Saturday, April 13, 2013

Waging War at the Court of the Sultan of Sulu

From Time Magazine (Apr 10): Waging War at the Court of the Sultan of Sulu

The Sultan of Sulu’s Manila home lies in a poor Muslim neighborhood in the south of the Philippine capital. Its high walls are festooned with royal banners weighted down by repurposed plastic soda bottles. Advertisements for “Septic Tank Plumbing Services” are posted next to a derelict Opel station wagon, now the only fixture on the sidewalk out front. In early February, when armed supporters of Sultan Jamalul Kiram III landed in Malaysian Borneo to enforce an ancestral-land claim, media flocked here to meet the low-profile leader, whose forebears once held sway over the Sulu Archipelago in the southern Philippines. (These days, there is no civil power attached to the role.) TV news crews crowded the sidewalk around-the-clock as, hundreds of kilometers away, the sultan’s men were locked in a clash with Malaysian security forces that has since killed over 70 people and displaced scores.

Today, the street outside the sultan’s crumbling residence is quieter, but the fallout from his brazen campaign has not settled. As Malaysian security forces continue their mopping up operations against the sultan’s men in eastern Sabah province, a fresh wave of fighters has reportedly entered the fray. According to Abraham Idjirani, spokesman for the Royal Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo, some 400 armed men have managed to breach a joint Malaysian-Filipino naval blockade in the Sulu Sea. It’s not yet clear who sent them, though the sultanate asserts they are from Mindanao, where leaders of the southern Philippine militant group Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) have pledged support. On March 31, the MNLF threatened a “long, protracted war” if Malaysian forces continued their pursuit of the self-proclaimed Royal Army of Sulu.

The Sabah affair is emblematic of territorial disputes that have long overshadowed the region. Centuries before the modern states of Malaysia and the Philippines came into being, the islands of the Sulu Sea, and part of resource-rich Sabah, were ruled by the Sultanate of Sulu. In 1878, the sultan made a fateful deal to lease Sabah to a British commercial interest; the territory was later annexed by the British crown and, in 1963, became part of an independent Malaysia. Now the Kiram family wants it back. It still receives roughly $1,700 a year in rent from Kuala Lumpur, but views the sum as ridiculous given how profitable the land is and the status afforded to other sultans in Malaysia. (For reference, Sultan Kiram and the Sultan of Brunei, once named the world’s richest man, share the same great-great grandfather.)

These days, Sultan Kiram, 74, could use some extra cash. On a recent morning, he was away at the hospital for one of his biweekly dialysis sessions. Fatima, his panguian — to use the term bestowed on a sultan’s wife — insists that while “he’s still O.K.,” he’s not the fleet-footed tango dancer who dazzled her early in their marriage. A retired civil servant, she worked full-time for over 20 years to support the family while the sultan managed a modest seafood-exporting business. In between filling cuttlefish orders from Japan, he was called upon to help mediate domestic insurgencies. Photo albums on the coffee table show the sultan wearing his trademark brown sunglasses next to grim-faced MNLF rebels and government officers.

Back in the 1970s, Fatima recalls urging her husband to also take up the gun. “I told him, ‘Why don’t you go the mountains and fight the [Malaysians]’ … you are only recognized if you are a rebel force,” she says. For years, the sultan countered that patience and diplomacy were the best course and wrote letters to officials, but to no avail. On Feb. 6, about 200 of his followers — some of them heavily armed — were dispatched to Sabah. A weeks-long impasse in a coastal village ended in bloodshed, as a Malaysian ground assault gave way to air strikes. The Sultan’s fighters and their commander, Agbimuddin Kiram, the sultan’s 70-year-old brother, melted into the jungle, where sporadic gun battles persist.

The crackdown has made a hard life even harder for the 800,000–plus Filipino migrant workers who help sustain Sabah’s booming palm-oil and petroleum industries. The Malaysian government, already facing criticism for harsh treatment of its migrant underclass, is accused by rights groups of widespread harassment of civilians as it moves to flush out the Royal Army. Dozens of homes have been destroyed and hundreds of Filipinos have fled abroad. Analysts warn that the toll will further aggravate anti-Malaysian sentiment in the southern Philippines, less than an hour away by boat.

With such valuable interests in the region and general elections on the horizon, the Malaysian government has shown no willingness to cede any ground. State officials, keen to project strength, have labeled the Royal Army “terrorists” and ignored the U.N.’s demands for a cease-fire. In Manila, President Benigno Aquino has tried to balance relations with Malaysia, a key ally and trading partner, with pressing political calculations at home as a midterm ballot nears. The sultan enjoys considerable standing among Muslims in the restive south of the country, and his claim to Sabah has become a matter of local pride.

Sultan Kiram judges the incursion to be a partial success in that his cause finally has the world’s attention. “I regret that people have died,” he says, moments after returning from his hospital treatment, walking with a cane. “However, we must make a sacrifice to enjoy the fruits that are rightfully ours.” He would not (or could not) say who the new fighters who have joined his army were, only that they were “volunteers” going to Sabah to seek “revenge for their brothers” killed by Malaysian forces. “We cannot stop people now,” he adds, somewhat cryptically, “but peace is our hope.”

The sultan says his people will hold out as long as it takes, but time may not be on his side. At midday his voice was faint and, behind the signature dark glasses, one of his eyes was fully shut. A handful of local journalists who by now had gathered outside to interview him would have to wait a while longer. The sultan needed a nap.

NPA still a big election threat, says Solcom

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Apr 12): NPA still a big election threat, says Solcom

The military’s Southern Luzon Command has identified 27 towns and 65 barangays in the provinces of Quezon, Rizal, Batangas, Oriental Mindoro and Occidental Mindoro where it said the communist New People’s Army rebels pose a security threat to the conduct of peaceful election.

Maj. Gen. Caesar Ronnie Ordoyo, Solcom chief, told newsmen during a media forum Thursday at Camp Nakar that included the Solcom, Philippine National Police and Commission on Elections that the military and police are closely monitoring the situation in those places to ensure peaceful election and “protect the sanctity of the people’s will.”

Ordoyo said the communist rebels were demanding permit-to-campaign (PTC) fees, ranging from P1,000 to P1 million, from politicians in Southern Luzon.

He said recovered communist document on Aug. 7, 2012 showed that the rebels were asking P800,000 to P1 million from a gubernatorial candidate; P400,000 to P600,000 from a congressman; P50,000 to P100,000 from a mayor; P10,000 to P20,000 from a city councilor; and P1,000 to P10,000 from a municipal councilor.

Col. Generoso Bolina, Solcom spokesperson, appealed to candidates to stand up and not submit to the coercion tactics of the NPA rebels.

He said the military and police are ready to provide security to candidates against harassment from the rebels.

The Communist Party of the Philippines, however, denied the collection of PTC fees.

In its statement, the rebel group advised candidates who wish to campaign within their so-called “revolutionary areas,” to strictly follow policies being promulgated by the NPA, “to ensure peace and order, avoid ‘dirty’ electoral practices and uphold the interests of the masses in the area.”

“Among these is the policy prohibiting the use of ”dirty money,” vote-buying and other ”dirty politicking” in the revolutionary areas. Revolutionary police powers will be applied to prevent such practices,” the CPP warned in the statement.

During the media forum, Ordoyo also disclosed the presence of suspected nine private armed groups in Batangas, two in Cavite and one in Laguna.

BMFI, PPOC work on Bantay Bayanihan IPSP implementation

From the Philippine Information Agency (Apr 13): BMFI, PPOC work on Bantay Bayanihan IPSP implementation

Balay Mindanao Foundation, Inc. (BMFI) is working closely with Misamis Oriental Provincial Peace and Order Council (PPOC) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to implement Bantay Bayanihan’s (BB) Internal Peace and Security Plan (IPSP) for 2011-2016 to further attain peace and development in the Province.

During the PPOC meeting on March 22, Sabrina F. Balais, BMFI Project Officer, shared that IPSP is a broad plan that shall guide the AFP in helping the nation attain and maintain internal peace and security in the near and medium-term.

