Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Some Lahad Datu Intrusion Matters Still Classified - IGP

From Bernama (July 2): Some Lahad Datu Intrusion Matters Still Classified - IGP

Some aspects of the Sulu terrorist intrusion into Lahad Datu, Sabah have been kept confidential so as not to jeopardise the ongoing court prosecution proceeding.

Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar said there were some more untold stories that had not been disclosed publicly.

"We are waiting for the right time to reveal them as it is somewhat difficult to accept the fact that 200 armed people in jungle fatigues could emerge suddenly.

"The trial is going on, so we shouldn't disturb the proceeding. When the time comes, if need be, we will declassify the classified," he said.

He was speaking to reporters after a talk on 'Cooperation Between Malaysian Armed Forces (MAF) and Royal Malaysia Police (RMP) During Ops Daulat: A National Blue Ocean Strategy Effort' organised by the Malaysian Institute of Defence and Security here Tuesday.

Also present at the talk was Malaysian Armed Forces (ATM) chief General Tan Sri Zulkifeli Mohd Zain which discussed cooperation between (ATM) and the police force to tackle the Sulu terrorist intrusion during 'Ops Daulat' in Sabah.

Meanwhile, Zulkifeli said security forces would take a cautious stance on all groups to safeguard the country's sovereignty and security.

He felt the Sulu terrorists who arrived in Kampung Tanduo on Feb 12, this year were targeting to attack when the Malaysian Parliament was dissolved, by creating chaos against the interim government.

"They came when there were talks that the 13th General Election would be held after the Chinese New Year, and they needed to regroup their strength before launching an assault to claim Sabah.

"I did not know who gave them strategic information but we are grateful we could detect them early before Parliament was dissolved and took action to stop them," he added.

The intrusion by terrorists from southern Philippines shocked the nation after they occupied a village area in Lahad Datu on Feb 12. The government launched 'Ops Daulat' on March 5 to defend the country's sovereignty.

Eight policemen and two soldiers were killed in 'Ops Daulat' while 68 terrorists were gunned down in the operation.

Gazmin on China threat: Irresponsible

From ABS-CBN (Jul 2): Gazmin on China threat: Irresponsible

Beijing was being "irresponsible" by threatening a "counterstrike" in response to the Philippines' offering its allies access to its air and naval facilities, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said Monday.

Gazmin said that while he is not worried about China’s threat, he is exhorting Beijing to be more circumspect and not to resort to intimidation and coercion in settling disputes with the Philippines and its neighbors.

Gazmin issued the statement shortly before flying to Clark air base to attend the celebration of the 66th anniversary of the Philippine Air Force.

On Saturday, the People’s Daily – the mouthpiece of the ruling Chinese Communist Party – said the Philippines was inviting a counterstrike for "provoking" Beijing.

In a commentary, the newspaper also accused the Philippines of making the Association of Southeast Asian Nations an “accomplice” in the “violation” of China’s “sovereignty” over some islets and shoals in the West Philippine Sea.

Gazmin said he agrees with Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario’s reprimanding Beijing and reminding it of the preeminence of international law in settling issues.

Del Rosario had also said China’s provocative statement had no place among civilized nations.

DFA spokesman Raul Hernandez said China is obliged under international laws, specifically the United Nations Charter, “to pursue a peaceful resolution of disputes – meaning without the use of force or the threat to use force.”

“We call on China to be a responsible member in the community of nations,” Hernandez said.

The People’s Daily said that among the “sins” committed by the Philippines were its “illegal occupation” of the Kalayaan Island Group, inviting foreign companies to engage in oil and gas development in the disputed waters and internationalizing the territorial conflict.

The commentary said that if Manila continues to assert its position on the issue, “a counterstrike will be hard to avoid.”

China, citing what it calls historical facts, has been laying claim to almost the entire South China Sea and West Philippine Sea. Aside from the Philippines and China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also have claims in the potentially resource rich areas in the South China Sea and West Philippine Sea.

A senior administration lawmaker, for his part, described China’s “counterstrike” threat as “saber rattling.”

“That’s all there is to it. I don’t think China would want to start a war that may have imponderable consequences,” Isabela Rep. Giorgidi Aggabao, a member of the House committee on foreign affairs in the 15th Congress, said.

Aggabao said such a counterstrike would, for one thing, inevitably push Japan to rearm.

For another, the US will have a pretext to hasten its “pivot to Asia.”

“In sum, it would not be in the interest of China to strike,” he said.

Mutually beneficial

In a press briefing, DFA’s Hernandez said the Philippines would open its bases to the United States only if it would be sure of benefits. He also stressed that such an arrangement would be in accordance with the Philippine Constitution and pertinent laws.

He said discussions on the matter are ongoing, particularly on an increased rotational presence of US forces in the country.

“We continue to talk and define with the US the parameters of this rotational presence,” Hernandez said.

“Most of the activities now that we have with the US fall under the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) and the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA),” he added.

“What is important is whatever policies we are able to negotiate with the US, it should be mutually beneficial for both the Philippines and the US and that is in accordance with our laws, especially with our Constitution,” he added.

While Gazmin announced the country’s readiness to open its bases to allies, he clarified that there is no plan to build new bases just to accommodate the US and other allies, saying the Constitution prohibits it.

Gazmin said the access agreement was brought up during the Two Plus Two ministerial consultations held in Washington last year.

CARAT ends

Meanwhile, the joint Philippine-US naval exercise called Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) ends today.

Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala, Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesman, said that this year’s joint naval exercise has equipped Filipino and US sailors with additional skills and techniques in naval warfare and in dealing with various types of sea- and land-based calamities.

“The key word here is interoperability. We learned from them and they’ve learned from us,” Zagala said.

The joint naval exercise was held barely 20 nautical miles from Panatag Shoal, a rich Filipino fishing ground only 124 nautical miles from mainland Zambales, but which is currently under the de facto control of China.

The Naval Forces Northern Luzon (Navfornol), however, barred the media from covering the actual naval maneuver and directed journalists instead to Subic to cover their land-based joint civic action activities as well as a concert.

Officials who declined to be named said the media restriction was apparently imposed so as not to intimidate China, whose vessels operate unhampered in the area.

