Thursday, July 4, 2013

Vigorously oppose granting the US military greater access to Philippine facilities

From the CPP Website (Jul 4): Vigorously oppose granting the US military greater access to Philippine facilities

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) today called on the Filipino people to firmly oppose the plans of the Aquino regime to grant the US military increased access to Philippine military and civilian facilities which will result in heightened violation of Philippine territorial rights and the further abasement of Philippine sovereignty.

“Aquino’s plan to grant the US military greater access to Philippine airports, docks and military bases serve the US plan to further heighten its military presence in the Asia-Pacific, encircle China, project power and establish its hegemony in the South China Sea and other trade routes in the regions,” pointed out the CPP.

“The plan to give the US more military access does not serve the national interest of the Filipino people,” added the CPP. “On the contrary, it is against the interests of the Filipino people as it serves to heighten the military and diplomatic tension in the area by letting the US increase its military presence, make provocations against China and threaten to drag the Philippines to a war that we do not want.”

The CPP denounced the Aquino regime for “promoting the illusion of a military alliance between the Philippines and the US government to justify its all-out slavishness to the US military and allowing US troops and their allied foreign militaries to trample on Philippine soil and make use of our land to advance the US imperialists’ ultra-nationalist aim of establishing its hegemony in the Asia-Pacific.”

“The so-called military alliance between the Philippines and the US is a big myth,” said the CPP. “There can be no such alliance between a dominant country and a dominated and dependent neocolony. The ‘military alliance’ is nothing but a euphemism for the overbearing dominance of the US military forces and the subservience of the puppet Aquino government that is all too willing to serve the needs of the foreign military forces.”

“Over the past three years, or since the start of the Aquino regime, the US military has enjoyed increasing access to Philippine facilities, both civilian and military. The number and frequency of visits of US naval warships, submarines and other components of the US naval fleet in Subic, Manila and other Philippine ports are unprecedented since the abrogation of the US Military Bases Agreement in 1991.”

“It is highly ironic that the Aquino regime is pushing for increasing US military presence in the Philippines at the very moment that the Filipino people are preparing to celebrate the 150th birth anniversary of the patriotic hero Andres Bonifacio,” pointed out the CPP.

“In pushing to grant the US military more access, Benigno Aquino III is doing what his mother, Corazon Aquino, failed to do as president in 1991 when she pushed for the extension of the Military Bases Agreement that was set to expire in 1991,” said the CPP. “In the face of massive demonstrations against the US military bases, the Corazon Aquino regime failed to get the senate to ratify and extend the military bases agreement which had given the US complete control over nearly a hundred thousand hectares of land in Clark, Subic and other places.”

“The current Aquino regime is more deceitful, clearly, as it practically gives the US military forces basing rights such as the privilege of docking or landing at will in such facilities that they have been granted access to, even without having an agreement to govern such arrangements,” pointed out the CPP.

‘Generals’ hailed as ‘3 Kings’ of Abra

From the Manila Bulletin (Jul 5): ‘Generals’ hailed as ‘3 Kings’ of Abra

BANGUED, Abra — The gathering of three police and military commanders in this province recently was an occasion for Governor Eustaquio “Takits” Bersamin to salute them as “the ‘Three Kings’ who saved Abra from violence and degradation.”

The three kings he was referring to were Brig. Gen. Hernando Iriberri, commander of the Army’s 503rd Infantry Brigade, and (police generals) Chief Superintendents Benjamin Magalong, Police Regional Office-Cordillera Administrative Region (PRO-CAR) director, and Roberto Soriano, Task Force Abra head.

“The Three Kings have arrived and saved Abra,” shouted Bersamin before thousands of Abreños during the oath-taking ceremonies for elected provincial officials here last weekend on the oval grounds of the Capitol, here.

He cited the three for ending decades of violence in the province brought about by political killings and called Abra “now one of the most peaceful provinces in the country.”

Senior Superintendent Benjamin Lusad, Abra Police Provincial Office (PPO) director, who was also cited in Bersamin’s speech said the restoration of peace and order in the province is the result of the police and military’s anti-crime drive and resolve against partisanship.‘Generals’_hailed_as_‘3_Kings’_of_Abra#.UdXlR47D8cA

Combat pay hike sought

From Manila Standard Today (Jul 5): Combat pay hike sought

Two party-list lawmakers on Thursday pushed for the passage of several measures that seek to uphold the rights and welfare of retired and current members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

Newly-elected partylist group Magdalo Para sa Pilipino (Magdalo) Reps. Gary Alejano and Francisco Ashley Acedillo appealed to Congress to prioritize passage of their bill that would grant higher combat duty pay for the military.

“This early, we want to set the tone of Magdalo’s legislative policy in clear and unequivocal terms: that we will fight for the cause of our brothers and sisters in the armed forces. It is high time that their voices be heard in the halls of Congress,” Alejano said.

The Magdalo lawmakers have proposed an increase in combat duty for AFP officers and enlisted personnel from a minimum of 5 percent to a maximum of 25 percent of the base pay of a Private.

Aside from the bill on combat duty pay hike, the Magdalo party-list also filed measure a seeking the establishment of a Philippine Veterans Authority (PVA).

The proposal seeks to abolish the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO), the Philippine Veterans Assistance Commission (PVAC), and the Board of Trustees of the Veterans of World War II (BTVWWII), and consolidate them into one government agency.

Troops overrun NPA lair, kill 8

From the Manila Standard Today (Jun 5): Troops overrun NPA lair, kill 8

Eight communist guerillas were killed and several  others were wounded when government troops overran a  New People’s Army camp on Thursday in Juban, Sorsogon, according to the military.

“At least eight NPA members (two of them females) were confirmed killed during [the] encounter,”  Maj. Angelo Guzman, deputy chief of the Public Affairs Office of the Armed Forces, said yesterday.

According to Lt. Col. Beerjenson Aquino, commanding officer of the 31st Infantry Battalion, a platoon of his unit led by 2Lt. Alfie P. Ayo together with  agents of the military intelligence company struck at the NPA camp with at least 20 rebels.

“The success of the operation was a result of military and civilian cooperation. Heavy casualty was inflicted  on the NPA without any casualty or damage on our side,” Aquino said.

Col. Joselito Kakilala, commander of the 903rd Infantry brigade,  sent more troops to the area to pursue the other rebels.

According to the military, the 96 MICO was able to receive “A1 information” about the rebel camp.

Aquino said the soldiers encountered the rebels at 6 a.m.  A firefight ensued and lasted for about 35 minutes.

The rebels left their dead and escaped with some of them wounded.

