Saturday, June 15, 2013

Organisation of Islamic Cooperation prompts Philippines government-MNLF talks

From the Gulf News (Jun 14): Organisation of Islamic Cooperation prompts Philippines government-MNLF talks

Islamic organisation takes initiative for implementation of 1996 peace accord

The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) helped the Philippines government and a former separatist Filipino-Muslim rebel group schedule peace talks for the implementation of a 1996 peace accord at the Presidential Palace in mid-June, a local newspaper reported.

“We are happy that the [Philippines] government has finally agreed to resume peace talks [with the Moro National Liberation Front or MNLF in Malacanang, the presidential palace],” lawyer Emmanuel Fontanilla told the Star.

The peace talks are scheduled for June 17-19, after the OIC issued a resolution which proposed the synchronisation of the Philippines government-MNLF 1996 peace accord with the framework agreement that was forged by the Philippines government and the MNLF last 2012, Fontanilla said.

This will pave the way for the holding of formal talks between the Philippines government and the MNLF in Saudi Arabia in August, said Fontanilla.

The final implementation of the 1996 Philippines government-MNLF peace accord involve issues such as coverage of territory and sharing of resources, he explained.

If they are not resolved in the informal and formal peace talks, the MNLF will seek OIC’s endorsement to elevate the issues before the United Nations, said Fontanilla.

In 1996, the Philippines government and the MILF called for the expansion of the existing Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). Then the two houses of Congress amended the Organic Law (the basis of ARMM’s existence) and allowed a second referendum for autonomy in the southern Philippines in 2001. This resulted in ARMM’s expansion which is now composed of five provinces and one city.

MNLF Chairman Nur Misuari was also elected ARMM governor from 1996 to 2001.

Misuari was also not satisfied with ARMM’s expansion through a referendum for autonomy, a provision of the 1987 Constitution.

The Philippines government and the MNLF had already forged a peace settlement in Tripoli Agreement in 1976, during the time of former Philippines strongman Ferdinand Marcos and Libya’s leader Muammar Gaddafy. At the time, the Philippines government and the MNLF agreed to have autonomy for Filipino-Muslims in 18 provinces and nine cities in Mindanao, southern Philippines.

This was not fully implemented during the time of Marcos, but it became a benchmark against which any ensuing peace settlement between the Philippines government and the MNLF was measured.

It was also a yardstick that measured the proposed peace settlement being completed by the Philippines government and MNLF’s faction, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which have forged a framework agreement in 2012.

The Philippines government and the MILF have proposed to expand the ARMM with six towns and 800 Muslim-dominated villages because residents there had voted to be included in the ARMM during the 2001 referendum for autonomy.

Misuari was against a provision of the Philippines government-MILF framework agreement which says the ARMM should be replaced and renamed as the new Bangsamoro Autonomous Political Entity.

Sharing of resources

At the same time, the sharing of resources, a provision present in the 1996 Philippines government-MNLF agreement, is also existing in the 2012 Philippines government-MILF framework agreement.

In this light, the implementation of this provision is easier, a political analyst said.

Both provisions on coverage and sharing of resources need an implementing law to be drafted by the Philippines Congress.

President Benigno Aquino has appointed representatives of the Philippines government and the MILF as members of a commission that is now drafting the proposed Basic Bangsamoro Law (BBL). It will be given to the two houses of Congress to guide the drafting of a proposed law for the establishment of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Political Entity.

Earlier, the MNLF complained for not being part of the commission.

Denying that a conflict is about to erupt between the MNLF and the MILF regarding this issue, Fontanila said, “The MNLF sees no conflict with the framework agreement (between the Philippines government and the MILF) because it aims to address the Bangsamoro problem in Mindanao.”

“The MNLF has already renounced violence to attain its objective,” said Fontanilla.

The OIC was instrumental in bridging the gap between the MNLF and the MILF, a source told Gulf News.

MNLF chairman Nur Misuari and Presidential Peace Adviser Teresita Deles will lead the June 17-19 peace talk, which will be brokered by Indonesia, an OIC member country.

Malaysia, also an OIC member country, is brokering the Philippines government-MILF peace talks.

The conflict in the south between Filipino-Muslims and government soldiers has killed 150,000 in the early 70s.

The MNLF was established in 1969. The MILF became a faction of the MNLF in 1978, after the Philippines government and the MNLF forged the Tripoli Agreement in 1976.

MILF: Editorial - Need to Solve the Internal Problem

Editorial posted to the MILF Website (Jun 15): Need  to Solve the Internal Problem

The Government of the Philippines (GPH) is battered within and from outside.

Internally, the New People’s Army (NPA) is very active militarily, while the MILF’s combat power and capability are still intact.
Never mind the MNLF, BIFF, and Abu Sayyaf. They can create troubles but they can never be able to pose serious threats to the government. Externally, the conflict in the South China Sea is real and not imaginary. The imbroglios with China and Taiwan will not fly away. The Sabah issue will continue to irk Manila, because unscrupulous media men, carpetbaggers, and other adventurers or intriguers will always revive it and create irritants between the two good neighbors.

Thus, it is long overdue that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) should shift its energy on external defense. The internal matters should be better left to internal security forces and the police. This will be greatly enhanced once the government and MILF signed their comprehensive peace agreement that contained provisions on the establishment of police and “interim security force”. 

The change of priority cannot be postponed any longer. Government policy-makers should realize by now that defense of this country cannot be left to foreign powers, whose national interests may not be served by going to war over the Philippines.

However, this shift of gear is still contingent on solving the Moro Question. As long as this problem is not resolved satisfactorily, it will not fade away, even assuming that the MILF loses steam or becomes irrelevant. New groups, perhaps more radical, will emerge and carry on the struggle for right to self-determination. But if the right formula is clinched, all the armed Moro groups in Mindanao will gradually fade out, because they have no more reasons to fight the government. Exceptions to these are the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the so-called terrorists, because both have “ideologies” or “beliefs” beyond accommodation by the prevailing political and economic systems in this country.

But the MILF fading away is not getting nearer to reality. On the contrary, the MILF is getting stronger day by day. It has a clear ideology, as well as both political and military organs, in addition, its vast popular support. Moreover, its credibility with the international community is growing and expanding. Thanks to its consistency and honest-to-goodness way of dealing with people, organizations, and even states!

