Sunday, January 5, 2014

CPP/NDF: Introducing the 5-book series Continuing the Philippine Revolution

Posted to the CPP Website (Dec 22): Introducing the 5-book series Continuing the Philippine Revolution

Prof. Jose Maria Sison
Founding Chairman
Communist Party of the Philippines
As author, I am deeply pleased and honored that this forum and the launch of the five-book series under the general title, Continuing the Philippine Revolution, are a major part of the program of the Informative and Cultural Gathering. I thank the International Network for Philippines Studies and the Linangan Art & Culture Network for arranging this event. And I also join them in thanking the New World Academy and the Basis voor Actuele Kunst for facilitating it.

I am elated by the coincidence with and relevance of the book launch to two major events. First, the Filipino people continue to celebrate the 150th birth anniversary of Andres Bonifacio, who founded the Katipunan and launched the initial battles of the Philippine revolution of 1896. Second, the Communist Party of the Philippines is now celebrating the 45th anniversary of its re-establishment under the theoretical guidance of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought or Maoism in 1968.

Continuing the Philippine Revolution encompasses the following books: Foundation for Resuming the Philippine Revolution; Defeating Revisionism, Reformism and Opportunism; Building Strength through Struggle; Detention and Defiance Against Dictatorship; and Continuing the Struggle for National and Social Liberation. The contents of these books span the years 1968 to 1990.

Available for sale in the current launch are Foundation for Resuming the Philippine Revolution and Defeating Revisionism, Reformism and Opportunism. It is fine to have these two books at the same time. They are complementary.

The CPP as Leading Force in the People’s Democratic Revolution

The first book presents comprehensively the principles, policies and program of action of the Communist Party of the Philippines in leading the Filipino people’s revolutionary struggle for national liberation and democracy against their barefaced and frontal adversaries, US imperialism, feudalism and bureaucrat capitalism. The second book shows the adversaries on the flanks, such as revisionism, reformism and opportunism, which if unchecked could be detrimental to the people and the revolution.

Foundation for Resuming the Philippine Revolution contains the founding documents of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), such as its Constitution and the Program for a People’s Democratic Revolution; and of the New People’s Army, such as its Declaration and its Rules. It contains the articles that I wrote in the period of 1968 to 1972. These reflect the circumstances and initial efforts of the Filipino people and the Party to continue the Philippine revolution.

The CPP was re-established under the theoretical guidance of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought. It adopted the general political line of the Filipino people’s democratic revolution through protracted people’s war. This is aimed at fully reizing national liberation and democracy, and thereby putting an end to the semicolonial and semifeudal ruling system and paving the way for the socialist revolution. The CPP and other revolutionary forces strengthen themselves by arousing, organizing and mobilizing the people in their millions.

The leading force of the revolution is the working class, which is the most advanced productive and political force. The CPP is its advanced detachment. The main force of the revolution is the peasantry, especially the landless peasants and farm workers. The workers and peasants constitute the basic revolutionary alliance. This is augmented by the urban petty bourgeoisie; and further by a patriotic alliance with the middle bourgeoisie. All together they confront and seek to defeat US imperialism and the local exploiting classes of big compradors and landlords. They also take advantage of contradictions among these reactionaries under certain conditions.

The program of the CPP is to complete the struggle for national independence and empower the workers and peasants in a people’s democratic state system, carry out land reform and national industrialization, achieve social justice, promote a national, scientific and mass culture, uphold proletarian internationalism and develop relations of international solidarity among the peoples and their institutions.

From the book you can gain insights into why and how the revolutionary movement has been able to win the support of millions of Filipinos, withstand the brutal campaigns of suppression designed by US strategic planners and unleashed by the Marcos fascist dictatorship and the post-Marcos pseudo-democratic regimes, and to grow in strength and advance from one stage to another.

After 45 years of revolutionary struggle, the CPP has increased from only 80 members to around 150,000, and has become national in scale and is deeply rooted among the workers and peasants. It leads the New People’s Army which has thousands of Red fighters in more than 110 guerrilla fronts in large parts of 71 provinces. It also leads the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, which includes 17 revolutionary organizations of various social classes, professions and causes. It has established the people’s democratic government in the form of local organs of democratic political power in order to supplant the reactionary state.

The Struggle Against Revisionism, Reformism and Opportunism

The CPP and the Filipino people have demonstrated that they can make revolutionary advances despite the dismal turn of events on the world stage in the years of 1989 to 1991, when the socialist cause was put on a strategic retreat as a result of the full blast restoration of capitalism in what were then revisionist-ruled countries. At that time, China was in social turmoil, the revisionists of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe sped up their privatization of state assets, and the Soviet Union no less collapsed and disintegrated.

The imperialists and their camp followers declared the death of socialism forever. Francis Fukuyama became an ideological shooting star by proclaiming that the end of history is capitalism and liberal democracy. The US was overbrimming with arrogance as it became the sole superpower and pushed further its ideological, political, economic, military and cultural offensives. The anticipated so-called peace dividends from the end of the Cold War became a license and big financial allowance for the US to instigate wars of aggression.

In the Philippines, the political and ideological agents of US imperialism and the local reactionary classes were beside themselves with glee, and boasted that the CPP, NPA, NDFP, and the revolutionary mass movement would wither away for lack of external support because of the integration of China and Russia into the world capitalist system.

