Sunday, September 8, 2013

1 killed, 6 wounded in predawn Zambo clash between AFP, suspected MNLF gunmen

From GMA News (Sep 9): 1 killed, 6 wounded in predawn Zambo clash between AFP, suspected MNLF gunmen

A soldier was killed, with at least six others wounded, during a  clash between the armed forces and suspected Moro National Liberation Front gunmen before dawn Monday in Zamboanga City.

Residents in three villages were evacuated, businesses were closed and classes were suspended in the city, radio dzBB's correspondent JV Francisco reported.

Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala, head of the Armed Forces of the Philippines public information office, said the encounter occurred off the coast of Rio Hondo in Zamboanga City.

Citing initial reports, Zagala said the encounter involved suspected MNLF fighters and the Naval Special Operations Group.

"Yung malungkot, may isang kasundaluhan na namatay at may mga wounded," he said over dzBB radio.

Zagala added that they were verifying if some MNLF fighter managed to enter the city proper.

Meanwhile, Maj. Harold Cabunoc, commander of the Philippine Army's 7th Civil Relations Group, said the gunbattle occurred at 1:45 a.m.

"Let's offer a minute (of) prayer for the fallen soldier who paid the ultimate sacrifice in the service of our country," Cabunoc said on his Twitter account.

Initial information

Initial reports reports from the military said some "100 more or less" armed followers of the MNLF's former chairman Nur Misuari were involved in the encounter.

An earlier dzBB report said the encounter started at 1 a.m. when the Misuari gunmen approached the city via the coastal village of Mariki.

The fighters exchanged gunfire with Navy personnel and members of Task Force Zamboanga. At least one suspected Misuari fighter was reported wounded in the shootout.

Residents in Mariki, Sta. Barbara and Rio Hondo villages were evacuated because of the clashes.

Following the encounter, security was tightened in the city, with military and police personnel establishing security checkpoints.

The city government is to convene its crisis management council Monday morning.

Gov't, MILF gear up for 'final' round of peace talks

From Rappler (Sep 8): Gov't, MILF gear up for 'final' round of peace talks

After more than 3 decades of armed struggle in Mindanao – and after 17 years of negotiations between the government and rebel group Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) – both parties have arrived at what they hope to be their final meeting in Kuala Lumpur.

Their respective peace panels will hold talks for at least 10 days in a bid to arrive at a deal on how power will be shared between the proposed Bangsamoro political entity and the central government, as well as how MILF troops will undergo the normalization process.
"I think we're confident because we've gone through difficulties in the past but we were able to overcome it," government chief negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer told Rappler, Friday, September 6. "I think after we finished the wealth-sharing annex, after a very difficult round of negotiations, where we had an extended process after a lot of delays were incurred, both of us feel more confident that we can hurdle the obstacles."
MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal hopes their next meeting at the Palace of the Golden Horses in Kuala Lumpur would be the final one.
"It depends, It can be the last or there would be more rounds. But I hope this would be the last," Iqbal earlier said in a text message.
The signing of the comprehensive agreement with the MILF will allow the Bangsamoro peace process to move forward, with a number of mechanisms for the transition already in place.
The Third Party Monitoring, which is tasked to review, asses and monitor the implementation of the final peace agreement, has already been convened.
Meanwhile, the Transition Commission – the body tasked to craft the Bangsamoro Basic Law, which will provide the legal framework for the proposed entity – is ready to start work.
In order to beat their deadline to complete the transition process from the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao to the future Bangsamoro government, the Basic Law must be completed and passed by Congress by 2014.
Last two annexes
What are the remaining issues?
On the power-sharing annex, Ferrer said they are working at "cleaning up the text and tightening the language."
The Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro signed in October 2012 identified some of the "reserved powers" for the central government. What the annex on power-sharing will identify are mostly the "concurrent powers" or shared powers between the Bangsamoro region and central government and what would be the "exclusive powers" of the Bangsamoro.
One of the remaining issues has to do with jurisdiction over transportation and communication, given the fact that these are also bound by international law.
Meanwhile, the process of normalization will provide for specially-designed economic programs for the proposed entity in parallel with the decommissioning of MILF troops and the disbandment of private armed groups.

