Friday, July 5, 2013

Flight helmet of missing pilot found -- Western Command

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 6 ): Flight helmet of missing pilot found -- Western Command

The Western Command on Saturday announced that a flight helmet belonging to the one of the two missing pilots was found by a fisherman two nautical miles off Sombrero Island, Palawan.

1st Lt. Cheryl Tindog, Western Command spokesperson, said the helmet was found by 32-year-old Ludivir P. Nunez early this week.

"He found the helmet floating more or less two nautical miles off Sombrero Island. The said helmet was recovered and confirmed to be the helmet of one of the pilots. It is now with the investigating team," she added.

Tindog also said that Task Force "Bronco" will continue search missions in the vicinity of Rasa Island Saturday.

Tindog added they are requesting the return of the Shell Philippines vessel, Lara-5, which is equipped with a remotely-operated vehicle (ROV) to help in the ongoing search.

The ship and its ROV arrived off the suspected crash site some five nautical miles away from the Puerto Princesa airport last July 4 and immediately conducted a search which located nothing.

It was forced to left on the night of July 5 to perform a company mission off Malampaya.

"We are requesting for their return," Tindog said.

Earlier, Coast Guard Palawan commander Commodore Enrico Evangelista said the ROV will be used to determine if an object earlier detected by sonar equipment off Palawan was the wreckage of the OV-10.

Authorities are still hoping that Major Jonathan Ybanez and 1st Lt. Abner Trust Nacion might have survived the crash.

The two were on a night proficiency flight when their aircraft crashed last June 23.

Successful Military Opn vs NPA in Brgy. Calmayon, Juban, Sorsogon

Posted to the Citizens' Anti-Crime and Terrorism Information and Operation Network Facebook Page (Jul 5):  Successful Military Opn vs NPA in Brgy. Calmayon, Juban, Sorsogon

Civilians Fed Up with NPA Atrocities 8 NPAs Killed, Firearms Recovered in Successful Operations

CAMP GENERAL EMILIO AGUINALDO, Quezon City – The cooperation of the civilians who are fed up with the continued atrocities by the New People’s Army (NPA) played a big part in the successful security operation by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) against the armed rebels, this morning in Sorsogon.

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 Brgy. Upper Calmayon, Juban, Sorsogon where they encountered about 20 members of the NPA.

A firefight ensued for 35 minutes and resulted to 8 casualties from the NPA’s side including two females.

AFP troops also recovered five M16 rifles and one improvised explosive device after the incident.

The precise military operations successfully prevented damages to civilians and their properties near the area.  

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, TOG5 in Legazpi, Albay to support said operations.

“The success of the operation would not have been possible without the cooperation of the people of Sorsogon who are tired of the prolonged criminal activities by the NPAs in their area,” 903rd Brigade Commander, Col. Joselito Kakilala said.

The AFP on the other hand is grateful to the civilians who reported the presence and illegal activities of the NPAs. With this, the AFP leadership calls on the 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.

The AFP assures the public that it will continue to conduct its focused-military operations against all threat groups while pursuing just and lasting peace and development for our country. (PAO-AFP)

In a secluded area at Brgy. Upper Calmayon, Juban, Sorsogon Province, operating troops of 31IB, 903rd Bde PA encountered about 20 members of the Larangan 2, Southern Luzon Regional Command, CPP-NPA about 6 a.m. on Thursday, July 2, 2013 that resulted to the death of eight Maoist terrorists including a ranking officer and two amazons - one of whom was a former teacher. — at Brgy. Upper Calmayong, Municipality of Juban, Sorsogon Province

A distant view of the house at the hinterlands of Brgy Calmayong, Juban town in Sorsogon Province that served as their shelter several days before the encounter early morning last Thursday, 4 July 2013. — at Brgy. Upper Calmayong, Municipality of Juban, Sorsogon Province.

A tent the NPA extended from a house at Brgy Calmayong, Juban town in Sorsogon Province that served as their shelter several days before the encounter early morning last Thursday, 4 July 2013. — at Brgy. Upper Calmayong, Municipality of Juban, Sorsogon Province.

The military recovered five M-16 rifles, two M-203 grenade launchers and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) from the fallen NPA terrorists. — at Brgy. Upper Calmayong, Municipality of Juban, Sorsogon Province.

Elements of 31IB PA recovered four IEDs and electronic switch box from the scene of encounter with NPA terrorists at Brgy Upper Calmayong, Juban town, Sorsogon. — at Brgy. Upper Calmayong, Municipality of Juban, Sorsogon Province.

A close up view of four color green IEDs and electronic switch box that were recovered by the military from the NPA at the scene of encounter in Brgy Upper Calmayong, Juban town, Sorsogon. — at Brgy. Upper Calmayong, Municipality of Juban, Sorsogon Province.

PNP SOCO Team operatives put up police line around the scene of encounter at Brgy Upper Calmayong, Juban town, Sorsogon as a standard operating procedure — at Brgy. Upper Calmayong, Municipality of Juban, Sorsogon Province.

Several bodies of the slain NPA men lie in the lower rocky portion of the encounter site at Brgy Upper Calmayong, Juban town, Sorsogon. — at Brgy. Upper Calmayong, Municipality of Juban, Sorsogon Province.

1 rebel dead in Sorsogon clash–military

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jul 6): 1 rebel dead in Sorsogon clash–military

An encounter between Army troops and a supposed unit of the New People’s Army (NPA) resulted in the death of one suspected rebel in Sorsogon early morning on  Saturday, Army said.

Lieutenant Colonel Medel Aguilar, acting spokesman of the Army’s 9th Infantry Division in Bicol, said the firefight started at 5:30 a.m. around the vicinity of Barangay (village) Gabao, Irosin, Sorsogon.

He said that there was one yet to be identified fatality from among the rebels.

Sorsogon, including that of the area where the clash happened, is under the jurisdiction of 9ID’s 903rd Infantry Brigade.

Last July 4, Thursday, an Army platoon under the 31st Infantry Battalion also encountered a 20-man unit of NPA rebels in Juban, Sorsogon where eight rebels died in the firefight.

US issues travel warning vs Sulu, Mindanao

From GMA News (Jul 6): US issues travel warning vs Sulu, Mindanao

Citing terrorist and insurgency activities there, the United States on Saturday (Philippine time) issued a travel warning on Sulu and Mindanao.

The State Department warned US citizens of the "risks of travel to the Philippines, in particular to the Sulu Archipelago and the island of Mindanao."

