Wednesday, June 12, 2013

NPA violence hurts peace talks

From the Visayan Daily Star (Jun 12): NPA violence hurts peace talks

The killing of 27 civilians, including those in an ambush in La Castellana, Negros Occidental early this year, were among the cruel and senseless acts of violence inflicted by the New People's Army on non-combatants, that have made it difficult to resume the peace table, Presidential Adviser on Peace Process Teresita Quintos Deles said yesterday.

Deles emphasized the government's unwavering commitment to pursue peace through negotiations with the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army-National Democratic Front (CPP/NPA/NDF), but said it should not be at the expense of the safety of the people and the sovereignty of the nation.

Communist rebels claimed that the peace talks are not going anywhere because of the government's records on human rights violations.

The ambush in Brgy. Puso, La Castellana in January, described as a massacre by local government and military officials, claimed the lives of eight civilians and a policemen, and caused injuries to eight other civilians and two policemen.

The NPA Leonardo Panaligan Command, had claimed responsibility for the incident, and apologized for the deaths of civilians saying their only intention was to disarm policemen and armed members of the Barangay Peacekeeping Action Team.

Reelected Governor Alfredo Marañon Jr. and the Armed Forces of the Philippines are turning over four-year scholarship grants to seven dependents of the La Castellana massacre today at the Provincial Capitol grounds in Bacolod City, as the country marks the 115 th Philippine Independence Day.

Deles said the government has always been open and committed to bringing peace to the land, through peace talks with all insurgency groups.

The closure peace agreement between the former Revolutionary Proletarian Army-Alex Boncayao Brigade and the government, that started in year 2000, is reportedly up for approval and signing by President Benigno Aquino III.

While the CPP-NPA-NDF has been quick to blame the government for human rights violations, it has its own shameful violations against civilians, Deles said, citing the La Castellana ambush of civilians, among others.

The peace talks between the government and the CPP-NPA-NDF has been off-and-on for several decades.

“It is unfortunate that after 22 difficult years of trying to achieve peace with the CPP-NPA-NDF, the talks are again in another prolonged impasse,” Deles said.

She said the government has the obligation to defend its integrity and sovereignty and its citizens from parties that seek to overthrow it and harm its populace.

Peace negotiations, Deles added, should have a clear agenda for ending violence and bringing peace.

“We shall pursue peace through other means that would effectively bring peace to our people through peaceful means,” Deles said.

Government accuses leftist rebels of designing ‘unending’ peace talks

From the Sun Star (Jun 12): Government accuses leftist rebels of designing ‘unending’ peace talks

THE Aquino administration has realized that the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) has designed the peace process to be protracted while taking advantage of the government.

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Deles said that peace negotiations should have a clear agenda for ending violence and bringing peace.

But unfortunately, she said that after 22 difficult years of trying to achieve peace with the communist rebels, talks are again in another prolonged impasse.

"We have realized that the tortuous and protracted pace of the peace talks has been designed by the CPP-NPA-NDF precisely to make the process protracted, and in fact, unending, while, without conceding anything to government, it harvests for itself as many concessions as it can in terms of virtual international recognition and the release of their detained comrades," she said.

Deles stressed the Aquino government's unwavering commitment to pursue peace for the country through negotiations with the Maoist group, but not at the expense of the safety of the people and the sovereignty of the nation.

"The Philippine government has always been open and committed to bring peace to our land, through peace talks with all insurgent groups. Failing that, we shall pursue it through other means that would effectively bring peace to our people, through peaceful means," she said.

The peace adviser added that "this involves peace and development programs guided by a strict regime of respect for human dignity and human rights, even as government defends itself and its citizens from the violence inflicted by armed rebel groups."

The communist rebels in the Cordilleras earlier said that the prospect of signing a peace pact with the Aquino administration was dim as they accused the government of not respecting the agreement on respect for human rights that both parties signed in 1998.

But Deles said it was the NPA, the armed wing of the CPP-NDF, that continued to commit violent actions against civilians.

She cited the recent rebels' ambush-killing of eight off-duty police officers in Alacapan, Cagayan using improvised explosive devices; their massive extortion campaign against political candidates during the last elections; the killing of 27 civilians from La Castellana in Negros in an ambush last January; the attack on the Good Friday procession in Butuan City last March; the ambush of Ruthie Guingona, mayor of Gingoog, Misamis Oriental, that killed two of her bodyguards in April; the grenade attack on a fiesta in Paquibato, Davao City that wounded 50 civilians in September 2012; and the assassination of Vicente Ferrazzini in Davao City in 2005.
Deles reiterated the need for a "new approach" to the peace negotiations to end the 44-year-old communist insurgency in the country.

Under this new approach, she said that the community and other peace stakeholders should play a pivotal role.

Kalahi-CIDSS completes P33.53 M worth of classrooms in Region 12

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jun 11): Kalahi-CIDSS completes P33.53 M worth of classrooms in Region 12

Thousands of school children in remote villages of Soccsksargen Region returned to school last week in newly-built classrooms instead of the usual dilapidated, overcrowded, makeshift learning facilities.

Gemma Rivera, assistant regional director of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) 12 reported that 56 new classrooms were constructed across three provinces in Region 12 via the department’s Kapit-Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan - Comprehenshive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services (Kalahi-CIDSS).

Rivera added that, the government spent a total of P33.53 million for these projects intended to help address the pressing concerns of classroom shortage and congestion.

At least 25 villages in Sarangani, North Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat provinces benefited from the said projects. Soccsksargen Region also includes the province of South Cotabato.

“Most of these school villages had gone far beyond the standard classroom-student ratio, denying accessible and quality education to young learners,” said Rivera.

In Sarangani province these classroom buildings were constructed in Seven Hills, Nomoh, Kabatiol, Kablacan and Daliao in Maasim town; Pangi, New La Union, Maguling, Ticulab, and Wali in Maitum; Lagundi, and Tambilil in Kiamba; as well as Kibala and Banahaw in Malungon. 

The government poured in P22.24 million for these projects in Sarangani.