“It also attempts to move away from the traditional paradigm where the protection of the state (and its legal representative, the government) is given priority at all cost and to a frame where people’s security takes center stage, and human rights is the bedrock of all actions of the AFP,” Balais added.

Furthermore, the IPSP’s end goals are targeted to national interests, ensure well-being for the people and institution, and guarantee sovereignty and territorial integrity protection and enhancement through good governance, delivery of basic services, economic reconstruction and sustainable development, and security sector reform after the mutual support of private and public sectors.

Bantay Bayanihan is a vehicle for the Civil society as oversight mechanism on the Internal Peace and Security Plan (IPSP) implementation, venue for discussion on IPSP issues and related concerns, especially in the non-combat-combat aspect of the IPSP plan, and institutionalize the active partnership of civil society, and other civilian all stakeholders.

It hopes to catalyze, facilitate, and most importantly, institutionalize the active partnership of civil society groups and other security stakeholders in the implementation of the IPSP- Bayanihan.

According to Balais, conducting regular meeting every two months for local dialogues, round table discussions with dialogue partners twice a year, annual assessment of IPSP, and Joint Military-CSO capacity building are among the ways to move forward in fostering peace and security in Misamis Oriental.

DVIDS: Philippine, US Marines learn jungle survival skills

From DVIDS (Apr 12): Philippine, US Marines learn jungle survival skills

Philippine, US Marines conduct jungle survival training

Philippine Marine Staff Sgt. Calixton J. Deatras demonstrates a non-lethal animal trap during basic jungle survival training April 8 at Camp O’Donnell, Philippines. The survival training is part of Balikatan 2013, an annual bilateral exercise in its 29th iteration, which provides a venue for Armed Forces of the Philippines and U.S. military forces to develop and continue to enhance interoperability across a wide range of military actions. The jungle survival training is just one portion of this year’s Balikatan exercise. Nearly 8,000 Philippine and U.S. service members are simultaneously participating in training centered around humanitarian civic assistance projects; a bilateral typhoon-based disaster relief scenario command post exercise; and knowledge sharing and interoperability field training exercises. Deatras is the armorer noncommissioned officer with Force Reconnaissance Battalion, AFP. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Courtney G. White/Released)

CAMP O’DONNELL, Philippines – Combined Philippine and U.S. Marines conducted basic jungle survival training April 8 at Camp O’Donnell, Philippines.

The survival training is part of Balikatan 2013, an annual bilateral exercise in its 29th iteration, which offers an opportunity for the Armed Forces of the Philippines and U.S. military forces to share knowledge unique to their services.

It is the seemingly simple age-old skills of survival training that could determine whether a Marine from either nation may live or die in the jungle.

“The survival training is to instruct the Marines on the basic skills to survive in a jungle setting,” said Philippine Marine Sgt. Bimbo R. Busico, an instructor with Force Reconnaissance Battalion, Armed Forces of the Philippines. “They learned how to make traps and snares, produce fire using bamboo, create a shelter, and find food.”

The U.S. Marines were also briefed on a number of useful plants, which can be found in the Philippines and in jungle settings throughout the Asian-Pacific region, said Busico.

“Many plants can be used for food and medicine,” added Busico. “Knowing how to tell the difference between edible plants and poisonous plants could mean all the difference in your survival.”

Bamboo, a common plant found in the Asian-Pacific jungles, has a multitude of uses which can help the Marines survive, explained Philippine Marine SSgt Calixton J. Deatras, the armorer non-commissioned officer with Force Reconnaissance Battalion.

“Bamboo can be used to make traps, cook food, and create a shelter,” said Deatras. “It is a staple item which can help Marines a lot if they are ever lost.”

The Philippine Marines are very patient and thoughtful instructors, said U.S. Marine Cpl. Joi G. Pierce, a supply administration clerk with 3rd Maintenance Battalion, Combat Logistics Regiment 35, 3rd Marine Logistics Group, III Marine Expeditionary Force.

“They are very passionate about what they teach,” said Pierce. “The training was very thorough, and I just wish we had the opportunity to stay out in the jungle for a few days and really put the skills we learned to the test.”

The jungle survival training is just one portion of the knowledge sharing and interoperability field training exercises during this year’s Balikatan exercise.

Along with the field training exercise, nearly 8,000 Philippine and U.S. service members will be simultaneously participating in training centered around humanitarian civic assistance projects and a bilateral typhoon-based disaster relief scenario command post exercise.

Trial of MNLF members moved to Cebu City

From the Cebu Daily News (Apr 12): Trial of MNLF members moved to Cebu City

THE trial of at least 30 members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) over the roadside bombing that killed two US Navy personnel and a Philippine Marine soldier in Indanan town in Sulu four years ago will be moved to Cebu City for security reasons.

The Supreme Court (SC) ordered the transfer of the trial venue Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 4 in Parang, Sulu to the Cebu City RTC.

Security concerns and safety of the witnesses were cited as reasons by the High Court for ordering the transfer of the trial venue.

Representatives from RTC Branch 4 in Sulu went to the Palace of Justice in Cebu City yesterday to transmit the records of the case which shall raffled off to a Cebu City court branch.

The accused were purportedly behind the death of American soldiers Jack Martin and Christopher Shaw as well as Private First Class Jerwin Jose Estrada of the Philippine Marines.

The offense is non-bailable.

Armed with various high-powered firearms, the accused allegedly “assembled, laid-out, and planted improvised explosive devices (landmines)” at barangay Kagay, Buanza, Indanan in Sulu on Sept. 29, 2009.

The victims were part of a contingent in a humanitarian mission to construct a clinic, a school and a barangay hall in the area.

Martin, Shaw, and Estrada were on board a military jeep when an improvised explosive device (IED) exploded. The blast was reportedly caused by an IED which had a pressure switch for a trigger. The victims sustained blast wounds which caused their death.

A group which claimed to be allied with the MNLF earlier admitted to be responsible for the bombing that killed the two US Navy personnel and the Filipino marine in Jolo.

The attack was reportedly made in retaliation for the continued operations of the US and Philippine military against the MNLF in the southern province of Sulu.

Among the accused in the case filed in court were Commanders Khaid Abjibon, Ahadon Adak, Abaraham Juel, Jun Ajibon, Kira Adain, a certain Commander Tahil Sali, a certain “Mahan,” “Radzmir”, “Salip Anwar”, “Khalib Sali,” “Aziz Jihili”, “Beji Jihili” and several other members of MNLF. Of the accused, only two were arrested, representatives of the RTC Branch 4 in Sulu said. They said the two detainees will also be transferred to Cebu City pending resolution of the case.

Military denies earlier reported US troops deployment in Pablo areas, but groups wary of cover-up

Posted to the pro-CPP Davao Today (Apr 13): Military denies earlier reported US troops deployment in Pablo areas, but groups wary of cover-up

Activists in the Davao region are outraged by the reported presence of troops from the United States Armed Forces in Pablo-affected areas in Compostela Valley ahead of the formal opening of the 2013 RP-US Balikatan Exercises in Central Luzon.

The Philippine Military however, through its spokesperson Major Jake Obligado of the Civil Military Operations Battalion belied that Balikatan will be held here and accused Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan)-Southern Mindanao leader Sheena Duazo for making up the story.

But Duazo in a separate interview said Obligado’s reaction does not surprise them.

Duazo cited the local newspaper Mindanao Times’ report last April 3 where Eastern Mindanao Division deputy commander Capt. Severino David disclosed a Joint US Military Advisory Group (Jusmag) conducting a site survey for about a week last month in New Bataan, Monkayo and Laak in Compostela Valley Province.

The newspaper report went on to say David announced the Jusmag’s intention to help in rebuilding schools in the said Pablo-ravaged areas although a schedule of the actual reconstruction activity has not yet been given.

The Jusmag is also going to survey the towns of Cateel, Baganga and Boston in Davao Oriental, areas first hit by the typhoon, the report further disclosed.

Question of transparency

Duazo said they find it unfortunate that little is known about the conduct of RP-US Military Exercises by virtue of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) which guarantees the US government confidentiality in such matters.

