Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Pampanga 'peaceful and ready for further development'

From the Philippine Star (Jan 14): Pampanga 'peaceful and ready for further development'

Pampanga will be declared as “peaceful and ready for further development” by the military and local officials due to the government’s gains against insurgency in the province.

The declaration will pave way to the turnover of the lead role of maintaining internal security to local executives from the military.

A memorandum of agreement making such declaration will be signed January 15 by officials from the local government, military and police in Bacolor.

Among the officials who will attend the event are Pampanga Gov. Lilia Pineda, Armed Forces chief Gen. Emmanuel Bautista, Northern Luzon Command chief Lt. Gen. Gregorio Catapang and 7th Infantry Division commander Maj. Gen. Hernando Iriberri.

Brig. Gen. Henry Sabarre, chief of the Army’s 703rd brigade, believes insurgency can no longer prevent the further development of the province.

“In itself, it’s a declaration or manifestation that the progress in Pampanga is continuing, it is now peaceful, there is no more insurgency and the development will continue,” Sabarre said.

He, however, clarified that the declaration would not necessarily mean the downsizing of troops deployed in the area.

“It’s just manifesting that the local government official in the person of the governor will now take lead role in dealing with the peace and order,” Sabarre said.

“The AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) in the area will support all its initiatives in line with its development. If there is a peace and order concern, we will support the PNP (Philippine National Police) in the conduct of law enforcement and anticrime activities,” he added.

The military previously claimed that 29 provinces have “normalized” due to the military’s anti-insurgency campaigns.

An area can be declared normalized if local governments and other civilian stakeholders are already active in addressing the causes of insurgency.

These areas are Cavite, Marinduque, Romblon, Guimaras, Cebu, Siquijor, Biliran, Bohol, Leyte, Southern Leyte, Aklan, Antique, Eastern Samar, Apayao, La Union, Pangasinan, Tarlac, Kalinga, Nueva Viscaya, Quirino, Nueva Ecija, Aurora, Benguet, Batanes, Camiguin, Misamis Oriental, South Cotabato, Saranggani and Davao Oriental.


P41.2-B military upgrade completed in Noy's 3 years

From the Philippine Star (Jan 14): P41.2-B military upgrade completed in Noy's 3 years

A total of P41.2 billion worth of military upgrade projects have been completed and awarded during the first three years of the Aquino administration, data from the Department of National Defense (DND) showed.

The amount represents 36 projects that were spread out to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) General Headquarters, the Government Arsenal and the three major services namely the Army, the Air Force and the Navy.

Twelve of the projects went to the Army while four others benefited the Air Force. The Navy got 16 projects including the frigates BRP Gregorio del Pilar and BRP Ramon Alcaraz.

Two projects each went to the Armed Forces General Headquarters and the Government Arsenal.

“We are steadily addressing our Armed Forces’ capability upgrade. Our Bids and Awards Committees at the DND (Department of National Defense) are doing their best to fast-track our acquisitions while fully adhering to the established rules and procedures set by law,” Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said in a statement.

The completed Army projects totaled P2.8-billion, including the acquisition of 190 units of 1 ¼ ton truck troop carriers worth P494 million, 60 units of field ambulance units worth P3007 million, and 250 units of 2 ½ ton troop carriers worth P837.65 million.

Another P5.5 billion worth of projects have been awarded and are awaiting delivery within this year and 2015 including armored vehicles, assault rifles and prime movers or trucks used to transport armed vehicles.

Four Air Force projects worth P3.7 billion have been completed including the purchase of 18 units of basic trainer aircraft worth P621.67 million and eight combat utility helicopters worth P2.86 billion that are now under the 505th Search and Rescue Group.

Air Force projects that are in the pipeline are the acquisition of light-lift aircraft and attack helicopters due for delivery within the next two years and 21 units of UH-1 helicopters, which may arrive in the country within the first half.

A total of 16 Navy projects worth P5.3 billion have been completed including the acquisition of warships BRP Alcaraz and BRP del Pilar and three naval helicopters worth P1.34-billion.

The Navy is expecting the delivery of P6.4 billion worth of equipment including the strategic sealift vessels, additional naval helicopters and amphibious vehicles.

Two Armed Forces General Headquarters projects worth P445 million were completed during the first half of the Aquino presidency namely the upgrade of the AFP Medical Center operating rooms and the acquisition of a fixed communication system.

The Government Arsenal projects that have been completed in the last three years were the acquisition of raw and input materials for its bullet assembly machine. The agency is awaiting the delivery of the equipment for the manufacture of ammunition.

“The AFP modernization projects for the Armed Forces of the Philippines, including the upgrades for the Government Arsenal, have been expedited during the first half of the Aquino administration,” said Arsenio Andolong, acting public affairs chief of the Defense department.

