Thursday, October 10, 2013

Villagers in Talitay town flee as rival rebel groups clash

From the Philippine Star (Oct 11): Villagers in Talitay town flee as rival rebel groups clash

The fatal ambush  last Thursday of three bodyguards of the second-termer mayor of Talitay town sparked hostilities between two rival Moro gurerilla groups, forcing villagers to safer areas.

Local officials said the hostilities between the feuding forces of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front was triggered by an ambush past 7 a.m. Thursday of the Toyota pick-up truck of Talitay Mayor Montasir Sabal, which left three of his security escorts dead and two others wounded.

The wounded ambush victims, Gadungan, Tatuan and Bobby Masulot, who sustained gunshot wounds in different parts of their bodies, are now confined at a hospital in Cotabato City.

Talitay Vice-Mayor Allan Sabal, a senior member of the municipal peace and order council, have tagged members of the MILF’s 105th Base Command, led by Hadji Buisan Haron, as responsible for the ambush.

Haron and the incumbent Talitay mayor, who is presently performing the Islamic Hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia, are embroiled in a political dispute that began during the recent campaign period.

"They must have assumed that the mayor was also inside the vehicle, which they shot with their assault rifles," Sabal said.

Sabal said relatives of the mayor’s three slain security men, among them active members of the MILF’s 106th Base Command, were to retrieve their cadavers from the spot where they were attacked, but Haron and his men opened fire, provoking a running firefight.

“They waited at the scene, (ready to) escalate the (hostilities),” Sabal said.

Von Al-Haq, the spokesman of the MILF’s military wing, the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces, had told Catholic station dxMS in Cotabato City that they exerting efforts to resolve the dispute between the two guerrilla groups.

The running gunfights between the rival MILF forces forced more than a thousand families to evacuate to neutral areas for fear of getting trapped in the crossfire.

The conflict between the two MILF groups in Talitay is just one of the dozens of clan wars in Central Mindanao involving active members of the rebel group.

About 90 percent of the hostilities that rocked far-flung areas covered by the 1997 government-MILF General Agreement on Cessation of Hostilities in the past two years involved rival rebel factions locked in territorial disputes and political differences.

Clan war leaves 3 dead, 2 hurt in Maguindanao

From ABS-CBN (Oct 11): Clan war leaves 3 dead, 2 hurt in Maguindanao

Three relatives of Talitay, Maguindanao Mayor Muntasir Sabal were killed while two others were wounded when armed men ambushed them while on their way to Cotabato City, Thursday morning.

The victims were only identified as alias Boy, Tam and Delds.

The two others wounded were Bobby Masulot and Tatuan Dakondang, a barangay councilor of Gadungan in Talitay.

Talitay police chief Senior Inspector Freddie Solar said it is a "rido" or family feud between the Sabal and Buisan families, who both have an affiliation with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

The victims' relatives retaliated, which turned into a firefight between the warring clans that lasted for a couple of hours.

"Members ng 106th base command ang gumanti, mga kaanak ng mga biktima," Solar said.

Hundreds of families were displaced and evacuated in Madrasas and Mosques in the town.

Local officials have yet to determine the exact number of displaced families, but they said most of the families in 3 barangays have evacuated.

Authorities are investigating the incident.

AFP: DAP-funded projects legitimate

From ABS-CBN (Oct 11): AFP: DAP-funded projects legitimate

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Thursday maintained that the military projects funded by the controversial disbursement acceleration program (DAP) were legitimate.

AFP public affairs chief Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala said the projects were meant to improve their units’ equipment and promote the welfare of troops.

“These projects are aboveboard and were judiciously spent. That is capital outlay for these units to implement,” Zagala said.

He said their DAP-funded projects are capital outlays and therefore tangible.

“If these (projects) appreciated by our government officials especially the president, then we are appreciative of that,” Zagala said.

Earlier, the Defense Department admitted that it received DAP funds worth P665.6 million in 2011 and 2012.

The DAP fund was released to AFP to buy equipment and spare parts, support on-base housing, and repair or renovate different facilities.

Majority of the amount released to the Defense department was allotted to the Air Force and the Presidential Security Group (PSG).

The Air Force received P397.3 million for its on-base housing facilities, communication equipment, rescue requirements, base facilities and renovation of its training facilities in Lipa, Batangas.

The PSG, meanwhile, was given P248.3 million for its communication enhancement project. The project involves the laying-out of the backbone for the unit’s communications systems, the repair and building of barracks, the installation of closed circuit television equipment at the MalacaƱang Complex, and the upgrade of communications equipment from analogue to digital.

The DAP was hounded with controversy after Sen. Jinggoy Estrada claimed that those who voted to impeach Chief Justice Renato Corona were given P50-million in additional funding.

Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, however, said that the funds were meant to promote economic activity and not to bribe senators.

He said the DAP was meant to “ramp up government expenditures in the wake of sluggish spending.”

DAP, Abad said, was distributed to state agencies and projects endorsed by lawmakers.
Palace officials said the DAP releases came from the overall savings of the national government, which includes unprogrammed funds generated from windfall revenue collections, unreleased appropriations from slow-moving projects, terminated programs based on program evaluation of zero-based budgeting and the withdrawal of unused allotments already released to agencies.

