Wednesday, November 20, 2013

MNLF: In the Midst of the MNLF Renewed Freedm Struggle: OIC asks MNLF and PGH to Continue Peace Process

Posted to the MNLF Website (Nov 21): In the Midst of the MNLF Renewed Freedm Struggle: OIC asks MNLF and PGH to Continue Peace Process


After the 19-day war in Zamboanga City last September, 2013 between the Armed Forces of the Philippines (soldiers) and the freedom fighters of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) led by Ustaj Khabir Malik, the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) has issued notice to continue the peace process to find a comprehensive solution to the Filipino-Moro war in Mindanao.

The Bangsamoro Grand Mufti, Al-Ustaj Abdulbaki Abubakar, who is the Secretary-General of the MNLF Foreign Affairs Committee, has provided  with the OIC communication to this effect. Full report is the following:


(1) Due to time constrain, the planned 5th Tripartite Meeting between the Government of the Philippines (GPH), Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) will be held after 40th Council of Foreign Ministers (CFM) in Guinea.

(2) OIC General Secretariat will communicate with Mr. Nur Misuari, Chairman of MNLF, to appoint a delegation to represent the MNLF at the 40th CFM and 5th Tripartite Meeting. Appeals to the Government of the Philippines to take into account the historic and important role of MNLF Chairman Mr. Nur Misuari in the peace process.

(3) Chair of the PCSP, Indonesia, will prepare the report to the next CFM. The report will be communicated to the members of the PCSP, through the Secretary General, before submission to the CFM. The report will include the factual part and the following recommendations of the committee:

(a) The Committee reiterates its commitment to continue to engage in contributing to the comprehensive solution  for peace in Southern Philippines and importance of the continuation of the facilitating role of the OIC for the peace process between the Government of the Philippines and the Moro National Liberation Front.

(b) Acceleration efforts for the activation of the Bangsamoro Coordination Forum.

(c) Invite Member States, subsidiary organs and specialized and affiliated institutions as well as Islamic charitable organizations to increase their humanitarian assistance with a particular attention to humanitarian attention in the City of Zamboanga after the incident in September 2013."


On this OIC notice, MNLF Chairman Prof. Nur Misuari has expressed positiveness to attend the 2013 40th Conference of Foreign Ministers in Guinea as being the sole spokesman and representative of the Bangsamoro people of Filipino-colonized Mindanao through MNLF representation.

The MNLF Chairman has expressed confidence on the OIC General Secretariat to listen to the aggrieved side of the oppressed Bangsamoro people against the Aquino government that showed no respect towards the implementation of the Septemver 2, 1996 MNLF-OIC-GRP Jakarta Peace Agreements.

It is seen that the negative attitude of the Aquino government to ignore the correct and complete implementation of the 1996 peace Agreement led to the 19-day September AFP-MNLF war in Zamboanga City. The bloody war resulted in the burning of 10,160 houses and mosques by the AFP soldiers, big number of casualties and devastating humanitarian disaster situation. Until now more than 100,000 refugees mostly Muslims are still desperately suffering homeless in the city public grandstand. Worse, children have become sick and 25 already died. The death toll may just continue because the Aquino government have no definite program for their welfare and suffering.     



CPP slams AFP offensives

From the Visayan Daily Star (Nov 21): CPP slams AFP offensives

The Communist Party of the Philippines slammed the military in Negros for allegedly waging offensives against the New People’s Army, despite the ceasefire, citing the recent encounter in Brgy. Magballo, Kabankalan City.

The CPP said in a statement it issued that it is apparent that the AFP leadership is completely oblivious to the state of calamity and difficulties being experienced by the people of Negros.

The two successive encounters between the 47th Infantry Battalion and about 25 NPA members, that lasted for 10 minutes, caused injuries to a member of the Philippine Army, who is now in a stable condition.

It also claimed that NPA units in Negros, including those that figured in an armed encounter with 47th IB, have gone on active defense mode to extend assistance to calamity victims, in line with the ceasefire declaration issued by the CPP from November 14 to Nov. 24.

“If they are for the people, they (CPP-NPA) should stop the disasters that they are creating on the people”, Col. Jon Aying, 303rd Infantry Brigade commander, who supervises the internal security operations in Negros Occidental, said.

The CPP said “it is apparent that the Aquino regime does not want to reciprocate issuance of a ceasefire declaration because it does not want the AFP to cease its offensives against the NPA in the vain hope of meeting the targets of its Oplan Bayanihan war of suppression against the people”.

It said the ceasefire declaration, that covers NPA units in typhoon-hit regions, including Negros island, will remain in effect until Nov. 24. The declarations directs concerned units of the NPA to concentrate on the immediate task of assisting typhoon victims to carry out rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts. The CPP also cautioned NPA fighters against hostile movements of the AFP.

While the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace Process acknowledged the CPP-NPA 10-day ceasefire in typhoon-affected areas, it said it will need more than a token suspension of armed hostilities in a limited area.

“We therefore urge the CPP to extend a humanitarian ceasefire indefinitely and nationwide, and join the rest of the country in mobilizing all necessary resources in a human chain of service to our people,” the OPPAP said.

Operation Damayan airlift operations intensify

From DVIDS (Nov 19): Operation Damayan airlift operations intensify

CLARK AIR BASE, Philippines – Airmen from the 36th Airlift Squadron launched 24-hour C-130H aircraft night operations in support of Operation Damayan Nov. 18, substantially multiplying the joint airlift component here and increasing the flow of airlifts from Tacloban, the region most affected by Typhoon Haiyan.

Five C-130H crews from Yokota Air Base, Japan, are conducting multiple nighttime sorties that each carry up to 42,000 pounds of humanitarian aid and relief supplies from Manila to Tacloban. After offloading cargo at Tacloban, the crews airlift approximately 120 Tacloban residents per mission to Manila.

“Airlifters are working around the clock to support the joint airlift operation,” said Lt. Col. Jeffrey Menasco, 36th Airlift Squadron commander.“Our team is focused on providing professional airlift as we take part in this historic mission to help our Philippine allies.”

As joint service and Armed Forces of the Philippines members escorted passengers onto the aircraft at Tacloban Airport, special care was taken to assist the elderly and parents with infants.

“We are assisting evacuees with the utmost dignity and respect,”Menasco said. The people of the Philippines are our friends and neighbors - our forward presence here in the Western Pacific and close relationship with regional allies allows us to rapidly respond to crises.”

While the crews began nighttime operations, a team of eight operators from the 36th deployed forward to Camp Aguinaldo to assist in standing up Air Component Coordination Element, Joint Task Force-505. The unit interfaces and provides air liaison with host-nation, joint and multinational response entities during Operation Damayan.

“As this operation builds, we look forward to refining our interoperability and improving upon lessons learned across the joint and combined operations community,”Menasco said.

