Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Bomb explodes near radio station

From Rappler (Aug 7): Bomb explodes near radio station

ANOTHER EXPLOSION. Scene of the crime operatives (SOCO) gather pieces of evidence at the site of an explosion in Midsayap, North Cotabato, at the ground floor of a local radio station. Photo courtesy Karl Ballentes

ANOTHER EXPLOSION. Scene of the crime operatives (SOCO) gather pieces of evidence at the site of an explosion in Midsayap, North Cotabato, at the ground floor of a local radio station. Photo courtesy Karl Ballentes

A bomb exploded in a building that houses a radio station early Wednesday morning, August 7, in Midsayap, North Cotabato.

Authorities said the bomb went off at 3:30 am at the ground floor of the Tenerio building along Santoneo St, Poblacion One, Midsayap. On the second floor of the building is local radio station Wow FM.

There were no reported casualties, but the bomb damaged the door and windows of a pawnshop.

Rolly Sacdalan, radio station owner, told reporters they have been receiving reports of planned terrorist attacks in the town.

Only two days ago, August 5, a powerful blast killed 8 and destroyed 4 vehicles in Cotabato City.

On July 26, a bomb exploded in a restaurant in Cagayan de Oro City, killing 8.

No group has claimed responsibility for the incidents, although there are fears these are related to opposition to the ongoing peace talks between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

The MILF has condemned the attack in Cotabato City, noting it occurred in the holy Muslim month of Ramadan. Even its breakaway group, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), which is opposed to the peace talks, also denounced the incident.

But a risk consultancy group hired by foreign businessmen doing business in Mindanao points to the BIFF as the "most likely suspect" in the Cagayan de Oro bombing.

http://www.rappler.com/nation/35803-bomb-explodes-near-radio-station

DFA rejects anew China’s ‘indisputable claim’ over West Philippine Sea

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Aug 6): DFA rejects anew China’s ‘indisputable claim’ over West Philippine Sea
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) rejects China’s “indisputable” claim over the entire West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), including parts of the country’s 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) – the “core issue” of the territorial dispute between the two countries, a spokesman for the DFA said Tuesday.

“We once again redirect China to the core issue which is its claim of indisputable sovereignty over nearly all of the South China Sea under its ‘nine dash line’ position,” said assistant secretary Raul Hernandez.

“The Philippines has asserted before the Arbitral Tribunal, to which China has been invited but has refused to participate, that the nine dash line claim is expansive, excessive and in gross violation of international law,” he told reporters.

China’s nine dash line encompasses nearly the entire West Philippine Sea including the Spratly’s group of Islands near Palawan and Bajo de Masinloc (Scarborough Shoal or Panatag Shoal).

It also encroaches into the EEZ of Vietnam, Malaysia, and Brunei, among other Southeast Asian countries.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi proposed three ways to solve the territorial dispute between individual countries.

First was the bilateral talks between parties directly involved, second was for the implementation of the “Declaration of the Conduct of the South China Sea” for peace and stability, and third was to look for ways of common exploitation that would economically benefit all concerned parties.

China has repeatedly stated its objection to any arbitration of the dispute.

The arbitral tribunal of the United Nations Convention of the Laws of the Seas (UNCLOS) as began its proceedings on the dispute between the Philippines and China.

Tensions rose on the territorial dispute issue when several Chinese fishing vessels were found illegally poaching Philippine endangered and endemic marine species in Bajo de Masinloc.

The arrest of the Chinese fishermen was prevented by the arrival of Chinese Maritime Security vessels that blocked the path of Philippine authorities.

The DFA has filed several protests before China but to no avail.

Filipino fishermen have been unable to fish in the shoal since.

http://globalnation.inquirer.net/82403/dfa-rejects-anew-chinas-indisputable-claim-over-west-philippine-sea

Why the Hamilton-class ships are worth it–military, defense experts

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 6): Why the Hamilton-class ships are worth it–military, defense experts


The BRP Ramon Alcaraz is the second Hamilton-class cutter that was acquired by the Philippine Navy under the Foreign Military Sales Program of the United States. US EMBASSY PHOTO RELEASE

The Philippines’ two biggest warships expected to boost maritime patrol amid a territorial dispute with China may be four-decade-old Hamilton-class cutters, but defense and military experts believe that acquiring these types of secondhand vessels was still worth it.

“The positive outweighs the negative concerns” in getting Hamilton-class frigates for the Navy fleet, said Max Montero, an Australian-based security consultant and a former naval reservist officer of the Philippine Navy, in his blog post which he updates regularly on defense issues.

In a separate interview with INQUIRER.net, Commander Joe Anthony Orbe, commanding officer of the BRP del Pilar, the country’s first Hamilton-class weather high endurance cutter (WHEC) acquired from the United States, in 2011, said that Hamilton-class cutters were a good choice for used warships.

President Benigno Aquino III will lead a ceremony today, Tuesday, here welcoming the arrival of the second Hammer-class cutter acquired by the Philippines — the BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PF-16) — which arrived in the Philippines last Friday after a nearly two-month voyage from the US.

Orbe, said, however that the Navy would still need to acquire other ships that would give complete capability.

“It is a better platform than the ageing naval assets of the PN that negatively affects their capability considering the limitations of their current assets. As an interim platform, the ships will be able to provide the (PN) with capable ships at sea to immediately do its mandate of protecting its interests and territories even with limited capability,” said Montero.

“Anyway it is not expected that a shooting war will happen anytime soon if political arrangements are properly utilized in the absence of armed capability,” he added.

Orbe, who has been the skipper of BRP del Pilar for six months now, cited that one of the advantages of the ship among other Navy assets was its ability to stay at sea for long periods of time, or about 30 days, without going back to port.

The Philippines is locked in a dispute with China over claims on the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea). This prompted the government to take the dispute to the United Nations for abitration.

The BRP Alcaraz will be re-painted gray and will be commissioned to the Navy in October before it will be deployed for patrols.

Both the decommissioned US Coast Guard ships were acquired under the US Excess Defense Article and a military assistance program.

Critics have played down the arrival of BRP Alcaraz, saying that it won’t measure up to China’s military might. One analyst even compared the ship as a “balisong” (fan knife) to China’s “machine gun.”

Before BRP del Pilar and Alcaraz, Montero noted that the Navy’s three largest warships were World War II veterans, the BRP Rajah Humabon (PF-11), the BRP Quezon (PS-70) and BRP Rizal (PS-74), which are even older than the Hamilton-class cutters.

“Due to old age, these ships should have already been withdrawn from service by now.

They do not have the weapons and systems currently being used in other navies, limiting the increase of technological skills and knowledge of ship crews and of the PN organization as a whole,” he said.

While BRP del Pilar is old compared to naval assets used by neighboring countries, the analyst noted  that it was 30 years younger than the Navy’s previously largest warships.

“It is also larger and can operate on higher sea states than most if not all PN warships, has one of the best endurance at sea than most comparable frigate and patrol vessels (both new and old), and has superior seakeeping. Despite its age, it also has the capability to accept modern ship systems,” he said.

However, among the disadvantages of getting Hamilton-class cutters that Montero cited were:


* the ships’ old age wherein degradation of hulls and system were expected to happen;
* not having necessary sensors and weapons system a normal frigate has; and
* the vast choices of secondhand frigates in the market.

For a “cash-strapped” Philippine Navy, the Hamilton-class cutters are already a good bargain, he said.

Training, refurbishment and minor repairs for BRP del Pilar cost the government P450 million; while refurbishment, retrofitting and crew training for BRP Alcaraz cost about P600 million.

The analyst also said that the Navy would need to acquire “as many large-hull warships it can possibly get with its limited budget,” to show its presence and patrol the vast areas within the exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

“If there are more used warships available in the market and the PN has the budget to purchase more, it must use the chance and do so,” he said.