Fishing ban in Palawan, other areas feared with naval base construction

From the Business Mirror (Oct 10): Fishing ban in Palawan, other areas feared with naval base construction

THE Pambansang Lakas ng Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) on Thursday expressed fear that the construction of a de facto base on Oyster Bay in Palawan will eventually lead to a fishing ban in the province.
The group said the imposition of occasional fishing ban to give way for the construction of military bases has been happening in other areas. 
“It is happening now. A fishing ban is occasionally imposed in Oyster Bay because the construction of a ‘mini-Subic’ naval base is going on and the same will apply to other areas where there are plans to build new bases for US military warships and aircraft on or before 2016,” Pamalakaya Vice Chairman Salvador France said. 
He said the imposition of a fishing ban to give way to military bases will also take place in Ulugan Bay, Puerto Princesa City, and towns of Brooke’s Point, Macarasmas, Rizal and San Vicente, where the US Marine Corps eyes to put up command posts.
These areas are near the disputed West Philippine Sea (South China Sea). 
“One day the people of Palawan will wake up to find that fishing all over the province is banned and the entire island province has been transformed into a virtual military base similar to the US military base in Okinawa, Japan. The clear and present danger is there and this will happen anytime between today and 2016,” France said.
Small fishermen, including those in the commercial fishing sector, are banned from fishing near Oyster Bay as construction of the 12-kilometer access road to the area started, the group said.
According to a Philippine Marine Corps official, the plan is to station 50 to 60 US marines in Palawan as an advance detachment at the South  China Sea. Aside from transforming Oyster Bay into a mini-Subic naval base, the US also wants to convert the 246-hectare Philippine Marine Corps reservation in Samariniana in Brooke’s Point into a a joint marine operational command. France also learned that aside from Samariniana and Oyster Bay, the US will also develop Ulugan Bay, Macarascas, Puerto Princesa and Tarumpitao Point in Rizal and San Vicente into US command posts. 
Pamalakaya earlier asked Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to investigate the construction of US military bases in Palawan. 
In its letter of appeal to de Lima, the group asked for a full-blown investigation on the reported plan of the government to construct a de facto US base on Oyster Bay.
The naval base in Palawan, Navy officials said, will enhance the external defense capability of the Armed Forces in the face of the perpetual tension between the Philippines and China.The group said the project aims to increase US military presence in the Philippines on a rotational basis.
It argued that the mini-Subic naval base  is designed to host military warships of Washington not only to check the disturbing presence of Chinese military in South China Sea but to preserve the military hegemony of the US  in East Asia and the Pacific.
The group said the construction of a naval base on Oyster Bay and  the setting up of command posts in different parts of Palawan are in gross violation of the 1987 Constitution that strictly prohibits foreign military bases in the country.

Unicef seeks protection of MNLF child combatants

From the Business Mirror (Oct 10): Unicef seeks protection of MNLF child combatants

AN organ of the United Nations on Wednesday sought the protection of children alleged to be child combatants associated with Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) rebels in Western Mindanao.
Reports reaching the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) indicate that to date, five children have been identified by the government authorities as possible child combatants and are currently in the custody of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).
There are also allegations of mistreatment by security forces while these children were in detention before they were transferred to a DSWD facility. These reports have not been corroborated yet.
Unicef is currently working closely with partners and the concerned authorities to verify the children’s status and conditions.
It called on all parties to the conflict to protect children from all forms of violence. It also called on the government to ensure an investigation into the current allegations.
“Unicef recognizes an extensive range of legal measures that the government has already adopted for the promotion of child rights and the protection of children as zones of peace in situations of armed conflict. Republic Act 9344, or the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006, provides for children’s rights while under detention by the authorities. They include the right not to be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; the right to prompt access to legal and other appropriate assistance; the right to have his or her privacy respected; and the right to be treated with humanity and respect, in a manner that takes account of his needs and age,” the UN organ said in a statement.
The Philippines is a signatory of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict, which stipulate these measures.
“Unicef also calls on all parties to respect, adhere to and be guided by the UN Rules for the Protection of Juvenile Deprived of Their Liberty,” the UN organ added in the statement.
Unicef also said in the statement: “If these children were combatants or associated with or involved in armed groups, this would constitute a grave child-rights violation within international law for the recruitment and use of children in hostilities. Children thus involved are victims of hostilities. Former child combatants need immediate assistance for rehabilitation and support for reintegration into their communities and should not be condemned or prosecuted for their actions or involvement in hostilities.
“If the children were not combatants, they need to be reunited with their families as soon as possible and provided with necessary assistance for rehabilitation.
“While investigations are still ongoing, children require special protection against undue exposure. Efforts should be made to ensure that the best interests of the child shall be the primary concern in reporting and covering cases involving children. Regardless of their status while in custody, children need to be provided with special care and protection as minors including:
  • Separate placement from adults;
  • Access to lawyers and family members; and
  • Necessary material and psychosocial care and support.

Joint peace, security center in Eastern Mindanao activated

From the Business Mirror (Oct 9): Joint peace, security center in Eastern Mindanao activated

The National Police and the Armed Forces signed on Wednesday a joint letter directive that formed the Joint Peace and Security Coordinating Center (JPSCC) in Eastern Mindanao.
The joint letter directive was signed by the National Police Directorate for Integrated Police Operations-Eastern Mindanao (Dipo-EM) and the Armed Forces Eastern Mindanao Command.
Senior Supt. Reuben Theodore Sindac, National Police Public Information Office chief, said the JPSCC would combine and formalize the efforts of the two armed services in the areas of peace and security, disaster mitigation and other emergencies in Eastern Mindanao.
Among others, the JPSCC would facilitate the “enhancement of capability and inter-operability of military and police units,” Sindac said.
He said the JPSCC would also oversee the peace and security operations in Eastern Mindanao and help ensure “local stakeholders attain a safer place to live, work and do business.”
Sindac said the JPSCC would also “institutionalize the entry strategy for the police in the normalization process to support local governments as the latter leads the peace and development effort when the military shifts to the external defense posture.”
In addition, Sindac said the joint effort should “address the increasing trend of New People’s Army attacks against civilians and civilian companies implementing government projects.”
He said the area coordinating center would also enhance mechanisms in building up and filing of cases against the rebels who attack civilians, economic investments and other government projects in Eastern Mindanao.
“JPSCC requires combined efforts of the military and the police in security operations against all threat groups within Eastern Mindanao in support to local governments and government agencies that are in need of military and police assistance,” Sindac said.
Aside from the NPA, Eastern Mindanao also hosts the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters.