Without doubt, the delay in the peace talks is causing more harm to the government. The frequent changes, virtually attitudinal, in positions of government in the negotiating table is not only angering the MILF but also irking the international community.

The truth is that even the much respected daan matuwid (straight path) policy of the Aquino administration is already doubted seriously. If this will not be arrested, the consequence would be very damaging. Credibility is one commodity that is hard to earn but so easily to lose.

PHL, EU officials take up Mindanao peace issue in Belgium

From GMA News (Jun 15): PHL, EU officials take up Mindanao peace issue in Belgium

Peace and development in Mindanao were one of the topics discussed in the 8th Senior Officials Meeting (SOM) between the Philippines and the European Union (EU), in which new development initiatives were announced to help people in conflict-affected areas on the island.

“The signing of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro was hailed by both sides as a crucial milestone in the Mindanao Peace Process that paves the way for a final enduring peace in Mindanao,” said the Philippines and the EU in a joint statement about the meeting held in Brussels, Belgium on Tuesday.

Manila informed the EU about the steps the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) are doing regarding the Framework Agreement, such as work being done to complete the agreement’s Annexes and to put in place different mechanisms identified in it.

“The EU welcomed continuation of these positive developments and reiterated its commitment to support the process both politically and through development assistance,” the statement said.

Aside from these, the Philippines and the EU agreed on a development initiative that will aid the Mindanao peace process, and mentioned these will come from communities.

“The Peace Process in Mindanao will benefit from community-based development initiatives assisting more than 500 000 poor in the conflict-affected region of Bangsamoro,” the statement said.

The statement noted that the talks in the SOM in relation to progress in bilateral relations was done for “enhancing mutually beneficial cooperation” in areas, beside the Mindanao peace process, such as trade and investment, development cooperation, and human rights.

For instance, the Philippines shared developments on maritime transport in relation to EU policy.

“The Philippine side also updated the EU on developments in its efforts to strengthen its maritime administration and training system of seafarers so as to comply with the requirements of the (Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers) Convention,” the statement said.

Last week, Philippine vice president Jejomar Binay voiced confidence the Philippines will pass the next European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) audit in October and that the country is serious in complying with the STCW Convention.

Should the Philippines pass, it will avert a possible ban by the EU against Filipino seafarers.

The 9th PHL-EU SOM is slated for 2015 in the country. Managing Director for Asia and the Pacific of the European External Action Service (EEAS) Mr. Viorel Isticioaia Budura and Philippine Undersecretary for Foreign Affairs Evan P. Garcia co-chaired the 8th SOM.

US trains Mindanao cops

From the Sun Star-Zamboanga (Jun 14): US trains Mindanao cops

MINDANAO policemen are set to improve their law enforcement capabilities especially on basic police operations, mid-level management, and crime scene preservation.

This is made possible through the International Criminal Training Assistance Program (ICITAP) of the United States Department of Justice.

A total of 68 policemen who are undergoing training came from Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Cotabato, and Marawi, according to a statement released Friday by the U.S. Embassy.

They are being trained by policemen who have undergone instructor development training provided by the U.S. Department of Justice through ICITAP.

Since establishing the program in the Philippines in 2006, ICITAP has trained more than 21,500 Filipino policemen throughout the country. 

ICITAP provides training for enhancement of basic police skills, as well as specialized training in investigations and forensic science throughout the Philippines.

All of ICITAP’s classes reinforce the democratic policing principles of ethics and human rights.

A majority of the funding for ICITAP training is provided by the International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs Bureau of the U.S. Department of State.

ICITAP works with foreign governments to develop professional and transparent law enforcement institutions that protect human rights, combat corruption, and reduce the threat of transnational crime and terrorism; and provides international development assistance that supports both national security and foreign policy objectives.

It works in close partnership with the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Department of Defense, and the Millennium Challenge Corporation.

In the southern Philippines, ICITAP has provided funds for the development of training centers in Basilan, Cotabato, Tawi-Tawi, Sulu, and Zamboanga as part of a series of initiatives aimed at improving the efficiency and quality of service provided by the Philippine National Police.

ICITAP, in conjunction with other U.S. Government agencies, has also built a crime laboratory in Zamboanga City.

The ICITAP resumed the conduct of the training last June 3 after taking a two-month break in training activities for the election season.

Hacker publishes PNoy's 'personal mobile numbers'

From Rappler (Jun 15): Hacker publishes PNoy's 'personal mobile numbers'

A hacker has posted online what he claimed to be President Benigno Aquino III's personal mobile telephone numbers, with the president's spokesman Saturday denouncing the act as "cyber vandalism".

Communication Secretary Ricky Carandang would not confirm if the numbers were really the president's, or if their release on the worldwide web had compromised the leader's personal security or state secrets.

"It's cyber vandalism plain and simple," Carandang told AFP.

"We're dealing with it. That's all I can say for now."

The three "Personal Mobile Number(s)" were posted late Friday on the Facebook site of a user named "#pR.is0n3r".

The site owner urged his followers, who numbered more than 9,000 as of Saturday, to communicate directly with their president.

As of 12:40 PM, one of the three phone numbers was working when dialled by Rappler, but no one answered.

"The majority are not getting answers to so many issues. It is difficult to speak to a person through go-betweens. If we send him a letter we're not even sure he will receive it," the user wrote in Filipino.

The author said he belonged to the hacker group "Anonymous Philippines", which has vandalised a number of government websites in the past.

The Facebook post was also linked to a Twitter micro-blog site with the same username.

Philippine Coast Guard has a new commodore

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jun 15): Philippine Coast Guard has a new commodore

The No. 4 official in the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) is now a commodore.

President Benigno Aquino III promoted Capt. Joselito F. de la Cruz, the chief of Coast Guard Staff, to the next higher rank on June 6, but was announced by Malacañang only on Friday.

Cruz is among the four high-ranking officials of PCG, which is under the supervision of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC).

The other PCG top brass are Rear Adm. Rodolfo Isorena, the commandant, and his vice commandants—Rear Admirals Luis Tuason Jr. (operations) and Lino Dabi (administration).

The 48-year-old De la Cruz belongs to Philippine Military Academy Class of 1988. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Industrial Engineering from St. Louis University.

He rose from the ranks, first as ensign in 1988, lieutenant junior grade in 1991, lieutenant senior grade in 1995, lieutenant commander in 2000, and commander in 2003.

Since January, he has been PCG chief of staff and commander of the North Eastern Luzon Coast Guard, which covers the waters of Region II and Aurora provinces.

