Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Video: Al Arabiya’s Baker Atyani tells story of his kidnap ordeal

From Al-Arabiaya (Jan 10): Video: Al Arabiya’s Baker Atyani tells story of his kidnap ordeal 

[Video: Panorama -- Al Arabiaya's tells story of kidap ordeal]

Al Arabiya’s veteran correspondent Baker Atyani who was kidnapped and held by Filipino Islamist rebels for 18 months vowed on Thursday to continue chasing the truth without fear.

“I was on a journalistic mission and I do not regret it. It was a tragic and a painful experience, but it gave me more strength and faith to deliver the truth to people,” Atyani said in a program aired on Al Arabiya News Channel Thursday.

Atyani, a Jordanian journalist who interviewed Osama bin Laden months before the Sept. 11 attacks, had travelled to Manila on June 5, 2012 to shoot two documentary films, including one on the living conditions of Muslims in the south of the Philippines.

After his kidnap he was held in the Sulu Islands in the Philippine province of Mindanao. On Dec. 4, 2013 Atyani became free after he managed escape from his captors.

Appearing on Al Arabiya’s Panorama program Thursday, Atyani recounted his dreadful experience.

“Abu Sayyef groups have no ties to the religion of Islam and its values. They resemble a gang - an organized crime group, kind of a mafia that relies on kidnapping foreigners to demand ransoms,” Atyani said.

Most members are illiterate, speak their native language only, and seem to be isolated from the outside world, he added.

"They live in forests and they lack awareness when it comes to the world around them. One member was surprised when I once told him we are approaching year 2013. He replied saying, aren’t we in 2007?"

Atyani said the militants are using Islam as an umbrella to commit crimes and kidnap people, regardless of their religion.

“They lacked the basic understanding of Islamic values, which idealize humanity and humility,” he said.

Life under abduction

Atyani said his kidnappers did not physically abuse him the psychological harm was major.

He said he tried to escape more than once, but was placed in a small hut in solitary confinement for three months.

Many local residents he said are forced to show loyalty and obey Abu Sayyaf in exchange for protection.

To watch the full interview, please click here

MILF: Editorial - Security need in ASEAN Economic

Editorial posted to the MILF Website (Jan 15): Security need in ASEAN Economic

By 2015 the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) shall be formally established. However, for it to be fully operational, there has to have the following key characteristics: (a) a single market and production base, (b) a highly competitive economic region, (c) a region of equitable economic development, and (d) a region fully integrated into the global economy. And without saying, the need for risks-free region is part of the requirements.
Towards this end, this Community is committed to ensuring an ASEAN region living in a peaceful, democratic, and harmonious environment.

Guided by the Blueprint of the ASEAN Political-Security Community (APSC), it strives to be a rules-based community of shared norms and values. In addition, it binds the member-states to share in the responsibility for comprehensive security in the realization of a cohesive and stable region in light of the continued dynamism of the world at large.

Thus, the existence of regional security dialogue fora such as the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), East Asia Summit (EAS), ASEAN Defense Minister Meeting (ADMM), among others, are clear manifestations that the body gives importance to the need for peace and security in the region.

It is said that any member state which does not succeed to secure its boundaries will not be admitted to full membership in the AEC. Surely, this is one of the reasons why Burma (Myanmar) is striving to heal the serious rift amongst its people and is getting more and more democratic in approaches in governance after decades of brutal military dictatorship. No less than General Thein Sein, Myanmar’s Prime Minister, signed the ASEAN Economic Community Blueprint, alongside all ASEAN heads of states, in Singapore in 2007.

For the Philippines, without solving the multiple internal security threats especially the Moro-led rebellion in Mindanao, which used to be the longest conflict in the world, after Sudan before the signing of the Machakos Agreement with South Sudan in 2002, its membership in AEC will be held on hold. As a consequence, this country would be left behind in terms of progress and development. The threat of being clamped as a failed state will continue to hang in the balance.