Montero also mentioned that the cycle from purchase to commissioning Hamilton-class cutters was faster than other frigates.

“Due to the complexity of other used frigates, the PN may not be able to bring these more capable ships to sea immediately as it needs more time to train,” he said.

He also noted that the Hamilton-class ships have the basic modern technology the Philippine Navy needs to train its personnel, and has the size to install current and future weapons and sensors to keep it up-to-date for another decade.

Despite the removal by the US of its original radar systems, the PF-15 has new navigation and surface search radar and a new C&C/Common Operational Picture system. It also has a helicopter hangar and helideck for shipborne helicopter operations, and provisions for new radar and communications systems if the PN decides to install,” he said, adding that provisions are also available to upgrade and up-arm the Hamilton-class ships.

Reports said that BRP Alcaraz has been fitted with anti-ship harpoon missile, with weapons system “heavier and sophisticated” than those of BRP del Pilar, but defense and military officials have been mum about it due to  national security purposes.

The BRP Alcaraz is equipped with 76-millimeter Oto Melara gun, which is the same as del Pilar’s, and two 25-mm Bushmaster guns and assorted machine guns.

The Hamilton-class frigates are expected to serve the Navy for another decade, but it “must not be complacent and rely too much on these ships,” Montero said, adding that the Navy “must be able to plan its course of actions to move ahead further and not getting stuck with the WHECs.”

“There’s something that we call as “design force mix,” so not all frigates should be of Hamilton-class. But if it’s already planned then it’s okay, but if not, we need to acquire other ships with complete capability such as anti-air, anti-surface and anti-submarine,” said Orbe.

If anything should be improved with the ship, Orbe noted that the sensors and electronic equipment could get some upgrade, “to strengthen the ability to detect what’s within the environment.”

He added that he has so far not encountered glitches with the ship, except for breakdown in machinery which he considered “normal.”

“It’s normal for the machineries to break down but the crew is able to address it. We do a maintenance program regularly whether it has a problem or not,” he said.

He added that he also saw the need to train more people to manage the equipment and machineries.

Although the acquisition of frigates is aimed at achieving “minimum credible deterrence” to be able to patrol territorial seas and EEZ and not directed towards any other country, Orbe believes that the warships could be used for defense together with other assets in the inventory should there be any untoward threat.

Last April, the Department of National Defense said that some of the items in the pipeline that would help the military to achieve a “minimum deterrence capability” include the acquisition of two brand-new frigates under an P18-billion budget.

http://globalnation.inquirer.net/82367/why-the-hamilton-class-ships-are-worth-it-military-defense-experts

No one can contain China, scholar says amid territory rows

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Aug 6): No one can contain China, scholar says amid territory rows
No one can contain China’s rise, a leading Beijing foreign policy thinker said Tuesday, warning Manila and Tokyo that they had been mistakenly emboldened by Washington in territorial disputes with his country.

China is embroiled in a bitter row with Japan over disputed islands in the East China Sea, and also claims almost the whole of the South China Sea, where it has engaged in standoffs with Philippine forces.

At the same time the Obama administration is engaged in a “pivot” to Asia.

But Ruan Zongze, vice president and senior fellow at the China Institute of International Studies, said: “No one in this world will try to contain China and no one in this world is capable of containing China.

“Since the United States has adopted this new strategy of returning to the Asia-Pacific region, some countries have made the wrong judgement that the US will encourage them to challenge the sovereignty and territorial integrity of China,” he added.

“This is a misjudgement on their part.”

Ruan, who has served as a diplomat in the United States and Britain, was speaking at an event organized by the All-China Journalists’ Association, a state organization.

The US has defense treaties with both Japan and the Philippines, and Ruan blamed Washington for emboldening them.

It had sold weaponry to the Philippines following tensions between Beijing and Manila over a disputed shoal in the South China Sea, he said.

“This has intentionally or unintentionally boosted the confidence of the Philippines to challenge China.”

Regarding the East China Sea dispute, Ruan said: “The United States is very clearly aware that it is responsible for this conflict between China and Japan over the Diaoyu Island issue.”

Ruan used the Chinese name for the islands. Japan, which administers the chain, calls them Senkaku.

The US and China are the world’s top two economies and militaries, and their respective presidents Barack Obama and Xi Jinping held their first summit in California in June, seeking to establish a personal rapport as they manage relations.

The best scenario was for the two countries to “enhance mutual understanding” and “accommodate… each other’s core interests,” Ruan said.

http://globalnation.inquirer.net/82445/no-one-can-contain-china-scholar-says-amid-territory-rows

4th Mech KALASAG conducts IED awareness campaign

From the Philippine Information Agency posted to Ugnayan Website (Aug 5): 4th Mech KALASAG conducts IED awareness campaign

A joint team of Improvised Explosive Device (IED) experts headed by the Fourth Mechanized Infantry (Kalasag) Battalion, Philippine Army, conducted an (IED) Awareness in the Gaisano Supermall parking lot, on August 2 this city.

Around 140 participants composed of security heads and personnel, as well as the establishment’s sales supervisors were among those who heard the lectures shared by the 35th Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Team and the EOD unit from the PNP- Iligan City Police Office (ICPO) led by P/SInsp. Oliver Pableo. 

The discussion focused on the IED familiarization, it’s devastating effects and the bomb threat management.

Lt. Col Danilo G, Ibon, commanding officer, based in Camp Climaco Pintoy, Barangay Suarez, Iligan City, said with the recent bombing 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 to counter the harmful plans of the heartless terrorists, thus, let us be vigilant in doing our part as concerned Iliganons,” LtCol Ibon said.

http://www.ugnayan.com/ph/gov/PIA/Article/3EPG

Army chief hails 8th ID as the best division in the entire country

From the Philippine Information Agency (Aug 6): Army chief hails 8th ID as the best division in the entire country

Philippine Army Chief, Lieutenant General Noel Coballes, hailed the 8th Infantry Division (8th ID) as the best army division in the country.

Coballes, a member of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA)“Mapitagan” Class of 1980 praised the 8th ID commanding general Maj. Gen. Gerardo Layug for demonstrating exemplary and commendable dedication to duty.

Coballes was the guest of honor and speaker during the 8th ID’s Silver Founding Anniversary recently.

He urged the officers and enlisted men to maintain success in addressing the insurgency problem and to continue engaging the people in shared trust and responsibility for peace and security in the region.

“Maybe some of our officers here got these questions in mind the first time they got their assignment in Samar, What is my fault? Why will they send me to Samar? But they are wrong because they now belong to the best division with the best officers and men,” said Coballes.

8th ID’s significant accomplishments during the first semester of 2013 include the arrest of fifteen NPA insurgents, five of whom held key and high positions in the CPP-NPA hierarchy in the region; recovery of 17 high powered firearms and 23 low-powered firearms; neutralization of 7 NPA insurgents during encounters; surrender of 101 rebels composed of 20 NPA insurgents and 81 NPA organized mass members; and the discovery and seizure of 77 NPA camps.

With all these significant successes, the chief commanded his men to persevere in their achievement and ensure the reduced insurgency-related issues to realize the government’s economic programs.

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

IPSP emphasizes that the primary focus of the AFP in the conduct of its operations is Winning the Peace and not just defeating the enemy.

http://www.pia.gov.ph/news/index.php?article=1221375754921

Nolcom encourages Northern Luzon residents to take the PMA entrance exam

From the Philippine Information Agency (Aug 5): Nolcom encourages Northern Luzon residents to take the PMA entrance exam

Northern Luzon Command (Nolcom) is encouraging the residents of Ilocos, Cagayan Valley, Cordillera, and Central Luzon regions to grab the opportunity to have a promising career as an officer of the Air Force, Amy, or Navy by taking the entrance exam of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) that is scheduled on August 25.

