Saturday, June 29, 2013

Malaysian, PH armies training together

From the Manila Bulletin (Jun 30): Malaysian, PH armies training together

A major general and three senior officers in the Malaysian army had just concluded four days of activities with their Philippine counterparts through the Malaysian-Philippines Senior Officer Exchange Visit Program (MALPHI-SOEVP) held, here.

Maj. Gen. Datuk Mohd Zaki Bin Haji Mokhtar and three other Senior Officers participated in the bilateral engagement marked by trainings and knowledge exchange in matters relative to military missions and management.

The bilateral military activities happened last June 25-28, kicking off with military honors for the visiting Malaysian general rendered by personnel of the 7th Infantry (KAUGNAY) Division, under the command of Maj. Gen. Gregorio Pio P. Catapang, Jr.

The visit of the Tentara Darat/Malaysian Army to the 7ID and Special Operations Command (SOCOM), here, was in line with the MALPHI-SOEVP, and army-to-army activity conducted twice a year and hosted alternately by the Philippine Army and Malaysian Army.

The visit of the General Officer Commanding the 1st Malaysian Infantry Division said the activities aim to provide both armies an opportunity to learn and exchange knowledge.,_PH_armies_training_together#.Uc9HRY7D9jo

Ambushed police trainees mostly women

From the Manila Bulletin (Jun 29): Ambushed police trainees mostly women

Communist rebels were aiming for a big hit during an ambush in Mt. Province on Friday, targeting a large group of police trainees who later turned out to be mostly women.

Supt. Davy Vicente Limmong, spokesman of the Cordillera regional police, said follow-up investigation revealed that the attacking communist rebels camped in the ambush site during the previous night prior to the attack that left one police trainee dead and nine others wounded.

"Initial investigation at the ambush site showed that the NPA (New People's Army) have been in the area prior to the ambush based on the recovered items such as assorted food, two pieces super kalan and disturbances in the area where they hide which is approximately 50 meters above the road," said Limmong, quoting initial results of the probe.

Other recovered items were materials for improvised explosive devices such as assorted dry and wet cell batteries, suspected emulite (commercial explosive), a meter of detonating cord and a plastic pipe fragment.

Limmong said initial investigation also revealed that the rebels used IEDs before they shot the group of police trainees using a grenade launcher and high-powered rifles.

The attack left PO1 Denver Balabag dead and nine others injured, one of them is an officer.

They were identified as Insp.  Mellinium Bantas and PO1s Alexander Dulnuan, Junete Ngalawen,  Jasmine  Salve, Jefferson Sari, Edison Waguis, Mitchell Malubon, Pawas Daketan, Robin Benito.

"The method used by the NPA shows that they don’t select their target. Even unarmed personnel can be a target," said Limmong.

"Seventy out of the 95 trainees are female who all came from ordinary families and most, if not all, are sole bread winner in their respective family," he added.

Limmong said the first volley of explosions and gunfire sent some of the victims injured. He said almost all of those present were rendered helpless as they were not armed.

Only a handful of police escorts were armed and were the ones who engaged and protected the ambushed cops.

The trainees, it was recalled, were having their morning jog when they were ambushed.
All of them are already policemen undergoing further training for a course required to become members of the elite Regional Public Safety Battalion.

The attackers are reported rebels under Leonardo Pacsi Command.

The Mt. Province attack was one of the series of attacks by the rebels against government troops, the most recent was the attack on a group of the police's Special Action Force in Cagayan that left more than 10 policemen dead.

Wealth-sharing tops peace talks agenda

From the Manila Standard Today (Jun 30): Wealth-sharing tops peace talks agenda

Peace talks between the Philippine government and Muslim rebels will resume on July 8 in Kuala Lumpur with the contentious issue of wealth-sharing as the main focus of discussion, an insurgent leader said Friday.

The talks will be held even though they coincide with the Muslim month of Ramadan which may require fasting by Muslim participants, said Ghadzali Jaafar, vice-chairman of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

“Because it is so important, both parties decided to hold the talks even on Ramadan,” he told AFP. Ramadan starts of July 9 and the talks will likely last for five days, he added.

Government negotiators could not be contacted for comment. However earlier this month, members of the government peace panel said they hoped to resume talks with the MILF in early July.

The government hopes to kickstart negotiations for a peace settlement that looked to have stalled in recent months.

The negotiations, which began in 1997, aim to create an autonomous region for the Muslim minority in Mindanao, the southern third of the mainly Catholic nation of 100 million.

The two sides signed a preliminary agreement in October outlining the broad terms for a peace treaty that would be signed by 2016, before President Benigno Aquino leaves office.

However, both sides have since acknowledged difficulties in thrashing out the details of key issues like wealth- and power-sharing within the proposed autonomous region, as well as disarming and demobilising the MILF.

The 12,000-member MILF has waged a guerrilla war for a separate Islamic state in the southern Philippines since the 1970s that has claimed an estimated 150,000 lives.

The group has since agreed to a ceasefire to negotiate for autonomy instead. Although sporadic clashes have since taken place, the truce has largely held.

