Friday, August 2, 2013

Conflict, infra lack pull down quality of life in Mindanao, UN report says

From InterAksyon (Jul 29): Conflict, infra lack pull down quality of life in Mindanao, UN report says

The quality of life in nine Mindanao provinces, including those pestered with armed rebellion, was the worst in the Philippines, indicating that conflict and poverty were intertwined in Asia's fastest growing economy.

According to the latest Philippine Human Development Report, Sulu scored the lowest, with a human development index (HDI) of 0.216, followed by Maguindanao, 0.300; Tawi-Tawi, 0.310; Zamboanga, 0.353; Agusan del Sur, 0.354; Davao Oriental, 0.356; Sarangani, 0.371; Zamboanga del Norte, 0.384; and Lanao del Sur, 0.416.

Most of the 10 lowest-ranked provinces are conflict-ridden.

The report said Sulu's HDI was almost as bad as those of the African countries of Niger (0.261), Democratic Republic of Congo (0.239), and Zimbabwe (0.140) -- all cellar-dwellers in terms of human development.

The HDI is a measure of human development, averaging three basic dimensions: a long and healthy life, knowledge and a decent standard of living.  Ideally, the HDI should be close to one.

Luzon dominated the top performing provinces as follows: Benguet, 0.849; Batanes, 0.789; Rizal, 0.734; Cavite, 0.709; Bulacan, 0.699; Bataan, 0.698; Laguna, 0.695; Nueva Viscaya, 0.678; Ilocos Norte, 0.641; and Pampanga, 0.634.
The HDI index in Metro Manila was 0.634.

Toby Monsod, an economics professor at the University of the Philippines and principal author of the 2012/2013 Philippine Human Development Report, said the HDI performance of the provinces was "uneven."

"I think we can explain the performance of certain areas by things like conflict in Mindanao. Apart from the conflict in Mindanao, the issue has always been connective infrastructure. Facilitating the movement of goods and the people has always been an issue," Monsod said.

She said shipping goods to Mindanao is more expensive than to Hong Kong.
The report pointed out that the combined failure of national vision and denial of local responsibility, amidst the country's geographical challenges, leads to dissipation of resources that is the "divide-by-N" syndrome.

It added that the pork barrel system has institutionalized the "divide-by-N syndrome" and has brought about overlapping investments, many small projects with little or no development significance dotting towns and cities, such as waiting sheds, entrance arches and multipurpose pavements.

The results, according to the report, are duplicative infrastructure and programs in disregard of scale, synergy and the conscious integration of larger markets.
Monsod recommended that the pork barrel finance what the provinces considered priority rather than what would benefit politicians.

She said linkages between leading and lagging areas are more important than trying to put a factory in every province that does not work.

Reacting to the report, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio Baliscan said updating the Philippine Development Plan 2011-2016 would help the government to better align local and national development plans.

"This is critical if short-and medium-term gains are to take root and carry the country forward into the longer term," he said.

Baliscan said the remaining three years of the Aquino administration will focus on creating more quality jobs and reduce poverty close to the target of the Millennium Development Goals.

Toshihiro Tanaka, country director of United Nations Development Programme said the report could "unveil solutions to the issue of rising inequality and disparity of urban and rural areas."

Overall, the HDI of the Philippines is 0.654. Average life expectancy is 69 years, mean years of schooling, 8.9 years; expected years of schooling, 11.7 years; and gross national income per capita, $3,752.

The country ranked 114th out of 187 countries in the UN report. The Philippines' gross domestic product however grew 7.8 percent in the first quarter, making it Asia's fastest.

Army troops seized ‘hot’ lumber in Southern Philippines

From the Mindanao Examiner blog (Aug 2): Army troops seized ‘hot’ lumber in Southern Philippines

Army soldiers inspect seized flitches in Bagumbayan town in Sultan Kudarat province in southern Philippines. (Mindanao Examiner Photo - Mark Navales)

Government troops have seized a huge number of illegal flitches in the southern Philippine province of Sultan Kudarat, an army commander said Friday.

Col. Edmundo Pangilinan, commander of the 601st Infantry Brigade, said troops and government foresters confiscated over 300,000 board feet of flitches in the hinterlands of Bagumbayan town.

Pangilinan said the operation was part of the government’s anti-illegal campaign ordered by President Benigno Aquino.

“We are doing everything to put a stop to these nefarious activities. The huge number of flitches we confiscated shows the rampant illegal logging operation in the hinterlands,” he told the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner.

He said civilians are also helping the authorities in the campaign by providing information about illegal logging operations in the province.Villagers have praised the military for the confiscation of the lumber.

Aquino ordered an intensified campaign against illegal logging following a deadly typhoon – Bopha - that hit Mindanao last year and left thousands of people dead and injured.

The government blamed flash floods and mud slides to denuded forests due to illegal logging activities.

Philippine Army holds bomb awareness seminar in Iligan City

From the Mindanao Examiner blog (Aug 2): Philippine Army holds bomb awareness seminar in Iligan City

The Philippine Army’s 4th Mechanized Infantry Battalion on Friday conducted a bomb awareness seminar in Iligan City.

Lt. Col. Danilo Ibon, the battalion commander, said the seminar was held at the parking area of the Gaisano Super Mall and participated by the store’s security heads and personnel, their sales supervisors. 

He the army’s 35th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Team and the EOD unit of the local police force headed by Senior Inspector Oliver Pableo conducted the lectures, whose topics included familiarization of improvised explosives and its devastating effects and bomb threat management.

“With the recent IED incident in Cagayan de Oro City, it is important for us to be attentive of our surroundings to protect ourselves and our loved ones.

It is only through our joint efforts; both the civilian and the military, that we may be able beat the harmful plans of the heartless terrorists,” Ibon said.

Eight people were killed and over 40 others wounded in a bomb attack at Kyla’s Bistro in Lim Ket Kai Center in Cagayan de Oro on July 26.

The restaurant was full of diners were the blast occurred. It was not immediately known how the bomb managed to slip through the restaurant’s security undetected.

No individual or group claimed responsibility for the explosion.

Cell site tower attacked

From the Zamboanga Daily News (Aug 2): Cell site tower attacked

Gunmen led by a certain Ramji sprayed with gunfire a cell site tower and a generator of a telephone line at Sitio Marangan, Muti last Wednesday night.
DZT gathered that the perpetrators arrived at the target place at past 10 p.m. and without much ado opened fire on the tower and generator set.
The gunmen left the place before the police and military arrived at the scene.
Recovered at the scene were several spent shells of M14 and M16 rifles.
The tower bore 11 bullet holes.
It was learned that Ramji and his group are based in Barangay Calabasa. They were reportedly behind some atrocities in the area.
Authorities are looking into extortion as the motive behind the harassment.
Charges have been readied against Ramji and his group for the atrocity.

Negrense soldier dies saving lives

From the Visayan Daily Star (Aug 3): Negrense soldier dies saving lives

Philippine Marine trooper SSgt. Jessie Sebala is a hero to his colleagues and family in Brgy.Tabu, Ilog, Negros Occidental.

This is because he saved many lives when he and his companions attempted to defuse an improvised explosives device that went off and cost him his life in Sitio Satan, Barangay Tiptipon, Jolo, Sulu on July 27, Col. Jose Cenabre, commander of the Joint Task Force Sulo, said.

He saved the lives of many civilians, SSgt. Cesar Caba, who accompanied the remains of Sebala to his hometown in Ilog, said.

Injured in the explosion were TSgt. Fructuso Cajote Jr. and SSgt. Albert Tannong.

