Monday, January 13, 2014

N. Ecija residents seek return of army to stop rebel activities

From the Manila Standard Today (Jan 14): N. Ecija residents seek return of army to stop rebel activities

BONGABON, Nueva Ecija —Residents have asked local officials to seek the posting of an army brigade here because of widespread fear of resurgence of activities by the communist New People’s Army (NPA).

Mayor Allan Gamilla said he has been negotiating with army officials to relocate the 702nd Infantry Brigade from Binmaley, Pangasinan back to Barangay Calaanan in this town where it was based for 25 years.

“Talks are going on. At our end, we are negotiating with the owner of the land where the former brigade headquarters used to stand to have him donate a parcel of his land for this purpose,” he said.

The brigade pulled out of the area in 2012 when the owner of the land wanted to sell the property. It was replaced by a smaller 56th Infantry Battalion stationed in Baler, Aurora.

The area was once a known NPA stronghold covering the boundaries of Nueva Vizcaya, Nueva Ecija and Aurora was cleared of insurgents by the 702nd IB.  NPA activities has increased since its pull out.

Gamilla said the return of the 702nd IB was a growing clamor not only in Bongabon, but also by residents in nearby areas because of a spate of attacks by the rebels.

The brigade was not only active in counter-insurgency work but also took part in forest protection and community service.

MILF: Fiscal Autonomy Explores Sources of Taxation

From the MILF Website (Jan 14): Fiscal Autonomy Explores Sources of Taxation

Deeper insights into the prospective revenue generation system of Bangsamoro were acquired as the Transition Committee’s Committee on Fiscal Autonomy held its second session with experts January 7 and 8 at Davao City.

Discussions on taxes, fees and charges as well as other sources of revenues were extensive as officials from the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), Bureau of Local Government Finance (BLGF), Southern Philippines Development Authority (SPDA), Al-Amanah Bank, Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA) and National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) clarified numerous issues that could be included in the drafting of the Bangsamoro Basic Law, particularly on provisions for fiscal autonomy.

Situs of taxation and taxable elements became the recurring topics with the BIR which was represented by Alice Gonzales and Atty. Eric Diesto, chiefs of collection division (RR 19) and legal division (RR 18), respectively.

Tomas Carillo, Acting Chief Tax Specialist in the Local Tax Policy Research & Review Division of BLGF Manila, made a comprehensive presentation on the taxing and regulatory powers of local government units.

NEDA 11 Regional Director Ma. Lourdes Lim also shared with the committee members valuable knowledge on the taxation in the ARMM. 

The Annex on Revenue Generation and Wealth Sharing provides, among others, that the Bangsamoro Government shall levy capital gains tax, documentary stamp tax, donor’s tax and estate if all taxable elements are within the Bangsamoro, and that it will have the power to levy fees and charges pursuant to the powers and functions that it shall exercise in accordance with the list of concurrent and exclusive powers in the Annex on Power Sharing, including powers already granted under RA 9054 (Expanded ARMM Organic Act) and other legislations.

Other Sources of Revenues

Issues and concerns on ODA or Official Development Assistance were discussed by Engr. Nasser Sinarimbo who is currently an Organization Performance Management Consultant for the BDA - Mindanao Trust Fund. With his long experience in the ARMM ODA Office and as Project Manager of the ARMM Social Fund, Sinarimbo cited lessons that could guide the Bangsamoro in availing ODA.   

Officials of the two long-running development arms created purportedly for the Muslims in the Philippines – SPDA (1975) and Al-Amanah Bank (1973) -- were also invited to give updates.

Even the institution of zakat, the religious payment made by a Muslim out of his wealth or income, was also given prominence with a lecture made by Professor Muhammad Abdul Fattah Santoso of Muhammadiyah University of Surakarta, Indonesia.

 The conduct of the said session was assisted by FASTRAC or the Facility for Advisory Support for Transition Capacities, a joint facility of the United Nations and World Bank. FASTRAC also supported the first session with experts of the Committee on Fiscal Autonomy last December 6.

AW-109s convertible into medical evacuation aircraft

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 14): AW-109s convertible into medical evacuation aircraft
Aside from improving the country's maritime domain awareness capabilities, the three AgustaWestland AW-109 "Power" helicopters, which were delivered and commissioned last December, are also capable of being converted into a speedy medical evacuation aircraft.

Navy spokesperson Lt. Cmdr. Gregory Fabic said this conversion merely involves the installation of litters and removal of some surplus equipment.

The conversion can be done in a matter of minutes.

He added that the AW-109s, on this configuration, can carry up to six people.

Fabic said that this capability is very ideal considering that once on patrol, the two Gregorio Del Pilar class frigates, cannot just leave its area should a medical emergency occur aboard the ship.

He added that this ability is very much needed considering that the PN is one of the first responders in times of natural and man-made calamities as proven during the time of Supertyphoon "Yolanda" last November.

The AgustaWestland aircraft has a maximum cruising speed of over 160 knots.

These capabilities prompted the PN to acquire the AW-109s from other helicopter units being sold in the international markets.

The AW-109 "Power" is a three-ton class eight seat helicopter powered by two Pratt and Whitney PW206C engines.

The spacious cabin is designed to be fitted with a number of modular equipment packages for quick and easy conversion between roles.

The aircraft’s safety features include a fully separated fuel system, dual hydraulic boost system, dual electrical systems and redundant lubrication and cooling systems for the main transmission and engines.