In a statement, Nolcom said the exam is open to all Filipino citizens aged 17 to 22 years old by April 1, 2014 who are single (never been married); at least 5’0’’ tall both for male and female and not exceeding 6’4”; at least a high school graduate; of good moral character; no pending administrative or criminal case; and physically and mentally fit for active military service.

Those who are interested and qualified are advised to submit a fully accomplished application form along with a copy of an authenticated birth certificate and certified true copy of High School Form 137 to the Office of Cadet Admission of PMA two weeks prior to the exam date.

The form maybe downloaded from the academy’s official website – www.pma.ph .

Aspirants may also apply online, for details regarding this mode of application please visit the said website.

Nolcom encourages those who have inquiries to call the Office of Cadet Admission in the following numbers: (074) 446-8002, (074) 447-3690 loc. 6751/6752, 09178964299, 09285597651, or 09437056890.

The PMA entrance examination this year consists of Algebra and Geometry, Grammar and Composition, Reading and Comprehension, Verbal and Numerical Reasoning and Pattern Analysis.

It will be held simultaneously in over 37 venues across the archipelago including the cities of Baguio, Laoag, Dagupan, Tuguegarao, Cabanatuan, Tarlac, San Fernando (Pampanga) and the towns of Bontoc in Mountain Province and Bayombong in Nueva Vizcaya.

Aspirants who successfully hurdle the test shall undergo the Complete Physical and Medical Examination at the Armed Forces of the Philippines Medical Center to determine their medical conditions as well as their psychological and physical readiness to undergo a rigorous military training.

http://www.pia.gov.ph/news/index.php?article=561375605987

GPH Peace Panel visits Marawi, presents Framework Agreement’s annex on wealth sharing

From the Philippine Information Agency (Aug 6): GPH Peace Panel visits Marawi, presents Framework Agreement’s annex on wealth sharing

Members of the Government of the Philippines (GPH) Peace Panel presented the highlights of the Annex on Revenue Generation and Wealth Sharing of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro in a briefing on the updates of the GPH -Moro Islamic Liberation Front peace talks held here on Monday.

The Annex deals on the powers of the new political entity in terms of generating revenue as well as saving the wealth coming from the natural resources in its territorial jurisdiction, GPH Panel Member and Former Agriculture Secretary Senen Bacani told participants of the briefing.

Bacani said the revenue generation, wealth sharing, and matters relating to fiscal administration are the main components of the Annex.

"Political autonomy can be more meaningful when accompanied by fiscal autonomy thus it is important that the needs of the Bangsamoro entity will be addressed in terms of necessary resources that will be given to them," he explained.

Accordingly, Bangsamoro communities are among the underdeveloped in the country due to decades-long armed conflict and the measures provided in the Annex will help bridge the financial gap so that Bangsamoro can catch-up with the more progressive areas of the country.

Under the Annex, the Bangsamoro shall have the power to levy donor’s tax, estate tax, documentary stamp tax and capital gains tax where all taxable elements are within the Bangsamoro jurisdiction in addition to the taxing powers already devolved to the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

The Bangsamoro shall also have the power to levy different fees and charges for transaction that will have with its constituents and it may receive grants from donors. Income derived from the operations of Bangsamoro government-owned and controlled corporations, financial institutions, economic zones and freeports operating therein shall go to the Bangsamoro government.

Moreover, the Bangsamoro shall have the power to contract loans or other forms of indebtedness by itself except for loans requiring sovereign guaranty which will require the approval of central government, Bacani said.

Bacani further said that national taxes, fees and charges collected by the central government within the Bangsamoro will be shared 75 percent to the Bangsamoro and 25 percent to the central government.

"In terms of sharing of income from exploration, development and utilization of natural resources, we have agreed on the following: 100 percent to the Bangsamoro for non-metallic resources such as sand, gravel and quarry resources; 75 percent to Bangsamoro and 25 percent to central government for metallic minerals; and equal sharing for fossil fuels and uranium," he added.

Bacani said one of the important sections of the Annex is the provision of block grants through automatic appropriation and regular release of the fund to the Bangsamoro government based on a formula that will be provided in the Basic Law.

The Annex also provides for the deductions of revenues from additional taxes beyond those devolved to the ARMM and the Bangsamoro share in revenues derived from natural resources from the annual block grant.

This provision came from the MILF showing their desire to be less dependent from the central government’s support, Bacani further said.

The Annex on Revenue Generation and Wealth Sharing is one of the four annexes that together with the Framework Agreement on Bangsamoro will complete the comprehensive agreement. The said Annex was signed by the GPH-MILF Peace Panels last July 13, 2013 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

http://www.pia.gov.ph/news/index.php?article=1521375751602

Malaysian escapes from Philippine militants after 9 months as hostage, says cousin died

From the Daily Reporter/Associated Press (Aug 6): Malaysian escapes from Philippine militants after 9 months as hostage, says cousin died



Malaysian Chong Wei Jie, center, arrives in Jolo, Sulu province, southern Philippines on Tuesday Aug. 6, 2013. The Philippine police says Chong, one of two Malaysian cousins held by al-Qaida-linked militants in the countryĆ¢€™s south for nine months, has escaped and told police his cousin Chong Wei Fei, 33, has died of an unknown illness while in captivity. (AP Photo/Nickee Butlangan)      



Malaysian Chong Wei Jie, 25, is escorted on a wheelchair after undergoing a medical check up in Jolo, Sulu province, southern Philippines on Tuesday Aug. 6, 2013. The Philippine police says Chong, one of two Malaysian cousins held by al-Qaida-linked militants in the countryĆ¢€™s south for nine months, has escaped and told police his cousin Chong Wei Fei, 33, has died of an unknown illness while in captivity. (AP Photo/Nickee Butlangan)   

A Malaysian man has escaped from al-Qaida-linked militants who held him for nine months and told Philippine police his cousin died of an illness in captivity, a police official said Tuesday.

Officers on patrol saw the man walking in a village in Indanan township early Tuesday, Sulu provincial police chief Abraham Orbita said by telephone from the provincial capital, Jolo.

He said Chong Wei Jie, 25, told officers he had escaped three days earlier.

"According to him he was able to escape when his shackles loosened up and he fled until he came to the village of Pasil in Indanan," Orbito said.

Chong told police his cousin, 33-year-old Chong Wei Fei, died on April 8. "He said he saw his cousin's body shaking and then stop breathing," Orbito said.

The former hostage was weak and skinny, sported long hair and had grown a moustache, he said.

Orbito said Abu Sayyaf gunmen seized the Chongs from a palm oil plantation in Malaysia's Sabah state near Sulu in November. Malaysian media have reported that Chong was the plantation's assistant manager and his cousin was the manager.

He said their families were unable to pay a ransom of 10 million pesos ($230,000) that later was lowered to 2 million ($46,000).

Abu Sayyaf is notorious for beheading hostages, bomb attacks and ransom kidnappings. It is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, which has provided arms and training to the Philippine military to wipe out the group.

Abu Sayyaf gunmen in June seized two Filipino-Algerian sisters and filmmakers in Sulu's Patikul township. They are also holding a Jordanian journalist and two Europeans.

http://www.greenfieldreporter.com/view/story/df4f47c0d1e44c9ea647693f54722628/AS-Philippines-Malaysia-Hostage

Defense eyeing to amend pension benefit law

From Business World (Aug 4): Defense eyeing to amend pension benefit law

THE DEFENSE department is studying changes to the military pension law to address a looming budget crisis in funding the salary of active personnel and retiree benefits.

“The proposal to remove the indexation [in the retirement benefit system] is under study... Things are being ironed out and all these inputs are being studied,” Defense Director and spokesperson Peter G. Galvez said in a phone interview.