Cenabre said the bomb was placed near the house of a village official and the soldiers were there to defuse it, and while they were conducting recovery and disposal, it went off, Cenabre said.

Sebala, who got married only three months ago, is expected to be accorded full military honors during his burial on Sunday in Brgy. Tabu, Ilog.

MILF: MILF sends delegation to UN office in Manila

From the MILF Website (Aug 2): MILF sends delegation to UN office in Manila

Senior members of the MILF visited the United Nations office at the RCBC Tower in Makati City last August 1.
The delegation was sent by the MILF Central Committee and headed by MILF Peace Panel Chairman Mohagher Iqbal and included Peace Panel member Prof. Abhoud Sayed Lingga, Ustadz Ibrahim Ali of the Transition Commission (TC) and Atty. Naguib Sinarimbo, MILF TWG member and UN Senior Advisor to FASTRAC (Facility for Advisory Support for Transition Capacities). The visit is the first ever by a high ranking official of the MILF to the UN Office in Manila.

The visit is just a part of the wide range of partnerships that the UN and World Bank currently have with the MILF, the TC and the Peace Panel as outlined in the FASTRAC.

The delegation was received by Mr. Praveen Agrawal, Acting UN Resident Coordinator and World Food Program Country Director, and Alma Evangelista of the UNDP. A tour around the UN office was given to the delegation. Mr. Agrawal conveyed the gratitude of UN Resident Coordinator Luiza Carvalho, who is currently in Brazil, to the MILF delegation for taking time to visit the UN Office and for the fruitful partnership that it has forged with the UN.

After the brief tour, a meeting ensued with Matt Stephens and Nick Leffer of the World Bank joining. The meeting extensively discussed the next steps for the partnership given the approval of the FASTRAC workplan by the Consultative Committee last July 29. The MILF expressed thanks to UN and WB for the continuing partnership and the much needed technical assistance in the anticipated transitions to the Bangsamoro.

FASTRAC is a demand-driven facility established through an exchange of letters between the UN/WB and the MILF and was officially launched in Camp Darapanan last April 29, 2013. The Facility aims to deliver timely and well-sequenced technical assistance to the MILF and other stakeholders in the peace process to ensure not only a successful conclusion of the peace negotiations but also of the implementation of the same.

MILF: Australian Government donates Aus$1.8M for GPH-MILF peace efforts

Posted to  the MILF Website (Aug 2): Australian Government donates Aus$1.8M for GPH-MILF peace efforts

 The Australian government has approved an additional grant of Aus$1.8 million as support to the continuing peace process in Mindanao, Mindanews reported on July 31, 2013.
According to the report, Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr, who announced the fresh financial grant in an emailed statement on Wednesday July 31st, said such move is part of his government’s commitment to help achieve lasting peace in the island.

“Expanding our support for peace in Mindanao is a concrete statement of Australia’s concern for the poor of that long-suffering region, and our interest in the achievement of long-lasting peace,” Carr said.

Australia will specifically provide Aus$1.3 million to the Mindanao Trust Fund to help improve the ongoing livelihood, health and education interventions for conflict-affected communities. It will also provide Aus$500,000 to the World Bank and the United Nations to assist the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in the finalization of the Bangsamoro basic law. It will be in the form of training, policy advice and other technical help.

“Australia’s support will strengthen law, justice and governance, and help out with transition programs for former combatants,” the statement said.

The government and the MILF signed on October 15, 2012 the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB), which serves as the blueprint for the comprehensive peace agreement.

The FAB provides for the creation of the Bangsamoro entity with greater political, fiscal and economic powers compared to the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

Once the basic law is completed by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission, it will be submitted to President Benigno C. Aquino III for certification as urgent bill and transmits it to Congress for enactment into law. Once enacted and ratified by the people in the core territories and adjacent or contiguous areas, it will amend R.A. 9054 that created the ARMM.

In his fourth state-of-the-nation address last July 22, President Benigno S. Aquino III formally asked Congress to work on the passage of the proposed law before the end of 2014.

During his inaugural speech on July 22, Senate President Franklin Drilon vowed the senate’s support to the Bangsamoro peace process. On his part, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte of the House of Congress vowed swift action on the basic law once it is certified as urgent by President Aquino and transmitted to Congress.

During the GPH-MILF 38th Exploratory Talk in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, the two panels signed on midnight of July 14 the Annex on Revenue Generation and Wealth-Sharing after a two-day extension of extensive deliberations. Both panels signed in February 27, the annex on Transitional Arrangements and Modalities.

They are the two of four annexes, along with the FAB, that will complete the comprehensive peace agreement.

The panels are yet to discuss and agree on the power-sharing and normalization annexes in next exploratory talks, hopefully after Ramadan. About 90% of the Annex on power-sharing are already settled in the technical working group level.

Melissa Parke, Australia’s Minister for International Development, commended the national government and the MILF “on their excellent progress towards peace”, the report further said.

“Australia is very proud to support their efforts. Peace is a pre-requisite for the development and poverty alleviation that is so sorely needed in this poverty-stricken part of the Philippines,” she said. Parke added that Australia shares the hope of the government and the MILF “that a peace agreement will end the decades-long conflict.”

“We will continue to work with our partners and the people of Mindanao to ensure the benefits of peace are felt by all,” she added.

The statement noted that in recent years, around half of Australia’s assistance program in the Philippines has gone to Mindanao.

“Australian aid is introducing education opportunities in vulnerable and remote communities where school-based education has not been possible due to decades of ongoing conflicts,” it said.

In the past 12 months, Australian aid has helped open over 400 community learning centers and provided access to basic education to more than 11,000 children in Mindanao.

“Australian aid is also boosting the ability of local communities and security forces in the southern Philippines to work together to better manage conflict situations, as well as bringing women’s voices into peace negotiations,” the statement added.$18m-for-gph-milf-peace-efforts

Coast Guard to buy old French Navy vessel

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer: Coast Guard to buy old French Navy vessel
In a bid to boost its offshore search and rescue capabilities, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) is set to acquire a 26-year-old former French Navy vessel worth 6 million euros (about P345.5 million).

According to Coast Guard commandant Rear Adm. Rodolfo Isorena, the new acquisition would be very useful in the performance of the agency’s functions, including maritime law enforcement, safety and  environmental protection.

He said the 54.8-meter French Navy vessel “La Tapageuse” is multifunctional and would be a major contribution to the PCG fleet.

Under its current specification, the vessel has a built-in one 40-millimeter antiaircraft gun, one 20-mm antiaircraft canon and two 7.62-mm machine guns.

Isorena said the procurement of the vessel has already been approved by Transportation and Communications Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya.

The PCG would be acquiring the second-hand La Tapageuse at a reasonable price and it would undergo dry-docking for repair and refurbishing during the next nine months in France. It is expected to arrive in the country in April next year.

The PCG chief explained that while the vessel is already 26 years old and was used by the French Navy, it was thoroughly inspected and was assessed that it can still be effectively used for another 20 years.

He also said that the Philippine government is finalizing discussions with the French government for other purchases, namely four brand-new 24-meter and one 82-m multipurpose vessels, which are all expected to arrive in the Philippines in 2015.

Why Subic? Analyst lists 6 gains from the AFP move

From the Philippine Star (Aug 2): Why Subic? Analyst lists 6 gains from the AFP move

In this June 2013 photo, Members of the Philippine Navy band greet the guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) as the ship arrives for Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) Philippines 2013. US PACIFIC FLEET PHOTO

The impending Subic Bay transfer of the Philippine Air Force and Philippine Navy has been said to be the cost efficient and strategic option for the country's armed forces.

