Thursday, June 13, 2013

China's 'behavior' needs even larger PHL defense spending - NSC

From GMA News (Jun 14): China's 'behavior' needs even larger PHL defense spending - NSC

A ranking official of the National Security Council on Thursday detailed China's “aggressive behavior” in the West Philippine Sea, as he called for additional defense spending to uphold the Philippines' interests in the region.

Retired Navy Rear Admiral Vicente Agdamag, now Deputy Director General of the NSC Secretariat, said China’s actions confirmed its “clear intention to consolidate its control” over the disputed areas in line with the Chinese government’s nine-dash line claim.

“It started, actually, in March 2011 when a Chinese patrol ship challenged MV Veritas Voyager conducting a survey for Forum Energy, 85 nautical miles off Palawan,” he said, referring to an incident at the Reed Bank in the Spratly Islands.

Defense and military officials said two Chinese ships harassed the Department of Energy-commissioned survey ship. The Chinese ships told the crew of the Filipino ship to cease their activities because that was part of Chinese territory.

The Chinese vessels left when the AFP Western Command, based in Puerto Princesa City, promptly dispatched a Navy BN-2 Islander maritime patrol aircraft and an Air Force OV-10 light attack/reconnaissance aircraft. No armed confrontation was reported.

Agdamag also cited how Chinese ships prevented a Philippine Navy vessel, the BRP Gregorio del Pilar, from arresting Chinese fishermen caught illegally fishing at the Scarborough Shoal, locally known as the Bajo de Masiloc, in April last year.

The incident triggered a standoff between the China and Philippines, though China now is in virtual control of the shoal. The Philippine government withdrew its two ships from the shoal due to inclement weather, leaving China in complete control of the area, which is about 124 nautical miles from Zambales.

“Lately, we received reports that [Chinese] surveillance ships are imposing a 24 kilometer wide ban on fishing in the area. They are imposing an exclusion zone already in Bajo de Masinloc,” said Agdamag.

As of April this year, he said there were nine Chinese vessels at the shoal – five Fisheries Law Enforcement Command (FLEC) vessels and four Chinese Maritime Surveillance ships.

He also cited China’s establishment of Sansha City in Woody Island near China and Vietnam “to oversee and exercise the administrative control” over its claimed islands in the West Philippine Sea.

Agdamag also noted China’s issuance of passports showing a nine-dash line map and threats to board foreign vessels in the disputed areas.

He also said Pagasa town Mayor Eugenio Bitoonon was harassed twice by Chinese vessels – once in November last year and the latest just last May – at the disputed areas.

Last February, Agdamag said three Chinese Navy ships entered the West Philippine Sea to conduct patrol and training missions and anti-piracy drills. A month later, several Chinese “modern warships” were also dispatch to the Bashi channel, between Taiwan and the Philippines, for training missions.

Also last March, a Chinese destroyer, two frigates, an amphibious ship and helicopters and amphibious tanks conducted an eight-day military drill in the Spratly Islands. The Spratlys is being claim in part or in whole by the Philippines, China, Taiwan, Malaysia, Brunei and Vietnam.

“Right now, there are 18 maritime surveillance ships operating in our area,“ the official also said. He did not say if there were FLECs or Chinese military ships still within Philippine territory.

Further increase in defense expenditures

Agdamag said the issue is being addressed by political, diplomatic, and legal actions taken against China.

He said the military is establishing a “minimum deterrent capability,” alluding to the military’s modernization program. President Aquino recently signed the modernization law allocating P75 billion for the implementation of the military modernization program until the end of his term in 2016.

Nevertheless, the official said his office is recommending a further increase in defense expenditures. “We are recommending that we commit an increase in our investment for defense, from .5 to 1 percent of the GDP (Gross National Product),” he said.

Agdamag explained that their proposed increase is on top of the budget of the defense and military establishment which is equivalent to 1.1 percent of the national budget.

“We are recommending an additional of .5 to 1 percent (of GDP), not only to be at par with our neighbors, [but] more importantly to develop a modicum of a credible defense capability to protect our maritime and strategic interest,” he said.

Agdamag added that the country also needed to enhance its security relations with other countries, specially with the US, “when it is still able to deter China”, to buy time for the Philippines to develop its military capability.

“We need to pursue a healthy and friendly relationship with China and work with her for regional peace and prosperity.... to buy us time to grow our economy and expand our military capabilities,” he explained further.

“So right now, we are buying time, we need at least 10 years with sustained economic growth of 7 to eight percent in order to grow our capability upgrade program.”

Also, Agdamag disclosed an ongoing review of the “contingency plans” of the AFP’s Northern Luzon Command and Western Command, as per Executive Order 82 issued by President Aquino last year.

NOLCOM has responsibility over the Scarborough Shoal, while WESCOM has the West Philippine Sea as its area of concern.

US Mission director to turn-over assistance to Comval towns

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jun 13): US Mission director to turn-over assistance to Comval towns

A United States Agency for International Development (USAID) official tomorrow will turnover aid assistance to victims of Typhoon Pablo.

Mission Director Gloria D. Steele of US Embassy in Manila will lead the turnover of planting materials for farmers and the groundbreaking of a trading center for them. He will also turnover education supplies and furniture to Cabinuangan Central Elementary School (CES) in the municipality of New Bataan.

These are part of USAID’s ongoing Disaster Recovery Assistance in the provinces of Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental which were severely affected by Pablo. 

Cabinuangan CES will receive USAID assistance with an estimated value of PhP1.2M ($31,443), which includes 1,586 student kits, 53 teacher kits, 53 blackboards, 540 student desks, 12 teacher tables and chairs, reference materials and 53 sets of books.

USAID will provide similar assistance to 29 other Typhoon Pablo-affected schools to help about 25,000 students and 680 teachers cope at the start of the new school year

In the Municipality of Compostela, Steele will lead the ground-breaking of the P2.5 million Trading Center located in Barangay Poblacion designed to withstand extreme weather conditions.

US Embassy press release said that the trading center will “benefit over 23,000 residents of Barangay Poblacion as well as farmers, traders and residents of barangays.”

The trading facility is seen to help restart the economic activity of the Poblacion as its old market building which used to serve as the hub of economic center of the Compostela, sustained heavy damage due to Typhoon Pablo.

Part of Steele’s itinerary is the turning-over of planting materials to farmers and ceremonial planting in Barangay Marapat in Compostela, Compostela Valley Province.

The activity is part of USAIDs effort to help accelerate the restoration of livelihood in Typhoon Pablo affected communities and to help increase climate change resilience through sustainable adaptation strategies.

USAID is providing funding and technical support for training activities on the production of alternative cash crops and inland aquaculture technologies, agriculture and aquaculture livelihood industry planning and diversification.

These assistance efforts are intended to benefit over 8,000 farmers and fisherfolk in Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental.

High-ranking officials of USAID and the Philippine Government are expected to participate in the ceremonies.

Moros explore models on Transitional Justice

From the MILF Website (Jun 13): Moros explore models on Transitional Justice

 Selected personalities representing various sectors of Bangsamoro society met in Cotabato City last June 6 to discuss the features of transitional justice.
An established practitioner in the field, Dr. Djordje Djordjevic of UNDP Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery, served as resource person.

Transitional justice seeks individual accountability for human rights violations, stressed the New York-based Rule of Law, Justice and Security Advisor of the UNDP.

Djordjevic said that while there have emerged best practices in post-conflict countries, there is no “one-fits-all model” for transitional justice. In the fields of domestic prosecutions, truth and reconciliation commissions, reparation programmes, vetting, missing persons, forensics and documentation, memorialization, and informal/traditional justice, the experiences of countries vary.

Mohagher Iqbal, who chairs the MILF Peace Panel and the newly created Transition Commission, set the local context for transitional justice. He mentioned that the issue on transitional justice is contained in the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro where it is stated in the section on normalization, item number 12, that “The parties agree to work out a program for transitional justice to address the legitimate grievances of the Bangsamoro people, correct historical injustices, and address human rights violations.”

He contemplated program for transitional justice, Iqbal said, is “very much a work in progress …. is subsumed under the normalization process and would form part of the Annex on Normalization.”

