Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The real people’s liberation

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jan 6): The real people’s liberation

Clad in a Philippine Army type B uniform, Awing (not his real name) silently watched the verdant hills around him. The Cordilleran birds seem to sing a different tune now and the cold mountain breeze brought by pine needles around him sooths his body. He took out a regular sized nose flute and started blowing a favorite tune his Ama taught him as a child.

While growing in his native barangay of Bugnay in Pinukpuk town, his father has instilled in him that without peace, freedom from want can never be attained.

That was one of the reasons why, when the government offered amnesty to him as a regular member of the Cordillera People’s Liberation Army(CPLA), he took the opportunity.

Today, he is one of the 448 former CPLA armed men who were given training and was accepted as a regular member of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

Since the peace agreement was signed by both parties two decades ago and was revived by the administration of President Benigno Aquino III, the integration of the former rebels into the regular force of the AFP finally came to an end.

While the integration process came to a close, the livelihood component will continue, the AFP assured.

The  158 new soldiers successfully hurdled a six-month military training course on jungle warfare and marksmanship conducted  by the 5th Infantry Division, Philippine Army in Gamu, Isabela which commenced December of last year.

Under oath administered by Senior Master Sergeant Reynaldo Aduca, the recruits vowed to defend the Philippines against any form of intrusion, be it external or otherwise.

In a message to the graduates, AFP Chief of Staff General Emmanuel Bautista urged the recruits to likewise uphold the institution they now belong and to help finally attain the elusive peace and unity in the Cordillera region.

Bautista said he expects the new soldiers to serve as catalysts for change, ensure the sustainability of peace in the region and to help the government insulate their communities from other groups that will threaten peace and order in the area.

When Awing finally got his  certificate of training completion last week, he knew that henceforth, he will be part and parcel  of the whole peace process in that part of the country.

Abu attacks Basilan village after assault on its leaders

From the Philippine Star (Jan 8): Abu attacks Basilan village after assault on its leaders

The Abu Sayyaf attacked a coastal village in Basilan at noon yesterday in an apparent retaliation for last Sunday’s helicopter and naval assault on its leaders led by Nurhassan Jamiri in the outskirts of Al Barka town.

The Abu Sayyaf militants, however, withdrew after heavy fighting with civilian volunteers, reinforced by elements of the Army’s 18th Infantry Battalion, in Barangay Matata, Ungkaya Pukan town.

“The civilian volunteers and Army elements from the Alpha Company repulsed the retaliatory attack aimed at relieving military pressure against the band of Jamiri in nearby Al Barka,” Lt. Col. John Paolo Perez, 18th IB commander, said in a telephone interview yesterday.

Last Sunday, intelligence operatives of the 18th IB sighted 11 Abu Sayyaf leaders and members in Barangay Cambog, Al Barka town aboard five motorcycles while heading toward Barangay Bato-Bato.

The group proceeded to the Kalang Sibubong sand bar, a kilometer southwest of Barangay Bato-Bato, where their presence was subsequently confirmed by seaborne Army intelligence agents disguised as fishermen.

But before an M520 attack helicopter could conduct an air assault, Jamiri and his men were able to break into two groups and quickly fled aboard two motorized pump boats.

The attack helicopter, however, hit one of the pump boats, but its passengers were able to jump out and swam toward a mangrove area in Barangay Cambog, an area controlled by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. Perez said they believe Jamiri was wounded.


NDF hits priests’ participation in CMPAG

From the Visayan Daily Star (Jan 8): NDF hits priests’ participation in CMPAG

The National Democratic Front-Negros has condemned the “active participation” of some priests who are members of the Church-Military-Police Advisory Group in counter-revolutionary activities.

It claimed that these priests have allowed themselves to be part of the “black propaganda machinery” of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Priest-turned-rebel Frank Fernandez, NDF-Negros spokesman, claimed in a statement released yesterday, that some priests serve as instruments in removing revolutionary organizations in areas called “zone of peace”, and in preventing the people in their fight against the land-grabbing activities of mining firms, oil palm and rubber tree plantations.

In 2008, CMPAG–Negros was created through a memorandum of understanding between the Dioceses of Bacolod, Kabankalan, San Carlos and Dumaguete and the Army’s 303rd Infantry Brigade, to promote human dignity and sustain peace and development in Negros Island.

Fernandez, however, accused the CMPAG of engaging in deceitful activities, in tandem with the AFP.

He also belittled the implementation of the Negros First Policy and Provincial Peace Integration and Development Unit of Gov. Alfredo MaraƱon Jr., that he described as expensive programs, and had no effect at all on the ordinary people.