Navy updating operational doctrines

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 10): Navy updating operational doctrines

Aside from acquiring new ships, weapon systems and improving its bases and other support facilities, the Philippine Navy (PN) is also busy updating its operational doctrines.

Commodore Jose Renan C. Suarez, PN Patrol Force commander, said that this is very important as this will determine how the Navy will go about in using and deploying its assets in defending the country.

He said that the updates are about 60 to 70 percent completed.

Suarez stressed that this is being done through the invitation of subject matter experts and communications with other navies.

Suarez earlier said that the two brand-new frigates which the Department of National Defense is acquiring for P18-billion is definitely more superior and heavily armed than the two Hamilton-class cutters in PN service.

He added that ships are equipped with radar, sonar, and electronic warfare systems and can engage airborne, surface and underwater threats simultaneously.

Aside from these surveillance and detection equipment, the frigates are also armed with anti-ship and anti-air missiles and a main gun capable of firing 120 rounds per minute aside from a torpedo system.

As of the moment, the Hamilton-class cutters in Philippine service are only armed with a 76mm main gun which can fire 60 to 80 rounds per minute.

Suarez said that these ships are part of the PN's "Navy Frigate Program" which has a timeline of 2013 to 2017.

He added that these ships are designed with numerous upgrades cycle to ensure that they will remain relevant and competitive against new vessels coming in line.

Suarez said that these ships will greatly enhanced PN's capabilities to defend the country's vast maritime territories.

He added that these ships will also greatly aid the two Hamilton-class cutters in service, BRP Gregorio Del Pilar (PF-15) and BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PF-16), in their patrol and monitoring work once in commission at the PN.

Plans are afoot to upgrade the BRP Gregorio Del Pilar and BRP Ramon Alcaraz to make them more capable in their maritime domain awareness mission.

New frigates to guard Malampaya oil-gas separation platform

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 10): New frigates to guard Malampaya oil-gas separation platform

The two new frigates that the Department of National Defense (DND) is acquiring for P18-billion will be used to secure the Malampaya oil-gas separation platform.

DND undersecretary for finance, modernization, installations and munitions Fernando Manalo said this is one of the missions that the new ships will be given once they are commissioned in the Philippine Navy (PN).

Aside from this, these naval vessels can also be deployed to maintain the country's presence at the West Philippine Sea.

He added that frigates are the ideal ships for the PN due to their multi-role capability and heavy armament.

"They can even be used to evacuate Filipino workers in hotspots abroad and relocate victims of natural and man-made calamities in safer areas," Manalo stressed.

Manalo defended the long delivery period of the frigates (around 1,460 calendar days) to the fact that these ships are brandnew and designed specifically for the Philippines.

The DND last week opened the bidding program for the P18-billion frigate program.

"Delivery period will be long as these frigates are new-builds," he stated.

Manalo declined to comment on whether the ships will be fitted with anti-ships and anti-aircraft missiles.

Palace to Nur: "We will find you"

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 10): Palace to Nur: "We will find you"

Government would continue to hunt Moro National Liberation Front founding leader Nur Misuari, who is facing rebellion charges in connection with the recent siege in Zamboanga City.

Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda made the statement after MNLF spokesperson Emmanuel Fontanilla belittled the arrest warrant for Misuari and admitted the leader will remain in hiding.

"Of course that's going to be their position. We'll go after him. We will find you," Lacierda said at a media briefing.

Lacierda said border patrol guards in southern Philippines have tightened the cordon to make sure that Misuari does not escape from authorities.

While he repeatedly declined to answer if they know Misuari's whereabouts, Lacierda said they believe the Moro leader is still in the country.

"There have been unconfirmed reports [that he had left the country] but our reports say he's in the Philippines," Lacierda said.

On Wednesday, a Zamboanga court issued an arrest warrant against Misuari, his top commander Ustadz Habier Malik and several others for perpetrating a deadly attack in Zamboanga City last Sept 9.

Misuari and his men are facing rebellion charges and violation of humanitarian laws.

US alert warning within its rights - AFP

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 10): US alert warning within its rights - AFP
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Thursday announced that it is within the rights of the US government to alert and warn its citizens about possible security threats in Southern Mindanao.

"(It) is the right of another country to protect their citizens, we respect that and we have already troops on the ground especially in Zamboanga and all over Mindanao that are ready for any contingencies if anything should happen," AFP public affairs office chief Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala said.

But he stressed that the AFP and the Philippine National Police remains vigilant to preempt possible security threats.

Zagala added that they are still confirm the US threat information with their sources.

The US Embassy in Manila earlier told its citizens that there is a series of credible security threats have been identified in Southern Mindanao.

"In particular, the (US) Embassy is aware of threats in several locales in Region 11 (the Davao Region), Region 12 (North and South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, and Sarangani), and in Maguindanao. Individuals associated with known extremist and insurgent groups are believed to have been conducting surveillance on a number of public locations in these areas, as possible targets of interest," it added.

Extremists may elect to use conventional or non-conventional weapons, and target both official and private interests, the US Embassy in Manila stated.

"Examples of such targets include high-profile sporting events, residential areas, business offices, hotels, clubs, restaurants, places of worship, schools, public areas, and other destinations, whether frequented by foreigners or locals," it concluded.