MNLF mobilizes Tausug fighters in Malaysia

From the Philippine Star (Sep 9): MNLF mobilizes Tausug fighters in Malaysia

The Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) has activated some 4,000 foreign trained Tausug fighters embedded in Sarawak and Sabah in Malaysia, group spokesman Emmanuel Fontanilla said yesterday.

Fontanilla said the mobilization of the fighters was aimed to protect Tausugs, who he claimed have been the subject of a crackdown by Malaysian authorities.

He said the MNLF fighters were in addition to the Sulu Sultanate Army led by Agbimuddin Kiram, the brother of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III, leading the armed struggle to reclaim their ancestral land in Sabah.

MNLF founding chairman Nur Misuari had declared Sarawak and Sabah as part of the Bangsa Moro Republik (BMR).

Fontanilla however clarified the MNLF fighters in Malaysia will act only in self-defense against any attack from Malaysian forces.

Fontanilla declined to elaborate how the armed group, called the Bangsa Moro Army in Malaysia, was “activated,” but a source revealed at least five countries are supporting it with arms shipments that had arrived in the disputed territory.

“Just like what happened in the early ‘70s at the height of Mindanao conflict, Sabah and Sarawak will be the main base of the Bangsa Moro Army,” the source said.

The source said the MNLF in the early ‘70s had set up guerrilla and training camps in Sabah with the consent of the Malaysian government at the time.

The source added huge arms shipments were also sent to MNLF in Mindanao weeks before Misuari declared independence in Talipao, Sulu last Aug. 12.

“MNLF troops are now bearing modern assault weapons coming from foreign supporters,” the source said.

Fontanilla however denied the arms shipment, saying the reports were part of government propaganda.

MNLF forces attack Zamboanga City

From the Mindanao Examiner (Sep 9): MNLF forces attack Zamboanga City

Moro National Liberation Front forces attacked Zamboanga City in southern Philippines early Monday, taking hostages and using them as shield as exodus of civilians continues.

One policeman and a civilian were killed and several people were reported wounded as fighting rage in several villages where the rebels forces occupied.

The local mayor Maria Isabelle Salazar has suspended all classes in Zamboanga due to the violence.

Initial reports said the attackers were followers of Nur Misuari, chieftain of the MNLF, who earlier has earlier accused Manila of not honoring the 1996 peace accord it signed with the former rebel group.

Various reports said heavily-armed rebels managed to sneak by boats before dawn and launched the attacks by sunrise.

The attack was the second since 2001 after MNLF forces loyal to Misuari also launched an attack in Zamboanga and the fighting left over 100 people dead.

Police step up hunt for Hapids as court issues arrest warrant

From the Mindanao Gold Star Daily (Sep 9): Police step up hunt for Hapids as court issues arrest warrant

AUTHORITIES stepped up the hunt for Usman Hapids, the man accused of exploding the killer bomb at Limketkai center in late July, after a regional court ordered the suspect arrested.

City police director Senior Supt. Graciano Mijares said Judge Bonifacio Macabaya of the 20th branch of the Regional Trial Court has already issued a warrant of arrest against Hapids for multiple murder and multiple frustrated murder.

Eight people, including Misamis Oriental provincial board member Roldan Lagbas, were killed and over 40 others were hurt in the bombing outside Kyla’s Bistro at the Rosario Arcade of Limketkai center in July 26.

Mijares said a copy of the arrest warrant is now with the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG). The CIDG is spearheading the hunt for Usman who, authorities said, is a member of a new terrorist group called Khalifa Islamiyah.

Other law enforcement agencies are also trying to catch Usman, said Mijares.
He said concerned citizens could help if they come forward and provide the police with information that could lead to Usman’s arrest.

