Friday, July 12, 2013

U.S. Seeks Expanded Role for Military in Philippines

From the New York Times (Jul 12): U.S. Seeks Expanded Role for Military in Philippines

The negotiations for increased military access come amid simmering tensions between the Philippines and China over areas in the South China Sea claimed by both countries and moves by the United States to ensure it retains influence in the region even as China’s grows.
The Philippines, which has a small navy and air force, has been relying on support from the United States, a close ally, to modernize its military and upgrade its abilities. Part of this relationship has involved regular short-term visits by American military forces for joint training, humanitarian work and disaster response.
The arrangement under negotiation now would allow American forces to visit for longer periods and be stationed on Philippine military bases.
On Thursday, Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III, the head of the Pacific Command, said the United States was looking for access that would enable it to help the Philippines in its defense as well as to aid in responding to disasters. The admiral, who was responding to questions at a news conference, reiterated stated American policy that it would not reopen bases in the Philippines.
The United States maintained large military bases in the Philippines for nearly a century to counter imperial Japan’s expansion before World War II and, later, to ensure a regional presence in the cold war. But in 1992, the last American base in the country closed after street protests against what some saw as a painful reminder of decades of American rule, and a decision by the Philippine Senate to discontinue the American military presence.
But the presence of United States military forces in the Philippines remains controversial.
Raul Hernandez, a spokesman for the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs, reiterated that no new American bases were planned and said any new agreement would be in line with the Philippine Constitution. He said the discussions with the United States involved the use of “rotational” forces.
“We continue to talk and refine with the United States the modalities and parameters for increased rotational presence of United States forces in the Philippines,” he said. 
James Hardy, Asia-Pacific editor for IHS Jane’s Defense Weekly, said a likely model for the use of such forces in the Philippines was the Joint Special Operations Task Force Philippines, a contingent of about 500 members of the United States military who come from various branches.
The task force, which focuses on counterterrorism, has been based on a Philippine military base in the southern Philippines since 2002 in a facility that is officially considered temporary.
The United States has also used its former naval base in Subic Bay for ship visits.
Subic Bay is a special economic zone catering to private investors. Last year a subsidiary of the United States defense contractor Huntington Ingalls Industries set up operation for the stated purpose of servicing United States Navy ships, suggesting to some that the American presence in the area would grow.
Mr. Hardy said the American military’s use of Subic and the rotational presence model used in the southern Philippines were both indications of what an American presence in the Philippines might look like.
“Certainly the buildup in Subic by companies that expect to support the U.S. military suggests an expectation that this is going to be a semipermanent presence,” he said.

Karapatan, NUPL hit Army chief

From the Visayan Daily Star (Jul 12): Karapatan, NUPL hit Army chief

Army chief Lt. Gen. Noel Coballes got the ire of human rights group Karapatan and the National Union of People’s Lawyers, for allegedly calling them “enemies”.

By calling Karapatan its enemy, the Armed Forces of the Philippines justified that the victims of human rights violations are also its enemies, its secretary general, Cristina Palabay, said in a statement they issued.

The NUPL, whose lawyer members are pro-bono counsels to the Morong 43, also said in a statement that the act of military tagging legal organizations as “enemies” is in open violation of the UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers and even the Philippine Code of Professional Responsibility.

Karapatan and NUPL had earlier slammed the AFP leadership for designating Brig. Gen. Aurelio Baladad as commanding general of the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division, that is in charge of the internal security operations in Negros and Panay island.

Coballes who came to the rescue of Baladad, was quoted in media interviews as saying, “ You don’t expect any positive statement from the enemy.

As commander of the 202nd Infantry Brigade, Baladad, was linked to the illegal detention and alleged torture of 43 health workers known as the Morong 43.

Karapatan called the appointment an "exemplary display of impunity under the Aquino government."

Karapatan claimed to have documented 142 cases of extrajudicial killings and 164 of frustrated killing; 16 incidents of enforced disappearance; 76 cases of torture; 293 cases of illegal arrest and detention.

The change of 3ID command from Brig. Gen. Jonas Sumagaysay, its general-officer-in-charge, to Baladad has been reset from July 12 to July 16, with Coballes as the expected guest of honor and speaker.

AFP seeks NPA's supplier of AK-47s

From the Philippine Star (Jul 12): AFP seeks NPA's supplier of AK-47s

The Armed Forces of the Philippines has launched intensive intelligence gathering to identify the AK-47 rifle suppliers of the New People's Army (NPA).

The military said that the investigation was launched after a series of AK-47 recoveries after encounters between its troops and the rebels in Mindanao.

Lt. Gen. Ricardo Rainier Cruz III, Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom) commander, said that they are now coordinating with the Philippine National Police-Firearms and Explosive Division (PNP-FED) to trace the source of the communist-made assault rifles.

“We are conducting our own study but parallel with our efforts, we are coordinating with the PNP-FED because some of the AK47s we have recovered have defaced serial numbers,” Cruz said, adding that they more than a dozen communist rifles are in military custody.

Field military commanders leading the charge against the communist insurgents operating in Northern Mindanao and in Davao Region have also expressed their concern over recoveries of AK-47s in the field.

“Most of these rebels are now armed with AK-47s. And we don’t know where these foreign-made assault rifles are coming from,” one Army field commander, earlier told The Star.

The Army field commander said that in an encounter with rebels in Davao, troops were able to recover six brand-new AK-47 rifles.

“Naka-plastic pa ang nga handles. Mga bagong dating. Saan galing at sino ang nag-supply, 'yan ang inaalam pa namin," he said.

The Army commander said the last information the military had was that the NPA has stopped using AK-47 rifles in their decades-old fight against government because of bullet and spareparts supply problem.

First developed and manufactured in Russia during World War II, AK-47s or Kalaniskovs, named after its inventor Mikhail Kalashnikov, was later replicated and mass-produced by China.

The selective-fire gas-operated 7.63 assault rifle has become standard-issue of China’s military as well several other communist states.

Relatedly, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Gen. Emmanuel Bautista has gathered his top military commanders in Camp Aguinaldo, including Cruz, for a mid-year assessment on gains of its Oplan Bayanihan anti-insurgency campaign nationwide.

Bautista, in the presence of his area commanders, vowed to defeat the rebels, whose number has already gone down to only 4,000 nationwide, within a three-year period.

Muslim evacuees fear BIFF atrocities, reluctant to return home

From the Philippine Star (Jul 12): Muslim evacuees fear BIFF atrocities, reluctant to return home

Some 2,000 Muslim evacuees displaced by last week's rampage of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) are reluctant to return to their homes due to mounting threats of renewed harassments from the bandit group.

BIFF bandits have still been sporadically attacking Army detachments in Central Mindanao, in what local executives said were attempts “to get even” for their heavy losses in engagements with government forces last week at the border of Maguindanao’s adjoining Datu Piang and Saidona towns, and in Pikit and Midsayap towns in North Cotabato province.

“We are safer here in the evacuation centers. Here, we can observe Ramadan peacefully, pray five times a day without fear of getting caught in any crossfire,” a mother of three, Saripa Kamid, 29, said in the Maguindanaon dialect.

Kamid and members of her family are among the evacuees now confined in squalid makeshift relief sites scattered at the town proper of Datu Piang.

The evacuees are aware that since the BIFF does not recognize the July 1997 Agreement on General Cessation of Hostilities between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, it can carry out attacks at will.