"US citizens should continue to defer non-essential travel to the Sulu Archipelago, due to the high threat of kidnapping of international travelers and violence linked to insurgency and terrorism there," the State Department said in an advisory.

It added that US citizens should continue to "exercise extreme caution" if traveling to Mindanao in the southern Philippines.

The State Department pointed out criminal groups have clashed sporadically with the Philippine Armed Forces, particularly in rural areas there.

Also, it said and terrorist groups have kidnapped international travelers and carried out bombings that have resulted in injuries and deaths.

While it said security and safety conditions in urban centers of Davao, General Santos and Cagayan de Oro Cities are "generally more controlled," US Embassy employees must still get "special authorization" from Embassy security officials to travel to any location in Mindanao and the Sulu archipelago, including these urban centers.

Terrorism, violence

The Department of State also said it remains concerned about the continuing threat of terrorist actions and violence against US citizens and interests worldwide.

It encouraged all US citizens in the Philippines to enrol with the Department of State's Smart Traveler Enrollment Program or at the U.S. Embassy in Manila.

"By enrolling, you can receive the Embassy's most recent security and safety updates during your trip. Enrolling also ensures that we can reach you, or your designated emergency points of contact, during an emergency," it said.

The US Embassy is located at 1201 Roxas Boulevard, Manila, and can be reached by telephone at 63-2-301-2000.

The American Citizens Services (ACS) section's fax number is 63-2-301-2017, and the ACS Section may be reached by email at

Artists’ group slams arrest of Red-tagged couple

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jul 4): Artists’ group slams arrest of Red-tagged couple

A group of young artists has  slammed the arrest in Marikina City last week of a former University of the Philippines (UP) student and his wife who, according to the police,  were high-ranking officials of the New People’s Army.

In a statement, Kabataang Artista para sa Tunay na Kalayaan (Karatula) said the manner in which Juan Pablo Versoza, a member of the group’s UP Diliman-based chapter Alay Sining, and his wife Grace were arrested was illegal, because the warrant served by the police was defective.

Authorities earlier said the two were arrested in Barangay Parang last Friday based on the arrest warrant issued by a court in Samar province where the couple had been charged with robbery with homicide and illegal possession of firearms.

According to the group, the warrant contained just aliases and the real names of the couple were listed only when they were detained at the Eastern Police District  headquarters.

“How can an alias legitimately be used in an arrest? That alias could be anybody yet they choose to target two innocent people. There is no basis for the arrest,” said Jay del Rosario, Karatula vice chair.

The group also added the police did not inform the couple of the reason for their arrest nor were they shown the warrant issued by the court.

“[The authorities] obviously didn’t show them the warrant in order to rig the official reports later on,” Del Rosario claimed.

The group added that the couple’s “basic rights to due process” were violated, saying the “trumped-up charges”  were “politically motivated.”

“It is clear that the actions of the 8th Infantry Division of the Armed Forces are politically motivated under the Aquino regime’s Oplan Bayanihan counterinsurgency campaign,” the group said.

“These ridiculous charges are attempts of the military to repress progressive artists and individuals critical of the administration,” it said as it added that there has been an additional 293 political prisoners since 2010.

According to the group, it will conduct a “fervent campaign” for the release of the couple from the Samar provincial jail in Catbalogan, where they were transferred following their arrest.

Photo: A force to reckon with

From the Manila Standard Today (Jul 6): Photo: A force to reckon with

A force to reckon with.

An elite Force from Philippine Navy participate in the Sea and Land exercises as part of their proficiency training at the Manila Bay near the Philippine Navy’s Jose Andrada Naval Station on Friday. DANNY PATA

‘Cop Walk’ fails to impress PNP brass

From the Manila Standard Today (Jul 6): ‘Cop Walk’ fails to impress PNP brass

Fashion galore. Police officers present the new uniform designs proposed to replace the current one at the Cop Walk fashion show in Camp Crame Thursday night. Manny Palmero
The new uniform designs proposed to replace the policeman’s blue-gray outfit failed to impress police officials on Friday, including National Police Chief Alan Purisima, during the “Cop Walk” presenting them in Camp Crame.

And a post at the National Police’s Police Digest said performance should be the main criteria and not the policemen’s uniform.

The fashion show of policemen wearing the proposed uniforms started at 6 p.m. and ended at 11 p.m., but the audience including Purisima were not impressed.

“The designers’ real ability didn’t show,” said Purisima who delivered a short message after the show.

He gave Police Director Gil Hitosis, head of Research and Development and the Cop Walk organizer, 90 days to organize a “Cop Walk Part Two.”

Jackier Claire Ponte, who presented a uniform made of poly-cotton cloth with a color almost the same as the existing police uniform, emerged as the sole winner out of the five contenders in the fashion show.

She was asked to make another design using the y-cotton material as the official cloth of the prospective new uniform, but what color the new uniform will have remained undecided.

The policeman’s uniform was designed and then sewn and made official 22 years ago, but Purisima on Wednesday said it was time to replace it.

“That uniform is oppressive and inappropriate to the Philippine climate,” Purisima said.

He said the uniform would be lighter and the cloth made of cotton to be more comfortable compared with the old polyester outfit that was hot when put on.

Purisima said they had not yet decided what the new uniform’s should look like, but they would be deciding on that after the Cop Walk, which was yesterday.

Female NPA rebel leader in Eastern Samar captured

From the Manila Times (Jul 5): Female NPA rebel leader in Eastern Samar captured

COMBINED elements of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Army and the Philippine National Police (PNP) captured another top leader of the communist New People’s Army (NPA) in the rebel-infested island province of Samar, bringing to three the total number of rebel officials arrested in two weeks.

Capt, Amado Gutierrez, spokesman, 8th Infantry Division (ID), on Friday identified the rebel leader as Edna Montes, head of the Educational Department of the Eastern Samar Provincial Party Committee and concurrent secretary of the Eastern Samar Provincial White Area Committee.

Montes, also a former member of the Executive Committee of the Eastern Visayas Regional Party Committee of the NPA, was arrested during a joint operation conducted by the 14th Infantry Batalion and the local police at Barangay 8, Guiuan town, Eastern Samar.

She was also the third ranking leader of the NPA that has fallen recently into the hands of government forces.

On June 28, joint elements of the 8ID and the PNP Catbalogan City also arrested Juan Paolo Rodrigo Versosa and his wife, Grace at Barangay Fortuna, Marikina City.

Versosa is an intelligence officer of the Samar Provincial Party Committee of the NPA, while his wife is with the staff reproduction bureau of the Eastern Visayas Regional Party Committee.