The response was a follow-up to a radio interview last week whereby Defense Secretary Voltaire T. Gazmin said scrapping the law on indexing pension benefits to the pay of active personnel will address concerns that pension costs will eventually overtake the budget for salaries.

“The retirees’ pension is indexed with the salary of the active [personnel]... This means that when the salary of the active increases, the pension benefits will also increase. The pension will continue to balloon,” Mr. Gazmin explained.

“By 2018 or 2019, the pension requirement will be bigger than the active soldiers’ salaries and that will be a problem.”

An interagency move is being conducted to study the proposal.

“The proposal is being studied by the Department of Budget and Management, Department of Finance, and Government Service Insurance System (GSIS),” Mr. Gazmin added.

The indexation scheme is provided under Presidential Decree 1638 or the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) Retirement Law of 1979.

Meanwhile, Gen. Raul S. Urgello (retired), former chief of the Intelligence Service of the Philippines, said in a separate radio interview that the Department of National Defense should study the proposal carefully and find an alternative solution.

“That is a very simplified approach. Only active soldiers will be affected. We [retirees] will not be affected by the proposed reform because you cannot pass a law that is retroactive...,” Mr. Urgello said.

He added that “one of the unintended consequences” of the proposal to remove the indexation scheme is the probable mass retirement of soldiers who are still in active service.

According to the Armed Forces of the Philippines Pension and Gratuity Management Center statement last Thursday, total pensioners on the July 2013 payroll numbered 122,472.

A total of 12,203 out of the 15,775 pensioners with incomplete data documents have been revalidated to be restored in the pension payroll as of July 19.

“If you will compare the number of retirees of GSIS and SSS (Social Security System) which both runs to millions, we are a small group... I hope they heed to our requests because it will have an effect on the morale and welfare of our soldiers,” Mr. Urgello said.

http://www.bworldonline.com/content.php?section=Nation&title=Defense-eyeing-to-amend-pension-benefit-law&id=74423

Ramadan with the rebels of Mindanao

From Aljazeera (Aug 5): Ramadan with the rebels of Mindanao

MILF prays for a peace deal by 2014, with talks set to resume after holy month.
                    
 


In response, the rebel group, headed by MILF Chairman Al Haj Murad
Ebrahim, also made major concessions, renouncing its fight for
independence, accepting asmaller territory than that spelled out
in the 1976 Tripoli Agreement, and promising to eventually give up
their arms.

Philippine President Benigno Aquino III is also betting his political
capital and popularity on the deal, despite some doubts in the
predominantly Catholic country.

"We are ready to lend the strength of the entire nation to lift up the
provinces of Muslim Mindanao, who are among our poorest," Aquino
said in his annual address to the nation on July 22. "We will not allow
any of our countrymen to be left behind, while others surpass them."

According to the latest government statistics, several provinces in
Muslim Mindanao have poverty rates above 40 percent, as of
April 2013.

But Haq said it was not poverty driving the unrest in Mindanao, but
rather the absence of a political solution to their struggle for a
homeland.

"If there is a political solution, I can assure you that everything
will go with it," Haq said. "Farmers can till their field without fear
of bombing, and businessmen can attend to their activities. There's
no fear of having untimely loss of lives."

Yet some Christian settlers in Mindanao, who have seen their share
of violence, remain sceptical. 

At Cotabato's 141-year-old Tamontaka Catholic Church, touted as a
symbol of inter-faith unity because of its location within a Muslim
neighbourhood, one devotee said he favoured the policy of President
Joseph Estrada. During his term, Estrada launched an "all-out war"
against the MILF in 2000. He was later ousted, but he remained popular
among the Christian community here.

Haq has fought in many wars - including in 2000, 2003 and 2008.
"Talking with the enemy is very important and very effective," he said.

"Sometimes, I think the burst of a gun is okay. But in the end, the
voice of talking is more effective than the burst of a gun."

http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2013/08/20138412430164345.html

Aquino approves 20,000 more troops for AFP

From Rappler (Aug 5): Aquino approves 20,000 more troops for AFP

President Benigno Aquino III has approved a plan to recruit 20,000 more soldiers. Most of them will go to the Philippine Army, the largest branch of service under the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

"It’s with DBM (Department of Budget and Management). We’re looking into the appropriate ways to fund this," said defense department spokesperson Peter Galvez.
The training requirement will cost P5 billion while the salaries for all 20,000 new posts will cost additional P4 billion annually, based on the approved budget plan shown to Rappler.

"The important thing is the plan is approved," Galvez added. Implementation is pending availability of funds but the plan is to "gradually" fill up the 20,000 posts "within a 3-year period," Galvez said.
"We are simply addressing what should have been addressed long before," Galvez added. "The 20,000 will fill up the troop requirement to achieve a 95% complement of a unit. At present, most of our units are not filled up."

Aquino in his 2013 State of the Nation Address (SONA) talked about the need to augment the country's security forces. "In 1986, there were an estimated 250,000 policemen and soldiers protecting a total of 55 million Filipinos. Today, we still have an estimated 250,000 policemen and soldiers, who protect 95 million Filipinos. Our population has almost doubled; while the number of our protectors has not changed," Aquino said in his SONA.
The last big recruitment in the AFP happened in 2006 when then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo approved the hiring of 11,000 new troops. Then AFP chief Gen Hermogenes Esperon Jr justified this by saying the military needed more soldiers to stop the New People's Army (NPA) from operating in urban centers.

External threats
The approval of new recruits comes at a time when the Air force and the Navy are also getting better equipment.

"Something that will help our units in the frontline is very important," said Army chief Lt Gen Noel Coballes.

The Army has a current strength of 85,000 men and women fighting the NPA, the Abu Sayyaf Group, rogue members of the Moro National Liberation Front, and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighter (BIFF). The Moro Islamic Liberation Front is in peace talks with the government.
The additional troops will increase the number of Army troops to about 105,000. It's still far from the ideal troop strength of 150,000, based on estimates by Coballes. He said his computation is based on the country's population growth rate.

He said the Army units are undermanned. Troops are very tired because they are forced to extend their tours of duty, he added. They have to be regularly taken out of the field for reorientation, Coballes explained.
Coballes said external security threats also made it more urgent for the military to improve its posture. "There is a shift from internal defense to external defense. We have to improve our military posture," he said. The bulk of the new recruits, however, will go to the Army, which is not the primary force in external defense.

The AFP has highlighted the new challenges posed by the row between Manila and Beijing over the West Philippine Sea. Commanders have been instructed to "conclude" these internal security threats by 2016 so the military can focus on external defense and other tasks.
READ: Finish insurgency, AFP chief tells commanders

Coballes said the additional troops will help achieve this. "The performance of the organization will be improved," he said. "We now have a population of 100 million. We have to increase our soldiers to protect security fo the people."
READ: Retired generals want ROTC back in colleges

Coballes also supports new calls to make the ROTC mandatory in colleges.
http://www.rappler.com/nation/35627-aquino-approves-more-troops-military

MILF: MILF condemns Cotabato City blast

From the MILF Website (Aug 6): MILF condemns Cotabato City blast



(A) senior leader of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has issued a statement condemning the latest barbaric attack in Cotabato City that took place yesterday that killed six persons and wounded 29 others, as Muslims rushed to buy food for the sunset breaking of fasting.
  
However, most of the victims were motorists who were passing by a funeral home on Sinsuat Avenue where a van, parked earlier by a still unidentified man, exploded.

Among those killed was Chief Insp. Mama Manambuay of the Maguindanao police intelligence unit. His companion, Chief Insp. Abubakar Mangelen, was among the wounded.

Muhammad Ameen, chair of the MILF Secretariat, told Luwaran during an interview last night that the MILF condemns this kind of barbarism where civilians are deliberately targeted as means to deliver message for an evil agenda.