“These are matters that people are supposed to be given the right to know, but sadly we have to make do with the limited declarations of US and Philippine embassy officials on that matter in the media,” Duazo said, pointing that the holding of Balikatan Exercises in the country is an issue of transparency.

“For all we know, the US troops might have been here the whole time, if not for the scandals of which the US troops’ misdeeds have been exposed, such as the Gregan Cardeño murder in Marawi City in 2010,” Rendell Cagula, Davao coordinator of the patriotic League of Filipino Students said.

Cardeño was a Zamboanga resident hired by US troops as an interpreter, but was found dead later in the US camp in the AFP’s Camp Ranao in Marawi City. While military authorities prevailed that his death was a suicide, the victims’ family suspected foul play on Cardeño’s murder. The family attested that Cardeño called them hours before his death sounding troubled.

The Balikatan 2013 set on April 6-27 is the 29th RP-US military exercises conducted in the country since 2002, four years after the VFA was passed into law by the Senate in 1998.

Military exercises, according to newspaper accounts, are slated in Camp O’Donnell and Crow Valley in Tarlac, Subic Bay and Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija, with some 4,000 American troops taking part in military drills and trainings, along with Filipino troops.

More US rotations this year

Foreign affairs secretary Albert Del Rosario announced that aside from Balikatan, they are looking at having more US forces rotate in the country throughout the year.

US Ambassador to the Philippines Harry Thomas Jr. referred to these as “increased rotational presence of troops” which he said his government wanted to start by concentrating on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, with the goal of enabling troops’ quick response to typhoons.

Bayan SMR’s Duazo however, believes this is just hype. “We know that they are again pushing their military-economic agenda in the guise of typhoon disaster action support.”

Deploying US troops to Pablo-affected areas, as Duazo said, is a greater disservice to the victims who are already rendered homeless and hungry due to government neglect and corruption of rehabilitation funds.

“Bringing Balikatan to these areas would be like bringing back pestilence to their lives again,” Duazo said noting the record of abuses of US troops since the war exercises began in 2002.

She said this is like adding insult to injury upon the victims whose communities were heavily hit by flash floods in the Pablo disaster as a consequence of the plunder by US-backed multinational mining companies such as Augustine/Russell Mines Inc. and Apex Mines in the gold-rich mountains of Compostela Valley.

Duazo said notwithstanding the danger posed by their war games on people, the past experiences in RP-US Balikatan Exercises showed that countless other human rights violations have been committed against Filipinos as US troops carried out attacks side by side with Philippine Army in hunting down their avowed enemies in Philippine territories through these so-called military exercises.

It is no secret, Duazo pointed out, that Southern Mindanao is home to the fiercest opponents of US imperialism, the New People’s Army (NPA) for that matter, which the Aquino administration is targeting for its end-game plot via its counter-insurgency measure Oplan Bayanihan.

“And we know how much the US government shares in the plot, as much as we know that the victims of these kinds of military operations launched against the NPAs are the hapless civilians in the communities that they indiscriminately attacked,” Duazo said, mentioning the case of Roque Antivo, an eight-year-old boy who was killed by Philippine military fire in Crossing Kidaraan, Anitapan village in Mabini town, Compostela Valley just last week.

Duazo said the “humanitarian mission” is a lame cover. “It is something that the people have already recognize as a sham with all that we have gone through with these RP-US Balikatan exercises,” she said.

A contingent of 400 victims from areas affected by typhoon Pablo stormed the Eastern Mindanao Command Headquarters in Panacan early this week to show opposition to the upcoming Balikatan exercises.

Blame on one-sided VFA

Duazo said they will not stop, as they always have “faith in the people,” just as their massive protests led the Philippine Senate to end the RP-US Bases Military Agreement in 1992.

Sadly, Duazo noted that such patriotic act shown by people was put to waste six years later, in 1998, as the Ramos administration managed to sneak in the VFA in its desperation to bring back US financial aid.

The VFA’s constitutionality was assailed many times, on the ground that it violates Article 18 Section 25, a provision in the 1987 Constitution which supposedly prohibits foreign military bases, troops or facilities after the 1991 expiration of the Military Bases Agreement, except under a treaty.

The VFA, as argued, cannot be considered a treaty, because it was not concurred in by the Senate of the State of the contracting party, the United States, hence, it is called an “executive agreement.”

The VFA is largely viewed as a lopsided agreement, granting not only immunity to erring troops but “secrecy” as well to the US Government in the movement of troops and war facilities in the country.

Cagula, meanwhile, lamented that the leadership of the Philippine government under President Aquino continues to turn a blind eye while the VFA is being blatantly used to absolve the atrocities of US troops in the country, among others the rape of Nicole by US servicemen in 2006, the dumping of toxic waste in Subic last year, and lately, the damage brought by the minesweeper USS Guardian that rammed through one of the Philippines’ remaining marine ecosystem, the Tubbataha Reef.

“This is the problem with the VFA. We are being abused without the benefit of demanding accountability from the actions of US troops in our land. In other words, VFA has become a tool with which the US Government commits wanton acts of violations against our people with impunity. We have all the right to be indignant against the coming of the US Troops. At stake is our dignity, our patrimony and our sovereignty. It is therefore, just right that the people should oppose Balikatan and move for the junking of VFA at all cost,” Cagula said.

DVIDS: EOD technicians share knowledge at Balikatan

From DVIDS (Apr 13): EOD technicians share knowledge at Balikatan

EOD technicians share knowledge at Balikatan

Explosive ordnance technicians with the Philippine Air Force utilize pieces of equipment from the Marine Corps hook and line system to lift an ammunition can from the ground at Clark Field, Philippines, April 10. Filipino and U.S. Marine Corps EOD technicians trained together during exercise Balikatan 2013, an annual bilateral exercise in its 29th iteration that is aimed at ensuring interoperability of the Philippine and U.S. militaries during planning, contingency and humanitarian assistance operations. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Kasey Peacock/Released)

CLARK FIELD, Philippines – Explosive ordnance technicians with the Philippine Air Force and the U.S. Marine Corps shared knowledge through training at Clark Field, Philippines April 10.

During the training, Marine EOD technicians shared the capabilities of the HAL hook and line system, used for basic rigging and transporting, with Filipino technicians through video presentations and practical application.

The training conducted was part of exercise Balikatan 2013, an annual bilateral exercise, in its 29th iteration, aimed at ensuring interoperability of the Philippine and U.S. militaries during planning, contingency and humanitarian assistance operations.

“As EOD technicians, we have to deal with a lot of dangerous situations,” said PAF Staff Sgt. Gerald T. Alamay, an EOD technician with the 772nd Explosive Ordinance Disposal Squadron, 710th Special Operations Wing. “When you are working with other EOD technicians, there is always a bond because of the danger you could potentially face. I have had many experiences training with the Marines during prior exercises and every opportunity is a great one for the squadron.”

The HAL kit is comprised of different ropes, pulleys, levers and fulcrums that can be used to safely open doors and remove hazardous items.

After brief demonstrations from the Marines, the Filipino technicians quickly took to utilizing the HAL equipment by using it to open the door of a Humvee and extract simulated hazardous objects from it.

While the training was primarily to familiarize the Filipino technicians on the equipment, it was also a great opportunity for the Marines to refresh their skills, according to U.S. Marine Sgt. Timothy J. Firestone, an EOD technician with Marine Wing Support Squadron 171, Marine Aircraft Group 12, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, III Marine Expeditionary Force.

“Throughout the week we have demonstrated many of our different capabilities to the Filipino technicians, which is great for both militaries,” said Firestone. “While our training is taken very seriously, we have had a lot of fun getting to know the Filipino technicians through our time spent with them.”

Despite not working with the equipment very often, the Filipino technicians quickly caught on and received lasting knowledge and training that could be used in the future, according to U.S. Marine Staff Sgt. Jose Acevedo, an EOD technician with MWSS 172, 1st MAW.

“I was impressed while watching them work with the equipment,” said Acevedo. “What they lacked in their equipment, they made up for in experience as most of them have been in the EOD field for many years.”