Mayor Oscar Moreno earlier offered a P2-million reward for anyone who could help authorities arrest Hapids.

MILF: Editorial--Complementation, not Convergence

Editorial posted to the MILF Website (Sep 8): Complementation, not Convergence

No one in his right frame of mind does not like unity amongst people, groups or individuals especially if the undertaking is about pursuing a common cause.  Unity of ideas and unity of actions multiply capacity and power that will lead people to success.

It is on this firm moral foundation that the MILF, without reservation, pushed for, agreed and cooperated in the creation of the Bangsamoro Coordination Forum (BCF) under the auspices of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). The BCF will serve as the coordinating mechanism for the MNLF and MILF to discuss major issues and concerns and make decisions that will be implemented through their respective organizational channels. But this effort is not getting any headway, because there is no enough push from the parties to make it move. The MILF, however, has consistently attended its sessions, first in Dushanbe, Tajikistan on May 18 to 20, 2010; second in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on December 2011; and third in Djibouti, Africa on November 15 to 17, 2012. For doing so, we simply want it to get going.

Corollary to this is the attempt to “converge” the peace processes of the MNLF and government and the MILF and government. While the idea may be noble, the process is simply not practical. One cannot put a square peg into a round hole. The GRP-MNLF Final Agreement of September 2, 1996 is largely a consummated act. Only the Second Phase, which is economic, is not fully implemented. The First Phase (Political Phase) has already been fully implemented. Both Indonesia, chair of OIC Peace Committee for Southern Philippines (OIC-PCSP), and former ARMM Governor Parouk Hussin, at one time or another, attested that the Political Phase of the agreement had been fully implemented.

The consummation was further bolstered when MNLF Chairman Nur Misuari accepted the governorship of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) in 1996, a post which he tried to reoccupy by running for it in elections three times and lost. On the other hand, the GPH-MILF peace process is still much a work in progress. A clear comparison, therefore, can only happen if the MILF and government finally sign the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) which will contain the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) and the four annexes on Transitional Arrangement and Modalities, Wealth-sharing, Power-sharing, and Normalization.

In other words, what can be compared in the future will be the GRP-MNLF FPA and the GPH-MILF CPA, which is not yet born. For now, what can be compared are the GRP-MNLF Tripoli Agreement of 1976 and the GPH-MILF FAB. Both are frameworks and the fleshing have to come later. For the former, the fleshing out is contained in the GRP-MNLF FPA.

In fairness, the Tripoli Agreement of 1976 is a good document except on two counts: Its implementation subscribes, without qualification, to the constitutional processes of the Philippines and much of the details are to be discussed later, which, as said above, appeared in text of the GPH-MNLF FPA. Here again, it contains several flaws that deny solution or closure to the Bangsamoro Question. Two of which are: (1) the MNLF and Misuari agreed to foreclose the right to self-determination (RSD) of the Bangsamoro people and (2) the MNLF and Misuari also agreed that in case a conflict arises in the interpretation of the agreement, government laws will be followed.

It is on this context that we invite the OIC and all those proponents of convergence to do due diligence and reflect on these naked realities pointed above. For the MILF, what can be done and should be done is complementation of the two peace processes. Since the very beginning, the position of the MILF has been very clear and consistent: Let the GRP-MNLF FPA be fully implemented by the parties and what the MILF is only negotiating for those that are lacking in the GRP-MNLF FPA. Moreover, the MILF is inclusive in its approach especially in terms of the fruits of the endeavor. We didn’t and don’t have the slightest intention of depriving our brothers from the MNLF of their rights to partake of the cake when it is ready for eating. But in the meantime, we urge them to help us or at least not stand on the way in this hard undertaking.