This is why the current GPH-MILF peace negotiation has to succeed.  It is like shooting many birds with one stone. One, the threat of China is real; it is not only in the mind. Even if China does not invade and occupy this country, but mere military occupation of the disputed various islands in the China Sea (or South Philippines Sea) is already a nightmare. Two, the mother of all poverty is war. It will bring down both this country and the Moro areas --- and will have far-reaching adverse consequence in non-Moro communities. Third, the war in Mindanao is virtually stalemated: The government cannot defeat the MILF in protracted guerrilla warfare and the MILF’s inability to lick the government in massive conventional confrontation. Above all, the peaceful resolution of conflict is not only morally sound, but economical as well. It is the best legacy that President Benigno Aquino III can bequeath to the next generations of Filipinos and Moros in this country.“bangsamoro-basic-law-is-for-our-people”-milf

MILF: “Bangsamoro Basic Law is for our people”-MILF

From the MILF Website (Jan 15): “Bangsamoro Basic Law is for our people”-MILF

“The Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) is not for the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), it is for our people as a whole”. This was the statement of the Moro Front posted on January 8 in its official website,

The BBL being crafted by the 15-member Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) will govern the future Bangsamoro new political entity as envisioned under the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) signed on October 15, 2012. With the cooperation of all the commissioners, the drafting of the BBL is moving fast. Public engagements as well are on full swing. The commissioners with their indefatigable staff, NGO co-partners and the Bangsamoro Leadership and Management Institute (BLMI) are reaching out to local communities to seek for their ideas or opinions on the basic law.

The current peace negotiation between the GPH and MILF Peace panels is travelling fast and covering much of the ground in the peace journey and both are bent on completing the last contentious issues on Bangsamoro waters and annex on Normalization hopefully before April of this year.

But in the same editorial, the MILF said that, “nothing is sure yet as far as the final closure of the GPH-MILF peace negotiation”.  Negotiation it said is a human endeavour that is highly unpredictable. “It is like a mercury that rises up and low very fast depending on the prevailing temperature or heat.”

Giving emphasis on the value of trust, the MILF said, “It is not always true to say that you cannot trust your “enemy”. “Anybody can be trusted; it only depends on the degree and level of engagement”, the MILF further said.

“Fear should not always be the guidepost in making decision with your nemesis. Oftentimes, one must trust even the most untrustworthy in order to succeed. Oftentimes, if not in all, trust begets trust --- and it must be genuine”, the MILF continued saying.

The MILF went on saying, “It is for this reason that we appeal to our brothers from the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) to come to grip with reality that during the current Aquino administration, the only viable and pursued peace track is the one with the MILF.  The track with the MNLF had its time before. What should be done now is for the MNLF and MILF leaders to work together to pluck out what are good in the GRP-MNLF Final Peace Agreement (GRP-MNLF FPA) in 1996 and incorporate them into the BBL The BBL should contain the best from the FPA and the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) and its Annexes, which will be signed into one document called CPA”.

“If nothing of consequence blocks the way, the chance of signing the comprehensive peace Agreement (CPA) very soon is very possible”, said the MILF in the same editorial.“bangsamoro-basic-law-is-for-our-people”-milf

CPP/NDF Negros: Oplan Bayanihan at Negros First Policy ni Marañon, gutom at dislokasyon ang ibubunga!

Propaganda statement posted to the CPP Website (Jan 7): Oplan Bayanihan at Negros First Policy ni Marañon, gutom at dislokasyon ang ibubunga! (Oplan Bayanihan and the Negros First Policy of Maranon, hunger and dislocation are the consequences)

Frank Fernandez
NDFP Negros Island Chapter
Ang National Democratic Front-Negros at mga alyadong organisasyon nito ay bumabati sa mamamayan ng Negros ng isang mapagpalaya at mapanghamong bagong taon!

