Wednesday, August 21, 2013

MILF: MNLF, BIFF to formalize alliance soon?

Posted to the MILF Website (Aug 21): MNLF, BIFF to formalize alliance soon?



The Moro National Liberation Front and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters over the weekend broached the possibility of forming a “political alliance” in their quest for Bangsamoro independence.
  
Reports said that MNLF secretary general Ustadz Murshi Ebrahim said, “It’s possible to have a political alliance with (the) BIFF. Our forces are former comrades and we knew each other even before.” Similarly, BIFF spokesman Abu Misry Mama, responding to Ebrahim’s statement, said: “It’s a very good development (an) alliance is very possible.”

A well-placed source from the MILF told Luwaran that during the 39th Council of Foreign Ministers (CFM) meeting in Djibouti, Africa on November 15 to 17, 2012 MNLF Chairman told Secretary General Prof. Ekemelddin Ihsanoglu of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and other OIC top officials, in the presence of MILF leaders including Chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, that Omra Kato and the BIFF are “million times more important than the people here” (pointing to the MILF delegation.

The source said the MILF delegation did not munch a word and let the sour-graping passed.

Aside from Murad, the MILF delegation also included Michael Mastura and Maulana Alonto, along with secretariat member Mohajirin Ali.

During that meeting the OIC was trying to set up the formal architecture of the Bangsamoro Coordination Forum consisting of the MNLF factions and the MILF, which will discuss and decide on major issues affecting the parties as well as ways and means to move the Bangsamoro agenda together.

But the meeting did not prosper because of the hardening position of Misuari, who always viewed unity that anchored on the MILF and other MNLF factions to return to the fold of the MNLF unconditionally.

Ihsanoglu attended the signing of the GPH-MILF Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro in Malaca├▒ang on October 15.

Misuari and Kato met in November 2011 in Maguindanao to discuss possible common ground on which their forces could cooperate. Misuari emerged from the meeting praising Kato and the BIFF.

Days after the meeting, however, Kato fell seriously ill and he has not been seen or heard publicly since. But a very reliable source told Luwaran that he is still alive but cannot practically talk.
http://www.luwaran.com/index.php/welcome/item/515-mnlf-biff-to-formalize-alliance-soon?

MILF: United Nations and world bank high officials first visitors of BTC office

Posted to the MILF Website (Aug 20): United Nations and world bank high officials first visitors of BTC office



High officials of the United Nations posted in the Philippines and from New York, USA and a World Bank Executive became the first official visitors of the newly refurbished office of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission at the Fourth Floor of Elena V. Co Building along Don Rufino Alonzo Street (Magallanes), Cotabato City on Thursday, August 15, 2013.
  
Chetan Kumar, Head , Conflict Prevention Group, UN Headquarters  New York, USA, Team Leader; Ron Kraybill, Senior Peacebuilding Advisor of the United Nations in Manila; Nick Leffler, World Bank Executive in the  Philippines, Alma Evangelista and Butch Camarines of UNDP Philippines first visited Camp Darapanan in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao to have a courtesy call on MILF Chairman AL Haj Murad Ebrahim and the Central Committee and toward noontime dropped by the BTC Office in downtown Cotabato City.

BTC Chairman Mohagher Iqbal was on hand to welcome the very important visitors and even apologized to the guests as the office was still steaming with strong odor of newly applied paints.

Mr. Kraybill shared his vast experiences on transitions in many parts of the world particularly in South Africa where power was tranferred from the ruling white minority to the black-dominated  African National Council of Nelson Mandela. Mentioned also were the experiences of Aceh, Nepal and even Northern Ireland.

Toward the afternoon the high officials were the resourse persons in the UN-WB sponsored FASTRAC seminar on Transition Justice and Normalization at the Golden Lace restaurant, Macapagal Street, Rosary Heights attended by a strong mix of decision makers in the peace process from the side of the MILF including political as well as military officials of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF).

Lively and informative discussions charactrized the seminar as various concerns from the MILF Central Committee officials and stakeholders participated as the International experts expounded on different options adopted by countries around the world that experienced transformation from conflict to normal situations.  
http://www.luwaran.com/index.php/welcome/item/514-united-nations-and-world-bank-high-officials-first-visitors-of-btc-office

MILF: FASTRAC Facilitates Experts’ Workshops on the remaining Annexes of the GPH-MILF Peace Process

Posted to the MILF Website (Aug 19): FASTRAC Facilitates Experts’ Workshops on the remaining Annexes of the GPH-MILF Peace Process

The Facility for Advisory Support for Transition Capacities (FASTRAC) facilitated a 3-day Workshops on Transitional Justice, Normalization, and Internal Waters/Territorial Seas for members of the MILF Transition Commission (TC), Technical Working Groups and their Secretariat. 
   
The sessions were held at the Golden Lace along Macapagal Street from August 15-17.

The knowledge sharing workshops were facilitated by experts from the United Nations and the World Bank who have extensive practical experiences in the field of post-conflict reconstruction, rehabilitation and development in some of the most challenging conflict-affected regions in the world.

Mohagher Iqbal, Chairman of FASTRAC Consultative Committee, acknowledge the importance of the workshops in his opening statement.  He said that the workshops will greatly enhance the perspectives of the member of the participants in the formulation of the remaining annexes of the GPH-MILF Peace Process.  Atty. Naguib G. Sinarimbo, UN Advisor on Political Transition, explained that the rationale of the workshops is to primarily share  to the participants various theoretical and practical experiences in the field of post-conflict peace-building scenarios.

