Monday, December 16, 2013

Bicol NPA rebels set truck on fire

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 16): Bicol NPA rebels set truck on fire

Armed men believed to be New People's Army rebels set on fire a truck of a construction company at 5:30 p.m., Monday, in Sitio Bagacay, Barangay Loho, Lagonoy, Camarines Sur.

Truck driver Rafael Suplig and helpers Jerry Berion and Rolando Bernales told police that the Elf truck burned by the communist rebels was owned by PEU Construction based in Pili ,Camarines Sur.

They said the armed dissidents flagged them down, poured gasoline on the vehicle and set it on fire.

But before the rebels could light a match, they said they were able to run away.

The police learned that the company has a project in the village and the owner did not pay revolutionary tax to the rebels.

Members of the 42nd Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army immediatley responded but the rebels had already hurriedly left the crime scene.

First Cavalry Squadron donates school supplies to Zambo, Yolanda children-victims

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 17): First Cavalry Squadron donates school supplies to Zambo, Yolanda children-victims

The First Cavalry Squadron of the Army’s Mechanized Division has donated 200 gifts packs of school supplies to children of families displaced by the Zamboanga standoff and super typhoon "Yolanda" in the Visayas.

This was announced here Tuesday by First Cavalry Squadron commander Lt. Col. Antonio John Divinagracia citing they cancelled the command’s Christmas Party and used the money to buy school supplies.

The school supplies consisted of backpacks containing eight notebooks, ballpen, pencil, and eraser.

Divinagracia said the gift packs were shipped Monday to Zamboanga City and the Visayas for distribution to the beneficiaries.

“We decided to share our Christmas. Instead of having a party, we converted it into schools supplies intended for the pupils of typhoon 'Yolanda' victims in the Visayas and Zamboanga City siege evacuees,” Divinagracia said.

He said the donation of the school supplies is not only the initiative of the First Cavalry Squadron but of the whole First Mechanized Division that shared portion of their Christmas bonus for the typhoon victims.

The squadron is one of the operating units under the First Mechanized Division based in Pulacan, Labangan, this province.

“We have also chosen to share our gift packs to the pupils of Zamboanga siege evacuees because we are part of the government forces that fought the MNLF-Misuari faction,” Divinagracia said.

The siege lasted for 20 days after hundreds of Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) rebels led by Habier Malik, one of Misuari’s trusted lieutenants, infiltrated this city last September 9.

Divinagracia has also expressed his gratitude to the dependents of the First Cavalry Squadron, the barangay officials, teachers and student Navalan, Tukuran town who helped them repack the donated schools supplies.

DND to acquire 10 amphibian vehicles for PMC

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 17): DND to acquire 10 amphibian vehicles for PMC

In line with its efforts to make the Philippine Marine Corps (PMC) more mobile, the Department of National Defense (DND) announced that it is acquiring 10 small amphibian vehicles for use of the military unit.

The project is worth P105 million with integrated logistic support.

These vehicles, once acquired and put into service, will give the PMC the ability to ford flooded areas, swollen creeks and rivers, making it the ideal asset for disaster response.

The money will be sourced from the AFP Modernization Program.

Invitation is ongoing for bidders who must complete a similar project within the last five years.

PA to get more bigger, powerful guns --DND

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 17): PA to get more bigger, powerful guns --DND

In a bid to further improve the offensive and defensive capabilities of the Philippine Army, the Department of National Defense has announced that it is acquiring more potent weaponry for the service in the coming months.

One of these weapons is a shore-based missile system worth P6.5 billion that could include 12 launchers, trailers and tracking systems and missiles that could be fired to hit ground and naval targets.

Patrick Velez, DND vice chair for the bids and awards committee, said once acquired, the weaponry will be placed under the control and supervision of the Army.

The acquisition of the shore-based missiles will be carried out through “limited source bidding."

Velez defines limited source bidding as a process where certain companies are invited to submit bids for a project.No other details were given for security reasons.

Another weapon system in the process of acquisition for the Army are 12 units of towed 155mm howitzers for P438,620,000. This includes 240 rounds of 155mm HE (high explosive) and integrated logistic support.

As of this posting, the project is undergoing bidding at the DND.

Military authorities said 155mm howitzers are used for saturation and bombardment roles. It can also be used to break up human wave attacks in the battlefield.

The Army is known to operate 12 units of 155mm "Soltam" howitzers which are used by the Israeli Defense Forces.

Should this project bear fruit, the Army's artillery unit will boost of 24 units of long-range 155mm howitzers.

87IB encounters NPA, recovers one pistol; rebel killed

From the Samar News (Dec 13): 87IB encounters NPA, recovers one pistol; rebel killed

December 13, 2013

CATBALOGAN CITY, SamarTroops under 87th Infantry Battalion encountered 10 NPA rebels operating in Samar on December 13, 2013 at Brgy Bay-ang, San Jorge, Samar that led to the death of one (1) rebel and recovery of one (1) firearm.

According to the report of Lt Col Antonio B Dulnuan Jr, Commanding officer of 87IB, his troops were on routine security patrol when they received a report from folks living in adjacent barangay of Bay-ang that NPAs were seen at said barangay. When troops patrolled the areas near Brgy Bay-ang, they were fired upon by rebels which triggered a 10 minute firefight.

The encounter resulted to the death of one (1) unidentified rebel and the recovery of one (1) .45 caliber pistol.

Prior to the encounter, 87IB had received numerous complaints from the residents of Brgy. Bay-ang and its adjacent barangays that rebels were extorting food and money from the civilians and threatening those that do not give in to their demands.

“We have been receiving complaints from folks living in Brgy Bay-ang and its adjacent barangays that the NPAs were extorting money and foods intended for their families’ expenses and consumption,” said Dulnuan.

LTC Dulnuan added, “It is unfortunate and sad to note that the NPAs have not stopped intimidating and extorting money and food from the people during these very trying and challenging times when people in Eastern Visayas are reeling from the devastating effects of ST Yolanda.”

US ups security aid to Southeast Asia, criticizes China

From the Sun Star (Dec 17): US ups security aid to Southeast Asia, criticizes China

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry offered harsh words for China and new maritime security assistance for Southeast Asia on Monday to bolster countries facing growing Chinese assertiveness in a region where the two world powers are jockeying for influence.

Tensions are running high after a near-collision of U.S. and Chinese naval vessels this month and an air defense zone China has declared over an area that includes territory controlled by Japan, a U.S. ally. Those actions have raised fresh alarm as Beijing modernizes its military and claims a wide swath of ocean and disputed islands across the East and South China Seas.

Kerry used his first visit to Vietnam as America's top diplomat to reiterate support for diplomacy between Southeast Asia's regional bloc and Beijing over the territorial disputes, and to provide aid for Southeast Asian nations to defend waters they claim as their own.

Kerry pledged $32.5 million, including up to $18 million for Vietnam that will include five fast patrol boats for its Coast Guard. With the new contribution, U.S. maritime security assistance to the region will exceed $156 million over the next two years, he said.

"Peace and stability in the South China Sea is a top priority for us and for countries in the region," Kerry told reporters at a news conference with Vietnamese Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh. "We are very concerned by and strongly opposed to coercive and aggressive tactics to advance territorial claims."

The next stop on his Asian trip will be the Philippines, which lost control of a disputed reef in the South China Sea last year after a standoff with China. The U.S. is also helping equip the Philippines with ships and radar, and is in negotiations with Manila to increase the American military presence there.

Kerry said the new assistance was not a "quickly conceived reaction to any events in the region" but rather a "gradual and deliberate expansion" of U.S. support as part of the Obama administration's broader decision to refocus attention on the Asia-Pacific.