Iqbal described transitional justice as “our overarching theme in our attempt to give justice to victims of human rights violations, to the rectification of massive land grabbing policies and practices, and the eventual vanishing of discrimination, to cite just some specific concerns.”

The three-hour round table discussion elicited numerous questions from participants which included MILF Peace Panel members Prof. Abhoud Syed Lingga and Datu Antonio Kinoc, NGO workers Ismael Maulana, Ershad Jalani Tawasil and Tahir Solaiman, and lawyers Johaira Wahab, Rasol Mitmug, Jr., Raissa Jajurie, Abdulrahman Kanacan, Naguib Sinarimbo, Laisa Alamia and Ishak Mastura. The International Monitoring Team was also represented by Deputy Head of Mission First Admiral Abdul Rahman bin Ayob, Amir Faisal Bin Ahmad and Juliana Nieto. Other invitees were Emma Leslie, Ayesha Abubakar, Drieza Lininding, Abdullah Cusain and Suharto Abas.

The event was organized by the Bangsamoro Study Group (BSG), a think-tank engaged in policy dialogue and advocacy.

Ferrer says GPH reviewing documents on the arrest of 4 MILF members

From InterAksyon (Jun 13): Ferrer says GPH reviewing documents on the arrest of 4 MILF members

The government peace panel negotiating with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is reviewing the documents and the circumstances pertaining to the recent arrest of four MILF members in Mindanao.

In a press statement, Prof. Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, chair of the government peace panel, said that the government negotiating panel, through its Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH), has been furnished the copy of the protest filed by the MILF on June 8 regarding the arrest of four alleged members of the MILF in three separate incidents.

“We are presently reviewing the documents and the circumstances pertaining to the arrests,” Ferrer said.

She said that initial reports submitted by the Philippine National Police “indicate that the law enforcement operation in Polomolok, South Cotabato on May 31 was covered by two separate search warrants against two men. The search yielded several types of ammunition and a weapon, leading to the men’s detention”.

Ferrer also said that “the arrest of another male person in Pantao Ragat, Lanao del Norte on June 8 was covered by a warrant of arrest issued on the charge of frustrated murder.”

“We are still awaiting information on the fourth case of protested arrest in Sultan Kudarat province that reportedly took place on May 28,” Ferrer said.

The Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the MILF have forged a ceasefire as peace negotiations are taking place.

Ferrer said the “Ceasefire Guidelines prohibit ‘unjustified arrests’ -- not arrests per se,’ saying that “in this regard, we are looking into the basis for the arrests, the procedures undertaken by the police in the conduct of these specific law enforcement operations, as well as the current situation of those who have been arrested.”

“We assure the families of those arrested that government will observe due process and all the attendant rights of the detained,” she added.

Ferrer assured that “the GPH-CCCH will be issuing a reply to its counterpart MILF-CCCH as soon as the government completes its internal inquiry.”

“As in other cases of alleged violations of the ceasefire committed by either side, the process set out in the Ceasefire Guidelines shall apply,” she added.

“We continue to appeal for prudence on one and all to ensure that no opportunity will be given to those who wish to undermine the process,” Ferrer concluded.

PNoy administers oath to 2 Negros generals

From the Visayan Daily Star (Jun 12): PNoy administers oath to 2 Negros generals

Two new Negrense Army generals were among the 49 others who took their oath Monday before President Benigno Aquino III at Malacañang Palace in Manila.

Negrense Brigadier Generals Ademar Tomaro, 602 nd Infantry Brigade commander, and Francisco Patrimonio, 302 nd Infantry Brigade commander, joined the newly-promoted one star generals and Navy flag officers in the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Tomaro of Kabankalan City, Negros Occidental, and Patrimonio of Bacolod City, are members of the Philippine Military Academy Class 1982.

Also joining them are three other Army senior military officials who used to be assigned in Negros, Brig. Jet Joel Velarmino (PMA 82), Brig. Gen. Oscar Lactao and Brig Gen. Rey Leonardo Guerrero, both members of PMA Class 1984.

Velarmino, who is the Army chief of staff, used to be assigned in Negros as commander of the 6 th Special Forces Battalion, Lactao, chief of the AFP Command Center, as 303 rd Infantry Brigade commander, and Guerrero, 701 st Infantry Brigade commander, as 61 st Infantry Battalion commander in southern Negros, military records show.

AFP spokesman Brig. Gen. Domingo Tutaan Jr., said the newly promoted officers of the AFP took an oath to uphold the chain of command and set an example to their subordinates on the importance of maintaining a professional military organization accountable to the Filipino people that they serve.

Their promotion does not only signify the recognition of their selfless and excellent service to the military institution, but, more importantly, addresses the bigger challenges and expectations that they will face as they take the lead in realizing the visions of the AFP for the future, Tutaan added in the statement he issued.

After the oath-taking ceremony in Malacañang, the new generals and Flag officers were given arrival honors at Camp Emilio Aguinaldo in Quezon City, and also paid a courtesy call on AFP chief of staff Gen. Emmanuel Bautista.

Expert says Philippines can’t rely on US vs China

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jun 12): Expert says Philippines can’t rely on US vs China
In its territorial dispute with China in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), the Philippines has tended to look to the United States for help, a mindset that, according to an analyst, should be “emancipated” from if it is to assert its independence.

When more Chinese vessels sailed into the disputed waters in the last 13 months, not a few officials invoked the Mutual Defense Treaty with the United States to argue for American intervention, but then US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said last year the United States would be neutral.

“Part of the fact that we’re not that independent is that we still believe . . . America will come to our rescue on the issue of contested territories. We have boundless faith that [the Americans] will help us, but they’ve already told us, ‘We’re neutral,’” Ateneo professor Benito Lim said in an interview.

Some Filipinos’ frame of mind, he said, can be summed up this way: The Philippines is a weak nation and needs the help of other countries to be independent.

Washington, however, isn’t about to squander its multibillion-dollar trade with Beijing to help a small Asian country  claim ownership of islands in the West Philippine Sea, Lim said.