The bandit group is led by clerics, some of them graduate of secular schools in the Middle East and Pakistan, who are known for their extreme interpretation of the Qur’an and their ruthless enforcement of a Taliban-style justice system in areas where they operate.

Social workers from the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, led by regional Vice Gov. Haroun Al-Rashid Lucman, found out during the distribution of relief goods on Thursday to evacuees in Datu Piang that the beleaguered villagers are afraid of returning to their homes for fear of their lives.

A 34-year-old farmer, who asked to be identified only as Mohaimen, said he and his relatives are certain that BIFF bandits will continue the harassments in retaliation for the casualties their group incurred during last week's clashes.

Lucman, who is also the ARMM’s concurrent social welfare secretary, said he is optimistic normalcy will start setting in while Muslims in the province are observing the Ramadan, which started July 10.

“We need peace during this season. We have to let our people fast and pray during the Ramadan in an atmosphere of tranquility, amity and fraternalism,” Lucman told reporters.

Muslims fast from dawn to dusk during the Ramadan, which lasts for one lunar cycle or about 28 to 29 days, is a religious obligation and a means of strengthening self-restraint to achieve spiritual perfection.

Security in the province remains tight to stave off any maneuver by the BIFF that can dislocate more innocent Moro villagers, according Major Gen. Romeo Gapuz, commander of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division.

Local executives in Maguindanao said the BIFF is known for its propensity to use civilians as “human shields” to forestall counter-attacks by the military and police.

China blasts Del Rosario

From ABS-CBN (Jul 13): China blasts Del Rosario

The Foreign Ministry of China said Friday that Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario was lying when he told the international community in Brussels that the Philippines has tried all peaceful political and diplomatic approaches to address the territorial dispute over the South China Sea.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying claimed at a regular press briefing that the Philippines ignored China's repeated requests to hold "consultation mechanisms" to resolve the rival claims on several coastal territories.

"The Philippine side has closed the door on talks and consultations and at the same time remained keen on attacking China in the international arena," Hua said, according to a report of state-owned press agency Xinhua.

She criticized Del Rosario for saying that the Philippine government has sought arbitration as a "last resort" as this is "not factual."

Related: Del Rosario at EU: 'Peaceful' efforts to end sea row 'unsuccessful'

"Such acts are not helpful in resolving the issue," Hua said, adding that China also proposed to set up a new consultation process if the existing one is proved unhelpful.
The Philippines elevated its plea to have third party arbitration in an international tribunal and also sought to have a binding Code of Conduct over the sea crafted by Southeast Asian nations.

"The five-member panel of the arbitration tribunal has already been completed ... I have no doubt that they will look at the merits of the case on the basis of law," Del Rosario said in the speech.

Saying that China firmly safeguards its maritime sovereignty, Hua expressed dismay that the Philippines has been "misleading the public" and instead resort to bilateral talks.

"The Chinese side has sufficient legal basis under international law for not accepting arbitration," Hua said.

Chinese officials have also criticized the country for seeking international help especially from the United States on the maritime dispute.

Related: Chinese general: Philippines stirs trouble for asking US help

Hua said that China hopes the US would keep its promise not to take sides on the dispute.

"China hopes the United States will respect the facts and not side with any particular party," she said in a written statement.

Video Report: Gov't, MILF to continue peace talks today

Posted to ABS-CBN (Jul 13): Video Report: Gov't, MILF to continue peace talks today

The latest round of talks between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has been extended until Saturday as both sides try to hammer out an agreement on wealth-sharing.

Though the negotiations appear deadlocked, a third party observer refuses to call it an impasse. ANC Headlines, July 13, 2013

PMA brass okays plan to allow grads to join the Coast Guard

From the Manila Standard Today (Jul 13): PMA brass okays plan to allow grads to join the Coast Guard

The Philippine Military Academy on Friday  proposed to allow its graduates to once again enter the Philippine Coast Guard, the country’s premier maritime law enforcement unit.

Coast Guard commandant Rear Admiral Rodolfo Isorena welcomed the plan hatched by officials of the PMA Alumni Association Inc. for the re-entry of graduating PMA cadets to his agency, saying “it will surely enhance our human resource program and networking.”

The last time the Coast Guard admitted PMA graduates was in 1998, before it separated from the Philippine Navy to become the country’s “third armed service” under the Department of Transportation and Communications.

Isorena, a graduate of PMA class of 1982, said that having PMA graduates in their roster will boost their networking capabilities and inter-agency coordination with other branch of armed service like in the Armed Forces and the National Police.

As of the moment, there are 40 PMA alumni currently occupying key positions at the Coast Guard.

The Coast Guard is presently hiring new officers either from direct commission who will undergo six months of extreme training or from the Philippine Merchant Marine Academy were there are certain slots given to become a coast guard officer after graduation.

The recruits will undergo a nine month training program, including ship familiarization with shipboard/navigation training, seamanship and subjects on coast guard nuances and peculiarity like search and rescue, maritime law enforcement and marine environmental protection.

“The Coast Guard needs more people because we are an archipelagic country with more than 7,000 islands,” said Coast Guard chief information officer Cdr. Armand Balilo.

2 rebels yield in Southern Philippines

From the Mindanao Examiner blog (Jul 12): 2 rebels yield in Southern Philippines

Two mid-level members of the communist rebel group New People’s Army have surrendered separately to the military in southern Philippines, officials said Friday.

Officials said Jomar Catalino, a supply officer for the New People’s Army, surrendered in the village of Salvacion in Agusan del Sur’s Trento town, and Jason Salde, a platoon medic, yielded to soldiers in Banlag village on the town of Monkayo in Compostela Valley province.

The two men did not give any statement about their surrender, but the military said “both rebels revealed that being away from their families and hardship in the mountains made them decide to coordinate with the community leaders to facilitate their surrender to the government through the military based in the area.”

In a statement sent to the Mindanao Examiner, Lt. Col. Cesar Molina said the surrender was a result of the troops’ peace and development efforts in partnership with the communities.

“The local leaders here and the community itself mediated the surrender of Catalino and Salde. They saw the sincerity of the government in helping resolve the cause of conflict through peaceful means,” Molina said.

Catalino and Salde are expected to receive livelihood aid under the government’s Comprehensive Local Integration Program.

At least 125 rebels have already surrendered to the military since early this year, according to the Eastern Mindanao Command.

Just recently, an NPA leader Narciso Ruben, also surrendered to the military in Compostela Valley.

Maj. Gen. Ricardo Rainier Cruz III, chief of the Eastern Mindanao Command, said the surrender of rebels is evidence of their peaceful efforts in the communities. “Let us continue to work hand in hand in order to achieve peace. We are optimistic that more NPA rebels will lay down their arms and avail of the government's amnesty program,” he said.

The NPA has been waging a secessionist war the past decades.

Extended peace talks yield no deal with MILF

From the Daily Tribune (Jul 13): Extended peace talks yield no deal with MILF

Despite an extension of the peace talks earlier sought by the government chief negotiator, Miriam Coronel Ferrer, the negotiations centering on the wealth-sharing annex between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) panel and the Government of the Philippines (GRP) panel yesterday again ended without reaching any agreement between the two panels, for the second time in as many days.

The two panels cut off the talks after 5 p.m Friday, without signing any agreement.

MILF peace panel chairman Mohagher Iqbal described  the talks Thursday as “fuitless” and “too rigid.”

Iqbal was also quoted as having said that the MILF will not settle for a 50-50 sharing of the energy resources revenues with the government, insisting on the earlier agreed upon wealth sharing at 75-25, favoring the MILF.