The soldiers recovered 8 bodies  and three armalite (M-16) rifles, two M-16 rifles with attached M203 grenade launchers, and an improvised explosive device (IED).

The military said the  rebels were members of the Larangan 2 Komiteng Probinsiya ng Sorsogon.

The encounter was so far the deadliest against the NPA this year after inflicting deadly ambuscades against government forces particularly the police.

Last week, a police trainee was killed while nine others were wounded when NPA rebels ambushed 99  trainees including four trainers while jogging in Tadian, Mt. Province.

In January,  the La Castellana, Negros Oriental saw a  policeman and eight civilians killed. In June, 8 members of the Special Action Force, the elite unit of the Philippine National Police (PNP), were killed in an ambush in Allacapan, Cagayan.

Peace talks between the government and the National Democratic Front of the Communist Party of the Philippines and NPA, were scuttled   in  February 2011.

Navy sets P4-b ship purchase

From the Manila Standard Today (Jul 5): Navy sets P4-b ship purchase

Four groups took part in Tuesday’s conference for the bidding of service support vessels (SSRVs), a P4-billion project of the Philippine Navy.

The prebidding held at the Department of National Defense saw groups such as Navanta of Spain, Daewoo of South Korea, Larsen and Toubro of India, and Austal of Australia each appearing keen to win the supply contracts.

Defense Undersecretary Fernando Manalo confirmed the pre-bidding procedure.

The procurement of  two SSVs with a budget of P4 billion and two Maestrale frigates with a budget of P18 billion are among the 24 big-ticket items that President Benigno Aquino III wants to accomplish  under  the five-year military modernization program.

SSVs are multi-role vessels for search and rescue operations that can also be fitted with hospital facilities and a helipad. But the ship’s primary role is to transport a battalion of soldiers with armored vehicles.

On Wednesday,  Manalo mentioned about the  planned procurement of two brand new Maestrale frigates, and told defense reporters that they are now looking for a consultant to help the Navy identify technical specifications for the vessels.

“The Navy needs to hire a consultant because the frigates that we want to buy are too sophisticated, that’s part of diligence,” he said.

Lawyers group slams promotion of ‘Morong 43’ army general

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jul 4): Lawyers group slams promotion of ‘Morong 43’ army general

FACING CHARGES Then Colonel, now Brigadier General Aurelio Baladad (L), and Lieutenant Colonel Jaime Abaway (R) get a mouthful from former Commission on Human Rights Chairperson Leila de Lima after they failed to produce the 43 health workers detained on suspicion of being members of the NPA during a public hearing of the CHR. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

Human rights violations committed by the military seem to be of no great concern for the government with the appointment of an army general facing cases of rights abuses to a key command post in the Visayas, a lawyers group said Thursday.

Atty. Edre Olalia, secretary general of the National Union of People’s Lawyers, expressed alarm over the promotion of  Brigadier General Aurelio Balabad, who is charged with torture and illegal arrest of health workers known as the “Morong 43.”

“In this country, you get promoted and assigned to a top post even if you face a hitherto unresolved string of credible charges of human rights violations and that sends a crystal clear message: it does not matter,” said Olalia, adding: “Not at all and does anyone still wonder why there is impunity.”

Balabad will soon assume leadership of the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division in Capiz and will hold jurisdiction of Western Visayas.

Balabad was the head of the Army’s 202nd Brigade, which arrested the 43 suspected communist rebels in Morong, Rizal three years ago. The case against the 43 was eventually dismissed.

President Benigno Aquino III earlier dismissed the rights violation charges as “leftist propaganda,” a remark that drew the ire of leftwing and human rights groups.

Baladad is also facing an administrative case before the Commission on Human Rights (CHR). He is also one of the respondents in the damage suit for the torture of the Morong 43 pending before the Quezon City Regional Trial Court.

Baladad and several others have been charged with violating of the Anti-Torture Law before the Office of the Ombudsman.

Coast Guard to acquire 10 patrol ships from Japan

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jul 4): Coast Guard to acquire 10 patrol ships from Japan

This image received from Taiwan’s CNA and taken on September 25, 2012 shows a Japan Coast Guard patrol boat with a (neon) sign reading “Japanese territorial waters” as they monitor a flotilla of Taiwanese fishing boats which are headed to the Diaoyu / Senkaku islands disputed in the East China Sea, in territorial waters. AFP PHOTO/CN
The Philippine Coast Guard expects to wrap up talks with the Japan International Cooperation Agency within the next few months for the acquisition of 10 brand-new patrol boats from Japan in late 2014 or early 2015.

This was disclosed to the Inquirer on Thursday by Cmdr. Armand Balilo, PCG spokesperson, who said “the talks are ongoing.”

Quoting Rear Adm. Rodolfo Isorena, the Coast Guard commandant, Balilo said, “Hopefully, the talks will be completed by the last quarter of the year so that actual construction of the vessels could be started.”

“The two sides have agreed that all 10 patrol boats will be 40 meters (131 feet) long. But they are still talking about other specifications,” added  Balilo, chief of the Coast Guard’s public affairs office.

The JICA, he said,  proposed that five of the vessels be built in the Philippines and the five others in Japan, but the Coast Guard “prefers that all 10 patrol boats be built in Japan.”

Established in 1974, the JICA is the primary Japanese government agency engaged in technical cooperation and other forms of aid promoting socio-economic development in developing countries.

Shinsuke Shimizu, head of the Japanese Embassy’s chancery, said in an earlier interview that unlike the decades-old, stripped-down ships the Philippines has been getting from the United States, the patrol boats the PCG will get from Japan will be brand new.

He said Japan would continue to help the PCG deal with the country’s maritime safety and law enforcement problems.

Shimizu pointed out that since 1990, the Japanese government has been assisting the Coast Guard in its capacity-building program.

In the late 1990s, Japan gave the PCG a search-and-rescue vessel that the agency named BRP Corregidor. The ship was one of two Philippine vessels that faced off with Chinese ships at Panatag Shoal (Scarborough Shoal) in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) between April and June last year.

In February, the Nikkei Shimbun, a Japanese business daily, reported the patrol boats that Japan plans to donate to the Philippines cost $11 million (about P473 million) each. The move, the paper said, was linked to regional efforts to monitor China’s maritime activities.

Japan and the Philippines are embroiled in separate territorial disputes with Beijing, whose dispute with Manila involves overlapping claims to parts of the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), which is believed to be sitting on huge amounts of oil and natural gas.

Beijing claims almost all of the West Philippine Sea, including part of what the Philippines claims is within its exclusive economic zone.

Like the Department of Foreign Affairs, the PCG maintains that the government’s acquisition of more patrol boats from Japan was not directed against any particular country.