The duo were arrested by virtue of a warrant of arrest for the crime of robbery with homicide issued by the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of the 8th Judicial Region.
They have been turned over by the Eastern Police District to the custody of the Eastern Samar authorities.

Maj. Gen. Gerardo Layug, commander, 8ID, said the arrest of the three was a big blow to the NPA in Samar.

“The successive arrests of top ranking NPA members in Eastern Visayas is a result of the cooperation of peace loving people in the area as well as other stakeholders’ desire for peace and development. With this undertaking, the 8th Infantry Division will play its role in the spirit of ‘bayanihan’ to make the island of Samar an insurgency-free region in the near future,” Layug said.

More soldiers off to Paquibato

From the Mindanao Times (Jul 4): More soldiers off to Paquibato

The 10th Infantry Division will deploy more troops to Paquibato District even after a guerilla unit was disbanded and absorbed into the Pulang Bagani Command 1 under Leoncio Pitao alias Kumander Parago. Maj. Gen. Ariel Bernardo, the division’s commanding general, said they will be sending another company to reinforce the 69th Infantry Battalion, which covers Paquibato and some parts of Davao del Norte. A company consists of around 100 soldiers.

Military reports revealed that some rebels of Front Committee 52 have now joined the ranks of PBC 1 in the hinterlands of Paquibato.

Bernardo said in an interview in Camp Catitipan last Friday that they are doing massive clearing and security operations in Paquibato area. However, he said that there’s no significant increase in the members of the rebel group operating in the area.
“In fact, they are importing other personalities from other provinces as far as Samar,” he added.

Lt. Col. Inocencio Pasaporte, 69th Infantry Battalion, said earlier that the FC 52 covers several barangays in Panabo, Paquibato District, Sto. Tomas and Carmen in Davao del Norte.

“It was declared by the higher headquarters that Front Committee 52 no longer exists. Reports on the ground have validated these reports,” he added.

A typical front committee unit is composed of around 30 to 40 members, depending on the area coverage.

He said that they are not letting their guards down and are still on high-alert for any possible atrocities committed by the New People’s Army.

Col. Buenaventura Pascual, 1003rd brigade commander, also said in an interview that the front committee was no longer active since the third quarter of last year.

He added that a few rebels went to the hinterlands of Paquibato, particularly in Lumiad, Mapula, Barangay Paquibato and Paradise Embak, which are considered as rebel strongholds.

The city police chief, Sr. Supt. Ronald M. dela Rosa, said it is possible that the NPA is empowering its other forces if a front committee was dismantled. “Somehow, it is restructuring on their part,” he added.

“I don’t know what’s the assessment of the army. If is true, it means there is a setback on their operational capabilities,” dela Rosa said earlier in an interview.

The city director sees this as a tactical retreat made by the communist rebels. “We have to wait and see. Paquibato is Paquibato,” he added.

GPH-MILF peace process: only 1,092 days to the end of PNoy’s term

From MindaNews (Jul 5): GPH-MILF peace process: only 1,092 days to the end of PNoy’s term

"Time is running out. Sign the peace agreement now,"  was the call of the CSO Summit on the Bangsamoro Peace Talks at the end of their two-day conference on July 4, 2013 in Davao City. MindaNews photo by Toto Lozano

“Time is running out. Sign the peace agreement now,” was the call of the CSO Summit on the Bangsamoro Peace Talks at the end of their two-day conference on July 4, 2013 in Davao City. MindaNews photo by Toto Lozano

With only 1,092 days left to the end of the Aquino administration, the CSO Summit on the Bangsamoro Peace Talks on Thursday called on both government (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to “sign the peace agreement now” because “time is running out.”

“Time is running out. Sign the peace agreement now,” leaders and members of peace groups chanted at the end of their summit at the Apo View Hotel as they posed for the cameras carrying clocks to signify the urgency of their call.

“Based on their original timeframe, the parties should have concluded a comprehensive pace end of December 2012. We are therefore alarmed at this six-month delay. We are concerned that if crucial time is allowed to further tick away without anything happening at the negotiating table, the viability of the peace roadmap may be called into question,” the peace groups said in a two-page, 13-paragraph statement bearing the same theme of their Summit: “Urgency for peace in Mindanao: Sign and Implement a Comprehensive Agreement Now!”

The GPH and MILF peace panels signed on October 15, 2013 the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) to pave the way for the creation of a new autonomous political entity, the “Bangsamoro,” to replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

The ARMM was set up in 1990 under the administration of then President Corazon Aquino, mother of President Benigno Simeon Aquino III. In 2012, the son would refer to the ARMM as a “failed experiment.”

Under the FAB, the parties agreed to work on the four annexes that would complete the comprehensive peace pact by yearend. But six months after their supposed December 31, 2012 deadline, only one annex has been signed – the Transitional Arrangements and Modalities.

In the 15-step “Roadmap to the Bangsamoro,” the panels have accomplished only 3.25 steps: Step 1 which is the signing of the FAB; a fourth of Step 2 on the adoption of the annexes; Step 3 which is the creation of the Transition Commission by Executive Order and Step 4 with Congress passing resolutions supporting the EO.

The Annex on Transitional Arrangements was signed on February 27. On the same day, the Annex on Wealth-Sharing was initialed but in the next talks in April, government asked for more time to review the initialed agreement.

The panels are set to resume negotiations on July 8 to 11 in Kuala Lumpur.

The statement noted that the delay in the signing of all four annexes “has already stymied the substantive work of the Transition Commission (TransCom) in drafting the Bangsamoro Basic Law and identifying possible processes for the legalization of the upcoming political settlement.”

It acknowledged the panels’ “strong sense of urgency to achieve peace” and said they “expect them to bring home a breakthrough for the Bangsamoro through the signed Annexes.”

The CSO Summit also called on President Aquino and MILF chair Murad to reassure the public that they continue to stand strong behind the peace process “by seeing through the immediate signing of a comprehensive agreement,” which it described as “the best antidote to calm the stirrings of restiveness and bring sobriety to the communities.”

In a press conference, Guiamel Alim, a member of the Council of Elders of the Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society (CBCS), explained the urgency of their calls amid the restiveness in some communities. He said progress in the adoption of the annexes “would prevent any further hostile events that may overtake the peace process.”

Pendatun Pangadil of the People’s Coalition for ARMM Reform and Transformation (PCART) said their appeal is “very urgent” as the consequences could be negative.