Another extension was again agreed upon by the two parties to be held today in Kuala Lumpur. It is doubted that the MILF will give in to a smaller wealth sharing annex for the MILF “political entity.”

President Aquino resuscitated the near collapse of the peace negotiations with the MILF by sending last Thursday, his spokesman, Edwin Lacierda and Presidential Adviser on Peace Process (OPAPP) Secretary Teresita Deles  in Kuala Lumpur, as Aquino’s emissaries.

Apparently, from early reports, their presence hardly made a difference to the MILF peace panel members.

Presidential deputy spokesman Abigail Valte yesterday also denied that  there was a walk out from the negotiating table by the panelists of the MILF.

Reports said the MILF negotiators  left the venue of the talks at the Palace of the Golden Horses in a huff. That should describe a walk out.

“I have a clarification. We received word from Kuala Lumpur that the talks are still ongoing between the government and the MILF,” Valte said earlier.

Valte added that  the government negotiators had appealed to the MILF panelists for an extension of the negotiations because nothing had been accomplished on the agenda to finalize the crucial annexes.

“According to Chairman Ferrer, the government had requested for an extension of the talks and it is ongoing now, that the other panel allowed. So, we have no update yet. They are still talking as we speak,” Valte said.

Valte said the reason behind the immediate dispatch of Lacierda and Deles to Kuala Lumpur by Aquino was to convey the serious intention of the administration to have a conclusion in the negotiation.

“The presence of both secretaries is a manifestation of the continuing commitment of the President as well as the support of the Cabinet for both panels and for us to fulfill the aspirations of the Framework Agreement.

“It is an affirmation of the support, not just of the peace panel, not just of the OPAPP, but also of the President and his Cabinet,” Valte said.

It didn’t seem that the presence of Lacierda and Deles helped the negotiations to reach an agrrement, or to issue a joint communique at the very least.

Valte neither confirmed nor denied that the peace negotiations had been affected by the violence  in Maguindanao where a firefight ensued that resulted in several internally displaced persons who  were temporarily given food and shelter by the provincial government of Maguindanao a few days before the Ramadan.

“They had not mentioned about it. But in relation to the operations that were launched by the AFP, (Armed Forces of the Philippines) again that had to stop because of the limited duration and we have the mechanism that will properly address those incidents,” Valte said.

Valte said  she had asked Lacierda and Deles about the reported walk out of the MILF.

“I asked Secretary Lacierda and Secretary Deles, who said it was not true that the MILF panel had  walked-out. In fact, the meeting yesterday was adjourned properly,” Valte said.

On the matter of wealth sharing, Valte said the government panel is aware of the “bounds of their mandate”.

“I will defer to comment on that for now,” Valte said.

Valte added that  Aquino has been updated on what has been going on in Kuala Lumpur.

“I do not want to preempt the talks that are ongoing.

Valte said the instruction of Aquino to Lacierda and Deles was only “to convey really the message that we are firm in our commitment to the peace process” adding that ”I understand that they had the opportunity to meet with some members of the monitoring team, the contact group. I also understand that they had an opportunity to speak to the third party facilitator”.

But as of press time, Deles and Lacierda had not sent news from Kuala Lumpur to MalacaƱang reporters on the peace process which has again been extended.

Deles said in a text message also early Friday that talks are “still ongoing today.”

Deles described the talks as “tough but no one walked out.”

Another source in KL privy to the talks said the MILF panel left the venue room “hungry and frustrated.”

MILF sources said early Friday morning that they would show up at the State Room of the Palace of the Golden Horses in Kuala Lumpur, venue of the talks, at 9 a.m.

The decision to return to the table was apparently made late Thursday night after a member of the government peace panel met with the MILF to convince the latter to attend the Friday session.

Sulu Sultan says more Filipinos forced to leave Sabah

From the Manila Standard Today (Jul 11): Sulu Sultan says more Filipinos forced to leave Sabah

Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III and followers in Sabah including those who have alleged links to him, continue to suffer atrocities in the hands of  Malaysian security forces,  a spokesman said on Wednesday.

Abraham Idjirani, the Sulu Sultanate’s spokesman and secretary-general, said the Malaysian government has not stopped committing atrocities against the Filipino residents in Sabah even after the sultanate has filed a formal complaint for human rights violations before the United Nations  last week.

“The Malaysian government did not stop from rounding up and deporting Filipinos in Sabah, that is why we included these incidents in our complaint filed before the United Nations,” Idjirani said.

“Nasaan ang pagka-Muslim nila? They continue to violate the rights of Filipinos in Sabah without respite, even when it’s already Ramadan,” the sultanate official pointed out, adding that the Malaysian government has kept this under wraps to avoid international attention.

Idjirani said the sultanate received this information from the men of Raja Muda Agbimuddin Kiram, the leader of the 166-strong Royal Security Forces (RSF) still in Sabah.

Under Malaysia’s Security Offenses (Special Measures) Act of 2012 (SOSMA), Idjirani said local law enforcement units could arrest and detain anyone on mere suspicion of working with terrorists and lawless elements.

Photo: US Ambassador Harry Thomas

From the Manila Standard Today (Jul 12): Photo: US Ambassador Harry Thomas

US Ambassador Harry Thomas

US Ambassador Harry Thomas joins the native dance of school children from Wangal Elementary School during the USAID turnover of disaster-mitigation funds. DAVID CHAN

Wescom: Chinese ships stay put in Ayungin

From the Manila Standard Today (Jul 12): Wescom: Chinese ships stay put in Ayungin

Lt. Gen. Rustico Guerrero, commander of the Western Command that covers the West Philippine Sea, on Thursday confirmed the presence of Chinese ships and fishing boats in Ayungin Reef, a maritime area which is part of the Kalayaan Island Group (KIG) town off Palawan.
But he said that based on their monitoring, the number of Chinese vessels vary every day.

“Pabago-bago. Minsa isa, minsan tatlo, minsan dalawa. It’s very dynamic,” Guerrero said.

(The number of ships change from time to time. Sometimes there are three ships, sometimes two. It’s very dynamic).

Aside from Ayungin Reef, Chinese fishermen, escorted by Chinese Maritime vessels, have also continued their acitivities at Bajo de Masinloc (Panatag Shoal) in Zambales,  which is located 184 nautical miles,  or within the country’s 200-nautical mile, exclusive economic zone.

Earlier, highly-placed military sources said a Chinese Navy ship with bow No. 83 remained in the area.

Owners of fishing boats and fishermen near the reef also disputed a newspaper story that cited sources claiming that Ayungin had been cleared of Chinese ships.

Guerrero said Marine troops stationed in Ayungin continue their monitoring activity on the movements of the Chinese Navy and fishing boats in the area.

“As far as the Wescom is concerned we are continuously monitoring our good friends in that area with what is available with my command and we provide the reports to the national leadership for their appreciation. Rest assured that we will not leave Ayungin,” he said.

He said that the crew of the Chinese ships had remained in their boats and had not shown any threatening action against the Marine troops in Ayungin.

“They (Chinese) are not taking over, they are just monitoring. Actually, at the same time they are coming (near) our detachment. So we are protecting our respective outposts…There is no overt action from both sides. We will maintain our detachment in that area,” Guerrero said.

“We’re doing our best to protect our territory. Our outpost is properly manned and we are continuously monitoring the activities of other nations in that area. There is no [disruption] of our resupply activities,” he added.