But the step is almost certain to anger Beijing, which bristles at what it sees as U.S. interference in areas it views as China's "core interest." Beijing looks dimly on Washington's push to increase the U.S. military presence and strengthen its alliances in Asia as it ends a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, calling it an attempt to contain China.

In a reminder of the high stakes in play, U.S. and Chinese naval vessels came close to colliding in the South China Sea on Dec. 5, the most serious incident between the two navies since 2009.

The U.S. Pacific Fleet said Saturday that USS Cowpens was operating in international waters and had to maneuver to avoid hitting China's lone aircraft carrier. The Liaoning, a symbol of China's ambition to develop a navy that operates further from its own shores, only entered service last year and was on its first-ever sea trials in the South China Sea.

Beijing has not formally commented on the incident, but the state-run Global Times newspaper reported on Monday that the U.S. ship had first harassed the Liaoning and its group of support ships, getting too close to a Chinese naval drill and entering within 30 miles of the Chinese fleet's "inner defense layer."

As China expands its navy's reach and starts to challenge decades of American military predominance in the region, it's becoming more common for vessels of the two nations to operate in close proximity. The Obama administration has made it a priority to seek closer military cooperation with China to prevent misunderstandings that could spark a clash — part of a broader push to foster friendly ties between the established world power and the emerging one.

Beijing's unilateral declaration in late November of its East China Sea air defense identification zone was a setback, and has ratcheted up tensions with Japan over disputed islands within that zone. All aircraft entering the zone must notify Chinese authorities beforehand, and China has said it would take unspecified defensive measures against those that don't comply.

The U.S., Japan and South Korea have said they will not honor the new zone, and in a show of defiance soon after China announced it, the U.S. flew two B-52 bombers through the area.

The issue loomed large during meetings in Beijing between Vice President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping in early December, and Kerry offered harsh words about the zone in Hanoi Monday. He said it "clearly increases the risk of a dangerous miscalculation or an accident." He called for intensified diplomacy to address the issue.

"The zone should not be implemented, and China should refrain from taking similar unilateral actions elsewhere, particularly in the South China Sea," Kerry said, reiterating that such moves by Beijing would not affect U.S. military operations in the region.

Three years ago, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, also in Hanoi, raised hackles in Beijing by declaring that the U.S. had a national interest in the peaceful resolution of disputes in the South China Sea, where China, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan, the Philippines and Vietnam have competing claims. Those disputes have occasionally flared, including a 1988 naval battle between China and Vietnam that left 70 Vietnamese sailors dead.

Washington has supported efforts by Southeast Asia's regional bloc to negotiate collectively with their larger neighbor China on a legally binding code of conduct to manage the disputes. Stressing U.S. neutrality on the competing sovereignty claims, Kerry again called for quick agreement on the code and peaceful resolution of disputes.

Those efforts have made some headway in the past year, but Beijing would still prefer to negotiate with each country separately. It regards the entire South China Sea and island groups within it as its own and interprets international law as giving it the right to police foreign naval activity there.

Winning peace in north seen

From the Visayan Daily Star (Dec 17): Winning peace in north seen

BRGY. BATO, Sagay City - Col. Jon Aying, 303rdInfantry Brigade commander, yesterday aired optimism that their “winning the peace” campaign in the identified conflict-affected communities in northern Negros is “imminent”.

This is because of the involvement and all-out support ofmulti-sectoral groups, including local government units, in the quest for peace, Aying said.

Gov. Alfredo Maranon Jr., through the Provincial Peace Integration and Development, a sub-committee of the Provincial Peace and Order Council, spearheaded the development of several hinterland barangays said to be influenced by the New People’s Army, in Escalante, Toboso and Calatrava.

This was in tandem with the 303rdInfantry Brigade, Philippine National Police, local government units, non-government and people’s organizations, including the church sector, civil society and peace advocate groups, among others, military records show.

Aying said the Philippine Army is nowa peace builder and has even turned social worker, and members of its Bayanihan teams are now immersed with the people in the countryside to help them improve their lives.


He said the holistic approaches under the Bayanihan program will eventually render insurgency irrelevant in Negros Occidental.

The Pro-PIDU, a multi-sectoral group composed of the provincial government, military, police and civil society groups, is now in the second phase of its project on the theme “Serving the Countryside, Working with the People” that plans to meet the basic health needs of those in conflict- affected communities of ESTOCA( Escalante-Toboso-Calatrava) area, in line with the Negros First Agenda of Marañon.

Lt. Col. Efren Morados, 62ndIB commander, said that by deploying Bayanihan teams in conflict-affected communities they were able to deny the NPA from those areas.

Morados said they have completed 80 percent of their survey of the need of conflict-affected communities with 600 households, who are the poorest of the poor, as the target beneficiaries.

He said that, with the Bayanihan teams, the NPA in the remote communities, were reported to have gone inactive, while others fled to central and southern Negros.


Morados reported that not a single complaint of human rights was filed against his unit, indicatingtheir strict adherence to the rule of law and promotion of human rights.
He said the local governments of Toboso and Calatrava have agreed to activate PIDU in their localities.

1Lt. Jimrhic Obias,303rdCivil Military Operations officer, said the University of the Philippines-Miag-ao, as recommended by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace Process, is conducting a research on “Life After War” for former rebels in Negros Occidental. This is a similar reintegration program as that for former Moro National Liberation Front fighters and communist rebels.


Obias said the research aims to document the effects of reintegration programs in local and national for foreign funding, the security of communities that absorbed them, and to provide narratives about the transition to civilian life of ex-rebels.

Seventeen of the 82 former rebels are now piloting the “Wellness Program” of the 303rdInfantry Brigade headquarters in Murcia, that aims to provide livelihood to their families, with the support of the provincial government of Negros Occidental.

Security beefed up amid 'plan' to rescue jailed MNLFs

From ABS-CBN (Dec 17): Security beefed up amid 'plan' to rescue jailed MNLFs

Authorities at the San Ramon Penal Farm in this city have beefed up security amid alleged plans to rescue Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) rebels under Nur Misuari.

Almost 300 suspected MNLF rebels are detained at the facility after they were arrested following the siege on September 9.

Supt. Rey Soledad of the Regional Public Safety Battalion – Region 9 explained that they have to be very strict in maintaining the security in the facility following threats of an alleged plan of the MNLF to again conduct another attack or rescue their jailed comrades.

A letter intercepted by the jail authorities confirmed the suspicions of the police.

The letter stated that by Thursday, its supposed recipient will already be able to go home.

Soledad refused to give further details about the letter.

Councilor Elong Natividad, Peace and Order committee chair of the City Council, earlier admitted that the possible second attack by the MNLF was discussed during a recent council meeting.

He said he had called on the authorities to beef up security in the coastal areas, as well as areas that could possibly serve as the armed group's entry points.


Meanwhile, a team from the Regional Human Rights Commission of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (RHRC – ARMM) accused Soledad of threatening them during their visit to the facility.

Atty. Edy Lynn Santiago, head of the RHRC-ARMM said their team visited their clients at the penal colony on Friday morning, bringing with them some goods that were turned over to them by the relatives of the detained rebels.

However, the human rights workers were surprised when Soledad approached and reprimanded them for allegedly taking pictures of the gate of the Minimum Detention facility and its perimeters.

Santiago said there seemed to be a misudernstanding as their team only took one picture of the goods against the gate of the minimum detention facility.

"We are very well aware of the security protocols," Santiago said.

Santiago's team added that Soledad accused them of putting the security of the penal facility at risk. Santiago claimed Soledad told his team,"Uunahan na namin kayo, papatayin namin kayo."

Soledad denied these allegations and said BJMP personnel saw one of the members of the team taking several pictures, while allegedly trying to hide behind their vehicle.