The move is simply aimed at upgrading the Coast Guard’s equipment so it can effectively carry out its mandate of monitoring the country’s territorial waters and preventing intrusions, according to Balilo.

AFP downplays terror threat in Mindanao

From the Philippine Star (Jul 4): AFP downplays terror threat in Mindanao

The military on Thursday said measures are in place to ensure the safety of everyone in the country in the wake of fresh terror warnings issued by Canada and Australia to their citizens.

Armed Forces public affairs chief Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala said they are undertaking security operations to thwart any threat that could harm public safety.

“We want to assure them that even without this warning, we continue our security operations in the area and we protect not only foreigners but (also) Filipinos,” Zagala said.

Zagala said security forces have formed task groups to secure areas in Mindanao considered as “hotspots.”

“We recognize that these areas have threats and that’s the reason why task forces and task groups are created. They are there to (maintain) a secured environment. They are  organized there to serve as a deterrent,” he said.

Zagala said they have not detected threats that could affect the security environment. He, nevertheless, noted that Australia and Canada have the right to issue security warnings to their citizens.

“We respect the decision of both Australia and Canada to warn their citizens (against) going to such areas they perceive as danger zones. They have the right to protect their citizens and they have the right to warn their citizens if there is danger that is lurking,” Zagala said.

Canada and Australia have warned their citizens against traveling to parts of Mindanao due to fresh terrorism and kidnapping threats.

Australia urged its diplomats  to stay away from Davao, Cotabato and Zamboanga while Canada warned its citizens of “serious threat of terrorist attacks and kidnapping.”

Members of the Abu Sayyaf, a group of bandits that has links to international terror cell al Qaeda, are still residing in Mindanao even as officials have claimed that their capabilities have been depleted.

Communist insurgents tagged in extortion, kidnapping and attacks against civilians are also operating in the eastern part of the island.

2 women among 8 communists slain in Sorsogon

From ABS-CBN (Jul 4): 2 women among 8 communists slain in Sorsogon

Philippine troops on Thursday killed eight communist rebels, two of them women, in the latest flare-up of violence since talks to end one of Asia's longest running insurgencies broke down.

Soldiers were deployed to a poor, remote farming village in the eastern province of Sorsogon after residents complained of "prolonged extortion, abuses and threats" by New People's Army (NPA) rebels, armed forces spokesman Major Ramon Zagala said.

"Heavy casualties were inflicted on the NPA, while no casualty or damage was incurred by the government security forces," Zagala told AFP, adding the clashes went for about 35 minutes.

He said the bodies of eight NPA guerrillas were recovered, including two women, along with their rifles, grenade launchers and improvised bombs.

"The women were combatants for sure. They were found with high-powered rifles, with bandoliers packed with bullets around their bodies. They traded fire alongside the men," he said.

The NPA has been fighting successive governments for 44 years in a rebellion that has claimed at least 30,000 lives.

The military estimates the rebels have about 4,000 fighters, down from a peak of roughly 26,000 in the 1980s.

Zagala said that, while there were no specific figures, it was common for government troops to encounter female communist fighters.

He said the NPA recruited women as well as men from poor villages or universities, and they were trained to fight together.

The military refers to the armed female rebels as "amazonas", from the Greek mythology of women fighters.

President Benigno Aquino had been aiming to end the rebellion before his six-year term expires in 2016, but the government said in April that peace talks had collapsed.
The government blamed repeated demands by the NPA for comrades to be released from jail, as well as frequent attacks, for the failure of the talks.

Communist rebels have launched more assaults since the government said the peace process had failed, killing at least 34 civilians, police officers and soldiers, according to an AFP tally based on reports from authorities.

Local brigade commander Colonel Jose Kakilala said his troops involved in Thursday's fighting had responded to a distress call from the villagers.

"The prolonged extortion, abuses and threats of the NPA prompted the villagers to report them...and our soldiers responded to the call," Kakilala said in a statement.

Protesters on PHL-Am Day blocked near US Embassy

From GMA News (Jul 4): Protesters on PHL-Am Day blocked near US Embassy

Tension gripped the area near the United States Embassy in Manila Thursday morning after members of a militant group lay down on a part of the road to mark Filipino-American Friendship Day.

No violent confrontation was reported between the police and the Kilusan para sa Pambansang Demokrasya, radio dzBB's Sam Nielsen reported.

KPD members had tried to march near the US Embassy but were blocked before they could reach Roxas Boulevard. This prompted the protesters to briefly lie on the pavement.

Some members of the group tried to sneak toward Roxas Boulevard but were similarly blocked by police personnel.

The embassy was closed for the day to observe US Independence Day.

Meanwhile, the Manila Police District beefed up police presence around the US Embassy premises as it expects more protest actions from other groups.

Anti-riot units were stationed near the embassy to head off protest marches or lightning rallies near the area.

However, the MPD units in the area have instructions to observe maximum tolerance at all times.

The MPD said it expects a protest march to the embassy by the Southern Luzon chapter of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan within the day.

Search vessel with ROV in Palawan to help look for OV-10 pilot

From GMA News (Jul 4): Search vessel with ROV in Palawan to help look for OV-10 pilot

A search vessel with a remotely operated vehicle arrived in Palawan this week to help in the search for the pilots of an Air Force OV-10 plane that crashed off Palawan last June 23.
The ROV will be in Puerto Princesa City for two to three days, radio dzBB's Palawan affiliate James Viernes reported Thursday.
Its arrival comes nearly two weeks after the crash, even as search teams have so far failed to find the OV-10's main frame or its pilots.
Still missing are Maj. Jonathan Ybanez and 1Lt. Abner Nacion.
Earlier, Coast Guard Palawan commander Commodore Enrico Evangelista said the ROV will be used to determine if an object detected by sonar equipment off Palawan was the wreckage of the OV-10.
He said that once the ROV shows the object underwater is indeed the OV-10's wreckage, the Coast Guard's Special Operation Group divers will come in.
The Air Force OV-10 aircraft crashed off Palawan following a night proficiency flight June 23.  
The crash prompted the Air Force to ground its fleet of OV-10 aircraft.

