Monday, July 1, 2013

Agbimuddin mystery: Is he in Sabah or Tawi-Tawi?

Posted to the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jul 1): Agbimuddin mystery: Is he in Sabah or Tawi-Tawi?

Rajah Muda Agbimuddin Kiram. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO
LAHAD DATU, Sabah—The whereabouts of the 72-year-old Agbimuddin Kiram who led the armed Sulu intrusion into Tanduo village here in February remain a mystery.

Agbimuddin, the younger brother of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram, disappeared without a trace after he “fled” Lahad Datu on March 11 as Malaysian security forces recaptured Tanduo in a massive police and military offensive.

Security forces are certain that he fled to an island in Tawi-Tawi province in southern Philippines close to Sabah, but family members insist he is in Lahad Datu waging a guerrilla war.

Tawi-Tawi officials believe that Agbimuddin is with a network of sympathizers and has kept a low profile to avoid being detained by the government, which has ordered his arrest for waging a war with a foreign country.

It has also been speculated that Agbimuddin, a former assistant district officer of Kudat, Sabah, in the early 1970s, was killed by his bodyguard in Tanduo and buried in an unmarked grave sometime after the Malaysian air and ground offensive to flush out the Sulu intruders began on March 5.

Still alive

In an interview with The Star newspaper of Malaysia, Sabah Police Commissioner Hamza Taib said the police believed Agbimuddin was still alive and was hiding in an island in his home country.

“Agbimuddin is definitely not in Lahad Datu. They can fly kites if they want to keep insisting that Agbimuddin is in Lahad Datu, hiding and moving from one place to another,” Hamza said when asked about the persistent claims by the Sulu sultanate’s spokesman, Abraham Idjirani, that Agbimuddin is still in Sabah fighting a guerrilla war.

But Hamza did not rule out the possibility that Agbimuddin was still planning to wage a guerrilla war against Sabah.

Hamza said he suspected that Agbimuddin’s family members were insisting that he was still in Sabah because he had made many promises (before the intrusion) to his followers, who were now dead or facing criminal charges in Malaysia.

“So to prevent him from being killed (in Philippines), they have to say that Agbimuddin is in Lahad Datu and still fighting,” he said, adding there had been no clashes between followers of the Sulu sultanate and security forces in Sabah since the intrusion was put down in early April.

Tanduo has since been closed to the public, with a security base set up at the seaside village and the state government working to relocate more than 20 local families in the area.

Agbimuddin and about 200 followers of the sultan of Sulu crossed the Sulu Sea from Tawi-Tawi in early February to reclaim Sabah, the Sulu sultanate’s ancestral land.

Hiding in forest

In a telephone interview with The Star in Manila, Idjirani, who is the brother-in-law of Agbimuddin, insisted that Agbimuddin was still “somewhere in Lahad Datu” waging a guerrilla war against Sabah.

Idjirani, however, did not know the exact location of his brother-in-law.

“I know that he is hiding in a forest and has adopted guerrilla tactics and is moving from one place to another around Tanduo,” he said.

Idjirani claimed that he frequently spoke to Agbimuddin.

“In fact, I spoke to him two days ago. He called us and told us that there was an encounter between the Royal Sulu Army and the Malaysian security forces in Mile 9 in Lahad Datu on June 16 and Labian on June 18,” he said.

Idjirani said he believed that Malaysian security forces could not locate Agbimuddin because he was no longer using his cell phone.

“He is no longer using his cell phone, unlike in March (during the aerial bombings). He realized that using his cell phone would lead to detection,” Idjirani said.

He said Agbimuddin and his followers were seasoned fighters.

“Even though the Malaysian forces have more firepower they cannot defeat them,” Idjirani said, adding that the Malaysian security forces were careful not to engage the Sulu group in direct confrontations.

35 arrested

Thirty-five followers of Agbimuddin were arrested by Philippine  authorities after they returned from Lahad Datu, and recently the National Bureau of Investigation recommended various criminal charges—including waging war with a foreign country—be brought against Agbimuddin and his followers who entered Tanduo between Feb 9 and 12.

Seventy-three fighters from Agbimuddin’s group were killed (59 bodies have been recovered) in the nearly eight-week armed showdown with Malaysian security forces.

Malaysian police have arrested 184 people and charged 31 with various criminal offenses, including waging war against the Malaysian king. Their cases are now in court.

In the Know: Sabah incursion

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jul 1): In the Know: Sabah incursion

In February, a group composed of civilians and members of what was called “Royal Security Forces of the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo” landed in Tanduo village in Lahad Datu town, Sabah. The leader of the group was Agbimuddin Kiram, younger brother of Sultan of Sulu Jamalul Kiram.

Agbimuddin described his group’s action as “not an act of aggression but a journey back home.”

The Kirams are among the descendants and heirs of the sultan of Sulu and North Borneo, and they are asserting their historical claim to Sabah.

The heirs say Sabah was ceded in 1704 to the sultan of Sulu by the sultan of Brunei, who was grateful to the sultan of Sulu for helping quell a rebellion against him.

Every year, the Malaysian Embassy in the Philippines issues a check in the amount of 5,300 ringgit (about P72,000) to the legal counsel of the heirs. Malaysia considers the amount “cession” payment for Sabah, while the heirs consider it “rent.”

According to Abraham Julpa Idjirani, secretary general and spokesman for the sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo, the direct descendants and heirs of the sultan of Sulu and North Borneo are Sultan Jamalul, Sultan Bantilan Esmail Kiram III, Datu Alianapia Kiram, Datu Phugdal Kiram, Datu Baduruddin Kiram and Agbimuddin, crown prince and official administrator of Sabah.

Agbimuddin’s intrusion led to a two-week standoff with Malaysian police and military troops that erupted in violence on March 1. More than 60 members of Agbimuddin’s group were killed in the fighting, which also spilled over to other villages as Malaysian forces tried to flush out the intruders. At least eight Malaysian police officers and two soldiers were also killed.

According to reports, Agbimuddin has not been heard from since the fighting ended in early April.

As of April, more than 180 people have been detained in connection with the incursion led by Agbimuddin, while more than 350 have been arrested for other acts related to the incident.

Thousands of Filipinos living and working in Sabah fled the state during the fighting and returned to southern Philippines.

Earlier this month, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima denied that the government was planning to hand over Jamalul and his followers to Malaysia, contrary to reports that the Kirams were claiming that Malacañang had plans to hand them over to Malaysia to face charges there for their incursion into Sabah.

CPP/CPDF/NPA: Salute the Leonardo Pacsi Command of the NPA-Mountain Province for the Victorious Tactical Offensive in Tadian

Posted to the CPP Website (Jul 1): Salute the Leonardo Pacsi Command of the NPA-Mountain Province for the Victorious Tactical Offensive in Tadian

Simon Naogsan (Ka Filiw)
Cordillera People's Democratic Front

The Cordillera People’s Democratic Front commends the Leonardo Pacsi Command (LPC) of the NPA in the Mountain Province for the successful tactical offensive last June 28 against the 103 counterinsurgency trainees and trainors of the Cordillera Regional Public Safety Batallion (RPSB) that netted 14 high-powered firearms.

With only one casualty on the side of the PNP, the NPA was able to exercise restraint in carrying out a precisely-planned operation, targetting only the fully armed escorts and the responding support vehicle.

