Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Gov't vows to address root causes of rebellion

From the Philippine Star (Jan 7): Gov't vows to address root causes of rebellion

The government admitted today that to attain lasting peace in southern region, it has to address the systemic and institutional causes of rebellion.

Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. made the statement when asked if the government was relieved on the reported death of Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) commander Habier Malik, considered as the bravest and fearsome warrior of the MNLF-Misuari faction and led some 300 rebels in last year's Zamboanga siege.

"What we are looking at is the entire peace process and we are looking at institutions or organizations, not on certain individuals," he said.

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

The official said that Malacanang, the presidential palace, has yet to get confirmation from the military regarding Malik's purported death.

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.
The Philippine government is also trying to forge a comprehensive peace deal with the MNLF breakaway group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the largest Muslim rebel group now in the country.

China tightens grip on disputed sea

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jan 9): China tightens grip on disputed sea

Permit needed to fish in South China Sea
In a broadening campaign to enforce its territorial claims, China says it’s beefing up its police powers in the disputed South China Sea, presumably including waters known in Manila as West Philippine Sea, and requiring foreign fishermen to ask Beijing’s permission to operate within most of the vast, strategic waterway.

The move, which took effect this month, comes on the heels of the late November announcement of a new air defense zone requiring foreign planes to notify Beijing of flights over a huge swath of the East China Sea, where China is locked in a bitter territorial dispute with Japan.

The steps are prompting concerns that President Xi Jinping’s push to assert China’s role as a regional power could spark a confrontation with neighbors.

“These sort of assertions of sovereignty, or territorial claims, will continue. Xi believes he can’t afford to be seen as soft,” said Joseph Cheng, a politics expert at City University of Hong Kong China.

The affected waters account for 2 million of the South China Sea’s 3.5 million square kilometers, a sweeping area encompassing island groups claimed by Vietnam, the Philippines and others—and in some cases occupied by their armed forces.

The islands sit amid the world’s busiest commercial sea lanes, along with rich fishing grounds and potential oil and gas deposits.

The Philippines refers to parts of the South China Sea within its 327-km exclusive economic zone (EEZ) as the West Philippine Sea and Vietnam calls the waters within its own exclusive economic zone the East Sea.

Maritime dispute

Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) spokesman Raul Hernandez said on Wednesday that the country’s diplomats were seeking more information on the new South China Sea rules.

“We are verifying the news with our embassies in Beijing and Hanoi,” Hernandez said.
There was no immediate response from Vietnam.

Philippine and Chinese coast guard ships faced off for more than two months in 2012 at Panatag Shoal (Scarborough Shoal), a rich fishing ground off Zambales province within Manila’s EEZ.

Bad weather forced Manila to call back its ships, leaving Beijing to seize the shoal, which the Chinese had since cordoned off.

In January last year, the Philippines took the dispute to the United Nations for arbitration.

China refused to take part in the arbitration, but the DFA said the process was going on just the same and a ruling could be expected even without China’s participation.

The UN arbitration tribunal, however, has no power to enforce its decisions.

New rules

The United States says it doesn’t take sides in the sovereignty dispute but insists on the right to freedom of navigation in the area.

The new rules demand that foreign vessels seek permission to fish or survey within waters administered by Hainan, China’s southernmost island province, which looks out over the South China Sea.

Authorities in the provincial city of Sansha, on an island far south of Hainan, held a joint drill on Jan. 1 involving 14 ships and 190 personnel from various border patrol and law enforcement agencies.

“Rampant infringement by foreign fishing vessels” was among the activities targeted in the practice scenarios, law enforcement official Wang Shizhen was quoted as saying by the official China News Service.

Passed by Hainan’s provincial legislature in late November, the new rules say only that permission must be obtained from unnamed “relevant departments” under China’s Cabinet.

Chinese law allows for the confiscation of catches and fishing equipment and fines of up to $83,000 for violators.

While it would be nearly impossible to enforce the rule over such a vast area, the requirement seems to emphasize China’s determination to compel foreign nations to take its sovereignty claims seriously.

