Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Sabah Crisis: Bomoh power against bullets and bombs

From the Malaysia Chronicle (Mar 13): Sabah Crisis: Bomoh power against bullets and bombs

SABAH - They believed that the amulets they wore could improve their fighting capabilities on the field.

And it is this belief which made the militarily weak Suluk militants take on the full might of Malaysian security forces.

So far, 53 militants and eight police officers have been killed since armed Islamists from the Philippine province of Sulu landed on Borneo last month to resurrect long-dormant land claims of a self-proclaimed Philippine sultan.

Several bomohs (traditional medicine men) in Sabah, who had had dealings with the Suluk militants, said the latter were strong believers in mystical powers such as the ability to be invisible and impervious to harm, reported Malaysia's New Straits Times.

One bomoh said the Suluks often sought their services to renew their "powers".

When shown pictures of amulets on the bodies of dead militants as well as those displayed as items collected by security forces, the bomoh added that the gunmen believed that the items would help them defeat Malaysian forces.

Some of the items used to make these amulets included the bones of black cats. Sources on the ground told NST that they saw such bones tied to the bodies of dead militants.

Some were given amulets by their leaders, who promised that for as long as the items remained on them, the Malaysian authorities would not detect them and they would not be injured when shot.

It was with this belief that they appeared fearless when taking on Malaysian forces, two bomohs of Suluk descent said on Saturday.

'Divine' strength

"It is also highly likely that they were on syabu (or methamphetamine) as they needed a 'divine' strength to keep them going. " one of them said.

He added that the militants would also tie newly shed snake skin to their waist, an act which they think would make them invisible.

Meanwhile, Malaysia's Defence Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said the Suluk intruders should be tried according to Malaysian laws for killing eight policemen.

"We will ensure that no Filipino terrorist escape from our dragnet, and we want them dead or arrested," he said.

Mr Zahid did not rule out that the militants were under the influence of drugs or used black magic, reported Malaysia's The Star.

He added, referring to the mutilation of some of the Malaysian policemen's bodies: "Under the laws of war,security forces cannot mutilate bodies by actions such as ripping off eyes, chopping off heads or cutting up bodies.

"What the militants did was unacceptable to Malaysia, as these acts showed that they have no mercy," he said, adding that the armed forces would leave it to the police to take appropriate action against captured militants.


Kiram camp insists 'general' still alive in Sabah

From GMA News (Mar 13): Kiram camp insists 'general' still alive in Sabah

The camp of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III on Tuesday belied Malaysian officials' claim that a "general" of its armed group in Sabah had been killed in Malaysian operations there.

Sultanate spokesman Abraham Idjirani claimed their last conversation with the sultan's brother Raja Muda Azzimudie Kiram showed Haji Musa is still alive, radio dzBB reported.

Musa was a "general" of the Kiram followers. Sabah police commissioner Datuk Hamza Taib was quoted in a report of The Star Online as saying Musa's body was recovered from the site of the Malaysians' offensives.

On the other hand, Idjirani was quoted in Tuesday night's dzBB report as saying no member of Azzimudie's group had been arrested Tuesday.

Malaysian forces have been hunting down Kiram's followers since a series of deadly clashes starting March 1. The Malaysian offensive started March 5.

While Kiram had offered a unilateral ceasefire, Malaysia has rejected it and continues to demand his followers' surrender without conditions.

2 Soldiers, 3 gunmen killed in Malaysia's Borneo standoff

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 13): 2 Soldiers, 3 gunmen killed in Malaysia's Borneo standoff

A Malaysian soldier and three gunmen were killed in fresh gunfights while another soldier died in a road accident Tuesday, raising the death toll to 68 in a month-long standoff with the Sulu militants in Malaysia 's Sabah state.

Armed forces chief Zulkifeli Mohd Zin said the three gunmen, who were in a group of five militants, were killed near the coastal Tanjung Batu village Tuesday morning.

The fresh casualties came after police declared they had retaken one of the villages occupied by the militants.

Sabah police chief Hamza Taib said a soldier was killed after his vehicle crashed when transporting supplies to the conflict zone.

Police also captured six Sulu terrorist suspects in a raid following and one of them was a high-risk criminal on the wanted list.

More gunmen are believed to have been killed as security forces continued house-by-house search in two villages, including Tanjung Batu, to flush out the militants who showed no signs of surrender.

Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin made a morale-boosting visit to the troops in Sabah Tuesday.

A group of more than 180 militants arrived in the east coastal town of Lahad Datu in Sabah from southern Philippines on Feb. 9 to claim territorial rights to the land.

They claimed to be followers of a defunct Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III, who demanded Sabah be returned to his sultanate.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak told a TV talk show late Tuesday that both Kuala Lumpur and Manila are looking into the claims that the intrusion may be intrigued by unknown group.

Najib said he was told by Philippine President Benigno S. Aquino III that the gunmen might be externally funded. "But we will need concrete evidence before pointing finger at anyone."

Civilians who fled Sabah said many villagers trapped in the standoff need food and medical treatment.

The Malaysian troops have been battling with the Philippine militants since March 1 in an intense standoff that left 68 dead, including eight policemen and a soldier.

Malaysia launched an all-out raid code names "Sovereign Operation" that included airstrikes and ground assaults on several areas Tuesday to wipe out the militants.

Thousands of Filipinos have also fled Sabah for their home country since the violence broke out.


Investors’ social responsibility projects crucial vs. insurgency – Bukidnon Army chief

From MindaNews (Mar 11): Investors’ social responsibility projects crucial vs. insurgency – Bukidnon Army chief

There is a need to harness the corporate social responsibility projects among investors as part of the effort to combat insurgency in Bukidnon, the military said.

Col. Francisco Pabayo, commanding officer of the Malaybalay-based 403rd Infantry Brigade, was summoned by the Sangguniang Panlalawigan Monday to give updates on the attacks of the New People’s Army on properties of Del Monte and Dole on February 19 and the Army’s pursuit operations.

He said in his PowerPoint presentation that the investors’ CSR projects need reassessment and subsequent consultation with the investors.

Pabayo said that the CSR projects need to be tied up with the entire community as these should be able to help address the issues identified in the locality. He added that the projects should cater to the needs of the community, identifying aspects such as education, health, environment, social services, and livelihood.

He identified the other stakeholders as the local government units, civil society organizations, investors and planters, and the members of the community.
Jorge Madlos, National Democratic Front-Mindanao spokesperson, in a statement hours after the attack, blamed Del Monte for allegedly destroying the environment and contributing to the damage wrought by tropical storm Sendong.

Pabayo, however, related the attacks to the rebels’ collection of revolutionary taxes. He said, too, that the attacks do not mean that Del Monte’s CSR projects did not go to the right places and recipients.

The military and the rest of the security sector alone, he said, cannot address the problem of insurgency. He presented the so-called Integrated Security Plan Framework, which looks at the army and the police as only a part of whole gamut of stakeholders supporting each other.