Fernandez further said that the “rebel surrenderees” being claimed by the military had either long left the rebel movement, or had been dismissed from their organization.

Col. Jon Aying, 303rd Infantry Brigade commander, meanwhile, described the accusations of Fernandez as plain and simple “lies”.

Fernandez also called former RPA-ABB national commander Carapale Lualhati a “certified traditional politician”, who has been added to the list for being a spokesman of the US-Aquino regime.

The RPA-ABB, a splintered group of the New People’s Army, entered into peace talks with the government in year 2000. The final peace agreement is waiting to be signed by President Benigno Aquino III.

The Pro-PIDU initiative of the provincial government of Negros Occidental is being implemented in 20 hinterland barangays of Escalante City, Toboso and Calatrava (ESTOCA), where the influence of the rebel movement on the populace has been noted.

The ESTOCA areas have been the focus of the Philippine Army for more than six months in 2013 for their “winning the peace” campaign, in tandem with multi-sectoral groups, through the Pro-PIDUt, a sub-committee of the Provincial Peace and Order Council chaired by Maranon.


Photo: New People’s Army fighters in Negros

Posted to the Visayan Daily Star (Jan 8): Photo: New People’s Army fighters in Negros

New People’s Army fighters in Negros Island  marking the Communist Party of the Philippines founding anniversary recently.

MILF: Bangsamoro Transition Commission Continues its Sessions with Experts

From the MILF Website (Jan 7): Bangsamoro Transition Commission Continues its Sessions with Experts

With just a day into the new Gregorian year of 2014, the Committee on Political Autonomy of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) held its first session with experts on January 3 to 4 at the campus of the Mindanao State University (MSU) in Marawi City. 
Commissioner Robert M. Alonto, who chairs the said committee, said that about “70% of the Bangsamoro Basic Law are within the scope of the Political Autonomy Committee” and considers it a “daunting task” but nonetheless expressed his determination because he believed that what they will ink is a “historic document and the future of the Bangsamoro people.”

The committee was welcomed by RLA Assemblyman Ziaur Rahman Adiong (Lanao del Sur, 1st Dist.) and Dr. Alma E. Berowa, MSU Vice-President for Academic Affairs. In his welcome address, Adiong admitted that the “autonomous regional government cannot fully enhance itself because of some limitations that are embedded in Republic Act 9054”. He further expressed his support to the ongoing peace process between the GPH and MILF and that the 8th Regional Assembly “shares the optimism of the people and (we) want to see the final completion of the annexes.” On the other hand, Berowa assured the BTC that MSU will always be a partner in facilitating for peace and development in the region since “peace will always be an aspiration of the university.” 


The 2-day session of the BTC was marked by academic presentations and question and answer portions.

On the first day, two retired professors -- Dr. Guimba Poingan of MSU and Prof. Rudy Rodil – gave talks on “Bangsamoro History and Identity” and “Territorial Ancestral Domain,” respectively.

Dr. Poingan provided a detailed discussion on the origin of the Bangsamoro people, from the civilizations before the advent of Islam and the Sultanates, to the contemporary movements in the 1970’s.

Meanwhile, Prof. Rudy Rodil conveyed his warm approval of President Benigno Simeon Aquino III and stressed that PNoy was the first president to ever accept and affirm Bangsamoro as a territory or entity. For Prof. Rodil, acceptance is about ‘celebrating the history and character’ of the region.

Rodil served as Vice-Chair of the GPH Peace Negotiating Panel for Talks with the MILF from 2004 to 2008.  Among his works are different published research, books and articles on Mindanao, indigenous peoples and ancestral domain.

Islamic Principles, Political Spaces and their Legalities

The session on the second day was started by Dr. Hamid A. Barra, another former member of the GPH Peace Panel. His presentation focused on the ‘Rationale of the Bangsamoro Basic Law’ and according to him the reason for having a basic law is for the Bangsamoro people to participate in governance. He also stressed that in the BBL the Bangsamoro people will have a chance to get the “real share of what’s being generated by their own natural resources.” Dr. Barra pointed out to the committee that Islam as a complete way of life is for peace and that they must find a way to infuse Islamic democratic principles in the BBL like the public consultation which is actually an Islamic principle called ‘shura’ .

worth noting that under EO 120, one of BTC’s tasks is to ‘conduct dialogues and consultations with National Government and various stakeholders’.

The following presentation was on the “Concept of Political Autonomy” which was delivered by Dr. Sukarno D. Tangol, a former Ambassador to Kuwait and currently the Chancellor of MSU-Iligan Institute of Technology (IIT).

