Thursday, November 28, 2013

More US allies defy China

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Nov 29): More US allies defy China

SINO CARRIER SAILS TOWARD WEST PHILIPPINE SEA The first aircraft carrier of China is steaming toward the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) where it has disputes with the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan over islets and reefs believed to contain vast gas and oil deposits. Manila says the deployment of the carrier to the area raises tensions in the region. AP/XINHUA

South Korean and Japanese flights through China’s new maritime air defense zone added to the international defiance Thursday of rules Beijing says it has imposed in East China Sea but that neighbors and the US have vowed to ignore. 

While China’s surprise announcement last week to create the zone initially raised some tensions in the region, analysts say Beijing’s motive is not to trigger an aerial confrontation but is a more long-term strategy to solidify claims to disputed territory by simply marking the area as its own.

China’s lack of a response so far to the flights—including two US B-52s that flew through the zone on Tuesday—has been an embarrassment for Beijing. Even some Chinese state media outlets suggested Thursday that Beijing may have mishandled the episodes.

“Beijing needs to reform its information release mechanism to win the psychological battles waged by Washington and Tokyo,” the Global Times, a nationalist tabloid published by the Communist Party’s flagship People’s Daily, said in an editorial.

Without prior notice, Beijing began demanding Saturday that passing aircraft identify themselves and accept Chinese instructions or face consequences in an East China Sea zone that overlaps a similar air defense identification zone overseen by Japan since 1969 and initially part of one set up by the U.S. military.

But when tested just days later by US B-52 flights—with Washington saying it made no effort to comply with China’s rules, and would not do so in the future—Beijing merely noted, belatedly, that it had seen the flights and taken no further action.

South Korea’s military said Thursday its planes flew through the zone this week without informing China and with no apparent interference. Japan also said its planes have continuing to fly through it after the Chinese announcement, while the Philippines, locked in an increasingly bitter dispute with Beijing over South China Sea islands, said it also was rejecting China’s declaration.

Technical ability questioned

Analysts question China’s technical ability to enforce the zone due to a shortage of early warning radar aircraft and in-flight refueling capability. However, many believe that China has a long-term plan to win recognition for the zone with a gradual ratcheting-up of warnings and possibly also eventual enforcement action.

“With regard to activity within the zone, nothing will happen—for a while,” said June Teufel Dreyer, a China expert at the University of Miami.  “Then the zone will become gradually enforced more strictly. The Japanese will continue to protest, but not much more, to challenge it.”

That may wear down Japan and effectively change the status quo, she said.

The zone is seen primarily as China’s latest bid to bolster its claim over a string of uninhabited Japanese-controlled islands in the East China Sea—known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China. Beijing has been ratcheting up its sovereignty claims since Tokyo’s privatization of the islands last year.

But the most immediate spark for the zone likely was Japan’s threat last month to shoot down drones that China says it will send to the islands for mapping expeditions, said Dennis Blasko, an Asia analyst at think tank CNA’s China Security Affairs Group and a former Army attache in Beijing.

Awkward time

The zone comes at an awkward time. Although Beijing’s ties with Tokyo are at rock bottom, it was building good will and mutual trust with Washington following a pair of successful meetings between President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping. However, the zone feud now threatens to overshadow both the visit by Vice President Joe Biden to Beijing next week and one by Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop expected before the end of the year.

China’s defense and foreign ministries offered no additional clarification Thursday as to why Beijing failed to respond to the US Air Force flights. Alliance partners the US and Japan together have hundreds of military aircraft in the immediate vicinity.

China on Saturday issued a list of requirements for all foreign aircraft passing through the area, regardless of whether they were headed into Chinese airspace, and said its armed forces would adopt “defensive emergency measures” against aircraft that don’t comply.

Beijing said the notifications are needed to help maintain air safety in the zone. However, the fact that China said it had identified and monitored the two US bombers during their Tuesday flight seems to discredit that justification for the zone, said Rory Medcalf, director of the international security program at Australia’s Lowy Institute
“This suggests the zone is principally a political move,” Medcalf said. “It signals a kind of creeping extension of authority.”

Along with concerns about confrontations or accidents involving Chinese fighters and foreign aircraft, the zone’s establishment fuels fears of further aggressive moves to assert China’s territorial claims—especially in the hotly disputed South China Sea, which Beijing says belongs entirely to it.

Defense Ministry spokesman Yang Yujun confirmed those concerns on Saturday by saying China would establish additional air defense identification zones “at an appropriate time.”

For now, however, China’s regional strategy is focused mostly on Japan and the island dispute, according to government-backed Chinese scholars.

China will continue piling the pressure on Tokyo until it reverses the decision to nationalize the islands, concedes they are in dispute, and opens up negotiations with Beijing, said Shen Dingli, a regional security expert and director of the Center for American Studies at Shanghai’s Fudan University.

“China has no choice but to take counter measures,” Shen said. “If Japan continues to reject admitting the disputes, it’s most likely that China will take further measures.”—

More US troops to boost country’s defense—DFA

From the Manila Standard Today (Nov 29): More US troops to boost country’s defense—DFA

THE increased rotational presence of US troops in the Philippines will boost its defense systems as it tries to modernize its military, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said Thursday.