Malaysia has hosted the on-again, off-again peace talks between the MILF and the Philippine government since 2001. It has also deployed troops to head an international peace mission monitoring a truce between the opposing sides.

US warship goes on ‘PATROL’ mode

From the Manila Standard Today (Jun 30): US warship goes on ‘PATROL’ mode

The United States has deployed a warship to patrol its area of responsibility in the Asia-Pacific region, according to  an article posted on the 7th Fleet website.

“The forward-deployed amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard  completed embarkation of Marines from the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) in support of joint force operations in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility, ” the website said in  its June 25 post.

USS Bonhomme Richard was loaded with “more than 100 vehicles and 300 pieces of equipment  after weeks of  preparations before it  left Sasebo, Japan, it said.

The warship deployed after American forces and Philippine troops began their annual military exercises in an area near the Scarborough Shoal, which China insists it owns.

The US presence in the Asia Pacific is very important, according to Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera, speaking to reporters after a meeting with his Philippine counterpart Votaire Gazmin.

“The US presence is very important. We talked about rebalance strategy of United States but we did not talk about any in the future specific equipment of the US forces,” he said.

The two officials  discussed the possibility of a joint hosting of aerial exercises with the US MV-22 Osprey aircraft.

Gazmin said the government can possibly forge an agreement based on the Visiting Forces Agreement  to give greater access to military base and facilities of visiting American and Japanese forces.

USS Bonhomme Richard was loaded with   equipment and troops as well as logistics.

“This patrol will also feature MV-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft, assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 265, embarked as part of the ACE for its first forward-deployed patrol with Bonhomme Richard,” the article said.

The former USS Guardian minesweeper that met its demise  on Tubbataha Reef in Sulu Sea, Palawan belonged to the naval fleet.

‘We are not buying guns but peace’

From the Manila Times (Jun 29): ‘We are not buying guns but peace’

CABARROGUIS, Quirino: In a move to encourage members of the communist armed rebel group to return to the mainstream, two regional councils are pushing for higher incentives to rebel returnees under the Gun for Peace and Social Integration Program of the government.

In a joint resolution, the Regional Peace and Order Council (RPOC) and the Regional Development Council (RDC) are seeking to increase the remuneration of surrendered high caliber firearms from P50,000 to P200,000.

The resolution said this will “motivate rebels to return to mainstream society.”

RPOC Chair and Quirino Gov. Junie E. Cua said the resolution will be submitted to the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, the Philippine Army (PA) and the Secretary of National Defense.

Army facilitates summit of IPs

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 28): Army facilitates summit of IPs

Forty–seven leaders of the Indigenous People (IP) from the various towns of Capiz and Iloilo attended the IP summit last June 25 to 26 at the Philippine Army’s 3rd Infantry Division at Camp Macario Perlata in Jamindan town.

The participants locally called “managhusay” or arbiter came from the municipalities of Lambunao as well as Calinog in Iloilo and Dumarao, Tapaz and Jamindan towns in Capiz.

3ID Public Affairs Office head Maj. Ray Tiongson said that the initiative of the soldiers is part of the continuous efforts to further improve the IPs welfare as stipulated in the Indigenous People’s Rights Act (IPRA Law).

The two-day activity was led by the 301st Brigade of the Philippine Army in coordination with the National Commission on Indigenous People and Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP).

In his message, 301st Brigade commander Col. Arnold Quiapo said that the IPs are their partners in promoting peace and development.

“You are very much welcome here at Camp Peralta that’s why we conducted this summit here. Your Army here in Panay together with the NCIP and other stakeholders will always be in partnership to serve you as our clients,” he added.

The salient features of IPRA Law was among the topics discussed during the summit that include resource persons from NCIP and OPAPP, among others.

Last year, a lecture on IPs culture and tradition for the platoon and squad leaders of the 61st IB’s Bayanihan Teams was facilitated by the 301st IB at Camp Carreon in Calinog, Iloilo.

Bayanihan teams are 61IB's primary units tasked to look into the concerns of the IPs of Panay, particularly in the municipalities of Tapaz and Jamindan in Capiz and Calinog town in Iloilo.

The Department of National Defense and the NCIP have signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) for the conduct of survey of public lands in and out of the military reservation areas particularly at the 3ID camp.

Special Forces Regiment celebrated its 51st anniversary

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jun 28): Tagalog News: Special Forces Regiment (Airborne), nagdiwang ng ika-51 anibersaryo (Special Forces Regiment celebrated its 51st anniversary)

FORT RAMON MAGSAYSAY, Nueva Ecija-- Idinaos nitong Martes ang ika- 51 taong anibersaryo ng Special Forces Regiment (Airborne) o SFRA na may temang “Special Forces: Tagapagtanggol at Kabalikat ng Bawat Pilipino Tungo sa Kapayapaan at Kaunlaran.”

(The 51st anniversary of the Special Forces Regiment (Airborne) or SFRA was held on Tuesday with the theme "Special Forces: Advocate and Kabalikat Every Filipino Towards Peace and Development.")