In 1995, Congress passed the Armed Forces Modernization Act, which provided the military the chance to modernize in 15 years with a total budget of P331 billion.

The program was hampered by the lack of funds and the changing priorities of the national leadership.

As a result, the Philippine military has become one of the most poorly-equipped in the region.

In 2012, President Aquino signed a new modernization law that seeks to allot more resources to the military’s upgrade efforts. More than P85-billion is needed to fund the program in the next four years.


Leftist rebels resume operations against military in Visayas

From the Philippine Star (Jan 14): Leftist rebels resume operations against military in Visayas

The leftist rebel group Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) ordered its armed wing, New People' s Army (NPA), to resume offensive operations against the Philippine military and other government security forces in central Philippines.

The CPP gave out the order after the ceasefire declared by the Executive Committee-Regional Committee in Eastern Visayas on Nov. 12 ended on Jan. 12. The two-month truce was in effect in areas struck by typhoon Haiyan, locally known as Yolanda.

"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 CPP said.

The CPP also commended the NPA for displaying a "high level of discipline" in observing the unilateral ceasefire despite " provocations" made by the government of Philippine President Benigno S. Aquino III.

"Despite the continuing attacks and provocations of the United States-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," the group said.

The CPP accused the AFP of continuing military operations against their group despite the government's unilateral declaration of a truce from Dec. 21 to Jan. 15.

The leftist rebel group, with an estimated 4,000 fighters, has been waging war against the Philippine government for over four decades.


Army condemns NPA for killing Cafgu man

From the Visayan Daily Star (Jan 14): Army condemns NPA for killing Cafgu man

The Army's 3rd Infantry Division yesterday condemned what it calls the “atrocious attack” of the New People's Army against an off-duty and unarmed member of the Civilian Armed Force Geographical Unit in Kabankalan City, Negros Occidental.

This happened while the Armed Forces of the Philippines is observing the 25-day suspension of military operations against the communist rebel group.

The 25-day SOMO of the AFP, that started Dec. 21 last year, will end tomorrow.

Those who have a hand in this treacherous and murderous act of killing through inhuman tactics will be liable as their victim will seek for justice, Major Rey Tiongson of 3ID said.

CAFGU member Ricky Camacho succumbed to multiple gunshot wounds, with a fatal injury in the head, when he was shot by five suspected New People's Army assassins on June 10 in Brgy. Magballo, Kabankalan City, military said.

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

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

Despite the incident, Tiongson, however, said “We still humbly call on the ranks of the CPP-NPA who are just being used by their self-serving leaders in initiating violent attacks, to abandon the armed struggle, live a peaceful life, and join us in bringing peace and development to the people”.


PH reminds China of pending protest vs Sansha City amid issue on fisheries law

From InterAksyon (Jan 14): PH reminds China of pending protest vs Sansha City amid issue on fisheries law

As China's new law requiring foreigners to seek permission to fish in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) takes effect this month, the Philippines has reminded China that it still protesting the establishment of a Chinese prefecture that encompasses areas in the disputed territories.

Earlier, the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) asked China to clarify the new fisheries law passed by the Hainan Provincial People's Congress in November 2013 and became effective in January 2014.

In a  statement released on Tuesday, DFA spokesperson Raul Hernandez said China had already responded to the Philippine's request.

In its clarification, China maintained that the new fishing regulation in the disputed territories is an implementation of China's law and covers the jurisdiction of Hainan province.

The DFA strongly reminded the Chinese government that the establishment of Hainan province and its prefecture, Sansha City, are still being protested by the Philippines. On June 28, 2012, the DFA sent a note verbale to then Chinese ambassador Ma Keqing to protest the establishment of Sansha.

Sansha is tasked to administer the disputed territories in the South China Sea including Nansha (Spratlys or the Kalayaan Group of Islands), Xisha (Paracels), and Zhongsha (Macclesfield Bank) islands and their surrounding waters.

"The Philippines calls on China to conform to international law particularly UNCLOS [United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea]," Hernandez said.

"The Department of Foreign Affairs reiterates its strong protest, which we have made on June 28, 2012 since the jurisdiction of Hainan province included the Philippine exclusive economic zone," he added.

On Monday, January 13, Hernandez told reporters that it would be "business as usual" in the West Philippine Sea despite China's new fisheries law.

“We are not preventing them [Filipino fishermen],” Hernandez said. “We have BFAR (Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources) all over the place and fishing rules and activities are being monitored.”

China’s new fishing law covers PHL territories -- DFA

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 14): China’s new fishing law covers PHL territories -- DFA

The Philippines on Tuesday issued a public protest against China’s new fisheries law in the disputed South China Sea, saying its area of coverage included parts of the country’s territory.