And the framework agreement that will allow more US troops to visit the country will also be advantageous for the Philippines in times of disaster and boost its capabilities, Del Rosario said.

He made his statement even as he denied saying that the United States’ aid in the aftermath of super typhoon “Yolanda” proved the need for a greater US military presence in the country.

He told ANC that his statement came out in the context of the visit of a US congressional delegation to the country to oversee the Americans’ relief efforts in the areas devastated by Yolanda.

“I did not strictly say that it is time for an increased presence of the United States in the Philippines. I think this issue came out in the context of this visit of US Congressmen recently,” Del Rosario said.

“My response was the Increased Rotational Presence covers principally developing a minimum defense posture and part of that is actually to be able to address more effectively humanitarian assistance and disaster response.

“We are not talking about numbers. We are talking about initiatives and projects that will dictate the number. The American troops will come in, and once the project is done, they leave.”

During a press conference on Monday, Del Rosario was quoted as saying that the relief and rescue operation in the Visayas “demonstrates the need for this framework agreement that we are working out with the United States for increased rotational presence because it accentuates the purpose, one of the purposes, the main purpose of the framework, which is to make humanitarian assistance and disaster relief and response a very major aspect of the agreement.”

Senators disputed that such a need required the presence of American military forces on Philippine soil.

Former Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile said an anticipation of a major disaster was not a justification for the entry of foreign troops in the country.

Senate President Frank Drilon said anything that would be provided for under the framework agreement must be consistent with the Constitution, which prohibits the establishment of foreign military bases in the country.

The negotiations for increased US rotational presence in the Philippines, an integral part of the Obama administration’s re-pivoting to Asia after more than a decade of preoccupation in its war against terrorism campaign in the Middle East, reached an impasse days before Yolanda flattened out parts of Leyte and Samar.

The deadlock in the negotiations happened as rising concerns about the constitutionality of the agreement were voiced out.

Eastern Visayas rebs again extend 'Yolanda' truce to mid-January, slam govt refusal to recriprocate

From InterAksyon (Nov 29): Eastern Visayas rebs again extend 'Yolanda' truce to mid-January, slam govt refusal to recriprocate

Communist rebels in Eastern Visayas have again extended an already lengthy truce they declared in areas devastated by super typhoon “Yolanda” and slammed the government and military for refusing to reciprocate the move.

The Communist Party of the Philippines earlier declared a unilateral ceasefire in stricken areas from November 8, the day “Yolanda” struck, to November 24 but soon after extended this to Christmas Eve.

However, the rebels in Eastern Visayas decided to extend the already lengthy truce to January 2 to allow their forces to “care for and lead the masses in overcoming” the “unparalleled calamity.”

Fr. Santiago Salas, spokesman of the National Democratic Front in the region, said in a statement dated Thursday that they had extended their ceasefire even further, “up to mid-January 2014.”

The government, however, has not declared a similar cessation of hostilities and suggested instead an indefinite ceasefire, which the rebels have rejected. The military has been more candid in rejecting a truce, with Eastern Visayas military commander Major General Jet Velarmino saying, “We did not make a declaration of ceasefire even after the typhoon. They (rebels) are enemies of the state.

Salas called the refusal to reciprocate the truce “despicable” and said it cast doubt on the government’s avowed commitment to lasting peace.

“If the Aquino government cannot bring itself to call even a limited ceasefire in the name of humanity, how much more a just and lasting peace?” he asked.

Rebuking Velarmino, Salas said: “We may be enemies of the state, but we are the friends of the people, their interests come first. On the other hand, what else can we call the Aquino government and its military, except as enemies of the people for refusing a ceasefire that would facilitate aid to the Typhoon Yolanda victims?”

The rebel spokesman said the military had “showed no compunction in continuing their offensives against the New People’s Army even while the region was still reeling from the typhoon’s aftermath,” with troops of the 8th Infantry Division “still on combat operations under Oplan Bayanihan in the central parts of Samar island.”
“Aside from search and destroy missions, they are also harassing villagers suspected of supporting the NPA,” Salas claimed.

“Is the Aquino government refusing a reciprocal ceasefire because it is not serious about long-term reconstruction in Eastern Visayas?” Salas asked, as he criticized the government’s relief and rehabilitation efforts.

China military sends air patrols through new defense zone - Xinhua

From InterAksyon (Nov 29): China military sends air patrols through new defense zone - Xinhua

China's military sent several fighter jets and an early warning aircraft on patrol into disputed air space over the East China Sea on Thursday, the Chinese state news agency Xinhua reported, quoting a spokesman for the People's Liberation Army Air Force.

The move raises the stakes in a standoff with the United States, Japan and South Korea over the zone. Japan and South Korea sent their own military aircraft through the air space on Thursday.

The Chinese patrol mission was "a defensive measure and in line with international common practices," said Shen Jinke, a spokesman for China's air force, in the Xinhua article.

Ties between China and Japan have been strained for months by the dispute over the islands in the East China Sea, called the Diaoyu by China and the Senkaku by Japan. The islands are currently under Japanese administrative control.