Pabayo admitted that the military also had lapses in the incident. He added that there is a need for possible realignment of forces, citing that previously the 403IB had three battalions. Now it only has two.

“We would appreciate if there is realignment, but we respect the decision at the top,” he added.
He said there is a need to allay the fears of both companies and communities through security augmentation.

Among the things they have done after the attack, Pabayo said, was to hold a meeting on February 24 with the military and police along with security officers of the different planters and agricultural plantations.

Asked by board member Nemesio Beltran Jr. if the government is losing the war against the rebels, Pabayo said that in the armed component, the military is better off.

“But this is only one aspect. There is also the legal front,” he added. Pabayo cited that because the government’s security forces follow the law, they are sort of constrained.

He described the insurgency problem as a political war, which needs interventions from the political front.

Board member Jay Albarece, who chairs the committee on peace and order, pointed out that the NPA may be the oldest insurgency in the country but its forces are getting younger. He also rated the performance of the intelligence community in the province as “poor” during the time of the attack.

Pabayo preferred to rate “average,” noting that government security forces cannot be at all places at the same time.

He admitted that the insurgency situation in the province is a primary concern “but not alarming,” calling the attack a sample of the rebels’ attention seeking strategies.

Beltran backed Albarece’s call for the Provincial Peace and Order Council to convene, saying it will be the proper body to convene and address the problem.


Kiram declares jihad against Malaysia

From the Zamboanga Today (Mar 12): Kiram declares jihad against Malaysia

‘Sulu Sultan’ Jamalul Kiram III declared that his fight against Malaysia is a jihad.

But instead of meeting with his generals for attacks or reinforcements, Kiram meets with legal volunteers that could help him press proprietary rights over Sabah in his Taguig home.

“(The end to this conflict) depends (but) we always submit ourselves to the almighty Allah. So meaning, it’s some sort of jihad,” Kiram told Yahoo! Southeast Asia.

But Kiram’s brother-in-law, Abrahan Idrijani, quickly interjected, clarifying the Sulu sultanate is referring to a “legal battle” in insisting their claim of ownership over Sabah.

Idrijani, who also serves as the sultanate’s secretary-general, explained the Kiram clan has chosen a jihad in the form of “fighting for the right.

“There are many forms of jihad. This jihad is in the form of fighting the (legal) right. This is not to wage a war,” Idrijani emphasized.

“The sultanate is now undertaking a jihad for fighting the (legal) right over the territory of Sabah,” he reiterated on behalf of Kiram.

On Friday evening, Kiram met international law expert Marwil Llasos, who helped write a book entitled “The Philippine Claims over a portion of North Borneo: Documents, Materials, and Cases” in 2003.

The book, which collated documents and legal arguments supporting the country’s claim over Sabah, has been among the documents Kiram showed Yahoo! Southeast Asia in an interview on Friday evening.

The Sulu leaders welcomed Llasos’ move to help them elevate their claim to international audience after President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III’s strong reservation on the issue.

“We just finished writing another letter informing the United Nations that Malaysia is not complying with their call to peacefully end violence in Sabah,” Kiram said.

“We want them to investigate this genocide. I don’t know why they do not want a ceasefire. It’s very un-Islamic,” he added.

Kiram said the timing came perfectly as they are contemplating of filing violations of humanitarian law cases against Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak before the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Idrijani said the Malaysian leader should be held liable for using the “policy of genocide” to drive away Tausug people from Sabah to benefit his political interest at the expense of civilian lives in Sabah.

“We know very well that last night was the last day of tenure of the Prime Minister of Malaysia. That’s why he ordered massive attacks because he wants to gain credit,” Idrijani said.

The Malaysian prime minister is running a very close race for re-election against opposition party Pakatan Rakyat, which is led by Anwar Ibrahim.

Ibrahim has also been linked to plots to derail peace talks between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Kiram’s second wife, Celia, claimed the Malaysian officials chose to ignore UN secretary-general Ban Ki Moon’s call to peacefully end Sabah stand off to postpone the elections.

“He ordered the attack so there will be no election,” she said.

Llasos, who also specializes in humanitarian law, explains Malaysia’s defiance against UN’s call for peace practically tags them as an “international outlaw.”

“In effect, Malaysia is an international outlaw because it is not following the UN call for sobriety. In the eyes of the international community, that is a violation of Geneva convention,” he explained.

The royal family of Kiram also met with representatives of the Sabah Claim Society, which offered to sponsor Kiram’s transportation and accommodation to Europe.

The five-year old group vows to financially support Kiram and some members of his family to “socially meet” with international politicians and audience in Europe to further their claim over Sabah.

Kiram, who has been undergoing dialysis for one year and three months, also expressed openness to negotiate with Malaysia in a neutral country like Singapore, Brunei , or Hong Kong.

He vows to fight for their right in Sabah until he draws his last breath.

NPA launches 10 coordinated attacks in Bicol

From the Manila Standard Today (Mar 12): NPA launches 10 coordinated attacks in Bicol

THE New People’s Army (NPA) launched 10 coordinated attacks in three provinces in Bicol on March 10 and 11, hitting detachments manned by soldiers and paramilitary men.
In a report, National Democratic Front-Bicol (NDF-Bicol) spokesman Greg Banares said the attacks were staged in response to the “public clamor” to punish the soldiers undertaking the so-called peace and development efforts under Oplan Bayanihan (OPB) for committing human-rights violations, murdering and threatening people suspected of supporting the NPA and the revolutionary movement, and for ruining the people’s livelihood. The attacks, Banares said, affected elements of the 9th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army.
“The Red fighters of the NPA-Celso Minguez Command in Sorsogon attacked simultaneously at 10 p.m. on March 10 the detachments of the 22nd Infantry Battalion [IB] and the 31st IB in the province,” he said.
Among the detachments of the 22nd IB-Cafgu hit were those in barangays Casay, Casiguran; Purog, Bulusan; Baligang, Gubat; San Roque, Bacon; and a detachment guarding a Globe cell site in Banwang Daan, Matnog.
The detachments of the 31st IB attacked were those in Sitio Bungsaran, Barangay Rizal, Gubat; and another one in Barangay Rizal, Casiguran.
“The NPA-Santos Binamira Command in Albay also nearly simultaneously attacked two detachments of the 22nd IB in the province, with the detachment of the 22nd IB-Cafgu in Barangay Palanog, Camalig, being hit at 10 p.m. on March 10 and another detachment in Barangay Villa Petrona, Libon, being attacked at 11 p.m.,” Banares said.
Guerrillas of the NPA-Eduardo Olbara Command in Camarines Sur also assaulted a “peace and development team” of the 42nd IB in Barangay Sooc, Bato, at noon on March 11.
“All these actions were in response to the people’s demand for the NPA to punish the abusive troops of the 9th ID, who have a long bloody record of human-rights abuses, including the illegal arrest, search and seizures, abduction, torture, murder, harassment and threats, and the destruction of the people’s livelihood,” Banares said.
He said that on February 25, thousands of people in Camarines Sur, Albay and Sorsogon marched to expose and oppose the brutality of the OPB, which they demanded to be dismantled.
“The protesters converged in Bato, Camarines Sur; in Guinobatan, Albay; and in Barcelona, Sorsogon, to demand the ouster of soldiers undertaking ‘peace and development activities’ in their communities, an end to OPB and justice for the victims of human-rights abuses,” Banares said.