Why will they go to war so we can keep a few rocks?” Lim, a professor of government, foreign policy and political economy at Ateneo de Manila University’s College of Social Sciences, said, quoting an American think tank.
After all, Washington has its own national interest to protect, and Manila cannot blame its ally for doing so, he added.
To assert its independence, the Philippines should wean itself away from overreliance on the United States, and explore “creative ways” to deal with, if not engage, China, without giving up its claim on the disputed territories, Lim said.
Lim, a political economy consultant to the Philippine Embassy in China in the 1970s, proposed that Manila explore the possibility of negotiating with Beijing joint development of the disputed areas.
Economic relations
In a protracted standoff where neither country would benefit, and given that the Philippines has nothing to match China’s firepower, even with the acquisition of two cutters from the United States, forging economic relations for the country’s gain is the best option, he said.
“We have to think independently. We have to emancipate our mind from [the belief that we have] to rely on other counties to solve our problems. We should think of ways by which we can negotiate with China [for] mutual benefit,” Lim said.
China claims virtually the entire West Philippine Sea. As its military and economic might grows, it asserts its claims more aggressively. The Philippines has brought its case to the United Nations.
Three island groups are at the center of the dispute, including the Spratlys, a chain of up to 190 islets, reefs, coral outcrops and atolls believed to be sitting atop large deposits of oil and natural gas.
Manila and Beijing are still locked in a standoff at Panatag Shoal (Scarborough Shoal), a group of coral and rock formations off the coast of Zambales, after a two-month maritime face-off last year. The Philippine vessels withdrew to ease the tensions, but the Chinese vessels remained in the area.
On May 10, a fleet of Chinese fishing boats and patrol vessels drew close to Ayungin Reef in the Spratlys, drawing protests from the Philippines.
Good strategy
Jose Almonte, the national security adviser during the Ramos administration, said President Aquino’s decision to bring the Philippine case to the United Nations was a “good strategy” to let the whole world know what Beijing was up to in the West Philippine Sea.
“But everything he has done is not enough. Why? Because it will not prevent China from doing what it’s doing. Since no one would like to go to war with China over [the West Philippine Sea]—not the US—then no one can prevent China from making its claim except China itself or world opinion,” Almonte said in an interview.
He said there was a need then for Filipinos to improve their capability “to defend our honor and dignity,” but he was not referring to modernization of the military.
“Filipinos are a bigger threat than the Chinese; we have to wake up and develop ourselves,” he said.
In an Aug. 22, 2012, talk before the Makati Business Club, Almonte said the root of the country’s security lay with every Filipino, and dealing honorably with China’s challenge meant first “dealing honorably with ourselves.”
State authority
After all, the world has no higher authority than the nation-state despite the “fraternal pieties” of the United Nations, he said.
Then as now, Almonte spelled out a formula for nation-building: coming to terms with oneself, ending internal wars, completing land and nonland reforms, and transferring the power of the few to the people.
“The future of the nation hangs in the balance up to this time. Noynoy (President Aquino) should know that, and should know why. Why? Because we as a nation, we don’t even know who we are. Our society is not cohesive; it needs reform,” he said.
Just the sense of “being united already makes us strong,” he added. “If we just do what is right, the world will respect us.”
Lim expected any negotiations with China on joint development of the disputed territories to produce three results.
“No. 1, it would be in China’s favor because they’re bringing in technical resources, but we can compute it so it would be just and fair. But if the Chinese want more, then we can reject it. Suppose they want it 50-50, we can think about it. Suppose we get more, we can grab it,” he said.
The Philippines should not be dictated to by China, he said.
Openness to talks
The key here is Manila’s openness to negotiations with Beijing despite the conflict, which has not hindered trade between the two countries from growing, Lim said.
While Beijing has pushed for bilateral negotiations, Philippine leaders have adopted a multilateral approach to the conflict.
“We have to find out before we begin to deny. At the same time, those islands as of now, even if we get them, we’re not sure if there is underwater hydrocarbon (there) or not. But China is the fastest-growing economy; it is the manufacturing center (of Asia), and any economist will tell you that trade with China will be to our advantage. We can exploit special relations,” Lim said.
If the bilateral negotiations push through, it’s likely China would pull out their vessels from the disputed waters “because we’re now talking,” Lim said.
“We must find ways by which we can make them withdraw. We’re capable of independence,” he said. “Whereas if we listen to the Americans that there’s need for a multilateral approach it appears we’re not that independent.”

Gov’t, MNLF resume talks

From the Philippine Star (Jun 13): Gov’t, MNLF resume talks

The Moro National Liberation Front and the government peace panel will hold preliminary talks next week for the final implementation of the 1996 peace agreement under the auspices of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), a top MNLF official said yesterday.

Lawyer Emmanuel Fontanilla, MNLF spokesman, told The STAR that Malacañang set the meeting on June 17 to 19 in preparation for formal talks in Saudi Arabia sometime in August.

“We are happy that the government has finally agreed to resume the peace talks,” he said.

He said MNLF chairman Nur Misuari would lead the four-man panel while Presidential Peace Adviser Teresita Deles will head the government panel.

He said the issues to be discussed include the coverage of territory and sharing of resources.

Fontanilla said the peace talks would resume after the OIC issued a resolution that called on the government to synchronize the framework agreement forged by the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to the accord with the MNLF.

He said Indonesia is brokering the final implementation of the peace accord with the MNLF while Malaysia is mediating on behalf of the MILF.

“The MNLF sees no conflict with the framework agreement (with the MILF) because it aims to address the Bangsamoro problem in Mindanao,” he said.

However, Fontanilla clarified that if the last two items in the peace accord will not be resolved, they would seek the endorsement of the OIC to bring the issue before the United Nations.

He said the MNLF would exhaust all peaceful and diplomatic means to attain the political objective of self-rule.

“The MNLF has already renounced violence to attain its objective, we will not fight except in self defense,” he said.

Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, the government’s negotiator with the MILF, said the rebels should give up some of their demands to achieve a final peace agreement under the proposed Bangsamoro government.

Ferrer said that there are provisions of the MILF that the government cannot devolve to the Bangsamoro.

Ferrer said the MILF proposed that the budget of the Bangsamoro government would be automatically appropriated separate from the annual general appropriations act (GAA).

She said the other contentious issues that hampered the early signing of the peace agreement are the provisions of power sharing where the government maintained that it cannot delegate to the Bangsamoro the handling of national defense, foreign relations, customs and tariff, and immigration.

“These are issues when, if you will not bend, surely we will not be able to arrive into an agreement. So, these are the challenges,” Ferrer said. “So we really have to see that in the process of our aspiration we cannot have all of this.”

The MILF leadership earlier warned that any delay in the signing of the peace accord would have an adverse effect on the ground.

She said the government and MILF ad hoc joint action group (AHJAG), which is responsible for implementation of the ceasefire, is also helping in the arrest of criminal elements. MILF protests arrests

The MILF yesterday protested 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 MILF 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 fi led 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 fi rearms 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.

Sulu Sultanate aligns with Makabayan bloc

From the Manila Standard Today (Jun 13): Sulu Sultanate aligns with Makabayan bloc

Vowing  to carry on the fight to regain Sabah, the Sulu Sultanate expressed hopes on Wednesday that its claim on the island would be taken up  by the House of Representatives when the 16th Congress opens next month.

Abraham Idjirani, the sultanate’s spokesman, said the Makabayang Koalisyon ng Mamamayan (Makabayan) has assured its full to support to Sultan Jamalul Kiram III’s bid to regain Sabah from the Malaysia.

Makabayan is a coalition in  Congress that is comprised of eight progressive parties such as Bayan Muna, Anakpawis, Gabriela, Kabataan, Courage, Migrante, ACT-Teachers, Katribu, Akap Bata, Piston, Kalikasan and Aking Bikolnon.

According to Idjirani, Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Satur Ocampo sent words to the sultanate that the coalition is willing to bring the issue to Congress for deliberation and study.

“Since our Makabayan coalition has maintained its seven seats in the House of Representatives, we plan to take up the Sabah claim in Congress,” Idjirani quoted Ocampo’s text message on Monday.

As instructed by the coalition, Idjirani said that they are now preparing pertinent documents related to the Sabah issue.

As for the Senate, Idjirani said they might not be able to talk to the senators and ask for support since the Senate will be dominated by the allies of President Aquino come June 30.

Idjirani reiterated that the Sulu Sultanate will not give up its fight to reclaim Sabah as they continue to beef up their forces in the disputed 28,429-square kilometer territory.

He said even the brother of the Sultan who is still in Sabah, Raja Muda Agbimuddin Kiram, will never go back to the Philippines.

“Raja Muda said he will not leave Sabah. It is his commitment to remain there and fight for the sultanate’s rights. Our war is not with the Philippine government but with Malaysia,” Idjirani said.

Agbimuddin led about 200 members of the sultanate’s Royal Security Forces (RSF) that sailed to Sabah on February to revive their territorial claim over the land, which Malaysia regards as one of its 13 member-states.

PCG men slam raps ‘for doing their job’

From the Manila Standard Today (Jun 13): PCG men slam raps ‘for doing their job’

COAST Guard personnel who were involved in the fatal May 9 shooting of a 65-year-old Taiwanese fisherman suspected of poaching are demoralized over reports that investigators will recommend the filing of criminal charges against them.

“Like one of them said, they’re doing this for the country,” said Coast Guard chaplain Cdr. Jude Thadeus Besinga. “They could have turned their backs and looked the other way, but we stood our ground.”

Reports of impending charges after a probe by the National Bureau of Investigation were having a demoralizing effect on the Coast Guard, Besinga said.

“They are saddened and traumatized by charges that they were not disciplined, when that is one thing that the Coast Guard are into,” he said.

The chaplain said the Coast Guard personnel were also worried about what would happen to their careers and their families, including children who were questioned by their classmates about the shooting incident that triggered a diplomatic row with Taiwan.

Besinga said the Coast Guard personnel were still hoping for a favorable development even though investigators seemed poised to recommend criminal charges against them.

“Who knows? In the end, maybe people will appreciate what they did,” Besinga added.
Coast Guard spokesman Cdr. Armand Balilo refused to comment on the possibility of charges.

