Friday, June 21, 2013

Army clashes with NPA rebels in Samar, 2 high-powered firearms recovered

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 22): Army clashes with NPA rebels in Samar, 2 high-powered firearms recovered
Troopers from the 87th Infantry Battalion, a field unit of the Samar-based 8th Infantry Division, have recovered two M-16 automatic rifles following a clash with 10 New People's Army (NPA) fighters in Barangay Bugho, Pinabacdao town Friday morning.

The rebels are members of the NPA's Section Committee, Southern Samar 1, according to 8th Infantry Division spokesperson Capt. Amado Gutierrez.

He said that troopers responded to civilian reports that the rebels were hiding in the area when the fighting took place around 5:50 a.m.

The encounter lasted for 15 minutes. No casualties were sustained by the government side as the rebels quickly retreated.

Recovered were two M-16 automatic rifles, three loaded magazines of AK-47 rifle with 100 extra live ammunition, seven empty M-16 magazines and NPA documents.

Pursuit operations are ongoing.

66 aircraft to do flyby for PAF's 66th anniversary

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 22): 66 aircraft to do flyby for PAF's 66th anniversary

In honor of its 66th founding anniversary, 66 Philippine Air Force (PAF) planes will be conducting a flyby over the skies of Clark Air Base, Pampanga on July 1.

Col. Miguel Ernesto Okol, PAF spokesperson, said the flyby, weather permitting, shall consist of nine T-41D Mescaleros, three S-211 jet aircraft, two OV-10 Broncos, two Aermacchi SF-260TP, three NOMADs, three Fokker F-27, three Lockheed C-130s, six UH-1Hs, one Sikorsky S-76A, one Bell B-205 helicopter, one Huey II, six W-3A Sokols, and four MG-520 attack choppers.

Expected to grace the occasion are President Benigno S. Aquino III, Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Voltaire T. Gazmin and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief-of-staff Gen. Emmanuel Bautista.

This year's fly-by is larger by 23 aircraft than the 43 participating planes in last year's 65th anniversary of PAF.

The PAF was founded on July 1, 1947, two years after the end of World War II. It can trace its lineage to the Philippine Army Air Corp which was established in 1941.

Under the leadership of then Capt. Jose Villamor, Filipino fighter pilots flying obsolete Boeing P-26 "Peashooters" managed to down three Japanese aircraft during the first days of World War II before being overwhelmed by the superior invading force.

4th Mech IB announces PAABT on June 24

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jun 20): 4th Mech IB announces PAABT on June 24

The 4th Mechanized Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army reminds interested applicants that the Philippine Army Aptitude Battery Test (PAABT) for officer candidate course is set on June 24, 2013 at 7 a.m.

The examination center will be at Camp Pintoy, Barangay Suarez, Iligan City, where the battalion holds its quarter. 

Applicants must be at Camp Pintoy before 7 a.m.

To qualify, applicant must be single, between 21-24 years old, male or female, a baccalaureate degree holder, minimum of five feet tall, and a Filipino citizen.  

He/she shall bring NSO birth certificate, school transcript of records, valid identification card, and one (1) piece 2x2 ID picture.

US hits China bullying in disputed waters

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jun 22): US hits China bullying in disputed waters

The nominee to become the top US diplomat in East Asia delivered pointed comments about China in his confirmation hearing on Thursday, saying there’s no place for “coercion and bullying” in the region’s seas.

Danny Russel told a Senate panel that he will do everything in his power to “lower the temperature” in territorial disputes in the South and East China Seas and push claimants, including China, toward diplomacy.

He also said it was “unacceptable” for China to demand only bilateral negotiations with the other claimants, and voiced strong US support for efforts by Southeast Asia to negotiate as a bloc and frame a “code of conduct” to manage the disputes—an issue to be taken up at regional security talks in Brunei later this month.

Russel is currently White House senior director for Asian affairs. He is nominee to become assistant secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, replacing Kurt Campbell, who resigned in February to enter business.

Russel is a 28-year career diplomat, less ebullient than Campbell, with long experience in Japan and Korea. His association with Asia began in his 20s when he spent three years studying martial arts in Japan.

He has played a central role in the Obama administration’s strategic “pivot” to Asia. That has seen the US stake out a diplomatic position on maritime issues that has irked Beijing, with Washington saying it has a national interest in the peaceful resolution of disputes in the South China Sea (part of which is called West Philippine Sea by US ally the Philippines).
Six claimants
Six countries have overlapping claims to tiny reefs and islands across those resource-rich waters, with China claiming it has sovereignty over virtually all of it. While the United States itself is not a claimant, it says it has a stake in the freedom of navigation in its busy sea lanes, which are crucial to world trade.
“I certainly will do everything in my power to try to lower the temperature, push claimants, including China, into a diplomatic track and continue to warn them that the region in which China will flourish is a region of law, a region of order and a region of respect for neighbors, not one in which there is space for coercion and bullying,” Russel said.
Standing by allies
He said that President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry have raised the issue of China’s behavior on the seas with its leaders, and the Chinese “are in no doubt that America stands by our allies.”
The most volatile maritime disputes involving China in the past couple of years have involved US treaty allies, the Philippines and Japan—nations that Beijing has blamed for triggering tensions.
While acknowledging US-China competition, Russel said the United States supports the rise of China that is stable, prosperous and abides by international rules and norms. He said the United States seeks “practical cooperation” that benefits both countries and the region.
He said positive cooperation with China would be “essential” in getting North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons.
Russel confirmed that he has visited Pyongyang during his time at the White House. He said helping to achieve a halt or rollback in the North’s atomic program would be a top priority if he becomes assistant secretary of state.
The full Senate must confirm his appointment.