Beijing has moved systematically to put teeth behind its island claims, setting up the Sansha city administration in 2012 to administer the scattered, lightly populated region of island groups and reefs.

China has also combined its civilian maritime agencies into a single coast guard to increase effectiveness, and even has cracked down on activity in the area by foreign maritime archeologists.

Air defense zone

Farther north, China’s announcement of its air defense zone drew opposition from Japan, South Korea and Australia, all US treaty partners.

The zone is seen largely as a means of strengthening China’s claim to tiny uninhabited East China Sea islands administered by Japan and also claimed by Taiwan.

For more than a year, Chinese patrol vessels have aggressively confronted Japanese ships in the area, leading to fears of a clash.

But Xi is under far less nationalist pressure at home to take a hard line on South China Sea issues, said Cheng, the China politics expert.

Despite the new fishing rules, Beijing will likely seek to avoid increasing frictions by enforcing them too zealously, Cheng said.

“Beijing wants relations with Southeast Asia to be relatively smooth,” he said. “They can’t afford to alienate too many neighbors at one time.”

In the Know: AO renames South China Sea as West Philippine Sea

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jan 9): In the Know: AO renames South China Sea as West Philippine Sea
In 2012, President Aquino issued an administrative order renaming the South China Sea waters within the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) as the West Philippine Sea.

The West Philippine Sea was the site of a two-month standoff between Philippine and Chinese vessels in 2012.

From early April to mid-June in 2012, Chinese and Philippine ships faced off with each other at Panatag Shoal in the West Philippine Sea after Chinese vessels stopped the Philippine Navy from arresting alleged Chinese poachers.

The encounter resulted in about 50 bilateral consultations between China and the Philippines following the standoff.

Bilateral consultations between the Philippines and China over the disputed waters have been held for nearly two decades.

But after fruitless talks, the Philippines filed a motion for arbitration in a United Nations tribunal in January last year as it sought for a peaceful solution to its territorial dispute with Beijing over territory in the West Philippine Sea.

In its submission, the Philippines asked for the nullification of China’s so-called nine-dash-line claim, which encompasses almost all of the South China Sea, including parts within the West Philippine Sea, the waters within Manila’s 327-kilometer EEZ.

On Jan. 26, 2013, President Aquino, talking to reporters on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, cited two separate incidents of Chinese harassment of Philippine fishing boats at Panatag Shoal (Scarborough Shoal) off the coast of Zambales province.

China has rejected the UN proceedings, citing its “indisputable sovereignty” over the territory but the case has progressed despite Beijing’s refusal to participate in the arbitration.

In September last year, President Aquino canceled a planned trip to China for a trade fair in Nanning after Beijing reportedly required the withdrawal of the arbitration case as a condition for the trip.

On July 11, 2013, nearly six months after the Philippines filed the complaint, the five-member tribunal tasked to deliberate the case met and drafted the rules of procedure to govern the proceedings.

On May 10, 2013, the Philippines protested the presence of a fleet of Chinese fishing boats, accompanied by patrol vessels at Ayungin Shoal (Second Thomas Reef), which lies 196 km from Palawan province, well within the Philippine EEZ.

Ayungin Shoal is a strategic gateway to Reed Bank, believed to be rich in oil and natural gas. Beijing says the shoal is part of the Spratlys, a group of 250 islets spread over 427,350 sq km, claimed entirely by China, Taiwan and Vietnam and in part by Malaysia, Brunei and the Philippines.

Cordillera lawmen undergo counter-insurgency training

From the Manila Times (Jan 8): 64 Cordillera lawmen undergo counter-insurgency training 

CAMP BADO DANGWA, La Trinidad, Benguet: The Police Regional Office Cordillera (PRO-COR) opened on Tuesday the 25th Special Counter-Insurgency Operations Unit Training (Scout) at the Log Cabin in Camp Bado Dangwa,

La Trinidad, Benguet to enhance operational capability of police personnel. Police Chief Supt. Isagani Nerez, PRO-COR Regional Director, has required 64 police non-commissioned officers who recently graduated from the Public Safety Basic Recruit Course to join the training to further enhance their skills to respond to any emergency and police action.