A total of P2.94 million worth of learning facilities were also recently opened in North Cotabato. Classroom buildings were constructed in Barangays Batiocan, Palao, Abaga and Montay in Libungan town. 

In Sultan Kudarat, these projects are located in the villages of Kenram, Mapantig, and Kolambog in Isulan; Malegdeg in Senator Ninoy Aquino; Natividad in Columbio; and South Sepaka in Bagumbayan. The completed classrooms in Sultan Kudarat cost P8.35 million.

Rivera added that P5.95 million worth of new classrooms are also expected to be completed in the coming weeks.

These additional classrooms include those in the villages of Monteverde and Daluga in Bagumbayan, Sultan Kudarat worth P4.06 million and an P1.89 million worth of classroom building in Tuanadatu Maasim in Sarangani

Construction in Tuanadatu was delayed due to armed conflict in the area; construction of the classroom building resumed recently. 

The DSWD has constructed thousands of classrooms in the region since Kalahi-CIDSS started in 2003 through the financial support from the World Bank.

Rivera said in a report that the DSWD’s school building investments has now reached a total of P143 million region-wide.

Under the Kalahi-CIDSS project, control over decision, project implementation and resources rests on community.

Navy reservists urged to join active troops in disaster response

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jun 11): Navy reservists urged to join active troops in disaster response

Navy officials have urged navy reservists to join active troops in disaster response.

Reservists are civilians who during peacetime have other careers outside of the military but can be called for active duty when the state needs their services.

In Commodore George Catameo’s speech during their assembly at the University of the Philippines New Library in Tacloban City, he acknowledged the presence of 500 navy reservists in Eastern Visayas. June 4-10 is Reservists Week.

“We want to show the people the enhanced role of the reservists in community oriented activities particularly in disaster risk reduction management or disaster response,” Catameo said.

“There is really a need for us to participate in the inter-agency collaboration especially during disaster or calamities,” he added.

The navy reserve command in Samar trained for 16 Saturdays on disaster response by the Office of the Civil Defense.

There were also simulated exercises on disaster response especially during fires, earthquakes and floods.

Navy reservist Jun Arceno who attended the training said it taught him first-hand how to respond to emergencies, whether man made or natural ones.

“I do not regret the 16 Saturdays I spent with the navy reserve command as I have grown professionally and personally and I am ready and committed to obey the orders of the reserve command at any given time,” he added.

Meanwhile, the navy reserve command awarded military merit medals to two of its reservists, Mayor-elect Stephanie Uy Tan of Catbalogan City and Ernesto Cachero for their commitment and support to the command which drew inspiration and admiration from their peers.

Army’s 302nd Brigade receives ambulance

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jun 11): Army’s 302nd Brigade receives ambulance

The medical and dental team of the Philippine Army’s 302nd Brigade has received a new field ambulance named KM 451 and other Brigade Treatment Facility (BTF) equipment. 

The said brigade is based in Camp Leon Kilat, Tanjay City.

The 3rd Forward Support Medical Company (3FSMC) of the 3rd Infantry Division turned-over the medical equipment to the officers and men of the 302nd Brigade.

The KM 451 will be used by the brigade MEDCAP team in conducting various military or civilian initiated medical and dental missions in the Brigade’s area of responsibility.

Ltc. Harold Anthony Pascua, brigade executive officer, said “This medical equipment will not only boost the morale of our troops having a readily available treatment facility during combat operations, but will largely contribute to the Brigade’s continuing efforts in delivering basic health services to the less privileged residents especially in the conflict affected areas in the Brigade’s area of responsibility in partnership with various stakeholders.”

Capt Cresencio Gargar, Army information officer, said record shows that the 302nd Brigade MEDCAP Team has already participated in 30 various medical and dental missions benefiting more than 16,000 residents especially in the conflict affected areas this year.

Meanwhile, the 3FSMC also conducted troop’s information and education to the Achiever troopers. 

Company Commander Captain Abdul-Aziz Ontok (Medical Corps) said the prevention and cure on hepatitis viruses and the health services support system of medical company.

The activity was then followed by free medical consultation to the troops, CAFGUs and military dependents. More or less 40 benefited from the said activity.

Activists stage protest in Divisoria

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jun 12): Activists stage protest in Divisoria

MANILA, Philippines—About a hundred leftwing activists staged a protest at the Bonifacio Monument in Divisoria, Manila as the country celebrated its 115th year of independence Wednesday.

The protesters, led by Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), lambasted the government’s “sham independence and economic growth” saying that common Filipinos do not really reap the benefits of development.

Arnold Padilla, Bayan public information officer, told that for one, the presence of foreign bodies particularly that of the United States, is still strongly felt in the country through the Visiting Forces Agreement.

And on the economic side, he said the government has claimed a 7.8 growth in the country’s Gross Domestic Product, but the unemployment rate continues to rise, as well as prices of basic commodities and services.

Also part of the program was a symbolic boodle fight, just that the food served was only rice and pieces of junk foods as their viand.

Padilla said the activity symbolized the inability of common Filipinos to buy food because of the rising prices of commodities.

PROTEST PORTRAITS Members of activist group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) painted portraits of (from left) labor leader Crispin “Ka Bel” Beltran, Gregorio “Ka Roger” Rosal, former spokesman of the Communist Party of the Philippines, female leader Lorena Barros, national hero Andres Bonifacio, and revolutionary general Antonio Luna during a protest rally at the Bonifacio Monument in Divisoria. MATIKAS SANTOS/
“That’s all Filipinos can afford now to eat–chichirya [junk foods] [and] instant noodles because of the continuing rise of prices of commodities and services while many people have no decent job,” he said.

Padilla said the government should impose changes in the country’s economic policies.

Several members also painted images of personalities who were known to have fought for change. Among the personalities painted on white canvass were revolutionist Andres Bonifacio, labor leader Crispin “Ka Bel” Beltran, female leader Lorena Barros, and Gregorio “Ka Roger” Rosal, the former spokesman of the Communist Party of the Philippines.