US supports quick conclusion of talks on Code of Conduct in West PHL Sea — Aquino says

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 10): US supports quick conclusion of talks on Code of Conduct in West PHL Sea — Aquino says

The Philippines and United States share the same view on the necessity for the immediate crafting of a legally binding Code of Conduct (COC) to avoid tensions in the contested area in the West Philippines Sea, President Benigno S. Aquino III said on Wednesday.

“Ang iminungkahi ni Secretary Kerry basically is papaspasin natin ‘yung proseso na to get that code of conduct and the absence of which, syempre adds to the sense of uncertainty which is not a factor that would enhance… stability and prosperity for all parties concerned,” the President said in an interview with the Philippine media at the Philippine Embassy here.

There is nothing wrong with the proposal of US Secretary of State John Kerry to immediately adopt a COC to prevent tensions, which if the parties opt to shelve may add to uncertainties, the Chief Executive noted.

Claimant countries tried to come up with a COC a decade ago but was able to produce only the Declaration of the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) in 2002, he said.

“So does it benefit anybody to delay the process again for another decade, two decades, three decades? Is there a possibility na ‘yung sa uncertainty, hindi mo alam ang rules, how do you actually operationalize the principles embodied in the DOC, which is supposedly what the COC will do,” the President continued.

To avoid the gray areas, claimants must agree on certain rules and guidelines that will include everyone’s obligations, rights, and the way each party would behave with regards to specific claims.

The good thing this time is that everybody is interested in reviving the talks on the COC, the President said.

Unlike before, China today is showing strong willingness to work with other claimants on a mutually agreed COC, he added.

Among the claimants to the territory include China, Taiwan, Malaysia, Brunei, Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines.

De Lima says Malik still included in criminal raps filed by DOJ

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 10): De Lima says Malik still included in criminal raps filed by DOJ

Justice Secretary Leila M. De Lima Thursday said Moro National Liberation Front commander Habier Malik was still included in the criminal charges filed by the Department of Justice in connection with the Zamboanga City siege because there is no proof of his death.

However, De Lima said the probability that Malik is already dead is high since the MNLF has not caused him to surface up to now.

De Lima expressed belief MNLF founding chair Nurulaji "Nur" Misuari is still in the Philippines amid speculations he may have already fled.

There have been reported sightings of the embattled MNLF leader in his home province of Sulu.

Misuari, Malik, and 63 MNLF fighters were charged with rebellion and violations of international humanitarian laws before the Zamboanga City Regional Trial Court for the siege that left at least 200 dead.

The government is now contemplating on putting up a reward money for any information that may lead to Misuari's capture.

AFP willing to assist PNP in arresting Misuari

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 10): AFP willing to assist PNP in arresting Misuari

Should the Philippine National Police (PNP) request its support in serving the arrest warrant against Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) founding chair Nur Misuari, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is more than willing to provide assistance to its police counterparts.

"Should they ask for our assistance, we will give it but as of now we have yet to receive any request from them," AFP public affairs office chief Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala said.

He also added that the AFP believes that Misuari is still in Sulu.

"Based on our reports from our units from the ground, he has been in Sulu, on where in Sulu in particular I cannot reveal to you," Zagala disclosed.

The AFP public affairs office chief stated that it is only fair especially for the people of Zamboanga City for Misuari to peacefully submit himself rather than have another violent incident.

Zagala declined to comment on whether the AFP expects Misuari followers to contest his arrest but stressed that the military is prepared for all contingencies.

The Zamboanga City Regional Trial Court Branch 13 Judge Eric Elumba ordered on Wednesday the arrest of Misuari and three of his aides in connection with the deadly attack in the city that cost the lives of 218 persons and displaced more than 100,000 others last month.

Warrants for the arrest of Misuari and MNLF commanders Habier Malik, Assamin Hussin and Bas Akri, all of whom are at large.

The judge set no bail for Misuari and the three MNLF commanders, but recommended a P200,000 bail for each of their accused followers.

The arrest order came down three days after the Department of Justice filed rebellion and other criminal charges against Misuari and his lieutenants and 60 of their followers who were either captured or who surrendered during the 21-day siege that also razed more than 10,000 houses in Zamboanga City.

2 soldiers wounded during clash with rebels at Capiz

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 10: 2 soldiers wounded during clash with rebels at Capiz

Two soldiers from the 61st Infantry Battalion were wounded following a clash with New People's Army (NPA) rebels at the boundaries of Barangays Lahug and Abangay, Tapaz, Capiz Wednesday afternoon.

This took place around 1:30 p.m.

Major Ray Tiongson, 3rd Infantry Division spokesman, identified the wounded personnel as Pfc. Rodel T. Gentroles and Pvt. Chrysler L. Lozada.

Both men are now in stable condition after treatment at the Tapaz District Hospital.

Tiongson said the soldiers were conducting clearing operations in the area after receiving reports of the presence of NPAs in the area.

In the issuing firefight, the two troopers were wounded along with several NPA fighters.

This was confirmed by the sighting of blood trails in subsequent sweeps of the combat scene.

“For those who might have been wounded during the encounters, we are ready to extend our help through medical assistance as we ensure that our medical personnel are on stand-by and available. We will ensure the personal safety of those who will choose to peacefully return to their families,” said 3rd Infantry Division commander Brig. Gen. Aurelio B. Baladad.

70% of former MNLF-controlled areas in Zamboanga City now cleared - PNP

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 10): 70% of former MNLF-controlled areas in Zamboanga City now cleared - PNP

Seventy percent of the areas formerly controlled by Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) fighters in Zamboanga City have been cleared by government security forces, the Philippine National Police (PNP) said on Thursday.

PNP deputy chief for operations Deputy director Felipe Rojas said they expect to complete the clearing operations at the soonest time possible to enable the residents to resume their activities and live normal lives again.

He added that clearing units have recovered a number of unexploded ordnance during the clearing operations.

