Sunday, June 9, 2013

Army helps out in humanitarian work

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jun 9): Army helps out in humanitarian work

The Philippine Army personnel in Samar are busier after the focused security measures in the midterm elections.

Troops from the 63rd Infantry Battalion (IB) encountered New People’s Army (NPA) insurgents on June 4 in Barangay Poponton, Las Navas and Northern Samar. The clash resulted to the death of one state enemy and the recovery of two M16 rifles.

Members of the 43rd IB also recently engaged with the NPAs in a 15-minute firefight in Barangay Ligaya, Matuginao, Samar.

“Our mission and goal is to make the island of Samar a manageable conflict and development-ready area just like Biliran, Bohol, Leyte and Southern Leyte,” 8th ID Commanding Gen. Gerardo Layug said in a statement.

Meanwhile, during 8th ID’s anniversary, 32 officers and enlisted men donated blood through a bloodletting activity which generated 14,400 cc of blood. Dr Michieko Malou Modesto, Philippine National Red Cross Leyte Chapter head said that the collected blood will benefit the dependents of the donors in the region.

Army troops under the 8th ID also assisted in the renovation, repainting of facilities, repair of school furniture and declogging of drainages and canals in several schools in the province.

Meanwhile, the 43th IB distributed books and personal computers donated by a civic group Rotary Club to a school in Barangay Sto Niño, Gandara and two other schools in Gandara town. 

“The 8th Infantry Division has evolved from doing purely military operations to performing non-military operations such as medical missions and humanitarian work,” Layug said.

MILF: Editorial -- Status Quo is Unacceptable

From the MILF Website (Jun 8): Editorial -- Status Quo is Unacceptable

The phrase status quo is unacceptable, as used in the current GPH-MILF peace negotiations and contained in the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB), has deeper meaning and significant implications more than what many can think or had thought of.

Largely, it is about the imbalance or one-sided relationship between the Philippine state and the Bangsamoro people, the former as neo-colonizer and the latter as the colonized. It is also about extirpating or cleansing of the “dirt” within the Moro society and oneself, as in any society or individual. Our people have suffered much from this false sense of values, feudalism, and stains of ultra-materialism or worldliness. A change for the better, based on piety, mutual respect, parity of esteem, equality of peoples, and respect for human rights and international humanitarian law, is what underpins this agreed phrase.

Applied to the present Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), which in every bit is an administrative region, it is not only about replacing it with a new Bangsamoro political entity, but even those powers granted to it by law should not and must not be offered at all in the current negotiation in order to give honesty to this agreed principle. The most sensible stance would be that those powers already granted to the ARMM by R.A. 9054 and other legislations should be delivered to the new entity. The only subject of negotiations are additional powers.

The ARMM has been offered to the MILF at least four times and each time it was offered, the MILF rejected it outright. The MILF is not in the negotiation for the ARMM. Thus, government negotiators are prudent enough to respect the MILF stance. Respect begets respect.

The ultimate aim of this 16-year old government-MILF negotiation is solving the Moro problem, set in proper perspective as Moro Question. This agenda of the peace talks was agreed by the parties as early as 1997 when they agreed to pursue peace instead of war. Thus, any political solution short of giving Moros genuine self-governance will not solve the Moro Question. It is like prescribing the wrong medicine to a serious illness.

The truth is that if the MILF accepts a sub-par political solution, it would only regret later. It would not only become irrelevant later but would be cursed by the people --- and more seriously, the problem goes on and on, perhaps with greater intensity as new more radical leaders emerge.

The MILF and government should wake up to this harsh reality --- and make the proper move. The MILF is faced with a serious challenge to accept a coopted solution or to stick to what really is the solution to the Moro Question. On the other hand, the government has to choose one of two options: give genuine autonomy to the Moros and face the future with ease and confidence or continue with its policy of containment but the future is bleak and full of uncertainties.

