Saturday, October 5, 2013

Obama’s no-show in Asia a boost for China

Posted to  the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Oct 5): Obama’s no-show in Asia a boost for China

President Barack Obama’s decision to scrap his Asia trip is a setback for his much-advertised pledge to shift the focus of foreign policy to the Pacific and a boost for China’s attempt to gain influence in the region.

By staying home because of the partial government shutdown, Obama hands new Chinese leader Xi Jinping a chance to fill the void at two Asian summits Obama had planned to attend. It’s the third time since 2010 that Obama has cancelled an Asia trip, all because of domestic political crises.

Washington’s budget crisis has reached the point where the White House felt compelled to skip Asia, giving Obama room to work with Congress on reopening the government. Had Obama left to attend the meetings, it would have given weight to critics who have said he’s more willing to negotiate with foreign leaders than the speaker of the House.

Secretary of State John Kerry will represent him at the summits in Indonesia and Brunei.

Budget strains had already put a damper on the Pentagon’s push to assert itself in the Pacific, and administration officials had begun casting the shift in policy more in terms of expanding diplomatic efforts, creating more trade and economic ties and just showing up in Asia more often.

Now the showing up part has taken a hit.

The Syria crisis is only the latest example of how Obama’s foreign policy is still drawn to the Middle East. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel was in Asia last month when Washington was drawn to the brink of military intervention before Syria agreed to give up its chemical weapons arsenal, diverting Hagel’s attention.

The situation works for China, which is rapidly modernizing its armed forces and boosting its regional influence. Xi has been visiting Indonesia and Malaysia this week to improve Beijing’s reputation at a time when its aggressive stance on territorial issues has strained ties with some countries in southeast Asia. Washington’s acute political paralysis gives Xi a freer hand to become the big presence in the room.

“It shows that China has a functional government and America doesn’t at the moment,” said Kerry Brown, a China expert at the University of Sydney in Australia. “It’s just another sign that America is kind of losing its luster, losing its status.”

In announcing Obama’s decision Thursday, White House press secretary Jay Carney said the government shutdown is “setting back our ability to create jobs through promotion of U.S. exports and advance U.S. leadership and interests in the largest emerging region in the world.”

Even so, he said, Obama is committed “to the rebalancing of our policy” toward the Asia-Pacific and looks forward to going at another time. Obama has made five trips to Asia as president.

In Indonesia earlier this week, lawmakers applauded after Xi became the first foreign leader to address Parliament — this in a country where Obama lived as a child. Xi’s call for greater cooperation began with an informal greeting in the local Bahasa Indonesian language — a rare display of oratorical skill for a Chinese leader.

Then Xi went to Malaysia, where he and his wife met Prime Minister Najib Razak and received a ceremonial welcome at Parliament on Friday that included a military honor guard and 21-gun salute.

In Indonesia, Xi signed deals worth billions of dollars, while in Malaysia, he agreed to boost military cooperation and training to fight transnational crime and terrorism.

Experts in Asia said Obama’s no-show weakens US leadership globally.

“If they can furlough jobs, cease government services and risk a downgrade in the country’s credit rating, American politicians may start finding it tough to be consistent in their political reassurances about U.S. commitment toward faraway Asia,” wrote Simon Tay, chairman of the Singapore Institute of International Affairs.

Retired U.S. Adm. Dennis Blair, a former head of US Pacific Command, played down the impact of Obama’s cancellation and said the visit could wait until Obama can give the region his full attention.

“The United States has been here in this region in a major economic, diplomatic, military and influential way ever since 1944 and that situation has not changed,” he said.

Still, the cancellation has been particularly disappointing to Southeast Asian nations that look to the U.S. as a counterweight in their disputes with China over the South China Sea. The Philippines, for example, has turned to the US to build up its ill-equipped defense forces during this time of acrimonious rifts with China in disputed waters.

Hagel and his predecessor, Leon Panetta, have made frequent visits to the Asia-Pacific region since 2011 in a signal of the importance of the military dimensions of the Obama administration’s Asia ambitions.

The most visible sign of Washington’s military shift toward Asia and the Pacific may be the rotational deployment of about 250 Marines to northern Australia. The Pentagon also is arranging more exercises with partners in the region and has deployed the USS Freedom, the first in a new class of smaller combat vessels, to Singapore.

It also is shoring up relations with long-time allies such as Thailand while exploring deeper ties to old enemies like Vietnam, and has opened negotiations with the Philippines to increase the US military presence there.

Still, the refocus to Asia seems more sluggish than was envisioned.

“The administration has found themselves in a rhetorical box; they have committed themselves to a rebalancing, or a pivot, without fully understanding what they would have to do to make a material difference in America’s position,” said Michael Auslin, director of Japan studies at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington.

US reliability questioned overseas

Posted to the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Oct 5): US reliability questioned overseas

An unmistakable sense of unease has been growing in capitals around the world as the US government from afar looks increasingly befuddled — shirking from a military confrontation in Syria, stymied at home by a gridlocked Congress and in danger of defaulting on sovereign debt, which could plunge the world’s financial system into chaos.

While each of the factors may be unrelated to the direct exercise of US foreign policy, taken together they give some allies the sense that Washington is not as firm as it used to be in its resolve and its financial capacity, providing an opening for China or Russia to fill the void, an Asian foreign minister told a group of journalists in New York this week.

Concerns will only deepen now that President Barack Obama canceled travel this weekend to the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum in Bali and the East Asia Summit in Brunei. He pulled out of the gatherings to stay home to deal with the government shutdown and looming fears that Congress will block an increase in US borrowing power, a move that could lead to a US default.

The US is still a pillar of defense for places in Asia like Taiwan and South Korea, providing a vital security umbrella against China. It also still has strong allies in the Middle East, including Israel and the Gulf Arab states arrayed against al-Qaida and Iran.

But in interviews with academics, government leaders and diplomats, faith that the US will always be there is fraying more than a little.

The paralysis of the American government, where a rump in Congress is holding the whole place to ransom, doesn’t really jibe with the notion of the United States as a global leader,” said Michael McKinley, an expert on global relations at the Australian National University.

The political turbulence in Washington and potential economic bombshells still to come over the US government shutdown and a possible debt default this month have sent shivers through Europe. The head of the European Central Bank, Mario Draghi, worried about the continent’s rebound from the 2008 economic downturn.

“We view this recovery as weak, as fragile, as uneven,” Draghi said at a news conference.

Germany’s influential newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung bemoaned the US political chaos.

“At the moment, Washington is fighting over the budget and nobody knows if the country will still be solvent in three weeks. What is clear, though, is that America is already politically bankrupt,” it said.

Obama finds himself at the nexus of a government in chaos at home and a wave of foreign policy challenges.

