Saturday, February 23, 2013

Sultan of Sulu seeks UNCHR protection

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Feb 24): Sultan of Sulu seeks UNCHR protection

The Sultan of Sulu has asked the United Nations Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR) to help his followers who are running out of provisions after two weeks of holing up in a village in the eastern Malaysian state of Sabah.

Sultan Jamalul Kiram III wrote the UNCHR in Manila on Feb. 20, asking for protection for 250 members of the Royal Security Forces of the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo whose lives, he said, were threatened by a food blockade thrown by Malaysia around the village of Tanduao in Lahad Datu town, Sabah.

Jamalul has also written to Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei asking for help in resolving the standoff in Tanduao peacefully.

The UNCHR was furnished with a copy of Jamalul’s letter to the sultan of Brunei, also dated Feb. 20.

A deadline given by Malaysia to the armed group led by Jamalul’s brother, Agbimuddin Kiram, to come out and submit to deportation expired on Friday, but the Philippines asked the Malaysians to give the sultan’s followers four more days to end the occupation of Tanduao peacefully.

But that was before Jamalul announced at a news conference in Manila on Friday that he had ordered Agbimuddin’s group to stand fast until recalled.

News of Jamalul’s defiance slowed down the Malaysian decision on the Philippine request for an extension of the deadline.

Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman notified the Home Ministry of the Philippine request on Friday but Home Minister Hishamuddin Hussein said he would leave the decision to Anifah.

It’s up to police

Hishamuddin said, however, that he would leave it to the police to conduct an operation to end the standoff with the armed group in Tanduao.

“The country’s sovereignty and the pride of the people of Sabah must not be taken for granted,” Hishamuddin told reporters on Saturday.

Abraham Idjirani, secretary general and spokesperson for the Sultanate of Sulu, said the blockade around Tanduao had reduced Agbimuddin’s group to eating root crops and vegetables found in the area.

The Malaysian authorities do not allow Tausug residents of Lahad Datu to enter Tanduao to prevent food from reaching Agbimuddin’s forces, Idjirani said.

Muzzle down

Agbimuddin remains in contact with Jamalul, Idjirani said. The two men last talked by phone on Saturday, with the younger Agbimuddin being counseled by the sultan to stay calm, Idjirani said.

The sultan, he said, also instructed Agbimuddin and the “royal security forces” to keep their muzzles down, a military term meaning carrying rifles with the muzzles pointed to the ground to signify no hostile intent.

Idjirani told the Inquirer by phone that the sultan wrote a letter to Prime Minister Najib Razak four days ago to assure the Malaysian leader that the sultanate’s followers “came to Sabah to live in peace.”

Jamalul assured Najib that the sultanate’s forces would not initiate violence but would defend themselves if attacked, Idjirani said.

As of yesterday, Idjirani said, Jamalul’s orders to Agbimuddin remained unchanged: Hold your ground.

“It’s still as is,” Idjirani said.

The administration of President Aquino refuses to intervene, as the standoff has to do with the Sulu sultan’s heirs’ claim to Sabah, part of the Sultanate of Sulu and formerly known as North Borneo.


Malacañang believes Jamalul’s action is aimed at sabotaging the peace talks between the Aquino administration and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

The Palace reportedly suspects that the opponents of the peace process are using Jamalul to scuttle a preliminary peace deal between the government and the MILF, among them the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), the followers of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and the President’s uncle, Jose “Peping” Cojuangco and his wife, Margarita “Tingting” Cojuangco, whose plan to run for governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) in 2011 went to naught after Congress postponed the regional election and synchronized it with this year’s midterm elections to give Mr. Aquino time to introduce reforms in Muslim Mindanao.

The MNLF has neither confirmed nor denied aiding Jamalul but its leader, Nur Misuari, has publicly opposed the preliminary peace agreement between the Aquino administration and the MILF.

The MNLF has said that among the members of Jamalul’s “royal security forces” are MNLF fighters.

The allies of Arroyo are silent.

Cojuangcos ‘cleared’

The Cojuangcos issued a press statement on Saturday saying President Aquino had cleared them of involvement in the Sulu sultanate’s Sabah action.

According to the statement, Mr. Aquino texted his uncle Jose “Peping” Cojuangco belying reports that he believed the couple had a hand in Jamalul’s decision to send his followers to Sabah to establish a presence there.

“Uncle Joe, we are looking for who is instigating them. Neither you nor Aunt Ting [has] been mentioned in any report to me,” the President’s text message said, according to the press statement.

The “them” in the message refers to Jamalul and his followers, whose action could endanger other Filipinos living in Sabah.

ARMM Acting Gov. Mujiv Hataman said he was trying to reach Jamalul to ask the sultan to call back his followers, as their occupation of Tanduao could adversely affect the thousands of other Filipinos living in Sabah.

Sabah’s proximity to southern Philippines makes it accessible to Filipinos from Palawan, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi. Thousands of Filipinos cross to Sabah without passports and Malaysian authorities, eager for trade and manpower for industries in Sabah, have tolerated them for years.

Immigration crackdown

But the intrusion into Sabah of an armed group led by a brother of the Sulu sultan could lead to a crackdown on undocumented Filipinos in Sabah and expulsions could rattle the economy in southern Philippines.

Hataman said he had talked with some members of the royal clan and asked them to help resolve the standoff in Sabah.

There were reports in Zamboanga on Saturday that Jamalul was going to consult his followers on what steps to take next.

Major Malaysian newspapers published reports on Saturday quoting Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin as saying on the second day of a visit to Sabah that Kuala Lumpur was “doing everything possible to work out a peaceful solution” to the standoff.

Reds on SMI’s ECC approval: ‘A plot hatched in hell’

From MindaNews (Feb 24): Reds on SMI’s ECC approval: ‘A plot hatched in hell’

“A plot hatched in hell.” This was how the National Democratic Front of the Philippines-Far South Mindanao Region (NDFP-FSMR) described Friday the national government’s granting of an environmental compliance certificate (ECC) to foreign-backed Sagittarius Mines, Inc. for its Tampakan copper-gold project.

In an emailed statement, Ka Efren, NDFP-FMSR spokesperson, warned the mining firm to brace for attacks not just from the communist rebels but also from the B’laan tribal members opposing the mining venture.

“The revolutionary forces in Far South Mindanao are resolutely embracing their utmost task to lead and be one with the people in the struggle against foreign and large-scale mining and all forms of state-backed anti-people, anti-national and environmentally destructive programs and projects,” he said.

“Moreover, the B’laan people’s armed resistance in Bong Mal is virtuously in a position to defend their ancestral land and right to self-determination,” according to the statement.

On New Year’s Day 2008, communist New People’s Army (NPA) rebels stormed the base camp of SMI in Barangay Tablu in Tampakan, South Cotabato, burning equipment and facilities worth at least P12 million.

The following year, communist guerillas attacked the Tampakan municipal police station in punishment “for protecting the interest of the mining company.” Three policemen and a civilian were wounded in the raid.

In the company’s various Project Sustainability Reports, it admitted security threats as one of the key risks facing the Tampakan project.

Ka Efren said the issuance of the ECC by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to SMI is a “barefaced and traitorous act that President Benigno Aquino is inexcusably accountable for.”

“The approval of the ECC takes place when Mindanao still has to recover from the ruins of super storms Sendong and Pablo, and concurrent with the mine landslides in Semirara, Antique. This is a manifestation of the government’s disregard for the environment and public welfare,” he noted.

SMI is controlled by Xtrata Copper, the world’s fourth largest copper producer, with Australian firm Indophil Resources NL as the junior partner.

In a February 20 statement, Gavan Collery, Indophil corporate affairs manager, said that SMI advised Indophil that it has received the proposed ECC from the Environmental Management Bureau, a DENR attached agency.

“SMI says it is now in the process of reviewing the terms and conditions contained in the document,” Collery said.

Manolo Labor, SMI external communications and media relations superintendent, also earlier referred to the document as “a proposed ECC,” claiming that the “company has to agree with the government the conditions set therein.”

Indophil said it sees the latest development as a critical step towards acceptance of related conditions, leading to formal approval and agreement for the ECC.
“The granting of the ECC will be an important milestone that will allow project partners to commence programs associated with other key approvals and regulatory requirements,” Collery said.

