspace. Drones can be used in surveillance and in actual combat operations,” Ilagan said.

The Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas has also urged Congress to investigate the incident.


Canadian ship to make goodwill visit

From the Philippine Star (Feb 12): Canadian ship to make goodwill visit

Her Majesty's Canadian Ship Regina. - Photo courtesy of Philippine Navy

A Canadian military ship is in the country for a goodwill visit that seeks to boost the relationship between Canada and the Philippines.

Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship Regina on Tuesday docked at the Port of Manila and will stay in the country until Saturday.

Lieutenant Commander Gregory Fabic, acting spokesman of the Philippine Navy, said the visit would allow them to learn from their Canadian counterparts.

“The ship tour and exchange of expertise would provide added knowledge to our personnel,” Fabic said in a phone interview.

The vessel, which arrived in Manila a few minutes after 1 p.m., is now docked at Pier 13 in South Harbor, Manila. It is manned by 42 officers and 219 enlisted personnel led by Commander Jason Boyd.

Navy ships met the visiting vessel early afternoon Tuesday in the vicinity of Corregidor Island.

Crew members of Regina are expected to make a courtesy call to Navy chief Vice Adm. Jose Luis Alano. Philippine Navy personnel will also be allowed to tour the ship
Fabic said members of the two navies will also engage in goodwill games to enhance their relationship.

“It (goodwill visit) also aims to express compassionate interest or concern especially in inter-operability engagement and other joint efforts,” he said.

Regina’s visit came amid the controversy surrounding the grounding of USS Guardian in Tubbataha Reef last month.

Authorities are still in the process of extricating the ship, which has caused the damage in the reef’s extensive coral network.

Officials said the incident would not jeopardize future port calls by foreign ships since they form part of the Philippines’ relationship with other countries.


New leaders of the Army’s elite forces named

From the Philippine Star (Feb 12): New leaders of the Army’s elite forces named

Two members of the Army’s Scout Rangers have been given new assignments in the military’s elite units.

Brig. Gen. John Bonafos has been appointed commander of the Army’s Special Operations Command (SOCOM), succeeding Brig. Gen. Jet Velarmino, who held the post in an acting capacity.

Meanwhile, Col. Eduardo Davalan has been named new chief of the First Scout Ranger Regiment, succeeding Brig. Gen. Abraham Bagasin who has been appointed deputy chief of the Northern Luzon Command.

Bonafos was camp commander of Camp Aguinaldo before being named SOCOM chief.

A member of Philippine Military Academy (PMA) class ’82, Bonafos also served as commander of the 802nd brigade, deputy chief of the 302nd brigade and commander of the 15th battalion.

Other key posts he held include Assistant Army Chief of Staff for Education and Training, Chief of Staff of the 3rd Infantry Division and Assistant Chief of Staff for Operations of the Army’s 2nd and 3rd division.

Meanwhile, Davalan is a graduate of PMA class '85 and the former Assistant Chief of Unified Command Staff of the Western Mindanao Command.

As leader of the Scout Rangers Regiment, Davalan will oversee the operations of forces that specialize in counter-guerrilla warfare.


3 soldiers wounded in Davao bomb blast

From the Philippine Star (Feb 12): 3 soldiers wounded in Davao bomb blast

At least three government troops were wounded in today's bomb explosion in Davao City.

According to Lt.Col. Inocencio Pasaporte, battalion commander, a team from the 69th Infantry Battalion led by Lt. Brian Malinao was conducting security patrol at Lumiad village, in Davao City's Paquibato district when a homemade bomb believed exploded around 6 a.m., local time.

Three soldiers suffered shrapnel wounds due to the explosion and were rushed to the nearest local hospital.

"Pursuit operation was now being launched against the perpetrator of this terroristic act,"Pasaporte said, alleging that the leftist New People's Army was behind the explosion.

Today's incident came just days after NPA rebels, including a female fighter, killed a village official in nearby Compostela Valley province for allegedly supporting the government's counter- insurgency activities.

The 4,000-strong NPA, armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, is fighting a leftist insurgency in 60 Philippine provinces since 1969.


5 soldiers hurt in Cotabato encounter

From the Philippine Star (Feb 13): 5 soldiers hurt in Cotabato encounter

Five soldiers were wounded in separate encounters between government forces and communist rebels in North Cotabato’s Makilala town.

The clash which erupted in Barangay New Israel, Makilala left soldiers, identified only as Cpls. Pantasan and Soria, seriously wounded.

Three soldiers were wounded when the rebels opened fire on another group of soldiers not far from the scene of the ambush, hours earlier.


Rebel killed, 4 soldiers wounded in Albay

From the Philippine Star (Feb 13): Rebel killed, 4 soldiers wounded in Albay clash             

A New People’s Army (NPA) guerrilla was killed and four soldiers were wounded during an encounter in Tubgon village in Oas, Albay yesterday.

Col. Generoso Bolina, spokesman for the Southern Luzon Command, said the soldiers were wounded when the rebels detonated a landmine.

Brig.Gen. Ricardo Visaya, 901st Infantry Brigade commanding officer, said the soldiers and their police counterparts were conducting combat patrol amid extortion complaints by residents when the clash occured at around 9 a.m.