China last week unilaterally announced that foreign aircraft - including passenger aircraft - passing over the islands would have to identify themselves to China.

Earlier this week, Washington sent two unarmed B-52 bombers through the airspace without first informing Beijing, a sign of support for its ally Japan.

Although there are risks of a confrontation in the defense zone, US and Chinese military officials have stepped up communication with each other in recent years and are in regular contact to avoid accidental clashes breaking out.

US Vice President Joe Biden is visiting China, Japan and South Korea next week, and will try to diffuse tensions over the issue, senior US administration officials said.

US officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Thursday's Chinese flight, which Xinhua described as "normal air patrols" in the new air defense zone Beijing has declared.

The article said China's air force is "on high alert and will take measures to deal with diverse air threats to firmly protect the security of the country's airspace."

Students attend YLS in Guihulngan City

From the Philippine Information Agency (Nov 28): Students attend YLS in Guihulngan City

GUIHULNGAN CITY, Negros Oriental – Some 118 fourth year high school students of Guihulngan National High School-Hilaitan Trinidad Annex participated in a recent Youth Leadership Summit (YLS) organized by 11th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army, the city government and other line agencies.
The YLS that was held on Nov. 22-24 at the said school in Brgy. Trinidad that aims to empower youth in their role in building a morally and spiritually upright society, according to 1st Lt. Von Ryan Gomez , Civil Military Operations Officer.

Representatives from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), Department of Education (DepEd) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) gave lectures on leadership and team building, youth empowerment, drug addiction and criminality prevention, health and sanitation, social awareness, marriage and human sexuality and the AFP Internal Peace and Security Plan “Bayanihan.”

Aside from lectures, another highlight of the YLS were team building activities that stressed the value of teamwork and cooperation in achieving a common goal.

Student participants were divided into six groups and were tasked to make an interpretative dance of the song “Bayanihan” in their culminating activity.

“The teams were very enthusiastic in their presentation, always emphasizing cooperation and teamwork as the key to a harmonious relationship with everyone and in accomplishing a common goal. Peaceful resolutions of conflicts were also stressed in their interpretative dances, abhorring violent means to impose one’s arguments on others to make a point,” Lt. Gomez described.

This was the second YLS conducted in Brgy. Trinidad in Guihulngan City, the first was in September 2012.

Group opposes Centcom transfer

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Nov 28): Group opposes Centcom transfer

URBAN poor groups in barangay Apas, Cebu City expressed opposition to the plan to transfer the headquarters of the Central Command (Centcom) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines outside the city.

Officials of the Alliance of Barangay Apas Community Association (Abaca) are requesting the City Traffic Operations Management (Citom) to first show them the traffic plans before asking for Centcom’s transfer.

Abaca said in a position paper submitted to the City Council that they are concerned the transfer of Centcom would also mean the dislocation of residents along Lapu-Lapu Avenue.

Members of the City Council called for a public hearing yesterday to discuss Citom’s proposal to relocate Centcom so that the 90-hectare province-owned lot could be converted to commercial use. Opening an access road inside the military camp that will serve as an alternative to the Banilad-Talamban corridor is part of the planned development.

Citom’s proposal to transfer Centcom is not an entirely new idea, as the previous provincial and national administration mulled the transfer.

A plan to vacate the 90-hectare military camp was first discussed by former Cebu governor Gwendolyn Garcia and national officials in 2007. A memorandum of understanding was entered into on October 12, 2007 between Garcia, defense secretary Gilbert Teodoro, vice president and HUDCC chairman Noli de Castro and DENR Secrtary Jose Atienza Sr.

Yesterday, only Mario Macuro, who read Abaca’s position paper to the council, and Citom office head Rafael Yap, appeared during the public hearing.

Yap said the proposed transfer was discussed by members of the Citom board and embodied in a board resolution passed on August 29.

Kidnap-for-ransom group seizes bizman’s son

From the Sun Star-Zamboanga (Nov 27): Kidnap-for-ransom group seizes bizman’s son

A KIDNAP-for-ransom-group (KFRG) suspected to be based in central Mindanao abducted the son of a prominent businessman in Zamboanga del Sur, the police said Wednesday.

Kidnapped was Edmund Corpuz, 31, a resident Purok Maliwanag in Barangay Dalapang, Labangan, Zamboanga del Sur.

Zamboanga Peninsula police information officer Chief Inspector Ariel Huesca said Corpuz’s kidnapping was reported to them Wednesday morning by the victim’s brother, Eleazar.

Huesca said Eleazar told the police in Labangan town that they received a call early Wednesday from the kidnappers who demanded ransom money "in exchange for his release."

It was not revealed, though, how much ransom is being demanded by the kidnappers.
Earlier, the victim's father, Bonifacio, reported to the police in Labangan municipality that his son was missing.

The elder Corpuz reported that his son, Edmund, went to the Zamboanga del Sur National High School in Pagadian City around 2 p.m. Monday to fetch a relative, but failed to return home.

The victim's family owns vast track of land planted to rice and operates a rice mill in Labangan town.