The AW-109 has established itself as the world’s best selling light-twin helicopter for maritime missions.

It's superior speed, capacity and productivity combined with reliability and ease of maintenance make it the most cost effective maritime helicopter in its class.

For shipboard operations the aircraft has a reinforced-wheeled landing gear and deck mooring points as well as extensive corrosion protection measures.

The ability to operate from small ships in high sea state enables the AW-109 to perform its mission when many others helicopters would be confined to the ship’s hangar.

Over 550 AW-109 "Power" and AW-109 light utility helicopters have been ordered for commercial, parapublic and military applications by customers in almost 50 countries.

Spanish planes meet specs — DND

From the Manila Standard Today (Jan 14): Spanish planes meet specs — DND

The Department of National Defense declared on Monday the Spanish company as the lone bidder that met the initial requirement set for the supply of three brand-new medium-lift aircraft valued at P5.3 billion.

In the pre-bid conference, the DND-Bids and Awards Committee, chaired by Undersecretary Fernando Manalo declared the EADS Casa Airbus Military as the single calculated bidder.

The Spanish Casa Airbus Military is offering the C295 aircraft model, one of which had crashed in Poland in 2008, killing 20 Polish air force personnel.

 The aircraft carrying some Polish officials, crashed two kilometers away from the 12th Police Air Force Base,  located in the Northwest town of  Miroslawiec, Poland at about 7 p.m. on January 23, 2008.

The Czech Republic which procured four C295 aircraft to EADS Casa Airbus Military in 2012,  returned the  planes for failing test. However, the Spanish company, replaced the aircraft last year, a source said.

The Spanish bid was pegged at P5.288 billion for three C295 aircraft, with integrated logistics systems. The DND-BAC found EADS to have passed all the initial technical and financial specifications set.

An Indonesian firm, PT Dirganta, took part in the bidding. However, the aircraft it offered failed to meet the required specifications, including payload and passengers, among others.

Meanwhile, the DND-BAC has given the PT Dirganta three days to submit its formal motion after the company asked the department to  reconsider. DND-BAC will come out with a decision seven days after the receipt of the motion, DND officials said.

EADS Casa Airbus Military took part in the previous bidding for the same aircraft in November but was disqualified for failing to meet documentary requirements, along with another firm, prompting a declaration of bidding failure.

The Alenia Aermachi who was disqualified in the previous tender, attended yesterday’s bidding  to signified it protest. The Italian company was disqualified for not complying documentary requirements.

 Manalo said they will proceed with the next phase, which is post-qualification of EADS Casa Military Airbus, after the resolution of the motion for reconsideration. The post qualification includes inspection of the firm’s facilities and the aircraft it offered.

If the firm passes the post-qualification, the DND-BAC will recommend to Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin for the issuance of Notice to Proceed with the acquisition, said Manalo.

NPA assassins kill Cafgu member

From the Visayan Daily Star (Jan 13): NPA assassins kill Cafgu member

Suspected New People’s Army rebels struck again Friday at Purok 5 in Brgy. Magballo, Kabankalan City, Negros Occidental, killing a member of the Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit, military and police said yesterday.

The victim was identified as CAFGU member Ricky Camacho, assigned at the Canlamay detachment in Ilog. He was shot and killed by five suspects, Senior Supt. Milko Lirazan, provincial police director of Negros Occidental said, quoting initial investigations of the Kabankalan police.

Lt. Col. Ariel Reyes, 47th Infantry Battalion commander, said that Camacho was unarmed and off duty, when he was shot by the suspects he believed to have been members of the NPA Special Partisan Unit.

Before they left, Reyes said the suspects shouted “Mabuhay ang NPA… Nakabawi na kami”.

In November last year, troopers of the 47IB figured in an encounter with about 25 NPA rebels in Sitio Pating, Brgy. Magballo, Kabankalan City, and a . 45 caliber pistol was recovered at the encounter site by pursuing government troopers.

Reyes said he believes that Camacho,42, was a target of opportunity, as he was shot in the back.

Suspected NPA hitmen also shot and injured newly-elected barangay chairman Fidel Aninon of Minautok in Calatrava in November last year, police records also showed.

Government troopers have been repeatedly warned by the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division against SPARU operations of the NPA in Negros island.

Spanish firm offers 3 planes to Philippine Air Force

From ABS-CBN (Jan 13): Spanish firm offers 3 planes to Philippine Air Force

The Department of National Defense has named a Spanish aircraft company as the single calculated bidder that will supply three brand new medium-lift aircraft to the Philippine Air Force.

The DND Bids and Awards Committee said EADS Casa Airbus Military passed all the technical and financial specifications set by the committee.

EADS Casa Airbus Military took part in the previous bidding in November but was disqualified for failing to meet documentary requirements. The bidding was declared a failure after another firm was also disqualified.

EADS Casa Airbus Military is offering three C295 aircraft, with integrated logistics system, for P5.288 billion to the DND.

DND Undersecretary Fernando Manalo said the first aircraft should be delivered 18 months after the opening of the credit.

An Indonesian firm that took part in the bidding said it is going to file a motion for reconsideration before the DND-BAC.

The Air Force is need of dire need of medium-lift aircraft to complement its three C-130 planes, which saw action in the relief operations for the victims of super typhoon Yolanda.