“Our economy is still controlled by and in the service of foreign big business and their local partners. Economic activity is geared towards meeting international demands rather than meeting domestic requirements for genuine development,” Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr., for his part, said.

“Job creation is dictated by external factors. Our country cannot be truly free when its people are under the bondage of poverty and underdevelopment arising from foreign dictates,” Reyes said.

Peace adviser: 2 Reds killed in AFP air strikes

From the Manila Standard Today (Jun 12): Peace adviser: 2 Reds killed in AFP air strikes

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos Deles on Tuesday confirmed there were indeed air strikes conducted by the Air Force  against enemy positions during pursuit operations in Abra but the two casualties reported by the New People’s Army were rebels and not “civilians”.

“According to the Communist Party of the Philippines in the Cordillera, air strikes by the Armed Forces in Malibcong injured two teenagers. The Armed Forces has not denied that there were air strikes, but Mayor Benido Bacuyag of Malibcong has verified that there were no civilian casualties. If the NPA insists that two teenagers were injured, could it be that they were not civilians but NPA child soldiers?” Deles asked.

The confirmation by Deles about the bomb sorties debunked the denial made on Monday by AFP spokesman Brig. Gen. Domingo Tutaan Jr.

“It’s not even a form of aerial bombardment. It is a release, it is what we call close air support against those armed men of the NPA,”  said Tatuan as quoted as saying in another newspaper report.

The firefight that led to the air strikes happened on May 30 and 31.

Deles said the government will not be cowed by CPP-NPA propaganda.

“It is the government’s obligation to defend its integrity and sovereignty and its citizens from parties that seek to overthrow it and harm its populace. But when government reacts accordingly, the communist rebels quickly and conveniently accuse us of human rights violations,” she said.

“We trust that our people can see through the propaganda line of the CPP/NPA/NDF (National Democratic Front),” she said.

CPP/NPA: Let facts and people decide who’s telling the truth

Posted to the CPP Website (Jun 11): Let facts and people decide who’s telling the truth

Diego Wadagan
NPA Abra Provincial Operations Command (Agustin Begnalen Command)

It is surprising that officials of the Philippine Government act so swiftly to redeem their credibility, even as they act at a snail’s pace in providing social services and free education and in addressing the root causes of poverty and revolution. The headline news on June 10, 2013, bannering the NPA’s skepticism on Peace Talks under the regime of Benigno Aquino Jr. barely reached the far flung areas of the countryside, but the government apologists, propagandists and fascists have already scampered to media outlets.

It is because of their own misdeeds that they have to turn heaven and earth to redeem themselves. The facts are: (1) they scuttled the current peace talks between the NDFP and the GPH because they cannot abide by previous agreements regarding the conduct and process of the peace talks; (2) the AFP bombed farmlands in Malibcong, Abra; (3) government apologists and propagandists are ignorant, to state it tamely, of international laws and conventions pertaining to war and the conduct of war; and (4) AFP officials and some local and national government officials lied and continue to lie about real casualties and violators in the conduct of the 44 years of national democratic revolution waged by the CPP-NPA-NDF.

The NDFP and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GPH), through their official representatives, have agreed and signed vital documents pertaining to the Peace Talks between the NDFP and the GPH such as “The Hague Declaration”, the “Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG),” and the “Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Laws (CARHRIHL).” These documents defined the conduct and order of the Peace Negotiations including the venue/s of the negotiations, security of those involved in the negotiations, the proper conduct of the civil war while both sides are engaged in negotiations, and the principles and guidelines in advancing the negotiations from one stage to the other; it was presumed clear to both sides that after the exploratory phase and the laying down of conducive conditions, substantive talks are to be undertaken to develop a “Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms (CASER)”, and only after these can the cessation of hostilities, disarmament and redeployment of armed forces be tackled and agreed upon. These documents are open to the public and can serve as reference for serious and sincere peace advocates.

On May 30-31, 2013, the AFP dropped bombs in farmlands of Barangays Gacab, Duldulao, Umnap, Buanao, and Lat-ey in Malibcong Abra. Bombs are bombs, and no amount of technical explanation or excuse can cover-up these clear human rights violation. AFP officials from the lowly Captain Libnao, the 503rd Brigade’s Civil-Military Officer, to the Brigadier Generals such as Domingo Tutaan, the AFP Spokesperson, and Hernando Irriberi, the 503rd Brigade’s Commanding Officer, have all tried in vain to belittle this terroristic act by the AFP of bombing innocent civilians.

Captain Libnao said that “these were not bombs but rockets,” and that “these rockets contain white phosphorus.” Sadly for Captain Libnao, even a kid can say that there is no big difference between a bomb and a rocket, and a quick internet research will reveal that white phosphorus is the basic component of incendiary bombs. Captain Libanao further said in a radio interview that the two (2) female teenagers did not suffer psychological trauma but rather “nagulat lang” (frightened).

The Generals and a Colonel did not do better than their poor Captain. What is the difference between “close air support” and “air strike?!!!” The fact is these “rockets exploded white phosphorus”, to use the term of Captain Libnao, terrifying the local population, damaging properties, and causing psychological trauma particularly to two (2) female teenagers who were just 40 meters away from one of the explosion sites. Is a rocket dropped or released from an aircraft “not an aerial bombardment” as claimed by Brig. Gen. Tutaan?! Lieutenant Colonel Ramon Zagala, chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines Public Affairs Office, further claims that these bombings “are legitimate”, directly admitting that terrorizing civilians are considered legitimate acts by the AFP.

Brig. Gen. Irriberi claimed to have received a report from Mayor Benido Bacuyag that “there were no civilian casualties as a result of the air strike.” Irreberi and Tutaan should first agree if the bombing was an “air strike” or “close air support”, but more importantly, Irriberi should stop misquoting the good mayor of Malibcong, Benido Bacuyag, and just open his transistor radio and listen to complaints of the people, or better yet go to the field and talk to the terrified people they indiscriminately bombed. The people of Malibcong are asking the Philippine Government’s Commission on Human Rights to investigate the incident, and have filed affidavits of the two teenagers.