The UN and WB experts shared to the participants key choices on transitional justice as part of the normalization process in post-conflict scenarios.  One key choice is the concept of “Forward-Looking Vs. Past-Oriented” transitional justice.  Forward-Looking, as shared by the experts, possesses the characters of ensuring full access to justice irrespective of location and identity; targeting disadvantaged communities and locations with priority investments, and improved service delivery; taking positive measures towards a shared identity; reconstructing shared historical memory; improving human rights, gender, and conflict sensitivity of the judiciary and of the security sector; and asking specific new measures to address recurring drivers of grievance and violence.

On the other hand, past-oriented transitional justice is one where past war crimes and human rights abuses are investigated; offering reparations or compensation for war damage or human rights abuses; reconstructing and highlighting the distinct history of a marginalized group; linking security sector reform to past abuses; centering violence prevention initiatives on past patterns of violent conflict.

A second key choice on transitional justice presented by the Experts is the question whether to establish specialized bodies, or utilize the existing formal/informal processes or institutions, or both to cater to the demands of post-conflict peace-building.  A third key choice on transitional justice is the notion of restorative justice vs. prosecutions, or both.  Under this scheme, the Experts shared that the major stakeholders of the process shall deeply ponder and decide whether to adopt the traditional or the non-traditional methods of healing and whether to go for amnesty of not.  In addition, it is also important to decide whether “memorialization” of those damaged by the conflict, whether at the level of individuals of communities, be done at the local or national level.  The last point to consider under the restorative justice or prosecutions, or both, scenario is whether to adopt an investment or compensation scheme in response to the damages as a result of the armed conflict.

During the workshops, the issue on territorial seas/internal waters was also discussed and debated.  Atty. Sinarimbo presented various models of formulations in determining a country/region’s territorial seas and internal waters using both a country’s specific policies/laws, international standards and United Nations guidelines.

The knowledge sharing workshops resulted into a productive engagement not only between the Experts and participants but more significantly among the participants themselves who are directly involved in the crafting of the remaining Annexes of the GPH-MILF Peace Process.  It was emphasized, however, by the Experts that the post-conflict scenario of the Bangsamoro has no precedent among the countries/regions engaged in post-conflict peacebuilding.  As a result, the Experts encouraged the participants to be innovative in this process as the window of opportunities for innovative approaches are wide open.

Perhaps, it is also noteworthy to stress in the search for a sustained post-conflict peacebuilding environment in the Bangsamoro what James D. Wolfensohn stated in his address during the 1997 World Bank Annual Meeting in Hongkong that “One does not have to spend long in Bosnia or Gaza or the lakes district in Africa to know without economic hope, we will not have hope.  Without equity we will not have global stability.  Without a better sense of social justice out cities will not be safe and our societies will not be stable.  Without inclusion, too many of us will be condemned to live separate armed and frightened lives.”

The Experts who facilitated the knowledge sharing workshops were CHETAN KUMAR, Team Leader, Conflict Prevention Group, Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery based in UN Headquarters, New York; RON KRAYBIL, UN Peace and Development Advisor  with personal knowledge and experience in the South African transition ; and CLIVE SCOFIELD, International Maritime Expert based in Australia.

The FASTRACT is a facility created by the United Nations and the World Bank to provide “on-demand advisory services and access to the most relevant national and international expertise to contribute and help move forward with the peace process especially in the drafting of the Basic Law that will reflect the Bangsamoro people’s aspirations for genuine autonomy while establishing the basis for efficient and accountable government”.

http://www.luwaran.com/index.php/welcome/item/512-fastrac-facilitates-experts’-workshops-on-the-remaining-annexes-of-the-gph-milf-peace-process

CPP/NPA: Department of Agriculture responsible for landgrabbing, environmental destruction in Mt. Sinaka

Posted to the CPP Website (Aug 20): Department of Agriculture responsible for landgrabbing, environmental destruction in Mt. Sinaka

Isabel Fermiza
Spokesperson
NPA Mt. Apo Sub-Region Sub-regional Command

For threatening to damage a major source of drinking water in Arakan and parts of Davao City, and dislocating thousands of peasants in the process, Guerilla Front 53 operatives under the Mt. Apo Sub-regional Command-New People’s Army burned five heavy equipments of a dam construction project of the US-Aquino regime’s Department of Agriculture, August 18 at 2pm.

The project is linked to a planned stockfarm pasture land program in Mt. Sinaka watershed area and part of the 4,100 hectares of University of the Philippines (UP) Mindanao Reservation at Brgy. Datu Ladayon, Arakan town, North Cotabato.

Without even bothering to secure a token environmental compliance certificate from the reactionary regime’s own environment agency, project proponents have went on to pursue the dam construction, at the expense of Mt. Sinaka, an important watershed area that is also home to wildlife, rich forests and endangered species.

Worse, ASEC. Dante De Lima of the Department of Agriculture has also spearheaded in bribing peasants to give up their lands and transform it into stock farms for hundreds of cattle; one cattle head would need one hectare of land. The landgrabbing in the name of a cattle project would dislocate thousands of vegetable farmers in the area.

The NPA not only targeted De Lima’s project due to its huge environmental impact and the dislocation of peasants,but also because it has committed gross abuses of workers’ rights. Daily wage for lowly dam construction workers is at P200/day with 10% deduction to be pocketed by village officials, while for stockfarm workers, P150 daily for 10 hours of work.