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin has said that as soon as the funds are available, the camp will make the move to protect the disputes territories in the South China Sea.

Others, particularly the Beijing-based press, criticized the move as an attempt to increase pressure on rival claimant China over the contested areas.

Related: Manila to move air force, navy near disputed sea

Australia-based security consultant Max Montero sees several advantages to the relocation, which he called a strategic move with a "civilian face."

1. Decongestion of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA)

An aerial view of Subic Bay International Airport. (Travel to the Philippines photo)
The country's main international gateway has been overcapacity for several years and efforts to decongest the airport has been started by the Civil Aviation Authority by banning light aircrafts from its runways.

The smaller planes have been advised to transfer to Sangley Point in Cavite, from where the Air Force's 15th Strike Wing may eventually also transfer.

The Clark International Airport can also increase civilian traffic by taking on some of NAIA's, while the Air Force can transfer to Subic Bay International Airport (SIA).
"SIA is the better choice due to its wider area and more room for improvement," Montero said in a statement.

2. Subic Bay makes a "fine naval base"

Subic as the US' naval base in 1992. (US Navy Museum photo)
"As early as the 19th century the Spaniards found Subic Bay's strategic location, deep water and sheltered anchorages," Montero said, adding that the shoreline can replace the Cavite Naval Base.

The Americans knew this fact and chose the area to become their own satellite naval base during the Cold War, and now the Navy can use the space for newly acquired war vessels.

"The (Subic Bay Freeport Zone) is also home to several shipbuilding and repair facilities, oil depots, and has been the home of the BRP Gregorio del Pilar since it was acquired in 2011," he said.

The Navy announced it is still planning to purchase more vessels to boost maritime surveillance in the near future.

3. Subic is nearer the disputed isles

Basa Airbase is the nearest to the contested territories but it is the Subic Airport that allows quicker air defense response by giving jets a better grappling position, so to speak.

"Subic Airport beats Basa Airbase in closing the distance by a mere 20 something kilometers ... it would cut the reaction time of responding fighter planes by at least three minutes," Montero said.

Consequently, naval vessels will be closer to the areas where conflict could set off.

4. Olongapo is military support community

The USS Harper Ferry docked at Subic. (Boviate photo)
Since Olongapo City has hosted American troops in the past, residents are more open to the armed forces' presence compared to other areas.

"This is an added advantage considering that many cities in the Philippines are not sympathetic on having military bases in their area due to fear of being legitimate military targets," he said.

In short, both foreign and local troops will find in Subic a home.

"Olongapo City officials earlier said that having foreign military access to Subic will boost their tourism and business potential and increase income," he said.

5. Subic is a promising base for Philippine, American and Japanese troops

"The issue regarding the temporary basing of US forces as well as military units from friendly countries like Japan is getting close to reality, and it was earlier revealed that Subic will be the best place to station these visiting foreign forces," Montero said.

He added that Subic has a healthy distance from denser groups of the population, who choose not to meet the joint troops often.

6. The naval and air bases are both located in Subic

Having both bases in the nearly the same location makes it more easily defended from enemy attacks. The option will also be more efficient and economical.

"he AFP can deploy future anti-aircraft gun and missile defenses in the area to defend both the combined bases, the industrial freeport zone (with its oil depots, supply stores and repair facilities) and the city of Olongapo all together without having to deploy separate units for each location," the analyst said.

Placing Sulu under MILF control is treason - Sulu sultanate

From the Philippine Star (Aug 2): Placing Sulu under MILF control is treason - Sulu sultanate

The Sultanate of Sulu on Friday opposed the inclusion of the Sulu archipelago in the areas to be placed under the Bangsamoro political region to be controlled by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Abraham Idjirani, spokesman for the sultanate, said the Sulu archipelago composed of the provinces of Sulu, Basilan, Tawi-Tawi, Zamboanga Peninsula and Palawan are territories ancestrally owned by the Sultanate of Sulu.

According to Idjirani, the Sulu archipelago was incorporated into the Philippines in 1935 by the United States, despite an assurance given by the American government that the Sulu Sultanate would be placed under its protection.

"Despite the vehement objection of (Sulu) Sultan Jamalul Kiram III’s great ancestors to join the Philippines as an independent State, Sultan Jamalul Kiram III and his nine living brothers and sisters and all other Kiram heirs embraced the Filipino citizens without qualifications. They are not vengeful of the acts committed against them by the United States and the Philippine Governments," said Idjirani

Idjirani said the Sultanate of Sulu is questioning the authority of the Aquino administration to hand over the Sulu archipelago to the MILF. Idjirani added that the Sulu Sultanate was not even consulted on the proposed inclusion of the Sulu archipelago to the Bangsamoro region.

"Under what authority, therefore, the officials and authorities of the Aquino Administration discarded the protection of the Sultan of Sulu to their ancestral kingdom in the Sulu Archipelago? Like a hot cake, it would soon be handed over to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front without prior consultation made with them," Idjirani added.

Idjirani said the Sultanate of Sulu sees the Bangsamoro Framework Agreement as a legal land grabbing mechanism of the Sultanate's ancestral lands by both the Philippine government and the MILF.
"The subject of turning over the ancestral kingdom of the Sultanate of Sulu in the Sulu Archipelago to the MILF as defined under the Bangsamoro Framework Agreement will prejudice its historical truths and patrimony," said Idjirani.

"The territory known as Archipelago of Sulu belongs to the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo. It was recognized by the United States in the Introductory Statement of the 1915 Kiram-Carpenter Agreement as an independent political sovereignty for more than 400 years prior to an American occupation and rule which begun in 1900, including England, Spain, Germany, Holland, France and China in 1405," Idjirani added.

He said that while the ultimate sovereignty was transferred and entrusted to the Republic of the Philippines, it was transferred without justice served.

"That is a technical treason," said Idjirani.

The Bangsamoro Framework Agreement states that: “The core territory of the Bangsamoro shall be composed of: (a) the present geographical area of the ARMM; (b) the Municipalities of Baloi, Munai, Nunugan, Pantar, Tagoloan and Tangkal in the province of Lanao del Norte and all other barangays in the Municipalities of Kabacan, Carmen, Aleosan, Pigkawayan, Pikit, and Midsayap that voted for inclusion in the ARMM during the 2001 plebiscite; (c) the cities of Cotabato and Isabela; and (d) all other contiguous areas where there is a resolution of the local government unit or a petition of at least ten percent (10%) of the qualified voters in the area asking for their inclusion at least two months prior to the conduct of the ratification of the Bangsamoro Basic Law and the process of delimitation of the Bangsamoro.

Sincerity, goodwill to promote talks with leftist rebels: gov't

From the Philippine Star (Aug 2): Sincerity, goodwill to promote talks with leftist rebels: gov't

Sincerity and goodwill will move forward the two-decade-long peace process between the government and the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF), a senior government official said today.

Government peace panel chair Alexander Padilla made the statement as peace process with the leftist rebels has been stalled since February.

"Sincerity and goodwill on both sides have brought Muslim Mindanao closer to a regime of peace and prosperity that it desires and deserves," he said, referring to the breakthroughs in the peace negotiations with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the largest Muslim rebel group in the country.

"This is what awaits the rest of the country should a peace agreement be reached between the government and the CPP-NPA-NDF," Padilla added.

Peace negotiation between the Philippine government and the leftist rebels bogged down about six months ago when the two sides failed to agree on some parameters of the talks.

