Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Maranaos to authorities: Go slow on Lanao terror tag

From the Sun Star-Cagayan de Oro (Aug 20): Maranaos to authorities: Go slow on Lanao terror tag

Maranao leaders have asked the authorities to go slow on implying that the province of Lanao del Sur hosts terrorists involved in the series of bombings that rocked Mindanao the past few weeks.

Lanao del Sur Gov. Mamintal Adiong challenged police and military officials to come out with proof to back their claims instead of just issuing conjectures based only on initial and non-conclusive information.

“We will not tolerate any group that will sabotage the peace process,” Adiong stressed, referring to the ongoing negotiations between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to end the four decades of rebellion in Mindanao.

The government and the MILF is in Kuala Lumpur Tuesday to resume talks and iron out power-sharing annexes.

The peace negotiations have so far produced consensus on building a future Bangsamoro self-governance entity with far greater economic and political powers than the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao of which Lanao del Sur.

Adiong said that after decades of strife, they are looking forward to seeing the return to normalcy in Maranao communities as a result of an upcoming political settlement of the Moro conflict.

This recent terrorism tagging, if not checked, will potentially dampen that emerging atmosphere, he added.

No KIM in Lanao del Sur

Adiong refuted reports that there is a presence of a jihadist group, supposedly named Khilafa Islamiyah Mindanao (KIM), in the province.

He said that during a meeting with local government leaders last week, officials of Kapai town disputed reports that the principal suspect in the July 26 Cagayan de Oro bombing, Usman Hapids, is from the place.

Hapids’ supposed place of birth and his alleged association with suspected Abu Sayyaf bandit Reneer Lou Dongon led to suggestions that Lanao del Sur could be hosting terrorists that could have a hand in the deadly bomb attacks in Cagayan de Oro and Cotabato cities.

Dongon was arrested, along with a certain Termije Akmad, in Marawi City, May 11 this year for kidnapping. When nabbed, Dongon was in possession of a firearm and bomb-making materials.

From being an Abu Sayyaf member then, police and military authorities now characterized Dongon as the ring leader of the nascent terror group KIM to which they blamed the Cagayan de Oro blast.

The KIM, according to authorities, groups together the Abu Sayyaf, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters of former MILF base commander Ameril Umra Kato, the Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), and Al-Qaeda.

This is different from their earlier characterization of being “Al-Qaeda inspired.”

Pretext to US 'presence’

Civil society leaders in Lanao del Sur feared that the effort to drag the province in renewed terror threats to Mindanao is geared at government’s goal of availing new military assistance from the United States which is seeking increased rotational presence for its forces in the country.

Please do not use this as pretext for bringing in US troops to Mindanao again,” youth leader Drieza Lininding told Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro by phone.

In 2005, the MILF cooperated with the US government and the Armed Forces of the Philippines to verify the identities of some 53 suspected terrorists roaming around the Sulu archipelago, some parts of Zamboanga Peninsula and Central Mindanao.

Of these, 32 were JI members while 21 were Abu Sayyaf. The JI members were Indonesian except for one Zulkifli Bin Hir alias Marwan or Abdul Musa who is Malaysian. The list of JI members subjected to verification included Dulmatin and Umar Patek.

Marwan is believed to be lurking in Central Mindanao up to now.

Earlier, MILF military spokesperson Von Al-Haq claimed that Marwan is being coddled by the BIFF.

A June 2005 US embassy cable about the mattter, which was made public by WikiLeaks, quoted an MILF official as saying the Abu Sayyaf and Pentagon Gang suspects in the list “can be arrested easily” except for the JI personalities who are “difficult to locate because they operate in isolated areas and are suspicious of outsiders.”

The US embassy cable said the terrorists, at that time, “are considered mobile in Central Mindanao.”


4 rebel returnees get financial aid from gov't

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 21): 4 rebel returnees get financial aid from gov't

Four former New People's Army (NPA) rebels, who voluntarily surrendered to the military in Ilagan, Isabela, were given financial aid by the government for them to start a new and peaceful life last Aug. 19.

Belated reports from 5th Infantry Division spokesperson 1st Lt. Rowena Abayon identified the beneficiaries as Albert B. Buyawe, 31; Jaime G. Bittuwon, 32; Mario P. Guinnoy, 31 and Franklin Maneja, 34.

She added that Buyawe, Bittuwon and Guinnoy received P50,000 each while Maneja received P32,000.

All four also received one cavan of rice as additional aid.

Abayon said the money came from the Office of Presidential Adviser on Peace Process which is part of the government's Social Integration Program.