Ensign Bernard Sabado, this year’s CARAT spokesman, said today’s closing ceremonies, as decided by both Philippine and US organizers, would be closed to media.

In Oyon Bay in Masinloc, members of a militant group yesterday held a fluvial protest against the presence of US warships taking part in the CARAT joint military exercise.


AFP, JSOTF, DepEd, and USAID build new classrooms in Basilan

From the Zamboanga Today (Jul 2): AFP, JSOTF, DepEd, and USAID build new classrooms in Basilan

Two High Schools in Isabela City are recipients of the collaborative projects between the Department of Education Region IX, Isabela City, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and the U.S. Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines (JSOTF-P).

Both Cabunbata National High School and Baluno National High School held ribbon cutting ceremonies on Thursday, June 27, 2013 for the new classrooms built through a U.S. government humanitarian assistance program.

Attendees at the ceremony included Provincial Administrator Tahira Ismael, Region IX Department of Education Superintendent Dr. Hilda Babon, Isabela City Mayor Cherry-Lyn Santos Akbar, and Joint Task Force-Basilan Commander Colonel Carlito Galvez.

The U.S. government was represented by representatives from USAID and JSOTF-P.

In her speech at Cabunbata National High School during the cutting ceremony, Mayor Cherry-Lyn Santos Akbar expressed her gratitude for the project which added an additional three classrooms and comfort rooms to the school. The school currently has more than 300 students enrolled.

“One year ago, this started with the parents and the principal, who brought their idea to the city, and we brought it to the AFP,” she said. “Isabela City is very fortunate to receive this funding and the untiring support from everyone involved.”

Col. Galvez echoed Mayor Akbar’s sentiments. He said that under his watch, the AFP would do their part to ensure the success of the schools and he would continue to pursue partnerships with these stakeholders to bring civil-military projects such like this to Basilan.

Baluno National High School Principal, Lyna Basri, explained that the new classrooms will move students out of old agricultural stockrooms into three new classrooms.

The new construction at each site includes a one story building with three classrooms, comfort rooms, septic tanks, and water tanks. The AFP nominated both schools for the funding program. This is the second of seven projects the JSOTF-P, in close collaboration with AFP, will complete this fiscal year in the southern Philippines.

Before Baluno National High School was chartered, the tremendous distance and cost made secondary education impossible for many children here, explained Basri. “This project was very well deserved,” she said. “This school is the fruit of the hard work, persistence and dedication of everyone involved.”

Principal Lyna Basri, Dr Hilda Babon and Mr Robert Burch cut the ribbon to dedicate the opening of three new classrooms at Baluno National High School.

The new building (far left) at Cabunbata National High School will accommodate 150 additional students. The school currently has more than 300 students enrolled.


‘Basing plan to follow PH laws’

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jul 2): ‘Basing plan to follow PH laws’

Plans to give US forces greater access to Philippine military bases are still under study and will only be carried out with deference to the Philippine Constitution and the country’s laws, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said on Monday.

As talk of expanded US access to the country’s military facilities invited concern from several sectors, DFA spokesman Assistant Secretary Raul Hernandez assured the public that “whatever policies we are able to negotiate with the US should be mutually beneficial for both.”

The DFA official added that the Philippine and US sides were still working out the plan under existing provisions of the Philippine-US Mutual Defense Treaty.

“I understand that [Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin] has stated that we are examining modalities for the increased rotational presence of US forces in the Philippines. We continue to talk and refine with the US the parameters of this rotational presence,” Hernandez said in a press briefing on Monday.

He said that US forces, which ran permanent bases in the Philippines until 1991, would only be granted access to Philippine military facilities if the arrangement would benefit both sides.

“The Philippines will only allow the use of its facilities provided [that] it is mutually beneficial for both parties and in accordance with the Philippine Constitution and our laws,” Hernandez said.

“(The plan) is under examination and both parties continue to talk about these modalities and the parameters of this possible policy, but what is very important is that whatever policies that we are able to negotiate with the US should be mutually beneficial for both,” he added.

Strategic pivot
The Philippines and the United States, its foremost defense ally, have long been in talks of expanding the rotational presence of US forces in the country as part of America’s strategic pivot to the Asia-Pacific.
Currently, the Philippines receives routine port visits by US ships and engages in military and disaster preparedness exercises with the US military.
Talk of greater military access for US forces became stronger as the Philippines beefed up its military in the face of security concerns over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), disputed territories currently seeing a “massive military buildup” by the Chinese, according to Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario.
While pushing for a peaceful resolution of its maritime dispute with China, the Philippines has also expressed its resolve to “defend what is ours,” the DFA head said.
Meanwhile, in Olongapo City, Zambales, fishermen and their supporters from militant groups staged a rally on Monday to protest the ongoing Philippine-US military exercises, saying the United States would get the country in trouble with China.
“Having foreign navy vessels doing live fire drills in our backyard makes us feel unsafe. By allowing them [to enter] our territory when tensions with our neighbors, like China, are high, the Aquino administration is putting our people’s welfare under unnecessary risk,” Rufina Arcega, spokesperson of the groups, said in a statement.
In a telephone interview, Arcega said at least 50 fisherfolk and members of the Kilusan para sa Pambansang Demokrasya joined the rally aboard boats in Masinloc town.
6 US warships
Arcega said the groups were protesting the presence of six American warships in the area, including the US Navy’s guided missile destroyer, the USS Fitzgerald, and the holding of the annual joint military exercise, the Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (Carat).
The Carat exercises are ending Tuesday.
“We should remember the lessons of the past. We do not need friends like the US who would use our country as a pawn to advance its containment strategy (against) its rivals like China,” the statement said.
“Our government has to muster the necessary political will to sever the ties that continue to bind the Philippines in an unequal relationship with the US,” the statement added.
Arcega said the Philippine-US Mutual Defense Treaty and the Visiting Forces Agreement would drag the country into a protracted conflict against the US’ rivals, like China, in the Asia-Pacific region.
She said the United States was “using Philippine territory to project its military might to its enemies.”
“The Filipino people will be caught in the conflict in case China responds to the provocations of the US,” Arcega said.


40 Bangsamoro writers undergo basic journalism seminar

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jul 2): 40 Bangsamoro writers undergo basic journalism seminar

Forty Bangsamoro writers from different areas in Mindanao participated in a three-day basic journalism seminar held recently at Camp Darapanan of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in Simuay, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao.