Conveniently, they obscured the fact that the CPP arose from the revolutionary tradition of the Filipino people (starting fully from the anti-colonial and democratic revolution of the Katipunan and Andres Bonifacio) and adopted a program of people’s democratic revolution based on the needs and demands of the Filipino people against the semicolonial and semifeudal ruling system. The basic documents and successful revolutionary practice of the CPP prove this point.

US imperialism and its camp followers pretended not to know that the CPP was re-established in opposition to modern revisionism centered in the Soviet Union, in opposition to the long line of opportunism of the Lava revisionist clique in the old Communist party and the Taruc-Sumulong gangster clique in the old people’s army, and in opposition to the reformism peddled by the Jesuitic anti-communists and paid hacks of every passing regime in the Philippines, who were usually drop-outs or betrayers of the national democratic movement. In this connection, it is important to read and study the second book, Defeating Revisionism, Reformism and Opportunism.

The CPP took seriously Mao’s critique of modern revisionism as well as his theory and practice of continuing revolution under the proletarian state through cultural revolution, in order to combat revisionism, prevent capitalist restoration and consolidate socialism. Even as it was defeated in China itself after some years of victory in the period of 1966 to 1976, the anti-revisionist struggle of Mao has a strong influence on the CPP in terms of firming up the revolutionary will and inspiring the militancy of cadres and members; and most importantly it explains why and how socialist societies degenerate from within and disintegrate without suffering any defeat from an imperialist war of aggression.

The Filipino proletarian revolutionaries are confident that they can win the democratic and socialist stages of the Philippine revolution, and can further develop the theory and practice of continuing the revolution in socialist society against the danger of revisionism and capitalist restoration. Remember that the Paris Commune of 1871 won and was defeated but it yielded the lessons for Lenin to win the first socialist revolution. To obfuscate the fact that modern revisionism was the main cause of the degeneration and disintegration of previous socialist societies is to becloud the road of advance for the proletariat in the continuing era of imperialism and proletarian revolution.

While it might still be difficult for some people to appreciate the continuing and long-term value of the anti-revisionist struggle, let us puncture from another angle the arrogant claim of the imperialists and their puppets that socialism is dead forever because even the big socialist countries of the past have turned capitalist and have become absorbed by the world capitalist system. In fact, the addition of two big capitalist powers now cramps the global ruling circle and hampers the expansion of the prior imperialist powers.

The former big socialist countries acquired a high sense of national sovereignty (within the framework of proletarian internationalism) and developed an industrial base while they were still engaged in socialist revolution and construction. Now two additional big capitalist powers are competing with the previous imperialist powers. They are nationally willful and have expanded their capitalist base. They now pose an increasingly big problem for US imperialism and the world capitalist system.

Many strategic planners and pundits of US imperialism are now most worried about China. They regret that in a big way the US manufacturing base has been undermined by outsourcing the production of consumer goods to China to take advantage of cheap labor in the Chinese sweatshops. They realize that concentration on the high-end production of big items and the financialization of the US economy cannot compensate for the loss of jobs in the decline of the manufacturing sector.

Even as a large part of the export income of China belongs to US and other foreign multinational firms, China has been able to use for its own purposes the foreign exchange holdings of the Chinese Central Bank: to buy US treasury securities and thus put the US in debt to China; finance the expansion of Chinese economic activity domestically and externally; increase military expenditures at home; and directly seek out sources of fuel and other raw materials abroad.

In the 1990s and in most years of the first decade of the 21st century, the US enjoyed the status of sole superpower and used this to the hilt in waging wars of aggression in the Balkans, the Middle East, and Central Asia. China and Russia went along with the US in its so-called war on terror in the wake of 9-11. But they have eventually tended to look after their own interests and declared a preference for a multipolar world.

Thus, they have formed the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the BRICS economic bloc, and they have taken positions divergent from the US position in the UN Security Council and in various multilateral agencies over major economic, financial, trade, political, security and other issues. The big capítalist powers still try to maintain their unity against the working people and the third world countries. But contradictions among the big capitalist powers are being fuelled and driven by the current crisis and self-serving US impositions.

Crisis of Global Capitalism and Protracted Global Depression

Even before the years of 1989 to 1991, the US and other imperialist powers were already confronted with the problem of the recurrent and worsening crisis of overproduction. They thought that the problem of stagflation could be solved by the neoliberal economic policy. This puts the blame for the crisis on rising levels of wage incomes and social spending by government and prescribes maximizing and accelerating the accumulation of both productive and finance capital in the hands of the monopoly bourgeoisie which is misrepresented and magnified as the creator of wealth and jobs.

Now we see the ever worsening crisis of the world capitalist system. A global depression has gripped the world. The imperialists and their puppets are once more afraid of the resurgence of the anti-imperialist and socialist movements. Gone are the days when the ideologues and propagandists of imperialism could boast of capitalism and liberal democracy as the end of history and the presumed death of socialism. Nowadays, even Pope Francis is strongly critical of capitalism, openly takes a friendly look at the theology of liberation and suggests that communists who do good can also go to heaven.