The 36th AS arrived at Clark Air Base Nov. 16 after an airdrop exercise with their Bangladeshi counterparts. The training proved to be timely and useful, offering the opportunity to rapidly set up an off-station operations center and integrate with host-nation assets. Now, they are tasked to put the training to real-world use.

Airlift planners from the 36th jumped into action upon arriving, establishing a makeshift mission-planning cell collocated with Marine Aircraft Group 36, 3rd Marine Expeditionary Battalion, Air Combat Element. The Marines, along with airmen from the 353rd Special Operations Group at Kadena, provided the 36th AS with the most current information and operational points of contact for their situational awareness.

The flight line at Clark Air Base is a veritable "who’s who" of joint air assets such as Air Force MC-130 Talons, Navy P-3 Orions, Marine MV-22 Ospreys and C-130Js. Yokota’s C-130H aircraft are a welcome addition to the lineup, substantially increasing the capacity of the response effort.

“The C-130 Hercules is a proven workhorse that is capable of flying into the remotest of regions,”said 1st Lt. Travis Wilkes, a C-130H pilot assigned to the 36th AS. “Combined with our nighttime capability, the Herc is an unstoppable force when it comes to executing tactical airlift.”

The 24-hour airlift operations continue to launch from Clark Air Base this week. The 36th Airlift Squadron supports the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade in assisting the Philippine government's ongoing relief efforts in response to the aftermath Typhoon Haiyan.

61 foreign aircraft, 14 naval ships helping in 'Yolanda' relief efforts --AFP

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 20): 61 foreign aircraft, 14 naval ships helping in 'Yolanda' relief efforts --AFP

The Armed Forces of the Philippines said on Wednesday that 61 foreign aircraft and 14 naval ships are working hand-in-hand with Filipino rescue agencies in the ongoing relief and rehabilitation efforts for the victims of supertyphoon "Yolanda."

The AFP said the total is broken down as follows:

-- Australia: two C-17s and three C-130s.

-- United States: eight naval ships (one aircraft carrier, two destroyers, two cruisers, one marine tender, one dry cargo ship, one pathfinder ship, 10 C-130s, two C-12s, two C-2s and five V-22s.

-- Canada: two cargo planes.

-- India: one C-130.

-- Indonesia: three C-130s.

-- Israel: one Boeing 747.

-- Japan: one KC-767, two C-130s.

-- Malaysia: five C-130s, one Boeing 727.

-- Qatar: two C-17s.

-- Russia: one Antonov and three IL-76TA.

-- Singapore: two C-130s.

-- South Korea: three C-130s, three C-130H, three Harmony and two C-130 Harmony.

-- Sweden: one C-130.

-- Taiwan: four C-130s.

-- Thailand: one landing platform dock and two Seahawk helicopters and one landing ship tank.

-- United Kingdom: one destroyer and helicopter.

On the AFP side, 500 vehicles of all types, along with 23 aircraft and 31 naval vessels, are being utilized in the ongoing "Yolanda" relief works.

Meanwhile, Joint Task Force (JFT) commander Lt. Gen. John Wissler, who is also the head of the 3rd Marine Expedition Force, is pleased to note that recovery efforts have taken a great stride in the past two days.

Wissler noted that "Yolanda" has been one of the most devastating typhoons to hit the Philippines in a long time, the magnitude of which would have been difficult for any country to overcome.

"But the resilience of the Philippine people and the coordination of both the Philippine government with the US military, the joint force that’s here and also with all of the international and US national aid organizations is making a great difference every day. It saves lives," the JTF 505 commander said.

He stressed that their short-term goals for the moment are literally to restore relief supplies or to get relief supplies to the Philippine people.

"We want to restore some normalcy in their lives. What that particularly means is food, water and shelter. We've begun an air bridge between Manila and the City of Tacloban which has initiated a significant surge in these relief supplies. From Tacloban, we pushed supplies out to other areas, Ormoc and Guiuan. And from there out in individual endeavors to the people outside those major hubs in a hub- and-support system that has worked very well," Wissler said.

1 of PAF C-130s now undergoing maintenance

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 20): 1 of PAF C-130s now undergoing maintenance

One of the three Lockheed C-130 "Hercules" cargo aircraft being used by the Philippine Air Force (PAF) is now undergoing maintenance.

This was confirmed by PAF spokesperson Col. Miguel Ernesto Okol Wednesday.

"(The aircraft is undergoing) normal maintenance activities. It should be operational within a day or two," he added.

Okol stressed that no damage has been sustained by the aircraft, adding that it is normal for the latter to be taken out of the flight line every now and then for maintenance work.

The PAF's C-130s have been the aerial workhorse of the government in terms of mercy and relief flights in the "Yolanda" battered provinces in the Visayas Region.

Okol also declined to comment on reports that fuel stocks of the PAF are running out.

"There's no announcement on that yet," he added.

DND to bid out P18.2 billion requirements for 2014 to 2017

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 21): DND to bid out P18.2 billion requirements for 2014 to 2017

The Department of National Defense (DND) announced Thursday the allocation of P18.278 billion for its requirement and the military's on petroleum, oil, lubricants (POL) for 2014 to 2017.

The money will be sourced from the General Appropriations Act.

The four-year contract can be broken down into:

-AFP GPOL Requirements for NCR: P2,394,692,511.81

-AFP GPOL Requirements for Luzon: P4,578,070,573.80

-AFP GPOL Requirements for Visayas: P1,863,211,604.25

-AFP GPOL Requirements for Mindanao:P5,471,073,669.01

-AFP AVGAS Requirements Nationwide: P3,649,769,320,29

-DND GPOL Requirements Nationwide: P321,953,901. 82.

Bidding is restricted to Filipino-owned corporations or businesses or with those outstanding capital stocks or interests owned 60 percent by Filipinos.

Pre-bid conference is on Nov. 27 and bid opening at Dec. 10.

Both will be held at the DND Bidding Awards Committee Conference Room, Right Wing, Basement, DND Building, Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

Bid documents are now available at the Bidding and Awards Committee Secretariat for P75,000.

U.S. reiterates 'pivot' to Asia policy

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 20): U.S. reiterates 'pivot' to Asia policy
The United States reassured its allies in Asia on Wednesday that its pledges to the "critical region" remain the centerpiece of its foreign policy.

No matter how many hot spots emerge elsewhere, Washington will continue to pay its "highest level attention" to Asia and deepen its "enduring commitment to this critical region," said Susan Rice, U.S. President Barack Obama's national security advisor.

Rice outlined the Obama Administration's rebalance to Asia, dubbed as a "cornerstone" of its foreign policy at an address in Georgetown University.

She also said Obama would visit Asia in April to strengthen U.S. ties across the region, after a canceled trip to Asia in October due to government shutdown.