Ayon kay SFRA Commander Colonel Donato San Juan, layon ng selebrasyon na maipaalala ang kadakilaan, sakripisyo at tagumpay ng mga sundalo at pamunuan na bumubuo sa yunit.

(According to SFRA Commander Colonel Donato San Juan, the object of the celebration was to remember the nobility, sacrifice and success of the soldiers and leadership that make up the unit.)

Sinabi pa ni San Juan na patuloy nilang pagiibayuhin ang kanilang kapasidad at kakayanang maprotektahan at magbigay dangal sa bansa.

(San Juan said that they continue to escalate their capacity and ability to protect and give honor to the country.)

Kaalinsabay ng anibersaryo ang homecoming ng mga miyembro ng Special Forces Alumni Association na ang ilan sa kanila ay kinilala at binigyang parangal sa mga di matatawarang kontribusyon.

(Along with the anniversary is the homecoming of members of the Special Forces Alumni Association that some of who have been identified and paid tribute to for their invaluable contributions.)

Ang SFRA ay isa sa tatlong yunit na nasasakupan ng Special Operations Command o SOCOM na nakabase sa Fort Magsaysay.

(The SFRA is one of three units subordinate to the Special Operations Command or SOCOM based in Fort Magsaysay.)

Government hits NPA for ‘excuses’ in attacking unarmed cops

From the Sun Star (Jun 29): Government hits NPA for ‘excuses’ in attacking unarmed cops

MALACANANG slammed Saturday the communist New People's Army (NPA) for attacking some 100 police trainees in Mountain Province Friday morning.

Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte in an interview over dzRB Radyo ng Bayan dismissed the excuses cited by an NPA spokesperson for the ambush which resulted to the death of one policeman and wounding of nine others.

"I think they have one spokesperson who claimed that the (policemen) were training for counterinsurgency and other excuses. But the fact remains that they were unarmed, they were jogging and they were attacked," she said.

"Maybe they should tell their excuses and justifications to the families of those that they killed," Valte added.

With the recent attack, Valte said that police units in northern Philippines were advised to take precautionary measures.

"The PNP in that area has already warned their different units to take extra precaution, especially when they are moving as a group," she said, adding that the rebels have no mercy.

The NPA in Mountain Province has claimed responsibility over the recent attack.
Magno Udyaw, spokesperson of NPA Mountain Province Provincial Operations Command, said that a unit of the Leonardo Pacsi Command-NPA Mountain Province successfully ambushed troops of the Regional Public Safety Battalion (RPSB) of the PNP who were undergoing combat training in Barangay Kabunagan in Tadian town.

While the government claimed that the police trainees were unarmed, Udyaw said that the rebels seized 14 high powered rifles from the PNP troopers.

Palace rejects NPA 'excuse' for killing police trainee

From GMA News (Jun 29): Palace rejects NPA 'excuse' for killing police trainee

Malacañang on Saturday rejected what it called the “excuse” of the communist New People’s Army for the ambush that killed at least one police trainee and wounded several others in Mountain Province Friday.

Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte also said the Philippine National Police has adopted the needed precautions to avoid a repeat of the incident.

“The fact remains they were unarmed, they were jogging, and they were attacked. Ang excuse sabihin nila sa pamilya ng kanilang pinatay," she said on government-run dzRB radio.

Before dawn Friday, NPAs opened fire on police trainees who were jogging in Barangay Kabunagan in Tadian town in Mountain Province.

Cordillera police spokesman Senior Superintendent Dave Limmong said a contingent force has been deployed to the area to seal off possible escape routes.

In a statement, NPA Mountain Province Provincial Operations Command (Leonardo Pacsi Command) spokesman Magno Udyaw insisted the “PNP troopers were fully armed.”

Udyaw claimed the ambushed PNP troops belonged to the 2nd Company of the Regional Public Safety Battalion, which the NPA claimed is a “special unit of the PNP presently trained to focus in counter-insurgency and urban warfare tactics.”

Meanwhile, Valte said the PNP has already warned its units to adopt the proper precautions especially when moving as a group in the area.

“The PNP in the area has warned its units to take precautions especially when moving as a group,” she said.

DFA: China's 'counterstrike' statement provocative

From GMA News (Jun 29): DFA: China's 'counterstrike' statement provocative

The Department of Foreign Affairs on Saturday said China's warning of an inevitable "counterstrike" against the Philippines is a provocative statement that has "no place in the relations of civilized nations."

In a text message to GMA News Online, DFA spokesperson Raul Hernandez said China is obligated under international law, specifically the United Nations Charter "to pursue a peaceful resolution of disputes – meaning without the use of force [or] the threat to use forces."

China's state media warned on Saturday a "counterstrike" against the Philippines was inevitable if it continues to provoke Beijing in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

The overseas edition of the People's Daily, the official newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party, said in a front-page commentary that the Philippines had committed "seven sins" in the West Philippine Sea, including the "illegal occupation" of the Spratly Islands, inviting foreign capital to engage in oil and gas development in the disputed waters and promoting the "internationalization" of the waters.

China's statement comes on the heels of Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin's confirmation on Thursday of a plan to give the United States and its allies access to military bases in the Philippines.