MILF panel chairman Mohaqher Iqbal said, this is the first time wherein Bangsamoro writers were trained in journalism.

Most of the participants were writers of www.luwaran.com, the official website of the MILF, and Maradika, the official newsletter of the Moro group which is published every month.

Iqbal explained that insights from the seminar will be used by the writers for the regional news paper and radio station which they are going to build as part of the initiative of expanding and strengthening the understanding of the people on issues concerning the MILF and the Moro residents in Mindanao.

The activity which was graced by writers from print, radio and TV who served as the lecturers, is part of the so called ‘nation building’, according to Iqbal.

Meanwhile, he noted that they are constantly communicating with their counterpart regarding the date of the next peace talks and that they are continuously working with the Transition Commission, the body which is tasked to lay down the contents or the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB).

Iqbal serves as the chairman of the said commission.

The MILF chairman admitted that currently, the Transition Commission has no fund to further continue with their work. He emphasized that every session of the commission needs a fund.

Starting March this year, the commission has only conducted three sessions; the first one was in Manila, the second in Cotabato City and the third session in Tagaytay.

As of now, the Transition Commission still awaits the copy of the three annexes from the GPH-MILF peace talks which are important in drafting the IRR of the FAB.


Bomb fails to explode in Zamboanga City

From the Mindanao Examiner (Jul 2): Bomb fails to explode in Zamboanga City

Police recovered an improvised explosive which failed to explode outside a lending firm in Zamboanga City in the southern Philippines, officials said Tuesday.

Chief Inspector Ariel Huesca, a regional police spokesman, said the bomb was discovered by Dinky Jean Bazar, an employee of the Zamboanga City Easy Credit and Lending Firm and reported it to the authorities.

He said members of the police bomb squad rushed to the area just outside the Ateneo de Zamboanga University and recovered the homemade bomb which was made up of ammonium nitrate and fuel oil or ANFO and mixed with iron nails.

The bomb, placed inside a bottle and attached to improvised non-electric blasting caps and fuse, failed to detonate.

Huesca said the firm’s owner Winifredo San Luis reported to have received an extortion letter last month from an unidentified group. The letter was delivered to his house in the village of Santa Maria.

“There is an investigation going on to determine who was behind the failed bombing,” he said.

It was not immediately known whether the failed attack was connected to extortion activities.


Palace: Philippines not a ‘troublemaker’

From the Sun Star (Jul 2): Palace: Philippines not a ‘troublemaker’

MALACA√ĎANG dismissed Tuesday the accusation of a Chinese analyst that the Philippines is a "troublemaker" in the region amid the territorial disputes of the two countries.

Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said that the government does not need to dignify all statements coming from Beijing newspapers or news analysts.

"What is clear is that the Philippines has availed of the right approach – rules based, the right process – arbitration and the right venue – Unclos arbitral tribunal," he said in a text message.

A Chinese news analyst has called the Philippines as a "troublemaker" in the region.

He claimed that Manila was sabotaging China's diplomatic relations with other countries, including the United States and Japan.

He also accused Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario of "poisoning the atmosphere" in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations foreign ministers' meeting.

Presidential Communication Development and Strategic Planning Office Secretary Ramon Carandang in a separate text message expressed belief that the international community does not see the Philippines as a troublemaker.

"I believe that international perception of the Philippines remains positive due to our proactive efforts to explain to the world what our perspective is on this and other issues," he said.

The Philippines has brought up its territorial row with China before the United Nations Arbitral Tribunal.


PH, US end naval exercises near disputed sea

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jul 2): PH, US end naval exercises near disputed sea
The Philippine-US joint military exercise, Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training, concluded on Tuesday after six days of a series of shore-based and at sea events.

The ceremony was held on board the guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62), the United States Embassy said in a statement.

Shore-based training events covered several naval competencies, including jungle warfare and marksmanship; tactical combat casualty care; riverine small boat operations; visit, board, search and seizure; and diving and salvage.

In the exercises 60 nautical miles east of Panatag, an area claimed both by China and Philippines, the Fitzgerald conducted maneuvering, communications and gunnery exercises with the Philippine Navy flagship BRP Gregorio del Pilar (PF 15) and the Philippine coast guard salvage and rescue vessel BRP Edsa (SARV 02).

Panatag Shoal, an area contested by Philippines and China, is located 124 nautical miles off Zambales, but is well within the country’s 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone.

The dispute led to a maritime standoff between the Philippines and China last year. The incident prompted Manila to seek the United Nations’ arbitration.

Participating ships included the guided missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) with embarked Commander, Task Group 73.1/ Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 7 staff, and the diving and salvage ships, USNS Safeguard (T-ARS 50) and USNS Salvor (T-ARS 52). A company of Marines from India Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment participated in the shore-based events.

“It was a pleasure to work side-by-side with our longstanding allies in the Philippine Navy and Coast Guard,” said Capt. Paul Schlise, commander of Task Group (CTG) 73.1.

“The ships of the combined Task Group performed very well during close maneuvering, gunnery and communications drills at sea; and the professional interactions between subject matter experts from both the US and Philippines substantially advanced the capability and level of inter-operability of our forces,” he said.

More than 600 US Sailors and Marines participated in CARAT 2013, and will depart Subic Bay this week to resume their regular duties, the US Embassy said.

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


Free sisters in ‘spirit of Ramadan’

From the Manila Bulletin (Jul 2): Free sisters in ‘spirit of Ramadan’

The relatives of Nadjoua and Linda Bansil, sisters abducted two weeks ago in Sulu, sought the help of a top official of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and other prominent Tausug leaders to exercise their “influence” for their safe release in the spirit of Ramadan.

The mother and brother of the kidnap victims have approached MNLF chief of staff Yusoph Jikiri, a former governor and congressman of Sulu, to seek the sisters’ release, according to Manila Bulletin reporter Edd Usman, an uncle of the victims.

They also sought the help of youth leaders Mimbur Abdurajak and Al Hamsain and the leaders of the Sulu Sultanate Darul Islam (SSDI).

Before going to Patikul town, the Bansil sisters had gone to the SSDI for help in a film project about the lift of a badjao.