“Whoever did this deserved the wrath of Allah,” Ameen said, explaining that the month of Ramadan is a prohibited time to initiate fighting even if there is an ongoing war between two parties.

Reports said that the bomb apparently rigged to a vehicle exploded as a bulletproof SUV, carrying City Administrator Cynthia Guiani-Sayadi, was passing by.

Sayadi was not hurt, but two of her police bodyguards in a security van were killed, officials said, adding it was unclear if Sayadi was the target of the attack.

But police were investigating to determine if Sayadi was the target or her brother, Mayor Japal Guiani Jr.

In a statement issued two hours after the explosion, Sayadi said she strongly believed she was the target of the attack. But she did not say whether she knew who tried to kill her.

The blast came a week after a bomb attack in Cagayan de Oro City that killed eight people and injured 46 others.
http://www.luwaran.com/index.php/welcome/item/487-milf-condemns-cotabato-city-blast

Army chief anonymously accused of favoring godson, an aspiring officer

From Malaya (Aug 6): Army chief anonymously accused of favoring godson, an aspiring officer

AN anonymous letter accused Army chief Lt. Gen. Noel Coballes of micromanaging the Army’s Candidate School based in Tarlac and favoring a godson who is a student at the institution.

Coballes yesterday acknowledged getting a copy of the complaint which he said was spread by officers who are against the reforms he has instituted at the school in Camp O’Donnel in Capas, Tarlac.

A copy of the letter, which was acquired by the media as early as last week, said Coballes should retire from the service early because “he has lost the credibility to lead the Army.”

Coballes, a member of the Philippine Military Academy class of 1980, is reaching the mandatory retirement age of 56 in February next year. He took over as head of the 85,000-strong Army last January.

“Can someone investigate the relationship of Lt. Gen. Coballes and dumbguard (plebe) Romualdes?,” the two-page letter said, referring to candidate officer Aaron Romualdes.

The letter said Coballes reportedly summoned an Army officer when Romualdes failed the physical fitness test which the officer supervised.

The letter said the officer was called on his athletic uniform and was asked to undergo a PFT himself. The test was supervised by Coballes’ staff who videotaped the exercise.

“The OCS has been damaged as an institution,” said the letter, adding Coballes would summon other officers based on complaints given by Romualdes to the Army chief.

It said Coballes’ actuation bypassed Maj. Gen. Benito de Leon, commander of the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command where the school is directly under.

It said four officers were relieved from their posts, apparently due to reports provided by Romualdes to Coballes.

The officers include Maj. Jonathan Obena, chief of the Army’s Procurement and Attrition Branch, which is in charge of lowering the number of the class members.

Obena was reportedly picked on by Coballes’ staff due to alleged harassment.

It said Coballes was “very furious” that “one of the kids who was (reported) mishaving (in the class) is godson” of the Army chief. It said Obena was re-assigned in Mindanao as a result.

In a press conference in Fort Bonifacio, Coballes said the officers who prepared the letter were probably against the “no-maltreatment” reforms he ordered instituted in the school.

“The people who made (the letter) probably do not want changes in the school. They probably believe that what the Philippine Army is wrong...We have implemented a no-maltreatment policy in our schools,” he said.

Coballes said they have to implement the no-maltreatment policy so that these candidate officers will not be violating human rights when they become regular officers.

Asked who Romualdes is, Coballes said he is a leader of the class. “I told them that if they have a problem, they can approach me. I am open to everybody.”

http://www.malaya.com.ph/index.php/news/nation/37761-army-chief-anonymously-accused-of-favoring-godson-an-aspiring-officer

China patrols off Palawan, builds basketball court in reef - report

From the Philippine Star (Aug 6): China patrols off Palawan, builds basketball court in reef - report

Chinese navy recently launched a new patrol route in West Philippine Sea and has turned Panganiban (Mischief) Reef into a naval outpost with a basketball court, a classified military document obtained by a Japan-based news agency on Monday reveals.

The report by Kyodo News said that the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy's South Sea Fleet established new surveillance pattern covering almost all contested territories including areas 85 nautical miles off Palawan, which China claims as within its "nine-dash line" practically covering the entire South China Sea.

"All other reefs, shoals and islands, including Second Thomas (Ayungin) Shoal, Reed (Recto) Bank and Mischief (Panganiban) Reef are, therefore, inside or covered by the patrol route," Kyodo News quoted the report as saying, referring to areas claimed by the Philippines as within its exclusive economic zone under the United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea.

Panganiban Reef has been under China's de facto control since 1994 and has reportedly become its command center in the sea. It was also seen to have enhanced its presence near Ayungin last week.

Related: China boosts presence near reef

The document disclosed that Beijing's navy beefed up Panganiban to become a naval station complete with a helicopter landing pad, radar and satellite equipment, installations for anti-aircraft guns and machine guns, a three-story observation tower and also a basketball court.

The report added that China also added military facilities in Johnson South Reef (claimed by Vietnam), Fiery Cross (Kagitingan) Reef, Subi (Zamora) Reef, Cuarteron (Calderon) Reef and Gaven Reef (claimed by Vietnam and the Philippines).

"Fiery Cross Reef is often used as harbor for the Yuting-class Landing Ship deployed in the (South China Sea)," the report says, adding that some of the outposts besides having basketball courts, solar panels and parapets also have 'covered nurseries'."

Zamora also now has concrete buildings and a military barracks, it says.

The Recto Bank, meanwhile, was found by an American agency to hold rich oil and gas reserves. Philippine firms' plans to explore the area have been delayed by the sea row.

'Volatile'

The report admitted that the new patrol route has made the situation in the dispute area "more volatile" since warships were deployed off Ayungin as early as February.

As the military report insists that at least two PLA frigates and a landing ship remain in the area to suggest "constant presence," it is meant to ensure that the Philippines is kept away from Ayungin.

The reef, it says, "gives the Philippines a sentry advantage in stopping other countries' occupation of features nearest to the Philippines."

"With these realities, our defense posture (in the south China Sea) remains to be reactive on developing situations," the military document says.

It also expressed full awareness in the Philippine Armed Forces' limited actions in the area, saying that its "defense assets are not sufficient to implement the required military actions" against China.

China has long complained of a grounded Philippine Navy vintage landing ship in Panganiban Reef, saying it has encroached in China's territory and offered to tow the vessel away.

http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2013/08/06/1058591/china-patrols-palawan-builds-basketball-court-reef-report

CPP/NDF: NDFP Negotiator Denounces Surveillance and Harassment

Posted to the PRWC Blog (Aug 5): NDFP Negotiator Denounces Surveillance and Harassment

National Democratic Front of the Philippines
Monitoring Committee
5 August 2013

NDFP Panel Member Fidel V. Agcaoili denounces the brazen surveillance and harassment conducted against him by two motorcycle-riding men last Monday along EDSA while en route to Quezon City.

At about 1:30 p.m. on 29 July 2013, a man riding a blue motorcycle had been observed evidently following him and his companions while riding a van officially designated for the NDFP Nominated Section in the Joint Secretariat of the Joint Monitoring Committee.  Along the way, the man was joined by another rider on board a red motorcycle.  Both continued to follow Agcaoili’s vehicle even after they had taken evasive moves in an attempt to convey to the motorcycle-riding men that they had been noticed.

To evade any potential untoward incident that would prejudice his safety and security and that of his companions, they decided to enter a private subdivision along EDSA in Makati.  At the gate of the subdivision, they informed the guard about the two motorcycle-riding men tailing them.  The guard blew a whistle to alert his companions who were about to accost the two when the latter turned around and counter-flowed against the traffic.  They were stopped by two guards at the end of the queue of cars.  But the two slipped away before they could be questioned and identified.