However, Malcañang on Saturday clarified the plan is not yet final as the Department of National Defense is still studying it to make sure it will be done in accordance with the 1987 Constitution and the 1999 Visiting Forces Agreement.

On the other hand, Hernandez called on China "to be a responsible member in the community of nations" and resolve territorial disputes in the West Philippine Sea through the "rules-based, transparent, binding and non-provocative" mechanism of the UN Charter.

The DFA spokesperson in particular cited Part XV of the UN Convention of the Law of the Sea, which provides that "State Parties shall settle any dispute between them" by peaceful means.

"A peaceful and rules-based resolution to the disputes in the West Philippine Sea is durable and beneficial to all and will ensure peace and stability in the region," Hernandez said.

The People's Daily commentary is not the first time this week that China issued a statement regarding territorial disputes in the West Philippine Sea.

China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi warned Thursday that countries with territorial claims in the South China Sea that look for help from third parties will find their efforts "futile" and that confrontation over the area is "doomed."

Wang's speech at the Tsinghua World Peace Forum coincided with the start of the US-Philippines naval forces' military exercises off Luzon's west coast.

But Philippine Navy has insisted the war games, being held just a few miles away from the disputed Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal, were not meant to provoke China.

News Analysis: Plan to allow US, Japan military access to Phl bases met by opposition

From the Philippine Star (Jun 29): News Analysis: Plan to allow US, Japan military access to Phl bases met by opposition

The recent announcement by Philippine defense officials that the country would allow access of military forces of the United States and other allies to Philippine military bases has been met by strong opposition not only from the usual anti-American groups but also from high government officials as well.

Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile, who recently quit as senate president but will remain as senator until 2016, said that the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the two countries allows only a temporary stay of US forces in the country.

"If it assumes a certain degree of permanence or stability, then it's no longer visiting forces," Enrile said.

Enrile, who was among the 12 senators that rejected the extension of the Philippine-US military bases agreement in 1991, said that when the Senate ratified the VFA in 1999, "what we agreed upon is a rule (under which) American soldiers (will stay in) the Philippines only temporarily."

Enrile, one of the country's top legal experts, said that if the access plan would allow the US forces to stay in the Philippines for an unlimited period, then it would be an issue that the Supreme Court would have to settle.

On Thursday, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said the Philippines will not build new air and naval bases, but simply allow access to the United States, Japan and other allies to the country's existing military bases.

Gazmin's announcement coincided with the opening of the joint naval exercises, dubbed Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT), at the Subic Bay Freeport, a former American naval facility, some 200 km north of Manila.

The naval exercises, which end on July 2, are part of the US "pivot strategy" in Asia earlier announced by US President Barack Obama.

Gazmin said the government is still preparing the access agreement, adding that if the agreement is done, then the Philippines will allow access of US and Japanese war assets to Philippine bases. He said the former US naval base in Subic, Zambales province, was among the bases being considered to be covered by the access agreement.

Gazmin said Japan is welcomed to have joint military exercises with the Philippines. But Japanese troops cannot step on Philippine soil without a visiting forces agreement between the two countries, he said.

Malacanang, the seat of the country's government, defended the access plan, saying the country was free to do anything within its territory.

But Presidential Deputy Spokesperson Abigail Valte said on Friday that President Benigno Aquino still has not approved the plan.

Also on Friday, some lawmakers expressed fears of unlimited access of American and Japanese forces to military bases in the Philippines.

"What's in a name? Access arrangements, military exercises or routine port calls - they all mean the same thing, translating into unhampered use of facilities and structures in Philippine territory for foreign military use," Gabriela Representative Luzviminda C. Ilagan said in a statement.

Ilagan said the terms of the access agreements being drawn by the Department of National Defense are "so vague that these appear to expand the VFA."

She said the defense department would create de facto military bases by allowing US and Japanese forces use of an"unidentified and undetermined number of Philippine facilities for an undetermined period of time."

Bayan Muna Representatives Neri Colmenares and Carlo Zarate called the plan "a shameful act of national betrayal" to overturn the 1991 Senate vote to eject the US bases from the country.

Colmenares zeroed on giving access to Japan, saying that Japan' s military presence in the Philippines is not only unwanted, but also unwelcomed. "This is an insult to our veterans and comfort women who suffered under the Japanese during World War II," Colmenares said.

Zarate pointed that the increased US military presence in Mindanao has worsened the security situation in the region.

"The people's rights were disregarded, and the VFA was rendered inutile while the Philippine government covered up the reported human rights violations by US troops in Mindanao," Zarate said.

Reacting to news reports about the Philippine plan on Thursday, China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi said in Beijing that the strategy was a "path of confrontation" and it would be "doomed."

Wang said countries that "try to reinforce their poorly grounded claims (in the South China Sea) through the help of external forces" would find the strategy a "miscalculation not worth the effort."

By a slim vote of 12-11, the Philippine Senate voted to expel U. S. military bases from the Philippines in 1991, but it ratified the VFA in l999.

The Philippine Constitution expressly prohibits foreign military bases to be established in the Philippines.