MILF: SWC members attend Training on Food Processing

 From the MILF Website (Jun 9): SWC members attend Training on Food Processing

Fifty Seven (57) members of the Social Welfare Committee (SWC) in Zamboanga Sibugay attended a five-day Basic Training on Food Processing held at the BDA Building, Barangay Canacan, Kabasalan municipality in the said province from June 1-5, 2013.
The activity was facilitated by an officer of SWC Economic Program of the MILF Central Committee. She said that similar training were already conducted in other areas of Mindanao as in Cotabato, Maguindanao, some places in Northern Mindanao and part of Western Mindanao such as in Basilan, and now Zamboanga Sibugay. Many Moro women had been recipients of trainings spearheaded by the SWC and a lot of them have become skillful in food preparations.

The aim of the program was to train participants on livelihood programs for income generating purposes; an initiative of the SWC targeting beneficiaries from the provincial level down to the municipal level.

During the 5-day activity, the participants were taught on how to prepare food recipes and other skills in food processing. Similar undertaking shall be conducted in other areas of Mindanao where a lot more Moro women are in dire need of knowledge in food processing. 

Originally, the training was scheduled for 10 days but was shorten to 5 days due financial constraints. Nevertheless, it ended successfully through the support of benefactors and supporters in the locality.

Aquino to lead 115th Independence Day celebration at Liwasang Bonifacio

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 9): Aquino to lead 115th Independence Day celebration at Liwasang Bonifacio

President Benigno S. Aquino III will lead the celebration of the Philippine's 115th Independence Day at the Liwasang Bonifacio in the city of Manila on Wednesday.

"Ang Independence Day celebration po natin ay tatanghalin sa Liwasang Bonifacio bilang tribute na rin po kay Andres Bonifacio on his sesquicentennial also this year," Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte said in an interview aired over government-run dzRB Radyo ng Bayan on Sunday.

The country celebrates the Independence Day each year to raise awareness among the Filipinos that freedom is the most precious right of every citizen.

The holiday commemorates the Declaration of Independence on June 12, 1898 by General Emilio Aguinaldo and the Filipino revolutionary forces from Spanish colonization.

Independence Day was officially observed on July 4 until the Republic Act No. 4166 that designated June 12 as the country's Independence Day was signed by the late President Diosdado Macapagal on August 4, 1964.

The Palace earlier called on Filipinos to display the Philippine flag at their respective home, offices, schools, public buildings and plazas, as well as embassies and consulates overseas beginning May 28, in celebration of National Flag Day, until June 12, in preparation for the Independence Day.

In commemoration of this year's annual observance of Flag Days, Valte said the Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office (PCDSPO) is publishing a series of features on the development of the flag, the country’s coat of arms, as well as other historical flags of the Philippines on the Presidential Museum and Library website.

"Sa June 10 ay ilalabas po ng PCDSPO at ng Presidential Museum and Library ang third part po, Part III ng kanilang infographics on the flag," Valte said.

"At para doon po sa mga hindi nakakaalam, ise-celebrate na po ang sesquicentennial ng Malacañang on Tuesday, on June 11. Kasi ang Palasyo po ang naging official residence ng Chief Executive after the great earthquake of June 6, 1863. Ang PhilPost will be issuing a new stamp to mark the Malacañang sesquicentennial," she added.

US allocates $5.5 M for Phl disaster resilience program

From the Philippine Star (Jun 9): US allocates $5.5 M for Phl disaster resilience program

The United States has allocated another $5.5 million (P184.3 million) to the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) in support of the Philippine government’s efforts to strengthen the resilience of disaster-prone communities.

The new grant will support the third phase of WFP’s Disaster Preparedness and Response/Climate Change Adaptation (DPR/CCA) Program, which was piloted in 2011 in the four disaster-prone provinces of Benguet, Cagayan, Laguna, and Sorsogon.

The third phase will expand the program to five new provinces such as Batangas, Compostela Valley, Davao Oriental, Iloilo and Misamis Oriental.

The US grant will be used to support projects to be identified and proposed by the communities.

With the rainy season in the Philippines fast approaching, the WFP said the need to strengthen disaster preparedness and response efforts in the country is a top priority.

The WFP said the situation is even more pressing considering that the country is a disaster-prone country visited by at least 20 typhoons annually.