The success of the tactical offensive can only be attributed to the support of the masses, mastery of the terrain by the Red fighters and the firm resolve of the NPA to defend the democratic interests of the oppressed Filipino masses including the national minorities against the armed and police forces of the fascist state. Despite the superiority in firepower and number of the PNP, the NPA was able to utilize the element of surprise as well as command and control. The target of the attack was the fully armed escorts who advanced themselves and took positions at conspicuous locations. They were way ahead from the “trainees” when ambushed. Precise and minimum firepower together with the call to surrender was enough to neutralize the target. That accounted for the least casualty. If it were the so-called “trainees” that had been targetted, the result would have been different.

Under Oplan Bayanihan, the Internal Security Operation (ISO) of the present US-Aquino Regime is dictated by the US Counterinsurgency Guide to bolster security forces. The PNP is now being transformed and trained as active combat force to augment the AFP in the implementation of counter-insurgency operations. The troops of the Regional Public Safety Battalion (RPSB) ambushed are not new recruits but were undergoing a 45-day course on Special Counter-Insurgency Unit Training (SCOUT).

In the earlier training courses conducted in the same training ground at Babalaan, Tadian, Mountain Province, the LPC reported that although they were fully aware of such training they just let it pass hoping that the PNP would honor earlier assurances in discreet meetings that they would not engage themselves in counter insurgency operations. However, not long after these trainings they would figure in the ambush at Asipulo, Ifugao by the Nona del Rosario Command of the NPA-Ifugao in April this year. Documents obtained by the Red fighters during the battle indicated that the PNP unit had just freshly graduated from the same training ground in Babalaan,Tadian.

It is preposterous to elevate “jogging” as justification to downgrade armed trainees as “unarmed” combatants preparing to be pitted against the Red fighters. If such logic is to be followed, Ms. Abigael Valte of Malacanang and the PNP spokespersons should well be reminded that the unit of the LPC that was ambushed in the early morning of June 2 in Aguinaldo, Ifugao, wherein comrades Artus “Ka Libre” Talastas and Ronelson “Ka Renan” Balatines perished as martyrs, were unarmed while exercising when attacked by the 54th IB. This was also the same case when another unit of the LPC was attacked at Sitio Tappo, Barangay Banawel, Natonin, Mountain Province in the early morning of April 21, 2012 while undertaking stationary jogging and temporarily unarmed.

Since the US-Aquino regime took power, the former PNP Regional Mobile Group renamed and deodorized as RPSB has been increasingly utilized to augment the AFP’s counter-insurgency campaign in the Cordillera region. It has been involved in numerous incidences of human rights violations. In early 2011, a drunken RMG officer ran amoc that resulted in the massacre of innocent civilians including the host of a birthday party in Tinoc, Ifugao.

The CPDF commiserates with the family of the slain Police Officer Denver Balabag and the wounded PNP. It has never been the practice of the NPA in the Cordillera to raid police detachments unless the station is notoriously involved in anti-people activities. However, recent events have proven that the units of the PNP-RPSB are training themselves and allowed themselves to join the AFP in counterinsurgency operations. The SCOUT training and other counter insurgency trainings has intentionally divided the national minorities, pitting local police in counterinsurgency campaign when previously the indigenous people stood as one in defending ancestral land, resources and livelihood.

The CPDF calls on the people of the Cordillera not to join the counter revolutionary forces of the US-Aquino regime – the Philippine Army, CAFGU and the PNP. You will just be serving the interest of the ruling system whose sole purpose is to plunder the resources of the Cordillera. Let us not be victims of the divide and rule tactics of the enemy of the masses. To those who have already enlisted in the Army, PNP and CAFGU: desist from enlisting in counterinsurgency units like the RPSB and refrain from joining combat operations. We reiterate our call for the progressive rank and file of the PNP and the AFP to join the underground revolutionary mass organizations such as the Crispin Tagamolila Brigade. Likewise, continuing talks by the field operational units of the NPA with local police officials at the field level has yielded discreet tactical favorable arrangements before and must continue.

In time, the advance of the people’s war to a higher strategic stage will bring about numerous daring and successfull tactical offensives to arm the swelling ranks of the New People’s Army. #

MILF tight-lipped on position regarding gov't proposal to revise wealth-sharing annex

From GMA News (Jul 1): MILF tight-lipped on position regarding gov't proposal to revise wealth-sharing annex

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has decided on whether or not to accept the government's proposal regarding the wealth-sharing annex under the landmark Bangsamoro Framework Agreement.

But Ghadzali Jaafar, vice chairman for political affairs of the MILF, refused to disclose their position as they await the resumption of the peace talks on July 8.

"Mayroon na kaming mga positions adopted vis-a-vis 'yung proposal, so d'un na lang i-take-up ng peace panel sa meeting nila. With due respect, huwag na nating pag-usapan," Jaafar said Monday, adding they arrived at the decision after a whole-day meeting.

Jaafar said they will meet up to further discuss their decision this week.

PNoy vows to beef up air force fleet with long-range planes

From GMA News (Jul 1): PNoy vows to beef up air force fleet with long-range planes

New aircraft, including attack helicopters and long-range patrol planes, will be procured in the next five years to beef up the country's air force, President Benigno Aquino III vowed Monday.

During the Philippine Air Force's (PAF) 66th anniversary celebration here, Aquino pledged to allocate a portion of the Armed Forces' P75-billion modernization fund for the next five years to buy lead-in fighters, long-range patrol aircraft, close air support aircraft, attack helicopters, air defense radars, flight simulators and other modern equipment.

"Nananalig ako: sa pagsasanib ng mga pagkilos ng pamahalaan upang gawing mas moderno ang inyong mga pangangailangan, at ang panibagong dangal at kumpiyansa ng taumbayan sa ating kasundaluhan, talagang magiging abot-langit ang serbisyong hatid ng Hukbong Himpapawid ng Pilipinas," said Aquino, the military's commander-in-chief.

Aquino said the procurement aims to strengthen the country's defense and prevent the loss of lives among soldiers, adding last week's plane crash in Palawan involving a military 0V-10 Bronco aircraft should never happen again.

"Ang ganitong mga pangyayari nga mismo ang iniiwasan natin simula’t sapul pa. Kaya naman, nakatutok tayo sa modernisasyon ng ating pambansang tanggulan," the President said.

Aquino added that the PAF should be modernized to be able to make Filipinos feel more secure against those who try to "shock" and "pressure" them.

Aquino made these statements amid an ongoing territorial dispute with China over parts of the South China Sea.

Sulu sultanate denies Malaysia has stopped pursuing fighters

From the Philippine Star (Jul 1): Sulu sultanate denies Malaysia has stopped pursuing fighters

The Sultanate of Sulu on Monday branded as propaganda the announcement made by the Malaysian government that it has stopped operations against the sultanate’s royal security force (RSF) fighters who are still holed-up in Lahad Datu, Sabah.

Abraham Idjirani, the sultanate’s spokesperson added that Malaysia is simply moving its forces away from the jungles of Lahad Datu to prepare for a possible spillover of clashes into populated areas.

Musa Aman, Sabah chief minister, was quoted on Sunday by the Malaysian newspaper, The Star Online, as saying that operations to chase the RSF fighters and their supporters have stopped.

However, Aman said a security zone with permanent stationed troops has been set-up along the coastline where the RSF fighters had earlier landed.