CPP: CPP supports appeal not to course international aid through corrupt Aquino regime

Propaganda statement posted to the CPP Website (Jan 13): CPP supports appeal not to course international aid through corrupt Aquino regime

Communist Party of the Philippines
The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) echoes the appeal of the Filipino people to foreign governments and international aid and funding agencies who intend to help the millions of victims of the supertyphoon Yolanda (Haiyan) and other calamities in Philippines not to course their assistance to the corruption-infested Aquino regime and instead work directly with organizations doing rehabilitation work at the ground level.

For more than two months now, the Philippines has been receiving hundreds of millions of pesos in aid, most of which are officially coursed by foreign governments and international aid agencies to the Aquino government.

“International aid, however, has come in very slow trickles to the areas which suffered grave devastation,” pointed out the CPP. “The Aquino regime’s response to the Yolanda supertyphoon and other calamities has been broadly criticized as being excruciatingly slow, inefficient and insufficient.”

“In fact, a large part of the areas ravaged by the supertyphoon, especially the interior mountainous areas, have yet to receive any relief goods from the Aquino regime as its operations are largely limited to the cities and the areas by the main highways.”

“The bureaucrat capitalist Aquino regime has been condemned for failing to ensure that all foreign assistance that passes through its hands reaches the intended beneficiaries.” Towards the middle of December, items believed to be among the international aid packages that arrived in the Philippines, including canned meat and emergency rations, were found being sold in stores as well as in the streets of Metro Manila.

Recently, international agencies discovered that the bunkhouses being built by the government for the calamity victims were substandard and overpriced. Moreover, while building these bunkhouse purportedly to provide housing to the storm victims, the Aquino regime has prevented the people, especially fisherfolk, from rebuilding their homes near coastal area, effectively displacing them from their source of livelihood.

“Because large amounts of international assistance, both in material form and cash, are not subjected to auditing, these are among the most vulnerable to the plundering vultures that abound within the Aquino government,” said the CPP. “Under the corrupt Aquino regime, there is absolutely no assurance that international aid will reach the people.”

“The CPP, thus, supports the Filipino people’s stand encouraging foreign governments, international aid organizations, private foundations and individual donors to shun the corruption-infested Aquino regime and instead work directly with mass-based relief organizations that are working directly in the communities and organizing people to enable them to struggle collectively to recover from the devastation and normalize their lives.”

“The New People’s Army, the revolutionary mass-based organizations under the umbrella of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and barrio or inter-barrio based committees of the people’s democratic government also help facilitate the flow of relief assistance and funding for rehabilitation directly to the peasant and fisherfolk communities which were badly devastated by the recent storms,” said the CPP.

“Aquino’s corruption-infested regime has made the devastation even more difficult to overcome,” said the CPP. “It has failed to allocate sufficient resources for the people’s rehabilitation efforts at the grassroots level and has instead appropriated these resources to the use of the profit-hungry big business and their foreign funders.”

“Aquino has also ordered the intensification of military operations in the storm-devastated areas targeting the peasant masses and the toiling people who are waging struggles for land and fisheries reform, demanding debt relief from loan sharks and working collectively to increase production through building work cooperatives.”

“The Filipino people are utterly incensed that the Aquino regime has not only proven its criminal neglect in the face of grave natural calamities, but is also feeding on their misery and turning the devastatation into an opportunity for corruption and profit-making.”

CPP/NDF-ST: Labanan ang tumitinding militarisasyon sa Palawan! SOMO at SOPO ng rehimeng Aquino, kasinungalingan!

Propaganda statement posted to the CPP Website (Jan 13): Labanan ang tumitinding militarisasyon sa Palawan! SOMO at SOPO ng rehimeng Aquino, kasinungalingan! (Combat the growing militarization in Palawan! SOMO and SOPO Aquino regime, lies!)