Retired police officer shot dead in Sultan Kudarat

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 29): Retired police officer shot dead in Sultan Kudarat

Unidentified gunmen shot dead a retired police officer in a daring attack along the national highway in Isulan town in Sultan Kudarat on Saturday morning.

Senior Supt. Rex dela Rosa, Sultan Kudarat police director, said retired Supt. Teofilo Kinazo was driving his pickup at past 10 a.m. at a portion of the national highway in Barangay Kenram in Isulan town when waylaid by two motorcycle-riding suspects.

He said several bystanders immediately rushed the victim to a nearby hospital but was pronounced dead upon arrival due to multiple gunshot wounds.

“We have not yet established any motive as our investigation is still ongoing,” he said in a radio interview.

Kinazo, who is a resident of Isulan town, retired from police service in 2008.

He held key positions in various police stations and offices in Sultan Kudarat province and other areas of Region 12 or the Soccsksargen Region.

Region 12 comprises the provinces of South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani, North Cotabato and the cities of General Santos, Koronadal, Tacurong, Kidapawan and Cotabato.

He was among the four retired police officers in the region who were honored by the Police Regional Office 12 in August 2008 as part of its commemoration of the joint anniversaries of the Philippine National Police’s (PNP) predecessors, the Philippine Constabulary (PC) and the Integrated National Police (INP).

Kinazo and the three other retired police officers were honored as “bearers and witnesses of unending stories about courage, heroism, devotion to duty, and love of country by the men and women of the PC, the INP and the PNP.”

Palace considers senators’ concerns on planned bases agreement with US

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 29): Palace considers senators’ concerns on planned bases agreement with US

Malacanang said it is open to having discussions with lawmakers to allay fears of some senators who said the planned bases access agreement with the US may be violating the Constitution.

Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said the Aquino administration is willing to discuss the issue with the senators while the defense department irons out the possibility of allowing US forces to temporarily station their forces in their previous military base.

“Of course we are open to their concerns. We also understand their concerns and which is why we are open to having these discussions,” Valte said Saturday over dzRB Radyo ng Bayan.

She said the defense department has been studying different modalities on how to operationalize the increased rotational presence of the US in the country in the midst of China’s incursion on Philippine territory in West Philippine Sea.

“Kahit ano pa man ang lumabas doon sa mga mapag-aralan nilang modality na ‘yan, lahat ay sang-ayon sa ating Constitution at sang-ayon sa Visiting Forces Agreement,” she explained.

Defense secretary Voltaire Gazmin said the Philippines is ready to provide the US and other strategic allies access to its bases to counter China’s aggressive activities in the region.

Gazmin clarified there is no plan to build new bases in the country because the Philippine Constitution prohibits it, however.

The access agreement was discussed by the Philippines and the US during a ministerial consultation in Washington last year, he said.

Once the planned increased presence of US military is realized, it would give visiting US warships more security to launch operations in West Philippine Sea, added Gazmin.

Be ready for 'counterstrike,' PH warned by China media

From Rappler (Jun 29): Be ready for 'counterstrike,' PH warned by China media

DISPUTED AREA. China claims virtually all of the West Philippine Sea even within the 200-nautical-mile Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone. Graphic by Bardo Wu

DISPUTED AREA. China claims virtually all of the West Philippine Sea even within the 200-nautical-mile Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone. Graphic by Bardo Wu

The Philippines should brace itself for a possible "counterstrike" should Beijing continue to be provoked in the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea).

The warning was contained in a front-page commentary published Saturday in the state-owned People's Daily.
"If the Philippines continues to provoke China... a counterstrike will be hard to avoid," the editorial said.
The overseas edition of the People's Daily slammed the Philippines for committing "seven sins" in the South China Sea. These include the supposed illegal occupation of the Spratly islands, inviting foreign capital to engage in oil ang gas development, and internationalizing the disputed waters, a report that appeared in the South China Morning Post said.
The comments come a day before an Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) meeting in Brunei, where ministers from member-countries will attempt to forge a legally binding "code of conduct" on the West Philippine Sea.
People's Daily called out ASEAN for becoming an "accomplice" and also criticized the Philippines for calling on the United States to act as a "patron," according to the report.
Members of the military are presently holding war games with the United States near the Scarborough Shoal.
In a joint press conference with visiting Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera on Friday, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said the government wants to give the United States and Japan more access to military bases.
Stirring up trouble
China slammed the plans. In an article published in People's Daily on Friday, China's Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying was quoted as saying that China is "glad" to see other countries develop relations but is opposed to "relevant countries' moves to form factions, stir up trouble, deliberately play up tensions in the region and mislead international opinion."
In another People's Daily report, Chen Qinghong, a Chinese expert on Philippine Studies, acccused the Philippines of using its US ties to strengthen its military force.
"The Philippines hopes to seek more support from the US to balance China's increasing power in the region, so that it is sufficiently emboldened to bargain with China on the South China Sea issue," Chen said.
Amid concerns that the war games could provoke China, Philippine Navy spokesman Lieutenant Commander Gregory Fabic earlier said the exercises are not targeted against the Chinese and will instead focus on inter-operability.