Kasabay nito, sumasaludo ang NDF-Negros sa mga kadre at kasapi ng Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas-Marxismo-Leninismo-Maoismo (PKP-MLM) sa makulay at mabungang pagdaos ng ika-45 anibersaryo ng muling pagkatatag nito.

Muli nating binalikan ang ating mga karanasan noong 2013, inipon ang mga aral at kinonsolida ito. Binigyang pugay din natin ang mga mahal na mga kasama at masa na naging martir sa pagsusulong ng ating pambansa-demokratikong rebolusyon.

Ang taong 2013 ay mas mapanghamong taon para sa rebolusyonaryong kilusan sa buong bansa. Ito ang taong itinakda ng mersenaryong Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) at ng amo nitong rehimeng US-Aquino 2 na pahinain hanggang sa durugin ang buong rebolusyonaryong kilusan sa pamamagitan ng kanilang Oplan Bayanihan na may whole of nation approach strategy.

Pero tulad ng nagdaang mga operation plan ng reaksyunaryong pamahalaan, nabigo lamang ito at lalo pa ngang nagpaalab ito sa damdamin ng mamamayang Pilipino para ipagpatuloy ang pakikibaka para maangkin ang tunay na repormang agraryo at pambansang industriyalisasyon kasabay ng paghulagpos sa gapos ng pagkaalipin sa mga dayuhang monopolyong kapitalista, panginoong maylupa at malalaking kumprador burgesya.

Ang Philippine Development Plan (PDP) o Public-Private Partnership Program ni Aquino at ang Negros First Policy ng panginoong maylupang si Gov. Alfredo Marañon, Jr. ay nananatiling walang silbi at sa halip lalo pa ngang nagpalala sa kawalan ng lupa.

Ang mga proyekto sa ilalim ng Negros First Policy ni Marañon tulad ng pagpaparami ng tupa’t baka, pagtatanim ng yellow corn, diversification sa gamit ng tubo mula sa asukal tungong ethanol at iba pang mga produkto, pagtatanim ng kahoy para sa reporestasyon, pagpahintulot sa plantasyon ng oil palm, rubber tree, pinya, laluna ang dayong mapangwasak na pagmimina sa kabundukan at baybayin.

Bunsod ng mga proyektong ito, libu-libong mamamayan sa Himamaylan City, Kabankalan City, Murcia, La Castellana, Candoni at Sipalay ang mawawalan ng kabuhayan at walang katiyakan sa pagkain. Imbes tanman ng palay, mais, gulay at iba pa, ang lupa ay tataniman ng mga produktong pangkomersyal na sumasagot sa pangangailangan ng mga kapitalistang mamumuhunan sa Pilipinas tulad ng Dole, Del Monte, Rain Forest Corporation, mga kumpanya sa pagmimina at iba pa.

Enggrandeng operasyong saywar kasabay ng operasyong kombat ang isinagawa ng AFP sa Negros, na tinutuwangan ng Simbahan, mga rebisyunistang taksil, lokal na gubyerno, mga despotikong panginoong maylupa-malalaking kumprador burgesya.

Namamayagpag din si Marañon sa pagpuri ng “kapayapaan at kaunlaran” sa ilalim ng Oplan Bayanihan ng mersenaryong tropa ng 303rd Brigade sa Isla na pinamumunuan ng berdugong si Jon Aying, para bigyang proteksyon ang mga kapitalistang namumuhunan, malaking kumprador-burgesya at mga panginoong maylupa sa Negros. Mula pa noong 2007 ginawang prayoridad ang Negros sa kampanyang counter-insurgency ng militar ng reaksyunaryong rehimen.

Pero sa loob din ng mga taong ito, nananatiling matatag, pursigido at nasa posturang opensibong militar ang rebolusyonaryong kilusan, bagay na sa halip na maging mahina at madurog ay lalo pang sumulong ang rebolusyon sa gabay ng Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas.