“Why are they (Malaysian security forces) strengthening their security zone? Is it to defend Lahad Datu and the other districts from attack? Or are they afraid that the clashes will no longer happen inside the jungles of Lahad Datu?” said Idjirani.

Idjirani said he has spoken with Raja Muda Agbimuddin Kiram at around 9 a.m. The younger brother of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram said they will not abandon their position, the sultanate spokesman added.

Last June 18, Agbimuddin reported a clash between some 400 fighters and volunteers in the RSF and Malaysian security forces in Kampung Dengan Tungku in Lahad Datu.

Agbimuddin reported that the RSF fighters were moving through Dengan Tungku at about 1 p.m. when they encountered the Malaysian troops.

Idjirani said the clash in Dengan Tungku was also confirmed by Hajib Mujaha Hashim, chairman of the Moro National Liberation Front's Islamic Command Council.

Unidentified men torch Abra town mayor's backhoe

From the Philippine Star (Jul 1): Unidentified men torch Abra town mayor's backhoe

A backhoe owned by the construction firm of Mayor-elect Dominic Valera of Bangued town in Abra was torched by unidentified men in Baay-Licuan town.

The Cordillera police said the project implementor of the construction firm identified as 44-year-old Vicki Dawigen Sabian reported the incident to the police on Sunday morning.

The equipment worth P6,000,000.00 was parked along the Abra-Kalinga road particularly at Km 473 sitio Nagpawayan, Baay-Licuan, Abra when it was torched.

The police have yet to determine the motive for the attack.

BIFF suspected to be behind Maguindanao blast

From the Philippine Star (Jul 1): BIFF suspected to be behind Maguindanao blast

Investigators are convinced Sunday’s roadside bombing in Sharif Aguak town in this province, which reportedly wounded two soldiers and a bystander, was perpetrated by the brigand Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters.

The improvised explosive, planted at one side of a highway straddling through the town proper of Shariff Aguak, went off past 9:00 a.m. Sunday just as a convoy of soldiers led by Col. Noli Orense, commanding officer of the Army’s 603rd Brigade, was passing by, en route to the venue of the mass oath-taking of elected provincial and municipal officials in Buluan town, also in Maguindanao.

One of Orense’s subordinate-soldier Pfc. Reynaldo Sotto, and a still unidentified motorist, who was said to be an off duty member of the Philippine Marines, and a bystander were slightly wounded in the blast.

Orense said he is convinced that the blasting contraption of the explosive, triggered from a distance via mobile phone, could have malfunctioned since they were already past the spot where it was planted when it went off.

Investigators of the Shariff Aguak municipal police and an Army ordnance unit in the area said the home-made roadside bomb was fashioned from a live 105 Howitzer artillery round rigged with a battery-operated blasting mechanism attached to a mobile phone.

The bombing preceded another blast in a secluded spot also in Shariff Aguak about four hours later.

No one was reported killed or injured in the second bombing, but the incident triggered panic in the  area.

Military intelligence sources said feedback from confidential informants, among them Muslim clerics, claim that the outlawed BIFF could be responsible for the twin Shariff Aguak bombings.

The BIFF, founded in 2011 by a radical cleric, Ustadz Ameril Umrah Kato, has been on a rampage since last week for the military’s restoration of government control over its enclave at the border of President Quirino town in Sultan Kudarat and Gen. SK Pendatun, Maguindanao.

Members of the group fired assault rifles and anti-tank rockets on two Army detachments in Midsayap, North Cotabato and set off improvised explosives as they escaped in simultaneous attacks just before the weekend.

Chinese news analyst calls Philippines a 'troublemaker'

From the Philippine Star (Jul 1): Chinese news analyst calls Philippines a 'troublemaker'

Writing a commentary in China's state press agency, Xinhua news analyst Lu Yu saw the Philippines under President Benigno Aquino III a bad hat in the territorial dispute in the South China Sea.

"The Philippines, under its current administration, has been a true troublemaker in the region," Lu said, complaining that the country has "assaulted and detained" Chinese fishermen and had an old warship "stranded on purpose" at Ren'ai Reef or the Second Thomas Shoal.

Related story: Chinese ship runs aground in Tubbataha

The remark was published Monday following Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario's pronouncements on Sunday before the international community in Brunei accusing China of "militarization" at sea.

Del Rosario said at the security forum of Asean leaders that there is a "massive presence of Chinese military and paramilitary ships" off Scarborough (Panatag) Shoal and the Second Thomas Shoal, calling China's activities "threats to efforts to maintain maritime peace and stability in the region."

Lu scoffed at the statement of Del Rosario, saying that it is the Philippines that has been trying to exhibit its might and poses itself as the distressed party before other countries.

"For a country that has been zealous about taking in retired warships from other countries to build up its military power and that has from time to time conducted war games in the South China Sea, the top Philippine diplomat's claims carried a particularly strong sense of irony and absurdity," Lu said.

The news analyst claimed that the Philippines has launched a two-track approach on the decades-old sea row: seeking help from other countries such as US and Japan and tying the sea row in various Asean gatherings to "sabotage" China's diplomatic relations.

Related story: Japan to take Phl's side in South China Sea dispute

"So far the strategy has got nowhere. Outside meddling in regional affairs has only complicated the matter. Other countries, especially the United States, which has been talking about a new type of major-country relationship with China, are not showing Manila blanket support," Lu added.

A Chinese fishing vessel got stranded last April on the Philippines' marine sanctuary Tubbataha Reef. Its 12-member crew faced poaching and bribery charges and were detained in a provincial jail.

A retired Philippine warship, meanwhile, has been aground off Second Thomas Shoal since 1999. Chinese officials have renewed calls for the government to retrieve the vessel in late July.

'Water of peace'

Lu also said that China only wants to turn the South China Sea into a "water of peace, friendship and cooperation" but Manila insists in "too much theatrics."

"For other ASEAN countries, they are also tired of seeing Manila poison the atmosphere of one regional meeting after another with provocative  accusations again China, with which the bloc has enjoyed rather fruitful relations," the analyst said.

Del Rosario, however, maintained that the country does not favor the use of force in settling the tension with the Asian giant.

"We condemn any threats of use of force. We condemn that. And we continue to pursue to resolution of our disputes in a peaceful way," del Rosario added, citing Chinese media reports warning of a "counterstrike" from China if Manila continues to provoke Beijing.

China on Sunday agreed to formally discuss a South China Sea "code of conduct" with Southeast Asian leaders to ease maritime tensions with the Philippines, Japan, Vietnam and Indonesia. The talks will be held in September in a move that Thailand's foreign minister hailed as "very significant."

MILF agrees to revise wealth-sharing agreement

From the Philippine Star (Jul 1): MILF agrees to revise wealth-sharing agreement

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the largest anti-government rebel group in the Philippines, promised today to revise the wealth-sharing agreement under the Framework Agreement on Bangsamoro.

MILF Vice Chairman Ghadzali Jaafar said the decision was reached by the MILF Central Committee at a meeting that was presided by MILF chairman Al Haj Murad Ibrahim last week.

"We already have a position," said Jaafar on the government proposal. The official said the position they reached was "good because we discussed it during a whole day meeting."

Jaafar had earlier accused the government of deliberately delaying the signing of a peace agreement by proposing amendments to the already-initialed wealth-sharing agreement.