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos-Deles cannot be outdone; she had to say her piece. Taking her cue from Brig. Gen. Irriberi, she takes the sly act further when she said that “If the NPA insists that two teenagers were injured, could it be that they were not civilians but NPA child soldiers?” Again, we challenge Irriberi and Deles to go to the field and check their facts.

Furthermore, Deles enumerated a list of so-called human rights violations committed by the NPA. This list will have different meanings, depending on one’s perspective and standpoint, or one’s deep knowledge, expected from government officials and dignitaries.

Take the case of the so-called IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices). The NPFP adheres to International Conventions against the use of pressure-detonated explosive devices that may indiscriminately explode, and injure or kill non-military targets. The NPA employs command-detonated explosive devices triggered to explode at-will against definite and legitimate military and police targets; this should not be interchanged with land mines, banned worldwide because of the massive production, sale and use by the US Armed Forces and their clients that victimized millions of civilians. All armed AFP, PNP, and para-military forces of the Philippine Government are legitimate targets in the civil war.

Other accusations are outright fabrications or a question of perspective or viewpoint. Collection of taxes and law enforcement is a prerogative of a state or government, whether dominant or emergent. Revolutionary taxation, NPA checkpoints and arrests, among others, are assertions and acts of an emergent revolutionary government. From the point of view of the dominant state challenged by the emergent government, these are “cruel and senseless acts of violence, ” as stated by Teresita Deles.

The AFP lied a lot about the May 30 firefights between the NPA and the 41st IB. There were only 2 firefights; not 3 as claimed by the 503rd Brigade, or 5 as claimed Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala. There is no NPA casualty and no firearm or documents were recovered, contrary to the claim of the AFP that an M16 rifle was seized, complete with a serial number to make their claim more credible. Three soldiers were immediately taken to Baquiran Funeral Parlor in Bangued, Abra on May 30, contrary to the AFP’s claim that they suffered no casualties. On the other hand, the AFP resorts to the standard “dead NPA’s were dragged away by their comrades as shown by blood stains”, and “an unknown body of an NPA has yet to be identified.”

Government officials, such as Edwin Lacierda and Teresita Deles are claiming that Peace negotiations have protracted due to CPP-NPA-NDF’s insincerity. We say that the peace negotiations will continue to protract for as long as the Philippine Government is firm in their capitulation scheme and does not have the political will to sincerely address the socio-economic roots of the people’s war.

The Peace Process cannot proceed as long as the Aquino Regime remains at the behest of the imperialists, compradors and big landlords, and as long as Government Officials in-charge of Peace Negotiations, and fascists continue to have a dominant position in government and policy.

MILF: MILF to hold on to initialed annex on wealth-sharing

From the MILF Website (Jun 12): MILF to hold on to initialed annex on wealth-sharing

Initialed by two regular members of the government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) negotiating panels, the latter (MILF) has no plan to abandon that document, saying backtracking by any of the two parties is a serious drawback to the peace process.
“The peace negotiation is an exercise in futility if there is no stop to this changing of positions by the government negotiating team.”

This was the comment of one member of the MILF peace panel, who requested anonymity, in direct reaction to reported “notes” sent by the government to the MILF peace panel, which he described as an attempt to throw the blame on the MILF for making it appear that the ball is in our court.

“We are not renegotiating the initialed document,” he said, adding, however, that he believes the talks will only prosper if the two parties follow sincerely the matuwid na daan (straight path) policy, which is also the cornerstone of President Aquino administration.

The document was initialed by former Secretary Senen Bacani and Prof. Abhoud Syed Lingga of the government and MILF peace panels, respectively. Three more initials were appearing in the document.

During the final stage of the discussion of wealth-sharing, no less than Prof. Miriam Coronel-Ferrer and Chairman Mohagher Iqbal, chairs of the government and MILF peace panels, respectively,  took the lead in the discussion, which culminated in the initialing of the document last February 27.

The two chairpersons were alternately joined by their respective colleagues, Secretary Senen Bacani and Atty. Armi Bayot, on the government side, and by Professor Abhoud and Atty. Raissa Jajurie, on the MILF side.

The government had their first change of position vis-à-vis the initialed document especially on natural resources and block grant to Bangsamoro government during the 38th GPH-MILF Exploratory Talks last April 9-11.  The MILF negotiating team vehemently objected to the changes. Mohagher Iqbal, chair of the MILF peace panel, message was clear and straight-forward: “Except for those that are in harmony with the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB), we don’t accept the changes introduced by government on wealth-sharing,” and added that the MILF is sticking to the initialed document.

The second backtracking is contained in the so-called “notes” recently sent to the MILF through the Malaysian facilitator, Dato Tengku Ab’ Ghafar Bin Tengku Mohamed, who visited the MILF leadership at Darapanan, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindano last June 7.

Asked to divulge the content of the “notes”, the said MILF peace negotiator refused to be categorical, saying it is a violation of protocol to divulge the content.

“We are bound by the principle of confidentiality of document,” he stressed, adding, however, that the initialed document is diluted severely by the notes coming from government.

“Two change of positions in a row within the span of two months is alarming,” he confessed, without elaborating.

Meanwhile, Khaled Musa, deputy chair of the MILF Committee on Information, disclosed to Luwaran that frustration on the ground is gaining momentum, as a consequence of too much unnecessary delay from government.

He also disclosed the radical elements within the MILF is beginning to be restive and hitting the MILF and its peace panel.

He said more than three months have been consumed since the annex on wealth-sharing was initialed without clear direction for the talks.

He said the government is sitting on it unnecessarily in the guise of due diligent study.

“What is good is that the cause of delay is government,” he consoled himself.

Muslim rebels protest arrests of 4 comrades, say could affect talks

From InterAksyon (Jun 12): Muslim rebels protest arrests of 4 comrades, say could affect talks

MILF's Ghadzali Jaafar: rebels unhappy with situation

Muslim rebels in the Philippines said Wednesday they had protested at the arrests of four guerrillas, warning it could affect talks aimed at ending the decades-long insurgency.