MNLF insists on 1996 pact, bucks OIC mediation

From the Manila Standard Today (Aug 20): MNLF insists on 1996 pact, bucks OIC mediation

The MNLF on Monday vowed not to yield to pressure from the government and rejected a third-party negotiator to step in and resolve the confusion over the 1996 final peace agreement.

The MNLF’s spokesman Absalom Cerveza issued the hardline stance after Undersecretary Jose Lorena of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace Process said “they (MNLF) need to engage us and articulate their position.”

“It is a very arrogant expression from the government,” said Cerveza, also MNLF Peace Panel Head.

By putting closure to the 1996 final peace agreement, Cerveza said  “we are also closing our doors for any renewed peace talks.”  He reminded the government to review their blunders without blaming other parties.

“The problem is that they’ve overlook the entire situation,” Cerveza said.

OPAP Secretary Teresita Deles disclosed that the Organization of Islamic Cooperating would be coming in to try to resolve the conflict between the government and the MNLF.

Cerveza said the OIC would not have any impact on the MNLF’s position with the declaration of Independence by Nur Misuari in Mindanao.

“If the OIC wants to talk with the MNLF, we will be very courteous to receive them,” Cerveza said “but we are not going to the negotiating table. It depends on the gesture of the OIC.”

Cervez rejected the integration of the MNLF agenda in  the drafting of the Bangsamoro Basic Law. He demanded that the MILF terms should instead be linked to the 1996 peace pact, which is what the OIC strongly recommended.

“The basic law should instead be incorporated to the FPA of 1996 and not the other way around. That’s what has been said to me by the OIC Secretary General that they are enjoining the government to include the framework which would part of the 1996 peace agreement,” Cerveza said.


DND: We’re ready for Misuari, MNLF

From Malaya (Aug 20): DND: We’re ready for Misuari, MNLF

DEFENSE Secretary Voltaire Gazmin yesterday said the defense and military establishment is preparing for the possible effects of former Moro National Liberation Front chairman Nur Misuari’s declaration of independence of his “Bangsamoro Republik” (Mindanao, Palawan and Sabah).

But Gazmin also appealed to Misuari to carry out his fight in a peaceful manner.

“Our (appeal) is to do it calmly, in a peaceful way so that those who have nothing to do with this can be spared,” Gazmin told reporters in an ambush interview in Camp Aguinaldo.

He said the defense department is adopting measures in light of Misuari’s declaration of independence.

“We are preparing for that. Let’s see what we can do. Right now, communications between the Philippine Marines, (Sulu) Gov. (Abdu)Sakur Tan and the MNLF is continuing,” said Gazmin.

Asked if government considers Misuari’s move as a threat, he said: “Two ways. It can be yes, it can be no. It depends on how he carries it out.”

Misuari declared the independence of Mindanao, along with Palawan and Sabah, on the belief that the peace process between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front is sidelining the 1996 peace agreement that the MNLF signed with the government.

Pressed if he is hopeful that Misuari would pursue his advocacy in a peaceful manner, Gazmin said: “That’s speculation.”

The MNLF has forces in various parts of Mindanao but Misuari’s loyal followers are based mostly in Sulu.

On reports that other MNLF members are due to announce in Cotabato City their support for Misuari, Gazmin said: “I will check that. I have not received such report.”

“What I know is Jolo (Misuari declaration) but Cotabato, I will check....We will verify that,” he added.


Formal Mindanao peace talks to resume

From the Manila Bulletin (Aug 20): Formal Mindanao peace talks to resume

The recent bombings and Nur Misuari’s declaration of Mindanao independence are expected to be discussed in the sidelines of the resumption of formal peace talks between government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MLIF) tentatively scheduled for August 22.

Sources privy to the peace talks said while the agenda of the 39th Round of Formal Exploratory Meeting will focus on power sharing and normalization annex for the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro or FAB, the bombings and Misuari’s recent declarations may also be discussed.

The Technical Working Groups (TWGs) of the peace panels of the Philippine government (GPH) and the MILF were expected to sit down in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to go over and try to complete the annex on power sharing and the annex on normalization.

“If the TWGs complete the two annexes, or either of them, in the next few days, then signing of the documents should follow. We can only hope for the best,” the source said.

The FAB, signed on Oct. 15, 2012, and several annexes being finalized would serve as the road map to an MILF-led new political entity (NPE).

The GPH and the MILF had completed and inked the annexes on modalities and transitional arrangements last January and annex on wealth sharing and revenue generation last month.

Another source said the recent series of bombings in Mindanao and August 12 declaration of the independence of Mindanao, Palawan and Sabah by Nur Misuari may figure in the talks’ sidelines.

“I think the two issues will not escape the peace panels’ attention, but only on the sidelines,” the source said.