By damaging the agency’s backhoe, bulldozer, payloader, and two elf trucks, the NPA is sending the message that it will not tolerate destructive projects that are grossly disadvantageous to the people. The NPA punishes capitalists and reactionary agents responsible for plundering the forests, introducing projects that will further exacerbate the disastrous impact of climate change, and dislocate lowly peasants and abuse workers. Mt. Sinaka is one of the remaining forest frontiers in the boundary of Davao and North Cotabato provinces.

http://www.philippinerevolution.net/statements/20130820_department-of-agriculture-responsible-for-landgrabbing-environmental-destruction-in-mt-sinaka

CPP/NPA: NPA holds 1001st Brigade HQ personnel as POW; 11 casualties in 71st IB camp blast

Posted to the CPP Website (Aug 21): NPA holds 1001st Brigade HQ personnel as POW; 11 casualties in 71st IB camp blast

Daniel Ibarra
Spokesperson
NPA ComVal-Davao Gulf Sub-region Sub-regional Command

Giving justice to two victims of extra-judicial killings and to peasant victims of AFP atrocities, operatives under the Comval Davao Gulf Sub Regional Command-New People’s Army exploded its command detonated bomb inside the headquarters of the 71st Infantry Battalion in Barangay Pangibiran, Mabini town killing six AFP troops and wounding five others.

The bomb explosion last August 5 at 8pm was preceded by the arrest of Private First Class Rodello Canada Arigonan (serial number 776045), a 1001stBrigade Headquarters utility personnel. Arigonan was caught by the NPA operatives August 3, at 11pm in the vicinity of the military headquarters at Barangay Mapaang, Maco town.

Members of the Military Intelligence Battalion under the 101st Brigade-10thInfantry Division-AFP were responsible for the killing of Eddie Canon, a civilian and municipal coordinator of a progressive partylist group in Barangay San Isidro, Mawab town last May 25, and Ramil Lintas, a motorcycle driver of Barangay Calabcab, Maco town last July 25.

Indeed, it is ridiculous how Maj. Jake Obligado, CMO Battalion chief, would repeat the lie that the NPA blast violates the international humanitarian law. When, truth to tell, the AFP perpetrates the worst forms of violence in the countryside with its US-designed Oplan Bayanihan. The military’s counter-revolutionary campaign forces the evacuation and dislocation of peasants to kowtow to the interest of landgrabbers and big miners in Compostela Valley. Military units, like the children killer 71st IB, are responsible for the most despicable crimes against the people.

As the NPA keeps custody of Arigonan as its Prisoner of War, it will hold accountable elements of the reactionary armed force who continue to abuse poor peasants and indigenous peoples in the countryside. The NPA actively seeks and pursues revolutionary justice in the face of the US-Aquino regime’s continuing apathy. The hated regime condones human rights abuses that has only emboldened the AFP, PNP, paramilitary forces under the prevailing culture of impunity.

http://www.philippinerevolution.net/statements/20130821_npa-holds-1001st-brigade-hq-personnel-as-pow-11-casualties-in-71st-ib-camp-blast

Chinese ships drill with US Navy amid disputes

From the Philippine Star (Aug 21): Chinese ships drill with US Navy amid disputes

Three Chinese ships are sailing east to join rare naval drills with the United States as Beijing ramps up its military diplomacy amid regional territorial disputes and other tensions.

The ships left the port of Qingdao on Tuesday to participate in search-and-rescue drills with the U.S. Navy in the waters off Hawaii. Afterward, the ships will continue on to Australia and New Zealand for similar exercises.

The naval drills build on a commitment to create stronger ties made by President Barack Obama and Chinese leader Xi Jinping at a June summit in California, and are an "important mission of military diplomacy," deputy navy commander Xu Hongmeng said, according to the military's official newspaper, People's Liberation Army Daily.

There have been only a handful of exercises at sea involving the two countries' navies, and this week's drills are the first since an unprecedented joint anti-piracy exercise was held last year off Somalia.

The ships' departure came during a visit to the U.S. by Chinese Defense Minister Chang Wanquan, during which he and U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel spoke of expanded military cooperation. During the visit, Hagel said he would visit China next year for the first time since assuming the Pentagon's top job in February.

The U.S. and Chinese militaries are also exchanging military officers for academic studies and holding talks on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. In 2014, China's navy will participate for the first time in a major international maritime exercise known as Rim of the Pacific.

The expanding military ties are part of an on-again, off-again drive to build trust even as Beijing continues to express wariness over Washington's strategic "pivot" to Asia, in which the bulk of U.S. Navy vessels are being positioned in the Pacific and broader alliances have been struck with regional allies such as Australia. China sees the moves as an effort to counter its expanding military and contain its growing economic and political influence.

China's disputes with Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines and other Asian neighbors over territorial boundaries in the South China Sea are also an irritant, even though the U.S. insists it does not take sides in territorial claims.

The Chinese navy flotilla on the current mission is made up of a supply ship, a frigate, and the guided missile destroyer Qingdao, which has taken the lead in China's naval diplomacy with visits to 21 countries. It also includes one shipboard helicopter and 680 officers and sailors.

http://www.philstar.com/world/2013/08/21/1116131/chinese-ships-drill-us-navy-amid-disputes

US pledges $800,000 aid for ‘Maring’ victims

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Aug 21): US pledges $800,000 aid for ‘Maring’ victims

The United States government has donated financial assistance Wednesday to the victims of tropical storm “Maring” (international name: Trami) which affected over a million people in Luzon and Metro Manila.

US Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf, in behalf of the US state government, vowed to provide $800,000 (P35 million) and extended their condolences to the storm-hit families and casualties.

Through the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) under the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Harf said in a statement that $300,000 (P13 million) of the aid will be allotted for non-food emergency reliefs.

While $500,000 (P22 million) will be contributed for “warehousing and logistics support to improve local rapid response efforts,” she said.