The CPP-NPA-NDF, with its armed wing of the New People's Army, has been waging war against the government for over four decades.

Duterte: NPA asked for something for soldiers’ release

From the Philippine Star (Aug 2): Duterte: NPA asked for something for soldiers’ release

Mayor Rodrigo Duterte said yesterday the New People’s Army (NPA) asked for something in exchange for last Wednesday’s release of five soldiers who it had held captive for 43 days.

“They asked for something but I could not divulge what it was,” said Duterte, who was asked by the families of the captive soldiers to intercede for their release.

Duterte said he also made sure that the soldiers were treated well while they were in captivity.

The soldiers were seized last June 17 while doing peace and development work in Sitio Lubas, Barangay Paquibato Proper in Paquibato district this city.

The soldiers, who belong to the Army’s 60th Infantry Battalion, were released by Leoncio “Parago” Pitao, commander of the NPA’s Pulang Bagani Command, in an undisclosed place in Southern Mindanao.

The NPA earlier linked the five soldiers – Cpl. Emmanuel Quezon, Pfcs. Ronald Gura, Bernie Padilla, and Donato Estandia, and Pvt. Marteniano Pasiagas Jr. – to the tagging of peasant leaders as communists, harassment of families of known NPA members, and the killing of two civilians in Davao City and Davao del Norte.

Pitao turned over the soldiers to Duterte, who flew them on board two helicopters to the Armed Forces’ Eastern Mindanao Command headquarters at Camp Panacan this city.

Duterte was accompanied by peace advocates from the Exodus for Justice and Peace and a parent of one of the five soldiers.

The five soldiers were immediately brought to the Camp Panacan Hospital for medical check-up and debriefing.

Sulu sultanate marks 50th anniversary of Manila accord

From the Philippine Star (Aug 2): Sulu sultanate marks 50th anniversary of Manila accord

Fifty years ago, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia signed a Manila accord for the peaceful resolution of the Philippine claim to Sabah.

On Wednesday, the Sultanate of Sulu silently observed the 50th anniversary of the 1963 accord.

Abraham Idjirani, sultanate secretary-general and spokesman, said the government could have invoked the accord in the peaceful resolution of the March standoff between the sultanate’s army and Malaysian forces in Lahad Datu, Sabah.

“The Aquino administration does not even bother to celebrate it as the government may be guilty celebrating the services of our country against the services of Malaysia which it defended during the March standoff,” Idjirani said.

The Federation of Malaya, Republic of Indonesia and the Republic of the Philippines signed the Manila accord on July 31, 1963 after a meeting on June 7-11, 1963 in Manila, he said.

Idjirani said those facing charges in Malaysia are not members of the sultanate’s army but Malaysian citizens of Tausug origin.

“The Malaysian government is using its Internal Security Act in going after civilians they suspect of being supporters of the sultanate,” he said.

The last skirmishes took place last June 16-18 after Malaysian forces tried to penetrate their jungle stronghold, Idjirani said.

Last month, the sultanate accused Malaysia of violating the 1963 Manila accord in a complaint before the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights following the arrest of a nephew of Sultan Jumamul Kiram III and other civilians who were not involved in the standoff and in the series of fighting in Lahad Datu early this year.

The letter-complaint, filed with the UN office in Makati City, detailed alleged human rights violations of Malaysian forces against civilians suspected of providing support to the sultanate’s royal army.

It cited the arrest of Datu Amirbahar Kiram who was not involved in the standoff, as a clear violation of the treaty.

Under the accord, the three countries agreed to abide by the wishes of the people of North Borneo (now Sabah and Labuna) and Sarawak, within the context of the UN General Assembly Resolution 1541 (XV), Principle 9 of the Annex, taking into account referendums in North Borneo and Sarawak that would be free and without coercion.

4 soldiers, 7 NPA rebels wounded in Agusan clash

From the Philippine Star (Aug 2): 4 soldiers, 7 NPA rebels wounded in Agusan clash

Four soldiers and seven New People’s Army (NPA) rebels were wounded in an encounter in Agusan del Sur yesterday morning.

Lt. Col. Leo Bongosia, spokesman of the Army’s 4th Infantry Division based in Cagayan de Oro City, said fighting erupted in Barangay Bunawan Brooks, Bunawan town between elements of the 75th Infantry Battalion and at least 15 NPA guerrillas.

The wounded soldiers were evacuated to a hospital in Pantin-ay, Prosperidad town, he said.

Later in the day, pursuing troops caught up with the rebels in Barangay Imelda, also in Bunawan, triggering nearly two hours of heavy fighting.

The government troops subsequently outmaneuvered the rebels who were forced to abandon their two camps in the area, bringing along their seven wounded comrades.

Bongosia said AK-47 bullets and magazines were recovered from the NPA camps.

On Wednesday, security forces killed six NPA guerrillas in night-to-dawn fighting in Camiling, Tarlac. They also recovered nine high-powered firearms, including an M60 machinegun.

PN says no naval gap despite deployment of BRP Gregorio Del Pilar

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 2): PN says no naval gap despite deployment of BRP Gregorio Del Pilar

Despite the deployment of BRP Gregorio Del Pilar (PF-15) to escort her sister ship, BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PF-16), in Philippine waters, the Navy on Friday assured the public that it still has adequate forces to protect the maritime boundaries.

Lt. Cmdr. Gregory Fabic, Philippine Navy (PN) spokesperson, said that there is no naval gap to speak off with BRP Gregorio Del Pilar's deployment for escort duties.

"(There is) no gap. We have several ships situated and deployed all over the country. A ship being mobile can be deployed elsewhere where a mission or certain task needs to be done," he added.

The PN operates around 110 ships of all sizes.

BRP Gregorio Del Pilar is scheduled to escort the BRP Ramon Alcaraz on its run to Bolinao, Pangasinan Saturday morning.

The latter ship arrived off Casiguran, Aurora around 8 a.m. on Friday.

BRP Ramon Alcaraz to boost coastline patrol capabilities

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 3): BRP Ramon Alcaraz to boost coastline patrol capabilities

With the arrival of the BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PF-16) Friday morning, the Philippine Navy (PN)'s capability to patrol and protect the country's vast coastlines which measures 36,289 kilometers (equivalent 22,549 miles) has been greatly boosted.

The BRP Ramon Alcaraz and her sister ship, the BRP Gregorio Del Pilar (PF-15), are ideal ships for this mission due to their range, speed, size and good sea-keeping capabilities.

Both vessels, designated as frigates in Philippine Navy (PN) service, weighs 3,250 tons, has a length of 378 feet, beam of 43 feet, and draft of 15 feet.

Its propulsion systems consist of two diesel engines and two gas turbine engines, giving it a top speed of 29 knots.

The ship has cruising range of 14,000 miles (equivalent to 22,530.816 kilometers) and has a sea and loiter time of 45 days.

PN spokesperson Lt. Cmdr. Gregory Fabic earlier said that the BRP Ramon Alcaraz, upon commissioning by second week of October, will be deployed to safeguard the country's 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone and the West Philippine Sea.

PN flag-officer-in-charge Vice Admiral Jose Luis Alano called the arrival of the BRP Ramon Alcaraz and delivery of the three naval helicopters by December a "significant milestone".

"The PN finds it to be a significant development in line with the (ongoing) modernization program and capability upgrade," he added.

"These helicopters are just a few among the list of future acquisition for the PN in order to attain its vision of becoming a strong and credible Navy that our maritime nation can be proud of," the PN chief emphasized.

