Saturday, May 18, 2013

PH insincere — Taiwan

From the Manila Standard Today (May 19): PH insincere — Taiwan


Taiwanese investigators left the Philippines on Saturday, expressing dissatisfaction with Manila’s cooperation in probing the shooting death of a Taiwanese fisherman by the Philippine coast guard.

In a statement, investigating team leader Chen Wen-chi, director of Taiwan’s Department of International and Cross-strait Legal Affairs, said that the evidence showed that the May 9 shooting was intentional.

Empty handed. Chen Wen Chi,  Director of the Department of International and Cross Strait Legal Affairs, Taiwan’s Ministry of Justice, shows the letter of Resident Representative Antonio Basillo of the Manila Economic and Cultural Office to Benjamin Ho of Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs claiming a joint investigation inviting Taiwanese authority to; participate in a joint probe during a press conference in Makati City.  DANNY PATA
Empty handed. Chen Wen Chi, Director of the Department of International and Cross Strait Legal Affairs, Taiwan’s Ministry of Justice, shows the letter of Resident Representative Antonio Basillo of the Manila Economic and Cultural Office to Benjamin Ho of Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs claiming a joint investigation inviting Taiwanese authority to; participate in a joint probe during a press conference in Makati City. DANNY PATA

It also said Philippine law enforcers ignored international protocol, including warning the Taiwanese vessel.

The investigators said they decided to leave because of a lack of sincerity and cooperation by the Philippines.

The 14-man team that arrived Thursday reiterated a call for a joint investigation.
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, however, has rejected the call, and instead urged Taiwan to wait for the Philippines to finish its “fair, thorough and expeditious probe.”

Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte reiterated De Lima’s statement, saying that a joint investigation with Taiwan was “not possible.”

“We have our own investigation, which is ongoing, and because of that we will not comment on the details (released by the Taiwanese probe team),” she said.

“We will defer to the progress updates that are being given by the NBI.”

But Chen said that evidence points to the shooting, which killed 65-year old fisherman Hung Shih-chen, was “intentional.”

“By combining the evidences, it clearly shows that the Philippine law enforcers were intentionally shooting the Guang Ta Hsin 28 crew members, which indicates their intent of murder,” Chen said.

“This kind of behavior should not be conducted by a civilized country.  We believe that the Philippine government would never allow for this kind of act to be done to its people,” she added.

Chen claimed that based on the video recorded by the Taiwanese fishing vessel, the incident “occurred within the exclusive economic zone of the Republic of China and not in the Philippine territorial waters.”

This was in contrast to the statement of Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda, who reported that the incident happened 48 nautical miles east of Balintang Channel, which is within Philippine territory.

Chen added that based on the forensic report, Hung died from a single gunshot wound on the neck from a high speed or powerful gun.

Based on the bullets collected from the fishing vessel, the ammunitions used were 7.62 mm caliber shots, most likely coming from an M14 rifle, M240, or M60 machine guns. The vessel was also shot by a total of 45 bullets.

“Most of those 45 bullets were shot at cockpit, in which the four crew members were hiding,” Chen said, belying an earlier Coast Guard statement that they only fired at the vessel’s engine portion.

Chen said slugs were not found on the surface of the fishing vessel, “thus omitting the possibility that Guang Ta Hsin 28 was trying to ram the Philippine law enforcement vessel which resulted in the defensive measure taken by the latter.”

She also urged the Aquino administration to present evidence to back its claim that the victim was at fault during the May 9 incident.

Failing to do so, she added, would mean that Manila was “purposely concealing the offense of their officials.”

Chen said the Taiwanese government will welcome any move from the Philippines to send a team to Taiwan to join the investigation “provided that they also follow appropriate procedure.”

“The Philippine government has tried to prolong and delay our requests for a joint investigation. We feel discontent on the lack on sincerity and credibility displayed by the Philippine side in cooperating with us team. For this very reason, all the members of the Taiwan investigation has decided to go back to Taiwan immediately.”

Chen also disputed Manila’s claim that the request for joint investigation did not follow protocol, saying that the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Makati formally issued two letters to request legal assistance for the probe.

“In the said letters, Taiwan government requests the Philippine government to provide assistance in the collection and inspection of evidence; in interrogating the perpetrators; and in providing the investigation reports,” Chen said.

She added that Manila Economic and Cultural Office resident representative Antonio Basilio has “stated publicly and clearly that the Philippine side will conduct joint investigation with its Taiwan counterpart.”

“We will invite Taiwan authorities to participate in the investigation process,” Basilio wrote in his May 10 letter to Benjamin Ho, director general of Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Meanwhile, Valte said the Palace was saddened by the reported mauling of an overseas Filipino worker in Taiwan amid widespread anger over the killing of the Taiwanese fisherman.

“Ito po ‘yung ayaw nating mangyari na merong mga madamay na ating mga kababayan (This is what we do not want to happen that innocent Filipinos will be implicated), which is why we’ve repeatedly made the call for calm and that our Filipino overseas workers in Taiwan have nothing to do with — they are there to work, they are not there to make trouble.”

Valte said the Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO) has already formed a team to monitor instances such as the reported mauling of an OFW and once verified, the report will be sent to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Taiwan for them to conduct investigation on the matter.

In a related development, rights advocacy groups urged the public to refrain from verbally or physically attacking Filipinos living in Taiwan.

“It’s not just Filipinos; all immigrants from Southeast Asia in the country would feel threatened when walking on the streets,” TransAsia Sisterhood Taiwan executive secretary Ly Vuoch-heang, an immigrant from Cambodia, told a news conference in Taipei.

“I’ve not been attacked, because I’m from Cambodia, but I don’t feel comfortable when people keep asking me whether I’m from the Philippines when I’m just going to buy lunch,” she said.

While the two countries have not been successful in reaching an agreement in dealing with the aftermath, a seemingly anti-Philippine sentiment has been developing among the public in Taiwan. Some communities have held rallies saying that they do not welcome Filipinos, vendors in a market in Changhua County posted signs saying that they would not conduct business with Filipinos.

“It’s not right to vent anger you may feel toward the Philippine government on Filipino migrant workers — when you even think about attacking these hard workers, please think of their contribution to Taiwan’s economy,” Taiwan International Workers’ Association policy researcher Chen Hsiu-lien said.

Chen accused President Ma Ying-jeou (???) of attempting to encourage people to vent their anger on Filipino workers as he has become a target of criticism for mishandling of the incident, “otherwise he would not have waited until now to ask people not to do so.”

MILF blasts MNLF, Military

From the Manila Standard Today (May 19): MILF blasts MNLF, Military

A commander of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front accused the military on Saturday of joining forces with the Moro National Liberation Front in a gun battle at Matalam, North Cotabato that resulted in the death of several MILF troops and the burning of their houses.

MILF commander Hadji Ali Mansur, head of the MILF’s 108th Base Command, said he and his relatives were attacked early in the morning of May 16 at Barangay Marbel in Matalam town by MNLF guerillas led by Datu Dimam Ambil.

Mansur said in a statement on the MILF website his group were able to repel the MNLF troops in the morning, but they were surprised when they saw Philippine Army troopers joining another attack in the afternoon.

“The military attacked us from the back which we did not expect,” Mansur said, claiming that the participation of elements of the Army’s 602nd Infantry Brigade in the attack was a violation of the government’s peace agreement with the MILF.

“The army troops were supposed to be a neutral buffer force and should have halted the assault and the burning of houses by forces of Datu Dima,” Mansur was quoted as saying.

“The military insisted to put up their buffer force in between the feuding parties to ensure that no untoward incident would happen while works for peaceful resolutions are underway,” the MILF said on its website.

Fighting in the area started last May 5 when Ambil’s troops attacked Mansur and his men purportedly after the MILF guerillas harassed planters in the sugarcane fields in the area.

Government and MILP peace negotiators, including the International Monitoring Team, parleyed a truce and both sides agreed to resolve the issue after the May 13 elections.

“We will file our protest on this military-backed MNLF attack and the necessary charges for the burning of our houses,” Mansur said.