DND draws up bidding documents for purchase of new frigates

From the Manila Standard Today (Mar 12): DND draws up bidding documents for purchase of new frigates

THE Department of National Defense (DND) is now drawing up the necessary papers as it chose the public bidding option for the purchase of brand-new frigates.
This was confirmed by DND Spokesman Peter Paul Ruben G. Galvez. “I believe the office handling the acquisition is finalizing the papers for public bidding.”
Galvez, acting chief of staff of Defense Secretary Voltaire T. Gazmin, spoke to the BusinessMirror after Philippine Navy (PN) spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Gregory Fabic confirmed news reports that the Philippine Navy is seeking to acquire two brand-new frigates.
“It makes sense for the Philippine Navy, for us, for the government to settle for something new,” Galvez said, adding that the first option of buying second-hand frigates on a government-to-government method would be costly in the long run.
“It’s like buying a car that you would need to spend an additional more to overhaul.”
Galvez said while the government-to-government method is also effective, “it’s different this time.”
“We believe that if we invest that amount to be spent for an upgrade, rather than spend it for an overhaul, it would even be beneficial to the country,” he said.
Initially, the bid amount was pegged at P11.7 billion.

Sultanates Still Esteemed In Mindanao

From the Manila Bulletin (Mar 12): Sultanates Still Esteemed In Mindanao

The traditional respect for sultans and datus continues among Moros from Basilan to Tawi-Tawi many years after the Philippine Constitution stopped to officially recognize them as royalty.

In fact, there are sultans in the Lanao Region “who enjoy more respect from the people than the political leaders,” said Atty. Bayan Balt, president of the Marawi City and Lanao del Sur Chapter of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP).

The problem with the sultanate is that it was “destroyed by the Philippine Constitution” when its framers prohibited the granting of royal titles.

“Our political institutions such as the sultanate should be revived and recognized by the government,” said Balt. “It is only in the Philippines that the sultanate is not recognized but in other countries it is.”

The Sultanate of Sulu has been all over the news over the Sabah stand-off that appears to have ended in a bloody massacre.

But there are other “reigning sultans” in the Lanao region and Maguindanao.

The Maranaws (People of the Lake) have the “16 Royal Houses, Sultanate of Lanao Region.” It is chaired by Sultan Buzar of Masiu, Topaan D. Disomimba.

The Maguindanaons have three main sultanates: the Sultanate of Maguindanao under Sultan Datu Guiwan Mastura, a descendant of Sultan Kudarat; the Sultanate of Rajah Buayan led by Sultan Datu Pax Mangudadatu, and Sultanate of Kabuntalan headed by Sultan Pinandatu M’luk Uko.

While the Sulu sultanate have a highly contentious, and public, dispute over Sabah (formerly North Borneo), sultanates in the Lanao Region and Maguindanao have been low-key and do not have much of a tug-of-war on who should be the sultans.

Many descendants of the Sulu sultanate have come forward presenting themselves as the “real” sultan.

Among the many claimants to the Sulu throne is one who calls himself “Sultan Muedzul-Lail Tan Kiram of Sulu, 35th Sultan of Sulu” in his own website.

He is a son of the late Sultan Mahakuttah Kiram, the 34th to reign.

According to Sultan Muedzul-Lail Tan Kiram’s website, his father was the “last recognized Sultan of Sulu” by the Philippine government through Presidential Memorandum Order 427 issued in 1974.”

On the Sabah standoff, Tan Kiram urged his uncle, Sultan Jamalul Kiram III and Malaysia “to put end to the violence in Sabah and encouraging dialogue for a peaceful resolution of the situation.”

He said he was sad to hear that Malaysia had tagged as “terrorists” the forces of his uncle in Sabah.
Tan Kiram offered himself as an “independent negotiator,” saying he was in contact with the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).

Meanwhile, the sultanate under Kiram III recognizes the rights of other heirs to the Sulu throne, but they are far from the line of succession.

Kiram III’s spokesman, Abraham J. Idjirani, made this clear, saying that at present Kiram III is the sultan.


Guardian Superstructure Removed, Engine Next

From the Manila Bulletin (Mar 12): Guardian Superstructure Removed, Engine Next

In this Feb. 25, 2013 photo released by Philippine Coast Guard, salvaging operation is underway on the USS Guardian, a US Navy minesweeper, left, by the Jascon-25 salvaging crane ship from Singapore in Sulu Seas, southwestern Philippines. The USS Guardian is still stuck after running aground Tubbataha Reefs, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. (AP Photo/Philippine Coast Guard)

Amid the good weather conditions, salvage teams are eyeing to remove the engines of the USS Guardian stuck on the Tubbataha Reef this week after have dismantled the funnel, mast, and bridge deck section.

“Salvors will work on the removal of the engines within the week,” said Coast Guard Palawan District commander Commodore Enrico Efren Evangelista.

As of Monday morning, salvors continued without a hitch the cutting into sections of the minesweeper.

“The pipes from the funnel base as well as the debris were removed,” Evangelista said.

“The entire superstructure of the USS Guardian has been removed. This is the upper part of the ship,” Evangelista said.

He said a container van loaded with debris was transferred to S-7000 barge via M/Tug Archon Tide.

Salvage personnel hired by the U.S government have been working toward the dismantling the ship which ran aground last Jan. 17. It was estimated that about 4,000 square meters of the corals has been damaged.

Task Force Tubbataha is closely monitoring the progress of the salvage work and is ready to prevent any attempts to enter the “exclusive safety zone” at the Tubbataha Reef.

Evangelista said the unauthorized presence of individuals or other vessels at the site could bring more harm than good to the salvaging operations of the 68-meter ship and even to the corals and marine life at the reef.


Napolcom OKs creation of 2 more SAF battalions

From the Philippine Star (Mar 12): Napolcom OKs creation of 2 more SAF battalions

The National Police Commission (Napolcom) on Tuesday approved the creation of two additional Special Action Battalions (SABs) under the Special Action Force (SAF) of the Philippine National Police (PNP).

Napolcom Vice-Chairman and Executive Officer Eduardo Escueta said that the Commission approved the request of the PNP for the strengthening of the SAF’s SABs with the activation of the two new SABs. With the new SABs, the SAF now has seven SABs.

“After a review of the PNP’s proposal, the Commission approved the creation of two additional SABs to further enhance the operational capability and efficiency of the PNP SAF in order to effectively implement its mandate to support the Armed Forces of the Philippines and other PNP units in its active role on internal security operations,” Escueta said.