The arrests come amid diminishing confidence within the Moro Islamic Liberation Front over the government's sincerity in trying quickly to seal a deal to end the rebellion which has left an estimated 150,000 people dead since the 1970s.

MILF vice-chairman for political affairs, Ghadzali Jaafar, said some rebel leaders believed the arrests were a deliberate attempt to target the group despite a ceasefire.

"We filed this protest to send a message to the government that we are not happy with what is going on and we are very much concerned about the situation," he said.

He said four MILF fighters were arrested recently for alleged illegal possession of ammunition in separate incidents in the southern island of Mindanao, home of the country's Muslim minority.

Jaafar told AFP that under the ceasefire, MILF fighters are allowed to keep their firearms and ammunition.

He also complained that the resumption of formal talks had been put off for too long, adding that the government might be deliberately delaying the negotiations.

The head of the government peace panel, Miriam Coronel, said in a statement she had asked the police to issue a complete report on the cases.

The peace talks are aimed at creating an autonomous region for the Muslim minority in Mindanao, the southern third of the mainly Catholic nation of 100 million.

However the group, which has about 12,000 armed followers, has recently complained about the slow progress of the talks which have fallen behind schedule.

President Benigno Aquino hopes to have the autonomous region in place before his term ends in 2016.

AFP chief leads pledge to defend sovereignty amid internal, external challenges

From InterAksyon (Jun 12): AFP chief leads pledge to defend sovereignty amid internal, external challenges

Armed Forces chief of staff Gen. Emmanuel Bautista led soldiers Wednesday in renewing their pledge of “commitment to the Filipino nation. With honor and pride, we vow to fulfill our duties as the protectors and defenders of the Philippine sovereignty and integrity.”

“We will remain as this nation’s staunch catalyst of peace and development.  And we will continue to uphold the pillars of good governance, democracy and human rights -- ideals and values that hold us together as one people,” Bautista said on Independence Day.

A hundred and fifteen years since the declaration of Philippine independence, the AFP, which continues to battle a more than 40-year old communist insurgency, also finds itself facing increasing external challenges with China becoming more aggressive in pursuing its claim to territories in the West Philippine Sea, also known as the South China Sea.

This year, the New People’s Army has stepped up offensives that have claimed the lives of a good number of soldiers, policemen and militia members with the government seemingly undecided about resuming peace talks with the National Democratic Front, stalled since February 2011.

The government, which has sought United Nations arbitration on the territorial disputes, is also trying to fulfill its commitment to beefing up the military’s external defense with a start-up fund of P75 billion even as China has continued deploying military and civilian vessels to Panatag (Scarborough) Shoel and Ayungin Reef, with some reports suggesting they have begun building structures in the two areas.

The latest acquisition is the BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PF16) which is homeward bound and, like the BRP Gregorio del Pilar (PF15), is a refitted US Coast Guard cutter more than 40-years old.

Sources say the Department of National Defense is also “in the thick of negotiations” for the purchase of ground-to-air missiles from Israel, reported for the Philippine Army.

Chinese, Vietnamese, Taiwanese invade Spratlys, disputed isles — on Google Earth

From InterAksyon (Jun 12): Chinese, Vietnamese, Taiwanese invade Spratlys, disputed isles — on Google Earth

Kalayaan Group of Islands, West Philippine Sea

Spratly Islands just West of the Philippines has long been a disputed territory, but now the claims have gone virtual: countries embroiled in a decades-long tug-of-war for ownership claims of the islands had also taken their battle online, with the exception of one: the Philippines.

A cursory look at photos uploaded by Internet users to the 3D map program Google Earth revealed that citizens from Vietnam, China, and Taiwan had “invaded” the islands in question, with a glaring absence of Philippine contributions to the online mapping service.

The photos, uploaded through photo-sharing service Panoramio, dot several locations in the highly disputed Spratly Islands — more commonly referred to as the Kalayaan Group of Islands — and Panatag Shoal just West of Luzon island.

In Parola Island, for example, the farthest Philippine-occupied territory in the island chain, Vietnamese had uploaded a number of photos depicting structures erected by the Vietnamese government in the island they call Dao Song Tu Dong, or the Southwest Cay.

Further South, the Vietnamese claim could not be more assertive as users uploaded a photo of Dao Da Nam island, part of the disputed Paracel Islands, with the caption: “Belong to Vietnam.”

In Panatag Shoal, where one of the most intense show of force occurred between Chinese and Philippine governments in recent history, the virtual tension is more apparent: while one photo depicting the Philippine flag perched atop one of the rocky atolls in the area is clearly labeled “Panatag Shoal,” another photo — this time a Chinese flag waving atop a small rock — shouts: Huangyan Island – Chinese inherent territory.

It will be remembered that Chinese and Philippine naval forces were locked in a standoff last year along Panatag Shoal (also referred to as Scarborough Shoal) as the latter accused the emerging superpower of a “de facto occupation” of the disputed shoal after China dispatched government vessels along the area.

The Philippines insists that the shoal is well within the 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone as defined by international law, but China has included the shoal as part of the territories it is claiming in almost all of the West Philippine Sea as part of its 9-dash-line claim in the area.

Though Vietnam and China had made their virtual claims to these islands more apparent than the Philippines, not all islands are, so to speak, “reserved” by these nations. In Pag-Asa Island, for example, where the seat of government of the Kalayaan Group of Islands is located, most contributed photos were that of detachment units and structures that were built by Filipinos on the island. Though there were still Chinese and Vietnamese photo uploads on the island, the Philippine-contributed photos clearly outnumber them all.

The scarcity of Philippine-uploaded photos on the Google Earth application, however, may not be attributed entirely to a more vigorous claim by other countries. The photos, sourced from Google-owned service Panoramio, are user-generated — which means Filipinos would have to contribute their own photos so that it will show up in the service.

