Friday, April 5, 2013

Army troops foil NPA sabotage bid vs Dole plantation

From the Daily Tribune (Apr 6): Army troops foil NPA sabotage bid vs Dole plantation

Army troops yesterday foiled an attempt to sabotage a Dole Philippines plantation in Surigao del Sur province after engaging a band of New People’s Army (NPA) rebels, resulting in the killing of at least one communist in Tago town.

Lt. Col. Joseph Norwin Pasamonte, commander of the Army’s 36th Infantry Battalion (IB), said that his troops were on routine security patrol along the vicinities of their headquarters at around 1:40 a.m. when they clashed with more or less 30 NPA rebels.

Pasamonte said that the firefight lasted for about 20 minutes, resulting in the killing of at least one NPA rebel whose body was recovered in the encounter site in Barangay Dayo-an, along with an AK-47 assault rifle.

The identity of the slain NPA rebel, whose body was turned over to the police’s Scene of the Crime Operatives (Soco), was not immediately known.

According to Pasamonte, the NPA rebels on their way to the Dole plantation to cut down bananas to sabotage the company.

Pasamonte attributed the successful operation to the information provided by local residents on the presence of the NPA band in the area.

 “Though our soldiers are security conscious and are conducting patrols as a method of active defense, the credit for this successful encounter is for the people in the community who reported the presence of these rebels,” said Pasamonte.

“We are happy that no soldier was hurt, but we are also sorry for the death of this rebel — another Filipino wasted his life for the wrong cause and means of the NPA leadership,” he added.

Earlier this year, NPA rebels also raided plantations of Dole Philippines and Del Monte Philippines in Surigao, resulting in the loss of millions worth of valuables.

In Compostela Valley province, a militiaman was killed while another one was wounded after NPA rebels attacked a military detachment in Kilometer 12, Barangay Casoon, Monkayo at around 10:30 p.m. on Wednesday.

Killed was Romeo Comamao, a member of the Civilian Armed Auxiliary under the Army’s 72nd Infantry Battalion (IB), while wounded was Resalio Quilario.

Reports showed that more or less 15 NPA rebels attacked the detachment, prompting the CAA members to retaliate and engage the communists in a 15-minute firefight.

US ready to pay for Tubbataha reef damage

From the Daily Tribune (Apr 6): US ready to pay for Tubbataha reef damage

The United States government yesterday reiterated its readiness to pay the damages incurred in the grounding of USS Guardian on the World Heritage Site-listed Tubbataha Reef as final ecological assessments are now being done on the reef to determine the actual destruction.

In his speech during the formal opening of the RP-US Exercise Balaikatan 2013 in Camp Aguinaldo, US Ambassador Harry Thomas cited the “careful” approach of US authorities during the extrication of USS Guardian from the Tubbataha Reef where it ran aground last Jan. 17.

Thomas said that while the salvage operation was “complex,” the process was a success, minimizing further damage to the world famous dive site.

“I would like to thank the Philippine government for its support during the salvage operation of USS Guardian…I am greatly in particular to the Coast Guard, Department of Transportation and Communications, the Philippine Navy and the Tubbataha Management Office for their leadership and assistance throughout the salvage process,” said Thomas.

“The complex, carefully (done) operation ensured that further damage to the reef was minimized,” he added.

Ecological assessment was conducted on Tuesday for the final assessment of the actual damage to the reef.

“Now that the Guardian has completely been removed from the reef, a marine ecological assessment is being conducted to determine the extent of the damage. We are working with the Philippine government on this effort,” said Thomas.

“As we have stated in the past, we regret this incident and the United States is prepared to pay compensation for the damage to the reef,” he added.

Salvage operations for USS Guardian were completed last Saturday, or more than two months after the minesweeper was grounded.

Initial assessment conducted while the salvage operations were ongoing showed that at least 4,000 square meters of the reef were damaged by the grounding of USS Guardian.

There has been no final word yet as to the actual damages to the reef.

Based on existing Philippine laws, fine of P12,000 per square meter of damaged reef and additional P12,000 for its rehabilitation.

100 men reinforce royal army in Sabah

From the Manila Standard Today (Apr 6): 100 men reinforce royal army in Sabah

The fighters of the Sulu Sultanate in Sabah are back to fighting strength after being reinforced by about 100 more men from Sulu, the sultanate said Friday.

Sultanate spokesman Abraham Idjirani said Raja Muda Agbimuddin Kiram, brother of Sultan Jamalul Kiram III, had regrouped his forces, which had dwindled to around 135 men since the fighting broke out in Lahad Datu on March 1.

Idjirani said the new development was relayed to him by Agbimuddin by phone.

“We can say our Royal Security Forces are back in fighting strength. They have joined forces and regrouped,” Idjirani said.

But Col. Rodrigo Gregorio, spokesman of the military’s Western Mindanao Command, on Friday said they had no reports to confirm the insertion of 100 more sultanate fighters in Sabah.

“We have no confirmatory report about that,” Gregorio said.

“As far as our naval blockade is concerned, it is continuing in a daily and even nightly basis.”

Still, Gregorio admitted they could not discount the possibility of the insertion happening.

“We cannot really prevent their entry because of the porousness of the area,” he said.

“But we’re doing everything to prevent these reinforcements of the sultanate.”

Idjirani said the Sultanate of Sulu expected more supporters from Sulu and Tawi-Tawi to sail to Sabah despite the naval cordon put up by the Philippine and Malaysian navies.

“What they lack in Sabah is food,” he said.

“They do not have enough provisions because of the tight cordon of the Malaysian security forces.”

Agbimuddin landed in Tanduo village in Lahad Datu from Simunul, Sulu, on Feb. 9 with 235 men and women, mostly Tausug fighters armed with an assortment of light firearms and swords. The sultanate said the expedition was meant to revive its longstanding claim to Sabah.

Based on the Malaysian government’s tally, at least 68 sultanate fighters had been killed in encounters with the Malaysian police and military, although less than 50 bodies have been recovered. Nine Malaysian policemen and soldiers have also been killed.

Idjirani said there had been a lull in the fighting since last week, which could be a sign that the Malaysia had accepted the unilateral ceasefire announced by the sultan early last month.

“There has been no fighting. Malaysian guns have fallen silent for now,” he said.

PH ready to allow US greater access

From the Manila Standard Today (Apr 6): PH ready to allow US greater access

Del Rosario cites military alliance

The Philippines is ready to cooperate with and help the United States if it is attacked by a hostile nation such as North Korea, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said Friday.

“I think as treaty allies, if there is an attack we should help one another, which is what the treaty alliance is all about,” Del Rosario told reporters after the launching Friday of the joint Philippine-US military exercises in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

Del Rosario’s statement was in answer to a question about Manila’s willingness to allow US forces to use military facilities in the Philippines if North Korea made good its threat to launch a nuclear attack on the US mainland and its military bases abroad.

“We are all concerned about the actions of North Korea and we are preparing our own contingency plans,” Del Rosario said.

President Benigno Aquino III on Friday said Del Rosario would fly to Seoul to be on hand as South Korea and the representatives of foreign governments draft a contingency plan for their residents who might be displaced if tensions worsened between the two Koreas.

The President said the government was now in a better position to evacuate some 40,000 Filipinos in South Korea if it became necessary, saying there were now three C 130s available for deployment.