According to Escueta, a SAB is tasked to conduct long-range reconnaissance and surveillance operations deep into enemy territories through infiltration and extrication by air, land and sea.

SABs are also responsible for the conduct of internal security operations against dissident terrorists and anti-criminality operations in priority areas.

SABs are likewise ordered to provide support to other PNP units in their efforts to fight against syndicated crime groups.

Escueta said a copy of the Napolcom resolution approving the creation of the two new SABs has been submitted to the Office of the President and the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to serve as basis for the provision of supplemental budget for recruitment, training, operations and equipage of the SAF.


Six navy men in Pestaño case surrender

From the Philippine Star (mar 12): Six navy men in Pestaño case surrender

Six Navy personnel tagged in the Pestaño case surrendered on Tuesday to the Navy to face the charges against them.
The Navy personnel surrendered after the Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 55 issued a warrant of arrest against them.

Ana Luz Cristal, lawyer of the Navy personnel, said the warrant was issued last January but was served to her clients Monday night.

The six soldiers will be placed under the custody of the Navy Provost Martial.

The six Navy men who surrendered are Commander Reynaldo Lopez, Lt. Commander Luidegar Casis, Lt. Commander Alfrederick Alba, and Lt. Commander Joselito Colico; and enlisted personnel Machinery Repairman 2nd Class Sandy Miranda and Hospitalman 2nd Class Welmenio Aquino. They are still in active service.

Cristal said they would also file a motion that would allow the Navy to take custody of the retired soldiers implicated in the case. She said the surrender was not a sign of guilt.

“We will just follow the process,” Cristal said in Filipino.

In 1995, Navy Ensign Philip Pestaño was found dead in his cabin with a pistol and a letter saying that he committed suicide. Pestaño was a deck officer and cargo officer of BRP Bacolod City.

His death came after he allegedly discovered that the cargo loaded in the ship were illegally cut logs and about 50 sacks of shabu passed off as flour. He allegedly refused to approve the cargo despite the orders of his superiors.

The Office of the Ombudsman has found probable cause to indict ten Navy men for murder.

Four of the 10 respondents have retired from the service namely retired Navy Capt. Ricardo Ordonez, retired Lt. Commander Ruben Roque, Petty Officer 1st Class Cartlito Amoroso and retired Petty Officer 2nd Class Mil Igcasan Leonor.

The 10 respondents, however, maintained that Pestaño took his own life. They claimed that some Navy officials did not inform investigators about Pestaño’s suicidal tendency.

The respondents said Pestaño had slashed his wrist 17 days before he shot himself to death. They claimed that the Navy Ensign ended his life because of problems in his love life.


8,000 US, Phl troops to join Balikatan

From the Philippine Star (Mar 12): 8,000 US, Phl troops to join Balikatan

About 8,000 Filipino and American soldiers will participate in this year’s Balikatan exercise to be held from April 5 to 17.

Balikatan 2013, the 29th of its series, will also involve representatives from other allies in the region.

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesman Col. Arnulfo Burgos Jr. said the exercise would strengthen the ties between the Philippines and the US.

“The exercise is designed to enhance the AFP and the US Military in capability development in the conduct of both traditional military training and civil military projects focusing on reaching out towards communities that need priority,” Burgos said.

“The end goal of these exercises is to further promote and foster the existing friendship between the people of the Philippines and the United States and advance the security and stability of the region in the near future,” he added.

Exercises will be held in Camp O’Donnell and Crow Valley in Tarlac, Subic Bay, and Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija to improve the troops’ interoperability and contingency planning.

One of the highlights of the activity is the multinational maritime table-top exercise to be held in Camp Aguinaldo.

The table-top exercise aims to map out humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations in high-traffic international waters. It also seeks to build confidence among the Philippines, the US and their partner nations.

Balikatan participants will also conduct humanitarian assistance projects in Zambales, the province where the disputed Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal is located.

China is also claiming ownership over the territory.

The Philippines has protested the intrusion by China, which insisted that it has undisputable sovereignty in the area.

The humanitarian assistance projects would involve infrastructure projects, medical and dental mission and veterinary care.

Balikatan literally means "shoulder-to-shoulder" and reflects the objective of the US and the Philippines to strengthen their relationship.


NPA Flays Military Out-of-Tune Psywar Ops

From the Negros Daily Bulletin (Mar 12): NPA Flays Military Out-of-Tune Psywar Ops

The New People’s Army (NPA), specifically the Roselyn Pelle Command in Northern Negros through its spokesperson with the nom de guerre Ka Cecil Estrella, has tagged a ranking officer of the 3rd Infantry Division, as once more singing an out-of-tune song by debunking various victories, achieved by the guerilla army in its various tactical offensives lately.
Among the issues mentioned by Ka Cecil Estrella which the military has debunked by resorting to outright lies and the usual psychological warfare are the Roselyn Pelle Command, Northern Negros, offensives against the Regional Public Safety Battalion Detachment in Libertad Village, Escalante City, on February 25, 2013, the continuing supposed "infighting" within the NPA, deaths, guerillas going AWOL, wounded, demoralized and internal strives. In addition, there is the so-called Oplan Hilamon concocted by army commanders and by Major Gen. Jose Mabanta, 3rd ID Commanding Officer, said Ka Cecil.
All of these are but psychological warfare tactics and are in fact, lies, she said.
The military officialdom have also resorted to their total denial policy as in the recent La Castellana encounter with the denial bordering on their denying that they allowed villagers, all civilians to ride in vehicles utilized by armed components of the military which should be a no-no in theaters of war.
They allowed civilians to take vehicles, the military and the counter-insurgency BPAT elements also took, intending to use these as propaganda and creating of civilians as collateral damage.
The NPAs’ acceptance of the civilian casualties as a result of the military’s act of letting civilians take military transport is in fact proof that they are real soldiers of the people, who are not afraid of accepting responsibility in the process of war and fighting.
The guerillas have also tightly grasped the lesson of this La Castellana incident, and hope this will not happen anew, Ka Cecil said.
On the other hand, the military has always adopted its "total denial policy." All these are positions and ideas the military can adopt especially in uncountable human rights violations and violations of international humanitarian laws it has committed through the years.
The Roselyn Pelle Command (RPC) said Ka Cecil is, therefore, calling on civilians to heed appeals not to ride in trucks and vehicles owned by the military. This is so that their lives could not be endangered, she added

Military rules in Bicol region

From the pro-CPP online publication Bulatlat posted to the pro-CPP Bicol Today (Mar 12): Military rules in Bicol region

Newly installed 903rd Deputy Brigade Commander Col. Samuel Felipe. The 903rd Infantry Brigade based in Poblacion, Castilla, Sorsogon. Photo courtesy of PIA