Aside from China and the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, and Vietnam have also posted their respective claims on the disputed territory.

Alleged NPA officer and wife arrested

From Rappler (Jun 29): Alleged NPA officer and wife arrested

A joint arrest of an alleged New People's Army (NPA) intelligence officer and his wife was conducted by police and military personnel in Marikina City on Friday, June 28.

The Philippine Army (PA) said the arrest of Juan Paolo Rodrigo “Cocoy” Versosa and his wife Grace “Lennon” Versosa happened in Barangay Fortuna, after |a warrant of arrest was issued by a local court. The two were charged with "robbery with homicide."

Capt Amado Gutierrez of the PA's 8th Infantry Division (ID) in Samar said the couple was nabbed by joint elements of the Philippine National Police in Catbalogan City and the 8th ID.

The couple is allegedly involved in the armed rebel group’s operations in the Visayas region.

Cocoy is a suspected intelligence officer of the NPA's Samar Provincial Party Committee. Lennon is a suspected staff of the NPA's Eastern Visayas Regional Party Committee reproduction bureau.

Now in the custody of the Eastern Police District, both of them will be turned over to the local court in Catbalogan City.

According to Major General Gerardo Layug of the 8th ID, information tipped by civilians aided in the arrest.

Gutierrez expects more rebels arrested in the following weeks.

MILF emissaries sent to Sulu to work for release of kidnapped filmmaker siblings

From InterAksyon (Jun 29): MILF emissaries sent to Sulu to work for release of kidnapped filmmaker siblings

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front has sent a team of negotiators to help secure the release of two sisters kidnapped in Sulu while working on an independent film.

Ghadzali Jaafar, MILF vice chairman for political affairs, said the negotiators will coordinate with commanders in Sulu and Tawi-Tawi to help free independent filmmakers Nadjoua and Linda Bansil, daugthers of Datu Ustadz Abdul Basit Bansil, a former MILF leader and classmate of the group’s founding chairman Salamat Hashim.

The sisters were seized by gunmen in Barangay Liang, Patikul last Saturday.

He said they expected developments “in the next few days” and said the MILF’s involvement is in the spirit of peace negotiations with the government.

Speaking over a local radio, Jaafar appealed to the kidnappers to free the Bansil sisters.

"They have no capacity to pay, they are not rich, they are Muslims and they should be released soon to avoid displacement of civilians once the military launches offensives," Jaafar said.

Under a ceasefire agreement with government, the MILF is bound to help locate kidnapping victims held hostage in areas under its influence.

UNARMED? | Reds say NPA seized 14 weapons from cops in Mountain Province ambush

From InterAksyon (Jun 29): UNARMED? | Reds say NPA seized 14 weapons from cops in Mountain Province ambush

Communist rebels on Saturday claimed the New People’s Army guerrillas who staged an ambush on police personnel in Tadian town, Mountain Province the day before had seized 14 rifles, belying government statements the trainees were unarmed.

A policeman died and nine others were wounded in the ambush, which the government immediately said was carried out on unarmed trainees who were on a morning jog.

“Initial reports indicate that the NPA Red fighters were able to seize at least 14 high-powered rifles” from the personnel of the Regional Public Safety Battalion, the Communist Party of the Philippines said in a statement on its website.

In a separate statement, the NPA’s Leonardo Pacsi Command, which carried out the ambush, said the police personnel it attacked “were fully armed” and that its fighters had seized 11 M16 rifles and three M14s.

“The NPA withdrew without casualties after giving first aid to the wounded and releasing a number of captured PNP combatants,” the NPA unit’s spokesman, Magno Udyaw, said.

“The swift attack was conducted while the said troops, numbering more than a hundred including their trainors, were on bivouac towards Abatan, Bauko,” Udyaw added.

In its statement, the CPP said: “The ambushed PNP-RPSB forces were armed, capable of fighting and in fact, put up a fight, although a number of them scampered away after being surprised by the NPA ambush. Local police officers make twisted claims that the PNP-RPSB forces and their trainees were ‘technically’ unarmed because their rifles were without bullets."

As it hailed the NPA unit that staged the ambush, the CPP urged other rebel formations “to launch more frequent and bigger tactical offensives.”

Navy divers use underwater camera to search for downed OV10

From InterAksyon (Jun 29): Navy divers use underwater camera to search for downed OV10

The six-man Naval Special Operations Group team that has joined the search for the Air Force OV-10 Bronco that crashed off Palawan last Sunday will use an underwater camera when they try to locate the fuselage of the downed aircraft and its two pilots.

“The underwater camera was lent to us by the Department of Science and Technology. As of today, our technical divers are diving (at) all the detected sites where the sonar detected the wrecks hoping that one of (these is)…the OV10’s fuselage. I’m still waiting for updates from the team leader and commanding officer of the BRP Mangyan, who supervises the search-and-retrieval operation,” Brigadier General Conrado Parra Jr., commander of the 507th Composite tactical Wing and head of Task Force Bronco, said in a phone interview.