(On) issue of wealth-sharing, Patricia Sarenas, chair of the Mindanao Coalition of Development NGOs (Mincode) called on “elements in government who do not want to give more, who are not as benevolent,” to remember that a major aim of the peace process is to correct historical injustices.

“Just go the extra mile… in the hope that this land will finally, finally have peace, just peace,” she said.

Mary Ann Arnado, secretary-general of the Mindanao Peoples Caucus (MPC) explained that what the Bangsamoro is asking from the Philippine government is a share of wealth within their own area. As an example, she said most areas in Mindanao benefit from the power generated by the Maria Cristina Falls in Lanao but the Maranaos do not get a share of this wealth.

Arnado stressed that signing of the comprehensive agreement is just “one small part” of the peace process. “The bigger task is implementation,” she said, adding that if there is a signing next week, there are other steps that need to be accomplished “and we have 1,092 days to do all of that.”

Nearly two years ago, at the first meeting between President Aquino and MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim in Japan on August 4, 2011, the two leaders agreed to fast-track the peace process so that a peace agreement could be signed within the first half of the Aquino administration’s six year term and the next half – 2013 to 2016 – would be spent on the implementation.

The Aquino administration has only 36 months left until 30 June 2016 and 11.75 steps more to accomplish before the Bangsamoro is set up.

The “Roadmap to the Creation of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Political Entity” prepared by the Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office in time for the signing of the FAB on October 15, 2012, listed 15 steps to 2016.

These are: 1. Signing of the FAB by both parties; 2. Parties adopt Annex on the Transitional Arrangements and Modalities (the illustrated roadmap does not mention the annexes on power-sharing, wealth-sharing and normalization but they should be on this Step); 3. Transition Commission (TransCom) is formed via Executive Order (EO); 4. Congress passes resolutions supporting the EO; 5. TransCom drafts Bangsamoro Basic Law bill; 6. Bill is submitted to Congress; 7. Bill is certified urgent by the President; 8. Congressional action on the bill; 9. Bill submitted to the President for approval; 10. President signs the bill into law; 11. Plebiscite is held for the ratification of the law; 12. Promulgation and ratification of the Bangsamoro Basic Law; 13. Bangsamoro Transition Authority is created. ARMM is deemed abolished; all devolved authorities are vested in the Bangsamoro Transition Authority; 14. Ministerial form and Cabinet system of government will commence once the Bangsamoro Transition Authority is in place; and 15. Bangsamoro Transition Authority is replaced upon the election and assumption of the members of the Bangsamoro legislative assembly and the formation of the Bangsamoro government.

Patricia Sarenas, chair of the Mindanao Coalition of Development NGOs reads the CSO Summit's two-page Statement at the end of their two-day conference on July 4 in Davao City, urging the panels to sign the peace agreement now because "time is running out." MindaNews photo by Toto Lozano

Patricia Sarenas, chair of the Mindanao Coalition of Development NGOs reads the CSO Summit’s two-page Statement at the end of their two-day conference on July 4 in Davao City, urging the panels to sign the peace agreement now because “time is running out.” MindaNews photo by Toto Lozano

Army Says: Where Road Ends, Insurgency Begins

From the Negros Daily Bulletin (Jul 5): Army Says: Where Road Ends, Insurgency Begins

Residents of Brgy. Bandila, and neighboring Barangays in Toboso, avail of free medical check up during the marching for peace activity.* (EBColmo)

Insurgency is so infectious, it easily spreads if people have issues to raise. No matter how the government programs are projected if people are economically handicapped and infrastructures particularly road network is lacking, people are misled by the insurgents.

Thus, the launching of "marching for peace" activities in the 5 barangays of the first district in Northern Negros Occidental, which are identified as conflict areas.

This is a 15-day multi-sector activities involving the stakeholders, local government units and various agencies of the government. It started July 1 at Brgy. Paitan, Escalante City.

The second leg yesterday was at Brgy. Bandila, Toboso, Negros Occidental. Other areas of these activities are: Brgys. Pinapogasan, and Malasibog in Escalante City; Brgy. Bug-ang, Toboso, and Brgy. Malatas, Calatrava.

The wholistic activities bring integrated services to the beyond reach areas, anchored by 303rd Infantry Brigade, Philippine Army led by Col. Jon Aying, commanding officer, and Gov. Alfredo Marañon, Jr.

Marching for peace focuses in the 5 barangays identified as conflict areas. Services rendered include land assessment by the assessor’s office, medical/dental services by 303rd Brigade and rural health unit; farm seeds distribution with the Department of Agriculture, free haircut and circumcision from the army.

And rural health units, DEPED as venue of the acitivities, and the Art Association of Bacolod guided the pupils and other folks in drawing and color it.

The people were happy of the presence of local officials led by Gov. Alfredo Marañon, Jr, Board member Rolando Ponsica, Toboso Mayor Richard Jaojoco, and barangay officials of Brgy. Bandila.

They personally requested Gov. Marañon to improve their road because it is difficult for them to transport their farm produce to the market.

BM Ponsica, as chair of the committee on public works in the SP said, he will confer with the provincial engineer, and have possible tie up with the Engineering battalion of the army, and join forces with the municipality, and request Gov. Marañon to give special allocation for the road projects in the barangay. He targets that the start of the project is not later than September this year. We have to do it soon to alleviate their plight. Marching for peace is not only medical mission, but it is internalizing the difficulties in the way of life of people in the barangay where road network is of great demand.

Col. Aying reported that few of their accomplishments in Brgy Paitan, Escalante for the first leg of Marching for peace activity, was the improvement of perimeter wall of the public school that hosted the activity.

Mediamen who covered the activities were transported to and from Brgy. Bandila by two helicopter units of the Philippine Air Force under LtC Jose BF Calub, commander of Tactical Operations Group 6 for Western Visayas, piloted by Capt. Michael Dimaculangan, Lt. Erwin Bergonio, Lt. Christopher Ian Dufalco, and Lt. Richard de Castro.

Army troopers distributed computers, books to elementary schools in Northern Samar

Just posted to the Samar News (Jun 21): Army troopers distributed computers, books to elementary schools in Northern Samar

By 20th Infantry Battalion, 8ID PA

Books for Peace

BRGY. MAGSAYSAY, Lope de Vega, Northern Samar – The troops of 20th Infantry (We Lead) Battalion, 8th Infantry (Stormtroopers) Division, Philippine Army has distributed a total of five (5) sets desktop computers, with complete accessories and two hundred fifty (250) assorted text books and reference materials to five (5) elementary schools in Northern Samar province that was conducted from June 6-13, 2013.