Sindac explains PNP reorganization

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jun21): Sindac explains PNP reorganization

PNP spokesman Chief Supt. Generoso Cerbo Jr. FILE PHOTO

Philippine National Police’s Senior Superintendent Reuben Theodore Sindac said Friday that the “lines are clear” when it comes to his job as the new chief of the PNP’s Public Information Office and that of PNP’s official spokesman, Chief Superintendent Generoso Cerbo Jr.

“The lines are clear. Real time information, especially on the CPNP [Office of the PNP Chief] office, [is the work of] General Cerbo. And then if there’s follow-up, then the PIO will handle it for the full story,” Sindac said in his first appearance before reporters in Camp Crame as PIO chief.

He said the reorganization aims to facilitate a more effective mass communication and public information in support of the law enforcement and public safety mission of the PNP.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines follows a similar structure with Brigadier General Domingo Tutaan Jr. as AFP spokesman, and Lieutenant Colonel Ramon Zagala as AFP’s Public Information Office chief.

Cerbo was reassigned to the Directorate for Operations to ensure his direct access to real-time information from all PNP Units nationwide, while Sindac has been placed under the Directorate for Police Community Relations.

Asked if this was his first time to hold a public relations-type of work, Sindac said no, and noted that it is among his “favorite subjects.”

When he was the provincial director of Masbate, Sindac said he was actually the one who introduced the provincial police office in the media map when he set up an Internet group to work on information blasts sent through Yahoo and other social websites.

With his new job as chief PIO, Sindac said he would make his office more responsive to emerging social media, including Twitter and Facebook.

“We will try new ways and wouldn’t be afraid to experiment,” Sindac said, but noted that initiatives and programs of Cerbo will be continued, and probably improved.

Meanwhile, Cerbo told that this reorganization would not really result to lesser media interviews with PNP chief, Director General Alan Purisma, himself.

“No, not really. He’s still available for interview, especially on more important issues,” Cerbo said.

Sindac was former Deputy Director for Operations of the PNP Highway Patrol Group, and has extensive command, staff and training experience in various PNP Units and Offices.

Army imposes ‘no drinking policy’ for soldiers and militiamen on duty

From the Leyte Samar Daily Express (Jun 21): Army imposes ‘no drinking policy’ for soldiers and militiamen on duty

“Senseless deaths” during an amok incident in a detachment in Burauen, Leyte prompted the Philippine Army’s (PA) 8th Infantry Division (ID) to reiterate the “no drinking policy” for soldiers and militiamen on duty.

Captain Amado Gutierriez, spokesman of the Philippine Army’s 8th ID said Brigadier Gen. Gerardo Layug, PA 8th ID’s commanding general issued an order to strictly observe the policy in all of the region’s army camps and detachments.

Eastern Visayas has 5,000 soldiers and nearly 2,000 Cafgu(Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit)members assigned in 10 battalions and three brigades in six provinces of the region.

“The death of an Army officer and Cafgu members was senseless and we don’t the same incident to happen in the future because of a mere violation of a policy,” Gutierrez said adding that it would be more acceptable if a member of the armed forces died in an operation.

The “no drinking policy” will be emphasized by the Army through their troop information and education program to raise the soldier and militiamen’s level of understanding on this internal rule.

On Monday, drunken Cafgu member Cesar Manidlangan run amok in a military detachment in Burauen, Leyte, shooting to death Sgt. Renato Cabarse, assistant commander of Philippine Army’s 78th Infantry Brigade operational control detachment, and Alexander Estrella, a Cafgu member.

Another Cafgu member Abner Tolibas was injured during the incident and he’s now recuperating in a hospital in Tacloban City.

Manidlangan also shot to death by comrade Genes Cabidog to prevent him from shooting others inside the camp. The incident occurred inside the Army detachment in Barangay Anonang in Burauen town, 47 kilometers south from this city.

“The suspect violated the policy prohibiting military and Cafgu members from drinking alcoholic beverages while on duty. We should instill the value of discipline because anybody who is drunk is not anymore coherent,” Gutierrez told Leyte Samar Daily Express.

He added that “no to drinking policy” is not specified in the code of conduct but it is embedded on internal rules of discipline.

Intoxicated Manidlangan reportedly came from a birthday party when he ran amok inside the detachment since his commander disallowed him to attend a fiesta celebration.

“The commander’s action is justifiable. He did not allow any Cafgu member on duty to leave the camp since the troop is depleted,” he added.

Gov't, MILF to resume talks 'early July'

From Rappler (Jun 21): Gov't, MILF to resume talks 'early July'

After a stalemate on the peace talks, the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) have agreed to return to the negotiating table "early July," government peace panel chair Miriam Coronel-Ferrer said Friday, June 21.

“The panel chairs have already agreed on a date early next month to further discuss the annexes on wealth sharing, power sharing, and normalization,” Ferrer said in a statement.