Stressing security as an underpinning of all progress, Rice said 60 percent of U.S. fleet will be based in the Pacific by 2020.

"Our military presence in the region is vital, not only to deter threats and defend allies, but also to provide speedy humanitarian assistance and unmatched disaster response," said Rice, citing U.S. military aid to typhoon rescue operations in the Philippines.

One of the most pressing security goals for the United States is to roll back the threat posed by the nuclear program of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), said Rice.

The United States will continue to join with international partners, especially with China, to pile pressure on the DPRK to denuclearize, she said.

Rice threatened to expand both national and multilateral sanctions against the DPRK as "costs to future provocations."

The United States seeks to operationalize a new model of major-country relations with China, said Rice, adding that it involves managing competition while forging deeper cooperation on issues of common interest, such as the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

As many of Asia's most vexing security challenges are transnational security threats, the United States will increase its engagement with regional institutions like the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and the East Asia Summit, said Rice.

"America's commitment won't expire a few months or few years from now," she said, claiming that the United States will be a reliable, constant, strong and steady being in Asia for the long haul.

DND allots P216M to modernize PH Navy ship

From the Manila Bulletin (Nov 20): DND allots P216M to modernize PH Navy ship

In line with the on-going Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) upgrade and modernization, the Department of National Defense (DND) on Wednesday announced that it is allocating P216 million for the modernization of Philippine Navy’s BRP Artemio Ricarte (PS-37), one of the three Jacinto Class Patrol Vessels (JCPV).

BRP Ricarte was acquired by the Philippine government from the United Kingdom in August 1997.

Based on a notice released by the DND Bids and Awards Committee (BAC), the money being allocated for the project will be used to update the ship’s marine engineering upgrade.

This means development, design, operation, and maintenance of watercraft propulsion and on-board systems such as power and propulsion plants, machinery, piping, automation, and control systems for marine vehicles.

The project is phase 2 of the JCPV upgrade with phase 1 being the installation of the new Raytheon gyro compass, Sperry Marine Naval BridgeMaster E Series Surface Search Radar, GPS, anemometer, and EM logs completed in 2005.

An invitation to bid published by the DND said interested parties must have completed a similar project within the last five years.

It added that winning bidders must be able to deliver the goods or required service within 180 calendar working days upon the opening of the letter of credit.

Pre-bid conference is set on Nov. 22 at the DND Bidding and Awards Committee Conference Room, Right Wing, Basement, DND Building, Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

Foreign military aid relief efforts; AFP plans orchestrated program

From Malaya (Nov 20): Foreign military aid relief efforts; AFP plans orchestrated program

AFP spokesman Maj. Gen. Domingo Tutaan said 17 foreign armed forces, including the United States which has brought in several ships, are helping in the delivery of relief supplies to the victims.
He said other foreign countries that have sent military personnel and assets to the country are Japan, Australia, Brunei, Canada, Indonesia, Israel, South Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, Spain, Sweden, Thailand, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, and Vietnam. 
Tutaan said the plan is to scatter these foreign troops so that all areas are serviced. American forces will reportedly focus in the worst-hit Tacloban City, Ormoc City and Guiuan town in Samar.
“There are too many of them, there are plenty of them so we have to orchestrate, so that there will be synchronization of efforts,” said Tutaan.
Yolanda hit nine regions after it made landfall on November 8, including three in the Visayas, with Tacloban the worst hit. Yolanda also left 3,982 dead. At least 1,600 are missing. Authorities continue to recover bodies and are planning to dig a new mass grave.
President Aquino returned to Manila yesterday afternoon after three days of visiting some of the devastated areas in Samar and Leyte.
Upon arrival at the Villamor Air Base in Pasay City, he proceeded to Pier 15 in Manila to inspect the loading of relief goods to ships that would take these to the typhoon victims.
Aquino earlier said that he would return to Manila only after he is satisfied with the situation on the ground, including relief and rebuilding efforts.
“The President noted the significant improvement in the situation. But of course, there is much work left to do,” said Ramon Carandang, head of the Presidential Communications Strategic and Planning Office. 
He said Aquino also has a number of important meetings in Manila, including a budget meeting.
Lt. Gen. Roy Deveraturda, commander of the military’s Central Command based in Cebu City, said the plan is to divide up the typhoon-hit areas and decide which military forces operate where, so that relief efforts would be maximized.
“We’re planning to ask the British Royal Navy to concentrate on the Western Visayas region to assess and deliver food, water and supplies to smaller islands... We already have the Americans in Samar and Leyte and Israeli doctors and relief teams in the northern tip of Cebu,” he said.
About 50 US ships and aircraft have been mobilized in the disaster zone, led by the USS George Washington, a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. The USS Freedom, a combat ship for coastal waters, arrived in Brunei on Monday en route to the Philippines.
A British destroyer anchored off Cebu and its helicopters were flying mercy missions to smaller islands, Deveraturda said. Once a larger British carrier arrived with seven helicopters, that would be the best platform for relief for the Western Visayas. A Canadian team with a C10 plane has been operating in and around the western island of Iloilo.
“We are doing another assessment of the affected areas to determine the needs and match them with our available resources. For instance, we have three Japanese ships with ground mobility and heavy equipment arriving in several days and we’ll look at where and how they would be effective,” Deveraturda said.
Tutaan said the Philippine and foreign armed forces are organized under Joint Task Force Yolanda which was activated last Saturday. A multinational coordinating center was also put up in Camp Aguinaldo to coordinate the efforts. The task force and the coordinating center are headed by AFP vice chief Lt. Gen. Alan Luga.
“The general intent is to orchestrate all our efforts,” he said.
He said the task force was established also to “prevent a duplication of efforts, thereby not leaving any areas not being service.”
The task force and the center will be coordinating with the National Disaster and Risk Reduction Coordinating Council “to better synchronize and systematize the collusion of efforts,” he said.
“The primordial concern is to be able to bring the necessary relief and other necessities for the victims of typhoon Yolanda, to where it is needed. This is part of the national government’s efforts in order that all areas will be addressed and will be serviced as soon as possible and to start off later on probably, in the very near future, with rehabilitation efforts,” said Tutaan.
The United Nations has expressed fears that some islands may still not have been reached by aid workers, but the government denied this.
“Basically, we’ve provided everyone with relief. What we are doing right now is sustainment,” said Eduardo del Rosario, executive director of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.
He said government is getting   “overwhelming” support from the international community.
“We are now in the early recovery and rehabilitation phase,” said Del Rosario, adding the recovery and rehabilitation effort overlaps with the ongoing relief operations.
“While the relief operation is ongoing, we’re proceeding with the early recovery and the rehabilitation phase. While we are on the rehabilitation phase, we can undertake relief operation,” said Del Rosario
The government said on Tuesday 24,770 personnel, 1,306 vehicles, 104 ships and boats and 163 aircraft had been deployed. A total of 88 medical teams, 43 foreign and 45 local, have spread out across the region.
Asif Ahmad, the British ambassador to the Philippines, said the relief operations could last months, if not longer.
“How long would it take to grow a coconut tree?” he asked. 
Authorities are considering putting up a new grave site in Tacloban City to accommodate more cadavers that are expected to be recovered.
“The grave site is almost filled. That’s why we’re planning to excavate (a new one) near the burial site,” said Senior Supt. Pablito Cordeta, commander of the Task Force Cadaver which is in charge of recovering bodies.
Cordeta, director of the Bureau of Fire Protection in the Eastern Visayas, said the task force recovered 151 bodies in various sites Monday, and these were buried in the mass grave in Barangay Diit.
“Up to this day, our recovery operation is ongoing and we have information that many are still to be recovered in the area,” he said.
Last Saturday, the task force recovered 780 bodies, and 125 on Sunday. 
Aquino, before leaving for Manila, Aquino ordered officials to set up a tent city in Basey town, Western Samar for displaced residents.
From Basey, Aquino proceeded to Ormoc City and inspected the damage to the airport and the city hall. He also met with local officials.
He said he would return to Ormoc in a week and hold meetings with his Cabinet members on concrete actions that can be done for the city.
He also returned to Tacloban City and had a closed-door meeting with local government officials led by Mayor Alfred Romualdez, before returning to Manila.
Mayor Romualdez said “things are getting better” for the residents.
He said there had been difficulties in transporting the relief supplies. But now aid is coming to the city and distribution of food packs is fast, he said.
Romualdez, however, said he could not be sure if all families have been given relief goods. He said some families do not go to barangay halls when goods are being distributed. Some others go to barangays to which they do not belong. To avoid trouble, he said, personnel from the social welfare department give goods to everyone.
He said drinking water is also now available as water purifiers   have been sent to identified areas.
He said what the city needs are more portalets.
Tecson John Lim, city administrator of Tacloban, said the national government has been trying to do its best.
“The President has been through a lot. Perhaps some of the things he mentioned might not have been exactly prudent,” he said. “... I think he has seen and is learning to put this aside, whatever biases he might have had.”
The World Food Programme said it had reached 1.9 million people in need of food. “The reality is we know that there are many more people who have been impacted by the storm,” said executive director Ertharin Cousin.
“We knew that there were at least 2.5 million (in need of food) when we performed our initial assessment.”
Medecins Sans Frontieres painted a bleak picture across the Visayas, especially in Leyte.
In the hardest-hit city, Tacloban, it was clearing a car park to set up a tent hospital which should be up and running within days.
Health Secretary Enrique Ona said government is exerting efforts to ensure access to medical services, supplies, and even newborn care.