Lieutenant Colonel Noel A Vestuir, 20IB’s Commanding Officer, in his report to 803rd Brigade Commander, Colonel Rolando Malinao, said the items were donated by Rotary Club of Loyola Heights through the efforts of the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Civil Military Operations (J7), AFP.

The computers and books are part of the joint project of AFP and Rotary International dubbed as “Books for Peace” aims to provide text books, reference materials and computers to remote barangays in support to the government’s effort of providing quality education focusing in conflict affected areas. Among the beneficiaries of the project are San Miguel Elementary School, Curry Elementary School and Magsaysay Elementary School in Lope de Vega; Trojillo Elementary School in Bobon; and Happy Valley Elementary School in San Isidro, all of Northern Samar Province.

LTC Vestuir, CO, 20IB personally handed over the books and computers to Mr Cristito A Eco, the OIC, Division Schools Superintendent of DepEd, Northern Samar, who in turn gave the items to the district supervisors and principals of the recipient schools.

The activity was also attended by the district supervisors, principals, teachers, pupils, parents, barangay officials of the recipient schools and barangays and the local media from Calbayog City and Catarman.

Mr Eco expressed his gratitude to the Philippine Army and the Rotary International for the realization of the project that would certainly enhance the learning process in the elementary schools. According to Mr Eco, this is the first time that the recipient schools were able to receive such computers and books. He also urged the teachers and pupils to properly take care of the said items in order for the next generation of pupils to also benefit from it.

According to LTC Vestuir: “The Books for Peace project would greatly help upgrade the literacy level of elementary pupils of the recipient schools considering that the area has limited access to some open source and readily available reference materials such as internet. He also thanked the AFP leadership, the office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for CMO, OJ7 and the Rotary Club of Loyola Heights for their support to the Bayanihan Activities of the Unit. Indeed, the activity has exemplified the firm resolve and commitment of the people behind the project to help the children as the hope of our fatherland.

NPA commander encourages comrades and followers to surrender

Just posted to the Samar News (Jun 24): NPA commander encourages comrades and followers to surrender

By 20th Infantry Battalion, 8ID PA

NPA surrenderee in Northern Samar

Lemuel Moreno alyas Ka Kulas and his wife Nida Lugares Moreno alias receives P50,000.00 from Col. Mario G Lacurom INF (GSC) PA, Deputy Brigade Commander, 803Bde, 8ID, PA at Brgy Trojillo, Bobon, Northern Samar as remuneration for the two (2) Cal .45 Pistols that they surrendered as part of the AFP’s Gun for Peace Program. Also present during the activity is Mayor Rene Celespara of Bobon, LTC Noel A Vestuir (INF) GSC PA, CO, 20IB, 8ID, PA and 1LT Andrew M Linao, CO, BCO, 20IB, 8ID PA.

BRGY. MAGSAYSAY, Lope de Vega, Northern SamarLemuel Moreno alias Ka Kulas, the squad leader of Seksyon Komite 2 (SK2), Front Committee 2 (FC2), Northern Samar Provincial Party Committee (NSPPC) of the Eastern Visayas Regional Party Committee EVRPC who surrendered to 20th Infantry (We Lead) Battalion, along with his wife, Nida Lugares Moreno alias Mina, Medical Offr, SK2, F2, NSPPC, EVRPC last June 13, 2013 urged his comrades and followers to surrender.

Ka Kulas calls for his comrades and followers to return to the mainstream of society during the giving of immediate cash assistance amounting to Fifty Thousand Pesos (P50,000.00) as part of the remuneration after he turned over two (2) caliber .45 pistols, in a simple ceremony held yesterday, June 23, 2013 at 10:00 o’clock in the morning at Barangay Trojillo, Bobon, Northern Samar.

The said amount was given in consonance the AFP’s Gun for Peace Program that provides corresponding amount to former rebels who turn-in firearms as a manifestation of their commitment to leave the revolutionary organization and to live decent and normal lives with their families.

According to alyas Kulas, he decided to surrender after knowing of the program from some of the residents in their former mass base barangays in the hinterlands of Bobon, Northern Samar.

Due to the continued presence of government troops in the barangays that conduct peace and development activities, alyas Kulas and his group has experienced hardships of hiding, moving from one place to another that forced him to realize the futility of his continued struggle since the mass base that they considered their own, are no longer supporting them. According to Kulas, “Makuri an sige tago kay diri na kami ginsusuportahan sa mga tawo nga gin lalauman namon nga mga masa sa mga barangay (It is hard to keep on hiding since the people that we believe to be our mass base would no longer help us in the barangays).

LTC Noel Vestuir, the Commanding Officer of 20IB on his part said that, due to the continued combat and social pressure exerted by the government troops and with the collaboration and support of all the stakeholders to include the people, the movements of the armed NPAs in the hinterland barangays were restricted and they could no longer hide in the barangays since the people are already tired of their extortion activities and supporting the revolutionary movement.

Vestuir said, “With the continued and concerted efforts of all our peace and development stakeholders, we were able to bring the programs and services of the government up to the remotest barangays in the area. This has allowed the people to realize that indeed the government is sincere in bringing peace and development in the barangays unlike what the NPAs are doing, they took advantage of the people’s hard earned resources to support their revolutionary struggle”.

Vestuir also calls for the remaining NPA regulars to lay down their arms and avail the current programs of the government that could help them as they return to the mainstream of our society. He also thanked the stakeholders as well as the people in the barangays for their continued support to the ongoing peace and development efforts of Philippine Army in the area.

“We will welcome and help those who choose to live in peace, but we will not hesitate to use the full might and strength of our forces to those who continue to threaten the people in the barangays that we are bound to serve”, Vestuir concluded.

MILF: BDA SouthMin prepares for Operations and Maintenance Training for community volunteers

From the MILF Website (Jul 5): BDA SouthMin prepares for Operations and Maintenance Training for community volunteers

The staff of Bangsamoro Development Agency-Southern Mindanao Regional Management Office (BDA-SouthMin) underwent review of training materials to be used in the conduct of Operations and Maintenance Training (OMT) for Barangay Community Volunteers (BCVs) on July 1, 2013 at BDA-SouthMin Office in General Santos City.
OMT is part of the series of capability-building trainings for the BCVs prior to the implementation sub-projects in their respective barangays.

It is essential to effectively and efficiently support the life cycle of a sub-project by eliminating unplanned shutdown and realizing life cycle cost savings. The training will be conducted this month of July.