Ferrer made the announcement after an informal meeting with MILF chief negotiatior Mohagher Iqbal in the recently-concluded Mediator's Forum in Oslo, Norway, which they both attended.

During their informal meeting, Ferrer also gave Iqbal the government's full proposal on the wealth-sharing annex to the MILF.

Eight months after the signing of the Framework Agreement that outlined the vision for a new Bangsamoro region, the talks reached a deadlock over details on wealth-sharing and power-sharing between the regional and national government.

Although both sides agreed to resolve the stalemate through an exchange of notes during the recent election period, the MILF has said they preferred the initial version of the wealth-sharing annex drafted by both parties in February during the 36th round of peace talks in Kuala Lumpur.

After the last round of formal talks in April, negotiations were stalled for two months because the government asked for time to conduct "due dilligence" on the details of the wealth-sharing annex. In particular, these refer to the devolution of taxes, share in natural resources, and the system of block grants, or how the national government will allot money to the region.

Comprehensive peace pact 'in a month or two'

Should both sides manage to break the impasse, government peace panel member Senen Bacani said a final peace agreement with the rebel group could be signed "in a month or two."

"We need a little patience and understanding for these delays as we have no control over the schedules of other people, but I am very hopeful that we will finish this comprehensive agreement in a month or two," Bacani said in a radio interview.

The peace panels have only completed one out of 4 annexes needed for the final peace pact -- the annex on Transitional Arrangements and Modalities (TAM). Aside from the annexes on wealth-sharing and power-sharing, both sides still have to finish the annex on normalization, which includes sensitive issues such as policing and decommissioning.

Delays in the talks have frustrated MILF leaders and members. In a roundtable discussion in Kuala Lumpur on June 5, MILF chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim himself warned that "every minute of delay in finishing the annexes to the [Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro] poses a threat to peace."

Both sides want to finish the transition towards the new Bangsamoro region before President Benigno Aquino III finishes his term in 2016. Based on the MILF's estimates, the Transition Commission needs two years to finish drafting the basic law, which will then be approved first, by Congress and second, by the Bangsamoro people through a plebiscite.

The Oslo event was also attended by Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Deles, Malaysian Third-Party Facilitator Tengku Datu Abdul Ghafar Tengku bin Mohamed, MILF peace panel member Maulana Alonto and MILF consultant Raissa Jajurie.

Joma wants peace, the ‘ground’ doesn’t — Padilla

From Rappler (Jun 21): Joma wants peace, the ‘ground’ doesn’t — Padilla

The peace talks between the government and the National Democratic Front (NDF) reached a high point in December 2012, when Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder Jose Maria Sison agreed to the so-called “special track” that would have facilitated the process.

But the "special track" collapsed two months later, in February 2013, when Sison changed his tune and brought back old, tough demands, head government negotiator Alexander Padilla told Rappler CEO and executive editor Maria Ressa on #TalkThursday last June 20.

“One thing led to another.... [then we hit] an impasse,” Padilla said.

The talks that sought to end Asia's longest-running communist insurgency reached yet another deadend. This is now a familiar refrain in the peace process with the NDF that began two decades ago, at the time of former President Corazon Aquino.

The communist underground reached its peak under her regime - with close to 25,000 armed regulars, according to the military. But the fall of communism, factionalism, as well as strategic and battlefield blunders have reduced communist strength and influenced over the years. Padilla said the New People's Army (NPA) is now down to more than 4,000 armed regulars.

While the NDF blamed the government for failing to meet its requirements, Padilla said what happened between December and February showed signs that Sison may no longer have full control of the party. (The NDF is the political arm of the CPP, while the NPA is its guerrilla army.)

Padilla, a former activist himself who knew Sison and the other NDF panel members, said he started the talks believing he was the right man for the job. But he said he later realized it was a futile effort.

“After assessing the behavior or the process itself, I was convinced that it was a process that would never end. That it was a process actually intended not for peace but to continue the war [and for them] to get concessions in the meantime,” Padilla said.

Presidential Peace Adviser Secretary Teresita Deles shared the same sentiment.
The NDF however accused Deles of "sabotaging" the talks. “The [government] has deliberately refused to comply with its commitments in agreements forged with the NDF, despite the full knowledge that compliance would immediately break the impasse and cause the resumption of the formal talks,” Sison told the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

‘Joma changed his mind’

Under the “special track,” both sides finalized a general declaration that would immediately put in place a ceasefire. A special panel with members from both sides would be convened to tackle issues that bring about rebellion.

Padilla said they were supposed to further discuss the “general declaration” in February when Sison gave the government panel a surprise: 3 new documents that pursued the “regular track,” which was the path that had led to deadlocks in the past.

“After February, it was a complete impasse because Joma Sison wanted us to first terminate the conditional cash transfer, to finish the Oplan Bayanihan of the AFP, to stop all the Pamana efforts, to give land to 5 million landless farmers, etcetera before we can even move on to that next level,” Padilla said. The conditional cash transfer is the government's flagship program to fight poverty, while Oplan Bayanihan is the military's counter-insurgency campaign that's focused on building communities.

But the principal condition of the NDF under the "regular track," he said, was the release of 18 of their consultants—the top echelons in their leadership. Padilla noted that the government did release 6 prisoners but two of them eventually went underground.

“That to us really was a slap also. Why would we release people for them to just continue to [wage] war. That was unacceptable."