He was promoted to the rank of captain on Sept. 9, 2008.

NSC seeks increase in military budget amid marine disputes

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jun 15): NSC seeks increase in military budget amid marine disputes
The National Security Council (NSC) has asked the Aquino administration to increase the budget for the military by at least half a percentage point of the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP) amid a worsening territorial dispute with China in the West Philippine Sea.

Speaking at a defense symposium in Pasay City on Friday, NSC Deputy Director General Vicente Agdamag underscored the much needed upgrade in the country’s military capability in the face of China’s aggressive posturing in the contested waters.

At present, he said, the Aquino administration has allotted 1.1 percent of the country’s annual budget to the defense department.

With the enactment of Republic Act No. 10349, he said, the government would allocate P75 billion for the modernization of the Armed Forces.

“We are recommending an additional 0.5 to 1 percent (of the GDP) not only to be at par with our neighbors (but), more important, to develop a modicum of a credible defense capability,” Agdamag said at the “Air Power Symposium” held at the SMX Convention Center.

“(This is) to protect our maritime and strategic interests…For the military, we will establish a minimum deterrent capability…which is defined as a capability that imposes risk that the hostile force would find unacceptable or untenable,” he added.

Speaking at the same forum, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said the defense department would fast-track programs for the modernization of the military.

Gazmin said this included the procurement of “brand new and reliable air assets” that would allow the Air Force to meet its requirements for air operations.

Among these are “lead-in fighter trainers, surface attack aircraft, attack helicopters, light transport aircraft and medium transport aircraft,” he said.

But before the Philippines could beef up its military presence, Agdamag said it must maintain its good bilateral relations not only with China, but with the United States and other neighboring countries “in shaping a benign China.”

He said the Philippines must maintain a 7-percent to 8-percent economic growth annually in the next decade for it to have the financial resources needed to buy modern military equipment.

“We need to pursue a healthy and friendly relationship with China and work with (China) for regional peace and prosperity. We can work closely with regional and local partners in shaping a benign China that respects the world order,” he said.

“(We need to) manage bilateral relations to buy us time to grow our economy and expand our military capabilities to defend ourselves…We need to enhance our security alliance with our allies and neighbors, especially the United States.”

Agdamag noted the increasing presence of Chinese military vessels in the West Philippine Sea. He said at least 18 Chinese maritime surveillance ships had been “operating” within Philippine territorial waters.

Echoing President Aquino’s message during Independence Day rites on Wednesday, Agdamag said: “Our message to the world is clear—what is ours is ours. We do not wish to increase tensions with anyone, but we must let the world know that we are ready to protect what is ours.”

Peace talks have reached stalemate, says MILF negotiator

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jun 15): Peace talks have reached stalemate, says MILF negotiator
The peace talks between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front have reached a deadlock but leaders of the secessionist group are urging their field commanders to be patient to avoid a resurgence of violence in Mindanao.

“It’s a stalemate,” MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal told the Philippine Daily Inquirer Saturday when asked in a telephone interview how he would describe the status of the negotiations.

Iqbal said that MILF leaders were in constant touch with field commanders, “telling them to be patient.”

“There’s no reason to be rash. We’re telling them that we should manage our frustrations. Our hope is that we will be able to prevent that fighting will erupt again,” Iqbal said.

On Friday, MILF vice chairman for political affairs Ghadzali Jaafar said that both the MILF leadership and its ground commanders were already “frustrated” and losing faith in the peace process.

Sought for comment on Iqbal’s statement that the talks had reached a stalemate, government chief negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer told the Inquirer in a text message: “The (Malaysian) facilitator is on board, channels are open in order for us to discuss and settle contentious issues.”

But for Iqbal, the recent exchange of notes between the two peace panels, through Malaysian facilitator Datuk Abdul Ghafar Tengku, did not translate to progress in the talks.

The panels had their last formal round of talks in Kuala Lumpur last April when they signed the terms of reference for the Mindanao socio-development program called Sajahatra Bangsamoro.

“There is an exchange of notes but we don’t see it working. Nothing will happen with the exchange of notes. The government is diluting the initialed wealth sharing annex. It is downgrading (the annex),” Iqbal said.

He said the MILF would not agree to any changes to the annex that government would propose.

Ferrer said that President Benigno Aquino III was only exercising prudence by reviewing the wealth-sharing document, but for Iqbal, what was needed was for the two panels to “focus on what has been initialled.”

“The government is changing its position. How can we be sure that it won’t do the same with the two other annexes (on power-sharing and normalization)?” Iqbal said.

Iqbal warned that “time is running out” for the peace negotiations.

The MILF said that the peace deal with the government must be sealed before the term of President Aquino ends in 2016 and that delaying it beyond that point would jeopardize the chances of lasting peace in Mindanao.

Any delay in the peace talks, the MILF warned, could lead to a resumption of fighting in Mindanao.

The Transition Commission, which will craft the Bangsamoro Law, has been convened but it would need the annexes to the framework agreement for it to be able to put together the proposed legislation that would be submitted to Congress for approval.

The Bangsamoro will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, which President Aquino has described as a “failed experiment.”

Global protest set at UN against China ‘expansionism’

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jun 15): Global protest set at UN against China ‘expansionism’

A U.S. group critical of China’s claim on islands off the Philippines will hold a protest rally at the United Nations headquarters here on July 24.

The U.S. Pinoys for Good Governance (USP4GG) is denouncing China’s latest “incursion” in Ayungin Reef, located just 105 nautical miles from Palawan.

Rep. Walden Bello of the Akbayan partylist announced that his group is joining the July 24 mass action in the Philippines and will encourage its supporters throughout the world to join in global actions to denounce China’s provocative actions in the Ayungin Reef.

“China seized the Philippines’ Mischief Reef in 1994, then our Scarborough Shoal last year,” stated Loida Nicolas Lewis, the national chair of USP4GG and former national chair of the National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA).

“This year, China is set to invade and occupy the Ayungin Reef. We refuse to accept China’s expansionist agenda.”

Sansha anniversary

Lewis explained that July 24 marks the first anniversary of China’s establishment of the Sansha City Prefecture, which Beijing mandated to have jurisdiction over more than two million square kilometers of the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea), including islands and reefs in the Spratlys that are within the 200-mile exclusive economic zone of the Philippines.