But the military denied Mansur’s claim and dared the MILF leader to pursue his complaint.

“It would be best for the MILF to file their protest to determine the veracity of their claim, but we clearly state that we operate independently. It is impossible that they will operate together with the MNLF,” said Army spokesman Maj. Randolf Cabangbang.

MNLF peace panel member Rev. Absalom Cerveza said they have yet to verify if the military did join the attack, but he confirmed that there was a gunfight in Matalam that supposedly resulted in the death of several MILF guerillas and the burning of their homes.

Cerveza claimed the clash was triggered last May 5 by an MILF attempt to occupy the lands occupied by the MNLF, resulting in the death of one MILF guerilla and injury to two children.

“They wanted to include the MNLF property as part of their ancestral domain and that would be a direct insult and threat to the MNLF,” Cerveza said. “They also wanted to annex the areas because it is very productive agricultural land having palm oil, sugarcane and coconut.”

Mansur did not mention any casualties, but Cervesa said the skirmishes resulted in the death of several MILF guerillas.

Cervesa could not determine the number because the fatalities were immediately buried in accordance with Muslim tradition. But at least four MILF casualties were brought by the MNLF to the Amas Provincial Hospital in Matalam town for treatment, he said.

First female general finds self in new battlefield

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (May 18): First female general finds self in new battlefield

Photo courtesy of Ramona Go Facebook page

The first female general of the Armed Forces of the Philippines is up for a new challenge after choosing a different battlefield – politics.

Retired Brigadier General Ramona Go of the Philippine Army was proclaimed mayor-elect of San Enrique town in Iloilo on Thursday after Monday’s midterm elections.

“I feel happy about it because I saw the pulse of the people. They know that my victory means our growth and progress,” she told on Saturday.

Go retired in September, or six months ahead of her compulsory retirement from her 33 years in service to run for public office. She was then the Assistant to the Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel (AJ1) when she left the military service.

She joined the ruling Liberal Party and ran up against Nikko Fernandez of United Nationalist Alliance, brother of incumbent mayor Mediatrix Fernandez.

“I feel kasi that my town needs me,” she added. With respect to her predecessors, she said there was little development in the past years and wanted to do her part. “I know my expertise, network and training as [a military officer] would help my kababayans [countrymen].”

The town of San Enrique has a population of 35,000. It had a voting turnout of about 16,000 out of 19,000 voters in the recent elections. Go garnered 8,789 votes, while her opponent had 6,908 votes as per Commission on Elections.

Go served the military with distinction. She was the first female military pilot of the AFP after finishing her flying course in 1986.

She was also the first female line officer, and was also the first female Adjutant General. The AFP has had female generals but they were from the technical service, serving as nurses.

She also holds the distinction of being the AFP’s first woman battalion commander when she headed the Army Aviation Battalion (Bagwis) in 2003.

In an earlier interview, Go said she wanted to improve her town as her great, great grandparents segregated the town of San Enrique from the town Passi which it was once a part of.

The 56-year-old mayor-elect of San Enrique has many plans for her town and promised to put it on the map. “Our town isn’t known, it’s like a village,” she said. She added she would make San Enrique “conducive” for business, and aim for commerce investments to her town.

Asked if she would seek for higher office in the future, Go said she would do her best as a mayor first.

“I am not sure [if I would run for higher office next elections.] At the moment, these people who voted for me have high expectations. I will first deliver the expectations,” she said.

Aga loses bid; Nur a far 3rd

From the Philippine Star (May 19): Aga loses bid; Nur a far 3rd

Contrary to early trends, Aga Muhlach failed to realize his dream of joining the growing ranks of actor-lawmakers.

Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) founder Nur Misuari, meanwhile, was a far third in the gubernatorial race in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

Muhlach lost to former congressman William Felix “Wimpy” Fuentebella, whom the canvassing board in Camarines Sur declared winner shortly before midnight on Thursday as the newly elected representative of the fourth district. Fuentebella, who will succeed his father, outgoing Rep. Arnulfo Fuentebella, won by 2,205 votes.
He received a total of 82,834 votes against Muhlach’s 80,629.

The Fuentebellas have been part of the political landscape in the fourth district for decades.

The elder Fuentebella, a deputy speaker in the House of Representatives, has authored a bill segregating their district from CamSur and naming it as the new province of Nueva Camarines. The measure, approved by the House, is pending in the Senate. Wimpy is the last congressional candidate to be declared winner in the province. Hours before his proclamation, the canvassing board proclaimed the winners in the three other districts.

The tabulation of votes for the fourth district was delayed by protests from the Muhlach camp.

When canvassing was suspended on Wednesday, Rep. Fuentebella reported that his son was leading by 2,175 votes. Yesterday, he said Wimpy padded his lead by obtaining 30 more votes than what Muhlach received in one precinct contested by actor.

The actor earlier tried to stop the proclamation of winners by reportedly filing a petition with the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to declare a failure of election in CamSur.

Rep. Fuentebella said they would certainly oppose such a petition.

“There was no such failure. The balloting on Monday in the fourth district and in the province went on smoothly. In fact, many candidates have already been proclaimed. If he really filed that petition, he in effect wants to disenfranchise not only voters in our district but in the entire province. He is questioning the victory and proclamation of other winners,” he said.

Among the congressional winners earlier proclaimed were re-electionist Representatives Rolando Andaya Jr. and Diosdado Arroyo, and Leni Robredo of the first, second and third districts, respectively. Meanwhile, Misuari lost to Mujiv Hataman of the Liberal Party who was elected governor of the ARMM. Hataman’s closest rival was Pax Mangudadatu.

Hataman, with over 200,000 votes, was proclaimed by the regional board of canvassers at 11 a.m. yesterday.

 Also proclaimed by the regional board of canvassers at the halls of the Regional Legislative Assembly was lawyer Haroun Al-Rashid Lucman as regional vice governor-elect. Lucman was Hataman’s running mate.

Lucman trounced a province-mate, foreign-trained Islamic theologian Mustaqbal Manalao, in the tally of votes for regional vice governor.

Ray Sumalipao, director for ARMM of the Commission on Elections, said Hataman garnered 446,227 votes while Mangudadatu trailed far behind with only 231,741 votes. Misuari garnered only more than 20,000 votes.

Lucman, on the other hand, got 472,417 votes, ahead of Manalao’s 102,804. Hataman first got to the helm of the ARMM on Dec. 22, 2011 as an appointed caretaker of the regional government, along with Hadja Bainon Karon of the MNLF as vice governor designate.

Hataman, a known protegé of President Aquino, had served as a three-term representative of the Anak Mindanao party-list before he became officer-in-charge of the ARMM.

Hataman said he is ready to reconcile with all defeated candidates for ARMM governor, including Misuari, to hasten the restoration of political normalcy in the autonomous region.

PH urges Taiwan to protect Filipino workers

From the Philippine Daily  Inquirer (May 19): PH urges Taiwan to protect Filipino workers

Malacañang has formed a team from the Manila Economic and Cultural Office (Meco) in Taipei to ensure protection for Filipino workers in Taiwan after reports of harassment and attacks by Taiwanese angry over the fatal shooting of one of their fishermen by Philippine coast guards last week.

Vice President Jejomar Binay, President Aquino’s adviser on migrant workers’ affairs, on Saturday urged the government of Taiwan to protect Filipino workers on the island.

“We heard and we read in the papers that they have been hit with bats and four have been hospitalized,” Binay said.

“We are appealing to the Taiwanese people to spare our overseas Filipino workers from conflict,” he said.

The International Migrants Alliance (IMA) also urged Taiwan to protect Filipino workers on the island, whom the Hong Kong-based group described as “innocent.”

Eni Lestari, the Indonesian chief of IMA, also called on Taiwan and the Philippines to resolve diplomatically the conflict that arose from the killing of fisherman Hung Shih-chen by Philippine coast guards in waters off Balintang Island in northern Philippines on May 9.