Walang epekto sa mamamayan ang magastos na programa ng AFP at ni Marañon na Provincial Peace Integration Development Unit (ProvIDU). Nalaman ng mamamayan na itong programa ay para lamang linlangin at ilihis ang mamamayan sa totoong lunas sa api at mapansamantalang kalagayan. Hindi maikukubli sa mamamayan na ang kapayapaan, katiwasayan at kaunlaran ay makakamit lamang kung malunasan ang problema sa lupa, kulang na sahod at benepisyo, kawalan ng tamang kabuhayan at tahanan, at iba pa.

Sa programang ProvIDU ng AFP, kanila ring ipinagmamalaki ang pagdami ng mga “rebel surrenderees” at umano’y lumalaki ring tulong dito ng gubyerno at ang panawagan sa lokal na peacetalks. Itong mga pagmamayabang na kwento, paulit-ulit na lamang at halos nabibingi na ang mamamayan.

Karamihan ng kanilang pinapakilala na mga “surenderees” ay matagal nang nagpahinga o pinalabas na BHB dahil hindi makahawak ng bakal na disiplina ng Pulang Hukbo at ang iba ay hindi makatitiis sa sakripisyo at kahirapan. May mga masa na sinabi ng 303rd na mga “surenderees”. Ngunit ang katotohanan, sila ay mga mamamayan na dumalo sa ipinatawag na asembleya o medical mission ng AFP sa baryo. Sila ang pinapirma sa attendance sheet at idineklara mga “surenderees”. Talagang sinungaling ang militar sa Negros!

Sa kabilang banda, isa nang “certified traditional politician” (TRAPO) si Stephen Paduano alyas Carapali Lualhati, National Commander ng Revolutionary Proletarian Army (RPA). Dagdag naman sa listahan ng mga tagatahol ng US-Aquino na rehimen. Sa muli, pinatunayan ng mga rebisyunistang taksil ang pagkabangkarote ng kolaborasyunistang linya nila. Isa na sila ngayong tagatahol ng reaksyunaryong gubyerno at mersenaryong militar laban sa rebolusyonaryong kilusan. Bahagi rin sila sa tagapagtanggol sa kontra-mamamayan na programa at proyekto ng reaksyunaryong gubyerno. Total naman ang kanilang pagsurender para magkaroon ng pondo na gatasan nina Carapali sa pamamagitan ng ibinigay ng Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPPAP), halimbawa ang P36 milyong proyekto sa Barangay Locotan, Kabankalan City, sa ilalim ng PAMANA-CIDDS na component project ng Oplan Bayanihan.

Mahigpit ding kinukundena ang aktibong paglahok ng ilang mga pari sa Church-Military-Police Advisory Group (CMPAG) laban sa rebolusyonaryong kilusan. Bahagi sila ng maitim na propaganda machinery ng AFP upang linlangin ang mamamayan sa totoong kalagayan at ang lunas ng rebolusyon. Instrumento sila sa pagpapalayas sa rebolusyonaryong kilusan sa lugar sa pamamagitan ng kanilang pekeng “sona ng kapayapaan”. Kanilang hinahadlangan ang pakikibaka ng mamamayan laban sa pangangamkam ng lupa ng mga kumpanya sa pagmimina at mga plantasyon ng oil palm at rubber tree.

Malinaw na bigo pa rin ang kanilang pagsisikap laban sa rebolusyonaryong ng kilusan. Kaya, si Patrimonio ng 302nd Brigade ang humiling na palawigin pa ang kanilang pagprayoridad sa Negros sa loob ng kahit 6 buwan na lamang dahil wala pa nila nakamit ang kanilang layunin na wasakin ang kilusan sa Negros.

Kahit ano pang pagmamalaki at pagmamayabang ng reaksyunaryong gubyerno, lalong lalakas at tiyak na susulong ang pambansang demokratikong rebolusyon hanggang sa tagumpay. Pinapatibay nito sa ideolohiya ng MLM at pinapanday sa masigasig na pakipaglaban ng masa laban sa mapagsamantala at mapang-aping sistemang malakolonyal at malapyudal.