The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) protested the creation of the Sansha Prefecture, after learning that its jurisdiction covered the Kalayaan Island Group in the Spratlys, which “is an integral part of the Philippine territory falling under the municipality of Kalayaan in Palawan province.”

“Sansha City has been a subject of a Philippine protest as its administrative jurisdiction encompasses Philippine territory and maritime zones in the West Philippine Sea,” DFA spokesman Raul Hernandez said.

The USP4GG said the July 24 action at the United Nations would include simultaneous town hall meetings to discuss the China threat in Filipino communities throughout the United States. It would also call on the U.S. communities of the claimant countries whose territories are being invaded by Chinese ships from the Sansha Prefecture. “All patriotic Filipinos should join in the July 4 denunciation of China’s imperialist activities in the South China/West Philippine Sea,” the group stated.

Gross violation

Philippine Secretary of Foreign Affairs Albert del Rosario asserted that the creation of the Sansha Prefecture was in “gross violation” of the Declaration of Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC), a ten-year-old document that aims to deter use of force among countries claiming resource-rich territories in the South China Sea, including China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, Taiwan and the Philippines.

Beijing announced that beginning January 1 Chinese naval ships from the Sansha Prefecture would begin patrolling the waters in the South China Sea under its jurisdiction.

On May 8, Philippine maritime surveillance vessels spotted three Chinese naval ships surrounding the Ayungin Reef (Second Thomas Shoal), which is located just 105 nautical miles from Palawan, well within the 200-mile exclusive economic zone of the Philippines. The Ayungin Reef is guarded by a Philippine marine detachment on board the BRP Sierra Madre, which is permanently moored on the reef to protect it.

“We will not allow China to establish a blockade to prevent the Philippine Navy from replenishing the Philippine marine base at Ayungin with personnel and materials,” declared Ted Laguatan, spokesman of the USP4GG. “We support Philippine Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin’s vow to defend Ayungin to the last soldier standing.”

The Ayungin Reef is considered the gateway to the Recto Bank, which the U.S. Energy Information Agency (EIA) estimates to contain 2.5 billion barrels of oil and 25.5 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. In his July 25, 2011 State of the Nation Address (SONA), Pres. Benigno S. Aquino III declared: “What is ours is ours; setting foot on Recto Bank is no different from setting foot on Recto Avenue.”

UNCLOS claim

On January 22, the Philippines formally filed its claim against China before the United Nations Arbitral Tribunal under Article 287 and Annex VII of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).   The Philippines asserted that China’s “nine-dash line” claim that encompasses virtually the entire South China Sea/West Philippine Sea is contrary to UNCLOS and is thus unlawful.

The Philippines also charged that “within the maritime area encompassed by the nine-dash line, China has also laid claim to, occupied and built structures on certain submerged banks, reefs and low tide elevations that do not qualify as islands under UNCLOS, but are parts of the Philippine continental shelf, or the international seabed and has interfered with the lawful exercise by the Philippines of its rights within its legitimate maritime zones, as well as to the aforementioned features and their surrounding waters.”

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Mindanao peace still an Aquino priority – Roxas

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jun 15): Mindanao peace still an Aquino priority – Roxas
Ending four decades of secessionist war by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front remains a top priority of the Aquino administration but the President has to exercise “due care and utmost diligence” in bridging the differences that remain between the two sides in the negotiations, two administration officials said Saturday.

Responding to MILF’s frustration over the pace of the peace process, Interior Secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas said told the Philippine Daily Inquirer that the peace agreement “remains among the highest priorities of P-Noy and his government” and that the President met with “his team on this matter for three hours” this week.

“Many of the items have generational and very broad implications, and accordingly ‘unintended consequences’ are not good. Thus, P-Noy [Benigno Aquino III’s nickname] is exercising due care and utmost diligence on these matters,” said Roxas, alluding to the peace agreement’s annexes on wealth-sharing and power- sharing between the national government and soon-to-be-created autonomous Bangsamoro territory and the “normalization” or disarmament of MILF troops.

Roxas made the comment when asked what he thought of MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal’s complaint that the negotiations had reached a “stalemate.”

Ghadzali Jaafar, MILF vice chairman for political affairs, said on Friday that the MILF’s field commanders were “slowly losing faith” in the peace process.

“They are angry because they have been waiting for a long time. As far as I am concerned, this is not a very good situation,” Jaafar said, pointing to what he called “the erosion of confidence and trust in the Philippine government that it is really decided to address the Bangsamoro issue.”

|Presidential Communications Secretary Ricky Carandang echoed Roxas’ optimism that the disagreements over the contents and phraseology of the proposed peace accord would be resolved soon.

“We are doing our best to bridge the differences that remain between the two sides. The President remains committed to a fair and lasting peace through the ongoing process,” Carandang said in a text message.

He begged off from disclosing the proposed amendments being sought by the government that seemed to have triggered the latest impasse.

“I can’t go into detail about what the MILF wants right now. This is already a sensitive phase of the talks,” Carandang said.

Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said in an interview over government-run Radyo ng Bayan that the Palace found nothing wrong with both sides missing the target date for the signing of a final peace pact.

Valte said both panels needed more time to thresh out the three remaining annexes (on wealth-sharing, power-sharing and normalization) which, she said, were sensitive in nature.

“And of course, it is in everybody’s interest to sit down and go over the contents of these annexes,” Valte said. “Again, we’re hoping to see a resolution to this and we’re hoping for a way forward for the three annexes that are left.”

“Hopefully the remaining concerns could be addressed, and like what the President said, there are remaining issues that are somewhat complex and need more time to be threshed out,” she added.

She declined to give away details on the government’s position on wealth-sharing, preferring to wait for both panels to discuss them in public.

Army Troopers Learn Media Work

From the Negros Daily Bulletin (Jun 15): Army Troopers Learn Media Work

Members of the 33rd Civil Military Operations (CMO) Battalion attend the training on news writing in print, radio and TV to equip them with skills in news writing/reporting about the programs for peace and development of the army.* (EBColmo)

Considering that media is one of the effective vehicles in reaching out the target clients and stake holders, one of the major subjects in the on-going month-long CMO training Class 01-2013 attended by 60 non-commissioned officers of the army was the media work particularly news writing/ reporting on broadcast, TV and print media.

The participants are frontliners from the 33rd Civil Military Operations (CMO) Battalion lead by Lt Col Patrick Cinco, with facilitator 1Lt Gie Lim.