What happened between December 2012 and February 2013?

Padilla felt a disconnect between Sison, who lives in Utrecht, and the ground troops in the Philippines led by the couple Benito and Wilma Tiamzon. (The military says Benito Tiamzon is the incumbent CPP chief.)

“Joma Sison has always been the more practical member of their negotiating panel. He would offer us solutions when we were at a stalemate. So he was pursuing many of the initiatives on his own,” Padilla said.

“To some degree the NDF was giving him a lot of leeway. We were testing that to [its] limits. How far would Joma Sison go in trying to forge an agreement with the government?”

Thus, the “special track.”

Locals said no?

But in February, Padilla said the “ground” must have “put its foot down and I think has told him to stop negotiating on this level if [they] were not going to get anything in return,” Padilla added.

In the end, the “ground” prevailed.

“It was a choice for him, whether to pursue negotiating with government and possibly find a way out even for him, or to simply just fade away and let everything pass and die as the founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines. I think he made the latter decision,” he said.

“I think when push came to shove, Joma Sison practically said to himself that I will stick to the Communist Party of the Philippines because that's the organization he founded and therefore would want to stay in,” he added.

The developments in February showed signs that Sison may not be in control of the party, Padilla said. “There were signs or signals that Joma Sison or Louie Jalandoni would send, that practically differed from the ones [relayed by those] on the ground,” Padilla said.

Thus the talks collapsed.

“Definitely we don't want to return to the so-called regular track and as far as government is concerned they have killed the special track. So that's where we are right now,” Padilla said.

“The fact of the matter is, the NDF is an organization of around 17 revolutionary organizations. All of these revolutionary organizations are headed by communists. So the question now is, should we be talking to the NDF that is merely their political front? Maybe we should be talking to the communists - the CPP. It is actually the Communist Party of the Philippines which actually directs and steers the movement across,” Padilla said.

Padilla is frustrated and admitted he wants out of the peace talks. He was recently appointed president and CEO of Philhealth.

READ: Padilla wants out of the peace process

“Actually my feeling now is that it was even practically arrogant on the part of government and the NDF to think that we could ever conclude an agreement....Because we were trying to conclude an agreement that would resolve all conflicts-- the roots of conflict, so to speak, you're really talking of Utopia,” he added.

Unlike MILF

This is so unlike the peace process between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), he noted.

“The MILF is an equally armed group, very strong, but they themselves believe that the peace process is part of the modes of trying to achieve just peace. The communists don't,” he explained.

“They have been very very consistent that the peace process is but a means to an end and that end is to overthrow government and establish a national democratic state leading to a communist state eventually,” Padilla said.

“If you notice —between the MILF and the talks on the CPP-NPA— nobody is simply interested in the talks with CPP-NPA. I think it's because people feel it will not amount to anything. And perhaps they were even smarter than I was three years ago,” he added.

Padilla maintained that a “new approach” is needed. “It should be addressed by good governance, practically modernization, better roads, communications,” he said.

But Padilla said he fears that the CPP’s next generation of leaders would become more violent.

“After the leadership of Joma Sison, Fidel Agcaoili....I think the [leaders] are in their 40s.... There is a constant fear on my part that the next echelon of leaders might not even be receptive to discussion or negotiations. Kung tatawagin ko—utak pulbura (war freak), ” he said.

CPP/NPA: Esperanza AgSur Raid, Victory Against Foreign Landgrabbing

Posted to the PRWC blog (Jun 19): Esperanza AgSur Raid, Victory Against Foreign Landgrabbing

Omar Ibarra
NPA Western Agusan Norte-Agusan Sur Sub-Regional Command
June 19, 2013

The New People’s Army under the Western Agusan Norte-Agusan Sur Sub-Regional Command successfully raided the compound of Shannalyne Plantation Company yesterday, June 18, at around 9:00 AM in Km. 8, Brgy. Hawilian, Esperanza, Agusan del Sur.

Nine equipment, including five bulldozers and four loader trucks were paralyzed by the Red fighters. The NPA also seized six assorted firearms (two shotguns, an Ingram machine pistol, a .45 pistol and two .357 revolvers) from the armed guards of the company. Five of the guards were killed when they resisted the NPA strike force.

According to the comrades in the field, the five who were killed were Felipe “Ihag” Hadraki, Remi Polintan, “Mankurenti,” “Boklet,” and “Junior,” all of whom were members of ex-mayor Deo Manpatilan’s paramilitary group, the Wild Dogs. This group is most active in counterrevolutionary witch-hunting and in terrorizing the peasants in the area. They are not civilians. In fact, they are strongly detested by the people and the revolutionary movement.

The Shannalyne Company serves as the most aggressive broker for foreign investments entering in the area for mining, expansion of oil palm and other plantations, and other pro-capitalist, anti-people and environmentally-destructive activities. This, together with Caraga Forest, Goldenbell, Tansland and Tecland, make up the Shannalyne Group of Companies, which operates in an area of 188,802 hectares of forestland in the municipalities of Esperanza, San Luis, Talacogon, La Paz and Loreto in the province of Agusan del Sur.

Shannalyne has already embarked on its clearing activity on the 500 hectares forest in Esperanza. Because they were already issued Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) by the DENR, the development of their plantations, funded by foreign capital from New Zealand and Finland, can now proceed full scale. Under such arrangement, the felling of trees by the company becomes lawful and therefore, the company can never in any way be held accountable for aggravating environmental destruction or should another calamity break out.

