Wednesday, June 26, 2013

US-Nur Misuari link in Sulu attack?

Posted to FMT News (Jun 26): US-Nur Misuari link in Sulu attack?

According to an ex-Sabah police special branch deputy chief, the information in the intercepted conversation was crucial for the country’s security.

 KOTA KINABALU: A witness has told the Kota Kinabalu High Court that a policeman had informed a local male Sabahan that the Sulu intruders involved in the Feb 11 invasion were supported by the United States of America and the former leader of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), Nur Misuari.

The witness, who is under protection, said Detective Corporal Hassan Ali Basari was one of two voices in an intercepted telephone conversation in connection with the Feb 11 Sulu invasion in Lahad Datu. The witness said he was sure it was Hassan’s voice because the latter had identified himself in the conversation.

Hassan, 55, from Semporna, is charged with voluntarily withholding information on terrorism activities at the office of the Special Branch chief, Lahad Datu police headquarters, between January and March 3 this year. The charge, under Section 130M of the Penal Code, carries a jail term of up to seven years or a fine or both upon conviction.

According to the witness, on March 2 this year, a Sabahan contacted Hassan at 7.37pm to ask whether a war had started and Hassan confirmed it. The witness said based on the telephone conversation, which was translated, the Sabahan said he had contacted the Philippines and was informed that more than 400 people would enter Sabah through Bongao, in the Philippines.

In the intercepted telephone conversation on March 3, the Sabah man contacted Hassan again at 9.28am to convey further information he had obtained via the internet. The informant told Hassan that the internet report had stated that the intruders would come in thousands and required huge funds.

Reporting on today’s hearing noted that former Sabah police special branch deputy chief, SACP Zulkifli Abd Aziz, who is now with the Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom), told the court that the information in the intercepted telephone conversation between the accused and the Sabah man was crucial for the country’s security.

He said that when he was the Sabah police special branch deputy chief, Hassan was also involved in intelligence operations on threats by the Sulu terrorists in Lahad Datu.

Zulkifli said the accused was selected for the job because he was conversant in Bajau and Suluk and had many friends from the two ethnic groups in Lahad Datu.

However, he denied having received any information on the threats by the Sulu terrorists or terrorist activities in Kampung Tanduo, Lahad Datu, from the accused.

Zulkifli said any information on threats against the country’s security obtained by the Special Branch policemen at the district level had to be reported immediately to the District Special Branch head. The trial before Justice P Ravinthran continues tomorrow.

Carat’ naval exercises start today

From Malaya (Jun 27): Carat’ naval exercises start today

AMERICAN and Filipino forces are due to start today a naval drill near the Scarborough Shoal off Zambales, which is the subject of a territorial dispute between the Philippines and China.

The Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training or CARAT will feature the country’s first Hamilton-class cutter, BRP Gregorio del Pilar, which was acquired from United States in 2011.

The training will formally open at the former US naval base in Subic. Commodore Nodolfo Tejada, commander of the Naval Forces Northern Luzon, said the major objective of the training is to enhance the capability of both sides through practical exercises and lectures.

Tejada said the five-day training, which also includes civil military operations activities, is anticipated to “increase the level of interoperability between the Philippine Navy and US Navy in the conduct of combined naval operations.”

Tejada said the Philippine Navy will be using BRP Gregorio del Pilar, an Islander aircraft, a special boat team, a diving team from the Naval Special Operations Group, a team of naval engineers, and a Marine company for the exercise.

The US will used the guided missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald, salvage ships USNS Safeguard and USS Salvor, Marine troops, and specialized personnel.

The Philippine Coast Guard, which had been invited to participate, will be deploying the search and rescue ship BRP Edsa, a helicopter, a diving team, and a visit, board search and seizure team.

Navy spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Gregory Gerald Fabic earlier said the at-sea exercises will be conducted between mainland Zambales and Scarborough Shoal.

Scarborough Shoal, also called as Panatag Shoal and Bajo de Masinloc, is a rich fishing ground located about 124 nautical miles from Zambales. The shoal was the site of standoff between Philippine and Chinese ships in April last year. It occurred after the BRP Gregorio del Pilar spotted and tried to apprehend eight Chinese fishing boats from gathering corals, giant clams and live sharks at the shoal.

However, the Navy ship was prevented by two Chinese maritime surveillance ships from apprehending the fishing vessels, leading to the standoff.

The Navy ship withdrew a few days later and was replaced by a Coast Guard ship and a Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources vessel. However, these vessels withdrew about two months after due to inclement weather, leaving the Chinese virtually in control of the shoal.

The Navy has said that the upcoming exercise has nothing to do with the standoff because the drill schedule has been finalized as early as 2010.

Soldier killed, 11 wounded in separate clashes vs NPA in Northern Samar, Zamboanga del Sur

From the Business Mirror (Jun 26): Soldier killed, 11 wounded in separate clashes vs NPA in Northern Samar, Zamboanga del Sur

A SOLDIER was killed while 11 others were wounded in two separate encounters on Tuesday against communist rebels in Northern Samar and Zamboanga del Sur, the military said on Wednesday.
Capt. Amado Gutierrez, public affairs chief of the Army’s 8th Infantry Division, said a member of the 20th Infantry Battalion was killed when an undetermined number of New People’s Army (NPA) rebels ambushed the soldiers at around 4:30 a.m. while on their way to Barangay Lungib in Victoria town.
“The rebels detonated the land mines they planted on the road and immediately shot at our soldiers. The land mine blast killed a soldier and wounded six others, five of whom suffered only minor injuries,” Gutierrez said.
The gun battle lasted 30 minutes. No casualty was reported on the NPA side.
“This is the third time this year that the NPA utilized a roadside land mine against government troops operating in Eastern Visayas. This condemnable act is a clear violation of the provisions of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law which prohibits use of land-mine in military operations as it also endangers the lives of non-combatants,” Gutierrez said.
He refused to give the names of the fatality and the wounded pending notification of their families. Reliable sources identified the soldier-fatality as Pfc. Romel C. Demetrio and the wounded as Cpl. B. Sunio, Cpl. Allan E. Medice, Pfc. Aiko P. Palita, Pfc. Albert C. Latorre, Pfc. John C. Docenceras and Pfc. Camilo P. Tik-ing.
In Lakewood, Zamboanga del Sur, five soldiers were wounded when around 50 NPA guerrillas conducted a land-mine ambush against three platoons of soldiers conducting combat operations in Sitio Ludiaw in Barangay Dagum at around 8 a.m. on Tuesday.
Capt. Jefferson Somera, public affairs chief of the Army’s 1st Infantry Division, said the involved rebels were under the Western Mindanao Regional Party Committee.

Blast hits marine encampment in southern Philippines

From the Mindanao Examiner blog (Jun 26): Blast hits marine encampment in southern Philippines

A grenade explosion was reported at a military encampment late Wednesday in the southern Philippine city of Cotabato, officials said.

Officials said there was no report of casualties in the blast and authorities were investigating the explosion.