BRP Alcaraz to arrive in PHL on Aug. 3 — DFA

From GMA News (Jul 4): BRP Alcaraz to arrive in PHL on Aug. 3 — DFA

The BRP Alcaraz, the Philippine Navy's newest warship, is due to arrive in the Philippines on August 3, the Department of Foreign Affairs said.
In an article posted on its website July 3, the DFA mentioned the expected arrival date after the BRP Alcaraz reached San Diego last June 29.
"BRP Alcaraz is expected to arrive in the Philippines on August 3, 2013," it said.
Last June 29, the BRP Alcaraz arrived at the 52nd US Naval Base in San Diego, California, while en route to the Philippines.
Its crew received a warm welcome from Philippine Consul General to Los Angeles Maria Hellen de la Vega and the Filipino community, the same article said.
De la Vega said the BRP Alcaraz is "a fitting acquisition for the Armed Forces of the Philippines' modernization program."
She added it "will enhance the Philippines' naval assets," adding that the Philippines must attach greater focus and attention to maritime security.
BRP Alcaraz (PF-16) is the Philippine Navy's second Hamilton-class cutter and sister ship of the BRP Gregorio del Pilar (PF-15).
The BRP Alcaraz has 14 officers and 74 crew members led by Capt. Ernesto Baldovino.
"[It] is capable of conducting patrols for long periods of time and can withstand heavy weather and rough sea conditions," the DFA said.
BRP Alcaraz was named after Commodore Ramon Alcaraz, a Philippine Navy officer, who commanded a patrol boat that shot down three Japanese aircraft.

DFA denies reports Chinese ships left Panatag Shoal

From GMA News (Jul 4): DFA denies reports Chinese ships left Panatag Shoal

The Department of Foreign Affairs on Wednesday belied reports that Chinese warships have left Panatag Shoal.
"They come back and forth. The intrusion into our national territory continue," Foreign Affairs spokesman Raul Hernandez said in a text message to GMA News Online.
Citing a senior security official, who refused to be named, reported Thursday that "maritime and aerial monitoring showed no sign of any Chinese ship within the immediate vicinity of Panatag nor within its 75-nautical-mile radius."
For his part, in a separate phone interview Thursday morning, Philippine Coast Guard spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Armand Balilio said he has no information on the matter.
Disputed territory
Last June 27, the Philippines and United States started war games off the west coast of Luzon, near the disputed Panatag Shoal. 
On the same day, China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi warned countries with territorial claims in the South China Sea looking for help from third parties that they will find their efforts "futile" and that confrontation over the area is "doomed."
But the Philippine Navy has insisted the war games were not meant to provoke China.
Panatag Shoal had been at the center of a territorial dispute between the Philippines and China, with the Philippines bringing the dispute to an international court for arbitration.
'Five-point approach'
Meanwhile, the Akbayan party-list on Thursday proposed a "five-point approach" for the government in "handling the current territorial dispute with China and the increasing involvement of the United States in the conflict."
Akbayan Representative Walden Bello said "while the government’s strong and diplomatic response to the threat of Chinese aggression is commendable, a comprehensive policy framework is needed especially as the conflict increasingly draws in the dynamics of superpowers."
Bello suggested that the government should craft a policy process over free access.
"It is to our grave disadvantage that we allow foreign powers ease of access to our ports and natural resources without even laying down a decent foreign policy that secures our national interests," he said.
"While it is true that we will need all the help we can get from our friends and allies, we should first assess what kind of help we need and ensure that their role in this conflict will not undermine our national interests," he added.
He said this includes a "comprehensive review" of all agreements and treaties the government entered with other countries. He added that this includes the Visiting Forces Agreement and the Mutual Defense Treaty between the Philippines and US.
Bello also said another approach is for the government to "learn" from the Vietnamese government.
"The Vietnamese government successfully leveraged its relations with certain countries to ensure its tactical posturing in the conflict by upgrading naval defenses with strategic naval vessels and equipment," he said.
He noted that Vietnam was able to strengthen its own military and defense capabilities through new alliances "without sacrificing any of its national interests."
Promote patriotism and peace
Bello said another approach is to support "anti-China people power rallies" in the country.
"Even the symbolism of the militant but nonviolent action on the international stage will be to the nation's advantage," he said.
"The ingenuity of transborder citizen diplomacy that counters state-driven trends towards conflict utilizes what James Scott calls the 'weapons of the weak,' a method we must increasingly explore and maximize," he added.
Bello said the fourth approach is to "stand up and group together" to "confront a bully."
"Instead of letting superpower dynamics dictate the character of the regional conflict, the more prudent approach is to shore up our foreign policy by fostering stronger ties with our regional neighbors, especially those who have similar grievances against China's aggression," he said.
He also said the government "must push states to resort to diplomatic solutions and multilateral fora to solve territorial disputes"
Bello lauded the Philippine government's move to bring its dispute with China to the United Nations’ International Tribunal on the Law of the Seas for abjudication.
"The Aquino government must also pursue a demilitarized West Philippine Sea to prevent future conflicts and safeguard the area’s marine biodiversity," he added. 

PNP to strut new uniforms by December

From GMA News (Jul 4): PNP to strut new uniforms by December

PNP designs new uniforms for cops

Five designers along with the PNP Directorate for Research and Development created several police uniforms which will replace the current ones being worn by PNP personnel in various fields.

After 17 years, the Philippine National Police (PNP) will have new designs for its uniforms, which would be distributed before the year ends.

“Hopefully lang matapos ang research pero depende pa rin sa availability sa fabric, manufacturing and distribution... In six months siguro may bago ng uniform. Siguro before December,” Gil Hitosis, police director for PNP’s research and development, told GMA News Online in a phone interview on Thursday.
“[The uniform] should answer the needs of the police officer. We weigh and assess the design based on comfort, protection and better aesthetic,” he noted.
The new designs will be unveiled in “Cop Walk… PNP on the Ramp” an event organized by the PNP which aims to showcase the evolution and future design of police uniforms in the country.
“Cop Walk” will be staged at Camp Crame’s Multipurpose Hall on Thursday evening, Ian Cruz reported on GMA News TV’s “Balitanghali.”

In a statement, the PNP said the show "will feature creations of Filipino fashion icons like Rene Salud, Eddie Baddeo and other independent designers who will help provide the PNP with essential inputs in coming up with the best quality and comfortable PNP uniform and paraphernalia by making use of the creativity of students from fashion designer schools and manufacturers of suppliers of police uniforms."

“The show is among the many moves being undertaken by the PNP leadership in response to results of an internal survey and a strong clamour from the rank-and-file policemen for a change in the police uniform,” it added.
The last time that the police uniform had an overhaul was in 1999, back when Senator Panfilo Lacson was still the PNP chief, the television report said.
PNP explained that the new design for police uniforms “will entail no additional expense on the part of the police personnel” as policemen receive a Replacement Clothing Allowance (RCA) of P14,000.00 every three years.

PNP plans to purchase two attack helicopters

From GMA News (Jul 4): PNP plans to purchase two attack helicopters

Two attack helicopters are on the shopping list the Philippine National Police has submitted to President Benigno Aquino, as part of the  PNP modernization program.