The Balikatan joint military exercises joined by 8,000 Filipino and American soldiers will run until April 17, and come amid increasing friction between the Philippines and China over the disputed areas of the South China Sea, which Manila now calls the West Philippine Sea.

Most of the naval, aerial and ground exercises will be done in Zambales and Tarlac. A squadron of FA-18 supersonic Hornets, made up of 12 jets, is also set to join the exercises.

In welcoming the Balikatan, Del Rosario said the two governments were also working on more joint military activities that would be conducted in the country.

“For example, increased rotational presence, we are working on this. These are all elements and form part of the strengthening of treaty alliance,” he said.

Last week, Del Rosario said high-level exchanges and discussions focused on security were held in Manila.

“US congressional delegations led by the chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee and Veterans Committee were in Manila. Defense Deputy Secretary Ashton Carter was also here. This week I met with both Secretary of the State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel in Washington DC.

In all these discussions, both sides reiterated their firm commitments as strategic partners and treaty allies. These key officials have pledged to work with us to build our own capacity to defend ourselves and defend ourselves we will,” he said.

“The Philippines is investing in its own defense at levels never before seen. But we understand clearly that we can increase the value of these investments through joint training and other agreed activities with our allies, joint training with the US results in saving some training expertise and training equipment and other resources, savings that can be used instead to purchase much needed equipment and materiel,” he added.

Del Rosario reiterated that the US government supports the Philippines’ quest to settle its territorial disputes with China through arbitration before the International Court of Justice.

He said the government has been working for the completion of the five judges in the arbitral tribunal.

“I think the case will proceed as planned,” Del Rosario said.

China has rejected the arbitration challenge and insists on bilateral talks to resolve the dispute, an approach that Manila has rejected as fruitless.

In the Palace, the President said he has ordered the country’s intelligence services to assess whether the threat of a nuclear war in the Korean peninsula is real and imminent.

“Our instruction is for our intelligence services to assess whether or not the threat is real and how bad is it. Second, to dust up all of the plans that were already in place as early as two years ago,” the President said.

“We are checking our contingency plans to ensure all the assumptions are still valid but as of now we do not have reports saying that we already need to implement these plans,” he added.

The President also raised doubts about North Korea’s intentions.

“Why should North Korea make such a pronouncement at this time? Do they have internal problems? Sometimes, if there are internal problems, one creates external noise to distract the citizens,” the President said.

The Philippines has already raised Alert level 1 for Filipinos in South Korea. Under the state of heightened alert, Filipinos in the peninsula are urged to monitor the political and security changes in the country.

DFA chief: PHL investing in defense 'at levels never before seen' amid row with China

From GMA News (Apr 5): DFA chief: PHL investing in defense 'at levels never before seen' amid row with China

The Philippines is investing in defense "at levels never before seen" amid "excessive and exaggerated maritime and territorial claims," Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said Friday.

Speaking at the opening ceremonies of the 29th Philippines-United States Balikatan Exercises at Camp Aquinaldo, Del Rosario said this year's Balikatan "comes at a crucial time for my country and my region,” noting “excessive and exaggerated maritime and territorial claims have not only created uncertainty, but have undermined the rule of law.”

“Regional peace and stability had been placed at serious risk," he said.

Del Rosario later told reporters he was referring specifically to China, which claims most of the South China Sea, including waters and tiny rock outcrops near the coasts of smaller neighbors such as the Philippines. Tensions have escalated in recent years as China has sought to stamp its authority over the region.

"For my country we need to secure our borders and protect our territorial integrity more vigorously than we have before. Balikatan with its complex and comprehensive set of exercises is an important contribution in not only preparing both our armed forces to work together, but also in building my country’s own capacity to defend itself," Del Rosario added.

This year's Balikatan exercises, considered as the biggest combined military exercises between the Philippine military and the US Pacific Command, will run until April 17.

"The Philippines is investing in its own defense at levels never before seen, but we understand clearly that we can increase the value of these investments through joint training and other agreed activities with our allies," Del Rosario said.

In December, President Benigno Aquino III signed the new Armed Forces of the Philippines Modernization Act, which will have an allocation of around P75 billion in its first five years.

The Aquino administration has spent more than P28 billion for the AFP modernization program, compared to around P33 billion spent for the same purpose 15 years before his term.

AFP chief Gen. Emmanuel Bautista said Philippine-US relations and their "rich history of friendship" have helped their respective forces in addressing various threats.

"Today I must say that our partnership has helped in enabling both armed forces to become more responsive, agile, flexible, and capable to address emerging contingencies and threats," he said.

"This year’s (Balikatan) is a product of deliberate planning and preparation consistent with the imperative for capability development in the context of dynamic and evolving challenges in the region," Bautista continued.

Around 8,000 Filipino and American soldiers are set to participate in this year's exercises, which will involve military training as well as training in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.

Another body of suspected Kiram follower retrieved in Sabah

From GMA News (Apr 6): Another body of suspected Kiram follower retrieved in Sabah

Authorities recovered the body of a suspected follower of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III from Kampung Lok Sambuang in Sabah late on Friday, a Malaysian news site said.

THe body was clad only in a pair of trousers and was handed over to the police at the Cenderawasih police station in Felda Sahabat, at 6 p.m., New Straits Times reported on Saturday.

"I have contacted my men on the ground and was told that there was no shooting," Sabah police commissioner Datuk Hamza Taib said.

He said they will investigate the death.

Malaysian forces have been flushing out Kiram's followers from various areas in Sabah following a three-week standoff that ended in deadly clashes on March 1 and 2.

On Friday, police said they detained a man and a woman who may have links to the Kiram followes.

The man was described as 38 years old and was picked up at Tanjung Aru in Kota Kinabalu. The woman was 45 years old and arrested at the operation area of Sungai Bilis in Felda Sahabat.

Sabah deputy police commissioner Datuk Tan Kok Liang said the woman had an identification document issued by the self-proclaimed Sulu Sultanate.

Sulu royal army fighters regroup in Sabah

From ABS-CBN (Apr 6): Sulu royal army fighters regroup in Sabah

MANILA, Philippines - The fighters of the Sulu sultanate’s royal security force under the command of Agbimuddin Kiram regrouped in Lahad Datu, Sabah, it was learned yesterday.

Sultanate spokesman Abraham Idjirani said around 135 fighters of Agbimuddin regrouped and were reinforced by around 100 armed supporters from Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.

“They have regrouped and were even augmented. The only problem they have right now is the lack of food,” Idjirani said.

Idjirani added that the Malaysian security forces are also observing the unilateral ceasefire that was earlier declared by the sultanate of Sulu.

“There are no clashes so far but the Raja Muda has reported hearing gunfire at night,” Idjirani said, adding that the gunfire were not directed at Agbimuddin’s forces.

The sultanate’s forces are still engaged in a standoff with Malaysian security forces since they entered Sabah in February.

13-year-old boy killed in Cotabato clash

From ABS-CBN (Apr 6): 13-year-old boy killed in Cotabato clash

COTABATO CITY, Philippines -- A 13-year-old boy was killed while his twin sister was wounded in a clash between two suspected groups of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in Barangay Lumpog in Midsayap, North Cotabato Thursday morning.

Police said Paisal Sansaluna and his twin sister, Sitti, were on board a pump boat along with armed members of MILF Task Force Itihad and were bound for Barangay Sambaluwan.

But before reaching their destination, another armed group believed to be members of the MILF's 105th base command fired at them.