It was not immediately known whether the blast was a deliberate attack or accidental.

The military has not released any statement about the explosion. Cotabato City has been bombed many times by rebels in the past.

2 soldiers killed in rebel attack in Philippine province

From the Mindanao Examiner blog (Jun 26): 2 soldiers killed in rebel attack in Philippine province

Communist rebels killed two government soldiers and wounded another in an attack in the town of Esperanza town in Agusan del Sur province in southern Philippines, a spokesman for the New People’s Army said Wednesday.

Omar Guevara said rebel forces killed the soldiers who were members of the 26th Infantry Battalion in the fighting that erupted in Maliwanag village.

He said the soldiers were resting in a thatched hut when the rebels attacked them. One soldier was also wounded in the clash, he said.

“This action happened while this platoon was resting in a hut. This was their unit undergoing a hot pursuit operation after the NPA successfully raided the compound of Shannalyne Plantation Company and a rubber plantation,” Guevara said.

A pro-government militia was also wounded in a separate attack by the NPA in San Luis town, also in Agusan del Sur.

”In these two events, the operating unit of NPA immediately withdrew without any casualty whatsoever,” Guevara said. “The NPA’s momentum will remain or rev up further in launching such assaults to these paid troops which are serving as defenders of foreign and local ruling classes.”

The NPA, armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, has been fighting for decades for the establishment of a separate Maoist state in the country.

BRP Del Pilar to join US-PH war games near Panatag

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jun 26): BRP Del Pilar to join US-PH war games near Panatag

Philippine Navy sailors on board the BRP Gregorio Del Pilar (PF 15) throw ropes as they dock during arrival ceremonies at Manila's pier Tuesday. AP

The country’s lone warship will join the naval exercises of the Philippines and the United States off Panatag Shoal when it kicks off on Thursday.

In a statement, the Philippine Navy said it will utilize the BRP Gregorio del Pilar (PF-15), a Navy aircraft (Islander), the Special Boat Team, the diving team of the Naval Special Operations Group (NAVSOG), and the construction team from the Naval Engineers and Philippine Marine Corps Company to test their readiness and capability.

The Philippine Coast Guard, meanwhile, will be sending BRP Edsa (SARV-002), a helicopter, a diving team, and a visit, board, search and seizure team.

The US Navy, for its part, will send USS Fitzgerald, USNS Safeguard, USNS Salvor, Marine Corps and other specialized personnel.

Earlier, the Navy clarified that the war games will be held about 60 nautical miles east of Panatag and should not be seen by China as an act of “intimidation.”

Panatag Shoal, an area contested by the Philippines and China, is located 124 nautical miles from Zambales, well within the 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone. It was the site of a maritime standoff between the two countries last year.

Navy spokesman Lieutenant Commander Gregroy Fabic said the exchanges, which will be held until July 2 in different areas in Northern Luzon, will include communications, naval surface operations, counterterrorism and maritime security operations, and humanitarian assistance and disaster response operations.

The US Pacific Fleet conducts Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (Carat) with its allies in the Asia-Pacific region, including Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, East Timor and the Philippines.

New Phl warship makes history after crossing waterway linking 2 oceans

From the Philippine Star (Jun 26): New Phl warship makes history after crossing waterway linking 2 oceans

File photo of the BRP Ramon Alcaraz

The BRP Ramon Alcaraz, the second warship acquired by the Philippines from the United States, successfully crossed the Panama Canal, becoming the first Filipino warship to voyage the historic waterway under her own power.
The Philippine Navy said the warship successfully concluded last June 18 (US time) her crossing of the 82-kilometer Panama Canal, which connects the Atlantic Ocean (via the Caribbean Sea) to the Pacific Ocean.
"She passed by Panama Canal Tuesday evening," said Philippine Navy spokesperson Lt. Cmdr. Gregory Fabic.
The BRP Ramon Alcaraz entered the Panama Canal Zone almost five days after her departure in Charleston, South Carolina last June 10.
Before her arrival at the Panama Canal Zone, the warship stopped at Mayport, Florida to test fire her 76mm automatic cannon and for speed trials.
The warship reportedly attained the speed of 25 knots without any difficulty. Its top speed is placed between 29 to 31 knots.
BRP Ramon Alcaraz is "sailing smoothly" and expected to meet its target date of arrival in the country.
"Everything is on schedule as per voyage plan. Target dates can be meet," Fabic said.
The new warship is set to make its first port call in San Diego, California on June 30 and will sail to Hawaii and Guam before heading home.
It is expected to arrive in the Philippines in the first week of August.

Phl except gov't 'relatively safe' from cyber attacks

From the Philippine Star (Jun 26): Phl except gov't 'relatively safe' from cyber attacks

While the Philippines in general is safe from cyber attacks and espionage, its government and businesses remain vulnerable, a security software firm's official said.

"The Philippines seems relatively safe from major mobile malware and cyber espionage (but) attacks against government institutions and corporations are possible," Kaspersky Lab Southeast Asia Jimmy Fong said in a statement Wednesday.

Fong said that recent denial-of-service or DDOS attacks against state-owned sites are indicators that the country's government systems are still at risk.

“These attacks can be dangerous for any institution especially now that the Philippines is linked to other countries via broadband Internet connections. Security even in the virtual world is the responsibility of everyone and putting in place the best security solutions is paramount,” he said.

US, Phl in joint naval exercise near Panatag

From the Philippine Star (Jun 26): US, Phl in joint naval exercise near Panatag

A United States Navy (USN) guidde-missile destroyer and a Philippine Navy (PN) frigate will be conducting a joint naval maneuver close to Panatag Shoal, a Philippine territory now under the de facto control of China, as the yearly joint PHL-US naval  drill dubbed Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) opens Thursday.

Aside from guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald, the US navy is also deploying two of its rescue and salvage warships, UNS Safeguard and USN Salvor along with a contingent US Marines and other specialized sailors.

Partnering with the US warships in this year’s scheduled joint naval maneuver near Panatag Shoal is the PN’s frigate BRP Gregorio del Pilar (PF-15) and BRP EDSA 2-002, a Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) search and rescue vessel.

“The Philippine Navy will be utilizing its newly-acquired vessel BRP Gregorio del Pilar (PF-15), a  Navy aircraft, special boat team, diving team from the Naval Special Operations Group (Navsog), construction team from the Naval Engineers and a company of Marines to test their readiness and capability,”  Naval Forces Northern Luozn (NFNL) commander, Commodore Nodolfo Tejada, said  in a press statement.

Around 1,000  Filipino and US sailors are participating in the naval drill, a yearly event being done under the auspices of the decades-old Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) between the Philippines and the United States governments.

Tejada also said that besides  search and rescue vessel, PCG is also deploying a helicopter, a diving team, and a contingent task to conduct the  visit, board, search and seizure exercises with their US counterparts.