The neoliberal economic policy has brought about the worst economic and financial crisis since the Great Depression by accelerating the accumulation and concentration of capital in the hands of a few through the most vicious means of pressing down wages; the wanton liberalization of investments, trade and finance; the most corrupt privatization of state assets; the reckless deregulation of social and environmental restrictions; and the overbearing denationalization of the economies of underdeveloped countries.

In a vain attempt at concealing the capitalist roots of the crisis, the imperialist powers are whipping up ultra-reactionary currents, such as chauvinism, racism, religious bigotry, anti-migrant bias, fascism and war mongering. The imperialist powers are also saying that war production is a stimulus to economic recovery and that the overseas deployment of military forces is the way to expand the sources of cheap natural resources and cheap labor, the market, field of investments and spheres of influence. Thus, they are more prone than ever before to engage in military intervention and unleash wars of aggression against third world countries.

We see how workers, migrant workers, women and youth and the rest of the people are adversely affected by the crisis of overproduction and the bursting of one kind of financial bubble after another in the capitalist countries. States are afflicted by the public debt crisis and impose austerity measures on the people in order to further pass the burden of crisis to them. Mass unemployment is rising, wage incomes are further declining even as the costs of living are rising, social services are deteriorating and yet becoming more expensive.

As a result of the financial meltdown and economic crisis since 2008, a global economic depression has gripped the entire world, especially the underdeveloped countries. In the Philippines, the export income from semimanufactures and raw materials has fallen while the costs of imports have risen. Mining is being done all over the country and the mineral ores extracted are underdeclared and undervalued. The widening trade and budgetary deficits are further increasing the debt burden. The tax burden is increasing, with most of the state revenues going to counterproductive programs and projects, bureaucratic corruption through the pork barrel system, military overspending and debt service.

The US-Aquino regime boasts of economic growth in the Philippines. But this is generated by hot money (portfolio investments) from abroad which go mainly into the stock market and the money market and at best encourages the private construction bubble and consumerism of a small part of the population. The lack of genuine land reform and national industrialization keeps the Philippines underdeveloped and impoverished. Unemployment has risen abruptly, incomes have plunged and the costs of basic goods and services are soaring.

A great number of Filipinos continue to seek employment abroad in the absence of jobs at home. But the worsening crisis of global capitalism, the turmoils in an increasing number of host countries and the ultra-reactionary political campaigns against migrant workers prejudice and put the migrant workers at great risk. According to a report, overseas employment of Filipinos has actually decreased but the increase of money remittances from them are accounted for mainly by the nurses and caregivers in North America.

Under conditions of worsening economic and social crisis, the people are made to suffer rising levels of exploitation and oppression. They are driven to fight for their basic democratic rights and legitimate interests. We therefore see the spread of mass protest rallies and general strikes in both developed and underdeveloped countries. In the underdeveloped countries, armed revolutionary movements are gaining ground. In the Philippines, the revolutionary forces and people are determined to advance from the strategic defensive and strategic stalemate in the people’s war.

The broad masses of the Filipino people cherish their revolutionary tradition. Thus, they are joyously celebrating the 150th birth anniversary of Andres Bonifacio.They understand their own needs and they want to liberate themselves from foreign and feudal domination. Thus, they celebrate the 45th anniversary of the re-establishment of the Communist Party of the Philippines, and they resolutely and militantly participate in the ongoing democratic revolution for national and social liberation. They draw confidence from the resurgence of the antiímperialist and socialist movements as a result of the protracted and ever worsening crisis of global capitalism. Thank you.

CPP/NDF: On the status of peace talks between the GRP and NDFP

Posted to the CPP Website (Jan 5): On the status of peace talks between the GRP and NDFP

Luis Jalandoni
NDFP Negotiating Panel
LUIS G. JALANDONI (LGJ): Before I answer your questions, I wish to give the following preface.

It is the standing policy of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) to be willing to engage in peace negotiations with any administration of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) that is willing to hold peace negotiations for a just and lasting peace, which address the roots of the armed conflict. The negotiations should work for fundamental social, economic and political reforms for the benefit of the people.

Since 1992 more than ten significant peace agreements have been signed and approved by the Principals of both Parties. Among these are The Hague Joint Declaration of 1992, the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG, 1995) and The Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL, 1998).

Two Agreements were signed in 2004, The Oslo Joint Statement (February 2004) and The Second Oslo Joint Statement (April 2004)

Now we come to your questions:

Kindly describe the current situation of the peace talks between the GPH (government of the Republic of the Philippines) and the CPP-NPA-NDFP (Communist Party of the Philippines, New People’s Army, National Democratic Front of the Philippines).

LGJ: Since last April the talks have been at a standstill. The Aquino government declared through media that it is terminating the peace negotiations with the NDFP This followed talks in Amsterdam last February, wherein the Aquino representatives rebuffed the NDFP offer of truce and cooperation and instead wished to impose pacification through a demand for indefinite, unilateral and simultaneous ceasefires.

The NDFP offer for truce and cooperation was to be realized through a declaration of common intent to uphold national independence and carry out land reform and national industrialization. The truce and cooperation would help accelerate talks on social, economic, and political reforms as stipulated in the substantive agenda stated in The Hague Joint Declaration.