The Scout is a rigorous 45-day training course required of all PNP personnel to equip them with the necessary skills for dealing with armed criminals and threat groups and enable them to capably respond to any man-made or natural disasters.

Army needs 1,100 men for Cagayan Valley, Cordillera

From the Manila Times (Jan 8): Army needs 1,100 men for Cagayan Valley, Cordillera

GAMU, Isabela: At least 1,100 recruits who are qualified and interested Filipino citizens will be joining the Fifth Infantry Division, Philippine Army (5ID, PA) based here.

Besides casualties, almost the same number of army personnel have retired and will be retiring in the next two years, thus the need to start recruiting more than a thousand more soldiers for the division, Army officials said.

 “At the moment we have 400 vacancies left by retired soldiers and those that were killed in action excluding the 700 regular recruitment quota of the division for the year 2014-2015,” Army Sgt. Jake Lopez of the 5ID civil military operations battalion said.

CPP/Ang Bayan: End Aquino’s corrupt, puppet and brutal rule

Propaganda statement/editorial posted to the CPP Website (Jan 7): End Aquino’s corrupt, puppet and brutal rule

CPP Ang Bayan
Ever since Benigno Aquino III was exposed as the Pork Barrel King and his criminal negligence of the people’s welfare bared in the face of successive disasters last year, the Filipino people’s demand for an end to his corrupt, puppet and brutal reign has gained strength and breadth.

T‬he Filipino people are thoroughly fed up with three years of Aquino’s lies about his so-called clean governance and delivery of public services to the people. Gross corruption is as brazen as ever, especially in the form of favors given by the Aquino government to big businessmen for project contracts.

Despite Aquino’s protestations, it has also come to light how he has been using hundreds of billions of pesos of Malacañang funds to bribe politicians into hewing to his set agenda, such as the ouster of former Supreme Court chief justice Renato Corona.

The demand for Aquino’s ouster or forcible resignation grows stronger and wider as the ruling regime blocks genuine land reform and landgrabbing cases mount, including the forcible eviction of peasants from the Aquino-Cojuangco-owned Hacienda Luisita no less.

Despite the toiling masses’ abject poverty, Aquino persists in turning a deaf ear to the demand for raising the workers’ daily minimum wage. He continues to reject demands for national industrialization. The widespread problem of a lack of decent and regular work bears heavily on the people.

The prices of food, oil, electricity and other commodities and services are on a swift, upward spiral. Urban poor communities are being demolished at a rapid pace to give way to infrastructure projects of big corporations and businessmen close to Aquino.

The SSS and Philhealth have been requiring higher contributions since the start of the year after executives of these government-controlled corporations received million-peso bonuses. Aquino justified these moves as part of a package of upgraded services. In fact, it is a cover-up for the dwindling budgets being allocated to health and other social services.

Under Aquino, US military basing in the Philippines has been strengthened and broadened. Thousands of American troops are stationed on a rotational basis at any given time in the Philippines and are linked to thousands of other American troops in various other US bases in the Asia-Pacific. More military bases for the US are being built, among them the facilities at Subic Naval Base in Zambales and Oyster Bay Naval Base in Palawan for the exclusive use of growing numbers of warships, jetfighters and other US war materiel.

To comply with the requirements for Philippine membership in the US-led Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, a number of Aquino’s minions in Congress are maneuvering to effect amendments to the 1987 constitution. They call for the further surrender of Philippine national patrimony to provide a wider berth for foreign capitalist investors to own land, run businesses, engage in plunder and amass profits.

With US support, the Aquino regime is relying further on military suppression to prevent the people from launching widespread protests and wage resistance to corruption, puppetry and antipeople policies. The Aquino regime has failed in its declared objective of reducing the New People’s Army to inconsequentiality by 2013. In a bid to suppress the Filipino people’s mass struggles and armed struggle, we can expect more brutal military onslaughts and abuses in times to come.