Without directly confirming that this year’s  joint naval drill will  be held near Panatag shoal, Tejadas said the naval activities will cover areas in Northern Luzon, particularly in Zambales who has territorial jurisdiction over Panatag Shoal, a rich Filipino fishing ground that has been  illegally occupied by China since last year’s two-month standoff over the area after Chinese surveillance ships  blocked the arrest of their fishermen engaged in illegal fishing and poaching.

“The CARAT 2013 major objectives are to enhance the current Philippine Navy and US capabilities in naval operations through lectures and practical exercises focusing on the different fields of naval operations such as communication, naval gunnery, at-sea operations, maritime interdiction and humanitarian assistance and disaster response operations and increase the level of interoperability between the Philippine Navy and US Navy in the conduct of combined operations,” Tejada said.

Since last year’s US pivot in the Asia-Pacific region, the country other than the military benefits  it gained as a result in the increased of  US military visits, has also boosted its tourism.

"Same as other bilateral and multilateral exercises, numbers of foreigners from different nationalities especially the Americans came in the country. Data from Department of Tourism form 2012 to early 2013, visitors from the US constituted the second biggest arrivals for the period and one of the contributing factors is the conduct of exercises,” Tejada said.

Navy court martial convicts Marine colonel

From the Philippine Star (Jun 26): Navy court martial convicts Marine colonel

The Navy court martial has convicted a Marine colonel who had criticized the government’s supposed failure to curb poverty and hunger in the country.

Navy spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Gregory Fabic said the tribunal has found former Marine Col. Generoso Mariano guilty of violating Article of War 63 or disrespect towards the president.

Mariano has been sentenced with dismissal from the service and a one-year imprisonment. The jail sentence, however, was deemed served as Mariano has been restricted to barracks since the video showing him making anti-government statements circulated.

Fabic said the verdict was handed down last week but has been transmitted to Navy chief Vice Adm. Jose Luis Alano.

“Whatever the decision or finding, it will be subject for the approval of the (Navy chief), the convening authority,” he said.

If the Navy leadership approve  the tribunal’s ruling, Mariano will not receive his retirement benefits.

Mariano was also accused of violating Articles of War 91 or provoking speeches and 96 or conduct unbecoming of an officer and gentleman but the military court cleared him of the charges.

Mariano’s video message circulated a few days before his compulsory retirement on July 7, 2011.

In the video dated July 3, Mariano said the government had failed to find ways to address the hunger and poverty being experienced by Filipinos.

“If the incumbent government has no intention or has failed to save the lives of the majority, it is the duty, it is the right of every Filipino including soldiers to replace the government,” Mariano said in the video.

Mariano said the public should not believe statistics showing that the country is achieving development.

Mariano, however, claimed that he never sought to overthrow the Aquino administration.

He said he was not referring to President Aquino when he called for change in his video message which circulated online.

Army condemns continued use of landmines by NPA

From  the Manila Channel (Jun 26): Army condemns continued use of landmines by NPA

The Army’s 8th Infantry Division based in Catbalogan City condemned anew the continued use of landmines by the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) armed wing – the New People’s Army (NPA).

The statement of condemnation came after the NPA staged an ambush to the government soldiers before dawn Tuesday (June 25) killing a Private First Class and wounding six other soldiers.

Captain Amado Gutierrez, spokesperson of the 8ID said the troops belong to the 20th Infantry battalion was en route to Barangay Lungib, Victoria Northern Samar to provide additional manpower to peace and development programs when the rebels opened fires.

The army captain said the rebels used a “detonated roadside landmines” followed by a voluminous fires. The military cannot determine if there was casualty in the enemy side during the 30-minute firefights.

The army troops later recovered an improvised explosive device (IED) and several empty shells of guns used in the clash scene.

In 2013 alone, last Tuesday’s attack was the third time the NPA used a landmine in attacking government soldiers in Eastern Visayas.

Previously, several soldiers, policemen and civilians were killed by the NPAs using landmines, the military said.

“It is unfortunate to note that while our troops are implementing peace and development initiatives to help the people in the interior villages, the NPAs continue perpetrating terroristic activities detrimental to our people,” Gutierrez said.

Captain Gutierrez called on to public and the members of the civil society to join this command in condemning the continued use of landmines by the NPA-CPP-NDF.

He said: “We call on all peace-loving people to add their voices to condemn this barbaric act of the NPAs. We also call among the members of the NPAs to return to the mainstream and avail the government offered programs and contribute to nation building.”

In March 2012, the 8ID discovered the biggest bomb factory of the NPA in the municipality of Paranas town. The troops seized forty-four (44) improvised landmines, blasting caps, detonators, wires and other production paraphernalia.

Meanwhile, Major General Gerardo T. Layug, commander of the 8ID urged the NPA to follow the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) as agreed between the government and the NPA-CPP-NDF.

The general said the use of landmines is a violation of the Republic Act 9851 (Crime against International Law) and paragraph 15, article II of CARHRIHL. CARHRIHL states that parties should affirm and apply the principles of international humanitarian law in order to protect the civilian population and individual civilians.

DND chief denies asking for donations, prizes

From the Philippine News Agency(Jun 26): DND chief denies asking for donations, prizes

Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Voltaire T. Gazmin on Wednesday vehemently denied reports that he is asking local government officials, particularly governors, for donations or prizes for sport competitions being held in the military.

"I am not in the habit of asking for donations," Gazmin said in Filipino.

He added that he has already ordered the tracing of the mobile phone numbers used in this scam.

"I think (owners of the cellphone numbers) are just using my name in a bid to gather more donations," Gazmin stressed.

The DND chief said that he learned of this scam when two governors, one from the North and the other from the South, personally called him and asked if he was indeed asking for appliances which will be reportedly given to the winners of a military sports fest.

BRP Ramon Alcaraz in PHL 1st week August

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 26): BRP Ramon Alcaraz in PHL 1st week August

BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PF-16), the country's second Hamilton-class cutter in service, is expected to arrive here first week of August as it is sailing smoothly per voyage plan.

On June 30 (American time), she will arrive in San Diego, California, its first port call.

"Everything is on schedule as per voyage plan. Target dates can be meet," Philippine Navy spokesperson Lt. Cmdr. Gregory Fabic said.

Shortly after that, the BRP Ramon Alcaraz will sail to Hawaii and Guam before proceeding to her voyage to the Philippines.

She is expected to be commissioned by September.

BRP Ramon Alcaraz successfully concluded her Panama Canal crossing last June 18 (American time).

With this achievement, the BRP Ramon Alcaraz becomes the first Filipino warship to cross the historic waterway under her own power.

"She passed by Panama Canal Tuesday evening," Fabic stated.

The Philippine frigate entered the Panama Canal Zone during the weekend or almost five days after her June 10 departure in Charleston, South Carolina.

The 82-kilometer Panama Canal connects the Atlantic Ocean (via the Caribbean Sea) to the Pacific Ocean.

It cuts across the Isthmus of Panama and is a key conduit for international maritime trade.