"Nakisakay lang sila dun sa pumpboat, kasama ang mga...MILF pero nang malapit na sila, bigla na lang silang pinaputukan, tinamaan ang mga pamangkin ko," Nawila Pandalat, aunt of the victims, said.

Another victim, identified as Edris Sapal, was also wounded in the clash.

Sitti is still seeking treatment at a hospital in Cotabato. Her foot was cut after being severely hit by stray bullets.

Police suspect the root of the firefight was "rido" or clan war among families who are members of the MILF.

Further investigations are still ongoing.

BAYAN: Groups hold caravan vs. Balikatan. US war games to heighten regional tension

From the CPP-associated Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN-New Patriotic Alliance) Website (Apr 5): Groups hold caravan vs. Balikatan. US war games to heighten regional tension

News Releas
April 5, 2013

Amid news that four officers of the USS Guardian minesweeper being relieved from their posts following the grounding of the ship in the Philippines, various cause-oriented groups held a caravan to protest the latest US-led war games in the country.

The protesters under the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan held a protest caravan from Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City, to Camp Aquino in Tarlac and then to Subic in Olangapo, all of which are involved in the annual Balikatan war games. Some 8,000 US and Philippine troops are expected to participate in the war exercises.

Bayan decried the Aquino government’s “subservience” to US dictates, allowing more US ships and troops to enter the country, even as the grounding of a US ship in Tubbatah reef has yet to be resolved. The umbrella group also feared that the US war games would further add to the tension in the region, as the US is being blamed for exacerbating the tension in the Korean peninsula.

“We have not even recovered from the Tubbataha grounding, here are the US troops again entering our country en masse, along with their war machines. Where is the Aquino regime’s sense of national dignity? Why does it allow our country to host these US troops who have no respect for our national sovereignty,” said Bayan secretary general Renato M. Reyes, Jr.

“When US troops destroy our environment and disregard our laws, no one is made accountable. Even the relief and reassignment of the officers of the USS Guardian are just token measures. Given the number of US troops involved in the Balikatan exercises, the risk of further damage to our environment is definitely there,” Reyes added.

The amphibious landing ship USS Tortuga will be docking in Subic, a former US military base which is now frequented by US warships for resupply and repairs. Last year, it was discovered that toxic wastes coming from US ships were being dumped in Philippine waters by a private military contractor.

“The Aquino government should stop fooling itself and fooling the people that US military presence here is for our own good. The US war games primarily serves US power projection and the political and economic agenda of the US in the region. Despite so many military exercises in the past, our armed forces have remained backward, because the US wants to keep us dependent on military aid,” Reyes said.

“In exchange for second-hand military equipment, our sovereignty is undermined, our laws are violated and our environment damaged. We don’t enjoy special relations with the US. What we see are neo-colonial relations. We worry that the US war games could add further instability in the region, given what we are seeing in the Korean peninsula,” he added.

BAYAN: No to Balikatan! Junk VFA!

Online poster observed on the CPP-associated Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN-New Patriotic Alliance) Website (Apr 4): No to Balikatan! Junk VFA!

Caravan vs 2013 Balikatan military exercises ongoing

From the pro-CPP online publication Bulatlat (Apr 5): Caravan vs 2013 Balikatan military exercises ongoing

Caravan vs 2013 Balikatan military exercises ongoing

MANILA — Various progressive groups are holding a protest caravan today April 5 to protest the US-led Balikatan military exercises. The groups assembled early morning in front of the People Power Monument at Ortigas Ave. in Edsa. They are to hold protest rallies in Tarlac, and in Pampanga and Zambales, at the gates of former military bases of the US where the Balikatan military exercises would be held.

But before driving out of the capital, they held a brief demonstration in front of Camp Aguinaldo along Edsa, where soldiers from the Philippine Army and Marines blocked the gates. The formal opening of Balikatan military exercises this year is set for today inside this camp.

“It seems today’s soldiers don’t know that when the US forcibly occupied the Philippines, US troops killed 800,000 Filipinos. Yet, today, why are Filipino soldiers standing by these American troops?” Clemente Bautista, national coordinator of Kalikasan-Philippine network of Environmentalists, said during the program at the gates of Camp Aguinaldo.

Tension in Asia-Pacific, a result of US intervention

A reason consistently cited by the US and Philippine governments in ratcheting up troop deployment and armaments in the Asia-Pacific is supposedly the tension here, as Asian countries have competing territorial claims, among others. The implied suggestion is that the US is trying to police the area for the sake of freedom of navigation, rule of law and other claims.

But there is tension in the region today precisely because the US has been increasing its presence and intervention there, said Renato Reyes Jr., secretary-general of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan). He cited as example the brewing conflict between South Korea and North Korea, where North Korea is chafing at the increased presence of US troops and its joint military exercises in South Korea. In Japan, there have also been protests against the US bases in Okinawa.

The US has announced last year its planned pivot of US military deployments toward the Asia Pacific region. They are eyeing the rich natural resources and the big market in the region, home to more than half of the world’s population.

In the Philippines, the pivot drastically increased [2], in 2012, the arrival in Philippine territory of US warplanes and ships. The US has also reportedly begun reusing their former military bases in the country under privatized arrangement or contracts. That is on top of what critics warned as covert or unreported building of US military installations in other parts of the country, mostly inside AFP camps. There is also the continuous rotation of more than a thousand US troops.

Risks and US military infractions in the Philippines

Green groups led by the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment joined the People’s Caravan today as they denounced not just the human rights violations brought by US troops but also the environmental degradation their presence causes.

“We do not want a repeat of toxic dumping and ship grounding in our seas and coral reefs. We are calling for an immediate moratorium on entry of US warships particularly those which are nuclear-armed like the USS Cheyenne,” Bautista said.

Environmental violations related to US military forces in the Philippines include the grounding of minesweeper USS Guardian in the World Heritage site Tubbataha Reef and dumping of hazardous, untreated wastes in Subic Bay. Last week, another three US warships [3] docked in various ports of the Philippines for what the US Embassy describes as “routine port calls.”

Until this week divers are still engaged in what they described as a difficult cleanup operation following the recent removal of the last piece of the USS Guardian. Until now, the Philippine government has not yet made public the results of its investigation into the grounding; it also has not begun moves to punish those in the US military accountable for the grounding.

“The Aquino government wants to reduce the issue of Tubbataha grounding just on the monetary compensation, but it clearly fails to assert our sovereignty and seek justice in relation to the environmental crimes committed by the US forces,” Bautista said.

As for the dumping of toxic wastes from US military ships on Subic waters, the Senate inquiry has reportedly found the Glenn Defense, a US military contractor, guilty of violating laws on dumping of dirty wastes on Philippine waters. But except for a shame campaign that led to the replacement of Glenn defense’s local head, retired Rear Admiral Mateo Mayuga, the US military has not been held accountable.

MNLF: Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo Press Statement

Posted to the MNLF Website (Apr 3): Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo Press Statement

(Upon request from SSNB, hereby publishes this PRESS STATEMENT)

April 03, 2013


“O Believers! Fear Allah as He should be feared and die not but as true Muslims. All together hold fast to the rope of Allah (faith in Islam) and be not divided among yourselves.” (Surah Al-Imran : 3:102-103)

1 The events that transpired from February 9, 2013 and onwards to this date cannot just be mere coincidence... or a conspiracy as others like to speculate. To the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo (SSNB) and its Raayat (constituency), they can morally consider it providential.