“We should wait for the official announcement of the NBI,” he said.

He said the 11 Coast Guard personnel involved attended the Independence Day flag ceremony at the agency’s main headquarters in Port Area, Manila.

“They are part of the Coast Guard. That’s why they’re here. It is their duty to attend the flag raising,” he said.

Balilo said the Independence Day is very meaningful for the Coast Guard because aside from the traditional challenges, this is also the time they commemorate their involvement in international enforcement.

“People should not forget what we did in Bajo de Masinloc, our duty in Tubbataha…

The people did their job under rough conditions and they did what they had to do,” he said.

Coast Guard commandant Rodolfo Isorena ordered the 11 Coast Guard personnel relieved after the May 9 shooting.

The Coast Guard claimed they fired at the Taiwanese fishing vessel to stop it from ramming them. The Taiwanese denied their account and accused the Philippines of murdering the Taiwanese fisherman, Hung Shih Cheng.

Also on Wednesday, Senator Gregorio Honasan said the Aquino administration should be very careful in dealing with the alleged NBI recommendation to charge members of the Coast Guard for the killing of Hung.

Honasan, re-elected to the Senate last month, said it was clear that the Taiwanese were poaching on Philippine territory.

The senator also urged Malacañang to make clear its policy on territorial rights towards China and Taiwan.

Honasan also called for a review of the RP-US Mutual Defense Treaty, saying the United States does not seem to be helping the country in its territorial dispute with China.

New warship boosts PH maritime defense

From the Manila Standard Today (Jun 13): New warship boosts PH maritime defense

The BRP Ramon Alcaraz, the Philippine Navy’s newest and most modern warship acquired from the United States, is ready to boost the government’s efforts to defend the country’s territorial waters.

The Philippine Embassy in Washington said the former Hamilton Class cutter, one of 12 cutters introduced to the US Coast Guard in the 1960s, but were later modernized through a rehabilitation modernization program in the 1980s through 1992, has been fitted with an anti-ship harpoon missile. It added that the warship has also successfully test-fired its 76mm main gun off the coast of Florida.

After which, the ship sailed on Monday towards Panama Canal on its way to the Pacific.

The Department of Foreign Affairs said the ship would travel for almost two months and is expected to arrive on Philippine shores by mid-July or August.

“The BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PF-16), a decommissioned United States Coast Guard cutter converted to a frigate, is due to arrive in the country either by July or August. It has been fitted with anti-ship harpoon missile,” the DFA said.

Acquired at a cost of less than P.5 billion, the embassy said the BRP Alcaraz’s weapon system was heavier and more sophisticated compared to her sister ship, the BRP Gregorio del Pilar.

Both the BRP  Ramon Alcaraz and the BRP Gregorio del Pilar are Hamilton Class cutter, the largest class of vessel in the United States Cost Guard.

They were called Harmilton after their lead ship, or Secretary Class,” because they were named after secretaries of the Treasury. The BRP Gregorio del Pilar was formerly known as the USCGC Hamilton (WHEC-715),  before it was decommissioned on March 28.

The BRP Ramon Alcaraz, on the other hand, was known as the USCGC Dallas (WHEC-716) and was decommissioned on March 20, 2012.

The acquisition of the two former Hamilton Class cutters was part of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ modernization plan, which is also seen as part of the country’s objectives to beef up its maritime defense in the highly-disputed islands in the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea).

Aside from harpoon surface-to-surface missiles, Alcaraz is armed with an 76mm Oto Melara automatic cannon, two 25-bushmaster guns and heavy machineguns.

The warship recently completed its three-day sea trial off South Carolina where it underwent major engine repairs and refurbishment for several months before it was turned over to the Philippines last year.

Philippine embassy to Washington defense and naval attache Capt. Elson Aguilar said the Hamilton Class cutter will journey for almost two months before it reaches the country.

“The Alcaraz left Charleston, South Carolina, last Monday, more than a year after it was acquired from the US Coast Guard. Aside from Mayport and Panama, the Alcaraz will also stop in San Diego, Honolulu and Guam en route to Manila,” the Philippine Embassy said.

Capt. Ernesto Baldovino, the vessel’s commanding officer, described the weapons system as “very reliable,” and having a “high degree of accuracy.”

The ship was fitted with Italian-made Oto Melara rapid-fire cannon fired 15 rounds, including three for calibration and 12 at floating targets two to three miles away.

The cannon can shoot as many as 80 76-mm rounds per minute, the embassy 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.”

The Oto Melara 76mm gun is described as a “very good weapon system” which is currently being used by 53 naval forces worldwide.

Contrary to claims that the gun was too light to deter would-be-intruders and poachers encroaching into 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.

Army dragon boat team wins bronze in Macau race

From the Manila Times (Jun 13): Army dragon boat team wins bronze in Macau race

The Philippine Army dragon boat team won one bronze medal in the 2013 Macau International Dragon Boat Races at the Nam Van Lake Nautical Centre in Macau, China.

The Army paddlers clocked one minute and 54.635 seconds to place third in the Open standard dragon boat 50-meter event. The Indonesia national team took the gold medal with a time of 1:53.399 while China national team settled for silver with 1:53.567.

The Philippine Dragon Boat Federation Elite Team wound up fourth with 1:57.173 followed by China Dianli Club (1:57.791) and Macau national team (2:00.251).

“I wouldn’t offer any alibis. We were beaten by the national squads of Dragon B
oat powerhouses in Asia. It was indeed an honor to compete with the best teams which gave us the rare opportunity to assess our own strengths and weaknesses,” said team manager Harold Cabunoc.

The Army paddlers pocketed a $1,500 (some P60,0000) consolation purse.

“As a Club Team, the Army has proven that it can be in the same league as the best Dragon Boat teams in Asia,” added Cabunoc.

Some members of the Army team were included in the national team that won five gold and two silver medals in the prestigious International Dragon Boat Federation World Championships held two years ago in Tampa Bay, Florida.

Army’s 302nd Brigade Replicates the Participation in Flag Raising Ceremony

From the Negros Daily Bulletin (Jun 13): Army’s 302nd Brigade Replicates the Participation in Flag Raising Ceremony

Military personnel from the Army’s 302nd Brigade participate in the flag raising ceremony and lead the recitation of the PANATANG MAKABAYAN at Don Placido Mapa Memorial Elementary School, Barangay Sta. Cruz Viejo, Tanjay City last June 10, 2013.

In order to instill a sense of nationalism to our Filipino students, the Philippine Army’s 302nd Brigade, 79th IB and 11th IB and CAFGUs from the Alpha Company of 12th IB replicated the participation in the flag raising ceremony and led the recitation of the "PANATANG MAKABAYAN" in various elementary and high schools in Negros Oriental yesterday morning.

Brig. Gen. Francisco M. Patrimonio, 302nd Brigade Commander said that the activity was part of the brigade’s civil military operation activities as part of the AFP’s Internal Peace and Security Plan "Bayanihan." The recitation of the "Panatang Makabayan" is one way of emphasizing the solemn oath and covenant between the people and the state. "We are committed to support activities of various stakeholders in the province for the welfare of the people particularly the youth and students which are the hope of our motherland," he added.

The 302nd Brigade participated in the flag raising ceremony and led the recitation of the "PANATANG MAKABAYAN" at Domingo Ledesma Mapa High School and Don Placido Mapa Memorial Elementary School of Barangay Sta. Cruz Viejo, Tanjay City and at Barangay Malalangsi Elementary School in Pamplona, Negros Oriental on June 3 and 10, 2013.

Meanwhile, the 79th IB based in Siaton also replicated the said activity in various schools in their area of operation like the Kanggabok Elem School, Brgy Nagbinlod, Sta Catalina, Brgy Maglinao High School in Basay, Masaligan National High School, Brgy Mantiquil and Brgy. Tayak Elem School in Siaton, Brgy Bagtic Elementary school in Mabinay, Inawasan Elementary School in Pamplona, Sitio Nababalabag Elementary School of Brgy San Isidro, Pamplona, Puhagan Elementary School in Valencia and Tubod National High School in Sitio Tubod, Brgy Enrique Villanueva, Sibulan, Negros Oriental.

