Monday, July 22, 2013

Fort Magsaysay’s new chief

From the Manila Standard Today (Jul 23): Fort Magsaysay’s new chief

A new commander has been installed in the Armed Forces’ 7th Infantry Division based in Fort Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija.

Brigadier General Hernando Delfin Carmelo Iriberri took oath as the 22nd commanding officer of the   post replacing Major General Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr. who was promoted as the new chief of AFP Northern Luzon Command  headquartered in Camp Servillano Aquino in San Miguel, Tarlac City.

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and Army Chief Lieutenant General Noel Coballes led the turn-over ceremony.

Iriberri  is a  member of the Philippine Military Academy Class of 1983. He served as Senior Military Assistant to Gazmin and Chief of the Unified Command Staff of the Southern Luzon Command.

2 Moro rebel groups face off

From the Manila Standard Today (Jul 23): 2 Moro rebel groups face off

Dozens were feared killed and scores wounded in fierce clashes between Moro Islamic Liberation Front and a breakaway faction of the Moro National Liberation Front in Matalam, Cotabato that started on Saturday.

MNLF commander Bensaleh Sharifah said the battle continues to rage on Monday, adding that the clashes could result in more casualties, even as thousands of residents were forced to flee to adjacent towns. said MNLF commander Bensaleh Sharifah.

“Tuloy pa rin ang bakbakan dito,” Sharifah said.

The continuing clashes also forced government forces to close down a portion of the Cotabato-Davao highway in North Cotabato to protect travellers from the violence.

Sharifah said the skirmishes happened when MILF fighters entered Barangay Malabuan, an MNLF territory, to conduct a peace caravan but the incident turned bloody when an MNLF breakaway faction refused them entry.

The MNLF breakaway group was reportedly led by Datu Dima Ambel, identified with the council of 15 of self-proclaimed MNLF chairman Muslimin Sema who broke away from the Nur Misuari-led MNLF side.

The council of 15 is aligned with the government.

PNP North Cotabato provincial director Sr. Supt Danilo Peralta said there were casualties on both sides but could not give specific figures as policemen and military forces were only monitoring the clashes to prevent them from spilling over to nearby towns.

But regional paper Mindanao Examiner, said the fighting left two MNLF gunmen dead and one MILF rebel wounded, quoting Von Al-Haq, a spokesman for the MILF.

A separate source said a barangay watchman initially identified only as Balang, and an MILF guerilla named Larih Pala, were reportedly wounded I during the skirmishes.

US vows no let-up in Asia focus

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jul 22): US vows no let-up in Asia focus

New assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs Daniel Russel vowed Monday, July 22, 2013, no let-up in Washington’s focus on the region, pledging to build cooperation both with US allies and a rising China. AFP PHOTO/KAZUHIRO NOGI

The new US pointman on East Asia on Monday vowed no let-up in Washington’s focus on the region, pledging to build cooperation both with US allies and a rising China.

“You can count on us to remain deeply engaged in the Asia-Pacific region because our interests are so profound in that region,” said Danny Russel, who took over last week as an assistant secretary of state.

President Barack Obama and former secretary of state Hillary Clinton both promoted a “pivot” or “rebalancing” toward East Asia, calling for the United States to shift priorities toward the fast-growing region.

But academics and diplomats have asked whether the pivot is losing steam in Obama’s second term, with Clinton’s successor John Kerry leading a major effort to revive Middle East peace negotiations.

Russel noted that he was the first of the regionally focused assistant secretaries of state to be named and confirmed under Kerry.

Russel also pointed to the string of high-level Asian visitors to Washington including Vietnam’s President Truong Tan Sang, who on Thursday will be only the second Vietnamese head of state at the White House since the former war enemies normalized relations.

‘Diversified rebalancing’ toward Asia

Kerry’s State Department hopes “to diversify that rebalancing” toward Asia “to make sure we are covering the span of issues of genuine interest and concern to all of us,” Russel told a news conference.

A career diplomat with expertise in Japan, Russel is generally considered more soft-spoken than his high-octane predecessor Kurt Campbell, a Clinton confidant who delighted in a punishing trans-Pacific travel schedule.

But Russel pledged continuity in US efforts to reach out to Asian nations, including in the high-stakes relationship between the United States and a growing China.

Russel pointed to Obama’s summit in California in June with China’s new President Xi Jinping and annual talks between the world’s two largest economies earlier this month.

“I have heard this directly, repeatedly, that the countries throughout the region expect and want the US and China to maintain a level of high-level dialogue and practical cooperation that will help generate positive results,” he said.

Pledge for cooperation with PH, other allies

Russel also pledged efforts to cooperate with the five US treaty-bound allies in the region—Australia, Japan, the Philippines, South Korea and Thailand.

He voiced hope for greater economic reforms by Japan after Sunday’s election victory by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s coalition, which ended an era of divided parliaments that contributed to the downfall of six short-serving premiers.

“If this is a step that will help facilitate greater continuity of leadership in Japan, I think it will be welcome by all of Japan’s friends,” Russel said.

Russel also stood firm on North Korea, saying that the United States was willing to return to negotiations only if the communist state moved to end is nuclear program.

“North Korea faces a fundamental choice—its pursuit of nuclear weapons has not and will not bring it security, and it certainly will not bring it international respect,” he said.

“North Korea has to show its seriousness of purpose and its willingness to negotiate a denuclearization agreement as it has committed to,” he said.

North Korea has repeatedly walked away from 2005 and 2007 aid-for-disarmament deals and in February carried out its third nuclear test, accusing the United States of hostility.—

Aquino vows to fulfil pacts with Muslim rebels

From the Philippine Star (Jul 22): Aquino vows to fulfil pacts with Muslim rebels

President Benigno Aquino III vowed Monday that whatever agreements his administration would forge with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) will be implemented.