Government affirms vow for Mindanao

From the Manila Bulletin (Jun 9): Government affirms vow for Mindanao

The Aquino government is committed to bring “doable and durable peace” in Mindanao, fully inclined to strike a final peace accord with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), according to Presidential Peace Adviser Teresita Quintos Deles.

In a statement sent to the Manila Bulletin, Deles said the present administration is “doing its best to ensure ‘more doable and durable peace’ in Mindanao,” pointing out that President Aquino’s drive for a final agreement with the MILF “has not waned.”

Deles and MILF Chairman Al-Haj Murad Ebrahim attended the recent 27th Asia-Pacific Roundtable in Kuala Lumpur where officials from various nations discussed issues and strategies on bring peace in the region.

The Bernama, Malaysia’s national news agency, interviewed Murad at the sidelines of the gathering, and reported the MILF chieftain as expressing concerns over the postponements in the regular schedules of exploratory talks tackling three remaining annexes to the rebel group’s initial accord with Malacañang.

Such glitches in the formal talks might become threats to the improving peace in Mindanao, the news agency quoted Murad as saying Wednesday.

In apparent reply, Deles explained that the rescheduling of the Malaysia-brokered talks were just meant for President Aquino to review the initial outputs of the negotiations to ensure better outcome in the implementation process.

“The President’s instruction has not waned. We will implement everything that we sign; GPH (Government of the Philippines) will deliver whatever it commits legally, politically and in all ways necessary. No false promises, no blind commitments, no agreement (to) cause problems further down the road or bring harm to other areas of governance and reform,” Deles said.

Malaysian third-party facilitator Tengku Datu Abdul Ghafar Tengku bin Mohamed was also invited to the multi-nation roundtable meeting to update delegates on the progress of the MILF-GPH talks, said Deles, head of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace Process (OPAPP).

Deles said that as earlier pronounced, the Aquino government will strike a final peace accord before the end of the President’s term in June, 2016.

The MILF and GPH peace panels signed last October 15 the Framework Agreement on Bangsamoro (FAB), an initial accord being fleshed out with four annexes under discussions in follow up talks in the city of Kuala Lumpur.

The four annexes include Normalization, Power-sharing, Wealth-sharing, and Transitional Arrangements and Modalities, which are basic parts of a final comprehensive agreement. The fourth annex has already been finalized, the two peace panels said.

FAB seeks to create a new autonomous political entity named the Bangsamoro, which will replace in 2015 the 23-year-old Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) in a process Deles described as requiring utmost care.

Youth training

From the Manila Bulletin (Jun 9): Youth training

The Naval Forces Western Mindanao (NFWM) conducted a skills training to 42 out-of-school youths (OSYs) of this city, in an effort to educate and enhance their skills, which could eventually help them find better jobs.

The training was conducted in coordination with the local village officials of San Roque,and the Region-9 office of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA-9).

NFWM commander Commodore Isabelo H. Gador, who graced the graduation rites, said the training for the 42 OSYs started last April 15, and culminated on June 5.

Courses offered to the 42 OSYs include basic computer literacy, basic electricity, and basic oxy-acetylene cutting and welding course conducted onboard the Philippine Navy ship BRP Dagupan City (LC551).

Gador said 24 OSYs completed the basic computer literacy course, 11 completed basic electricity, four on arc welding, and three on oxy-acetylene cutting and welding.

It was learned that the program targets OSYs with ages 17 to 27.

Noy gov’t prioritizes AFP modernization — Lacierda

From the Daily Tribune (Jun 9): Noy gov’t prioritizes AFP modernization — Lacierda

The Aquino administration will remain focused on attaining a minimum credible defense position to protect the country’s sovereignty against both external and internal threats, presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda yesterday.

In a radio interview over dzRB Radyo ng Bayan, Lacierda said the Aquino government has already accomplished a lot in modernizing the country’s police and military.

Lacierda’s statements came in the midst of some calls among lawmakers to increase the 2014 budget of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Philippine National Police (PNP) so that they could readily respond against external and internal threats.

But Lacierda said the current thrust of the government is modernizing the Philippine police and military.

“In only a span of three years we have devoted a substantial amount of money toward modernizing our armed forces,” Lacierda said in the interview.