Harf said the OFDA is working in close coordination with the local governments in “conducting assessments of the affected areas, helping identify and prioritize needs, and coordinating response activities.”

Meanwhile, the US ambassador to the Philippines Harry K. Thomas Jr. lauded the Filipinos for indefatigably “facing adversity with good cheer and help to flood victims.”

Thomas, in his official Twitter account, added that aside from the initial P35 million aid by the US State Department, $250,000 (P11 million) was added to the US’ financial help to those battered by Maring, which left eight people killed and four missing as of Wednesday.

http://globalnation.inquirer.net/83707/us-offers-800000-aid-for-maring-victims

413 W. Visayas-based soldiers promoted to next higher rank

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 21): 413 W. Visayas-based soldiers promoted to next higher rank
 
Around 413 soldiers of the Western Visayas-based 3rd Infantry Division were promoted to their next rank early this week.

The newly promoted soldiers, 162 of which are corporals, 129 sergeants, 82 staff sergeants and 40 technical sergeants have satisfactorily satisfied the requirements set by the Philippine Army (PA)'s Promotion System.

Candidates were selected after looking into their individual evaluation record which gauged a soldier’s competency and reputation in the service.

Other requirements which were satisfied include required minimum number of years in one's current rank, passing grade on a competitive promotional examination, completion of a career military occupational specialty course, physical and neurological-psychological examination and physical fitness test (PFT).

The PA earlier said that as a professional organization it recognizes that changes or movements in leadership, promotions and change of positions are part of the dynamics and essential mechanisms in a military institution.

Promotion of soldiers who are carefully selected is based largely on character, competence, and capacity to perform assigned mission and task.

"May you look forward for your next promotion as you gain more responsibilities and more experiences. As we widen our experiences, we should also widen our responsibilities and perspective. The additional stripes on your rank chevrons are a strengthening symbol of protecting the rights of our fellow Filipinos whom we vowed to serve and protect, defend and safeguard," 3rd Infantry Division commander Brig. Gen. Aurelio Baladad said.

Promotion to the next higher rank also comes with an increase of a soldier's pay and allowances.

Soldier killed, 3 others wounded in Isabela clash

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 21): Soldier killed, 3 others wounded in Isabela clash

A trooper from the 52nd Division Reconnaissance Company was killed while three of his companions were wounded following an encounter with 29 New People's Army (NPA) rebels in Barangay Balagan, San Mariano town, Isabela Tuesday night.

The clash took place around 11:45 p.m., 5th Infantry Division spokesperson 1st Lt. Rowena Abayon said.

She added that the rebels are believed to be members of the "Sangay ng Partido sa Platun" REMO under communist leader Joey Ramos.

The wounded soldiers were identified as Cpl. Steve C. Bimmoy, Pfc. Roque R. Ganalon, and Private Rafael W. Langao.

Killed was Pfc. Greisman A. Atalli.

Abayon said the soldiers were immediately evacuated to Camp Melchor F. Dela Cruz Station Hospital for immediate treatment and will be transferred to AFP Medical Center for further medical treatment while Atalli’s remains was brought to Funeraria Ramos, Ilagan City.

There were undetermined number of casualties on the enemy side according to the villagers who witnessed the violent activities of the NPA in the area.

The encounter was the offshoot of troopers acting on information from residents who were complaining of extortion activities from the rebels.

Abayon said the encounter lasted for more than one hour.

Recovered were two improvised explosive devices and six six backpacks with subversive documents from the insurgents.

Pursuit operations are still ongoing.

http://www.pna.gov.ph/index.php?idn=1&sid=&nid=1&rid=557323

AFP remains vigilant despite disaster relief operations

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 21): AFP remains vigilant despite disaster relief operations

Despite being focused on disaster relief missions for victims of the torrential rains and floods caused by Typhoon "Maring", the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Wednesday announced that it will continue its security patrols to protect civilian communities from the violence waged by New People's Army (NPA) rebels.


The military made this statement in wake of efforts of the rebel group to conduct extortion and IED attacks in Barangay Balagan, San Mariano town, Isabela Tuesday evening despite the onslaughts of Typhoon "Maring" on the civilian community.

Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala, AFP public affairs office chief, said patrolling troopers of the 52nd Division Reconnaissance Company spotted the rebels and engaged the latter in an hour-long firefight.

"The AFP will continue its security patrols to protect civilian communities from the violence waged by the NPAs," he added.

One soldier was killed and three others were wounded in the encounter, while there are unverified casualties on the enemy side.

They recovered two improvised explosive devices and six backpacks with subversive documents from the insurgents.

http://www.pna.gov.ph/index.php?idn=1&sid=&nid=1&rid=557430

Wescom’s Guerrero leads Alay Lakad 2013 walk committee in Puerto Princesa

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 21): Wescom’s Guerrero leads Alay Lakad 2013 walk committee in Puerto Princesa

The largest educational fund raising activity in the country, Alay Lakad, will push through on Sept 1, come rain or shine.

Highlighting the event is the Walk Parade, wherein its committee is tasked to plan, organize, execute and supervise the event.

Wescom commander Lt. Gen. Rustico O. Guerrero, designated as chairman of the Walk Committee of Alay Lakad 2013, ensures a well-organized walk parade from three assembly areas and will converge at the City Coliseum.

Guerrero said that for several years now, the Western Command and its OPCON and OPCOM units have been supporting this walk-for-a-cause event. He ensured that troops will participate in the Alay Lakad 2013 in cooperation with local government units, local government agencies, non-government organizations and academic institutions in the city of Puerto Princesa and province of Palawan.