Prior her arrival at the Panama Canal Zone, the BRP Ramon Alcaraz made a brief stopover at Mayport, Florida to test fire her 76mm Oto Melara automatic cannon and speed trials and she attained the speed of 25 knots without any difficulty.

The ship's top speed is placed between 29 to 31 knots.

USS Fitzgerald docks at Subic Bay, to participate in CARAT 2013

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 26): USS Fitzgerald docks at Subic Bay, to participate in CARAT 2013

The US Embassy in Manila announced that the USS Fitzgerald (DDG-62), a guided-missile destroyer, will arrive in Subic Bay, Zambales on Thursday to participate in this year's "combined afloat readiness and training exercise" (CARAT 2013).

The ship’s visit and CARAT highlight the strong historic community and military relations between the Philippines and the US.

Through exercises near Subic Bay, the 19th CARAT is a series of bilateral naval exercises between the US Navy and the armed forces of Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Timor-Leste.

CARAT Philippines began in 1995, and has since occurred in several locations throughout the Philippines, including Cebu (2009), Subic Bay (2010), Puerto Princesa (2011) and most recently General Santos City in Mindanao (2012).

Training events in each CARAT phase are tailored based on available assets and mutual training goals across a broad range of naval capabilities.

CARAT Philippines 2013 will focus on maritime security operations, maritime domain awareness and information sharing.

The exercise will also feature extensive training in diving and salvage operations, jungle warfare and marksmanship, tactical combat casualty care, civil affairs, riverine and boarding team scenarios, sporting events, community service projects and public band concerts.

Japanese defense minister on 2-day PHL visit

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 26): Japanese defense minister on 2-day PHL visit

Japan's Minister of Defense Itsunori Onodera will be in the country for a two-day official visit starting this Thursday.

He will be received by Defense Secretary Voltaire T. Gazmin during his visit at Department of National Defense main office in Camp Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

He will arrive around 10:00 a.m.

Western Command activates Task Force 'Bronco'

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 26): Western Command activates Task Force 'Bronco'

Western Command head Lt. Gen. Rustico Guerrero on Wednesday ordered the activation of Joint Task Force "Bronco" which will oversee all search, rescue, and retrieval efforts for the two pilots and the downed OV-10 "Bronco" attack plane.

The unit will be headed by 570th Composite Tactical Wing commander Brig. Gen. Conrado Parra, Jr.,

Joint Task Force 'Bronco' will be composed of naval, air, and ground units of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in Palawan.

"(It) shall put in effect all necessary means to locate and retrieve the missing aircraft and pilots," Guerrero stressed.

Meanwhile, search-and-rescue operations are still ongoing amid heavy rains in the area since 10:00 a.m. Wednesday.

Gov’t troops pursue NPA rebels in Zamboanga del Sur

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 26): Gov’t troops pursue NPA rebels in Zamboanga del Sur

Government forces are scouring the hinterlands in pursuit of some 50 New People’s Army (NPA) rebels who detonated an improvised bomb that injured five soldiers Tuesday in this municipality, an official disclosed.

Army’s 1st Infantry Division spokesman Capt. Jefferson Somera said Wednesday the NPA rebels who are being pursued belong to the Western Mindanao Regional Party Committee (WMRPC).

Somera said the NPA rebels set off an improvised bomb fashioned out as landmine as they were about to be cornered by the troops at the height of a firefight Tuesday at Sitio Ludiaw, Barangay Dagum, this municipality.

Somera withheld the identities of the soldiers, who were slightly wounded, except that they belong to the Army’s 53rd Infantry Battalion led by Lt. Col. Victor Tangawohn.

Somera said the firefight broke out when the troops responded to the reported presence of the NPA rebels in Sitio Ludiaw, Barangay Dagum.

The NPA rebels were conducting house-to-house visitation that caused fear among the residents in the area, he said.

Phil. Army's 7ID strengthens its rescue and emergency preparedness program

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 26): Phil. Army's 7ID strengthens its rescue and emergency preparedness program

FORT RAMON MAGSAYSAY, Nueva Ecija -- Officers and enlisted personnel from post and field units of the Philippine Army's 7th Infantry Division (7ID) are presently undergoing a four-week Disaster Emergency Assistance and Rescue Training (DEART) to boost its rescue and emergency preparedness program in preparation for rainy season.

The training started on June 5 at the 7th Division Training School.

Major general Gregorio Pio P. Catapang Jr., head of the Kaugnay 7ID, said the training aims to enhance the soldiers' knowledge and skills on search and evacuation operations as well as to educate them on the proper coordination procedure with government/non-governmental agencies during calamity and disasters.

The 7ID's areas of operation, which cover Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, La Union and Pangasinan from Region 1 and Tarlac, Pampanga, Bataan, Zambales, Bulacan, Nueva Ecija and Aurora from Region 3, are considered as one of the most affected areas during rainy season in Luzon based on the geo-hazard map from the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB).

In 2011 and 2012, the areas in Pampanga, Tarlac, Bulacan, Bataan and Zambales were the most heavily hit by typhoons.

"Typhoons Falcon, Pedring, Quiel and the southwest monsoon or “Habagat” brought disastrous effects to those provinces wherein the residents were caught off guarded, " Catapang said.

He also said they will start coordinating with concerned agencies within 7ID area of responsibilities to gather used clothes, canned goods, rice, noodles, slippers and shoes, mineral water, foodstuffs and toiletries to address problems in evacuation areas.

He said disaster preparedness and mitigation are the most effective ways to prevent casualties and damage to properties during calamities.

"Thus, I am encouraging everyone to be prepared for this rainy season and to those people residing in flood prone areas and landslide prone areas, I encouraging them to have an evacuation plan in case of emergency. Let us work together to prevent casualties during rainy season,” he said.

Likewise, Catapang also asked local chief executives to build "typhoon proof" school buildings that can be converted to evacuation centers during disasters.

Police ordered to file cases vs NPAs in abducting soldiers in Davao City

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 26): Police ordered to file cases vs NPAs in abducting soldiers in Davao City
Regional police director Chief Supt. Jaime Morente has ordered Davao City police authorities to file the necessary criminal charges against the members of the New People’s Army (NPA) tagged in snatching and holding five government troops in Paquibato District, this city last June 17.

In a memorandum, city police director Sr. Supt. Ronald dela Rosa in turn, directed the station commander of Paquibato Police Station to coordinate with the Philippine Army in preparing charges against the rebels.

Five soldiers identified as Corporal Emmanuel Quezon, Privates First Class (PFC) Vernie Padilla, Marteniano Pasigas, Ronald Gura and Donato Estandian, all of Army’s 60th Infantry Battalion are presently in the hands of the NPAs after they were snatched in a checkpoint mounted by the rebels.

Military deputy spokesperson Captain Raul Villegas, of 10th ID, earlier condemned the act of the NPAs.

Villegas said the government troops, who were in civilian attire and without firearms, were on their way to the market to purchase supplies when they were snatched by the rebels.