In a letter to the GPH Negotiating Panel, Agcaoili protested the surveillance and harassment conducted against him by the two motorcycle-riding men as a blatant violation of the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG).  Only GPH personnel would have the temerity to do what they did.

As a member of longstanding of the NDFP Negotiating Panel, Agcaoili is protected by the JASIG from surveillance and harassment, among others, and is allowed free movement to conduct consultations and even meet with GPH officials.

Agcaoili is in town to conduct consultations, meet with friendly forces open to the resumption of the peace negotiations, and get the real sense of the GPH Principal regarding the same.  His being subjected to surveillance is a deliberate violation of the JASIG and clearly manifests the GPH’s contempt and lack of respect for all previously signed agreements with the NDFP, particularly the JASIG.

Once again, the NDFP firmly demands GPH's faithful compliance with the JASIG and to desist from any and all actions that would contravene its objectives aimed to "facilitate the peace negotiations, create a favourable atmosphere conducive to free discussion and free movement during the peace negotiations, and avert any incident that may jeopardize the peace negotiations."

This latest incident may be tantamount to eventually sabotaging the peace negotiations indefinitely. The NDFP finally raises its serious concern that this incident, on top of the continuing multifarious violations of the JASIG by the GPH, would further aggravate the current impasse in the peace negotiations which was practically killed by the intransigence, bellicosity and capitulationist intentions of the GPH.

Reference:
Marissa P. Dumanjug-Palo
Head of Secretariat
NDFP-Nominated Section
Joint Secretariat
Tel.: +632-7252072
Tel/Fax.: +632-7251457
Emal: ndfp_jsection@yahoo.com

http://theprwcblogs.blogspot.com/2013/08/ndfp-negotiator-denounces-surveillance.html

Win the Peace’ campaign enters second phase: Army

From the Visayan Daily Star (Aug 6): ‘Win the Peace’ campaign enters second phase: Army

The Provincial Peace, Integration and Development Unit, a multi-sectoral group composed of the provincial government, military, police and civil society groups, is embarking on the second phase of its “ Win the Peace” campaign in the hinterlands of Escalante, Toboso and Calatrava.

The theme of the project is “ Serving the Countryside, Working with the People”.

Col. Jon Aying, 303rd Infantry Brigade commander, yesterday said this is a continuation of the 14-day focused military operations and humanitarian mission dubbed as “Marching for Peace, Serving the Countryside”, which benefitted more than 20,000 populace .

Aying said the recent activity has provided residents of the hinterland barangays of Escalante, Toboso and Calatrava their immediate needs.

The second phase aims to come up with more tangible projects that will reduce the hunger problem and address the basic health needs, in line with the Negros First Agenda of Gov. Alfredo Maranon Jr., who actively participated in the first phase of the mission, he added.

Aying also said they have conceptualized a much tailor-suited approach in tandem with the civic action group under in the second phase of the peace and humanitarian mission that includes the creation of Bayanihan Team Activities – Army Mass Base Operations Team and the Bayanihan Team Activities - Awareness and Basic Needs Operations.

http://www.visayandailystar.com/2013/August/06/topstory9.htm

Cotabato City deadly car bomb 'unusual,' says ARMM governor

From GMA News (Aug 6): Cotabato City deadly car bomb 'unusual,' says ARMM governor

Rare car bomb kills 8, ignites fires in Cotabato City

A bomb detonated inside a "multicab" vehicle shocks the center of Cotabato City on Monday afternoon, August 5, killing eight people and wounding at least 30. Car bombs have been a method of choice for terrorists in Iraq but have rarely been used in the Philippines, an important clue in the investigation, according to ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman. Reuters

The explosion that killed eight people and injured 30 others on Monday was the first of its kind in Cotabato City, according to Governor Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

"May mga pagsabog noong mga nakaraan, pero hindi car bomb. Heto lang yung first time na multicab mismo 'yung ginamit dito sa pagsabog," Hataman said in an interview on "News to Go" on Monday.

According to Hataman, previous explosions in the area were caused by bombs left in motorcycles or wrapped in plastic, unlike in the Middle East where car bombs are common.

Possible angles

Hataman said it was too early to say who the target might be for Monday's blast.

In an earlier report, Philippine National Police (PNP) spokesman Senior Superintendent Reuben Theodore Sindac said investigators were looking at various possible motives, including rivalry among local politicians.

The blast, which occurred on main highway Sinsuat Street, happened just when Cotabato City administrator Cynthia Guiani-Sayadi was passing through the area in a bulletproof car which is used by both Guiani-Sayadi and her brother, Cotabato City's re-electionist mayor, Japal Guiani, Jr.

Both the mayor and city administrator received death threats two weeks ago, GMA News stringer Ferdinandh Cabrera reported on News to Go on Tuesday.

Hataman said he would find out if reports of the death threats were filed with the police.

"Sinasabi nila ngayon, si Cynthia, sinasabi niya posible siya. Pero that is possibility. Ang daming puwedeng possibility," said Hataman, noting that the Cotabato blast was the second bombing to hit Mindanao in 10 days.

On July 26, an explosion in Cagayan de Oro killed eight people and injured at least 40 others.

"Even before yung incident ng Cagayan, meron na rin kaming mga intelligence report na natatanggap kasi nagkaroon ng intel report na merong possibility na mangyari, pero walang specific area," Hataman said, referring to a global security alert issued by Interpol prompted by al Qaeda communications intercepted by US intelligence about new plans for terrorist attacks.

"Ito yung mga possibilities na puwedeng titingnan, at the same time merong ongoing clashes at naghahabulan, nagtutugisan ang ating sandatahang lakas at Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF)," Hataman said.

He added that investigators would be able to release the results of their probe today.

Tight security

Meanwhile, Cotabato photographer Mark Navales said security was extremely tight at the crime scene.

"Nakasara, wala talagang pinapadaan hanggang ngayon," Navales said on Tuesday.

"Kasama yung marines, SAF PNP, at SOCO (scene of the crime operatives) team," he said, adding that the investigators were thoroughly examining the crime scene.

Navales said the entire area was cordoned off, including parts from the corner of the Cotabato Regional and Medical Center (CRMC) to the ORG Compound.

In the investigation of the Cagayan de Oro blast on July 26, the scene of the crime was cleaned even before a reenactment of the incident.

The police had allowed the owners of affected bars in Limketkai shopping complex to clean the blast site
just hours after the explosion, angering Interior Secretary Mar Roxas.

NAPOLCOM policy on crime investigation

Although there are no guidelines as to how long a crime scene should be cordoned off, this should be done only after all evidence is secured and the documentation process is completed.

The National Police Commission's standard operating procedure ODIDM-2011-008 (Conduct of Crime Scene Investigation) only states that the investigator shall decide on the lifting of the security cordon and the release of the crime scene upon consultation with the SOCO Team Leader.

It also states that the investigator shall be responsible for ensuring that all potential evidence has been collected by the SOCO Team as any re-entry into the crime scene after its release to the owner will require a search warrant issued by the Court.

Previous blasts

On July 29, an improvised explosive device (IED) went off inside the University of Southern Mindanao Campus in North Cotabato.

In August 2012, an IED fashioned from an 81-mm mortar went off at the North Cotabato-Maguindanao border, only seven hours after another IED was recovered near the national road in Poblacion, Midsayap in North Cotabato.

In August 2011, an IED went off along Quezon Avenue in Cotabato City, killing two and wounding at least nine others. The IEF was placed on a motorcycle that was parked outside a pharmacy store.

Also in 2011, bomb experts successfully detonated an IED left at a Cotabato City inn.

In the same year, the police arrested suspected terrorist Ricardo Ayeras, who was wanted for the 2003 bombing of a car outside the Awang Airport in Cotabato City. Ayeras was associated with the al Qaeda terrorist network, according to an International Police-United Nations Security Council Special Notice.