On Sunday, prominent Tausug leaders urged the armed men holding the Bansil sisters captive to free them immediately in the spirit of Ramadan which is expected to start on July 9.

Among the most prominent Tausug leaders that aired their appeal were Ustadhz Abdulbaqi Abubakar, grand mufti of Region 9 and a highly-respected senior leader of the MNLF; heirs of the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo, including Sultan Jamalul Kiram III, Sultan Muedzul-Lail Tan-Kiram; and Jadjurie Arasa, new administrator of the Blue Mosque in Maharlika Village, Taguig City.

Abubakar and Abdulbasit Bansil, the victims’ father, were classmates at the Al-Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt.

Abubakar said the relatives of Bansil have no capacity to pay if the kidnappers want ransom for their freedom.


Aquino approves US use, not ownership, of local military bases

From the Manila Bulletin (Jul 2): Aquino approves US use, not ownership, of local military bases

American troops will soon be allowed to use the country’s bases but will not be permitted to establish their own military facility here. 

President Benigno S. Aquino III has given the green light to the proposal of the Department of Defense (DND) to give the United States increased access to the country's military bases, saying this is "a natural circumstance" to achieve a “credible alliance.”

The President, however, made clear that the proposed access agreement with the US troops will not lead to their permanent presence in the country.

At present, Aquino said the country has two strategic partners, the United States and Japan, citing that any military training between forces should be done “within our territory or the allies’ territory.”

“So, it is but the natural circumstance of, if you want a credible alliance, then you will have to have mutual training and that will normally occur within our territory or the allies’ territory,” he added.

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin earlier announced the government is drafting an agreement that will provide the United States greater access to the country’s bases. Gazmin clarified though there is no plan for the US troops to establish bases in the country since the Constitution prohibits it.

The proposed access pact is reportedly one of the modalities being discussed for increased rotational presence of US forces in the region.

Some militant groups have criticized the government’s plan to allow increased US presence in the country due to concerns it could violate the country’s sovereignty.


US nudges China on sea disputes

From the Manila Standard Today (Jul 2): US nudges China on sea disputes

US Secretary of State John Kerry nudged China on Monday to agree a code of conduct to prevent clashes in the South China Sea after the Philippines accused Beijing of a “massive” military build-up.

But Kerry, speaking at Asia-Pacific foreign ministerial talks in the tiny petro-state of Brunei, said after a meeting with his Chinese counterpart that the two Pacific powers were united in their opposition to North Korea’s nuclear drive.

A year after a US-backed push for a South China Sea code of conduct broke down acrimoniously, this year’s hosts Brunei have instilled a more cordial tone, with China agreeing Sunday to hold talks on establishing such a code.

“We very much hope to see progress on a substantive code of conduct to help ensure stability in this vital region,” Kerry said at a meeting with foreign ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Overlapping claims to the South China Sea loom as a flashpoint, with China claiming virtually all of the body of water, drawing accusations from rival claimants the Philippines and Vietnam that it is mounting a creeping takeover of disputed islets.

ASEAN members Brunei and Malaysia, as well as Taiwan, also claim parts of the sea.

Beijing asserts the South China Sea is not Washington’s concern, but Kerry insisted the United States saw a “national interest” in ensuring freedom of commerce in a waterway vital to world trade.

He reiterated after talks with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi that the United States does not take a stand on individual disputes but added it had a “strong interest” in security in the sea.

On Sunday, Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert Del Rosario told his ASEAN colleagues that China had begun a “massive” military build-up in the sea and its actions “pose serious challenges for the region as a whole”.

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

Last year’s talks in Cambodia — a Beijing ally — ended without a joint statement for the first time due to intra-ASEAN acrimony over the issue.

Kerry, visiting Southeast Asia for the first time since taking over his post in February, was careful to avoid direct criticism of China.

“Our actions are not intended to contain or to counterbalance any one country,” he said.

North Korea defiantly carried out its third nuclear weapons test in February and threatened to attack the United States in language that was shrill even by the standards of the reclusive communist state.

Kerry praised China for taking “very firm steps” to show displeasure with North Korea, which has long relied on Beijing for cover.

He also held a joint meeting with the foreign ministers of Japan and South Korea, saying afterwards that the three countries, plus China, firmly opposed North Korea’s nuclear weapons drive.

“All of us — all four of us — are absolutely united and absolutely firm in our insistence that the future with respect to North Korea must include denuclearisation,” Kerry said.

Kerry, who as a senator advocated direct talks with impoverished North Korea, said there was a “better path open” to the isolated regime headed by Kim Jong-Un.

“We want North Korea to understand that the region will be better with the denuclearisation and the possibilities of normal relationships,” he said.

South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-Se said the North’s development of nuclear weapons would “never be tolerated” and Pyongyang would “face further isolation and dire consequences in the event of provocations”.

Kerry, who flew straight to the meetings after an exhaustive four days in the Middle East trying to revive peace talks, also faced tension in Brunei from a usually friendly source—the European Union.


'Negotiations for kidnapped Fil-Algerian sisters making headway'

From the Philippine Star (Jul 2): 'Negotiations for kidnapped Fil-Algerian sisters making headway'

Efforts to free the kidnapped Filipino-Algerian sisters in Sulu province is gaining headway, a local official disclosed Tuesday.

Sulu provincial spokesman Sonny Abing, however, declined to provide details of the negotiations by the local crisis management committee with the kidnappers led by Abu Sayyaf member Nenok Sapari.

“We can say nagbubunga na ang efforts. It is gaining headway. However, we cannot just reveal anything yet so as not to preempt what is being initiated for the immediate release of the two victims,” Abing said.

Sisters Linda and Nadjoua Bansil, both independent filmmakers and advocates of peace and the Moro culture in Mindanao, were taken by Sapari's group after visiting Mt. Sinumaan, a bailiwick of the bandit group in Patikul town, last June 22.

The sisters are daughters of an Imam (preacher) and former judge in Pagadian City's Shari'ah Circuit Court, who passed away while they were still young.

The latest development came as the Bansil sisters' siblings, Mohammad and Zackaria, turned to the social media to appeal for the unconditional release of the victims.