In his fourth State of the Nation Address before the joint sessions of the Congress, he also urged Congress to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law by 2014.

"What is clear to me: every word we utter must result in an action that would benefit all. Every line that we craft in the agreement we are forging must be set in stone and not merely written on water, only to be forgotten by history," Aquino said.

He said that peace in southern Philippines, which has long been torn apart by conflict, is "within reach," citing the signing of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) in October last year and the inking of the FAB's wealth-sharing annex recently.

"We are confident that we will not have to wait long before hearing more good news on the development of the peace process," he said.

In his address, he also lauded the MILF for its willingness to listen and to compromise.

Now that the Transition Commission tasked to craft the Basic Law for the Bangsamoro was formed, Aquino hoped that once the group is finished with its work, Congress would pass it into law.

"I ask you to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law before the end of 2014. This way, we will have ample time to prepare for the election of a new Bangsamoro government come 2016," he said.

The government and the MILF have been working for the creation of the Bangsamoro government that will replace the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao by 2016. The new government was also envisioned to end the more than four-decade armed conflict in southern Philippines.

Military tightens security in Southern Tagalog

From the Philippine Star (Jul 22): Military tightens security in Southern Tagalog

The military tightened its watch over Southern Luzon on Monday in line with its security plan aimed at neutralizing plans by any threat groups to create disturbances during President Benigno Aquino III's State of the National Address (SONA) at the Batasan Pambansa complex in Quezon City.

Marine Lt. Col. Neil Anthony Estrella, spokesman of the Southern Luzon Command (Solcom), said that aside from being on guard for possible atrocities by the New People’s Army (NPA), various teams were also deployed to closely monitor movements of various left-leaning groups.

“The Solcom is continuously monitoring movements of various left-wing groups,” Estrella said.

He said these groups, particularly from Laguna, Batangas and Rizal assembled in key areas before proceeding to Metro Manila to join the anti-SONA rally.

Solcom chief Lt. Gen. Caesar Ronnie Ordoyo ordered an intensified military monitoring in Southern Tagalog in support of the AFP’s declaration of red alert in Metro Manila aimed at ensuring order in the capital region as the President reports his administration accomplishments to the Filipino people.

As of noon, military monitoring showed that the entire Southern Luzon, which once served as the bailiwick of the NPA rebels, remained peaceful.

“Southern Luzon remains peaceful with our soldiers out there performing their duties to protect the people and the government,” Estrella said.

Chinese ships still in Ayungin, Panatag

From the Philippine Star (Jul 22): Chinese ships still in Ayungin, Panatag

China continues to assert its claim over the Ayungin and Panatag (Scarborough) Shoals by conducting patrols in the Philippine-owned areas.

A security source who spoke on condition of anonymity said one Chinese vessel has been spotted in the Ayungin Shoal, which is located 105.77 nautical miles from Palawan.

Meanwhile, two Chinese ships were seen around the Panatag Shoal, which is 124 nautical miles from the nearest point in Zambales.

“They are maintaining their presence. We remain observant since we are following the diplomatic track,” the official said.

“We would rather address this through the right body instead of building up tension.”

The official said the Navy continues to monitor the situation in the area but admitted that it can only do so much with its current capability.

“We need to accelerate modernizing the navy so that we can respond to the security requirement of asserting our sovereignty,” the source said.

China has been flexing its muscles in the West Philippine Sea to assert its territorial claims, which the Philippines has described as “excessive” and “exaggerated.”

It started occupying the Panatag Shoal on April 10, 2012, when Chinese surveillance vessels from Beijing barred the Philippine Navy from arresting Chinese fishermen who had poached endangered marine species.

China has reportedly imposed an “exclusion zone” in Panatag Shoal, effectively barring Filipino fishermen from venturing into the area.

Meanwhile, the government filed a diplomatic protest on May 10 against China’s incursion in the Ayungin Shoal, which forms part of the Philippines’ 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone.

The government said the presence of Chinese vessels in the area violates international law.

China  claims practically the entire West Philippine Sea while the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei and Taiwan have overlapping claims in the area.

Military lauds SONA as PNoy cites need for AFP modernization

From the Philippine Star (Jul 22): Military lauds SONA as PNoy cites need for AFP modernization

The military thanked President Aquino for citing the sacrifices of soldiers in his fourth state of the nation address (SONA).

“He (Aquino) recognizes the deployment of troops to far-flung areas. The commander-in-chief really sympathizes with the soldiers,” Armed Forces public affairs chief Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala said.

The military also lauded Aquino’s housing projects as well as his efforts to push for reforms in its retirement system.

“We appreciate that the president provided housing for soldiers and the police and his concern for retirees,” Zagala said.

“We appreciate all the directions he is giving us and as soldiers, we believe our commander-in-chief will lead us to the right path,” he added.

While Aquino appeared to be cool to the plan to purchase fighter jets, Zagala believes the president remains supportive of their modernization efforts.

“What we heard is the president is after a credible defense,” he said.

Siaton enforces defense system vs. leftist groups

From the Visayan Daily Star (Jul 22): Siaton enforces defense system vs. leftist groups
Barangay Mantiquil in Siaton town, Negros Oriental, is implementing a defense system against leftist organizations and dubious personalities.

The barangay officials, headed by Jasmine Dapias, said the system is pursuant to Ordinance No. 01, series of 2008, or the ordinance that refuses to accept or entertain outsiders without first presenting a barangay clearance or valid identification, and their purpose.