Soledad said that upon the instruction of Chief Supt Juanito Vaño Jr, police director of Region 9, he had the pictures deleted from the camera of the team and had a police personnel escort the team to the police station.

"Isang pulis lang ang pinadala dito ng PS-9, nakasakay sa motorsiklo niya, Soledad said. "Sumakay sila sa sasakyan nila at sumunod lang ang pulis sa likod nila papuntang police station. So paanong sasabihin nila na they were heralded to the police station?"
Santiago meanwhile said, they are keen on filing a case of threat and illegal arrest against Soledad.;postID=5983225745518671006

MILF: BDA-Dev’t Partners Meeting firms up commitment for Bangsamoro Development Plan formulation

From the MILF Website (Dec 16): BDA-Dev’t Partners Meeting firms up commitment for Bangsamoro Development Plan formulation

The roundtable discussion of the Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA) with Development Partners firms up the commitment for Bangsamoro Development Plan (BDP) formulation.
The gathering held at the World Bank Conference Room in Manila on December 11, 2013 was a follow through activity of the Donors’ Forum conducted last September 3 which further enjoined other stakeholders to support the initiative that lays down the blue print for the comprehensive development of the Bangsamoro communities in the country.

Development institutions present in the event who earlier committed to support the plan formulation were: Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), Asian Development Bank, The Asia Foundation, Australian Embassy and the World Bank.

BDA and Mindanao Land Foundation (Minland) recently signed a program partnership agreement for the operational support of the BDP through the Mindanao Trust Fund of the World Bank.

Likewise, JICA has already submitted initial results of the needs assessment conducted in the Bangsamoro for the past three months following the launching of the BDP.

United Nations agencies in the country namely the United Nations Development Programme, UN Women, and IOM had already expressed their willingness to support the BDP.

Present in the meeting from the BDA were: Chairman of the Board of Directors Dr. Saffrullah Dipatuan; Dr. Mohammad Yacob, Executive Director; Dr. Ayesha Abubakar, Senior Advisor; Engr. Windel Diangcalan, Head of Program Management Division; Mr. Hamodi Tiboron; Mr. Beñamine Ubpon (BDP Core Planning and Support Team); and Engr. Nasser Sinarimbo, BDA Management Consultant. 

In the discussion, the BDA presented the strategic direction, scope, and phases of implementation of the BDP for the partners to identify areas of collaboration and possible complementation.

The BDP Core Planning Team further provided outline of the integrative report of the BDP which also informed the development partners of the challenges that may occur in the plan formulation.

The BDP formulation timeline includes conduct with BDP experts and consultants on the second week of January 2014 and the Transitional Development Plan (Phase 1) shill be ready this coming July.

The BDA Central Management Office had already tapped its Regional Management Offices to help in the data gathering from various government agencies in the regions in Mindanao.

It has also started the procurement of staff dedicated for the BDP Project. The Mindanao Trust Fund Reconstruction and Development Program (MTFRDP) support the operational fund of the BDP project.

In his opening remarks, Dipatuan said, “This is a very good point in time when the very contentious Power Sharing annex of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) was just signed between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) peace panels in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.”

 “We have to be very thankful for patience and perseverance of our panels, the GPH and MILF, for making a very good, workable and implementable agreement,“ he added.
“This now give us hope that in due time they will be able to sign the comprehensive peace agreement,” the BDA Chairman said.

Representing the government in the gathering was Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) Undersecretary Luisito Montalbo.

He said the government has the commitment to have lasting peace in the Bangsamoro and assured that the OPAPP is very much supportive of the BDP formulation including the generation of support from various government line agencies.  

Dipatuan also appealed to the partners to consider Bangsamoro consultants and experts who are more familiar with the Bangsamoro context and situation.

The BDA’s role in the BDP formulation is in accordance with the signed Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro signed on October 15, 2012 which states that creation of Transition Commission (TC) will coordinate “development programs in the Bangsamoro communities in conjunction with the MILF Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA), the Bangsamoro Leadership Management Institute (BLMI) and other agencies” (Section VII, 4c of the FAB).

It was further reinforced after the signing of the FAB Annex on Revenue Generation and Wealth Sharing on July 13, 2013 which stated that the Bangsamoro shall formulate its development plans, consistent with the national development goals but recognizing their unique needs and aspirations. The plan shall also consider the revenue generation needed for the post-conflict rehabilitation, reconstruction and development in the region.’t-partners-meeting-firms-up-commitment-for-bangsamoro-development-plan-formulation

MILF: Kutawato Multimedia Network hosts Radio Community Peace Forum on FAB in Cotabato City

From the MILF Website (Dec 16): Kutawato Multimedia Network hosts Radio Community Peace Forum on FAB in Cotabato City

The Kutawato Multimedia Network (KuMuNet), a loose network of non-government, civil society organizations, and some media practitioners in Central Mindanao, held a “Radio Community Peace Forum on Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB)” at Tanghalang Michael Clark, Notre Dame University, Cotabato City on December 2.
Local government officials of Cotabato City, the academe, students, youth, women, parents, religious group, and civil society organizations participated in the said forum.

Three members of Bangsamoro Transitions Commissions namely; Commissioner Atty. Raissa Jajurie of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), who was tasked to present wealth sharing annex of FAB;   Commissioner Ms. Froilyn Mendoza of the Government, who talked of Bangsamoro Transition Commission’s (BTCs) mandates and tasks, and Commissioner Mr. Pedrito Eisma, also of the Government, who shared  inputs on FAB.
Mr. Guimel Alim, Chairman of the Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society (CBCS), gave updates on the efforts of CSOs on peace advocacy activities.
Norodin Manalao, Executive Director of ARMM Regional Reconciliation and Unification Commission (RRUC), in his welcome remarks, emphasized the importance of the forum.

“In this peace forum, you can get firsthand information on the peace process from our speakers because they are the ones who are directly engaged in the peace talks,” he said.

The ForumZFD’s Davao-based Project Manager Manuel Domes, a German national, gave the rationale of the program.

“We see that one of the most important roles of civil society [the KuMuNet] is to act as a sort of transmission balance between the formal peace process on one side and the community level on the other side,” he said.

Domez also informed the participants on major initiatives of KuMuNet in support to the GPH-MILF peace process through information sharing between and among stakeholders of the peace process in the KuMuNet radio program called “Bangsamoro Ngayon, Tinig ng Kapayapaan” aired every Thursday night from 7pm-7:30pm at DXMS radio station in Cotabato City.

“The FAB is the product of negotiations between the GPH and the MILF. It is basically the framework that provides the establishment of the Bangsamoro government. The Agreement was signed by then GPH Peace Panel Chair, now Supreme Court Justice Marvic Leonen from the government and MILF Peace Panel Chair Mohagher Iqbal from the MILF on October 15, 2012. The historic document was witnessed by President Benigno Simeon Aquino III and Malaysian Prime Minister Tun Najib Razak,” Commissioner Eisma explained.

“On December 17, President Aquino issued Executive Order 120 creating the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) comprising 15 Commissioners with seven (7) members from the government and eight (8) members from the MILF including its Chair. The EO120 was signed on February 25, 2013,” he added.

He clarified that their very role as members of the commission is to write the basic law based on the framework agreement and in consistence with the four annexes. After the writing of Bangsamoro Basic Law or BBL, he said, the BTC will forward it to President Aquino for certification as urgent bill and indorse it to Congress for enactment.

Lawyer Jajurie had focused her presentation on the already signed revenue generation and wealth sharing annex.

 “Why there’s a need for this annex?” she asked.