It is not only the toiling masses who are completely fed up with the Aquino regime, but even the middle strata of small professionals, teachers, government employees, the youth, the media and small- and medium-scale businessmen. They are disgusted with the never-ending shibboleths and gimmickry which Aquino and his PR experts have failed to translate into actual changes in the people’s lives. Their loathing for the Aquino regime is extreme in the face of their poverty even as the ruling classes wallow in wealth and luxury.

Conditions are favorable for rapidly building the people’s unity against the Aquino regime. Conflicts among rival factions of the ruling class will rear their ugly heads anew and further cause Aquino’s isolation from the people.
Last year, Aquino could not help but be at the center of the maelstrom of the people’s anger against the pork barrel and corruption and against the government’s failure to swiftly address the people’s needs during disasters. This year, there is further cause to make Aquino the narrowest target of the people’s rage through protests and mass struggles.

The people’s growing demands for an end to Aquino’s rule will lead him and his clique to cling more fiercely to power. Aquino will do everything to remain in power, not only until 2016 but beyond, in order to avoid being held to account for plunder and for crimes against humanity because of his armed forces’ brutal suppression of the people.

All the revolutionary and progressive forces must train their energies on realizing the Filipino people’s demand for the ouster or forcible resignation of Benigno Aquino III. The youth, the workers, the urban poor and other sectors must be mobilized in ever bigger protest movements against corruption and Aquino’s policies that have been a bane to the people.

Under the CPP’s direction, the NPA must launch more frequent and bigger tactical offensives to annihilate weak enemy units and seize more weapons. In the coming years, all NPA commands must plan to surpass the previous levels of arms seizures from the reactionary military, paramilitary and police forces.

Strengthening the movement to put an end to Aquino’s corrupt, puppet and brutal rule must be undertaken alongside the intensification of people’s war nationwide. The CPP must lead the intensification of revolutionary armed struggle while advancing struggles for land reform and consolidating the mass base.

Barangay chief, MILF commander clash

From ABS-CBN (Jan 8): Barangay chief, MILF commander clash

MIDSAYAP - Skirmishes between a village chairman and a Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Commander in Brgy. Lumupog in Midsayap town North Cotabato erupted Tuesday night.

The group of Lumupog Brgy. Chairman Datu Puti Tukuran and MILF Commander Abas Kudanding were the ones involved in the recent firefight in the area believed to be due to a territorial dispute.

Tukuran also has some allies in the MILF.

It was early last year when the two warring groups fought resulting in hundreds of evacuees.

On Wednesday, an ABS-CBN News team was able to record the sound of exchange of gunfire in the area while checking the situation of the community in Brgy. Sambolawan.

Brgy. Sambolawan is adjacent to Brgy. Lumupog separated by a river, and across a fish landing area lies the battle ground of the two armed groups.

The warring groups are said to be occupying two positions at Brgy. Lumupog, and were said to be just observing the movements of each side.

Scared to get caught in the firefight, residents who fled their homes have been staying in a fish landing area at Brgy. Sambolawan over a year now.

Mama Guilay and his family have yet to return since the firefight last year.
"Takot kami kasi nagaputukan sila dun," Guilay said.

A woman with five children were left behind by her husband who joined the fighting and supported Brgy. Chairman Datu Puti Tukuran.

Speaking to ABS-CBN in Maguindanao dialect, she said her husband is helping his cousin who happens to be the barangay chairman.

Meantime, the local government unit has tasked the council of elders to talk and negotiate with the warring parties and deal with their differences peacefully.

Midsayap Mayor Romeo Araña said the dispute had already been settled.

"May nareceive kasi tayo na impormasyon na pride nalang yan kasi pareho sila may mga tauhan at pwersa eh. Last week daw, may sinunog na bahay sa side ni Abas Kudanding tapos sumunod naman sa side ni Datu Puti, parang gantihan nalang," Mayor Araña said.

The LGU wants it to be settled as soon as possible.

The MILF has started to send emissaries to talk with the commanders involved to agree on a ceasefire.

The military and PNP are looking out for the welfare of the residents in the adjacent barangay and will not meddle in the fighting as it is a rido between groups in the area.

As of writing, the firefight has died down while residents struggle to live a normal everyday life.