ARE YOU GOING TO SCARBOROUGH SHOAL? | Driven away by China's de facto occupation, PH fishers starve

From InterAksyon (Jun 11): ARE YOU GOING TO SCARBOROUGH SHOAL? | Driven away by China's de facto occupation, PH fishers starve

Life has never been the same again for the couple,  Mario and Luz Porones, after China’s intrusion in (and virtual occupation of) Scarborough shoal in April 2012.

For more than 10 years, Mario fished in Scarborough shoal during the months of February to April of each year.  His family invests about P50,000 for every trip to the shoal: covering the food budget for about 30 people and fuel for two large boats.

For four days, the group can catch about two tons of different fish varieties using only spears and fishing rods.

Dati, mga dalawang tonelada ang nakukuha namin doon bawat biyahe. Linggo-lingo 'yon. Sa dami, hindi naman mauubos dito (Masinloc) 'yon kaya may mga customer kami na galing pa sa Subic, Manila, Malabon at Cebu,” Luz recalls.

Doon namin nahuhuli 'yong mga tarian, isdang bato at loro,” the mother of three added.

For every P50,000 investment, Luz said they would net about P15,000 per trip, or about P50,000 to P60,000 per month.  She said her husband used to make four trips each month.

In the coastal town of Masinloc, the Porones family is far from being deemed a small fisherman.  They are one of only two families from the town are able to finance trips to Scarborough and get a big catch.  Other fishermen families, in smaller boats, could only go as far as about 15 kilometers from the shoreline.

Besides the limitations that distance poses to their puny boats, small fishermen also have to deal with the presence of a coal plant in Masinloc and the practice of trawl fishing, as both contribute to the dwindling of the fish population in the area.

A friend of Luz, who also sells fish in the public market in Masinloc, complains: “Wala na naman kaming huli niyan, kasi kadadaan lang ng trawl [Our catch is meager again today, because a trawl has just passed].”

It is against this backdrop that the likes of Mario and Luz ventured into Scarborough shoal.

Luz said her husband did not have any problem in their more than 10 years of fishing experience in Scarborough shoal.  From their income, they could afford middle class living and send their children to school.  The eldest, now 33, graduated from a community college in Iba, the capital town of Zambales.

Fishermen shooed away by aliens

Pero last year, pinauwi daw sila. Lugi. Talagang wala. Di namin nabawi ('yong puhunan).  Kaya ngayon (this year), ‘di na kami nagbiyahe [But last year, some people shooed them away. They lost their investment. Zero. We could not recoup anything],” she said.  She said her husband could not tell if the fishermen in the boat that sent them away were Taiwanese or Chinese.  “That was about April of last year,” she said.
That was Mario’s last trip to the shoal.

To make up for the lost income, Mario switched to hog backyard farming this year.   Luz, who was used to selling fish in bulk, now retails fish and other frozen meat products at the Masinloc public market.

She can barely make ends meet these days with the meager income as fish vendor.  “How far can one go with just a 2-peso markup?”

As a consequence, their youngest child, a high school graduate, stopped schooling and was never able to go to college.  “Wala na talaga eh. Di na kaya. Kung dito lang (pointing to her items for sale), wala na, pagkain lang [There’s really nothing left; every thing we scrape together just covers food], ” Luz complains.

Sana maibalik sa atin 'yong Kalboro (Scarborough). Atin naman talaga 'yon. Eighteen hours lang ang biyahe mula dito sa atin [I hope we can have Scarborough back. That’s really the Filipinos’ patrimony. It’s just 18 hours away from us],” she said.

Recalling the happier times when Scarborough was still open for fishing to people from different countries, Luz narrates: “Dati rati, sa atin man ‘yon (Scarborough shoal), walang problema. Mababait sila lahat. Pare-pareho silang naninisid.  Galing sa ibat ibang bansa.  Kung wala silang tubig, humihingi pa nga sila ng tubig sa mister ko. Binibigyan pa namin sila ng star apple."

[There were no problems when the Philippines still controlled Scarborough. They were all kind. Anyone could dive or fish. If the foreigners had no drinking water, they’d even ask from my husband. Sometimes we’d even give them star apple]

“Ngayon, tayo na ang hindi makapangisda doon [Now, we’re the ones barred from fishing in the place],” Luz sighed, pointing to the fact that the shoal is rightfully ours and dismayed by the irony.


An source said the Philippines was “misled” into prematurely pulling out its boats—both the Navy ship and the civilian vessels of the Coast Guard and  the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources —from the shoal.

What should have been an “agreement” for a simultaneous pullout turned out to have been one-sided. This agreement happened when the Department of Foreign Affairs was having its efforts at negotiating hampered by the mediation of so-called “back-channel” emissaries like controversial senator Antonio Trillanes IV, who was reported to have met with embassy officials in Manila and in Beijing several times; and even some US officials.

Today, the Chinese are in full force at Panatag, in what is described by knowledgeable sources as a “de facto occupation.”

Meanwhile, for Filipino fishermen driven away by aliens from the seas that they knew always belonged to the Philippines, there’s only increasing poverty and creeping despair, that they may never be able to go back to Scarborough Shoal.

Activist group calls Independence Day celebration a 'sham'

From the Philippine Star (Jun 12): Activist group calls Independence Day celebration a 'sham'

Militant group Bayan on Wednesday said the country has not achieved genuine independence, calling today's 115th Independence Day celebration as "sham."

Bayan secretary-general Renato Reyes Jr. also belittled the so-called economic growth of the country.

Reyes made the statement after government data showed that unemployment is at a three-year high despite claims the 7.8 percent gross domestic product growth for the first quarter of 2013.

"Despite the repeated claims of economic growth, our people remain mired in crisis. The chronic joblessness is just one of the problems created by our lack of economic sovereignty," Reyes added.

"Economic activity is geared towards meeting international demands rather than meeting domestic requirements for genuine development. Job creation is dictated by external factors. Our country cannot be truly free when its people are under the bondage of poverty and underdevelopment arising from foreign dictates," he said.