Likewise, the 11th IB based in Guihulngan City was also participated from the said activity in Guihulngan City National High School, Brgy Villegas Elementary School, Brgy Sandayao National High School, Brgy Linantuyan Elementary School, Brgy Imelda Elementary School, all of Guihulngan City, Brgy Pacuan High School in La Libertad, Biak na Bato Elementary School in La Castellana, Sitio Nalundan Elementary School in Brgy Guba, Vallehermoso, Brgy Owacan Community High School in Jimalalud, Brgy Lag-it Elementary School, Tayasan, Carabalan Elementary School in Himamaylan City, Don Florencio Villafranca National High School in Sitio Tungo, Brgy Cabadiangan, Himamaylan, City, Brgy Cansalongon Elementary School and Brgy Sikatuna Elementary School in Isabela and Brgy San Antonio National High School in Hmamaylan, City.

After the flag raising ceremony, the troops conducted Information Drive to the children and make them aware of the service and sacrifices of our soldiers and those from other government agencies in defending our territory and protecting the country’s sovereignty. Col. Christopher C. Estella, 302nd Brigade Deputy Commander said that the military believes that one of the solutions to the insurgency problem in the country is through awareness and instilling the youth and students to be united and be a part of the solution in achieving peace. "We have directed our operationally controlled units to closely coordinate with different schools in their respective areas to have their participation from the said endeavor down to the CAFGU detachments," Estella said.

MILF official hits gov't for delays on FAB

From the Philippine Star (Jun 13): MILF official hits gov't for delays on FAB

An official of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has scored the government for the supposed delays in the crafting of annexes of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro.

In an article posted on the MILF website, Khaled Musa, deputy chairman of the group’s information committee, said the delays have triggered negative reactions on the ground.

The article quoted Musa as saying that “frustration on the ground is gaining momentum as a consequence of too much unnecessary delay from the government.”

“He (Musa) also disclosed the radical elements within the MILF is beginning to be restive and hitting the MILF and its peace panel,” the article read.

“More than three months have been consumed since the annex on wealth-sharing was initialed without clear direction for the talks.”

Musa accused the government of sitting on the annexes unnecessarily in the guise of due diligent study.

“What is good is that the cause of delay is government,” he said.
The annexes of the Bangsamoro Framework Agreement involve wealth sharing, normalization and power sharing.

These annexes, which are still under review, will have to be completed before a final peace agreement with the MILF is signed. Specific details of the annexes have yet to be made public.

The MILF article claimed that the government peace panel had changed its position on the annexes twice.

“The peace negotiation is an exercise in futility if there is no stop to this changing of positions by the government negotiating team,” the article quoted an unnamed MILF negotiator as saying.

The group said it has no plan to abandon the original document, saying backtracking could pose a serious drawback to the peace process.

The MILF claimed the government had its first change of position when the document on natural resources was being tackled last April. MILF negotiators “vehemently objected” to the changes.

“Except for those that are in harmony with the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro, we don’t accept the changes introduced by government on wealth-sharing,” said MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal.

The government’s second backtracking was reportedly contained in “notes” recently sent to the MILF through the Malaysian facilitator.

The MILF declined to provide details but claimed that the notes “severely diluted” the old document.

“Two changes of positions in a row within the span of two months is alarming,” the unnamed peace negotiator said.

18 Chinese maritime ships operating within Philippine territory

From the Philippine Star (Jun 13): 18 Chinese maritime ships operating within Philippine territory

About 18 Chinese vessels are intruding into Philippine territory, raising the need to pour more resources to defense spending, a security official said Thursday.

Vicente Agdamag, Deputy Director-General of the National Security Council Secretariat, said the deployment of the ships is in line with China’s aim to consolidate its control over the West Philippine Sea.

“Right now, there are 18 maritime surveillance ships operating in our area,” Agdamag said during the Air Force’s Air Power Symposium 2013 in Pasay city.

Agdamag did not say what types of ships were deployed and where they are located.

He, however, enumerated incidents showcasing China’s aggressive behavior in the West Philippine Sea.
These include the imposition by China of an “exclusion zone” in Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal, which is well within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.

The shoal, also known as Bajo de Masinloc, is 124 nautical miles from the nearest point in Zambales province.

“Lately, we received reports that surveillance ships are imposing a 24-kilometer wide ban on the fishing area so in fact, they are imposing an exclusion zone already in Bajo de Masinloc,” Agdamag said.

Chinese occupation of the Panatag Shoal began on April 10, 2012, when surveillance vessels from Beijing prevented the Philippine Navy from arresting Chinese fishermen who had poached endangered marine species.

Other incidents enumerated by Agdamag were:
  • The challenging by a Chinese patrol ship of a vessel conducting a survey for Forum Energy about 85 nautical miles off Palawan in March 2011
  • The grounding of a Chinese Navy frigate on Hasahasa Shoal, which is 60 nautical miles from Rizal, Palawan on July 11, 2012
  • China’s establishment of Sansha City in Woody Island to exercise administrative control over areas in West Philippine Sea last year. The Woody Island is about 460 nautical miles from Zambales coast
  • China’s announcement in November 2012 that Hainan police would board foreign vessels in disputed areas
  • The harassment by Chinese ships of a vessel carrying Pag-asa Island Mayor Eugenio Bito-onon in November 2012. The mayor and his companions experienced a similar harassment in May 2013
  • The conduct of patrols and training missions of a squadron of three People’s Liberation Army (PLA) vessels last February
  • The deployment of modern warships by the PLA last March to carry out training missions in the Bashi Channel
  • The conduct of an eight-day military drill in Spratlys by Chinese forces also last March. One destroyer, two frigates, an amphibious ship, amphibious tanks and land-based fighters participated in the drill
  • The presence of five China law enforcement agency vessels, four China marine surveillance vessels, one fisheries and law enforcement command ship in the southern part of Panatag Shoal last April
Bigger defense spending sought

Agdamag cited the need to hike the budget for defense spending to enable the country to have a minimum deterrent capability, which he defined as a capability that imposes a risk that a hostile force would find unacceptable.

He recommended increasing the investment for defense by 0.5 percent to 1 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP). The GDP is the sum of all products and services produced by an economy in a given period. It indicates the size of an economy.

Agdamag said at present, defense spending is just equivalent to 1.1 percent of the P2.006 trillion national budget.

“We are recommending an additional of 0.5 to one percent not only to be at par with our neighbors and more importantly to develop a modicum of a credible defense capability to protect our maritime and strategic interest,” he said.

“We need to enhance to our security alliance with our allies and our neighbors especially the United States,” he added.

China has been constructing structures in disputed areas to assert its territorial claims, triggering concerns among other claimants in the region.

It has built a military garrison in the Mischief Reef or Panganiban Reef, one of the areas being claimed by the Philippines. Mischief Reef, which is about 70 nautical miles from Palawan, has been occupied by China since 1995.

China initially built structures on stilts at the reef, supposedly to provide shelter for fishermen but these were later on converted into a military garrison with powerful radars.

China has also installed a powerful radar station in Subi Reef, an islet 12 nautical miles southwest of Pag-Asa Island, which is part of Kalayaan Island. The Chinese began constructing the four-story structure, including a lighthouse about seven years ago.

China has also sent ships in the Ayungin Shoal, another Philippine-owned area located 105.77 nautical miles from Palawan.

4 rebel returnees get P200K

From the Sun Star-Bacolod (Jun 13): 4 rebel returnees get P200K

FOUR more rebel returnees received Wednesday a total of P200,000 from the government in line with the “Guns for Peace” program of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

Those who availed of the program were Evonie Baynosa alias Jeny/Murphy/Moreno of Barangay San Isidro, Toboso, former vice commanding officer of the NPA who returned one M-16 rifle; Rugene Lonerous alias Reden/Troy/Sunday of Barangay E. Lopez, Silay City, squad leader, SDG Platoon of the NPA who brought also one M-16 rifle; Felizardo Poneda alias BJMP/Mars/August of Barangay E. Lopez, Silay City and former commanding officer of Budlas Platoon, Central Negros Committee of the NPA, who surrendered one Winchester M-14 rifle; and Erving Binas alias Errol of Barangay Guinbalaon, Silay City, who also surrendered one Colt M-16 rifle.