PNP forms tracker teams to hunt down Misuari

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 10): PNP forms tracker teams to hunt down Misuari

Deputy Director General Felipe Rojas Jr., PNP deputy chief for Operations, on Thursday said that the PNP has formed tracker teams to catch Nur Misuari, founder of the Moro National Liberation Front, a group hat went on a three-week long stand-off with government troops in Zamboanga City.

According to Rojas, five teams composed of seven men each, were created to look for Misuari who is facing rebellion charges, among others.

He added that the teams were created after Judge Eric Elumba, Branch 13 of Zamboanga City Regional Trial Court issued warrants for the arrest of Misuari and MNLF commanders Habier Malik, Assamin Hussin and Bas Akri, and several others.

Rojas said Misuari was last seen in Talipao, Sulu, but is moving from place to place as even angry relatives of killed MNLF members were also looking for him.

He said reward money will definitely be offered for information leading to Misuari’s arrest, but said authorities were still deliberating on how much will be offered.

As to Malik's status, Rojas said they have yet to confirm his status but they have information that some relatives of Malik in Jolo allegedly mourned for possible death.

The stand-off started last September 9 after the MNLF rebels attempted to hoist their flag at the City Hall to declare their independence.

The stand-off ended after 21 days, and took the lives of over 200 persons and displaced more than 100,000.

Police confirm death of NPA rebel in Capiz encounter

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 9): Police confirm death of NPA rebel in Capiz encounter

A member of the New People’s Army (NPA) was the lone fatality in Monday’s encounter with patrolling government forces in the boundary of barangays Nayawan and Tacayan in Tapaz, Capiz.

This was confirmed by Senior Insp. Leomindo Tayupon, chief of Tapaz Police Station, who identified the slain rebel as Pastor Mirasol Jr. of Lambunao, Iloilo.

His wounded companion was identified as Rolando Diaz.

Tayupon said they believe that Mirasol and Diaz were members of the NPA’s Tugalbong Central Front Committee whose fighters encountered soldiers of the 61st Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army.

The Tapaz Police Station learned that Mirasol, who was still alive then, and Diaz were brought to the house of councilman Abelardo Diaz of Barangay Nayawan on claims that they were accidentally caught in a crossfire.

Mirasol later died from a bullet wound.

Maj. Ray Tiongson, spokesman of 3rd Infantry Division, said the 61st IB soldiers encountered anew heavily armed rebels early Wednesday afternoon in the boundary of barangays Lahug and Abangay in Tapaz.

The encounter left Private First Class Rodel Gentolis wounded. He who was rushed to a private hospital in Roxas City.

The recent armed skirmish between soldiers and NPA rebels was believed to be an aftermath of the clearing operations launched by the military to flush out rebels in the hinterland barangays of Tapaz.

The 3rd ID has dispatched K9 tracking dogs and scene of the crime operatives in the area following an information that the rebels suffered casualties during last Monday’s encounter.

Army breaks barriers of faith, builds 1st Madrasah school for Muslims in Bicol

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 10): Army breaks barriers of faith, builds 1st Madrasah school for Muslims in Bicol

The Philippine Army’s 565th Engineering Construction Battalion, 51st Engineering Brigade, broke the barriers of faith and creed by building the first Madrasah School for Muslims in Bicol.

With logistical support from the ABS-CBN Sagip-Kapamilya Program, Army engineers were able to finish the project in only 60 working days instead of 90 calendar days.

The Army and the ABS-CBN Sagip-Kapamilya Program turned over the two-room building to the Department of Education on Oct. 8 at the Daraga North Central School, Barangay Bagumbayan, Daraga, Albay.

Present during the turnover, ribbon-cutting and blessing of the Madrasah building were Tina Monson Palma, program director of ABS-CBN Sagip- Kapamilya; Lt. Gen. Caezar Ronnie Ordoyo, Southern Luzon Command chief; Brig. Gen. Yerson Depayso, 9th Infantry Division commander; Col. Vicente Yordan, 51st Engineering Brigade commander; and Lt. Col. Bernard M. Bautista, commanding officer of the 565th Engineering Construction Battalion.

The building’s symbolic key was accepted by Daraga Mayor Gerry R. Jaucian; Bebiano Sentillas of DepEd; Hadji Nawaf Nor, president of the UMADA Muslim Community; and Rocaya N. Abdulfatah, teacher of ALIVE pupils.

Along with the establishment of the Madrasah, the DepEd will be implementing the Arabic Language and Islamic Values Education (ALIVE) curriculum every Saturday and the regular curriculum on weekdays.

The school is also open for all Muslims who want to study, regardless of grade level and age, especially those out-of-school youths.

Nanet B. Kapitbahay, principal of Daraga North Central School, thanked the sponsors for choosing their school as a pilot Madrasah in the region.

Kapitbahay said they are expecting more students to enroll, knowing that a school for Muslims has been opened for them in Daraga.

She added that this kind of project connotes only the equality of education, regardless of culture and religious orientations, among Christians and Muslims who also hope to attain their dreams.

“The Madrasah will be used for teaching Islamic studies and religious law and is intended to accommodate the religious needs of our Muslim brothers and sisters in the area with more or less 90 pupils,” Depayso said.

He said the Philippine Army in Bicol under his leadership will continue to pursue this kind of projects with the help of its partners and stakeholders as its manner to show support, thrust and unity among Christians and Muslims.

“May there also be unity among us in spite of differences in faith and creed. Let’s work together for the betterment of Bicol Region and to become productive citizens for a better country” the Army division commander stressed.

PHL-US forces build strong ties through humanitarian services in Albay

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 10): PHL-US forces build strong ties through humanitarian services in Albay

The three-week humanitarian mission of the joint forces of the United States Marine Corps (USMC) and the Naval Forces for Southern Luzon (Navforsol) based in this city ended Thursday with the turning over of three rehabilitated classrooms in the Taysan Elementary School here.