Newly installed 903rd Deputy Brigade Commander Col. Samuel Felipe. The 903rd Infantry Brigade based in Poblacion, Castilla, Sorsogon. Photo courtesy of PIA
GUINOBATAN, Albay – Before Felix Paz, 81, became a peasant leader in the Bicol region, he was a farmer himself. Having his own share of hard work in the fields during his days as a farmer, Paz told Bulatlat.com, life is harder for farmers now because – they do not just worry about making a living. Their rights are violated by no less than the government itself.
Paz was among the supporters of farmers from communities in Guinobatan, Albay who held a protest action last Feb. 25. Though it coincided with the commemoration of the first EDSA uprising in 1986, their protest was far from celebrating the supposed restoration of democracy in the country.
Peasants from Bicol region held simultaneous protest actions in Guinobatan, Albay, Bato, Camarines Sur and in Barcelona, Sorsogon against the continuing militarization in their respective communities.
“We are united in fighting for our basic rights,” Vince Casilihan of Karaptan – Bicol, said.
Signing at military’s logbooks
Karapatan-Bicol said the Aquino government tried to sugarcoat Oplan Bayanihan by calling soldiers conducting military operations as “Community Peace and Development Teams.” But in reality, they said, violence lies beneath the military’s relief and disaster response and supposed campaigns on human rights.
Under President Aquino’s Oplan Bayanihan, a counterinsurgency program patterned after the U.S. Counterinsurgency Guide of 2009, the human rights group said, nothing much has changed.
The human rights group documented 86 cases of human rights violations from July 2010 to December 2012. These include harassment, killings, torture, physical assault, surveillance, use of schools and other public facilities for military purposes, among others.
Various towns of Guinobatan, Albay, such as Batbat, Cabaluaon, Onggo, Pood, Balite, Palanas, Sinungtan. Bololo, Malipo, Malobago and Doña Mercedes, were among the pilot areas of Oplan Bayanihan.
“(One common occurrence) is the interrogation of residents, who, soldiers claim, are supporters of the New People’s Army. Ordinary peasants and workers who are living in rural communities need not become victims of these human rights violations,” Casilihan said.
In the village of Pood, one of the pilot areas of Oplan Bayanihan, Meriam Pardines, 32, was tagged by members of the military as a supporter of the New People’s Army. In a fact sheet sent by the human rights group to Bulatlat.com, Pardines was summoned by the soldiers at around 10:30 a.m. She was brought to the community’s chapel for interrogation.
“According to Meriam, one of the soldiers placed a knife on the table while the investigation was happening. There were several times when soldiers acted as if they would slap her because she, according to them, was lying. They threatened her that they would burn down their house if they find out that she was lying. The interrogation lasted for about 30 minutes,” the report read.
In another pilot area of Oplan Bayanihan, in the village of Bololo in Guinobatan, residents heard three gunshots coming from the direction of the 2nd Infantry Battalion detachment in their community on Aug. 15, 2011. Karapatan – Bicol reported that these gunshots were fired by soldiers who were having a drinking spree at that time.
The following day, at around 1:30 p.m., peasants Anna Brenda Rosero, 40, Oscar Rosero, 44, Benito Mangampo, 46, Ramon Bangampo, 58, Faustino Paje and Nelson Paje were invited to the military barracks. Soldiers took their pictures of them and told them to put their thumbmarks on a blank paper, which would supposedly “clear” their names. They refused to do it.
As a result, six of them were told to pay the military a visit three times a day to sign in their logbook.
Forced signing in logbooks of the military is also happening in other villages of Guinobatan.
In Sinungtan, Severito Ortecio was invited to the village hall by the military on Aug. 4, 2011. He was interrogated by soldiers and tagged as a supporter of the New People’s Army, Karapatan – Bicol said in its report. According to soldiers, Ortecio is an active members of the “Milisyang Bayan,” whose name purportedly appeared on a list they got from the rebel group.
He was forced to sign a blank paper to supposedly “clear” his name but he refused. As a result, the military wanted him to go to their barracks everyday to sign in their logbook.
His neighbors Salvador Oyardo and Rudy Rosales were also invited by the military to go to the village hall on Aug. 16, 2011 on two separate instances. They, too, were interrogated and were forced to admit that they are supporters of the New People’s Army and that they regularly attend the meetings the rebel group held.
“(Oyardo) was also threatened that if he would not admit it, something bad would happen to him and to his family,” the report read. Soldiers then took Oyardo’s photo, with him on it holding a placard that read “GMP.” He was also asked to sign and put his thumbmark on a blank paper.
“Peasants could no longer go out of their villages. They have to ask the permission of the military and sign in their logbooks. They now see soldiers as their landlords,” Casilihan said.
Casilihan added that soldiers said they have to keep peasants from going in and out of the community as for “security purposes.”
“They said they need to monitor every move of residents. And so that members of the New People’s Army could not visit the community,” he said.
In other towns
Troops belonging to the 42nd Infantry Battalion arrived in the town of Bato in Camarines Sur on October 15, 2012. They reportedly visited former town mayor Jaime Gonzales to coordinate their deployment not the incumbent mayor Jeanette Bernaldez. Among the villages where there are confirmed military deployments are Buluang, Payak, Salvacion, Sooc, Cotmon. Cristo Rey, Guyudan, San Juan, San Roque, Sagrada, San Isidro and Pagatpatan. About 10 to 16 soldiers are deployed in each village.
In the village of Sooc in Bato, Camarines Sur, residents decried the occupation of their health center for military purposes. Soldiers also stationed two of their barracks in the middle of the community, which, according to Karapatan-Bicol, “poses danger to residents should there be a gun fight between soldiers and the New People’s Army.
Karapatan-Bicol, in its report, said they also tried to reach out to locals of the village of Cotmon, also in Bato, but the villagers were afraid to talk to them. Again, they cited fear from soldiers who are also deployed in their community.
Here, soldiers, too, used their village hall, which is surrounded by homes belonging to locals, for military purposes. According to a village official, they allowed the military because “they were not using it.”
Locals, too, have been summoned in village halls by soldiers, where they were reportedly interrogated and tagged as supporters of the New People’s Army, Karapatan-Bicol said. There were 15 and 20 documented cases of interrogation in the village of Sooc and Payak, respectively.
Even village officials, themselves, were not spared from interrogation. Kagawad Roland Reyes was summoned four times by soldiers deployed in Buluang since the troops were deployed there last Oct. 9, 2012. Another local, Jessie Talagtag, was also invited to go to the military barrack and was tagged as a supporter of the New People’s Army.
Karapatan-Bicol, on the other hand, reported that in Buluang, five locals were hurt because of indiscriminate firing reportedly committed by members of CAFGU. They are Romar Talagtag, 36, Jerson Talagtag, 36 and three minors Gerald Din, 16, Jasmin Talagtag, 11, John Paul Talagtag, 6.
“Even with all the documented abuses of the military, the local government does not lift a finger to pursue justice for the victims,” Karapatan-Bicol said in a report the group sent to Bulatlat.com.
The group, together with the Ecumenical Bishops Forum, held various dialogues with local government officials. But to no avail.
“There were several instances when we reached out to the local government officials of Guinobatan but there was no response, which could directly address our concerns on human rights violations,” Casilihan said.
“Somehow, it was of help that the (Commission on Human Rights) came up with an advisory, forbidding the military to use schools and village halls,” Casilihan said, “They followed (the advisory) for a while. But a year later, we observed that they started using schools, village halls, among others, for military purposes.”
“(The military) is using these public facilities as a place where they could have their drinking spree, their home and their barracks,” he added.
Militarization, according to peasant leader Paz, is endangering livelihoods of farmers and farm workers, who are also facing cases of displacements from land owners.
These farmers, he said, earn mainly from planting rice and coconuts. “According to our study, they earn roughly $2.25 a day,” Paz said, “There were cases that peasants left the community and the land they are tilling because they were afraid of the harassments they were getting from the military.”
Paz said he got several reports that when a peasant is seen doing work in the fields, “a soldier would go to him and interrogate him if he saw a member of the New People’s Army in the area. If they respond that they have not seen any, the soldiers hurt them.”
He was consistent in saying that these kind of harassments never happened during his time. He started working in the fields at the age of 12 to support his family. Harassments, for his part, from state security forces later came into the picture. He has been charged with trumped-up cases, and had “visits” from the military, when he was already known as one of the most outspoken peasant leader in the region.
“Peasants usually wake up early in rural areas. They do not go out to the fields when it is still dark. They also go home earlier than before,” Casilihan said, “They could not go and do as they wish. They fear that if they do something, which soldiers might deem as out of the ordinary, they would be interrogated or worse, killed.”
Paz also expressed his concerns for several peasant families who are sending their daughters to Manila to work as household help for fear that they might be impregnated by soldiers. “It is tearing families apart.”
Casilihan said they received reports where soldiers impregnated women from the communities. Their families, however, did not want to speak out because they are worried of the embarrassment it might cause them.
Impunity and injustice
Aside from calling to put an end to militarization, activists from the Bicol Region also remembered those who have died under the government’s Oplan Bayanihan, and lamented that justice remains elusive.
Last Feb. 25 was the first year since the killing of the Mancera family – Benjamin and sons Michael and Richard. The military claimed that it was a legitimate encounter and that Benjamin was a New People’s Army fighter. But Karapatan-Camarines Norte and Karapatan-Bicol concluded after its three-day fact finding mission that the incident was a massacre.
“Oplan Bayanihan here in the Bicol Region is violent, bloody, inhumane and deadliest in the history of our region. It is bloody because only under Aquino, 37 individuals have become victims of extrajudicial killings. Children, mothers and even village officials, too, are not spared,” Casilihan said, “Even those who are not members of progressive groups are falling victims to human rights violations.”