He has been battered by the upheaval in the Middle East from the Arab Spring revolts after managing to extricate the US from its long, brutal and largely failed attempt to establish democracy in Iraq. He is also drawing down US forces from a more than decade-long war in Afghanistan with no real victory in sight. He leads a country whose people have no interest in taking any more military action abroad.

As Europe worries about economics, Asian allies watch in some confusion about what the US is up to with its promise to rebalance military forces and diplomacy in the face of an increasingly robust China.

Global concerns about US policy came to a head with Obama’s handling of the civil war in Syria and the alleged use of chemical weapons by the regime of President Bashar Assad. But, in fact, the worries go far deeper.

“I think there are a lot of broader concerns about the United States. They aren’t triggered simply by Syria. The reaction the United States had from the start to events in Egypt created a great deal of concern among the Gulf and the Arab states,” said Anthony Cordesman, a military affairs specialist at the Center for International Studies.

Kings and princes throughout the Persian Gulf were deeply unsettled when Washington turned its back on Egypt’s long-time dictator and US ally Hosni Mubarak during the 2011 uprising in the largest Arab country.

Now, Arab allies in the Gulf voice dismay over the rapid policy redirection from Obama over Syria, where rebel factions have critical money and weapons channels from Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other Gulf states. It has stirred a rare public dispute with Washington, whose differences with Gulf allies are often worked out behind closed doors. Last month, Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal warned that the renewed emphasis on diplomacy with Assad would allow the Syrian president to “impose more killing.”

After saying Assad must be removed from power and then threatening military strikes over the regime’s alleged chemical weapons attack, the US is now working with Russia and the UN to collect and destroy Damascus’ chemical weapons stockpile. That assures Assad will remain in power for now and perhaps the long term.

Danny Yatom, a former director of Israel’s Mossad intelligence service, said the US handling of the Syrian crisis and its decision not to attack after declaring red lines on chemical weapons has hurt Washington’s credibility.

“I think in the eyes of the Syrians and the Iranians, and the rivals of the United States, it was a signal of weakness, and credibility was deteriorated,” he said.

The Syrian rebels, who were promised US arms, say they feel deserted by the Americans, adding that they have lost faith and respect for Obama.

The White House contends that its threat of a military strike against Assad was what caused the regime to change course and agree to plan reached by Moscow and Washington to hand its chemical weapons over to international inspectors for destruction. That’s a far better outcome than resorting to military action, Obama administration officials insist.

Gulf rulers also have grown suddenly uneasy over the US outreach to their regional rival Iran.

Bahrain Foreign Minister Sheik Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa said Gulf states “must be in the picture” on any attempts by the US and Iran to open sustained dialogue or reach settlement over Tehran’s nuclear program. He was quoted Tuesday by the London-based Al Hayat newspaper as saying Secretary of State John Kerry has promised to consult with his Gulf “friends” on any significant policy shifts over Iran — a message that suggested Gulf states are worried about being left on the sidelines in potentially history-shaping developments in their region.

In response to the new US opening to Iran to deal with its suspected nuclear weapons program, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the UN General Assembly that his country remained ready to act alone to prevent Tehran from building a bomb. He indicated a willingness to allow some time for further diplomacy but not much. And he excoriated new Iranian President Hassan Rouhani as a “wolf in sheep’s clothing.”

Kerry defended the engagement effort, saying the US would not be played for “suckers” by Iran. Tehran insists its nuclear program is for peaceful energy production, while the US and other countries suspect it is aimed at achieving atomic weapons capability.

McKinley, the Australian expert, said Syria and the US budget crisis have shaken Australians’ faith in their alliance with Washington.

“It means that those who rely on the alliance as the cornerstone of all Australian foreign policy and particularly security policy are less certain — it’s created an element of uncertainty in their calculations,” he said.

Running against the tide of concern, leaders in the Philippines are banking on its most important ally to protect it from China’s assertive claims in the South China Sea. Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said Manila still views the US as a dependable ally despite the many challenges it is facing.

“We should understand that all nations face some kind of problems, but in terms of our relationship with the United States, she continues to be there when we need her,” Gazmin said.

“There’s no change in our feelings,” he said. “Our strategic relationship with the US continues to be healthy. They remain a reliable ally.”

But as Cordesman said, “The rhetoric of diplomacy is just wonderful but it almost never describes the reality.”

That reality worldwide, he said, “is a real concern about where is the US going. There is a question of trust. And I think there is an increasing feeling that the United States is pulling back, and its internal politics are more isolationist so that they can’t necessarily trust what US officials say, even if the officials mean it.”

Navy begins developing Oyster Bay into mini Subic; mum on US pivot

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Oct 6): Navy begins developing Oyster Bay into mini Subic; mum on US pivot

OYSTER BAY, Palawan, Philippines—At Naval Forces West headquarters here, the wooden planks that are the main platform of the Philippine Navy’s sole naval shipyard facing the West Philippine Sea are breaking apart and starting to surrender to the elements.

The planks have cracks and gaps wide enough to send a full-sized man straight into the clear blue waters below.

The crew of a naval supply ship, which was chanced upon by the Inquirer while visiting the facility on Friday, was loading up for a routine run to the Kalayaan Islands in the disputed Spratlys island chain and knew enough to be careful.

Recently, the Philippine government dusted off old plans to develop Oyster Bay, a picturesque cove nestled in old growth mangrove forests and limestone cliffs in the western flank of Palawan’s central region.

Defense officials are hopeful the decades-old plans to upgrade the naval facility into a major shipyard and naval facility will finally move. The  Oyster Bay development plans come as tensions are increasing over China’s aggressive assertion of ownership over the entire South China Sea, including parts of what the country calls the West Philippine Sea.

There has been an initial P500 million released to complete some major infrastructure components, including a 12-kilometer access road from the mainland.

“We call this a capability upgrade,” said Commodore Joseph Rostum Peña, commander of Naval Forces West (Navforwest).

Once completed, the facility would have an extended wharf to accommodate “at least four large naval vessels,” he said.

He cautiously avoided a conversation on the South China Sea conflict.

Peña said part of Navforwest’s capability upgrade would come from the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ modernization program. This include the installation of high-powered radar systems in strategic areas from north to south of Palawan facing the West Philippine Sea. The radar systems would allow them to closely monitor developments in the disputed areas of the Spratlys.

“The coastal watch program should allow us eventually to monitor our seas in real time,” Peña said.

At least four of these stations that form part of the radar network have already been upgraded, according to Peña.

He said they were hoping to add more radar stations, including one in the Sulu Sea to specifically watch over the Tubbataha Reefs, a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco)-designated marine protected area.

Armando Lustre, head of Lustre Construction that won a Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH)-administered contract to complete the 12-km road from the village of Macarascas to Oyster Bay, said they had begun the road work and were expecting additional funding for the third and final phase of the road development plan for the area.

Peña likened the Oyster Bay facility to “a mini Subic” once completed. Like the former US naval facility in Zambales, the bay has  physical characteristics that can host large warships.