Lestari said IMA had received reports of harassment and discrimination against Filipinos in Taiwan.

“This should stop. No physical attack or any act of racist discrimination should be done or condoned,” she said.

“The Filipino migrants in Taiwan do not only (work for their families back home and contribute to the Philippine economy), but also contribute to the economy of Taiwan and attend to the needs of the families they work for in Taiwan,” she added.

Taiwanese media reported that a Filipino was treated in hospital after being attacked with a bat by a gang of youths.

Meco Chair Amadeo R. Perez Jr. said after returning late Thursday that the Philippine government had verified the attack and that it was documenting other cases.

Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte on Saturday said the Aquino administration expected the Taiwanese authorities to act on reports of harassment and attacks on Filipinos on the island.

“We’ve seen reports that their leaders have assured the safety of our people there. We expect them to act on these reports (of attacks),” Valte said.
Ma orders protection

Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou called for calm on Friday and urged Taiwanese to act decently toward Filipinos.

Speaking to scholars who attended a conference of the International Law Association in Taipei, Ma said he had ordered Taiwanese law enforcement agencies to protect the more than 87,000 Filipino migrant workers on the island.

The fatal shooting of Taiwanese fisherman Hung Shih-chen by Philippine coast guards on May 9 has sparked anger in Taiwan and led to retaliatory measures, including a freeze on hiring Filipino workers, suspension of official and economic exchanges, and tourist travel to the Philippines.

Speaking on state-run radio, Valte said the Meco team would work with Taiwanese officials to stop harassment and attacks on Filipinos.

The team would document cases and report them to the Taiwan Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which would investigate attacks and harassment of Filipinos, Valte said.
She said the government had refrained from responding to reports of harassment of Filipino workers in Taiwan because it did not want an escalation of tensions, which could hurt both the Philippines and Taiwan economically.
No alternative markets

Valte spoke again about “contingencies” to deal with fallout from the new tensions with Taiwan, including tapping “alternative markets” for Filipino migrants whose applications for jobs in Taiwan had been frozen.

But, according to labor market expert Emmanuel Geslani, there are no alternative markets for Filipinos in Taiwan.

“Malacañang should stop deceiving the public … that there are other markets where (overseas Filipino workers) can find work,” Geslani said, adding that such statements from the Palace could “further infuriate Taiwanese employers who are now serious[ly considering] removing Filipinos as their contracts expire.”

Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said the government was looking at the Middle East, South Korea and Malaysia as alternatives to Taiwan.

But Geslani said those markets could not absorb Filipino workers trained for jobs in Taiwan.

South Korea, he said, has a yearly quota of 7,000 workers, which cannot be increased anytime.

“The Middle East does not have electronics factories or manufacturing companies where most of our workers are working and there is no country that can offer the same salary that our factory workers are getting (in Taiwan), which is P30,000 a month plus overtime,” he said.

Malaysia has electronics and assembly businesses, but these, according to Geslani, are small compared with the factories in Taiwan.
Tourism hurt

Taiwan’s suspension of tourist travel to the Philippines is beginning to be felt by the Philippine travel trade.

Businessman Alfredo Yao said Zest Air, the budget airline he launched in 2008, was halting daily chartered flights between Kalibo and Taipei until the tensions cooled down.

Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific, the country’s largest carriers, continue to operate flights to Taiwan, their press officers said.

Ayala Land Inc., which operates hotels in Metro Manila business districts and a resort hotel in El Nido in Palawan, said Taiwanese clients were canceling their reservations.
Yao, who also owns the 55-room Sol Marina on Boracay Island, said the resort hotel had started to receive cancellation orders for Taiwan bookings.

The resort, which claims an occupancy rate of 80 percent, can sometimes accommodate as many as 40 Taiwanese guests a day, Yao said.

2 rebels surrender to Ilocos police

From the Philippine Star (May 19): 2 rebels surrender to Ilocos police

Two members of the New People’s Army (NPA), one of them a woman, surrendered to the police in Sta. Lucia town, Ilocos Sur yesterday.

Chief Inspector Benedicto Cardenas, town police chief, said Reynaldo Haban, chairman of Barangay  Palali, facilitated the surrender of his relative, Angelito Haban, 37, of Morong in Bataan, and Ann Asido, of Masinloc, Zambales.

No additional details were released regarding the surrender of the two, who are believed lovers, pending assessment by the military.

PH and Taiwan: Strong military ties

From Rappler (May 17): PH and Taiwan: Strong military ties

Rommel Banlaoi
 Rommel Banlaoi

Taiwan and the Philippines are good neighbors. Though the Philippines pursues a One-China policy that regards Taiwan as a mere province of mainland China, the Philippine government maintains and continues to value its robust and comprehensive bilateral ties with the Taiwan government.

The Philippines has strong ties with Taiwan in the economic, social and cultural realm. There is even suspicion that the Philippines has discreet security ties with Taiwan because of both governments’ vibrant and dynamic security alliance with United States.

Being both security allies of the United States, the Philippines and Taiwan have inherent security relations. These security relations play a vital role in America's pivot to Asia.

As American allies, military officers from the Philippines and Taiwan have had regular exchanges. In fact, Taiwan’s War College inspired the establishment of the National Defense College of the Philippines (NDCP) in 1963.

The Philippines and Taiwan have even established regular exchanges of their military officers. They shared intelligence information during the Cold War, the post-Cold War, and the global war on terrorism pursued in the aftermath of the Sept 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

Prior to the establishment of Philippines’ relations with the People’s Republic of China (PROC), the Philippines had diplomatic relations first with the Republic of China (ROC). When the Philippines became an independent republic in 1946, the very first Treaty of Amity it entered into was with the ROC then called as the Nationalist China.

Establishing diplomatic relations with the ROC was considered to be a foreign policy priority of the Philippine government because both defended democracy as a way of life. In response, the ROC was one of the first countries to recognize the Philippines as an independent democratic republic.

Common historical experiences during the war, geographic proximity, cultural familiarity, and shared democratic values were crucial factors for the close ties between the Philippines and Taiwan. The current challenge in Philippines-Taiwan relations resulting from the killing of a 65-year old Taiwanese fisherman by the Philippine Coast Guard should not allow their bilateral ties to deteriorate.

Both the Philippines and Taiwan have democratic governments. Democratic peace idea in international relations contends that democratic governments do not go to war.

Military might

But Taiwan’s decision to conduct military drills in waters between the Philippines and Taiwan poses an aberration to the democratic peace argument. Because of a single incident that provoked public outcry in Taiwan, the Taiwan military decided to flex its military muscle against the Philippines, a close and friendly neighbor for many centuries. There is indeed a need for the Philippine government to hold accountable those responsible for the unfortunate incident that occurred on May 9.

The Philippine government also has to admit its lapses in responding to the incident in order to calm the reaction of Taiwan. But it is not prudent for Taiwan to display its military might against a friendly neighbor and a common ally of the United States. Its decision to implement various sanctions against the Philippines is ethnocentric and insensitive to long-term ties.

If the current unpopular Taiwan government is using the May 9 incident to earn short-term political mileage from its people by allowing its ties with the Philippines to deteriorate, Taiwan may suffer an unintended long-term strategic loss.

As a democratic government aspiring to become a “sovereign state,” Taiwan needs the support of the Philippines government. In fact, the Philippines’ friendship with Taiwan even risks Manila’s very important relations with Beijing. Taiwan should be reminded that the Philippines is a longtime friend and not an enemy. -

Rommel Banlaoi is the Vice President of the Philippine Association for Chinese Studies (PACS) and Head of the Center for Intelligence National Security Studies (CINSS) of the Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research (PIPVTR).

PH rejects Taiwan's 'murder' claims

From ABS-CBN (May 19): PH rejects Taiwan's 'murder' claims

The Philippines rejects Taiwan's claims that the Philippine Coast Guard deliberately killed a Taiwanese fisherman near Batanes last week.

Taiwan has called the incident – “cold-blooded murder” but Manila insists, the Coast Guard acted in self-defense and that the shooting happened in Philippine waters not in Taiwanese territory as Taiwan alleges.