Jaafar also expressed that MILF commanders are growing impatient over these delays.
The MILF has been fighting government troops for decades to establish a self-rule Muslim state in southern Philippines. The Aquino government and the MILF formally signed on Oct. 15 of 2012 a framework agreement, a road map for final political settlement to end the decades-old armed struggle in southern Philippines.

President Aquino vows support for PAF pilots whose plane crashed

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 1): President Aquino vows support for PAF pilots whose plane crashed

President Benigno S. Aquino III vowed to provide support and assistance to the families of two Philippine Air Force (PAF) pilots whose plane, a light attack OV-10 Bronco crashed off the coastal waters of Puerto Princesa City in Palawan last month.

In his speech keynoting the 66th Founding Anniversary of the PAF here on Monday, the President said that he had been following closely the progress of the search and retrieval operations of the concerned agencies.

"Kamakailan lang, bumagsak ang OV-10 630 Bronco bomber lulan ang dalawa sa ating mga kawal. Kasalukuyan pa rin pong nagaganap ang search and retrieval operations, at makakaasa po ang pamilya ng mga piloto sa karampatang tulong at suporta ng gobyerno," the President said.

"Ang ganitong mga pangyayari nga mismo ang iniiwasan natin simula't sapul pa, kaya naman, nakatutok tayo sa modernisasyon ng ating pambansang tanggulan," he added.

Col. Miguel Okol, PAF spokesman, said that the light attack aircraft with tail No. R630 went missing following their takeoff at around 6:37 p.m. last June 23 to conduct a night flying proficiency training mission.

Task Force Bronco clarifies no fuselage, pilot remains found yet in Puerto Princesa

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 1): Task Force Bronco clarifies no fuselage, pilot remains found yet in Puerto Princesa

The Task Force Bronco clarified Sunday in a media conference the fuselage of the OV-10 Bronco 630 that crashed recently in this city has not yet been found, and neither any of its two pilots.

The clarification was made by TFB chief Brig. Gen. Conrado Parra in the media conference held at the headquarters of the 570th Composite Tactical Wing following published articles in national dailies that claim the fuselage has been found and in it is the remains of one of the pilots.

“Contrary to news coming out, we have not found the wreckage yet and the pilots. As of now, the operation is still search and rescue,” he said, and not “search and retrieval” using all available assets of the operational units of the Armed Forces under the Western Command.

He explained they felt the need to clarify wrong news reports that are coming out for the sake of the family of the two pilots, and the public who have been following up the progress of the operation they are conducting.

We do not know who these sources are, but we have not found the wreckage,” Parra said, adding the “significant findings” they earlier announced proved negative when dived and checked by expert frogmen of the Philippine Navy’s Special Warfare Action Group.

He also clarified that the search and rescue has never been called off by the TFB even when there was announcement of a new typhoon because the sea proved to be calm. But he said if the weather becomes unfavorable, they will temporarily “hold it” as the safety of their personnel is also important.

No deadline has been set as to when the search and rescue will be called off, according to Parra.

He said their mission is to remain looking for pilots Maj. Jonathan Ybanez and 1st Lt. Abner Nacion, and the fuselage which is important to an investigation they will conduct.

The head of the TFB did not also offer theories as to why the OV-10 Bronco 630 crashed when asked by the media.

“Like what I have said, we cannot come out with any theory; not unless we are able to conduct an investigation. We have been getting opinions as to why it crashed, but those cannot complete any conclusion,” he said.

“Please bear with us, we are prioritizing the operation before the investigation about what really happened,” Parra told the press.

His statement was despite the fact of his own disclosure that before the OV-10 Bronco 630 crash, one of its pilots were able to make communication to inform that a problem had caused its RPM (revolution per minute) to stuck up while trying to make a landing 7 nautical miles on final approach to the runway.

The RPM “is a measure of the frequency of rotation. It annotates the number of turns completed in one minute around a fixed axis. It is used as a measure of rotational speed of a mechanical component.”

It also makes vertical flight safe, practical and reliable.

But Parra cautioned that a stocked up RPM may not necessarily cause the crash.

It is better, he said, to wait for the result of the investigation.

“I can only say that there was communication from the pilots that the RPM of OV-10 630 got stuck up. But like I said, this is speculative. We do not want to make any preemptive statement pending investigation,” he said.

As of this writing, Parra said they are trying to borrow a remotely operated vehicle from the Malampaya Natural Gas Project (MNGP) to aid in the search.

Through the Joint Task Force Malampaya and the upper level of the AFP, he said, the machine might arrived in Puerto Princesa on Tuesday.

The equipment, commonly referred to as ROV, is “a tethered underwater vehicle” used in deep-water industries such as offshore hydrocarbon extraction. It is “unoccupied and highly maneuverable and operated by a person aboard a vessel.”

While in the process of borrowing the ROV, Parra Jr. said the Dept. of Science and Technology has allowed the TFB the use of its underwater camera to look for the missing pilots and the fuselage in two suspected areas picked up by their sonar search.

Unfortunately, SWAG divers came up with negative findings on the two locations within the 5.9 nautical mile radius of the search area just off the Puerto Princesa City International Airport runway to Honda Bay, Sta. Lourdes.

AFP formally closes Women's Auxiliary Corps

From the Philippine News Agency  (Jul 1): AFP formally closes Women's Auxiliary Corps

The Armed Forces Monday officially closed down the Office of the Women’s Auxiliary Corps after 50 years of existence as an administrative arm of the military.

Its office, under the General Headquarters Grandstand, in Camp Emilio Aguinaldo, is officially closed with its equipment and other facilities transferred to the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Logistics (J-4).

Its 14 officers and 595 active enlisted personnel are to be integrated into the major or technical service of their choice.

In the unmanning ceremony at the AFP General Headquarters Building Conference Room Friday, the flag of the WAC was symbolically folded, marking its conclusion.

The Chief WAC, Col. Yolanda P. Joaquin, said “The flag of the Corps may now be folded and encased but as to whether it will be unfurled once more or consigned permanently as a relic of the rich history of the AFP, only time and subsequent developments can tell.”

Legally, the WAC could not yet be deactivated as long as Republic Act 3895 as amended remains.

Thus, the unmanning of the office and the integration of its personnel to other units or major services of the AFP.

The AFP Deputy Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. Gregorio E. Macapagal, who was the presiding officer of the ceremony said “the ceremony does not symbolize the diminishing value of women in the military but has, instead, elevated their status in the armed service and are recognized as equal partners of men in national development. As such, they are no longer confined in only performing technical, administrative and non-combat roles but have extended their horizon to field duty assignments.”

The WAC was established in 1963 by virtue of Republic Act 3835 which instated the corps in the AFP to provide the procurement of its officers and enlisted personnel, and other purposes.

The first Chief WAC of the AFP was Col. Eufrecinia C. Alfonso, now retired.

It was founded by Josefa Borromeo Capistrano who first organized the Women’s Auxillary Service in Mindanao which was a group of Filipino women soldiers who nursed wounded revolutionaries and were also given tasks to lure American forces to the traps of the Filipino freedom fighters.

The Corps then went from deactivation in 1996 to a successful reactivation in March 2010.

The unmanning of WAC is pursuant to the Defense Planning Guidance 2014-2019 which deactivates AFP-Wide Service Support and Separate Units, and GHQ, AFP technical and administrative staffs duplicating roles, missions and functions of the Major Services.