The NDFP reiterated its willingness to hold peace negotiations on the basis of respect for and compliance with past agreements. Such compliance would mean release of NDFP Consultants and political prisoners detained in violation of the CARHRIHL and JASIG. CARHRIHL stipulates that political prisoners charged, detained or convicted for common crimes in violation of the Hernandez political offense doctrine ought to be released. The JASIG guarantees immunity from surveillance, arrest, detention and other punitive activities to all participants of both sides in the peace negotiations.

The Aquino government furthermore attacked The Hague Joint Declaration as “a document of perpetual division” in talks held in Oslo in 2011. Subsequently, it declared the JASIG “inoperative” in 2012. In its Counterinsurgency plan, OPLAN BAYANIHAN, it aims to render the NPA inconsequential through the triad of psywar, intelligence and combat operations.

What are the prospects this year of the peace process between the Philippine government and the CPP-NPA-NDFP?

LGJ: Because of the Aquino government’s refusal to comply with the JASIG and CARHRIHL, its attack against The Hague Joint Declaration and declaration of JASIG as “inoperative” and its rebuff of the NDFP offer of truce and cooperation, the prospects this year of the peace negotiations between the Aquino administration and the NDFP are dim. The Aquino government is responsible for stopping the peace process.

What should the Philippine government do in order to resume the peace process with the CPP-NPA-NDFP?

LGJ: It should respect the agreements signed. Former GRP Chief Negotiator. Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III, declared in an interview, “ The Aquino government must respect the past peace agreements. Otherwise, who would trust a government that does not respect agreements or contracts it has entered into. It should release NDFP Consultants and political prisoners in accordance with CARHRIHL and the JASIG. It should withdraw its attack against The Hague Joint Declaration as “a document of perpetual division”. It should heed the call of many peace advocate organizations not to follow the US Counterinsurgency Guide and not to rely on the triad concept of psywar, intelligence and combat operations. It should cease daydreaming about destroying the NPA or rendering it inconsequential. It should aim for a just and lasting peace by addressing the roots of the armed conflict.

What should the CPP-NPA-NDFP do in order for the peace process to move forward?

LGJ: The NDFP must continue upholding, defending and advancing the rights of the peasants, workers, women, youth, indigenous people, and other sectors. It has to develop further its capacity to defend their rights and programs. The overall strength of the people and the revolutionary forces is the firm basis for negotiating fundamental social, economic, and political reforms that are needed to achieve and just and lasting peace.

The NDFP continues to cooperate with the Royal Norwegian Government, the official Third Party Facilitator of the GPH-NDFP peace negotiations, in conveying its willingness to resume peace talks on the basis of past agreements. It continues to work with peace advocate organizations in the Philippines and abroad. It upholds the validity of the agreements made in the peace negotiations.

Are you still hopeful with the peace process under the Aquino administration? Why or why not?

LGJ: Because BS Aquino has not shown any political will to seriously negotiate a just peace with the NDFP, we are not hopeful about peace negotiations under the Aquino administration. He has not shown respect for The Hague Joint Declaration, the JASIG, and the CARHRIHL He has not shown any respect for the Hacienda Luisita workers and farmers and following his landlord class position, he is against land reform. He follows the US Counterinsurgency Guide and its militarist aim of defeating or rendering the NPA inconsequential.

What is the current strength of the CPP-NPA-NDFP?

LGJ: With broad and deep support of the people, the revolutionary forces are active in 71 out of 81 provinces of the country. They are operating in more than 110 guerrilla fronts, with a typical guerrilla front having the strength of a company with three platoons. These areas are run by organs of political power, alternative people’s governments, supported by mass organizations of workers, peasants, women, youth, cultural groups and children. The NPA fighters are assisted by the people’s militia and self-defense units of the people’s organizations. The CPP leads the NPA and the organs of political power. The NDFP is the united front organization of the revolutionary forces.

‘US must pay more for reef damage’

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jan 5): ‘US must pay more for reef damage’

It’s all right if the United States has not yet paid the P58.3-million fine slapped on it by the Philippines for messing up the Tubbataha Reefs this time last year, because it has to pay more, a Filipino lawyer said on Saturday.

Lawyer Edre Olalia said the United States had to pay not only for direct damages but also for other violations of Philippine environmental laws and regulations due to the grounding of its minehunter USS Guardian on an atoll in the Tubbataha Reefs.

“We’re opposed to the paltry fine assessment made by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. Those responsible for the destruction of the reef must be held liable. The United States should pay more,” Olalia told the Inquirer in a phone interview.

Olalia, secretary general of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, is one of the lawyers of environmentalist and activist groups that filed in April last year a petition for a writ of kalikasan (nature) in the Supreme Court while efforts to extricate the USS Guardian from the reef were under way.

The petitioners demanded a fine more than 10 times the Philippine government’s assessment.

Similar incident in Hawaii

They compared the Tubbataha incident to the grounding of the USS Port Royal on a coral reef off Oahu, Hawaii, in 2009, which cost the US Navy $8.5 million in damages in addition to $6.5 million for repairing the reef.

Aside from compensation, the Philippine petitioners also sought a temporary environment protection order (Tepo) that would, among other things, prohibit US military ships from sailing in Philippine waters and making port calls without environmental guidelines and duties, as well as liability plans for breaches of those duties.