Together with the military and Wild Dogs, they terrorize the Lumads and peasants to ensure the divestment of their lands in favor of the capitalists. Amidst the strong opposition of the Lumad citizens affected by this company’s operations, the company can now proceed full scale with the support of the government and military. Dispossessed of their farmlands, the locals find it harder everyday to provide for their daily consumption. Consequently, the land-use conversion typical of these plantations not only threatens food security but is also environmentally-destructive.

In this context, the revolutionary movement launched the attack to punish Shannalyne Corporation and to fulfill the NPA’s task of protecting the people’s interests and the environment. What with the government’s incompetence in dealing with foreign landgrabbing, the people can now only rely on supporting the people’s democratic revolution.#

Padilla: CPP-NPA never abandoned armed struggle

From ABS-CBN (Jun 21): Padilla: CPP-NPA never abandoned armed struggle

Government peace negotiator Alex Padilla expressed dismay over stalled peace talks between the government and the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army and National Democratic Front.

Speaking to ANC, Padilla said the communist leaders never abandoned their pursuit of armed struggle to overthrow the government all throughout the talks.

He said the CPP talks are different from the peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which had led to a framework agreement.

"Ang primary call naman namin sa kanila is that let's have an indefinite ceasefire while we're talking and that's not unreasonable. We have an example with that with the MILF. They kept their arms while they were talking pero ang difference is that there was a recognition by the MILF that peace talks were the primary mode of settling the matter," he said in the interview.

"Unfortunately, the CPP-NPA-NDF have also been very, very clear that they are only using the peace negotiations to attain their end of an armed struggle in order to overthrow government."

Padilla is in a transition period from being peace negotiator to his new post as president and chief executive officer of Philhealth.

China hits Philippines for 'illegal occupation' of reef

From ABS-CBN (Jun 21): China hits Philippines for 'illegal occupation' of reef

China condemned on Friday what it called the "illegal occupation" of a disputed coral reef by the Philippines, and vowed to protect its sovereignty after Manila moved new soldiers and supplies to the remote location.

The Second Thomas Shoal, known in China as the Ren'ai reef, is at the centre of the latest territorial dispute between Beijing and Manila. Both countries have been locked in a decades-old territorial squabble over the South China Sea.

The Philippines is accusing China of encroachment after three Chinese ships, including a naval frigate, converged just 5 nautical miles (9 km) from an old transport ship that Manila ran aground on a reef in 1999 to mark its territory.

"China's determination to safeguard its national sovereignty is resolute and unwavering and (we) will never accept any form of illegal occupation of the Ren'ai reef by the Philippines," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a regular briefing.

Philippine Armed Forces chief General Emmanuel Bautista told reporters on Wednesday the military had brought in a fresh team to replace soldiers stationed on the wrecked ship on the reef and replenished their supplies, including food, water and fuel.

China's claims over islands, reefs and atolls in resource-rich waters off its south coast and to the east of mainland Southeast Asia have set it directly against Vietnam and the Philippines, while Brunei, Taiwan and Malaysia also lay claim to parts.

The Second Thomas Shoal, a strategic gateway to Reed Bank, believed to be rich in oil and natural gas, is one of several possible flashpoints in the South China Sea that could force the United States to intervene in defense of its Southeast Asian allies.

In 2010, Manila awarded an Anglo-Filipino consortium a license to explore for gas on Reed Bank, but drilling stalled last year, because of the presence of Chinese ships.

Manila says Reed Bank, about 80 nautical miles (148 km) west of Palawan island at the southwestern end of the Philippine archipelago, is within the country's 200-nautical mile (370 km) exclusive economic zone.

Beijing says it is part of the Spratlys, a group of 250 uninhabitable islets spread over 165,000 square miles, claimed entirely by China, Taiwan and Vietnam and in part by Malaysia, Brunei and the Philippines.

Tubbataha management urges US govt to be 'quicker' in paying $1.4M reef grounding fine

From GMA News (Jun 21): Tubbataha management urges US govt to be 'quicker' in paying $1.4M reef grounding fine

The Tubbataha Management Office called on US authorities Friday to be “quicker” in paying the fines assessed after the USS Guardian ran aground on a section of Tubbataha on January 17 and damaged at least 2,345 square meters of the reef, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Five months after a US Navy minesweeper ran aground the Tubbataha coral reef, the United States government has yet to pay the P58-million ($1.4 million) fine the protected park management had assessed. 

“Actually, hindi pa sila nagbabayad… We have received a letter from the US Embassy saying that they are talking with the national authorities, in this case, DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs). Sabi nila may proseso ng pagclaim,” Tubbataha park superintendent Angelique Songco said: “They should be quicker than they have been," superintendent Songco said.

Songco explained that they have asked the Department of Foreign Affairs to clarify the process but they have yet to receive the DFA reply.

“Hindi namin maintindihan ang proseso. We have the right to know kung ano ang claim process [at kung] ano na ang status… Sabihan niyo kami, hindi kami nagpapa-importante,” she added.

'Lack of leadership'

A report released on Friday (Philippine time) revealed that “lack of leadership” on the USS Guardian led to the grounding of the US warship.