Lim said , training their men on media work like news writing and reporting would hasten their jobs in linking with the media and the rest of the stake holders for peace and development.

Resource speakers were bonafide members of the media representing print, broadcast and TV, Yasmin Dormido of ABS-CBN, and this writer for the Bulletin (Negros and Manila).

During the news writing lecture for print media, the participants learned the important elements of news, as well as the rules in taking photo shots for photo support of the event or incident, including captioning of their pictures.

It was a learning by doing approach because the soldiers were given limited time in preparing their report through a workshop.

The 8 squads/groups prepared their respective reports based on the usual events or scenario of their experience, and reported it before the groups. Areas presented by the groups varied from ambush, en-counter, surrender, com-munity outreach like medical mission, brigada eskwela, barangay pulong pulong, and other crimes.

It was observed that the troopers are teachable and are fast learners. Based on their workshop output presentation, they have 99% grasp or retention of the lecture because almost all squads were evaluated excellent.

4 Ex-Rebels Get Cash for Surrendering Guns

From the Negros Daily Bulletin (Jun 15): 4 Ex-Rebels Get Cash for Surrendering Guns

Balik Baril program. Negros Occ. Governor Alfredo Marañon Jr. receives a gun from a rebel returnee availing of a government program that converts surrendered guns for cash. They can use the money received as starting capital to start a new life. Ceremony was held during the 2013 Independence Day program at the Negros Occ. Capitol Social Hall.* (PIA6-LOL)

Four former New People’s Army (NPA) rebels were given cash rewards by the Negros Occidental provincial government in exchange for the four high-powered firearms they surrendered to the military.

The financial remuneration of P210,000 were given during the rites for the 115th Philippine Independence Day celebration at the Provincial Capitol in Bacolod City last Wednesday.

Col. Jon Aying, commander of the 303rd Infantry Brigade based in Murcia town, Negros Occidental, said rebel returnees Felizardo Pineda Jr., Evonie Baynosa, Erving Binas, and Eugene Almojero surrendered themselves to the Army, with their three M-16 armalite rifles, and an M-14 assault rifle.

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

The AFP Guns for Peace program is aimed at encouraging NPA rebels to peacefully return to the fold of the law, lay down their arms and avail of firearms remuneration.

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

Capt. Christopher Cunanan, 303rd Infantry Brigade civil-military operations officer, said the P50,000 livelihood assistance package under the national government’s Comprehensive Local Integration Program (CLIP) each for the four former rebels are still being processed.

Last month, Elizaldy Martisano, 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 to the military.

Also during the Independence Day rites, four children of ambush victims in La Castellana were awarded scholarship grants by the provincial government.

Gov. Alfredo Marañon Jr. 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 NPA in La Castellana, last January. The ambush claimed the lives of eight civilians and a policeman, and injured 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 gave bicycles donated by the Rotary District 3850 to 10 former rebels, namely Erving Bañas, Felizardo Pineda Jr., Eugene Almojero, Evonie Baynosa, Elizaldy Martisano, Rodel Tanedo, Mary Jane Baynosa, Eduardo Baynosa Jr., Queenie Villafranca, and Jonamae Mahilum.

PH plans to tap Israel for missile launchers

From the Manila Standard Today (Jun 15): PH plans to tap Israel for missile launchers

Amid rising tensions over territorial disputes with China in the West Philippine Sea, the government is planning to buy anti-aircraft guided missiles from Israel, reliable sources told the Manila Standard Friday.

The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the surface-to-air missiles or multiple launch rocket systems were being offered by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd. and Israel Military Industries Ltd., both based in Israel.

“SAMs and MLRS are mobile anti-aircraft weapons designed against jet fighters,” the source said, adding that these had been suggested some time ago but had not been taken seriously because the defense establishment had no interest in investing at the time.

“Now, here comes the territorial dispute in the West Philippine Sea, and at last they’ve opened their eyes,” the source added.

Another source said Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin was planning to go to Israel next week to forge an agreement with the prospective suppliers.

“If you have an agreement this would hasten the procurement process, say in three to six months you would already have the weapons. The agreement gives you the leeway to access all the information you want know about a particular weapon you want to procure,” the source said.

Manila Standard tried to reach Defense Undersecretary Fernando Manalo and spokesman Peter Paul Galvez for confirmation, but both did not return calls or answer text messages.

In his first year in office, President Benigno Aquino III had released P75 billion to fund the upgrading of the military’s capability through the procurement of ships and aircraft.

Gazmin then said they had some 138 big-ticket defense items that were being considered on a government-to-government procurement basis.

Part of this buildup was the recent procurement of the BRP Ramon Alcaraz, a rehabilitated US Coast Guard cutter introduced in the 1960s.

The refurbished cutter, procured for will be the country’s most modern warship and is expected to arrive in July or August.

But Senator Gregorio Honasan seemed unimpressed with the extent of help offered by the United States, and called for a review of the US Visiting Forces Agreement and the Mutual Defense Treaty, which he described as useless.

“We are not getting anything out of it. We have many international economic, military and security arrangements with other nations but why did they not say anything while the Scarborough Shoal standoff was heating up?” said the former Army colonel.

Because of this, Honasan said the country should abrogate all treaties that do nothing to help the country.

At the same time, however, he said a joint fishing agreement with Taiwan would be beneficial because it would afford protection to fishermen from both countries.

His remarks follow the May 9 fatal shooting of a Taiwanese fisherman by Philippine Coast Guard personnel in the Balintang Channel that soured relations between Taiwan and the Philippines.

Also on Friday, the Foreign Affairs Department said it welcomed the filing of a resolution in the US Senate in support of a peaceful resolution to territorial disputes in the South China Sea.

“We understand that the resolution has yet to undergo the necessary congressional process before it is passed by the US Senate, nonetheless, we extend our appreciation on the mere fact that some US senators have deigned it necessary to express their views on a fundamental issue that affects the peace and stability of the Asia-Pacific region,” the department said in a statement.

“The Philippines especially appreciates the reaffirmation of the peaceful resolution of disputes, including through arbitration; its condemnation of the use of threat or use of force; its recognition of the significance of the role of ASEAN and of the code of conduct; and its support for the ongoing and deepening efforts of the US in the region relating to ensuring freedom of navigation, maintenance of peace and stability, and respect for universally recognized principles of international law.”