“It is also ideal as a base for our Marines. It has vast jungles suitable for training,” Peña said.

Peña declined to comment on the suitability of Oyster Bay for use by  US naval ships under a new bilateral defense agreement that would allow the United States access to Philippine military bases, saying only that their facility would be “suitable for large warships.”

This US return to the country is part of its pivot to the Asia Pacific, a form of temporary basing in nations in the region.

The development of Oyster Bay has encountered resistance from the local community.

Around 10 years ago when the Philippine Navy began developing Oyster Bay and its naval reservation, all the villages around it rejected the facility, expressing this in a referendum conducted by the city government.

But Jane Villarin, a village council representive of Macarascas which hosts the newly transferred Navforwest headquarters believes the objections had been assuaged.

“I don’t think the community will resist the development of the naval base … we are used to them now,” she said.

Soldier killed in clash with NPA in Misamis Oriental

From the Manila Times (Oct 5): Soldier killed in clash with NPA in Misamis Oriental

CAMP EVANGELISTA, Cagayan de Oro City: An Army soldier was killed while six others were wounded in fighting between communist New People’s Army (NPA) and government troops in Misamis Oriental that Thursday, the military said on Saturday.

Capt. Christian Uy, the army’s Public Affairs Division, identified the slain soldier as Pfc Ellan Ramones of the Army’s 403rd Brigade based in the neighboring province of Bukidnon.

Wounded in the clash were Cpl. Julius Agusen, Pfc. Jose Noli Pabingwit, Pfc. Cris Lorenzon, Pfc. Dioscoro Briones Jr., Pfc Geofrey Purisima and Pfc. Junard Eborde, all belonging to the 403rd Brigade, Uy added.

He said there was a lull in fighting Friday. The skirmishes took place in the hinterlands of Lagonglong in Misamis Oriental Monday morning.

The troops were ambushed as they pursued NPA guerrillas who attacked an Army outpost in Lantad, a former rebel stronghold in Balingasag on September 23.

MILF: Advocacy Program on Unity and Solidarity held in Davao del Norte town

From the MILF Website (Oct 5): Advocacy Program on Unity and Solidarity held in Davao del Norte town

The Licanan Islamic Development Association, Incorporated (LIDA), a local non–governmental organization in Davao City, as one of the affiliated network member organization of the Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society (CBCS) through the CBCS Dabaw Regional Management Committee, conducted a one–day peace advocacy program on Bangsamoro Leaders Consultation Dialogue on Unity and Solidarity with a theme of “Laying Foundation Towards Peace and Development” at Molave Hotel, Tagum City in Davao del Norte last September 29, 2013.

The scope of the project was covering the provinces of Davao del Norte and Compostela Valley (Comval) were participants came from the grassroots in the areas of Asuncion, Carmen, Compostela, Mabini, Maco, Panabo City, Pantukan, and Tagum City with the total numbers of thirty–eight (38) persons. In this number, twenty–five (33) were males and thirteen (5) were females. The participants are the local leaders in the grassroots level of the respective (jama’ah) community which includes the sectors of the traditional leaders such as sultan, imam, datu, rajamuda, ustadz, andkhatib, leaders from MNLF and MILF, a respected aleem, as well as Moro professionals, religious leaders, youth, and women Moro leaders including academe and the local officials of the different organizations such as Social Welfare Committee (SWC), Mindanao Women Advocacy for Good Governance (MWAGG), and Department of Women Services (DWS). There are also participants from the Moro political leaders that are elected in the local government positions and there are also working in the local government offices.

Sultan AbdulrahmanMaug, the paramount sultan of Davao del Norte, expressed its welcome and opening message in the support of the activity that initiated to build the foundation for greater unity and solidarity of Moro leaders.

Several issues and concerns on the Bangsamoro were tackled including the latest updates on the peace process between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the role of International Monitoring Team (IMT) in the GPH – MILF peace talks and Civilian Protection Component (CPC), the unity and solidarity on Malaysian experience and state building, the Islamic concept of unity and solidarity, and the Bangsamoro hopes, fears, and perspectives.

Atty. Datu Tony Kinok, MILF panel member, presented the latest updates of the GPH – MILF peace process stated that it just then concluded the ten (10) days 40th Exploratory Talks in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia last September 20, 2013 were the longest talks ever had in the history of the GPH – MILF peace process so far.

Although, it is not yet favorable, the only thing it got positively was the formal organization of Independent Commission on Policing (ICP) headed by the member of the Royal Canadian Police and the representatives from MILF and from Philippine government with the members from Australia and Japan as part in the normalization while in the power sharing, the relationship between the Central Government and the future Bangsamoro government that are divided into three (3) parts composed of the intergovernmental relations, exclusive powers, and concurrent powers.

Kamal Norfarid bin Kamarudin, the Malaysian consul, gives an inspirational talk on the unity and solidarity on Malaysian experience and state building as an example in the call on Bangsamoro unity and solidarity where Malaysian people united in their diversity as bases to start with among the Moros.

Mr. AmerFaizal, head of the CPC, presented the role of IMT in the GPH – MILF peace talks as the mechanisms in preserving and monitoring the ceasefire agreement between the government and MILF started in 2001 and the main tasked by the CPC in protecting the civilian population and bringing them in a safer place, mostly in an evacuation center with the coordination of different social welfare organizations both government and non-government organizations for the various assistance needed.

Hussein Muñoz, also known as Sonny Davao, member of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC), discussed the importance of education for the governance and development of the Bangsamoro where he challenged the Moros to become an expert in every field of the career they are pursuing. He emphasized the role of the academe as sources in educating the different sectors among the Moros.

The Islamic concept of unity and solidarity were already putted-up where the Moros just only to follow as presented by Aleem Umbra Abdulkarim. 

The Bangsamoro hopes, fears, and perspectives were discussed by Samaon “Sami” Buat revisiting the experienced in the 1976 Tripoli Agreement and the 1996 Final Peace Agreement that must be learned where there are fallback and bottleneck of the current GPH – MILF peace process.

With the gratefulness for the initiatives done by LIDA, the participants undertake to disseminate the good information on unity and solidarity and replicate similar activity in their communities as it gained positive impression among the local Moro leaders.

Prof. Kim Gargar: “I was doing research”

From MindaNews (Oct 6): Prof. Kim Gargar: “I was doing research”

Physicist and former professor Kim Ajeas Gargar is spending his 34th birthday on Sunday (Oct. 6), behind bars.

Gargar,  found with a head and foot injury hours after a  2 a.m. clash between government forces and the New Peoples’ Army (NPA) in Sitio Spur Dos, Barangay Aliwagwag in Cateel,  Davao Oriental on October 1,  is facing four criminal charges : violation of RA 9615 or illegal possession of explosives, firearms and ammunitions; two counts of  multiple frustrated/attempted murder; and violation of the election gun ban.