Lastly, let it also be stated here that the MILF does not attach franchise right to solving the Bangsamoro Question. Whoever has the right formula, we firmly subscribe to it. Individuals or leaders can only be good up to a certain period; after that, he has to go – if possible, for good. Man cannot dictate how history makes account of him. As always, history judges him later, mostly when he is gone.   Many a man, including bright ones, like former strongman Ferdinand Marcos, wanted a place in the history of great men and heroes, but he ended his life hated and refused even by the soil of his motherland.

MILF: MSU-Gensan to put up extension school in Malungon, Sarangani

From the MILF Website (Sep 8): MSU-Gensan to put up extension school in Malungon, Sarangani

Mindanao State University (MSU) – General Santos City and the Municipal Government of Malungon, Sarangani Province are upbeat to establish MSU-Malandag Campus that will benefit the Indigenous Peoples and Christian Settlers of town.
Malungon Municipal Mayor Reynaldo Constantino was authorized by the Sanggunian Bayan under Resolution No. 11-2013-007, to transact and enter into contract of agreement for the establishment of Mindanao State University (MSU) Malandag campus in a parcel of land containing an area of 50,000 square meters.

The land, owned by Ronald Obanil dela Pasion, was recently procured by the municipal government of Malungon last week in the amount of P5M.  Three million pesos was settled as down payment.

Constantino thanked other benefactors for their concerted effort to realize setting up a tertiary educational institution in his town.

Malungon, an interior town of Sarangani, is dominated by IPs belonging to Blaan and Taga-Kaulo tribes.

Blaan and Taga-Kaulo are original inhabitants of the province prior to the coming of the Spaniards. They are also considered among the Bangsamoro People (Moro tribes and IPs of Mindanao).

MSU-Gensan Chancellor Atty. Abdurrahman T. Canacan welcomes the development and looks forward for the success of setting up the extension school.

MSU System, which has campuses in different regions in Mindanao has a prime mission to help develop the conditions of the Moros and IPs by providing quality education.

MILF: Selected MILF Officers evaluate performance of its women’s committee

From the MILF Website (Sep 8): Selected MILF Officers evaluate performance of its women’s committee

(A) group of selected MILF Officers had an audience with members of the Social Welfare Committee (SWC) to evaluate their activities and performance.  The evaluation was aimed at strengthening the women sector in the Bangsamoro where members of the SW Central Committee and heads of sub- committees were present.
The evaluation was held somewhere in Maguindanao and attended by 3,255 members of the committee who came from various areas of Maguindanao.  Some of the speakers were Bangsamoro women leaders who are educated in Arabic, while the rest have secular education.

A high ranking political official from Maguindanao delivered a message and provided security to the activity. He assigned the town’s chief of police to oversee the security situation in the venue and its vicinity.

Ustadz Mohammad Suwaib Ya’cob, Executive Director of Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA) shared his views on how to develop stakeholders.

Prof. Esmael “Mike” Abdula, member of BLMI Steering Committee and KDFI Senior Training Consultant emphasized the importance of deep understanding of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB). He told the participants that the partnership between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) can usher towards the attainment of lasting peace in Mindanao. He also emphasized the importance of completing the two (2) remaining annexes on power-sharing and normalization. The annex on wealth sharing was signed by the two peace panels last July 14 at Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Arman Armada, Head of the MILF Committee on Information Secretariat also provided answers to some questions raised by the participants during the open forum.

On his part, Nasrullah Muhammad, HRDC point man to the MILF challenged the SWC officers from national office down to the grassroots to actively do their part in achieving good governance and empowering the grassroots to have a decent life. The future of the Bangsamoro is in the hands of the people who throughout the decades of armed struggle unselfishly shared their little earnings and offered prayers to attain peace, development and freedom in the Moro Region. At the conclusion of the activity, everybody looked forward to the success of the peace process without any delay; the crafting of the Bangsamoro Basic Law by the BTC in soonest possible time and its enactment by Congress.’s-committee

PSG not playing partisan politics - Palace

From ABS-CBN (Sep 8): PSG not playing partisan politics - Palace

Malacanang does not believe that the Presidential Security Group (PSG) is playing partisan politics.