Several different units with the 710th Special Operations Wing are conducting training with various Marine units across the Philippines during the exercise. These training operations consist of humanitarian civic assistance, ground military training operations and a natural disaster response command post exercise.

The Balikatan series of events focuses on training both Philippine and U.S. armed forces to provide relief and assistance in the event of natural disasters and other crises that endanger public health and safety. Additionally, military service members from both countries will conduct combined staff exercises to improve interoperability and contingency planning.

The exercise is scheduled to conclude April 17.

MILF: MILF tells gov’t: Time is ticking away

Posted to the MILF Website (Apr 13): MILF tells gov’t: Time is ticking away

The clock is ticking away on the peace process, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) told government on Thursday, April 11, as the formal talks in Kuala Lumpur ended without any agreement.

This was the statement of Mohagher Iqbal, chief MILF peace negotiator and head of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC), during the closing program of the GPH-MILF Exploratory Talks in Kuala Lumpur on April 9-11.

He cautioned the government against prolonging the talks further.

Earlier, Prof. Miriam Ferrer-Coronel, government peace chief negotiator, told media reporters that the comprehensive peace agreement will be signed in March this year, which she changed to April after the parties failed to beat the timeline.

The two parties set the next round of talks after the May 13 Philippine elections.

Meanwhile, Datu Antonio Kinoc, alternate member of the MILF peace panel, told Luwaran that he could not understand why government always changes position, which he explained as the real cause of the delays.

“I do not know where the problem lies - in the negotiating team or in their principal,” he confessed.

Maulana Alonto, senior MILF Panel member and also a member of the BTC admitted that their negotiating team was taken aback by the failure of the GPH Panel to sign at least the Annex on Wealth-Sharing, the text of which was already agreed on and initialled by the two Parties during the 36th GPH-MILF Exploratory Talks last February.

“Before we flew to Kuala Lumpur for the 37th Exploratory Talks, expectations were

high that the Panels would be able to put closure to further discussions on the Annex on Wealth-Sharing since the text was already initialled by both sides last February 25th. Of course, the Panels had the right to bring it back to their respective principals for a cursory review, but we were thinking this was merely routine because the Panels had already concurred on the language of the initialled text and that consultations were made with their principals before the initialling took place. We were not prepared, however, for the sudden announcement by the GPH panel that they needed more time to revisit and review the Wealth-Sharing Annex despite the fact that more than a month is an ample time to make such a review. I therefore share the sentiment of my team mates in the MILF Panel that something is wrong. A very serious problem now on the question of credibility has come to the fore. We are racing against time but the way things are turning out, time might outrun us,” Maulana Alonto lamented.

For his part, Abdulla Camlian, another MILF peace panel member and likewise a TC member, gave an abbreviated comment by saying that these uncertainties would boil down to what President Benigno Aquino III has in mind.

“I think there is much traffic between him and his negotiators and we may be looking at communications problem between them as the culprit,” he surmised.

“Let us wait for certainly the real score will be known sooner or later,” he added.’t-time-is-ticking-away

ANAD: Reestablishment of the CPP--Strategic Stalemate

From the Facebook page of the anti-communist/anti-CPP ANAD party-list political party (Apr 13): Strategic Stalemate


LESSON FOR THE DAY: April 13, 2013


By Arthur J. Tariman
National Council Member, ANAD Party-list

Strategic Stalemate

Preconditioning the ultimately failure of its current peace talks with the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GPH), the Maoist CPP-NPA-NDF has come up with a five-year plan to advance the so-called people’s war from the stage of strategic defensive to strategic stalemate.

The strategic stalemate stage should not be taken literally to liken the condition to the evenness of government and terrorist forces but on the condition where state apparatus including the local government units, armed services and law enforcement agencies would be afraid and restrained or would perceive to have been restrained from performing their official duties and functions due to the threats and/or influence exerted by the Maoist CPP-NPA-NDF on the duly-constituted authorities.

In its 42nd anniversary message to the NPA on March 29, 2011 entitled, “Fight and defeat the US-Aquino regime and fulfill the requirements for advance toward the strategic stalemate,” the CPP Central Committee boldly warned that:

“The Aquino regime cannot take comfort from the notion that the revolutionary movement cannot yet be the ruling system in the next five years or from any scheme for the counter-revolutionary armed forces to destroy the revolutionary movement render it inconsequential or make it capitulate.”

The CPP CENCOM added:

“The revolutionary mass movement is capable of removing the Aquino ruling clique from power in the same manner that the Marcos and Estrada ruling cliques were removed and the Arroyo ruling clique was almost removed. Lessons must be learned from the failure to overthrow the Arroyo ruling clique despite its extreme isolation and unpopularity. Errors must be reviewed and rectified so that the revolutionary mass movement can realize the full potential of the favorable objective situation.”

It further announced that:

“The crisis conditions, the growing strength of the revolutionary movement, the rapid rate at which the Aquino regime is being expose as anti-people, anti-national, anti-democratic, corrupt and brutal are such that the revolutionary forces can build a broad united front and generate a mass movement to isolate and remove the Aquino ruling clique from power in a relatively short period of time.”

TOMORROW’S LESSON: CPP Five-Year Plan (2010-2015)

CPP: CPP denounces Aquino regime for extending access in support of US war against DPRK

From the CPP Website (Apr 13): CPP denounces Aquino regime for extending access in support of US war against DPRK

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) denounced the Aquino regime for proposing greater US military presence in the Philippines should armed conflict break out in the Korean peninsula.

“The Filipino people demand a stop to US interventionism, provocation and aggression against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and denounce the Aquino regime for blindly supporting US warmongering and for allowing the Philippines to be used as a military outpost and instrument of US hegemonism in the Asia-Pacific region,” said the CPP.

The proposal to allow the entry of more US troops in the Philippines was voiced by Aquino’s Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin yesterday who said that increased US military troop presence would be allowed in the face of heightened tensions in the Korean peninsula. Gazmin further hinted at the possibility of setting up US military bases as an “extreme measure”.

“The Aquino regime is exhibiting extremeobseqiousness to its American overlords,” said the CPP. Earlier, Aquino’s Foreign Affairs Secretary insisted that in case of armed conflict between the US and the DPRK, the Philippines would be obliged to support the US under the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT).

“As it is, the Philippines is already serving as a US military outpost as a result of the Aquino regime’s policy of providing full-access to the US military. US naval warships and fighter jets regularly dock and land in order to refuel, resupply and provide rest and recreation to US interventionist troops,” pointed out the CPP. “A large 700-strong contingent of US soldiers under the Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines (JSOTF-P) is permanently stationed in Zamboanga.”

“US interventionism in the Philippines has now reached unprecedented heights since the dismantling of the US military bases in 1991,” added the CPP. “Aquino’s shameless puppetry to the US imperialists and policy of full access have resulted in the sharp depreciation of Philippine sovereignty and caused the complete subordination of the Philippines to the dominant power of the US.”

The CPP asserted that a peaceful resolution to the armed conflict in the Korean peninsula can only be achieved by the withdrawal of 30,000 American troops in US military bases in South Korea, the lifting of the economic blockade and respecting the right to self-determination of the DPRK and its right to technological development for economic and scientific advancement.

PMA has a new Superintendent

From the Philippine Information Agency (Apr 13): PMA has a new Superintendent

The premiere military school in Southeast Asia welcomed Thursday its new superintendent, Vice Admiral Edgar Abogado replacing Lt. Gen. Ireneo Espino who is set to retire on April 16, this year.

Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Emmanuel T. Bautista presided over the turnover and change of command ceremony of the Philippine Military Academy at Fort Del Pilar here after the traditional military honors at the Sundial Area by the PMA cadets and officers.

During the time of Espino as Superintendent, the Pudang Kalis or Puso’t Dangal ng mga Kawal ng Lahing Nagkakaisa Class of 2013 graduated last month with 19 female cadets out of the 124-strong cadets, the largest number of female cadets since the acceptance of women in the PMA.