Under the AFP Modernization Law, the Aquino administration was able to acquire a Hamilton class cutter from the US — the BRP Gregorio del Pilar. The navy is also awaiting the arrival of another naval ship from the US, he said.

The military also acquired several combat helicopters from Poland with the first four choppers now being used by the Air Force. There are additional deliveries of more choppers as well as jet fighters most probably from South Korea.

“We are going to achieve what we have always maintained, what the President has always said — a minimum credible defense position; and if the lawmakers would wish to add to the budget of the AFP, again, we are going through a budget deliberation process,” Lacierda said.

“It is within the process itself, as to their discretion how they would like to assist in further modernizing our forces,” he added.

He said that if Congress wants to add to the budget for the military and the police, it would be a great help for the country, as adding any amount should be in the budget process and budget deliberations.

Modernizing the Philippine military is seen as a necessity for the country as tension rises in the West Philippine Sea, and as other claimant countries now aggressively pursue their respective claims to the contested territory.

Among the concerns for the Philippines are the alleged continuous patrols of China near the shoals within the country’s exclusive economic zone.

Palace coins alibi for delayed peace talks with Muslim rebs

From the Daily Tribune (Jun 9): Palace coins alibi for delayed peace talks with Muslim rebs

In what could be perceived as Malacanang’s alibi for its delayed peace talks with the Muslim rebels, Presidential Adviser on Peace Process Teresita Quintos Deles yesterday bared the Aquino administration is working hard to achieve a “more doable and durable peace” in Mindanao.

According to Deles, the government can deliver what it has committed.

Deles made the assurance amid criticisms hurled against Malacañang over its failure to conclude the government’s peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

According to Deles, there is a need for vigilance, political will and savvy in guarding the process of legislation for the Basic Law, one of the elements of the roadmap for establishing the new Bangsamoro.

The Basic Law will be certified as urgent by the President, submitted to Congress for passage, and subjected to a plebiscite in the proposed core territory as stated in the Framework Agreement of the Bangsamoro (FAB).

Once ratified, the Bangsamoro region will be established and the ARMM will be abolished, Deles said.

Deles underscored the need for “new capacities and immense trust and goodwill on both sides” in the normalization process as well as delivery of development services that will not cause new conflicts in communities.”

“The spirit of inclusiveness must be demonstrated not just in word but, more importantly, in deed by the leadership of all concerned stakeholders. In the law and beyond the law, legitimate institutions need to be built, reformed, and strengthened that will guarantee inclusive growth, increase participation in political and economic decision-making, as well as guard against interests that are inimical to social, political, and economic empowerment.

The last remaining issues will be the most contentious. Those who oppose the peace process will surely use all their wiles and resources for a final effort to derail the process. It is imperative that we don’t give up,” Deles said.

Deles said the instruction of Aquino has not waned.

“We will implement everything that we sign. The government of the Philippines will deliver whatever we commit legally, politically and in all ways necessary
No false promises, no blind commitments, no agreement that will cause problems further down the road or bring harm to other areas of governance and reform which we will not be able to resolve and defend, especially when challenged before the court but in other arenas as well,” Deles said in her speech during the 27th Asia-Pacific Roundtable organized by the Institute of Strategic and International Studies in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysian.

Deles, along with Malaysian third-party facilitator, Tengku Datu Abdul Ghafar Tengku bin Mohamed and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, was invited to discuss key steps needed to sustain peace in Mindanao in light of the FAB signed by the government and the MILF in October 2012.

The FAB outlines the roadmap for the establishment of the new Bangsamoro region that will replace the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
The FAB, together with the annexes on Normalization, Power-sharing, Wealth-sharing, and Transitional Arrangements and Modalities, will comprise the comprehensive agreement.

“It has taken more time to craft creative and technically viable solutions to enable the Bangsamoro to achieve the needed political and fiscal autonomy for its sustainable development and durable peace, but we are surely getting there,” Deles assured.

Deles said since the FAB and all its annexes have been “carefully crafted, we will be able to pass the crucial tests of implementation.”