PNP chief Director General Alan Purisima said he had already relayed the request to the President, who mentioned it in his speech during the ceremonial distribution of Glock pistols at Camp Crame early this week.

"These [choppers] will be very important in our anti-insurgency and anti-terrorism missions," said Purisima.

Atrocities by communist rebels in the past weeks highlighted the need for attack helicopters said, Purisma, citing a recent ambush on some 100 police on a special training in the Mt. Province, where one was killed.

Also he said the PNP is gearing up against insurgents as the military starts to focus on territorial defense.

Moreover, he said the choppers will also be used  in disaster response and anti-criminality campaign in Metro Manila and other urban areas.

But Purisima admitted it may take time before they buy the choppers as these are expensive.

President Aquino approved the P9-billion modernization fund for this year, which will be used to buy patrol cars, assault rifles, communication equipment and hiring of more police personnel. The PNP has a P2-billion annual modernization fund.

BLMI Conducts Seminar on Basic Journalism

From the MILF Website (Jul 4): BLMI Conducts Seminar on Basic Journalism

The Bangsamoro Leadership & Management Institute (BLMI) and The Asia Foundation (TAF) jointly sponsored and conducted a three –day “Seminar Workshop on Basic Journalism” at BLMI Training Hall at Crossing Simuay, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao from June 29-July 01, 2013.
The program was funded by TAF in collaboration with the Australian Aid (AusAID) with the aim to further capacitate selected participants in the field of Journalism.

Prof. Esmael Abdula, BLMI Training Officer and member of the Steering Committee facilitated the program while, Mr. Zamin Unti, BLMI Administrative officer welcomed the 30 participants who came all the way from different parts of mainland Mindanao and Western Mindanao Region.

In his message, Mohagher Iqbal, Peace Panel Chair of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) stressed the value of learning to enhance skills and knowledge of individuals. He emphasized that one must continue to sharpen his/her knowledge and skills based on the three-way approach, “learn, practice, and teach” or LPT and impart them to others.

In the evening Mr. Moidjoddin Talusob, a participant from Maguindanao found time in infusing Islamic Values to participants who willfully listened and participated in the sharing of essential Islamic moral values that can help them optimize their advocacy and information drive in promoting peace in the concept of Islam.

Ms. Malu Cadelina Manar, a vibrant journalist and broadcaster of DXND-NDBC Kidapawan city, indefatigably lectured on Basic Journalism ethics, principles and practices.  Mr. Jun Enriquez, a Broadcast Journalist of DXLS FM and Journalist Ryan Rosauro, a correspondent of Philippines Daily Inquirer lectured on news casting, and journalistic approaches. The two-Iligan based media practitioners are also engaged in peace building and affiliated with civil society organizations (CSO’s).

In the closing program, selected participants shared their reactions or impressions and expressed their gratitude to the TAF, AusAID and the BLMI hierarchy and personnel for sponsoring and holding the program. On his closing message, Mohagher Iqbal stressed the importance of seeking knowledge even in faraway places. He quoted the Holy Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) who once said, “Seek knowledge even if it is in China”. He also quoted one saying which says, “Seek knowledge from the cradle to the grave”, pointing out that  there is no limit nor end in acquiring knowledge for as long as man is still alive. Awarding of certificates to participants and certificates of appreciation to speakers and facilitators followed.

Mountain Province leaders, residents hold indignation rally to denounce NPA atrocities

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jul 4): Mountain Province leaders, residents hold indignation rally to denounce NPA atrocities

Political and religious leaders led an indignation rally last Tuesday at the Provincial Plaza here condemning the attack by members of the New Peoples Army to a contingent of police trainees in the municipality of Tadian last June 28.

Congressman Maximo Dalog, Sr., Governor Leonard Mayaen, Bishop Brent Alawas of the Episcopal Diocese of Northern Philippines (EDNP) and other local officials took turns in denouncing the treacherous act of the NPA against the helpless and unarmed police scout trainees.

Based on the Provincial Police Office report, some 95 Police Scout trainees and four of their instructors were on their regular early morning jogging exercises last Friday when they were fired upon by suspected NPA rebel along the national road at sitio Am-o, Tadian. One trainee was killed on the spot while nine others were injured. Latest report, however, said one of the wounded died at the hospital.

In his emotion-filled talk, Dalog said the people of the province are peace-loving people; they abhor violence and that they want peace in their midst.

“We condemn in the strongest word the atrocities of the NPA of the Leonardo Pacsi Command,” the solon declared as he lauded the provincial official for initiating the indignation rally.

“We are also gathered today to express as one people our sympathy to the families of the victims and to pray for the fast recovery of the wounded trainees in this unfortunate incident” Dalog said.

He then urged the big crowd of rallyists to make a commitment to work together towards a peaceful province saying that peace and order is not only the responsibility of the police or the army.

On the other hand, Bishop Alawas said the EDNP joins the peace-loving people of the province in denouncing the latest ambush which he described as a grim reminder of the enormous wars between the government soldiers and the rebels for than 40 years now.

The Bishop said Christian faith calls us to denounce the continuing violence or armed conflict involving NPA rebels against government forces saying violence does not solve our problem but rather make our problems worse.

Alawas said doing non-violence steps will pave the way for a dialogue that “if pursued with sincerity and without reservation could lead to a genuine peace.”

The Bishop called on the NPA rebels to heed the call of the people and to cease from conducting further ambushes as this will only led to militarization. In militarization as observed in the past, it is the civilians who suffer the most, he stressed.

In the same program, Board Member Alfonso Kiat-ong read a SB Resolution they passed on Monday strongly condemning the ambush incident perpetrated by armed groups to the police scout trainees in Tadian and also to express sympathy to the families of the victims and to pray for the immediate recovery of the wounded policemen.

In his closing message, Mayaen who earlier “condemn in the highest degree the act of the NPA” said the people have spoken loud and clear that they want peace and that the NPA rebels are not welcome and they have to leave Mt. Province.

Mayaen chided the NPA rebels that if they are really concern about the people and if they want progress in the province, they have to listen and heed the sentiments of the people as aired by the speakers and written in the placards and streamers of the rallyists.

The governor informed the crowd that he will continue the program he initiated during his first term to work out for the declaration of the province as a zone of peace.

The indignation rally started off with a parade around the capital-town which saw the participation of national and local government employees, faculty, staff and students of the two colleges as well as the elementary and high schools in the capital-town, Tadian constituents led by mayor Anthony Wooden, local officials and representatives from other municipalities, church people and civil society groups.

Vice President Jejomar Binay and Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas have also condemned this ambush incident.