The ordinance was read by Kagawad Rolando Millares at the oath of allegiance rites of 18 rebel returnees in Sitio Quadra, Mantiquil, Siaton yesterday.

Millares said the barangay is frequently visited by organizations and unknown personalities who organized the residents without presenting documents such as barangay clearance, valid identification, mayor’s permit or even a notice to proceed, only to find out that these groups and persons are fronts of the New People’s Army.

Meanwhile, the 30 former NPA rebels who surrendered to the 79th Infantry Battalion in Siaton, took their oath of allegiance to support the government in a ceremony witnessed by provincial government officials, headed by Gov. Roel Degamo recently.

The former rebels are composed of 28 Party Branch and Yunit Militia members, and two regular red fighters of the NPA under the Komiteng Rehiyonal Sentral Bisayas in the southeastern part of Negros Occidental, Col. Christopher Estella, 302nd Infantry Brigade commander, said.

Estella said the rebel returnees denounced the NPA for its lies and deceptions, and took their oath of allegiance before Degamo and Siaton Mayor Alberto Ator.

He said the delivery of basic government services is the key to achieving peace and development in the countryside. Degamo said he and Ator will bring in more developmental programs to the town, especially in Brgy. Mantiquil.

Cidni Mapa, provincial coordinator of the Gawad Kalinga Community Development Foundation, also witnessed the activity and said he is optimistic that a housing project in Sitio Quadra, Siaton, will soon be realized.

The pledge of allegiance was highlighted by the burning of a CPP-NPA flag by the rebel returnees, followed by a joint outreach program that benefitted 672 residents of Sitio Quadra and neighboring areas.

The mission provided free medical, dental, blood typing/profiling and animal vaccination services, and was sponsored by Siaton and the 79th IB, with support from the RN Heals, Philippine Dental Association, Negros Oriental Chapter, Negros Oriental Provincial Hospital, Department of Agriculture and the 302nd Brigade Medical and Dental Team.

US military contingent in PH for defense talks

Posted to ABS-CBN (Jul 23): US military contingent in PH for defense talks

A United States military contingent, including a senior marine official highly critical of China's military buildup in the South China Sea, is in the country for the Mutual Defense Board-Security Engagement Board (MDB-SEB) talks.

Brig. Gen Richard Simcock III, deputy commander of US Marines Corps Forces Pacific, arrived in the country at about 9 p.m. Sunday aboard United Airlines flight UA183 from Guam.

A US embassy staff car fetched Simcock and his contingent at the airport.
His team will meet with Armed Forces of the Philippines senior officials for MDB-SEB talks set today at Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

Aside from the humanitarian aspect, also to be discussed in the MDB-SEB meet – usually held in the country and Hawaii under the auspices of the Mutual Defense Treaty – are the joint Balikatan exercises and other military drills between Filipino and US servicemen.

Simcock has criticized Beijing, saying it is generating fears among its neighbors.
He made the remark at a time when China is engaged in territorial disputes over islets in the East China Sea and the South China Sea with Japan and the Philippines.

MILF: PCID lauds GPH, MILF on wealth-sharing agreement

Posted to the MILF Website (Jul 22): PCID lauds GPH, MILF on wealth-sharing agreement

The Philippine Center for Islam and Democracy (PCID) lauds the negotiating panels of the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) for the signing of the Annex on Revenue Generation and Wealth Sharing.
In a statement recently issued, the group said, “We laud the panels’ steadfast resolve to achieve a compromise regarding such an important issue.”

PCID, a non-government, non-profit organization of peace advocates welcomes the signing of the annex which they described as “a step forward towards achieving lasting peace in Mindanao.”

“We hope that this annex will strengthen the foundation for genuine fiscal autonomy for the Bangsamoro,” the statement continues.

The group believes that the signing of the annex will boost the people’s optimism that a final peace agreement is within reach, this year.

PCID also believes that the talks on the remaining annexes, power-sharing and normalization, shall face challenges.

“The signing of the Annex on Revenue Generation and Wealth Sharing is a good sign that both panels are committed towards achieving a just and fair agreement,” PCID believes.

PCID, however, sees that the annex is just an initial step towards fiscal autonomy and economic development in the Bangsamoro.

It considers fiscal autonomy as an integral part of genuine autonomy but it also recognizes that achieving this would require fiscal responsibility from the people and their officials.

PCID recommends that in order to fully actualize the visions in this annex, the Bangsamoro and National Governments must capacitate local officials to adequately implement the taxation provisions in what would be the Bangsamoro Basic Law.

The group also hopes that the Transition Commission will develop the appropriate implementing and monitoring mechanisms as part of the Basic Law.

“There is also a need to educate the people on how these taxes will facilitate development in their region, and to train them to expect transparency and accountability from their government,” the statement continues.

“Lastly, we assert the primacy of the peace process and ask both Panels to continue fast-tracking the remaining Annexes of the negotiations.”

Assuring their willingness to help, the PCID also asks the Transition Commission to conduct parallel efforts in preparing for the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law.

PCID is one of the civil society groups which has deep concern on the welfare of the Bangsamoro people all over the Philippines.

It has been instrumental in convening the National Ulama Conference of the Philippines, nationwide organization of male Muslim religious scholars and its female counterpart, the Noorus Salam (Light of Peace).

PCID gained international recognitions for its earnest devotion on peace advocacy initiatives particularly promoting the culture of understanding and respect among the different faiths in the country.

The group is led by a staunch advocate of peace and women’s rights, Amina Rasul-Bernardo. She is currently member of the Board of Directors of Mindanao Development Authority.