Through the facilitation of the BDA staff, the BCvs will be formed into People’s Organizations.

The POs will implement proposed community sub-projects funded by the World Bank administered by Mindanao Trust Fund-Reconstruction and Development Program (MTFRDP) under the 4th Program Partnership Agreement coursed through the BDA.

The proposed sub-projects are aimed to help provide the basic needs and support the economic activities of target communities.

Barangays Tuyan, Lun Masla in Malapatan, Amsipit, Daliao and Lumasal in Maasim and Ticulab, Maguling and Mindupok in Maitum are the target barangays in Sarangani Province.

The local government units are committed to provide assistance, both technical and financial, as their counterparts for the successful implementation of sub-projects.

MTFRDP is a multi-donor trust fund supported by the following: Australian Aid for International Development, New Zealand Aid for International Development, Canada International Development Agency, Sweden International Development Agency, United States Aid for International Development, European Union and The World Bank.

‘NPA in north down to one platoon’

From the Visayan Daily Star (Jul 5): ‘NPA in north down to one platoon’
The New People’s Army operating in northern Negros, especially in the ESTOCA (Escalante-Toboso-Calatrava) has been reduced from three platoons of armed fighters in previous years to one, Col. Jon Aying, 303rd Infantry Brigade commander, said yesterday.

Aying attributed this to their sustained military operations, in tandem with the Philippine National Police, in one year and six months.

Military records show that 89 rebels had surrendered to the military in Negros Occidental since 2011, some of them with their firearms, and availed of the Guns for Peace program of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, They also availed of livelihood and financial assistance from the provincial government of Negros Occidental.

Aying said the remaining platoon-sized unit of the NPA in northern Negros has splintered into four small groups to avoid detection.

Lt. Col. Efren Morados, 62nd Infantry Battalion commander, said they noted the NPA is avoiding armed confrontation with patrolling Army soldiers, with the last encounter recorded in January this year.

However, the NPA Jean Pelle Command, in an earlier statement issued to the media, laughed off military claims that their forces are dwindling.

Two months ago, rebels killed five soldiers in an encounter in Sipalay City, and took with them five high-powered firearms.

Protest raised versus general

From the Visayan Daily Star (Jul 5): Protest raised versus general

Brig. Gen. Aurelio Baladad has yet to assume command of the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division in Western Visayas, but his impending assignment in the region has already drawn a protest from the National Union of People’s Lawyers.

Baladad already has an order from the Armed Forces of the Philippines to assume command of the 3rd Infantry Division, which is now temporarily commanded by general-officer-in-charge, Brig. Gen. Jonas Sumagaysay, a military source at Camp Aguinaldo confirmed yesterday.

However, the date of his assumption as 3ID chief is not yet known. The 3ID supervises the internal security operations in Negros and Panay islands.

Edre Olalia, secretary general of the NUPL, said in a media interview that human rights violations committed by the military seem to be of no great concern for the government with the appointment of Baladad to a key command post in Visayas, despite of human rights cases filed against him, citing what he claimed the “illegal arrest” of health workers known as the “Morong 43” in Rizal, in previous years.

Baladad, the outgoing AFP deputy chief of staff for Operations, was the commanding officer of the Army’s 202nd Infantry Brigade, that had arrested the 43 suspected communist rebels in Morong, Rizal, three years ago.

Olalia, who expressed alarm over the promotion of Baladad, said “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.” He also said that sends a clear message: that it does not matter.

Baladad is a member of the Philippine Military Academy Class 1982. Another PMA Class 1982 member, Brig. Gen. Jet Joel Velarmino, who is the Army chief of staff is reportedly vying for the position of commanding general of the Army’s 1st Infantry Division in Mindanao. He used to be assigned in central Negros as commander of the defunct 6th Special Forces Battalion.

MILF execs belie peace talks 'intrigues'

From the Philippine Star (Jul 5): MILF execs belie peace talks 'intrigues'

The chief negotiator of the Moro Islamic Liberation on Friday dismissed as “intrigues” circulating text messages purporting that the rebel group will stage attacks in the event of a prolonged deadlock in the GPH-MILF talks.

“Those text messages are plain and simple black propaganda against us,” Iqbal told reporters.

Iqbal said he is set to depart for Malaysia on Saturday to lead the MILF’s peace panel in another round of exploratory talks with its government counterpart.

The two panels are facing an impasse on sensitive issues on the wealth-and-power sharing scheme agreement to be added to the October 15, 2012 Framework Agreement on Bangsamoro (FAB). The FAB serves  as the basis for the setting up in 2015 of an MILF-led new self-governing entity replacing the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

Iqbal said the MILF has been complying with the July 1997 Agreement on General Cessation of Hostilities with the national government.

Maguindanao’s provincial peace and order council (PPOC) also expressed confidence that peace now in the province will continue until the two panels reach a final peace deal. The GPH-MILF talks, which started January 7, 1997, is being assisted by various international non-government organizations and foreign peace advocacy entities.

Habib Guiabar, head of the MILF’s local peace and order monitoring team in North Cotabato, said the text messages about the possible resumption of hostilities as a result of the standoff now in the peace talks could be a "handiwork of a third party” trying to derail the peace process.
Guiabar said there is no truth either to circulating stories that MILF forces are gearing up for attacks during the Ramadhan season.

No sighting yet of missing pilots, downed OV-10 -- task force

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 5): No sighting yet of missing pilots, downed OV-10 -- task force

Task Force "Bronco", the unit supervising the ongoing operations to locate the two missing pilots and retrieval of the OV-10 "Bronco" attack plane, on Friday announced that the remotely-operated vehicle (ROV) brought in to help is still to make any sighting of the missing plane's crew and airframe.

This is the result of the ROV's first search mission on Thursday.

Search for the missing pilots and the plane have been focused in an area some five nautical miles from Puerto Princesa City, Palawan.

The ROV had been brought to the area this week to help look for the OV-10 main frame and pilots Major Jonathan Ybanez and 1st Lt. Abner Trust Nacion.

Earlier, Coast Guard Palawan commander Commodore Enrico Evangelista said the ROV will be used to determine if an object earlier 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 plane was on a night proficiency flight when it crashed off Palawan last June 23.

DND chief: Chinese surveillance ships leave Panatag Shoal

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 5): DND chief: Chinese surveillance ships leave Panatag Shoal

Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Voltaire Gazmin on Friday confirmed the departure of all Chinese surveillance ships off Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal.