AFP: Civilians played big role in military win vs rebels in Sorsogon

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 4): AFP: Civilians played big role in military win vs rebels in Sorsogon

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Thursday gave credit to the civilians for the successful operation in Barangay Upper Calmayon, Juban, Sorsogon where eight New People's Army (NPA) rebels were killed following an encounter Thursday morning.

"The cooperation of the civilians who are fed up with the continued atrocities by the NPA played a big part in the successful security operation against the armed rebels, this morning in Sorsogon," AFP public affairs office chief Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala said.

He added that tips concerning the whereabouts of the rebel band was the main reason for the operation's success.

"Upon verification of the reported presence and extortion activities of the group, elements of the Army’s 31st Infantry Battalion under Lt. Col. Beerjenson Aquino were sent to Barangay Upper Calmayon, Juban, Sorsogon where they encountered about 20 members of the NPAs," Zagala stressed.

A firefight ensued for 35 minutes and resulted to eight fatalities from the NPA’s side including two females.

Government troopers also recovered five M-16 automatic rifles and one improvised explosive device after the incident.

"The precise military operations successfully prevented damages to civilians and their properties near the area," the AFP public affairs chief said.

Other NPAs who fled after the clash are now being pursued by the responding troop with assistance from deployed K9 units while other members are conducting clearing operations in the area.

A helicopter from the Tactical Operations Group (TOG)-4 in Lucena City was likewise sent to Headquarters, TOG-5 in Legazpi, Albay to support the ongoing pursuit operations.

“The AFP on the other hand is grateful to the civilians who reported the presence and illegal activities of the NPAs. With this, the leadership calls on our people to continue reporting to government authorities the presence of these armed groups to prevent and put a stop to their hostilities and crimes against civilians," Zagala stressed.

"Rest assured, that the AFP will continue to conduct its focused-military operations against all threat groups while pursuing just and lasting peace and development for our country," he concluded.

Nothing wrong with 'grounded' PAF chopper in Camp Aguinaldo

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 4): Nothing wrong with 'grounded' PAF chopper in Camp Aguinaldo

Philippine Air Force (PAF) spokesperson Col. Miguel Ernesto Okol on Thursday said that there is nothing wrong with the W-3A "Sokol" still stuck at the grandstand of AFP general headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

The helicopter was grounded there since Monday.

"The aircraft experienced weak batteries while in the air and the pilot elected to make a precautionary landing so that the representatives of Augusta PZL Swidnik can check it," he added.

The batteries power the electronic components of the W-3A flight component systems.

Okol stated PAF technicians were instructed not touch the helicopter as not to violate its one-year warranty from the manufacturer.

Aside from its defective batteries, the grounded W-3A "Sokol" in Camp Aguinaldo has no other problems.

The PAF spokesperson also clarified that all seven "Sokols" in PAF service are flyable and mission capable.

The PAF's W3-A "Sokols" or "Falcon" combat utility helicopters are equipped with the latest navigation and avionics systems including a night vision goggle compatible cockpit, allowing it to operate day and night in all weather conditions.

This six-ton class helicopter can transport up to 11 troops in the cabin or can lift up to 2,100 kilograms using its external cargo hook.

This helicopter can also be fitted with a M-60D machine gun on each side of the cabin.

Augusta PZL-Swidnik is Poland’s only helicopter company with the capability to design, develop and manufacture its own helicopters.

It has its own research and development center and with 3,500 employees is also the biggest aerospace manufacturer in Poland.

Palace welcomes China’s move to discuss code of conduct in South China Sea

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 4): Palace welcomes China’s move to discuss code of conduct in South China Sea
Malacanang welcomed China’s latest statement on its willingness to hold discussions for the possible crafting of a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea amid continuing tensions in the area.

In a press briefing in Malacanang on Thursday, Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda said he can not speculate on China’s intention to spearhead low-level discussions to resolve the dispute but he said it is a welcome development.

“It’s a forward step with China agreeing to at least discuss the Code of Conduct with us. We already drafted the Code of Conduct, and now we have asked them to discuss it with us, and China has already said that they are discussing with us. And so this is a step in the right direction,” Lacierda said.

After years of rejecting efforts to start talks for a Code of Conduct with the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), China has agreed to host talks between senior officials this coming September.

But the code would not touch on the territorial claims but would set rules for actions by ships, aimed at minimizing the risk of missteps that could lead to hostilities.

The discussions, to be held in China, was described as “consultations” rather than “negotiations”.

Asean and China ministers met in Brunei this week for a security forum that tackled the tension in the West Philippine Sea.

The US, an ally of the Philippines and Vietnam said it is not taking sides on the issue but said that its strategic interest is the freedom of navigation in the West Philippine Sea.

 The US hopes that the Asean and China agree on a valid Code of Conduct soon.

Mayor expresses support to Americans' visit to bases as Baguio City celebrates Fil-Am Friendship Day

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 4): Mayor expresses support to Americans' visit to bases as Baguio City celebrates Fil-Am Friendship Day

Mayor Mauricio G. Domogan on Thursday led his constituents and visitors here in celebrating the Filipino-American Friendship Day which started with prayers and wreath-laying rites in various landmarks of this mountain resort built by the Americans in early 1900s.

Among the landmarks where people here pay homage to American statesmen and soldiers were at the parks built in honor of Justice George Malcolm, Engineer Daniel Burnham, and Colonel Lyman Kennon, among others.

Although this 68-square kilometer city 250 kilometers north of Manila had various transformations in the past 102 years, the American landmarks like the city hall, parks, roads, bridges, presidential mansion house, ambassador's resident, Camp John Hay, including the trees the Americans planted remain to remind the city's rich history including the presence of “Thomasians” (teachers) at the Teachers Camp.

Several senior citizens visited Camp John Hay to relive good and fond memories of their friendship with their American counterparts either in military service, civilian offices, business, construction works and sports.

Among them was former Baguio city councilor Nars Padilla who, in his younger years, served the United States Navy.

History shows that after World War II, this day was celebrated as the Philippine Independence Day, until it was changed in the early 1960s by former President Diosdado Macapagal.

Despite of this, the fervor of American-Filipino friendship lives on in this country that Filipino and American flags are proudly displayed in various public places.

Meanwhile, Domogan also took this festive event to announce his support to President Benigno Aquino III's recent pronouncement that the American forces can visit the Philippines military bases in the name of friendship and cooperation for peace.

”As our ally and friend, America is welcome for their periodic visits to our country,” he said.

8 NPA rebels killed in early morning clash with Army soldiers in Sorsogon

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 4): 8 NPA rebels killed in early morning clash with Army soldiers in Sorsogon
Eight New People’s Army (NPA) members were killed in an encounter with Army soldiers early Thursday morning in Barangay (village) Upper Calmayon, a far-flung village of Juban town in Sorsogon, a ranking official of the Philippine Army in Bicol said today, July 4.