“It is very unfortunate that the NPA bandits took advantage of the situation to achieve their barbarity,” Villegas quoted as saying.

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesperson Brigadier General Domingo Tutaan Jr. also lambasted the NPAs saying “we strongly condemn this act of abducting soldiers who are not in combat mission. The troops were in civilian attire and without any firearms when they went to the market for peace and development mission with an NGO that would benefit the community.”

But two days after, the NPAs through Leoncio Pitao alias Kumander Parago came up with a statement confirming that the five soldiers are in their hands and being held as prisoners of war (POWs).

Parago claimed that their act in snatching the soldiers are “meant to punish the AFP units, particularly the Civil Military Operations (CMO)-10th ID under Maj. Jake Obligado for continuing to encroach, settle and conduct psychological warfare and intelligence operations in all villages of Paquibato District.”

Parago also warned that the military efforts to rescue the captured soldiers would endanger the lives of the POWs.

Grenade lobbed at DENR office in Agusan del Sur

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 26): Grenade lobbed at DENR office in Agusan del Sur

Unidentified suspect or suspects lobbed a hand grenade at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) office of Bayugan City, Agusan del Sur, Tuesday night.

Agusan del Sur Acting Police Director Alexander J. Sampaga reported to the regional police headquarters here that the suspect or suspects lobbed the grenade at the City DENR office located at Purok 8, Brgy. Maygatasan, Bayugan City, Agusan del Sur 11:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Nobody was reported to be hurt at the blast and the damage was minimal, estimated at P10,000.00.

Responding policemen from Bayugan City Police Station led by its chief PSupt. Gerry Ratunil and a team from Agusan del Sur Police Provincial Office SOCO led by PCIsnp. Florence M. Andit who conducted investigation of the crime scene recovered some grenade shrapnel and a safety lever.

Bayugan City police is conducting a follow up operation and investigation on the incident.

The DENR is intensifying its campaign against illegal logging and Agusan del Sur is among the provinces in the region where most of the logs or lumber confiscations were made.

2 men toss hand grenade at Bukidnon radio station, 1 hurt

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 26): 2 men toss hand grenade at Bukidnon radio station, 1 hurt

Unidentified men tossed a hand grenade at a local radio station in Bukidnon Wednesday morning that left a janitor hurt, police said.

Supt. Orlando Biñas, Bukidnon police provincial director, has ordered a manhunt against the suspects who tossed the explosive at DXGT Radyo Abante 92.1 FM in Poblacion Maramag, Bukidnon.

The victim, Celso Caniamo, sustained minor shrapnel injuries.

Police said Caniamo was cleaning the station premises when the fragmentation grenade exploded at about 8:00 a.m. while the station was airing a recorded block time program of block timer Joan Dignos.

DXGT-FM Radyo Abante is an FM music station but airs news and current affairs program.

Cocoy Medina, one of the station staff announcers, said nobody was in the station except Caniamo, a student employee and serves as the radio station's janitor.

Supt. Biñas quickly ordered the Maramag police and nearby police stations to help track down the suspects, who according to witnesses, were wearing crash helmets and denim jackets.

According to Gordon Torres, Bukidnon provincial board member-elect and owner of the station, the grenade attack could be related to the issues being discussed in the block time program of Joan Dignos, an independent block timer and not organic employee of DXGT. He did not elaborate.

Gordon who is also the station manager was not around when the grenade attack took place.

Police said the station was located at the second floor of Muscoso building fronting the town's public market and several people have witness the grenade throwing incident but could not recognize the suspects as their faces were covered.

According to Medina, the station's equipment and other facilities were not damaged and that the station continued its broadcast while members of the Scene of the Crime Operatives of the Maramag Philippine National Police (PNP) were conducting investigation.

Maramag is a first class municipality in the province of Bukidnon, Philippines. According to the 2010 census, it has a population of 90,901 people in 29,267 households based on 2010 census.

Socom strengthening home defense, says Gazmin

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 26): Socom strengthening home defense, says Gazmin

FORT MAGSAYSAY, Palayan City, Nueva Ecija -- Specially-trained forces under the Special Operations Command (Socom) continue to empower the nation’s home defense by training reservists, the country’s Defense chief said here on Tuesday.

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, who graced the celebration of the Socom’s 51st anniversary here, said that special forces (SF) who are heavily trained in unconventional warfare are tasked to conduct militia training for paramilitary units.

“Right now, the training of the special forces is toward the training of militia,” Gazmin said in an interview.

This developed as a team is set to fly for the United States to post-qualify arms that the government will purchase for the special forces.

Gazmin said the arms, include M-4, the new version of the M-16 Armalite version, which American soldiers showcased during the recent RP-US Balikatan exercises here.

The government, he said, is also set to purchase new force protection gadgets such as helmet and armor vests.

“That will be studied,” Gazmin said when asked if special forces, being heavily trained, can be detailed off Palawan and West Philippine coast.

But Gazmin admitted that beside militia trainings, special forces are also being utilized in running after criminal elements in Mindanao.

“They are being used (against) kidnappers in Sulu bit like old soldiers, we never talk of our missions and accomplishments,” he said.

Asked if the SF’s war disciplined can be used to deter foreign aggression, Gazmin said, "definitely, definitely."

But for now, he said, SF is geared toward home defense.

Additional OV-10 debris recovered, but fate of two pilots still unknown

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 26): Additional OV-10 debris recovered, but fate of two pilots still unknown

The Armed Forces of the Philippines' Western Command on Wednesday announced that additional debris from the downed OV-10 "Bronco" attack aircraft has been recovered.

1st Lt. Cheryl Tindog, Western Command spokesperson, said the wreckage were recovered by search teams and immediately turned over to the 570th Composite Tactical Wing for proper identification.

"The debris has been turned over to the 570th Composite Tactical Wing for identification procedure. This will determine whether the wreckage is part of our aircraft," she added.

Tindog stated that search-and-rescue operation procedures are still ongoing for the two missing pilots.

The two missing pilots were earlier identified as Major Jonathan A. Ybanez and 1st Lt Abner Trust Nacion.

"The fate of the two pilots, Major Jonathan A. Ybanez and 1st Lt. Abner Trust Nacion still remain unknown as of the moment and are listed as missing. The search will continue until the wreckage are found and the fate of the two officers known," Philippine Air Force (PAF) spokesperson Col. Miguel Ernesto Okol said.

He added that the PAF has contracted the use of sonar equipment from a Cebu-based firm to aid and complement other equipment used in the search.

"The efforts (to locate the two pilots and OV-10 airframe) have been supported by the Western Command based in Palawan with Philippine Navy and Coast Guard elements conducting the search even at night," the PAF spokesperson stressed.

The downed plane, with tail number 630, belongs to the 570th Composite Tactical Wing which is based in Puerto Princesa, Palawan.

The aircraft and another one with tail number 139 took off around 6:37 p.m. Sunday for a night flying proficiency.

However, only the aircraft with tail number 139 safely landed back after 53 minutes.