Obama seeks to renew Asia role with rescheduled trip

From InterAksyon (Nov 21): Obama seeks to renew Asia role with rescheduled trip

US President Barack Obama will visit Asia in April to push closer ties, an aide said Wednesday, after his earlier cancellation of a trip raised questions about US staying power.

Susan Rice, Obama's adviser for national security, acknowledged disappointment after Obama called off a trip in October to negotiate with Republican lawmakers who shut down the US government to stop his health care reforms.

Rice said Obama would make up with a trip in April, saying: "Our friends in Asia deserve and will continue to get our highest-level attention."

"No matter how many hotspots emerge elsewhere, we will continue to deepen our enduring commitment to this critical region," Rice said in an address at Georgetown University.

Rice said US assistance to the typhoon-hit Philippines, which includes the deployment of more than 1,000 Marines, represented a "broader pledge" to all of Asia.

"America's commitment won't expire a few months or a few years from now. The United States of America will be there -- reliable, constant, strong and steady -- for the long haul," she said.

Rice did not specify Obama's itinerary in April. In October, he planned stops in the Philippines, Malaysia and, for international summits, Indonesia and Brunei.

Even US allies quietly voiced concern over Obama's no-show, which offered an outsized role to Chinese President Xi Jinping at the meetings.

Obama, who spent part of his childhood in Indonesia, pledged in his first term to "pivot" US foreign policy toward Asia where the regional order is being transformed by the rapid growth of China's economy and military.

But in his second term, Obama has focused on Syria's civil war and easing hostility with Iran and the United States has put a priority on taming its debt after two wars and a recession.

Rice said that Secretary of State John Kerry, who has invested the most time in the Middle East since taking office, would return to Asia in December.

China welcome in trade pact

Rice said that the United States would stay true to its pledge to shift most of its navy toward Asia by 2020 and would pursue the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade pact that Obama hopes will shape the coming order in Asia.

Rice reached out to China, which in the past has called the trade pact -- which is also unpopular with much of Obama's labor base -- an effort to encircle it.

"We welcome any nation that is willing to live up to the high standards of this agreement to join and share the benefits of TPP -- and that includes China," Rice said.

But Rice also called on China to take action on US concerns including cyber-espionage. Earlier Wednesday, the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission, a government advisory panel, urged the United States to consider tougher actions including possible sanctions to stop spying.

Rice also voiced alarm over China's disputes with its neighbors including US allies Japan and the Philippines, calling the tensions a "growing threat to regional peace and security and to US interests."

Rice urged all sides to "reject coercion and aggression" and renewed the US call for a code of conduct to govern disputes in the South China Sea.

In a potential indication that White House is thinking of its legacy, Rice hailed democratic reforms in Myanmar and tied them to Obama's outreach to the longtime pariah state since the start of his presidency.

"If progress continues, by the end of President Obama's second term we hope to have helped Burma re-establish itself as a regional leader and as a thriving, if nascent, prosperous democracy," Rice said, using Myanmar's former name.

But Rice said that Myanmar needed to do more to protect minorities including the mostly Muslim Rohingya and to ensure free elections in 2015.

China's hospital ship Peace Ark embarks on relief mission to the Philippines

From InterAksyon (Nov 21): China's hospital ship Peace Ark embarks on relief mission to the Philippines

China's state-of-the-art hospital ship the Peace Ark

The Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy's hospital ship the Peace Ark will depart on a typhoon relief mission to the Philippines on Thursday, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said on Wednesday.

With full-load displacement of 14,300 tons, the hospital ship has 300 beds, 20 ICUs, eight operating theaters, and can accommodate 40 major procedures a day.

"We hope its mission will help ease the lack of medical services in the disaster areas in the Philippines, as a token of Chinese people's friendship to the Philippine people," Hong Lei said at a daily press briefing.

The death toll from Typhoon Haiyan (local name: Yolanda) stands at 4,011, the Philippine disaster agency said Wednesday. The number of those injured has risen to 18,557, while 1,602 people remained missing.

China is keeping a close eye on the disaster and wants to help heal the wounded by sending manpower and humanitarian assistance, Hong said.