Patnubay De Guia
NDFP Southern Tagalog Chapter
Mariing kinukundina ng National Democratic Front-Southern Tagalog (NDF-ST) ang patuloy na militarisasyon sa Isla ng Palawan. Isang panlilinlang ang idineklara ng rehimeng Aquino na Suspension of Military Operations (SOMO) at Suspension of Police Operations (SOPO) mula Disyembre 20, 2013 hanggang Enero 15, 2014. Tuluy-tuloy ang mga inilulunsad na operasyong militar ng Philippine Marines sa bayan ng San Vicente, Palawan na nagdulot ng matinding takot at paglabag sa karapatang pantao ng mamamayan sa mga lokal na pamayanan.
Masaklaw at pursigidong mga operasyong militar ang inilunsad ng Philippine Marines sa magkatabing barangay ng Caruray at Port Barton mula Disyembre 20 hanggang Disyembre 31, sa kabila ng idineklarang SOMO/SOPO. Sinaklaw ng operasyon ang mga sityo ng Pinsawan at Barongbong na sakop ng Bgy. Port Barton at So. Decala at So. Little Karamay na sakop ng Bgy. Caruray. Sunud-sunod ang pagpapalipad ng chopper sa mga kagubatan at pagpapatrulya ng bangkang de-motor sa paligid ng mga isla na saklaw ng operasyong militar.
Simula pa noong huling linggo ng Nobyembre 2013, bago ideklara ang SOMO/SOPO, marami nang nagaganap na mga operasyong militar ang mga pwersa ng AFP at PNP sa mga komunidad ng San Vicente. Tinatayang aabot sa 300 elemento ng Marines ang ibinuhos ng WesCom sa lugar. Ngayon lamang naganap ang tuluy-tuloy, malakihan at masinsing operasyong militar na umaabot sa laking batalyon ang konsentradong ibinuhos sa isang maliit na erya ng isla. Di matatawaran ang idinulot nitong kaguluhan sa normal na daloy ng pamumuhay ng mga mamamayan sa mga lokal na komunidad.
Kasinungalingan ang ipinapangalandakang SOMO/SOPO ng AFP at PNP. Sa tabing ng civic actions at medical missions, tahasang pinasok at ginalugad ng mersenaryong tropa ng AFP at PNP ang maliliit na mga isla at kagubatan ng Palawan. Kinasabwat ng Marines ang mga lokal na upisyal upang pagmukhaing lehitimo ang kanilang panghihimasok sa mga komunidad. Sapilitang nagpatupad ang militar ng curfew sa New Site at Old Site na saklaw ng Bgy. Caruray. Naharap sa intimidasyon, imbestigasyon at pananakot ang mamamayan sa mga komunidad kung saan may presensya ng militar.
Sa likod ng maskara ng rehimeng Aquino na tagapagtaguyod ng kapayapaan, patuloy ang militarisasyon nito sa mga lokal na pamayanan ng Timog Katagalugan. Isang kabalintunaan ang paghahambog at retorika ng AFP at PNP na panig ito sa pagprotekta sa karapatang pantao habang sa aktwal patuloy nitong inilulunsad ang mas pinaigting na kampanyang supresyon ng reaksyunaryong gubyerno sa ilalim ng Oplan Bayanihan. Binihisan ang Oplan Bayanihan ng mga palamuti at kolorete upang pagmukhain itong makatao subalit umaalingasaw pa rin ang baho ng mga kakambal nitong operasyong pangkombat at say-ops na tahasang lumalabag sa karapatang pantao at pumipinsala sa kabuhayan ng mamamayan.
Nananawagan ang NDF-ST sa mamamayan ng Palawan at Timog Katagalugan na mahigpit na magkaisa. Tutulan at labanan ang mga isinasagawang operasyong militar sa ilalim ng Oplan Bayanihan. Ang patuloy na militarisasyon ay tanda na desperado na ang rehimeng Aquino na supilin ang lumalakas na pulang kapangyarihan sa kanayunan. Nakatakdang mabigo ang anumang kontra-rebolusyonaryong pakana ng reaksyunaryong gubyerno sa harap ng marubdob na paghahangad ng mamamayan na wakasan ang daantaong dinaranas na pang-aapi at pagsasamantala. Tanging sa pagdaluyong lamang ng rebolusyonaryong pakikibaka makakamit ang tunay na kapayapaang nakabatay sa katarungan at hustisyang panlipunan.

CPP/EC-EVRC: End of Ceasefire Declation in Eastern Visayas

Propaganda statement posted to the CPP Website (Jan 12): End of Ceasefire Declation in Eastern Visayas

CPP Eastern Visayas Regional Committee
Executive Committee-Regional Committee
Eastern Visayas
The Executive Committee-Regional Committee in Eastern Visayas of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) declares the end of the two-month unilateral ceasefire that began Nov. 12, 2013 in solidarity with the plight of the people after typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan).

The ceasefire ended at 0000H of January 12, 2014.

All units of the New People’s Army (NPA) in Eastern Visayas may now resume offensive military operations against the regular and paramilitary forces of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP).

The NPA is commendable for displaying its high level of discipline in keeping the unilateral ceasefire. Despite the continuing attacks and provocations of the US-Aquino regime, the ceasefire was never lifted in deference to the sufferings of the people and in order to make sure that immediate relief would be delivered to them. During the period of ceasefire, the NPA units in their respective areas of responsibility mobilized to help the people repair their communities, facilitated the delivery of relief, and organized and mobilized the people to demand accountability from the US-Aquino regime over its gross unconcern for the people’s welfare.

On the other hand, the AFP is entirely despicable for continuing military operations even right after typhoon Yolanda, when the people were still reeling from disaster, and during their so-called unilateral ceasefire in December 2013. On Nov. 25, 2013, the 87th IB attacked an NPA camp in San Jorge, Western Samar and captured Comrade Renato Baleros and Comrade Vangie Colinayo, who were directing NPA relief operations in the province. On Dec. 11, 2013, an offensive operation by the 8th Infantry Division in Oras, Eastern Samar was foiled by the active defense of the NPA, which inflicted five killed and three wounded on the enemy side; there were no casualties on the side of the NPA. In the same town the following day, Dec. 12, an NPA unit had an encounter with 8th ID troops; a soldier was wounded while the NPA had no casualty.

The 8th ID troops continued their operations even after their so-called ceasefire from Dec. 16, 2013 to Jan. 16, 2014. The NPA reports soldiers were still on combat operations up to Dec. 25 in Las Navas, Northern Samar. Meanwhile, on Dec. 27, in the area between Brgy. Libertad and Brgy. Mahayag, Ormoc City, Leyte, 19th IB troops staged a mock firefight complete with live gunfire, and then claimed to the media that they had been attacked by the NPA, which was accused of violating its own ceasefire. In fact, there was no NPA unit in the area at that time; the said firefight is purely psywar by the military.