She said the entire government is one in ensuring “clarity in how some of the new fiscal and power-sharing arrangements will be implemented, especially those which will have to be enacted into law.”

“Within the government, we have achieved a level of common understanding and cooperation with the concerned Cabinet clusters particularly on fiscal management and security that has been unprecedented in our long years in the peace process,” Deles said.

Deles said the Aquino administration remains “very positive” in the face of the delay over the annexes.

She said the elements of the roadmap have been put into place and continue to move forward.

Such include the government -MILF ceasefire that has been holding since 2012, the establishment of the Transition Commission that has been tasked to draft the Bangsamoro Basic Law, and the Sajahatra Bangsamoro program, which is a joint undertaking of the government and the MILF to uplift the health, economic and livelihood conditions of Bangsamoro communities.

Aquino has already consented the release of P600 million budget allocation for the Sajahatra paroject while a portion of the P100 million was already released by the Budget Department days before the May 13 elections.

“Still the challenges that lie ahead remain formidable,” Deles said.

CPP: CPP condemns use of armed soldiers to push Aquino-Cojuangco's Hacienda Luisita scheme

From the CPP Website (Jun 9): CPP condemns use of armed soldiers to push Aquino-Cojuangco's Hacienda Luisita scheme

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) today condemned the deployment of soldiers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) inside Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac in an effort to intimidate the peasants to accept the so-called sugar block farms, a plantation scheme being pushed by the Aquino-Cojuangco landlord families to maintain their monopoly control of sugar cane production in the hacienda.

Last June 5, a convoy of soldiers, police and agents of the National Bureau of Investigation arrived at Barangay Asturias inside Hacienda Luisita. The following day, two truckloads of armed soldiers belonging to the 31st Infantry Battalion arrived at the same barangay.

The armed agents were looking for Lito Bais and other leaders of Alyansa ng mga Magbubukid ng Hacienda Luisita (Ambala), an organization of peasant workers inside the hacienda. They went around the homes of Ambala members and dug up their backyards, allegedly looking for buried firearms.

“This is a clear case of harassment and intimidation against the peasants and farm workers of Hacienda Luisita who have long been demanding and struggling for the distribution of the hacienda land.”

“The presence of armed soldiers inside Hacienda Luisita brings to mind the bloody massacre on November 16, 2004 of 14 peasants and their supporters when AFP soldiers opened fire against the striking workers,” added the CPP. “Not one of the perpetrators of the massacre has been punished for the crime.”

“Since the ascension to power of Benigno S. Aquino III, a scion of the Aquino-Cojuangco landlord clan, the Cojuangcos have wielded their power over the entire bureaucracy in order to prevent the full distribution of the hacienda land in accordance with the November 2011 decision of the Supreme Court,” pointed out the CPP.

“Through its influence over the Land Bank of the Philippines and the Department of Agrarian Reform, the Cojuangcos have succeeded in overvaluating the hacienda lands, thus imposing on the so-called beneficiaries the heavy burden of paying high rates of amortization of up to P68,000 per hectare.”

“Meanwhile, the farm workers on the estate are being pressured by Hacienda Luisita Inc. and the Department of Agrarian Reform to accept the sugar block farms scheme, which is no different from the so-called agrarian reform communities organized by the DAR to facilitate the entry of big plantation owners to control production and force the peasants to plant cash crops for export.”

“It is just for the Hacienda Luisita peasants and farm workers to firmly reject the sugar block farms scheme that will merely subject them to the continuing dominance and monopoly control of the Aquinos and Cojuangcos over the hacienda land and sugar cane production,” added the CPP.

“The peasants and farm workers of Hacienda Luisita must continue to assert their demand for free distribution of land and build independent organizations and cooperatives to collectively determine the crops to be planted both for their own consumption and supplying the market,” said the CPP. “They must resolutely and courageously stand firm against the harassment and intimidation by armed agents of the state and demand the immediate pullout of armed troops from their communities.”

“The Filipino peasantry and people must extend full support to the peasants and farm workers of Hacienda Luisita in their struggle for genuine land reform and against the various anti-land reform schemes of the landlord Aquino regime.”