The case in the Supreme Court, however, has lagged due to the failure of the US government to comment on the petition.

The last pleadings filed by the petitioners in October included a motion for early resolution and for the issuance of the Tepo, Olalia said.

“When there’s a case in the United States involving the Philippine government, Filipino diplomats are trembling over there and our government would quickly comply [with the US court’s order]. But here, their counterparts are ignoring our courts. Is it because they’re a superpower? That’s why we have to change things,” he said.

“The question now is, will the Philippine government make a stand on this? We should be bold enough to assert our jurisdiction in this issue,” he said.

Olalia said he was wary about the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) statement that compensation talks were still going on between the Philippine and US governments.

He said the negotiations might become politicized and be “dribbled by the DFA” with Washington’s reported request for expanded access for its military to Philippine territory.

Petitioners willing to wait

Olalia said that even if the US government paid the P58.3-million fine imposed by the government, the Supreme Court was free to increase it and impose other monetary penalties and other sanctions.

Asked about the possibility of the Supreme Court remanding the compensation assessment to a lower court or another government body issuing the corresponding guidelines, Olalia said the petitioners would be willing to wait as long as they were assured that there would be just compensation and Philippine jurisdiction would be affirmed.

PH gov’t asked to shun US military access amid Tubbataha issue

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jan 5): PH gov’t asked to shun US military access amid Tubbataha issue
Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) asked the government on Sunday to abandon military access negotiations with the United States after it was revealed that the US has yet to pay for the damage caused by their ship on the Tubbataha Reef.

“The US government has made it abundantly clear that our relations are unequal. It has not paid a single centavo for the destruction caused by the USS Guardian on the Tubbataha Reef. It has made a mockery of our laws,” Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. said in a statement.

The group chided the PH government for not aggressively pursuing the damage claims, adding that there were many opportunities to do so, including US Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit to the country last month.

“Why allow the US increased military access to our country when the US clearly disregards the protection of the environment? Why allow de facto basing when these ships pose a threat to the environment? It does not make any sense,” Reyes said.

The two countries have started negotiations on a framework agreement for the increased rotational presence of US troops in Philippine soil. It is in line with US plans to realign their troops in the Asia Pacific amid continuing territorial disputes in the region.

Last Thursday, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources said the US has not paid the P58.3 million fine for the damage caused by USS Guardian on the Tubbataha Reef.

Bayan said the amount is not enough. They are asking for a fine “12 times the initial estimate of the Philippine government” in their petition for a Writ of Kalikasan.

Military starts deployment of troops in Spratlys

From ABS-CBN (Jan 5): Military starts deployment of troops in Spratlys

The military yesterday started its rotation of Air Force and naval contingents for deployments in Pag-Asa Island in the Spratlys.

Originally scheduled before Christmas, the airmen were not immediately relieved by their counterparts at Armed Forces of the Philippines-Western Command (AFP-Wescom) headquarters in Palawan due to the prevailing weather system hovering over the region for the entire month of December.

Kalayaan Mayor Eugenio Bito-onon Jr. confirmed the deployment of fresh troops in the island municipality.

Since the sea around the island is very rough, Wescom has started shuttling new Air Force troops to the island town using a Navy plane, giving the islanders a chance to visit Palawan aboard the returning Navy aircraft.

Pag-Asa Island is located within the hotly contested Spratlys archipelago area but is closer by several miles to mainland Palawan than from the coastline of Vietnam, which is laying maritime claim over the region along with China, Brunei and Taiwan.

All claimant countries except Brunei have troops deployed in the region, with China becoming more aggressive in pressing its maritime claim to almost 80 percent of the entire South China Sea by deploying its warships and surveillance vessels to conduct regular maritime patrol over the area.

The other day, Beijing announced the completion of the training exercises of its aircraft carrier Liaoning in the region.

The training exercises almost resulted in a naval confrontation between a Chinese frigate and the US warship USS Cowpens in December.

Aside from the airmen who are deployed on rotation basis in Pag-Asa Island, the seat of Kalayaan Island town with a current population of almost 200 civilian inhabitants including children, contingents from the Philippine Navy are also stationed in the area to bolster the country’s territorial hold over the seven islets and two shoals in the region.

“We don’t monitor any naval activities of China out there because of the prevailing weather. The sea is very rough and it is very dangerous for any ship to venture out in the open sea for now,” Bito-onon said.

He added that he has yet to receive reports from local fishermen if the two Chinese maritime vessels have returned to Ayungin Shoal. The vessels left the area last month after taking up position near the shoal for several months.

Ayungin Shoal is located between Pag-Asa Island and mainland Palawan.

China, insisting that the shoal is an integral part of its maritime domain, has tried to dislodge a contingent of Marine troops stationed in the shoal aboard the grounded Navy logistic ship BRP Sierra Madre.

29 Philippine provinces dubbed ‘insurgent-free’

From The Gulf Today (Jan 5): 29 Philippine provinces dubbed ‘insurgent-free’

A total of 29 out of the country’s 81 provinces have been “normalised” or rendered free from the influence of the communist New People’s Army (NPA), according to a spokesman of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

Lieutenant Colonel Ramon Zabala explained that normalisation meant the military would transfer to local government official and civilian agencies the lead role in maintaining peace and security in their areas.