The CPP in the region is well aware the US-Aquino regime intends from 2014-2015 to intensify its Oplan Bayanihan military campaign in Eastern Visayas. The NPA is directed to carry out intensive and extensive guerrilla warfare based on an ever widening and deepening mass base. The revolutionary armed struggle is in solidarity with the mass struggles to oust the US-Aquino regime over its incompetence, corruption and brutality in connection with the typhoon Yolanda victims as well as other issues.
Bringing down the corrupt, fascist and puppet regime will significantly contribute to the overthrow of the entire reactionary ruling system in the long run.

Taiwan hits China fishing law, dismisses PH claim

From Rappler (Jan 13): Taiwan hits China fishing law, dismisses PH claim

DISPUTED ISLANDS. An aerial photo shows Pag-asa (Thitu) Island, part of the disputed Spratly group of islands, in the South China Sea located off the coast of western Philippines on July 20, 2011. File photo by Rolex dela Peña/Pool/AFP

DISPUTED ISLANDS. An aerial photo shows Pag-asa (Thitu) Island, part of the disputed Spratly group of islands, in the South China Sea located off the coast of western Philippines on July 20, 2011. File photo by Rolex dela Peña/Pool/AFP

Like the Philippines, Taiwan rejected China's new fisheries law on Monday, January 13. At the same time, however, it dismissed Manila's claim over the disputed South China Sea.

Taiwan, which calls itself the Republic of China (ROC), stood firm in claiming the Spratly Islands 3 days after the Philippines slammed the Chinese law. The policy requires foreigners to seek China's permission to fish in the disputed sea.

In a statement by the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in the Philippines, Taiwan said the Spratly Islands (Nansha Islands), Paracel Islands (Shisha Islands), Macclesfield Islands (Chungsha Islands), and Pratas Islands (Tungsha Islands) all belong to “the sovereignty of the ROC government.”

The claim covers all “their surrounding waters and respective seabed and subsoil.” This is based on “the perspectives of history, geography, and international law.”

“Therefore, the ROC government reasserts that it enjoys all rights over the islands and their surrounding waters, and thus its official and private vessels should also enjoy freedom of navigation and operation in the said waters. Furthermore, it cannot accept any claim of sovereignty over, occupation, or legitimate regulation of these areas by other countries or territories,” Taiwan said.

The Philippines, on the other hand, asserted its claim over the Spratlys as well as other portions of the sea, which it calls the West Philippine Sea. It filed a historic case against China over this in 2013. (READ: PH lawyer on China: Being 'int'l outlaw' has its price)

Joint exploration

In its statement, Taiwan also urged countries “bordering the islands,” such as the Philippines, “to respect the principles and spirit” of the United Nations Charter and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). It also requested them “to refrain from adopting unilateral measures that might upset the peace and stability of the region and the South China Sea.”

In place of unilateral measures, Taiwan broached the idea of joint exploration. It said it “upholds the basic principles of 'safeguarding sovereignty, shelving disputes, peace and reciprocity, and joint exploration' and remains willing to work with other countries in exploring the resources of the South China Sea.”

“The ROC government also urges the countries bordering the South China Sea to exercise self-constraint so that peaceful resolutions to South China Sea disputes can be reached through consultation and dialogue. The ROC government remains willing to participate in dialogue aiming to form resolutions to disputes and promote regional peace, stability, and freedom of navigation,” Taiwan added.

The Philippines, for its part, said it has requested China “to immediately clarify” the new fisheries law that the Hainan Provincial People's Congress issued.

“We are gravely concerned by this new regulation that would require foreign fishing vessels to obtain approval from Chinese regional authorities before fishing or surveying in a large portion of the South China Sea,” the Philippines' Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said in a statement Friday, January 10.

“This development escalates tensions, unnecessarily complicates the situation in the South China Sea, and threatens the peace and stability of the region,” the DFA added.

DFA won't comment on report about China's plan to seize Pag-asa Island from PH

From InterAksyon (Jan 13): DFA won't comment on report about China's plan to seize Pag-asa Island from PH

InterAksyon file photo of Pag-asa Island.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Monday said it would not comment on reports regarding China's plans to seize Pag-asa Island from the Philippines this year. 

DFA spokesperson Raul Hernandez told reporters in a text message that the department normally does not want to comment on reports that come out in the media.

"But we do comment on official pronouncement by governments all over the world that would affect the interest of the country," Hernandez said.

"We don't comment on news articles that have unnamed and unofficial sources," he added.

Over the weekend, state-owned China Daily Mail said Chinese Navy had a combat plan to take over Pag-asa Island.

The report said the plan aims to recover an island "stolen" by the Philippines from China.

But it clarified that there would be "no invasion into Filipino territories."

The source of the report, which was translated from Mandarin on China Daily Mail, was titled "Sudden major move of Chinese troops this year to recover Zhongye Island by force."

Pag-asa Island is the largest island in the contested Spratly Islands, a resource-rich region in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea. It is being claimed by Beijing, Manila, Hanoi, Taipei, Kuala Lumpur, and Bandar Seri Begawan.

Ex-Sayyaf hostage, Baker Atyani bares ordeal, links Filipino journo to kidnapping

From the Mindanao Examiner blog site (Jan 13): Ex-Sayyaf hostage, Baker Atyani bares ordeal, links Filipino journo to kidnapping

A screen grab of the Al-Arabiya program called Panorama where ex-Sayyaf hostage Baker Atyani speaks about his 18-month ordeal in the hands of his captors in Southern Philippines (Mindanao Examiner)
Former Abu Sayyaf hostage, Jordanian journalist Baker Atyani, has implicated a Filipino journalist whom he accused of setting him up that led to his capture by the al-Qaeda-linked terrorist group in the southern Philippines.