"USS Guardian leadership and watch teams failed to adhere to prudent, safe, and sound navigation principles which would have alerted them to approaching dangers with sufficient time to take mitigating action," said US Pacific Fleet commander Admiral Cecil Haney.

Further administrative action is being considered against the ship's crew, the US Navy statement said.

Sajahatra Bangsamoro Project Management Team holds write-shops

From the MILF Website (Jun 21): Sajahatra Bangsamoro Project Management Team holds write-shops

Members of the Project Management Team- Central Management Office (PMT-CMO) of the MILF Task Force on Sajahatra Bangsamoro held their writeshops at the Grand Rio Hotel from June 10-11, 2013, Cotabato City to prepare and compile their manual of operations, financial operations; work and financial plans.
On the 3rd and 4th day of the writeshops (June 13-14), they transferred to another venue, also in Cotabato City where they wound up their activities.

 PMT-CMO is composed of administrative and finance officer; monitoring and evaluation officer; and communication and information officer. The three focal personalities are in-charge of education, health and livelihood programs of the Task Force Sajahatra Bangsamoro. The four-day activities were facilitated by Dr. Taugan Kikay, PMT-CMO Team Leader, who is a detailed faculty member of the Cotabato City State Polytechnic College.

On hand to oversee the activities were Sheikh Mahmud Ahmad, Executive Director of the Bangsamoro Leadership and Management Institute (BLMI) and Sheik Mohammad Yacob, Executive Director of the Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA). The two are concurrently co-chairpersons of the MILF Task Force on Sajahatra Bangsamoro. 

Mr. Rahib Payapat, Team Leader of the Technical Assistance Team, Windell Diangcalan of BDA and Dante Illuterio of OPAPP assisted the participants. Comments and recommendation where made by members of the TF Sajahatra Bangsamoro and OPAPP personnel on the initial output of the participants.

The proposed budget for the remaining months of the year and the succeeding year shall be determined by parties involved in the program and when completed, submitted to the funding agency concerned. The Sajahatra Bangsamoro is a government development program personally launched by President Benigno C. Aquino III last February 11, 2013 at the BLMI Compound, Crossing Simuay, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao in tie-up with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). It has an initial budget of 600 Million Pesos, earmarked for college scholarships, health, livelihood and skills training.

The launching of said program was attended by cabinet members, local and national government officials, AFP and PNP officers, members of the diplomatic corps; and officials of the MILF headed by Chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim of the Moro Front. Several hundreds of Moro students are now beneficiaries of college scholarships in various state universities and colleges.

Fifty slots were allotted to children of settlers and another fifty slots for children of Lumads.

AFP, PNP troops to be deployed in Cotabato conflict areas

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 22): AFP, PNP troops to be deployed in Cotabato conflict areas

The Joint Task Force (JTF) coming from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine Police (PNP) will be deployed on Monday in conflict areas along the tri-boundaries in Maguindanao, North Cotabato, and Sultan Kudarat.

Mayor Lani Candolada of Tulunan, North Cotabato said the task force would be composed of elements from the Army’s 1002nd Brigade and from the Regional Mobile Group in Soccsksargen region.

Candolada said that along with the task force, members of the Regional Joint Peace and Security Coordinating Committee (RJPSCC) would also be deployed in Barko-Barko, formerly a peace zone located along the tri-boundary.

Such area, reports said, is being occupied by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rebels. They claimed the area as part of their defense perimeter.

The RJPSCC, the mayor explained, would be composed of representatives from the Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities from the government, International Monitoring Team, AFP, PNP, and the MILF.

The committee is tasked primarily to monitor if there are violations to ceasefire agreements.

“While this is happening, government agencies would try to resolve issues like boundary conflict in three towns in North Cotabato, Maguindanao, and Sultan Kudarat, and problems with the issuance of land holdings in the area,” said Candolada in a phone interview.

The issue on political boundaries is being handled by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in Region 12, using as basis the Law on Creation of each municipality, the mayor explained.

“As a neutral agency, kailangang ayusin ng DENR ang mapa ng bawat munisipyo sa tatlong probinsiya, based on the law of creation of each municipality. May overlapping din sa political boundary ng tatlong mga bayan based on each municipality’s interpretation of law,” she said.

Candolada said there are also issues on the issuance of Certificates of Land Ownership Awards (CLOAs) in conflict areas in her town that need to be resolved by the Department of Agrarian Reform in Region 12.

“Kailangang ayusin ng DAR ang isyu ng double issuances ng mga lote sa erya. For example, sa isang lote, dalawa ang owners. Kaya nag-aagawan ang dalawang tao na parehong may hawak ng titulo,” she said.

The double issuances of CLOAs had since affected the relationship of the B’laan natives, Moro, and Christian settlers in the area, the mayor said.

Candolada is hopeful the presence of the RJPSCC and the JTF would help mitigate the violence in conflict areas.

She has long wanted the armed fighting to end.

"Sa Tulunan ako ipinanganak. I was also one of the children of war. Mula noong bata pa ako, naging munting pangarap ko na rin ang kapayapaan. Kaya lagi kong tinatanong sa sarili ko, ngayong magtatapos na ang term ko as mayor, makamtan ko kaya ang aking pangarap?” she asked.