The missing OV-10 "Bronco" ( tail number 630) lost contact with the Palawan tower around 7:30 p.m. and failed to return.

Malaysians intercepted calls between Kiram brod, nephew

From GMA News (Jun 26): Malaysians intercepted calls between Kiram brod, nephew

Malaysian police intercepted phone conversations of personalities related to the standoff in Sabah earlier this year—including those of two relatives of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III, a Malaysian court was told on Tuesday.
A Kuala Lumpur-based Special Branch administrative assistant testified about the intercepted calls which she was tasked to listen and translate, Malaysia’s The Star Online reported.
The administrative assistant was testifying at the trial of Detective Kpl Hassan Ali Basari, who was charged for withholding information relating to terrorist acts.
During Tuesday’s hearing, the Kota Kinabalu High Court heard that the personalities whose calls were intercepted included those of Datu Amir Bahar and Raja Muda.
Amir Bahar is reportedly a nephew of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III while Raja Muda Agbimuddin Kiram is the sultan’s brother. Agbimuddin led Kiram’s followers to Sabah.
Kiram’s followers had engaged Malaysian forces in a three-week standoff that ended in deadly clashes on March 1 and 2. The deadly clashes led Malaysia to mount offensives against Kiram’s followers.
The report said Malaysian police had been intercepting the phone calls of Hassan after a group of people wearing camouflage uniforms were spotted at Kampung Tanduo, a remote coastal village in Lahad Datu, last February.
When questioned by deputy public prosecutor Datuk Nordin Hassan, the administrative assistant said she had listened to calls between Datu Amir Bahar and Raja Muda.
"Asked by Nordin to read out the transcript of the recording dated Feb. 25, the administrative assistant said Datu Amir Bahar said he came to know from Hassan who was a policeman that the authorities will go in at midnight. Raja Muda took note and said they were prepared," the Star Online report said.
In another conversation between Hassan and a male, the administrative assistant said Hassan asked the male if all those who had entered were Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) soldiers.
The male caller supposedly responded they were mixed, including soldiers of the sultan.
Large boat
Meanwhile, Felda auxiliary policeman Lans Korp Mohd Ali Asmali told the court he and fellow auxiliary policeman Sharizan Shadek had gone fishing off Tanduo on Feb. 11.
He said that at about 2 a.m. of Feb. 12, they heard the engine of a large boat locally known as a 'jongkong.' He said the vessel came in from the open sea and after while headed back in the same direction.
Mohd Ali said they continued fishing until about 6:30 a.m. As they headed back to shore, they saw about 100 people wearing camouflage uniforms near the Tanduo beach.
Some of the men wore red headbands while others wore white songkok with red armbands, he said.
Mohd Ali said they landed their boat some 50 meters from the village and rushed home before going to the police station near the Cenderawasih township at the Felda area.
He said he and Sharizan had to wait until about 4 p.m. before they could lodge their police report.
Important phone calls
Meanwhile, Senior Assistant Commissioner Zulkifli Abd Aziz said Hassan had not raised any warnings about any terrorism acts by the Kiram followers.
Zulkifli now heads the Eastern Sabah Security Command (ESSCOM) intelligence unit.
He also said he met Agbimuddin thrice, but Agbimuddin supposedly rejected his advice to leave Sabah.
Zulkifli recalled Azzimudie telling him that he would only retreat from Sabah if ordered by Sultan Kiram.
He also recalled telling Azzimudie at their meeting on Feb. 16 that “bloodshed could occur" if they refused to leave Sabah.
After that meeting, Zulkifli said he had proposed to Sabah police to drop leaflets urging the Kiram followers to surrender.
The leaflets would have also served as safe passage for the Kiram followers so long as they lay down their arms and turn themselves in to Malaysian security forces, he added.
Witness: Cops tipped off about Kiram followers' planned entry to Sabah in January
Sabah police were tipped off as early as January 2013 about the plan of followers of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III to sneak into Lahad Datu, a witness told a court handling the case on Monday.
The witness, a fish vendor, said he told Kpl. Hassan Ali Basari, 55, about a "possible intrusion" after hearing 1,500 Kiram followers were planning to claim their ancestral land, according to a report on Malaysia's The Star Online.
"I told him that they were four tempel (boats) that will enter Lahad Datu," the Star Online's report quoted the witness as saying.
Hassan is among 31 people charged in court for various offenses related to the Sabah incident.
The report said the witness overheard a group of people wearing orange-striped "Royal Sulu Force" overalls speaking about the plans when he was selling fish at Bongao.
He said he told Hassan not to take the information lightly, and to inform his senior officers about the supposed plan.
Kiram's followers engaged Malaysian forces in a three-week standoff last February. The standoff ended in March 1 and 2 with deadly clashes.
In turn, the clashes prompted Malaysian forces to stage offensive operations to flush out Kiram's followers.
Kpl Hassan
The witness told the court that when he returned to Lahad Datu from Bongao, he looked for special branch officers Insp. Yusri or Syazwan but both were not available.
He then met with Hassan at an ice cream shop in Lahad Datu to relay his finding.
Not guilty 
Hassan, a special branch police detective, pleaded not guilty to an amended charge of withholding information on terrorist activities before the Kota Kinabalu court.
High Court Judge Ravintharan Paramaguru is handling the case.
If found guilty, Hassan may be jailed for seven years, or fined, or be slapped both penalties.
But prosecutors said they will show evidence the accused had a good relationship with the Sulu sultanate and had been in contact with Datu Agbimuddin Kiram, the leader of the Royal Sulu force.
Police maintained high security during the hearing, conducting body scans on people entering the court premises and also before entering the courtroom.

MILF: MILF tasks men in Sulu to secure release of abducted Moro-Algerian sisters

From the MILF Website (Jun 26): MILF tasks men in Sulu to secure release of abducted Moro-Algerian sisters

The leadership of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has asked its political and military organs in the island province of Sulu to do whatever is necessary to secure the early release of Nadjova and Linda Abdelbasit, both of Maguindanao-Algerian origins, who were kidnapped by suspected 10-heavily armed Abu Sayyaf in village Liang, Patikul last Saturday, June 22.
However, Luwaran did not get details on how the instruction of the MILF leadership is to be carried out and where it came from the different levels of the Front.

The two sisters were shooting for an indie film about the Sultanate of Sulu when the abduction took place. Reports identified two of the kidnappers as Aljini Mundo alias Ninok Sapari and Bensaudi Mundoc, who are linked to “Lucky 9” group of the Abu Sayyaf.

An indie film is an independently produced film with a minimal shooting budget. The producers often must procure all of the financing, which means investing in the film themselves or finding outside backers. The director usually agrees to waive his or her usual union-mandated fee or offers to work for a percentage of the film's profits, if there are any. Similarly, the writers, production staff and actors involved all agree to work for minimal union scale wages or other compensation.

The victims were on board a passenger jeep enroute to Jolo after they came from Tambang village in Patikul. However upon reaching in the village of Liang in Patikul the Abu Sayyaf forcibly took them towards the forested part of the town.