Espino, a member of “Matapat” Class of 1979, explained that the 19 female cadets of the Class of 2013, also has its own “Magnificent 7” or seven cadets receiving citations and awards including the four lady cadets belonging to the Top 10 of the class led by Maryam Balais of La Trinidad, Benguet who graduated as salutatorian.

Abogado in his speech underscored the immense responsibility of the position as the head of the military institution which trains future officers of the AFP and leaders of the country.

Many of the former members of the PMA cadet corps, referred at times as the "Long Grey Line," became not only as distinguished officers of the AFP and the Philippine National Police (PNP) but also as national leaders.

Abogado, a member of “Mapitagan” Class of 1980, asked the cooperation and support of the faculty members and cadet corps for him to continue the excellent work of his predecessors as well as to live by and implement the PMA Roadmap.

He said he will be implementing all the curricular and policies of the academy duly set by authorities similar to the military's chain of command which emanates from the President of the Philippines, who is also the Commander-in-Chief of the AFP.

Meanwhile, in an interview, Gen. Bautista denied that the PMA Superintendent post which is considered a critical and vital position in the Armed Forces, is a “gift” given to retiring officials of the AFP.

Such issue arose when then PMA Superintendent Major Gen. Nonato Peralta was replaced by Espino in November 2012 serving as the PMA top post for barely five months as he retires from the service.

“The AFP is watching over the PMA leadership and the PMA Roadmap,” said Bautista.

Abogado is also set to retire February next year, a month before the graduation of the PMA Siklab-Diwa Class of 2014.

Military foils threat from New People's Army

From the Philippine Information Agency (Apr 13): Military foils threat from New People's Army

PINUKPUK, Kalinga -- Operatives of the 51st Division Reconnaissance Company (DRC) encountered a group of New people’s Army (NPA) at sitio Kubog, barangay Limos this municipality early morning of April 7.

1Lt. Sandaree Macaiba, Acting Information Officer of the 501st ‘Valiant’ brigade, in a belated report said a platoon of the 51st DRC under 2Lt. McGyver Ricardel were on their routinary patrol at the vicinity when they encountered about 14 NPAs.

She said the soldiers were on the scene responding to reports that the NPAs were allegedly demanding food from the communities of Balbalan and Pinukpuk. The encounter she said resulted to the wounding of one personnel on the government side while undetermined on the enemy side.

Macaiba in a press release said the NPAs were forcing civilians to help them during the firefight which made the soldiers to disengage in order to avoid hitting innocent civilians.

“This shows how the military exercises maximum restraint to protect the civilian populace, which is the tactic used by the NPA making civilians as human shields with total disregard for their safety,” Macaiba said.

On the other hand, Col. Roger Salvador, Commanding Officer of the 501st Infantry Brigade based here reiterated his call to NPA members willing to return to the folds of the law that the government is welcoming them to join the Armed Forces of the Philippines provided they are qualified.

Palace exec: PHL confirming if 12 Chinese in Tubbataha incident were spies

From GMA News (Apr 13): Palace exec: PHL confirming if 12 Chinese in Tubbataha incident were spies

Malacañang on Saturday said the Philippine intelligence community is determining whether the 12 Chinese in the Tubbataha grounding incident were spies.

“Tinitingnan pa ng ating intelligence community ang report. Meron tayong sinasagawang investigation para makita ang circumstances surrounding the grounding of the fishing boat,” deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said on government-run dzRB radio.

For now, she said, “wala pang confirmation (there is no confirmation)” that the 12 could be spies.

On Friday, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said the intelligence community will look into reports that the 12 Chinese crewmembers are actually spies.

While saying that the grounding may only be incidental to the grounding of the American minesweeper USS Guardian in January, Gazmin nevertheless said that the reports will be analyzed.

The 12 Chinese fishermen are now detained at the Palawan Provincial Jail after being charged for poaching and attempting to bribe park rangers.

The initial investigation showed their vessel ran aground at Tubbataha Reef before midnight of April 8, three months after the minesweeper USS Guardian was also grounded there Jan. 17.


Gazmin said an investigation is being conducted by the provincial committee on illegal entrant on the circumstances of the incident.

“But we have also our intelligence community that can look into this, analyze and see if indeed they are genuine fishermen or disguised fishermen,” he said of the crewmen who have been already charged of poaching.

The 12 were also charged with of corruption of public officials for allegedly offering US$2,400 bribe to park rangers of the Tubbataha Management Office who responded to the grounding incident.


Gazmin said it may be unfair for the 12 Chinese to be accused as spies.

“Its difficult to just make an accusation. We should have a basis in accusing people or suspecting people. That’s unfair.”

TMO chief Angelique Songco has said they have a low batting average on the conviction of suspected poachers because the “national office” usually pardon the offenders.

“I think that will not happen again,” said Gazmin on the possible pardoning of the 12 crewmen.

“We have laws that should be applied, that will determine if they are going to be set free,” he added.

Military-like posture

An earlier report by radio dzBB’s Palawan affiliate James Viernes also noted the 12 bore a military-like posture during their inquest proceedings earlier this week.

On the other hand, Western Command spokesman Maj. Oliver Banaria said the claim by the 12 Chinese that they wandered into Philippine territory may be hard to believe, as their vessel is a commercial fishing boat.

Banaria said commercial fishing vessels have instruments that would have told the fishermen their location.

"Ito ay commercial fishing boat. Hindi ito lalayag basta lang nang walang instruments. Hindi ito titingin sa bituin," he said in an interview on dzBB radio.

Tubbataha incident unlike Panatag Shoal incursion

Meanwhile, Valte also said the latest Tubbataha incident was different from the Panatag Shoal incursion.

She said efforts are being made to have the owner of the fishing boat, and not the Chinese government, pay for the damage to the reef.

The law decrees that the owner of the ship should pay for the damages, and Philippine authorities’ initial information indicated this was a private fishing boat, Valte noted.

“Wala pa tayong nakikita na evidence to the contrary,” she added.

2 rebel leaders give up

From the Visayan Daily Star (Apr 13): 2 rebel leaders give up

Following the arrest of two rebel leaders in southern Negros, two other ranking leaders of the New People's Army also gave themselves up to the 47 th Infantry Battalion in Candoni, Negros Occidental.

Maj. Rey Tiongson, 3 rd Infantry Division spokesman, yesterday said the two rebel leaders, identified as Elizalde Martisano, with aliases of Ka Nonoy and Bong, and a certain Ka Daisy, also surrendered an M-16 assault rifle with a magazine containing 18 rounds of ammunition, and three 12 gauge shotguns with 23 ammunition.

Tiongson said Martisano, 39, is a squad leader and political instructor of the Sentro De Grabidad Platoon of the NPA South West Front, while Ka Daisy, 35, served as the party branch secretary of the same rebel unit.

The commanding officer of the Sentro De Grabidad Platoon, Reniel Cellon, alias Kumpol, his wife, Mary Jane Magquilat, alias Ka Chin Chin, and four others, were intercepted and arrested at a Comelec checkpoint on April 8 in Brgy. Dancalan, Ilog.

Police records show the arrest of six suspected rebels yielded a .45 caliber pistol, a .22 caliber pistol, a fragmentation grenade and hundreds of live ammunition for various firearms.

Eighty-eight former rebels have surrendered to the different field units of the 303 rd Infantry Brigade since 2010, of which 15 of them recently availed of livelihood and financial assistance from the provincial government of Negros Occidental.

This is a clear indication of the NPA diminishing mass base support, as rebel returnees confessed of hardships they have been experienced with the armed group, Tiongson said.

He also said Martisano and Ka Daisy also realized the futility of armed struggle.

Why is a Philippine flag hoisted on a Chinese vessel that's now stuck on Tubbataha?

From InterAksyon (Apr 13): Why is a Philippine flag hoisted on a Chinese vessel that's now stuck on Tubbataha?

A photograph of a Philippine flag hoisted over a Chinese fishing vessel that’s now stuck on the Tubbataha Reef has raised suspicions that the ship’s grounding may not be accidental.

A national security expert raised this possibility, saying that the flag's presence on the ship is a clear manifestation of the Chinese fishermen’s “intention to deceive” to “swiftly enter the Philippine territory."