Entire Northern Luzon now insurgency-free

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jan 16): Entire Northern Luzon now insurgency-free

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has declared the entire Northern Luzon area as insurgency-free after Pampanga became the 22nd and last province to sign a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA).
Among those who took part in the ceremonial signing were AFP Chief of Staff General Emmanuel Bautista, Northern Luzon Command commander Lieutenant General Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr., Army 7th Infantry Division commander Major General Hernando Iriberri, Army 703rd  Brigade commander Brigadier General Henry Sabarrre, Governor Lilia Pineda, Department of Interior and Local Government Provincial Director Myrvi Fabia and Philippine National Police (PNP) Provincial Director Sr. Supt. Oscar Albayalde.
In his message, Bautista expressed his gladness to be able to witness the transformation of Pampanga from a hot bed of socialist and anti-government movements to an insurgency-free area.

“Today’s event is a historical one because it signifies our victorious quest against poverty and the plight of the people caused by rebel forces. This also puts an end to our 45 years of battle against insurgency,” Bautista said.

Meanwhile, Pineda acknowledged the efforts and hard work of all local chief executives and chiefs of police in all towns and cities in order to attain this status.

She also expressed optimism that this declaration will be a big boost not only in terms of internal peace and security, but also on the quality of life of Kapampangans.

“With this declaration of our province as insurgency-free, we are now confident that we can pull in more investors. Thus, we can generate more revenues and more job opportunities which will in turn help in uplifting the quality of life of our people,” Pineda shared.

Pineda however reminded the public that in order to sustain this status, everyone should work hand-in-hand by doing his role in securing internal peace.

The MOA stated that Pampanga is peaceful and ready for further development.

It has delegated to the PNP the lead role in fighting remnants of insurgents with the support of the military that will remain primarily for stakeholder engagement programs.

The MOA is also a formal demonstration of different local and other government agencies to reinvigorate their role in peace and development in their community.

This is also a way to accept and assert the local government's lead role in orchestrating the efforts of all agencies and stakeholders in the delivery of services designed to address the primary socio-economic issues.

Prior to this, other provinces in Regions 1,2,3 and Cordillera were declared peaceful from 2009 to 2013.

These are La union and Nueva Viscaya in 2009; Apayao, Aurora, Quirino, Tarlac, Nueva Ecija, Pangasinan and Kalinga in 2010; Ilocos Norte and Benguet in 2011; Zambales, Abra and Bataan in 2012; and Batanes, Ilocos Sur, Isabela, Cagayan, Ifugao, Bulacan and Mt. Province in 2013.

At present, 43 out of 75 provinces nationwide were already normalized.

Photo: Farewell visit

From the Manila Standard Today (Jan 16): Photo: Farewell visit

Vice Admiral Jose Luis Alano (left, Navy  flag-officer-in-command,  hands  a  souvenir to  Lt. Gen.  Noel Coballes, Army chief during a farewell visit at the Navy Headquarters in Manila. Coballes will be retiring next month. DANNY PATA

Photo: Doves of freedom

From the Manila Standard Today (Jan 16): Photo: Doves of freedom

Members of militant groups stormed the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process in Ortigas Pasig City to demand freedom for political prisoners. MANNY PALMERO

PH drops protest plan vs China

From the Manila Standard Today (Jan 16): PH drops protest plan vs China

THE Philippines will not file a protest against China over its announcement it will require foreign vessels to seek clearance from it before entering the disputed West Philippine Sea, the Department of Foreign Affairs said Wednesday.

But Foreign Affairs spokesman Raul Hernandez urged the United Nations to quickly resolve the case it filed against China over that country’s excessive assertion of sovereignty over the disputed area.