2 The Sabah claim and other related issues may appear dormant for many years. However, in 1962, the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo took the initiative and agreed to issue a Special Power of Authority known as the Transfer of Sovereignty to the Republic of the Philippines in 1962 during the incumbency of (the late) President Diosdado Macapagal. A provision contained in page 5 of the 1962 document said that “should the Republic (of the Philippines) fail to recover North Borneo after exhausting all peaceful means, this transfer Document shall IPSO FACTO become NULL and VOID and the Sultan of Sulu shall be FREE and ASSERT his Sovereignty over North Borneo by other means available to all SOVEREIGN CLAIMANT...” Related to this pertinent issue, the three (3) consecutive official communications (letters) of HRH Sultan Muhammad Jamalul Kiram III addressed to H.E. President Benigno S. Aquino III since his assumption to office “got lost in the bureaucratic maze.”

3 Rajah Mudah (Crown Prince) Agbimuddin Kiram, who is also officially designated as Administrator of North Borneo (Sabah) upon the decision of the Kiram Ruling Family Council and approved by HRH Sultan Jamalul Kiram III, decided to proceed with the journey back to the Homeland of Sabah on February 9, 2013. The group of 235 lead by Rajah Mudah Agbimuddin landed in Kampung Tandou, Lahad Datu. Among them are their children, women, farmers and fishermen, who have decided to live peacefully in Sabah and to earn their livelihood which is not easily available in Sulu Archipelago.

4 Stand-off of 20 days since Feb. 9/13 happened between the powerful and dominant Malaysian Police and Armed Forces and the group of Rajah Mudah composed of a few members of the Royal Security Forces to protect them from lawless elements during their sea-journey and home coming to Lahad Datu.

5 On March 1st, 2013, Friday, a Malaysian high Ranking General and several escorts was able to talk with Rajah Mudah personally in Kampung Tandou, Lahad Datu. They embraced each other (as Muslims) and as the General turned his back barely two-meters away, he faced again the Rajah Mudah with a gun on his hand and shot Agbimuddin at point blank. Thereafter a close-encounter commotion and fighting started that led to the death of several Muslims on both sides including the Commanding Police General. By Allah’s mercy, the Rajah Mudah survived the onslaught. May Allah punish the aggressors!

6 On March 5, 2013, the National Leadership of the Federation of Malaysia declared an ALL-OUT WAR with 10-battalion strong reinforcements conducting air, land and sea bombardments against a small group of Rajah Mudah’s Royal Security Forces, who dispersed into smaller groups resulting to defensive guerrilla warfare.

7 Several casualties including Dead-in-Action (DIA) were reported on both sides which is fast becoming a psy-war among Muslim brethren. We don’t have such machinery, I should admit, to counter such psy-war propaganda because we don’t control the media and the press. For us, the only way to counter such machinery is to tell the TRUTH to our constituents, Filipino people and as well to the whole world, including the United Nations Organization (UNO) and other International Institutions and Non-Government Organizations (NGOs). Indeed many responded positively.

8 On March 6, 2013, in New York, the representative of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon issued statements expressing that “Secretary-General is closely following the situation in Sabah, Malaysia. He urges an end to the violence and encourages among all parties for a peaceful resolution of the situation... He urges all parties to facilitate delivery of humanitarian assistance and act in full respect of international human rights norms and standards.”

9 HRH Sultan Jamalul Kiram III with dispatch, on March 7, 2013 declared a “Unilateral ceasefire” and ordered Rajah Mudah Agbimuddin to inform his supporters to disseminate the order and act only on “Self-defence” when attacked. HRH further declared that the Peaceful Negotiation is still open among all parties concerned.The Malaysian government out-right rejected the unilateral ceasefire including the offer of peaceful Negotiations.

10 It is sad to note that “hawkish” aides of His Excellency, Prime Minister Dato Seri Najib Abdul Rajak, have prevailed upon him to pursue the policy of “Surrender First and talk later” including Policy of Intimidation and Ethnic Cleansing of non-combatant civilian Tausug (Suluk) Muslims. Most of them are already Malaysian citizens and working peacefully in Sabah. However, they were subjected to inhuman atrocities and violence which is clearly in violations of International Human Right norms and standard including violation of the statute of Rome. There are indeed evidences to be presented in due time.

11 Holy Qur’an, Surah 2:84: Al-Baqara (the Heifer)... “Also remember another covenant which we took from you: That you shall not expel your own people from your homes; you confirmed it and you are witness to it.”

12 The Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo is a Islamic Sultanate and its concept of sovereignty rest on the Almighty Allah and myself as His Vice-Regent. Hence forth, it is incumbent upon me to listen to the advice of the Council of Ulama, Council of royal sharifs and the Gausbaugbug Coalition for Humanitarian and Peaceful Resolution of Sabah Issue to strictly follow the Islamic Guidance;

13 Therefore, as Vice-Regent of Almighty Allah, I call upon the Malaysian Leaders, headed by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong Tuanku Abdul Halim Mu’adzam Shah and His Excellency Prime Minister Dato Seri Najib Abdul Rajak to help end hostilities between the Tausug (Suluk) and Malaysian Muslims in Sabah. Let us talk peace as Muslims to find a common ground to immediately solve the Sabah crises for the sake of the Islamic Ummah in this part of the Globe.


Hji. Abraham Idjirani

Secretary-General, SSNB

GPH-MILF Annexes should be finished before Mid-Term elections

Posted to the MILF Website (Apr 5): GPH-MILF Annexes should be finished before Mid-Term elections

The discussions and signing of the three remaining annexes on normalization, power and wealth sharing considered “most contentious” that would complete the comprehensive peace pact between the Philippine government (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) “must be finished before the mid-term elections in May this year”, said Mohagher Iqbal, MILF Peace Panel Chief Negotiator and Chairman of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC).

In a press conference held at the Crowne Hotel, Pasig City, Metro Manila after the “first TransCom en banc” meeting, last Wednesday, April 3. Iqbal further said that,” the TransCom cannot craft the Bangsamoro Basic Law unless the annexes are signed.

“We cannot proceed to discuss the substantive issues unless the three remaining annexes will be discussed and signed by the parties,” Iqbal said during the press conference, aired live on ANC (ABS-CBN News Channel).

The two peace panels were supposed to have finished by yearend 2012 the annexes on wealth-sharing, power-sharing, normalization, and transitional arrangements and modalities to complete the comprehensive compact peace agreement. The TransCom, is supposed to draft the Bangsamoro Basic Law after the FAB was signed which would govern the Bangsamoro Region, the new political polity that will replace the failed 23-year old Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) by June 30, 2016. But so far, only the transitional arrangements and modalities had been signed.

Iqbal said the TransCom for now can only attend to organizational matters such as writing the internal rules, organizing the secretariat and the committees “but certainly we cannot discuss the more substantive part of our task unless the annexes are finished”, MindaNews reported.
The panels were supposed to have met in Kuala Lumpur on March 25 to 27 for the 37th Exploratory Talks but only a “special meeting” was held. During that meeting on March 25, GPH peace panel chair Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, formally requested postponements. The panels agreed to hold it next week.

But Iqbal said that he was optimistic the annexes would be finished soon because “we have a partner in government in the person of President Benigno Aquino III as sincere partner in the quest for lasting peace in Mindanao so I am optimistic although I recognize the way ahead is still full of obstacles, that we need to surmount the obstacles along the way” and that it is “not an easy way forward.”