Some 1,408 elementary pupils packed up like sardines in a limited school structure will be benefited by the project.

The repair of the three classrooms was part of the PHL-US Amphibious Landing Humanitarian Exercise wherein soldiers from USMC based in Okinawa, Japan and the Navforsol jointly rebuilt the dilapidated school buildings here.

Analiza M. Ricamunda, principal of the Taysan Elementary School, expressed profound gratitude to the USMC and the Navforsol during the handover ceremony.

Ricamunda said the school needs at least five to six more classrooms to accommodate the ballooning number of its schoolchildren.

Navy Commodore Manuel Natalio A. Abinuman, Navforsol commanding general, also expressed gratitude to the members of the USMC led by Brig. Gen. Paul J. Kennedy, commanding general of the USMC 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, for the joint effort and untiring symbol of friendship.

“What you have built is not only a school building but also the education of our children and an enduring symbol of friendship, a recognition of our people and our two countries which will give us a legacy for our present and future generations,” Abinuman said.

He said the people of Albay and Legazpi City will always remember the hard work that the USMC members shared with the Navforsol personnel in building the school.

“We hope that when you go back to your unit, you will bring home good memories of our friendship, cooperation and experiences that you shared with our people,” Abinuman added.

Kennedy said the PHL-US bond has a rich history of bilateral training and has consistently been improving interoperability and readiness so that when the time comes they can respond well in times of natural disaster.

“These friendships and memories are truly what PHIBLEX 14 is all about: coming together with our allies to better the community and have fun along the way. Humanitarian and civic assistance projects such as these allow our military forces to learn from each other, train side by side, and improve our interoperability and readiness,” he added.

“To both Filipino and American personnel, I’d like to congratulate you and thank you for a job well done. You were given an incredible opportunity that very few of your peers enjoy and you succeeded beyond expectations. You took full advantage of the opportunity to work together and make friends with someone from a different country. Thank you for your hard work and dedication to duty during these HCA projects,” the USMC officer said.

According to Kennedy, the accomplishments made during this phase of PHIBLEX 14 showcase the enduring PHL-US relationship and commitment to mutual security as well as long-time partnership.

“Everything that was accomplished during this period of humanitarian mission proves that our alliance continues to grow and remains a key source of stability and security in the Asia-Pacific region,” he stressed.

For three weeks of the humanitarian mission conducted by the USMC soldiers and their Filipino counterparts, they rebuilt the dilapidated classrooms of the Taysan Elementary School where PHL-US military engineers replaced the roof, windows and doors; upgraded the electrical wiring; and improved the drainage system.

In Barangay Bigaa, USMC and AFP medics provided free medical and dental assistance wherein 3,167 individuals benefited.

Gov’t forces kill 2 MNLF rebels in clearing operations in Zambo

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 11): Gov’t forces kill 2 MNLF rebels in clearing operations in Zambo

Government forces have killed two Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) rebels, including a rebel leader, when a clash erupted while conducting clearing operations in the “areas of concerns” in this city, a military official disclosed Thursday.

Task Force Zampelan (Zamboanga Peninsula and Lanao) spokesman Lt. Col. Jose Randolph Sino Cruz said the clash broke out around 8:40 a.m. Thursday in Sitio Bugguk, Barangay Sta. Catalina, 1.76 kilometers east of City Hall.

The adjoining barangays of Sta. Catalina, Sta. Barbara and Rio Hondo are among the “areas of concerns” since the three places were among the sites of fierce fighting between the troops and rebels during the standoff.

The standoff started when hundreds of Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) rebels infiltrated this city last September 9.

Sino Cruz said the troops were conducting clearing operations when they chanced upon the two MNLF stragglers, one of whom is a rebel commander.

Sino Cruz said that firefight broke out when the rebels opened fire after the troops ordered them to stand down.

One of the two slain MNLF stragglers was identified as Nasser Dawili of Tulay, Jolo, Sulu, Sino Cruz said.

He said Dawili is the commander of the MNLF’s Tapul Unit based on the identification card recovered from the latter’s possession.

MILF rebels accuse military of violating ceasefire

From Rappler (Oct 10): MILF rebels accuse military of violating ceasefire

On October 7 to 8, the military launched an operation in Basilan, resulting in the death of 2 soldiers and 3 suspected rebels.

It occurred as the government and the rebel Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) resumed negotiations in Kuala Lumpur for a final peace pact that will give rise to the Bangsamoro political entity. (READ: Peace panels back in KL for power-sharing deal)

Government troops said they were pursuing suspected members of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) during the attack. But the MILF has a different version of what happened.

The MILF accused military troops under Army Col Carlito Galvez of violating the ceasefire agreement.

Von Al-Haq, spokesman of the MILF's Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces, said government troops failed to coordinate with MILF forces manning their camps before they launched the operation.

The MILF will file a formal protest before the government-MILF Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH), the mechanim earlier formed by both sides to address security issues, according to Rasid Ladiasan, head of the secretariat of the MILF CCCH.

The military denied its troops attacked the MILF. There were military operations in Upper Cabengbeng in Sumipsip, Basilan, but Armed Forces spokesperson Brig Gen Domingo Tutaan said it was directed against the ASG.

Debunking the MILF's claim, AFP public information chief Lt Col Ramon Zagala said there are no known MILF camps in Upper Cabengbeng.

"Definitely we will not operate against the MILF. What we were against are lawless elements," Zagala added.