Besides the hospital ship, emergency medical and rescue teams of 16 rescue workers from the China Red Cross departed on Wednesday, he said.

A second batch will depart on Saturday and another medical team of 51 emergency personnel will depart "soon," Hong said.

Th China Soong Ching Ling Foundation (CSCLF) has provided 200 prefabricated houses, worth about 3.2 million yuan (about $525,000). Chinese humanitarian aid arrived on Monday and Tuesday in the central Philippine city of Cebu, a center for relief goods distribution.

The relief aid, including tents and blankets, was shipped by a China Eastern Airlines cargo plane and handed over to the Philippine Department of Social Welfare and Development. It will now be sent to Tacloban, one of the worst-hit cities in the central Philippine province of Leyte.

LIKE 'MINI-SUBIC' | DND to bid out P313.6-M naval project on Oyster Bay, near Spratlys

From InterAksyon (Nov 21): LIKE 'MINI-SUBIC' | DND to bid out P313.6-M naval project on Oyster Bay, near Spratlys

In a move seen to raise alarm bells yet again in Beijing, a Philippine defense department panel will open early next month bid documents for a P314-million project to modernize the naval base facility at Oyster Bay, overlooking the West Philippine Sea.

Philippine officials stressed Wednesday the improvements at the facility—touted to boost territorial defense and serve as shelter for naval warships, including those of the United States that is seeking an agreement to increase its military’s rotational presence in the country---are not directed at any particular country.

One official, however, described the envisioned look of the facility after the upgrade as like a “mini-Subic,” a reference to the now-bustling Freeport that for seven decades served as the largest US naval base outside the US mainland. Though the US base at Subic was dismantled with the defeat of a treaty extending its lease in 1991, Subic Bay has been hosting an increasing number of US warships on recreation and refuel trips the past few years.

The Oyster Bay area in Palawan, meanwhile, is just 160 kms away from the Spratly island chain,  an oil-rich area being claimed in whole by China and which includes the Philippine-occupied Kalayaan Island Group.

The Department of National Defense has set Dec. 2 for the opening of the bid documents of participating firms for the construction and improvement of the Oyster Bay facility, an undeveloped in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan, said an announcement issued by Assistant Secretary Efren Q. Fernandez, chairman of the Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) for the Bases Support and Logistics System project for the Philippine Navy.

Fernandez did not name the firms expected to bid for the multi-million project.
Earlier, the commander of the Naval Forces West (NAVFORWEST), Commodore Joseph Rostum O. Peña likened the conversion of Oyster Bay into a naval facility as like building a “mini-Subic”.

The project has two segments: construction of pier and harbor at the Naval detachment (Lot 10) worth P237,121,130.22 with a timeframe of 406 calendar days from opening of the Letter of Credit; and construction of support naval facilities (Lot 11) worth P76,493,826.89 with 250 calendar days.

The bidding process began November 11 with the purchase of bid documents, followed by a pre-bid conference on Nov. 19.

The development of Oyster Bay is projected to be finished before President Benigno Aquino III’s term ends in 2016.

China the past 18 months has stepped up its incursions into the West Philippine Sea [how the Philippines refers to the South China Sea], maintaining both civilian and military ships in Ayungin Reef in KIG and Bajo de Masinloc (Panatag/Scarborough Shoal) in Masinloc, Zambales.

Deflecting criticism that developing Oyster Bay might be seen as an “in-your-face’ move by the Chinese, the spokesperson of the Western Command (Westcom), 1Lt. Cheryl Tindog, said the mandate of the Philippine Navy is to develop its naval facilities, and developing a place like Oyster Bay is not directed at any country like China.

Tindog said: “It’s for our territorial defense, for our internal security operations. Actually, that’s part of our mandate of territorial defense . . . It shouldn’t be surprising. What would be surprising is our failure to improve our capability for something like that despite the fact it is part of our mandate.”

She added that the Navy is “happy that these efforts to improve our capability in terms of territorial defense has materialized.”

DND allotting P300 million for naval facility in Palawan

From the Daily Tribune (Nov 20): DND allotting P300 million for naval facility in Palawan

The Department of National Defense (DND) is allotting more than P300 million for the improvement of a naval facility along Oyster Bay in Palawan, facing the West Philippine Sea where the disputed Kalayaan Islands Group (KIGs) or the Spratlys are located.

The DND, in its official website, opened for public bidding the bases support and logistics system project for the Philippine Navy in Palawan worth P313,614,957.11.

The projects include construction of a pier and harbor with approved budget of P237,121,130.22 and putting up of support facilities, like road networks, worth P76,493,826.89 at the Naval Detachment Oyster Bay, Puerto Princesa City.

The military’s Western Command (Wescom), particularly the Naval Forces West (Navforwest), welcomed the projects at the Naval Detachment Oyster Bay as huge boost to the unit’s capability in performing its tasks, especially in protecting the country’s territorial integrity.

Commodore Natalio Abinuman, Navforwest commander, said that while the Naval Detachment Oyster Bay has an existing pier, the structure is in bad shape.

“If we have like that (improvement projects), it is better because we can properly support our vessels…the pier is rundown and the facilities are not enough like power connection,” said Abinuman.

“Of course, our ships in the West Philippine Sea need support,” added Abinuman.
Aside from extending support to Navy ships in the area, Abinuman also said that improvements on Oyster Bay will surely boost development in the area.

“Hopefully, when the base is fixed through the allocated budget, it will help in the development of the area. It is also for our own good,” said Abinuman.

Abinuman, however, stressed that the improvement projects are not directed against any country, particularly China.

The KIGs or the Spratlys, which are being claimed by the Philippines, China, Taiwan, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam, lie on the West Philippine Sea. Tension between the Philippines and China had been high following Beijing’s increased activities in the disputed area.

Lt. Cheryl Tindog, spokesman of the Wescom, echoed Abinuman’s statements, maintaining that the planned improvement of the Naval Detachment Oyster Bay is really needed.