Malacanang is now calling on both sides to avoid making statements that could just escalate the tensions.

Taiwan, on the other hand, says the Philippines has so far failed to show sincerity in apologizing for the fisherman's death.

Taiwan: PH Coast Guard had 'homicide intention'

From ABS-CBN (May 19): Taiwan: PH Coast Guard had 'homicide intention'
Taiwan investigators on Saturday belied initial claims by the Philippine government that the killing of a Taiwanese fisherman in waters off Batanes last week was unintentional.
According to a report by China Central Television (CCTV), based on forensic examination by Taiwanese authorities, bullet holes were mainly found in the cabin where the fishermen hid, so it holds the Philippine Coast Guard shot intentionally.
Taiwan investigators found that 45 bullets punctured the Guang Da Xing vessel, all of them from high-powered firearms.
"The criminal investigators concluded that the ammunitions used were 7.62mm caliber shots, most likely coming from M14 rifle, M240 or M60 machine guns," said Chen Wen-Chi, director for Department of International and Cross-Strait Legal Affairs of Taiwan's Ministry of Justice.
"No matter from the body injuries, or the boat damage, or the sailing distance from other boats as well as behaviors of their public service vessels, we concluded that they had homicide intention after we made comprehensive analysis," Chen said.
Taiwanese probers also said Philippine law enforcers did not follow the procedures of warning, dispelling, boarding and detaining illegal sea crafts, thus ignoring international laws.
Their forensic investigation also contradicted the claims by the Philippine Coast Guard that the fishing vessel attempted to ram the Philippine Coast Guard vessel.
"In addition, bullet remnants were not found on the surface of Guang Da Xing 28, thus omitting the possibility that Guang Da Xing 28 was trying to ram the Philippine law enforcement vessel," said Chen.
Taiwanese authorities reiterated their call for a joint investigation between them and the Philippine authorities.
But Secretary Leila De Lima said that a joint investigation is not possible. On the Department of Justice’s Twitter account, De Lima assured the Taiwanese government of a fair and thorough investigation.
The Taiwanese investigators returned to Taipei on Saturday after being denied to hold a joint investigation with the Philippines over the fatal shooting of a fisherman Mr. Hung Shi-chen.
Last week, based on initial reports, the Philippine government had described as an “aggressive act” the attempt of the Taiwanese vessel to ram into a Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) vessel that prompted Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) personnel to fire at the vessel seen near Batanes.
“It was an aggressive act. The ramming of the boat into our vessel was certainly an aggressive act. So the PCG responded accordingly. Nag-warning shot sila, hindi po tumigil. They took the other necessary action and I understand eventually disengaged after that. So let’s see kung ano pa ho ang mailalabas ng investigation ng PCG,” deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said last May 10.
The initial Coast Guard report also said that PCG personnel had tried to board the Taiwanese vessels after detecting them “in archipelagic waters.”
The PCG also claimed it fired a warning shot when one of the foreign vessels was about to ram the BFAR vessel.
“Meron silang nadetect na apat na foreign fishing vessels in archipelagic waters. In an effort to apprehend or magbo-board po sila… Nung sinusubukan pong to board… one of the vessels, ni-ram po nung isa ang ating, the BFAR vessel which is being manned by the Coast Guard. So nag-fire po ng warning shot, hindi pa din daw po tumigil ‘yung mga vessels in an attempt to continuously ram the BFAR vessel. Nag-fire daw po sila ng isa pang shot doon sa machinery portion ng ship,” Valte said.
On Wednesday (May 15), Taipei imposed several sanctions to Manila after rejecting its apology and recalled its envoy to the Philippines. The sanctions included freezing of applications for work permits, stopping economic exchanges and carrying out military exercises in waters between the two sides.
An investigation team from Taiwan arrived in Manila on Thursday (May 16) hoping to have a joint investigation, but the Philippines declined the offer and said they did not receive any formal request.
Chen said they informed the relevant Philippine authorities of their intent prior to arriving in Manila and showed a document signed by the Manila Economic and Cultural Office.
"Their initiative to come to the Philippines is based on sincerity and consent expressed by the Philippine government in conducting a joint probe prior to the investigation team's arrival. However, the Philippine government has tried to prolong and delay our requests for a joint investigation," she said.
"Although we made some progress yesterday, we still feel discontent on the lack of sincerity and credibility expressed by the Philippine side in cooperating with our team. For this very reason, all the members of the Taiwan investigation team has decided to go back to Taiwan immediately. We hope that the Philippine government understands that there is only one truth; and that the way to show sincerity is by proposing concrete and feasible proposals for bilateral cooperation which will pave way for the clarification of truth. In this way, we will be able to determine the proper compensation to the victim's family and carry out the appropriate punishments to the perpetrators," she said.
Chen also read a statement by Taiwan Minister David Lin reiterating Manila's lack of sincerity with their apology, but assured the Philippines that they will not involve the more than 85,000 Filipinos working in Taiwan.
Philippine presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda earlier appealed to Taiwan not to take out its anger on the Filipinos working in Taiwan, many as domestic workers, following local media reports of harassment.
The row is the latest flare-up in Asian seas where disputes in various places between various countries have raised fears of conflict in the economically vibrant region where competition for resources is intensifying.
The Philippines and Taiwan, as well as China, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam, are embroiled in disputes over territory in the nearby South China Sea, potentially rich in oil and gas and criss-crossed by crucial shipping lanes.

MILF: BTC unanimously approves the internal rules, logo of the Commission, organizational structure, calendar of activities

From the MILF Website (May 19): BTC unanimously approves the internal rules, logo of the Commission, organizational structure, calendar of activities


At the end of the three-day hard work, sharing of diverse opinions, and building consensus, the MILF-led Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) unanimously passed its internal rules, logo or seal, organizational structure, calendar of activities with all the 15 commissioners voting favorably during its plenary session held in Tagaytay City yesterday.

The BTC also approved its organizational structure featuring the selection by consensus and appointment of two deputy chairmen, a floor leader, and chairs of the six out of seven committees. Elected two deputies of the chairman of the BTC were Commissioners Robert Maulana M. Alonto, a member of the MILF Negotiating panel and Akmad Sakkam, a diplomat who served as former ambassador to Iraq, Bahrain, and Bangladesh, and elected floor leader was Commissioner Johaira Wahab. The commissioners who hold committee chairmanship are Asani Tammang (Basic rights, culture, social justice, and indigenous peoples’ matters), Johaira Wahab (Transitory provisions, amendments, revisions and miscellaneous matters), Robert Alonto (Political autonomy), and Raissa Jajurie (Fiscal autonomy), and Hussein Munoz (Justice and security matters).  A Coordinating Committee, which will be composed of the chairmen of the other committees, will be chaired ex-officio by the BTC chairman. 

Mohagher Iqbal, Chairman of the BTC, opened the "Consensus Building Workshop" of the Commission on 16 May 2013 in Tagaytay City.

The workshop, the third gathering of this Commission formed through EO 120 pursuant to the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) was convened with the facilitation of the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue (HDC) and with the support of the European Union.

With the theme “working together for peace through dialogue, the workshop provided space for the 14 Commissioners and Chair Iqbal to get to know each other better, form a solid team and reach a consensus on many principles underlying its work as a Commission.

The workshop started on May 16 to May 18 with various consensus points reached on the functions of the Transition Commission as the drafter of the Bangsamoro Basic law, a body that can propose Constitutional amendments to Congress, and as a clearing house for development efforts in Muslim Mindanao. They also discussed the need to engage a broad range of stakeholders including Congress to ensure inclusiveness and wider consultations. Fr. Albert Alejo of Ateneo de Zamboanga talked about public consultations while Prof. Edmund Tayao, Professor of Political Science at the University of Sto. Tomas and the Executive Director of the Local Government Development Foundation spoke of the need to engage political institutions and individuals. The workshop was facilitated by HD Centre Autonomy Consultant Benedicto Bacani and HD Project Manager Michael Alar with advisory support from Autonomy experts Prof. Yash Pal Ghai and Dr. Jill Cottrell. Ali Saleem, Country Representative of the HD Centre Philippines, expressed optimism in the crucial work ahead of the Commission in laying the foundations for political and structural reform in Muslim Mindanao.