28 Rebels’ Underground Informants Surrender

From the Negros Daily Bulletin (Jul 12): 28 Rebels’ Underground Informants Surrender

The army has successfully dismantled the rebel mass structure in Negros Oriental as 28 residents who serve as underground informants of the New People’s Army (NPA) have given up on Friday to the troops of Bayanihan Team under 79th Infantry (Masaligan) Battalion, led by its commander LtC Marion Sison.

After realizing the futility of supporting the armed struggle and the hostility of keeping the NPAs to their shelter, 28 Party Branch Members and Peoples Militia were awakened from the deceptive insinuations on opinionated issues that brought the Solid Mass Organization or MASSO in Brgy Mantiquil Siaton, Negros Oriental.

Nine (9) members of Sangay sa Partido sa Localidad (SPL) led by Rosalie Nama alias POPS and nineteen (19) members of Yunit Militia (YM) of Lubos na Asosasyong Masa (LAM)/Solid Mass Association under Diosdado Nama alias DONDI returned to the folds of the law by turning themselves in to the troops of 79th Infantry (Masaligan) Battalion, of the 302nd Brigade led by Brig Ge. Francisco Patrimonio.

"The surrender of 28 personalities who were utilized for chores from being underground informants to sometimes, instant and untrained fill up fighters for the NPAs was brought about by the proper information delivered by the Bayanihan Troops from issues previously exploited by the terror groups.

They admittedly decided to turn their backs after realizing they have been fed with lies by the NPA Leadership," according to Ltc Sison. We treated them as victims. Indeed these mass surrender of the entire community previously apsulated by the broken Communist ideologies is a gateway to a wider opportunity for its constituents, especially the youth," Sison added.

Anent this, Brig. Gen. Jonas Sumagaysay, Acting 3ID Commander said, "The people of Negros are happy to welcome their long lost brothers and sisters who have returned to the mocratic fold. This is a welcome development in the province of Negros Oriental where people have longed for a lasting peace. Let us help each other in the spirit of Bayanihan to end the menace of insurgency and move forward towards development in the countryside."

Sumagaysay also said, the snowball of surrenders can be also attributed to social pressure generated by the civil society organizations, the local officials and other stakeholders who have been persistent in calling for peace coupled with sustained combat operations in the region.

Meanwhile, for the first semester, the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division reports, a total of 62 regular members of the NPA have already surrendered and live normally in the mainstream society. This number includes 26 rebels who are members of Komiteng Rehiyonal-Panay (KR-P), 33 from Komiteng Rehiyonal-Negros (KR-N) and 3 from Komiteng Rehiyonal Sentral-Bisayas (KR-SB). The numbers does not count NPA members who have been monitored to have left the movement for the period.

This year’s 1st semester surrenderee is up by 18 or 40% compared to 1st semester last year where 44 NPA rebels have laid down their arms and returned to mainstream society and chose to live peacefully.

"We expect more rebels to surrender in the coming days because we know that they are already tired of the futile armed struggle and wanted to go down and abandon the armed violence," according to Sumagaysay.

"The CPP-NPA is losing the support of the populace while their ranks continue to go back to the democratic folds and start a lawful and peaceful life.

The continued Bayanihan in Western Visayas is a successful effort of the people who longed for lasting peace in this part of the country. Your Army in Western Visayas remains committed in performing its mandated task of protecting the people.

Together with other government security forces, "we will intensify our combat operations in the region. We will likewise continue our efforts working hand in hand with the local government units, the local government agencies, the civil society organizations and the local populace to end the threats of violence of insurgency and bring peace, stability and development in this part of the country," Sumagaysay disclosed.

Army deactivates BIFF roadside bombs in North Cotabato

From the Philippine Star (Jul 12): Army deactivates BIFF roadside bombs in North Cotabato

NORTH Cotabato, Philippines - Army bomb experts promptly deactivated on Thursday powerful roadside bombs laid by members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters near an Army detachment that the bandits tried to take over on Wednesday.

Senior Inspector Henry Narciso, police chief of Midsayap town in the first district of the province, said the home-made explosives were fashioned from live anti-tank rockets rigged with trip wires.

The bombs were planted along a farm-to-market road connecting Barangay Ulandang in Midsayap to the town market where farmers sell their products.

Some 80 BIFF bandits attacked on Wednesday night a detachment of the Army’s 40th Infantry Battalion not far from where the roadside bombs were planted.

Although outnumbered, soldiers manning the detachment managed to drive away the bandits with their assault rifles and 40mm shoulder-fire grenades.

Narciso said members of the same group could have returned hours after they escaped and, under cover of pitch darkness, laid the explosives on the road.

Col. Dickson Hermoso, spokesman of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, said the 40th Infantry Battalion, which has jurisdiction over Midsayap and Aleosan town, also in North Cotabato, has tightly been monitoring all interior barangays vulnerable to BIFF attacks.

Midsayap and Aleosan are located along the 220,000 hectare Liguasan Marsh, a known haven of Moro extremist factions and criminal gangs.

150 indigent patients treated in military medical mission

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 12): 150 indigent patients treated in military medical mission

At least 150 indigent patients benefited from a medical mission of the 302nd Infantry Brigade with the assistance of the Department of Health (DOH) and Zamboaguita local government unit (LGU) early this week.

The mission is in line with the military's community development efforts.

Belated reports from Capt. Cresencio Gargar, 302nd Infantry Brigade spokesperson, said the medical and dental mission was conducted at the Calango Elementary School, Barangay Calango, Zamboaguita on Tuesday.

Gargar said that this community development mission was themed “Gutom at Malnutrisyon, Sama-sama Nating Wakasan.”

The indigent residents provided with free dental and medical services were from Barangay Calango.

“The military’s participation in the Medical Committee Development Mission MEDCAP in partnership with various stakeholders is part of our continuing efforts in delivering basic health services to the less privileged residents especially in the conflict affected areas in the Brigade’s area of responsibility," Gargar said.

Still no sign of missing pilots, downed OV-10 after 19 days

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 12): Still no sign of missing pilots, downed OV-10 after 19 days
Despite 19 days of intense search for the missing pilots and the downed OV-10 "Bronco" attack plane, the Western Command on Friday announced that it has yet to make a positive sighting of missing crewmen and the crashed plane.

"Results are still negative," Western Command spokesperson 1st Lt. Cheryl Tindog said.

Despite this, search efforts will continue until the two pilots and the downed aircraft are found, she added.

Authorities have remained hopeful 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 during the night of June 23.

Last July 6, a fisherman identified as 32-year-old Ludivir P. Nunez reported recovering a flight helmet off Sombrero Island last 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," the Western Command spokesperson added.

Tindog earlier said that 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 but located nothing.

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

200 Army personnel participate in bloodletting for dengue patients

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 12): 200 Army personnel participate in bloodletting for dengue patients

Around 200 personnel of the Philippine Army (PA) on Friday participated in the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) Rizal Chapter's bloodletting event in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City.

Lt. Col. Randolph Cabangbang, Army spokesperson, said the bloodletting activity is part of their celebration of World Blood Donors Month.

Major Efren V. Abayari, PA headquarters and headquarters Support Group civil military officer said, the Army decided to partner with the PRC to ensure the continuous supply in the blood bank particularly at this time when high dengue cases are recorded nationwide.

A total of 200 military personnel from various Army units participated in the event.

Red Cross medical technologist Melanie Mercurio said that vouchers equivalent to 10 percent of total blood donations will be given to the PA as an incentive.

Army personnel can use these vouchers to avail free blood bags in cases of emergency within a six-month period.