Asked to comment about a bill seeking to insulate the PSG from partisan politics, deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said: “The PSG’s concern is the safety and security of the President and the First Family.”

“Hindi ko nakikita. Hindi ako naniniwala na may partisan politics,” she told radio dzRB.

AKO-Bicol Party-list Reps. Christopher Co and Rodel Batocabe revived last week a proposal to convert the PSG into a highly professionalized civil security organization that will be named Government Protection and Security Service (GPSS).

The lawmakers said the PSG posts are perceived to be the most sought-after assignment since they are close to the seat of power.

"Military and police officers and personnel are designated to the PSG which serves as a springboard for their professional careers," Co said.

Batocabe noted that at least three PSG commanders have become AFP chiefs of staff.

"This perception should be eradicated as it demoralizes the members of the AFP and weakens public confidence in its military. The creation of an institutionalized civilian agency, independent from the AFP or PNP, ensures that the protective role of the agency -- that is ensuring the safety of national leaders, their families, the MalacaƱang Palace, and foreign visitors -- shall be upheld and given utmost priority," Batocabe said.

Gov’t forces capture 2 Abus,4 NPA members in separate encounters in Sulu, Negros Or.

From the Daily Tribune (Sep 8): Gov’t forces capture 2 Abus,4 NPA members in separate encounters in Sulu, Negros Or.

Troopers from the 2nd Marine Brigade have successfully arrested two suspected Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) members during operations in Barangay Pansul, Patikul, Sulu last Friday morning.

These men were identified as Salih Madjam alias “Undag Dami” and his brother Kinang Madkam alias “Tinman Dami.”

Col. Jose Johnriel Cenabre, 2nd Marine Brigade commander, said the ASG men were nabbed around by 6:30 a.m. by elements of the 11th Special Operations Platoon led by 2nd Lt. Michael Loon.

He added that Loon’s group was conducting law enforcement operations when the two were apprehended.

Seized from the suspects were an M-1 Garand rifle and 10 rounds of ammunition.

The two were positively identified by the civilian community as members of the group of ASG sub-leader Juhurim Hussien, the same group believed to be involved in series of kidnappings of civilians in Sulu.

Hussien’s group is also responsible for series of ambush/attacks of military personnel who are providing security to peace and developmental initiatives in Sitio Lumbaan, Barangay Buhanginan, Sitio Bulabog, Barangay Bunbun, Sitio Tubig Magtuh, Barangay Panglayahan, all in Patikul town.

Meanwhile, troopers from the 3rd Scout Ranger Company have captured four New People’s Army (NPA) fighters who were part of a 20-man group encountered by government forces at Sitio Hinobaan, Barangay Plagatasanon, Guihulngan City, Negros Oriental last Friday early morning.

The incident took place around 12:50 a.m.

Major Ray Tiongson, 3rd Infantry Division spokesman, said the rebels were encountered by the soldiers while conducting a security patrol off the above-mentioned area.

A 15-minute firefight took place where the NPA band sustained still undetermined casualties with no losses to the government side.

Tiongson identified the captured rebels as Jessie Abing, 26, a resident of Barangay Nasunggan, La Libertad town; Thomas Isugan, 19, of Barangay Buenavista, Guihulngan City; Dandy Demerin, 18, a resident of Barangay Camandag, La Castellana and Ricardo Ricanillo, 37, of Barangay Linantuyan, also in Guihulngan City.

Recovered from their possession were an M-14 automatic rifle, one magazine with ammunition, two hand grenades, seven backpacks with jungle hammocks and personal items, a medical kit with BP apparatus, seven ponchos, assorted food stuffs and subversive documents of high intelligence value.

The four captured NPA members were treated humanely and apprised of their constitutional rights.

Brig. Gen. Aurelio Baladad, 3rd Infantry Division commander, commended the troops for their professionalism and observance to human rights and rule of law.