The Bansil brothers appealed to the Abu Sayyaf group to free their sisters through a 3-minute video posted on social media.

“Alam namin na nahihirapan sila kung saan sila nakatalaga ngayon. Kami po ay humihingi sa inyo bilang kapwa Muslim, na palayain na po sila,” Mohammad said in the video.

He said his sisters did nothing wrong and they are advocates of peace in Mindanao.

“Sila po ay masisipag at karaniwang tao lang po. Parehas lang tayong mahihirap, sana po ay palayain na po sila,” appealed Mohammad. “Di po namin alam kung sila ay nakakapalit ba sila ng damit o sila ba ay nakakain ng maayos. Sana po kayo ay maawa at maibalik sila sa lalong madaling panahon.”


MILF calls Sayyaf a 'monster'

From the Philippine Star (Jul 2): MILF calls Sayyaf a 'monster'

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has labeled terrorist group Abu Sayyaf as “a monster” for kidnapping civilians to raise money.

In an editorial posted on its website luwaran.com, the MILF said kidnapping is bad and cannot be justified whoever the target is.

"A beast is always a beast but if it devours its own kind, then it becomes worse than a beast. It is a monster. Today, the ASGs (Abu Sayyaf Group) are not only abducting foreigners but everybody who has money or anyone perceived to have the ability to pay ransom,” the editorial read.

MILF also scored the Abu Sayyaf for supposedly using Islam “to advance their false cause.”

It cited the abduction of Jordanian journalist Baker Atyani in June 2012 and independent filmmakers Nadjoua and Linda Bansil last June 22.

“The growing menace must stop now. It destroys the very core of human dignity and puts to shame everyone who still has that sense of self-respect,” the group said.
“Moreover, it is humiliating to every Moro leader and is a slap to those leaders in Manila that a small band of people pursues their evil trade at will and earn millions of dollars on the process,” it added.

MILF said the kidnapping in Central Mindanao has been addressed to a large extent due to the efforts of the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group, which is tasked to isolate and interdict criminal and lawless groups in the area

“But in Sulu, we do not understand why this group is not neutralized. The ASG’s lair is mainly in Patikul town, which is adjacent to the capital town of Jolo. Here, the strength of the military, both naval and infantry is huge,” MILF said.

“In addition, the MNLF claims this island province as their bastion. There are also many powerful politicians who are armed to the teeth,” it added.

MILF said it is looking for ways to address kidnapping and to secure the freedom of the captives.


Bomb explodes, kills suspected bomber in Lamitan

From the Philippine Star (Jul 2): Bomb explodes, kills suspected bomber in Lamitan

A suspected  bomber was killed when the bomb he was carrying prematurely exploded Tuesday afternoon in a village of Lamitan City, Basilan province, according to police and local officials.

The police said the slain suspect, riding a motorcycle, was heading toward Isabela City when the improvised explosive device (IED) went off  about 3:40 p.m. along the highway in Barangay Balagtasan, a bordering village of Lamitan City.

Lamitan City vice mayor Roderick Furigay said responding police investigators disclosed the bomb was concealed in a bag carried by the suspect when it exploded.

The bomb was carried by the suspect who was driving a motorcycle. We don’t know what the motive of the supposed bombing was,” Furigay said the slain suspect was only known through an alias and carried no identifying documents.


4 'summary execution' victims in N. Cotabato identified

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 2): 4 'summary execution' victims in N. Cotabato identified

Police today said the four persons believed to have been summarily executed in a remote village here Monday have been identified.

After learning of a radio report about the discovery of four dead men on a roadside in North Cotabato, a village councilman from nearby Datu Montawal, Maguindanao immediately rushed to Makilala and positively identified the victims.

Mamaluba Enggano, village councilman of Datu Montawal, identified the victims as Kalid Kamama and Bulantoy Adam, both of Barangay Dungguan, Datu Montawal, Maguindanao; Hayden Buisan and Faisal Tungganay, both of Kabacan, North Cotabato.

Police said residents of Barangay Sinkatulan in makilala town heard several gunshots about 2 a.m. Monday. Two hours later, motorists passing by the national highway found a motorbike beside the four victims slumped on the roadside.

Enggona positively identified the victims through their faces, mobile phone and documents found in the motorbike owned by Kamama.

Police investigators said the victims were hogtied and had masking tapes on their faces.

Enggona said the victims were farmers and Habal-habal drivers operating in the Datu Montawal-Kabacan route.

Police found several empty shells of cal. 45 pistols at the crime scene.

Police surmised that they could be victims of a summary execution with the manner they were killed. Probers are now cnducting a thorough investigation of the case.

PO3 Archie Uytala, officer-on-case, said the victims could have been abducted in Kabacan, North Cotabato, hogtied, blindfolded and brought to a remote village in Makilala then executed.


Negotiations for village councilman's release still ongoing

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 2): Negotiations for village councilman's release still ongoing

The municipal crisis committee in Loreto town, Agusan del Sur is doing all it can to ensure the safe release of an abducted village council man early morning Sunday.

Police in a statement, identified the armed group as New People's Army rebels and even denounced the abduction as "inhumane and unlawful demeanor of the said rebel group."

The military also said that their troops is standing by to ensure that no harm may befell on the victim, said 401st Brigade Commanding Officer Col. Gregory Cayetano in a local radio interview.

He however said that as for the demand of the rebels to suspend police operations or pull out from the place as a pre-condition for the release of the barangay councilman, the matter according to him cannot be resolved at their level. Only their higher headquarters can issue such orders, he said.

Loreto town Mayor Dario Otaza who heads the municipal crisis management committee said his emissaries composed of tribal chieftains were still in the place and he is still waiting for a feedback or report from them.

Mayor Otaza had just assumed office Monday, and the incident served as his baptism of fire. He assured however during the same interview, that he and the other committee members are doing everything they could at their own level to ensure the safe release of the victim.

Village councilman Edgar Bantuasan of Brgy. Teresa, Loreto, Agusan del Sur was abducted by armed group identified as NPA rebels at 5:30 Sunday morning, where he was among the 70 males of the community rounded up by the rebels and herded at the local elementary school of the place.

The rest were released however, with a threat by the armed group to liquidate anybody who will continue to support the government troops. Bantuasan was suspected by his abductors as a military informant. He was reportedly hogtied and was forcibly brought on board a motorcycle to a remote district in the area.