She added that one person can make a difference by donating up to 450-cc of blood depending on standard physical and medical qualifications.

A bag of blood can be divided to at least three components in separate satellite bags: solid component or the packed red blood cells; platelets that expire after five days; and fresh frozen plasma which can last up to a year.

More sophisticated laboratories can extract up to five components from one blood bag. PRC facilities, however, can only extract three. Nonetheless, one person’s donation is enough to save three lives or more.

Mercurio added that donating blood is beneficial to health because it helps replenish the body’s blood supply and can even help prevent acne.

Police, Army foil bombing attempt in North Cotabato

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 12): Police, Army foil bombing attempt in North Cotabato

MIDSAYAP, North Cotabato -- Authorities prevented what could have been a bloody Thursday when they discovered a powerful improvised explosive device (IED) planted by suspected Moro renegade guerrillas at a roadside in a remote village here.

The IED was defused by police and Army bomb experts Thursday morning, according to Chief Inspector Henry Narciso, Midsayap police chief.

The discovery of the bomb came after the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) attempted and failed to overrun an Army detachment of the 40th Infantry Battalion in Barangay Ulandang here hours earlier.

Narciso said the IED was planted at a road side a few meters away from the Charlie Company detachment of 40th IB in Sitio Tampat, Barangay Ulandan where construction heavy equipment were parked for safekeeping.

He said the IED was fashioned from two 60-mm mortars with cellphone as trigger mechanism.

The IED in Barangay Ulandang was similar to the IED that the BIFF planted underneath Magaslong Bridge in Barangay Magaslong, Datu Piang, Maguindanao.

Narciso said police bomb experts also found an improvised landmine made of live ammunition of M-79 grenade.

”If a vehicle would step on it, it will explode,” Narciso said, hinting it could be intended for police or military vehicles that would respond to BIFF harassment.

Colonel Dickson Hermoso, speaking for the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, said the planting of IED in Barangay Ulandang and the earlier harassment were part of retaliatory attacks by BIFF to avenge the death of its members during the weekend Army offensives.

Hermoso said the Army is saddened by the atrocities of BIFF which were carried out during this fasting month of Ramadhan.

Ramadhan started Wednesday and will last until August 8.

At the start of Ramadhan, the Army called off its offensive against the BIFF in deference to religious activities.

Following the foiled bombing attempt, police and Army authorities in Midsayap have been placed on heightened alert.

Narciso called on the civilians, whatever their religious or political affiliations, to help police in preventing bombings and other destabilization by any armed group.

Militiamen repulse NPA rebels' attack in North Cotabato

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 12): Militiamen repulse NPA rebels' attack in North Cotabato

TULUNAN, North Cotabato -- Communist rebels tried but failed to overrun two detachments of soldiers and paramilitary forces in a remote village here on Thursday.

Chief Inspector Ronnie Cordero, Tulunan police director, said on Friday that although outnumbered, members of the civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU) engaged the attackers in a 15-minute firefight until the rebels fled.

No casualty was reported on both sides.

Cordero said the New People's Army (NPA) rebels first attacked the detachment in Barangay Lampagang and, as they fled, fired at militiamen manning another detachment in Barangay New Tuburan, an adjoining village where farmers are busy with the current harvest time.

It was during this season that the NPAs are extorting money from farmers here, a highly agricultural town in North Cotabato.

The attack came after the military here announced that NPAs operating at the foot of the country's highest peak -- Mt. Apo, sent extortion letters from businessmen in Kidapawan City and North Cotabato.

First Lieutenant Nasrullah Sema, speaking for the 57th Infantry Battalion, said the NPAs have been mulcting from traders in North Cotabato.

The letter received by an unidentified trader contained "solicitations" from the NPA Command in Mt. Apo.

But Sema said it is not solicitation if the solicitor imposes fixed monthly amount from the trader.

"That is clear and simple extortion accompanied by threats of violence if demands are not met," he said, adding that the 57th IB have provided security personnel to traders who received demand letter from the NPA.

He said traders should not give in to the NPA mulcting activities "because it will become a cycle."

Finish insurgency, AFP chief tells commanders

From Rappler (Jul 12): Finish insurgency, AFP chief tells commanders

COMMAND CONFERENCE: The Armed Forces of the Philippines hopes to end the insurgency by 2016. Photo by Carmela Fonbuena

COMMAND CONFERENCE: The Armed Forces of the Philippines hopes to end the insurgency by 2016. Photo by Carmela Fonbuena

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Gen Emmanuel Bautista reminded commanders of their goal to end the insurgency by 2016, saying it's time for the military to focus on external defense and other tasks.

“We have a sense of urgency now to conclude our internal security issues. We need to focus on emerging issues — as I mentioned, territorial disputes in the South China Sea and climate change,” Bautista told reporters on Thursday, July 11, after a command conference to assess military operations from January to June.

“We are addressing so many issues — internal security, territorial defense, and climate change. It is now the typhoon season. We will have more calamities. We will respond to that,” Bautista added.

Manila is caught in a row with Beijing over the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea), a territorial dispute that is putting tremendous pressure on the military, whose resources and personnel are deployed to fight local wars.

Under the IPSP (Internal Peace and Security Plan) Bayanihan, the AFP aims to “conclude” by 2016 internal security threats from the CPP-NPA-NDF (CNN), Abu Sayyaf Group, rogue MNLF elements, and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighter (BIFF).

"We should have reduced the capabilities of internal security threats," Bautista said. He maintained they are on track in meeting the 2016 deadline.

The communist New People's Army (NPA) has launched a series of spectacular attacks this year, the latest of which was an ambush of policemen undergoing training in Baguio City.

Peace talks between the government and the National Democratic Front, the umbrella organization of the NPA, also bogged down, raising fears of a deteriorating peace and order situation in the countryside.

On Thursday, hopes of a breakthrough in the peace process with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front dimmed after the failure of both sides to hammer out an agreement on wealth sharing.

NPA still biggest threat

AFP public affairs chief Lt Col Ramon Zagala identified the NPA as the "biggest threat to our country's peace and security."

The NPA has been waging Asia's longest running insurgency. Bautista puts the current number of the NPA, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), to "more than 4,000," majority of them based in Eastern Mindanao.

Zagala identifed the January ambush in La Castellana in Negros Occidental and the April ambush of Gingoog City Mayor Ruthie Guingona as among the "atrocities" of the NPA this year.

WATCH The ambush in La Castellana and READ Senator's mom hurt, 2 dead in NPA ambush

Sustained momentum?

But as the AFP noted increased activities from the NPA, it claimed it has "sustained its momentum on focused military operations against the NPA in the first semester of 2013."

Bautista said 29 of the country's 81 provinces have been handed over to the local government units — meaning the LGUs now take the lead in local peace and security in their respective areas.

The AFP is aiming to turn over 13 more provinces to the LGUs by the end of the year, Zagala said.

AFP said it also increased "engagements" to 350 in the first semester of 2013 from 312 during the same period last year. The number of apprehended NPAs is also higher from 50 to 99 during the same period.

Even if talks with the NDF are stalled, what the government aims to do is “to make the armed struggle irrelevant" and "for them to abandon the armed struggle," Bautista said.
Bautista acknowledged there is continued recruitment but he said there is a significant number of surrenderees, too.

Bautista said they need more cooperation from the people. “No matter what gains we achieve, [it's weakened] if there are still issues that will agitate people to address the armed struggle. We have to address the issue being exploited by the [rebels],” Bautista said.