Seeking anonymity for having no authority to speak, the source said the next formal talks have a tentative Aug. 22 start.

“The schedule is already known to Malaysia, the third party facilitator. But schedules have a way of having a life of its own. In any case, the GPH and MILF panels are ready to go and face off gain in the negotiating table,” the source said.

“I am not sure if the two panels will be able to hammer out a deal on power sharing and normalization,” the source said.

But both panels are highly committed to the cause of peace in Mindanao and achieve a peaceful, negotiated political settlement of the Bangsamoro question and conflict.

Before the recent Ramadan, GPH and MILF chief negotiators Prof. Miriam Coronel-Ferrer and Mohagher Iqbal achieved a breakthrough in the 38th formal talks and signed the annex on wealth sharing and revenue generation.

 They did it after some 11 months of hammering out an accord on the highly contentious issue of the nearly 17-years-old peace process.


Projects set in Kato’s hometown

From the Manila Bulletin (Aug 20): Projects set in Kato’s hometown

The Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), in partnership with the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), pipelined P25.2-million community peace projects in 42 villages of Pikit town in North Cotabato, officials announced yesterday.

Gemma Rivera, DSWD Region 12 director, said the projects are part of convergence initiatives proposed by villagers in conflict-affected areas of Pikit town and endorsed by North Cotabato Governor Emmylou Taliño-Mendoza.

She said the national government had approved in principle the P25.2-million fund for implementation anytime this month of community peace and learning centers, solar driers, potable water systems, pre and post-harvest facilities and road rehabilitation.

“These projects provide better access to basic social services, while at the same time supporting peace-building efforts and helping addressing conflict in the different villages of Pikit,” Rivera said in a statement.

The DSWD, through its poverty-reduction program Kapit-Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan-Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services (Kalahi-CIDSS), earlier forged a partnership with the OPAPP for the implementation of such projects in conflict-affected and vulnerable areas in Mindanao like Pikit town.

The project is part of OPAPP’s Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan (PAMANA) project, flagship peace and development framework of the Aquino administration.

Pikit is one of few towns in North Cotabato prone to disturbances mainly from elements of the brigand Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF). It is a hometown to Ustaz Amelil Umbra Kato, founder of the BIFF. Kato is now bed-ridden and has been replaced as BIFF chief by one Ustaz Mohidin Animbang.

The latest of spate of attacks in Pikit by suspected BIFF rebels happened at Barangay Paido Pulangi where dozens of families fled homes, according to government authorities.

Gov. Taliño-Mendoza ordered the distribution of relief goods to displaced residents, even as she called on the BIFF to “live by true meaning of peace in the context of Islam” and spare the mixed Muslim and Christian folks of North Cotabato from the “vicious cycle” of displacement.


Government has not abandoned agreement with MNLF — OPAPP

From the Manila Bulletin (Aug 20): Government has not abandoned agreement with MNLF — OPAPP

The Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) says it remains committed to fulfilling its obligations to the 1996 Final Peace Agreement (FPA) with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).

OPAPP Undersecretary Jose Lorena said the Aquino government has no intention of abrogating or abandoning the FPA, and has been continuing its positive engagements with the MNLF, contrary to recent claims of its leader Nur Misuari.

Lorena said Misuari, along with his contingent, is always being invited and “present in the Tripartite Implementation Review meetings and other related meetings over the past three years.”

The government, MNLF, and the OIC have been engaging in a tripartite review of the implementation of the final peace agreement since 2007. The review process is being facilitated by the OIC-PSCP, which is chaired by Indonesia.

“The Aquino administration has always engaged the MNLF since 2010 and will continue to do so under the existing mechanism as we have conveyed to the OIC-PCSP (Organization of Islamic Conference - Peace Committee for Southern Philippines),” Lorena said.

As far as the GPH (Government of the Philippines) is concerned, we are not aware of any reason for them to claim that government has abandoned them. Our aim has always been to complete the Tripartite Implementation so that we can move forward with concrete actions towards the development of MNLF communities, which we have already started,” he said.

Lorena made the statement following reports that Misuari declared a Bangsamoro Republic in some parts of Mindanao.

“We encourage Mr. Misuari to be a partner in ensuring the welfare of MNLF communities and actively engage with us in the drafting of the Bangsamoro Basic Law which will include the agenda of the MNLF,” he said.

OPAPP Secretary Teresita Quintos Deles earlier clarified that the government’s main objective in pushing for the completion of the tripartite review is to start the implementation process for the consensus points and mechanisms that the Parties have agreed on.

“We have already informed the OIC through the chair and members of the [Peace Committee for Southern Philippines chaired by Indonesia] that we think it is time to draw a conclusion to the review process,” she said.