PA’s 20th IB has a new commanding officer

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 2): PA’s 20th IB has a new commanding officer

The 20th Infantry (We Lead) Battalion (20IB)of the 8th Infantry Division (8ID) of the Philippine Army has a new commanding officer,Lt/Col Rey Anthony M. Tumaliuan, replacing Lt/Col Noel A. Vestuir who served the battalion for more than two years.

Tumaliuan in his message underscored that he was overwhelmed by the trust of the leadership of the 8ID for him to lead the battalion. Still, he rallied the support of the men and women behind the organization to achieve success in their campaign.

He promised to make this unit proud while stressing that he will preserve the gains his predecessor, Lt/Col Vestuir, had achieved especially in providing optimum service to the constituents in their area of responsibility.

The 20IB is based at Brgy. Magsaysay in the municipality of Lope de Vega, Northern Samar and operates under the supervision and control of 803rd Infantry Brigade of the 8th Infantry Division, Philippine Army. It covers the first district of Northern Samar and the districts of Oquendo and Tinambacan in Calbayog City, Samar.

Its Alpha Company is situated at Polangi Village of Catarman town, Bravo Company in Trujillo, Bobon while its Charlie Company established its temporary patrol base in Seven Hills, San Isidro, all in Northern Samar.

Meanwhile, outgoing 20IB commander Vestuir exhorted the troops to extend Tumaliuan the same level of support and cooperation they had accorded to him.

Vestuir will assume a new but equally great responsibility effective July 2 at the division headquarters as assistant chief of staff for personnel.

The change of command ceremony was graced by no less than the commander of the 8th Infantry (Stormtroopers) Division, M/Gen. Gerardo T. Layug.

In his message, he commended Vestuir for his able leadership and exemplary performance not only in leading the battalion well, but also for being instrumental in convincing several former rebels to return to the folds of the law.

Gen. Layug also mentioned the battalion’s “Bayanihan” team activities during Vestuir’s term that led the way to sustainable development and a just and lasting peace in his area of responsibility.

It can be recalled that 20IB was also adjudged the Best Battalion and Best CMO of 803rd Infantry Brigade in 2012. This remarkable performance of the battalion according to Layug was a result of focused military operations in the context of the implementation of IPSP “Bayanihan” that intends to measure success in both combat and non-combat parameters.

M/Gen. Layug also challenged Tumaliuan of the great task ahead of him, but likewise expressed his confidence that he will be able to live up to the challenge of bringing the battalion to the greater heights.

Said ceremony was further highlighted with the presentation of certificates of appreciation to those people who supported and cooperated with 20IB during the term Vestuir that paved the way towards the realization of the Internal Peace and Security Operations, as well as the unit’s objectives.

Recognized were Calbayog City Mayor Hon. Ronald P. Aquino, San Isidro Municipal Veterinarian/AFRESCOM Veterinary Corps Commissioned Officer Cpt. Emma Linda Lingling, Tinambacan village councilor Hon. Marjun Munoz and PAMANA Program Coordinator for Samar Ms. Emy Bonifacio.


AMORE provides solar energy to 42 schools in Maguindanao, Tawi-Tawi

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 2): AMORE provides solar energy to 42 schools in Maguindanao, Tawi-Tawi

For years they have no electricity. For several years, many of the pupils are yet to see a live television show.

But with solar electrification program around, there was nothing better to welcome the students in remote rural villages upon their return to schools than the news that they soon will be able to watch educational television programs courtesy of electricity from solar power.

Just as well refurbished schools through the "Brigada Eskwela" program of the Department of Education, welcome the pupils in far flung elementary schools in Maguindanao and Tawi-Tawi, they were also welcomed by solar energy courtesy of the Alliance for Mindanao and Multi-Regional Renewable/Rural Energy Development (AMORE).

Principals and school heads of all 42 schools in Maguindanao and Tawi-Tawi recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with AMORE for its Program for the schools’ electrification through solar photovoltaic systems.

During the signing, ARMM Regional Governor Mujiv Hataman was represented by his Chief of Staff Amihilda Sangcopan, DepEd-ARMM Secretary Lawyer Jamar Kulayan by Assistant Secretary Noor Mohammad Saada and AMORE by its chief of party Laurie Navarro.

Also present were BEE Director Shuaib Maulana, BSE Director Hamid Ladjakahal, SDS Bai Alibai Benito-Aliuden of Maguindanao II Division and SDS Bai Meriam Ampatuan-Kawit of Maguindanao I Division. Also present were school heads from the target divisions.

The beneficiary elementary schools, located in far and found in remote areas that are not reached by conventional electricity, also received educational television packages that consist of a television set, a DVD player and one whole set of educational DVDs that contain programs designed to complement the Department of Education’s basic education curriculum.

The Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, composed of the provinces of Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi, has been a major destination of community development projects of the AMORE Program since 2002.

A rural electrification program that facilitates access among remote off-grid communities to stand-alone renewable energy technologies, AMORE has so far energized at least 300 rural schools mostly in Mindanao, nearly half of which are in ARMM, AMORE said in a statement.

More than 70,000 students have so far benefited from renewable energy-powered electricity and modern educational technologies.

Fun and interactive learning, a more effective and impactful teaching, and improved overall school performance are just some of the documented impact of solar-powered educational television in the remote schools.

By connecting students in poor rural villages to modern technology, AMORE strives to give thousands of students improved learning environment, and thus, a chance at a better quality of life in the future.

"Solar-powered educational television increases young people’s knowledge and tease their imagination of another world quite different from theirs," AMORE said in a statement.

More than 10,000 elementary school students in Maguindanao and Tawi-Tawi are expected to benefit from the solar photovoltaic modules donated by the SunPower Foundation, whose main company has solar photovoltaic manufacturing plants in Batangas and Laguna.

To ensure that the benefits of solar power and educational television are maximized, the various school administrations take the lead in the equipment’s operations and maintenance.

Active participation and cooperation of the schools' parents-teachers-community association toward a successful project maintenance was also solicited.

The AMORE Program is a rural electrification alliance between the United States Agency for International Development, Department of Energy, SunPower Foundation and Winrock International.