MILF: Socsargen multi-stakeholders oriented on FAB

From the MILF Website (Feb 24): Socsargen multi-stakeholders oriented on FAB

More than 500 delegates from South Cotabato, Sarangani and General Santos City attended the Multi-Stakeholders Forum on Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro at the Auditorium of Notre dame of Dadiangas University in General Santos City on February 19, 2013 aimed to educate the public on the essence of the initial agreement and the progress of the GPH-MILF Peace Process.

The Chair of the Government Peace Panel Professor Miriam C. Ferrer and from the Office of the First Vice-Chairman of the MILF, Special Assistant on Peace Advocacy Dr. Tumanda Antok lectured on the FAB and gave updates on the peace process.

Representatives from the International Monitoring Team, Local Monitoring Team-Sarangani, Philippine National Police, Armed Forces of the Philippines, Department of Education, students, Asatidz, peace advocates, government employees, university professors, farmers, LGUs, entrepreneurs and ordinary citizens attended the forum. There were also representatives from the Muslim organizations like the Sugoda

Buayan Royal House, Muslim Business Forum, Young Moro Professionals Council, Moro National Liberation Front, Katiyakap Inc., and Muslim Women of General Santos City who attended to understand deeply the FAB.

Ferrer said the peace panels are still working on the annexes of power sharing and wealth-sharing. She disclosed that they are still negotiating on who will have jurisdiction over the transportation facilities on land, sea and water.

The chief negotiator also said they are introducing a new concept on Bangsamoro Waters. She also cited that the normalization also aims to address the problem on armed group and loose firearms.

Ferrer further said there will be transitional justice and reconciliation as well as acknowledgment of different history and narratives.

She also narrated the recent visit of President Aquino in Sultan Kudarat Municipality in Maguindanao bringing the Sajahatra Bangsamoro Program aimed to deliver basic services to the Moro people like health care and training on livelihood.

The crafting of the Bangsamoro Basic Law, she said, will provide venue for participation of all sectors like the MNLF, heeding to the mandate of the President that the peace process should be participatory.

During the open forum, an employee from the ARMM asked what will happen to them once the regional government will be abolished and replace by the Bangsamoro. Ferrer replied that regular employees are governed by the civil service law and they will still continue working.

“Only the Regional Legislative Assembly and the ARMM Governor will be abolished,” she explained.

On the question on who will comprise the Bangsamoro Transition Authority, Ferrer said the process will still be inclusive and having strong partnership manifests that they are indeed serious.

Most of the audience expressed optimism that the FAB will lead to the final settlement of the Mindanao problem.

Taking lessons from the past, Ferrer hoped there will be good governance with the upcoming Bangsamoro Government. She posed a challenge saying, “Will the MILF prove to be different breed of leaders?”

She further urged everybody to support the peace process as the lasting solution to the decades of conflict in Southern Philippines.

Dr. Antok said Mindanao has 26 ethno-linguistic tribes on which 13 of these are Islamized. He said Bangsamoro refers to the inhabitant of Mindanao before the invaders came.

He stressed that without the unity of the Muslims, Christians and the IPs, real peace could hardly be realized.

On the normalization issue, he related that the government and the MILF are striving hard to come up with mechanism on how to regain the peaceful situation of Mindanao.

He mentioned some programs for normalization such as creation of joint normalization committee, police commission, disbandment of private armies, redeployment of the members of the AFP, decommissioning the BIAF in proportionate manner, implementation of transitional justice, implementation of development and trust fund and creation of industries.

The speaker said that economic intervention plays great role to normalize the communities considering the low poverty index in many Moro areas.

He added that the government can put up infrastructure facilities, the private sector shall provide capitalization while the Moro people have the working force. In that way, he said there is pooling of efforts and resources towards development.

Among the safety measures which will ensure that the agreement will be implemented, he explained is that the “implementation will be done bilaterally” and the peace panels will not be abolished.

He added that the IMT and Malaysia will stay and “the MILF peace panel will not sign the exit agreement until it is sure that the peace agreement is fully implemented.”
Antok said the MILF will not handle the Bangsamoro government by 2016.

He added that the peace agreement is not for the MILF but for the Moro people. “The MILF only facilitates the peace process,” he pointed out, “and the MILF is more committed to end the conflict in Mindanao.”

He urged the stakeholders to understand and help advocate the framework agreement as well as monitor its progress.

For the Indigenous Peoples, he also urged that the natives to be active in making the judicial system for the IPs.

The speaker added that there should also be proposal for socio-economic program for those Moro communities outside the Bangsamoro territory.

During the open forum, a delegate suggested to the speakers to consider in the crafting of the Bangsamoro basic law having representatives to the Bangsamoro government coming for Muslim communities outside the Bangsamoro territory like Socsargen and Davao regions so that somebody will bring their voice of the Moro from those areas to the assembly.

The forum was organized by Socsargen Peace Network, Kalinaw Sarangani, Circle of Peace Builders in Socsargen, Mindanao State University, Notre Dame of Dadiangas University and other concerned groups. Members of local and national media also covered the event.

Pacific Angel 2013 set

From the Manila Standard Today (Feb 24): Pacific Angel 2013 set

The Armed Forces of the Philippines and its US counterpart are finalizing preparations for “Operation Pacific Angel 2013,” a humanitarian assistance mission which will kick off on March 4 in Dumaguete, Negros Oriental.

“Operation Pacific Angel 2013” will include medical, dental, optometry, and engineering programs as well as various subject-matter expert exchanges, the officials said.

Doctors and engineers from the AFP will work alongside their US counterparts to provide medical, dental, optometry, and engineering assistance to residents.

During last year’s exercise, more than 8,500 people in Albay received medical, dental, and optometry care.

China dusts off plan for PH, pushes talks

From the Manila Standard Today (Feb 24): China dusts off plan for PH, pushes talks

Beijing on Saturday said that instead of bringing the territorial dispute in the West Philippine Sea before the United Nation’s Arbitral Tribunal, Manila should respond to its three-year old proposal to create a regular “consultation mechanism” on the subject.

Beijing’s statement came right after a Philippines-Japan maritime cooperation dialogue, where Tokyo indicated its willingness to help boost Manila’s capability to protect its territorial waters.

Chinese Foreign Ministry on boundary and ocean affairs division director general Ouyang Yujing told China Daily that even before the tension in Scarborough Shoal broke out in April 2011, Beijing had already proposed that Manila and Beijing conduct regular consultations on maritime issues.`

Ouyang said the proposal was made in March 2010, and since then, Beijing has been urging Manila “several times” to reopen a mechanism that involves “trust-building measures”.

Ouyang said that despite Beijing’s efforts, the Philippine side did not respond to the proposal.

“China hopes the Philippines will return to the right track of resolving disputes through bilateral negotiations,” Ouyang said.

As of press time, Foreign Affairs Department spokesman Raul Hernandez has yet to comment on Beijing’s latest statement.

Ouyang’s statement came a month after the Philippines formally filed its case on the territorial dispute before the Arbitral Tribunal as provided in the United Nations Conventions on the Law of the Sea (Unclos).

DFA secretary Albert del Rosario had said that they decided to present its side before the Unclos after exhausting all diplomatic and political avenues to try to resolve the dispute with China for the last 18 years with no success.

He added that international arbitration was the best and most peaceful way to clarify the country’s ownership and sovereignty over the West Philippines Sea.

Ouyang, however, said that Manila’s decision to bring the dispute before international arbitration would only “further complicate” the situation and “hinder a peaceful solution”.

The DFA, though, stood firm in saying that the decision to bring the case before international arbitration was “final,” and arbitration proceedings would push through even without the participation of China.

Manila filed its case for international arbitration on January 22, and at the same time presented a statement of notification of claim to China and a note verbale to Chinese ambassador Ma Keqing, inviting Beijing to form its own panel for the arbitral tribunal.
Beijing, however, returned the notification and said that it would not participate in the arbitration on Tuesday, Feb. 26, with Ma personally handing Beijing’s message in a note verbale to DFA officials.

Tokyo, meanwhile, agreed that the issue on the South China Sea had become a shared interest not only for the Philippines and Japan, but also the entire international community.