Army supports feeding program in Escalante City

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 2): Army supports feeding program in Escalante City
A feeding program in Barangay Hacienda Fe in Escalante City, Negros Occidental benefited around 250 children and adults as part of the activities in the observance of the Nutrition Month in July.

The Barangay Council of Hacienda Fe partnered with the city government of Escalante and the Philippine Army’s 62nd Infantry Battalion, and 3rd Civil Military Operations (CMO) Battalion in conducting the feeding activity.

The feeding sessions were held for seven consecutive Saturdays, from June 15 to July 27, in seven sitios, including Hacienda Aya, Carmensian, Baldoza, Mocabog 2, San Martin, Mocabog and Vito.

“This endeavor aims to lessen malnutrition and alleviate hunger among the children and adults of the barangay, ” village chairman Sabeniano Saura said.

He also acknowledged the city government and the troops of 62nd IB and 3rd CMO Battalion for their support.

Lt. Col. Patrick Cinco, commander of 3rd CMO Battalion, said they will continue to support the various programs of the barangay.

He said the conduct of humanitarian activities will encourage the locality to exercise the culture of “bayanihan.”

Ex-rebels urged to return to law

From the Sun Star-Tacloban (Aug 1): Ex-rebels urged to return to law

The Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (Opapp) in Samar continues to encourage former rebels to return to the law by giving them livelihood financial assistance.

Opapp Representative Emy Bonifacio, during a technical working group (PTWG) meeting, at Motiong municipal hall in Samar recently, said the office is working towards the implementation of the Local Social Integration Program (LSIP) in Samar province.

She said that Opapp is in coordination with Provincial Social Welfare and Development Office (PSWDO) and the Army represented by the 87th Infantry Battalion.

On September 2012, four former New People’s Army (NPA) members received livelihood assistance at the PSWDO in Catbalogan City where livelihood projects were monitored.

As required, the former rebels will pass through a series of screenings before they are declared qualified to avail of the government’s livelihood assistance from Opapp’s Pamana.

In 2012, the former rebels received P50,000 each to start a livelihood project which shall be monitored regularly by the Opapp and other concerned agencies.

During the PTWG meeting, Bonifacio said an additional funding of P100 million for the Pamana road project was discussed. The fund will be used to strengthen roads toward conflict areas in Samar, particularly the Lokilokon-San Jose de Buan that leads to the barangays of Samar towns Paranas, Motiong and San Jose de Buan.

Motiong Mayor Francisco Langi said he appreciate the Pamana for having the road project, adding that it is a big help for the Motionganons living in the area.

Bonifacio said that Pamana aims to reduce poverty and vulnerability in conflict-affected areas through sustainable rural development, community infrastructure and focused delivery of social services.

Communist rebel leader nixes mining

From the Sun Star-Davao (Aug 2): Communist rebel leader nixes mining

LEONCIO "Ka Parago" Pitao, leader of the First Pulang Bagani Battalion of the New People's Army (NPA), expressed strong opposition on Wednesday against any mining activities in the areas of Paquibato District, Davao City.

"Ang among barog diha kung kitang mga pobre, kitang mga taga dinhi maoy maka benepisyo sa mina, sugot mi. Pero kung mga langyaw maoy muari, ayaw na lang," Pitao told reporters in an interview somewhere in Paquibato District.

Pitao said he has been very consistent in his anti-mining stance ever since.

He would strongly oppose these activities especially when military operations are exercised just to protect mining companies that enter the protected areas of the second district of Davao City, he said.

Pitao and Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte almost have the same reasons on why they oppose mining, one of the things that the local chief executive dislikes the most.

"Wala pa namo na nasabutan ni mayor. Wala pud koy balita sa iya, tagsa ra mi magkita," Pitao said when asked if they were able to discuss mining together.

2nd District Councilor Danilo Dayanghirang earlier said that at least two mining firms from Manila have applied for permits for explorations in Paquibato and Marilog Districts.

Seeking approval are the Alberto Mining Corporation and Penson's Mining Corporation.

The City Council expressed its opposition against any mining activity in the city.

In fact, Dayanghirang has mulled on crafting an ordinance that will make the city free from any mining activity.

However, the Mines and Geosciences Bureau Mine Management Division chief Wilfredo G. Moncano said that the two mining firms had already signed memorandum of agreements (MOA) with the lumad chieftains and village chiefs in Paquibato district to do exploration in the area.

The MOA was signed on February 18, 2011.

PH, China clash over US resolution

From Rappler (Aug 2): PH, China clash over US resolution

The maritime dispute between the Philippines and China heated up Thursday, August 1, after the two countries issued clashing statements on the US Senate’s new resolution supporting peace in the South China Sea.

In a statement on Thursday, Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Cuisia Jr thanked the chair of US Senate’s foreign relations committee, Sen Robert Menendez, “for his leadership” in passing the resolution unanimously.

“While the US has no direct stake in the dispute, it is important for the US that freedom of navigation, unimpeded lawful commerce, and the observance of international laws are guaranteed,” Cuisia said.

He also welcomed the US Senate’s support for the Philippines’ decision to file a case against China – a move that China, on the other hand, has rejected.

“Through the resolution, the United States Senate has demonstrated its leadership by strongly advocating for the resolution of the dispute without coercion, without intimidation, without threats, and without the use of force,” Cuisia added.

‘Sending wrong message’

China protested the resolution for “sending the wrong message.”

In a statement quoted by the state-run China Daily, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said the US resolution wrongly places the blame on China.

Hua said China “has lodged solemn representations to the US side.”

"We urge relevant US senators to respect the facts and correct their mistakes so as not to make matters and the regional situation more complicated,” she added.

China has denounced third-party involvement in South China Sea disputes, and has pushed for bilateral negotiations instead.

US backs arbitration

In its resolution, the US Senate said it “condemns the use of coercion, threats, or force by naval, maritime security, or fishing vessels and military or civilian aircraft in the South China Sea and the East China Sea to assert disputed maritime or territorial claims or alter the status quo.”

It also urged parties to the disputes to exercise “self-restraint,” and upheld efforts “to develop a code of conduct of parties in the South China Sea.”

The US Senate added it “supports collaborative diplomatic processes by all claimants in the South China Sea” for resolving disputes, including arbitration, which the Philippines resorted to.

READ: Hearings on PH, China dispute begin

The resolution came before the Philippines' Department of Foreign Affairs confirmed on Wednesday, July 31, that US spy planes help the Philippines in monitoring the South China Sea.

Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said the Philippines could use the information from the spy planes for its arbitration with China.

READ: DFA: Spy planes to gather evidence vs China

China claims nearly all of the sea, even waters close to the Philippines and other neighbors.

Analysts have long warned that China's overlapping claims with the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, and Taiwan could be a flashpoint of armed conflict.

Tensions have risen in recent years as China has adopted more aggressive diplomatic and military tactics to assert its claims to the potentially resource-rich waters.

Army pullout in Paquibato out of the question: officials

From the Mindanao Times (Jul 29): Army pullout in Paquibato out of the question: officials

MILITARY officials said they will not give in to the demands of Paquibato residents to pull out their forces from the area.

Lt. Gen. Ricardo Rainier G. Cruz III, commander of the Eastern Mindanao Command, said their troops are there to stay to do their mission.

“No, that is non-negotiable,” he added.

 According to Cruz, they haven’t spoken to the majority of the people but they heard the grievances from some families in the area. He said they have to talk to local stakeholders, barangay captains and councilors.

 He told local reporters that the number of rebels in the hinterlands of Paquibato has not diminished, saying that they have a list of areas affected by the New People’s Army.