This is the second time in a row that session of the BTC has been supported logistically by the HDC. The first was when the BTC met in Cotabato City from April 29-May 1.

On the closing day of the special session, His Excellency Guy Ledoux, Ambassador of the European Union in Manila tendered a dinner for the Commissioners at the venue of the session. He expressed happiness at the success of the activities and even congratulated them for the fruitful engagement. For his part Chairman Iqbal thanked the good ambassador and the European Union for being supporters of the efforts to find peace in Muslim Mindanao.

MILF: Canadian Mennonite Church representative and Davao-based Peace Builders dialogue with MILF Peace Panel

From the MILF Website (May 19): Canadian Mennonite Church representative and Davao-based Peace Builders dialogue with MILF Peace Panel

A Group of the Mennonite Church Canada (MCC) represented by Wendy Kroeker, Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches (PCEC) represented by its National Director Bishop Efraim M. Tendero together with PeaceBuilder’s Community, Inc. (PBCI) headed by their President and CEO Rev. L. Daniel Alba Pantoja came in town and dialogued with members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) peace panel headed by Chairman Mohagher Iqbal on May 15, 2013 from 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm at the Bangsamoro Leadership and Management Institute (BLMI), Simuay, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao. The delegation comprising 11 men and 7 young women including Wendy Kroaker looked even more beautiful in their colourful hijabs. One can feel the pleasant atmosphere inside the activity hall while the group stayed and interacted with MILF officials in just a matter of two hours.

MCC and PCEC, through PBCI, have been advocating for the right to self-determination of the Bangsamoro for the past seven years. Currently, they are working with other organizations including Mindanao Peoples Caucus (MPC) in advancing the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB).

They have been publishing official statements in support to the MILF-GPH Peace Talk. In a while, Chairman Mohagher Iqbal briefed the visitors on the progress of the peace process and the Moro struggle. On his part, Bishop Ephraim Tendero of PCEC shared his views on the peace process and unequivocably expressed his church’s commitment to supporting the GPH-MILF peace negotiation.

Bishop Tendero is known as an staunch advocate of peace in Mindanao and has a sense of humor.

With his occasional jokes; laughters from the attendees and giggles from among the young women where heard inside the hall, thus making the dialogue even more lively. For the young ladies some of whom are in their early or late teens, meeting revolutionaries like Chairman Iqbal and his group who are partners in search for peace in Mindanao is one they will cherish and an experience they cannot forget in their lifetime.

Expectedly, once they have returned to their respective homes and communities a never ending stories shall be told and retold about their enagaements with the MILF heirarcy.
The purpose of their visit were to personally re-affirm the support of PCEC and MCC to the GPH-MILF Peace Talks, specifically advocating for the successful implementation of the FAB and the signing of its Annexes; listen and document  statements from the MILF Peace Panel regarding their assessment of the role of religious bodies, like PCEC and MCC and how the Church can help in the peace process between the GPH and the MILF; explore the possibility of PCEC and MCC participation through the PBCI in meeting the transitional justice needs on the ground as part of the on-going peace process between the two panels.

During the forum and on the question on how the church can help in the peace process, Prof. Abhoud Syeed Mansor Lingga said that, “The churche should enlighten the people in the government on the urgency  of completing the peace process”.

Dato Antonio Kinok,  MILF alternate peace panel member representing the indigenous peoples said that  “The churches should urge both GPH and MILF to be sincere in resolving this century-old problem in Mindanao”. On the other hand, Atty, Naguib Sinarimbo of the MILF Technical Working Group (TWG) said that, “The role of the Civil Society Organizations (CSO) and the Church is to stress to both GPH and MILF to conclude real peace as soon as possible”. Iqbal said and emphasized the need for the church to engage in the communities, media, and the political leaders to work together to support the peace process”.

PeaceBuilders Community, Inc., the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches, and the Mennonite Church Canada are all committed to the smooth advancement of the Framework Agreement. “We are with you in prayers and in active advocacy to its success”, Rev. Pantoja said. He added that, “ we will all pray that very soon a comprehensive peace agreement will be reached and
effectively implemented with genuine justice for all”.

Also present in the brief but fruitful interactions were MILF TransCom members Timuay Melencio Ulama, Sayed Sheik, Sonny Davao. Atty Haron Meling from the Office of Chairman Iqbal and Jun Mantawil, Chair of the MILF Peace Panel General Secretariat were also present. Former Maguindanao Vice Governor Datu Kharis  Baraguir also attended.. Arland Abubakkar of Luwaran who was invited to join the workshops on FASTRAC held earlier in the day at the BLMI training hall was also around and documented the activity.

Taiwan gears for ‘war’ vs PH

From the Manila Standard Today (May 18): Taiwan gears for ‘war’ vs PH

All Taipei agencies told to ‘stand firm’

TAIWAN’S premier told his countrymen to “prepare for a prolonged ‘war’” against the Philippines, saying that the 11 sanctions imposed against Manila for the shooting death of a Taiwanese fisherman last week would most likely be for the long term, the Taipei Times reported Friday.

At a Cabinet meeting, Premier Jiang Yi-huah issued a directive about a slew of punitive measures and said all agencies must “stand firm,” the newspaper said.

Hotter and hotter. Former police officer Abner Afuang burns a Taiwanese flag in Lawton, Manila, to protest Taiwan’s moves against the Philippines. Danny Pata
Hotter and hotter. Former police officer Abner Afuang burns a Taiwanese flag in Lawton, Manila, to protest Taiwan’s moves against the Philippines. Danny Pata

Taipei has rejected several attempts by the Aquino administration to apologize over the incident as insincere, and demanded an official apology, compensation for the fisherman’s family, punishment for the guilty and bilateral talks over a fisheries agreement to avoid similar incidents.

But Jiang said there was no sign that the Philippines would give in to these demands, and said Cabinet members should “mentally prepare” themselves for upholding the sanctions for a long time.

He also said “a new stage of sanctions” might be imposed if it were deemed necessary, including the possibility of cutting air travel connections with the Philippines.

Taiwan’s Civil Aeronautics Administration said it had decided to put on hold a meeting to discuss amendments to an aviation pact with Manila.

President Ma Ying-jeou on Friday described the May 9 killing of Hung Shih-cheng, 65,by the Coast Guard as “cold-blooded murder” while the Foreign Ministry objected to attempts by Manila to portray the fisherman as the culprit in the incident.

Speaking with members of the International Law Association, Ma said international maritime law only allowed governments to inspect ships and to make arrests, but not to open fire against unarmed fishermen, Taiwan News reported.

Aquino administration officials have insisted that Hung was killed in a police action against poachers in Philippine waters, and that the Taiwanese vessel had tried to ram the Coast Guard ship.

A team of investigators which traveled from Taiwan to Manila Thursday was refused permission to work on the case, further angering Taipei.

As Taipei ramped up its anti-Filipino rhetoric, the Philippine envoy to the island state advised thousands of Filipino workers there to eat at home and avoid the streets as emotions run high over last week’s shooting death.

Amadeo Perez, chairman of the Manila Economic and Cultural Office and President Benigno Aquino III’s personal envoy, said Thursday after returning from Taipei that the government has verified at least one attack, in which a Filipino was beaten with a bat. Perez said Taiwanese police were investigating.

Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda appealed to Taiwanese not to harass Filipino workers or tourists in Taipei.

“We appeal to the people of Taiwan, if the reports are true, not to involve our Filipino nationals there,” Lacierda said.

“We appeal for calm. We appeal for sobriety on this unfortunate incident. Let us not involve our Filipino compatriots there. They are there working and they are there working for an honest living. So we ask them not to involve our Filipino citizens,” he said.