Since May 27, at least 200 families have evacuated from six puroks and sitios in barangays Maybula and New Bunawan in Tulunan and more than a hundred families in nearby Columbio town in Sultan Kudarat.

The encounter last June 26 in Purok Malipayon, Barangay Maybula resulted to death of a member of a Barangay Peacekeeping Action Team and wounded two MILF members, reports said.

Army welcomes 168 former CPLA members in its ranks

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 21): Army welcomes 168 former CPLA members in its ranks

The Philippine Army (PA) on Friday announced that 168 members of the former Cordillera People's Liberation Army (now called the Cordillera Forum for Peace and Development) are now being integrated into its ranks.

Lt. Col. Randolph Cabangbang, Army spokesperson, said the candidate soldier course for the latter will start this June 26.

He added that PA chief Lt. Gen. Noel A. Coballes warmly welcomed the aspiring soldiers with the hope that this will precede more successful mainstreaming and integration of former rebels.

Meanwhile, the Cordillera Forum for Peace and Development (CFPD) leadership intensified its efforts to hand their firearms to the government.

In December last year, CFPD members surrendered 51 assorted high-powered firearms to the government in the presence of former Army commander now AFP chief-of-staff Gen. Emmanuel T. Bautista.

While the CFPD stand true to its commitment to the peace process, the Army as well, continues to strengthen its roadmap towards lasting peace in the country through its Internal Peace and Security Plan (IPSP) “Bayanihan”.

The PA calls for other insurgent groups to lay down their arms and instead, support the peace and development programs of the government.

AFP: NPA now using mass media to disseminate false information that AFP is recruiting minors

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 21): AFP: NPA now using mass media to disseminate false information that AFP is recruiting minors

The New People’s Army (NPA) is now using mass media to disseminate false information that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)is recruiting minors to be trained in combat operations, a top AFP official said on Friday.

Brigadier General Domingo Tutaan Jr., the AFP spokesman said that the accusation is farfetched from the reality because they are strict on this issue.

He said that the AFP only employ 18 years old and above in their ranks including the recruitment of Citizen Armed Forces Geographical Units (CAFGU).

“We are not entertaining minors. We are very strict in recruiting soldiers as we only allow 18 years and above to join the AFP,” Tutaan told reporters at the weekly forum, Balitaan sa Hotel Rembrandt.

Although he admitted that there was an isolated case when two minors doctored their age in their resume to enable them to get jobs in the military to help their families.

“They were both 17 and as soon as we found out that there were minors, we immediately brought them back to their families and explained that AFP strictly follows the age limit requirement,” Tutaan explained.

According to the AFP spokesman, that incident gave those lessons that before they admit anyone applying to join the AFP, they always counter check the background of the applicant and check their certificate of live birth if it is authenticated.

He said that the NPA is fast losing supporters because they are now shifting to banditry and extortion activities as they set aside ideology which they are known for.

Tutaan said that NPAs are now using mass media to disseminate false information that it was the AFP that is recruiting minors despite the fact that they have proven in the past that it was the other way around.

“How can they disprove that several minors were killed in actual combat? Some of them were arrested during military operations,” Tutaan pointed out.

He said that this happened in the last decade and still, they continue to pollute the minds of minors in rebel-controlled areas.

The dead bodies of minors who were left behind by the NPA in several encounters only show that they are the one recruiting minors because the fathers and brothers were killed earlier in encounters.

The diminishing support of the local folks only shows that the AFP is winning in their campaign not only in combat operation but in promoting peace and development in the countryside.

“Their influence is waning as the government is winning the hearts of the people,” Tutaan stressed.

He added that for now, there are only 3,000 active rebels in the hinterlands already turning themselves to bandits as they abduct innocent civilians for money.

The rebels, the AFP said, are also engaged in robberies and protection rackets in several towns harassing businessmen.

He added that the AFP always get in touch with the Philippine National Police because this issue is already a police matter as they offer help if the need arises.

Army joins manhunt vs. father-son tandem who killed cop in North Cotabato

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 21): Army joins manhunt vs. father-son tandem who killed cop in North Cotabato
Police and military authorities in North Cotabato have joined forces in searching for a father and son suspects who killed a police officer serving search warrant in the mountain town of President Roxas on Wednesday.

Law enforcers are hunting down Willie Pepito and his son George who shot Senior Police Officer 2 Eldorado Dollosa while the police officer was serving search warrant at 4 a.m. on Wednesday. George used a 12-gauge shotgun in refusing to surrender and allow the search.

The suspects were facing illegal possession of firearms and explosives and violation of the election gun ban.

Intelligence reports gathered by police and Army agents showed the suspects have sought refuge from the New People's Army (NPA) operating in North Cotabato and in Bukidnon.

Dollosa sustained wounds from pellet wounds in the head and different parts of his body. He died while being rushed to a hospital in nearby Antipas town, also in North Cotabato.

Reports said Dollos was knocking on the house of the Pepitos in Barangay Greenhills when he was shot at close range.

Senior Inspector Marlo Dolar, President Roxas police chief, said the suspects escaped through the backdoor and fled towards a nearby corn farm then to the thickly forested area of Barangay Greenhills.

Elements of the Army Special Forces and 57th Infantry Battalion are now helping the local police in locating the suspects.

However, relatives of the Pepitos claimed the incident was triggered by a long standing land dispute involving the Cornelio clan.