Enrile questions DND’s operations before and after Typhoon Yolanda

From the Business Mirror (Nov 20): Enrile questions DND’s operations before and after Typhoon Yolanda

SENATE Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile on Wednesday grilled Department of National Defense (DND) officials on the department’s operations before and after the onslaught of Supertyphoon Yolanda (international code name Haiyan), and wondered aloud why it did not take the lead in operations to secure and protect concerned communities.
Enrile raised the questions in his interpellation during plenary debates on the DND’s 2014 budget proposal to Sen. Loren Legarda, who chaired the finance subcommittee that deliberated and endorsed the agency’s proposed budget for plenary approval.
“Why is it that the ground troops were not in place to prevent looting and mayhem in the area when they were supposed to maintain order?” he asked.
Enrile said the Armed Forces is usually alerted on weather disturbances in the country so they can “prepare all their resources to assist the population whenever the typhoon passes, including riverine equipment, in order to secure people who are hit by floods.”
“I’m sure they have done that. That’s why I was wondering why people were complaining that there were no communications. The secretary of National Defense can communicate with any member of the military who are in the country at any time, including the Commander in Chief,” he said.
Legarda said she was informed by DND officials that Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin was in the area a day before the typhoon made landfall, one brigade was deployed to Leyte, and one platoon to Tacloban City.
Gazmin told reporters after the approval of the DND budget that only one platoon was deployed to Tacloban City at the time since the city had been declared as “insurgency-free” and as such, the police takes the lead there as earlier agreed upon by the National Police and the Armed Forces.
“Since this is a police matter, the National Police should take over… There were soldiers, but only one platoon,” he said.
Legarda gave Enrile the same explanation, to which he said, “You cannot expect the police to operate in a calamity condition because their families are also affected. That’s why we have the military manpower.”
He said this was the reason for the organization of the National Disaster Control Center.
“The military is always the one in command with the calamity operations. They are the first one to be on the scene,” Enrile said.
Legarda insisted that the Armed Forces “was not remiss” in its duties in relation to Typhoon Yolanda. Mia Gonzalez.

Disqualified armor-vest supplier seeks DND panel’s reconsideration

From the Business Mirror (Jul 20): Disqualified armor-vest supplier seeks DND panel’s reconsideration

THE Korean company that submitted the lowest bid for the supply of 44,080 armor vests for the Marines and the Army, but was disqualified at the post-bidding stage by the Department of National Defense’s Bids and Awards Committed (DND-BAC), has asked the panel to reconsider its decision.
Kolon Global Corp., through its lawyers Dennis Manalo, Noel Lazaro and Darwin Ocampo, asked the DND-BAC, headed by Defense Assistant Secretary Efren Fernandez, to reconsider its earlier decision and reinstate the company as the winner, owing to the “absence of legal and justifiable reasons by the committee.”
“The grounds you relied upon in post-disqualifying Kolon are bereft of support, either from the bidding documents, where there are categorical, positive and unmistakable definition or, where not so defined therein, from the widely and internationally accepted standard design of measurement,” the lawyers said in the reconsideration they filed for the Korean company on November 15.
“Accordingly, Kolon respectfully pleads for the reconsideration of our client’s post-disqualification and requests for its reinstatement as the winning bidder of the project,” they added.
Manalo, Lazaro and Ocampo asked the DND-BAC to seriously look into the merits of the proposal of the Korean company and rule in its favor, otherwise it will not only violate the government’s procurement process, but even reinforces the belief that it is playing favorites.
“Any unwarranted and unjustifiable claim to the contrary trivializes the country’s procurement policy and effort, especially in these trying times, and lends credence to a possibility that the BAC is playing favorites instead of weighing our client’s merits,” the three lawyers said in their letter.
Kolon maintained that it did not only meet the requirements of the DND for the soldiers’ force-protection gear, but even surpassed industry standards.
The DND-BAC has accepted, evaluated and considered the bid of P800 million by Kolon for the P1.763.2- billion armor vests of the Army and the Marines, but it later disqualified Kolon in a post-qualification meeting on November 11, because it claimed the ballistic inserts (armor plates) of the Korean vest manufacturer are of “single-curve design” and the samples have shorter dimensional measurements than required.
The DND-BAC required a “multi-curve design” for the ballistic inserts “to avoid the possibility of body injury due to secondary impact of plate to the body upon the bullet impact, create an angle of incidence for increased bullet deflection and for better ergonomic fitting and comfort.”
However, the lawyers said the BAC erred in declaring that Kolon’s body armors are single-curve in design.
“Our client’s design is multi-curve. Kolon uses human factors in engineering data points within a three-axis plane to decide on the radius used in its plates. The curvature of the plate follows the shape of the human torso as closely as possible in order to maximize performance and comfort,” they said.
“Kolon had already taken into consideration the contours in the body in making its body armors,” they added. “In fact, Kolon has made various scientific studies to surpass industry standards and provide the best protection possible.”
“The DND without any substantial justification deprived Kolon of its right to be awarded as the winning bidder. Our client offered the best bid for the project. In fact, it was even declared as the Lowest Calculated Bid-- the second lowest bid trailing behind by a staggering P357,000,000,” the three lawyers said.

NPA rebels torch construction equipment

From the Mindanao Examiner blog site (Nov 21): NPA rebels torch construction equipment

Communist rebels torched construction equipment in a raid in the southern Philippine province of Zamboanga del Norte, an army spokesman said.

Captain Jefferson Somera, of the 1st Infantry Division, said about 15 New People’s Army rebels raided the village of Titik in the town of Sindangan. He said there was no report of casualties in the attack.

He said the equipment is owned by the ESR Construction Company which is working on a government road project in the province.

Police said among the raiders were four women and that the attack was triggered by the failure of the firm owner, Edmario Sandalo Revelo to pay so-called revolutionary taxes to the rebel group.

"Before the incident there were negotiations on the matter, but unintentionally the rebel group noticed a team of army patrolling in the area and believed that the contractor reported to the team of army prompting them to burn the heavy equipment," said Chief Inspector Ariel Huesca, a regional police spokesman.

"Prior to the incident, the (NPA) group had asked for medicines to the contractor that would be dropped at Josefina (town) in Zamboanga Del Sur at night time near the Saint Claire monastery," he added.

There was no immediate statement from the NPA about the raid, but the rebels have been waging a secessionist war the past decades.

From warriors to delivery boys - soldiers serve as workhorses of Yolanda relief efforts

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 20): From warriors to delivery boys - soldiers serve as workhorses of Yolanda relief efforts

Since day one of the relief operations for the destitute people of Leyte and Western Samar stricken by super typhoon Yolanda, government efforts to bring vital aid to the affected areas had steadily increased both in pace and volume.

Starting from scratch, the logistics hub based in Tacloban City is now delivering relief goods daily to 24 Leyte towns including this city.

The 24 towns are Abuyog, Sta. Fe, Barugo, Javier, San Miguel, Tunga, Julieta, Capoocan, Carigara, Julita, Mac Arthur and Jaro.

Also included are Tolosa, Burauen, Tanauan, Tabon-Tabon, Babatngon, La Paz, Dulag, Pastrana, Mahaplag, Mayorga, Alangalang and Dagami.

These towns are currently receiving 60 sacks of rice daily – up from 30 sacks a day just four days ago - besides other relief goods such as water, canned goods, blankets and tents among others.

The marked improvement in both the pace of delivery and volume of relief goods in the aforementioned towns is mostly due to the influx of aid by air and sea from local and international donors.

But all of these would not have been accomplished without the men and women of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Their task is simple – work as the delivery boys of relief goods.