Dr. Tangol expressed his belief that contrary to what others fear that a successful Bangsamoro would one day call for independence, the opposite might just happen. He believed that granting self-governance to a region would make the region feel more that they are part of the larger state. Moving forward, he challenged the committee that the BBL should stipulate that the Bangsamoro government must somehow have control over the local government units (LGUs) unlike the present ARMM. There was a need, according to him, to theoretically, historically, and politically contextualize the word autonomy. In his words, Dr. Tangol called on the members of the committee to “not be satisfied with the creation of mere offices” and to look forward to what can be “substantively called self-determination” which he later referred to as “some political space where they can cook their own food”.

The last presenter was Atty. Rommel M. Alonto who talked on “Entrenching the Bangsamoro Basic Law into the Philippine Constitution”. Currently an Assistant City Prosecutor in Cagayan de Oro, Atty. Alonto discussed provisions of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB), the different annexes and their relationship and implications to the Constitution. He also discussed mechanisms for amendments should there be needs for it.

At the end of the day, the Committee on Political Autonomy was thankful to the experts, observers and participants who raised questions and share their opinions. For his closing remarks, Commissioner Said Sheik conveyed that the work is not yet done and that the “channel of communication should continue”. The committee is expected to convene again on January 23 to 24 in Cagayan de Oro City for another session, that time with foreign experts.

The six standing committees of the BTC regularly hold sessions with experts and leaders inorder to gain deeper technical knowledge on varied issues and concerns.


Light reax forces to be strengthened

From Malaya (Jan 8): Light reax forces to be strengthened

THE military will be doubling the strength of the elite Light Reaction Battalion that saw action in the successful operations against Moro National Liberation Front fighters during the siege of Zamboanga City last September.
Army chief Lt. Gen. Noel Coballes, interviewed yesterday after the traditional joint New Year’s call of the defense department and the Armed Forces in Camp Aguinaldo, said the military has decided to transform the LRB into a regiment size due to its “effectiveness” during the Zamboanga City siege.
LRB forces were trained and equipped by the US in 2000 as part of its global fight against terrorism. It currently has three companies (a company has about 120 soldiers) which were all deployed to contain hundreds of MNLF men that seized several Zamboanga City barangays and about 200 hostages last September.
Eight LRB personnel died and 37 were injured during the operations, said Army spokesman Capt. Anthony Bacus.
He also said the 4th Light Reaction Company will be formed this year and the two others “will be organized onwards.”
Coballes said they were inspired by the accomplishment of the LRB in the campaign in Zamboanga City that led to the rescue of the hostages, killing of about 200 MNLF fighters who were members of the Misuari faction, and capture or surrender of 300 others.
“We saw the effectiveness of the unit during the Zamboanga siege as part of our anti-terrorism efforts. That is why, from a battalion, we’ll increase it to a regiment. We’ll make it bigger. It will be a big help in terms of reacting to similar events,” he said.
The LRB is based in Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija. It is directly under the Special Operations Command (SOCOM), also based in Fort Magsaysay.
SOCOM has two other elite units under it, namely the First Scout Ranger Regiment (based in Camp Tecson in Bulacan) and Special Forces Regiment (based in Fort Magsaysay).
Coballes said the AFP will ask the assistance of the US military in the training of the three additional companies.
“Maybe it’s going to be minimal assistance. This effort to increase (the strength of LRB) is our idea so in terms of training, we’ll get assistance from them,” he said.
On the equipage aspect, Coballes said, “We are going to equip our own...This is what we want so we will provide them equipment.” 
The current LRB personnel are equipped with MP5, P90, M4 carbine, cal. 45 for assault operations and M24 and SR rifles.