Insp. Dolar said the land dispute was another thing and the possession of firearms was another.

The search warrant was served because police intelligence agents confirmed the father and son tandem was in possession of firearms.

Pablo-hit province continues to get USAID infra projects

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 21): Pablo-hit province continues to get USAID infra projects

The province of Compostela Valley, which was badly hit by typhoon Pablo in December last year continues to receive foreign assistance.

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has started implementing the construction of its eight Growth with Equity in Mindanao (GEM) Program Infrastructure Projects for the province.

GEM Infra Projects Provincial Coordinator Florentino G. Go, Jr. of the Provincial Planning and Development Office (PPDO) said that the USAID aims to finish the eight infra projects by August this year.

Three of the eight projects will benefit the municipality of Monkayo that includes the repair of bridges of Barangays Baylo, Union and Salvacion.

Two projects are intended for Compostela particularly the Overflow (Spillway) Structure Rehabilitation at Barangay Ngan and the Trading Center at Barangay Poblacion.

Compostela Valley Governor Arturo T. Uy and USAID-Philippines Mission Director Gloria Steele led the ceremonial ground breaking of the projects last June 14.

The other three projects include a Trading Center at Barangay Aguinaldo; bridge construction at New Bataan, and the construction of Lebanon-San Jose Bridge in Montevista.

New Bataan was the most badly hit in the province with schools and classrooms wiped out.

Aside from the infra projects, USAID turned over armchairs, teacher’s tables and chairs, school bags with school supplies to Cabinuangan Elementary School in New Bataan also last June 14.

Army braces for NPA atrocities during lean season

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 21): Army braces for NPA atrocities during lean season

The 303rd Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army has intensified its operations in Negros Occidental in preparation for the rise of New People’s Army’s (NPA) attacks during “tiempos muertos” or lean months.

Based on their experience, 303rd IB Commander Col. Jon Aying said there is a significant increase in the volume of crimes from June to September when sugar mills are closed.

Aying said they have so far deployed soldiers near haciendas in southern and northern districts to heighten their visibility.

Of the areas covered, Aying disclosed that they are concentrating their anti-insurgency efforts in the first district of the province where the NPA’s Boy Gatmaitan command is based.

He also said they are coordinating closely with the mayors of San Carlos City, Escalante City, Calatrava, Toboso and Don Salvador Benedicto in this pro-active measure.

Even Governor Alfredo MaraƱon Jr. and Congressman Julio Ledesma IV are well-informed of their operations, he said.

Meanwhile, Aying also issued statements in reaction to the temporary closure of Philex Mining Corp. in Sipalay City due to NPA atrocities.

Aying admitted that though they are aggressive in their operations, they lack soldiers to secure every corner of the province.

"Philex can either request our national headquarters for additional soldiers to patrol southern Negros or organize its own special Civilian Active Auxiliary (CAA) to augment its private guards," he said.

He also added that making people jobless has always been part of NPA’s strategies so they can easily recruit people.

Probe says 'lack of leadership' caused Tubbataha grounding of USS Guardian

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 21): Probe says 'lack of leadership' caused Tubbataha grounding of USS Guardian

The US Pacific Fleet on Thursday (American time) attributed the grounding and subsequent lost of the minesweeper USS Guardian (MCM-5) due to "lack of leadership" among the ship's watch crew.

The ship ran aground off Tubbataha Reef, Sulu Sea last January 17.

In its 160-page investigation report, U.S. Pacific Fleet commander Admiral Cecil D. Haney called the incident a "tragic mishap".

"USS Guardian leadership and watch teams failed to adhere to prudent, safe, and sound navigation principles which would have alerted them to approaching dangers with sufficient time to take mitigating action," he added.

Haney further summarized that a "lack of leadership" led to the watch team's disregard of visual cues, electronic cues and alarms in the hours leading up to the grounding, and that an ultimate reliance on what would turn out to be inaccurate Digital Nautical Charts (DNC) during the planning and execution of the navigation plan ultimately led to a degradation of the ship's navigation ability.

Haney did however have words of praise for the "heroic efforts of the crew to save their ship."

Highlighting the actions of the engineering and damage control teams, the U.S. Pacific Fleet commander stressed that their efforts were instrumental in reinforcing the ship's hull integrity despite multiple breaches.

He also commended the boat coxswains, damage control assistant, and the Navy rescue swimmers who all ensured the safe evacuation of the crew without significant injuries.

The commanding officer of ex-USS Guardian, Lt. Cmdr. Mark Rice, the executive officer/navigator Lt. Daniel Tyler, the assistant navigator, and the officer of the deck at the time of the grounding were relieved of their duties on April 3 by Rear Admiral. Jeffrey A. Harley, commander, Expeditionary Strike Group 7.

Further administrative action is under consideration.

The Avenger-class mine countermeasures ship had just completed a port call in Subic Bay and was en route to Indonesia and then on to Timor-Leste to participate in a training exercise when the grounding occurred, approximately 80 miles east-southeast of Palawan Island.

The USS Guardian was subsequently dismantled, decommissioned and stricken from the naval registry.

Her wreck was removed from Tubbataha Reef last March 30.

After the incident, the United States and Philippines conducted a joint marine damage assessment.

The U.S. government is prepared to work with the Philippines to provide compensation for the damage to the reef caused by the grounding.