Each rebel returnee received P50,000.

Also in a ceremony held at the Social Hall of the Provincial Capitol yesterday, the four also received bicyles along with other rebel returnees identified as Elizaldy Martisano who was also earlier given cash assistance of P110,000 in return for the firearms he surrendered to the government. Others who received bicycles were Vanessa Martisano, Ronel Tanedo, and Mary Jane Baynosa.

The Provincial Government also gave out Certificates of Scholarships to the children of the victims of the NPA ambush-massacre in Barangay Puso, La Castellana last January 27.

Those who were given scholarships were Mary Lyn Complesa, daughter of killed BPAT member Ramir Complesa; Glen Tamayor, son of killed BPAT member Ulysses Tamayor; Dexter Demafelis, son of survivor Demetrio Demafiles; and Dena Demafiles, daughter of survivor Demetrio Demafiles.

Gov’t peace panel reviewing cases of 4 arrested MILF rebels

From the Sun Star (Jun 13): Gov’t peace panel reviewing cases of 4 arrested MILF rebels

THE Government of the Philippines (GPH) peace panel is currently reviewing the cases of three members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) who were separately arrested recently and subject of a protest by the Muslim rebel group.

Government chief negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer said Thursday that the panel, through its Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH), has been furnished the copy of the protest filed by the MILF on June 8 regarding the arrest of four alleged MILF members.

"We are presently reviewing the documents and the circumstances pertaining to the arrests," she said.

Citing initial reports submitted by the Philippine National Police, Ferrer said that the law enforcement operation in Polomolok, South Cotabato on May 31 was covered by two separate search warrants against two men. The search yielded several types of ammunition and a weapon, leading to the men’s detention.

The arrest of another male person in Pantao Ragat, Lanao del Norte on June 8 was, on the other hand, covered by a warrant of arrest issued on the charge of frustrated murder, she said.

"We are still awaiting information on the fourth case of protested arrest in Sultan Kudarat province that reportedly took place on May 28," she said.

Ferrer noted that the Ceasefire Guidelines prohibit "unjustified arrests" -- not arrests per se.

"In this regard, we are looking into the basis for the arrests, the procedures undertaken by the police in the conduct of these specific law enforcement operations, as well as the current situation of those who have been arrested," she said.

She assured the families of those arrested that government will observe due process and all the attendant rights of the detained.

The GPH-CCCH will be issuing a reply to its counterpart MILF-CCCH as soon as the government completes its internal inquiry, she said, adding that as in other cases of alleged violations of the ceasefire committed by either side, the process set out in the Ceasefire Guidelines shall apply.

"We continue to appeal for prudence on one and all to ensure that no opportunity will be given to those who wish to undermine the process," the official stressed.

The MILF earlier complained on the arrest of its four members in separate incidents as it warned that this could adversely affect the peace process.

Army chief retiring

From the Visayan Daily Star (Jun 13): Army chief retiring

Maj. Gen. Jose Mabanta Jr., commanding general of the 3rd Infantry Division of the Philippine Army in Negros and Panay, will retire from the military service next week.

Mabanta will relinquish the Army unit command on June 19 in a ceremony to be held at Camp Macario Peralta in Jamindan, Capiz. His successor is not yet known.

Mabanta will reach the mandatory age retirement of 56 on June 20. As 3ID commander, he supervises Army forces stationed in Negros and Panay islands.

“I will be changing my hat 10 days from now, but I assure you that my support to the AFP will remain. I still offer my dedication and support in achieving peace and development in our country”, Mabanta, who visited the 302nd Infantry Brigade headquarters in Tanjay, Negros Oriental Monday, said.

Army chief Lt. Gen. Noel Coballes will preside over the change of command between Mabanta and his successor.

Mabanta, a classmate of AFP chief of staff Gen. Emmanuel Bautista, thanked 3ID soldiers for their untiring support that contributed to the successful conduct of Internal Peace and Security Operation in the region.

Former rebels paid for guns

From the Visayan Daily Star (Jun 13): Former rebels paid for guns

Four former members of the New People’s Army yesterday received P210,000 for surrendering four high-powered firearms to the Army at the 115th Independence Day celebration at the Negros Occidental Capitol in Bacolod City yesterday.

At the same time, four children of ambush victims in La Castellana were awarded scholarship grants by the provincial government of Negros Occidental.

Col. Jon Aying, 303rd Infantry Brigade commander, yesterday said rebel returnees Erving Binas, Felizardo Pineda Jr., Eugence Almojero and Evonie Baynosa surrendered three M-16 armalite rifles, and an M-14 assault rifle, upon turning themselves in to the military in Negros.

The four rebel returnees also received P20,000 in financial assistance and P28,000 worth of livestock as emergency assistance from the Negros Occidental provincial government.

Under the Guns for Peace Program of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, an M-16 armalite rifle has a cash equivalent of P50,000 and an M-14 rifle, P60,000.

Late last month, Elizalde Martisano, with the aliases of “Ka Nonoy” and “Bong,” squad leader and political officer of the Sentro de Grabidad Platoon of the South West Front, received P110,000 in cash, for surrendering an M-16 rifle and three Mossberg 12 gauge shotguns.

The P50,000 livelihood assistance package under the national government’s Comprehensive Local Integration Program (CLIP) each for Martisano, Binas, Pineda, Almojero and Baynosa are being processed, Capt. Christopher Cunanan, 303rd Infantry Birgade Civil Military Operations officer said.

Baynosa, former vice-commanding officer of the Northern Negros Front Sentro De Grabidad Platoon, thanked the provincial government and the military for their assistance.

Marañon also awarded scholarship grants to Mary Lyn Complesa, Glen Tamayor, Dexter and Dena Dimafilez, whose parents were among the victims of an ambush perpetrated by the New People’s Army in La Castellana, Negros Occidental, that claimed the lives of eight civilians and a policeman, and inflicted injuries on 10 others.
Cunanan said AFP chief of staff Gen. Emmanuel Bautista also gave scholarship grants to three other children of the La Castellana massacre victims.

The provincial government of Negros Occidental has extended almost P1 million in financial and livelihood assistance to 89 rebel returnees, who have surrendered to the 303rd Infantry Brigade since 2010.

Aying also presented 10 former rebels with bicycles donated by the Rotary District 3850.

Help prevent rebel recruitment: Army

From the Visayan Daily Star (Jun 13): Help prevent rebel recruitment:  Army

The military yesterday enjoined parents of high school and college students to monitor closely the activities of their children, with the opening of classes as they may be targeted for recruitment by the New People’s Army.

Col. Jon Aying, 303rd Infantry Brigade commander, said the NPA usually recruits students as political cadres.

Aying said the lack of political cadres to guide NPA members, especially the red fighters, led to rampant human rights violations committed by the rebel group. It cited the massacre of civilians in La Castellana.

Presidential Adviser on Peace Process Teresita Quintos-Deles earlier said the killing of civilians in La Castellana and in other parts of the country, which were admitted by the NPA, have made it difficult to resume the peace negotiations with the communist rebel group.

To counter the recruitment activities of the NPA among the student and youth sectors, Aying said they are sustaining their Youth Leadership Summit program, which aims to indoctrinate them in Filipino values and good practices as well as peace advocacy.

The military also slammed the NPA for the recruitment of minors, citing the case of a certain Ka Shy, who was allegedly molested by her commanding officer in northern Negros.

Court forfeits Abadia's P11.26-M properties, cash

From Rappler (Jun 13): Court forfeits Abadia's P11.26-M properties, cash

The Sandiganbayan has ordered the forfeiture of P11.26-M worth of cash and properties of retired Armed Forces chief of staff Lisandro Abadia and his wife.

In a 35-page decision released on Thursday, June 13, the anti-graft court's 3rd division ruled in favor of the Office of the Ombudsman, which accused Abadia of amassing ill-gotten wealth during his term as chief of staff.