“We (will) intensify our ‘Bayanihan’ operations and we ensure that our soldiers are more responsible, determined and focused toward the accomplishment of mandated mission without violation of any law,” he concluded.

ComVal police launch solid campaign against insurgents

From the Daily Tribune (Sep 8): ComVal police launch solid campaign against insurgents

The Philippine National Police in Compostela Valley is launching an all-out campaign against the New People’s Army (NPA) rebels in the province with further strengthening of the existing chokepoints in the province’s 11 municipalities.

These chokepoints will strictly monitor people going in and out of any municipality of the province. Those who will be caught acting suspiciously will undergo questioning to doublecheck if they are members of NPA.

“We are not letting our guards down. We know that this area is a hotbed for rebels,” said ComVal police chief Senior Supt. Camilo Cascolan in an interview by The Daily Tribune. So far, according to the police chief, there are seven chokepoints in the entire province.

These chokepoints are manned by PNP personnel 24 hours a day, Cascolan said. “We have our strategic plan and various activities aimed at curbing rebel activities,” the official, a member of the Philippine Military Academy class of 1986, said.

Aside from the strategic plan, the ComVal PNP has also launched the most peaceful municipality campaign. “This program has initiatives versus all criminals,” the official added.

Meanwhile, Cascolan declined to confirm if there was really bacteria in the landmine planted by NPA rebels in Pantukan, Compostela Valley that injured seven soldiers. “It is just a presumption but it has to be proven,” he said.

Injured in the attack were soldiers belonging to the Army’s 28th Infantry Battalion.

“The 28th IB is new in the area that’s why they don’t know the place well,” Cascolan, a veteran of many fierce encounters with rebels during his early years in the military, explained further.

According to Armed Forces of the Philippines public information office chief Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala, the landmine was contaminated with the bacteria Enterobacter cloacae and Streptococcus agalactiae, which are commonly found in the human intestine.

The military said the toxins found in the landmine could cause cardiac arrest. The landmine was the 21st believed to have been planted by the NPA this year in the Davao region and Cotabato province.

However, the NPA Southern Mindanao Regional Command denied the allegation they were using chemicals in the landmines.

Only 71 out of 265 military air assets operational

From the Daily Tribune (Sep 9): Only 71 out of 265 military air assets operational

Less than 30 percent of air assets of the Philippine Air Force are currently operational, a senior PAF official said even as he underscored the immediate need of the command to acquire air assets to perform its mandate.

Maj. Gen. Raul Dimatatac, vice commander of PAF, noted that currently only 71 out of the 265 air assets, or around 26 percent, of the PAF are serviceable.

Out of the 265, 95 were considered as beyond economical repair (BER), or for disposal, and 58 are recoverable. It was not clear, however, how many airplanes are currently operational.

Of the operational assets, 21 are helicopters.

The PAF has a total of 79 helicopters in its inventory but 33 are BER while 25 are on recoverable status.

Currently, the PAF is eyeing 21 refurbished UH-1H or Huey helicopters, which are considered as the work horse during combat and search and rescue missions, to augment its fleet.

“These 21 (Hueys) are very important for us to fill the needs not only of the Armed Forces but also other agencies that need the services of UH-1H helicopters,” Dimatatac said.

But the third bidding for the acquisition of 21 Hueys was declared a failure again last week.

Aside from the Hueys, the PAF is program to acquire 12 brand new lead-in fighter jets and combat utility helicopters as part of the ongoing P75-billion modernization program and capability upgrade of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

The Department of National Defense failed to mention the reason for the failure of the first two bids earlier this year.

With the failure, the bid documents will be returned to the PAF and the military service will be directed to make a study and a recommendation on how to pursue the “Huey” acquisition program.

The project is worth P1.2 billion.

Soldier wounded as suspected BIFF rebels set off IED

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Sep 8): Soldier wounded as suspected BIFF rebels set off IED
Suspected Moro rebels set off a roadside improvised explosive device in Maguindanao Sunday morning that left a soldier wounded, the Army here said.