Deles likewise cited Indonesian Foreign Affairs Minister Marty Natalegawa’s “firm support for the efforts being undertaken by the GPH to ensure a comprehensive settlement of the armed conflict in Southern Philippines.”

“He was categorical in stating that Indonesia opposes any attempt to jeopardize the territorial integrity of the Philippines and that any such move falls outside the ambit of the agreed upon Tripartite Review Process,” Deles said.


Sedition raps readied vs Misuari, says ARMM police chief

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Aug 20): Sedition raps readied vs Misuari, says ARMM police chief

Nur Misuari FILE PHOTO
Police are readying sedition charges against founding chairman Nur Misuari of the Moro National Liberation Front for declaring Bangsamoro independence in Mindanao days ago.

Misuari is seen to be fomenting a Moro uprising in the region by declaring a Bangsamoro independent state contrary to the enhanced set-up of autonomy being worked out by its breakaway group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Aquino government.

“I have directed my PPO (Provincial police Office) in Sulu to prepare filing a sedition case against the MNLF leader for issuing a seditious statement,” said Chief Superintendent Noel Delos Reyes, the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao police director.

He said the Sulu police director, Senior Superintendent Abraham Orbita, has been given until Wednesday (August 21) to comply with the directive.

Delos Reyes said Orbita should look into Misuari’s statement as seditious and unconstitutional at a time when the government and the MILF have started the crucial and final stage of the peace negotiation.

If the case was filed in court, the MNLF leader could be arrested and arraigned for the charges, Delos Reyes said.

During his reign as elected ARMM governor, Misuari was nabbed by Kuala Lumpur authorities in Malaysia and presented to the Philippine government to face rebellion charges when he reportedly led an MNLF armed assault in Sulu.

ARMM Executive Secretary Laisa Masuhud-Alamia has appealed for understanding and sobriety amid Misuari’s call for revolt for an independent Moro state, the original cause of the MNLF struggle in the ‘70s.

“Peace is paramount at this stage of world chaos and violence,” said Alamia as she cited the spate of explosions and bomb threats in Mindanao and elsewhere, notwithstanding the frequent occurrence of natural calamities.

“We are for peace and co-existence, and the best way to settle differences is through peace dialogue, not through violent means that left mostly innocent civilians as collateral damages,” said Alamia as the region celebrated Monday the United Nation’s World Humanitarian Day.

Misuari’s group opted for autonomy instead of total independence in 1976 when he signed the Tripoli Agreement in Libya with the Philippine government then headed by the dictator president, Ferdinand Marcos.

The signing of the accord prompted a faction within the MNLF to break away two years and establishi the Moro Islamic Liberatiuo Front, headed by Maguindanaoan Salamat Hashim.

In 1996, the government under President Fidel Ramos convinced the Misuari-led MNLF to ink a `Final Peace Agreement.’ Misuari would later complain that the Philippine government failed to fulfill its commitments on the establishment of the regional security force and wealth sharing.


Army troops seize roadside bomb in Maguindanao town

From the Philippine Star (Aug 20): Army troops seize roadside bomb in Maguindanao town

Army explosives experts prevented on Monday what could have been another deadly bombing in Central Mindanao by promptly defusing a roadside bomb along a stretch of a highway in Sultan Kudarat town.

Col. Dickson Hermoso, spokesman of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, said the improvised explosive device (IED) recovered by responding bomb experts was fashioned from live 60MM mortar projectiles rigged with a blasting mechanism attached to a Nokia mobile phone.

The IED, planted at one side of a secluded stretch of the Cotabato-Davao Highway in Barangay Ladia in Sultan Kudarat, was first discovered by villagers, who, in turn reported what they found to soldiers manning an Army detachment nearby.

“It was just fortunate that the people who found the bomb were so vigilant that they promptly informed authorities about the presence of an IED along the highway,” Hermoso said.

Hermoso said the disassembled IED was identical with the bombs used by the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in recent roadside bombings in Maguindanao, including at least four attempts to blow up two adjoining bridges in Datu Piang town in the second district of the province.

It was the first ever attempt to pull off a roadside bombing in Sultan Kudarat, located in the first district of the province and host to Camp Darapanan, the largest enclave of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

The founder of BIFF, the renegade Saudi-trained cleric Ameril Umbra Kato, started as chief of the MILF’s 105th Base Command, but was booted out in 2010 for insubordination and other offenses.


US defense secretary to visit Philippines amid troops' access talks

From the Philippine Star (Aug 20): US defense secretary to visit Philippines amid troops' access talks

United States (US) Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel will visit the Philippines this month amid the ongoing negotiations on the increased rotational presence of American troops in the country.