“The reason was indicated in the document. To become a real autonomy, it doesn’t only need political autonomy or powers but it also needs fiscal autonomy,” she said.
According to Commissioner Mendoza, who shared inputs on the mandates and status of the BTC, the BTC mandates are: first; is to write the BBL anchored on the FAB and its annexes, second;  to re review the Philippine Constitution to accommodate the BBL, third; to coordinate and recommend projects in conjunction to the Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA) and Bangsamoro Leadership and Management Institute (BLMI), both are products of the negotiations, and fourth; the BTC should conduct public consultations so that the people can fully understand the FAB and the BBL to be crafted by the BTC.

Mr. Guiamel shared his perspectives on the FAB and the roles the CSO’s should do in the peace process.

He candidly asked the support of the participants to vote for the inclusion of Cotabato City in the Bangsamoro region when plebiscite comes. 

He called on all important stakeholders such as the local government units, civil society organizations as well as the youth, students, and women to be more active in the campaign for peace in support to the GPH-MILF peace process.

“Because we don’t have much options, it’s either the Bangsamoro to succeed or we will continue the violence… the ARMM is a failed experiment and we cannot live in failure,” he said.

Speaking about the gains of the peace process, Mr. Guiamel said, “If we cannot make the Bangsamoro government to succeed, there are armed groups around us waiting for the right time to do what they want and the failure would mean a signal for a renewed conflict.”

In the open forum, among of the concerns of participants from the Barangay Local Government Units of Cotabato City was on how they can contribute to the peace process or ways how they can effectively inform their constituents on the current status of the peace agreements.  

Samsodin “Mahdie” Amella, Executive Director of the MAPAD Initiatives, closed the program and thanked the speakers as well as the participants. The speakers also expressed their thanks to the KuMuNet for their active support to the peace process.
The organizer disclosed that the registered participants were almost two hundred from the City of Cotabato alone.

On the other hand, last November 5, the KuMuNet held similar activity in the municipality of Upi, Maguindanao attended by leaders of Indigenous Peoples (the T’duray-Lambangian) by where members of the BTC as guest speakers.

The Kutawato Multimedia Network was established in 2010 with current active members, to wit; the Bangsamoro Center for Just Peace (BCJP), CBCS, Kadtuntaya Foundation Inc. (KFI), Mindanao Action for Peace and Development (MAPAD), Moro Women Development and Cultural Center (MWDECC), Regional Reconciliation and Unification Commission (RRUC), I-Watch Oblate Media, Mindanao Peoples’ Peace Movement (MPPM), United Youth of the Philippines (UnYPhil-Women), and United Youth for Peace and Development (UNYPAD).

Court faces problem proceeding rebellion charges against Misuari

From the Zamboanga Today (Dec 16): Court faces problem proceeding rebellion charges against Misuari

The court is facing difficulty in proceeding the case against Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) founding leader Nur Misuari and his close aide Habier Malik, because they are at large.

“This is really a big problem but we rely on our arresting officers... they still don’t know where Misuari is now and so with Malik if he’s still alive or dead,” City Legal Officer Atty. Jesus Carbon told reporters.

“So kailangan maayos ito but the case will proceed against the others but the case against Malik and Misuari can’t but anytime they are arrested, trial will be conducted against them,” said Carbon.

According to Carbon, the case against Misuari is very strong because the people of Zamboanga saw what happened during the September siege and that there are evidences such as the firearms confiscated by authorities.

“All the records are now in Manila, Judge Eisma personally brought boxes of records to Manila, the city prosecutors also brought records to the DOJ,” said Carbon.

“There are several witnesses, one of them is Mayor Beng Climaco,” said Carbon. “Although we are advising her maybe not to be witnessed, she is the chief executive of Zamboanga City local government.”

Carbon also raised the problem about the transportation of MNLF prisoners from Zamboanga City to Manila.

“The problem again will be the transporting them to Manila... iyung transport na lang... we hope it will not drag long... there are some questions on security because they might sabotage, but it’s not in our hands anymore,” Carbon added.

Anytime there is a plane we can transport them, it will take three trips of C-130 to Manila, there are 270 plus of them, the schedule, as soon the C-130 is available... and their counterpart in Manila is ready to receive them.”

The retired judge also revealed that the Department of Justice (DOJ) appointed 5 prosecutors to handle the case in Manila.

The DOJ has filed rebellion charges and violation of the International Humanitarian Law (Republic Act 9851) against Misuari and several others including Malik involved in the September assault on Zamboanga City.

The charges were filed before the Zamboanga City Regional Trial Court.

There are 277 MNLF rebels loyal to Misuari including four top commanders, some women and minors were charged and now under detention at the San Ramon Prison in Ayala, the city reformatory center and at Culianan for children center.

The court said the attack on Zamboanga resulted in several casualties and extensive damage within the city, particularly in barangays Mariki, Rio Hondo, Sta. Barbara, Sta Catalina, Kasanyangan, Talon-talon and Mampang, among others.

Authorities said the rebellion charge stemmed from Misuari and his men’s taking up arms and attacking members of the police and military, as well as innocent civilians and by committing “acts of murder, pillage, disorder, looting, arson and destruction of private and public properties.”

The case filed focuses on the armed men’s acts of violence against the residents who did not take an active part in the armed hostilities and taking non-combatant civilians as hostages while fighting with government forces which led to the deaths of many people, and injuries to civilians.

It also dealt with the armed group’s forcible opening of houses, taking about 300 hostages which the Misuari’s followers used as human shields and the burning of thousands of houses and building, both public and private, causing a damage amounting to millions of pesos.

The Zamboanga prosecutors did not recommend any bail for the MNLF leaders while a P200,000 bail was recommended for their followers. No bail was also recommended for the violation of RA 9851.

Last Sept. 9, Misuari’s followers entered Zamboanga City and occupied some villages, taking civilians as hostages. But government forces retook the MNLF-controlled areas and declared the crisis over by Sept. 28.

The incursion sparked three weeks of street battles with elite military forces that forced more than 100,000 people to flee their homes. Over 200 people died in the Zamboanga City crisis.

Police raided the house of Misuari in Zamboanga City after a search warrant was issued by a local court. Though Misuari was not there, documents and suspected components of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) were among the items found in his house.

President Benigno Aquino III said Misuari faces charges of rebellion as well as illegal possession of explosives.

Also, the Philippine National Police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group lodged criminal charges against Malik and hundreds followers of Misuari.

Rebellion charges were filed against Misuari in 2001 for allegedly ordering MNLF forces to attack government troops in Sulu to prevent the holding of new elections. More than 100 people were killed in that incident.

Misuari then escaped by boat to Malaysia, where he was arrested and deported to the Philippines. He was put under house arrest while his case was being heard before the Makati Regional Trial Court Branch 59.

He was allowed to post bail in 2008.

In 2009, Makati Judge Winlove Dumayas dismissed the rebellion charges after the prosecution failed to produce enough evidence to prove his guilt.
The acquittal came a day after Misuari filed his certificate of candidacy for Sulu governor under the Bangon Pilipinas party led by Bro. Eddie Villanueva. Misuari ran for the same post in 2007, but lost to then re-electionist Abdusakur Tan.

Drones to kill Filipino civilians, too!

From the Bicol Today (Dec 16): Drones to kill Filipino civilians, too!

Vince Casilihan. of Karapatan Bikol. Contributed Photo

“It is despicable for a government to scurry on beefing up its fangs in the face of grinding poverty, injustice, and discontent.” This is what Vince Casilihan of Karapatan-Bikol has to say in reaction to the Aquino government’s plan on purchasing unmanned aerial vehicles or drones to be used in intelligence and combat operations.

The Aquino government has provided P684 million to the Department of National Defense for the acquisition of six drones for the Philippines Marine Corps.