Non-hostile MILF

On the other hand, the AFP now considers the MILF a “non-hostile” entity. Not a single encounter has occurred between soldiers and MILF rebels since last year, according to Zagala.

READ: No deal in KL — MILF

"In Mindanao, we are optimistic of the rightful conlucsion of the peace talks," Bautista said.

“We remain vigilant to prevent peace spoilers from derailing thepecae process," he added.

A breakaway command of the MILF ambushed an army truck and attacked an army camp on Saturday, July 6, ahead of the resumption of peace talks. At least 31 Muslim rebels and 5 soldiers were killed in the clashes.

READ: 36 die in clashes ahead of peace talks

As far as the Abu Sayyaf Group is concerned, AFP said 175 were "neutralized" and 26 are now facing charges.

The AFP received a P75-billion military upgrade to help defend the country's maritime territory. It is going to procure, among others, 12 fighter aircraft from South Korea and 2 frigates from a yet to be identified supplier.

READ: P75-B boost for PH Navy to resist 'bullies'

The AFP is also aiming to increase number of personnel "should the budget allow us," said Bautista.

"We have not had any increase in our troops for a long time. [Consider] the magnitude of issues we face right now simultaneously," Bautista said.

Suspected MNLF members abduct 12 civilians in Basilan

From Rappler (Jul 12): Suspected MNLF members abduct 12 civilians in Basilan

At least 12 residents of Tipo-Tipo town in Basilan, were taken captive by alleged members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) on Thursday afternoon, July 11.

The military's Western Mindanao Command said the abduction – done by about 50 members led by Commander Hassan alias Addang – transpired in Sitio Kakabigan, Barangay Bohe Baca, at around 4:20 pm.

The military said the group of kidnappers was led by a certain Commander Hassan alias Addang, and identified rido or clan war as the motive for the kidnapping.

The victims were identified as:
  • Dalma Ambihal, 50
  • Faija Banua, 44
  • Hapsa Ambihal, 28
  • Kalipa Ambihal, 22
  • Alsaima Buddiman, 15
  • Satra Banua, 13
  • Haide Banua, 9
  • Binbin Banua, 9
  • Haipa Ambihal, 5
  • Pasri Ambihal, 2
  • Fathma Buddiman, 5 months
  • An unidentified person
Four of the minors were already released as of posting.

The military said the possible motive behind the abduction is revenge of the MNLF members on the abduction of the 3 daughters of MNLF Commander Hassan.

The commander’s daughters –Umma, Kelma, and Pubu, all surnamed Duwalay – were abducted on July 9 at Triangle, Lamitan City, Basilan.

"The sequential abduction including minors is rooted in a 3-decade, long standing rido between the two families," the military said.

The military’s 18th Infantry Battalion, led by Lieutenant Colonel Paolo P Perez, has initiated negotiations for the safe release of the victims. Officials of Barangay Bohe Baca in Tipo-Tipo, and of Barangay Cambug in Albarka town are helping out for the safe release of the victims.

Since the start of the year, AFP forces in Basilan, in particular 104th Brigade, has facilitated the peaceful settlement of 18 cases of rido.

Still no deal: Peace talks extended anew

From Rappler (Jul 12): Still no deal: Peace talks extended anew

Despite extending the talks for one more day, the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) failed to arrive at any agreement on Friday, July 12.

Peace panels from both sides left the negotiating table at past 5 pm without signing any annexes needed to complement the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro before the final peace pact can be signed.

They will, however, extend the talks for one more day to Saturday, July 13, negotiators from both sides said.

The extensions in this current round of talks are reminiscent of the additional days it took the parties to sign the framework agreement. They also extended the talks for 3 days.

On Friday, the parties could not arrive at a compromise on how to share wealth between the envisioned Bangsamoro political entity and the central government.

An agreement on wealth sharing would have been a breakthrough since its contents are also related to the contents of the two other annexes needed for the comprehensive compact – power-sharing and normalization.

As of posting, it remains unclear whether the peace talks that aim to end 40 years of war in Mindanao would continue.

Talks reached a near breakdown when the panels left the negotiating table on Thursday, July 11 – the supposed last day of the talks – without any deal on the table.

READ: No deal in KL - MILF

But the government managed to persuade the MILF to return for one more day to iron out remaining issues.

READ: MILF returns to negotiating table

Along with the issue of power-sharing, wealth-sharing comprises the heart of the comprehensive compact. Its resolution allows the panels to move further with discussions on the annex on power-sharing as well as normalization, which involves decommissioning and policing.

GPH-MILF talks extended by a day in KL; Annex signing not likely

From MindaNews (Jul 12): GPH-MILF talks extended by a day in KL; Annex signing not likely

As has been their rule during peace negotiations in the time of the Ramadhan, sessions are supposed to be held in the morning only, in deference to the Muslims in the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the government (GPH) peace panel but Thursday’s session – supposedly the last day of the scheduled July 8 to 11 talks – extended until late afternoon with not a single contentious issue on wealth-sharing resolved.

Both panels have apparently stuck to their respective positions on the already initialed Annex on Wealth Sharing.

Not even the arrival of Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos-Deles and Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda on Thursday, help.

MindaNews sources in Kuala Lumpur told MindaNews that although Deles and Lacierda did not enter the negotiating room, their presence initially raised hopes that they brought some good news from Malacanang, the day ended with no progress.

“Up to the dying minutes of the fourth day (Thursday), we have not settled the major issues on wealth-sharing,” a source from the MILF peace panel who requested not to be named, told MindaNews.

The government peace panel asked for an extension until Friday, the Muslims’ holiest day but the parties ended Thursday’s session with the MILF not quite sure if it was returning for the 9 a.m. session Friday.

GPH peace panel chair Miriam Coronel-Ferrer told MindaNews early Friday morning that  “yes we extended” but denied speculations that the MILF walked out. “No walkout,” she said.

Deles told MindaNews in a text message also early Friday that talks are “still ongoing today.” She described the talks as “tough but no one walked out.”

Another source in KL privy to the talks said the MILF panel left the venue room “hungry and frustrated.”

MILF sources told MindaNews early Friday morning that they would show up at the State Room of the Palace of the Golden Horses in Kuala Lumpur, venue of the talks, at 9 a.m.

The decision to return to the table was apparently made late Thursday night after a member of the government peace panel met with the MILF to convince the latter to attend today’s session.

What the Joint Statement will look like at the end of today’s session, is anybody’s guess. But it will not announce that any of the three remaining annexes has been signed.

The Joint Statement, however, is expected to contain at least one accomplishment: that the panels finally introduced the members of the Third Party Monitoring Team (TPMT) led by former EU Ambassador to the Philippines Alistair MacDonald.
The TPMT members were supposed to have been named within a month from their agreement in January.

VIDEOS | Thousands crowd evacuation centers as tensions persist in Maguindanao

From InterAksyon (Jul 12): VIDEOS | Thousands crowd evacuation centers as tensions persist in Maguindanao

Evacuees mob ARMM Vice Governor Haroun Alrashid Lucman Jr. as he distributes relief goods in Datu Piang to residents displaced by the recent fighting between the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighter and the military. (photo by Dennis Arcon, News5)

Thousands of civilians who fled last weekend’s clashes between a Moro rebel group and government forces remain crammed in evacuation centers in several towns of Maguindanao province as tensions persist despite the start of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Vice Governor Haroun Alrashid Lucman Jr., who delivered relief goods at a school in the town of Datu Piang, where some of the clashes between the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighter and the Army took place, was swarmed by evacuees who said it was the first assistance they had received since leaving their homes.