In a statement, the US Defense Department said Hagel’s trip to the Philippines would cap his nine-day trip to Southeast Asia.
The US Defense chief will visit the country from August 29 to 30. The statement did not provide information about Hagel’s itinerary in the Philippines, Washington’s oldest ally in Asia.

The Philippine Defense department could not provide any information about Hagel’s agenda as of Tuesda.
Hagel’s trip comes as Manila and Washington are discussing an agreement granting American troops greater access to Philippine military facilities.

Negotiations started in the Philippines last Augusg 14 and will continue in the US later this month.
The Philippines and the US have adopted a policy of increased rotational presence as China firms up it grip over disputed areas in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

China has been sending ships around disputed areas in the West Philippine Sea, triggering concerns about its impact on freedom of navigation in the busy sea lane.
The Philippine negotiating panel is led by Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Carlos Sorreta and is composed of Defense Undersecretary Pio Lorenzo Batino, Justice Undersecretary Francisco Baraan III and Defense Assistant Secretary Raymund Quilop.

The US panel is led by State Department senior negotiator for military agreements Eric John and composed of State Department Attorney Advisor Elizabeth Jones, Brig. Gen. Joaquin Malavet, and Capt. Greg Bart.
“We are steadfastly for peace but we are ready to tap any resource and call on any alliance to do what is necessary to defend what is ours,” Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said before the start of the negotiations.

The policy on increased rotational presence has drawn criticisms from militant groups who believe that this would violate Philippine sovereignty. Critics also claimed that an access agreement would just reduce the Philippines into a giant weapons depot of the US.
Officials, however, have given assurance that the agreement would strictly adhere to the Philippine constitution and laws.

They also claimed that the discussions would be guided by the principles of Philippine sovereignty, non-permanence of US troops in Philippine territory, non-exclusivity of use of facilities by the US side, and mutuality of benefits.
Members of the Philippine panel said they would push for joint activities aimed at boosting maritime security and disaster response capabilities.

The agreement, which will be on top of the Mutual Defense Treaty of 1951 and the Visiting Forces Agreement, is expected to set parameters for activities that can be undertaken by the two countries.

PMA entrance exam slated August 25

From the Leyte Samar Daily Express (Aug 20): PMA entrance exam slated August 25

About 300 young men and women are to take their chances to enter the country’s most prestigious military academy, the Philippine Military Academy (PMA).

Captain Ross Mar Villareal, officer-in-charge of the plan and program officer of academic group of the PMA, said that the entrance examination would be held this Sunday, August 25.

“That will be a whole day (event). We will be processing the applications in the morning but the examination proper will be in the afternoon,” Villareal, who visited the Leyte Samar Daily Express office, said.

The examination will cover three areas, namely, abstract reasoning, mathematics and English with 200 test items.

The testing center for Tacloban is at the Leyte Normal University.

Villareal said that walk-in applicants will be accepted on the examination day.
Villareal, who previously worked at the office of Mayor Alfred Romualdez, said that he is encouraging young men and women from the region to take the qualifying examinations.

He noted that among the three Visayas region, Eastern Visayas lagged behind in terms of number of examinees and graduates at the PMA.

In fact, Villareal said, no one from the region made it to the graduating batch last year.
He added that the most the region could produce a PMA graduate was three.

But Villareal was quick to say that there were already quite a number of PMAers from the region who made in the honor list.

As a PMA scholar, one can enjoy perks like full academic scholarship, free board and lodging and a monthly allowance of P27,000.

A graduate is already considered to be employed as he or she has only to choose which among the branches of the armed forces he/she want to belong, Villareal said.

For one to qualify, the examinee must be a high school graduate with a general average of 85, stands five feet and aged 17 to 21 years old.


Army reduces NPA strength

From the Visayan Daily Star (Aug 20): Army reduces NPA strength

The Army’s 302nd Infantry Brigade is running against time to accomplish its mission to clear Negros Oriental of remaining armed insurgents by yearend.

With barely four months before 2013 ends, Brig. Gen. Francisco Patrimonio, 302nd Infantry Brigade commander, yesterday admitted that it is a “tall order” for him to accomplish, although not a remote possibility.

However, he said their task is now a “work in progress”.

Five hinterland barangays in San Jose, Amlan, Sibulan and Valencia, all in Negros Oriental, were recently declared “insurgency-free and development-ready” by the Army’s 302nd Infantry Brigade.

Patrimonio said their combined barangay immersion activities, which aims to deny the New People’s Army of areas to seek shelter, and combat operations, led to the reduction of NPA from its peak of about 160 armed regulars in previous years to 102 this year.

It shows a reduction of their forces by one-third, he added.

There are still 79 barangays in southeast Negros Oriental and central Negros, aside from the 20 in the Negros Occidental side, classified either as infiltrated, or under the influence of the NPA, military records show.