A .45-caliber pistol and fragmentation grenade were recovered from the slain rebel identified as a certain Ka Boy, according to Superintendent Renato Bataller, Bicol police spokesman.

A manhunt for the rebels is underway.


6 weeks to pull out US ship from Tubbataha

From Rappler (Feb 12): 6 weeks to pull out US ship from Tubbataha

The US Navy hopes to pull out its ship stuck in Tubbataha Reef Natural Park within 6 weeks so it will not disrupt the official diving season, a Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) official said on Tuesday, February 12.

PCG Palawan Cmdr Efren Evangelista told Rappler the best case scenario is for the salvaging operation of the USS Guardian to be concluded by March 23. "The March 23 target [can be accomplished] if the condition and situation at the site [are] favorable," he added.

Evangelista however warned that the weather and sea condition "may become unfavorable for salvage operations," in which case the salvaging may have to be temporarily halted "for safety reasons" under the approved plan.

So far the efforts to extricate the vessel have prompted authorities to consider closing at least 2 of Tubbataha's 15 dive sites for the official March-June diving season.
The USS Guardian ran aground on January 17 inside the protected area of the marine park, a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the world's top diving destinations.

2nd floating crane to lead salvaging

The salvage operation is currently suspended pending the arrival of the Jascon 25, a 2nd floating crane hired by the US Navy from Netherlands-based maritime support company Sea Trucks Group.

Evangelista said that the Jascon 25, expected to arrive on February 16, will be the leading vessel in the salvaging, while the SMIT Borneo already on site will be a support ship.

"The main crane ship which will be used for dismantling the USS Guardian [will be] the Jascon 25. It has a dynamic positioning system which can maintain its position without anchoring," the PCG official explained.

The 112.8x30.4 m Gibraltar-flagged Jascon 25 is equipped with a main crane capable of hoisting 800 metric tons from a distance of 30 m and 50 tons underwater from 720 m, apart from an auxiliary crane designed to assist the main one.

Although the SMIT Borneo arrived ahead of the Jascon 25, the former was scrapped as the lead ship after it was unable to anchor in deep water to prevent further damage to the reef, currently estimated at around 4,000 sqm by Tubbataha officials.

Washington has agreed to pay almost $25 million for the SMIT Borneo, but the fee for the Jascon 25 is yet unknown.

Salvage plan being revised

After the SMIT Borneo failed to anchor 3 of its 4 mooring legs due to 16-to-24-knot winds, strong waves and the slope of the sea floor, officials are now revising the salvage plan.

USS Guardian spokesman Lt Frederick Martin told the US military publication Stars and Stripes on Tuesday that the plan "was being revised" but said the operation will start as soon as the Jascon 25 arrives.

Martin added that the 2nd crane ship has a higher lift capacity than the SMIT Borneo and a dynamic positioning system, which allows it to operate without anchoring.

“While the inability of the Smit Borneo to be moored affects the plan, we are adjusting our operations accordingly, including bringing in the second crane, Jascon 25, earlier than originally planned. Jascon 25 is already underway and moving toward the site,” the US Navy official said.

In June 2009, the Jascon 25 performed the heaviest ever completed lifts of subsea structures weighing 650-710 at an offshore underwater pipeline in northwestern Australia.

The original salvage plan for Tubbataha was for the cranes to lift the whole USS Guardian from the reef, but the Americans later changed their mind and decided to dismantle the minesweeper into sections and transfer these to a barge with the cranes, without moving the vessel to minimize damage to the coral.


Post-Tubbataha: Lawyer pushes for VFA renegotiation

From Rappler (Feb 12): Post-Tubbataha: Lawyer pushes for VFA renegotiation

Following the damage caused by a US ship to the Tubbataha Reef Natural Park, a lawyer asked the Supreme Court on Tuesday, February 12 to order the Department of Foreign Affairs to renegotiate an agreement between the Philippines and the United states on military exercises.

Harry Roque, who questioned the constitutionality of the Visiting Forces Agreement in 2009, filed a motion asking the SC to require the government to renegotiate for a "more equitable and just Visiting Forces Agreement," to abolish it, or to come up with an "appropriate agreement" on detention facilities as ordered in an SC decision in the case Nicolas v. Romulo.

Roque said the SC, in its 2009 decision on the VFA case, upheld the constitutionality of the 1998 VFA but not the 2006 agreeements between then DFA Secretary Alberto Romulo and Kristie Kenney covering Sec.10 or Article V, which specified that accused US military members are to be detained in the US Embassy.

The SC ordered the renegotiation of the said agreement, but Roque said this has yet to be carried out.
Roque said the VFA should be renegotiated after the USS Guardian ran aground the Tubbataha Reef Natural Park on January 17. The USS Guardian crew allegedly ignored warnings from the rangers.
"The blatant disregard for the Philippine authority and the disrespect shown to the rangers of Tubbataha Reef National Park by the crew of the USS Guardian show that the VFA is unable to ensure that Philippine authority will be respected by forces," the motion said.

Roque, who filed the motion on behalf of Jovito Salonga - one of the petitioners in the VFA case - added that the crew involved was already brought back to Sasebo, Japan, their homeport. "It remains to be seen whether the crew of the USS Guardian will ever be brought under Philippine jurisdiction again."

He said that government should renegotiate the VFA to make sure it will address the criminal liability of the US forces under Philippine law.