Hindi totoo lahat yan” (These are not true),  Gargar, Local and International Networking Officer of the Quezon City-based Center for Environmental Concerns –Philippines (CEC-Phils) and a PhD candidate in Chronobiology from the Rijksuniversiteit Groningen in the Netherlands, told MindaNews Friday afternoon while awaiting the taking of his fingerprints and mug shots at the Mati City Police Station.

Gargar, who hails from Iligan City, finished BS in Physics, magna cum laude, at the Mindanao State University-Iligan Institute of Technology in 2000 in his hometown, Iligan City; and his MS in Physics at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City.

Prof. Kim Gargar at the Mati City Police station late Friday aftenroon, Oct 4. MindaNews photo by Toto Lozano

Prof. Kim Gargar at the Mati City Police station late Friday aftenroon, Oct 4. MindaNews photo by Toto Lozano

Gargar was transferred from the Davao Oriental Provincial Hospital to the Davao Oriental Provincial Jail in Barangay Sainz late Friday afternoon, becoming the 213th inmate there.

He is scheduled for arraignment on October 24.

Col. Benjamin Madrigal, chief of the 701st Infantry Brigade, told MindaNews in a telephone interview Wednesday night that Gargar was “intercepted” by soldiers near the site of a clash with the NPA and was turned over to the Philippine National Police’s Criminal Investigation Detection Group (CIDG). He said he was immediately given first aid treatment.

Madrigal narrated that troops from the 67th IB were deployed to Spur Dos following intelligence reports that the NPA would set off landmines in the area. He said a landmine exploded at around 2 a.m. October 1, injuring five soldiers, followed by a 30-minute clash.  Recovered from the encounter site was the body of a slain NPA member later identified as Gerald Tagal Antepuesto and four IEDs (improvised explosive device).

“Not from me”

A press release issued by the Public Information Office of the Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom) on October 3 said Gargar was “captured by the troops who were pursuing the rebels after a firefight in Aliwagwag.”

Quoting from documents submitted to the court, Police Inspector Carmelo Teneros, public information officer of the Provincial Police, told MindaNews that the following items were confiscated from Gargar: “assorted IEDs, wires, assorted ammos, one unit M-16 rifle without magazine, eight pieces blasting cap, assorted personal belongings, medical kit, one unit handheld radio, one unit transistorized radio.”

“Wala sa akin lahat yung mga ebidensya na hinarap sa fiscal” (All the evidences presented to the prosecutor were not from me), Gargar said.

Unarmed, conscious

The Eastmincom press release also said that Gargar was “found unconscious while clutching a rifle 200 meters away from the encounter site.”

“An M16 rifle, landmines and subversive documents were recovered,” it added.

Gargar said he was unarmed and conscious when a K-9 dog brought by the soldiers during the pursuit operations, found him on the side of a river near a small waterfalls.

He recalls having followed the river away from the firing when “nahulog ako doon sa  pagmamadali at kaba, kaya ako nagkaroon nito” (in my haste and out of fear, I fell that’s why I got these), he said, pointing to the bandage on his head and his right foot in plaster cast.

Prof. Kim Gargar approaching the gat of the Provincial Jaili in Mati City, Davao Oriental on Friday afternoon, Oct. 4. MindaNews photo by Toto Lozano

Prof. Kim Gargar approaching the gat of the Provincial Jaili in Mati City, Davao Oriental on Friday afternoon, Oct. 4. MindaNews photo by Toto Lozano

Six-month research

Gargar  was among  69 members of a fact-finding team in mid-April 2013 that documented  the March 4 killing of  a Baganga village councilor and the state of the environment in the typhoon-hit areas in Davao Oriental and Compostela Valley.

Both provinces were the hardest hit when super typhoon Pablo struck on December 4, 2012.

Gargar  told MindaNews he returned to Compostela Valley in late June for a six-month resource mapping for the rehabilitation of the devastated areas, “mainly for rainforestation program,” in coordination with  Balsa Mindanao and the environmental group, Panalipdan.

He said it would be the locals who would manage the program.

The physicist chose the forests of Panansalan in Compostela town, Compostela Valley province for his area of study, supposedly until December.

Gargar said he had a camera with an 8GB memory card which,
 he said, is still with the 67th Infantry Battalion, the unit that clashed with the NPA and found him early afternoon Tuesday.  He said he was told it will be returned to him.


Gargar said he took down notes on loose pages, bringing only several pieces of paper for his data gathering.  Some of his notes are gone, he lamented.  “Nagkawatak-watak” (Scattered).  The first thing he asked the human rights group, Karapatan, was to give him a pen and a notebook so he could try to reconstruct his notes.

Gargar said he arrived in the Aliwagwag area which is in the boundary with Compostela, on September 28, studying the area for tributaries and other water resources.

He noted this would be a good area for the rainforestation since it is near the highway and “marami pang ibang factors andon sa notes ko.”

On the day of the encounter between government forces and the NPA, Gargar said “magko-conduct sana kami nung nocturnal activity assessment, yung mga animals na may nocturnal activities, yung sounds na  maririnig mo or ma-o-observe mo like  fireflies. You can’t see fireflies at daytime.”

On the military’s allegations that he is an NPA guerrilla and that he participated in the October 1 ambush and clash, Gargar said,  “yun yung parang conclusion nila” (That seems to be their conclusion).

He said he is also aware of a military video footage of him talking about the ambush. In that video, Gargar said, among others, that he was not part of the planning and  that he fired only one bullet.

Gargar explained that “lahat ng sinabi ko, ginawa ko mula nung dinakip nila ako is to please them kasi  I don’t want to antagonize  so kung ano yung gusto nilang marinig sa tingin ko, yun yung aking sasabihin.”

“Kung meron akong mga nasabi doon ano yun, dahil sa psychology ko at that time, psychology ng tao na may kaharap na 10 or more long firearms ng  government forces,” he told MindaNews.

Gargar said he was brought to a military camp in Barangay Aliwagwag and later transfered to the Cateel hospital at around 8 p.m. where his injuries were attended to. He had five stitches for his head wound.

Gargar stayed the night at the police station in Cateel and by noon of October 2, was brought to Mati City by the CIDG.  He spent two nights in the hospital before he was transferred to the provincial jail late Friday afternoon.

According to his Linkedin account, Gargar has taught Physics, among other courses, in four universities: University of the Philippines as Teaching Associate from June 2000 to May 2003; Mindanao Polytechnic State College (now Mindanao University of Science and Technology) in Cagayan de Oro City from 2003 to 2004 and head of the Department of Physics from 2004 to 2005; Polytechnic University of the Philippines from 2005 to 2006 and the Mapua Institute of Technology from 2007 to 2008, where he also served as Research Director for Computational Sciences.

He started his PhD in 2009 and did research on “Analyzing a mathematical model of the mammalian circadian pacemaker.”