The BRP Mangyan (AS71) is skippered by Commander Carlo Lagasca.
The sonar Parra referred to is a portable detector the Air Force hired from a Cebu-based company. Earlier this week, it detected an object on the seabed authorities hope is the plane’s fuselage.

Military officials have said the two missing pilots, Major Jonathan Ybanez and 1st Lieutenant Abner Trust Nacion, could still be trapped in the plane’s cockpit.

Meanwhile, Parra said they have submitted to the Department of Foreign Affairs a request for a search and rescue team from the joint US-Philippine military exercise, Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training, which is taking place in Zambales.

Parra said the BRP Mangyan is capable of lifting and towing the downed plane’s fuselage once it is located.

“We’ve no problem in lifting and towing the fuselage. All we need is technical equipment to locate the wreck,” Parra said.

According to the Navy, the BRP Mangyan was also involved in the retrieval of the plane in which the late Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo died when it crashed off Masbate, and that of an Air Force SF260 trainer that crashed off La Monja Island near Corregidor.

PHOTO | Final salute to WWII guerrilla leader Edwin Ramsey

From InterAksyon (Jun 29): PHOTO | Final salute to WWII guerrilla leader Edwin Ramsey

Members of the Philippine Scouts Heritage Society paid their final respects to Col. Edwin P. Ramsey, an officer in the 26th Cavalry Regiment of the Philippine Scouts, who headed a guerrilla force in the Philippines during the Second World War.

Colonel Ramsey, who passed away at the age of 95 on 7 March 2013, was buried with full military honors at the Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia on Friday, 28 June 2013. (Philippine Embassy Photo by Elmer G. Cato)

Malaysia ends operation vs Sulu sultanate's followers

From  InterAksyon (Jun 29): Malaysia ends operation vs Sulu sultanate's followers

Malaysian authorities Saturday announced that an operation in Sabah to flush out armed followers of the sultanate of Sulu was over, four months after the Filipinos landed to stake their historical claim to the territory in east Borneo and sparking a security crisis.

Fighting between the sultanate’s followers and security forces -- deemed Malaysia's worst security crisis in recent years -- killed at least 68 Filipinos and 10 Malaysian security personnel.

Musa Aman, chief minister of Sabah state, was quoted by The Star online as saying the operation to chase the remnants of the sultanate followers and their sympathizers, who were in hiding, had ended.

But a security zone has been set up with troops permanently stationed along the coastline -- previously known for its lawlessness and lax border control -- where the gunmen landed.

For centuries, people have moved back and forth across the porous sea border separating Sabah and the southern Philippines.

The security breach aroused heated sentiments on both sides with many Malaysians outraged over the incursion, while the Philippines came under pressure to protect its citizens' lives.

Scores of Filipinos captured as part of the operation have been charged in Malaysian courts, including with terrorism-related offences.

Chinese media slam Philippines over Spratly isles

From Agence France Presse (Jun 29): Chinese media slam Philippines over Spratly isles

Chinese state-media accused the Philippines of using the ASEAN group of nations as an "accomplice" in the violation of its sovereignty claims in the South China Sea on Saturday, and warned of a potential "counterstrike".

The editorial in the overseas edition of the People's Daily, the mouthpiece of China's ruling Communist Party, came as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) was due to meet in Brunei, with disputes in the Sea expected to dominate discussions.

The Philippines, which has sought closer ties with Washington amid territorial disputes with Beijing, "calls on the United States as 'patron'" and uses ASEAN as an "accomplice," the editorial said.

It added that the Phillipines was guilty of "seven sins," including the "illegal occupation" of parts of the Spratly Islands, strengthening control over disputed coral reefs, inviting foreign companies to develop oil and gas resources in disputed waters, and promoting the "internationalisation" of the Sea.

"If the Philippines continues to provoke China... a counterstrike will be hard to avoid," the editorial said.

Members of the ASEAN group hope to reach a legally binding code of conduct aimed at easing tensions over disputed areas in the Sea, which is claimed almost in its entirety by Beijing, leading to long-running disputes with several neighbouring countries including the Philippines.

China has resisted ASEAN efforts to create a legally binding code to govern conduct on the sea, and analysts say Beijing will continue to oppose any agreement weakening its claims.

The Philippines this year sought UN arbitration over its dispute with China, a move condemned by Beijing.

A US destroyer joined the Philippine Navy's flagship this week for military exercises close to the Scarborough Shoal, which China insists it owns.

Countries around the region have boosted spending on their navies in recent years in response to tensions, raising fears of a military conflict.

Alleged NPA intel officer nabbed in Marikina

From ABS-CBN (Jun 29): Alleged NPA intel officer nabbed in Marikina

A suspected intelligence officer of the New People's Army (NPA) was arrested by police authorities in Marikina City Friday evening.

Juan Pablo Versoza and his wife, Grace, were arrested during the operations conducted by the Eastern Police District (EPD).

EPD's intelligence unit chief Col. Remus Medina said Versoza is an intelligence officer of the Samar Provincial Party Committee under the NPA's Eastern Visayas Regional Party Committee.