Zambo police eye extortion behind bombing attempt

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 1): Zambo police eye extortion behind bombing attempt

The police are eyeing extortion as most likely the motive behind Monday's bombing attempt of an edifice being occupied by a real estate firm in this southern port city.

Senior Insp. Arlan Delumpines, Criminal Investigation and Detection Management Unit (CIDMU) chief of the local police, said the bombing attempt came five days after the owner of the building has received letter demanding payment for protection money.

Delumpines withheld the identity of the building owner except in saying he is a known businessman in this city.

He did not also disclose how much is being demanded as well as the source of the handwritten extortion letter which was received last June 26.

The building, which is located at the junction of Nuñez Street and Camachille Drive, is being occupied by the Filinvest Development Corporation, a real estate firm.

The improvised bomb was discovered around 8 a.m. Monday at the second floor of the building by the security guard on duty, who reported his find to the Zamboanga City Police Office (ZCPO).

The improvised bomb is classified as Ammonium Nitrate Fuel Oil (ANFO)-type of explosive, according to ZCPO's Explosive Ordnance Demolition (EOD) officer-in-charge Senior Police Officer 4 Wilfredo Fox.

Fox said a one-liter softdrink plastic bottle was packed with ammonium nitrate as the main charge with complete components like blasting cap, time fuse and nails as shrapnel.

He said the improvised bomb failed to explode since the time fuse was short to ignite the explosive's main charge although it was lighted.

The bomb was believed to have been tossed to the second floor of the building, according to Fox.

Investigation continues to ascertain the identity of the suspect behind the bombing attempt, Delumpines said.

Armed men abduct suspected military information in Agusan del Sur

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 1): Armed men abduct suspected military (informant) in Agusan del Sur
A village councilman was taken away by a group of armed men early Sunday morning in Agusan del Sur town on suspicion of being a military informant.

The abductors sent a demand to the local government for the withdrawal of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) troops in the area in exchange for the safe release of Bantuasan.

Reports from the Agusan del Sur Police Provincial Office mentioned that undetermined number of armed men swooped down at Barangay Sta. Teresa, Loreto town in Agusan del Sur and rounded up some 70 male residents and gathered them at the village elementary school. They then handpicked village council member Edgar Bantuasan, whom they suspected to be a military informant. They hogtied the victim, forcibly boarded him on a motorcycle and reportedly brought him to Sitio (district) Cabuga of the same barangay (village).

Police are still determining whether Bantuasan's abductors are members of the New People's Army.

The armed men reportedly threatened the residents that they will soon liquidate those who will continue to support the troops of the government.

Loreto police together with the AFP are now conducting pursuit operations against the suspects in order to rescue the victim. Meanwhile, a municipal crisis management committee is now being convened to handle abduction.

Army, PNP launch joint manhunt vs. Maguindanao bombers

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 1): Army, PNP launch joint manhunt vs. Maguindanao bombers

Police and military forces have launched a massive manhunt against men believed to be renegade Muslim rebels who set off two improvised explosive devices along a highway in Maguindanao on Sunday that left two soldiers and a civilian wounded.

Col. Dickson Hermoso, speaking for the 6th Infantry Division, said Col. Edgar Gonzales, chief of First Mechanized Infantry Brigade and Senior Supt. Rodelio Jocson, Maguinanao police chief, have met and laid out plans to prevent a repeat of roadside bombings.

Mobile checkpoints have been set up regularly to watch out for suspected bombers who normally used motorcycles in transporting improvised bombs.

Army and police intelligence operatives have initially blamed the bombings to extremist Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), a breakaway group of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), who publicly announced they will subject government forces to harassment.

Two soldiers and a civilian were hurt when to improvised explosive devices were set off along a national highway in Shariff Aguak, Maguindanao.

The first IED, fashioned from 105 mm howitzer, went off at about 9:20 a.m. Sunday that left Pfc. Reynaldo Sotto, an unidentified motorist said to be an off-duty Marine officer and a civilian named Fatimah Kunakon, resident of Barangay Satan, Shariff Aguak.

The explosive went off as the convoy of soldiers led by Col. Noli Orense, commanding officer of the 603rd Brigade, was passing Shariff Aguak en route to Buluan town, venue of the mass oath-taking of elected provincial and municipal officials.

Orense said the IED, triggered by a mobile phone, could have malfunctioned and went off after the military convoy had already passed the spot.

Several vehicles were in convoy heading toward Buluan from Maguindanao's first district when the roadside bombing happened.

Orense and Senior Insp. Marlon Silvestre separately said the bombs could be intended for local officials or Army personnel passing Shariff Aguak since a big political gathering was to take place in Buluan.

Silvestre said Kunakon was sitting in front of her house across the blast scene and sustained shrapnel injuries. The wounded soldiers are now confined at Camp Siongco Hospital.

The second IED, planted some 500 meters away from the site of first explosion, also went off at past noon when convoy of local officials and Army personnel were expected to return home from Buluan.

No one was hurt but the twin blasts forced Army and police personnel to temporarily block the highway while clearing operations were ongoing. It was opened an hour later.

Military intelligence operatives of the 6th Infantry Division suspected the radical BIFF as behind the bombing attempts.

Abu Misry, BIFF spokesman, would neither confirm nor deny his group was involved.

The BIFF gained notoriety last year when it launched simultaneous attacks against military and police installations in a futile effort to prevent the signing of the Framework Agreement on Bangsamoro in Malacanang.

The BIFF, composed now of renegade guerrillas, was opposed to the proposed new autonomous political entity in southern Philippines as it vowed to push for the establishment of an Islamic state in Mindanao.

Police and military estimate of BIFF forces was about 1,000 heavily armed men backed by mortars and shoulder-fired rocket propelled grenades.

Its areas of operations include the towns of Datu Piang, Mamasapano, Shariff Aguak, Datu Unsay, Guindulungan, Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Datu Abdullah Sangki and the Maguindanao marshland.

Aquino cites Gazmin for being instrumental in modernizing Air Force

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 1): Aquino cites Gazmin for being instrumental in modernizing Air Force

President Benigno S. Aquino III cited Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin for being instrumental in modernizing the Philippine Air Force to be at par with world standards.

The President made his citation of Gazmin during his speech keynoting the 66th Founding Anniversary of the PAF here on Monday.

"Ngayong umaga, sa pagdiriwang natin ng ika-animnapu't anim na anibersaryo ng Hukbong Himpapawid ng Pilipinas, bagong mukha ng gobyerno, at bagong dangal ng kasundaluhan ang humaharap sa mundo. Sa loob lamang ng tatlong taon, pinatunayan natin na ang Philippine Air Force ay muling bumabagwis tungo sa makabagong lakas, at matatag na bukas," the Ptesident said.

"Nagpapasalamat tayo sa dedikasyon at inisyatiba ni Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin upang itaas ang kakayahan at ang kalidad ng kagamitan ng ating buong kasundaluhan, gayundin sa mahusay at tapat na pamumuno ni Lieutenant General Lauro Catalino Dela Cruz sa inyong hukbo. Kitang-kita naman sa inyong aktibong pagtatanod kung paano ninyo pinagsisilbihan ang mga Pilipino," he added.

He vowed that before he stepped down in 2016, the entire Armed Forces of the Philippines would have benefitted from the AFP Modernization Act.