Brig. Gen. Felix Castro, 9th Infantry Division assistant commander said in a phone interview that Army soldiers from the 31st Infantry Battalion were on a combat mission when they encountered a 20-man NPA band in a mountainous area of the village around 6 a.m., Thursday.

A 35-minute firefight ensued, resulting in the killing of the seven NPA rebels and recovery of five M16 rifles, two M203 grenade rifles and improvised explosive devices.

No casualty was reported on the government forces' side.

The dead NPA rebels were members of the communist guerrilla front Larangan 2.

Army soldiers are presently in hot pursuit of the fleeing surviving rebels.

The bodies of the slain rebels are now in the custody of Army troopers at the site of the encounter in the hinterland village of Juban town, about 82 kilometers from this city, said Castro.

He added that the bodies will be turned over to the Philippine National Police in Juban town for proper identification and disposition.

Military links up with Zambo’s 117 emergency hotline

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 4): Military links up with Zambo’s 117 emergency hotline
Task Force Zamboanga (TFZ), the military unit assigned to assist the local police force in law enforcement, will link up with the city’s 117 emergency hotline for better responses against crimes.

The city government maintains 117 emergency hotline at the Community Police Action Center (ComPAC) based at city hall to receive emergency calls and calls on corresponding law enforcement agencies to respond to a particular situation.

In practice, a fire call to 117 enables the ComPAC radio operator to alert the concerned fire station to respond.

The city has seven fire stations and seven fire –sub-stations under the Zamboanga City Fire District (ZCFD).

Residents in the barangays can report to 117 a crime in progress and 117 will dispatch policemen from its team or the Police Station that covers the place where the crime is being committed.

The ComPAC has an automatic switching system to instantly connect to the fire stations and Police Stations.

The Zamboanga City Police Office (ZCPO) has 10 Police Stations under its command.

Not all can remember the seven-digit Philippine Long Distance Telephone (PLDT) number of the fire station or of the police in their respective communities but can easily remember 117.

Not all of the residents can also remember the PLDT number of TFZ with its headquarters is located at Camp Gen. Arturo Enrile in Barangay Malagutay, seven kilometers west of this city.

TFZ Commander Col. Andrelino Colina said the linkage to ComPAC’s 117 will provide his command with a direct telephone hotline for emergencies.

On the other hand, ComPAC’s 117 will not have to dial the TFZ PLDT line for relay of instructions and the like, Colina said.

He said that swift response is needed in emergencies as criminals escape from crime scene on board motorcycles that can easily weave through traffic and speed away from the arms of the law.

Colina said they can immediately deploy men in cases of emergency to establish checkpoints and block any escape routes of criminals fleeing from crime scenes in the city proper.

In case of a kidnapping incident, Colina said they can immediately redeploy soldiers to man outposts in coastal barangays to block the kidnappers’ escape with their captives on board motorized banca.

Multi-sectoral group to bring gov’t services to poor villages through countryside development caravan

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 4): Multi-sectoral group to bring gov’t services to poor villages through countryside development caravan

It’s all systems go for bringing government services in the countryside, especially in identified poor villages in Bicol.

Various government agencies and private sector volunteers have joined hands in conducting a countryside development caravan that will bring health, infrastructure, social and livelihood services to the poorest of the poor villages in Bicol, according to Bernardo Rafael Alejandro, Office of Civil Defense (OCD) regional director and Regional Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council chair.

Alejandro said the inter-agency program will be carried out in the middle of July this year and will be piloted in at least 44 poor villages in Albay.

He said the project was adopted from Albay Gov. Joey Salceda, who conceptualized the community service project as a prelude to rural development.

The development caravan, which will start on July 15 and end on Dec. 31, will bring health, engineering, education and livelihood services to initially 44 poor villages.

Once successful, the caravan will be replicated in other provinces with poverty-stricken villages, Alejandro said.

The blueprint for the countryside development program has been completed and is awaiting implementation.

The OCD, Armed Forces of the Philippines, local government units, national government agencies and non-government organizations have been involved in community projects to resolve issues of the dearth of government basic services in far-flung areas, Alejandro disclosed.

He said the community program is not a new one as this has been implemented in various endeavors in the past.

For instance, the AFP, for the past years, has become a lead agency in implementing the Bayanihan aimed at achieving lasting peace, stability and development, and improved socio-economic well- being of communities, he said.

6 villages in northern Neg Occ benefit from civic activities

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 4): 6 villages in northern Neg Occ benefit from civic activities

Residents of six far-flung barangays in northern Negros Occidental are benefiting from the 15-day civil-humanitarian activities spearheaded by Provincial Peace and Integration Development Unit (Pro-PIDU) dubbed “Marching for Peace, Serving the Countryside.”

After kicking off in Barangay Paitan, Escalante City Monday and going to Barangay Bandila,Toboso today, the government services will be brought next to Barangay Malatas, Calatrava, Barangay Bug-ang, Toboso; and Barangays Pinapugasan and Malasibog, also in Escalante City.

The activities are being supported by the Philippine Army through by 303rd Infantry Brigade headed by Col. Jon Aying and Negros Occidental Police Provincial Office led by Senior Supt. Milko Lirazan.

Residents of the six barangays can avail of services from the Provincial Health Office, Provincial Veterinary Office, Provincial Planning and Development Office, Provincial Social Welfare Development Office, Office of the Provincial Agriculturist, the Provincial Technology and Livelihood Development Center, among others.

Gov. Alfredo Marañon Jr. urged the people in these barangays to unite and cooperate with the government to fight poverty and hunger for a more progressive Negros Occidental.

On Monday, the governor distributed goods and medicines to Paitan residents. He assured Paitan village chief Richardy Pios Sr. during their dialogue that the provincial government will help in the construction of a water system and the renovation of three classrooms in the barangay.

The activity started that day with a march of Army and police troopers from Barangay Bato, Sagay City to Barangay Paitan to assess the situation of the people residing in these remote areas, and to be able to address their concerns through a civic activity.

Pios thanked the provincial government and other stakeholders for bringing the civic action activity directly to their barangay.

“I am happy that our barangay was visited by our governor together with the various organizations who make us feel that we are not forgotten,” he said.

For his part, Aying stressed the importance of multi-stakeholders approach in resolving armed conflict and promoting peace by bringing progress directly to the people.

“The march for peace and civic action is a chance to show the people that they are the legitimate force of the government and we are ready to protect them,” he added.