Japan has its own territorial dispute with China over an island situated within the East China Sea, which the Japanese call as Senkkaku and called Diaoyu by the Chinese.

In a joint statement, representatives from both the Philippines and Japan said that “both sides shared the recognition that the issues in the South China Sea is a matter of great interests for the whole international community being directly related to regional peace and stability, and the issue should be settled peacefully in accordance with the relevant international laws such as the Unclos.”

PNoy firm on talks with Reds

From the Manila Standard Today (Feb 24): PNoy firm on talks with Reds

President Aquino expressed his strong resolve to move the peace process with the communist rebels following a meeting with Norwegian facilitators in Malacanang Friday.

The President received the members of the Royal Norwegian government as well as the team of facilitators in a courtesy call at the Palace, Deputy Presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said Saturday in a radio interview over government-run dzRB Radyo ng Bayan.

“The President spoke about his resolve to move the peace process forward. Alam naman natin na medyo naaantala ng kaunti ang peace talks with the (Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front),” Valte said.

“The facilitators expressed that they felt that now is a good time to move the peace process forward,” she added.

Government peace panel chair Alexander Padilla said in a forum this week that the public must “guard and support” the peace negotiations with the CPP-NPA-NDF.

Despite the challenges in the peace talks with the communists, Padilla said the government remains optimistic that a final negotiated political settlement will be completed and implemented during the term of President Aquino.

One of the contentious issues is the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) as the insurgents insist on the release of arrested communist party members who they claim work as “consultants.”

The NDF claims that these political prisoners arrested by government security forces are covered by the JASIG, but Padilla noted that despite predicaments the “government stands committed” to the peace talks.

Despite the hurdles, Padilla said he believed that “the parties will forge peace when time comes.” Both panels will come to an agreement because there is no other choice, he added.

Military drops Maestrale plan

From the Manila Standard Today (Feb 24): Military drops Maestrale plan

The military has dropped plans to buy Italian-made “Maestrale” frigates because studies showed that they will be more expensive to maintain compared to acquiring new ones, according to a ranking official of the Department of National Defense.

“The PN found out that it will be more expensive to maintain second hand vessel(s) than buying a new one,” said Defense Undersecretary Fernando Manalo, adding that the Maestrale was “no longer being evaluated” despite its missile and anti-submarine capabilities.

The military, Manalo said, was now looking at buying brand-new naval ships with the same configuration and five countries have expressed their intention to sell modern frigates and patrol vessels to the Philippines.

Manalo identified the countries as the United States, Israel, Croatia, South Korea and Australia,bujt he did not specify what vessels the defense establishment was considering.

Earlier, Manalo said the defense departyment has started the bidding process to acquire P979 million worth of coast watch equipment, including surface radar, which will be used in securing service contract areas of the Departmen of Energy.

Manalo declined to give details on the radar equipment, but said it will be used for command, control and communications and will function as “shipboard eyes.”

He said the bidding process will cover five lots with the first one involving the supply and delivery of coastal watch systems worth P866.060 million. The second will involve the supply and delivery of two rigid hull inflatable boats with integrated logistics support worth P63.159 million.

The third lot will be for the supply and delivery of firearms, accessories and ammunition amounting to P21.8 million and the fourth deals with the delivery of gas and oil platforms takedown equipment and gear worth P10.6 million. The last lot will be for night vision devices worth P6.3 million.

Manalo also announced the opening of the bidding process for P3.99-billion worth of petroleum, oil and lubricants.

This bid is under the general appropriation act and can be subdivided into six lots with the National Capital Region topping the list with its requirement of P1.03 billion followed by Luzon pegged at P801 million and Visayas with P269 million.

The military’s requirements in Mindanao will reach P1.04 billion while military aviation will reach P775 million. The remaining lot will be for the requiremen tof the DND amounting to P70 million.

The project is restricted to Filipino companies or corporations with at least 60 percent outstanding stock owned by Filipino citizens. Bidding will be on Feb. 26 at the conference room of the DND building in Camp Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

Grenade blast rocks Baguio's Panagbenga celebration, hurts 3

From InterAksyon (Feb 24): Grenade blast rocks Baguio's Panagbenga celebration, hurts 3

A grenade explosion rocked Baguio City early Sunday at the height of the celebration of the annual Panagbenga or flower festival.

Senior Inspector Virgilio Hidalgo, police spokesman, said the explosion occurred at the office of the Baguio City Volunteers Against Crime located at the basement of the Melvin Jones Grandstand in Burnham Park.

Unidentified suspects lobbed a grenade shortly before 7 a.m., wounding three.
In a radio interview, Chief Superintendent Benjamin Magalong, Cordillera police chief, identified the victims as Jenard Palomique, Joseph Espadz, and security guard Gilbert Salvador. Police said the three only suffered minor injuries.

The explosion occurred hours before the "grand float parade" of the Panagbenga Festival. Magalong said the office had received threats due to its anti-crime campaign.

Magalong assured tourists that the explosion would not hamper peaceful celebrations of the Panagbenga festival.

Ranking communist leader arrested in Benguet - police

From InterAksyon (Feb 24): Ranking communist leader arrested in Benguet - police

Authorities arrested a ranking communist leader in Benguet Saturday, police said.

The suspect was identified as Kennedy Bangibang, secretary of the Kilusang Larangan Gerilya (KLG), who has a P2.5 million reward for his arrest.

Chief Superintendent Generoso Cerbo Jr., Philippine National Police (PNP) spokesman, said Bangibang was arrested at the Bangao proper junction in Halsema Highway, Abatan, Benguet. The suspect has an arrest warrant for murder issued by Judge Marcelino Wakas of Kalinga.

The suspect is now under the custody of the Cordillera police.

CPP/NPA: NPA expresses gratitude for the successful operation

Posted to the CPP Website (Feb 22): NPA expresses gratitude for the successful operation

Alan Juanito
NPA North Central Mindanao Regional Operations Command (Jiito Tito Command)

With clenched fists, we wish to express our warmest gratitude to all the masses and friends who lent all-out support in the successful operation against Del Monte Phils. Inc. and Dole-Stanfilco last February 19, 2013. The success of the offensive actions showed most overwhelmingly the breadth and depth of the mass base we have attained so far for the intensification of our guerrilla warfare. We congratulate and salute the NPA commanders and Red fighters who carried out this operation painstakingly.

Amidst the synchronized attacks of different NPA units covering over 50-kilometer span, the surprised armed security guards, reactionary armed forces and police and their intelligence units were rendered deaf and blind.

On the other hand, we extend our sincerest apologies to the following:

First, to the motorists and passengers who were inconvenienced and to the owners of the spiked vehicles. The brief traffic obstructions in particular sections of the Cagayan De Oro – Malaybalay route was set up purposely by the operating NPA units to delay the reinforcements of AFP troops and the police and in order to avoid civilian getting caught in the crossfire should a firefight break out. We beg your consideration for the trouble.

Second, we are deeply sorry that a civilian, Mario Ayuban was wounded, who at the time of incident mingled with the Kadre security guards who were putting up a firefight. We will by all means make an effort to extend assistance for his medication.

We extend our condolences to the family of Alfredo Neri who died, as well as those of two other Kadre security guards of Del Monte who were wounded. As armed protectors of this oppressive and exploitative company, aside from their security agency’s counterrevolutionary orientation, they became legitimate targets in this operation. Armed confrontations should have been avoided had they peacefully surrendered their firearms. We call on other security guards to refrain from armed resistance in the event of NPA attacks to avoid similar occurrences in the future.

We wish to assure the public that in as far as the NPAs are concerned, the resumption of normal farming and business activities within the tourist destinations in Kitanglad National Park are now completely safe.

Once again, we extend our gratitude to the people for supporting the punitive action against the anti-people and environmentally-destructive companies of Del Monte and Dole. We must remain steadfast in our struggle to defend the environment and build a society where the working people will genuinely benefit from the fruits of their labor—not the exploitative and destructive foreign and local ruling classes.