 Cruz revealed that their troops discovered barangays which were not on the list, adding that they do not only know the areas of the enemy but also their forces in the area.

“We have a clear picture who the true enemy is,” Cruz said.

 Meanwhile, the 10th Infantry Division commander, Maj. Gen. Ariel Bernardo, said they have to ask everyone first, not just a voice from a few who might be instigated by the rebels.

 Bernardo told the TIMES in a text message that they did not receive any reports from residents rejecting their peace and development outreach programs (PDOP), only from some progressive groups that hold protest actions here in the city.

“It’s all agitation and propaganda enhanced by an armed threat and intimidation,” Bernardo added.

 The division commander said they will continue to deliver the basic services through the PDOP in partnership with all peace and development stakeholders, including local government units that should even be on the lead.

 Though the number of communist rebels has not diminished in Paquibato, Bernardo disclosed earlier that there are not signifcant increase of NPA members.

 Earlier this month, the 10th ID deployed about 100 soldiers to reinforce the 69th Infantry Battalion which is in charge of looking over Paquibato and some parts of Davao del Norte.

 Lt. Col. Innocencio Pasaporte, 69th IB commander, affirmed that the residents who are asking soldiers to be removed do not represent the majority, adding that only two have been identified from Paquibato based on reports.

“These are people who thrive or dwell on distorting the efforts of the unit laying the ground works for peace and development. They could not present any misdoings or atrocities that they always attribute to the soldiers,” Pasaporte told the TIMES in a text message.

 The battalion commander revealed that they identified a few who joined in the rally in front of the Sangguniang Panlungsod building last week as belonging to legal fronts aligned with the Communist Party of the Philippines.

“These groups could not present any project development related to improve peace and development in Paquibato,” he added.

 Pasaporte disclosed that the soldiers are continuously conducting dialogues with residents.

 Recently, they launched a massive feeding program in the different schools in Paquibato, targeting undernourished students which will run for four months.

Pasaporte disclosed that this is a joint effort of the Department of Education, Non-Government organizations, and barangay health workers.

Misuari’s group a spent force — MILF

From the Manila Standard Today (Aug 2): Misuari’s group a spent force — MILF

Taunted to prove clout in Bangsamoro polls, not in gimmicks

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front on Thursday brushed aside Nur Misuari’s threat that its Moro National Liberation Front faction would declare independence for Mindanao if the government fails to recognize the 1996 final peace agreement, saying that Misuari’s group is already a “spent force.”

“Misuari cannot sustain his gimmicks and propaganda,” MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal said.

“The Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro will benefit all Bangsamoros, including the MNLF. But Misuari is not seeing that,” he added.

Iqbal said it was “clear” that Misuari has his own interests that is why he could not see that the Bangsamoro is the higher concern for all stakeholders.

The FAB, signed by the government and the MILF in October last year, will be part of a comprehensive peace agreement that will pave the way for the creation of the Bangsamoro.

The Bangsamoro will replace the ARMM, a product of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement between the government and the MNLF which Aquino called a “failed experiment.”

Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said the dividends of the Bangsamoro “will eventually redound to the benefit of Muslim Mindanao.”

Lacierda also challenged Misuari’s group to “prove its clout” by participating in the 2016 elections when the Bangsamoro – the political entity that will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao – would already have been established.

“The MILF is registered already as a political party. Everybody is invited to join the electoral process,” presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said.

“There is that avenue available to them where everybody who would like to make a better Muslim Mindanao may participate in the process,” Lacierda said.

Lacierda added that the dividends of the Bangsamoro “will eventually redound to the benefit of Muslim Mindanao.”

Iqbal, meanwhile, allayed fears raised by Zamboanga City Rep. Celso Lobregat that the peace pact with the MILF will turn Mindanao into a “blazing inferno” if the MNLF is left out in the process.

“That is a wrong perception. The Bangsamoro is for everyone, not just the MILF,” Iqbal said.

As this developed, a MNLF official denied allegations that Misuari still felt bitter over Malacanang’s refusal of his request to be appointed as ARMM governor.

“It’s a mere propaganda,” MNLF Peace Panel Chair Rev. Absalom Cerveza said.

Cerveza denied the statement attributed to a Malacanang official that Misuari felt hurt after he was not appointed to the ARMM post and his threat to declare independence for Mindanao was his way of trying to get back at the government.

“They go for the highest bidder,” said Cerveza, referring to the government’s decision to award the ARMM post to other officials other than Misuari.

“The truth was Malacanang and the  governors agreed to let Misuari run in the recent  mid-term elections unopposed but he refused, and to their dismay Misuari ran on his own,” Cerveza said.

He said Misuari decided to snub Malacanang’s  offer since that would mean that he would  be  succumbing to the Palace’s wishes.

“If he accepted the offer to run unopposed, he is going to be beholden to the government,” Cerveza said the same thing happened during the administration of then President Fidel Ramos when Misuari yielded to pressure from Malacanang
Misuari ran as ARMM governor during Ramos’ time unopposed and eventually won the post and held it for five years. He, however, was later linked to a controversy arising from alleged malversation of P37 billion of government funds .

But the Commission on Audit later told a Senate investigation that the P37B was only an appropriated amount and only P15 B were disbursed for the salaries and other expenses for the ARMM staff and employees.

Cerveza added that Misuari would announce his plan for independence in a remote area that would only be accessible to media through remote transmission.

“Misuari changed the scheme the declaration of independence. Instead of  announcing it publicly, he would do it incognito,” Cerveza said.

Misuari’s plan has been relayed to MNLF members in Mindanao.

Meanwhile the military in Jolo where Misuari plans to declaration independence for Mindanao remained peaceful.

Col. Jose Johriel Cenabre, Commander of Task Force Sulu said there has been constant coordination with Misuari’s trusted men in order to maintain peace in the area.

Earlier,  presidential peace adviser Teresita Deles said that even the MNLF expressed its desire to amend the ARMM Organic Act during the tripartite review process being brokered by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.

“We are doing better than just amending the ARMM. The framework agreement is for the entire Bangsamoro people. It is an opportunity for all Bangsamoro stakeholders to participate,” Deles said.

Deles also appealed to the Misuari-led faction of the MNLF to “put the Bangsamoro agenda above personal or other narrower interests.”

“To insist on a more limited framework to achieve self governance is not for the Bangsamoro but maybe for some other agenda. This should be the higher concern of all Bangsamoro leaders,” she said.

OIC representatives, along with officials of the United Nations, have already called on Misuari to hold off his plans of declaring independence for Mindanao.

US posts top spy as envoy amid Asia pivot

From the Daily Tribune (Aug 2): US posts top spy as envoy amid Asia pivot

Amid negotiations between the US and Philippine governments for a rotational basing arrangement which is key to the American policy pivot to Asia, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said the government has accepted the nomination of new US Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg who has a con-troversial record in his diplo-matic career.

Prior to his posting to the country, Goldberg was Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) to which he was appointed Feb. 16, 2010 under the Obama administration.

Goldberg’s most recent foreign posting was as US Ambassador to Bolivia where he was expelled in 2008 for allegedly fomenting civil unrest against Bolivia’s first indigenous Indian president, Evo Morales. Morales, thereafter, declared Goldberg “persona non grata.”

Morales accused Goldberg of conspiring against democracy and seeking the division of Bolivia after Goldberg was found to have met with  Ruben Costas, the governor of Bolivia’s richest province, Santa Cruz, which sought autonomy and has threatened secession.