MILF: PNHS holds Ramadhan orientation program

Posted to the MILF Website (Jul 22): PNHS holds Ramadhan orientation program

About 900 Moro students of Pikit National High School (PNHS) attended the Ramadhan orientation program held at the PNHS covered court in July 10.
The program aimed at educating the Moro youth about the essence of Ramadhan and of being a Muslim as stressed by the school principal, Dr. Manalo M. Samiana.

Imam Ambeg S. Sarif, chairman of the Masguidil Yaquin, and Ustadz Abdulgani Tumalao, chairman of the Mobile Da'wah of Liguwasan Province served as speakers. Open forum was done each time speakers finished their lectures. Qur'an reading also highlighted the program as few PNHS students volunteered to showcase their skill.

The Association of Pikit Public Secondary School Muslim Teachers (APPSMUST), the newly-founded Muslim teachers organization in the municipality, arranged the said orientation program for the Moro populace to participate in Da'wah.

It was the very first time the school organized an orientation program about Ramadhan and  APPSMUST would try its best to hold more religious-related activities as said Mr. Junodin R. Solayman, APPSMUST President.

76% satisfied with PNoy - SWS survey

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jul 22): 76% satisfied with PNoy - SWS survey

President Benigno S. Aquino III’s public satisfaction rating for the second quarter of the 2013 SWS survey rose to 76% , higher than the first quarter ‘s result survey of 74%, the Social Weather Stations (SWS) said in a news report.

Business word online citing the SWS survey said that the “SWS’ June 28-30 poll had 76% of respondents claiming they were satisfied with Mr. Aquino’s performance, versus the 12% who said otherwise, for a “very good” net satisfaction score of +64. This was up five points up from March’s similarly “very good” +59 and just three points below the record-high “very good” +67 hit in August last year.”

It further said that satisfaction with Aquino rose markedly in the Visayas, to an “excellent” +74 last month from a “good” +46 in March.

It stayed at a “very good” +67 in Balance Luzon, fell by nine points to a still “very good” +58 in Mindanao and gained six to remain at a “good” +46 in Metro Manila.

Rural satisfaction hit an “excellent” +70, a record high, from March’s “very good” +67, while urban satisfaction rose by four points to a still “very good” +57.

The survey also showed that 40% of Filipinos said President Aquino will be successful compared to 47% who said it is too early to tell.
Thirteen percent of Filipinos said Aquino will be unsuccessful as President.

Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda, in a statement said the Palace was "encouraged" by the results of the survey.

“The President’s consistently strong ratings, especially in the wake of a midterm election widely regarded as a referendum on the success of his administration, affirm our administration’s mandate of good governance,” Lacierd said.

He added that since the first SWS survey on public satisfaction with Aquino in September 2010, Aquino's ratings have not dipped below 63 percent.

These sustained, positive numbers are reflective of the Filipino people’s enduring trust in and support of the President’s policies, initiatives, and reforms, he said.

SWS considers net satisfaction scores of +70 and above as “excellent”; +50 to +69, “very good”; +30 to +49, “good”; +10 to +29, “moderate”, +9 to -9, “neutral”; -10 to -29, “poor”; -30 to -49, “bad”; -50 to -69, “very bad”; and -70 and below, “execrable.”

The second-quarter SWS survey used face-to-face interviews of 1,200 adult Filipinos nationwide. Sampling error margins of ±3% for national and ±6% for area percentages applied to the survey.

The survey came out as the President is set to deliver his fourth State of the Nation Address at the House of Representatives today.

MILF Task Force Sajahatra hopeful on the success of FAB to end conflict in Mindanao

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jul 22): MILF Task Force Sajahatra hopeful on the success of FAB to end conflict in Mindanao

The management of the Task Force Sajahatra Bangsamoro of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is looking forward to the realization of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) for the achievement of lasting peace in Mindanao.

Sheikh Mahmud Ahmad, member of the said task force and the executive director of the Bangsamoro Leadership and Management Institute (BMLI) said that with the implementation of the FAB, the situation in Mindanao could be be back to normal, "No gun fires and people, both Christians and Muslims will live an orderly life."

"The needs of the Bangsamoro people will be met," he added.

Ahmad is also optimistic that details on the next annexes will be agreed and signed by peace panels of the MILF and the national government.

Both panel signed the wealth-sharing annex of the FAB July 13 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Ahmad said that whenever the FAB will be established, President Benigno Aquino III could be the first Philippine president to be considered as international peacemaker.

He also called for the cooperation of every individual in the peace panels to work hard for the ongoing peace talks as he believes that the president himself is eager to implement the agreement.

He also asked ‘peace spoilers’ to stop disseminating information on the downfall of the peace process.

Meanwhile, the BMLI executive director emphasized that the Task Force Sajahatra Bangsamoro together with the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) are conducting validation on areas covered by the FAB for the implementation of the Sajahatra Bangsamoro Program to determine the needs of the beneficiaries.

The program which was launched February this year focuses on extending livelihood, education and health assistance to the Bangsamoro people.

PA’s 1st cavalry squadron supports national greening program

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jul 23): PA’s 1st cavalry squadron supports national greening program

Members of Philippine Army (PA) were united in supporting the national greening program (NGP) of the government by conducting a tree planting activity dubbed “Tree Growing” recently.

First Cavalry Squadron, formerly the First Light Armor Battalion (ILAB) of the 1st Infantry (Tabak) Division was established on August 16, 1963 providing armor support to infantry battalions engaged in combat operations. Its area of responsibility covers Zamboanga City, Zamboanga Sibugay, Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga del Norte, Misamis Occidental, Basilan and Sulu.  