AFP deploys 400 personnel to keep watch on Black Nazarene Procession

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 8): AFP deploys 400 personnel to keep watch on Black Nazarene Procession

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) announced that it has deployed 400 of its personnel to join police contingent securing the annual Black Nazarene procession to ensure that nothing untoward incident will happen in the religious event.

This was said Wednesday by AFP public affairs office chief Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala.

"These personnel are from the Joint Task Force-National Capital Region," he said.

Zagala said that these AFP personnel will provide assistance to the Philippine National Police if needed.

Religious veneration of the Black Nazarene is rooted among Filipinos who identify themselves with the Passion of Jesus Christ.

Many devotees of the Black Nazarene relate their poverty and daily struggles to the Passion of Christ as represented by the image.

There are three annual processions when the statue is brought out for public veneration, Jan. 9, Good Friday, and New Year's Day.

The procession during the Jan. 9 feast commemorates the "Traslación", referring to the transfer of the image to the Minor Basilica.

The Black Nazarene is borne in procession on its "Ándas", accompanied by devotees clad in maroon who walk barefoot as both penance and in imitation of Jesus on his way to Mount Calvary.

Traditionally, only men were permitted to become "namámasán" (the devotees pulling the Ándas by its two ropes), but in recent years female devotees have also been allowed to do so.

It is believed that the "Kanang Balikat", or right shoulder side of the rope, is the most sacred side since this is the part where Jesus carried the cross.

Towels or handkerchiefs are hurled to the yellow-clad marshals escorting the Black Nazarene, with requests to wipe these on the statue in hopes that the miraculous powers attributed to it would "rub off" on the cloth articles.

South Korean contingent to stay in Tacloban City for one year --AFP

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 8): South Korean contingent to stay in Tacloban City for one year --AFP

The Armed Forces of the Philippines Central Command said on Wednesday that the 540-strong South Korean military contingent will be staying in "Yolanda"-battered Tacloban City for one year to continue helping in the ongoing relief and rehabilitation efforts.

The group was supposed to stay only for six months.

Lt. Jim Alagao, AFP Central Command spokesperson, said that the South Korean military presence consists of medical, sanitation and engineering units.

The group is presently based in Tacloban City and doing relief missions in the barangays there.

The South Korean contingent also deploys relief units in Palo and other Leyte towns.

The contingent, headed by Col. Chuw Lon Lee, arrived in Tacloban City last Dec. 28 aboard two of the South Korean Navy's landing ship tanks.

Military says no threat for annual Black Nazarene procession

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 8): Military says no threat for annual Black Nazarene procession

The Armed Forces of the Philippines said on Wednesday it has not monitored any threat against the annual Black Nazarene procession in Manila on Thursday.

"As of our last briefing (Wednesday), no threats were monitored," AFP Joint Task Force-National Capital Region commander Col. Manuel Santiago said.

He added that they expect the procession to end without any untoward incidents.

Santiago also stressed that the agency in charge of security for the annual event is the Philippine National Police and that the AFP is merely providing an augmentation force.

In this regard, the military has provided explosive ordnance, K-9s, medical and crowd control disturbance management teams to support the PNP contingent.

Santiago said that all these teams are now on stand-by.

PA chief distributes housing units to Camarines Sur-based soldiers

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 8): PA chief distributes housing units to Camarines Sur-based soldiers

In line with the efforts to uplift the morale of its troops, the Philippine Army on Wednesday morning distributed to deserving soldiers a newly-constructed 10-door apartment located in Camp Elias in Pili town, Camarines Sur.

Camp Elias is the headquarters of the PA's 9th Infantry Division.

The turnover of the housing units to the beneficiaries was headed by Army commander Lt. Gen. Noel A. Coballes.

Capt. Anthony Bacus, PA spokesperson, said that this is the second 10-door apartment building constructed and awarded to Army personnel in the 9th Infantry Division.

He added that each unit has three main bedrooms and an attic. The floor area is 195 square meters, including the parking and service area.