In 2005, then Special Prosecutor Dennis Villa-Ignacio filed a forfeiture petition against Abadia, who served as chief of staff from 1991, under then President Corazon Aquino, until 1994, under then President Fidel Ramos.

The Ombudsman said Abadia, a retired four-star general, failed to explain the income that he declared in his Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth. The Ombudsman estimated that Abadia's unexplained wealth amounted to more than P11 million.

The court verdict against Abadia and wife was penned by Sandiganbayan Associate Justice Alex Quiroz. Presiding Justice Francisco Villaruz Jr and Associate Justice Samuel Martires concurred.

Chinese deported soon? Tubbataha exec anxious

From Rappler (Jun 13): Chinese deported soon? Tubbataha exec anxious

ARRESTED. These Chinese fishermen are facing criminal and administrative charges. Photo from the Facebook account of the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park

ARRESTED. These Chinese fishermen are facing criminal and administrative charges. Photo from the Facebook account of the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park

The Bureau of Immigration has ordered the deportation of the 12 Chinese fishermen who were aboard the fishing vessel that ran aground in Tubbataha reef on April 8, according to a statement by the Tubbataha park management.

Tubbataha park superintendent Angelique Songco said the order raises concerns that the charges against the alleged poachers would eventually be dropped.

Songco said they learned about the BI order on Thursday, June 13. The warrant of deportation prepared by BI Commissioner Ricardo A. David Jr. was received by BI acting Intelligence Chief Maria Antonette Bucasas-Mangrobang on June 10, directing her to “immediately arrest and take custody” of the Chinese fishermen, according to Songco.

Songco disclosed that David sent a letter to Judge Ambrosio de Luna of Branch 51, informing him that in the event the Chinese fishermen will be ordered released on bail, the BI will be taking legal custody of them.

Songco said she was assured by the court that the Chinese nationals will not be released without a court order. “I was also assured that our side as complainant will be sought prior to such an issuance,” Songco said.

Songco said she fears the fishermen will apply for bail soon and that the case against them “could slip through our hands like the ones before it."

“What is worse, we could be left holding the statement of account of this case with no one to collect payment from,” she added.

The Chinese vessel destroyed 3,902 square meters of corals, 66% larger than the final damage measurement caused by the USS Guardian. The proposed fine against the Chinese fishermen is estimated at P95 million.

READ: Chinese boat caused bigger damage in Tubbataha

Songco said her fear comes from their “unsuccessful efforts to make Chinese poachers pay for their crimes in Tubbataha," a world heritage site.

READ: Hope for Tubbataha, cradle of life

The Chinese fishermen were charged for “entering the country without inspection and admission in violation of Section 37(a)(1), (2) and (9) in relation to Section 45 (d) of the Philippine Immigration Act (PIA) of 1940” and for being “undocumented and undesirable under Section 52 of the PIA, in relation to Section 69 of Act 2711.”

The 12 fishermen charged were:

1. Liu Chang Jie,
2. Fang Ren Yi,
3. Qi Jian,
4. Li Zhi Ming
5. Li Zhong Sheng
6. Wang Yu Zhen
7. Lui Wen Jie
8. Yuan Liang Te
9. Chang Shou Yun
10. Die Li Yong
11. Wen Jong Min
12. Tang Hai Ling

On April 8, the vessel ran aground at 1.1 nautical mile (NM) east of the Ranger Station of the Tubbataha Reef. The incident occurred more than a week after salvage teams removed from Tubbataha the USS Guardian, which was stuck in the area for more than 10 weeks.

Navy rescues 3 Brits off El Nido

From Rappler (Jun 13): Navy rescues 3 Brits off El Nido

The military's Western Command rescued 3 British nationals whose yacht encountered engine trouble amid harsh weather off the coast of the resort-island of El Nido in Palawan on Thursday, June 13.

Navy Capt Bayani Gaerlan, commander of Wescom's Joint Task Force Malampaya, said they received a report that the yacht MY Simoune was in distress since Wednesday night at 50 nautical miles off El Nido.

Patrol Gunboat 386 was immediately dispatched for a rescue operation. The yacht was found afloat at 2.5 nautical miles north of Lalutaya Island after 12 hours.

The 3 British nationals aboard the yacht are safe, but the Wescom did not release their names.

As of posting time, the yacht was being escorted by the Navy to the El Nido pier.

BRP Ramon Alcaraz voyage successful so far - PN spokesperson

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 13): BRP Ramon Alcaraz voyage successful so far - PN spokesperson

Philippine Navy (PN) spokesperson Lt. Cmdr. Gregory Fabic said the homeward voyage of BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PF-16), the country's second Hamilton-class cutter, is successful so far.

"All of her systems are working properly and right now she is steaming for San Diego, California after her visit in Mayport, Florida," he said.

The ship is expected to reach San Diego within two to three days barring inclement weather at her economical cruising speed of 12 knots (equivalent to 13.80 nautical miles per hour).

The distance from Mayport, Florida to San Diego, California is estimated around 1,814 nautical miles.

At this rate, the ship is expected to arrive at her destination within the next to three days.

Fabic earlier said that the ship has successfully fired her main weapon, the 76mm Oto Melara auto-cannon and tested her combined diesel or gas propulsion system without experiencing any fault.

"She was able to reach 25 knots (28.75 nautical miles per hour) without any difficulty and the 76mm Oto Melara auto cannon was fired in single and multiple firing scheme without misfire," he added.

The ship's top speed is placed at 28 to 31 knots.

The BRP Ramon Alcaraz has departed Charleston, South Carolina Monday (American time) for her two-month voyage to the Philippines.

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.

De Lima: Criminal, administrative raps recommended vs PCG, BFAR personnel

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 13): De Lima: Criminal, administrative raps recommended vs PCG, BFAR personnel

Justice Secretary Leila M. De Lima on Thursday confirmed there was a recommendation to file criminal charges against some personnel of the Philippine Coast Guard and Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources involved in the Balintang Channel incident.

Aside from this, De Lima said, there are also some officials who were recommended to be administratively charged.

However, De Lima refused to give additional details.

On the part of the National Bureau of Investigation, Director Nonnatus Caesar Rojas refused to comment on the statement of De Lima.

Even the PCG refused to comment.

According to PCG Spokesman Cmdr. Armand Balilo, they will issue an official statement once the report becomes official.

The NBI report on the Balintang Channel incident is now with the Office of President Benigno S. Aquino III.

PHL defense officials talking with SK counterparts for F/A-50 acquisition project

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 13): PHL defense officials talking with SK counterparts for F/A-50 acquisition project

Defense officials are talking with representatives of South Korea's Defense Acquisition and Procurement Authority regarding its intention to acquire the Korea Aerospace Industries F/A-50 Golden Eagle.

The Authority is responsible for all export of military equipment manufactured in South Korea.

Around 12 units are expected to serve as the interim fighter aircraft of the Philippine Air Force.

Defense sources said: "The talks with the South Korean representative is to ensure that the aircraft will be acquired through government-to-government procurement mode.

"So far, the talks have been progressing well and they are now talking on the unit price (of the F/A-50) and the weapons, navigation, and technical and logistic support that will be provided to the Philippine ordered jet planes."

He declined to comment on how long the talks will last or whether this would lead to a contract signing.

The Philippines is in the market for 12 supersonic trainer aircraft which can double as interim fighter and attack planes for the PAF.

It has allocated P18 billion for this program.

The Government Procurement Policy Board earlier gave the DND the "green-light" to start pre-negotiations with the South Korean government for 12 F/A 50 aircraft last January.

The F/A-50 is also known as the TA-50.

Its design is largely derived from the F-16 Fighting Falcon, and they have many similarities: use of a single engine, speed, size, cost, and the range of weapons.

KAI's previous engineering experience in license-producing the KF-16 was a starting point for the development of the F/A-50.

The aircraft can carry two pilots in tandem seating.

The high-mounted canopy developed by Hankuk Fiber is applied with stretched acrylic, providing the pilots with good visibility, and has been tested to offer the canopy with ballistic protection against four-pound objects impacting at 400 knots.