Misuari's men, too

Zagala said followers of Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) founder Nur Misuari were also involved in the clash. MNLF forces were behind the three-week siege of Zamboanga City. (READ: Zambo crisis: The fog of war)

Zagala identified the group's commanders as Juhaira Aliman alias Botong, Sulayman Ajanti alias Ulay, and Mahdi Umangkat. They "ambushed" the 64th IB which caused the death of a Scout Ranger officer. (READ: Scout Ranger officer killed in Basilan)

The military said it's the same group responsible for two attacks last year: the ambush of the 11th Scout Ranger Company last year that killed 11 Ranger troops and the attack against a rubber company that killed at least 6 workers and wounded 22. (READ: 6 killed, 22 wounded in Basilan ambush)

Defiant commander?

Abbas Salung, chairman of the MILF ceasefire committee, said the MILF called for an immediate ceasefire but Galvez was reportedly defiant.

“We could not understand why the attack was irresponsibly conducted against our forces and the shelling not being stopped,” Salung said. "The government forces assaulted our troops and bombarded civilian communities. These are utter violations of the government and MILF ceasefire accord and agreement on civilian protection, human rights and international humanitarian laws by Philippine Army troops."

Salung claimed this is not the first time Galvez "undermined the ceasefire accord and the primary of the peace process."

Galvez could not be reached for comment.

The Upper Cabengbeng clash also claimed the life of MILF member Kursi Umangkat. The firefight has forced at least 900 residents from the villages of Ulitan and Tongbato in Ungkaya Pukan to leave their homes, the MILF said.

“We hope that the attack was not meant to sabotage the peace process between the government and MILF,” Ladiasan said.

In the past, both the MILF and the government filed protests against each other for alleged ceasefire violations. But in general, the ceasefire continued to hold.

U.S. gives tacit backing to Philippines in China sea dispute

From InterAksyon (Oct 10): U.S. gives tacit backing to Philippines in China sea dispute

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry gave tacit backing to the Philippines' stance in a tense maritime dispute with China on Thursday, saying that all countries had a right to seek arbitration to resolve competing territorial claims.

The Philippines, a U.S. ally, has angered China by launching an arbitration case with the United Nations to challenge the legal validity of Beijing's sweeping claims over the resource-rich South China Sea.

The United States has refrained from taking sides in the dispute, one of Asia's biggest security headaches, but has expressed a national interest in freedom of navigation through one of the world's busiest shipping channels.

"All claimants have a responsibility to clarify and align their claims with international law. They can engage in arbitration and other means of peaceful negotiation," Kerry told leaders at the East Asia Summit in Brunei, including Chinese Premier Li Keqiang.

"Freedom of navigation and overflight is a linchpin of security in the Pacific," he added.

China claims almost the entire oil- and gas-rich South China Sea, overlapping with claims from Taiwan, Malaysia, Brunei, the Philippines and Vietnam. The last four are members of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

The row is one of the region's biggest flashpoints amid China's military build-up and the U.S. strategic "pivot" back to Asia signaled by the Obama administration in 2011.
Diplomatic efforts to ease tensions are now centered on Chinese talks with ASEAN to frame a code of conduct for disputes in the South China Sea, but Beijing has restricted talks to low-level consultations rather than formal negotiations.

The annual East Asia Summit ended on Thursday without significant progress on the dispute, with a joint ASEAN-China statement saying only that the two sides had agreed to "maintain the momentum of the regular official consultations".


Frustrated by the slow pace of regional diplomatic efforts to resolve the dispute, the Philippines has hired a crack international legal team to fight its unprecedented arbitration case under the United Nations' Convention on the Law of the Sea - ignoring growing pressure from Beijing to scrap the action.

Any result will be unenforceable, legal experts say, but will carry considerable moral and political weight.

Beijing has accused the Philippines of pursuing the case to legalize its occupation of islands in the disputed sea and said it would never agree to cooperate.

Some diplomats have expressed concern that the ASEAN-China consultations are a bid by China to delay a final agreement on a code while it expands its naval reach and consolidates its expansive claims.

ASEAN Secretary-General Le Luong Minh, in an interview with Reuters, insisted that the consultations that had their first round in China in September were a sign of progress.

"It's especially important progress if we look at what happened a year before," he said, referring to an unprecedented breakdown of an ASEAN summit in Cambodia over a failure to agree wording on the South China Sea.

The next round of talks will take place at an unspecified time next year, still at the relatively low "senior official" level.

On Wednesday, the United States and Japan - which has its own maritime dispute with Beijing - both pressured China to agree to abide by rules for the South China Sea, where Beijing has backed its claims with an increasingly assertive naval reach.

A Japanese official cited Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as telling Philippine President Benigno Aquino that Japan was "seriously concerned over efforts to alter the status quo by force, by intimidation or coercion".

GPH, MILF stress need for just, acceptable solutions to the Bangsamoro problem

Posted to the Mindanao Examiner blog site (Oct 11): GPH, MILF stress need for just, acceptable solutions to the Bangsamoro problem

KUALA LUMPUR - Sharing the same resolve to complete the annex on power sharing in this round of talks, the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) stressed the need to ensure just and acceptable solutions to address the decades-old conflict in Mindanao.

During the parties’ opening ceremonies for the 41st formal exploratory talks in this Malaysian capital, GPH peace panel chair Miriam Coronel-Ferrer reiterated the importance of due diligence in coming up with viable solutions to the Bangsamoro problem.

“Indeed, if it has taken us a long while to put down words and phrases in the Annexes, it is because we want to guarantee the integrity of the outcome,” she said.

“We need to ensure the justness of the solutions we are adopting for one and all, so that with the faith of our fellow Filipinos, this agreement will live and let live the hopes for less strife, good governance, harmony, cooperation and a better life among the Bangsamoro and the whole country.”

On the same note, Iqbal underscored that the agreement that will be forged by both sides should be “acceptable to our people and will lead to solving to Bangsamoro question.”