But the additional forces augmenting the 302nd Infantry Brigade, Patrimonio said, will help a lot in the accomplishment of their tasks.

He said they are now focusing their efforts on Negros Oriental, before shifting to the Occidental side.

The 302nd Infantry Brigade has been tasked to dismantle the Larangan Gerilya 1 in central Negros and the Komiteng Rehiyonal Sentral Bisayas in southeast Negros.


US defense secretary to visit Southeast Asia

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 20): US defense secretary to visit Southeast Asia
US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel will be visiting nations of the Southeast Asia, including the Philippines, during the last week of August.

Hagel will begin his trip in Honolulu where he will meet with US PACOM Commander Admiral Samuel Locklear and visit with United States Marines at Kaneohe Bay.

He will then travel to Kuala Lampur, Malaysia this Aug. 24-26 followed by Jakarta, Indonesia the afternoon of Aug. 26 and Aug. 27.

From Jakarta, Hagel will travel to Brunei Aug. 27-29 to meet with defense counterparts from across the Asia-Pacific region.

On Aug. 28 in Brunei, he will then meet with ASEAN Defense Ministers at their annual retreat.

On Aug. 29, Hagel will participate in the ADMM-Plus meeting.

He will conclude his trip in Manila on Aug. 29-30 and return to Washington the evening of Aug. 30.


Southern Luzon Command joins other organizations in relief work for 'Maring'

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 20): Southern Luzon Command joins other organizations in relief work for 'Maring'

The Armed Forces of the Philippines' Southern Luzon Command on Tuesday announced that it using all its available personnel and equipment to help in the ongoing relief efforts for victims of Tropical Storm "Maring".

Hundreds of thousands of persons were severely affected by the heavy rains and floods brought about the weather disturbance in CALABARZON, the area of operations of the Command.

“We are presently conducting disaster relief and rescue operations (DRRO) in the affected areas. Our troops and military assets are deployed to the affected areas to provide DRRO and transportation assistance to the flood victims," Southern Luzon Command chief Lt. Gen. Caesar Ronnie F. Ordoyo said.

He added that they are continuously monitoring the weather situation with military troops prepositioned in highly-critical areas on standby status ready to provide assistance when the need arises.

Soldiers from the headquarters and different tactical units of 2nd Infantry Division were deployed in the affected areas in Sta. Rosa, Sta. Maria, Sta. Cruz, Siniloan and Binan, all in Laguna.

Meanwhile, other troops were also conducting DRRO assistance in the areas of Lipa, Taysan and Rosario in Batangas; Tanza, Cavite and in Barangay Barahan, Sta Cruz, Occidental Mindoro.

“As the protector of the people, it is part of our mandate to save lives and properties during disasters and calamities. We can further strengthen this task through collaboration and information dissemination and education with different government agencies and private organizations,” Ordoyo stressed.

“We ask the community to lend a helping hand for the victims of the massive flooding. We also welcome donations from you and we will never get tired to extend assistance to the communities,” he added.


U.S. Embassy Mobilizes Disaster Assistance for Philippines Floods

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 20): U.S. Embassy Mobilizes Disaster Assistance for Philippines Floods

The U.S. government on Tuesday provided P23.65-million worth of humanitarian assistance to thousands of families affected by the massive flooding in the Philippines.

In a statement, the U.S. Embassy announced that it has mobilized funds from USAID's Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (USAID/OFDA) to provide non-food commodities to vulnerable families affected by flooding and landslides.

"The Embassy is working in close coordination with the Government of the Philippines to bolster its ongoing response to the floods," it said.

As a result of severe and widespread flooding and landslides in Metro Manila, neighboring provinces of Cavite, Laguna, Rizal, Pampanga, Bataan and others in the western region of Luzon that began on August 18, U.S. Ambassador Harry Thomas, Jr. said the disaster is of "sufficient magnitude" to warrant a response from the U.S. Government.

"USAID/OFDA, working withUSAID/Philippines, and the U.S. Embassy canvassed relief organizations operating in the area, and determined that the increasing number of displaced families seeking safe refuge from various evacuation centers and vulnerable families needing emergency assistance warranted an offer of assistance from the U.S. Government," Thomas said.

"Our thoughts and prayers go out to all of those who are affected by the floods, those who have lost loved ones, and important possessions. I want Filipinos to know that the United States stands by them in times of need."

USAID/Philippines Mission Director Gloria Steele noted that $ 50,000 for emergency non-food assistance along with an additional $ 500,000 for warehousing and logistics support from USAID/OFDA will be channeled through a humanitarian agency working in the Philippines to facilitate the immediate delivery of non-food relief items, potentially including jerry cans, household kits, and tarps, to flood-affected communities."