Youngsters injured in ‘chopper attack

From Malaya (Jan 8): Youngsters injured in ‘chopper attack

TWO young civilians were injured in an air strike conducted by an Air Force attack helicopter against a group of Abu Sayyaf terrorists in Al Barka town in Basilan, a military spokesman said yesterday.
Capt. Jefferson Somera, spokesman of the Army’s 1st Infantry Division, said the military shouldered the medical expenses of the two victims who incurred minor injuries.
Somera said that around 12:30 p.m. last Sunday, the 18th Infantry Battalion received information on the sighting of 11 Abu Sayyaf men in barangay Cambug, aboard five motorcycles.
The 11 bandits reportedly under Nurhasan Jamiri alias Abu Bekkat and Musana Jamiri proceeded to the coastline of Kalang, Sibubong Sand Bars also in barangay Cambug.
Somera said intelligence personnel, aboard motorized pump boat, were sent to verify the information. At around 1:10 p.m., the soldiers confirmed the presence of the bandits who they said were having a picnic.
At around 3:30 p.m., an Air Force aircraft sighted the group to be fleeing aboard a pump boat toward a mangrove area in Anang-anang village, also in barangay Cambug.
An MG-520 attack helicopter later delivered rockets on the Abu Sayyaf men.
Somera said two civilians who were about 30 meters from the impact area were hit by rocks shattered by the rockets.
Their injuries are not serious; they were not hit by shrapnel. They were hit by rocks, their injuries are superficial,” Somera said.
Somera said the victims were brought to a hospital and one of them has been discharged.
Somera said there were no civilians in the area when the intelligence personnel conducted the reconnaissance. He said the civilians went near the location of the Abu Sayyaf during the air strike.
Somera could not immediately name the two but the Mindanao Human Rights Action Center Inc. (MinHRAC) identified them as Arkam Omar, 12, and Julia Haron, 18.
MinHRAC said, “According to their family and relatives, the two were part of an Arabic school picnic, known as madrasah, organized by their teachers when the incident took place.”
“The picnic was composed of students and teachers as well as parents. There were 70 persons who joined the picnic, as well as other civilians who were also in the beach but not part of the school excursion. According to the parents of the students, their children were traumatized by the incident,” it added.


Resumption of peace talks dim–NDF chief

From the Business Mirror (Jan 8): Resumption of peace talks dim–NDF chief

THE prospects or resuming peace negotiations between the National Democratic Front (NDF) and the government are dim.
Thus declared Luis Jalandoni, chairman of the NDF negotiating panel, after the government has practically rendered previous agreements as “inoperative.”
Jalandoni said the NDF is willing to engage in peace negotiations with any administration that addresses the roots of the armed conflict. The negotiations should work for fundamental social, economic and political reforms for the benefit of the people.
The revolutionary movement, Jalandoni reiterated, has the broad and deep support of the people.
“Its 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 New People’s Army [NPA] fighters are assisted by the people’s militia and self-defense units of the people’s organizations. The Communist Party of the Philippines [CPP] leads the NPA and the organs of political power. The NDF is the united front organization of the revolutionary forces,” he explained.
“Since 1992 more than 10 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],” he added.
Jalandoni said that since April 2013, the talks have been at a standstill, with the government declaring that it was terminating the peace negotiations with the NDF.
The surprising move followed talks in Amsterdam in February last year, during which the government representatives rebuffed the NDF offer of truce and cooperation, and instead wished to impose pacification through a demand for indefinite, unilateral and simultaneous cease-fire.
“The NDF 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,” Jalandoni said.
“The NDF reiterated its willingness to hold peace negotiations on the basis of respect for and compliance with past agreements. Such compliance would mean release of NDF 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,” he stressed.
The Aquino administration, 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 counter-insurgency Integration Peace and Security Plan Bayanihan, it aims to render the NPA inconsequential through the triad of psywar, intelligence and combat operations, Jalandoni said.
He added that since the government refused 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 NDF offer of truce and cooperation, the prospects this year of the peace negotiations between the Aquino administration and the NDF are dim.
“The Aquino administration is responsible for stopping the peace process,” he explained.
Jalandoni said for the government to push the peace process forward, it should respect the agreements signed, as what former government chief negotiator Silvestre H. Bello III said.
“The Aquino administration 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 NDF 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,” Bello added.
“The NDF continues to cooperate with the Royal Norwegian government, the official third-party facilitator of the government-NDF 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,” Jalandoni said.
However, the government has not shown it was willing to engage the NDF anew, he added.
“Since Aquino has not shown any political will to seriously negotiate a just peace with the NDF, 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,” Jalandoni also said.

Gov’t yields to MILF demand for quick deal

From the Daily Tribune (Jan 8): Gov’t yields to MILF demand for quick deal

The government is yielding to the demand of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) for the rushing of the comprehensive peace agreement (CPA) for signing before April.

Press Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said that the signing of the last remaining normalization annex on the Framework Agreement Bangsamoro (FAB) is being targeted on Jan. 20, this year.

“We are expecting the (remaining annex) within the month would be completed for the Bangsamoro peace agreement and to continue the peace process that, hopefully, would bring about a transition to the Bangsamoro political entity,” Coloma said.

The MILF has demanded that the CPA be signed within the first quarter of the year to realize the establishment of a Bangsamoro government by 2016, saying 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 said the election fever starting next year will “radically change” the atmosphere of the ongoing peace negotiations.