“Short of this, our efforts would be in vain,” he added.

Power-sharing deal

Coronel-Ferrer remarked on the possible “closure of at least one of the two remaining Annexes,” which are on normalization and power sharing.

MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal, in his opening statement, proposed to “finish the two remaining annexes especially on power sharing.”

These two annexes, together with the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro signed in October 2012, and the Annexes on Transitional Arrangements and Modalities, and Revenue Generation and Wealth Sharing, will form part of the Comprehensive Agreement which the GPH and the MILF panels aim to sign within the year.
Coronel-Ferrer said that in contrast to the recent violent incidents involving lawless elements on the ground, the ceasefire between the GPH and the MILF "is a good reason for all those concerned about peace in Mindanao.... to pursue this process between the GPH and the MILF." 

"So that this temporary ceasefire becomes permanent, and in becoming permanent, the other, better things become possible," she added.

The panel chair also stressed the need to address public’s impatience and doubts which have been driven by the “rise in violence perpetrated by those who want this process to fail.”
“We, the negotiating partners present here and the friends of this process in the room, will need to steadfastly work together to foil the many what ifs. We carry a great burden borne out of equally great expectations,” she said.

“We know that it will require a lot of hard work, the appropriate strategies, the effective mechanisms and collaborative approaches, at the soonest possible time."

Inclusive peace

Iqbal said that the gains of the GPH-MILF peace process will benefit the entire Bangsamoro and the country as well. 

“The fruit of this current endeavor will redound to everybody, including MNLF (Moro National Liberation Front),” he stated.

“This is the reason that we have appealed to our brothers in MNLF to support the MILF, or at least not stand on the way, and give us chance to succeed.”

 Joining the panel of observers in the talks is Congressman Rodolfo Biazon and members of the International Contact Group. Presidential Adviser Teresita Quintos Deles, Cong. Teddy Broner Baguilat, Jr., and other members of the Cabinet and Congress are expected to arrive later this week.


John Kerry cancels Philippine visit; U.S. warns citizens of new terror threats in Mindanao

From the Mindanao Examiner blog site (Oct 11): John Kerry cancels Philippine visit; U.S. warns citizens of new terror threats in Mindanao

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has cancelled his trip to the Philippines due to a brewing storm, but this coincided with an emergency alert put out Thursday by the U.S. Embassy in Manila of credible threats on American citizens in the country.

Kerry made his announcement in Brunei with Filipino Foreign Minister Alberto del Rosario on the sideline of the Association of Southeast Asia Nations Summit in Bandar Seri Begawan.

“I’ve just had a communication with President Aquino and the Foreign Minister. And we have agreed for a decision that we have made, because of the judgment of our pilots and the airlines, that with the approaching typhoon we are going to postpone the trip that I was going to make to the Philippines,” Kerry said.

But he was quick to say that: “But the good news is I am absolutely committed to returning within a month or so. I’m coming back to the region, and I look forward to visiting with our friends in the Philippines. And I’m very grateful to President Aquino and to the Foreign Minister for their understanding of this situation. This is a big storm. Obviously storms can change paths at the last minute. We wish the people in the Philippines safety, and their well being is our concern over the course of the next days.”

Promise to President Aquino

Del Rosario said Kerry has promised President Benigno Aquino that he would be coming to the Philippines before the year ends.

“We regret the postponement of Secretary Kerry’s visit to Manila. And this is due to the possibility, increasing possibility now, that there is a major typhoon that could be entering Philippine responsibility,” he said.

“We, of course, we’re eager to welcome Secretary Kerry. He is an old and dear friend to the Philippines. And in addition to seeing him, we had planned to meet and discuss the many bilateral issues that – well, these are not issues actually, but we have – we wanted to use this as an opportunity to be able to further advance our alliance and our strategic partnership. We are – nonetheless, we are looking forward to the visit of Secretary Kerry. He has promised the President that he would be coming before the end of the year. So we’ll see him then,” Del Rosario said.

U.S. Emergency Alert

It was unknown whether Del Rosario or Aquino have been informed or aware of the new U.S. warning, but the U.S. Embassy told its citizens that a series of credible security threats have been identified in southern Mindanao, particularly in Region 11 or the Davao Region; Region 12 in North and South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani and Maguindanao provinces.

“Individuals associated with known extremist and insurgent groups are believed to have been conducting surveillance on a number of public locations in these areas, as possible targets of interest.  Extremists may elect to use conventional or non-conventional weapons, and target both official and private interests. Examples of such targets include high-profile sporting events, residential areas, business offices, hotels, clubs, restaurants, places of worship, schools, public areas, and other destinations, whether frequented by foreigners or locals,” the U.S. Embassy said.

“As a result, the Embassy has placed restrictions on all U.S. government travel to these areas. The Embassy advises all U.S. citizens residing in southern Mindanao to exercise extreme caution and re-evaluate their personal safety situation. The Embassy strongly reiterates its recommendation that U.S. citizens exercise extreme caution when travelling to Mindanao and keep personal safety and security in mind during any stay in Mindanao,” it added.

The Embassy reminded American citizens to remain vigilant and maintain an appropriate level of personal security in all circumstances by reviewing personal safety plans; remaining aware of their surroundings, including local events; and monitoring local news sources for updates.

President Barack Obama who is also scheduled to visit Manila has earlier cancelled his official visit.

The U.S. warning came barely a month after separatist Moro National Liberation Front rebels loyal to Nur Misuari simultaneously attacked Zamboanga City in Mindanao, where other rebel groups, including terrorist organizations such as Jemaah Islamiya and its allies are actively operating.

The Zamboanga fighting, which lasted three weeks, had killed and wounded over 400 people and left the city, which was formerly under Muslim rule, in ruins.