Atyani, the Pakistan bureau chief of Al-Arabiya television, sneaked into camps of the terror group along with his two Filipino assistants, Rolando Letrero and Ramelito Vela, to film Moro National Liberation Front and leaders of the Abu Sayyaf that authorities have linked to al-Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiya, but had been taken prisoner. His two Filipino companions had been freed in February 2013.

Military and police said Atyani arrived in Sulu on June 11, 2012 and went the next day to the Abu Sayyaf with the help a local guide. The Jordanian journalist had made prior arrangement with the Abu Sayyaf to film a documentary about the terror group.

Filipino authorities said Atyani deceived local officials after he claimed to be filming government projects in Sulu, one of five provinces under the Muslim autonomous region.

Provincial officials had repeatedly warned Atyani against interviewing the Abu Sayyaf, but the trio went ahead and secretly met with terrorist leaders, among them Nadzmie Alih. They were first reported missing after failing to return to their hostel in Jolo town, but phoned local officials two days later to say that they were still filming a documentary on the Abu Sayyaf until the terror group detained them.


Speaking to Al Arabiya’s Panorama program, Atyani told his ordeal in the hands of his captors and said the unnamed journalist whom he met in the Philippines, may be involved in his kidnapping.

“I cannot accuse him directly, but there are many indicators that make me point a finger at him. He might have been involved in kidnapping me. I mean, he might have known that there is a kidnapping process, and he might have handed me to this group in order to get a share of the ransom which will probably be paid,” Atyani said.

He said one of those in the Abu Sayyaf group has told him that they were provided information about him and his trip to Sulu.

“The (Abu Sayyaf) man started to speak with me about some of the arrangements that preceded the kidnapping and about the person who gave them the goal or the victim, who is the journalist. I have until now evidence and I filed in the Philippines an official lawsuit against the group, and among the suspected people is the journalist,” Atyani said.

Atyani, a veteran journalist who had clandestinely interviewed al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden before the 9/11 attacks in the United States in 2011, did not identify the journalist, but he met several Filipino journalists in Manila before flying to Sulu, where he also met a few journalists.

Narrating his ordeal, Atyani said he was surprised after the Abu Sayyaf group told him that he was being detained. Atyani said his mission in filming the documentary was to convey scenes of the daily life of the Muslims in Sulu to the world.

Documentary film

He said the essence of his mission was to attempt to draw the attention of the Arab, Islamic and international community to the situation of the locals in Sulu and thus help them overcome their life difficulties.

“I was working on a documentary film that discussed the conditions in which the Muslims lived, and the crisis in Mindanao, the second biggest island in the Philippines which is inhabited by Muslims. The mission is to shed light on their conditions and the ongoing crisis in southern Philippines and in light of that we went to Manila, and from there one of the parties of the conflict and mainly Abu Sayyaf group, and of course there were other parties that met with Moro Islamic Liberation Front, Moro National Liberation Front, the Government of Philippines, the army of Philippines and some Islamic political figures,” Atyani said.

Atyani said Radulan Sahiron largely controls the Abu Sayyaf in Sulu and that several leaders, including Rajlan Sahir and Kasman Sujan, also operate in the province and are being supported by Sahiron by providing them munitions.

He said Sahir’s group held him captive and at one time was attacked by security forces and that Sahiron sent him munitions to fight the military. The boxes of ammunition had “Government Arsenal” written on it, he said.

“They (Abu Sayyaf) cooperate together in some kidnapping operations sometimes, they distribute hostages among them and when the (ransom) money comes, the main group (of Sahiron) for the kidnapping takes the ransom and as I indicated twenty percent go to first leader (Sahiron,” Atyani said.

“It does not matter if the kidnapped (victim) is Muslim or non-Muslim from a foreign country, or from any other religion, they do not think about this issue, and do not care about it. What matters is that this person is a hostage and they can get a ransom because of him. The main funding source of this group is kidnapping operations and it has no other funding sources other than kidnapping and pillage,” he added.


He said the Abu Sayyaf and its actions have no relation to Islam at all. “They know nothing even about life, they know only about Islam. They know nothing about Islam, just Islam. Some of them did not come out of the jungle for 20 years. One of them was shocked and asked me if we are in 2007. I am talking about something I heard. The people are not living in this world, they live in a jungle and without knowing what is happening in the world,” Atyani said.

“The issue of Islam here, the issue of being Muslim or not is not very important here, what is important is that they found a source of money, some of them used to say, yes you are Muslim, and we are very sorry for what happened, but we want the money, simply we want it. The sad thing is that the people who follow them believe that this is Islam, and this is how people deal with each other in Islam. In the West when they hear about Abu Sayyaf, they think that Muslims are terrorists,” he said.


During his captivity, Atyani said the Abu Sayyaf brought him a local nurse to look into his health condition and she told him that the armed group threatened to kill his family if she will not come to the Abu Sayyaf camp.

“I remember that I got sick lately, so they brought me a nurse into the woods, and she told me that she has been living in fear and terror because of them since 2003 and if I do not come at the time they asked, they would kill my family, there is a threat against her family, living in the same island, in the same area. If she does not come at the time set by the gang, they would kill her family,” Atyani said.