It has so far given renewable energy and lighting access to over 17,000 households in more than 500 remote off-grid barangays in Mindanao.


Explosion kills suspected bomb carrier in Lamitan City

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 2): Explosion kills suspected bomb carrier in Lamitan City

An explosion rocked this city Tuesday afternoon killing one person, who is being eyed by police authorities as the bomb carrier.

Chief Insp. Almer Ismael, local police chief, said the incident took place around 3:40 p.m. in Barangay Balagtasan, this city.

Ismael said they have yet to establish the identity of the victim on whose possession the improvised bomb exploded.

Ismael said they have not found any identification paper from the victim’s possession.

Ismael said the victim was driving a motorcycle when the improvised bomb, which was placed in a bag he was carrying, exploded.

He said they have yet to ascertain where the victim was heading and where he came from.

Balagtasan is the last barangay of this city in the boundary with Isabela City, the capital of Basilan province.


PAF eyes Gripin as next generation of fighter planes for its modernization

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 2): PAF eyes Gripin as next generation of fighter planes for its modernization

Swedish-made supersonic Gripen plane is emerging as the next generation of jet fighter aircraft being considered by the Philippine Air Force (PAF) for its long-overdue modernization program.

A random interview conducted by Philippines News Agency on Tuesday indicated that PAF pilots prefer the Gripen jet-fighters to other types (of fighter planes) because of its lower cost, yet armed with sophisticated latest stand-off long-range anti-ship weapons and air-to-air missiles.

These are highly accurate weapons that can be unleashed even if the target is 80 kilometers away.

The air-to-air missiles can be fired beyond visual range of the pilot.

Gripen has a top speed of 1,552 miles per hour.

Gripen jet-fighter plane in flight the PAF is eyeing to acquire for its modernization. (Photo courtesy of SAAB)

Representatives from Gripen were in Manila last month to participate in the annual PAF symposium held at the Mall of Asia in suburban Pasay City. They said they would be happy to sell to the Philippines the multi-role Gripen fighter jets.

Gripen is manufactured by SAAB.

In its brochure distributed to the press, SAAB says that Gripen is cost-effective, new generation multi-role aircraft in the market.

The multi-role Gripen fighter aircraft costs US$ 60 million apiece while other similar planes cost as much as US$ 80 each or more.

Thailand has already purchased 12 Gripen jet-fighters while Malaysia is planning to buy the aircraft.

Aside from Sweden Air Force which bought over 200 Gripens, other countries that have Gripen in their arsenals are South Africa 26, Hungary 14, Czech Republic 14.

The United Kingdom also bought some Gripen planes but there was no mention as to the number of units it acquired from Sweden.

Gripen can take-off and land in short runways, cost-effective, tailor-made and top-of-the-line aircraft comparable to the world’s best.

“Gripen represents the ultimate in operational efficiency capable of fulfilling a range of roles, either alone or as part of a wider defense network,” SAAB said.

It also says that Gripen is “the world’s most agile fighter for close combat.

SAAB has incorporated a state-of-the art weapon system as Gripen has look-down/shoot-down capability in air combat in engaging aircraft, missiles, and even the smallest, low-flying targets.

Gripen is also difficult to match in any air combat situation.

The government is also considering the acquisition of the Korean-made jet-trainer plane that can also be used as an interim fighter aircraft.

It may be recalled that shortly after World War II up to the ‘70s, PAF was second to none in Southeast Asia in terms of air power.

But PAF has degenerated into weakling Air Force after it had phased out its fighter aircraft such as the F-86 Sabre jets, F-8 Crusaders and the F-5 “Freedom Fighters” without any replacement to date, exposing Philippine airspace unguarded since 2005 when the last of the F-5 jets were retired for good without replacement.

As a consequence intruding foreign aircraft enter Philippine airspace without being intercepted.

Lt. Gen. Lauro Catalino dela Cruz, PAF commanding general, has been calling for the modernization of the Air Force to meet the security needs of the country.

Seeing the predicament of the Air Force, President Benigno S. Aquino III on Monday vowed to provide the PAF with jet fighters, radars and other modern equipment before he steps down from office in 2016.

“I assure you that before I step down from office, our skies will be guarded by modern air assets,” the President said in a speech during the 66th PAF anniversary at Clark in Pampanga.

The President said the amount of P75 billion has been appropriated for the implementation of the New Modernization Act of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) for the next five years.


Aquino says US, Japan use of PHL military facilities a 'natural circumstance"

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 2): Aquino says US, Japan use of PHL military facilities a 'natural circumstance"

President Benigno Aquino III on Tuesday said allowing the United States or Japan more access to military facilities in the Philippines is but a "natural circumstance" for a credible alliance.

"Yung access i-klaro natin -- hindi naman sila magiging permanent doon sa mga bases pero allies natin. There are only two strategic partners that we have, it is America and Japan (Let me clarify that granting them access does not mean they will be permanent in our bases)," the President said at the sidelines after the distribution of Glock 17 pistols to the Philippine National Police (PNP) held at its Multi-Purpose Center in Camp Crame, Quezon City.

"Kung hindi tayo makikipag-ugnayan sa kanila at mag-aayos ng mga sistema kung sakaling may gulo na, palagay ko maling paghahanda ‘yon. So kailangan nila ng may knowledge na rin ‘nung ating terrain, kailangan rin naman natin ‘yung inter-operability with them (If we do not widen our cooperation with them, and if we do not come up with a system to respond to possible conflicts, I think that is the wrong way to prepare because that is not preparing at all. They should have knowledge of our terrain and we should have inter-operability with them)," he said.

"So it is but the natural circumstance of, if you want a credible alliance, then you will have to have mutual training and that will normally occur within our territory or the allies’ territory," he added.

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin earlier said the government is drafting an agreement that will provide the United States greater access to the country’s bases.

He, however, clarified that there is no plan for the US troops to establish bases in the country since the Philippine Constitution prohibits it.

The proposed access agreement is reportedly one of the modalities being discussed for increased rotational presence of US forces in the region.

Meanwhile, President Aquino has ruled out going to war with China over the unresolved territorial dispute in the West Philippine Sea.

"Nasa Constitution ho, we renounce war as policy -- bawal," he said.