The Alay Lakad project is an annual fund raising activity conducted by the Alay Lakad Foundation Inc to support and finance the socio-economic projects of the foundation particularly in the province of Palawan and for the country's out of school youth.

It will be conducted with the participation of the different government agencies, civic organizations and non-government organizations. This year's theme is "Lakad Bayan para sa Kapayapaan".

This year’s event will be participated by the provincial government of Palawan led by Governor Jose Ch. Alvarez and the latter committed to invite municipal mayors in the province and the three congressional representatives to join the activity, to generate more funds and awareness in other municipalities.

http://www.pna.gov.ph/index.php?idn=2&sid=&nid=2&rid=557346

Man with bomb-making materials nabbed in CDO

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 21): Man with bomb-making materials nabbed in CDO

The Cagayan de Oro City Police Office has filed a case for illegal possession of explosives against a certain Rodel del Puerto of Baungon, Bukidnon, who was arrested Monday evening.

Del Puerto had ordered drinks at a bar but refused to pay, prompting the owner to call the police station at Divisoria.

The responding policemen nabbed Del Puerto before the latter could flee with his backpack.

Police saw a piece of metal protruding from the backpack, which prompted them to order Del Puerto to open his backpack.

The metal turned out to be a chisel but the backpack also contained suspicious chemical compound which turned out to be ammonium nitrate.

The backpack also contained two non-electric blasting caps and assorted pieces of rock.

Sr. Insp. Henry Cay-as, Divisoria police chief, said the confiscated items were sent to the police crime laboratory where it was determined to be possible ingredients for an improvised explosive device.

Cay-as said Del Puerto was also slapped with an estafa case for his failure to pay for the drinks worth P260 he ordered.

The suspect is now detained at the Maharlika jail of the Cagayan de Oro City Police Office but the offense is bailable.

Del Puerto said the items seized from him were for his uncle at a mining area at the border of Cagayan de Oro and Bukidnon.

Police in the city are on high alert for the fiesta activities following the July 26 bombing at Limketkai Center.

People in crowded areas who will be watching fiesta activities are not allowed to wear caps and dark sunglasses and not allowed to carry backpacks.

http://www.pna.gov.ph/index.php?idn=2&sid=&nid=2&rid=557361

Pacific Unity 2013 builds partnership by constructing a school in Palawan

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 21): Pacific Unity 2013 builds partnership by constructing a school in Palawan

Aiming to strengthen “strategic trust” and improve coordination between the two armed forces, the Western Command and the U.S. Pacific Air Forces will join forces on a month-long activity called Pacific Unity 2013 starting Aug 26.

In a pre-construction conference Wednesday at the 570th Composite Tactical Wing headquarters, wing commander Brig. Gen. Conrado Parra said the PU 2013 will be participated in by the City Philippine National Police Office, the city government of Puerto Princesa, the Department of Education City Schools Division, and barangay officials of San Jose and San Pedro. Several humanitarian civil assistance and civil military operation activities in the city of Puerto Princesa will ensue on August 26.

“The AFP trhu WESCOM will conduct joint and combined HCA/CMO with the US PACAF and in collaboration with partner agencies of the government and private sectors in the Province of Palawan particularly in the PPC in order to enhance the response capability of both Armed Forces and stakeholders during the time of disasters and calamities,” Parra said.

Airmen from 570th CTW and US PACAF will be working in the tropical heat of Palawan for at least 28 days. Classrooms of the Virgilio Magbanua Memorial Elementary School in San Pedro will be renovated, and one brand new building will be constructed from the ground up through the hard work, dedication and teamwork of these Airmen, and local contractors.

Pacific Unity is a bilateral Engineering Civic Action Program conducted in the Asia-Pacific region in collaboration with host nation civil authorities and military personnel under the direction and coordination of 13th Air Force A7, Joint-Based Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii.

“It is one thing to see USAF Airmen working hand-in-hand with PAF Airmen and to know that this relationship helps build peace and stability in the region. It generates an entirely different sort of emotion to hear about what it means to these Airmen and contractors and their community,” Parra told the Philippines News Agency (PNA).

The scope of the project include adding new roofs to the existing classrooms, putting in new windows, renovating toilets and installing sinks to the bathrooms so the kids can wash their hands, creating drainage for runoff water when it rains, re-cementing classroom floors, and painting buildings among several other projects.

The most significant part of the project is the brand new school building they will build from the ground up that will serve as an additional classroom.

A medical and dental civic action program will also be conducted at the same site during the dedication and turn-over ceremonies by September 20. A classroom repair at the Kiddie Day Care in Abordo village, San Jose as the alternate site will also be conducted.

"We're here shoulder-to-shoulder, hand-in-hand as one, sharing skills and ideas. But this is not just for our Air Force to get civil engineering training. This joint project is for the children – it is for the Palawe├▒os,” Parra said.

Pacific Unity helps cultivate common bonds, foster goodwill and improve relationships between the U.S. and the Philippines by conducting bilateral humanitarian and civic assistance operations.

The relationships built and sustained with Asia-Pacific region partners through exercises, civil military operations, and military exchanges help tremendously in humanitarian efforts and in preserving peace and stability.

By working together on exercises and exchanges such as Pacific Unity 2013, it increases the ability to respond quickly and effectively together to provide assistance now and for future disasters or crises.