CPP/NPA: Posted to the CPP Website (Feb 23): Massive military operations, a ploy to terrorize the people and influence the on-going FPIC process on renewable energy

Posted to the CPP Website (Feb 23):  Massive military operations, a ploy to terrorize the people and influence the on-going FPIC process on renewable energy

Magno Udyaw
NPA Mountain Province Provincial Operations Command (Leonardo Pacsi Command)

The Leonardo Pacsi Command of the NPA-MP strongly condemns the widespread military operations in the western towns of Mountain Province and supports the opposition of the people against plunderous and anti-development renewable energy projects under the guise of being “environmentally friendly” and “pro-people”.

From January 30 up to the second week of February, we have witnessed massive deployment of elements of the 54thIB in several barrios and mountains of Sagada, Besao, Tadian, Bauko and Bontoc. Inside the barrios, they encamped in public places such as the barangay clinic of Suyo, Sagada and even forcibly took over and stayed at people’s houses in Balili, Bontoc. They parked their military vehicles and trespassed on the school grounds of the elementary school in Kin-iway, Besao. They also occupied the workplaces of gardeners in Lake Danum at the boundary of Sagada and Besao and set up encampments all over the said agricultural area. The people of Sagada and Besao including those in other places in MP have complained that the mere presence of these soldiers in such public places and production areas are instilling fear and disturbing the peace and order and agricultural production of farmers and gardeners. As broadcast live over Radyo Sagada last February 6, 2013, the military arrogantly and in a sneering tone announced that 300 of their troops occupied Lake Danum, which prompted local executives and personalities to ask them to vacate the area because of the complaints of gardeners and the people of Sagada and Besao. The military, in token response, simply shifted to nearby areas only to return after a few days. Their maneuvers to enter and occupy positions inside the barrios were done under the cover of darkness to dissimulate troop movements. This further terrorized the people who were shocked to wake up to swarming troops and military vehicles in their barrio.

These wanton actions of the military are gross violations of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) signed by the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the National Democratic Front (NDFP). The said agreement prohibits armed troops from occupying public places and using these as barracks, depot and other military purposes. The same is stated by the UNICEF to protect children who are the victims when the military use schools and other public places. The military’s overbearing behavior shows that they do not obey laws, these be the international law on the conduct of war and the protection of children, the ordinances of the local government (LGU) or the traditional customs and regulations of indigenous peoples.

At present, Sagada and Besao are targets of two Renewable Energy (RE) projects owned by big corporations led by local bred executives. First is the Sagada-Besao wind farm, a wind mill project of PhilCarbon, Inc which will cover 624 hectares at the boundary of Sagada-Besao and will generate 15 MW of electricity through a series of 15 giant windmills. Engr. Rufino Bomas-ang of Besao is the chairman of the board of Phil Carbon, Inc. Second is the Layugan Mini-hydro project of the Bimaka Renewable Energy Development Corporation, Inc (BREDCO) in partnership with the Dutch firm, Royal HaskoningDHV, which will cover Barangays Tamboan, Laylaya and Catengngan of Besao . They plan to build a series of four mini-dams along the Layugan River also with an output of 15 megawatt (MW) electricity. Among the executives of BREDCO are Atty. Eston Pooten of Sagada and Engr Rufino Bomas-ang.

To circumvent the strong opposition of affected indigenous communities against projects that will destroy their land, life and resources such as large dams and large scale mining firms, foreign and local capitalists alike in connivance with the national government are repackaging RE projects in the form of mini-hydros, geothermal and wind-powered projects. These capitalists hardsell their projects and aim to deceive the people into accepting such projects by using tags such as “environment friendly”. Another part of their ploy is to use “kailians” to make these projects acceptable. This is the case of Engr. Rufino Bomas-ang, a former Assistant Secretary of the Department of Energy, who is an executive both in BREDCO and PhilCarbon and former Sagada Mayor Tom Killip who is also a former Presidential Assistant for Cordillera Affairs and who now represents PhilCarbon in the on-going Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) process in Sagada and Besao.

In the process, the people eventually lose control over their resources and still suffer damages to the environment and their livelihood due to the pillage, while the companies romp away super profits through imperialist schemes such as carbon trading and the feed-in-tariff (FIT). These mechanisms serve as cover-up for the responsibility of big capitalist countries whose industries have wreaked havoc on the environment which is now causing unprecedented calamities, ravaging the lives and livelihood of billions of people throughout the world. Through the proposed windmill project, PhilCarbon can earn as much as P6.9 million a year tax free through carbon trading and P1.1 billion a year through the FIT compared to the measly P5,133 a year share of each host community.

At the February 7 mass meeting at Langsayan ridge hosted by the NCIP and Tom Killip, the people from the different barangays of Besao clearly registered their strong opposition to the PhilCarbon windmill project. In the said meeting, the NCIP as expected clearly displayed its subservience to capitalist interest by forcing the people into accepting the PhilCarbon project.

It is not surprising that the ongoing military operations in West MP has coincided with the ongoing FPIC process on the windmill project of PhilCarbon in Sagada and Besao. A day before the meeting held at Langsayan, the 54th IB positioned its troops in the said area. This condemnable act clearly aims to intimidate and cow the people into submission. No doubt, true to its mandate and under the Aquino regime’s anti-people Oplan Bayanihan, the AFP-PNP and its paramilitary units continue to serve as “Investment Defense Forces” for foreign and local capitalists who plunder the natural resources of indigenous peoples and other Filipinos through projects such as mining, logging, wide agricultural plantations and now through these energy projects.
The people of the Cordillera have a glorious tradition of fighting against local and foreign plunderers and protecting their natural resources for the common good and the future of the next generations. In this regard, we have to continuously strengthen our ranks, remain vigilant and militant. We have to steadfastly fight the threats, intimidations and violence of the fascist military of the Aquino regime and continue defending and safeguarding our lands and natural resources that our ancestors and our people fought for with sweat and blood. The NPA supports this fight just as it has supported the anti-Chico dam struggle of the people and the anti-logging fight against Cellophil Resources Corporation in the 1980s.

Expose and oppose the widespread deception and violence of the Aquino regime, foreign and local capitalists and the AFP in implementing energy and other projects that plunder the ancestral lands and natural resources of the people!

Courageously fight Oplan Bayanihan and militarization!

Fight for genuine development through national industrialization and genuine land reform!

US, PHL to hold outreach

From the Visayan Daily Star (Feb23): US, PHL to hold outreach

The United States and Philippine governments will hold a humanitarian assistance mission, “Operation Pacific Angel”, that will start March 4 in Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental.

About 80 members of the U.S. military, the Armed Forces of the Philippines and local non-governmental organizations, led by the Oriental Negros Children’s Advocacy Network, will participate in the mission that ends on March 9 in five areas of the province.

The U.S. Embassy in Manila said in a press release that the outreach will include medical, dental, optometry and engineering programs and other subject-matter expert exchanges.

ONCAN head Marrietta Jambora yesterday said the activity will be held at the Lamberto Macias Sports and Cultural Complex, and mobile teams will be deployed to Pamplona, Amlan, Tanjay City and Dauin, Negros Oriental.

The Dumaguete City Tourism Office will provide nightly cultural presentations, and partner NGOs will set up booths at the Macias Sports Center.

The activity includes the repair of classrooms of the Tugawe Elementary School in Dauin, the Bio-os ES in Amlan and the Pamplona ES, and is in partnership with the provincial, city and town officials, she added.

The 6th outreach program will be led by the Pacific Air Forces. In last year’s operation, more than 8,500 residents of Bicol, Albay received medical, dental and optometry care services, and hundreds more benefited from the sessions on women's health, oral hygiene and water sanitation, the press release said.

Four additional Pacific Angel missions are scheduled for 2013 in the Asia Pacific region, the press release added.

'No need for UN intervention in Sabah'

From Rappler (Feb 23): 'No need for UN intervention in Sabah'

As the standoff in Sabah continues, Malacañang said Saturday, February 23, that the Moro National Liberation Front's proposal to send peacekeepers to Lahud Datu, where the followers of the Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram have been holed up for more than a week, is unnecessary.

Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said the situation on the ground indicates all parties are open to resolving the issue peacefully. 
"If you assess the situation on the ground right now, if you also look at all the statements of all the parties involved, on the part of the Philippine government, we've conveyed our preferring to have the situation resolved peacefully," deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said in a radio interview.
"And of course, Malaysian friends have also stated the same, so we share the same sentiment. Even the private individuals involved, the Kiram family, have also expressed their intention to have it resolved peacefully," Valte said.
The Kiram family is one of the heirs of the Sultan of Sulu, which ruled over many islands on the Sulu Sea including what was known then as Northern Borneo (Sabah).
Malacañang on Friday asked Malaysia to extend the deadline for Kiram's "royal army" to leave Sabah in a peaceful manner to Tuesday, February 26. The original deadline was Friday, February 22.
On Thursday, February 21, President Benigno Aquino III said there was a need "to have first a resolution to the current crisis and later on a long-term solution to this dispute." Aquino then explained that the government has been talking to all the concerns parties, including the family of the sultan, to "make sure this has a peaceful resolution."

Malaysia has not announced an official response to the request for an extension of the deadline for Kiram's group to leave.
The Malaysian government on Thursday, February 14, said its security forces surrounded about 80 to 100 Filipino gunmen in Sabah, which has a history of incursions by armed Filipino Islamic groups. The group was reportedly planning "create havoc" in the coming general elections in Malaysia.
Although Aquino has confirmed that the government is talking to the Kiram clan, the government has been careful about providing further details on current negotiations.
"Let's see what happens this weekend," Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office Secretary Ricky Carandang said Friday.
Malacañang also denied reports that former national security adviser Norberto Gonzales had gone to Sabah. Reports said Gonzales has been one of the instigators of the standoff.
Referring to Sabah, the provincial police quoted the armed group as saying, “This is our homeland, this is our place. No one can stop us from going there.”
Valte called on the public to stop speculating on the timing of the standoff.
"If it's wrong timing or suspicious, maybe we can set aside that issue first and focus on having a peaceful resolution on the situation in Sabah now," Valte said.

US willing to review Filipino veterans’ denied claims

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Feb 23): US willing to review Filipino veterans’ denied claims

The United States is open to a review of the rejected benefit claims of thousands of aging Filipino veterans who served with American forces during World War II, the chair of the US House committee on veterans’ affairs said on Friday.

Florida Rep. Jeff Miller, head of a congressional delegation that visited the Philippines this week, told the INQUIRER on Friday the US government was willing to take a second look at Filipino veterans’ claims that were denied by the US Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA).

In a meeting at the Department of Foreign Affairs on Thursday, Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario sought Miller’s support for a review of the rejected claims of around 24,385 Filipino veterans under the Filipino Veterans Equity Compensation (FVEC) Fund.

Miller said, however, that such a review was not a guarantee of a reconsideration, saying the US government was “very careful” about approving claims by Filipinos who served under the US flag over six decades ago.

“We understand there are other individuals who claim they have a right to compensation and I agree that every person should have the opportunity for a full and complete review,” he said.

“But we have to be careful that only those who earned the compensation get the compensation,” he added.

The lawmaker led a five-man US congressional delegation on a three-day visit to the Philippines this week.

Miller said “there is support” in the US Congress for such a review.

“…[B]ut that doesn’t guarantee that there’s going to be a change. There are widows, dependents who have applied, there have been some fraudulent claims that have been discovered,” he said, during a visit to the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial in Taguig City yesterday morning.

“Obviously those persons are not due the compensation. However, we want to make sure that every person that is due compensation receives it,” he said.

The FVEC is part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (Arra) that provides for compensation to Filipinos who fought on the American side during the second World War. Filipino veterans living in the Philippines are entitled to a one-time payment of $9,000 while those living in the United States are to receive $15,000.

The act requires veterans to have documents showing they were on both the Roster of Troops and the Discharge List of the US Army by the end of the war before they could receive the benefits.

Thousands of Filipino veterans received the compensation, while thousands more did not.

Some veterans have gone to court to press for compensation, saying their claims were rejected because the US did not accept Philippine records of their war service.

The veterans also challenged the US DVA’s requirement of documentation from a federal registry in St. Louis, Missouri, saying those records were destroyed in a fire.

Commission for claims review

The case is pending in the US Supreme Court to which the veterans elevated their appeal after it was struck down by a federal appeals court.

Miller said US President Barack Obama, during whose first term Arra was passed, had put together a commission for the claims review. The US Congress is also moving to straighten out the claims process by legislating what documents could be used to prove war service.

“There are several bills pending in Congress that will deal with the types of documents that can be allowed as proof of service,” Miller said.

US stays clear of Sabah row

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Feb 23): US stays clear of Sabah row

Despite the potential threat to the peace process in Mindanao it supports, the United States is staying away from the Sabah crisis, saying it is a problem that only the leaders of the Philippines and Malaysia can deal with.

Malacañang itself has refused to step in to break a standoff between Malaysian security forces and a group of armed followers of the sultan of Sulu in Tanduao village in the coastal town of Lahad Datu in Sabah.

The followers of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III crossed over to Sabah on Feb. 9 in what they called a journey back to their homeland.

Malaysian police, military and naval forces have encircled the armed group led by Agbimuddin Kiram, a brother of the sultan. The security forces are waiting for orders to flush out Kiram and his followers and bring them in for deportation proceedings.

Manila, KL should talk

Speaking to reporters here on Wednesday, US Ambassador to the Philippines Harry Thomas Jr. said Manila and Kuala Lumpur should settle the issue.

“This is something, which is between the Philippine government and the government of Malaysia,” he said, following the inauguration of a P13-million training center at the Philippine Public Safety College here.

Thomas said Washington believed that if the two governments would sit down and talk, the standoff could be resolved without bloodshed.

Manila and Kuala Lumpur have the ability “to work this out in a peaceful manner, according to international norms,” Thomas said.

Timing suspect

In Ozamiz City, Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) peace panel member Maulana Alonto said the timing of the Sabah “homecoming” of the so-called royal army of the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo was suspect.

“We are not questioning the validity of the Sulu sultan’s claim over Sabah. That is for the proper international bodies involved in mediation to determine,” he said, adding that the MILF’s concern was “the timing of the “invasion’’ of Sabah and the reason given for resorting to such an act by the people behind it.”

Former MILF spokesperson Eid Kabalu said he suspected the Sabah standoff was aimed at undermining the peace process and those behind it included Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) leader Nur Misuari, who had publicly admitted that he resented the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro signed by the government and the MILF.

Alonto said it was sad that Jamalul was using the peace deal as pretext for his foray into Sabah. The peace process is being brokered by the Malaysian government.

“Ruminating on these developments, past and present, we cannot help but ask, Why do Moros always allow themselves to be used as instruments by elements that are inherently inimical to their cause?” Alonto said.

Earlier, MILF deputy information chief Khaled Musa brushed off Kiram’s allegations saying the group had reached out to them and made known its position about the Sulu sultanate and any others like it.

“We want to preserve it but we will not revive it,” Musa said.

“The sultanate is part of Moro history and heritage and it is one of the bases of the present Moro’s assertion of its right to self-determination,” he added.

‘They’re Ready To Die’

From the Manila Bulletin (Feb 22): ‘They’re Ready To Die’

KIRAM SPEAKS – Sultan Jamalul Kiram III of the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo answers questions during a press conference at the Blue Mosque in Taguig City yesterday. (Bob Dungo)

KIRAM SPEAKS – Sultan Jamalul Kiram III of the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo answers questions during a press conference at the Blue Mosque in Taguig City yesterday. (Bob Dungo)

They came to Sabah in peace and will not start fighting. But they are ready to die for their cause.

Sultan Jamalul Kiram III of the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo stressed this when asked if his men will yield to pressures from Malaysia during a press conference at the Blue Mosque in Taguig yesterday.

He was asked by the Manila Bulletin on his “final, final, final stand” on Malaysia’s pressure to let his younger brother Rajah Muda Agbimuddin Kiram, the crown prince, to stand down and leave Lahad Datu, Sabah.

The crown prince and hundreds of his men, including members of the sultan’s royal security forces, occupied a village in Tanduao, Lahad Datu, more than 10 days ago.
Mounting pressures from the Malaysian and Philippine governments have not deterred the Moros from their stand to stay on in their “homeland.”

“My final, final, final stand, which does not only come from me, but from those who are there (Sabah), they said, do or die,” Kiram III said.

Sultan Bantilan Kiram, another younger brother of the sultan, echoed his sibling’s statements about the group’s determination not to withdraw.