Manila made the statement in response to China’s explanation that the regulation, which is being administered by the Chinese province of Hainan, covers a huge expanse of the waters, including those that fall within Philippine jurisdiction but is being claimed by China.

When asked by the Philippines to explain its new law, China said “the new regulation is an implementation of China’s fisheries law and covers their jurisdiction of Hainan province.”

“The Department of Foreign Affairs reiterates its strong protest which we have made on June 28, 2012 since the jurisdiction of Hainan province included the Philippine territories and impinges on the Philippines’ Exclusive Economic Zone,” Foreign Affairs spokesman Raul Hernandez told a press briefing.

“This statement is already our protest and we also do that as part of our diplomatic efforts,” Hernandez said.

Beijing in 2012 established a new city called Sansha under its southern Hainan province to politically administer areas it is claiming in the disputed waters, including the Philippine-claimed Kalayaan Island Group and the Scarborough Shoal or Bajo de Masinloc.

The Philippines does not recognize Sansha, saying it infringes on its territory.

Foreign fishing vessels under the law, which came into force last Jan. 1, must obtain permission from Chinese regional authorities before fishing or surveying in a large portion of the South China Sea.

Parts of the resource-rich waters that are within Manila’s territorial boundaries have been renamed West Philippine Sea by the Philippine government.

Competing claims to the South China Sea by China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan have sparked occasional violence and several armed confrontations in the past.

China is being criticized lately by many nations, led by the United States, for its rapidly expanding claim over the waters despite a commitment under a non-binding code of conduct it signed in 2002 with Southeast Asian nations that claimants will exercise restraint and stop new occupation in the South China Sea.

China claims “indisputable sovereignty” over the entire waters, where undersea gas deposits have been discovered in several areas, even as it overlaps with the territories of its Asian neighbors.

Manila has sought international arbitration to try to declare as illegal China’s massive claim.


BJMP readies to transfer 8 remaining MNLF detainees to Bicutan

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 14): BJMP readies to transfer 8 remaining MNLF detainees to Bicutan

The Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) is making the necessary preparations for the transfer of the remaining eight Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) rebel detainees from here to Bicutan, Taguig City.

Zamboanga City Reformatory Center (ZCRC) Warden Chief Insp. Julius Arro said five of the eight to be transferred are women and the remaining three are men.

Arro explained they were not brought together with the more than 200 rebel detainees transported to Bicutan last December 27 since the three males were sick at that time.

Also, Arro said there was no available detention facility yet at that time for women the reason why the five female MNLF detainees were left behind.

“We are working to transfer them as soon as possible in compliance with the Supreme Court order,” Arro said.

The more than 200 MNLF rebel detainees were transported to Bicutan, Taguig City from this city last December 27 aboard the Philippine Navy’s Landing Ship Transport-550 (LST-550) under heavy guards.

The move of the MNLF rebel detainees is in compliance with the High Tribunal resolution transferring the detention and hearing of cases filed against the rebels.

They were charged for rebellion and violation of the international humanitarian law in connection with their involvement 20-day siege last September.

Meanwhile, Arro disclosed without giving specific amount that the BJMP has spent millions of pesos for the transfer of the MNLF detainees.

The expenses the BJMP incurred was for the construction of temporary detention aboard LST-550, food, gasoline and others, Arro said.


NPA rebels torch 3 heavy equipment in Sarangani village

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 14): NPA rebels torch 3 heavy equipment in Sarangani village

Suspected New People’s Army (NPA) rebels burned early Tuesday three heavy equipment owned by a private construction firm that was working on a local government-funded project in Malapatan town in Sarangani Province.

Police Officer 1 Omar Pangolima, investigator of Malapatan municipal police station, said Tuesday an undetermined number of rebels attacked a project site of Jargon Construction and Supply in Purok Datal Bub in Barangay Lun Padidu shortly after midnight and torched its three heavy equipment.

He said the rebels did not harm the workers and immediately left the area after burning a payloader, road grader and roller.

“The three heavy equipment were already totally burned when we responded to the area since it was only reported to us about four hours later,” he said in a radio interview.

Pangolima said that during the attack, the firm’s workers were reportedly told by the rebels that their owners were aware that it would happen.

The rebels had been reportedly demanding the payment of revolutionary taxes from Jargon Construction and Supply, which is based in Isulan town in Sultan Kudarat, but it repeatedly ignored them.

Jargon Construction had been contracted by the local government to implement a road project in Barangay Lun Padidu in Malapatan.

The firm, which is one of the accredited construction firms of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) in Region 12, has several ongoing projects in parts of Sarangani, South Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat provinces.