Bacus said the master's bedroom is approximately 13.3 square meters, while the two smaller bedrooms are 9.5 square meters each.

The 565th Engineering Construction Battalion was responsible for the construction of the apartment units, Bacus said. The project was completed last Dec. 4.

Bacus said that this initiative is part of the PA’s program to construct 28 units of 10-door apartment with ground development distributed Army-wide under the AFP Modernization Fund.

Of the 28 units, 19 are dedicated to Army Divisions. The allotted two units for the 9th Infantry Division were already completed, while construction is ongoing for the remaining units in the other divisions.

"The PA believes that ensuring the welfare of soldiers and their families is equally important as developing the troops' combat skills and procuring new weapons. It can be recalled that one of the thrusts of Lt. Gen. Coballes is to help improve the quality of life of soldiers and their families," Bacus said.

No need to censure pilots who accidentally hit civilians --PAF

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 8): No need to censure pilots who accidentally hit civilians --PAF

Philippine Air Force spokesperson Col. Miguel Ernesto Okol said on Wednesday there is no need to discipline the pilots of the MG-520 "Defender" attack helicopter who accidentally hit two civilians while attacking a group of Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) bandits last Sunday.

He explained that the pilots were doing their duty when ordered by Army controllers to fire on the brigands.

Okol added that there were no reports from the Army spotters that there were civilians on the target area at the time of the strike.

"Our pilots merely did their duty and they were directed by our ground controllers in their attack run. At that time, there was no information that there were any civilians in the target area," he stressed.

While it was unfortunate that two minors were hurt in the air strike, the PAF spokesperson expressed his regrets and said that such things happened due to the "fog of war."

"No one wants to hurt innocent civilians, especially our pilots," he added.

Okol also said that at the time of the strike, the bandits were firing on the military aircraft in a bid to throw off the pilots' aim.

The air strike was ordered after military spotter teams sighted 11 ASG men picnicking in the vicinity of Sibubong sandbars, southwest of Barangay Bato-Bato, Albarka, Basilan, last Jan. 5.

DFA checking China’s new maritime regulation on WPS

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 8): DFA checking China’s new maritime regulation on WPS

The Philippines is checking on reports of a new Chinese regulation requiring foreign vessels to seek China’s permission before entering the South China Sea where Manila and several Southeast Asian nations have overlapping claims.

“We are verifying the news with our embassies in Beijing and Hanoi,” Foreign Affairs spokesman Raul Hernandez said in a text message on Wednesday.

The new regulation, which is likely to heighten tensions anew in the region, came after China announced an air defense zone over a group of islands it is disputing with Japan in the East Sea, which triggered protests from the United States, Japan and the Philippines.

The order – seen to bolster China’s massive claim over the waters - was issued by Hainan provincial government and took effect on January 1.

Under the regulation, foreign vessels entering the waters, which was declared by China as part of Hainan’s administrative maritime zone, are required to seek approval from Chinese authorities.

Competing claims to the South China Sea, a strategic waterway believed to be sitting atop huge gas and oil deposits, have sparked occasional violence and now regarded as a potential regional flashpoint for armed conflict.

Manila has adopted the name West Philippine Sea for parts of the South China Sea that are within its exclusive economic zone.

China’s persistent incursions and massive claim to the waters has prompted the Philippines to challenge Beijing’s assertion before a United Nations-linked international tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands.

China refused to join the arbitration, saying the Philippine case is groundless and carries unacceptable allegations.

Former peace negotiator calls for MILF-MNLF collaboration

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 8): Former peace negotiator calls for MILF-MNLF collaboration
A leading peace advocate in Mindanao on Wednesday urged leaders of both the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) to unite and jointly work for genuine peace in southern Mindanao.

"Their leaders can sit down and discuss how they can mutually cooperate in pushing forward the Mindanao peace initiative," Lawyer Jesus Dureza, former chief government negotiator with the MILF, said in his regular column in an on-line news service based in Davao City.

He said a collaborative effort should be in place as the government and the MILF are nearing completion of the peace process.

A former peace adviser, Dureza urged the leaders of the MILF, especially Al Haj Murad to reach out to MNLF group to jointly work for peace in the troubled Muslim Mindanao region.