Corporal Edwin Lamorese was slightly wounded when suspected members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) set off an improvised bomb fashioned from 60 mm mortar in Barangay (village) Madidis, Datu Paglas, Maguindanao.

Lamorese and a member of the Citizens Armed Forces Geographical Unit (Cafgu) were responding to a report by alert village people about a suspected IED at a dirt road in Barangay Madidis at 6 a.m. when it was set off using a mobile phone as trigger mechanism.

Col. Roy Galido, 38th Infantry Battalion commander, said Lamorese, a 38th IB leader of the militiamen, was slightly wounded in the explosion.

Galido believed the IEDs were intended for militiamen and soldiers who have been manning checkpoints at which all passing vehicles have been subjected to inspection.

He said the explosive was planted along a grassy side of the highway, some 100 meters away from a detachment of the CAFGU, which was manned by militiamen under Lamorese.

Galido said Lamorese sustained shrapnel injuries in the body but was declared out of danger by the Datu Paglas municipal hospital.

He returned to his detachment after receiving first aid.

Police shut down the road network connecting Tacurong City and Davao City for about an hour while investigation was being conducted.

Army bomb experts were also verifying reports more IEDs were planted around the area.

Kagi Sumail, a village official, said the IED was planted by Moro bandits engaged in extortion activities who were preying on passenger buses like the General Santos City-bound Yellow Bus, Cagayan de Oro City-bound Rural Transit Bus and even civilian commuters.

No one has claimed responsibility but Galido said the IED with 60 mm mortar and mobile phone as triggering device was a signature armament of the BIFF.

'Huey' still relevant - DND official

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 8): 'Huey' still relevant - DND official

Despite flying for 53 years, the Bell UH-1 "Huey" helicopter will still be effective for another 20 years, according to DND undersecretary for finance, munitions, installation and material Fernando Manalo.

Manalo also said that the "Huey", which the Philippines has around 21 flyable models at present, is the best aircraft for peacekeeping and disaster relief missions due to its reputation as easy aircraft to fly and maintain.

"As a (former) helicopter pilot, I strongly believe that the UH-1 'Huey" will still be effective for the next 20 years. A lot of countries are still flying the 'Huey" due to its excellent flying characteristics (and adequate stock of spare parts)," he added.

And despite having a number of new combat utility helicopters in its inventory, the 21 "Hueys" being sought for the Philippine Air Force can still do a lot to augment the latter's search, combat and rescue capabilities.

The helicopter was developed by Bell Helicopter to meet the US Army's requirement for a medical evacuation and utility helicopter in 1952, and first flew on Oct. 20 1956.

Ordered into production in March 1960, the UH-1 was the first turbine-powered helicopter to enter production for the United States military, and more than 16,000 have been produced worldwide.

The first combat operation of the UH-1 was in the service of the US Army during the Vietnam War. The original designation of HU-1 led to the helicopter's nickname of "Huey".

In September 1962, the designation was changed to UH-1, but "Huey" remained in common use. Approximately 7,000 UH-1 aircraft saw service in Vietnam.

PAF in need of additional 'Huey' helicopters

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 8): PAF in need of additional 'Huey' helicopters

Major Gen. Raul Dimatatac, Philippine Air Force (PAF) vice commander, announced Sunday that they are in need of additional Bell UH-1 "Huey" helicopters.

He made this statement after noting that only 21 out of the 79 "Huey" helicopters in the PAF are mission capable.

"(Of these) 33 are beyond economical repair while the other 25 are recoverable (waiting for repair) leaving us with only 21 operational," Dimatatac stressed.

The PAF vice commander also said that originally, the 205th Tactical Helicopter Wing, should have a complement of 96 "Hueys" or four squadrons of helicopters.

Dimatatac said that a squadron is equivalent to 24 aircraft.