"Mulat po tayo sa mga kasalukuyang limitasyon ng ating sandatahan, kaya naman nagpapasalamat tayo sa inisyatiba ng Air Force na kumpunihin upang muling mapakinabangan ang ilang eroplano't sasakyan, gaya ng labimpitong M-35 trucks, isang N-22 Nomad transport aircraft, isang UH-1H Utility Helicopter, isang LC-210 aircraft at MG-520 attack helicopter," the President said.

"At dahil sa pagsasabatas ng New AFP Modernization Act, pitumpu’t limang bilyong pisong pondo ang mailalaan natin sa Tanggulang Pambansa sa susunod na limang taon. Asahan po ninyong bago tayo bumaba sa pwesto, tumatanod na sa ating himpapawid ang mga makabago't modernong kagamitan gaya ng lead-in fighters, long-range patrol aircraft, close air support aircraft, light-lift fixed-wing aircraft, medium-lift aircraft, attack helicopters, combat utility helicopters, air defense radars, at flight simulators," he said.

"Nananalig ako na sa pagsasanib ng mga pagkilos ng pamahalaan upang gawing mas moderno ang inyong mga pangangailangan, at ang panibagong dangal at kumpiyansa ng taumbayan sa ating kasundaluhan, talagang magiging abot-langit ang serbisyong hatid ng Hukbong Himpapawid ng Pilipinas," the President further said.

President Aquino vows to boost PHL defense by acquiring new aircraft

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 1): President Aquino vows to boost PHL defense by acquiring new aircraft

President Benigno Aquino III on Monday vowed to modernize the Philippine Air Force (PAF) through the acquisition of new and modern aircraft and equipment that would boost the country's defense and prevent the loss of lives among soldiers.

The President, in his speech during the PAF's 66th anniversary celebration at the Haribon Hangar, Air Force City here, has assured the PAF of new lead-in fighters, long-range patrol aircraft, close air support aircraft, attack helicopters, air defense radars, flight simulators and other modern equipment before his term ends.

This is part of the AFP modernization program wherein P75 billion will be allocated in the next five years.

President Aquino cited that it is important to modernize the PAF as this would improve the delivery of services to the nation and the people.

"Nananalig ako sa pagsasanib ng mga pagkilos ng pamahalaan upang gawing mas moderno ang inyong mga pangangailangan, at ang panibagong dangal at kumpiyansa ng taumbayan sa ating kasundaluhan, talagang magiging abot-langit ang serbisyong hatid ng Hukbong Himpapawid ng Pilipinas," he said.

The Chief Executive also lamented last week's plane crash in Palawan involving a military 0V-10 Bronco aircraft.

"Ang ganitong mga pangyayari nga mismo ang iniiwasan natin simula’t sapul pa. Kaya naman, nakatutok tayo sa modernisasyon ng ating pambansang tanggulan," he said.

He, however, assured the plane crash victims' families for the government's full support and assistance.

He said there is no doubt that the government is gradually entering into a new chapter in the history of the PAF.

He said the government is now responding to the needs of the military from the modern airplane up to their benefits such as housing unlike before that their welfare have been neglected.

In the light of the continuing efforts of the government to modernize the PAF, the President, however, is asking them to render utmost service to the nation and the people

Sa susunod na lumipad kayo, tanawin ninyo ang libu-libong islang bumubuo sa ating bansa. Isipin ninyo kung ilang Pilipino ang nakatingala, pinagmamasdan ang pagbagwis ninyo sa langit, at buong-pagmamalaki nilang nasasambit na "Salamat at nariyan ang Philippine Air Force. Walang maaaring sumindak o manggipit sa akin. Ligtas ako," he added.

AFP modernization now making significant headway

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 1): AFP modernization now making significant headway

Like a phoenix slowly rising from the ashes, the Armed Forces of the Philippines is making significant headway in developing its minimum-credible deterrent capability.

This is also called the ability to forestall attempts by intruders attempting to violate the country's maritime, aerial and land territories, thanks to the commitment given by President Benigno S. Aquino III to the military.

The latter allocated around P75 billion to modernize the AFP. This money will be spent within five years.

"It is a step forward, a keen capability upgrade for all of our forces. We may not be comparable to other countries in the totality of equipage but the (modernization) program addresses a lot of our tactical and operational needs," AFP spokesperson Brig. Gen. Domingo Tutaan said of the development.

Highlighting this focus is the BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PF-16), the second Hamilton-class cutter acquired by the Aquino administration from the Americans, is now on its way home and is expected to be in Philippine territory by first week of August.

The Aquino government utilized more than USD15 million in refurbishing and re-equipping this ship.

The ship, which naval experts said is more heavily-armed that its sistership, the BRP Gregorio Del Pilar (PF-15), is expected to be in service by next September.

It is expected to improve the country's domain awareness capability or the capacity to detect, deter and pursue intruders in the Philippines' vast territorial waters

Aside from the BRP Ramon Alcaraz, the Philippine Navy is expecting the delivery of three AW-109 naval choppers by December courtesy of AgustaWestland.

As of this posting, the flight and maintenance crew of these aircraft are now undergoing training at Sesto Calende, Italy (and) these are avionics and maintenance trainings.

"The PN is also very thankful to the present administration for the continued support that the Navy is receiving," PN spokesperson Lt. Cmdr. Gregory Fabic stressed emphasized.

The contract for the three AW-109 naval helicopters were signed last April and will be delivered this coming December.

These choppers are worth around P1.33 billion.

"With the support we are getting from the present administration and the capability upgrade and modernization efforts in place, the officers and men of the PN are esteemed to serve the country and the people," he added.

Aside from these, Fabic said equipment in the pipeline includes three more multi-purpose assault craft, a anti-submarine helicopter, engineering and other support equipment.

Recently, the Dept. of National Defense announced that it is allocating P4-billion for two strategic sealift vessels and another P18-billion to acquire two brand-new missile-firing frigates as to fully boost the deterrent capability of the PN.

Fabic's earlier sentiments was also echoed by Philippine Air Force spokesperson Col. Miguel Ernesto Okol who stressed that he is very confident with the way the Aquino government is conducting the AFP's modernization.

"Most of (big) ticket items (equipment upgrade for the PAF) we have requested for has been approved," he added.

This includes the so-called surface attack aircraft, lead-in fighter aircraft, surveillance radars, medium lift and light transport and long-range patrol aircraft.

Recently, the PAF has completed the delivery of its eight W-3A "Sokol" combat utility helicopters with the last four being delivered last Nov. 26, 2012 and Feb. 17 this year.

The first batch of four was delivered in sometimes in 2011. These "Sokols' were commissioned and place in PAF service in March 9, 2012.

Aside from this, the Air Force has also beefed up the number of Lockheed C-130 "Hercules" aircraft from one to three, thanks to the ongoing modernization and upgrade programs.

The additional C-130s were activated during the latter part of 2012.

Besides this, DND observers said that the Philippines is now on the closing stages of the contract regarding the acquisition of 12 South Korean F/A -50 "Golden Eagle" jet aircraft which is touted to be the PAF's interim fighter aircraft.

It has allocated P18 billion for this program.

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

This boost to Philippine military equippage was made possible by the Dec. 11, 2012 signing of President Aquino signing of Republic Act No. 10349 which amends Republic Act No. 7898 or the AFP Modernization Act.

The amendment will "boost the AFP's capability upgrade program as it shifts from internal to external defense capability."

With the passage of the law, the military will be able to push for the acquisition of equipment which is listed in our medium term (2013-2017) acquisition list.