“2014 is a crucial year as far as the success of the GRP-MILF peace negotiation is concerned. This is the year for the GRP 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 CPA within the first months of 2014 to keep the talks on track.

Last Dec. 8, the government and MILF peace panels signed the annex on power-sharing to the FAB with the panels agreeing that the unresolved issue on “Bangsamoro waters” be treated as an addendum to the power-sharing annex.

The signing left only one more annex, on normalization, to complete the CPA that would be the basis of the drafting of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) to pave the way for the creation of the Bangsamoro, which the government describes as a new autonomous political entity that would replace the 23-year old Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) but many sees as an independent substate with its own sovereign territory.

In a joint statement last Sunday, the two panels said they are confident they will “finish the annex on normalization and an addendum on the matter of Bangsamoro waters… this month.

”The Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC), the body that is drafting the BBL, expects to complete its task by April 2014,” according to the statement.

The annex on power sharing took 16 months to negotiate since the Technical Working Groups first convened in August 2012.

It delineated powers between the Central Government and the Bangsamoro Ministerial Government within the territorial jurisdiction of the “Bangsamoro”, spelled out the central government’s reserved powers, the Bangsamoro’s exclusive powers within its territorial jurisdiction, and concurrent powers shared by the central and Bangsamoro governments and also provides the principles of intergovernmental relations “to ensure the harmonious partnership between and among the different levels of government,” the statement added.

The document is divided into four parts: intergovernmental relations, governance structure of the Bangsamoro Ministerial Government, and Other Matters pertaining to power-sharing such as transportation and communication, mineral and energy sources, taxation, powers already devolved to the ARMM which are relevant to the FAB.
Coloma said there was an informal consultation between the parties before they could have a “face to face actual negotiations”.

Coloma agreed with the call of former peace adviser Jess Dureza for the MILF and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) to merge for the smooth implementation of the Bangsamoro Law.

“From the government, we would like to be the government of all Filipinos, our view is inclusive always. Everyone can join the process when their contribution is for the peace. Their participation is welcome,” Coloma said.


Military units pursuing ASG group in Basilan

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 7): Military units pursuing ASG group in Basilan
Military units on Tuesday were chasing 11 suspected members of Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) spotted heading to Sibubong sandbars, southwest of Barangay Bato-Bato, Albarka, Basilan on Sunday.

Belated reports from Capt. Jefferson Somera, 1st Infantry spokesperson, said the suspected Muslim rebels were sighted twice by the military teams.

The first sighting was in Barangay Cambug at around 12:30 p.m. with the ASG men on board five motorcycles. (were earlier spotted by military teams, aboard a motorized pump boat, in Barangay Cambug, Albarka traveling aboard five motorcycles around 12: 30 p.m.)

He added the 11 rebels were believed to be under the leadership of Nurhassan Jamiri alias "Abu Bekkat" and Musana Jamiri and were holding a picnic in the above-mentioned locality.

The ASG were spotted leaving the area aboard a blue-and-white motorized pump boat, a second sighting confirmed by the 18th Infantry Battalion around 1:10 p.m., Somera stressed.

Once the ASG sightings were confirmed, Somera said an MG-520 "Defender" attack helicopter was hurriedly deployed to pursue and disperse ASG bandits with rockets.

After this attack, the ASG immediately fled towards the direction of Sitio Anang-Anang, Barangay Cambug, Albarka, which is heavily forested with mangroves.

Navy units were immediately deployed to cordon off the area to prevent the ASG from escaping.


Gazmin says AFP modernization to gain more momentum

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 7): Gazmin says AFP modernization to gain more momentum

Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Voltaire Gazmin on Tuesday said the modernization of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) will continue until the country has sufficient capability to patrol and secure the national territory.

He said further acquisitions will consist of modern air and naval assets that would give the AFP the capability to protect the country from intruders in the air and sea.

For 2014, Gazmin said the DND is committed to completing all the projects allotted in the P85 billion AFP Modernization Program.

The DND chief assured the public that the Philippines will be fielding modern supersonic jet aircraft by the middle of 2015.

Gazmin earlier announced that the decision to acquire South Korea's F/A-50 jet aircraft is still on.

He made this statement after noting that the DND has submitted its report to the Office of the President, which recommended approval of the Korean Aerospace Industries (KAI) request that the Philippines pay 52 percent of the P18.9 billion price of the 12 F/A-50 aircraft that the country is planning to acquire for its interim fighter planes.