He believed the GPH-MNLF 1996 peace accord and the upcoming peace agreement between Manila and the MILF can be used as "uniting force" for both sides to work together since they were fighting for the same Bangsamoro people.

In his column in Advocacy MindaNOW, Dureza said the MNLF-Misuari faction reviving the call for independence was no longer viable.

Independence for Bangsamoro is no longer an option. It has outlived its own viability. It is no longer the call of the time," Dureza said, adding that if push through, it could bring more hardship to the people of Muslim Mindanao.

He also appealed to the MNLF to work within the parameters of the 1996 peace accord and reach out to the MILF for "partnership in bringing about peace in southern Mindanao."

In his unsolicited advise to the MILF leadership, Dureza urged Murad to address the issue of other emerging groups that undermine the peace initiatives of Manila and the MILF.

Aside from renegade MNLF in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao which recently made its desire for independence in an unpopular move to take over Zamboanga City, other threat groups also exist in Mindanao, including the Abu Sayyaf and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters as well as private armed groups.

He said these groups must be contained to really attain peace in the island.

Armed men seize, torch hauler truck in North Cotabato

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 8): Armed men seize, torch hauler truck in North Cotabato

Armed men believed to be extortionist carjacked a dump truck owned by a private construction firm in a remote village here on Tuesday night and torched it in adjacent village, police said.

Senior Inspector Ronnie Cordero, Tulunan police chief, said the dump truck driven by Leoncio de Vera and loaded with sand was heading to Mlang, North Cotabato from Datu Paglas, Maguindanao when two men hitchhiked with the driver.

Upon reaching Kilometer 25, Barangay La Esperanza, Tulunan, one of two hitchhikers pulled a handgun and ordered de Vera to divert the vehicle heading toward the border of Tulunan and Makilala, both infested by New People's Army (NPA) guerrillas.

Few kilometers later, the two men ordered de Vera to alight and commandeered the vehicle to Makilala. De Vera reported the incident to Tulunan PNP.

He was not harmed, Cordero said.

The truck was later found to have been torched by the suspects, believed to be extortionists.

"We are still investigating the incident," Cordero said, adding that investigators are looking at extortion as possible motive.

But he said the construction firm did not complain of any extortion attempt from any group in the province.

The truck was owned by Lao construction company which is constructing part of the Mlang airport in Barangay Tawan-Tawan, Mlang, North Cotabato.

No one has claimed responsibility.

South Korean troops to stay for a year, fix roads in Leyte

From InterAksyon (Jan 8): South Korean troops to stay for a year, fix roads in Leyte

Hundreds of troops from South Korea arrived in Leyte shortly before the New Year, on December 28. Thanks to their heavy equipment, it became easier for local authorities to prepare the mass graves in Tacloban City for victims of Super Typhoon Yolanda.

South Korea is here to focus on the reconstruction of damaged roads and buildings, according to Major General John Bonafos, who heads the Cebu-based Central Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines that is in charge of the foreign military assistance in Yolanda areas.
There are now 540 of the South Koreans in Leyte following the arrival of two navy vessels. Bonafos said they're a big help because the local engineers lack in equipment.
"They're looking at prioritizing the road access. They will open the roads starting from Tanuan, where we had the mass gravesite," Bonafos said. From Tanuan, they will move to Tolosa and then Palo.
The South Korean troops originally intended to stay for 6 months but later decided to stay for a whole year, according to Bonafos.
Aside from the United Nations (UN) contingent, they are the only remaining foreign military in the Philippines although other countries like India and Thailand have committed to also send theirs. (READ: Soldiers of the world deployed for Haiyan victims)
South Korea is paying its debt of gratitude. "When they arrived at the Mactan Air Base, they repeatedly told us that they're paying back the sacrifices the Filipino soldiers back when there was conflict in their country," said Bonafos.
This was back in the 1950s, when the war between South Korea and North Korea was intense. Former President Fidel Ramos was a young soldier when he joined the continget of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) that fought under the United Nations flag.