Lt. Col. Antonio John Divinagracia, First Cavalry Squadron commander, said some 200 mahogany seedlings were planted in Barangay San Isidro, Labangan, Zamboanga del Sur in support of Executive Order No. 26 issued by President Benigno Simeon Aquino III on Feruary 24, 2011 declaring an interdepartmental convergence initiative for a national greening program.

“The ‘tree growing,’ is the 1st Cavalry Squadron’s initiative where 36 officers and enlisted men of the regiment have planted 200 mahogany seedlings in the river banks of barangay San Isidro, Labangan and another 200 mahogany seedlings in San Isidro Elementary School. This is our own little way of support to the greening program of the national government,” Divinagracia said.

“We want to convey our message to the public that aside from protecting and conserving our environment, we are also promoting Internal Peace and Security Plan or the “Bayanihan” campaign of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) where we talk and coordinate with the stakeholders,” he pointed out.

The First Cavalry Squadron chose Barangay San Isidro as the pilot area for its “tree growing” activity as some parts of the place are almost denuded. “We need to prevent soil erosion and landslides to happen in our AOR,” Divinagracia explained.

“We called the activity as “tree growing” because we do not only plant but also take care and nurture the plants by regularly visiting planted seedlings,” stressed the company commander.

Since the “tree growing” is the company’s continuing program, Divinagracia said “we will be planting additional 1,000 mahogany seedlings on August 16, 2013 in Navalan, Tukuran and Manlayag, Aurora, Zamboanga del Sur during the 50th founding anniversary of the company.

AFP reservists to help LGUs in disaster response

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jul 22): AFP reservists to help LGUs in disaster response

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) reserved Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (DRRM) companies has joined forces with local DRRM units in the National Capital Region (NCR) to further strengthen disaster response operations in Metro Manila. 

In a ceremony last Saturday, July 20 in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City, Defense Secretary Voltaire T. Gazmin said "the paradigm shift of being proactive from a reactive stance on DRRM gives more assurance that, together, we are better prepared to achieve our vision of having a safer, adaptive, and disaster-resilient community towards sustainable development."

The integrated AFP Reservist DRRM units shall act as reliable first responder groups that will assist DRRM components of the Local Government Units (LGUs) during disaster and calamities. They will also serve as prepositioned units which will spearhead Disaster Preparedness and Mitigation, and work closely with the LGUs and local populace.
The activity is one of the AFP, Office of the Civil Defense (OCD) and the DND’s proactive measures in preparation for the coming typhoon season. It is also part of the DRRM Units Integration Program which aims to organize and activate 137 DRRM Companies in three years (2013-2015) to assist in building disaster resilient communities and ensure unhampered development.

The integration program further seeks to institutionalize partnership between the AFP and OCD in provision of manpower training, and equipment as well as sharing in funding support of proposed DRRM companies in 15 regions nationwide.

It also aims to strengthen and sustain the reserve force capability through unit and individual training in collaboration with concerned stakeholders.

At present, 19 DRRM units have already been designated and activated nationwide; one each in Metro Cebu and Metro Davao and one in each cities, and lone municipality of NCR with an additional Maneuver DRRM company in NCR.

Meanwhile, the AFP enjoins the public to support the program and encouraged them to do ‘Bayanihan’ to build disaster-resilient communities.

P-Noy lauds devotion, courage of Filipino soldiers

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 22): P-Noy lauds devotion, courage of Filipino soldiers

For serving with courage and devotion in the remotest section of the country, President Benigno S. Aquino III Monday expressed his appreciation to the country's soldiers serving in the three major service commands.

Aquino praised the latter for their intense devotion in safeguarding the country.

He added the Philippines has never lacked brave and steadfast men as well as women in government ranks.

Aquino likened these men to Commodore Ramon Alcaraz, who successfully did his duty aboard the Q-112 (also known as the Abra), during the early days of World War II by shooting down three out of the nine Zero fighter planes who tried to sink his boat during an engagement off Manila Bay.

He also stressed that Alcaraz wanted to go fighting against the numerically and technologically superior Japanese force but was forced by his superiors as further resistance at that time was pointless, the invaders having conquered almost of the Philippines.

Alcaraz is the namesake of the BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PF-16), the country's second Hamilton-class cutter, in service.

P-Noy says livelihood projects being implemented for troops

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 22): P-Noy says livelihood projects being implemented for troops

In line with his efforts to provide adequate livelihood opportunities for soldiers and their families, President Benigno S. Aquino III on his fourth State-of-the-Nation-Address said that livelihood projects are now being implemented for Filipino troops.

"Several thousand hectares of land in three of our military camps—namely, Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija, Camp Kibaritan in Bukidnon, and Camp Peralta in Capiz—will be the venues for these livelihood projects, which will give our soldiers additional income through plantations of bamboo, coffee, cacao, and palm oil," he added.

Aquino added that if before, soldiers were concerned solely with defending us, now, even military retirees can participate in growing of the country's economy.

"More than a year ago, we had already built 21,800 housing units for our police force and soldiers. For Phase II of this project, we have already built an additional 26,050 homes out of our target of 31,200, and the rest will be completed by next month," he concluded.

BRP Ramon Alcaraz to arrive in Guam this week

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 22): BRP Ramon Alcaraz to arrive in Guam this week

The Philippine Navy (PN) on Monday announced that the BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PF-16), the second Hamilton-class cutter in its service, will arrive in Guam by this week.

Lt. Cmdr. Gregory Fabic, PN spokesperson, declined to give more details citing reasons of operational security.

He added that all seaboard systems are working fine.

"BRP Ramon Alcaraz is expected to arrive off Guam by the latter part of this week," he said.