Kiram III said his brother and his companions are in their homeland, so why should they leave.

He said that he made it clear to his followers who have guns to point them toward the ground to that they did not go there to provoke violence.

Sultan Bantilan Kiram said they are going to hold a consultation shortly with other members of ruling family to discuss more urgent matters regarding the issue.

Madam Hadja Celia Kiram III said the next step is to bring the Sulu sultanate’s Sabah claim to the international community – the United Nations or the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

Also in the press conference were Almarin Tillah, former governor of Tawi-Tawi and policy adviser of Sultan Esmail Kiram; Dr. Abdurahman Amin, who is with the convenors of the Friday consultation at the Blue Mosque.

Amin read the convenors’ three-page statement, saying the Muslim communities in Metro Manila, in Luzon, and in Mindanao were hurt by Malacañang’s stand on the Sabah standoff.

While the administration of President Benigno S. Aquino III “is too proud” of its good governance policy, it is “complacent to the sentiments of the constituency as if they are not part of the Philippines,” the convenors said.

They accused the administration of taking Malaysia’s side and made “wild allegations” about sabotaging the government negotiation with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

On the other hand, Madam Kiram III said the royal family is thankful to the President for forming a group to look deeply into the Sabah claim of the sultanate.

She confirmed that Aquino had already sent emissaries to the family to discuss the crisis.

The convenors’ statement also called attention to the administration for what they described as “chilling effect” on the Moro tribes living in Sabah, such as Tausug, Sama, Badjao, Yakan, and Mapun, who have become Malaysian citizens as well as those “economic” refugees on the island.

They called for restraint from the sultanate and Malaysia, saying the entire Muslim community in the Philippines are “deeply concerned.”

“We are calling for ‘direct dialogue’ between the opposing sides without prior conditions” to be held in a neutral ground.

They also urged the secretary general of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Indonesia’s Muhammadiyah, “to intervene peacefully and find a win-win solution that shall be sustainable.”

MNLF Seeks UN Help

As this developed, the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) appealed to the United Nations to send a peacekeeping force to Sabah to prevent bloodshed.

News reports had it that Malaysia had handed down a Feb. 22 deadline for the men of the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo to stand down and leave.

Malaysian security forces have also imposed a food embargo on the Moros from Mindanao, cutting off their food supply since Wednesday.

As the high-tension drama continues to unravel, MNLF Central Committee Chairman and founder Prof. Dr. Nur P. Misuari convened “over 2,000 (MNLF) leaders” from around the country at the “MNLF Leadership Meeting” last Feb. 21.

After the meeting the participants issued Resolutions Nos. 01, 02, 03.

Prof. Mashur Ghalib bin Jundam, who chairs the MNLF’s education committee, sent copies of the documents to the Manila Bulletin.

Jundam, a close ally of Misuari, said “Maas” (an endearing term meaning “Old Man” for Misuari) conducted the meeting to discuss and address issues and concerns facing the Bangsamoro people.

He said the first resolution is called “Resolution on the Sabah Stand-off between the Forces of the Sultanate of Sulu and the Malaysian Armed Forces.”

In the document, the MNLF leaders expressed a series of appeals to the United Nations, Malaysian government, and the Malaysian prime minister.

At the same time, the participants called on the Malaysian government to settle the Sabah “problem in a fraternal way” to prevent hostility and bloodshed.

Another appeal was also issued to Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak of Malaysia, asking him to deal with the problem calmly and insure full respect for the human rights.

Meanwhile, talks involving the heirs of the Sultanate of Sulu are now underway in hopes of putting a peaceful resolution to the ongoing standoff in the state of Borneo, Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary Albert del Rosario revealed.

The standoff is now on its second week after group of Filipinos claiming ties with the Royal Army of Sulu arrived in the town of Lahad Datu in Sabah (formerly Borneo) last February 12 to reclaim their ancestral territory.

Suspects In American’s Slay Freed

From the Manila Bulletin (Feb 22): Suspects In American’s Slay Freed

A Makati City court allowed yesterday four male suspects in the killing of George Anikow, an American serving in the US Marines, to post bail, citing that the evidence in the murder case filed against them is weak.

Judge Winlove Dumayas, Makati City Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 59 court, granted the petition for bail of all the accused –Juan Alfonzo Abastillas, 24; Crispin dela Paz, 28; Osric Cabrera, 27; and Galicano Datu III, 22.

Together with their families and counsels, the accused posted P300,000 each before the court at around 11:30 a.m. yesterday for their temporary liberty.

Lawyer Jaime Luy, clerk of court, said the court granted the petition for bail of the accused due to the insufficiency of evidence for the murder case filed against them.

MNLF Urges UN: Send Peacekeepers to Sabah

From the Manila Bulletin (Feb 22): MNLF Urges UN: Send Peacekeepers to Sabah

MISUARI: ‘Don’t harm our brothers in Sabah.’

MISUARI: ‘Don’t harm our brothers in Sabah'

Send peacekeeping forces to Sabah to prevent bloodshed.

This was the appeal to the United Nations (UN) aired on Friday by the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), a political organization of the Bangsamoro people in the southern Philippines which once took up arms against the government.

The appeal issued in Zamboanga City by the MNLF was in response to reports that the Malaysian government had handed down a February 22 deadline for followers of a Philippine sultan, some of whom are armed, to stand down and leave Lahad Datu in Sabah state.

Rajah Muda Agbimuddin Kiram, the crown prince of the Sultanate of Sulu in the Philippines, was adamant about leaving the place which he calls the ancestral territory of his people.

Malaysian security forces have surrounded the area where Kiram and his followers are holed up and imposed a food embargo on the Mindanao natives. Their food supply had been cut off since Wednesday.

As the high-tension drama continues to unravel, the MNLF Central Committee Chairman and founder Prof. Dr. Nur P. Misuari convened “over 2,000 (MNLF) leaders” from the Philippines at the “MNLF Leadership Meeting” last Thursday.
After the meeting, the participants issued Resolutions Nos. 01, 02, 03.

Prof. Mashur Ghalib bin Jundam, who chairs the MNLF’s education committee, sent copies of the documents to the Manila Bulletin.

Jundam, a close ally of Misuari, said “Maas” (an endearing term meaning “Old Man” for Misuari) conducted the meeting to discuss and address issues and concerns facing the Bangsamoro people.

He said the first resolution is called “Resolution on the Sabah Stand-off between the Forces of the Sultanate of Sulu and the Malaysian Armed Forces.”

In the document, the MNLF leaders expressed a series of appeals to the United Nations, Malaysian government, and the Malaysian prime minister.

They want the UN to dispatch a peacekeeping mission to the disputed island.

“We call on the U.N. to send its peace keeping force to Sabah so as to further avoid bloodshed between the Malaysian forces and those of the Sultanate of Sulu soldiers.”

They are referring to the hundreds of men of Sultan Hadji Jamalul Kiram III whom he sent nearly two weeks ago led by his younger brother, the rajah muda, on a journey home across the Sulu Sea to Lahad Datu.

Abraham J. Idjirani, spokesman of the sultan, said earlier that Kiram III issued a royal decree to the crown prince, and those who want to join in the journey to Sabah to assert “historical truth,” meaning the sultan of Sulu’s proprietary ownership over the oil-rich island.

Idjirani said the group went there on a peaceful mission and will only react if put on a defensive.

At the meeting, the MNLF leaders also rejected allegations that Misuari had a hand on Kiram III's decision to send his men to Sabah.

“The MNLF has nothing to do with the ongoing Sabah stand-off,” it said, because Misuari just came from the 8th Session of the Parliamentary Union of Islamic Cooperation (PUIC) in Khartoum, Sudan, on Jan. 21-22 and on Feb. 6-7 in Cairo, Egypt, for the 12th Session of the Islamic Summit Conference of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

At the same time, the participants of the leadership meeting held at “Maas Astanah” (Abode of Maas) called on the Malaysian government to settle the Sabah “problem in a fraternal way” to prevent hostility and bloodshed.

The MNLF, they said, is firm on its “peace advocacy as an antidote to war,” specially among members of the Islamic Ummah (world Muslim community).
Another appeal was also issued to Malaysia's leader.