"(This amendment will extend) the implementation of our modernization and capability upgrade program will also provide greater opportunities and enough time for us to finally achieve a minimum credible defense posture which will help us in better fulfilling our mandate to protect the people and the state," the AFP stressed.

Republic Act No. 10349 has a budget of P75 billion for the first five years of implementation subject to the capacity of the DND to utilize and implement the program in accordance with the Defense System of Management.

The new law exempts certain major defense purchases such as aircraft, vessels, tanks, armored vehicles, communications equipment and high-powered firearms from public bidding.

It also exempts from value-added tax and customs duties the sale and importation of weapons, equipment and ammunition to the AFP which are directly and exclusively used for its projects, undertakings, activities and programs.

Republic Act 10349 also institutionalizes the defense system of management, which incorporates a collegial and collaborative planning and decision-making process by senior defense and military leaders.

It also allows additional funding from public-private partnerships entered into by the DND as well as multi-year contracts.

This law will hopefully repair the damage caused by long years of neglect to the military which during the 1960s up to the 70's was considered to be Southeast Asia's best.

DND undersecretary for finance, munitions, installations, and materiel Fernando Manalo earlier said that the signing and passage of the revised AFP Modernization Act will definitely make the military more capable of carrying out its constitutional mandate.

"This law will give the AFP a minimal credible deterrent posture," he emphasized.

Aside from defense equipment, engineering and search-and-rescue materiel will also be acquired, Manalo pointed out, giving the Philippines more assets in its peace and community development.

5 hurt in blast at Zambo highway

From Rappler (Jul 1): 5 hurt in blast at Zambo highway

A grenade thrown at a bus on a busy highway in Zamboanga City early Monday, July 1, injured at least 5 employees of a fishing company, police reports reaching Rappler said.

An initial Philippine National Police report said the explosion at Maria Clara Lorenzo Lobregat Highway (MCLL) in Barangay Guiwan, Zamboanga City, damaged a shuttle bus of the Philippine Fisheries Development Authority, which is based at the city port.

 "Malaking explosion," said a PNP official, quoting local police reports.

Local police said the grenade was thrown at the bus while it was travelling on MCLL Highway near the intersection of Sta Cruz at 7:10 am. The injured were identified as: Luciano Gelaga, Ombre Hamsirani, Orly Villareal, Emil Anita and Eugene Khristian Lozano, all employees of the Sangali Fishing Corp.

PNP intelligence sources said that the port manager had been receiving letters and text messages from "extortionists" identified with the Abu Sayyaf and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front based in Basilan and Sacol islands, where most of the port's sea products come from.

Give Australia, ASEAN access to PH bases

From Rappler (Jul 1): Give Australia, ASEAN access to PH bases

INCLUDE OTHER STATES: Former defense secretary Gilbert Teodoro Jr supports a government plan to give US, Japan more access to Philippine military bases. File photo

INCLUDE OTHER STATES: Former defense secretary Gilbert Teodoro Jr supports a government plan to give US, Japan more access to Philippine military bases. File photo

Former defense secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr supports a government plan to give the United States and Japan more access to Philippine military bases. He said the same access should be given to Australia and ASEAN countries.

"I favor optimizing access to Philippine bases not only for Japan and the US, but also for other friendly States, such as the ASEAN states and Australia," Teodoro told Rappler on Monday, July 1, when asked to comment on the government plan.

"This will facilitate confidence building and interoperability between our forces and those of others," Teodoro added.

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said the government is drafting plans to allow US forces to spend extended time on the Philippines' military bases. He said the same plan will be offered to Japan's military.

READ: PH wants to give US, Japan access to bases

Teodoro argued defense exchanges have various benefits, including assisting the Philippine government in improving its disaster preparedness.

"This is useful not merely for traditional defense concerns but also for non-traditional ones such as Humaniatarian Assistance and Disaster Response (HADR), Peace Keeping Operations (PKO), and responding to pandemics, to name a few," Teodoro said in an e-mail to Rappler.

Teodoro ran for president in 2010 but lost to his cousin, President Benigno Aquino III. He continues to speak on security and defense-related matters.

Concerned camps

Various camps are critical of the government's plan to open access to its bases, notably the one in Subic, Olongapo City. Leftist group Bayan called on government and various sectors to "reject US intervention and manipulation."

"The Philippine government is grossly mistaken if it thinks that the US is the key to defending our national sovereignty. The US is merely out to take advantage of the dispute so that it can position itself strategically in Asia," Bayan said in a statement on Sunday, June 30.

The Philippine Daily Inquirer also ran a July 1 editorial critical of the plan. It reads: "A decision to host allied military forces inside Philippine bases, however, should not be taken lightly; meetings and supply arrangements and joint exercises can all be justified as the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ belated attempts at capacity-building.
Allowing foreign troops from allies with a stake in the ongoing South China Sea disputes to operate in and—the crucial difference—from Philippine military bases is much harder to rationalize."

Teodoro said what's important is for government to craft policy guidelines that will guarantee the protection of Philippine interests.

"I used the term optimizing in order to underscore the importance of having carefully crafted policy guidelines on the matter, which shall take into account our national and international interests, responsibilities, and obligations," he explained.

Aggressive China

The plan to give the US and Japan more access to the country's military bases comes at a difficult time for Philippine-China relations.

On Saturday, June 29, China's state-run media warned that the Philippines should brace itself for a possible "counterstrike should Beijing continue to be provoked in the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea).

The Philippines has accused China of "massive" military buildup in the disputed West Philippine Sea. In a statement released on the first day of the annual Asia-Pacific talks in Brunei, the Philippines warned that the Asian giant's tactics threatened peace in the region.

Japan earlier pledged to help the Philippines defend its "remote islands," as both governments expressed concern over China's robust moves to stake its claims to disputed Asian waters.

READ: Japan vows to help PH amid China Sea row

"We agreed that we will further cooperate in terms of the defense of remote islands... the defense of territorial seas as well as protection of maritime interests," Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera told a joint news conference.

The Philippine military also recently held war games with the United States near the disputed Scarborough Shoal. It is a part of a 6-day Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) exercises that involved 3 US Navy vessels, including the USS Fitzgerald, a guided missile destroyer.

Aquino praises PAF, vows sustained modernization

From Rappler (Jul 1): Aquino praises PAF, vows sustained modernization

President Benigno Aquino III was not short of praises for the Air Force on Monday, July 1, during the celebration of their 66th anniversary.

Aquino, who is known to lambast government agencies for their poor performance, celebrated the achievements of the Philippine Air Force (PAF), including their efficient use of their budget.

"It is a joy to see you have not swayed from our mission to make good governance permanent. Because of the good and cost-efficient administration of your budget according to the Department of Budget and Management, the financial obligation efficiency of the Air Force hit 99.6%," he said in his speech.

Among their achievements due to the efficient use of budget is being able to make the C-130 transport aircraft as well as other aircrafts, trucks, and a utility and attack helicopter work for the first time.

He also celebrated the Air Force's help in peacekeeping efforts in Mindanao, as well as the speed of their response during typhoons and rescue operations. Aquino counted over 28,300 sorties, 1,500 ground operations, and almost 4,700 civil military operations undergone by the Air Force in his 3 years in power.

Aquino said the improvement within the Air Force has been stark since his term. He commended Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin as well as the leadership of Lieutenant General Lauro Catalino dela Cruz for their service to Filipinos.