Huesca said the Zamboanga Del Sur Police Office has created Special Investigation Task Group-Corpuz and coordinated with anti-kidnapping group for the possible rescue of the victim.

Human rights, anti-torture forum set

From the Sun Star-Zamboanga (Nov 28): Human rights, anti-torture forum set

THE Commission on Human Rights (CHR) is set to conduct a one-day forum on human rights and anti-torture in Dipolog City, the capital of Zamboanga del Norte.

CHR Regional Director Attorney Frederick Ian Capin said the forum, which is scheduled on December 10, will be held in partnership with the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the Department of National Defense.

He said the forum will highlight the Human Rights Consciousness Week celebration every December 4 to 10 pursuant to Republic Act (RA) 9201.

RA 9201, otherwise known as the National Human Rights Consciousness Week Act of 2002, mandates all government agencies, including government-owned and controlled corporations, to make people aware of their basic human rights in relation to the functions and services offered by these government instrumentalities.

Capin said the forum is also pursuant to RA 9745, otherwise known as the Anti-Torture Act of 2009.

Capin said the target participants of the forum are military and police officers and personnel, as well as members of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology.

He said the forum's resource persons are from Armed Forces of the Philippines, DILG, and CHR-Central Office.

MILF: Community Volunteers in SouthMin undergo training on Financial Management and Procurement

From the MILF Website (Nov 28): Community Volunteers in SouthMin undergo training on Financial Management and Procurement

In a bid to equip the Barangay Community Volunteers (BCVs) with knowledge in implementing subprojects, a Financial Management and Procurement Training was conducted for six Barangays in Sarangani Province.
The activity was facilitated by the staff of Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA)-Southern Mindanao (SouthMin) Regional Management Office and BDA-Central Management Office (CMO).

The BCVs of Barangays Libi, Tuyan and Lun Masla in Malapatan, Sarangani Province converged on November 18 to 19, 2013 for the training at the Training Center of Lun Masla.

On November 20 to 21, 2013, BCVs of Barangays Ticulab, Maguling and Mindupok in Maitum, Sarangani Province,  gathered at the Community Learning Center in Maguling for the same activity.

The facilitators discussed the block grant installments and requirements and the financial reporting system.

The participants learned the flow of funds, financial management principles and fiscal responsibilities, and identified the different supporting documents required for every transaction. Workshops on preparing all financial related documents were also conducted.

The participants thanked BDA for the training which they said they seldom acquire from other institutions.

The BCVs will soon formalize into People’s Organization (PO) who will take charge in implementing sub-projects in their respective Barangays.

The BDA Staff have been facilitating the capability-building trainings for the BCVs which are part of the social preparation through the Community Driven Development (CDD) process.

CDD is an approach in implementing the Mindanao Trust Fund Reconstruction and Development Program (MTFRDP).

In the CDD process, the community, through the PO, is provided necessary knowledge and skills in assessing their priority needs, identifying sub-projects that will promote confidence building and social cohesion, implementing sub-projects and sustaining the operation of the completed subprojects.

MTF-RDP was launched on March 27, 2006 with the aim to assist economic and social recovery in the conflict-affected and vulnerable areas of Mindanao. The World Bank serves as the Fund Administrator and Secretariat.

The program is supported by Australian Aid for International Development (AusAID), New Zealand Aid for International Development (NZAID), Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), United States Aid for International Development (USAID), the World Bank, and the European Union (EU). It had been successfully implemented for three (3) consecutive Program Partnership Agreements (PPAs).

Nine Barangays benefit the MTFRDP in Sarangani which include Barangays Lumasal, Daliao and Amsipit from the Municipality of Maasim.

Most of the proposed subprojects are post-harvest facilities such as solar drier with warehouse, mobile corn sheller and rice thresher.

MILF: RHRC conducts Seminar on Human Rights, International Humanitarian Law and Governance

From the MILF Website (Nov 28): RHRC conducts Seminar on Human Rights, International Humanitarian Law and Governance

The Regional Human Rights Commission (RHRC) of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) conducted seminar on Human Rights, International Humanitarian Law and Governance for 70 members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) from different provinces of Central and Western Mindanao as far as Sulu on November 24, 2013 at the Bangsamoro Leadership and Management Institute (BLMI) Training Hall, Maguindanao.
The resource persons came from the office of the RHRC-ARMM and BLMI. The lectures also included Human Rights in Islam. Mr. Joel Dizon, Training Specialist of Institute for Autonomy and Governance lectured on good governance while Commissioner Alikhaan Abuat of RHRC- ARMM gave the overview on Human Rights in Islam. The lecturer on International Humanitarian Law was given by Atty. Algamar Latiph and Atty. Bai Ashrafia Aymee Briruar, Executive Director of RHCR-ARMM lectured on Basic Human Rights while Ustadz Abdulsalam Alabat, BLMI Steering Committee member lectured on Human Rights in Islam.

RHCR-ARMM officials informed the participants that series of seminar on human rights for members of the MILF shall be conducted next year and another one shall also be undertaken in due time for Sulu-based MILF members. 

Certificate of participants were distributed at the end of the activity.