The human rights group Karapatan-Bikol believes that no later will the other branches of the Armed Forces of the Philippines follow suit in employing drones in it’s counterinsurgency campaign.

To this, Casilihan criticizes Aquino’s “crooked” concept of addressing armed conflict.

He said, “Here is a warfreak of a government buying more weapons, instead of allocating public funds to education, health, agricultural subsidies, and other social services – whose dearth are among the legitimate grounds for waging armed opposition.”

Karapatan-Bikol likewise censures the AFP’s bid to downplay the combative intent of the drones, with Navy spokesperson Lieutenant Commander Gregory Gerald Fabic saying that the UAVs will also be used for “search and rescue”.

Karapatan-Bikol’s Casilihan casts doubt that while the Navy spokesperson pertains to utilizing drones for disaster response, the Aquino government’s dismal record on this arena proves the duplicity in the military’s statement.

“An honest disaster management is not in the Aquino government’s recipe, what with its ineptitude on Yolanda. On the other hand, Aquino’s zeal in Oplan Bayanihan attests to his enlisting of drones primarily for his wicked counterinsurgency,” Casilihan said.

“Worst of all,” added Casilihan, “what the Aquino government plans to acquire is a war machinery widely condemned internationally for being certified civilian killers.”

Casilihan points to the unpopularity of drones among the peoples of the world for not discriminating between civilians and suspected enemies. With the US wars of aggression targetting those it perceives as “terrorists”, its drone attacks have already killed thousands of civilians in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Yemen, among others.

Recently, a suspected US drone attack on December 12 in Yemen has killed at least 15 wedding guests mistaken as “terrorists”. Damning reports also hold US drone strikes responsible for killing 900 civilians in Pakistan from 2004 to September 2013.

It is estimated that for every “suspected terrorist” killed by drones, 50 civilians are likewise slain. “With the planned purchase of these deadly drones,

Aquino is without a soul in not heeding international clamor to stop drone operations,” Casilihan laments.

In ending, Casilihan urges the people to condemn and fight the Aquino government’s plan of furthering its attack on civilians.

“While drone strikes attack legitimate struggles of the Filipino people, Aquino’s “matuwid na daan” is being paved to facilitate the nation’s plunder by no less than Aquino and his imperialist masters.”

DND acquiring 3 medium-lift planes

From ABS-CBN (Dec 16): DND acquiring 3 medium-lift planes

The Department of National Defense (DND) is acquiring 3 brand new medium-lift planes that can operate in any environment and provide support for territorial defense.

Defense Undersecretary for finance, munitions, installations and materiel Fernando Manalo, who chairs the DND’s Special Bids and Awards Committee 1, announced the opening of the public bidding for the aircraft. The acquisition has an approved budget of P5.3 billion.

He said the aircraft will be used in the conduct of internal security operations, disaster response, and in national development efforts.

He said the acquisition of the aircraft will be conducted through open competitive bidding procedures, using the non-discretionary “pass-fail” criterion set under the Implementing Rules and Regulation of the Government Procurement Reform Act.

Bidders should have completed a similar project during the last five years, he said.

Air Force spokesman Miguel Ernesto Okol said the new planes will complement the bigger C-130 transport planes. The Air Force currently has three operational C-130s.

Okol said the Air Force’s medium-lift requirement is currently performed by three Fokker planes that are actually designed for passenger transport.

Aboard the HMS Illustrious, warship and lifeline for Yolanda survivors

From GMA News (Dec 13): Aboard the HMS Illustrious, warship and lifeline for Yolanda survivors

British warship caps relief stint for Yolanda victims

Two officers walk towards the sunset on board the HMS Illustrious at the Manila South Harbor on Wednesday. The British warship, which arrived in the country on Nov. 25, leaves the Philippines on Thursday as it ends its emergency response operations for the victims of Typhoon Yolanda. , GMA News

"(Filipinos are) extraordinary people, and I smile because everywhere I went--and I went ashore every single day to the places that we were operating--and everywhere I went everyone smiles."
"Resilient" may be an overused adjective for Filipino survivors of calamities. But for Captain Mike Utley, commanding officer of the British Royal Navy's HMS Illustrious, the Pinoys' seemingly positive outlook post-Yolanda is worth noting.
"Despite the sometimes horrific destruction, you know 90 to 95 percent of their homes were destroyed, they still smile. They still wanted to work, they were proud of the lifestyle they had, and they wanted to get that back," Utley told media on Wednesday.

"That's inspiring for anybody," he said.
With almost a thousand personnel on board, amphibious helicopter carrier HMS Illustrious, nicknamed "Lusty", started its Philippine operations, codenamed OP PATWIN, on November 25, bringing 142 metric tons of food and 154 tons of supplies to Yolanda-hit Panay and nearby islands.
"All they need is that help, those tools, the equipment to start putting their lives back together," said Utley. "We gave them a lot of help with that, but they can help themselves. And they want to (do that) and they want to rebuild their lives, rebuild their villages, and get back to normal."

He said that although military units like the ship's company aboard the Illustrious and the complement of Royal Marines, soldiers, and pilots that came with them are trained for relief work, their work is done. 
After almost two weeks of operations, 380 flying hours for delivery, and an estimated 40,000 Filipinos helped, Lusty was set to leave Manila Thursday.

Before the ship weighed anchor, though, the Illustrious opened its hatchways to media, including GMA News Online, to show how its officers and crew accomplished relief operations in the Visayas and in Palawan.
Here are some scenes from aboard HMS Illustrious:

2 soldiers hurt in Cotabato blast

From GMA News (Dec 16): 2 soldiers hurt in Cotabato blast

Two soldiers were wounded when a land mine exploded in the hinter village of Arakan in Cotabato Sunday, a regional military spokesperson said.

Lt. Nasrullah Sema, chief of the 57th Infantry Battalion Civil Military Operation (CMO), identified the wounded soldiers as PFC Oliver Magbanua and CPL. Abdullah Camsa.
Sema said both victims are now safe after being treated in an undisclosed hospital the province.
Sema said the soldiers were responding to information about a reported presence armed men suspencted to be New Peoples Army rebels at the boundaries of Barangay Sagundanon and Kabalantian in Arakan town, when the incident happened.
Sema said troops also figured in a 15-minute firefight against an undetermined number of armed men positioned at the higher ground.

“The area is really haven of bandits including the NPA rebels,” Sema said over local Radyo Bida station in Kidapawan City.

MILF: Editorial -- Influence Operation

Editorial posted to the MILF Website (Dec16): Influence Operation

Any man or woman has the best of intention and ideas but when someone subscribes to them blindly may not necessarily result in his or her benefit. Therefore, if one has to be careful in spotting useful from harmful ideas, the more one has to be on lookout for those ideas designed to influence attitudes, behaviors, or decisions. This is called “influence operation”.
Spoilers are always in our midst from the conception of the peace talks to the conclusion of it. There are diverse interests that are adversely affected with the establishment of self-governing entity in the Bangsamoro territory. They will never cease to distract or even destroy the impending grand success of the 16-year peace negotiation between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). They come from without and within the Bangsamoro. Many are showing their ugly faces while others busy in their destructive ways.

This spoiling does not spare even the crafting of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL). If the members of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) especially those in charge of committees, are not equipped with the best intention of serving the interests of the Bangsamoro, intellectually focused, educationally competent, and morally upright, they will find it very difficult in fulfilling their avowed task of writing the best Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

This is not to say that we doubted the integrity and capability of the 15 commissioners to deliver their mission. They were selected from the best breed the Bangsamoro can offer. And without doubt, their collective wisdom will ensure that the primary interests of the Bangsamoro will be upheld at all times in the crafting of the BBL.