When a reporter asked if the annexes would be signed before the May 13 polls, Iqbal replied: “I believe that it will be signed because there is no other way except to move forward and finish all the annexes.”

“Any other track is not …advisable … so I would like to believe once again that it must be finished before the elections. The three annexes,” he said as quoted by MindaNews.

As agreed by both panels, the peace talks will resume next week at Kuala Lumpur, and hopefully, the annexes on wealth and power sharing shall be completed so that the TransCom can start its arduous task of drafting the Bangsamoro Basic law (BBL).

BIFM: BIFM stand on the GPH-MILF Framework Agreement

Posted to the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement (BIFM) Website (Apr 5): BIFM stand on the GPH-MILF Framework Agreement

As a revolutionary organization professing Islamic ideology for the realization of the Bangsamoro people to free themselves from the corrupt, secular government of Manila, the BIFM has opted to participate in the current issues on the GPH-MILF Framework Agreement by way of declaring its official stands.

In the first week of march, same year, a gathering aimed at soliciting opinions whether the BIFM is within or external from the scope of the subject framework and whether to release BIFM positions or not , on the said issues. It was finally agreed upon that on the basis of established objectives and reasons of principles, the BIFM as a revolutionary organization oriented on the Islamic Movement led by the prophet Muhammad (SAW), it (BIFM) open and distinct group, as such distantly external from the skeletal structure of the GPH-MILF Framework Agreement.

In view of the foregoing circumstances, the following justifying that then BIFM is distinct and external from the GPH-MILF FRAMEWORK AGREEMENT:

1.That the BIFM leadership is still firm and determined by any means to pursue independence of the Bangsamoro homeland as the lasting solution to the century old armed complicit in Mindanao and Sulu while the MILF, abandoned the Independence as the last and permanent solution, per official announcement by MILF chief peace panel Mr. Mohagher Iqbal on march 3, 2010 at Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia as quoted below: ?We have declared time and again that the MILF will no longer pursue independence as solution to the Bangsamoro problem in favour of an asymmetrical arrangement of a ?State and Sub-state arrangement? (See http// This is now doubly evidenced when the GPH-MILF Framework Agreement was signed by the parties on October 15, 2012 the traditional home of the Philippine chief executive.

2.That the BIFM leadership will not accept the Philippine government to govern the Bangsamoro homeland or any part thereof, nor shall recognize the Filipino-Moro joint governance on any part of the Bangsamoro territories, except when the chief of state is chosen from among themselves (Believers of Islamic Faith)

3.That the doctrine of separation of church and state is ? Foreign ?, means strongly denied by Islam similarly the principle of democracy ? that government authority emanates from the people is incompatible as far as Islamic government system is concerned. Islam teaches its followers? that our religion is our government or vice versa and in matters of authority, it (Islam) opposes the principle of Filipino democracy. Islam asserts that authority emanates from God alone.

4.That as a revolutionary group, we cannot exactly agree on item 4, under part-1 (establishment of Bangsamoro ) OF THE Framework Agreement which states that the relationship of the central government with the Bangsamoro government shall e asymmetric.

Comment: when this term of asymmetric was translated by the Royal House of Rajah Buayan into Maguindanao version it sounds well. It is compared to the relationship between a parent and a child. Now, if we substitute the parent, it will be central government represented by President Aquino (Mushriq) and the child-the Bangsamoro government represented by MILF chairman, Al-Hj Murad Ebrahim (a Muslim) or True believer.

Historically, let us see what transpired between prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) (Alayhissalam) and his father when he was yet a child. Ibrahim was a true believer, In fact a prophet while his father was a Mushrique( Kufr). Ibrahim was ordered by his father to sell the idols. By the Gods of my father Ibrahim shouted while dragging the idols.

The relationship between parent and child as expected in the Maguindanaon version can hardly be attained between the Filipinos (Philippine Government) and the Bangsamoro (MILF). MILF represented by Muslim Moros while the Philippine Government is represented by the Filipinos (Christian/Mushrique). In other words, if a parent is Musrique and a child is a believer (Mu?min) undoubtedly, the case cannot be compared appropriately with the relationship between the believer parent and a believer child;

5.That to end our stand on the issues, we call on every Bangsamoro Muslim, particularly the ULAMA and the professionals (those with secular education) to scan over injunctions in the Qur?an al- Karim.

?O, ye who believe, takes not my enemies and your enemies as friends, offering them love while they reject the truth.? Surah 60:1 ? Thou shall not find a people who believe in ALLAH and the last day befriending anyone who contravenes ALLAH and his messenger, even if they are their fathers or their sons r their brothers on their kinfolk? surah 58:22

Now, under the GPH-MILF framework agreement,? parties involved are the Manila Government represented by disbelievers headed his disbeliever also (Pres. Aquino and the Moro Islamic liberation Front, represented by the Bangsamoros(Muslims) . The asymmetric relationship as translated into Maguindanaon version by the Royal House of Rajah Buayan (relationship of father-mother and their child) is analogous to the relationship between prophet Ibrahim and his father. The father was a musrique while Ibrahim was a believer.

Hopefully, Insa Allah our brothers in faith ( the Bangsamoro Muslims) and our brothers in a race (the Christian settlers and indigenous people ) can understand and will understand us (BIFM) in registering our positions on the subject framework agreement along with our desire to give accurate information to local, national, and international communities. Further this declaration will serve guidance for any eventuality sooner or later. Insha ALLAH, we shall continue the struggle until the usurped Moro country be completely recovered from the hands of Indios-turned Filipino oppressors.

Research and Information Bureau

303rd Brigade has new commander

From the Sun Star-Bacolod (Apr 6): 303rd Brigade has new commander

COLONEL Jon Aying assumed his post Friday as the new commander of the 303rd Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army, replacing Colonel Oscar Lactao in turnover ceremonies administered by Major General Jose Mabanta, commanding general of the 3rd Infantry Division.

Aying, a classmate of Lactao in the Philippine Military Academy Class 1984 and formerly the deputy commander of the 303rd IB, has been assigned in Negros before as commander of the 61st Infantry Battalion.

He urged the various sectors to cooperate in achieving peace in the province. He also warned soldiers under the 303rd Brigade to have utmost respect for human rights.

"I will be harsh to those who will violate human rights," Aying said in his assumption speech.
Mabanta, for his part, said that among the many military officers lined up for the 303rd commander post, he believes Aying was the most qualified.

He said it is because Aying has been assigned in Negros in the past and was deputy commander of the brigade.

"He is the most qualified and I think he will surpass the achievement of his predecessor," Mabanta said.

Meanwhile, Lactao thanked all the stakeholders in Negros for the cooperation and support they extended to him during his 21 months stint as brigade commander.

From being the 303rd Brigade commander, he was assigned as chief of the AFP command operations center in Camp Aguinaldo.

Lactao was awarded the Military Merit Medal for his various accomplishment as 303rd IB commander.

Army, NPA clash anew: 1 killed, another hurt

From the Sun Star-Davao (Apr 5): Army, NPA clash anew: 1 killed, another hurt

ONE member of the Civilian Active Auxiliary (CAA) was killed while another was hurt in a recent clash between the members of the 72nd Infantry Battalion (IB) and the New People’s Army (NPA) at Km. 12, Barangay Casoon, Monkayo in Compostela Valley.

The attack happened just hours after the Army and the NPA clashed in two separate barangays in the town of Mabini, Compostela Valley.