The President said the government will pursue peaceful means to resolve the sea dispute instead of resorting to violence that will only affect the peace and stability in the region.

"'Yung parati nating sinasabi kailangan ng hinahon, kailangan ng matinong pag-uusap, para dumating tayo sa isang solusyon na katanggap-tanggap sa lahat ng panig (We have always appealed for calm and sensible dialogue to attain a solution that will be acceptable to all parties)," he said.

President Aquino said the Philippines has already lodged its complaint against China’s incursions into its territory before an arbitration tribunal as one of the rights of any country to protect its sovereignty.

"Pipilitin natin na hindi tayo hahantong sa kung ano mang kaguluhan dahil parang baligtad nga ‘yon sa pakay natin na magkaroon ng katahimikan, estabilidad, at pagkakataon na umunlad lahat ng nasasangkot dito sa pagtutunggali tungkol diyan sa mga territorial disputes (We will try to avoid violence because this is against our goal to achieve peace, stability and prosperity for the parties involved in the territorial disputes)," he said.


SC told: US access to bases bad for the environment

From Rappler (Jul 2): SC told: US access to bases bad for the environment

URGENT: Militant groups ask the High Court to stop U.S. military exercises and port calls of U.S. warships. Screenshot of SC petition

URGENT: Militant groups ask the High Court to stop U.S. military exercises and port calls of U.S. warships. Screenshot of SC petition

Giving the US more access to Philipine military bases risks more environmental disasters caused by foreign forces, according to groups that are asking the Supreme Court (SC) to temporarily put the government plan on hold.

In an urgent motion filed on Tuesday, July 2, environmental activists and militant groups, led by Palawan Bishop Pedro Arigo, asked the high court to issue Temporary Environmental Protection Orders to stop US military exercises and port calls of US warships in the Philippines.

They said these activities should not be allowed "in the absence of clear environmental guidelines, duties, and liability schemes for breaches of those duties."

The motion is part of an earlier petition for the Writ of Kalikasan concerning the grounding of the USS Guardian in January this year. The US Navy minesweeper damaged coral on Tubbataha Reef, a World Heritage site in Palawan.

At least 2,346 square meters of coral ecosystems was damaged. The US Navy admitted it was a human error.

“The growing rotational presence in the country of these US troops renders our marine protected areas highly vulnerable to destruction and degradation given the influx of military personnel, weaponry and naval and ground vessels. The unlimited access being given to these warships, without any clear environmental guidelines, reveals the fatal problems of the Visiting Forces Agreement,” said Renato Reyes, spokesperson of Bayan, one of the petitioner groups.

Clemente Bautista of the Kalikasan-People’s Network for the Environment urged the SC to expedite the hearing on the petition for the Writ of Kalikasan.

"US forces should be prevented from continuing with these transgressions and subjecting our environment to more danger and ecological damage,” Bautista said.

The urgent motion also asks the SC to require US officials concerned to "place a deposit to the TRNP (Tubbataha Reef National Park) Trust Fund, defined under Section 17 of Republic Act 10067 (the act that created the TRNP), as a "reasonable guarantee” toward full reparations in the sum of at least Php 58,375,080 or US$ 1,459,377.00."


Aquino: US, Japan need to know PH terrain

From Rappler (Jul 2): Aquino: US, Japan need to know PH terrain

President Benigno Aquino III justified a government plan to give the US and Japan more access to Philippine military bases. He said these "strategic partners" should be familiar with Philippine terrain in case of a "disturbance."

"There are only two strategic partners that we have. It is America and Japan.... If we don't coordinate with them and fix our systems for a possible disturbance, I think that is wrong preparation. That is the absence of preparation," the President told reporters in Filipino on Tuesday, July 2.

"They need to know our terrain. We need to practice inter-operability," he 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.

The plan drew mixed reactions.

READ: Give Australia, ASEAN access to bases

And it 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.

"Hindi naman siguro pwedeng mag-practice tayo outside of our territory. It is but the natural circumstance. If you want a credible alliance, then you will have to have mutual training that will normally occur within our territory or teh allies' territory," he explained.

Nevertheless, the President said the government will do everything to pursue peaceful means in resolving the conflict.

The Philippines brought the territorial row before the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS).

READ: Top maritime judge to hear PH case vs China

"It is in our Constitution. We renounce war as policy," Aquino stressed.


Amid South China Sea tension, PH calls for more ASEAN-US ties on maritime security

From InterAksyon (Jul 2): Amid South China Sea tension, PH calls for more ASEAN-US ties on maritime security

Amid the Philippines’ unresolved territorial dispute with China, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario has called for an expanded ASEAN-United States cooperation on maritime security.

Del Rosario issued the call in his address of the ASEAN-US Post Ministerial Conference in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei Darussalam on Monday, noting that maritime security is gaining greater importance in the dialogue partnership.

His suggestion, contained in a news release from the Department of Foreign Affairs, came a few days after he accused China of militarizing the South China Sea (or West Philippine Sea to the Philippines). Del Rosario pointed to "massive presence of Chinese military and paramilitary ships" at two groups of islets within the Philippines' exclusive economic zone called Scarborough Shoal and Second Thomas Shoal. He described the Chinese military presence at these islets as "threats to efforts to maintain maritime peace and stability in the region."

“To prevent disputes from escalating into conflict,” del Rosario also called for the “full and effective implementation” of the ASEAN-China Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) in the meantime that a regional code of conduct is yet to be negotiated and concluded.

The pact, which was signed in 2002, enjoins all claimants from actions that would tend to escalate tension in the area. However, it will be noted that according to Philippine authorities, since April last year, Chinese fishing vessels continue to occupy the Scarborough Shoals off Zambales, keeping Filipino fishermen from the fish-rich outcrop.

At the same time, Chinese authorities have bristled at the joint naval exercises of the Philippines and the United States near the Scarborough Schoal, which is 230 kilometers (140 miles) east of Luzon and 1,200 kilometers from the nearest major Chinese landmass.

China claims nearly all of the strategically vital South China Sea, even waters close to the shores of its smaller neighbors.

Tensions between China and other claimants to the sea, particularly the Philippines and Vietnam, have escalated in recent years amid a series of Chinese political and military actions to assert its claims to the waters.