US-PHL outreach in Neg.Or. lauded

From the Visayan Daily Star (Mar 12): US-PHL outreach in Neg.Or. lauded

An official of the United States Embassy in Manila lauded yesterday the successful staging of the joint U.S. and Philippines Armed Forces humanitarian assistance mission in Negros Oriental from March 4-9.

The “Operation Pacific Angel 2013-01” in Dumaguete and Tanjay cities benefited 6,885 people from all over the province, who received medical, dental and optometry care from US and Philippine soldiers. They also repaired and upgraded the facilities of the Bio-os Elementary School in Amlan town; Pamplona Central ES in Pamplona; and Tugawe ES in Dauin.

Mission deputy chief Robin Diallo, head of the Embassy Public Affairs Office, in her message at the culmination rites at the Bio-os ES, described the “tremendous successful humanitarian assistance and disaster relief exercise” as exemplifying the relationship between the United States and the Philippines – accomplishment, team work, friendship and success.

“Pacific Angel” improves the interoperability and disaster readiness of the U.S. and Philippines militaries as both countries continue to build their professional and personal relationships, Diallo said. “Our enduring relations have made exercises like this one successful”.

Diallo said the U.S. government works with local partners to target underserved areas where citizens would not otherwise receive this type of medical care.

Exercises such as the “Pacific Angel” pave the way for joint disaster relief and humanitarian assistance for the two governments to successfully work together and respond when disaster occurs, she said. “We cannot keep the natural disasters from happening but we can be ready for them.”

Diallo said the US has provided much assistance to the Philippines over the years, as she cited the disasters left behind by typhoons Ondoy, Sendong and Pablo.

The U.S. military, the United States Agency for International Development and its implementing partners provided transport, logistics, emergency relief commodities, water and hygiene, with a total government commitment of P508.4 million, or $12.4 million, that benefited hundreds of thousands of people, Diallo said.

She said she is proud that the mission took place in Negros Oriental this year as it is “another concrete sign to the people of Negros of our commitment to the Philippines, its people and our long standing partnership”.


NPA denies infighting

From the Visayan Daily Star (Mar 12): NPA denies infighting

The Roselyn Pelle Command of the New People's Army yesterday dismissed as “concocted tales” military claims of continued infighting among its members in northern Negros.

Ka Cecil Estrella, spokesperson of the Roselyn Pelle Command, in a statement, said the black propaganda and psywar campaign indicated that the 3 rd Infantry Division is getting demoralized because of its failure to destroy the revolutionary movement in Negros.

The Philippine Army had claimed earlier that an NPA member died, and two others injured, in continued infighting among members of the rebel group in northern Negros.

Maj. Gen. Jose Mabanta, 3ID commander, said the harassment of a police outpost in Sitio Sampinit, Brgy. Libertad, Escalante City, Negros Occidental on Feb. 24, was actually a case of infighting.

Estrella, however, said the 3ID tried to downgrade the successful NPA harassment operation against the 6 th RSPB detachment in Escalante, by claiming it was rebel infighting.

Estrella recalled similar black propaganda launched by the 62 nd Infantry Battalion and Col. Jonas Sumagaysay, then commander of the 303 rd Infantry Brigade.

The military had claimed that their informants within the NPA confirmed that an “alias Regan” and “alias Poldo”, who were accused of being a military spy and a traitor, engaged in a heated argument that led to the exchange of fire.

“Alias Poldo” died, while two others, identified only as Ben and Ringo, were injured, they further claimed.

They believed the harassment of the police outpost was just a cover-up of what the NPA did to “alias Poldo”, Mabanta said.

Estrella said the Roselyn Pelle Command condemns the lies and concocted tales being propagated by the Armed Forces and the Philippine National Police.


STRUGGLE CONTINUES | Raja Muda 'alive and well'; Kirams disown 'disengagement'

From InterAksyon (Mar 12): STRUGGLE CONTINUES | Raja Muda 'alive and well'; Kirams disown 'disengagement'

Although he has lost more followers to continued assaults by Malaysian security forces, Raja Muda Agbimuddin Kiram, who led more than 200 people to Sabah in a bid to press the Sulu sultanate’s claim to the territory, remains “alive and well,” his family said Tuesday.