The slain CAA officer was identified as Romeo Comamao while wounded in the attack was CAA Resalio Quilario.

Technical Sergeant Jerry Sadery Angcon of the 25th IB reported to the Monkayo Municipal Police Station that the said detachment was attacked by alleged members of the Pulang Bagani Command-4 under the Southern Mindanao Regional Command of the NPA.

Initial investigation of Monkayo Municipal Police revealed that the said detachment under the command of Technical Sergeant Romulo C. Hermino was attacked by around 15 rebels.

The firefight lasted for 15 minutes before the NPA rebels retreated to the east portion of the village.
Comamao’s body now lies at the Angel Funeral Parlor at Montevista while the wounded was brought to Tagum Doctors Hospital.

Bayan: More rights abuses with Balikatan

From the Sun Star-Davao (Apr 5): Bayan: More rights abuses with Balikatan

PROGRESSIVE group Bayan-Southern Mindanao Region warned anew of more human rights violations with the deployment of over 8,000 combined American and Filipino troops to hold Balikatan exercises launched in Zambales Friday.

The group also slammed the United States military operations in Typhoon Pablo-affected areas. News reports say that the US troops will be conducting "civil military operations" in New Bataan, Laak, and Monkayo with surveys in Cateel, Boston, and Baganga in Davao Oriental.

"Typhoon Pablo victims do not need militarization, especially from warmongering US troops. The US military is taking advantage of the current disaster situation to justify military intervention in the country. But in fact, the US is here to use the country as a launching pad for its war posturing against North Korea," said Sheena Duazo, spokesperson of Bayan-Southern Mindanao Region.

Duazo also said that the presence of US troops in the Philippines brings more risks than security.
"Amid the twin threats of North Korea’s very recent war declaration against US imperialism and China’s aggression over the territorial disputes in the West Philippine Sea, the country becomes more vulnerable to external attacks by the enemies of the US," Duazo said.

The Bayan leader warned the Filipinos of the deceptive promises of the US to protect the country against foreboding foreign attacks caused by territorial disputes.

"Nobody can effectively protect the sovereignty of the Philippines except us, Filipinos, through our united actions. We do not need the US. We only need a pro-people government," she said.

Police blame NPA for Butuan’s Good Friday clash

From the Mindanao Gold Star Daily (Apr 6): Police blame NPA for Butuan’s Good Friday clash

BUTUANCity––The Police Regional Office in Region 13 has released an investigation report pointing to the New People’s Army as the instigator of the encounter on Good Friday that killed two militiamen in Sitio Iyao, Barangay Anticala, this city.

Regional police chief, Supt. Getulio Napenas said it was the rebels not 3rd Special Forces and the Regional Public Safety Battalion (RPSB) that started the clash.

The encounter disrupted the traditional Way of the Cross celebration in Iyao and killed militiamen Ariel Andohoyan and Ernie Darasin.

Napenas said the investigation was conducted by a task force comprised by scene of the crime operatives and a team from the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group and formed right after the incident.

He said the slain militiamen together with the Special Forces and RPSB provided perimeter security for the religious activity.

The bullet trajectory analysis suggested the fire that killed the militiamen came from a third party not from the security teams, he added.

The police official said his men even heard someone shout an instruction to get the firearms of the casualties.

The PRO 13 also warned the people against information being spread through social networking sites that the clash was concocted to discredit the NPA or that the devotees were ambushed by government forces.

“Several [people] even suggested [it was an] assassination attempt or a plot to discredit certain individuals. These are all fiction, stories meant to distort the truth,” said Supt. Martin Gamba, public information officer of PRO13.

Gamba said the gossips would only create further confusion among the people.

“The truth is far from fiction, it was not a TV soap opera drama that was just created but lives of people were at stake on that fateful morning,” he said.

Gamba admitted the investigation report considered the probability of a misencounter between the government forces.

He, however, clarified that a misencounter could only have happened for a short time after the shots that killed the militiamen.

“Both the SF and RPSB teams immediately recognized each other through password and countersign averting further injury and loss of life through friendly fire,” he explained.

Nepanas meanwhile said the ambush was an act of retaliation against the Andohoyan and Darasin.
He said the militiamen were the targets of the attack because they served as guides when police overran two rebel camps in Sitio Patagon in Anticala last month.

Govt panel not keen on resuming talks with NDF, say peace advocates

From the Mindanao Gold Star Daily (Apr 6):  Govt panel not keen on resuming talks with NDF, say peace advocates

DAVAOCity––Peace advocates, after attending a closed-door dialogue with the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (Opapp) at the Apo View Hotel here Wednesday, said the government may not be open to resume talks with the National Democratic Front (NDF).

Juland Suazo, of the environmentalist group Panalipdan Southern Mindanao, observed that the governmenr panel “seemed not open to continue the formal talks with the NDF.”

He said the government is considering “localized peace talks” that will focus in lumad (indigenous people) areas instead of returning to the negotiating table with the NDF panel. That is why the Opapp held a dialogue with the CSOs, he added.

The peace talks that was scheduled this Feb. 25-26 to be hosted by the Norwegian government was not pushed through as there was “no meeting of minds” from both panels, according to presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda.

The NDF reportedly blamed the government for the scuttled talks.

Wednesday’s dialogue, dubbed “Public Conversation on Peace-building,” was attended by at least 100 representatives of various civil society organizations all over Mindanao. It was the second consultation, following the one in BacolodCity last month, according to the Opapp secretariat.

The meeting, however, was closed to media as reporters who got inside the venue early were asked to go out. The secretariat later told other journalists they were not allowed to witness the proceedings.
“In my reading of the dialogue today, I think the GPH panel is finding it hard to look for reasons to continue the peace talks. I hope they will, though,” Twinkle Bautista, information and communication team leader of the Peacebuilders Community, Inc. (PBCI), also a participant, stated in a text message.

“I also find it positive that the panel is willing to search for new ways to approach the peace process,” she added.

Bautista said the PBCI supports “sustainable peace process that genuinely reflects the cry of the people who matter most – the communities. And yet, embracing and working with all sectors affected by it – the indigenous peoples, migrants, business, churches, armed groups and security sector.”

She cited that her group planned to deal directly with the GPH-NDF issue “by enhancing our relationship with the GPH panel working with and seeking to establish relationship with the NDF.”

In addition, Bautista said they will continue their “work on the ground that addresses the issues of the people,” such as livelihood, trainings on peace and reconciliation, and dialogues, among others.
“Our loyalty is with Jesus Christ and the peace theology that we follow compels us to work with different political ideologies,” she added.

On the other hand, Suazo fell short of his expectation as there was no thorough discussion on the Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms (Caser) during the dialogue.

He said to achieve peace, the root causes of the country’s crises – such as foreign domination and landlessness – should be addressed.

Outside the Apo View Hotel, militants led by Bayan Southern Mindanao rallied to call for the resumption of the talks and for the signing of the Caser.

Sheena Duazo, Bayan Southern Mindanao spokesperson, said it is the government that “showed no interest in resuming the peace talks when it failed to recognize the objectivity of the Caser and systematically continued its anti-insurgency (program) that targets civilians through Oplan Bayanihan.”

In an article published in the Opapp’s website, peace advocates in Negros Occidental aired at the public dialogue the need for “greater involvement of all sectors” in the peace talks as the people will be affected by any agreement made by both parties.