Gov’t admits seeking changes in FAB annex

From the Daily Tribune (Jun 15): Gov’t admits seeking changes in FAB annex


The government panel negotiating with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) for the creation of a Bangsamoro substate admitted that changes will be introduced in the wealth-sharing annex of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) that was already completed and signed.

The MILF had complained that the change of heart of the government on the annex had delayed the peace negotiations and at the same time warned that militant members of the rebel group are growing impatient over the pace of the negotiations.

The government panel’s chief negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer said a draft for the wealth-sharing annex had indeed been completed by the technical working groups of both the government and the MILF.

She said, however, “prudence on the part of government requires that it undergoes a final review before the President gives his final stamp of approval.”

Ferrer mentioned the government’s wish “to introduce some changes to the draft annex, particularly with regard to some aspects of taxation, fund transfer mechanisms, and revenue sharing.”

In an editorial in its Web site, the MILF said “the delay in the peace talks is causing more harm to the government. The frequent changes, virtually attitudinal, in positions of government in the negotiating table is not only angering the MILF but also irking the international community.”

It added “the much respected daang matuwid (straight path) policy of the Aquino administration is already doubted seriously.”

“If this will not be arrested, the consequence would be very damaging. Credibility is one commodity that is hard to earn but so easily to lose,” it said.

Ferrer said the negotiations on the stalled FAB wealth-sharing annex will resume soon in Malaysia.

“This exchange of notes has already commenced and through this process, we hope to come as close as possible to agreed language and return to Kuala Lumpur to be able to finalize the annexes on power and wealth-sharing very soon,” Ferrer said.

MILF vice chairman Ghadzali Jaafar had expressed disgust over the delays in the negotiations on the FAB annexes.

Jaafar warned that ground commanders of the MILF are becoming impatient.
Presidential deputy spokesman Abigail Valte said the Aquino administration is still taking a positive view on the peace agreement with the MILF.

“Hopefully, those remaining concerns will be addressed. Like what the President had said there were some complex issues on the annexes that need more discussions. And I understand that the panels of both sides have been doing just that. So hopefully, we will find resolution on the remaining issues,” Valte said.

”I understand that while there has no formal talks, the (OPAPP) coordination continues on their counterparts, and we’ll just ask them to give any specifics that may be necessary for public consumption on this,” Valte added.

Ferrer said the negotiation had reached the point of the most crucial issues of the FAB.
”it is to be expected that finding agreement on details (of the FAB annexes) has been more difficult and complex,” she said.

She said on the power-sharing annex, three classes of sharing of powers were identified between the central government and the Bangsamoro regional government which are “reserved” powers or matters over which competencies are fully retained by the central government; “concurrent” powers or aspects of jurisdiction subject to the shared or joint authorities of the central and regional governments; and “exclusive” powers or competencies that are to be devolved to the Bangsamoro.”

Ferrer said some of the reserved powers were already identified which are defense and external security; foreign policy; common market and global trade provided that the power to enter into economic agreements already allowed under Republic Act 9054 shall be transferred to the Bangsamoro; coinage and monetary policy; citizenship and naturalization, and postal service.

”This leaves the other aspects of governance, which runs along a wide gamut of governance functions, for negotiation,” she added.

“Finding the language for this that will not only give life to the intention of the parties, but also be legally defensible and doable, which is politically and administratively feasible, is not a simple task,” she added.

“Learning from the experience of Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, government deems it important that these criteria are met,” Ferrer said.

Coronel-Ferrer said the government is currently undertaking technical consultations with the departments and line agencies to make sure that the details contained in the drafts are feasible, not only in legal but also in practical terms.

“For instance, one of the remaining issues in the power-sharing annex has to do with jurisdiction over transportation and communication,” she added.

“Given the need to comply with prevailing international standards and our obligations under international law, any sharing of jurisdiction in this regard will have both legal and international implications that need to be carefully studied,” Ferrer said.

Ferrer said an exact date when to end the peace negotiation cannot be reckoned until the formal conclusions of the FAB.

“The President and his entire cabinet is giving the peace negotiations the attention it needs and deserves to ensure that a comprehensive agreement, one that will give us the best shot for a just and enduring peace in Mindanao, is reached at the soonest possible time,” she said.

“The Government Panel is just as anxious to find workable solutions to these contentious issues and is working diligently and with urgency towards this end.

Government is fully aware that time is of the essence and does not wish to pass the buck to the next administration to implement the agreement,” Ferrer said.

Ferrer claimed that even without the conduct of formal meetings, the peace process continues to move forward.

Ferrer added the Transition Commission (TC) prior to the creation of the substate had met several times and was able to approve its internal rules of procedure as well as set-up working committees to draft the Basic Law.

“Government hopes that even without the annexes, the TC can soon start discussion on the substantive provisions of the Framework Agreement that will need to find language in the Bangsamoro Basic Law. An example of items that the TC will need to further develop is the provision on the Bangsamoro Government being ministerial in form,” Ferrer said.

“With respect to our agreements on cessation of hostilities, the ceasefire continues to hold well and in fact, no armed skirmishes were recorded for the year 2012. This is testament to the good working relationship between the Government and MILF through the coordinative mechanisms overseeing the implementation of the ceasefire,” Ferrer said.

Ferrer said both panels are also taking the time to continue consultations with stakeholders and their respective constituencies.

“On the part of the government panel, these include engagements with government agencies not only for legal and technical concerns relating to the drafts but also to consolidate support for the implementation of the comprehensive agreement and the prospective Bangsamoro Basic Law,” Ferrer said.

CPP/NPA: Armando Catapia Command-NPA Interview

Posted to the CPP Website (Jun 15): Armando Catapia Command-NPA Interview

Armando Catapia Command-NPA Interview Press Release June 15, 2013 AFP, Nananaginip ng Gising! Malakihang Pagsuko ng NPA sa Timog Katagalugan Mariing Pinabulaanan! Ka Alfie Madlangbayan, Tagapagsalita Armando Catapia Command, BHB-Hangganang Quezon-Bicol Mariing pinapabulaanan ng Armando Catapia Command ang pahayag ni Col. Peralt...

CPP/NDFP: Deles wants permanent end to the Peace Negotiations

Posted to the CPP Website (Jun 12): Deles wants permanent end to the Peace Negotiations

Spokesperson, NDFP Negotiating Panel

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Deles claims that the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), representing the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), New People´s Army (NPA) and all revolutionary forces in the peace negotiations, has designed the peace talks to be unending.