Atyani said an Abu Sayyaf translator, who spoke English to him eventually fled after the group discovered that he was helping him plot his escape. “They were prepared to kill him, he knew this and managed to escape and moved to another island, it is a gang, they kill the person who does not accept to be governed by them or doesn't want to abide by the agreement or their way of life,” he said.

He said he also saw children carrying automatic rifles during his captivity.

"You see a child carrying an M16 weapon that is longer than him. I witnessed that, it is a shame for a person to see this, to see people living without education, without any target in life, with only goal that is kidnapping. They used to say to each other, if you want to get married, kidnap someone and with the ransom money, you can get married. If you wanted to buy clothes or a new mobile phone, kidnap someone and you can buy whatever you want. Kidnapping has become a source of livelihood the only source of livelihood for them,” he said.

Atyani said he was constantly moved from one hideout to another – eleven times in three different areas during his captivity and stayed in bamboo houses or slept on hammock. He said civilians fear the Abu Sayyaf and was forced to cooperate with them.

“They are people whom Abu Sayyaf group imposed itself upon them, and there are some people who cooperate with them, but they do not do it because they love them or they are convinced with their views, but because they fear them,” he said.

Atyani said he was not harmed by the Abu Sayyaf despite his attempt to escape twice, but the psychological torture of being a prisoner, he claimed, had affected him. 

At the end of the program, when Atyani was asked if he would still go back to the Southern Philippines after his harrowing ordeal, he said: “I do not think that I was performing a press assignment, I was looking for the truth. I would never regret the fact that I was looking for the truth, so on the contrary, I will continue this mission that we believe is a noble mission and I am personally convinced about it. There is no doubt that this was a hard experience and tragedy, but it made me stronger and increased my faith in the necessity to convey the truth and the honest word to the viewers.”

The Philippine military previously said it would arrest Atyani for espionage after security officials started investigating the true intention of his clandestine interview with terror leaders in Sulu, but it shelved the plan for a still unknown reason.

Bomb blast hurts 25 persons in North Cotabato state college

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 13): Bomb blast hurts 25 persons in North Cotabato state college

At least 25 persons, 17 of them were in critical condition, were wounded when an improvised explosive device (IED) went off inside a state-run college here on Sunday evening while the victims were battling a fire, police said.

Senior Inspector Rolly Oranza of Arakan, North Cotabato, the blast came while a fire was in progress inside the campus of Cotabato Foundation College of Science and technology in Barangay Poblacion, Arakan at about 8 p.m.

“A fire was in progress at the residential cottage inside the campus where school security guards temporarily reside when the explosion occurred,” Oranza said.

Oranza said initial investigation showed that fire was intentional as arson investigators recovered containers with gasoline and chemical residue.

Most of the victims were teachers, students, security guard and police personnel who among those who responded to a fire incident.

“We are still determining the composition of improvised explosive,” Oranza said, adding that motive of the attack remained unknown at this time.

He added many of the victims were students and school workers who reside inside the school campus and among those who responded to the fire incident or merely kibitzers.

The police chief refused to comment on reports that the explosion was part of the efforts to remove the school president who was allegedly opposed by students, workers and some faculty members.

Last September, an improvised explosive device was planted in front of the school flagpole but an alert security guard found it. Police later defused the bomb made of 81 mm mortar.

Oranza also refused to comment on the reports that the incident was carried out by groups opposed to school administrator.

6 NPA sympathizers yield in South Cotabato village

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 13): 6 NPA sympathizers yield in South Cotabato village

Six suspected New People’s Army (NPA) sympathizers surrendered to government troops in Lake Sebu town in South Cotabato over the weekend following weeks of negotiations.

Lt. Col Zhalimar Imperial, commander of the Army’s 27th Infantry Battalion (IB), said Monday the NPA “mass sympathizers” mainly decided to surrender to renew their allegiance to the government.

He said the six rebel sympathizers yielded last Saturday to their peace and development teams stationed in Sitios Datal Ligao and Siete in Barangay Tasiman, Lake Sebu.

“These are not (full-fledged) NPA members but mass sympathizers who are members of women and farmers’ groups that are supported by the rebels,” he said in a radio interview.

Imperial said the NPA sympathizers, whose identities were withheld for security reasons, are currently undergoing some debriefing through its peace and development teams.

The 27th IB deployed anew late last year its peace and development teams in various remote communities in the municipalities of Lake Sebu and T’boli to counter the reported recruitment activities of NPA rebels operating in the area.

Imperial said the rebels have been supposedly luring tribal residents to join their ranks by promising them regular salaries and other monetary benefits.

He said several former NPA recruits who surrendered last year confirmed that rebel leaders had promised them a monthly salary of P5,000 during their recruitment.

“All these were plain promises and never materialized. Some of their actually became disillusioned and surrendered to us because of this,” he said.

The official said they are continually tracking down the movements of NPA rebels, specifically those under its Front 73, through their peace and development teams.

He added that they have not monitored so far any significant movement by the rebels in the two municipalities, especially in its upland areas.

MILF leaders laud appointment of Quevedo as cardinal-elect

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 13): MILF leaders laud appointment of Quevedo as cardinal-elect

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) welcomed the elevation of Cotabato Archbishop Orlando B. Quevedo to the College of Cardinals of the Catholic Church.

Mohaqher Iqbal, MILF chief negotiator, said the appointment of Archbishop Quevedo as Cardinal will surely help the Mindanao peace process.