Samar town to get road project from OPAPP

From the Sun Star-Tacloban (See also the Leyte Samar Daily Express) (Oct 4): Samar town to get road project from OPAPP

CATBALOGAN CITY -- The Office of the Presidential Adviser for the Peace Process (Opapp) is considering the request of the Municipal Government of San Jose de Buan in Samar for a road construction project.

Emy Bonifacio, Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan (Pamana) Samar area manager, said they already received the resolution of the San Jose de Buan signed by Mayor Ananias Rebato, and they already forwarded it to their provincial technical working group for consideration.

She added that they recognized the urgency of the request, but the project will be implemented first in a barangay, which is part of Motiong town in Samar, as the budget was allocated in that area.

For this year, Opapp had released P100 million and another same amount is to be released before the year is over.

Calagos said the second tranche is where the San Jose de Buan road project might get its funding allocation.

She also said that another P100 million is to be released for the road construction project to San Jose de Buan in 2014.

Calagos said that in the implementation of the project, several considerations were considered by the implementing agency upon the advice of the Engineering Battalion of the 8th Infantry Division. Among which is prioritizing critical areas that are ambush sites and those that are prone to flooding.

Calagos added that bridge constructions are also being prioritize as all seven wooden bridges going to the interior town of San Jose de Buan are almost impassable for heavy vehicles.

At present, road construction for the 38 kilometers stretch to San Jose de Buan that started in the junction of Lokilokon in Paranas town had already reach the part of Motiong town for the road concreting part, Calagos said.

San Jose de Buan is one of the two interior towns in Samar that is still affected with the presence of the New People’s Army.

With better roads not only the problem on insurgency would be addressed but the transport of goods and services would be hasten that could improve the town’s economic condition.

Hunt on vs rebels behind Maco attack

Sun Star-Davao (Oct 5): Hunt on vs rebels behind Maco attack

TROOPS belonging to the Philippine Army's 10th Infantry Division (10th ID) launched on Friday a pursuit operation against suspected members of New People's Army (NPA) who attacked them in Maco town in Compostela Valley.

Captain Raul Villegas, spokesperson for the 10th ID, said the attack happened at 11 a.m. in Barangay Manggayan after residents in the area sought for assistance of the soldiers.

Villegas said around 300 residents of sitio Side 4 in Manggayan evacuated to Purok 17 at sitio Lubog in Barangay Ngan in Maco following the presence of the NPA rebels in the area.

"The displaced residents immediately reported their situation to the government troops nearby. The troops of the 25th Infantry Battalion responded to the call of the citizens, but while on their way sitio Side 4, they were attacked by the rebels," Villegas said.

Villegas said exchange of gunfire ensued that lasted for 10 minutes. No one was hurt during the incident.

Lieutenant Colonel Elmer Aterrado, commander of the 25th Infantry Battalion, said local officials and government troops accompanied the affected residents to Compostela Valley gymnasium.

"As of now, the local government unit is attending the needs of the people. Meanwhile, our troops are now looking for the NPA rebels behind the recent attack," Aterrado said.

Army units tracking band who ambushed unarmed militiaman in Butuan City

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 6): Army units tracking band who ambushed unarmed militiaman in Butuan City

Field units from the 4th Infantry Division are now tracking down the rebel band who ambushed and seriously wounded an unarmed militiaman in Sitio Sta. Cruz, Baranga Manila De Bugabos, Butuan City Saturday morning.

Capt. Christian Uy, 4th Infantry Division spokesperson, identified the wounded militiaman as Crisanto T. Pangarga, 44, married, and a father of two.

The attack against the victim took place around 6:20 a.m. Three New People's Army (NPA) rebels armed with M-16 automatic rifles fired upon Pangarga as the latter was aboard his "habal-habal" and busy transporting passengers.

Despite sustaining multiple gunshot wounds, the militiaman survived the attack and is now undergoing treatment at the 2nd Forward Support Medical Platoon at Headquarters 402nd Infantry Brigade, Barangay Bancasi, Butuan City.

Uy said Pangarga will be eventually transported to Camp Evangelista Station Hospital, Barangay Patag, Cagayan De Oro City once his condition stabilizes.

“This is how we care for our soldiers. We will see to it that he will receive all necessary support," he added.

NorCot evacuees return home

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 6): NorCot evacuees return home
About 50 families or 250 internally displaced persons (IDPs) from a remote village here forced to evacate by a recent encounter between government troopers and members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) have returned home on Saturday.

Nonoy Daizon, Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management officer said, the IDPs from Sitio Pedtad, Barangay Gaunan, went back to their homes around 2:00 p.m. after authorities conducted clearing operations and assured the safety of the civilians.

Diazon added that evacuees from other affected villages of Tibao and New Antique here had also been instructed to return to their houses.

M’lang Mayor Joselito Piñol has lauded the Army’s 602nd Brigade stationed in the area for countering armed groups penetrating the town’s periphery.

The evacuation of M’lang took place last week after BIFF forces entered the villages of Tibao, New Antique and Gaunan.

Maintenance, upgrades of 2 Hamilton-class cutters to be affected by Malampaya Fund freeze

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 6): Maintenance, upgrades of 2 Hamilton-class cutters to be affected by Malampaya Fund freeze

The Department of National Defense (DND) has admitted it would be hard pressed to maintain and upgrade the two newly-acquired Hamilton-class cutters should the Supreme Court's (SC) decision of freezing further releases from the Malampaya Fund drag on.

“It will have an effect to our modernization because we get funds (from Malampaya) for modernization, like the support to the two cutters,” DND Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said.

The two ships, the BRP Gregorio Del Pilar (PF-15) and BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PF-16), were acquired as part of the country's efforts to secure the Malampaya oil-gas separation rig from possible threats.

The two frigates are slated for various upgrades to increase their capabilities to protect the country's vast territorial waters.

Gazmin expressed hope the SC's order would be lifted soon once the High Court would realize the value of the Malampaya Fund in the country's military upgrade and enhancement.

He added that the DND was looking at alternate sources of funding like the sales of properties being implemented by the Bases Conversion and Development Authority and the earlier P75 billion allocated for the Armed Forces of the Philippines Modernization Program.

The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) earlier said the Malampaya Fund and the President's Social Fund are "special funds, the disposition of which have been constitutionally delegated to the President."

These funds were ordered frozen by the SC in wake of the P10-billion pork barrel fund scandal.

The OSG also warned that "a hasty constitutional interpretation may create signposts which could limit the scope of the policy responses by the Executive and the Congress in crafting reforms meant to address the reported abuses of the (priority development assistance fund) PDAF. We therefore urge the Honorable Court to allow the reform-oriented political process to proceed," it added.