In fact, what Deles wants is a permanent end to the peace negotiations. From the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo regime to the present one of Benigno S. Aquino III, Deles has had one singular aim in the peace negotiations between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the NDFP – the capitulation and pacification of the revolutionary movement.

But because she could not get her way, she has been sabotaging the peace talks, even proclaiming the so-called sovereign right of the US to intervene in Philippine affairs in the ¨terrorist” listing of the CPP, NPA and Prof. Jose Maria Sison, the Chief Political Consultant of the NDFP Negotiating Panel, after coming from a round of negotiations where it was agreed that the two Parties would call on the international community ¨to refrain from any action that may impede or impair the peace process¨.

Now, with her preposterous claim, Deles is practically calling as foolish all previous presidents, especially Fidel V. Ramos and Joseph Estrada, and her predecessors in the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), especially Ambassador Howard Dee and former Justice Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III, for having been “hoodwinked” by the NDFP into signing and approving more than 12 agreements, including The Hague Joint Declaration, the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG), and the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL).

This is the reason why Deles´ negotiating panel refuses to abide by signed agreements, declaring The Hague Joint Declaration, the framework agreement in the GPH-NDFP peace negotiations, a ¨divisive¨ document, and the JASIG ¨inoperative¨ in securing the release of JASIG-protected persons.

The practice of Deles in backtracking from previously signed agreements is happening too in the peace negotiations between the GPH and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). An initialed annex document to the Framework Agreement on Bangsamoro (FAB) on wealth sharing has been changed unilaterally by the GPH after undergoing review by the OPAPP. And four MILF members have been arrested for illegal possession of firearms despite the ceasefire agreement. Hopefully the MILF would see through the warmongering ways of Deles in seeking to maintain the violent reactionary state that brutally exploits and oppresses the Filipino people in general and the Bangsamoro in particular.

NDFP Negotiating Panel

Philippines’s shift to external defense seen

From the Business Mirror (Jun15): Philippines’s shift to external defense seen

In Photo: Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin (center), Air Force chief Lt. Gen. Lauro Catalino de la Cruz (right) and Sweden’s SAAB Vice President Kaj Rosander  in a huddle during the “Air Power” symposium on Thursday held at the SMX building at the Mall of Asia in Pasay City. (Zaff Solmerin)

Philippines has experienced a number of territorial issues over the last several years. Most of these issues have involved China intruding into territorial waters, and in some regard have resulted in the loss, if not invasion, of Philippine sovereign territories such as the Scarborough Shoal off Zambales.

In the last six months, those issues have further extended to other neighbors such as Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam.
Effectively, the Philippines has no naval or air forces to impede or deny access to its territorial waters, thereby the only recourse has been through diplomatic means, which have yielded very little results.
Over the last several decades, the Philippines has focused on internal security operations (ISO) and has relied on its Mutual Defense Treaty with the United States to tend to its external defenses.
However, given the new global climate wherein the United States has shifted focus to Asia, US alignment has broadened to several other nations, including those involved in current territorial issues with the Philippines.
This, coupled with the current US financial crisis, has caused the Philippines’s historical treaty partner to step back and away from Philippine territorial issues.
As a result, the reliance on the Mutual Defense Treaty with the United States has effectively resulted in the loss of external defenses for the Philippines at a period in history where it is needed most.
The current direction of modernization was conceptualized under different circumstances, limited understanding and obvious misconceptions.
During those times, it was a widely held belief that the United States would continue to support external defense through the US Navy (USN) and aid in modernizing the Philippine Navy (PN) and Air Force (PAF).
However, recent history has shown that Philippine expectations on the political will of the US to support the Philippines’s military modernization plans have been gravely misconceived.
The 1960s era retired Hamilton-class US Coast Guard cutters supplied to the PN clearly demonstrates this misconception. Expected  to be a modern combat vessel, the BRP Gregorio del Pilar, the fist to be delivered, showed a number of flaws, to include improper ballast system, lack of spare parts, need for restoration and insufficient power generation. Furthermore, the electronics equipment and weapons systems were completely removed and replaced with an antiquated 76mm gun and no longer state-of-the-art fire control systems.
In the case of the PAF, its attempt to obtain the F-16 multirole fighters would have been the next and most appropriate evolution from their F-5 fighters decommissioned in 2005.
Evolution to the F-16 has been the case for many other nations worldwide with full support from the US.
However, in the recent global climate, the political will of the US to support its allies directly in conflict with China have diminished. For the PAF, the supply of F-16 fighters were negated owing to the official US position that maintenance costs were found to be excessive for the Philippines. Although this point could be argued, the larger perspective shows Taiwan also being denied the purchase of F-16 fighters during the same time period. Taiwan already has an F-16 fleet, so some other political issue was used to prevent supply of the fighter plane to Taiwan.
In a broader perspective, other Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) countries have purchased missiles from the US for their aircraft, but the US has withheld the deliveries, storing them instead in US facilities until the US government determines an appropriate time for their release.
With that, one must consider how a sovereign nation can purchase articles for its own national defense, and yet be at the mercy of another nation’s discretion as to when and if they can use them.
Recent history has demonstrated that the original concept for Philippine military modernization with regards to external defense has been flawed, simply because of a lack of consideration to the changing environment and a misconception of support from the US. This direction would further degrade the sovereignty of the Philippines and allow continued unimpeded access by other countries to its sovereign territories.

Foundation for territorial defense concepts

 External defense has traditionally been a concept of preventing invading forces from reaching Philippine soil. However, a new outlook toward Territorial Defense must be taken in order to defend Philippine resources at sea and understand the need to properly modernize and prepare the PN and PAF for combat readiness to defend the Philippine exclusive economic zone.
For an archipelago such as the Philippines, traditional thinking requires massive naval forces to defend its seas and littoral areas. However, military and political history has shown that an arms race, such as that of the US and the Soviet Union during the Cold War, can be won on the financial front, and not necessarily on the front lines.
Furthermore, conventional warfare can be extremely expensive when an opponent follows a more unconventional, guerrilla doctrine as shown in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Spearheaded by the special operations community, an evolution in warfare has developed into a cost-effective unconventional doctrine that focuses on having greater situational awareness and conducting more precise and effective use of forces.
Learning from these new doctrines, the Philippines can benefit from many of the advantages to include efficient use of resources, rapid employment of new technologies and increased operational readiness.