Grace, meanwhile, is allegedly a medical officer and staff member of the Regional Production Bureau of the same committee.

Both suspects have pending arrest warrants for robbery with homicide and illegal possession of explosives.

The two are now undergoing tactical interrogation.

‘Local peace talks good but…’

From MindaNews (Jun 29): ‘Local peace talks good but…’

They heard inspiring stories on local peace initiatives, from sitio Lantad in Barangay Kibanban in Balingasag, Misamis Oriental, a former New People’s Army stronghold, to a village in Sultan Naga Dimaporo town in Lanao del Norte that serves as the base of a breakaway rebel group.

But participants to the two-day Northeastern Mindanao Religious Leaders’ Peace Summit which ended Friday expressed reservations on the efficacy of local peace initiatives vis-à-vis the imperiled peace process between the government and the National Democratic Front (NDF).

Outgoing Misamis Oriental Governor Oscar Moreno said the provincial government achieved peace in Lantad by pouring in development projects that the people themselves asked for. He stressed that they did it not as part of counterinsurgency but to show government sincerity.

“Serbisyo lang,” he said, adding that even the military learned from what the local government did in Lantad.

During the 1980s, Lantad became the seat of the revolutionary movement in Northern Mindanao. The NDF even issued “land titles” to local farmers and formed a shadow government complete with a “mayor”.

Paquito Daao, village chief of Kibanban, said the delivery of social services and development projects has brought back peace to Lantad. He added the present situation is a far cry from the time that the area became a “no man’s land” owing to the armed conflict between the military and the New People’s Army (NPA), armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).

“Lantad is a good story, but how many Oca (Moreno) will emerge? And is Lantad the only area with this kind of problem? What about the other areas?” Bishop Antonio Ablon of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) in Misamis Occidental said.

“Naay padulngan ang ginagmayng paglihok, ang problema inig hawa sa usa ka opisyal (Small initiatives produce results, the problem is when an official leaves),” Ablon said.
He, however, maintained that local initiatives cannot be a substitute for national level ones.

“A good example is President Aquino’s executive order on mining which has stripped local officials of any role in it,” he said.

Fr. Chris Ablon, of the IFI in Libona, Bukidnon called the development of Lantad a rare case. “Many areas outside Lantad are still suffering.”

He said that for development to be more encompassing there is a need to institute national level initiatives such as pursuing the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms, the second item in the four-point Hague Joint Declaration signed by GPH and the NDF in 1973.

Pastor Nasali Silava of the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches said that what applies to a barangay where problems are more physical may not be applicable in a national setting. “This is an ideological problem…this is about worldviews.”

For his part, Col. Jessie Alvarez, chief of staff of the 4th Infantry Division, said he believes the local government prioritized Lantad because “it is a symbol of resistance, and we don’t have many resources.”

Charlito Manlupig, president of Balay Mindanaw Foundation Inc., shared their experience as independent secretariat in the peace process between the government and the Rebolusyonaryong Partido ng Manggagawa sa Mindanao (RPMM).

The group broke away from the mainstream communist-led armed movement at the height of the internal debate that wracked the Left in the early 1990s.

Manlupig said it was the first localized peace process that reached an agreement.

“However, the new administration (Aquino III) decided to suspend this process saying it wanted to focus on the talks with the MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) and the NDF.”

“It (GPH-RPMM peace process) is no longer in the OPAPP (Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process) website,” he added.

Pastor Cobbie Palm, who works in the secretariat of the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP), said that while localized talks may be enough with groups like the RPMM, it’s a different thing with the NDF.

“They have a chain of command. What is resolved locally may not be binding on the top. There is a need not to cut off that bigger picture [in trying to resolve conflicts at the local level],” he cautioned.

Fr. Emman Silvosa of Siargao said local negotiations are not needed if both parties at the national level are sincere.

But he emphasized that the government should not be the first to withdraw from the talks.

UCCP Bishop Modesto Villasanta meanwhile said that church people can contribute to the peace efforts by acting as a third party in securing the release of soldiers who may be held by the NPA as “prisoners of war.”

He said they have done this in Compostela Valley province where the NPA has captured a number of soldiers. “We helped because we know that their families are really anxious [over their safety].”

He said they have done the same thing for rebels captured by the military. “Some were released on condition that they would go back to their families.”

GPH-NDF peace negotiations began in 1986 under President Corazon Aquino. Aside from the national level talks and the nationwide ceasefire observed by both parties, regional NDF leaders and government officials held local talks usually with Church personalities as facilitators, until the January 1987 Mendiola Massacre which led to the collapse of the negotiation.

Talks resumed in 1992 under President Fidel V. Ramos. This time the NDF explicitly stated it would no longer allow local negotiations and scrapped the idea of a ceasefire as a precondition [to the talks].

The Aquino government has raised the possibility of pursuing localized talks. But the CPP has insisted that only the NDF negotiating panel is authorized to engage the government in peace negotiations.

The summit, held at the San Jose Minor Seminary, this city was organized by PEPP, a group composed of various Christian churches and groups in the country, including the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines and the National Council of Churches of the Philippines.