5 armed men burn 2 buses in Pangasinan

From InterAksyon (Oct 6): 5 armed men burn 2 buses in Pangasinan

LINGAYEN, Pangasinan -- Five unidentified armed men barged inside the terminal of Five Star Bus Company in Barangay Tempra Guilig in San Fabian town at about 6:50 p.m. on October 4 and proceeded to burn two parked buses, the Police Provincial Office (PPO) in Pangasinan reported on Sunday.

Initial investigation said the suspects armed with short firearms carried four plastic containers believed filled with gasoline which they poured onto two parked buses inside the terminal after disarming the lone security guard on duty named Bernardo Gombio, 42, of Barangay Pogo, Mangaldan.

One of the suspects reportedly uttered in Tagalog: “Hindi ka kasali dito kaya huwag ka nang pumalag (You are not involved here, so do not interfere).”

While two suspects held the security guard at bay with their pistols, the other suspects set on fire the two parked buses with plate numbers AVY 557 and UVP 698.

The first bus had its front portion partially burned while the window glass of the second bus was broken, the PPO reported.

The suspects immediately left the place on board two motorcycles and went northward.

Crime scene processing was conducted by Scene of the Crime Operatives (SOCO) from Lingayen led by Senior Inspector Emeterio Macaraeg and the Bureau of Fire Protection personnel of San Fabian led by SFO2 Romeo Mametag.

Recovered from the scene were four severely burned plastic containers that allegedly contained gasoline and one lighter.

Dragnet operation was immediately organized by the police, who also coordinated with adjacent police stations for the possible apprehension of the fleeing suspects.

An in-depth investigation into the incident is now being undertaken by the police.

Fishers group in Palawan slams US naval base plan in Oyster Bay

From the Sun Star-Pampanga (Oct 5): Fishers group in Palawan slams US naval base plan in Oyster Bay

PALAWAN fishermen identified with the activist fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) on Thursday assailed the plan of the US government and the Aquino administration to transform Oyster Bay into a mini-naval base for visiting American forces.

In a press statement Pamalakaya vice chairperson Salvador France said the plan to convert the mangrove rich cove southwest of Manila constitutes a joint Washington-Manila crime against national sovereignty and wholesale destruction of natural resources and marine environment in the name of US war of aggression in East Asia and the Pacific.

Commodore Joseph Rostum Peña, commander of the Philippines’ western navy, confirmed that the plan would be a mini-Subic Naval Base, where a future port here would extend the reach of the navy’s two frigates, both former US Coast Guard cutters, over the disputed Spratly Islands, which is about 160 kilometers from the disputed West Philippine Sea.

Pamalakaya said the plan to convert Oyster Bay into a mini-Subic Naval Base was revived under the administration of President Benigno Simeon Aquino III in response to Washington's gesture to donation of frigates in 2011 and 2012. "We will contest this grand mockery of Philippine sovereignty in the parliament of the streets, in any appropriate court or forum and in the court of public opinion. US President Barack Obama and the puppet president in Manila should be held accountable for this grandslam crime against national sovereignty and patrimony," Pamalakaya's France said.

The Pamalakaya official said the construction of mini-naval base in Oyster Bay for US military pivot and terror activities in Asia and the Pacific is grossly unconstitutional and would put extreme danger to the lives and livelihood of the people and their environment. France argued that the purpose of the mini-naval base in Oyster base is not only to check China and the long-running tension in West Philippine Sea but also to maintain the military hegemony of Washington all over the region.

"The US as if is building another Pearl Harbor in preparation for more wars and more crimes of wars of aggression and terrorist campaigns against people struggling for justice and liberation. This mini-launching pad for imperialist war, colonialization and neo-colonialization must be exposed and opposed to the highest order," said France.
Pamalakaya called the attention of Philippine senators to be extra vigilant on the plan to build a mini-Subic Naval Base in Oyster Bay, hinting that the construction is in preparation for the signing of framework agreement between the United States and executive officials of the Aquino administration regarding the “increased rotational presence” of American forces, that would allow the latter access to local military bases and even construction of new US military facilities.

"The Philippine Senate --the ratifying authority of any PH-US military agreement in the country is completely ignored here and the new military pact between the master and the puppet is secretly being finalized by Washington military chiefs and their grand slaves in Malacanang," said Pamalakaya.

Pamalakaya said the Senate should investigate the Oyster Bay project and summon officials of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and the Department of National Defense (DND), compel them to report on the current status of the US naval base plan and the outcome of the talks between Malacanang and the US government and score a giant kill against the Oyster naval base plan and the new US-PH military basing pact.

Foreign Affairs undersecretary Carlos Sorreta said the Aquino government sees no problem with the construction of US military facilities as long as it would be approved by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and that ownership would be turned over after every joint military exercises.

Sorreta admitted that the possibility of construction of US military bases is there, only if we approved it and only on a temporary basis.

At the end of the exercise these will be either removed or transferred to us either through an existing process granted by the US Congress in terms of transferring equipment or through our Mutual Logistics Support Agreement (MLSA) mechanism.
The DFA official said that in the second round of talks, which was held in Washington on September 12, both parties expressed understanding that the US will not establish a permanent military presence in the country.

Sorreta, together with Defense Undersecretary Pio Batino, gave an update on the second round of talks with the US panel led by Eric John, senior negotiator for military agreements of the State Department who was also among negotiators in the formulation of the PH-US Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA). He added that both the US and the Philippines agreed that access and use of facilities will be at the invitation of the Government of the Philippines.

Pamalakaya asserted that planned relocation of AFP air force and navy camps inside the former American Naval Base in Subic, Zambales is also part of the grand design that would justify Washington's unlimited access to Philippine bases, which the group said, was previously announced by local military officials is part of new basing agreement between PH and the US.

" It's the game plan with the puppet government of President Benigno Simeon Aquino III and the puppet reactionary officials of the AFP performing the front act for the grand reversal of the September 16, 1991 reversal of the military bases agreement by the Philippine Senate and the grand return of US occupational forces in the country. The current AFP leadership under Chief of Staff Voltaire Gazmin is rewriting and revising the historic victory against the US bases by putting these US bases back at Subic Bay for unlimited edition," said Pamalakaya.

Philippine military officials argued the transfer of air force and navy in Subic will allow local troops to gain faster access to waters being contested by China in the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea) according to AFP. Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin announced that as soon as relocation funds, the AFP will transfer air force and naval forces and their fleets of aircraft and warships to Subic Bay.

Pamalakaya theorized that instead of utilizing the Sangley Naval Base in Cavite, a former US military bases, the US military command prefer the former Subic Naval Base, which Washington said can accommodate more warships compared to Sangley.

The group said theUS military command wants Subic because its' location will cut reaction time by fighter aircraft to contested West Philippine Sea by more than three minutes compared with flying from Clark airfield where some air force planes are based.

"A confidential report says Subic will provide the armed forces of the Philippines strategic location, direct and shorter access to support West Philippine Sea theater of operations,” the document said.