Gazmin said should the Office of the President approve their recommendation, along with the so-called progress billing, the planes will be delivered by June 2015.

The DND chief added that both parties have reached a compromise on the delivery of spare parts to 60 days.


PA eyes increase in LRB size

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 7): PA eyes increase in LRB size
After the Light Reaction Battalion (LRB) of the Philippine Army showed its efficiency during the so-called Zamboanga City siege last September, PA chief Lt. Gen. Noel Coballes said on Tuesday they are looking at the possibility of increasing the number of its companies to six.

Should this come into reality, the LRB will then become a Light Reaction Regiment.

At present, the LRB has three companies which consist of 120 officers and men each.

"We have seen the effectiveness of the Light Reaction companies during the Zamboanga City siege and we will use these units to fight off terror threats," Coballes said.

He added that the additional companies will be equipped with the most modern equipment and doctrines for urban warfare.


Government serious in addressing causes of rebellion in Mindanao, says Palace

From the Philippine News Agency: Government serious in addressing causes of rebellion in Mindanao, says Palace

Malacanang said it remains committed to continue addressing the systemic and institutional causes of rebellion to once and for all attain a lasting peace in Mindanao.

In a press briefing in the Palace on Tuesday, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said that the Aquino administration will continue to work to address the sentiments of the people, particularly in the Zamboanga Peninsula, where a bloody conflict happened last year.

Coloma was asked if the government is relieved with the alleged death of Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) commander Habier Malik, considered as the bravest and fearsome warrior of the MNLF-Misuari faction.

“Ang tinitingnan po natin ay iyong kabuuan ng peace process, and we are looking at institutions or organizations, hindi lang naman sa mga indibidwal,” Coloma said.

“Kasi kung meron pa ring dahilan na mag-himagsik o mag-rebelde ang mga mamamayan ay hindi po ito affected ng buhay o pagkamatay ng iisang indibidwal lamang. We have to continue addressing the systemic and institutional causes that give rise to rebellion and to disgruntlement or dissatisfaction with government,” he added.

Coloma said that for the peace process to be effective, the government must pinpoint the sources of discontent among the people of Mindanao.

With regards to the case of MNLF chairman Nur Misuari, the Philippine government remains in pursuit of the MNLF leader after the court issued a warrant of arrest against him, he said.

The Zamboanga City standoff began on Sept. 9 last year when heavily armed insurgents from the Misuari faction arrived by boat from outlying islands of the city but were blocked by soldiers and policemen.

President Benigno S. Aquino III ordered an offensive after the rebels refused to surrender and free their hostages.

The MNLF signed an autonomy deal with the Philippine government in 1996, but the guerrillas aligned with Misuari did not lay down their arms and accused the government of reneging on a promise to develop Muslim regions.


Army improves fire support capability with14 units of M-113

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 7): Army improves fire support capability with14 units of M-113

The Philippine Army (PA) will be putting into service 14 M-113 "Bradley" APCs (armored personnel carriers) armed with 76mm cannons next year to improve its fire support capability.

Capt. Anthony Bacus, Army spokesperson, said the 76mm turrets of decommissioned Scorpion CVRT (combat vehicle reconnaissance tracked) will be installed on the M-113s, making the APCs speedy fire support vehicles.

"The turrets of decommissioned Scorpion CVTs will be installed on the M-113 platform and it will be fitted with modern fire control and thermal imaging equipment. Once it is completed, the 76mm cannon armed M-113s will be quite lethal," he added.

The M-113 is a fully tracked armored personnel carrier manufactured by BAE Systems.

The vehicle was first fielded by United States Army's mechanized infantry units in Vietnam in April 1962.

The PA is known to operate over 100 units of the M-113s.

The Scorpion CVRTs is classified as armored fighting vehicle or light tank and the Philippines is set to acquire 65 units.

Earlier, the Department of National Defense announced that it is acquiring 12 units of towed 155mm howitzers forP438,620,000.

This includes 240 rounds of 155mm HE (high explosive) and integrated logistics support.


Tubbataha tells U.S. Embassy to 'actualize, not verbalize' settlement of coral damages

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 7): Tubbataha tells U.S. Embassy to 'actualize, not verbalize' settlement of coral damages

In its continuing quest to seek settlement for damages caused on more than 2,000 square meters of corals in the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park (TRNP) by the USS Guardian, Tubbataha Management Office (TMO) top executive Angelique Songco denied firmly Tuesday that it is not true that they did not communicate with the U.S. Government.