He said that for the Philippines to truly develop, it must strive to achieve the necessary factors for growth such as national industrialization and land reform.

"Three years of the foreign-dictated conditional cash transfer, export-oriented growth, labor export policy and the neo-liberal Public Private Partnership have resulted in more poverty and more unemployment,” Reyes said.

He also assailed the Philippine government for its “perpetual dependence” on US military aid that come in the form of second-hand weapons and equipment.

"Even in military matters, we continue to be dictated on by the US. This, along with the absence of economic development, has prevented the country from effectively building the capacity for external defense,” Reyes said.

"The supposed new ship of the Philippine Navy, a refurbished Hamilton class cutter, hails from the Vietnam War era. It is a naval hand-me down meant to show the supposed benefits of a lopsided Mutual Defense Treaty with the US," he added.

New Phl warship's cannon found accurate in test-fire

From the Philippine Star (Jun 12): New Phl warship's cannon found accurate in test-fire

This videograb shows the BRP Ramon Alcaraz, the Philippine Navy's newest asset, departing for Manila from the coast of South Carolina last Monday.

The Embassy of the Philippines in Washington announced a "successful" test-fire of the BRP Ramon Alcaraz's main weapon system off the coast of Mayport, Florida early Wednesday.

“We have successfully test-fired our Oto Melara gun with a high degree of accuracy ... This weapons system is very reliable,” Alcaraz commanding officer Captain Ernesto Baldovino of the Philippine Navy said in a statement.

According to a report by the embassy's defense and naval attaché Captain Nelson Aquilar, the Oto Melara naval artillery piece was fired 15 rounds—three to calibrate the canon and 12 directed at floating targets two to three miles away.

“Captain Baldovino was more than satisfied with how the Oto Melara performed,” Aguilar said.

Aguilar added that the cannon did not misfire during the test-firing activity in the Atlantic Ocean held at 2:00 to 4:00 am, Wednesday (Manila time). As a weapon, the Alcaraz's Oto Melara can shoot as many as 80 76-mm rounds per minute.

The Alcaraz is currently making its way through the Panama Canal, and is expected to reach Manila within the first week of August. It will start its service to the Philippine Navy in September.

The country's newly refurbished warship was on its way to Manila in a two-month journey, while making stops at Mayport, Panama, San Diego, Honolulu and Guam.

Related story: New warship sets sail to Manila

The Philippines' Ambassador to the United States Joey Cuisia told the Alcaraz's crew to defend the country's territorial sovereignty amid the ongoing dispute with its neighbors over some islands.

The Philippine embassy in Washington's video release of BRP Ramon Alcaraz's departure from South Carolina.
"We are all aware that there are currently some tensions in the West Philippine Sea and this will surely put you in harm's way, but we hope that there will not be any confrontation, but at the same time I am confident that you will defend Philippine territory if needed," Cuisia said in the video.

Indian warships arrive in Phl for 5-day goodwill visit

From the Philippine Star (Jun 12): Indian warships arrive in Phl for 5-day goodwill visit

File photo of Indian Navy's stealth frigate INS Satpura

Four Indian Navy ships on Wednesday arrived at the Philippine Navy's headquarters along Manila Bay for a five-day goodwill visit.

Navy spokesperson Lieutenant Commander Gregory Fabic said that the ships' crew will pay courtesy calls and engage in goodwill games with their Philippine counterparts, shipboard tours and passage exercises.

The Indian ships that docked in Manila are Deepak-class fleet tanker INS Shakti (A57), Shivalik-class stealth multi-role frigate INS Satpura (F48), Rajput class destroyer INS Ranvijay (D55), and Kora class corvette INS Kirch (P62).

The ships under the command of Rear Admiral P Ajit Kumar, the Flag Officer Commanding Eastern Fleet (Focep) will depart on June 16, Saturday.

The Philippines and India share a common rival claimant in China, whose troops breached Indian territory resulting in a three-week standoff last April.

Philippines vows to defend territory, sovereignty

From the Philippine Star (Jun 12): Philippines vows to defend territory, sovereignty

Philippine President Benigno Aquino III vowed Wednesday his country will not back down from any challenge to its sovereignty and territory amid a sea dispute with China.

He said in a speech marking the 115th anniversary of the country's independence from Spain that the Philippines has not claimed territory that clearly belongs to another country but only asks that "our territory, rights and dignity be respected."

"Aggression does not run in our veins, but neither will we back down from any challenge," Aquino told government workers, diplomats and supporters at a public square named after revolutionary leader Andres Bonifacio, where he also led a flag-raising ceremony.

Aquino said in the next five years, 75 billion pesos ($1.74 billion) will be spent to modernize the armed forces.

He did not mention China by name, but the two countries have an ongoing territorial row in the disputed Spratly islands.

Last month, the Philippines protested the presence of a Chinese warship, two surveillance vessels and fishing boats off a shoal occupied by Filipino troops in the Spratlys in the latest territorial squabble between the two Asian countries.

Ayungin Shoal lies 196 kilometers (122 miles) from the southwestern Philippine province of Palawan. It is guarded by a Filipino marine unit based in a rusty warship that ran aground on a coral outcrop several years ago. The shoal is near Mischief Reef, which the Philippines had claimed but was occupied by China in 1995, sparking intense protests from Manila.

Chinese maritime surveillance ships have also taken control of Scarborough Shoal, which Beijing calls Huangyan Island, and have roped off the entrance to its vast fishing lagoon following a two-month standoff with Philippine government ships last year. The chain of reefs and rocks 230 kilometers (143 miles) west of the northwestern Philippine province of Zambales falls under its 200-nautical miles (370-kilometer) exclusive economic zone, Filipino officials say.

Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam also claim parts of the Spratlys, a chain of islands, islets and reefs.

On Tuesday, some 30 Filipino protesters wearing colorful fish masks gathered outside China's consular office in Manila to demand a stop to Chinese intrusions into Philippine claimed islands in the Spratlys.