At the same time, members of the Kiram family denied considering “disengagement” as announced Monday by Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II after talks with Sultan Bantilan Esmail Kiram II, brother of Sulu Sultant Jamalul Kiram III.

Earlier, the sultanate’s spokesman, Abraham Idjirani, said although the Kirams had authorized the dialogue between Esmail and Roxas, it was the Interior secretary who unilaterally mentioned “disengagement” and that the notion had not been discussed by the family.

Briefing media in her home in Maharlika Village, Taguig City on Tuesday, Pangyan Fatima Celia Kiram, Jamalul III’s wife, said the family had never considered disengagement, adding they were aware that the term was likely to be perceived as a willingness on the part of Agbimuddin, the crown prince, and his group to surrender.

She said any decision regarding the disposition of the group in Sabah “will come from Sultan Jamalul and other family members, including Bantilan (Esmail), and those who lost loved ones. We do not want to make it appear this is our decision alone because we want a collective decision.”

In a separate interview, the Sulu sultan’s daughter, Princess Jacel Kiram, said her uncle Agbimuddin has so far confirmed losing 23 members of his group since hostilities broke out on March 1.

During that first skirmish, Agbimuddin confirmed losing 10 dead and four wounded, with 10 others captured.

The princess said they have no idea about the fate of the 10 captured, whom she called “hostages,” since Malaysia has not offered “proof of life.”

She and Idsirani also admitted that Agbimuddin did not know whether his followers could have suffered even more casualties, including former Moro National Liberation Front commander Haji Musa, who Malaysia says has been killed, because they are only “70 percent” regrouped.

"‘Yun ang tinanong ko sa kanya. Sabi ko, (That’s what I asked him. I said, ‘How is Haji Musa?’ Sabi niya, ‘Hindi pa dumadating dito sa’min (He said, ‘Haji Musa hasn’t joined up with us yet).’ Whether dead or not, hindi pa alam (it is not known)," Idjirani recounted his phone conversation with Agbimuddin around 2 a.m. Tuesday.

Neither could Idjirani confirm the arrest of a close relative of the Sulu sultan as reported by Malaysian media.

Meanwhile, another brother of Jamalul III, Abdilnasser, said he had talked to Esmail’s son, Abu Bakar, who is in Sabah and is in touch with Agbimuddin, and was told that the crown prince’s stand was, “Tuloy ang struggle (The struggle goes on).”

Abdilnasser said his nephew, in their 7 a.m. phone conversation, relayed what Agbimuddin had said: “Habang nagne-negotiate kayo diyan, eh, pinapapuputukan kami dito, tuloy ang laban (While you are negotiating there, we remain under fire, the fighting goes on).”


PH Armed Forces gears up for 29th Balikatan exercises in April

From InterAksyon (Mar 12): PH Armed Forces gears up for 29th Balikatan exercises in April

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and its United States counterpart will meet April for the 29th Balikatan (shoulder-to-shoulder) joint military exercises which will again focus on disaster relief operations and response.

In a statement, AFP spokesman Colonel Arnulfo Burgos Jr. said this year's Balikatan exercises will kick off on April 5 and will last until April 17. An estimated 8,000 soldiers both from the Philippines and the United States as well as from other partner nations in the region are expected to take part in the exercises.

The highlight of this year's Balikatan exercises, according to Burgos, is the Multinational Maritime Table-Top Exercise (TTX) to be held in Camp Aguinaldo next month. The Multinational Maritime TTX aims to determine specific Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HA/DR) operations in high-traffic international waters, and build response confidence among multinational partners.

This year's Balikatan seeks to address previous disaster situations that occurred recently in the country and strengthen military response during times of disasters.

Aside from the Multinational Maritime TTX, members of the Philippine and United States armed forces will also undertake joint humanitarian assistance projects in communities throughout Zambales province.

Preliminary work on community infrastructure projects will begin mid-March. Military medical personnel will also provide free medical, dental and veterinary care.

Joint military exercises will also be held in Camp O’Donnell and Crow Valley in Tarlac, Subic Bay, Zambales and Fort Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija.

This year’s Balikatan is the 4th HA-DR focused bilateral exercise, the first one held in 2008.The annual military exercise is a combined joint military exercise based on the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty. This is conducted every year to serve as a venue for joint and combined training between the Philippine and United States militaries.

The AFP said, “the conduct of Balikatan 2013 perpetuates a long and lasting partnership founded firmly on common heritage as freedom-loving countries committed to the preservation of liberty and democracy. The end goal of these exercises is to further promote and foster the existing friendship between the people of the Philippines and the United States and advance the security and stability of the region in the near future."


4 dead in Sabah clash

From Rappler (Mar 12): 4 dead in Sabah clash

SIEGE IN SABAH. This picture taken on March 8, 2013 shows Malaysian soldiers moving in toward where Filipino gunmen are locked down in a stand off in the surrounding villages of Tanduao in Sabah. AFP PHOTO / Malaysia Ministry of Defense

SIEGE IN SABAH. This picture taken on March 8, 2013 shows Malaysian soldiers moving in toward where Filipino gunmen are locked down in a stand off in the surrounding villages of Tanduao in Sabah. AFP PHOTO / Malaysia Ministry of Defense

Filipino gunmen shot dead a Malaysian soldier on Tuesday, March 12.

This is the first military fatality since security forces launched an assault one week ago to crush the Islamist gunmen.

Three gunmen also died in the shootout in the eastern state of Sabah on the island of Borneo, armed forces chief Zulkifeli Zin said, which underlined the continued deadly threat posed by the invaders in Malaysia's biggest security crisis in years.

Authorities did not provide an overall death toll from the month-long drama, but reports and government statements had indicated an earlier count of 63 killed prior to Tuesday's clash -- mostly intruders.

The gunmen, who claim to be the "royal army" of a self-styled Philippine sultan, landed in Sabah last month to assert a long-dormant claim on the region, stunning Malaysia and injecting tension into ties between the two neighbours.

After a three-week standoff in a sleepy farming village surrounded by palm oil plantations, a violent shootout triggered a Malaysian armed forces attack March 5 that sent the gunmen into hiding in surrounding farmland and a nearby village.

Police also said Tuesday they had confirmed that a militant killed earlier was one of the group's top leaders, identified by Malaysian media as Haji Musa, a former commander with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).

The MNLF had waged a rebellion against the Philippine government in the country's Muslim south until signing a peace deal in 1996.

8 police officers were killed in earlier shootouts, and security forces also shot dead a teenager over the weekend. It has not been made clear whether the boy was a local or linked to the militants.

Authorities have also arrested at least 97 people throughout the state and are investigating if they have links to the incursion. They have not revealed any further details.

Supporters of Manila-based Jamalul Kiram III, whose supporters claim he is heir to the defunct southern Philippine sultanate of Sulu, have said about 235 people took part in the mission.