CPP/NDF: NDFP-EV slams Aquino regime’s refusal of reciprocal ceasefire: “We may be enemies of the state, but we are the friends of the people”

Posted to the CPP Website (Nov 28): NDFP-EV slams Aquino regime’s refusal of reciprocal ceasefire: “We may be enemies of the state, but we are the friends of the people”

Fr. Santiago Salas (Ka Sanny)
NDFP Eastern Visayas Chapter
The National Democratic Front of the Philippines in Eastern Visayas denounces the Aquino government as utterly despicable for refusing to reciprocate the revolutionary movement’s ceasefire in areas affected by Typhoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan). The revolutionary movement in the region has declared a unilateral ceasefire up to mid-January 2014. The Aquino government’s regional military commander, Maj. Gen. Jet Velarmino, is particularly reprehensible for saying, “We did not make a declaration of ceasefire even after the typhoon. They are enemies of the state.”

We may be enemies of the state, but we are the friends of the people, their interests come first. On the other hand, what else can we call the Aquino government and its military, except as enemies of the people for refusing a ceasefire that would facilitate aid to the Typhoon Yolanda victims?

The Aquino government troops showed no compunction in continuing their offensives against the New People’s Army even while the region was still reeling from the typhoon’s aftermath. Gen. Velarmino’s troops from the 8th Infantry Division are still on combat operations under Oplan Bayanihan in the central parts of Samar island.

Aside from search and destroy missions, they are also harassing villagers suspected of supporting the NPA. It goes to show the Aquino government and its military have no concern for the plight of the people.

Tacloban City and other calamity areas are virtual garrisons. Right after the typhoon, the Aquino government sent armored cars and armed troops to Tacloban as a “show of force” to the hungry and desperate people, who were not receiving any government aid and commandeering whatever they needed to survive. Today there are several military checkpoints at the entrances and exits to the city, and the people are subjected to curfews, and accosted and treated like criminals. Meanwhile, so-called bunkhouses have been hastily constructed where homeless families are to be herded like cattle into cramped confines. This scenario is replicated in other areas that are suffering from the typhoon’s aftermath. All these show the Aquino government regards the people with contempt, showing little concern over their sufferings, and enforcing their subservience to the armed might of the state.

Is the Aquino government refusing a reciprocal ceasefire because it is not serious about long-term reconstruction in Eastern Visayas? At present, the Aquino government is making a mockery of the relief and rehabilitation in region. The typhoon victims live by the day, hoping they will have something to eat the next day, vulnerable to starvation and disease. There is also no long-term plan for the urban and rural poor as well as the middle-class who lost their homes and livelihoods, while the vultures of corruption have started circling. Without any socio-economic reforms, without any public consultation and transparent governance, the big bureaucrats and big businesses will surely take advantage of the people’s plight in order to profit from corruption in the massive reconstruction effort needed. As an added insult to the victims of Typhoon Yolanda, the US and Philippine governments are rushing towards an agreement justifying the basing of US military troops in the country in violation of national sovereignty. It seems the reason why there is no ceasefire for Aquino’s troops is that they are there to ensure that it will be business as usual in keeping the people in their state of exploitation and oppression.

The people will hold the Aquino regime to account for refusing a reciprocal ceasefire to facilitate aid to the typhoon victims. The victims of Typhoon Yolanda and the rest of the people will surely rise from their grief to demand for a reconstruction favoring the people, as well as socio-economic reforms for the long term in the region and other calamity areas. If the Aquino government cannot bring itself to call even a limited ceasefire in the name of humanity, how much more a just and lasting peace?

Video: DFA -- More US troops but no American bases

From ABS-CBN (Nov 28): Video: DFA -- More US troops but no American bases

 Albert del Rosario

Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario on Thursday denied saying that the damage caused by super typhoon "Yolanda" to the country proves the need for greater presence of US troops.

Del Rosario said the planned increase in rotational presence of American troops has its advantages in times of disasters.

He said the increased rotational presence will be a big boost to the country's defense systems as the Philippines tries to modernize the Army.

"We are not talking about numbers. We are talking about initiatives and projects that are mutually agreed upon and that will dictate the number. The American troops will come in. Once the project is done, they leave," he said in an interview on ANC's Headstart.

He also clarified the increase in US troops in the country does not involve putting up American bases in the Philippines.

"No, no, no. Permanent basing is not allowed by the Constitution. We are committed to adhering to the Constitution," he said.

Drones help clean up typhoon-hit Tacloban

From ABS-BN (Nov 28): Drones help clean up typhoon-hit Tacloban

Drone technology is helping the aid-effort in typhoon-hit Tacloban city, enabling relief teams to more efficiently search through debris, clear roads and assess damage.

For the past 10 days, Swiss-based technology firm Danoffice IT has been deploying two drones, or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV), to scour the disaster zone and identify blocked roads and dead bodies.

The drones can aid in search and rescue, body recovery and road clearance, Danoffice IT sales manager Liam Dawson said while demonstrating the device on Wednesday (November 27).

It can also aid displaced residents or clearing units in giving an overview of a damaged area, instead of walking or driving through debris.

Danoffice IT has been helping the United Nations, national relief teams and aid agencies with its UAV, developed in the last four years in Denmark.