BRP Ramon Alcaraz successfully fires 76mm Oto Melara main gun

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 12): BRP Ramon Alcaraz successfully fires 76mm Oto Melara main gun

The BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PF-16), the country's second Hamilton-class cutter in service, has successfully fired her 76mm main gun off the coast of Florida Tuesday afternoon (American times), a belated report from the Philippine Embassy in Washington said Wednesday.

"BRP Ramon Alcaraz successfully fires its main weapon system - the 76-mm Oto Melara cannon - off (the) coast of Florida (Tuesday, US time) afternoon," it said.

The test firing involved shooting at targets "two to three miles away.

The crew fired at "killer tomato" balloon targets "drifting two to three miles away."

Fifteen 76-mm rounds were fired between 2 and 4:30 p.m. US time in the Atlantic Ocean, almost four hours after Alcaraz left Mayport, Florida.

The ship's commander, Navy Capt. Ernesto Baldovino, was satisfied with the weapon's performance, the Philippine Embassy added.

The Oto Melara 76mm gun is a very good weapon system and is currently being used by 53 naval forces worldwide.

And contrary to claims that the gun is too light to deter would-be-intruders and poachers encroaching Philippine waters, the 76mm cannon can fire 60 to 80 rounds a minute against naval, air, or even ground targets.

The gun's high rate of fire makes it suitable for short-range anti-missile point defense.

Specialized ammunition is available for armor piercing, incendiary and directed fragmentation effects and there is also a new guided round that is supposed to be able to destroy maneuvering anti-ship missiles.

Another advantage of this weapon is that it is light and compact enough to be installed in warship weighing 750 gross tons or even less, the configuration of most naval vessels in the Philippine Navy.

The 76 mm gun is a naval artillery piece built by the Italian defense conglomerate Otobreda.It is based on the Oto Melara 76mm/L62 Allargato, which was bigger and heavier.

On Tuesday morning (American time), the BRP Ramon Alcaraz made a stop at Mayport in Florida and on Monday morning (US time), the BRP Ramon Alcaraz started its journey to the Philippines from the United States.

The ship had been refurbished and refitted at a cost of USD15.15 million there since it was acquired by the Philippines in May 2012.

AFP conducts series of pro-flag, patriotism activities

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 12): AFP conducts series of pro-flag, patriotism activities

In line with the country's celebration of the 115th Independence Day Wednesday, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) conducted a series of activities aimed at encouraging more Filipinos to embrace the flag and publicly show patriotism and join the ranks of brave and honorable men and women in uniform.

This includes a series of mall tours which started on June 8 to 12, where participating soldiers were given an opportunity to enlighten the people on the country’s territory and resources.

"Moreover, soldiers and other members of the uniformed services have set up booths for recruitment, exhibit of military equipment and uniforms and other activities that attracted the youth in particular," AFP public affairs office chief Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala said.

Other activities include the highlighting of the bravery and sacrifices of the Filipino fighting men and women in line with their service to the country and the Filipino people.

Zagala said this emphasizes the soldiers' heroism, especially those who paid the supreme sacrifice in serving the country and those who are in harm’s way and continue to risk their lives in protecting sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Soldiers also joined flag-raising ceremonies in leading public schools nationwide on June 3 to mark the formal opening of classes, and June 10 to assist in making students aware of the territory, how uniformed men are doing everything they can to protect it and how ordinary people can be of help.

Soldiers led students in reciting the “Panatang Makabayan” to strengthen and remind everyone of our patriotic oath to embrace and serve our beloved country.

"The participation of the AFP in the celebration of the Philippines Independence Day is to commemorate the Filipinos’ hard-fought independence for our people. This also serves as a fitting testimony of the military’s unwavering perseverance in fulfilling its mandate to protect the people, uphold our sovereignty and territorial integrity, and achieve a just and lasting peace as embodied in the Internal Peace and Security Plan 'Bayanihan'," Zagala concluded.

Negrense ex-rebels rewarded on Independence Day

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 12): Negrense ex-rebels rewarded on Independence Day
Ten former members of New People’s Army (NPA) in Negros Occidental went home happy after getting financial aid and new bikes during the Wednesday celebration of the country’s 115th Independence Day here.

They were Erving Biñas, Felizardo Penida Jr., Eugene Almojero, Evonie Baynosa, Elizalde Martisano, Rodel Tanedo, Mary Jane Baynosa, Eduardo Baynosa Jr., Queenie Villafranca and Jonamae Mahilum.

Each of them got one new mountain bike courtesy of Bacolod Rotary Club International District 3850 in partnership with the 303rd Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army. The "gifts" were presented to the beneficiaries at the Social Hall of Negros Occidental Provincial Capitol located in Bacolod City.

The first four recipients got P50,000 each as remuneration after surrendering one M14 rifle and three M16 rifles.

They were the second batch of rebels who benefited from the Army’s “Gun for Peace” program.

The first were couple Mary Jane and Eduardo Baynosa Jr. who got P110,000 for surrendering four Colt M16 rifle and three Mossberg 12-gauge shotguns.

When interviewed, 29-year-old Evonie Baynosa of Toboso town thanked 303rd IB Commander Col. Jon Aying and Governor Alfredo Marañon Jr. for the help.

Baynosa, who served the NPA for seven years, surrendered to the army on August last year.

He also urged his former colleagues in the NPA to stop the armed struggle and return to the mainstream as law abiding citizens.

Baynosa said the continued armed struggle in Negros Island is doomed to fail since their top leaders divided in principles.

Since the launching of the “Gun’s for Peace” last month, Aying said he expect more rebels to return to the fold of law and laid down their arms.

Aying said the turning over of assistance to former rebels on Independence Day also highlight their commitment to attain peace through the spirit of bayanihan or cooperative endeavor.

Meanwhile, the Philippine Army also facilitated the inclusion of the dependents of the victims of armed conflict in La Castellana town to the provincial government’s scholarship program.

The college scholarship grants were awarded to Dexter and Dena Demafiles of Barangay Puso and Mary Lyn Complesa and Glen Tamayor from Barangay Cabacungan, all in La Castellana town.