The report said the cost of repairs and improvements for an air force base in Subic would be at least 5.1 billion pesos (about $119 million). It said that compares with an estimated 11 billion pesos ($256 million) that it would cost to build a new air force base, because the vast Subic complex about 80 kilometers (50 miles) west of Manila already has a world-class runway and aviation facilities.

Relocating about 250 air force officers and men to Subic, along with “increased rotational presence of foreign visiting forces” would bolster business and trade at the port, the military document said.

The Philippines plans to grant visiting US forces, ships and aircraft temporary access to more of its military camps to allow for a larger number of joint military exercises than are currently staged each year.

Groups score government plan to build 'de-facto’ naval base in Palawan

From the Business Mirror (Oct 3): Groups score government plan to build 'de-facto’ naval base in Palawan

SEVERAL groups on Thursday assailed the alleged plan to construct a de-facto naval base on Oyster Bay in Palawan for the visiting American troops in the Philippines.
Environmental groups belonging to the Kalikasan-People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan-PNE) fear that the planned development of the island cove into a “mini-Subic” will result in the destruction of marine habitat and massive pollution.
For its part, the Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) said putting up the military base for the use of US troops in the province is “grossly unconstitutional” and would endanger the lives and livelihood of the people and their environment.
In a statement, Kalikasan-PNE said that the US government have yet to clean up and rehabilitate its former military bases in the country and have not paid compensation for the damage that a US Navy minesweeper caused on Tubbataha Reef.
On January 17 this year, the US Navy minesweeper USS Guardian ran aground the Tubbataha Reef, a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization World Heritage Site, destroying 2,345.67 square meters of 10-meter-high coral reefs.
The US government has yet to pay the P60-million fine, considered by many as a slap-in-the-wrist considering the damage it wrought, for violating provisions of the Tubbataha Act, the group said.
Coral reef value estimates from scientific journals put the valuation of the damages to be at least $342 million. “The impending construction of a base on Oyster Bay, which is within a marine protected area, seems to be the next crime they are intent on pushing through with,” the group said.
Pamalakaya Vice Chairman Salvador France said for his part that the plan to convert the mangrove-rich cove in Palawan constitutes a crime against national sovereignty and wholesale destruction of natural resources and marine environment.
Commo. Joseph Rostum Peña, Western Naval Forces commander, confirmed that the plan would be to construct a “mini-Subic Naval Base.” Construction of a port in the area would extend the range of the Navy’s two frigates, both former US Coast Guard cutters, that are tasked to patrol the disputed Spratly Islands.
The plan to convert Oyster Bay into a mini-Subic Naval Base was revived under the administration of President Aquino.
France said the construction of mini-naval base in Oyster Bay is grossly unconstitutional and would put extreme danger to the lives and livelihood of the people and their environment.
The purpose of the mini-naval base on Oyster Bay is not only to check China and the long-running tension in West Philippine Sea but also to maintain the military hegemony of Washington all over the region, France said.

Bomb 'courier' arrested in N. Cotabato

From ABS-CBN (Oct 5): Bomb 'courier' arrested in N. Cotabato

NORTH COTABATO – An improvised bomb was recovered in a terminal at Brgy. Poblacion 8, Midsayap town North Cotabato at about 10:30 a.m. Saturday.

Authorities said they received information from the National Bureau of Investigation that a bomb will be transported from Midsayap town.

The courier was said to be riding a motorcycle bearing plate number 5743, wearing a red jacket and will be carrying a white box filled with “durian.”

Upon receiving the said information, Midsayap Police alerted their forces in Poblacion 8 near the terminal and positively identified the description given by the source.

Authorities said when they were about to apprehend the suspect he tried to run but was later arrested.

The area was cordoned off as a K9 unit checked the box and turned out to be an improvised explosive device (IED).

The Explosive Ordnance Disposal team immediately disarmed the bomb before it can cause harm to the public.

The suspect was identified as Abdulgani Malang Abas, 44, a resident of Brgy. Olandang, Midsayap.

Initial investigation showed that the courier was supposed to ride a Weena bus to Cotabato City.

Video: DOE chief defends purchase of US warship

From ABS-CBN (Oct 4): Video: DOE chief defends purchase of US warship
Posted at 10/05/2013 12:36 AM
BRP Ramon Alcaraz
Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla defends the government's move to buy the US warship now renamed as BRP Ramon Alcaraz using the controversial Malampaya funds. Petilla says the ship is needed to protect the Malampaya gas field. - ANC, Prime Time, October 4, 2013

DND to upgrade 2 PN Hamilton-class cutters

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 5): DND to upgrade 2 PN Hamilton-class cutters
While waiting for the delivery of its two brand-new frigates worth P18-billion, the Department of National Defense (DND) announced that plans are underway to upgrade the two Hamilton-class cutters in Philippine Navy (PN) service.

This was revealed by DND undersecretary for finance, modernization, installation, and munitions, Fernando Manalo Friday.

"While waiting for these ships to be constructed and delivered, we may upgrade our Hamilton-class cutters (to make them more capable of protecting the country's vast maritime territories)," he added.

The two new frigates are expected to be delivered in four years time upon announcement of a winning bidder.

But the DND official declined to comment on what upgrades the two ships will get for reasons of operational security.

The PN currently operates two Hamilton-class cutters in its fleet.

These are the BRP Gregorio Del Pilar (PF-15) and BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PF-16).

The ship has cruising range of 14,000 miles and has a sea and loiter time of 45 days. It has a complement of 167 officers and men.

4th Infantry Division builds rescue boats from recycled plastic drums

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 5): 4th Infantry Division builds rescue boats from recycled plastic drums

In line with its efforts to protect the environment, the Cagayan De Oro-based 4th Infantry Division announced that it has constructed four rescue boats from recycled plastic drums.

Capt. Christian Uy, 4th Infantry Division spokesperson, said the boats were donated to Office of Civil Defense (OCD) Region 10, Misamis Oriental provincial government and Cagayan De Oro city government Friday.

Uy said that 4th Infantry Division Ricardo R. Visaya initially developed the idea of rescue boats made from recycled materials.

The concept was then worked out by the unit's post engineering department and eventually gave birth to the creation of four rescue boats made from used plastic drums, GI sheets, flat iron bars and mounted with 25hp Yamaha outboard motor.

Likewise a test run was conducted to ensure its effectiveness and performance as part of the 4th Infantry Division's disaster relief and rescue operations.

BRP Benguet departs for Zamboanga City relief mission

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 5): BRP Benguet departs for Zamboanga City relief mission

The Philippine Navy (PN) announced that the BRP Benguet (LT-507) has left its Sangley Point, Cavite base Saturday morning to carry relief supplies to Zamboanga City which was badly ravaged after the 20-day fighting with disgruntled members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) led by Nur Misuari.

Lt. Cmdr. Gregory Fabic, Navy spokesperson, said the ship is expected to arrive off Zamboanga City by Oct. 7.