Manila has come under pressure to prevent the deaths of the Philippine nationals, while Malaysian public sentiment has strongly backed the tough army action.


UPDATE: Salvage operation of USS Guardian reaches 50% accomplishment

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 11): UPDATE: Salvage operation of USS Guardian reaches 50% accomplishment

Task Force Tubbataha (TFT) announced in an update Monday that salvage operation of the grounded USS Guardian on the South Atoll of the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park (TRNP) has now accomplished around 50% of its target following the frequency of favorable weather in the area.

Commodore Enrico Efren Evangelista, head of the TFT and commander of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG)-Palawan District, said salvage operations have reached half of its target since weather condition in the Tubbataha has been “very favorable” in the past three days.

“We are expecting calm weather in the next three to four days so work will continue on the USS Guardian by the Task Force,” Evangelista said.

On Monday, the salvors led by Jascon 25 have accomplished the clearing of remaining pipes and vents at the funnel base of the USS Guardian; lifted remaining portions of the funnel base section at the port side; and cleared all types of interference at the auxiliary machinery room and main machinery room.

They also worked and prepared all machineries at the AMR and MMR for removal; transferred additional hydraulic power unit to the USS Guardian; and opened the top containers for loading of debris.

The 50% accomplishment, he added, includes the preparation and mobilization of the salvage operation.

Evangelista said that slowly and little by little, all the salvors are taking care of the implementation of the salvage plan which is very difficult as it primarily considers the safety of personnel and the preservation of the reefs in Tubbataha.

Despite the accomplishment, Evangelista said meeting the deadline of uprooting the minesweeper from Tubbataha end of the month or earlier April depends on the condition of the salvors, the USS Guardin as it lays 90 degrees on the South Atoll, and the weather condition.

As of this writing, a spokesperson of the U.S. Navy said initial estimates of the expenses already incurred to implement the salvage operation is more than a million.

The final consideration of costs will only be determined after the USS Guardian is completely off Tubbataha, he said.


PAF to give admission tests

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 12): PAF to give admission tests

The Philippine Air Force (PAF) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)on April 2 will hold a set of admission exams to those wishing to become a military pilots at West Visayas State University in La Paz District.

Applicants should be male or female, natural-born Filipino citizen, and a graduate of a fourth-year college course; at least 5 feet in height, between 20-24 years of age, single, and without legal obligation to support a child; physically and mentally fit for training, and of good moral character.

Interested applicants may visit Camp Hernandez in Dingle, Iloilo for further details.


Police alerted on NPA anniversary

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 12): Police alerted on NPA anniversary

The Police Regional Office (PRO) on Tuesday ordered all police units in Central Luzon to be on alert in time for the 44th founding anniversary of the New People's Army (NPA) on March 29.

Chief Superintendent Edgardo Ladao, Central Luzon regional police director, said he told in men in the field to carry out pro-active measures and security measures to thwart possible threats which may be initiated by NPA rebels and other lawless groups.

Ladao said the PRO is continuously implementing current program thrusts such as vigorous implementation of the PNP's three-tiered defense system to prevent NPA attacks, particularly among vital installations and soft targets such as isolated and less fortified police and military outposts, government installations and infrastructure and vital facilities.

He said the PNP’s three-tiered defense system involves heightened intelligence, target hardening and incident management.

With the forthcoming mid-term polls, he said the PRO is also conducting validation of Comelec checkpoints operation, monitoring significant threats that could disrupt the campaign period and implementing intensified against loose firearms.

These intervention activities are continuously being strengthened to uphold the law and maintain peace and order and to ensure that no acts of threats can cause disorder not just not only in the region but on the whole country as well, he added.


Joint US and PHL Armed Forces humanitarian mission in Negros Oriental lauded

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 12): Joint US and PHL Armed Forces humanitarian mission in Negros Oriental lauded

The Deputy Chief of the Mission and head of the Public Affairs Office of the United States Embassy in Manila on Monday lauded the successful staging of the joint U.S. and Philippines Armed Forces humanitarian assistance mission in Negros Oriental.

Dubbed "Operation Pacific Angel 2013-01," which reeled off March 9 in the capital city of Dumaguete and other satellite areas, the humanitarian mission had benefited 6,885 people from all over the province, from receiving medical, dental and optometry care as well as the repair of at least three school buildings.

Robin Diallo, in her message during the culmination ceremony of the Operation Pacific Angel 2013-01 at the Bio-os Elementary School in Bio-os, Amlan town in Negros Oriental, described the “tremendous successful humanitarian assistance and disaster relief exercise” as exemplifying the relationship between the United States and the Philippines -- accomplishment, team work, friendship and success.

Pacific Angel 2013-01 is a tremendous feat of communication, organization, goodwill and planning between the United States and Philippines Armed Forces, she added.


Maritime table-top exercise to highlight 'Balikatan Exercise 2013'

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 12): Maritime table-top exercise to highlight 'Balikatan Exercise 2013'

The Armed Forces of the Philippines Tuesday said maritime table-top exercises will highlight the 13-day "Balikatan Exercise 2013" starting April 5.

The multi-national maritime TTX aims to determine specific humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations in high-traffic international waters, and build response confidence among partners.

This is among the several activities which will be conducted during "Balikatan Exercise 2013".

The 29th of its series, the activity will be participated in by more than 8,000 members of the AFP and US military.

It will also enjoin personnel and representatives from other partner nations in the region.

Aside from the multinational maritime TTX, members of the Philippine and US armed forces will also undertake joint humanitarian assistance projects in communities in Zambales.

Preliminary work on community infrastructure projects will begin mid-March, Philippine military officials said.

Military medical personnel will offer free medical, dental and veterinary care.

In selected communities, military engineers will construct and repair schools and other infrastructure.

Additionally, Armed Forces personnel from both countries will conduct combined staff exercises and field training in Camp O’Donnell, Crow Valley, Subic Bay and Fort Magsaysay to improve inter-operability and contingency planning.

This year’s "Balikatan" is the fourth HA/DR focused bilateral exercise, the 1st in 2008, the 2nd in 2010, and the third last year.

The annual military exercise is a combined joint military exercise based on the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty.

This is conducted every year to serve as a venue for joint and combined training between the Philippine and United States militaries.

The exercise is designed to enhance the AFP and the US military in capability development in the conduct of both traditional military training and civil military projects focusing on reaching out towards communities that need priority.

The HA/DR-focused "Balikatan 2013" seeks to address previous disaster situations that occurred recently in the Philippines with the objectives of supporting the Government with the development of regional disaster management and emergency response mechanisms.

It is also aimed at testing and validating the PH-US military HA/DR concept of operations in a multinational and multi-organizational exercise.

The conduct of "Balikatan 2013" perpetuates a long and lasting partnership founded firmly on common heritage as freedom-loving countries committed to the preservation of liberty and democracy.

The purpose of these exercises is to further promote and foster the existing friendship between the people of the Philippines and the United States and advance the security and stability of the region in the near future.