The drones fold away into a small case and are made from rugged plastic similar to that used in the popular children's toy, Lego, which also originated in Denmark.

The unit has a maximum range of 2 kilometres (1.24 miles), can travel at altitudes of 40 centimetres (1.3 feet) to 150 metres (5 feet) above the ground, and runs on a battery for up to 25 minutes.

One relief team from South Korea turned to Dawson's company after their own drone broke down, deploying it to back up a sniffer dog unit.

"Body retrieval, depending on the zone, when the dogs find a person it's not always in a very accessible zone, so this allows the rescuers to find the best possible and swiftest path possible to go and retrieve that body," Dawson said.

The use of UAVs in disaster zones is controversial, with critics saying loose regulation in developing countries allows firms to easily infringe privacy rights in many areas of crisis.

Dawson says the reaction from aid organisations has been overwhelming, with back-to-back bookings for his services.

"When organisations first saw it here, they thought it was a bit of a toy. But when they realised all the different uses you could do like body retrieval, road clearance, you name it, I think this is a tool that will be used in every future disaster," Dawson told Reuters.

His company is not charging for the use of its drone in the Philippines, but will encourage organisations that deploy it to buy one at a later date. Each drone costs $50,000.

Meanwhile, a small aid team of German medics were treating patients in the typhoon-hit town of Palo on Thursday (November 28).

A team of 10 from German aid organisation Arbeiter-Samariter-Bund (ASB), including two doctors and eight medical staff, started relief operations on Monday (November 25) in the grounds of a local cathedral.

They are providing primary medical care to the town of 70,000. They are the only health facility in the nearby area except for a nurse at the local mayor's office, their head of mission said.

"We are here now in Palo, directly in the old town. Palo has a population of roughly 70,000 people. And for these people, we are the only large and functioning health facility. Just across where the mayor is, there is only one nurse and one can only imagine that the capacity there is very limited," the centre's head of mission, Axel Schmidt said.

"The next hospital or the nearest hospitals are located in Tacloban, that's almost 50 kilometres away, and we receive patients here that come from up to 25 kilometers away and that's a very strong indication how important our presence here is," Schmidt said.

The death toll from Typhoon Haiyan, one of the strongest ever to make landfall, has reached 5560, with 26,136 people injured.

Schmidt added that the centre is treating more than 150 people every day, with respiratory illness currently the most common.

Though survivors coming in have no physical injuries from the storm surge, many require psychological support.

PHL says China air defense zone impedes civil aviation

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 28): PHL says China air defense zone impedes civil aviation

The Philippines on Thursday joined several nations in opposing China’s new air defense zone over the East China Sea, saying it threatens freedom of flight and aviation safety.

Beijing’s Air Defense Identification Zone or ADIZ drew protests and alarm from several nations led by the United States, which demonstrated its non-recognition of China's new territorial imposition by flying two B-52 bombers over the disputed air space.

Japan, South Korea and Australia also opposed China’s latest aggressive move aimed at bolstering military control over the disputed waters, home to a cluster of resource-rich islands disputed by Tokyo and Beijing.

“China’s East Asia Sea ADIZ transforms the entire airzone into its domestic airspace, infringes on the freedom of flight in international airspace and compromises the safety of civil aviation and national security of affected states,” Foreign Affairs spokesman Raul Hernandez said.

“The Philippines calls on China to ensure that its ADIZ preserves regional security and stability.”

Manila is also locked in a long-running territorial rift with China over the South China Sea, where Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also have overlapping claims.

The Philippines, which filed a case last January against China before an international tribunal to question the legality of its massive claim, has adopted the name West Philippine Sea for the disputed body of water.

Washington has declared that unfettered access to the South China and peaceful resolution of disputes are in America’s national interest.

All PAF C-130s operational

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 28): All PAF C-130s operational

The Philippine Air Force (PAF) on Thursday announced that all three of its Lockheed C-130 "Hercules" cargo planes, which are playing a key role in the ongoing relief and rehabilitation for all "Yolanda" victims in the Visayas Region, are all operational.

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

"All of them are in flight status including the one place for maintenance last week," he added.

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.

5 young rebels gun down Army man in Masbate

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 28): 5 young rebels gun down Army man in Masbate

New People's Army (NPA) rebels shot dead an Army soldier while he was walking in Barangay Marcella, Uson, Masbate, at about 6:30 a.m. Thursday.

A police report identified the victim as Private First Class Arjay Barbin of the 93rd Division Reconnaissance Company of the Philippine Army based in Barangay Armena, Uson.

The report said Barbin was on his way to their camp when five young rebels armed with .45-caliber pistols suddenly approached him and peppered him with bullets on his head and body.

The Army man received 16 bullets in the different parts of the body.

Barbin reportedly visited his relatives in the area after he was given a leave of absence by his superior and was going back to the camp to report for duty when the shooting happened.

The suspects casually walked from the scene of the crime towards the mountainous portion of the village, the report added.