He added that the PAF is still waiting for the money to restore the 25 salvageable "Hueys" into flying and operational condition.

The PAF vice commander also stressed that the planned procurement of 21 refurbished Hueys is urgently needed by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) for its various security and disaster response roles.

However, the above-mentioned procurement program went on hold after the bidding for 21 "Hueys" failed again last Sept. 6 due to some documentary problems with the bidders.

The Department of National Defense (DND) failed to mention the reason for the failure of the first two bids earlier this year.

With the failure, the bid documents will be returned to the PAF and the military service will be directed to make a study and a recommendation on how to pursue the "Huey" acquisition program.

The project is worth P1.2 billion.

3rd failed bidding for choppers sets back PAF's urgent need for Hueys

From InterAksyon (Sep 8): 3rd failed bidding for choppers sets back PAF's urgent need for Hueys

A Huey helicopter is seen at the PAF hangar in Pasay City. JAIME SINAPIT, INTERAKSYON.COM

The failure of the third attempt to get a qualified supplier for the 21 Hueys (UH-IH1) urgently needed by the Philippine Air Force sets back efforts to meet the huge gaps in the command's requirements, but officials said they are determined to acquire these, either by holding yet another bidding or through a negotiated purchase.

PAF Vice Commander Maj. Gen. Raul Dimatactac said, “The 21 [helicopters] are very important to be added to our inventory in the 205th [Tactical Helicopter Wing] in order to effectively respond not only to the requirements of the Armed Forces but [also to] other agencies that need the services of these UH-IH1 helicopters.”

At present,  the wing has only 21 operational Hueys, about a fifth of the ideal number.

“Our 205th Tactical Helicopter Wing used to have four squadrons, and per our table of equipment standard a squadron is composed of 24 helicopters. So, the [standard requirement] is we need 96. However, because of budget constraints and the limitations in procurement, we only asked for 45 [units] for the year 2013,” he explained.

He broke down the units in the inventory thus: 33 are beyond economical repair and 22 are recoverable. "We’ve only 21 operational at present. That’s why we badly need to procure the 21 UH-IH1 helicopters.”

Last Friday, the Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) of the Department of National Defense declared for a third time a failure of bidding for the 21 helicopters after the bidders failed to submit documents necessary to qualify.

Despite the setback, Fernando Manalo, defense undersecretary for Finance, Munitions, Installations and Materiel, stressed the P1.2-billion project will push through.

 “The procedure is to return the bidding documents to the major service, to the Philippine Air Force, and immediately we will direct them to make a study and make a recommendation whether we are going to pursue the acquisition. It should be the end user who will have the final say after what happened today,” he told reporters after the failed bidding.

Manalo explained “the problem is not with the system, not with the Bids and Awards Committee.” This, amid allegations of “power plays” among certain defense and military personalities to favor just one bidder.

Asked if the BAC will set a fourth bidding, he replied, “It can be a negotiated procurement.”

At a recent Manila Overseas Press Club (MOPC) forum that featured military top brass, Air Force chief Lt. Gen. Lauro Catalino dela Cruz replied positively to a question on whether the BAC has the option under the Procurement Law to proceed for a negotiated deal after two failed biddings. “[That’s true] that per law, after two failed biddings we can go to negotiations." However, he said, "there were some proponents who signified their interest. So we bid in order for us to be transparent.”

In the same forum, Armed Forces Chief of Staff Emmanuel Bautista said the budget for the 21 UH-IH1 is not included in the P75 billion approved by President Benigno Aquino III to buy for new equipment until 2016. Instead, it will be sourced from the P5-billion regular modernization fund of the AFP.

The Air Force has eight brand-new Sokol helicopters bought from PZL Swidnik of  Poland. President Aquino criticized this deal in his 4th State of the Nation Address (SONA) last July22. The command was supposed to acquire combat utility helicopter. These choppers are deployed with the 505th Search-And-Rescue Group.