7th ID commander appointed as Northern Luzon Command chief

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 4): 7th ID commander appointed as Northern Luzon Command chief

Maj. Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang, incumbent 7th Infantry Division commander, was appointed to head the Northern Luzon Command replacing Lt. Gen. Anthony J. Alcantara who will retiring Friday after reaching the mandatory age of 56.

Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) public affairs office chief, said a testimonial review and parade will be rendered to Alcantara at Camp Servillano Aquino in Tarlac.

The latter is the main headquarters of the Northern Luzon Command.

He added that AFP chief-of-staff Gen. Emmanuel T. Bautista will lead the change of command and retirement ceremony Friday.

Alcantara assumed as the 43rd Commander of NOLCOM in February 6, 2012 after his stint as the AFP deputy chief of staff.

Prior to this designation, he was the commander of the 6th Infantry Division in Central Mindanao.

He is a graduate of the Philippine Military Academy, Class of 1979.

Under Alcantara's leadership, the Northern Luzon Command carried out successful focused-military operations which led to the discovery of enemy camps, recovery of high and low powered firearms, and neutralization, apprehension or surrender of New People's Army members.

In its effort to conclude the peace agreement with the Cordillera People’s Liberation Army, the Northern Luzon Command fully supported the government’s efforts to attain a lasting peace in the Cordilleras by coming up with the full implementation of Administrative Order 18 and Executive Order 49 which provided opportunities to the former members of the CPLA to be integrated at the AFP ranks.

Catapang on the other hand was the former commander of the 703rd Infantry Brigade before becoming 7th Infantry Division chief in last year.

He was also the former military assistant in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Strategic Assessment in the Department of National Defense.

A member of Philippine Military Academy “Dimalupig” Class of 1981, Catapang moved on with his career carrying excellent standard of performance, fine leadership and keen vision that resulted in remarkable accomplishments in both of his garrison and field tours of duty.

Some of his former positions of major responsibility includes; 28th Infantry Battalion head, 4th Infantry Division, battalion commander of HHSBn (headquarters support battalion), 4th Infantry Division,; assistant chief of staff for operations (G-3), 8th Infantry Division; assistant chief of Unified Command Staff for Civil-Military Operations, (U-7), Northern Luzon Command, AFP; and chief of unified command staff, Northern Luzon Command.

The change of leadership in the AFP’s units and offices is part of its continuous dynamism which is essential in carrying out its mandate efficiently.

It is part of progression considering that this is a dynamic organization constantly adapting to the ever-changing security environment.

"This is also healthy for the AFP given that there are military personnel who are retiring from their respective duties and responsibilities. With this, the AFP is able to continue the implementation of the plans it is currently adopting," Zagala concluded.

GPH, MILF peace talks resume July 8

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 4): GPH, MILF peace talks resume July 8

The Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) will resume peace negotiations on July 8.

"The MILF as an organization has agreed on the schedule of the peace talks this coming July 8 or 9," said Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda in a press briefing.

"I don’t think there’s any spoiler. They’ve (MILF) raised some concerns but we are pushing through with the peace talks this July next week. So there’s no issue with MILF on that point. We are still talking about the annexes," he said.

Last month, chief government negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer submitted the government's final wealth-sharing annex draft to her MILF counterpart, Mohagher Iqbal, when they met informally at a forum in Norway.

Ferrer said the government panel only wanted to exercise prudence.

"The President is committed to delivering an agreement that will allow the Bangsamoro to enjoy effective and meaningful fiscal autonomy but also take into account the legal, political, and administrative constraints of the central government," she said.

"These are the considerations as to why government wishes to introduce some changes to the draft annex, particularly with regard some aspects of taxation, fund transfer mechanisms, and revenue sharing," she added.

As to power-sharing, Ferrer said both panels are trying to arrive at a language that will make the annex "legally defensible and doable."

Meanwhile, with regards to the travel advisories issued by Canada and Australia, Lacierda said "these are normal advisories."

Australia and Canada earlier warned about fresh threats of terrorism and kidnapping in the southern Philippines.

Both countries urged their citizens not to travel to large parts of the Mindanao region, with the Australian government specifically barring its diplomats from the cities of Davao, Cotabato and Zamboanga.

Lacierda said that foreign countries like Canada and Australia "have to protect and caution their citizens and we understand the situation."

"We understand the reason for their doing so but we can assure them that our responsibility as a nation is to ensure the safety of our own citizens as well as the visitors who come here," he said.

Malacanang: Kiram should coordinate with Sulu local crisis management body

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 4): Malacanang: Kiram should coordinate with Sulu local crisis management body

Malacanang said Sultan Kiram of the Sulu Sultanate should coordinate with the local crisis management committee of Sulu if he is really serious in helping for the release of the Bansil sisters kidnapped by Muslim extremists in the south.

Kiram offered to help the government in negotiating for the freedom of the Bansil sisters.

The sultan should talk to Gov. Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao or to Gov. Sakur Tan of Sulu because they are the ones in charge, Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda said in a press conference in Malacanang on Thursday.

“Governor Sakur Tan is the local crisis action committee head and Governor Hataman is also assisting in his capacity as ARMM governor [is] also helping out in that area. So he would have to discuss it with Governor Abdusakur Tan and Governor Hataman,” Lacierda said.

It isn’t necessary to offer the help to the Palace and the sultan should go directly to the local crisis committee it he’s willing to help free the hostages, Lacierda said.

Gov Sakur Tan is on top of the situation and the national government is getting regular updates from the local level, the Palace official said.

Nadjoua Bansil, 39, and younger sister Linda, 36, were abducted in Jolo on June 22 while working on a documentary about its impoverished residents, Lacierda said.

The military and the police blamed the Abu Sayyaf Group for the recent kidnappings.

The Abu Sayyaf Group was founded with the help of Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in the 1990s. The US government designated the group a terrorist organization.

8 NPA rebels killed in Sorsogon

From Rappler (Jul 4): 8 NPA rebels killed in Sorsogon

At least 8 New People's Army (NPA) rebels, two of whom women, were killed in an encounter with Army troops in Juban, Sorsogon, Thursday morning, July 4, the military said.

Lt Col Ramon Zagala, military public affairs office chief, said troops from the 31st Infantry Battalion under Lt Col Beerjenson Aquino clashed with the rebels at 6 am Thursday in Barangay Upper Calmayon.

The clash lasted for about 35 minutes. The soldiers recovered five M16 rifles and an improvised explosive device.

There were no casualties among the government troops.

The rebels were said to be extorting residents in the area, prompting civilians to seek military assistance.

Soldiers are now pursuing other rebels who fled after the encounter.

The encounter follows a spate of rebel attacks in key provinces nationwide. The peace talks between the government and the NPA's umbrella organization, the National Democratic Front, broke down early this year.