Morales associated the meeting between Goldberg and Costas to the subsequent heightening of protests against him that escalated to the burning and pillaging government offices in city of Santa Cruz, which was followed by an attack on a gas pipeline that feeds neighboring Brazil, which is a major source of government revenues.

Washington denied the Bolivian President’s charges against Goldberg and branded these as “baseless.”

Del Rosario said the government has accorded Goldberg a letter of approval of a diplomatic representative or an agrement which recognizes his designation as representative of the US government.

President Aquino’s spokesman Edwin Lacierda said the Philippines expects a “warm relationship” with the United States under Goldberg’s tenure, he replaces outgoing ambassador Harry Thomas.

“We have a very good and warm relationship with the US under Ambassador Harry Thomas. We would also expect a warm relationship with the US under Ambassador designate Goldberg. He is going to undergo confirmation yet. So it will be sometime before we will see him here in the Philippines,” Lacierda said.

“(His appointment) will be subject to confirmation before the US Senate, so we don’t know yet how soon he will come here,” Lacierda said.

Once his nomination is confirmed by the US Senate, Goldberg will replace Harry Thomas Jr. who ends his three-year tour of duty this year.

Until June 2010, he served concurrently as the Coordinator for Implementation of UNSC Resolution 1874 on North Korea.

Goldberg served as Ambassador to Bolivia (2006-2008), Chief of Mission in Pristina, Kosovo (2004-2006) and Deputy Chief of Mission at the US Embassy in Santiago, Chile (2001-2004).

Ambassador Goldberg, a career member of the US Senior Foreign Service, served from January-June 2001 as acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Legislative Affairs.

He came to that position after having been a senior member of the State Department team handling the transition from the Clinton to Bush Administrations.

Goldberg served as Special Assistant (1996-1998) and then Executive Assistant (1998-2000) to Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott. From 1994-1996, he was the Department’s Bosnia Desk Officer and was a member of the American negotiating team in the lead-up to the Dayton Peace Conference and Chief of Staff for the American Delegation at Dayton.

Goldberg has served overseas as a consular and political officer at the US Embassy in Bogota, Colombia, and political-economic officer in Pretoria, South Africa.

Before joining the Foreign Service, Goldberg worked for several years as a liaison officer between the City of New York and the United Nations and consular community. He is a native of Boston, Massachusetts, and a graduate of Boston University. He speaks fluent Spanish.

As Assistant Secretary of State for INR, Goldberg led one of 16 elements in the US intelligence community. INR’s primary mission is to harness intelligence to serve US diplomacy.

Del Rosario added the United States will increase its annual military aid to the Philippines by $20 million, or from $30 million a year to about $50 million starting the next fiscal year.

The approximately two-thirds increase in military aid is the highest amount since US troops returned to the Philippines in 2000 after withdrawing in 1992.

“For military financing, it’s an allocation that is worked out by the US Congress, and it’s usually for acquisition and maintenance,” Del Rosario told reporters.

Meet China halfway on South China Sea standoff, PHL told

From the Business Mirror (Aug 1): Meet China halfway on South China Sea standoff, PHL told

CHINESE Ambassador Ma Keqing on Wednesday night suggested that the Philippines meet China halfway in their current standoff at the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), saying the two countries are close neighbors, whose  friendship dates back thousands of years.
“We hope the Philippine side can meet the Chinese side halfway, properly handle [their] differences through dialogue and consultation, jointly promote cooperation in investment, trade, tourism, agriculture and other areas and enhance exchanges and friendship between the two people,” she said in a speech at the 109th anniversary of the Filipino-Chinese General Chambers of Commerce.
She said China and the Philippines are highly complementary in economy and that the Chinese are convinced “that as long as we follow the general trend of regional development and work together, we will certainly be able to seize the opportunity to achieve mutual benefits and win results.”
She said although the current bilateral relation is compounded with some setback owing to maritime disputes, “this situation is temporary and the current tension is but a small part of the overall relations.”
“Nevertheless, we should carefully and appropriately handle the situation.”
Ma said the Chinese government attaches great importance to developing friendly relations with the Philippines and this policy has not changed.
The Philippines brought China before the United Nations Arbitral Tribunal, accusing it of excessive claims to the South China Sea after Chinese ships encroached on Bajo de Masinloc (Scraborough Shoal) and is now trying to claim Ayungin Shoal, all parts of the country’s exclusive economic zone and continental shelf.
Last month Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario accused China of a “massive military buildup” on the disputed South China Sea warning a Southeast Asian security forum that Beijing’s tactics were a threat to peace in the region.
Speaking at the 46th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) ministerial meeting in Brunei Darussalam, del Rosario said China’s “increasing militarization” of two shoals in the South China Sea was a violation of the Declaration of Conduct in the sea that the 10 members of the bloc signed with Beijing in 2002, agreeing not to cause tensions in the area.
Following the harsh rhetoric, China agreed to hold formal talks with the Asean in September on a proposed code of conduct to ease tensions on the South China Sea.
Guests during the event include Vice President Jejomar Binay, who sat beside Ma in the presidential table.
The two had earlier exchanged greetings when they were introduced to each other by the host, but remained formal during the occasion.
Binay left the party shortly after delivering his welcome remarks and did not wait for dinner.

Philippines mum on Abu Sayyaf hostages

From the Mindanao Examiner blog (Aug 2): Philippines mum on Abu Sayyaf hostages

Malaysian authorities have wanted to establish contact with Filipino kidnappers holding two Malaysian citizens in the southern Philippines, reports said on Friday.

It said Sabah Police Commissioner Hamza Taib was quoted by Malaysia Chronicle as saying that they wanted to re-establish contact with the captors of palm plantation manager Chong Wei Fei, 33, and his cousin and assistant manager Chong Wei Jie, 25, who were kidnapped in November 13 in Lahad Datu town.

Five gunmen, disguised as policemen, seized the two men while inspecting the plantation. The kidnappers dragged the duo on a boat and fled towards the southern Philippine province of Tawi-Tawi.

The kidnappers have sent a photograph by email of the two men holding a piece of paper marked March 7, 2013 to The Star newspaper. The photo also showed two rifles trained on the men by their captors.

Reports said ransom negotiations for the safe release of the hostages were disrupted by the intrusion of Sulu Sultanate forces in Lahad Datu which eventually ended in a fierce battle that left dozens of people dead.

Malaysian authorities believed the Abu Sayyaf was behind the kidnappings and the hostages are still alive.
“It is good news for their families and we pray for their well-being. But the case again shows how weak is our security in East Malaysia where the borders are so porous that foreign thugs can enter at will and whisk away our citizens for ransom," PKR vice president Chua Jui Meng told the Malaysia Chronicle.

"It is time for Prime Minister Najib Razak's government do more than just put our fires. There must be a better and more cohesive plan to protect our citizens in Sabah and Sarawak.”

There was no immediate statement from the Philippine government about the Malaysian hostages. The Abu Sayyaf is still holding several foreigners and Filipino captives in the southern region. And Manila has not released any progress reports on the Abu Sayyaf hostages.

In 2010, suspected Abu Sayyaf gunmen also kidnapped two Malaysian seaweed farmers - Vui Chung, 42, and Lai Wing Chau, 33 – in a daring raid on Semporna near Lahad Datu and brought them to Tawi-Tawi where they had been ransomed off for two million ringgits.

And on 2001, the Abu Sayyaf raided the island-resort of Sipadan and seized 21 mostly Western holidaymakers and ransomed them off to Malaysia and Libya for millions of dollars.