PNP-ARMM probes Misuari’s secession bid

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 20): PNP-ARMM probes Misuari’s secession bid

CAMP S.K. PENDATUN, Maguindanao -- The Philippine National Police-Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (PNP-ARMM) is studying the possibility of filing sedition charges against Moro rebel leader Nur Misuari following reports mentioning his unconstitutional declaration of independence in certain parts of Mindanao.

Only last week, various media outlets nationwide carried stories of Misuari allegedly declaring independence for the areas of Sabah, Sulu, Palawan and Zamboanga with Davao City as its seat of power.

“I have ordered the Sulu police provincial office to investigate the case thoroughly to find out the truth about the matter,” Chief Supt. Noel Delos Reyes said in an interview Monday.

Accordingly, Misuari had been criticizing the government’s signing of the Bangsamoro Framework Agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in a bid to downplay the Philippines historic claim to Sabah opposite Malaysia.

Misuari once led the mainstream Moro National Liberation Front that inked a final peace agreement with the national government on Sept. 2, 1996.

The Sulu police office is expected to submit its report today (Tuesday).

Early on, Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Gov. Mujiv Hataman said all 116 mayors in the region have remained loyal to the Constitution and its sovereignty.

He said all local chief executives in ARMM was unmoved by Misuari’s alleged actions and remain supportive of the GPH-MILF peace overture.


Zambo mayor airs concerns on Visiting Forces Agreement

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 20): Zambo mayor airs concerns on Visiting Forces Agreement

Mayor Ma. Isabelle Climaco-Salazar has asked the Philippine Commission on the Visiting Forces Agreement (PCVFA) to address various issues and concerns in a bid to ensure a better and stronger RP-US partnership as the national government is in the process of revisiting policies related to the American troops’ presence in the country.

Salazar on Tuesday said she personally brought on Friday to the attention of Undersecretary Edilberto Adan, PCVFA Executive Director, five issues which she believes should be properly reviewed and attended to.

These issues and concerns include the need for a briefing and coordination with the host Local Government Unit (LGU) by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Joint special Operations Task Force-Philippines (JSOTF-P) on long term plans and engagements in this city, according to Salazar.

“What is the long-term plan of the Philippine Government on U.S. military presence in Zamboanga City?,” Salazar asked.

She also cited the need to designate a liaison officer with the local government who will be tasked to handle local issues and concerns with the JSOTF-P.

She also asked that proper coordination be made with the LGU in the renewal of agreements between the U.S. and Philippine government specifically on the use of facilities, plate numbers of vehicles, accident liability and landing fees.

She likewise reiterated her request for assistance on the rehabilitation or asphalt overlay of the airport runway which is also being utilized by American planes.

“These (American) aircrafts fly and land in our airport and no fees are paid to CAAP because of the VFA. Our airport is built only for commercial planes but not for heavy duty cargo (planes) as what has been delivered through the years. Damage to the airport has been caused,” she stressed.

Assistance is also being sought in calibrating airport security and closed-circuit television (CCTV) camera system which was initiated by the U.S. government in past years considering that American troops land in the airport and at times use commercial airplanes and are privileged in terms of security provisions.

Meanwhile, Salazar has thanked Adan for the efforts in overseeing the implementation of the VFA and in developing policies and legislative recommendations on the matter.

Salazar stressed that these efforts are essential toward the development of the citizens in building stronger ties between the Philippines and the U.S.


Army commended by SP for peace advocacy in northern Negros Occidental

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 20): Army commended by SP for peace advocacy in northern Negros Occidental

The Philippine Army units in Negros Occidental received a commendation from the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP) for initiating the 15-day humanitarian, medical, and civic action that will benefit far-flung villages in the northern part of the province.

“The peace advocacy as a strategy adopted by the Philippine Army can be defined as a paradigm shift on political orientation favoring compromise to avoid conflict,” the SP said in resolution passed during its recent regular session.

A copy of the resolution was handed by First District Board Member Rolando Ponsica to Col. Aying Jon Aying, commander of the 303rd Infantry Brigade, during the first Provincial Peace Integration and Development Unit (Pro-PIDU) Planning Workshop for the Phase II of the “Winning the Peace” initiative in Murcia town Monday.

Phase I, dubbed “Marching for Peace, Serving the Countryside,” was held in July and involved a 15-day caravan through six underprivileged and underdeveloped barangays in Escalante City, and Toboso and Calatrava towns.

Barangays residents availed of various humanitarian services brought by the Pro-PIDU, headed by Aying ang Gov. Alfredo Marañon Jr., together with local government units, provincial government departments, non-government organizations and peace advocates.