Taiwan’s Central News Agency said President Ma on Thursday urged the Taiwanese people not to vent their anger on Filipino workers living in the country because he said the government of the Philippines is the one who should be held responsible.

Ma said on his Facebook page that he was unwilling to see conflict occur between people from the two countries and that Taiwanese people should treat Filipino workers rationally. Just as the Taiwanese fishermen were trying to make a living and support their families, the migrant workers from the Philippines were doing the same thing in the island, Ma said.

Taiwan’s sanctions against the Philippines include an immediate ban on the recruitment of Filipino workers, the recall of Taiwanese representative in Manila Raymond Wang and an order to Philippine envoy in Taipei Antonio Basilio to return home.

Taiwan has also imposed a red-alert travel advisory for the Philippines, removed the country from its visa-waiver program, suspended high-level exchanges and cooperation in several domains, including fishing, science and technology, and aviation negotiations.

Taiwan’s Navy, Coast Guard Administration and Air Force also held a day of joint maneuvers in waters close to the Philippines on Thursday.

Talks to expand air travel between the two countries were suspended Friday.

The Aquino administration on Friday said it has identified three alternative markets for overseas Filipino workers who may be displaced by Taiwan’s hiring ban.

Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said this is part of the contingency measures being prepared by the government.

“In light of what has happened, the Labor Department has deemed if fit to look into other alternative markets that are capable of absorbing the number of [overseas workers] who may wish to come back or who may have to leave their places of employment in Taiwan,” Valte said.

Government records show there are 85,185 Filipino workers in Taiwan, 72 percent of whom work in the manufacturing sector. Some 26 percent provide personal and social services, while 2 percent work in the fisheries industry.

Valte said the government is looking at South Korea, the Middle East, and Malaysia as alternative markets for these workers.

In an interview with the South China Morning Post, former Philippine permanent representative to the United Nations Lauro Baja said Taiwan was overreacting.

“With their entity being a province of China, giving sanctions and refusing to receive the representative of the president, what is that? Sometimes I feel we have these things coming to us because of our very timid diplomacy,” Baja said.

“A former chairman of the congressional committee on foreign affairs earlier said that Taipei is using Hung’s death as a basis for making tough demands that will force the Philippines to violate its One-China policy.

“Taiwan saw an opportunity to push for recognition as a country instead of just an economic state. Taiwan is pushing us to violate the One-China policy,” former Negros Occidental representative Apolinario Lozada said.

Lozada said Mr. Aquino should consider sending former President Fidel Ramos to Taiwan as his special envoy.

“It will be a win-win solution. The former president, because of his stature, cannot be rejected by Taiwan. And since he is already a private citizen, we will not be violating the One-China policy,” Lozada said.

Valte said the suggestion will still have to be discussed with the President.

The Justice Department on Friday said the Taiwanese investigators would be allowed to conduct a parallel investigation but would not have direct access to or be allowed to question Philippine Coast Guard personnel.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima also ruled out a joint probe and the direct questioning by the Taiwanese of the Coast Guard team involved in the shooting.

“We can’t just allow foreign investigators to question directly our own men. It’s a question of sovereignty. It’s a question of propriety,” De Lima said.

She also said a joint investigation was out of the question because the National Bureau of Investigation was already wrapping up its probe.

NBI Director Caesar Nonnatus Rojas said they have given the incident the “highest priority” and assured the public that their findings would be based purely on evidence.
At the press conference, Rojas presented a total of 15 long firearms—8 M16 rifles, 6 M14 rifles and a Browning machine gun — which were surrendered to them by the Coast Guard.

He said all the guns will undergo ballistic examination and that the bureau was taking statements of the crew members involved in the shooting.

Taiwanese frustration with govt fans anger

From the Manila Standard Today (May 18): Taiwanese frustration with govt fans anger

Sitting in Taipei’s main commercial center as office workers filed out for lunch, Y.S. Liu mourned the collapse of her import business. Her president, she said, had failed to deliver.

The 60-year-old blamed Ma Ying-jeou, whose approval rating is 14 percent, for an economy that grew at one of the slowest rates in Asia last year, sparking January protests that helped trigger the resignation of Premier Sean Chen. When a Philippine patrol boat crew killed a Taiwanese fisherman a week ago, Liu and others found an outlet for their fear of being bypassed in Asia’s recovery.

“We’ve been frustrated for so long,” Liu said, adding Ma should be even tougher on the Philippines. “We’re so full of anger, so disappointed and dissatisfied with our government.”

Ma is seizing the moment to press President Benigno Aquino for a formal apology as Taiwan grocers pull Philippine goods from stores and travel agencies cancel trips, an approach that risks denting efforts to boost trade ties in Asia. His reaction may say more about Taiwan’s feeling of weakness in a region of emerging powers that don’t officially recognize its government.

“The whole world is bullying us, so we have to bully someone weaker than us,” said George Tsai, a political scientist at Chinese Culture University in Taipei. “Taiwanese have accumulated so much frustration and anger. Collectively, we’re trying to find an outlet. At such a moment, the Ma administration can only be tough.”

Ma Ultimatum

The diplomatic spat started on May 9, when a Philippine patrol boat fired at least 32 bullets at a Taiwanese boat in waters claimed by both sides, killing a 65-year-old fisherman. Ma threatened economic retaliation if Aquino didn’t meet four demands: apologize, compensate the family, agree to talks on disputed fishing zones and start an investigation.

The Philippines, which doesn’t formally recognize Taiwan under its one-China policy, agreed to all the demands except a government apology. Aquino offered to apologize on behalf of the Filipino people.

Ma rejected it outright. Within 24 hours, his government began military exercises off its southern coast, told people to stop traveling to the Philippines and froze the hiring of Filipino workers. State-run Taiwan Sugar, with 12 outlets stocking snacks and other products made in the Philippines, took items off its shelves.

Voice Raised

“People want justice, and our voice to be heard by the international community,” Wei Huang, manager at a Taiwan Sugar store in Taipei, said after removing more than 100 products. “We should use whatever leverage we have.”

Taiwan also moved to halt already-limited diplomatic engagement, including ministerial meetings under the World Health Assembly, a body of the World Health Organization. Sixteen Taiwan-based exhibitors withdrew from the International Food Expo in Manila.

Taiwan’s media has fueled the public outcry, with front-page headlines declaring “Philippine Government, Rotten to the Core.” Groups congregated outside the house of the dead fisherman.

“This is something very unusual,” said Samuel C.Y. Ku, a professor at the Institute of China and Asia-Pacific Studies in Taiwan. “We haven’t seen this kind of social outrage from a specific event.”

Negligible Impact

Investors have shrugged off the tensions. Taiwan’s Taiex index, which fell 0.1 percent as of 12:38 p.m., is up 1.2 percent since the shooting. The Philippine Stock Exchange Index (PCOMP) fell 0.7 percent after touching a record on May 15.

“We’re assuming this calms down and the impact will be negligible” on each country’s economy, said Robert Prior-Wandesforde, Singapore-based head of Southeast Asia economics at Credit Suisse Group AG.

The U.S., which is a treaty ally to the Philippines and helps maintain Taiwan’s defense, urged both sides to avoid an escalation.

China condemned the killing and demanded the Philippines begin an investigation. Taiwan has been ruled separately since Chiang Kai-shek’s Kuomintang party fled China in 1949 after a civil war, and the Communist Party deems the island a renegade province.

“With an island so interdependent with both economic powerhouses — and being a democracy that has to respond to public opinion — something like this must be handled quite literally like a controlled ’storm in a teacup,’” said Gary Li, a senior analyst at IHS Maritime. Ma “will settle down once the political theater is complete.”

First Elected

Ma improved ties with China after he was first elected in 2008, ending a six-decade ban on direct transport links. Since his re-election in January 2012, his popularity has plummeted as the economy slowed compared to others in the region, which are moving ahead on trade agreements that exclude Taiwan.