Ednar Dayanghirang, a government panel member and chair of the reciprocal working committee on socio-economic reforms who attended the dialogue, said in a phone interview he is yet to comment on the matter after the Opapp publishes its statement.

The government panel has no statement yet about the dialogue here on the Opapp’s website as of Thursday. The Opapp reportedly welcomed the CSOs’ call for both parties to resume the talks.

Del Rosario accuses China of undermining rule of law

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Apr 6): Del Rosario accuses China of undermining rule of law

MANILA, Philippines—Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario has assailed China for purportedly undermining the rule of law for insisting its territorial claims over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

“I think that we’ve taken the position that China’s claim for undisputable sovereignty in the South China Sea is an excessive claim and it’s a violation of international law,” Del Rosario argued.

He said the Philippines was looking forward to international arbitration to settle the ownership claims of both countries in the disputed group of islands.

“I think it’s proceeding. I think that the judges have already been named and I think we’re working towards a completion of the five judges in the arbitral tribunal. And so once that’s done, I think the situation or the case will proceed as planned,” he said.

While the Philippines had started investing in its defense system “at levels never seen before,” Del Rosario said conducting war games with the Americans would greatly help Filipino troops in improving their capabilities in responding to armed threats and natural disasters.

“This year’s Balikatan comes at a crucial time for my country and my region,” Del Rosario said, noting that the “excessive and exaggerated maritime and territorial claims” in the region “have not only created uncertainty, but have undermined the rule of law.”

“Regional peace and stability had been placed at serious risk. For my country, we need to secure our borders and protect our territorial integrity more vigorously than we have before,” he said.

While US and Philippine military officials insisted that the war games had nothing to do with the situation in the Korean region, Del Rosario said Balikatan was significant “in building my country’s own capacity to defend itself.”

“I’m glad to note that there are exercises that help prepare our two nations for the increased rotational presence of US forces in approved areas in the Philippines. This will be crucial in our efforts in the short time to establish our minimum credible defense posture and in the long term, to build a more robust national defense structure,” he said.

Kato men raid another military detachment

From the Philippine Star (Apr 6): Kato men raid another military detachment

COTABATO CITY, Philippines – As if taunting government troops, members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) raided an Army detachment in Midsayap, North Cotabato last Wednesday night, their third attack in Central Mindanao in three days.

No one was reported killed or wounded when the BIFF men tried to take over a roadside detachment of the Army’s 40th Infantry Battalion in Barangay Ulandang, Midsayap town.

Police said the BIFF men surrounded the detachment and opened fire with assault rifles and shoulder-fired 40-mm grenade projectiles.

Although outnumbered, the soldiers manning the detachment returned fire, preventing the BIFF men from closing in.

Villagers said three BIFF members were either wounded or killed in the firefight, as their companions were carrying them as they withdrew.

BIFF spokesman Abu Misry Mama said the attacks on military positions in Central Mindanao were in retaliation for the fate of one of their members who was held at an Army checkpoint and later found dead by his relatives.

The Army’s 6th Infantry Division, which has jurisdiction over Maguindanao and North Cotabato, denied any knowledge of the incident. The Maguindanao police also had no record of such an incident.

Earlier, BIFF men attempted to take over two roadside outposts of the Army’s 1st Mechanized Brigade at the border of Salibo and Datu Piang towns in Maguindanao. A farmer was wounded in one of the attacks.

The BIFF is a breakaway Moro rebel group led by Ameril Ombra Kato, a former senior commander of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front who was booted out for serious infractions of the MILF’s revolutionary rules.

3 cops killed in clash with NPA

From the Philippine Star (Apr 5): 3 cops killed in clash with NPA

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet – Three policemen were reportedly slain by communist rebels in fresh clashes in remote Asipulo town in Ifugao on Friday morning.

Policemen from the Regional Public Safety Batallion in Ifugao and Benguet fought an undetermined number of New People's Army guerillas at around 7:25 a.m. in Sitio Nangkatinge, Brgy. Namal, Asipulo resulting to the death of three policemen and the wounding of three more.

Another policeman was reported missing by his commander, hence being treated as “unaccounted” by authorities as of press time.

The missing policeman might have been taken by rebels as a “prisoner-of-war”.

Supt. Dave Limmong of the Cordillera police information office begged off to name the killed and wounded policemen including the unaccounted policeman because their families have not been informed yet.

Minutes before noon, Philippine Army troopers who came to aid the policemen fighting the rebels flew the killed policeman and those wounded to the Ifugao provincial hospital.

The fatalities were also brought to the hospital.

Though earlier declared by authorities as “rebel-free”, the CPP-NPA’s Nona del Rosario Command in Ifugao claims its number is growing, even launching bold attacks against government forces in the past.

Almost a year ago, 11 Philippine Army troopers were killed including an officer in an ambuscade by rebels.

US-Philippine engineers reach major milestone in footbridge construction

From the Defense Video & Imagery Distribution System (DVIDS) (Apr 4): US-Philippine engineers reach major milestone in footbridge construction

BK 13 - San Pascual footbridge anchor system

Navy Seabee Builder 3rd Class Travis Klawonn adds a cement bag to a concrete mixer during construction of the San Pascual footbridge March 27, 2013. The project was one of eight engineering civic action programs (ENCAP) missions being performed by Joint Civil Military Operations Task Force (JCMOTF) units in support of exercise Balikatan 2013. Balikatan 2013 (BK13) is an annual Philippine-U.S. bilateral exercise. Humanitarian assistance and training activities enable the Philippine and American service members to build lasting relationships, train together and provide assistance in communities where the need is the greatest. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Robert Dea/ Released).

SAN PASCUAL, Philippines - Philippine and U.S. Seabees reached a major milestone during construction of the San Pascual footbridge, March 28.

Using steal reinforced concrete, the Seabee team laid the primary support blocks for the main suspension cables - completing the footbridge’s anchoring system.

“Now that we have the anchor set, we need to let the concrete dry for the next seven days or so,” said San Pascual Construction Supervisor Chief Builder Courtland Sawyer attached to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 5. “This is a big step because it means we have a solid foundation. Now, we can work on the tiers leading up to the main support cable. After that, we’ll start the suspension work.”

According to the Joint Civil Military Operations Task Force operations chief, laying the footbridge’s anchor marks roughly 30 percent completion of the footbridge.

“The anchor system is a critical piece of the footbridge,” said JCMOTF Operations Chief Master Chief Constructionman Alonso Cadena. “It endures the stress from the suspension cables. Once it’s done correctly and good-to-go, then we can proceed to finish the job off with a strong sense of confidence.”

To honor their achievement, the Philippine-U.S. Seabees held a traditional, celebratory “lechon” or pig roast. The event offered the team a chance to reflect on best practices, shared ideas and get to know each other in a more relaxed setting.

According to Sawyer, relaxing with the Philippine Seabees and enjoying their company during a culturally significant event, opened the team up and created a stronger friendship.

“I’m glad we got to spend some time together off the clock,” said Sawyer. “On the site, we kid around and joke with each other, but we are also one hundred percent focused. It’s all work. We needed this time to really bond, talk and gain a better understanding of each other. I’m excited to start the phase of construction.”

The footbridge was one of eight engineering civic action projects being performed by Combined/Joint Civil Military Operations Task Force units in support of exercise Balikatan 2013.