Evacuees at a school in Datu Piang swarm ARMM Vice Gov Haroun Alrashid Lucman Jr. as he dsitributes relief goods

Although overwhelmingly Muslim, there are also Christians and lumad (indigenous people) among the evacuees.

Nene, a Christian from Mamasapano town recalls how they fled the fighting

The displacement has been particularly difficult for the Muslim evacuees who have been unable to fulfill their religious obligations for Ramadan, which entail fasting and prayers during the day.

Although fighting has generally died down after the military ceased operations just before Ramadan started, there have been reports of harassment by armed groups.
Explosions also rocked Datu Piang, where a bridge was slightly damaged by two bombs, and Cotabato City, where one person died and four others were wounded in a grenade attack, on the eve of Ramadan.

Although the military blamed the BIFF, a faction that broke away from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, for the Datu Piang bombing, a spokesman for the group denied responsibility for the attack on the bridge.

Motorcycles drive past the bomb crater left on a bridge in Datu Piang that was bombed earlier this week

At least three Army detachments in Midsayap, North Cotabato were also reported harassed by gunmen. Some of the fighting last weekend took place in the North Cotabato town of Pikit, just across the river from Datu Piang.

The weekend clashes left six soldiers and, the military claims, up to 80 BIFF fighters dead. A number of civilians were also wounded in the crossfire.

The situation prompted Lucman to appeal to combatants to “give way to Ramadan and let people enjoy this month.”

Next week, Maguindanao’s Peace and Order Council will be meeting to find ways to defuse the tensions and allow the rest of Ramadan to be observed peacefully, Vice Governor Datu Lester Sinsuat said.

Maguindanao Vice Governor Datu Lester Sinsuat

BCDA seeks Air Force transfer to Subic to free up more land in Clark for commercial ventures

From InterAksyon (Jul 12): BCDA seeks Air Force transfer to Subic to free up more land in Clark for commercial ventures

The Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) on Friday said it plans to move the Philippine Air Force (PAF) out of Clark so more land could be made available for development inside the Freeport.

“The BCDA is eyeing the transfer of the Philippine Air Force in Clark to enable us to utilize more lands for leasing.  We plan to implement this during the term of President Benigno Aquino,” Arnel Paciano Casanova, BCDA president and chief executive said in a statement.

Cassanova said the transfer of PAF, particularly the “Air Force City” to Cubi Point in Subic will free up at least 360 hectares of prime land inside the Clark Freeport.

The Air Force City was allocated to the 600th Air Base Wing under an agreement between the BCDA and the Department of National Defense.

BCDA has kicked off the search for someone who could draft the master plan of 36,000 hectares of the Clark Special Economic Zone (CSEZ) to develop it into a “green city” patterned after South Korea’s New Songdo international business district.
Casanova said the new master plan for the CSEZ will position Clark as the investment destination in Southeast Asia.

“Clark Green City will be environmentally sustainable, socially inclusive, economically competitive, culturally relevant, and technologically integrated," he said.
He said the project “will generate billions in investments and generate thousands of jobs.”

Obama to China: 'Don't use intimidation or coercion' vs Asian neighbors

From InterAksyon (Jul 12): Obama to China: 'Don't use intimidation or coercion' vs Asian neighbors

US President Barack Obama warned China on Thursday against using force or intimidation in its tense maritime disputes with its neighbors and urged a peaceful resolution.

Obama, meeting Chinese officials who were in Washington for wide-ranging talks, "urged China to manage its maritime disputes with its neighbors peacefully, without the use of intimidation or coercion," a White House statement said.

Tensions have steadily risen between China and Japan, which accuses its growing neighbor of sending an increasing number of ships to exert its claim over sparsely populated islands managed by Tokyo in the East China Sea.

The Philippines and Vietnam have also charged that China has used assertive means to exert claims in the conflict-riven South China Sea, although tensions have abated slightly with Hanoi in recent weeks.

State Councilor Yang Jiechi, addressing a press event at the end of the two days of talks, said that China supported "freedom of navigation in all oceans" and "will continue to firmly implement its policy."

The United States since 2010 has repeatedly been outspoken over the South China Sea, saying that it has a national interest in ensuring freedom of navigation but does not take sides on individual claims.

With an eye on the tensions, the United States has boosted military cooperation with Japan and the Philippines -- which are both treaty-bound allies -- as well as with former war adversary Vietnam.

Govt urges 'flexibility' from MILF on wealth-sharing as KL talks extended

From InterAksyon (Jul 12): Govt urges 'flexibility' from MILF on wealth-sharing as KL talks extended

The government has appealed to the Moro Islamic Liberationt Front not to be "caught up in the trees and missing the forest" as both panels agreed to extend Friday what was supposed to be four days of formal talks in Kuala Lumpur.

"We have extended the talks up to today," government chief negotiator Miriam Ferrer said in a statement Friday, adding that both parties "need to find good compromises on key issues like taxation and revenue sharing."

"Hopefully tday we will find solutions but we need flexibility on both sides," Ferrer said.

The government panel was earlier hopeful that discussions on the wealth-sharing annex would be concluded during this week's round of formal negotiations.
Ferrer, in her opening statement Tuesday, hinted that the talks might result in the signing of one of the three remaining drafts.

"A few days ago, several friends, all leading lights in their respective organizations, visited me in the office to express their support. They even brought a gift -- a pair of pens. And we all know on what occasions we have special use of pens. That’s why I have these pens with me in this trip," she said.

In  Malacanang, deputy Palace spokesperson Abigail Valte said the fact that both sides agreed to extend the talks was "a good thing."

MILF: Yakan City Committee holds consultation on the impasse on the peace process

From the MILF Website (Jul 12): Yakan City Committee holds consultation on the impasse on the peace process

Yakan City Committee of the MILF held a 1-day consultation on the impasse of the peace process last July 9, 2013 at Barrio Militar Barangay Menzi, this city.
More than 40 participants mostly officials of various line agencies and sectoral committees including women (SWC) attended the consultation. An aleem who rendered an invocation and delivered a message said, "Hindrances are always present in our endeavors, even our own brother or close kin are sometime against us what more with other people...its should not be treated as problems but challenges". 

The participants were anxious to know the real situation of the GPH-MILF peace process especially when for a couple of months the peace process hit a snag due to disagreements on the wealth-sharing annex.

The chairman of YCC said, "Even without negotiation we are all united in the struggle of the Bangsamoro under the banner of the MILF and now that we are engage in negotiation we have to exert more efforts to consolidate our strengths as we have had in the past to face the toughest situations in the future". He said further, “We should not be frustrated rather we have to be prepared for any eventualities that we may encounter in our midst".

District chairmen reported before the audience of their achievements and challenges that they have faced. The municipal chair of Maluso Municipality related the problems of his community on the aspect of livelihood where hundreds of his constituents are losing jobs due to the encroachment of foreign fishing vessels into their fishing areas resulting to inadequacies of fish catch by local fishermen. The women sector reported on the activities they have undertaken that dealt mostly on the welfare of the children and women.

The program ended with strong commitment of support to the MILF leadership and the peace panel in its negotiations with Government of the Philippines with high hope that a breakthrough shall take place in the negotiation now taking place in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia with members of the Third Party Monitoring Team (TPMT) attending for the first time since it was created.