The distance between Hawaii and Guam is around 3,828 miles or around 6,160 kilometers.

The Philippines frigate arrived in Hawaii last July 13 and was warmly welcomed by the Filipino community there.

During its stay in Hawaii, the crew headed by Capt. Ernesto Baldovino toured the USS Arizona Memorial.

Also, five enlisted personnel of the BRP Ramon Alcaraz took their oaths of re-enlistment.

These included EN2 Regidor Labrador, EN3 Tomas Ciruelos Jr., EN3 Ernesto Cabahug, S2YN Erica Celemin and EN3 Marlon Martonito.

The Filipino frigate left Hawaii for Guam last July 17.

60 Muslim families displaced by MILF, MNLF skirmishes in North Cotabato

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 22): 60 Muslim families displaced by MILF, MNLF skirmishes in North Cotabato

About 60 Moro families have been displaced by the armed conflict between Moro rival groups in remote villages here.

Senior Inspector Elias Dandan, Matalam police chief, said the displaced families are now temporarily housed at nearby Amas Elementary School in Barangay Amas, Kidapawan City.

Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) guerillas clashed anew Sunday, beginning at 5 a.m. and followed by another skirmishes at about 4 p.m.

“Land dispute triggered the conflict,” Army Capt. Anthony Bulao, speaking for the 602nd Infantry Brigade said Monday.

He said the armed conflict Sunday, which was part of the conflict involving the same groups in May in nearby Barangay Marbel, Matalam, was initiated by the MILF when they attack MNLF communities in Barangay West Patadon as the latter were to harvest corn and other crops.

“We voluntarily left our homes when we saw both sides started firing at each other,” Sammy Sultan, a farmer, said.

“Our worries are our properties and farm products that we should left behind for fear we might hit by stray bullets,”

Sultan said that it was the third time since May that they evacuated “because of the same conflict.”

Bulao said about 100 MILF forces attacked the position of MNLF in Barangay West Patadon, Kidapawan City at 5 a.m. Sunday.

No casualty was reported and the MILF guerillas pulled back after local officials appealed for peaceful settlement of the conflict.

But at 4 p.m. on the same day, the MILF returned and attacked MNLF forces anew, this time in adjacent Barangay Manubuan in Matalam, North Cotabato.

The conflict left MNLF member Mohammad Bayang wounded. The Army also shut down portions of the Davao-Cotabato highway as the fighting was so close to the national highway road.

Colonel Dickson Hermoso, speaking for the 6th Infantry Division, said the highway was closed for abut 45 minutes to avoid commuters getting caught in the crossfire.

“Fighting has died down, the national highway is safe for commuters,” Capt. Bulao said Monday morning.

However, the displaced families refused to return home until normalcy is fully restored in their communities.

Village chief slain by suspected NPA rebels in Agusan del Sur

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 22): Village chief slain by suspected NPA rebels in Agusan del Sur

About 20 armed men equipped with high powered firearms shot dead a village chief in another remote village of Loreto town in Agusan del Sur last Saturday.

Reports from Agusan del Sur reaching police regional headquarters here signed by Senior Supt. Alexander J. Sampaga, Provincial Director of Agusan del Sur Police Regional Office 13, identified the victim as Brgy. Capt. Ramon Diagonon of Barangay Kauswagan of the said town.

The report mentioned that the assailants were believed to be members of the communist New People's Army belonging to the Guerilla Front-34 under the command of a certain alias "Bodoy".

The victim was in front of his residence when the suspects arrived and shot him several times. Diagonon was hit on the different parts of his body and died on the spot. The assailants fled to the nearby forested area after the shooting.

Loreto Mayor Dario Otaza in a local radio interview Monday morning confirmed the killing of Diagonon saying the latter was not only one who received threat from the communist guerillas but all his 21 barangay chiefs. He already had a meeting with them in order to discuss safety and security measures to counter the threat.

"In the light of these recent developments, we know now that they are not ready to do their part of the bargain. So what we have come up in the discussions during the meeting is to request the police and military to have a detachment of either police, military or para-military in every village of our town" Otaza said.

LGU identifies resettlement site up for residents in flood-prone villages, rebel returnees in Eastern Samar town

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 22): LGU identifies resettlement site up for residents in flood-prone villages, rebel returnees in Eastern Samar town

The municipality of Dolores in Eastern Samar has identified a relocation site for residents living in flood-prone barangays and for rebel returnees.

Majority of Dolores’ 46 villages are situated in the upland area that are prone to flooding.

Mayor Emiliana Villacarillo said that the local government unit (LGU) has bought 10 hectares in Brgy. Caglao-an for the construction of houses by the National Housing Authority (NHA).

More than 400 houses are to be constructed in the area to be used as relocation site for residents living along river banks and as resettlement site for former rebels.

“We received feelers from rebels that they want to surrender, but their problem is how will they start; they don’t have properties or house to live if they surrender. I decided to make this project for them to entice them and help them start their new life,” Villacarillo said.

According to the mayor, the relocation and resettlement site will have it own Day Care Center, school buildings for elementary and high school and a birthing center.

The site, she said is about one and a half hour pump boat ride to the town proper. A farm-to-market road project is currently being constructed in the area.

NPA rebels threaten cop’s wife, kids in E. Samar

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 22): NPA rebels threaten cop’s wife, kids in E. Samar

ARTECHE, Eastern Samar -- At least 20 communist insurgents barged into the house of a police officer and threatened his family, just minutes after the same group shot and wounded a civilian in Barangay Tangbo, an outskirts village some five kilometers from the town proper here.