Taiwan’s gross domestic product grew 1.3 percent last year, according to the Asian Development Bank, slower than South Korea, China and most Southeast Asian nations. The opposition Democratic Progressive Party led the January protest in Taipei over Ma’s economic management that drew tens of thousands of people.

When it comes to the dispute with the Philippines, however, Ma’s opponents are with him. DPP chairman Su Tseng-chang said Taiwan needed to present a united front despite Ma’s other shortcomings.

“This is a matter of dignity,” said J.J. Tsai, a 40-year-old housewife, as she shopped in one of Taiwan Sugar’s stores today. “We are willing to pay the economic price.”

Chinese foiled from occupying island

From the Manila Standard Today (May 18): Chinese foiled from occupying island

Philippine Navy ships used “bashing maneuvers” to drive away three fishing boats from mainland China that tried to occupy an island off Palawan in the West Philippine Sea on Tuesday, military sources said.

The fishing boats were in the vicinity of Ayungin Reef, also known as the Second Thomas Reef, when the Philippine Navy ships arrived and made “circling maneuvers” that forced the Chinese to move out, the source said.

“They were forced to back-off several miles from Ayungin Reef after our ships arrived in the area,”  said the source  who spoke to the Manila Standard on condition of anonymity.

Ayungin Reef, which is adjacent to Mischief Reef or Panganiban Reef, is only 150 miles off Palawan and 620 miles from southwest China. It was occupied by the Philippines in 1973.

The Chinese has occupied Scarborough Shoal or Bajo de Masinloc, which the Philippines has claimed as part of its territory. Filipino fishermen have been barred from entering the area.

The Philippine Navy has sent three ships—a Peacock Class offshore patrol, a frigate-type PS 74, and Personnel Carrer bessel PS 71—to the area to prevent the Chinese from coming back, the source said.

“At present they [the three fishing boats] are seen stationary several miles off Ayungin Reef. We are monitoring their movements,” the source said.

At the Scarborough Shoal, three Chinese vessels enforced a no-entry zone with a thick rope tied between two points of the shoal to prevent the entry of Filipino fishermen.
“Filipino fishermen are shooed away and threatened by the Chinese vessels that patrol the surrounding waters of Scarborough Shoal,” the source said.

Pagasa Mayor Eugenio Bito-onon,  who was sailing back to Pagasa Island from Ayungin on an outrigger boat with 147 people on board, said they were chased by an unidentified patrol ship last Wednesday.

He said in a text message the patrol boat beamed a search light on them but it did not stop them from proceeding to their destination.

A Philippine Navy official said they were investigating the report.

PCG may have violated rules of engagement in Balintang incident

From the Manila Bulletin (May 17): PCG may have violated rules of engagement in Balintang incident

They may have acted in self-defense when they tried to fend off at least two Taiwanese fishing vessels from sinking their ship but probers from the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) on Friday said that there are signs that the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) may have violated their so-called rules of engagement.

An NBI insider, who refused to be named for the lack of authority to speak, said the bureau are now reviewing the provisions of the rules of engagement of the PCG as they collect the statements of the crew members of MCS-3001, a 35-meter vessel jointly manned by the Coast Guard and personnel from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR).

“But if you go through the report of the PCG, you'll immediately see signs na some particular provisions of the PCG's rules of engagement have been violated,” the source told the Manila Bulletin in an interview.

In its three-page, incident report obtained by the Manila Bulletin, the PCG manifested that the crew of MCS-3001 acted on self-defense when it sprayed bullets at fishing vessel Guang Ta Hsin-28, in a bid to disable its engine. Taiwanese fisherman Hung Shih-Cheng, however, was killed in the process.

The PCG claimed that the Taiwanese fishermen had refused to stop in their tracks while local sea authorities repeatedly fired warning shots in mid-air and blared their vessel’s horn at the foreigners.

But when the MCS-3001 vessel of PCG-BFAR was almost alongside one of the fishing boats, the PCG claimed that the engine of the Taiwanese vessel whirred to life, and the boat manuevered backward before speeding forward and it almost collided with the government ship’s stern.

The Philippine authorities fired another round of warning shots but the Taiwanese vessel refused to stop and engaged the PCG-BFAR in a high-speed chase. They said the Taiwanese vessel repeatedly tried to sink their ship, prompting them to fire their guns at the fishermen.

While chasing after Guang Ta Hsin, the PCG-BFAR spotted at least two, new unidentified boats – one white and one gray – and this prompted them to disengage from their chase and leave as they were already outnumbered.

The Manila Bulletin insider, however, found it unusual for authorities to use excessive gunfire if they indeed were just acting in self-defense.

Citing the rules of engagement of the PCG, the source pointed out that the Coast Guard personnel cannot fire warning shots to prevent the target vessel from escaping or to force the target vessel to comply with the instructions to stop and be boarded.

Instead, the source explained that personnel in charge of the unit afloat should employ other means necessary to force the target vessel to comply with their instructions. Warning shots are only fired prior to the direct firing at the hostile vessel/craft or its crew member, the source added.

In this case, the source noted many instances how the PCG members fired warning shots during the chase in an attempt of stopping the Taiwanese fishing vessel.

“Given that they acted on self-defense, is it justifiable to fire their weapons right away? What does the rules of engagement of PCG say?” the source asked.

The source said that the NBI is expected to submit the first part of its investigation next week.

So far, the NBI had yet to collect the testimonies of the MCS-3001 crew.

In a separate interview, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima confirmed that the NBI is set to wrap up the first part of its investigation and said the NBI plans to conduct the second phase of the investigation in Taiwan.

“Ang hindi na lang nagagawa ay yung pagpunta ng team sa Taiwan para mag-occular inspection sa fishing vessel. And hopefully talk to the survivors. Pero in so far as the evidence within the country patapos na yun (The only thing not done is for the team to go to Taiwan to visually inspect the fishing vessel. But as far as the evidence in our country it's almost done),” she said.

De Lima also revealed that Taiwan had formally submitted to Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO) late Thursday night a formal request to launch a joint probe with Philippine authorities but she outrightly denied the request.

"We will be issuing a response to that request within the day. Pero gaya ng nasabi ko yesterday, we cannot agree to a joint investigation lalo na patapos na 'yung NBI (Like I said yesterday, we cannot agree on a joint investigation especially since the NBI is almost done)," De Lima said.

"But of course it doesn’t mean na totally na hindi magko-cooperate (Of course that doesn't mean that we won't cooperate)," she added.

What she will allow, according to De Lima, was for Taiwan to conduct a "parallel" investigation on the death of a Taiwanese fisherman accused of illegally fishing in disputed waters near Batanes.

De Lima used the August 2011 Manila Hostage Crisis as an example wherein Hongkong investigators were allowed by the Philippine government to conduct its own parallel probe.

She, however, reminded Taiwanese investigators who might be visiting the country that they cannot interrogate the personnel from the Coast Guard and Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources who were embroiled in the shooting.

"I don’t think we can allow that. Ang NBI puwedeng magka-access [sa personnel]. At naka-access na nga. And they are now being questioned. But we can't just allow foreign investigators to question directly our own men. It’s a question of sovereignty. It’s a question of propriety," she said.

Meanwhile, the firearms that were in the possession of the Coast Guard and BFAR when the incident happened are already with the NBI for ballistics examination.

De Lima expressed hopes that the Philippines' ongoing investigation on the incident would help "ease the tension between the Philippines and Taiwan."

"Malaking bagay na may resulta... na magkakaroon ng resulta ang imbestigasyon. And makakasama diyan ang magiging recommendation kung mayroong dapat file-an ng kaso (It is a big thing to get get results from the investigation. And along the results are recommendations if there are charges to be filed)."

AFP intel post may go to PMA Class '82 member

From InterAksyon (May 18): AFP intel post may go to PMA Class '82 member

Brig. Gen. Roberto Detablan Domines, assistant commander of the 7th Infantry Division, is being strongly considered by the Armed Forces Board of Generals (BOG) to replace the retiring head of Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence (J-2).

Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Emmanuel Bautista led the BOG which has the shortlist of candidates.