These include, Zabala said, the provinces of Cavite, La Union, Pangasinan, Tarlac, Nueva Ecija, Quirino, Aurora, Nueva Vizcaya and Benguet in Luzon; Cebu, Guimaras,bohol, Leyte, Aklan and Antique in the Visayas in Central Philippines; and Misamis Oriental, South Cotabato, Davao Oriental, Sarangani and Camiguin in Mindanao.


Zabala attributed the normalisation to the military campaign codenamed “Bayanihan” which sought to end insurgency by removing its root causes particularly poverty and lack of access to basic services.

The NPA is the armed component of the Communist Party of the Philippines, which has been waging a Maoist-style insurgency against the government for about 44 years, considered the longest in Asia and the Pacific.

But Zagala emphasised that normalisation could be achieved only with the co-operation of local government units and ordinary citizens as he pointed out: “The root causes of insurgency should be solved not by the military alone but also by everyone.”

He disclosed that in the final three years of the Bayanihan starting in 2014, the military would concentrate on handing over internal peace and security to local government units and civilian agencies so that it could focus on territorial defence.

In 2011, President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino initiated the resumption of peace talks with the Maoist rebels through their political arm the National Democratic Front (NDF) in Oslo, Norway, which has been retained as the third party facilitator.
But negotiations again broke down due to what the government said were the “unreasonable demands” of the NDF like the release of 30 of its “consultants” arrested on orders by the lower courts where they were facing non-bailable criminal charges such as murder, kidnapping and serious illegal detention.

Sulu Sultanate forces to stay in Sabah despite talks

From the Manila Times (Jan 5): Sulu Sultanate forces to stay in Sabah despite talks

RAJAH Muda Agbimuddin Kiram and the fighters of Royal Security Force (RSF) will stay in Sabah even if the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo decides to engage in negotiations with the Malaysian government.

According to Abraham Idjirani, the Sultanate’s secretary-general, Agbimuddin Kiram has no plans of leaving Sabah, claiming that they own the territory.

Agbimuddin Kiram together with his fighters are still in hiding after the Malaysian government launched an all-out war against them for occupying a portion of Lahad Datu in February last year.

When asked about his condition, Agbimuddin Kiram said that he is in “good health,” adding that they managed to get some food from fellow Filipinos on the island.

The RSF, according to Agbimuddin Kiram, will maintain its defensive stance unless provoked by Malaysian forces.

“We are not going to attack unless they attack us,” he said.

Agbimuddin Kiram led 235 members of the RSF who went to Lahad Datu to repossess Sabah, triggering a standoff with Malaysia.

For his part, Idjirani stressed that Rajah Muda did not leave Sabah and has no plans of returning until they succeed in their goal of repossessing the minerals-rich North Borneo territory.

Sultan Esmail Kiram 2nd, on the other hand, said that they are still studying how to deal with Agbimuddin Kiram if the planned negotiation with Malaysia pushes through.

“We have to study that with the Ruma Bechara [Advisory Council] and decide later,” he added.

The Sultanate has expressed willingness to negotiate with the Malaysian government to solve the dispute over Sabah.

Kiram 2nd said he has approved the recommendation of the Advisory Council of the Sultanate to push for a peaceful and civilized resolution of the Sabah claim.

He directed the chairman of the council to create a negotiating panel preparatory to the formal negotiation of the territorial dispute between the Sultanate of Sulu and the Federation of Malaysia.

The membership of the panel will be announced by the Sultanate in the next few days.

US says no request received over Tubbataha fine

From the Manila Bulletin (Jan 5): US says no request received over Tubbataha fine

The Philippine government is yet to send a formal request asking the United States to pay for the damage its warship brought to the Tubbataha Coral Reef sanctuary when it ran aground in Sulu Sea nearly a year ago, the US Embassy to Manila confirmed.

In a Twitter response to Manila Bulletin Online’s inquiry on the subject, the official US Embassy Twitter account claimed that the US has not received any request from the Philippine government over its P59.3-million fine after the USS Guardian ran aground and damaged 4,000 square meters (43,055 square feet) of coral reefs in Tubbataha reef, a world heritage site, on January 17, 2013.

US Emb

For its part, the Department of Foreign Affairs said it will first wait for the Supreme Court to resolve the Writ of Kalikasan petition filed by several groups against USS Guardian officers before it would claim the compensation from the US. This was the subject of a letter on September 19, 2013 sent by DFA Assistant Secretary Carlos D. Sorreta to Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park superintendent Angelique Songco.

“The Department finds it prudent to wait until the petition on the Writ of Kalikasan is resolved before the claim is pursued,” he said in the letter, a copy of which was furnished to Manila Bulletin Online.

Soretta said it’s a decision meant to avoid “legal and diplomatic issues” with the US government.

Lawyer Edre Olalia, secretary general of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL), said the government’s decision to wait for SC resolution is “unfortunate” but “not surprising.” NUPL is among the petitioners in the Writ of Kalikasan.

In a phone interview, Olalia said this showed that the Philippine government has no political will to pursue the damage caused by the US.

He said the government no longer needs to wait for the court to resolve the petition as it is within the power of the executive branch to ask the US government over the compensation.