P2 million reward for CDO bombers

From the Manila Bulletin (Aug 2): P2 million reward for CDO bombers

Cagayan de Oro City Mayor Oscar Moreno said he will be giving P2 million reward to any individual who can give information that could lead to the arrest of the suspects responsible for the CDO blast which killed 8 people, mostly doctors and health workers attending a convention according to a radio report on Friday.

Moreno hopes that the reward will help to speed up the investigation and the arrest of the suspects.

He said that the reward will come from the intelligence funds of the city government.
The city mayor said any willing witness will be provided with protection.

A solidarity mass and walk for peace was held earlier on Friday as to remember the people killed in the blast.

The bomb killed 8 people and injured 48 others in one of the restaurants in the Limketkai Center on July 26, which was packed with people for Friday festivities.

Kiram, RSF no longer in Sabah

From the Manila Bulletin (Aug 1): Kiram, RSF no longer in Sabah

A ranking Philippine diplomatic official has confirmed that Raja Muda Agbimuddin Kiram, who led the Sulu Sultanate’s Royal Security Force (RSF) in a three-week standoff with Malaysian forces in Lahad Datu last March, is no longer in Sabah but has gone back to Jolo, Sulu where he is reportedly being sheltered by the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).

"He is back on our side of the frontier and has escaped the dragnet," said the senior diplomat who spoke on condition of anonymity.

He said the last time Rajah Muda was sighted was in Tawi-Tawi by Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) personnel. Intelligence reports they received corroborated this information, he added.

The diplomatic official further revealed that Sabah is now under the full control of Malaysian authorities and that not a single member of RSF remained there.

"There's no more RSF in Sabah," he said. "Either they were totally decimated by the Malaysian forces or have already escaped back to Sulu."

Likewise, the source disclosed that Malaysian authorities already wrapped-up pursuit operations against suspected RSF members and sympathizers in Sabah. Charges have since been filed against those arrested numbering around 50 in relation to the "incursion" incident.

Those arrested were charged for violating two articles in Malaysia's Penal Code: Section 122 (waging war against the King); and Section 130 KA (terrorism).

While Section 130 KA (terrorism) calls for a jail term of up to 30 years, Section 121 (waging war against the King) can fetch the death penalty.

Meanwhile, Philippine Ambassador to Malaysia Eduardo Malaya said they have tapped the services of a Malaysian lawyer, one of the few Asian legal practitioners accredited by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, to represent the RSF members who were arrested.

Malaya said trial will commence in September in Kuala Lumpur.,_RSF_no_longer_in_Sabah#.UfuFKo7D9jo

Chinese Navy sails through ‘first island chain’ - report

From the Manila Bulletin (Aug 2): Chinese Navy sails through ‘first island chain’ - report

People's Liberation Army Navy warships. (People’s Liberation Army Navy)

"Now the chain is fragmented."

The Chinese Navy has broken through major archipelagos off the East Asian continental, including part of the Philippines, a Chinese newspaper said.

According to a report by the China Daily on Friday, the Chinese Navy “has fulfilled its long-held dream of breaking through the "first island chain blockade,"” which includes the northern Philippines, Japanese archipelago, Ryukyu Islands, and China's Taiwan.

The Chinese vessels, citing military observers, have gained access to the Pacific Ocean through various waterways along the route, it added.

"The Chinese navy has the capability to cut the first island chain into several pieces," said Du Wenlong, a senior researcher at the PLA's Academy of Military Science.

The remarks were made in interviews with China Daily to mark the 86th anniversary of the founding of the People's Liberation Army.

Washington in 1950s regarded the chain as an “important barrier to contain China and other communist countries,” China Daily said.

The Chinese vessels passed through the strait to train in the West Pacific after a joint naval drill with Russia in the Japanese Sea.

It reported that it was the first time that the Chinese navy has conducted high-sea training after a major drill, with no rest, noting that it shows that the Chinese navy is capable of patrolling waters far from home.‘first_island_chain’_-_report#.UfuEcY7D9jo

Newest PH warship finally home

From the Manila Bulletin (Aug 2): Newest PH warship finally home

FINALLY HOME - BRP Ramon Alcaraz, the Philippine Navy's newest warship, is welcomed by 27 fishing boats and Philippine Navy patrol gun boat 377 during a sail pass ceremony off the waters of Casiguran sound, Aurora province on August 2, 2013. (Jacqueline Hernandez)

The Philippines' new source of pride, BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PF 16), is finally home.

On Friday, a group of journalists, this writer included, were flown to  Casiguran, Aurora province on board a Navy Islander aircraft to witness the arrival of Alcaraz, the Navy's second Hamilton-class cutter acquired from the United States.

At around 7:30 a.m., the group of journalists, for the first time, spotted Alcaraz steaming  steadily in the waters of Casiguran. The Islander pilot, Lt. Adrian Santos, decided to fly low to allow the journalists to get a good footage of Alcaraz.

Also seen in the vicinity were at least 26 colorful local fishing boats and one Navy patrol gunboat that performed a "sail past" ceremony to welcome the latest addition to the Philippine Navy (PN) fleet.

While the PN announced last Thursday that Alcaraz has arrived n the Philippine area of responsibility (PAR), it was only Friday morning that the ship has entered the country's territorial waters.

Alacaraz has been at sea for almost two months since she left Charleston, South Carolina on June 10.

From Charleston, South Carolina, the ship made port stops in Mayport, Florida; San Diego, California; Hawaii, and Guam.

Last Sunday, July 28 at exactly 2:00 p.m., Acaraz left Guam for the final stretch of her journey to the Philippines.

At around 3:00 p.m. Saturday, a meeting procedure will be held off Bolinao, Pangasinan where Alcaraz will be met by its sister ship, BRP Gregorio Del Pilar (PF 15). From that point, Alcaraz will then be escorted by Del Pilar to Subic Bay.

Del Pilar is the first Hamilton-class cutter acquired by the Philippines from the US in 2011.

On August 6, a festive welcome led by President Benigno S. Aquino III and US Abassador Harry K. Thomas will be held for Alacaraz at Subic Bay.

"We find Alcaraz as a source of pride not only for the Philippine Navy but for whole Filipino people that's why we want a festive welcome for her," said Navy spokesman, Lt. Cmdr. Gregory Fabic.

Fabic said the festive welcome for Alcaraz is aimed to encourage the Filipino people, ignite their patriotism, and show the heroism of the Navy personnel aboard the cutter.

Fabic likewise noted that in all of the ship's port stops on her way to the country, Alcaraz and her crew were given a very warm welcome by the Filipino community in Florida, San Diego, Hawaii, and Guam.

Formerly known as the USCGC Dallas (WHEC-716), the 378-foot High Endurance Cutter was transferred to the Philippines May 2012 in a simple ceremony at the former naval base in Charleston, South Carolina.

Fabic said the vessel was acquired by the Philippines from the US under the Excess Defense Articles and the Foreign Assistance for $15.15 million.

Under Philippine ownership, the vessel was  re-christened the BRP Ramon Alcaraz after Commodore Ramon Alcaraz, a Filipino naval hero in World War II.

According to the Navy spokesman, the purchase of the two Hamilton-class cutters is considered as springboard for the PN's capability upgrade and modernization.

He said the Navy's next acquisition will be two brand new frigates.

With the arrival of their new ship, Fabic said: "The morale of our Navy personnel is very high right now because of the coming of the second Hamilton-class and we are very grateful to the present administration for giving the support to the Navy."

The ship is scheduled for commissioning second week of October. Fabic said among the missions that await the ship include maritime security patrol which will cover the West Philippine Sea,disaster response operation, and for maritime security awareness.