“We would like to call on Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak of Malaysia to deal with the problem calmly and insure full respect for the human rights,” they added.
They offered the MNLF’s mediation in the Sabah dispute.

It is the leadership of the MNLF's “well-established policy” concerning “North Borneo (Sarawak), they re-affirmed, that the problem must be settled between the sultanate as the “rightful owner” and Malaysia “thru the MNLF as recognized by the OIC as the sole legitimate representative of the Bangsamoro people in Mindanao and its islands.”
In an exclusive interview with Misuari after the MNLF's meeting in Zamboanga City, he warned Malaysia not to harm “our brothers” in the Sabah standoff.

He appealed to the prime minister to settle the issue through peaceful means.
Just one drop of blood that maybe spilled by the group headed by the rajah muda, and MNLF will come in to help them, he said.

“I hope they will not harm them. They (Kiram's followers) are our brothers. If one drop of their blood is spilled, we might be forced to come to their aid,” the MNLF supremo said.

“Please don't touch them, give them a friendly and brotherly treatment,” Misuari appealed to the prime minister.

The Sabah standoff has come at a time when the peace process between the Manila government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is on its very crucial stage.
Both parties in the negotiation have been very upbeat recently that a final peace pact is very near, or towards the end of March.

MILF Chairman Al-Hajj Murad Ebrahim told Filipino students and overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in Cairo, Egypt, that only very few issues are still unresolved in the four annexes of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB).

FAB is the preliminary accord meant as a road map to a Bangsamoro new political entity (NPE) to replace and abolish the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

Ebrahim was in Cairo for the same OIC leader's summit that Misuari participated, the MNLF being an observer in the pan-Islamic body.

Government and MILF peace panels were scheduled to resume negotiation in Malaysia in the last week of February for the 36th Round of Formal Exploratory Talks.
They will attempt to resolve the remaining issues in power sharing, wealth sharing, modalities and arrangement, and normalization.

Although the issues are very few, nevertheless they form the “heart” of the negotiation, a source who did not want his name mention told the Manila Bulletin recently.
These issues, he said, include “internal waters” and taxation.

Malaysia, being a friendly neighbor of the Philippines and third-party facilitator since 2001 of the Mindanao peace process, the government headed by President Benigno S. Aquino III was put in a tight spot by the Sabah standoff.

One Moro observer said that resolving the Sabah ownership issue pushed to the front pages as a result of the “daring adventure” on the decision of Kiram III and his allies from the descendants of the sultan of Sulu has become a “damn if you do, damn if you don’t” situation.

It is not far from being caught between the “devil and the blue sea,” he said.

Abu Sayyaf Releases Filipino Grocer in Jolo

From the Manila Bulletin (Feb 22): Abu Sayyaf Releases Filipino Grocer in Jolo

The Philippine National Police (PNP) announced on Friday that the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), linked to al-Qaida militants, have released a Filipino hostage but there is no word on the fate of six other foreign captives of the group.

Sulu provincial police chief Antonio Freyra says grocery store owner Edgar Fabella was released by the Abu Sayyaf early Friday near the port on Jolo island.
Fabella was kidnapped last month in southern Zamboanga city.

Fabella said he wasn’t harmed by his captors and denied paying for his freedom.
“I have no money to pay a ransom,” he said before he was taken away by police who will take him back to Zamboanga, about 160 kilometers (100 miles) northeast of Jolo.

The militants are still holding a Jordanian journalist, a bird watcher each from Switzerland and Holland, a Malaysian, a Japanese treasure-hunter and an ex-soldier from Australia. They released two Filipinos who were working for the Jordanian early this month.

At least 22 combatants were killed when a Muslim rebel group that signed a peace accord with the government battled the militants early early this month in a bid to free the hostages.

SEA ROW | China reminds PH it signed a pact that aims to reduce tension in the region

From InterAksyon (FEb 22): SEA ROW | China reminds PH it signed a pact that aims to reduce tension in the region

China has again criticized the Philippines for issuing a statement that the arbitration process before the United Nations arbitration tribunal that it initiated to resolve the territorial dispute over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) would proceed despite China's rejection.

At a press conference in Bejing on Friday, China Foreign Ministry Hong Lei reminded the Philippines that it is among the “signatories to the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties” in the South China Sea.

The declaration is a non-binding agreement between China and members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations that hopes to reduce political tensions in the region as well as prohibits claimant-parties from aggressively acting on their claims.
“Both the Philippines and China are signatories to the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in South China Sea (DOC) and have made commitments on comprehensive and earnest implementation of the DOC,” Hong told the reporters in Beijing.

“We disapprove of the Philippine Foreign Ministry's practice of bringing international arbitration and have made clear our opposition stance,” Hong added.

Hong said China would only agree to resolve the dispute through a “dialogue framework” which he claimed was “supported by most countries in the region”.
While maintaining their supposed “dialogue framework", Hong said China would continue "to make efforts to maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea and unswervingly safeguard national sovereignty and interests."

The Philippines has been pushing to resolve the dispute either through the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea (Itlos) or an international body under the United Nation Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos).

But China rejected the action taken by the Philippines and insisted to solve the issue through bilateral means.

Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary Albert del Rosario said the Philippines had been engaging China in political and diplomatic dialogues for a peaceful negotiated settlement of its maritime dispute for the past 18 years, but with “no success”.

“In every occasion, China always asserts indisputable sovereignty over the entire South China Sea. We view that arbitration process as the most friendly , peaceful and durable option to clarify the maritime entitlements of coastal in states in the South China Sea,” Del Rosario said during an event hosted by the Manila Overseas Press Club Thursday night.

The DFA chief said the arbitration would ensure peace and stability and freedom of navigation in the region.

Despite China’s rejection, the Philippines is now forming its five-member panel for the arbitration and is set to submit a request to the president of Itlos to choose the remaining representatives.

The Philippines has hired Ruldiger Wolfrum, former Itlos president, to represent the country in the arbitration.

To give China the time to reply, the Philippines will have to wait for another 15 days before it submits a request to the Itlos president.

The Philippine government on January 22 officially brought its territorial dispute with China before the United Nations. It presented a Statement and Notification of Claim to China, as well as a note verbale to Chinese Ambassador to Manila Ma Keqing.
The presentation of the notification siganks the start of the arbitration proceedings.
Manila filed a case against Beijing under the compulsory proceedings provided by Annex VII of the Unclos.

Instead of filing the case before the Itlos, the Philippine government decided to invite China to form a court under the arbitral tribunal.

A tribunal will be composed of five members: the first two chosen by the parties concerned (the Philippines and China) and the three will be agreed upon by both countries.

Japan supports PH's move to resolve sea row with China before U.N. tribunal

From InterAksyon (Feb 23): Japan supports PH's move to resolve sea row with China before U.N. tribunal

Japan has thrown its support behind the Philippines' move to resolve its dispute with China over territiories in the West Philippine Sea through the United Nations arbitration tribunal, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).

The DFA on Friday said Japan had expressed its support through a delegation that went to the Philippines to discuss maritime cooperation between the two countries that would help boost Manila's capability in protectiing its territories.

“Both sides shared the recognition that the issues in the South China Sea is a matter of great interests for the whole international community being directly related to regional peace and stability, and the the issue should be settled peacefully in accordance with the relevant international laws such as the Unclos,” Japan and the Philippines' joint statement said.

The Philippine delegation is headed by Gilberto Asuque, DFA assistant secretary, as chairperson and Henry Bensurto, DFA special assistant, as co-chair.

The Japanese delegation is led by Kenji Kanasugi, deputy director-general for Southwest and Southeast Asian Affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The DFA said that during a closed-door meeting, Japan's representatives said the country had expressed its intention to continue supporting the Philippine Coast Guard's capacity-building.

It was earlier reported that Japan would grant the Philippines a $10-million soft loan for the purchase of 10 brand new multi-role response vessels that would be deployed to the West Philippine Sea.

Japan and the Philippines' joint statement, however, did not mention if the loan was discussed during the dialogue.

It said the delegations from the two countries exchanged views on programs and actions "to promote cooperation in the maritime field, particularly in maritime security, freedom of navigation and safety at sea."

"They also exchanged views on regional maritime issues and shared the best practices in efforts to combat piracy, especially on the maritime law enforcement capabilities of countries near piracy-prone areas," the statement added.