The altitude limit is 14,600 meters, and airframe is designed to last 8,000 hours of service.

There are seven internal fuel tanks with capacity of 2,655 liters (701 US gallons), five in the fuselage and two in the wings.

An additional 1,710 liters (452 US gallons) of fuel can be carried in the three external fuel tanks.

Trainer variants have a paint scheme of white and red, and aerobatic variants white, black, and yellow.

The F/A-50 "Golden Eagle" uses a single General Electric F404-102 turbofan engine license-produced by Samsung Techwin, upgraded with a full authority digital engine control system jointly developed by General Electric and KAI.

The engine consists of three-staged fans, seven axial stage arrangement, and an afterburner.

The aircraft has a maximum speed of Mach 1.4-1.5.

Its engine produces a maximum of 78.7 kN (17,700 lbf) of thrust with afterburner.

PMA entices youth to consider the Academy's military training

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 13): PMA entices youth to consider the Academy's military training

The Philippine Military Academy (PMA)on Wednesday placed Static and Photo Display in Rizal Park, Manila to entice the youth to get interested in taking a military training in PMA.

“We place here some static and photo display as a way to entice them. We aim to promote awareness to the public, especially the students, which we want to encourage in considering a military training,” said Army Captain Lynnete Flores, PMA public information officer.

Flores explained that static and photo display is a part of PMA’s recruitment drive that can be an eye opener to the youth to give them idea of how it will be if they will become noble privilege military officer someday who will be task to serve the country.

“PMA cadets will be our future military officers who will serve our country as defenders of peace and freedom,” Flores added.

As the student look around with the photo and static display, they were being explained about the basic steps and requirements if they (students) are interested to be future military leaders of PMA.

“They should be natural born citizens, physically fit, with good moral character, 17 to 21 years of age, and at least high school graduate,” said Flores.

Five feet is the minimum requirement for male and female but not exceeding 6’4. They should all pass the PMA exam.

They can download application from the PMA website and fill it up and attached other documents like NSO certificate and form 137 and sent to address written in the application form.

“Those who will study in PMA will enjoy free tuition while at the same time receiving pay and allowances and chance to go schooling for abroad if they qualified in examinations given by foreign academies. Once graduated, they will assume the title 1st Lieutenant at the Armed Forces of the Philippines,” said Flores.

PMA is among the other 46 government agencies that joined in celebrating the nation’s 115th Philippines Independence Day in Rizal Park.

Government committed to upgrading PAF - DND chief

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 13): Government committed to upgrading PAF - DND chief

Despite some financial constraints, the government is committed in modernizing the Philippine Air Force (PAF), Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Voltaire Gazmin on Thursday said.

"I wish to reiterate to you the painstaking desire of our national leadership to upgrade and eventually modernize our Armed Forces. With it goes the acquisition of potent and dependable assets and platforms for our Air Force," Gazmin said in the Air Power Symposium held at the SMX Convention Center, Pasay City.

With the passage of Republic Act No. 10349 establishing the Revised AFP Modernization Program, the DND chief said that they are now working speedily on the approval of the upgrade and modernization projects of the Armed Forces.

"These projects would surely provide the PAF with brand new and reliable air assets for its air operations along with the operational requirements of the Philippine Army and Philippine Navy," he added.

These include, among others, the acquisition of lead-in fighter trainers, surface attack aircraft, attack helicopters, light transport aircraft, and medium transport aircraft.

"The placement of these assets in our Air Force inventory shall surely boost its air operations capability," Gazmin stressed.

And while admitting that lack of funds have prevented the continued upgrade of the PAF and the rest of the Armed Forces, these forces have remained committed in safeguarding the country's national interest, in rendering humanitarian assistance, in performing disaster response and in addressing operational requirements for internal peace and security.

CPP: Gov’t dominated by landlords dooms CARP under Noy

From the Daily Tribune (Jun 13): CPP: Gov’t dominated by landlords dooms CARP under Noy

Those who currently wield power in government, who are members of big landholding clans, are a testament to the futility of agrarian reform under President Aquino and after 25 years, the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) merely defrauded farmers in their pursuit of social justice, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) yesterday said.

The CPP added the fraudulence of the CARP is underscored by the fact that the biggest haciendas remain untouched and under the monopoly control of the big landlords after 25 years of the law’s implementation.

“This is further stressed by the fact that the reactionary state is currently being administered by Benigno Aquino III, a scion of the Cojuangco landlord clan,” the communist group said in a statement.

“Hacienda Luisita, the starkest symbol of feudal rule, continues to be under the control of the Cojuangcos through the use of deception, bureaucratic manipulation and armed suppression,” the CPP stressed.

The CPP said big haciendas continue to be a major feature of the rural landscape.

“The Aquinos, Roxases, Aranetas and other big landlord families wallow in excessive luxury,” it said.

“They live in palatial homes, wear designer clothes, eat imported meat, drink expensive wine, party in lavish hotels, jetset and race their gas-guzzling sports cars for fun,” the CPP added.

“The absence of genuine land reform is the most conspicuous demonstration of the absence of genuine democracy in the Philippines,” the CPP said.

On June 10, 1998, former President Corazon Aquino, the incumbents mother, signed into law the CARP.

Nothing fundamental had changed since then regarding giant landholdings in the country, according to the CPP.

“The landlords continue to subject millions of Filipino peasants to feudal and semifeudal exploitation with their haciendas and other feudal holdings,” the CPP said.

The CARP and its extension program, the CARPer have no difference from the Presidential Decree 27 issued by former President Ferdinand Marcos.

After seven decades, the Filipino peasantry remains landless and subjected to grave exploitation and oppression because all previous land reform programs have bogus, the CPP said.

“The CARP and all other previous bogus land reform programs are projects of deception by the landlord-dominated reactionary state.

“These merely seek to squash the widespread demand for land and quell the peasant masses’ democratic struggle for genuine land reform,” the CPP said.

The majority of Filipinos comprised of landless peasants and poor farm-workers suffer daily from excessive land rent, extremely low wages, high-cost of agricultural inputs, low farm-gate prices, usurious loans and other forms of feudal and semifeudal exploitation and oppression, the CPP said.

The CPP added that hundreds of thousands of peasants are displaced from their lands with the landlords’ large-scale conversion of agricultural lands to non-agricultural use to skirt the land reform law and earn themselves a quick profit.

The massive influx of foreign mining companies further displaces minority peoples from their lands and poisons agricultural lands and waterways, it said.

There is complete lack of economic progress to absorb the rural labor force into modern industries.

The CPP said the Philippine countryside is a sea of the unemployed and underemployed, where rural income is pulled down and peasant masses drown in hunger and poverty.

“Peasant organizations have dismissed the CARP as a mere real estate transaction where feudal estates subjected to state acquisition are overvalued.

“Peasants lose their so-called certificates of land transfer in their inability to pay the exorbitant amortization rates,” the CPP said.

In the vast plains of Mindanao, by using the name of “economies of scale,” so-called beneficiaries are compelled to join “agrarian reform communities” to force their integration into a vast plantation system for the production of bananas, sugar cane, rubber, oil palm and other export crops.

“They are made to buy seedlings and agricultural inputs and compelled to sell their produce to big landlords and exporters.

“Foreign monopoly capitalists continue to take advantage of the feudal and semifeudal system and backward agricultural production to extract superprofits and plunder the Philippines of its wealth,” the CPP said.

The big landlords are the most trusted allies of foreign powers.

They continue to serve as suppliers of cheap raw materials and conduits of surplus products from the imperialist countries.

The clamor for genuine land reform remains the biggest democratic demand of the Filipino people.

“It is the main content of the people’s democratic revolution which seeks to correct the historic and social injustice inflicted on the peasant masses, and liberate them from feudal and semifeudal exploitation and oppression.

By carrying out genuine land reform in consonance with national industrialization, the full potential of the Philippine productive forces are unleashed,” the CPP said.

Under the auspices of the Pambansang Katipunan ng mga Magbubukid (PKM), an allied organization of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), the peasant masses are organized and mobilized to confront landlords with their demands to reduce land rent, raise wages of farm workers, bring down interest rates and raise farmgate prices.