In 2010, an IED went off inside a bus in Dalapitan, North Cotabato, killing 10 and wounding 30 others.

Also in 2010, a child discovered an IED connected to a Nokia 3310 mobile phone inside a plastic bag.

In 2009, army troops detonated an IED made from ammo of a rocket propelled grenade. The device was found near the National Transmission Commission (Transco) steel tower in Sitio Dungu-an in Barangay Ugalingan.

Also in 2009, an IED went off at a lechon (roasted pig) house in front of the Immaculate Concepcion Cathedral along Quezon Avenue in Cotabato City, killing five and hurting 29 others.

The attack had the signs of a test-bombing mission Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF)’s Special Operations Group (SOG), according to the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/320792/news/regions/cotabato-city-deadly-car-bomb-unusual-says-armm-governor

PHL attempts to 'modernize' Navy with 46-year-old warship BRP Ramon Alcaraz

From GMA News (Aug 6): PHL attempts to 'modernize' Navy with 46-year-old warship BRP Ramon Alcaraz

President Benigno Aquino III on Tuesday welcomed the arrival of the Philippines's newly acquired warship BRP Ramon Alcaraz, a 46-year-old Hamilton-class cutter expected to strengthen the country's capability in defending its territories.

On board the BRP Ang Pangulo, Aquino witnessed the docking of the BRP Alcaraz at Alva Pier in Subic at around 10:20 a.m. on Tuesday.

In a speech during the event, Aquino said, "ngayong narito na rin ang BRP Alcaraz, tiyak na lalo pang mapapaigting ang pagpapatrolya natin sa Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone; at ang kakayahan nating sugpuin ang anumang banta at masasamang elemento, tumugon sa search and rescue operations, at sa pangangalaga ng ating mga yamang-dagat."
 
"Ganitong mga positibong resulta ang nagbibigay-lakas sa ating pamahalaan upang lalo pang isulong ang modernisasyon sa ating kasundaluhan. Binubura na po natin ang dating imahen ng kulang-kulang na kagamitan at pahirapang kalagayan ng ating mga kawal ng bayan," Aquino added.

He noted that during his three years as President, P27.62 billion have been spent for the Armed Forces of the Philippines Modernization Program.

"Hinigitan na natin ang P26.27 billion na ginastos para sa inyong modernisasyon sa nakalipas na mahigit siyam na taon bago tayo maupo sa katungkulan. Noong nakaraang taon, nilagdaan na rin natin ang Revised AFP Modernization Act, na nagpatibay sa labinlimang taong ekstensiyon ng programa, kaakibat ang paglalaan ng pitumpu’t limang bilyong pisong pondo sa unang limang taon ng implementasyon nito," Aquino said.

 
The arrival of the BRP Alcaraz came amid the country's ongoing territorial dispute with China over portions of the vast South China Sea.
 
The Philippine Navy had earlier said that BRP Alcaraz may be stationed in the disputed West Philippine Sea along with the Navy's other warship, the BRP Gregorio del Pilar.
 
With the newly acquired warship, Flag officer in command Vice Admiral Jose Luis Alano said the Philippine Navy is getting a "significant boost in its capabilities in keeping our archipelagic waters secured and safe." 
 
"Similar to her sister ship BRP Gregorio del Pilar, PF-16 [Alcaraz] is equipped with armaments and equipment to undertake missions for territorial defense, maritime security, and humanitarian assistance and disaster response," he said during a separate speech.
 
"The Philippine Navy deliberately but steadily and more surely is developing its capabilities as the Philippines take greater participation in contributing to the stability and security in the region," he added. 
 
New ship, new weapons
 
Last week, BRP Alcaraz arrived in the country from San Diego in California after traversing Hawaii and Guam.
 
The warship was named after Filipino naval hero Commodore Ramon "Monching" Alcaraz, who gained distinction during the World War II by shooting down three Japanese Zero fighters who tried to attack his ship.
 
It is the second Hamilton-class cutter acquired by the Philippines under the Excess Defense Article and Military Assistance Program after BRP Gregorio Del Pilar (PF15).
 
The 378-foot-long warship was originally commissioned in 1967 and served in the US Coast Guard as the USCGC Dallas. It was decommissioned on March 30, 2012 and turned over to the Philippines in May 22, 2012.
 
According to the US Coast Guard, these types of Hamilton Class cutters are powered by diesel engines and gas turbines, and have controllable-pitch propellers.
 
When they were deployed by the US Coast Guard, the ship was armed with a Mk. 75 Oto Melara 76 mm compact main gun, two Mk. 38 M2424 Bushmaster 25 mm chain gun at midships, and a Phalanx CIWS system aft.
 
According to the US Coast Guard, the cutter also has a helicopter flight deck, retractable hangar, and the facilities to support helicopter deployments.
 
GMA News Online, however, had earlier learned that all the weapons were "stripped off" the warship except for the main gun 76 mm Oto Melara cannon as part of the agreement between the two governments.
 
However, according to the Palace, the Philippine Navy purchased two new Mk. 38 mod 2 gun systems to replace the mounts removed by the US Coast Guard.
 
The ship had been refurbished and refitted at a cost of $15.15 million since it was acquired by the Philippines.
 
According to Navy spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Gregory Fabic, the BRP Alcaraz will be dry docked for at least two months while they iron out some security details in preparation for its blessing in October.
 
He also said the ship will be painted gray from its white color.

Weakest in the region?


The Philippine military is considered one of the weakest in the region and it has been seeking more US aid to boost its capabilities.

The government last week said US military aid to Manila would increase more than 60 percent to 50 million dollars this year, with a possible acquisition of a third naval cutter.

Small numbers of US forces rotate for training in the Philippines, although the defence department has recently said it was in talks with its American counterparts for joint use of Philippine bases.

US Navy P3 Orion surveillance aircraft have also been helping the Philippines gather intelligence on what Manila has said is an increasing Chinese military build-up in the South China Sea.

China claims nearly all of the South China Sea, even waters close to its smaller neighbours. The dispute has long been considered a potential flashpoint of conflict in the region.

Subic, along with the nearby Clark air base, were longtime US military facilities, playing key roles from World War II to the Vietnam War and during the Cold War.

The Philippine Senate voted in 1991 to shut down US bases in the country.
 

PNoy welcomes warship, thanks US for support

From ABS-CBN (Aug 6): PNoy welcomes warship, thanks US for support
President Aquino thanked the United States for its support as he formally welcomed the arrival of a second-hand refurbished warship purchased from the country’s strategic ally.

The ship docked at the Alava Pier on Subic Bay.

The President said the country’s second Hamilton class cutter, the BRP Ramon Alcaraz, will boost the Philippine Navy’s ability to patrol the country’s exclusive economic zone, repel threats, respond in disasters, and protect the country’s natural resources.

The government has previously purchased its first Hamilton class cutter which was named BRP Gregorio del Pilar.

“Sa tulong nito, naging mas pangmatagalan, mas malawak, at mas mabilis ang pagtatanod sa ating mga baybayin. At ngayong narito na rin ang BRP Alcaraz, tiyak na lalo pang mapapaigting ang pagpapatrolya natin sa Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone; at ang kakayahan nating sugpuin ang anumang banta at masasamang elemento, tumugon sa search and rescue operations, at sa pangangalaga ng ating mga yamang-dagat,” Aquino said.

Aquino thanked the United States government, represented in the ceremony by US Ambassador to the Philippines Harry K. Thomas, Jr., for its support to the country’s efforts to modernize the military.

“Nagpapasalamat rin tayo sa ating mga kaalyado, galing sa Estados Unidos, na walang tigil po sa pagtutulong sa atin sa mahabang kasaysayan,” he said.