308 evacuees benefit from 8th Infantry Division, JSDF medical mission

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 28): 308 evacuees benefit from 8th Infantry Division, JSDF medical mission

Around 308 people benefited from the medical and dental mission conducted by the 8th Infantry Division and the Japan Self Defense Force (JSDF) at the Tacloban City Convention Center Wednesday morning.

The latter facility was being used as an evacuation center by "Yolanda" displaced residents of the city.

Capt. Amado Gutierrez, 8th Infantry Division, said that their medical teams managed to provide dental treatment and advise to 108 individuals, 25 of whom were provided with tooth extractions.

While the JSDF provided oral polio vaccines, measles shots and Vitamin A supplements to 200 children temporarily living in the evacuation center.

Gutierrez said similar missions will be provided to the 31 other evacuation centers in Tacloban City.

Bangladeshi Navy to aid in 'Yolanda' relief efforts

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 28): Bangladeshi Navy to aid in 'Yolanda' relief efforts

The Philippine Navy (PN) on Thursday announced that the Bangladeshi Navy (BN) has deployed a ship carrying some 40 tons of assorted relief goods to "Yolanda" victims in the Visayas Region.

The ship, the BNS Somudra Joy, will arrive Friday at Pier 15, South Harbor, Manila for a three-day goodwill visit starting Nov. 29 to Dec. 1.

Lt. Cmdr. Gregory Fabic, PN spokesperson, said the purpose of the visit is to support the national government efforts in the conduct of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations for "Yolanda" victims.

Upon arrival, personnel from the PN will be receiving the visitors and likewise will be conducting a port briefing aboard the ship.

In connection with the visit, the Ambassador of Bangladesh will be hosting a dinner reception aboard the ship wherein he will be formally handing over the relief goods to the Department of Social Welfare and Development, , Office of Civil Defense or Department of National Defense.

Also part of the visit is the courtesy call of Commodore Mohammad Nazmul Karim Kislu, the commanding officer of BNS Somudra Joy, to the PN flag-officer-in-command Vice Admiral Jose Luis M Alano.

The visit is expected to enhance the bilateral relations between the PN and BN especially in providing mutual assistance during time of disasters like the recent typhoon that devastated the Visayas Region.

Deployment of brigade size force of engineers in the works

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 28): Deployment of brigade size force of engineers in the works

The Philippine Army (PA) on Thursday announced that plans are afoot to deploy a brigade size force of engineers to help in the ongoing efforts reconstruction efforts in the Visayas Region.

"There are plans and projections to deploy a brigade size (force) of engineers to help in the ongoing reconstruction effort," Army spokesperson Capt. Anthony Bacus said.

However, he declined to comment on when these units will be deployed, adding that the plans are still undergoing study.

Presently, the PA's 525th Engineering Combat Battalion and the 1st Special Forces Battalion are helping in the ongoing reconstruction and relief efforts.

AFP Reserve Command helps in ongoing 'Yolanda' relief efforts

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 28): AFP Reserve Command helps in ongoing 'Yolanda' relief efforts

Members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines Reserve Command (AFPRESCOM) distributed two truckloads of relief goods to "Yolanda" devastated residents of Quinapondan town, Eastern Samar Thursday afternoon.

Lt. Col. Abraham Bayan, AFPRESCOM 1st Technical Services Administration Battalion commander, said that these relief goods consist of clothing, blankets and medicines.

He added that these items were sourced from the AFPRESCOM, television network GMA-7 and a Japanese relief agency "AMDA".

Bayan, a doctor by profession, arrived with eight other APFRESCOM members early this week.

He added that the relief items were transported to Eastern Samar via a Royal Australian Air Force C-130.

Bayan said that this relief run is their second run for the month.

New batch of PH peacekeepers for Golan Heights

From Rappler (Nov 28): New batch of PH peacekeepers for Golan Heights

OFF TO GOLAN: A new batch of 336 Filipino peacekeepers leave for the Golan Heights. Photo from the Philippine Army

OFF TO GOLAN: A new batch of 336 Filipino peacekeepers leave for the Golan Heights. Photo from the Philippine Army

The Philippine Army is sending off 336 peacekeepers to Golan Heights to join the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF). It's the first batch to leave for the volatile region after the Philippines threatened to pull out the troops because of the security situation there.

The all-Army team composed of 49 officers and 287 enlisted personnel commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Tel Dumosmog is the 7th Philippine Contingent to Golan Heights. The Philippines began sending troops in November 2009.
Army chief Lieutenant General Noel Coballes led the send-off ceremony on Thursday, November 28. They will leave for Golan in batches beginning November 29, Friday.
Rebels from neighboring Syria abducted Filipino peacekeepers in March and in May this year as the country continues to spiral into violence. There were also concerns about chemical warfare following the death of 1,300 people in Syria allegedly because of chemical weapons. (READ: Filipino peacekeepers released and AFP: PH troops in Golan ready vs chemical warfare)
The Filipino peacekeepers who figured in the abductions are expected to return to the Philippines in December.
Coballes said the United Nations assured the government that the Filipino peacekeepers will be given adequate support and protection. (READ: PH sets conditions for Golan peacekeepers)
“Let me assure you that our President and Commander-in-Chief, Benigno S Aquino III, has received a guarantee from the United Nations that measures will be put in place for our personal safety and well-being while you are on detail with the UNDOF,” Coballes said.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines is also sending peacekeepers to Haiti, Afghanistan, Cote d' Ivoire, Darfur, Kashmir, Liberia, Sudan, and Timor-Leste. (READ: PH's first woman peacekeeping commander off to Haiti)