"Why is it that in the past decade, our Air Force suffered from a broken wings, and we merely relied on old and rickety planes and equipment? It's sad to think we reached a situation like this, because while past leaders were drunk with power, they neglected the interests and welfare of our Filipino fighters," he said.

He added, "In just 3 years, the Philippine Air Force proved they are on their way to increased strength and a stable tomorrow."

Continued modernization

In accordance to Aquino's promise to strengthen the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Aquino also vowed to continue to modernize the PAF. He mentioned the crash of an Air Force OV-10 aircraft over a week ago in Palawan during a special training flight, which carried two soldiers.

Aquino gave assurances that search and retrieval operations continue to find the missing pilots, and vowed to prevent such accidents from occurring again, hence the modernization of PAF's aircrafts.

He expressed faith in improved services delivered by the Air Force, citing the P75 billion allotted to improve the armed forces in the next 5 years under the New AFP Modernization Act.

This is on top the more than P19 billion that had spent over the past 3 years for this purpose.

Between 1992 and 2010, the Philippines had spent only P33 billion pesos for military modernization, Aquino said.

Aquino said he is committed to reversing the under-spending on military capability that he said had characteried the Philippines since the early 1990s.

"Before I step down from the office, you can be assured the Air Force will have modern vehicles and aircrafts such as lead-in fighters, long-range patrol aircraft, close air support aircraft, light-lift fixed-wing aircraft, medium-lift aircraft, attack helicopters, combat utility helicopters, air defense radars, at flight simulators," he said.

"I promise: in the efforts of the government to modernize your needs, and the renewed confidence of the people in our Air Force, the service it will be able to provide will truly be sky-high)," he said.

The Philippines, a former US colony, retired the last of its US-designed F-5 fighters in 2005 and lacks air defense.

Aquino reiterated his administration's plans to modernize the military as tensions rise with China over overlapping territorial claims to islands and waters in the South China Sea.

The main focus was initially the Navy, with the acquisition of two Hamilton-class cutters decommissioned by the US Coast Guard.

The first of the two refurbished vessels became the Philippine Navy's flagship in 2011, replacing a warship initially built for the US Navy in World War II.

The second cutter is set to arrive in the Philippines later this year.

More than a dozen PMA graduates have been elected to office

From InterAksyon (Jul 1): More than a dozen PMA graduates have been elected to office

At least 18 military officers who graduated from the prestigious Philippine Military Academy (PMA) and spent half of their life in the service are now elected government leaders.

“When retirement seems to be an end to a soldier’s career, these PMA alumni found their way to back to government service by running for a political office," Col. Romeo Brawner Jr., public relations chairman of the PMA Alumni Association, Inc., said.

Among the prominent cavaliers who won in last May 2013’s local and national elections are Senators Gregorio B. Honasan (Class 1971) and Antonio F. Trillanes III (1995); Muntinlupa Representative Rodolfo G. Biazon (1961); and Zambales Governor Hermogenes E. Ebdane Jr. (1970).

PMA alumni are called cavaliers in recognition of a prestigious brotherhood.

The list also includes Lubang, Occidental Mindoro Mayor Juan M. Sanchez (1955); Antipolo City Representative Romeo M. Acop (1970), Pangasinan Governor Amado T. Espino Jr. (1972); San Manuel, Tarlac Mayor Benjamin D. Tesoro (1975); Alabat, Quezon Mayor Fernando L. Mesa (1975); 2nd District of Pangasinan Representative Leopoldo N. Bataoil (1976); Tuguegarao, Cagayan Mayor Jefferson P. Soriano (1976); Laoac, Pangasinan Mayor Silverio D. Alarcio Jr. (1976); Bangui, Ilocos Norte Vice-Mayor Fidel A. Cimatu Jr. (1977); Anti-Crime and Terrorism thru Community Involvement Support Partylist Representative Samuel D. Pagdilao Jr. (1979); Barotac Viejo, Iloilo Mayor Raul C. Tupas (1994); and DIWA Partylist Chair Edgar B. Aglipay (1971) represented by his daughter, Atty. Emmelyn Aglipay.

The Magdalo Party List group was also able to secure two seats during the elections for Garry C. Alejano (1995) and Francisco Ashley Acedillo (1999),” Brawner said.

The number of votes per party list determines the number of seats.

Whichever gets two percent of total votes cast are guaranteed a seat; those that get more than two percent may get additional seats based on the Comelec’s formula on seat allocation.

The party list system is a proportional mode of representation in Congress.
The Magdalo was formed by Trillanes’ group that revolted against the Arroyo administration. The group seized the Oakwood Hotel in Makati City that earned them the moniker Oakwood munity in 2003.

To date, the highest post ever occupied by a PMA alumnus in politics was the Presidency by Fidel V. Ramos (United States Military Academy 1950) who became the 12th President of the Philippines from 1992 to 1998. Meanwhile, Panfilo M. Lacson (1971) ended his term as Senator last June 30.

“PMA alumni running for public office is not a new practice in the country. In fact, more and more cavaliers are turning to politics after retiring from the service to continue their advocacy and serve the people and the nation,” Brawner said.

US urges progress on South China Sea tensions after Manila warns of Beijing build-up

From InterAksyon (Jul 1): US urges progress on South China Sea tensions after Manila warns of Beijing build-up

US Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday urged progress on a code of conduct to govern the hotly disputed South China Sea, after ally the Philippines warned of a Chinese military build-up in the strategically vital waters.

"We very much hope to see progress on a substantive code of conduct to help ensure stability in this vital region," Kerry told foreign ministers of Southeast Asian nations at a meeting in Brunei.

Kerry reiterated that the United States does not take a stand on the sea's myriad disputes, many of which pit a rising China against its neighbours.

But Kerry said: "We have a strong interest in the manner in which the disputes of the South China Sea are addressed and in the conduct of the parties."

"As a Pacific nation and a resident power, the United States has a national interest in the maintenance of peace and stability, respect for international law, unimpeded lawful commerce and freedom of navigation in the South China Sea," Kerry said.

But he said, in a clear reference to China: "Our actions are not intended to contain or to counterbalance any one country."

China has been reluctant to reach a code of conduct with the ASEAN bloc, preferring to negotiate individually with each country.

The Philippines and Vietnam have in recent years accused China of increasingly aggressive actions to exert claims to the sea.

China insists it has sovereign rights to all of the sea. ASEAN members the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei and Malaysia, as well as Taiwan, also claim parts of the sea.

On Sunday, Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert Del Rosario told his ASEAN colleagues in Brunei that China had begun a "massive" military build-up in the sea.

"The overwhelming presence of Chinese ships, including military and paramilitary ships, and the issuance of threats pose serious challenges for the region as a whole," Del Rosario said.

Kerry's predecessor, Hillary Clinton, made similar statements on the US position on the South China Sea, starting at a 2010 ASEAN meeting in Hanoi.

Those comments signalled stronger US support for Southeast Asian nations at a time of tension with China.

Kerry, who flew straight into meetings after exhaustive diplomacy in the Middle East, rejected suggestions that President Barack Obama's administration would focus less on Asia after Clinton's departure.

"Let me be crystal clear. I know that some people wondered whether in the second term of the Obama administration and with a new secretary of state, are we going to continue on the path that we have been on?

"The answer, I say to all of you directly, is yes -- not just yes, but we hope to increase the effort," Kerry said.