Olalia stressed that President Benigno Aquino himself could directly asked the executive branch of the US over the matter, considering the US Secretary of State John Kerry had visited the country last year.

He said this is contradictory to the Philippine government’s statement that they are committed to pursue the compensation.

The petition, which was filed in July 2013 before the Supreme Court, asked the US government to pay for the damages it brought to the country. The petitioners, which was lead by Puerto Princesa Bishop Arigo , also seek a Temporary Environmental Protection Order (TEPO) which would, among other things, stop US military warships from entering Philippine waters.

The highest court is yet to issue a decision, considering that the respondents, including Scott Swift, commander of the US Seventh Fleet, and Mark Rice, commanding officer of the American minesweeper, are yet to comment on the petition despite the request from the SC.

Fisherfolk group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) has slammed the US government for ignoring the petition. “The US government must respond to and account for their crimes against the people and the environment. That is simple as ABC, nothing more, nothing less. The incident merits the filing of criminal and other appropriate charges against officials and the 79 other crew of USS Guardian,” it said.

Meanwhile, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) on Sunday said the US has made the Philippine laws a “mockery” by not paying for the  P59-million fine ($1.4 million) fine.

According to the petition, the reasonable compensation for the Tubbataha reef damage is between $16.8 million and $27 million, considering the violation on the Philippine environmental laws and regulations.

It cited a similar grounding of USS Port Royal at Oahu, Hawaii in 2009 where US Navy paid the Hawaii government a total of $15 million for restoration and settlement for damage to an Oahu reef.

While the Oahu reefs damaged were larger, the petitioners assert that it was not a heritage site, unlike Tubbataha reef which was declared by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization as a World Heritage Site housing rich marine life.

Rebuilding of Christian-Muslim bond advocated

From the Manila Bulletin (Jan 5): Rebuilding of Christian-Muslim bond advocated

The Philippine Center for Islam and Democracy (PCID) has taken steps to rebuild the strained relationship between Christians and Muslims brought about by the conflict involving government forces and rogue members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in Zamboanga City last September.

Funded by the United Nations’ Development Programme, the PCID has recently organized a workshop among women peace advocates from Zamboanga City, Basilan, Tawi-Tawi, and Sulu to come up with action plans that will foster better relationship between Christians and Muslims in Zamboanga City.

PCID president Aminah Rasul said women peace advocates in Mindanao have become wary of the imminent “wall of animosity” involving Christian and Muslim residents in Zamboanga, which was caused by the siege launched by the more than 100 MNLF rebels loyal to Nur Misuari who tried to hoist their flag in front of Zamboanga City Hall.

More than 100 people, including MNLF rebels, government troops, and innocent civilians have been killed in the skirmishes that lasted for 21 days.

Rasul has urged all concerned stakeholders to help in the restoration of relationship among Zamboanga residents, which was strained by the recent conflict, and continue providing help to the plight of women and children who were adversely affected by the atrocities.

2 named as top contenders for Army chief post

From the Daily Tribune (Jan 6): 2 named as top contenders for Army chief post

Two senior generals are among the top contenders to replace Army chief Lt. Gen. Noel Coballes, who is scheduled to retire next month upon reaching the mandatory retirement age of 56.

Informed military sources named incumbent Northern Luzon Command (Nolcom) chief Lt. Gen. Gregorioa Pio Catapang Jr. and Army 7th Infantry Division (ID) commander Maj. Gen. Hernando Iriberri as the top contenders for the Army top post.

Both Catapang and Iriberri, sources said, enjoy the trust and confidence of President Aquino, who is the appointing authority for the Army post.

“You cannot be assigned as Nolcom chief and 7th ID commander if you don’t have the trust of the President. Those commands play vital role in the security of seat of government with their proximity to the National Capital Region,” one source said.

Nolcom is based at the Camp Gen. Servillano Aquino in Tarlac, the home province of Aquino, while 7th ID is headquartered in Fort Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija.

While both Army generals are qualified to assume the top Army post, another source said that Catapang has the slight advantage against Iriberri, being a senior officer.

Catapang is a member of the Philippine Military Academy Class of 1981 while Iriberri belongs to the PMA Class of 1983.

Catapang is described as “competent and hardworking” by his peers in the military service.

“He is deserving and very qualified and competent. He is hard-working,” said a senior official based in Camp Aguinaldo.

Iriberri, on the other hand, has served as senior military assistant to Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, who is perceived to be his (Iriberri’s) mentor.

“General Iriberri is very much qualified to take the Army top post. He is a professional officer,” said a Camp Aguinaldo-based officer.

A member of the PMA Class of 1980, Coballes has already started his farewell visits to the Army field units. He will also be hosting his last New Year’s Call to Army officers and select enlisted personnel today.

MILF rushes gov’t to ink peace deal

From the Daily Tribune (Jan 6): MILF rushes gov’t to ink peace deal

Demands comprehensive agreement sealed before April

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has issued more requirement to the government in the current peace negotiations demanding that a comprehensive peace agreement be signed within the first quarter to realize the establishment of a Bangsamoro government by 2016.

It has branded 2014 as a crucial year for the peace negotiations with the government and added that the window for the signing of the peace agreement may narrow as the 2016 presidential elections approach.