In an early morning local radio interview on the said day, the obviously perturbed TMO manager stated firmly that they immediately communicated with the U.S. government last April to seek for compensation for over 2,000 square meters of damaged corals that the minesweeper warship caused when it ran aground in Tubbataha.

“They know that we wrote to them early, and they replied to us two times, acknowledging the receipt of our letter,” Songco asserted.

Songco also maintained that their communication with the U.S. government is within the knowledge of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) in the Philippines since they were furnished with copies.

They told us that what we did was out of protocol, but being superintendent of the marine park does not know international diplomacy course. Nonetheless, we acknowledged our mistake, and we furnished them copies that they acknowledged also. Meaning they know, but they’re just storytelling on this,” Songco added.

Songco furthered that particularly for this year, sadly, the funds that the TMO were able to save from donors, supporters and patrons for the maintenance of the marine park, have been depleted to rehabilitate the park.

“The funds that we’ve saved from years back, those we kept for rainy days and for the next few years, are now already on their end. And we are getting anxious and nervous,” she said, adding they spent big amounts to complete the assessment, including that of the damages caused by F/V Min Long Yu.

The US$ 1.5 million the TMO is trying to collect are miniscule to be considered for the U.S. government, said Songco.

“The amount is probably little to them, but it means the world to us, to Tubbataha to maintain its protection,” she said.

Songco said that U.S. government’s reply told them that it was willing to pay for damages, but recently, they were told that there was a new claims process to be followed to be able to make the settlement.

She said it should “actualize, not verbalize” what it is willing to do in lieu of the damages its warship caused to Tubbataha.

”This is really unfair. The USS Guardian caused the damage, however, it is the Philippines and Tubbataha that have to beg to be paid,” she stated.


PH to double size of elite anti-terror troops

From Rappler (Jan 7): PH to double size of elite anti-terror troops

ELITE TROOPS: Members of the Light Reaction Battalion inside cleared areas of the combat zone in Zamboanga City. Photo by Karlos Manlupig

ELITE TROOPS: Members of the Light Reaction Battalion inside cleared areas of the combat zone in Zamboanga City. Photo by Karlos Manlupig

The military will double the size of its elite anti-terrorism unit to a regiment composed of 6 companies, according to Army chief Lieutenant General Noel Coballes.

"We saw the effectiveness of the unit during the Zamboanga City siege. We are strengthening our anti-terrorism efforts. From a battalion, we will increase it to a regiment. We saw that the unit will be a big help in terms of reaction to the same events," Coballes told reporters on Tuesday, January 7, at the sidelines of the Joint Department of National Defense-Armed Forces of the Philippines New Year’s Call.
The current Light Reaction Battalion (LRB) – which consists of 3 companies or about 300 troops – led over 3,000 soldiers and police deployed in the Zamboanga City siege in September 2013. It is composed of battle-tested soldiers recruited from the Army's crack fighting units, the Scout Rangers and the Special Forces.
Before the Zamboanga crisis, the LRB troops were deployed to operations against the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG).
As the name connotes, they move with speed and carry only the most essential weapons with them. They are trained to clear buildings. They are experts in counter-sniper tactics. They can fight in total darkness using modern gadgets and equipment.
The troops were originally trained by the Americans after the Sept 11, 2001, attacks and started as a Light Reaction Company of two dozen troops.
The Philippines and the US are currently finalizing a military-to-military agreement to expand cooperation between the two militaries. The chief of the Philippine panel, Defense Undersecretary Pio Lorenzo Batino, said they are finalizing the schedule of the 5th round of talks.
In Zamboanga, the LRB troops got the honor of finishing the fight but also the tragedy of losing the most. Eight of the 20 soldiers killed belonged to the LRB. At least 37 others were wounded.
"Some of them were injured. We need to replace these people. And because we saw the need for more troops, we decided to increase," said Coballes.
All 300 of LRB troops were deployed to Zamboanga City in September. The terrain proved tough for the other units used to fighting rebels in the jungles and remote, uphill areas. (READ: The first to respond, the last to leave)
The villages occupied by Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) rebels were populated with thousands of residents who lived in shanties, owned small shops and worked in buildings. The rebels were shooting from rooftops, windows, and back alleys. Their biggest defense were the residents trapped in the battle zone.

Coballes said the Zamboanga siege taught the military a lot of lessons. "We will change a lot of things. We will add doctrines in terms of addressing the same incident," he said.

The LRB troops continue training with their American counterparts through bilateral exercises.