Parra said the success of Pacific Unity 2013, however, is not measured solely by the renovated classrooms and new schoolhouse, but by the camaraderie of two nations working hand-in-hand and the long-lasting relationships that have developed over the course of this month-long project.

http://www.pna.gov.ph/index.php?idn=2&sid=&nid=2&rid=557343

PMA entrance examination in Mindanao

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 21): PMA entrance examination in Mindanao

CAMP EVANGELISTA, Cagayan de Oro City –- The Philippine Military Academy Office of the Cadet Admission will be conducting a PMA Entrance Examination at 4th Infantry (Diamond) Division, Philippine Army Gymnasium, Camp Evangelista, Patag, Cagayan de Oro City on Aug 25, 2013.

It requires all applicants to have specific qualifications such as: he or she must be a natural born Filipino Citizen, physically fit, single and never been married; must be at least 17 years old but not a day older than 22 years on April 1 of the year following the date of examination; a High School graduate with a general grade average of 85% or higher; and, a minimum of 5 feet for both male and female applicants.

The PMA Cadetship Application form will be distributed nationwide and it can be downloaded from the PMA official website, http://www.pma.ph.

All interested and qualified applicants must complete the information in the application form and subsequently attach two (2) copies of 2x2 ID picture, authenticated or NSO copy of birth certificate, and a certified true copy of High School Form 137.

All interested applicants may proceed to the Army Recruitment Center, Camp Evangelista, Patag, Cagayan de Oro City from 20 – 24 August 2013 for processing.

The entrance examination covers Algebra and geometry, Grammar and Composition, Reading Comprehension, Verbal and Numerical Reasoning and pattern Analysis. Examination permits are sent through mail to the address reflected by the applicants in their application forms and also can be verified at the venue during the examination.

All cadets of PMA are granted a Full Scholarship receiving salary and allowances while studying for four years earning a degree of Bachelor of Science and a chance to study abroad after graduation.

Also after graduation from the academy, cadets are directly commissioned as regular officers in the Armed Forces of the Philippines, joining any of the three branches of service of their choice, the Army, the Navy, or the Air Force.

http://www.pna.gov.ph/index.php?idn=2&sid=&nid=2&rid=557362

Abducted NorthCot college student released

From MindaNews (Aug 21): Abducted NorthCot college student released

After 11 days in the hands of his abductors, the 19-year-old college student from Midsayap, North Cotabato who was abducted while inside a store at the height of military operations in the province against lawless elements on August 10, was released before dawn today.

According to Jessie Ened, executive secretary of the Provincial Government of North Cotabato, victim Mark Anthony Baya was handed to a negotiating team tapped by Governor Emmylou Mendoza.

Ened, who is part of the team together with board members Dulla Sultan and Mohamad “Kelly” Antao and another local official of Midsayap, immediately brought the victim to the Cotabato Provincial Hospital in Amas, Kidapawan City for medical check up and stress debriefing procedure.

“He was so hungry and requested to eat some,” Ened narrated his first moment interacting with the victim.

He assured there was no ransom paid to the kidnappers because of the province’s stand not to tolerate ransom demands.

Supt. Reynante delos Reyes, Midsayap town police chief, said the victim was released in El Manuel Hotel in Cotabato City where he was fetched by the negotiating team.

But he said they don’t have full identification of the group of abductors yet, except that the head of the kidnap-for-ransom gang is a certain “Kumander Superpower.” Delos Reyes said they are still waiting for additional reports from the Anti-Kidnapping Group.

Baya was about to close their store at Barangay Tumbras in Midsayap when at least five armed masked men disembarked from a gray Mitsubishi vehicle and forcibly dragged him at gun point.

Baya is a son of a retired soldier who is now a village councilor Tumbras.

El Manuel Hotel’s Globe cellphone line kept on ringing when this reporter attempted to get their side on the reported release of the kidnap victim inside their premises.

http://www.mindanews.com/top-stories/2013/08/21/abducted-northcot-college-student-released/

Arrest warrants vs CDO bombers to be issued soon

From MindaNews (Aug 21): Arrest warrants vs CDO bombers to be issued soon

Arrest warrants are expected to be issued this Friday or Monday next week against six members of the shadowy Khilafah Islamiyah Mindanao believed to be responsible for the July 26 bombing at the Limketkai Rosario Arcade here that killed eight persons and injured 46 others.

City Prosecutor Fidel Macauyag said the panel of prosecutors overseeing the clarificatory hearing of witnesses and complainants Tuesday afternoon are expected to come out with their findings by Thursday.

“If the panel finds that there are enough evidence against the six suspects, then we expect [the warrants to] be issued on Friday or next week,” Macauyag said.

Five witnesses and two complainants – the widows of Misamis Oriental Board Member Roldan Lagbas and Cagayan de Oro resident Antonio Paredes – attended the clarificatory hearing at the City Prosecutors Office here Tuesday.

Supt. Michael John Deloso, of the Cagayan de Oro Police, said multiple murder charges were filed against Usman Hapids and the five other suspects who were identified by the witnesses.

Hapids was the only one among the six suspects who was identified by name by the witnesses and the police.

“The witnesses positively identified Hapids because they say they were just five to six feet away,” Deloso said.

Deloso said Hapids and the suspects ate dinner first at the nearby Gloria Maris Restaurant. They left the restaurant around 7 p.m., Deloso quoted the testimony of a witness.

A CCTV video provided to reporters by the police saw Hapids entering and getting out several times from Candy’s Restaurant located beside Kyla’s Bistro early in the evening.

“We think Hapids was looking where to place the bomb but Candy’s Restaurant was full of people at that time. There was no vacant table so he left,” Deloso said.

He added that Hapids, who was wearing short pants and a hat, came back an hour later and found a table at Kyla’s Bistro where he planted the bomb fashioned from an 81mm mortar shell.