He also urged a quick drafting of a code of conduct between the members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and China.

Hernandez said the Philippines had already filed a protest against China’s establishment of Sansha City, the city that it claimed would administer all the disputed areas in the West Philippine Sea.  

He said the Philippines was now in the middle of completing the memorial for its case against China before the Arbitral Tribunal. The memorial is scheduled to be submitted on March 30 this year.

“The Philippines is now in the midst of preparation for this memorial,” Hernandez said.

He said the Philippines would fully address all issues including matters relating to jurisdiction, admissibility and the merits of the disputes.

The Philippine brought its case against China for International arbitration on Jan. 22 last year.

Both countries are required to choose their respective lawyers and experts to represent them for the arbitration proceedings.

And though China has rejected participation in the arbitration procedures, the Philippines maintains that the case can proceed without Beijing’s participation. The five-member arbitral tribunal has recently convened and named The Hague as the seat of the arbitration.

The Philippines says China’s claims over the West Philippine Sea are expansive, excessive and in gross violation of international law, specifically the Unclos.

The West Philippine Sea is claimed by China on the basis of its nine-dash line while parts of it are being claimed by the Philippines, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei.

With cease-fire’s end, AFP resumes military operations

From Malaya (Jan 16): With cease-fire’s end, AFP resumes military operations

Military forces throughout the country are expected to resume offensive operations against the communist New People’s Army as the government’s 26-day Yuletide cease-fire with the insurgents was due to end 11:59 p.m. Wednesday.
The military began observing the SOMO on Dec. 21 in view of the Yuletide season. The truce was five days shorter compared to the previous government cease-fire for Christmas and New Year.
The NPA, as declared by its political wing Communist Party of the Philippines, observed a six-day truce during the holidays (Dec. 24, 25, 26, 31, Jan. 1 and 2). The communist cease-fire was way short compared to its previous truce from Dec. 20 up to Jan. 15.
AFP spokesman Maj. Gen. Domingo Tutaan   said the military wanted a longer cease-fire “but we have a mandate to protect the people and the state.” He added: “If we stop (our operations), it may just give the armed group, the NPA, time to do their criminal actions at will.”