Reports reaching the Police Regional Office 8 (PRO8) based in Camp Kangleon, Palo, Leyte disclosed that at about 8:30 a.m. Sunday, a group of suspected New People’s Army (NPA) terrorists barged into the house of PO1 Alvin Evardone looking for the policeman.

The rebels failed to locate Evardone as he was on duty at the Arteche police station at that time. The suspects instead threatened the cop’s wife and three children, ages 12, 8 and 5, and ransacked the cop’s house.

The group carted away the policeman’s personal .45-caliber Armscor pistol and wallet containing undetermined amount of cash, ATM and PNP identification cards before fleeing to the village’s hilly portion.

Earlier, the bandits arrived at the village and shot one Erick Oseias, married, jobless, who was standing at their front yard, some 20 meters from Evardone’s house.

Oseias was hit on his hips but managed to run and escape. He is now recuperating at the Arteche District Hospital.

Government troops from the Army’s 52nd Infantry Battalion, PNP’s Regional Public Safety Battalion and Arteche police station are conducting follow-up investigation and pursuit operations against the insurgents.

Although the Army’s 8th Infantry Division and local government officials declared Eastern Samar as development-ready province, communist-rebels continue to make their presence felt in the area.

Two days before the May midterm polls, POI Agerico Afable was killed by suspected NPA guerillas while securing the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOs) machines in Calingatngan Elementary School, situated some 15 kilometers from Borongan City proper. The attack also wounded a village watchman.

Soldier hurt in NPA attack in Butuan City

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 22): Soldier hurt in NPA attack in Butuan City

A soldier was hurt in a night attack staged by an armed group believed to be members of the communist guerrillas against a patrol base located at a remote barangay of Butuan City over the weekend.

Reports from Butuan City Police Office said that the Civilian Active Auxiliary-Armed Forces of the Philippines Patrol base located in Sitio Mahayahay, Brgy. Anticala, Butuan City, led by Pfc. Reynaldo R. Tuba, was attacked by an undetermined number of armed men believed belonging to Front Committee 21 led by a certain "Ka Marsing" 10:38 p.m. on Saturday.

After a minute of firefight, the attackers fled to some unknown direction. Pfc Tuba, of the Charlie Company 29 IB PA, the detachment cadre was hit on both thighs and was brought to the nearest hospital for medical treatment. He is declared out of danger.

Another patrol base was also attacked Friday by armed men believed to be NPA guerrillas in Sibagat town, Agusan del Sur. The patrol base under the 23rd IB, Delta Company, PA of Brgy. Banagbanag, Sibagat, Agusan del Sur was also attacked by about 60 armed men believed to be NPA guerillas early morning on Friday. The attackers were reportedly under the Dahunog Group led by a certain a.k.a. "Do Striker" of the Norteastern Mindanao Regional Committee (NEMRC) and Guerilla Front 21B led by Arcencio Mandag a.k.a. Marsing/Datu Tumutuwas (true name is ).

A militia man identified as CAA Elan Vinculado was reportedly killed in action and CAA Edwin Cempron sustained gunshot wound on his left wrist and was evacuated to Cesh Annex at Brgy. Bancasi, Butuan City. The ensuing firefight lasted for about seven hours after which the attackers withdrew toward the northwest direction.

Reinforcing troopers from the two sections of the 12th Scout Ranger Company (SRC) led by Capt. Estabaya (Inf) PA; the commanding officer came at about mid-noon, on board a Huey helicopter. They were backed up by two MG-250 attack helicopters coming from the Tactical Operation Group (TOG) 10, which provided the close air support for the engaged troopers. The said troopers were responsible for the clearing operations and the scouring of the area as well as the pursuit operations.

Recovered from the encounter site were: three hand grenades, a magazine of AK 47 loaded with 30 round of ammunition; eight landmines; 15 meters firing wire; thirty Molotov bombs; five liters of gasoline; a bolt tester; 900 spent shells of 5.56 mm; 500 spent shells of 7.62 mm; 600 spent shells of M1 Garand Caliber 30; 225 spent shells of M1 Carbine Caliber 30; 3 M14 magazines; 11 clips Garrand and five Carbine magazines.

NDF exec in PH to get Aquino's 'real sentiments' on peace talks

From Rappler (Jul 22): NDF exec in PH to get Aquino's 'real sentiments' on peace talks

WHAT'S THE SCORE? National Democratic Front panel member and spokesperson Fidel Agcaoili is in Manila to get a real sense of where the President stands on the peace process with them. Photo by Carmela Fonbuena

WHAT'S THE SCORE? National Democratic Front panel member and spokesperson Fidel Agcaoili is in Manila to get a real sense of where the President stands on the peace process with them. Photo by Carmela Fonbuena

Based in The Netherlands, National Democratic Front (NDF) panel member and spokesperson Fidel Agcaoili is in Manila for a mission. He has to get the President's "real sentiments" on the stalled peace talks.

He's counting on his fraternity brothers in Sigma Rho — perhaps incoming Senate President Franklin Drilon — to relay the message.

"I am here to try to get a sense of the real sentiment of President Benigno Aquino III. We have been hearing a lot from the OPAPP (Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process), from [resigned government panel chief] Alex Padilla, and from presidential spokespersons, but nothing from the President," Agcaoili told Rappler on the sidelines of a human rights conference over the weekend.