“The whole thing is planned,” the expert told “The message is very clear. The grounding is intentional.”

The Philippine Coast Guard-Palawan District said that placing the flag on a seized and boarded foreign vessel is not part of its standard operating procedures.

The expert also stressed that the “plan” was to supposedly test the possible double standards of local authorities regarding the mishap.

Progressive groups have complained that the government is guilty of double standards after it arrested the 12 Chinese fishermen onboard the vessel for poaching and for intruding into the country's territory. However, it was unable to do the same to US Navy personnel whose ship—the USS Guardian—was also stuck on Tubbataha months earlier.

No special treatment for the US, Chinese vessels

However, the Tubbataha Mangement Office insisted that no special treatment has been given.

The two grounding incidents are different from each other, Park Superintendent Angelique Songco told

“Mas straightforward to (Chinese vessel incident) kasi individuals rather than countries yung involved,” she said.   (The incident with the Chinese vessel is more straightforward because it involved individuals.)

On the other hand, the US “helped and talked to us” when the USS Guardian was stuck on the reef, Songco said.

With the Chinese vessel, we still don’t know, she added.

Chinese fishermen don't seem to know one another, interpreter says

As of this posting, what has been determined is that the twelve Chinese nationals are from Fujian, China, interpreter Francis Chua said in a sworn statement, a copy of which was obtained by

Upon boarding BRP Romblon of the Philippine Coast Guard, the Chinese fishermen said that they were on their way home to China from fishing expeditions in Indonesia and Malaysia but they got “stranded” in the Philippines.

Based on his statement, Chua also said that the fishermen told him that they don’t know the name of the fishing company that employs them or even the name of the ship itself.

None of the Chinese fishermen also had passports, Chua said.

Based on his impressions, Chua said that the fishermen don’t seem to know each other.

Chinese nationals don't look like fishermen at all, police official says

Meanwhile, Warden Ramon Espina of the Palawan Provincial Jail said on a local radio station Friday morning that the apprehended Chinese nationals don’t look like fishermen at all.

“Mukhang makikinis itong mga Chinese na ito. Malulusog at maayos. Hindi yung typical naming nakakasalamuha dito,” he said. (They appear to be healthy, strong and don't have hardened complexions.)

The 12 Chinese fishermen are under the custody of the Provincial Jail after the local court issued a commitment order on Thursday.

Boat contains 'powdered substances' but no fishing equipment

Besides fishing nets and dried fish earlier reported to have been recovered on the Chinese vessel, the Tubbataha Management Office said contraband such as powdered substances have also been found onboard.

“Based on the inventory of the Chinese vessel submitted to us by the [Philippine Coast Guard], there are substances found in the ship. We still don’t know yet if they are really explosives,” said Songco.

“Yun ang nakapagtataka eh. Bakit may ganon tapos walang facility yung barko nila to store their catch?” she added. (That's what's mysterious. How come the boat doesn't have an area where to store their catch?)

Substances found on the Chinese vessel are now being identified by the PNP Crime Laboratory, Police Inspector Manel Lamban-Marzo, spokesperson of the Palawan Provincial Police Office told

The Tubbataha Management Office said they will file additional charges against the Chinese nationals depending on the laboratory test results.

Meanwhile, the national security expert is also open to other possible theories and scenarios.

“The possibilities are endless. Pwedeng tinitingnan nila kung baket nabahura doon yung USS Guardian and why are the government taking so long in investigating the real cause of the grounding. Marami talaga.” he said. (The Chinese may be trying to find out why the USS Guardian was grounded and why the government is taking so long in investigating the real cause of the grounding.)

“But one thing is for sure, the government should be extra cautious in handling this, or the Philippines will be put in a bad light,” he added.

Manila offers US its military bases in case of North Korea war

From InterAksyon (Apr 13): Manila offers US its military bases in case of North Korea war

The US would be allowed to station forces at military bases in the Philippines if it went to war with North Korea, Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said Saturday citing a treaty between the allies.

"Our mutual defence treaty calls for joint action if either the Philippines or the United States is attacked," del Rosario said in comments sent to AFP at a time of heightened tensions on the Korean peninsula.

"It would then be logical to assume that in the event of an attack on the Philippines or on our treaty ally, the US would be allowed to use our bases," he added.

Del Rosario was responding to a question about whether the archipelago, a former US colony, would allow the stationing of American troops on its soil in case war broke out between the US and North Korea.

The Korean peninsula has been engulfed by escalating military tensions and dire threats of nuclear war since North Korea conducted a rocket test last December and a nuclear test in February.

On Friday Philippine Defence Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said the government was prepared to undertake "extreme measures" including allowing US bases in the country, in the event of an "extreme emergency" on the Korean peninsula.

The US and Philippines are allied by a 1951 mutual defence treaty.

In the early 1990s US forces vacated Clark Air Base and Subic Naval Base, two large facilities used during the Vietnam War, after a disagreement over rents.

In recent years the Philippines has been seeking to improve its defence ties with the United States amid a festering territorial dispute with China over parts of the South China Sea.

Some of its facilities are being used in ongoing annual joint military exercises between the Philippines and the United States, where the Pentagon deployed a dozen F/A-18 Hornet fighter jets.

More than 8,000 Filipino and US troops are taking part in the 12-day drills which end on Wednesday.

Hontiveros to Casiño: Why mum on NPA abuses?

From Rappler (Apr 13): Hontiveros to Casiño: Why mum on NPA abuses?

MANILA, Philippines – As congressman, you projected yourself as someone who is against human rights abuses, but why have you been silent on reports of abuses by the New People's Army (NPA)?

This was the question posed by administration senatorial candidate Risa Hontiveros to Makabayan candidate Teddy Casiño at the Rappler senatorial debate Saturday, April 13.

The two come from different factions of the Leftist movement – Casiño, with the so-called reaffirmists, who continue to be supportive of Communist Party of the Philippines chief Jose Maria Sison; Hontiveros, with the so-called rejectionists. The NPA is the armed unit of the CPP.

"Sabay nating siningil si General Jovito Palparan sa mga Human rights violations. Sabay nating siningil ang mga tumutugis sa Batasan 5. Ngunit bakit hindi ko narinig na minsan na magsalita kung pang-aabuso na ng NPA sa ordinaryong mamayan?," Hontiveros said.

Casiño said he would rather focus on the human rights abuses committed by the "men in uniform" rather than those committed by communist rebels.

"Based on info on the ground, it's really the persons in uniform who commit more abuses," he said. "The biggest problem when we present cases to the military, the automatic answers are denials that's why there is no justice. Unlike the rebels who are already accountable to the law, men in uniform have ties with the people who investigate them."

But Hontiveros once again challenged his image as a human rights advocate, questioning Casiños' flip-flopping stand on the freedom of information (FOI) bill and the reproductive health law.

Casiño and the other Bayan Muna representatives in the House withdrew their authorship of the FOI bill while they voted yes to the now RH law "with reservations."

On the FOI bill, Casiño said it was not them who backed down on the bill but Malacañang, which introduced a watered down version of the measure. He said other  (missing text?)

On the RH bill, Casiño said he did not believe that overpopulation was a problem but they decided to vote yes after their concerns were addressed in the end.

Hontiveros is a member of the political party Akbayan, which is part of the administration coalition Team PNoy.

This is her second bid for a Senate seat. As guest candidate of the Liberal Party in 2010, she lost in the race. She finished 13th out of 61 senatorial candidates that year, garnering 9.1 million votes.
Before that, she was a congresswoman for 9 years, representing Akbayan in the party list.