Prior this mission, BRP Bengueet has been ferrying supplies for Typhoon "Odette" battered Batanes since Oct. 2.

Relief goods on board consist of drinking water, canned goods, packed foods, medicines, clothing and blankets with an estimated 391 tons of cargoes.

"The PN since the conflict started (in Sept. 9) has been constant in helping the city’s struggle in ending up the conflict and heal itself from the torments. During the crisis, the PN has been active in providing naval blockade to help prevent the further escalation and spread of the conflict. Also, relief goods were able to be delivered through PN vessels which provide security and safe passage for timely delivery," Fabic stressed.

"Once again, the Philippine Navy is committed to help Zamboanga rebuild itself and provide assistance in whatever the endeavor may demand," he added.

Negotiations for F/A-50 'Golden Eagle' jet aircraft still ongoing

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 5): Negotiations for F/A-50 'Golden Eagle' jet aircraft still ongoing

Defense Undersecretary Fernando Manalo has confirmed negotiations with the South Korean manufacturer of the F/A-50 "Golden Eagle" jet aircraft is continuing.

He said late Friday the DND was dealing directly with Korea Aerospace Industries and South Korea's Defense Acquisition Program Administration.

"We are still waiting for the sales agreement and the approval of the program by the President," Manalo said, in reply to questions on the F/A-50 acquisition program.

The F/A-50 is included in the 24 priority projects for the AFP Modernization for 2013 to 2017.

Manalo described the F/A-50 as "fighter aircraft" with capabilities common to most jet fighters.

The Philippines is in the market for 12 supersonic trainer aircraft which can double up as interim fighter and attack planes for the Philippine Air Force which allocated P18 billion for this program.

The Government Procurement Policy Board earlier gave the DND the "green-light" to start pre-negotiations with the South Korean government for 12 F/A 50 aircraft last January.

The F/A-50 is also known as the TA-50.

Its design is largely derived from the F-16 "Fighting Falcon," and they have many similarities: use of a single engine, speed, size, cost, and the range of weapons, military officials said.

Civilians foil bombing attempt, arrest suspect in N. Cotabato town

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 5): Civilians foil bombing attempt, arrest suspect in N. Cotabato town

MIDSAYAP, North Cotabato -- Police arrested here today a suspected bomber shortly after he planted an improvised explosive device (IED) in front of a hotel and restaurant here.

Supt. Renante Delos Reyes, Midsayap police chief, identified the suspect as Abdulgani Malang Abas, 42, a passenger motorcycle (habal-habal) driver and resident of Barangay Tugal, Midsayap, North Cotabato.

Delos Reyes said civilians near Hill Park and Restaurant along crossing Quezon Boulevard and national highway made a citizens' arrest on Abas at 11:45 a.m. who they said was acting suspiciously.

When police came to check on Abas, he admitted the box that contained two durian fruits was an IED.

According to Abas, a woman flagged him down in Barangay Agriculture and asked to be driven to said restaurant.

Once at the area, Abas claimed the woman left supposedly to buy something from a store nearby but never returned.

Abas said he was forced to leave the box at the roadside since the woman was nowhere to be found.

The area was thickly populated as it also serves as bus and van terminal to and from Midsayap town.

But civilians confronted and prevented him from leaving until the police arrived.

Responding bomb experts detonated the IED after bomb sniffing dogs sat on it.

Delos Reyes said the IED was fashioned from 60 mm mortar with mechanized timer as trigger mechanism.

Abas denied he carried the IED and insisted the box was owned by an unidentified woman.

Midsayap had been marred by a series of bomb attacks in the past, including the bombing of a pawnshop in August.

1 soldier killed, 6 wounded in Mis Or firefight

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 5): 1 soldier killed, 6 wounded in Mis Or firefight

An army soldier was killed while six others were wounded as the firefight between communist New People’s Army (NPA) and government troopers in Misamis Oriental drew toward Thursday, the military said on Saturday.

Capt. Christian Uy, the army’s Public Affairs Division, identified the lone fatality as Private First Class Ellan Ramones,of the army’s 403rd Brigade based in the neighboring province of Bukidnon.

The wounded were Cpl. Julius Agusen, Pfc. Jose Noli Pabingwit, Pfc. Cris Lorenzon, Pfc. Dioscoro Briones Jr., Pfc Geofrey Purisima and Pfc. Junard Eborde, all of the army’s 403rd Brigade, too, Uy added.

He said the sporadic fighting had a lull on Friday since the armed skirmishes took place in the hinterlands of Lagonglong in Misamis Oriental last Monday morning.

The troops were way waylaid while conducting hot pursuit operations against communist guerrillas who attacked an army outpost in Lantad, a former rebel stronghold in Balingasag last Sept. 23 killing four militiamen and an army sergeant.

Uy said that the four army soldiers were wounded in the Monday firefight while the one fatality and two other wounded soldiers were the casualties in other skirmishes last Wednesday afternoon in Lagonglong.

“The fighting has stopped since Friday but the government has sent more troops to scour the hinterlands in the borders of Balingasag and Lagonglong to clear the area of rebel forces,” Uy added.

Army belies helicopter crash

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 5): Army belies helicopter crash

CAMP EVANGELISTA, Cagayan de Oro City -- The military on Saturday denied reports that communist guerrillas shot down one of its helicopter gunships in Misamis Oriental last Friday.

Capt. Christian Uy, spokesperson of the army’s 4th Infantry Division, said that the Huey helicopter gunships made an emergency landing in Balingasag Friday morning when the pilot noticed a mechanical malfunction while airborne back to the base in Cagayan de Oro City.

He said that the pilot and the helicopter mechanic successfully fixed the problem prompting the helicopter to fly back safely to the army base in Camp Evangelista on Friday afternoon.

According to Uy, two Huey helicopters flew to the borders of Balingasag and Lagonglong in Misamis Oriental to deliver supplies for the troops and additional reinforcement when one of the helicopter gunship experienced mechanical trouble on their way back to Cagayan de Oro City.

Unconfirmed stories of a helicopter crash after being shot by communist New People’s Army guerrillas in Misamis Oriental broke Friday afternoon.

Uy said the military has sent additional troops and supplies to the embattled borders of Lagonglong and Balingasag where a running gun battle between NPA rebels and government troopers rages since Monday.

He said that the army troopers were in hot pursuit of communist guerrillas who attacked an army outpost in Lantad, a former rebel stronghold in the mountains of Balingasag two weeks ago when waylaid by NPA rebels in the hinterlands of Lagonglong, a neighboring town of Balingasag.

Uy said that the fighting has stopped since Friday but the government troopers composed of battle-scarred scout rangers had mounted a relentless pursuit operations in the area.

He said the military has utilized helicopter gunships in sending relief, rescue, retrieval, and reinforcement to the ground troops since the sporadic firefight erupted last Monday.