Man kidnapped in Basilan province

From the Mindanao Examiner (Jun 15): Man kidnapped in Basilan province

Provincial police launched an investigation into the reported kidnapping of a 26-year old man in Basilan in the Muslim autonomous region in Mindanao.

Police said a woman reported that her son-in-law, Askal Tantung, is being held captive for ransom in the neighboring province of Sulu.

Nuriam Musa told investigators that a man phoned her and was demanding P200,000 for the safe release of the hostage.

Tantung was last seen on June 10 heading to Isabela City to meet with someone and has failed to return home since then.

Police gave no additional details about the kidnapping.

Phl to address security concerns after being ranked as one of 'least peaceful' nations

From the Philippine Star (Jun 15): Phl to address security concerns after being ranked as one of 'least peaceful' nations

The Philippine government vowed today to continue its efforts to address the domestic peace and security concerns after it was ranked as one among the "least peaceful" nations in the world and in Asia Pacific region.

According to the Global Peace Index (GPI) 2013 released this week by the Institute for Economics and Peace, the Philippines remains among the "least peaceful" countries in the world and the Asia Pacific, improving only slightly in its global ranking.

Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte said the Aquino administration welcomed the improvement of the country's global peace rating from 133rd in 2012 to 129th this year among 162 countries surveyed.

"We've been taking concrete steps to address peace-related issues that have been confronting the administration. Moving forward, not because we have slight improvement in the ranking, we would stop our efforts. Of course, these efforts and these actions will continue," she said in an interview over a state-run radio station.

The GPI said it saw improved prospects for peace between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the largest Muslim rebel group in the country, following the signing of a framework deal last year for a potential peace agreement.

Despite this development, however, the Philippines remained " among the least peaceful countries in Asia Pacific," along with Thailand and Myanmar that face domestic civil conflict.

Listed as the least peaceful countries are Afghanistan (162), Somalia (161), Syria (160), Iraq (159), Sudan (158), Pakistan (157) , the Democratic Republic of Congo (156), Russia (155) and Central African Republic (153).

Iceland was the most peaceful country based on GPI's ranking. This is largely because of Iceland's political stability, low homicide rate and small prison population.

The other top peaceful countries include Denmark, New Zealand, Austria, Switzerland, Japan, Finland, Canada, Sweden and Belgium.

PA joins nation in celebrating Father's Day

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 15): PA joins nation in celebrating Father's Day

The Philippine Army (PA) joins the rest of the nation in celebrating Father's Day this Sunday.

Fathers themselves, Army soldiers scattered all over the archipelago observe this day in the most unconventional way – no dinners with family, no hugs from children, and no gifts to remind them of this special day.

But PA spokesperson Lt. Col. Randolph Cabangbang stressed that geographical restrictions do not pose any hindrance to our soldiers in their efforts to reach out to their families back home.

He added that this when modern communications technology, like the Internet and camera-equipped cellular phones, comes in handy.

Cabangbang cited the case of 31-year-old Capt. Frankjo C. Boral, who is the father of baby girl, two years and seven months old.

The latter is going to commemorate Father’s Day just like other soldiers in the field -– away from his family.

Since joining the military in 2004, Captain Boral has been assigned in Mindanao, first as platoon leader of Charlie Company, 33rd Infantry Battalion, 1st Infantry Division in 2005 and now as commanding officer of the 10th Special Forces Company (Airborne), 5th Special Forces Battalion (Airborne), Special Forces Regiment (Airborne), Special Operations Command.

Tasked with the greater responsibility of commanding his unit situated in Barangay Tawantawan, M’lang, North Cotabato, he seldom makes it home even during special occasions.

“I was lucky if I could visit them every after six months. When my daughter celebrated her second birthday, I was already in North Cotabato and failed to make it home. When she was born, I only had about ten hours to take a glimpse at her because I had to go back to Fort Magsaysay during my Special Forces Operations Course,” he narrated .

Boral is also married to a military officer.

“Our job is very challenging. As soldiers, duty comes first. Last year, when work became so demanding, we had to send our daughter, Sarah Eloisah, to my hometown in Bicol.

My mother looks after her,” he added.

“As much as I wanted to be a hands-on father, circumstances do not permit me to be such. But I know my daughter will understand this,” Boral stressed.

For soldier-fathers, one of the greatest challenges is striking a balance between family and duty.

“I wanted to be successful at both,” he added.

Just like other soldier-fathers in the field, Boral will spend his day away from the persons that he loved most.

This day will not go by without a phone call or a video call.

“Occasions such as this remind us that more than being soldiers, we are fathers. On Sunday, I’ll spend an hour or two in front of my computer, talking to my wife and daughter on Skype. I’m excited to see new tricks or dance moves from my Sarah Eloisah,” he concluded.

PN still searching for missing persons in Masbate sinking

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 15): PN still searching for missing persons in Masbate sinking

The Philippine Navy Saturday was still searching for the seven unaccounted passengers of the ill-fated M/V Mt. Carmel which sank off Burias Island, Masbate before dawn of June 14.

This, as the number of fatalities from the mishap stood at two -- Carlota Senga, 58, from Pasay City; and Erlinda Julbitado, 59, from Pasig City.

Of the 58 survivors, only three are still in the hospital. The others have been sent home.

PN spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Gregory Fabic said the Naval Forces Southern Luzon was continuing the search and rescue operations for the seven still unaccounted passengers of the sunken ship.

Authorities earlier said four people remain unaccounted for but as of Saturday, Office of Civil Defense 5 head Bernardo Rafaelito Alejandro IV said seven passengers of the sunken vessel were still missing.

"Navy vessels DF-321 and BRP Simeon Castro (PG-374) are still in the area to conduct search-and-rescue operations while the Navy Islander aircraft will conduct aerial search," Fabic stated.

He added Naval Special Operations Unit 3 was also sending a sea, air, land team to dive and try to locate the sunken vessel and determine if there were still passengers trapped inside.

The M/V Mt. Carmel was sailing on a calm sea when it encountered trouble and sank.

Initial reports said the vessel had 57 people on board, including 35 passengers and 22 crew but it turned out there were at least seven people on board not included in the ship's manifest.

M/V Mt. Carmel left the port of Pio Duran in Albay about 2 a.m. bound to Aroroy, Masbate.

As the vessel reached Burias Island around 5:00 a.m., the vessel took a sharp list and sank, PN sources said.