3 MILF fighters nabbed in Sultan Kudarat

From Rappler (Nov 28): 3 MILF fighters nabbed in Sultan Kudarat

CULTURALLY ROOTED. For some MILF soldiers, it's hard to part with their guns after decades of armed rebellion. Photo by Adrian Portugal

CULTURALLY ROOTED. For some MILF soldiers, it's hard to part with their guns after decades of armed rebellion. Photo by Adrian Portugal

The military on Tuesday, November 26, nabbed 3 Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) fighters, one of whom was found to be carrying an M653 Elisco assault rifle when they sought to pass through a checkpoint at the Pimbalayan detachment in Lambayong, Sultan Kudarat.

It was the first violation of a local peace covenant signed on November 6 by the MILF, the local government, and the 33rd Infantry Batallion (33IB). Under the covenant, only the military and the police are allowed to carry firearms.

The 3 are barangay officials and members of the 108th Base Command of the MILF Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF):
  • Joel Hak A Maneged, 25, chairman of Barangay Panosolen in the town of General Salipada K. Pendatun, Maguindanao
  • Amad K Baraguir, 46, councilor of the same barangay
  • Kamarudin Dausi, councilor of the same barangay
The 3 were first turned over to the Joint Coordinating Committees on Cessation of Hostilities (JCCCH-GPH-MILF) in Maguindanao and then later to the MILF Command, which is tasked under the agreement to punish its own members for violating existing agreements with the government.
"This unauthorized carrying of firearms is in violation of the operational guidelines and ground rules set forth in the ceasefire agreement between the Government of the Philippines Coordinating Committees on Cessation of Hostilities (GPH CCCH) and Moro Islamic Liberation Front Coordinating Committees on Cessation of Hostilities (MILF CCCH)," said Captain Deoreynojay Maniwang, civil military operations officer of the 33rd infantry battalion based in Sultan Kudarat.

Maniwang said the MILF cooperated with their arrest. He said they agreed that it should serve as a reminder to other members to follow the covenant. The 3 arrested fighters supposedly did not expect the strict implementation of the new covenant.

The government and the MILF are finalizing a peace agreement that will make way for a new Bangsamoro entity, expanding the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

Maniwang said they have high hopes that the local peace covenant can rid of violence in the 33IB's area of operations. Encounters are common between the military and "lawless armed groups," especially with Umbra Kato and his men who have turned the area into a haven.

Maniwang said the local peace covenant also calls on the residents not to coddle Kato's men.

The 33IB is commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Markton Abo.

Aquino says China's aircraft carrier no threat but DFA chief worries Beijing seeking air supremacy

From InterAksyon (Nov 28): Aquino says China's aircraft carrier no threat but DFA chief worries Beijing seeking air supremacy

President Benigno Aquino III on Thursday said the presence of China's sole aircraft carrier in the South China Sea should not be seen as a threat.

Despite Aquino's opinion, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario expressed concern China may seek control of air space over contested areas of the South China Sea, which Manila calls the West Philippine Sea, after Beijing declared an air defense zone above other disputed waters.

On Wednesday Foreign Affairs spokesman Raul Hernandez had said the deployment of the Liaoning "raises tensions and violates the Declaration on the Code of Conduct" in the South China Sea.

"Let’s not play it up. I think the Chinese themselves have admitted that this (Liaoning) is not yet fully operational. They are still learning carrier operations - both the crew on board the planes and also the pilots who will be flying the planes," Aquino said in an interview in Bohol aired over state-run Radyo ng Bayan.

"So they are transitting here, and because they are not yet operational, why should anybody consider it a threat?" the President said.

Aquino said that if foreign vessels enter Philippine territorial water, which is about 12 nautical miles from the country's baselines, they have to secure permission from the Philippine government.

"Beyond that, there is a right of innocent passage guaranteed to all nationalities," the President said.

The Liaoning departed Tuesday from its home port in the northern city of Qingdao, accompanied by two destroyers and a missile cruiser.

Chinese naval officials described the carrier's mission as routine, saying it will conduct scientific research, tests, and military drills.

But interviewed over ABS-CBN, Del Rosario said, "There's this threat that China will control the air space (in the South China Sea)."

The Philippines, China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan have overlapping claims to parts of the strategically vital and potentially resource-rich body of water.

Del Rosario also voiced concern over China's declaration of the air defense zone in the East China Sea, where it is embroiled in a territorial dispute with Japan.

"It transforms an entire air zone into China's domestic air space. And that is an infringement, and compromises the safety of civil aviation," del Rosario said. "It also compromises the national security of affected states."

The air defense zone requires aircraft to provide their flight plan, declare their nationality and maintain two-way radio communication, or face "emergency defensive measures."

The zone covers Tokyo-controlled islands -- known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China -- where ships and aircraft from the two countries already shadow each other.