The message, he said, is something that "should be relayed personally by others. It cannot be said publicly."
"I have been trying to meet with people who are close to the President. In my college years, I joined the Sigma Rho fraternity. There are many people in government who are Sigma Rhoans. Senate President Franklin Drilon is a Sigma Rhoan. Perhaps he might be able to bring our message. The President could say something with respect to his real sentiment," Agcaoili said.
The peace talks that seeks to end Asia's longest-running communist insurgency collapsed in February when the two panels couldn't agree on the "special track," which was meant to speed up the process that has been on and off since the presidency of Corazon Aquino.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) still considers the New People Army, the armed wing of the CPP/NDF, the country's biggest internal security threat even if it says the armed group has dwindled to "more than 4,000."
Two versions
The government's peace negotiators and the NDF say they want to go back to the negotiating table. But there's mistrust on both sides and they have been locked in a word war.
"We'll go back to the table when we know it will get us some place. If we are able to have some signs that we can go back to the table where there is clear agenda, a timeframe, and that going to the table will mean better conditions on the ground –meaning to say reduction of violence," Deles said in a recent media briefing.
The government negotiators said the NDF abandoned the special track. Agcaoili said it was the government that walked out of the talks in February. They have two different versions of the special track, although both claim the initial agreements were clear.
In a #TalkThursday interview, Padilla explained the special track would have immediately put in place a ceasefire and a special panel would have been created to tackle issues that bring about rebellion.
But Padilla said the NDF returned to the "regular track" when it demanded, among others, the termination of the government's flagship program against poverty, the Conditional Cash Transfer program; the end of the military's Oplan Bayanihan counter-insurgency campaign plan; the distribution of land to 5 million landless farmers; and the release of detained NDF consultants.
Agcaoili explained: "The special track and the regular track are complementary. The special track is a way of facilitating the regular track."
He said what they offered under the special track is a truce, not a ceasefire. "They [government negotiators] don't want truce. They do not want the NDF and the government to be allies. They want the NDF to surrender," he said.
President is misled?
Agcaoili fears that the President may have been misled, and that is why he is in the Philippines.
"I'm here to be able to talk to people who are close to the President, to present our side — not according to the interpretation of OPAPP or the military," Agcaoili said.
While the government questioned the sincerity of the NDF, Agcaoili also earlier tagged Deles as the one sabotaging the talks.
Agcaoili also noted that Deles — unlike her predecessors — has not opened communications lines with the NDF. "Deles has never even called the NDF once or written formally once," he said.
"Perhaps they think they have the moral high ground. Well, they should perhaps look at their background," he said.
Deles, on the other hand, said the level of violence from the NPA cannot be tolerated.

The NPA is behind a series of spectacular attacks this year, the latest of which killed cops jogging in Baguio City.
"A peace process where you have talks and procedural agreements but the violence is high – people don't support this. There is a disconnect," Deles said. She compared it to the peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which has not clashed with goverment forces since the signing of a framework deal last year.

Pass Bangsamoro law by 2014 - Aquino

From Rappler (Jul 22): Pass Bangsamoro law by 2014 - Aquino

The government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) have yet to sign a final peace agreement, but this early President Benigno Aquino III is asking Congress to pass the law that will be crafted to implement it.

"I hope you can pass the law before 2014 ends," Aquino told Congress in his 4th State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday, July 22. This way, he said, the Bangsamoro region can be set up in time for the 2016 elections.
The panels finished the wealth-sharing annex on July 14. They expect to finish the remaining two more annexes within the year.
Aquino vowed that "whatever we agree upon, the national government can and will implement."
The President celebrated the progress of the peace talks. It was successful, he said, because both camps were willing to meet halfway.
"We need mutual trust in a peace process. We recognize that both camps want to make the peace talks successful," he said.
He gave his word to the MILF. "Pinalaki po ako ng aking ama na may isang salita," he said.
To those criticizing the peace process, the President said: "Sa mga pumipigil at naghahasik ng pagdududa, 'Masasabi mo bang Pilipino ka na may malasakit sa kapwa Pilipino.'"
The previous administration of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo attempted a deal with the MILF —the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain — but it was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

MILF rebels tighten security after clash with rival group in North Cotabato

From the Mindanao Examiner (Jul 22): MILF rebels tighten security after clash with rival group in North Cotabato

The Philippines’ largest Muslim rebel group, Moro Islamic Liberation Front, has tightened its security following clashes with rival group Moro National Liberation Front in the southern region of Mindanao.

The weekend fighting left two MNLF gunmen dead and one MILF rebel wounded, said Von Al-Haq, a spokesman for the MILF.

He said the fighting was triggered by a long-running land dispute between an MILF leader and an MNLF commander in North Cotabato’s Matalam town. “The MNLF entered our territory and this started the fighting,” he told the regional newpaper Mindanao Examiner.

Al-Haq said the MNLF gunmen led by Malano Saban under Dima Ambil, encroached inside an area being held by the MILF, triggering a firefight.

The fighting between the two rival groups had forced government forces to close a highway in North Cotabato to protect travellers from the violence.

Al-Haq said the fighting has subsided, but tension is still high in the area. “We are in heightened alert just to be sure and also as a protection to MILF forces in the area,” he said.

“All the unlawful act made and done by the MNLF they accused and thrown to the MILF, and if Datu Dima Ambil is fair enough, their conflict can be resolved peacefully since he is the only and old traditional leader in the area,” he said.

Ambil’s group is locked in a bitter feud with the MILF and fighting between the two sides had been going on and off for years now. And every time clashes occur, civilians flee their homes for fear they would be caught in the cross-fire.

The moderate MILF under Salamat Hashim broke away with the main MNLF group of Nur Misuari in 1978 over differences in policies. Misuari forged a peace deal with Manila in 1996 and now the MILF is currently negotiating with the government in an effort to end the bloody fighting in the South.

Members of the Philippines’ largest Muslim rebel group, Moro Islamic Liberation Front. (Mindanao Examiner Photo / Mark Navales)