In an editorial over its official website, the MILF cited the election fever by 2015 will “radically change” the atmosphere of the ongoing peace negotiations.

“2014 is a crucial year as far as the success of the GPH-MILF peace negotiation is concerned. This is the year for the GPH (Government of the Philippines) and MILF to make hard and eventful decisions which are political milestones in their talks that would ensure the establishment of the Bangsamoro Government in 2016,” said the MILF.

“Failure to do so will make the future gloomy,” the MILF warned.

The MILF stressed that both panels should agree on a comprehensive peace agreement within the first months of 2014 to keep the talks on track.

“Within the first quarter of this year, the parties must sign the comprehensive peace agreement (CPA) to enable the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) to finish the final draft of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) for submission to President Benigno Aquino III, who will certify it as urgent bill, in order to give just enough space and time for Congress to pass it into law,” said the MILF.

The signing of the CPA, the MILF said, should not be later than May this year.
“By 2015 the atmosphere will change radically; the fever of the 2016 presidential election will begin to spread its divisive and paralyzing effects. Expect switching of party affiliations and heightened bickering among politicians. Even a non-partisan issue like the Bangsamoro Question and its early resolution will be affected,” the MILF said.

“And third, the BBL should be ratified by the people in the Bangsamoro territory preferably towards the end of this year or early 2015 to make way for the establishment of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA),” it added.

According to the MILF, formal peace negotiations will resume this month in Malaysia after the parties reached an agreement on the power-sharing annex, which is so far the most difficult of the four annexes.

Still on the pipeline for discussion and settlement are: Bangsamoro Waters, Annex on Normalization, and finally the CPA. The CPA is not just a piece of paper; it contains principles, most likely on the following: how the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) is going to be abolished; the conduct of the plebiscite for the ratification of the BBL; and the manner of amending the Constitution, if necessary.

“However, in spite of the still rough road ahead, we are still very hopeful and upbeat that the two parties will finally settle all the remaining issues in the negotiating table. Two sincere, willing, and committed partners, like the Aquino administration and the MILF, will always find ways to overcome any issue that stands on their way. This has been proved by them time and again,” the MILF said.

The MILF had also sought the signing of an addendum on the annex on power sharing in the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) signed last December 8, the Bangsamoro waters will be outlined.

The MILF demand strengthens suspicion that a new substate is being created out of the forming of the so-called new autonomous political entity (NPE) in the FAB.

The MILF said the GPH and MILF panels failed to agree during their most recent meeting in Kuala Lumpur to seal an agreement pertaining to Bangsamoro waters and considered it as an addendum alongside completing the annex on normalization, which will be next on the negotiation agenda.

The MILF expects the agreement on the Bangsamoro sea boundaries to go beyond the current definition of municipal waters, which under the Philippine Fisheries Code are “marine waters 15 kilometers from the coastline, including streams, rivers, public forest, timberland, forest reserve or fishery reserve within the municipality” except those subject to the provisions of the law on protected areas.

The MILF said that its proposed maritime territory involves parts of Yllana Bay, the Moro Gulf and the Sulu Sea.

“In a meeting scheduled this month at Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, both panels must hurdle the issue on territorial waters, agree and sign it together with the annex on normalization should there be no hassles or hitches along the way,” the MILF said.

The power sharing annex in itself had raised questions among Constitutional experts since it seeks to create a different a parliamentary system of government within the Bangsamoro substate.

The government panel said the Bangsamoro Transition Commission will use the power sharing annex as a guide in the drafting of the Bangsamoro Basic Law.

In their joint statement issued after the signing of the annex on power-sharing, the government and MILF panels said “an addendum on the matter of Bangsamoro waters” will be worked out alongside completing the annex on normalization to pave the way for a comprehensive peace agreement (CPA).

The CPA will consist of the FAB plus the four annexes on transitional modalities signed in February last year, wealth sharing signed in July last year, power sharing signed last December 8 and the normalization annex that would discuss disarmament of the rebels.

The MILF insisted on creating a separate boundary for Bangsamoro waters “to provide political connectivity to the future autonomous entity’s territories, which are in mainland Mindanao and the Sulu archipelago.”

MILF peace panel member Maulana Alonto said such political connectivity would be important in developing further the concept of the Moro “nationhood.”

“Delineating Bangsamoro waters and defining jurisdiction over these will definitely have an implication on sharing.

Pentagon chief urges Japan to improve relations with neighbors

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 5): Pentagon chief urges Japan to improve relations with neighbors

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Saturday urged Japan to improve relations with its neighboring countries after Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's visit to a controversial war shrine in late December fueled tensions with China and South Korea.

"Secretary Hagel underscored the importance of Japan taking steps to improve relations with its neighbors," U.S. Defense Department said in a statement summarizing the telephone talks between Hagel and his Japanese counterpart Itsunori Onodera.

Hagel also called on Japan to promote cooperation in advancing the goal of regional peace and stability, according to the statement.

Abe's visit to the Yasukuni shrine, which honors Japan's war dead including 14 convicted Class-A war criminals from WWII, has drawn worldwide condemnation and criticism with officials and media warning of its adverse impact on regional peace and stability in East Asia.

"We were disappointed that Japan's leadership has taken an action that will exacerbate tensions with Japan's neighbors," U.S. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said at a press briefing on Monday.