Former European Union ambassador to the Philippines and now ambassador to Cambodia, Alistair McDonald heads the TPMT, which is tasked to monitor the implementation of all agreements of the parties especially the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) and its annexes (Transitional Arrangement and Modalities, Power-sharing, Wealth-sharing, and Normalization) which will be signed as comprehensive peace agreement, and finally to evaluate the full implementation of the parties leading to signing their “Exit Agreement”.

MILF: MILF mum on Cha-Cha move in Congress

From the MILF Website (Jul 12): MILF mum on Cha-Cha move in Congress

Despite its long-held belief that real solution to the Bangsamoro Question requires amending the Constitution, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is not jumping its gun to support, at least in principle, the charter change (cha-cha) initiative reverberating in the House  of Representatives.
“It is an internal legal process that the MILF is not supposed to participate,” Muhammad Ameen, chair of the MILF Secretariat, told Luwaran in an interview today.

He was commenting on report that charter change is again up in the air, with Speaker Sonny Belmonte stating that he will file a resolution that would call for a constituent assembly (con-ass).

“We are not there; let us  wait for the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) to finish its job and make a stand whether amending the Constitution is required or not,” he explained.

He recalled that to this day the government and MILF continue to disagree on whether this amendment is necessary or not. The government said that the present Constitution has the flexibility to accommodate and entrench the Basic Law and the MILF firmly taking a contrary view that changing the status quo form of government to asymmetrical relationship (ministerial form) would require amendment of the Constitution.

One of the functions of the BTC is to make proposals, if necessary, to amend the Constitution. The first function is to draft the Basic Law and the third is to coordinate socio-economic development projects, if necessary.

In the past, many senators and congressmen also favored charter change. Their main focus is on the economic provisions of the Constitution, which to them, are very rigid that stunted development of the country. They referred to the ownership of certain industries and those that are involved in the exploration, development and utilization of our natural resources.

Some solons favored ownership of lands by foreigners, a move opposed by others especially the nationalists and leftists. They branded this move as a sell-out.

CPP/NPA: NPA to reach 10,000 Red fighters in few years amidst Aquino failure to address roots of civil war

From the CPP Website (Jul 12): NPA to reach 10,000 Red fighters in few years amidst Aquino failure to address roots of civil war

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) said for the first time in its history, the number of New People’s Army (NPA) Red fighters with high-powered rifles is on its way to reach 10,000 levels in the next few years amidst the utter failure of the Aquino regime to address the nationalist and democratic demands of the Filipino people which are at the root of the raging civil war.

The CPP issued this statement in reaction to public admission by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) that it has failed to make a dent on the strength of the NPA. The AFP, however, downplayed its failure by understating the strength of the NPA as “over 4,000” members from the base number of 4,384 when the AFP launched its Oplan Bayanihan campaign in January 1, 2011.

“Clearly, the AFP cannot counter the fact that over the past several years the NPA has steadily continued to grow in strength,” said the CPP. “The nationwide advances of the revolutionary armed struggle is indubitable demonstrated by the increasing frequency and bigger tactical offensives being carried out by the New People’s Army (NPA) in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.”

“To portray themselves as impressive, the AFP repeats the baseless claim that the NPA had the peak strength of 25,000 in 1986 but has recently dropped to 6,000 and has further been whittled down to 4,000 under the Aquino regime,” pointed out the CPP.

“These are all groundless claims being made by the AFP. In fact, the peak strength of the NPA was only at 6,100 Red fighters with high-powered rifles in 1986. Because of the internal errors, the NPA’s strength slowly declined up to 1992 and thereabouts, when the CPP launched the 2nd rectification movement. By 1998, the NPA strength returned to the level of the early 1980s when it started to make big strides forward.”

“Over the past several years, the NPA has surpassed its former peak strength in 1986 and is on its way to reach the 10,000 levels in the next few years,” pointed out the CPP. “The NPA is setting its sights on building around 180 guerrilla fronts nationwide with one company of Red fighters each, and with its armed strength further amplified by tens of thousands of armed militias and members of barrio self-defense committees.”

“Commands of the NPA nationwide continue to fulfill the tasks of extensive and intensive guerrilla warfare, while pushing forward the widespread the revolutionary land reform movement and methodically building the infrastructure of the people’s democratic government from one level to another higher level,” added the CPP. “There are, of course, NPA units that are still small and weak, but these are being assisted by other NPA units that are stronger and more advanced.”

“According to targets of the Oplan Bayanihan made public by the AFP in 2011, the strength of the NPA will supposedly have been reduced by more than half by the middle of 2013 or around this time. The plan set by the AFP in the next phase is to transfer ‘counter-insurgency duties’ to the Philippine National Police and have the AFP concentrate on ‘external threats’.”

“Clearly, the Aquino regime’s Oplan Bayanihan is bound to fail,” said the CPP. “Not only has the AFP failed to reduce the NPA strength to insignificant levels, it has succeeded only in rousing the oppressed people further to engage in armed and unarmed resistance by subjecting them to brutal and repressive military campaigns deceptively characterized by the AFP as ‘peace and development’ operations.”

“The Aquino regime’s Oplan Bayanihan will end up like the Arroyo’s Oplan Gordian Knot and Oplan Bantay Laya I & II, Estrada’s Oplan Makabayan and the first to the fourth phase of the Oplan Lambat Bitag carried out by the Aquino and Ramos regime from 1986 to 1998,” said the CPP. “All these oplans have met utter failure because these are nothing but war plans to suppress the Filipino people and stop them from waging democratic struggles and armed resistance.”

“The correctness and necessity of waging revolutionary armed struggle has become more crystal clear to the Filipino people with the Aquino regime choosing to terminate peace negotiations and further advancing the neoliberal policies that serve the interests of foreign big mining companies and plantations, other big capitalists and Aquino’s big landlords and big business allies to the detriment of the Filipino people.”

“Aquino and his military officials are obsessed with defeating the people’s armed resistance through military force and armed campaigns of suppression,” said the CPP. “Aquino and the AFP are very wrong to think that with all-out US financial and military support, it will be able to put an end to the people’s armed and democratic revolutionary resistance through sheer force.”

“After three years in power and all its political dressing-up, the Aquino regime has failed to win back the trust of the people for the rotten social and political system which has become ever more oppressive and exploitative.”

CP/NDF: Governor Lee’s proposal is part of psywar, intelligence, combat scheme of Oplan Bayanihan

Posted to the CPP Website  (Jul 11): Governor Lee’s proposal is part of psywar, intelligence, combat scheme of Oplan Bayanihan

Luis Jalandoni
NDFP Negotiating Panel

Sorsogon Governor Lee’s proposal for “localized peace talks” is a part of the intelligence, psychological warfare, and combat scheme under Oplan Bayanihan. It is in line with the so-called “new approach” of President Aquino, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) under Secretary Deles.

“Localized peace talks” is an old and futile attempt by the reactionary forces to split the revolutionary movement. It is bound to fail because the revolutionary leadership has repeatedly made it clear that only the Negotiating Panel of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) is mandated to engage in peace negotiations with the Manila Government. All units of the revolutionary movement follow strictly this policy.

In the face of the Aquino regime’s escalation of gross violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, as exposed in the recent killing of revolutionaries hors d’ combat in Bicol, the New People’s Army (NPA), the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the NDFP continue to grow vigorously in strength all over the country. They are resolutely determined to carry on the struggle for national and social liberation, democracy and a just peace. They have the enthusiastic support of the oppressed and exploited masses. They are not deceived by the worn-out tactics of the likes of Aquino, the AFP, Deles and Governor Lee.