However, as human beings, they should not let their guards down in seeing through beyond “good intention”. What appears to be of the best idea mold might be infected with virus to confuse or pollute and frustrate the legitimate aspirations of the Bangsamoro people. They should be the ones who take charge in selecting so-called experts especially local ones who speak on various aspects of the writing of the BBL. More importantly, they should discriminate honest experts’ advice to plain peddling influence.

This is not to say, however, that the BTC or any of its committees has invited to its meetings and hearings of those suspicious character. So far, we do not know of any. Ours is just an advice: an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure”.

MILF: OIC urges MNLF peace deal integration in Bangsamoro Basic Law

From the MILF Website (Dec 16): OIC urges MNLF peace deal integration in Bangsamoro Basic Law

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) urges the integration of the gains of 1996 Philippine Government-Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) Final Peace Agreement to the Bangsamoro Basic Law.
The OIC, which brokered the peace accord between the MNLF and the Philippine government, issued resolution during the 40th Session of the Council of Foreign Ministers held in Conakry, Republic of Guinea on December 9-11, 2013 which called upon the OIC Secretary General to exert his efforts to:

•    narrow the gap between the positions of the leaderships of the MNLF and the MILF to continue their joint coordination and work to achieve peace and development for the people of Bangsamoro in the framework of Bangsamoro Coordination Forum (BCF) established between the two fronts at the Islamic Conference in Djibouti and calls for holding another meeting to prepare guiding principles for its work

•    find common grounds between the Parties to the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro and the 1996 Agreement on the implementation of the 1976 Peace Agreement

•    develop a mechanism to ensure that the gains of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement on the implementation of the 1976 Peace Agreement are preserved and the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro and its Annexes are fully implemented with the end goal of integrating the gains achieved in these peace agreements in the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

Representing the Philippine Government to the OIC Meeting were Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Undersecretary Rafael Seguis, Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Undersecretary Jose Lorena, Office of the Executive Secretary Undersecretary Nabil Tan, Philippine Ambassador to Nigeria Alex Lamadrid, and Atty. Zoilo A. Velasco of DFA.

MNLF founding chairman Prof. Nur Misuari who has standing warrant of arrest in connection to Zamboanga Siege last September was not around the meeting.

The FAB was signed on October 15, 2012 by the Philippine Government and MILF. It serves as the blueprint for the establishment of the Bangsamoro political entity that will replace the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
President Aquino described the ARMM as a failed experiment.

The Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) was created to draft the BBL. Once ratified by Congress, it will serve as the law for the Bangsamoro Government within the Bangsamoro Territory.

Headed by a Chief Minister, the Bangsamoro will have a ministerial form of government. The Bangsamoro Assembly will be composed by at least 50 members who will represent the Bangsamoro’s constituents political units.

The OIC sits as an observer in the GPH-MILF peace negotiations and facilitates the Tripartite Implementation Review of the 1996 FPA between the government and the MNLF.

The government peace panel said the BBL will serve the interest of the Bangsamoro people in general and it is neither exclusive for the MILF or the MNLF.

MILF: OIC supports the implementation of GPH-MILF framework agreement

From the MILF Website (Dec 16): OIC supports the implementation of GPH-MILF framework agreement

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) expressed its support to the full implementation of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) and called for the integration of peace gains achieved in the 1996 Final Peace Agreement (FPA) with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in the Bangsamoro Basic Law, the Mindanao Examiner reported on December 13.
In a resolution adopted during the 40th Session of the Council of Foreign Ministers held on December 9 to 11 here, the body urged the OIC Secretary General “to exert his efforts to find common grounds between the Parties to the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro and the 1996 Agreement on the implementation of the 1976 Peace Agreement and develop a mechanism to ensure that the gains of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement on the implementation of the 1976 Peace Agreement are preserved and the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro and its Annexes are fully implemented with the end goal of integrating the gains achieved in these peace agreements in the Bangsamoro Basic Law.”

Signed by the Government of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in October 2012, the FAB serves as the blueprint for the establishment of the Bangsamoro new political entity that will replace the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). The Bangsamoro Basic Law, once ratified in a plebiscite, will enable the entrenchment of the new region.

The OIC also recognized “the peace efforts between the Government of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front for reaching a comprehensive agreement that would help in the improvement of the situation of Muslims in Mindanao region” and hoped that the FAB “would be concluded in line with 1976 Tripoli Peace Agreement.”

 Undersecretary Rafael Seguis of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA); Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Undersecretary Jose Lorena; Office of the Executive Secretary Undersecretary Nabil Tan; Philippine Ambassador to Nigeria Alex Lamadrid; and Atty. Zoilo A. Velasco of DFA represented the Philippine government in the OIC meeting.

Secretary Seguis said that based on the OIC resolution, “it seems that the organization is accepting the FAB as the framework or mechanism for convergence of the two peace tracks with the MNLF and the MILF.”

The OIC sits as an observer in the GPH-MILF peace negotiations. It also facilitates the Tripartite Implementation Review of the 1996 FPA between the government and the MNLF.

“The OIC apparently is accepting already the convergence of the framework being proposed by the GPH,” Sec. Seguis added.

Meanwhile, he confirmed that MNLF faction Chair Nur Misuari, who has a standing warrant of arrest in the Philippines due to the Zamboanga crisis that killed about 400 people, “was not present in the meeting and there was no MNLF delegation that showed up.” This is contrary to news reports that Misuari and other leaders of MNLF factions had attended the meeting.

Secretary Seguis, who had an opportunity to deliver a statement at the plenary, appealed to the OIC members to support the continuation of the 5th Tripartite Implementation Review meeting. The said meeting, which was supposed to be held last Sept. 16, was postponed upon the request of Misuari “due to the incident in Zamboanga City.”

“The Government is committed to pursue the implementation of the substantive agreements reached by the parties during the Tripartite Implementation Review,” he said adding that the FAB, which was signed last year, envisions a future Bangsamoro region that is “neither exclusive to the MNLF nor the MILF.”

The holding of the next tripartite meeting was supported by the OIC who, in its statement, called on its Secretary General and the Peace Committee for Southern Philippines (PCSP) to hold another session of the tripartite meeting to overcome “pending major difficulties.”

Secretary Seguis also conveyed to the OIC the recent milestone in the Philippine peace process with the signing by the GPH-MILF Peace Panels of the annex on power-sharing which according to MILF Panel Chair Mohagher Iqbal is the “heart of the peace process”.

“The Annex on Power-Sharing recently signed already opens up the possibility of converging the achievements of both GPH-MNLF and GPH-MILF peace processes, setting a path for a coordinated implementation of both peace agreements for the benefit of the entire Bangsamoro,” he stated.

Quoting from the last provision of the annex, he pointed out that it calls on the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) to “undertake an inventory of the powers and consider the proposed recommendations from the review process of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement for possible inclusion in to the Bangsamoro Basic Law…”

The GPH and the MILF will meet in January 2014 to try to finish the remaining annex on normalization and an addendum on the Bangsamoro waters. The issue on “Bangsamoro waters” was supposedly part of the annex on power-sharing but both panels failed to agree on it. The BTC for its part is now holding series of public consultations with various stakeholders of the Bangsamoro in drafting the Basic Law.

“The opportunity for a genuine and comprehensive peace in Mindanao is just within arm’s reach. We ask OIC’s help in realizing this, mindful of the new realities and of no less than the best interest of the entire Bangsamoro people,” Sec. Seguis further said.