The walk-through by Army and Philippine National Police personnel, and Army reservists covered 120 kilometers.

Phase II, dubbed “Serving the Countryside, Working with the People” will run from August to December this year.

The SP Resolution No. 0177, series of 2013 commended both the 303rd IB and the 62nd Infantry Battalion.

Part of the resolution stated that “one of the strategies adopted by the 303rd IB and 62nd IB of the Philippine Army is the sustainable peace advocacy through an improved police-community relation to encourage citizens’ maximum participation as key partners for peace-building and conflict prevention.”

It added that “the Philippine Army underscored the importance of multi-stakeholders’ approach in resolving armed conflict and promoting peace by bringing progress directly to the people and uplifting their quality of living through community immersion activities.”


Sedition charges hang over Misuari's head

From the Mindanao Examiner blog site (Aug 20): Sedition charges hang over Misuari's head

Philippine authorities have failed to stop a former Moro rebel chieftain – who accused Manila of failing to honor provisions of a peace deal signed 17 years ago - from fomenting sedition.

Nur Misuari, head of the Moro National Liberation Front, has met tens of thousands of former rebels and their commanders and supporters in gatherings in southern Philippines where he told them about the government’s failure to fully implement the 1996 peace agreement.

Now, the regional police are gathering evidence to charge the former Libyan firebrand of sedition because his fiery statement and pronouncement against the Aquino government.

The Sulu provincial police chief Abraham Orbita did not answer phone calls from journalists who wanted to get information over the order.

Misuari’s whereabouts is unknown, but he was in Sulu province last month where met with his commanders and hundreds of followers in the town of Indanan. And police and military authorities did nothing to prevent the daring public display of weapons and forces of the MNLF, fearing any attempt to stop them would trigger a fierce battle.

There, he almost declared independence, but changed his mind, saying he still needs to consult with his senior leaders before making the announcement in the right time. “We are going to find the right time to for the formal declaration (of independence. I still need to communicate with the OIC so we still have to discuss this with among us leaders,” he said in the local Tausug dialect.

OIC refers to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation which helped broker the peace talks between the MNLF and the Philippines that led to the eventual signing of the agreement in September 1996.

Misuari said it has been three decades now since the OIC mediated in the peace talks, but Manila has failed to comply with the provisions in the accord.

“It is more than 30 years now since the OIC mediated in the peace talks and up to now nothing has been achieved. And that’s why we need to carefully plan on what steps to take. Let us wait, we cannot just jump into something which will not bring good to us,” he said.

Misuari has repeatedly accused the Aquino government of trying to abrogate the peace accord it forged with the MNLF, and strongly denounced the peace talks between the Aquino government and rival rebel group Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) after negotiators signed an accord that would create the Bangsamoro state, saying it violated the MNLF-Philippines agreement.

The Muslim homeland would replace the existing Muslim autonomous region which is composed of Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Maguindanao and Lanao provinces, including the cities of Marawi and Lamitan. And several more areas in the provinces of Lanao del Norte and North Cotabato would also be included in the new autonomous region.

The MNLF forces in central Mindanao under General Ismael Parnan said they are all behind Misuari.

The MILF, a breakaway faction of the MNLF, previously branded the Muslim autonomous region as a failure. The region has been rocked by corruption scandals and remains as one of the poorest in the country.

The MILF previously called on the government to amend the Constitution that would allow the creation of a Muslim sub-state in Mindanao. President Benigno Aquino’s allies in Congress are now pushing for the amendment of the Constitution, saying, there is a need to change many provisions in the Charter that would benefit the country’s economy, among others.

After the 1996 peace accord with the MNLF, Misuari became the governor of autonomous region. But many former rebels were disgruntled with the accord, saying, the government failed to uplift their standards of living.

The rebels accused Manila of failing to develop the war-torn areas in the South, which remains in mired in poverty, heavily militarized and dependent financially on Manila.

In November 2001, on the eve of the elections in the Muslim autonomous region, Misuari again accused the government of reneging on the peace agreement, and his followers launched a new rebellion in Sulu and Zamboanga City, where more than 100 people were killed.

Misuari escaped by boat to Malaysia, but was arrested there and deported to the Philippines. He was eventually freed in 2008 after Manila dropped all charges against him for lack of sufficient evidence. He was also ousted by Muslimin Sema, the MNLF Secretary-General, but Misuari maintained that he is the true leader of the former rebel group.

General Ismael Parnan, commander of MNLF forces in Central Mindanao, reads a news article about their group on the headline of the Mindanao Examiner Regional Newspaper during an exclusive interview which coincided with a meeting of rebel leaders in Maguindanao province. (Photo by Mark Navales)