At first, many of these soldiers believed that their task was just to provide security to relief trucks going in and out of the affected areas.

Among them is Army Pfc. Ronie Cendeño, who is a member of the 71st Infantry Brigade based in Bulacan prior to his deployment in Tacloban City.

“We thought that we have just to escort relief vehicles to their destinations to counter any security threats,” he told the Philippines News Agency Wednesday while en route to Dulag, Leyte, the second of three towns they were to deliver relief goods for the day

Like any other member of his team, he soon found out that aside from running shotgun to relief caravans, they were also to provide the needed muscles – as loaders and unloaders of goods.

His colleague, Pvt. Buenaventura Raygon, said that once they parked their army truck to be loaded, their team would load it themselves.

Upon reaching their destination, the system is reversed – they now unload the trucks of its contents.

“It is exhausting work but we have no complaints. Part of our job as soldiers is to mobilize as a rescue and relief force. We are just hoping that civilians would help us on both ends to somewhat ease some the burden on our part,” Cendeño said.

But if they are the delivery boys, there is also the dispatcher who organizes the movement and schedules of several teams of delivery boys.

He is Lt. Col. Ray Anthony Tumaliuan, the unit commander of the task group for relief operations based at the City Hardware depot in Tacloban city which was designated as the hub of relief operations.

Tumaliuan is a member of the elite Scout Ranger Regiment with four gold crosses to his name.

“I am a scout ranger and an expert in airborne operations; yet here I am – a dispatcher,” he jokingly told the PNA.

But there is one thing that set him apart from most other military men: he is also an expert in crisis management having undertaken one year of training in Australia.

Under his command are 130 soldiers with 5 military and five civilian vehicles.

Of the 15 military trucks: 8 are assigned to ferry deliver relief supplies to the aforementioned towns; 4 are for Tacloban City deliveries; 2 are used to ferry goods from the pier to the distribution hub; and 1 is used to ferry goods from the airport.

Tumaliuan said an ordinary day for them starts at 5 a.m. when they begin to load the military trucks for the first deliveries of the day.

“Each truck had three specific towns to service. Once they accomplished their first deliveries, they immediately return here, wait for their turn to be reloaded and off they go until they have finished deliveries to the three towns that are assigned to,” he explained.

Throughout the day, he keeps track of the whereabouts of his trucks, the state of their road-worthiness and the well-being of his men.

He ensures that all of the 24 towns were provisioned daily – no small task with one who has limited logistics.

“My day usually ends around midnight when the last of the trucks arrive back. We usually wake up at four a.m. so there is not much rest, not even time to take a bath sometimes,” he said.

For Tumaliuan and his men, it is just all part of their sworn duty to the Filipino people.

The same can be said to all the other AFP units deployed elsewhere – in the piers, in the airports and in the warehouses.

From fearless warriors, they have become tireless deliverymen of aid to the destitute victims of typhoon Yolanda.

These are the gallant men of the AFP – the workhorses of the government’s relief efforts.

China's Peace Ark departs for the Philippines Thursday

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 20): China's Peace Ark departs for the Philippines Thursday

The Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy's hospital ship the Peace Ark will depart on a typhoon relief mission to the Philippines on Thursday, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said on Wednesday.

With full-load displacement of 14,300 tons, the hospital ship has 300 beds, 20 ICUs, eight operating theaters, and can accommodate 40 major procedures a day.

"We hope its mission will help ease the lack of medical services in the disaster areas in the Philippines, as a token of Chinese people's friendship to the Philippine people," Hong Lei said at a daily press briefing.

The death toll from Typhoon Haiyan (local name Yolanda) stands at 4,011, the Philippine disaster agency said Wednesday. The number of those injured has risen to 18,557, while 1,602 people remained missing.

China is keeping a close eye on the disaster and wants to help heal the wounded by sending manpower and humanitarian assistance, Hong said.

Besides the hospital ship, emergency medical and rescue teams of 16 rescue workers from the China Red Cross departed on Wednesday, he said.

A second batch will depart on Saturday and another medical team of 51 emergency personnel will depart "soon," Hong said.

Th China Soong Ching Ling Foundation (CSCLF) has provided 200 prefabricated houses, worth about 3.2 million yuan (about 525,000 U.S. dollars). Chinese humanitarian aid arrived on Monday and Tuesday in the central Philippine city of Cebu, a center for relief goods distribution.

The relief aid, including tents and blankets, was shipped by a China Eastern Airlines cargo plane and handed over to the Philippine Department of Social Welfare and Development. It will now be sent to Tacloban, one of the worst-hit cities in the central Philippine province of Leyte.

Kerry to visit PH in December

From Rappler (Nov 20): Kerry to visit PH in December

After postponing his trip to the Philippines due to a storm, US Secretary of State John Kerry will push through with the visit in December.

“Hopefully, there would be no storm,” said Sen Loren Legarda who made the announcement during budget deliberations at the Senate on Wednesday, November 20.

Legarda was responding to questions from Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile as the Senate tackled the 2014 budget of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).

Legarda was the vice-chair of the finance sub-committee that took up the DFA budget.

“Allow me to give the information to your honor that Secretary Kerry is indeed coming in two weeks’ time, by December,” she said.

Kerry was supposed to visit the Philippines in October to represent US President Barack Obama, who cancelled his trip to the country following America’s first government shutdown in 17 years. Kerry also represented Obama at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders’ Summit in Brunei.

Yet the top US diplomat postponed his own trip ahead of Tropical Storm Santi (Nari), which hit Central Luzon.

“Because of the judgment of our pilots… and the approaching typhoon, we are going to postpone the trip that I was going to make to the Philippines. I’m sorry not to be there in the next day or so but the good news is I am absolutely committed to returning in a month or so,” Kerry then said of the Philippine cancellation.

“I’m coming back to the region and I look forward to visiting… our friends in the Philippines,” he added.

Kerry’s December trip comes as the US extends assistance to the Philippines in the aftermath of Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan), the world’s most powerful storm. US warships and soldiers are in central Philippines along with other foreign militaries and aid groups to help in the relief efforts.

The US is among at least 43 countries that sent and pledged aid to the typhoon-battered nation.

The Secretary of State said in a statement on November 11, “I want to assure the people of the Philippines and the many Americans of Filipino heritage that we are working as hard as possible to provide essential assistance to help the Philippine people and their government recover from this tragedy.”

Kerry’s trip also coincides with the Obama administration’s so-called pivot to Asia, Washington’s effort to rebalance its strategic priorities to the Asia-Pacific. Pundits see the “pivot” as a US effort to counter China’s growing military might.

Enrile: Reason for postponement ‘flimsy’

Yet in his interpellation, Enrile said Kerry’s reason for postponing his October trip was “flimsy,” suggesting it might have indicated strains in the Philippines’ ties with the US.