Balikatan is an annual Philippine-U.S. bilateral exercise. Humanitarian assistance and training activities enable the Philippine and American service members to build lasting relationships, train together and provide assistance in communities where the need is the greatest.

Soldiers clash with NPA rebels in Leyte

Just posted to Samar News (Mar 26): Soldiers clash with NPA rebels in Leyte

By 802nd Infantry Brigade, 8ID, PA
March 26, 2013

ORMOC CITY Government troops clashed with rebels in a series of firefights during holy Monday and Tuesday in Barangays Liberty and Gaas, respectively, of this City, according to Captain Dranreb F Canto, Civil-Military Operations Officer of the Army’s 802nd Brigade.

Troops from 19th Infantry Battalion under Second Lieutenant Amin A Macalintangui while conducting security patrol was fired upon by more or less ten NPA rebels in the outskirt of Barangay Liberty, Ormoc City on March 25, 2013 at three o’clock in the afternoon.

After 15 minutes of firefight, the rebels fled. One soldier suffered a minor wound in his left shoulder and was immediately brought to OSPA Hospital in Ormoc City where he was treated and then released immediately as an outpatient.

The fleeing rebels were pursued by the troops and another clash occurred on March 26, 2013 at one o’clock in the afternoon in the vicinity of Barangay Ga-as, this City. Firefight lasted for fifteen (15) minutes. Government troops suffered no casualty while three rebels were seen by the troops felled down by bullets and dragged by the withdrawing rebels. The troops found bloodstains on the positions of the rebels where they also recovered one back pack, one improvised bandoleer with six magazines for M16 rifle with one hundred fifteen (115) rounds live ammunitions and one magazine for AK-47 rifle with twelve (12) live ammunitions.

Colonel Rafael C Valencia, Commander of the Army’s 802nd Infantry Brigade based in Camp Downes, Ormoc City said that the armed confrontations with the NPA rebels were the results of the continuous conduct of security patrols by the troops to protect the communities and the Bayanihan Teams conducting peace and development activities in these areas.

“With a number of rebels wounded during the encounters, we are offering our help to get them immediate medical treatment,” Colonel Valencia added. He further asked the populace in the areas surrounding the encounter sites to serve as conduits for the wounded rebels and the soldiers so that “we can immediately bring them to the nearest hospital.”

“Our main objective is to attain peace in order to sustain the pace of development in the Island of Leyte that will ultimately provide opportunity for the people to uplift there lives. I am calling everyone to join hands and work for a just and lasting peace,” Valencia ended.

Army: Eastern Samar now ready for development

Just posted to Samar News (Mar 28): Army: Eastern Samar now ready for development

army-lgu eastern samar joint declaration signing

801st Brigade Commander Brig. Gen. Romeo Labador, Eastern Samar Vice Governor Christopher Sheen P. Gonzales, 8th Infantry Division Commander Maj. Gen. Gerardo T. Layug, and Eastern Samar Governor Conrado B. Nicart, Jr., sign a joint-declaration announcing the province is now ready for development. (Photo by REINIER M. AMPONG)

BORONGAN CITYThe Philippine Army and the Provincial Government of Eastern Samar announced through a joint declaration that the province is now a “manageable conflict-affected and ready for development area” (MCA-RDA).

In a program that lasted less than an hour in the morning of March 25, 2013, 8th Infantry Division Commander Maj. Gen. Gerardo T. Layug, Eastern Samar Governor Conrado B. Nicart, Jr., Vice Governor Christopher Sheen P. Gonzales, and 801st Brigade Commander Brig. Gen. Romeo Labador, signed copies of the declaration with provincial employees and members of the press as witnesses.

Layug, in his message, said the province is now ready to take its first step towards being a world class tourist destination.

Alternative tourism destination

The declaration came a year after the approval of the Samar Island tourism master development plan by the Regional Development Council.

Under the plan, the government and local tourist stakeholders will concentrate its efforts in developing Eastern Samar’s Borongan-Llorente forest canopy and Calicoan Island in Guiuan, along with 16 other destinations in the island.

With the plan, Samar Island, home to eco-tourism adventure, cultural and heritage sites, and rich marine life aims to make be third largest tourist haven by 2016.

“We have to admit, in the past, when you talked of Samar Island, you’d think NPA or insurgents,” Layug said.

According to the army commander, based on records, in the past three years rebel activities in the province have dramatically dropped.

“Now we can proudly say that insurgency is no longer as big a problem as it was before. Now, we’re ready to invite tourists and investors to the province,” Layug said.

Winning the peace

Under the Internal Peace and Security Program Bayanihan, the army has incorporated development initiatives and involved the local government units in its campaign against insurgency.

“The army has shifted its orientation from being combat-oriented to involving everybody not in winning the war but winning the peace,” Layug said.

For Gov. Nicart, the declaration was not only the success of his administration but “the success of every Estehanon.”

Army reports reveal that before the declaration was signed on the provincial level, same declarations have been signed in its component towns.

“We have 19 towns that have signed the same declaration. The signing will only make it official but Jipapad, Maslog, Giporlos and Gen. Mac Arthur are already in the list of MCA-RDA towns,” Labador said.

The province is first in Samar Island and is third province in the region to be declared as manageable conflict-affected and ready for development.

CMPAG vows to win peace

From the Visyan Daily Star (Apr 5): CMPAG vows to win peace

Members of the Church-Military and Police Advisory Group yesterday signed a communiqué that aims to win the peace in Negros, promote a secure and fair election, and vigorously support the effective implementation of agrarian reform.

The CMPAG-Negros said in its communiqué that in connection with the national and local elections, they will promote a secure and fair election, and intelligent selection of leaders who can provide good governance needed in these crucial times, since the outcome of this election will have an impact to the future of Negrenses and the entire country.

To win the peace in Negros, CMPAG said the military and police will continue to work with other stakeholders in addressing security threats and challenges to address the social issues that feed the armed conflict.

To the attain these objectives, CMPAG members, said in the communiqué that they dedicate themselves for people to enjoy a life without fear, a choice without being forced, and an act that promotes freedom, justice and equality for all.

The signatories included Bacolod Bishop Vicente Navarra, Msgr. Patrick Daniel Parcon of the Diocese of San Carlos, Msgr. Gamaliel Tulabing, Kabankalan Bishop Patricio Buzon, Col. Oscar Lactao, 303rd Infantry Brigade commander, Col. Francisco Patrimonio, 302nd Infantry Brigade commander, and Senior Supt. Celestino Guara, caretaker of the Negros Occidental Police Provincial Office.

The CMAG - Negros was formed on March 4,2008 and was represented by four dioceses of Negros island and Philippine Army units.

The four Catholic dioceses and the AFP vowed to foster a harmonious relationship and cooperation by maintaining an open line of communication and serve as one, unified body in resolving issues or conflicts within Negros island.

The signing of communiqué yesterday was witnessed by AFP chief of staff Gen. Emmanuel Bautista, Navy Vice- Admiral Edgar Abogado, Major General Jose Mabanta, 3rd Infantry Division commander, Chief Supt. Agrimero Cruz, regional police director of Western Visayas.

Navarra said that the relationship of the military and Church as good, and that there appears to be visible cooperation among them. However, he suggested that the relationship should go deeper in terms of honesty and frankness in the discussions, in facing and addressing problems of peace and order.

Navarra also commended the military and church participants in the advisory group for to the pursuit of the CMPAG goals.

With this, Bautista said the pursuit of peace in Negros may no longer elusive.