He said that this information was based on Filipino aerial patrols conducted last June 27 and 28 and during the first week of July.

"As far as we know, there are no more Chinese ships off Panatag," Gazmin said.

He attributes the departure of the Chinese vessels due to the inclement weather.

"I guess this is really what they do during inclement weather," the DND chief added.

Gazmin also clarified that until now, no Chinese ships were spotted in the fish rich area which lies 124 nautical miles off Zambales, well within the Philippines' exclusive economic zone.

The DND chief declined to comment on whether there are Filipino efforts to ensure that Chinese will be prevented from coming.

"I cannot discuss that with you," Gazmin emphasized.

The DND chief refused to comment on whether the recently-concluded ASEAN Summit has something to do with the departure of the Chinese ships.

Chinese surveillance vessels have been regularly patrolling Panatag Shoal ever since the maritime stand-off between China and the Philippines in April last year.

This aggressive behavior by the Chinese has forced the country to file one diplomatic protest after another at the United Nations in a bid to stop China from encroaching on Philippine territory.

Grounding of one W-3A 'Sokol' not a cause of concern - DND chief

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 5): Grounding of one W-3A 'Sokol' not a cause of concern - DND chief

The grounding of a W-3A "Sokol" due to battery failure is not a cause for concern, Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Voltaire T. Gazmin said on Friday.

He said this is just a minor deficiency.

"(The grounding should not be a cause of concern) as these are minor deficiencies. From what I gathered, the helicopter was grounded due to a weak battery. I really do not know the official report yet but its nothing major," Gazmin stressed.

The DND chief also added that there is no need for the Philippine Air Force (PAF) to ground the remaining seven "Sokols" in its inventory, adding that the battery defect was only experienced by one aircraft.

The grounded "Sokol" which is still stuck at the helipad of Camp Gen. Aguinaldo, Quezon City, was supposed to transport Gazmin and his party to Clark Air Base in Pampanga for the 66th anniversary of the PAF last July 1.

The helicopter was grounded there since Monday.

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

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

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.

Army PDT member killed in NPA ambush in Zamboanga Del Sur

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 5): Army PDT member killed in NPA ambush in Zamboanga Del Sur

A member of the Army's Peace and Development Team deployed at Barangay Datagan, Guipos, Zamboanga Del Sur was killed after being fired upon by New People's Army rebels affiliated with the Western Mindanao Regional Party Committee.

The incident took place around 8 a.m. Friday, military officials said.

According to Lt. Col. Victor S. Tangawohn, 53th Infantry Battalion commander, his men were conducting peace and development operation at Barangay Datagan, Guipos, Zamboanga del Sur were on board a motorcycle on their way to their headquarters when fired upon by undetermined number of NPA rebels.

Cpl. Danilo Saavedra, the rider of the motorcycle, was hit by bullet on his back but was able to return fire before he passed away while Pfc. Rommel Taneo, who was able to jump out, returned fire.

Pursuit operations are still ongoing as of this time.

PNP names new Zambo police officer-in-charge

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 5): PNP names new Zambo police officer-in-charge

The Philippine National Police (PNP) has assigned a new officer-in-charge of the Zamboanga City Police Office effective 5 p.m. Thursday, July 4.

Police Regional Office-9 director Chief Supt. Juanito Vaño has designated his chief of the Intelligence Division Senior Supt. Jose Chiquito Malayo vice Senior Supt. Edwin de Ocampo as OIC of the ZCPO.

The change of command came amidst the spate of shooting and other crime incidents in this city.

The change of command also took place barely four days after Mayor Ma. Isabelle Climaco-Salazar has assumed office and dclared peace and security as her top priority.

Malayo and De Ocampo late Thursday afternoon called on Salazar in City Hall to inform about the change of command per directive from Vaño.

Salazar in the last four days has undertaken steps to help address peace and order concerns aggravated by incidents involving policemen.

During the meeting with the mayor, De Ocampo submitted to Salazar the evaluation report, the third in a span of four working days, which is basically an assessment of the different areas with high crime incidents and eventually require augmentation of forces.

Like a teacher, Salazar in the last few days has been meeting individually with policemen assigned in beat patrols to assess their knowledge about their duties and responsibilities.

Together with Councilor Roel Natividad, chairman of the City Council’s committee on peace and order, Salazar also conducts random checks of police stations and streets to check on beat patrols and traffic policemen.

“The local government will help in the patrol to help protect policemen from being killed,” she declared adding that the city will continue to provide the requirements of the police and will make sure that the police will not fail the people in maintaining peace and security.

“We cannot afford to have another policeman killed. This [killing of policemen] is something that should be stopped,” she added.

So far, three policemen--two from this city and one from Isabela City--were killed in separate shooting incidents since Sunday until Thursday in this city.

Two of the three slain policemen were killed last Sunday when Salazar and the new set of elected officials assumed office and the third was killed Thursday.

Meanwhile, Salazar has ordered the retraining and reorientation of police beat patrols and traffic policemen to make them more efficient and effective in their tasks.

Last Wednesday, Natividad has sponsored a resolution during the City Council’s maiden session appealing to authorities the swift resolution of the different shooting incidents in this city.

Number of NPA rebels in northern Negros Occidental dwindling - Army

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 5): Number of NPA rebels in northern Negros Occidental dwindling - Army
The operations of the New People’s Army (NPA) in northern Negros Occidental, particularly in the area of Escalante City and Toboso and Calatrava towns, are dwindling, a Philippine Army official said.

Col. Jon Aying, commander of the 303rd Infantry Brigade, said that from three platoons of armed fighters in the past years, only one remains in the area.

This is a result of one and half years of sustained military operations in cooperation with the Philippine National Police, Aying said.

Aying said the remaining platoon-sized unit of the NPA in the north has split into four small groups to avoid detection.

The Provincial Peace and Integration Development Unit (Pro-PIDU), in cooperation with the Philippine Army and PNP, among other groups, is currently conducting a 15-day civil-humanitarian activities in six far-flung villages of Escalante, Toboso and Calatrava.

Lt. Col. Efren Morados, commander of the 62nd Infantry Battalion based in Escalante, said they have observed that the NPA has been avoiding confrontation with patrolling soldiers.

The last encounter in the area was recorded last January.

The NPA Jean Pelle Command, however, denied in an earlier press statement the military’s pronouncement that their forces are weakening.

Eighty-nine NPA rebels have surrendered to the military in Negros Occidental since 2011.

Some of those who turned over their firearms and availed of the Armed Forces’ Guns for Peace program and received livelihood and financial assistance from the provincial government of Negros Occidental.