"We all know that Archbishop Quevedo has been a supporter of the government and MILF peace process and his being part of the College of Cardinals or advisers to the head of Catholic Church is something we believe could help attain peace in the island," Iqbal said.

"Archbishop Quevedo deserve the post," Lawyer Michael Mastura, a member of the MILF peace panel talking peace with Manila and a product of Notre Dame University (NDU), a Catholic school owned and run by Oblates of Mary Immaculate, Quevedo's congregation.

Mastura recalled how brilliant Quevedo was during his college days at NDU.

Iglesia Filipina Independiente Bishop Felixberto Calang also lauded Quevedo becoming Cardinal because he can bring the issue of southern Philippines to Pope Francis.

Described as man of the poor, Quevedo had served in various capacities in the Philippine Catholic hierarchy.

He was among those who condemned the wars in Mindanao in the past and worked hard to contribute to the attainment of genuine peace in southern Philippines.

4th Infantry Division alerted for additional HADR missions

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 13): 4th Infantry Division alerted for additional HADR missions

The Cagayan De Oro-based 4th Infantry Division on Monday announced that all its units were placed under a high state of alert to help in additional humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) missions in the areas affected by floods and landslides Caraga, Davao and other regions in Mindanao as the low pressure areas (LPA) will continue to dumps rains in these areas and Visayas.

Capt. Christian Uy, 4th Infantry Division spokesperson, said their troopers are now helping in the ongoing clearing operations in areas hit by landslides.

Some soldiers are helping the evacuation of residents affected by flash floods in coordination with the affected local government units.

Uy said that the 4th Infantry Division was placed in alert for such missions as early as January 11 when the LPA entered the Philippine area of responsibility.

He added that they will be on this alert until the weather conditions have improved.

It is estimated that 11,788 persons in Northern Mindanao, Southern Mindanao, and CARAGA were forced to evacuate.

In Dinagat Islands, Vice Governor Benglen Ecleo issued "Alert Level 3," which imposes pre-emptive or forced evacuation in areas that have high risks of floods and landslides.

Navy anti-piracy capability to get boost with attack version of AW-109s

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 13): Navy anti-piracy capability to get boost with attack version of AW-109s

The Philippine Navy (PN)'s capabilities to go after pirates and other intruders will be further boosted with the arrival of two attack versions of the AgustaWestland AW-109 "Power" helicopters by the third quarter of this year.

These two helicopters are fitted with rocket launchers, heavy machines and electronic counter-measure equipment, Navy spokesperson Lt. Cmdr. Gregory Fabic said on Monday.

He added that the attack versions of the AW-109s will greatly increase the surveillance and offensive capabilities of the two Gregorio Del Pilar class frigates.

Fabic said once a pirate threat is detected, the ships can immediately deploy their AW-109s to look for the suspicious contact.

And if these targets proved hostile, the armed AW-109s can fire to neutralize these contacts.

The PN spokesperson stated that the armed AW-109s can do interdiction and attack missions even at the night-time as they are also equipped with forward looking infrared sensors and night vision equipment.

The AW-109 "Power" helicopter is a three-ton class eight seat helicopter powered by two Pratt and Whitney PW206C engines.

The AW-109 has established itself as the world’s best selling light-twin helicopter for maritime missions.

Over 550 AW-109 "Power" and AW-109 light utility helicopters have been ordered for commercial, parapublic and military applications by customers in almost 50 countries.

Eastern Mindanao Command units aid LPA displaced families

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 13): Eastern Mindanao Command units aid LPA displaced families

The Eastern Mindanao Command on Monday announced that its units are now aiding families displaced by the floods and landslides triggered by the low pressure area (LPA) affecting the Mindanao and Visayas Regions for the past few days.

An estimated 11,197 families in Davao region and in Agusan provinces were affected by the low pressure brought by the continues rainfall with strong winds since Friday night.

Soldiers from 60, 67, 28 and 27th Infantry Battalions, all attached to 10th Infantry Division joined the local officials and volunteers in providing assistance to the affected families in New Corrella, Davao Del Norte and in municipalities of Taragona, Boston, Cateel, Baganga, CARAGA and Manay all of Davao Oriental while soldiers from 26, 30, 36 & 75th Infantry Battalions of 4th Infantry Division joined the LGU officials, volunteers and PNP in providing assistance to the evacuees in Trento, Bunawan, Veruela, Sta. Josefa, Rosario and San Francisco all of Agusan del Sur; Municipalities of Bislig and Tandag both of Surigao Del Sur; Municipalities of Tubod, Sison, Mainit, Alegria, Gigaquit, Claver, Bacauag and Taganan all of Surigao Del Norte.

Twenty four families were evacuated at the designated evacuation centers due to landslide along national highway in Barangay Salvacion, Trento while another landslide occurred in Barangay El Salvador, New Correla.

Road clearing operations were immediately undertaken.

Military units in the nearby affected areas together with volunteers and LGU officials are providing assistance to the affected communities.

There were 14 municipalities were affected in Region 13 while 15 municipalities in Region 11 alone.

Eastern Mindanao Command head Lt. Gen. Ricardo Rainier G. Cruz III directed all military units in his area of responsibility to join together with municipal rescue units, volunteers, local officials and PNP for the rescue and relief operations.

“Coordination among units for augmentation of forces is mandatory,” he added.