Domines is a member of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) “Sandigan” Class of 1982.

If President Benigno Aquino III clears the appointment, Domines will take the helm of AFP J2 –a post vacated by retired Maj. Gen. Francisco Cruz Jr. (PMA ’79).

Reports, meanwhile, said Brig. Gen. Hernando Iriberri will soon assume command of the 4th Infantry Division, now headed Brig. Gen. Ricardo Visaya as acting commander.

Iriberri is the former senior military assistant and spokesman of Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin; and served as Gazmin’s spokesman when the retired general was Army chief.

Sources said Iriberri is Gazmin’s personal choice to head the 4th ID. “Ever since he became defense secretary (Gazmin), all senior offices appointed to that position (4th ID) were his own personal choice,” a source said.

1 soldier, 2 NPAs killed in Surigao del Norte clashes

From InterAksyon (May 18): 1 soldier, 2 NPAs killed in Surigao del Norte clashes

Soldiers from the 4th Infantry Division take a break from the intense summer heat during a pursuit operation against the NPA in Surigao del Norte.

A soldier and two suspected members of the New People’s Army (NPA) were killed after two successive days of encounter in the hinterlands of Claver town in Surigao del Norte.  

1Lt Joe Patrick Martinez, commanding officer of the 42nd Civil Military Operation (CMO) battalion, said the clashes started last Thursday.

“The soldier was killed after a 15-minute firefight between elements of the 30IB against around 15 NPA members in Sitio Pamyunon, Barangay Sapa in Claver town. The next day, Friday May 17 our troops from the 42nd Division Reconnaissance Company caught up with the fleeing rebels in Barangay Cabugo at around 1:30 in the afternoon resulting in a 30-minute exchange of gunfire,” said Martinez.

In the ensuing firefight, two NPA rebels were killed and Martinez expected several more were wounded."The report that we have on the field is that other than the two NPA members who were killed in the encounter, several more are wounded since our soldiers saw them trying to carry their wounded combatants off the area and there were blood trails in the area,” he said.

The CMO officer said they recovered an M-16 and Ak-47.

“We’ve brought the body of the two slain NPAs to a funeral home in the neighboring town of Bacuag since we don’t have any funeral facility here in Claver. Samples of the fingerprints were also taken in the hopes of revealing the identity of the slain NPA members. We are also stepping up our security and placed checkpoints in key strategic locations,” said Acelo.

The municipal police chief said the place of the encounter is a regular staging area for NPA activity. “It is a mountainous area, about 10 kilometers away from the center of the town and 5 to 7 kilometers from the mining area of Taganito Mining Corporation. There have been several encounters between soldiers and the NPA in that vicinity over the past few years," he added.

Philippines rejects Taiwan accusations of 'murder'

From InterAksyon (May 18): Philippines rejects Taiwan accusations of 'murder'

The Philippines on Saturday rejected Taiwan's allegations that its coastguards had intentionally murdered a Taiwanese fisherman whose death has triggered a major diplomatic spat.

Manila reacted even as Taiwanese officials pressed their call for a joint investigation by both governments, and the Philippine vice president, who also serves as presidential adviser on migrant workers' concerns, asked Taipei to guarantee the safety of Filipinos amid reports of OFWs being attacked by mobs.

The 65-year-old fisherman was shot dead by Philippine coastguards who said his vessel intruded into Philippine waters.

Chen Wen-chi, head of the Taiwan team investigating the May 9 incident, said most of the bullets had hit the fishing boat's cockpit where its crew hid.

"By combining the... evidence, it clearly shows that the Philippine law enforcers were intentionally shooting the Guang Ta Hsin 28 crew members, which indicates their intent of murder," Chen told a news conference in Manila.

The shooting, which Manila insists occurred inside Philippine territorial waters but which Taipei counters happened within its exclusive economic zone, has led to Taiwanese sanctions against its neighbour.

President Benigno Aquino's spokesman Ricky Carandang rejected the murder allegations.

"There is an investigation ongoing so any premature statements that tend to confuse the issues and inflame passions should be avoided," Carandang told AFP.

Justice Secretary Leila De Lima in a separate statement also urged everyone to refrain from making statements "that would further fuel or aggravate the prevailing tension between the Philippines and Taiwan".

Manila has warned its 87,000 nationals who work in Taiwan to stay indoors after a Filipino man was allegedly hospitalised in a baseball bat attack in Kaohsiung city.
Chen's comments echoed those made by Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou in Taipei on Friday.

"If (Philippine) civil servants used automatic weapons to fire at unarmed and provocative fishing boats, this was not carrying out their job duties. This is cold-blooded murder," Ma said.

Aquino made a "personal" apology on Wednesday over the "unintended" death arising from the patrol's duty of protecting Philippine waters against illegal fishing.

Taiwan has rejected the apology. It recalled its de facto envoy, banned the hiring of new Philippine workers and staged a military drill in waters off the northern Philippines earlier this week.

The Philippines officially recognizes Beijing over Taipei but maintains trade ties with the island.

Chen, of the Taiwan justice ministry's department of international and cross-strait legal affairs, said her team was flying back to Taiwan immediately because their Filipino counterparts showed a "lack of sincerity and credibility".

The Philippines officially recognizes Beijing over Taipei but maintains trade ties with the island, which employs about 87,000 Filipinos.

Binay: protect Filipino workers

Philippine Vice President Jejomar Binay Saturday urged Taiwan to ensure the safety of Filipino workers following reports of attacks by angry Taiwanese.

"We heard and we read in the papers that they have been hit by bats and four have been hospitalized," Binay told reporters, according to an official transcript released by his office.

"We are appealing to the Taiwanese people to spare our overseas Filipino workers from conflict," he added.

Taiwanese media reported that a Filipino was treated in hospital after being attacked by a gang of youths.

"We've seen reports that their leaders have assured the safety of our people there. We expect them to act on these reports (of attacks)," Aquino spokeswoman Abigail Valte said.

Nearly 10 million Filipinos live or work abroad, and the tens of billions of dollars in earnings that they send home every year help prop up the Philippine economy.

Leftist group backs joint probe

Taiwan’s call for a joint inquiry was endorsed Saturday by the left-leaning fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya).

In a press statement, Pamalakaya vice chair Salvador France said leaders of Manila and Taiwan should jointly agree to investigate the incident that would lead to the establishment of truth, delivery of justice and promotion of foreign relations based on the collective interest of the Taiwanese and Filipino people.

"President Benigno Simeon Aquino III and his extraordinary war freaks in Malacanang should know that foreign diplomacy is not all about arrogance and sheer puppetry to US. It is all about mutual respect, political humility and strong sense of patriotism and independence which are gravely lacking from the current leadership in Malacanang," France said.

He described Taipei’s proposal as "politically sound and morally correct.” Another option is for both sides to agree to “an independent probe to be sanctioned by the United Nations or by the governments themselves," the Pamalakaya official said.

But Pamalakaya appealed to the Taiwanese government to spare Filipinos in Taiwan. "You can drag Philippine President Benigno Simeon Aquino III and the members of the trigger happy Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) to hell, but please spare the Filipino people, including the 42,000 migrant workers working in Taiwan. We too are victims of this puppet state of Washington in Manila."

NPA owns up attack vs 4 cops

From the Bicol Mail (May 16): NPA owns up attack vs 4 cops

The New Pople’s Army (NPA) on Saturday claimed responsibility for the ambush that wounded four policemen in Bacon District of Sorsogon City on Friday afternoon.

In a statement, the Celso Minguez command of the NPA said they attacked the four members of the PNP’s Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team in Barangay Bato.

“The ambush was NPA’s way of retaliating to the intensified counter insurgency operations of the military during the election period. The NPA vows more offensives,” the statement said.

On Friday, unidentified armed men attacked Chief Inspector Juancho Ibis, PO2 Nelson Dioquino, PO1 Eric Elquiro, and another yet to be named police officer while they were patrolling for the elections in the province that was once in the Commission on Elections’ list of hotspots in the country.