(YEARENDER) PN modernization going at a good clip

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 16): (YEARENDER) PN modernization going at a good clip

With the arrival of its Hamilton-class cutter, BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PF-16) and three of the five AgustaWestland AW-109 "Power" helicopters, and signing and bidding of major ship contracts, the modernization of the Philippine Navy (PN), the force mandated to protect the country's vast maritime domains, is going on a good clip.

Navy spokesperson Lt. Cmdr. Gregory Fabic said they are very excited with the way things are going for the PN which for decades has sadly lagged behind its other Southeast Asian counterparts.

But with the arrival of the BRP Ramon Alcaraz last Aug. 6, after a two-month voyage from the United States, and commissioning last Nov. 22 and delivery of the three AW-109s last Dec. 8, Fabic said that the maritime domain awareness capability of the PN was greatly boosted.

Contract for the naval helicopters were signed last Dec. 20, 2012.

The arrival of these assets also ensures that BRP Gregorio Del Pilar (PF-15), the country's first Hamilton-class cutter, will no longer have to do maritime sovereignty patrols in the West Philippines on her own.

The ability of the PN to protect the country's vast waters will be greatly increased once the combat versions of the AW-109s, the last two of the five ordered for P1.33 billion for AgustaWestland, arrives in the third quarter of 2014.

Last Dec. 12, BRP Ramon Alcaraz, after her three-week relief mission off "Yolanda" battered Tacloban City, was assigned to the Western Command in Puerto Princesa, Palawan.

This military unit is tasked to protect Palawan's vast maritime areas which includes parts of the Kalayaan Island Group and the West Philippine Sea.

The arrival of BRP Ramon Alcaraz ensures constant naval monitoring and surveillance of fish and energy rich territory.

"2013 was a very good year for the PN, we are hoping that the coming year (2014) will also be a good one for us," he added.

Aside from this, another good thing that happened for the Navy this 2013, was that the contract for the PN's P4-billion "strategic sealift vessel" (SSVs) was finally awarded to PT PAL Indonesia (Persero) early this August.

The latter company won after offering a bid price offer of P3,863,999,520.

The two-ship project is expected to be completed within two years.

"The SSV is an integral part of the PN's Service Force (logistic) and is needed to accomplish the Navy's missions in different areas," Fabic earlier said.

The ships are estimated to weigh around 7,300 gross register tons and capable of transporting at least a battalion of troops (500 men) and their equipment.

The SSVs will be also used to improve the PN's transport and lift capabilities.

These missions are needed especially in times of natural disaster of which the Navy is one of the responders, as proven during the aftermath of super typhoon "Yolanda" where the PN deployed around 30 ships to help in the ongoing disaster and relief efforts.

The ships are capable of acting as mini-helicopter carriers as it is capable of carrying two helicopters at its flight deck and another at its enclosed hangar area.

Another welcome development for the Navy this year is the bidding for its two-brand new frigates has finally gotten off the ground.

First stage bidding was conducted last Oct. 25 and of this posting, around four firms have qualified for the program which is worth P18 billion.

Navantia Sepi (RTR Ventures) of Spain and South Korean firms STX Offshore & Shipbuilding, Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering Co. Ltd. and Hyundai Heavy Industries, Inc. hurdled the first stage of the bidding process, which involved the inspection of company documents.

The second stage of the bidding will involve the opening of financial proposals and technical documents. This phase will determine if the bidders’ offers are well within the approved budget of P18-billion and if their goods are in line with the specifications provided in the bid documents. The second phase of the bidding will be held this month.

The Department of National Defense (DND) decided to conduct a two-stage competitive bidding due to the technical and detailed nature of the project.

The winning bidder is required to deliver the ships within four years from the opening of a letter of credit, a document that assures the supplier that the government will honor its financial obligations.

And should it come into fruition, the two ships will be the most heavily armed vessels in PN service.

Technical specifications obtained by MaxDefense: Philippines, a blogsite for Philippine defense related matters, revealed that the ships, at minimum, will be armed with:

-76mm gun at forward section with target tracking radar and/or electro-optical target acquisition and fire control computer;

-one stabilized secondary gun;

-four .50-caliber machine guns;

-primary and secondary guns shall be integrated to combat management system;

four surface-to-surface missile launchers, minimum 50km range, active homing seeker and ECCM capability;

-surface-to-air missile launching system, minimum quadruple launcher, minimum 6km range, IR or semi-active homing seeker, with ECCM and/or IR CCM capability;

-anti-submarine torpedoes, minimum range 2km, minimum depth 500m, with acoustic countermeasures capability, two triple launchers (one on each side).

With these armaments, the ships will capable of engaging any aerial, surface and sub-surface threats that may intrude in Philippine territory.

At present, the most potent weapon system in PN service is the 76mm Oto Melara main gun and Mark 38 Model 2 25mm "Bushmaster" auto-cannon fitted in the Gregorio Del Pilar class frigates and Emilio Jacinto class patrol vessels.

Earlier, PN Patrol Force head Commodore Jose Renan C. Suarez said that the two frigates will be the most capable yet in Philippine service due to its capability to detect and engage airborne, surface and underwater threats simultaneously.

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

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

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

Aside from this, other items in the process of bidding for Navy include three more multi-purpose attack crafts of which six to nine are already in service and the so-called "Marines Forces Imagery and Targeting Support System Acquisition Project" (MITSS) for the Philippine Marine Corps (PMC) which is worth P684,230,000.

This aims to improve the surveillance, monitoring and targeting capability of three brigades that makes up the PMC.

Funds for the MITSS will be sourced through the Revised Armed Forces of the Philippines Modernization Program.

Interested bidders are required to supply one MITSS to each of the three brigade of the PMC.

Each MITSS consist of two small unmanned aerial vehicles, three target acquisition devices, and four kits of tactical sensor integration support system.

Aside from this, an integrated logistic support system and one training MITSS manual.

Interested parties are required to complete a similar project within the last five years.

Pre-bid conference is scheduled on Dec. 16 at the DND bidding awards committee conference room, right wing, basement, DND building, Camp Emilio Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

Bid opening is on Jan. 6, 2014. Bid documents can be acquired for P75,000.

Aside from getting new equipment to boost up its capabilities, plans are also afoot to upgrade the existing ships of the fleet.

The DND earlier announced that it is allocating P216 million to modernize the BRP Artemio Ricarte (PS-37), one of the three Jacinto Class Patrol Vessels (JCPV), in its service.

The latter are the Peacock patrol ships acquired from the United Kingdom in Aug. 1, 1997.

The money will be used to update the marine engineering upgrade of the above-mentioned ship.

The latter refers to to the development, design, operation and maintenance of watercraft propulsion and on-board systems; e.g. power and propulsion plants, machinery, piping, automation and control systems for marine vehicles.

This is phase 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.

These were integrated with the ship's existing systems. The Phase 1 upgrade was completed in 2005.

The DND said that 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.

Besides this, plans are also in the works to place the two Gregorio Del Pilar class frigates of the PN under the so-called "service life extension programs" (SLEP).

The latter refers to the systematic upgrades to the warship's power-plant, navigation, weapons system, communication, and hull.

This has the effect of making the ship serviceable for much longer period of time.

Fabic said that the two Gregorio Del Pilar frigates in Philippine service, BRP Gregorio Del Pilar and BRP Ramon Alcaraz will made to undergo SLEP upon serving the Navy a specified number of years.

The upgrades will make the ship at par with other modern vessels being fielded by other navies.

SLEP will also ensure that the PN will have these ships in service much longer.

It is also a cheaper alternative.

Fabic added that ships constructed during the 1960s up to present are easily upgradeable due to their modular construction.

The two Gregorio Del Pilar frigates in PN service had their keels laid up during the early part of the 1960s.