Little is known about Hapids who was reportedly a close associate of Reneer Lou Dongon, alias Rolly Unting, alleged leader of Khilafah Islamiyah Mindanao.

The same source said that Dongon and Hapids, who reportedly hails from Maguindanao, were trained in bomb making by fugitive Malaysian Jemaah Islamiyah operative Zulkifli Bin Hir, also known as Marwan, who is accused of providing training for terror organizations across Southeast Asia.

Dongon and another member was arrested by the police in Marawi City last May 11 but was released by the courts, according to PNP 10 Regional Director Catalino Rodriguez.

Rodriguez said the sizable bomb making materials found in the possession of Dongon during his arrest were similar to the explosives used in the Maxandrea Hotel along J.R. Borja Street here last year.

http://www.mindanews.com/top-stories/2013/08/21/arrest-warrants-vs-cdo-bombers-to-be-issued-soon/

Philippine rebels own up attack on dam project

From the Mindanao Examiner (Aug 20): Philippine rebels own up attack on dam project

Communist rebels have owned up the attack on a construction firm working on government dam project in the southern Philippines.

Ka Isabel Fermiza, a spokesperson for the New People’s Army Mount Apo Sub-Regional Command, said the project is threatening to damage a major source of drinking water in North Cotabato’s Arakan town and other parts of Davao City and affected thousands of peasants in the process.

Fermiza said the project is linked to a planned stock farm pasture land program in Mount Sinaka watershed area and part of the 4,100 hectares of University of the Philippines-Mindanao Reservation in the village of Datu Ladayon in Arakan town.

“Without even bothering to secure a token environmental compliance certificate from the reactionary regime's own environment agency, project proponents have went on to pursue the dam construction, at the expense of Mount Sinaka, an important watershed area that is also home to wildlife, rich forests and endangered species,” Fermiza said.

She also accused Agriculture Assistant Secretary Dante de Lima of bribing farmers to give up their lands and transform it into stock farms, and even village officials.

“Worse, Assistant Secretary Dante de Lima of the Department of Agriculture also spearheaded in bribing peasants to give up their lands and transform it into stock farms for hundreds of cattle; one cattle head would need one hectare of land. The land grabbing in the name of a cattle project would dislocate thousands of vegetable farmers in the area,” Fermiza claimed.

She said the rebels torched at least 5 heavy equipment used in the project.

“The NPA not only targeted De Lima's project due to its huge environmental impact and the dislocation of peasants, but also because it committed gross abuses of workers' rights. Daily wage for lowly dam construction workers is at P200 a day with 10% deduction to be pocketed by village officials, while for stock farm workers, P150 daily for 10 hours of work,” Fermiza alleged.

Fermiza warned that rebels will continue its operation against “destructive” projects.

“The NPA is sending the message that it will not tolerate destructive projects that are grossly disadvantageous to the people. The NPA punishes capitalists and reactionary agents responsible for plundering the forests, introducing projects that will further exacerbate the disastrous impact of climate change, and dislocate lowly peasants and abuse workers,” she said, adding Mount Sinaka is one of the remaining forest frontiers in the boundary of Davao and North Cotabato provinces.

There was no immediate statement from the Department of Agriculture about Fermiza's allegations.

The NPA has been fighting for decades for the establishment of a separate Maoist state in the country.

http://mindanaoexaminer.blogspot.com/2013/08/philippine-rebels-own-up-attack-on-dam.html

Soldier killed, 3 wounded in clash with NPA in Isabela

From InterAksyon (Aug 21): Soldier killed, 3 wounded in clash with NPA in Isabela

A soldier was killed and three others wounded in a clash with New People’s Army guerrillas in San Mariano, Isabela Tuesday night.

The Army’s 5th Infantry Division reported that the soldiers, from the 52nd Division Reconnaissance Company, were on a combat operation in Barangay Balagan when they encountered 29 NPA fighters around 10 p.m. Tuesday.

The retreating rebels left behind two improvised explosive devices and six backpacks.

The fatality was identified as Private First Class Reisman Atalli.

The wounded, who are recuperating at the V Luna Medical Center in Quezon City, are Private Rafael Langao, Private First Class Roque Ganalon and Corporal Steve Bimmoy.

http://www.interaksyon.com/article/69069/soldier-killed-3-wounded-in-clash-with-npa-in-isabela

DFA releases FAQs on the proposed IRP, MDT and VFA

From the Business Mirror (Aug 19): DFA releases FAQs on the proposed IRP, MDT and VFA

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has released this advisory to answer frequently asked questions about the proposed Increased Rotational Presence (IRP) Framework Agreement and how it is related to the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) and the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).
 
 1.            What is increased rotational presence (IRP)?
Increased Rotational Presence is the policy which increases the presence of United States (US) forces on a rotational basis in Philippine territory toward the development of a minimum credible defense posture.
 
2.            What is involved in IRP?
A minimum credible defense posture is intended to enhance maritime-domain awareness and develop a deterrence capability. This can be accomplished through high-impact and high-value joint exercises, which promote interoperability and capacity building that will also bolster humanitarian assistance and disaster response.
 
3.            How many troops will be allowed? How long will these troops be allowed to be stationed in the Philippines?
The number of troops and areas where they will be deployed depend on the scale of operations that we will approve. The IRP Framework Agreement does not deal with operational details.
 
4.            Where will they be stationed?
We are not talking about stationing. We are talking about presence in relation to activities and these activities will be held in AFP-owned or -controlled facilities or areas.
 
5.            Will the IRP Framework Agreement allow the US to store weapons of mass destruction and armed drones in the country?
No. We will comply with the constitutional prohibition against nuclear weapons. If we suspect or believe that a vessel or aircraft has a nuclear weapon, we will deny entry.
 