The victims’ father was Ustadz Abdulbasset Bansil, now deceased, of Sultan Sa Barongis in Maguindanao, while the mother is an Algerian woman, whom the former married while he was studying in one of the universities in Egypt in the 60s and 70s. He was a former classmate of MNLF foreign affairs chair, Ustadz Abdulbaqui Abubakar, a close associate of MNLF chieftain Nur Misuari, and the late MILF Chairman Salamat Hashim.

Bansil, who also spoke English and French, was a member of the Shariah Bar in the Philippines. He was a highly travelled man, but remained not rich during his lifetime. The family has a meagre income to this day.

MILF: IMT-HRDC sponsors forum on effective collection of data in Lanao areas

From the MILF Website (Jun 26): IMT-HRDC sponsors forum on effective collection of data in Lanao areas


The unwavering support and feasible participation of the International Community in pursuit of doable Peace and sustainable development in Mindanao Region was once again manifested through  their  involvement in humanitarian services and holding of activities like forum, others.
Last June 18, 2013 a forum was sponsored and conducted by the International Monitoring Team (IMT) - Humanitarian Reconstruction and Development Component (HRDC). The Forum was held at the Elena Tower Hotel, Iligan City 8:00am to 12Noon.

Dr. Rena Korber, HRDC Coordinator of the International Monitoring Team (IMT) based in Cotabato city was the forum speaker and the program was facilitated by two academicians, Prof. Norma Gomez and Ester Sevilla, former university data collection experts at the prestigious Notre Dame University of Cotabato.
The objective of the half- day forum was to supplement collected data by the concerned IMT Staff based on the Term of Reference (TOR) in determining essential social services; and assess the existing infrastructure projects as well as the needs of the internal displaced persons (IDP’s) and the condition of the poverty – stricken areas in some municipalities seriously affected by the armed conflict in the Region. This issue forms part of the agenda during the focus group discussion (FGD) during the duration of the program attended by LGU personnel.
Dr, Rena Korber’s substantial presentation on social services and active participation of the attendees provided for a clear knowledge on existing problems they are confronting in their respective Areas.
The participants came from local government units in Lanao del Norte represented by their respective municipal engineers and from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) from different municipalities of the province. 

This writer, a Steering Committee member of the Bangsamoro Leadership and Management Institute (BLMI) and Research Officer along with other representatives from the Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) were invited as guests and as well as participants too.

The forum had provided the participants with vivid pictures of the conflict affected areas (CAA) in the communities within the province. The intensity of the damages on infrastructure and the plight of the internally displaced persons (IDP’s) brought about by the armed conflict could have been avoided had the centuries-old aspiration of the Moro people had been answered by the people in power.

On June 19, the same powerhouse of the IMT – HRDC proceeded to Marawi city, and conducted similar forum. The program was held at the Mamitua  Saber Bldg. inside the MSU Campus - Marawi. Similar guests from BLMI, BDA and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) were also present and, in the course of the interactions have concluded that a lot of endeavors have to be undertaken to remedy the nagging problems confronted by the LGU’s

This time, the participants were from the Local Government Unit (LGU) of Lanao Del Sur. The attendees were mostly from the different Municipal Engineers Offices and personnel from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD)

Dr. Korbel presented the same topic for focus group discussion. Likewise, the participants presented their consolidated outputs by group. All issues were based on inputs provided for by the participants themselves in order to take a broader look of the problems and exploring solutions on it.  After lengthy presentations and discussions, Dr. Korbel meticulously examined the outputs of the participants and found out some missing important element. She identified it as “Software” Dr. Korber categorically signified that people empowerment and active participation in nation building are very important, and this was the “software” she was referring to.

The collected data and information would be of great help for both the LGU and the entities involved for their program and shall also serve as reference for the implementing agencies to assess and evaluate the outputs of their programs and services they are providing to their constituents.

Dr. Korber thanked the participants for their cooperation and response to the invitation. The participants also expressed their gratitude to Dr. Korber, the HRDC-IMT and to the organizers for their assistance and support extended to the LGU’s and the GPH – MILF Peace Process.

Army aids land reform drive

From the Visayan Daily Star (Jun 26): Army aids land reform drive

The Army's 11th Infantry Battalion is dealing with the agrarian reform issues being used by the New People's Army in recruiting new members, through the convergence of various stakeholders, especially the Department of Agrarian Reform, that helped in facilitating the awarding of Certificate of Land Ownership Awards to 2,000 beneficiaries in central Negros.

Its commander, Lt. Col. Wilfredo Isaac, also said yesterday that through the efforts of the Army's Peace and Development Teams deployed and immersed with the populace in different barangays, the perceived gap between farmers and other stakeholders, that include the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and Land Bank of the Philippines, and DAR, led to the realization of CARP beneficiaries of finally owning a land, Isaac said.

Moises Padilla Mayor Francisco Nazareno and Isabela Vice-Mayor Omar Gayares praised the 11 th Infantry Battalion for their effort in facilitating the recent. release of CLOAs to intended beneficiaries in their respective towns.

“These people waited for many years for the land they cultivate to be given to them (through CLOA),” Nazareno, the outgoing Moises Padilla mayor, said, in a press statement issued by the 11IB.

In a recent multi-sectoral agrarian reform awareness symposium attended also by representatives of DAR,DENR, LBP and the Department of Interior and Local Government in Isabela, Gayares noted the efforts of Army soldiers in promoting social justice and equality.

1Lt. Danilo Mutoc, 11IB Civil Military Operations officer, said their unit also facilitated the awarding of certificates of stewardship to 712 farmers, application of certificate of ancestral domain title to 201 farmers, release of emancipation patent to 288 farmers, petition for inclusion and exclusion to 180 CLOA holders and legalizing crop sharing to 132 farmers in Moises Padilla and Isabela in Negros Occidental, Guihulngan City and Vallehermoso in Negros Oriental.

If the root causes of insurgency, such as land reform and poverty, are addressed effectively and efficiently, peace and security can easily be achieved, Isaac said.*

MILF to help in release of kidnapped filmmakers

From Rappler (Jun 26): MILF to help in release of kidnapped filmmakers

Four days after the abduction of two Moro sisters and filmmakers in Sulu, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) said it will help their family and the government secure their safe and speedy release.

Armed men took Linda and Nadjoua Bansil away last Saturday, June 22, in Liang, Patikul while doing a film on coffee growers in Mindanao.

Von Al-Haq, spokesman of the MILF’s Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces, said the Moro rebel group is already looking into possible ways to ensure the reunion of the victims with their families.

“Our position is to look into means on how we can help on the immediate release of the victims,” Al-Haq said.

The Moro rebel spokesman explained that their first step is to establish stable communication with the kidnappers.

“So far we have not yet contacted them. One of our first steps is to look for means on how to contact the holder of the victims,” Al-Haq said.

The leadership of the MILF has already instructed its political and military organs in Sulu to help bring the Bansil sisters back to their family.