Previously used by the US Coast Guard and named US Coast Guard Cutter Dallas, the the 45-yesar-old ship was purchased under the United States Excess Defense Articles and Military Assistance Program.

The Navy has purchased gun systems that would be installed in the ship to replace those that were removed prior to the turnover to the Philippine government.

Aquino challenged the Navy to emulate the example of World War II hero Commodore Ramon Alcaraz after whom the ship was named.

Alcaraz was commander of a patrol Q-boat which managed to shoot down three Japanese aircrafts during the war.

“Ibig sabihin: dehado sa gamit, dehado sa sitwasyon, dehado sa kasanayan, pero hindi siya nagpatinag sa kalaban. Nagawang daigin ni Commodore Alcaraz ang tila napaka-imposibleng sitwasyon dahil mulat siyang walang ibang magtatanggol sa ating bansa kundi tayo rin lang,” Aquino said.

The ship will also be deployed to patrol the West Philippine Sea, parts of which is being claimed by China.

More military hardware and equipment are expected under the extension of the AFP modernization program where P75 billion is being allocated in the first five years of its implementation.

http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/nation/08/06/13/pnoy-welcomes-warship-thanks-us-support

PNoy welcomes warship, thanks US for support

From ABS-CBN (Aug 6): PNoy welcomes warship, thanks US for support
President Aquino thanked the United States for its support as he formally welcomed the arrival of a second-hand refurbished warship purchased from the country’s strategic ally.

The ship docked at the Alava Pier on Subic Bay.

The President said the country’s second Hamilton class cutter, the BRP Ramon Alcaraz, will boost the Philippine Navy’s ability to patrol the country’s exclusive economic zone, repel threats, respond in disasters, and protect the country’s natural resources.

The government has previously purchased its first Hamilton class cutter which was named BRP Gregorio del Pilar.

“Sa tulong nito, naging mas pangmatagalan, mas malawak, at mas mabilis ang pagtatanod sa ating mga baybayin. At ngayong narito na rin ang BRP Alcaraz, tiyak na lalo pang mapapaigting ang pagpapatrolya natin sa Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone; at ang kakayahan nating sugpuin ang anumang banta at masasamang elemento, tumugon sa search and rescue operations, at sa pangangalaga ng ating mga yamang-dagat,” Aquino said.

Aquino thanked the United States government, represented in the ceremony by US Ambassador to the Philippines Harry K. Thomas, Jr., for its support to the country’s efforts to modernize the military.

“Nagpapasalamat rin tayo sa ating mga kaalyado, galing sa Estados Unidos, na walang tigil po sa pagtutulong sa atin sa mahabang kasaysayan,” he said.

Previously used by the US Coast Guard and named US Coast Guard Cutter Dallas, the the 45-yesar-old ship was purchased under the United States Excess Defense Articles and Military Assistance Program.

The Navy has purchased gun systems that would be installed in the ship to replace those that were removed prior to the turnover to the Philippine government.

Aquino challenged the Navy to emulate the example of World War II hero Commodore Ramon Alcaraz after whom the ship was named.

Alcaraz was commander of a patrol Q-boat which managed to shoot down three Japanese aircrafts during the war.

“Ibig sabihin: dehado sa gamit, dehado sa sitwasyon, dehado sa kasanayan, pero hindi siya nagpatinag sa kalaban. Nagawang daigin ni Commodore Alcaraz ang tila napaka-imposibleng sitwasyon dahil mulat siyang walang ibang magtatanggol sa ating bansa kundi tayo rin lang,” Aquino said.

The ship will also be deployed to patrol the West Philippine Sea, parts of which is being claimed by China.

More military hardware and equipment are expected under the extension of the AFP modernization program where P75 billion is being allocated in the first five years of its implementation.

http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/nation/08/06/13/pnoy-welcomes-warship-thanks-us-support

Talks underway for another Hamilton-class cutter

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 6): Talks underway for another Hamilton-class cutter

Talks are now underway between US and the Philippines regarding the possible acquisition of another Hamilton-class cutter which will be used to beef up the country's fleet.

Philippine Navy (PN) flag-officer-in-charge Vice Admiral Jose Luis Alano confirmed this but declined to comment on the progress of the talks.

"It's beyond our level," he stated, adding that negotiations are being conducted by ranking defense officials.

Earlier, reports coming from the United States revealed that the USGC Rush, the sister ship of BRP Gregorio Del Pilar (PF-15) and BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PF-16), will be decommissioned within the year and sold again to the Philippines as "excess defense articles".

http://www.pna.gov.ph/index.php?idn=1&sid=&nid=1&rid=552042

BRP Ramon Alcaraz to be fitted with additional weapons during dry-docking period

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 6): BRP Ramon Alcaraz to be fitted with additional weapons during dry-docking period

To enhance the combat efficiency of the BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PF-16), the Philippine Navy (PN) on Tuesday announced that additional weapons will be fitted to the ship during her dry-docking period.

Dry-docking period of the Filipino frigate, which is now moored at the Alava Pier, Subic Bay, is expected to start this August up to October.

"The additional armaments which will be fitted to the BRP Ramon Alcaraz is part of our enhancement program," PN flag-officer-in-charge Vice Admiral Jose Luis Alano said during the sidelight of the ship's welcoming ceremony Tuesday.

He declined to specify what weapons would be fitted to the BRP Ramon Alcaraz.

But PN sources said this include two Mark 38 Model 2 25mm "Bushmasters" autocannon which would be mounted on the port (left) and starboard (right) side of the ship and between four to six .50 caliber and M-60 machine guns.

"The weapons are already here and it will be installed during her dry-docking period," the Navy source said.

Additional heavier weapons are also on the way to make the BRP Ramon Alcaraz a much combat-capable ship, he added.

The Filipino frigate is presently armed with a quick-firing 76mm Oto Melara main gun which has a range of 20 nautical miles.

 http://www.pna.gov.ph/index.php?idn=1&sid=&nid=1&rid=552039

PHL ignores China’s 3-way proposal to address disputes

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 6): PHL ignores China’s 3-way proposal to address disputes

The Philippines on Tuesday ignored China’s three-way proposal to address the long-running disputes in the South China Sea, saying the problem lies in Beijing’s massive claim over the resource-rich waters.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi last week said the territorial rifts can be resolved through consultation and negotiation, the implementation of the non-binding code of conduct in the South China Sea and joint exploration.

“Can we once again re-direct China to the core issue which is its claim of indisputable sovereignty over nearly all of the South China Sea under its nine-dash line position,” Hernandez said referring to China tongue-shaped encirclement that features nine-dashes as Chinese territory.

Manila’s statement is the latest manifestation of long-standing territorial feud between China and the Philippines over South China Sea territories that have reignited in recent years by tense confrontations between Chinese and Philippine vessels in two disputed shoals – Scarborough and Ayungin – off Manila’s western coasts.

China’s massive claim to the South China Sea, or known in the Philippines as West Philippine Sea, and its persistent incursions in Philippine waters has prompted Manila to seek legal recourse through international arbitration under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea or UNCLOS.

The ill-equipped Philippine military is no match to China’s, but the Philippines believes that justice can be dispensed equally through international law.

China refused to join the arbitration, saying the basis of Manila’s arguments are groundless.

“The Philippines has asserted before the arbitral tribunal to which China has been invited but has refused to participate that the nine-dash line claim is expansive, excessive and in gross violation of international law, specifically the UNCLOS. This is the core issue and it behooves China to address it,” Hernandez said.

Competing claims to the South China Sea, a strategic waterway believed to be sitting atop huge gas and oil deposits, by the Philippines, China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan have sparked occasional violence and now regarded as a potential regional flashpoint for armed conflict.

http://www.pna.gov.ph/index.php?idn=1&sid=&nid=1&rid=552069