6. Is the IRP Framework Agreement like the deployment of US Special Forces in Mindanao?
No. This unit, the Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines (JSOTF-P), has a specific function. It was brought to the country after September 2001, at the request of the Philippine Government, to advise and assist the AFP in countering terrorism. The IRP Framework Agreement, on the other hand, addresses the current thrust of the AFP, which is external defense.
 
7.            How is the proposed IRP Framework Agreement different from the existing MDT with the US and the VFA?
The IRP Framework Agreement is already within the ambit of the existing MDT and VFA. By this IRP Framework Agreement, we are merely institutionalizing a fuller and more effective implementation of the MDT and VFA.
 
8.            What is the VFA?
VFA is a status-of-forces agreement. It basically states that US forces in the Philippines has to follow Philippine law. US forces have to adhere to behavior that is consistent with Philippine law.
 
9.            Why do you need an IRP Framework Agreement when you have the MDT and VFA?
MDT and VFA do not list the activities that the Philippines and US will do. The IRP Framework Agreement lists and defines these activities.
 
10.          Will the IRP Framework Agreement, if signed, provide a blanket authority for all activities of the US troops in the future?
No. Each activity under the IRP Framework Agreement will have to be approved by the Philippine side.
 
11.          Will the IRP Framework Agreement replace the existing VFA and the MDT?
No. The proposed IRP Framework Agreement will be an implementation of the MDT with the United States, particularly its Article II on working together more effectively to build the two countries’ individual defense capabilities. The proposed agreement will be covered by the VFA, which grants status to US troops.
 
12.          Will the US come to the defense of the Philippines when attacked?
The US has, time and again, stated that it will honor its commitments under the MDT.
 
13.          If, for example, a Philippine vessel is harassed by a foreign vessel, how will the MDT come into play?
We cannot respond to a hypothetical situation because it would reveal operational details that would affect our national security.
 
14.          Is this proposed IRP Framework Agreement constitutional?
Yes. The proposed IRP Framework Agreement will be consistent with the Philippine Constitution, Philippine laws and Philippine treaty commitments. The Philippine negotiating panel will ensure full respect of Philippine sovereignty.
 
15.          Does the proposed IRP Framework Agreement need Senate concurrence?
We are cognizant of what constitutes an executive agreement and a treaty. The Philippine negotiating panel will confine the substance of the proposed framework agreement to an executive agreement.
 
Benefits of the proposed IRP Framework Agreement
 
16.          What are the specific benefits of the proposed IRP Framework Agreement?
The specific benefits will include acceleration of the modernization of the AFP, inter-operability, capacity building and enhanced capability for humanitarian assistance and disaster response.
 
Proposed IRP Framework Agreement and basing
 
17.          According to some interest groups, the increased rotational presence of the US in the country is tantamount to having de facto bases. Is this true?
No de facto bases or any kind of bases. The Philippine negotiating panel will be totally guided by the provisions of the Philippine Constitution, which explicitly prohibits the establishment of foreign bases on Philippine territory.
 
18.          Will the United States use Subic Bay as its new base of operations?
No. There will be no US bases in the Philippines.
 
19.          Are the discussions with the US on the IRP Framework Agreement related to the proposed relocation of the Philippine Air Force (PAF) and Philippine Navy (PN) to Subic?
With or without talks on the IRP Framework Agreement, the DND and the AFP are strengthening its defense capabilities in Subic, which remains a strategic location. The discussions with the US on IRP Framework Agreement are separate from the proposed relocation of the PAF and PN to Subic. 
 
20.          So if the AFP will already be in Subic, why do you still need the US there?
In terms of modernization, the US rotational presence will maximize the resources we are providing to upgrade our defense.
 
21.          Is the Philippines inviting other countries for a similar arrangement?
Even as the Philippines would like to expand its defense cooperation with like-minded countries, the IRP Framework Agreement would be limited to the Philippines and the United States.
 
Proposed IRP Framework Agreement and external threats
 
22.          Will the proposed IRP Framework Agreement help thwart external threats?
The modernization efforts of the AFP have for its primary objective the attainment of minimum credible defense posture. As provided in the Constitution, the AFP’s mandate is to protect the territory and sovereignty of the country. All the programs to be implemented by the DND and the AFP, including the negotiations with the US for a proposed IRP Framework Agreement, are primarily geared to defend what is ours, secure the nation and keep our people safe.
 
23.          How do we envision the future of our defense cooperation with the US?
We will strengthen our capabilities for external and territorial defense by continuing to work with our treaty ally in a mutually beneficial way in line with what is allowed by the Philippine Constitution.
 
24.          Will the Philippines be a magnet for trouble due to the implementation of the IRP Framework Agreement and increased presence of US troops?
If one is better prepared, external elements that have ill intentions will tend to think twice.
 
25.          Is the Philippines preparing for war?
No. Article II of the Philippine Constitution specifically renounces war as an instrument of national policy. It is, however, the expressed duty of the government to defend what is ours, secure our nation and keep our people safe.
 
26.          Is the IRP Framework Agreement directed at a particular country in the region?
No. The IRP Framework Agreement prepares us from any and all forces that may bear ill intentions towards us.
 
27.          How will the IRP Framework Agreement affect bilateral relations with China?
It should not affect relations with China.
 
28.          Why should the Filipinos support the IRP Framework Agreement?
It will take us many years to bring us to the level of modernization that we seek for our AFP. With the support of all Filipinos, the IRP Framework Agreement will significantly help the country to temporarily fill that gap. All Filipinos should unite for a stronger Philippines.