Basileňo tops 1st Infantry Division Candidate Soldier’s Training Course

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 16): Basileňo tops 1st Infantry Division Candidate Soldier’s Training Course

A Basileňo has topped the 1st Infantry Division Candidate Soldier's Training Course which was concluded this Sunday.

Capt. Jefferson Somera, 1st Infantry Division spokesperson, identified the topnotcher as Rodel I. Babao, a resident of Isabela City, Basilan.

Babao vested the top position out of 138 members of the Candidate Soldier Course Class 318-2013 cross trained with Jungle Warfare Mountaineering Operation Course.

His training was conducted by instructors from the 1st Infantry Division which based in Labangan, Zamboanga Del Sur.

Babao was followed by Richard R. Aninion and Nover B. Rillera both from Molave, Zamboanga Del Sur.

The class which opened last June 15 has originally a regular quota of 144 members.

From 144, only 138 graduated the rigors of military trainings and discipline.

Among the 138, there are 42 college graduate, 62 college level, 28 have undergone vocational courses.

Twenty- five are high school graduates but proved to be deserving candidates as they possessed the skills required to qualify for enlistment; 115 are Visaya, three are Ilocano, and 19 of them from different ethnic groups like Tagalog, Chavacano, Ilonggo, Muslim and Subanen.

Meanwhile, 1st Infantry Division commander Brig. Gen. Felicito Virgilio M. Trinidad, Jr., congratulated the new members of his unit by saying:

"You are the new breed of the Philippine Army under the Army Transformation Road Map. We are expecting from you as your parents and relatives do, to perform your duty to the best of your ability. You are now a soldier of the people, serve them well," he added.

AW-109 pilots, crew to master deck landings

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 16): AW-109 pilots, crew to master deck landings

Prior their deployment to the two Gregorio Del Pilar frigates currently in service, the Philippine Navy (PN) on Monday announced that the pilots and the crewmen of the newly-arrived AgustaWestland AW-109 "Power" helicopters will undergo proficiency on making approaches and deck landings.

Lt. Cmdr. Gregory Fabic, Navy spokesperson, said that this will be done once the AW-109s are commissioned into service this month.

These specialized training will be conducted by deck landing qualified pilots and crewmen of the Navy, he said.

Fabic added that he expects AW-109 pilots and crewmen to quickly master this skill as they are already experienced airmen and considered among the best as they were selected to attend the six-month training course in Cesto Calende in Italy early this year.

The two Gregorio Del Pilar frigates are capable of handling and servicing helicopters as they are equipped with a retractable hanger and flight deck at the stern.

The AW-109s are expected to increase the range and surveillance capabilities of the two ships once in service.

Palace: Gov't likely to declare ceasefire with NPAs

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 16): Palace: Gov't likely to declare ceasefire with NPAs
As it has done every year, the government is likely to declare a unilateral Christmas ceasefire with communist rebels this year, Malacañang said Monday.

Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda expressed hopes the Communist Party of the Philippines, NPA and National Democratic Front would reciprocate the gesture.

"We hope the NPA-CPP-NDF would reciprocate, but as far as this government is concerned, we have traditionally declared a unilateral ceasefire every year," he said.

He added the Palace will announce the dates of the ceasefire once the matter is finalized.

But he also said the ceasefire does not stop government troops from taking defensive positions "when something happens."

"It does not stop us from taking defensive operations when something happens and we need to protect our people," he said.

78th AFP foundation day to be simple

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 16): 78th AFP foundation day to be simple

In deference to the persons severely displaced and affected by super typhoon "Yolanda" in the Visayas, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) announced that it will be celebrating its 78th founding anniversary on Dec. 21 in a very simple manner.

"There will no parade and the celebration will be very simple. This is a way for the AFP to show its sympathy to the victims of 'Yolanda', AFP public affairs office chief Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala said on Monday.

While there will be a thanksgiving mass, there will no more troop reviews consisting of division size formations.

"The program will be very simple and held to recognize our soldiers who have excelled in combat and administration mission," he pointed out.

Zagala added that President Benigno S. Aquino III will be the guest of honor.

"The highlight will be the message of our Commander-In-Chief," he stressed.

The AFP public affairs chief added that he has no idea yet of how much the military will be saving on its simplified 78th anniversary program, stressing that its ongoing humanitarian assistance and disaster relief mission in the Visayas is more important.

Army hunting down NPAs who set off IED after clash

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 16): Army hunting down NPAs who set off IED after clash

Government forces are running after a band of communist rebels who set off improvised bombs following a 30-minute firefight in Arakan, North Cotabato Sunday afternoon, the Army here said.

"We have two wounded soldiers but we are convinced they have more casualties," Lt. Nasrullah Sema, speaking for the Army's 57th Infantry Battalion, said.

He identified the injured soldiers as Pfc. Oliver Magbanua and Cpl. Abdullah Camsa, both of the 57th IB.

Camsa and Magbanua sustained multiple shrapnel injuries in different parts of their bodies.

The soldiers were on their way to Barangay Kabalantian, a hinterland community in Arakan after receiving information from villagers about the presence of about 20 NPAs.

Sema said the NPAs opened fire first on the patrolling soldiers, provoking a running gun battle when the guerrillas decided to retreat after running out of ammunition.

As the soldiers were chasing the rebels, two explosions occurred on the trail.“We have information they have wounded comrades they carried as they fled,” Sema said.

Lieutenant Colonel Nilo Vinluan, 57th IB commanding officer, said clearing operations are still on going to check on landmines believed to have been planted by the rebels as they fled toward the borders of North Cotabato and Bukidnon.

“The NPAs are known for planting explosives that can kill innocent civilians as retaliation for the losses they incur whenever they figure in encounters with the military,” Vinluan said.

Vinluan said his two wounded subordinates are now confined in a hospital, undergoing medication.

Sema said several families in the hinterland district of Arakan have been providing the Army with information about the presence of the rebels who have been mulcting them of their farm produce.

Kerry arrives Dec 17, to visit Tacloban

From Rappler (Dec 16): Kerry arrives Dec 17, to visit Tacloban

PUSHING THROUGH. US Secretary of State John Kerry arrives in the Philippines on Dec 17. File photo by Nicholas Kamm/AFP

PUSHING THROUGH. US Secretary of State John Kerry arrives in the Philippines on Dec 17. File photo by Nicholas Kamm/AFP

US Secretary of State John Kerry's trip to the Philippines will finally push through on Tuesday, December 17, and will include a visit to typhoon-hit Tacloban City.

Kerry, who will stay in the Philippines for two days, will discuss regional issues and humanitarian assistance after Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan).

In a statement, the Philippines' Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Kerry will hold a joint press briefing with Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario past 2 pm on Tuesday.

The US State Department said Kerry will also attend a meeting, as well as a dinner, with President Benigno Aquino III on Tuesday.

This “will afford them an opportunity to speak in depth about the relationship and issues of common interest.”

Deal on US troops

Kerry will meet with American businessmen on Wednesday, December 18. He will end his trip by visiting Tacloban to discuss humanitarian aid for survivors of the world's strongest typhoon on record that has killed more than 6,000 people and affected 4 million residents of the Visayas.

During his visit, America's top diplomat is also expected to discuss a proposed deal to boost US troops in the Philippines. (READ: PH, US resume bases access talks after impasse.)

Recently, the US claimed Yolanda proves the need for a proposed agreement to increase their troops in the Philippines. (READ: New US envoy: PH needs us more after Haiyan.)

Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile said Yolanda is not enough to justify increased US rotational presence in the Philippines. (READ: Enrile: Yolanda not justification for US-PH deal.)

Kerry initially planned to visit the Philippines in October, but a tropical storm poised to hit the country forced him to cancel his trip. (READ: Kerry blames PH trip, blames storm.)