The former Senate President said the Kerry could have used the US “high altitude planes” that “can go over any kind of typhoon in this planet.

Enrile said he discussed the issue to “satisfy his curiosity.” The former defense minister pointed out that during the martial law, a trip cancellation of then President Ronald Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan led to “political relations deteriorating” between the two countries.

The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs has yet to give details on Kerry’s trip but President Benigno Aquino III said that the secretary’s October visit was supposed to touch on:
The President had said he supports Kerry's push to speed up the crafting of a Code of Conduct on the South China Sea. Aquino said the absence of this Code of Conduct “adds to the sense of uncertainty, which is not a factor that would enhance stability and prosperity for all parties concerned.”

FAST FACTS: South China Sea, a decades-long source of tension

Posted to Rappler (Nov 18): FAST FACTS: South China Sea, a decades-long source of tension

DISPUTED. This territory west of the Philippines is claimed by six countries

DISPUTED. This territory west of the Philippines is claimed by six countries

Rival claims to the South China Sea have for decades been a source of tension in the region.

The disputes are expected to be on the agenda during 3 days of talks involving the region's leaders that began in Cambodia on Sunday, November 18.

Below are key facts on the sea and the competing claims:


The South China Sea covers more than 3 million square kilometres (1.16 million square miles) on the western edge of the Pacific, with China and Taiwan to the north, the Philippines to the east, Borneo island to the south, and Vietnam to the west.

It contains hundreds of small islands, islets and rocks, most of which are uninhabited. The Paracel and Spratly chains contain the biggest islands.


The sea is the main maritime link between the Pacific and Indian oceans, giving it enormous trade and military value. Its shipping lanes connect East Asia with Europe and the Middle East.

Major unexploited oil and gas deposits are believed to lie under the seabed.

The sea is home to some of world's biggest coral reefs and, with marine life being depleted close to coasts, it is becoming increasingly important as a source of fish to feed growing populations.


China and Taiwan both claim nearly all of the sea, while Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei each have often overlapping claims to parts of it.

China's claim is based on a historical map of "nine dashes" that approaches the coast of other countries. But rival countries complain the dashes are kept deliberately vague so that no one knows China's exact claims.


Beijing and most other countries know it as the South China Sea. Hanoi calls it the East Sea and Manila officially refers to it as the West Philippine Sea.


China has held all of the Paracel islands since a conflict with South Vietnam in 1974 that left 53 Vietnamese military personnel dead.

Vietnam is believed to occupy or control more than 20 of the Spratly islands and reefs, the most of any claimant.

Taiwan has a garrison controlled by its coastguard on Itu Aba island, which is called Taiping in Chinese and is the largest in the Spratlys. Taiwan announced in July it would deploy longer-range artillery there.

The Philippines occupies nine of the Spratlys, including Thitu island, the second largest in the area. The Philippines has a military presence and civilians living on Thitu, which it calls Pagasa.

China occupies at least seven of the Spratlys including Johnson Reef, which it gained after a naval battle with Vietnam in 1988.

Malaysia occupies three of the Spratlys. The most significant presence is on Swallow Reef, called Layang Layang Island in Malaysia, where it has a naval post and a diving resort.

Brunei does not occupy any land formation but claims a submerged reef and a submerged bank in the Spratlys.


Aside from the 1974 battle for the Paracels, the only other major conflict occurred when Vietnam and China fought a naval battle on Johnson Reef in the Spratlys in 1988 that left 70 Vietnamese military personnel dead.

However, Chinese naval vessels have fired at other times on Vietnamese fishing boats in the area.

In 2011, Vietnam accused Chinese marine surveillance vessels of cutting an oil survey ship's exploration cables, sparking nationalist protests in Vietnamese cities.

In June this year, Vietnam passed a law proclaiming its jurisdiction over all of the Paracel and Spratly islands, triggering Chinese protests.

At about the same time China announced it had created a new city, Sansha, on one of the Paracel islands, which would administer Chinese rule over its South China Sea domain.


In 1995, China began building structures on Mischief Reef, within the Philippines' exclusive economic zone.

Tensions between the two nations started to ratchet up significantly in March 2011, when Chinese vessels harassed a Philippine-chartered gas exploration vessel at Reed Bank.

The Philippines then accused the Chinese of a pattern of intimidation, including firing warning shots at Filipino fishermen and laying buoys around Philippine-claimed islets.

A stand-off between Chinese and Philippine vessels that began in April this year at Scarborough Shoal further inflamed tensions. Philippine Foreign Minister Albert del Rosario accused China of "duplicity" and "intimidation".


The 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations and China adopted a non-binding "declaration of conduct" in 2002 to discourage hostile acts.

But attempts to turn it into a legally binding "code of conduct" have failed.

The dispute has created divisions within ASEAN. A meeting of foreign ministers in July ended for the first time in the bloc's 45-year history without a joint statement because of infighting over the issue.

Meeting host Cambodia, a China ally, rejected a Philippine push for the statement to take a harder line against the Chinese.

PH to upgrade naval detachment facing Spratlys

From Rappler (Nov 20): PH to upgrade naval detachment facing Spratlys

The Philippines is upgrading the facilities of a naval detachment in Oyster Bay in Puerto Princesa City, a location that is extremely strategic to the military because it is facing the disputed Kalayaan Group of Islands (Spratlys) in the West Philipine Sea.

A pier, harbor, and support facilities will be constructed at the Naval Detachment Oyster Bay using P313.6 million from the Department of Energy Capital Outlay.

"The DND/AFP now invites bids for the acquisition of Bases Support and Logistics System Project of the Philippine Navy, particularly for Lot 10 and 11, in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan," reads the invitation to bid posted on the website of the Department of National Defense (DND).

The project comes at a time when Manila is caught in a row with Beijing over the West Philippines Sea (South China Sea). The Philippines has lodged a complaint before the United Nations International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) against China, which virtually claims all of South China Sea. (READ: FAST FACTS: South China Sea, a decades-long source of tension)

"This will improve our support system for the ships we deploy in the West Philippine Sea," said Commodore Natalio Abinuman, commander of the Naval Forces West, on Wednesday, November 20.

The naval detachment has a pier and harbor, but it lacks facilities for the refueling of ships. There is no power cable connection either.

The construction of the pier and harbor has been allocated P237 million, while construction of the support facilities has a budget of P76.5 million. The construction should be completed 406 calendar days and 250 calendar days, respectively, from the opening of Letter of Credit.

The open competitive bidding is restricted to Filipino citizens, sole proprietorships, and partnerships or organizations with at least 75% interest or outstanding capital stocks belonging to Filipino citizens.

The bid will open on December 2. "Bidders should have completed within the last ten (10 years) from the date of submission and receipt of bids, a contract similar to the project," the invitation to bid added.