Regarding the issues on piracy and armed robbery in Asian countries and Somalia, the two countries agreed to further strengthen their efforts in addressing the said problems through the utilization of the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia and other frameworks.

Japan will also assist the Philippines in helping other countries near piracy-prone areas enforce maritime laws, the Japanese Embassy in Manila said.

Japan also has its own territorial dispute with China over islands in the East China Sea, which Japan calls Senkakus but referred to as Diaoyus by China.

DND chief says brigade level probe on military failure against NPA

From the Daily Tribune (Feb 23): DND chief says brigade level probe on military failure against NPA

Department of National Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin yesterday announced that a brigade-level investigation will be conducted to establish why the military failed to thwart the wide-scale atrocities launched by the communist New People’s Army (NPA) in Bukidnon Tuesday night.

“Right now, I asked the military to explain why these happened,” said Gazmin, referring to the simultaneous raids against the facilities of Del Monte Philippines and Dole Philippines in the towns of Manolo Fortich and Impasugong, respectively.
“In other words, we go back why these happened… were there reports that were ignored? Were there reports you acted upon? ...these things will come out in the investigation,” said Gazmin.

The defense chief said that the investigation will be up to brigade level.

Bukidnon is under the jurisdiction of the Army’s 403rd Brigade under Col. James Jacob, who could be relieved from his post if found remiss of his duty as commander.

On Tuesday night, around 100 NPA rebels simultaneously raided the Del Monte and Dole facilities, killing one security guard while two others were wounded.

The rebels also burned down three heavy equipment from Del Monte’s Camp Phillips.
The communists also set up two checkpoints along the highway in Sumilao and La Fortuna towns, divesting civilians of their valuables.

“Based on my experience, those (attacks) were well-planned,” said Gazmin, a former commanding general of the Army.

Initial reports said that the companies’ failure to give-in to the revolutionary taxation of the NPA as motive behind the attacks.

The communist group admitted responsibility over the attacks but maintained that they were meant to punish the companies for destruction of the environment.

The Defense secretary urged private businesses to coordinate closely with the military and the police whenever they receive such demand from the communist group. Gazmin cited the Joint Peace and Security Coordinating Center between the military and police as venue for such coordination.

“Most of those coming out are not paying revolutionary tax and they inform us after it happened but if they say that earlier, we can make action to prevent such from happening,” said Gazmin.

“If you don’t share information, how could you be helped,” added the Defense secretary.

Sulu sultanate part of the southern peace process, says MILF

From Business World (Feb 22): Sulu sultanate part of the southern peace process, says MILF

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on Friday said the peace negotiations are anchored on “people-centered agenda” and the Sulu sultanate should not feel it is not part of the process.
The MILF, which has been in peace talks with Philippine government, brokered by Malaysia, made the reaction on Friday amid the current standoff between the Malaysian forces and the armed followers of the Sulu sultanate involving Sabah land dispute.

In its weekly editorial, the MILF on its website said the talks have been inclusive and that all factors were considered and accommodated particularly the sentiments of the sultanates. “It is fully admitted that the role of the sultanates is well recorded in the niche of Moro history and we are always proud of it. Had they not withstood the invasions of colonizers, there would have been no Moros and Islam today in Mindanao,” the MILF said.
Since the negotiations started in 1997, the MILF said it laid down all issues on the table. “The core is to restore back to our people the right to govern themselves, which was deprived of them when the so-called Philippine Republic was established in 1946,” the MILF said.
The renewed claim was heightened when hundreds of armed followers of the Sulu sultanate sailed to Sabah and started to camp at Lahad Datu more than week ago. The group’s leaders asked the Malaysia government to give them back the authority over Sabah, which is now a Malaysian state, but used to part of the Sulu sultanate.

The descendants of Sultan of Sulu said they decided to reclaim Sabah after they were sidetracked in the negotiations between the government and the MILF. It was not even clear though if one of the demands of the sultanate is to put Sabah as part of the new semi-independent region in Mindanao under the framework agreement that was earlier signed by the government and the MILF.

The descendants of the Sultan of Sulu have refused to vacate the area amid appeals from the governments of the Philippines and Malaysia. The MILF said it recognizes the power once held by the sultanates in southern Philippines.

Both the government and the MILF are expected to sign a comprehensive agreement next month to formally start the transition process in creating the new Bangsamoro region.


The Philippine Navy has beefed up its cross-border patrols in the waters between Philippines and Malaysia to prevent movement of armed groups amid the standoff in Sabah involving Malaysian forces and armed followers of the Sulu sultanate.

“Appropriate numbers of our assets have been deployed in the waters of Tawi-Tawi (the country’s southernmost island province that borders Malaysia),” Lt. Cmdr. Gregory G. Fabic, Navy spokesperson, told BusinessWorld by phone on Friday.

In a separate interview, Captain Rafael G. Mariano, the deputy commander for fleet operation of the Naval Forces Western Mindanao Command, said the Navy has deployed at least eight vessels for visual monitoring. He said most of the vessels are patrols boats, and one transport boat.
“The transport boat was deployed just in case the tension in Sabah will defuse. It will be used to transport (our countrymen) back,” he told BusinessWorld. The Navy, he said, is doing round-the-clock cross-border patrol to prevent suspected armed followers of the Sulu sultanate from going to Sabah.

He said there are existing four navy vessels deployed in Tawi-Tawi when armed followers of the Sultan slipped through the borders on last week. Mr. Fabic said the augmentation of the Navy’s assets is in response to the government efforts to solve the crisis. Mr. Mariano said there has been coordination being made with their counterparts from the Malaysian Navy in securing the border.

The Sultan’s armed followers are now camping at Lahad Datu, a town in Tawau Division in Sabah, since last week. They refused to return to Sulu despite repeated appeals from the Philippine government.

Officials in Malacañang and the Foreign Affairs department have earlier made statements that the mission of the Sultan’s followers is not sanctioned by the Philippine government. Malaysian authorities have already sealed their areas to contain the movement of armed followers of the Sultan following a recent statement of Sulu Sultan Jamarul Kiram, III, that his followers were ordered not to vacate the area,-says-MILF&id=66285

DFA asks Malaysia to extend Sabah deadline to Tuesday

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 22): DFA asks Malaysia to extend Sabah deadline to Tuesday

The Dept. of Foreign Affairs Friday asked Malaysia to extend until Tuesday the deadline it gave to a group of armed Filipinos holed up in a village in Sabah to withdraw peacefully.

Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said he conveyed this to his Malaysian counterpart, Najib Razak, Friday morning. Manila is continuing efforts to persuade the followers of Sultan of Sulu Rajah Mudah Agbimuddin Kiram, engaged in a nearly two-week standoff with Malaysian forces, to leave Sabah without resistance.

“The (Malaysian) Foreign Minister will endorse our request for an extension of the deadline to Tuesday on the basis of work still in progress on urging Kiram family to lead the peaceful withdrawal of the group in Lahad Datu as early as possible. The Foreign Minister will revert on our request,” Del Rosario told reporters in a text message.

Sabah, south of Mindanao, is territorially disputed by the Philippines and Malaysia. A Philippine claim for sovereignty over island has laid dormant for decades, but Malaysia continues to pay a yearly rent to the heirs of Sultan of Sulu.

The group, reported to be around 200, crossed to Malaysian-controlled Sabah last week to reclaim their ancestral homeland. Malaysian forces surrounding them have given then until Friday to withdraw.

In a media forum Thursday night, Del Rosario said the Philippine government was informed by Malaysia that the Filipinos will be deported if they will refuse to leave Sabah. He said he was assured by the Malaysian government that they will not use force on the Filipinos.

Del Rosario, during the Manila Overseas Press Club forum in Alabang, said the Philippine government will continue pressing for an extension of deadline until the situation is resolved peacefully.

The Filipinos refused to leave until the Malaysian government heeds their demand to re-open talks on unresolved claim of the sultanate on Sabah.

Every year, hundreds of Filipinos enter Sabah illegally through Mindanao in search of a better life. Most of the undocumented Filipinos in Sabah hail from Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, and other far-flung provinces in the south that are among the Philippines’ poorest and constantly plagued by war.