'Malik died in Sulu' in October

From Rappler (Jan 7): 'Malik died in Sulu' in October

MISUARI'S TOP LIEUTENANT: Ustadz Habier Malik led hundreds of followers of MNLF founder Nur Misuari in the Zamboanga City standoff

MISUARI'S TOP LIEUTENANT: Ustadz Habier Malik led hundreds of followers of MNLF founder Nur Misuari in the Zamboanga City standoff

The saga of Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) commander Habier Malik continues. No, nobody is claiming he is alive. But latest military reports show he apparently died in Sulu in October, meaning he escaped from the supposedly contained combat zone in Zamboanga City.

"He died of complication. He was badly wounded. He died during the Al Hajj when he was trying to break fast. Medically speaking, that caused his death because he did not receive proper treatment," Sulu-based 2nd Marine Brigade Commander Colonel Jose Johriel Cenabre told reporters in Manila on Tuesday, January 7.

Al Hajj is the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, which happened in October last year.

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin earlier declared that Malik was "obviously" dead.

Malik is the top lieutenant of MNLF founder Nur Misuari. He led some 300 MNLF fighters in laying siege on Zamboanga City and trying to hoist their flag of independence at its city hall in September. The military blocked them, starting a standoff that lasted 3 weeks. Malik declared he was willing to die there.

Cenabre said the military is still looking for Malik's body but "since then, all information led to his death." He said Malik was last seen "somewhere in Kalingalan Caluang," an impoverished town known to be a territory of the MNLF commander.

There are those who maintain that Malik died in Zamboanga and likely buried inside the combat zone. He was supposedly seen wounded a few days before the crisis was declared over.

"As I mentioned, he was so badly wounded and he wasn’t able to receive proper medical attention and during that duration of the Al Hajj, apparently he died," said Cenabre.

MNLF spokesman Absalom Cerveza was earlier quoted saying Malik died in December due to diabetes.

Malik protested the talks between the government and the rival group Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). In an interview with Rappler in September, Malik said he feared that the new agreement with the MILF would supersede the 1996 agreement with the MNLF. (READ: Habier Malik: Trapped in the city he seized)

Misuari, Malik, and over 200 captured MNLF fighters are now facing rebellion charges. Misuari remains at large, however. (READ: How to arrest a rebel like Misuari)

Their arraignment is expected this January. (READ: Over 200 MNLF fighters move to Metro Manila jail)


Palace: Rumored death of MNLF leader 'still unconfirmed'

From InterAksyon (Jan 8): Palace: Rumored death of MNLF leader 'still unconfirmed'

File photo of Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) leader Habier Malik

The rumored death of Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) leader Habier Malik has yet to be confirmed, Malacanang announced Tuesday.

Malik led the MNLF attacks in Zamboanga last September. He has not surrendered after being issued a warrant of arrest and was rumored to have already died from diabetes.

Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma said during a briefing at the Palace that they are still waiting for updates from the Armed Forces of the Philippines regarding the matter.

Coloma also stressed that Malik’s rumored death will not affect in any way the peace process and that the national government was more preoccupied identifying the cause of rebellion.

“We are looking at the whole peace process. We are looking at institutions, organizations, and not just individuals,” he said in Filipino.

“If there is a reason for a rebellion, it is not affected by the life or death of a single individual only,” he added.

Coloma said the national government was also looking forward to the completion of the peace process by the end of the month to avoid more cases of rebellions.


Deputy chief ng Eastern Mindanao Command binigyan ng promosyon

From the Mindanao Examiner blog site (Jan 7): Deputy chief ng Eastern Mindanao Command binigyan ng promosyon (Deputy chief of the Eastern Mindanao Command given promotion)

Si Eastern Mindanao Command deputy commander Severino Vicente David sa arrival honor na ibinigay sa kanya ng mga sundalo dahil sa nakuhang promosyon.

Buong pusong pinasalamatan ni Eastern Mindanao Command deputy commander Severino Vicente David ang mga sundalo, opisyal at pamunuan ng Armed Forces of the Philippines dahil sa promosyon na natanggap nito kamakailan.

Nagpasalamat rin ang opisyal sa kanyang pamilya dahil sa kanilang walang humpay na suporta.

Binigyan rin ng honor si Commodore David na miyembro ng Philippine Military Academy Class 1983, ayon kay Captain Alberto Caber, ang chief information officer ng Eastern Mindanao Command.

“The AFPs Eastern Mindanao Command welcomes its newly-promoted Flag Officer who is the Deputy Commander Commodore Severino Vicente T. David in an arrival honor at the Eastern Mindanao Command. Commodore David is a member of the PMA Class of 1983 and has been assigned to various positions in the AFP,” ani Caber sa Mindanao Examiner Regional Newspaper.