Five rebel returnees in Negros Occidental received P320,000 from the Armed Forces of the Philippines after they surrendered their firearms to the Philippine Army last May and June.

Rebel returnees Erving Biñas, Felizardo Pineda Jr., Eugence Almojero and Evonie Baynosa were granted P210,000 last June 12.

Baynosa is a former vice-commanding officer of the Northern Negros Front Sentro De Grabidad Platoon.

The first recipient in Negros Occidental was Elizalde Martisano, a former squad leader and political officer of the Sentro de Grabidad Platoon of the NPA South West Front.

He was awarded P110,000 in cash last May after turning over an M-16 rifle and three Mossberg 12 gauge shotguns with 23 rounds of ammunition.

Army’s 3rd ID reiterates commitment to disaster response

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 5): Army’s 3rd ID reiterates commitment to disaster response

The 3rd Infantry Division of the Philippine Army based at Camp Macario Peralta in Jamindan, Capiz has reiterared its commitment to the ideals espoused by the observance of the National Disaster Consciousness Month this July.

The Army unit said citizens of Western Visayas can count on the Army's unequivocal support as the country enters the period of stormy weather conditions marked by landslides and widespread flooding.

Maj. Rey Tiongson, spokesman for the 3rd ID, said the region's army contingent is always responsive to the needs of villagers during calamities and chiefly responsible for the evacuation of disaster victims.

Tiongson added that soldiers are on stand-by mode in anticipation of disaster calls.

Army trucks, which have seen action in numerous rescue operations, are ready to roll anytime as the need arises, he said.

However, Tiongson reminded the public that the Army cannot do it alone and needs the cooperation of the community.

Every individual has a role to play to soften the impact of disasters, he added.

Aquino oks continued deployment of Filipino peacekeepers to Golan Heights

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 5): Aquino oks continued deployment of Filipino peacekeepers to Golan Heights

President Benigno Aquino III has agreed to continue with the deployment of some 340 Filipino peacekeepers to Golan Heights until August 11, at which time the rotational process will be determined.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario, in a statement on Friday, said that subject to meeting considerations which the Philippines has made to enhance the security and safety of Filipino peacekeepers, "the President has expressed the Philippines is prepared to continue its UNDOF (United Nation Disengagement Observer Force) participation."

Escalating violence against the UNDOF, which monitors a 1974 truce between Israel and Syria, has seen other countries pull out their troops.

Austria, previously the top contributor, is set to withdraw its 377 soldiers by the end of this month, leaving a force of 530 from the Philippines and India.

The abduction of 25 Filipino peacekeepers by Syrian rebels this year as well as the wounding of a soldier at a UNDOF outpost, prompted the DFA Secretary to recommend to President Aquino for the withdrawal of Filipino contingents in Golan Heights.

Del Rorario said that the President has agreed to continue with the deployment of Filipino contingents until August 11, 2013, "at which time the rotational process will be determined."

2nd JCC meeting convenes to tackle updates on Sajahatra Bangsamoro

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 5): 2nd JCC meeting convenes to tackle updates on Sajahatra Bangsamoro

The 2nd Joint Coordination Council, co-chaired by Cabinet Secretary Jose Rene Almendras for the government and Mohammad Shuaib Yacob for the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, convened Friday in Cagayan de Oro City.

The meeting would discuss updates on the implementation of the Sajahatra Bangsamoro Program components specifically for health, education and livelihood.

Almendras, chair of the Government of the Philippines Task Force Sajahatra Bangsamoro, said the government will continue to reach out and deliver the basic education, livelihood, and health services in the Bangsamoro areas that were not previously reached due to conflict.

"While the drafting of the annexes and the peace talks are on-going, the GPH and MILF JCC will continue the implementation of the socio-economic peace initiatives through the program components," he said.

"We need to build on the goodwill and gains that we have achieved with this partnership. This is the right step towards attaining sustainable peace," he stressed.

Since the program launch in February 11, 2012 in Sultan Kudarat, which was spearheaded by President Benigno Aquino III and MILFChair AL Haj Murad, some 639 scholars -- MILF, Christians, and Indigenous Peoples -- have been sent to school through the Commission on Higher Education Grant Program.

Yacob, chair of the MILF Task Force Sajahatra Bangsamoro, reported they have also identified the 50 madaris schools that will avail of the P250,000 grant from the Dept. of Education and will be ready for the start of the school year in August.

He also highlighted the genuine sincerity of both the GPH and MILF, on the implementation of the program.

Yacob said this is a worthwhile partnership "that should be continued to be pursued to achieve lasting peace."

On the other hand, Philhealth is currently processing the 11,000 MILF identified beneficiaries of the Bangsamoro so they can avail the basic health care services and facilities in the Bangsamoro communities.

The Dept. of Health will also sponsor medical, surgical and dental missions in these communities.

Bangsamoro doctors in the Bangsamoro communities have offered their services for free during the medical missions.

The MILF expressed their appreciation of the process that discussions, updates and decision-making are made jointly by the GPH and MILF.

Almendras said the government is serious and committed in pursuing peace in Mindanao.

Meanwhile, GPH peace panel chair Miriam Coronel-Ferrer has expressed the government’s resolve to complete the annex on wealth sharing with the MILF in the next round of formal exploratory talks to be held on July 8 in Kuala Lumpur.

"We're both very conscious that we do want to finish (the Annex) as soon as possible; that we do need to find compromises to be able to put something in the text and sign on to it," said Ferrer.

The annex on wealth-sharing is one of the three remaining annexes that are expected to be completed by the GPH and the MILF soon.

Together with the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) and the annex on Transitional Arrangements and Modalities, the three annexes will comprise the comprehensive agreement on the Bangsamoro.

"It's in this stage that both parties want to come to terms with the remaining issues, specially pertaining to the wealth-sharing annex that has taken a long time to process," said Ferrer.

The GPH peace panel chair explained that both parties knew that the document on the wealth sharing annex had to be brought back to their respective principals for final review.

"That's precisely why the two panel chairs did not initial nor sign this document because that will happen after the final review takes place," she said.

Ferrer noted that the GPH proposal on wealth-sharing provides for a fiscal arrangement that is better than what exists in the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

"There will be more taxing powers and a more defined sharing of government resources on the whole, in keeping with the goal of having a strong and viable autonomous Bangsamoro governance," she said.

"If things go well, we might be able to have a good working draft of the power sharing annex with only few items left for resolution," she added.