BRONCO CRASH UPDATE | Pilots could be trapped in downed plane's fuselage - Westcom chief

From InterAksyon (Jun 26): BRONCO CRASH UPDATE | Pilots could be trapped in downed plane's fuselage - Westcom chief


The two Philippine Air Force pilots missing since the OV-10 Bronco aircraft they were flying crashed off Palawan Sunday night may not have been able to eject and could still be inside the downed plane's fuselage, the chief of the military's Western Command said Wednesday afternoon.

“That’s a possibility. They could be inside the fuselage,” Commodore Joseph Rustom Pena said of Major Jonathan A. Ybanez and 1st Lieutenant Abner Trust Nacionin, in a phone interview just hours after a private contractor hired by the Air Force to conduct a sonar search of the area where the plane went down "detected" something on the seabed.

Pena said the Cebu-based M/Y Sakura, which conducted the sonar search, has still to give an official report of what its crew detected earlier in the day.

Earlier, Commander Carlo Lagasaca, skipper of the Navy’s BRP Mangyan (AS71), which has been leading the search for the downed plane and its crew, said the Sakura "has already requested a buoy and divers, meaning they detected something big under the sea.”

Pena said the Navy and Coast Guard continue to scour an area three nautical miles by 10 nautical miles.

Ito ang mahirap, kasi (This is the difficulty, because) we cannot pinpoint the specific crash site. So all we have to do is to scour that far,” Pena said.

Pena reiterated earlier statements by military spokesmen that the two pilots are likely dead.

“While we’re waiting the official assessment from the Western Command, we will continue searching for the two pilots and fuselage. Well, the standard 48 (hours') critical time for any survivor had lapsed. It’s been three nights, you know,” Pena said.
The downed OV-10, one of two codnucting a "night proficiency flight" on Sunday, went down some five nautical miles off Puerto Princese City as it was making its landing approach.

The Air Force has grounded all its OV-10s since the incident.

USS Guardian report raises more questions than answers on Tubbataha grounding

From InterAksyon (Jun 26): ANALYSIS | USS Guardian report raises more questions than answers on Tubbataha grounding

The author is a retired Philippine Navy commodore and currently head of RCR Consultancy, a security risk management outfit.

Last week, the US Navy released the result of its investigation on the January 17, 2013 grounding of USS Guardian in Tubbataha Reef in the Sulu Sea, pinning the blame on "lack of leadership" while praising the "heroic efforts of the crew to save their ship."

One reason why the report seems superficial and incomplete is that it failed to attach true copies of essential navigational documents.

As a rule, whenever a Navy ship leaves port for any destination, the path or course it is to take to reach its destination is set down beforehand on a maritime map, commonly referred to as a chart. This is required for those navigating over water and all Navy vessels, except small boats on short trips along a coastline or a river, must perform this basic task.

The charted course is an official record of a ship's movement and, together with the Quartermaster's logbook that records the actual position, heading and speed of the ship at any time, will form an important part of any investigation involving that ship and its crew.

The course a voyage will take is reviewed and approved by the ship’s captain before it is implemented.  Any subsequent radical deviation from the charted course will, likewise, have to be approved by him. The record of the ship’s planned movement together with the actual path to its destination is also recorded electronically, which is convenient and easy to retrieve.

When our government failed to assert its sovereign right to conduct an independent investigation of the incident, we effectively barred ourselves from gaining access to certain necessary records surrounding the incident. These records would have thrown light on many questions that the report seems to have glossed over.

According to the report, the admitted destination of the ship was Timor-Leste. There was no mention of any stopover along the way, much less any intention to enter, with permission, the highly restricted and internationally protected waters of Tubbataha.

Indeed, from a navigator's point of view, in order for the grounding to take place, the Guardian would have to stray way beyond the usual course followed by ocean-going vessels traversing the area.

How would an "error," attributed by the report to faulty digital maps, lead the Guardian deep into restricted waters of the Sulu Sea?  Apparently, this will have to remain a mystery since the Philippine government has already inhibited itself from investigating the incident.

The unanswered questions go beyond what the report covers, which seems to confine itself only to questions of adequate leadership, navigational skill and accuracy of digital nautical charts (DnC).

Okay then, let's just ask a couple of questions that are among several that obviously need to be asked: Was it part of the mission of the Guardian to transit through restricted waters? If so, what clearance did it possess, and at what level was it granted?

The reference to "heroic efforts of the crew to save the ship" merely underlines the studious avoidance by the report from discussing the critical questions involved.

Finally, it would seem specious, at the very least, for the report to mention faulty digital maps at all. Navigational errors arising from the use of digital charts, which are based on multi-satellite projections, could not be in the order of "error" committed by the Guardian, which found itself scores of miles off course.  In language surely clear to every maritime navigator, one could expect an error of "seconds to a degree," which translates to only several hundred feet, at the most.

But the all these hanging questions will remain in the air due to our own fault. In our dealings with China, with Malaysia, and more recently with Taiwan, we have adopted a posture that many would consider timorous and tentative, but which our leaders apparently regard as subtle, sophisticated and effective.

CPP/NPA: NPA- Agusan del Sur Hits AFP Twice

Posted to  the CPP Website (Jun 26): NPA- Agusan del Sur Hits AFP Twice

Omar Ibarra
Western Agusan Norte-Agusan Sur Sub-Regional Command (Western Agusan Norte-Agusan Sur Sub-Regional Command)

Two successive harassments from the New People’s Army- Agusan del Sur under the Western Agusan Sur – Agusan Norte Sub-Regional Command (North Central Mindanao Region) hit the reactionary soldiers twice this week. Two soldiers died and another two were wounded from these attacks.

On June 22, 2013, at around 4 o’clock in the afternoon, a platoon from the 26th Infantry Battalion suffered harassment in Sitio Agungon, Brgy. Maliwanag, Esperanza, Agusan del Sur. A Cpl. Albasar Ahalil and a Pfc. Rolly Julia died during the firefight while one of their soldiers was hurt.

This action happened while this platoon was resting in a hut. This was their unit undergoing a hot pursuit operation after the NPA successfully raided the compound of Shannalyne Plantation Company and a rubber plantation in Sitio Kamarangan, Brgy. Hawilian, Esperanza, Agusan del Sur which was owned by Esperanza town Mayor Manpatilan last Hunyo 18, 2013.

On the other hand, another NPA team harassed the 26th IB–CAA detachment in Km. 11, Brgy. Policarpo, San Luis, Agusan del Sur yesterday, Hunyo 24, at around 8:00 in the morning. Wounded from the scene was a CAFGU nicknamed “Berdo”.

In this two events, the operating unit of NPA immediately withdrew without any casualty whatsoever.

Due to the dedication of the Red fighters and the wide mass base support, the revolutionary movement has exacted paralyzing military actions to these reactionaries. The NPA’s momentum will remain or rev up further in launching such assaults to these paid troops which are serving as defenders of foreign and local ruling classes.