Photo: Balikatan 2013 April 11-19 at Fort Magsaysay, Palayan City

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 13): Photo: Balikatan 2013 April 11-19 at Fort Magsaysay, Palayan City

Filipino soldiers ready with their US counterparts at the squad live fire exercises during the Balikatan 2013 slated April 11-19 at Fort Magsaysay, Palayan City. (PNA photo courtesy of U.S. Marine Corps)

Photo: PHL, US soldiers undergo Balikatan jungle survival training

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 13): Photo: PHL, US soldiers undergo Balikatan jungle survival training

Philippine Marines demonstrate to U.S. Marines how to make a trap to capture wild animals during the Balikatan 2013 jungle survival training. American soldiers also witnessed how to produce fire using bamboo and build makeshift shelters. Balikatan is an annual exercise aimed at ensuring interoperability of the Philippine and U.S. militaries during planning, contingency and humanitarian assistance operations on Saturday April 13, 2013 in Palayan City. (PNA Photo courtesy U.S. Marine Corps)

DND chief says monitoring of Panatag Shoal still ongoing

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 13): DND chief says monitoring of Panatag Shoal still ongoing

Despite lacking naval vessels and aircraft, Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Voltaire T. Gazmin said that the military is still conducting naval and aerial surveillance missions on Panatag Shoals.

"Our monitoring of Panatag Shoal is still ongoing. Our naval and air assets are conducting surveillance missions there," Gazmin stressed.

The latter lies 124 nautical miles away from Zambales.

The presence of Filipino ships and aircraft off Panatag Shoals demonstrates Philippine sovereignty in the area, he added.

Panatag Shoal became a flashpoint of sorts last year when the Philippine Navy (PN) saw and intercepted a flotilla of Chinese fishing vessels poaching in the area.

This effort of the PN prompted the Chinese side to deploy their fisheries patrol ships, triggering a tense stand-off between the two nations.

Tension only abated when both sides agreed to withdrew its patrol vessels.

PN to develop ASW capability

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 13): PN to develop ASW capability

In line with its efforts to develop its deterrent capability, the Philippine Navy (PN) announced that it is developing its anti-submarine warfare (ASW) capability.

Lt. Cmdr. Gregory Fabic, Navy spokesperson, said that this program is one of the PN's long-term undertakings.

ASW refers to the capability to detect, locate and if necessary, destroy submarines found intruding in the country's territorial waters.

"We have plans for (developing) an ASW capability but it is still in the long-term plans. This is part of the PN's 'Active Archipelagic Defense Strategy'. We are looking at ship mounted and helo (helicopter) ASW capability," Fabic stressed.

He added that this program will be an important part of the Philippines' defense system once it reaches full bloom.

The PN earlier called the signing of the contract with AgustaWestland, regarding the delivery of three AW-109 "Power" helicopters by 2014, a "significant milestone".

"The PN finds it to be a significant development in line with the (ongoing) modernization program and capability upgrade," it stated.

The AW-109 "Power" helicopters will enhance the PN's capability in various naval operations such as maritime security patrols and search-and-rescue among others.

"These helicopters are just a few among the list of future acquisition for the PN in order to attain its vision of becoming a strong and credible Navy that our maritime nation can be proud of," Fabic emphasized.

US 'Balikatan' director sees exercises reaching multi-lateral level

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 13): US 'Balikatan' director sees exercises reaching multi-lateral level

CLARK FIELD, Pampanga -- US exercise director for "Balikatan 2013" Brig. Richard Simcock III Saturday saw the annual military and humanitarian maneuvers growing bigger and more nations participating in the coming years.

In an interview, the US official said he saw more nations participating in "Balikatan" -- thanks to the useful military and humanitarian and disaster response techniques learned by Filipino and American forces.

In particular, Simcock saw most of Southeast Asia and Australia participating in "Balikatan."

He added this practice will greatly improve security and stability in the region.

Incidentally, Australia has recently concluded a "status of visiting force agreement" with the Philippines, allowing the former to conduct military and engagement with the Filipino defense establishments.

Earlier, an observation team from the Australian Defense Force visited the Joint Civil Military Operations Task Force and Combined Joint Civil Military Operations Task Force (CJCMOTF) last April 6.

“The Australian Defense Force sent a small observer team to exercise Balikatan to look for future opportunities of involvement,” Australian Army Lt. Col. Michael Scott, the head engineer planner of Headquarters Company, 6th Brigade, said.

“We’re looking for opportunities to potentially integrate into future exercises.”

The team received an exercise overview briefing at the JCMOTF headquarters by the JCMOTF Operations officer Lt. Cmdr. Joe Harder.

“They are visiting exercise 'Balikatan 2013' to look for opportunities to participate with partner nations in the years to come,” Harder stated.

“The US is supporting the Australian visit by giving them an overview of how the execution is being conducted and to help identify gaps and capabilities that can expand the effectiveness of the mission vice just coming and doing the same thing which would just add more redundancy to the mission," he added.

Scott said "Balikatan" is a great exercise to observe due to the long-standing relationship between the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the US military.

PHL, US soldiers find "Balikatan" 'fruitful, engaging'

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 13): PHL, US soldiers find "Balikatan" 'fruitful, engaging'

FORT RAMON MAGSAYSAY, Palayan City -- As an American KC-130, the US Armed Forces’ version of C-130, was about to touch down at the aviation runway here, Capt. Michael Smith narrated how the air vessel refuels fighter planes on air during combat operations.

Smith, of the tanker Squadron of the US Marines, heads a team of contingents from his unit based in Okinawa, Japan for this year’s "Balikatan" (shoulder to shoulder) military exercises with their Filipino counterparts at the aviation command inside this vast military reservation.

The “K’ for the KC-130, a Filipino officer explained, indicates that the huge aircraft is used for refueling aircraft in the air.

Smith said That KC-130 was brought for the exercises to further interoperability training for humanitarian and relief operations.

The aircraft touched down the runway 10 times as a Philippine helicopter was being secured by a number of heavily armed soldiers in a scene of relief and humanitarian mission in a disaster-ravaged area.

Cpl. Nick Oiomo of the California-based US Army National Guard, on the other hand, said his team has a remarkable experience in squad live fire maneuver at the Fernandez Hill here with Filipino soldiers from 808th Infantry Battalion of 2nd Infantry Division.

The Filipinos are using M-16 Armalite rifles while his contingents use M-4, basically the same but smaller version of the former, Oiomo said.

Filipino soldiers, he said, are speedy even as their maneuver tactics have slight differences, he said.

“We learned from them, they learned from us,” he added.

He said the exchange of information was vital in their interoperability exercises.

Filipino American Harol Cajucom, 21, who settled in the US since he was 2 years old, described tactical exchanges with local soldiers as “engaging.”

He was born in Quezon City to parents who are native of Cabanatuan City.

“We are learning from them,” he said.

First Lt. Rogecil Labajo, commanding officer of 808th IB, said his unit never had hard time catching up with the training that was facilitated by the US forces.

“Our troops are trained well so whatever difference our strategies had with those of our counterparts are easily patched up, we have the grasp,” Labajo said.

The "Balikatan" military exercises ends on April 19.

DVIDS: BK 13 - AFP-US Army Team helps sharpen skills of Philippine first responders

From the Defense Video & Imagery Distribution System (DVIDS) (Apr 5): BK 13 - AFP-US Army Team helps sharpen skills of Philippine first responders
BK 13 - AFP-US Army team helps sharpen skills of Philippine first responders

U.S. Army medical team lead Maj. (Dr.) Kate Flocke helps Philippine health worker Euezer Ramos apply a bandage to a simulated motor vehicle accident victim during a mass casualty exercise at the President Rama Magsaysay Memorial Hospital in the Iba Municipality. The drill was a culminating event following a four-day first responders course conducted by a combined team of Philippine and U.S. army soldiers. The training event was one of several similar subject matter expert exchanges, cooperative health engagements, and medical, dental and veterinary community relations 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. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chris Fahey/RELEASED)
ZAMBALES, Philippines - Philippine Army soldiers from the 24th Infantry Battalion teamed up with the Joint Civil Operations Task Force (JCMOTF) U.S. Army medical team to conduct a four-day lifesaver refresher course for Philippine first responders at the President Ramon Magsaysay Memorial Hospital in the Iba Municipality, April 6.

The four-day class covered CPR, basic lifesaving skills, soft tissue injuries, medical emergency priorities, sanitation and pest management, and hazardous waste management.
As a final test, the medical team setup a mock three-vehicle motor accident – a realistic occurrence in the Philippines – in which nine Philippine army soldiers played critically wounded victims. The students had to react to simultaneous, life-threatening injuries, using the skills they learned during the class.

“They did an amazing job,” said JCMOTF Doctor Army Maj. (Dr.) Kate Flocke from the 97th Civil Affairs Battalion. “Seeing the energy in their faces and watching them do everything we taught them almost perfectly was just awesome.”
Neither the military nor the hospital had extra money to buy many supplies for the training event. As a homework assignment, each student had to bring in a homemade tourniquet.

“At first we thought having next to zero supplies would be a huge problem,” said JCMOTF medical trainer Army Sgt. 1st Class Stacey Love from the 95th Civil Affairs Brigade. “They really put their heart into making their own tourniquets, splints and bandages. In a real situation, that may be exactly what they would have to do, so despite it being a hurdle, we overcame it as a team and used it to our benefit.”

During the exercise, the students pulled bystanders to assist roping off the area, organizing supplies and searching for useful material. One bystander, van driver Rizal Pineda, helped the faux victims undress their wounds following the drill. He said he was surprised to be pulled into an official training exercise.

“I drive for a living and am on the road all the time,” said Pineda. “I see accidents all the time, and during a few I wanted to help. I didn’t know what to do and was always scared that I may get in the way. Thanks to them letting us join in on the drill, if I’m a bystander at a wreck, I know what I can do to help without interrupting the real professionals.”

In addition to the knowledge, Pineda felt a positive shift in his perception toward the local health professionals.

“It was nice to see them care so much and it really felt like they thought our safety is important,” he added. “If I ever need their help, I feel confident they would save my life.”

Following the drill, the JCMOTF medical team thanked the Philippine army volunteers for their realistic performance as accident victims. The students, who consisted of actual ambulance drivers, barangay health workers and provincial emergency personnel, gave their feedback on the refresher course. Many expressed gratitude for the thorough teaching. For ambulance driver Roberto Correos, it was an opportunity to lead.

“At first, we were very disorganized, which is what we would be feeling if we just arrived on scene to such a hectic accident,” said Correos. “As we began assessing, we figured out the best way to work together and direct those offering help. I think we did a great job, feel very prepared for an actual life or death moment and thank the Philippine and U.S. team for helping us.”

The training was one of several similar subject matter expert exchanges, cooperative health engagements, and medical, dental and veterinary community relations (COMREL) projects being performed by Combined/Joint Civil Military Operations Task Force (CJCMOTF) 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.

DVIDS: Philippine, US service members build camaraderie in Exercise Balikatan

From the Defense Video & Imagery Distribution System (DVIDS) (Apr 9): Philippine, US service members build camaraderie in Exercise Balikatan
Field training exercise at Camp O'Donnell

From left to right: Philippine Marine Cpl. Milky Espere and Cpl. Raymond Almonte, with the Philippine Transportation and Maintenance, observe U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Adrian Sandoval, with Combat Logistics Regiment 35, 3rd Marine Logistics Group, III Marine Expeditionary Force, as he demonstrates how to disassemble a M240 machine gun April 5 during a bilateral subject matter expert exchange at a field training exercise in support of Balikatan 2013 at Camp O'Donnell, Philippines. BK13 is an annual bilateral exercise between the Armed Forces of the Philippines and U.S. forces to enhance interoperability, improve military-to-military relations, and refine combined and joint-force planning in response to humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Jerome S. Tayborn/Released)

CAMP O'DONNELL, Philippines — Standing together on a hot black top overlooking a firing range, more than 300 service members with the Armed Forces of the Philippines and Combat Logistics Regiment 35, 3rd Marine Logistics Group, III Marine Expeditionary Force, were in formation to commemorate the official start of exercise Balikatan 2013.

Balikatan, which means “shoulder-to-shoulder,” is an annual bilateral military exercise conducted by AFP and U.S. forces to strengthen regional partnerships and increase military interoperability and readiness. The exercise, in its 29th iteration, instills camaraderie between forces through shared training and cooperation, which further enhances a combine capability to respond to real-world operations.

While related opening ceremonies took place across the Philippines, this marked the official start of the field training exercises within the Camp O’Donnell and Crow Valley area.

“Balikatan emphasizes and shows that we are committed to the region,” said U.S. Marine Robert Castro, commanding officer of CLR-35, 3rd MLG. “(Being here) indicates the importance of the event, and gives a chance for the Marines and sailors to stand “shoulder-to-shoulder” in a formation as one.”

Philippine Marine Capt. Recto C. Pumares, officer in charge, Philippine Transportation and Maintenance unit, echoed the same sentiment as he welcomed the U.S. Marines.

“I would like to welcome the U.S. Marine Corps led by Lt. Col. Castro,” said Pumares. “You will be here with us for two weeks, and we hope that we can learn a lot from your expertise. Thank you and welcome.”

Finding common ground is not uncommon and according to Castro, “Their core values are similar to ours. Their values of honor, duty and valor are aligned with our values of honor, courage and commitment, and coincide with what we do in our missions and the way we handle our Marines.”

Immediately following the ceremony, the formation dispersed into mixed training platoons with the purpose of integrating Philippine and U.S. forces.

Working together to develop solutions to challenging problems will be key for participants during the FTX. Designed to hone U.S. and AFP on divergent skillsets, the FTX will challenge participants in their ability to effectively communicate with one another while providing combat service support to exercise participants across the region, explained Castro.

Combined forces will conduct mounted convoy operations, tactical recovery and movements of vehicles, establishment of convoy defensive positions, jungle survival and warfare training, vehicle maintenance classes, including a Filipino “M35 Wrecker,” combat lifesaver training and a series of community relations projects in the local area.

Balikatan offers a full range of experiences for all participants, while opening each service member to new challenges.

“This exercise gives the Marines a different perspective. I consider it as lateral thinking, not just as our own military processes, but we are getting the opportunity to see how someone else conducts business and maybe learn a better process, that we might be able to use those skills at a later time,” said Castro.

DVIDS: Barangay church volunteers help CJCMOTF Team at Manggahan project site

From the Defense Video & Imagery Distribution System (DVIDS) (Apr 9): Barangay church volunteers help CJCMOTF Team at Manggahan project site

BK 13 - Barangay church volunteers help CJCMOTF team with construction

Pastor Amamias Custodio from Manggahan Municipalty's Born Again Christian Church helps U.S. Army engineers Sgt. Joshua Wagster, far left, and Staff Sgt. Cornell McCloud, both from Alaska's 56th Engineering Company, place walls for a prefabricated building. A combined team of Philippine and U.S. Army engineers are building a new community center to help the local barangay. Thanks to consistent help from the church volunteers, the team is ahead of schedule. The project is one of seven 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. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chris Fahey)

BARANGAY MANGGAHAN, Philippines - A handful of volunteers from the Born Again Christian Church located in Barangay Manggahan helped a combined team of Philippine and U.S. Army engineers build the barangay’s new community center.

The prefabricated building will serve as the main office for barangay officials and a day care for the local residents.

“Development of the community is a core part of our ministry,” said Born Again Christian Church’s Pastor Amamias Custodio. “This new building will help our community so much. It’s only right that we come out and help build it. Plus, it’s fun to work with the engineers and be a part of the progress.”

Twenty-five volunteers came out to help the combined team raise the new community center’s 25-foot walls.

According to the site’s Officer-in-Charge Army 1st Lt. Brock Chavez from the Alaska-based 56th Engineering Company, the volunteers helped push the team ahead of schedule.

“Everything they’ve helped with has been gold,” said Chavez. “We have Filipinos as part of our crew, so communication was easy, and they are extremely skilled at construction. That also made our job easier. We are two days ahead of schedule.”

Teamwork shared between the combined team and the volunteers was compared by Army Sgt. Joshua Wagster to a basketball team. Each person has their role, he said, and everyone worked together.
“Over the course of the work, we built a great rapport,” said Wagster. “It was great to have these guys out here.”

The community center is one of seven engineering civic action projects (ENCAP) being performed by Joint Civil Military Operations Task Force (JCMOTF) 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.