AFP needs more troops; throw in airplanes too

From Malaya (Jan 16): AFP needs more troops; throw in airplanes too

I WANT you…and some more equipment.
The military will recruit 20,000 soldiers in the next three years to enable it to carry out its mandate of protecting the   state, said Armed Forces chief Gen f Gen. Emmanuel Bautista.
As to equipment, Bautista said the military establishment is in the process of acquiring major mission essential equipment for “real threats” in disputed areas in the West Philippine Sea or South China Sea.
Bautista said the recruitment of 20,000 soldiers would cost some P7 billion to P10 billion.
The military proposed the recruitment last year. The plan is to recruit 19,204 men for the Army and 796 for the Navy and the Marines.
The Army is at the forefront in the fight against internal security threats, including the communist New People’s Army which the military wants defeated on or before the term of President Aquino in 2016. 
Bautista did not say where the  personnel to be recruited would ve deployed but said the new soldiers would address the current “requirements” of the 120,000-strong Armed Forces.
“The ideal situation is that we would have enough troops to address all our mandates. As the President has said, there has been no increase in the strength of the Armed Forces for a long, long time given that our population has increased tremendously,” he said.
 “So we are just catching up with the requirements, personnel requirements and also equipment requirements. We have a lot of catching up to do and so that’s just what we are doing,” he also said.
The military establishment is in the middle of a modernization program which calls for the acquisition of hardware, including ships and aircraft, to address internal and external threats.
The recruitment is part of a plan to expand the counter-terrorist Light Reaction Battalion into a regiment-size unit. The US-trained LRB figured in the successful operations against Moro National Liberation Front fighters who attacked several barangays in Zamboanga City in September.
“Because of Zamboanga, we are now enhancing our counter-terrorist capabilities and so we are expanding our units that are trained and prepared for counter-terrorist activities, including their equipage and that includes force protection,” said Bautista.
“We are training new soldiers and we are expanding the unit (LRB). From a battalion size formation, its going to be a regimental size formation,” he said, adding the new men of LRB will come from both existing forces and new recruits. 
On the territorial dispute at the West Philippine Sea, Bautista said, “Within the last year, we realized that there is real threat out there (in the West Philippine Sea) in terms of securing, defending our territory and we need to be very conscious about that.”
Bautista said the military’s capability has to be upgraded to address other non-traditional concerns, particularly disaster relief and rescue operations.
“Our modernization is geared towards addressing all those issues that we face. In terms of defending our territory, we are acquiring major mission essential equipment like lead-in fighter trainers and also frigates and strategic sealift vessels,” said Bautista.
The assets named by Bautista are under the modernization program and being acquired by the defense department through public bidding or government-to-government deals.
He said the military needs at least six frigates to ensure the integrity of the country’s territorial waters. The military currently has two frigates – the BRP Gregorio del Pilar and BRP Ramon Alcaraz that were acquired from US.
“It’s part of the plan. In fact, we are acquiring now two frigates and so we will acquire them in a couple of years,” he said referring to a public bidding for the acquisition of two frigates, with an approved budget of more than P18 billion.
Bautista said he will not see the delivery of the new assets during his term as AFP chief. He is due to reach the mandatory retirement age of 56 in July. He assumed the top military post in January last year.
“The lead time needed to really procure these is understandably long...I will not see the deliveries during (my term). The deliveries of them will not come in my term,” he said.
The BRP Gregorio del Pilar and BRP Ramon Alcaraz are tasked to patrol the West Philippine Sea where the disputed Spratly Islands is situated. The Spratly Islands are claimed by the Philippines, China, Taiwan, Malaysia, Brunei and Vietnam.
China has turned aggressive in its claims in the region over the past years. Sometime last year, it deployed ships around the Philippine-occupied Ayungin shoal.
Bautista said Filipino fishermen should ignore China’s reported imposition of a fishing ban in the Spratly Islands.
“Our fishermen should go on fishing. They should go on with their lives,” he said.
Asked if the military can guarantee the safety of the fishermen, he said: “Let’s put it this way. Should we give into terror, to threats and intimidation? Should we? We should not.”
“We should stand up for our rights as a people. We just go on with our normal lives. We have brought the case (dispute) for international arbitration and we will continue to do that, pursue that. We will continue with our mandate also,” he added.

AFP chief, governor sign MOA declaring Pampanga insurgency-free

From the Business Mirror (Jan 15): AFP chief, governor sign MOA declaring Pampanga insurgency-free

In Photo: Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Emmanuel Bautista (center) and Pampanga Gov. Lilia Pineda (right) exchange pleasantries shorty after the signing of a memorandum of agreement declaring Pampanga an insurgent-free province at the King’s Royale Hotel on Tuesday. Joining them is Nolcom Cmdr. Lt. Gen Pio Catapang Jr. (Leo Villacarlos)

BACOLOR, Pampanga—Gov. Lilia Pineda and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Gen. Emmanuel T. Bautista on Wednesday led the signing of a memorandum of agreement (MOA) here, declaring Pampanga an insurgency-free province.

The two leaders see sustained economic growth and development in the province as a result of sustained peace.
Pineda and Bautista were joined by the Pampanga Mayors’ League (PML) led by its president, Apalit Mayor Oscar “Jun” Tetangco, North Luzon (Nolcom) Cmdr. Gen. Gregorio Catapang Jr. and Pampanga Police Director Sr. Supt. Oscar Albaylade in the MOA signing which declared Pampanga “peaceful and ready for further development.”
Bautista said Pampanga was the 43rd province declared insurgency-free and among the last ones among the 80 provinces.
Bautista said the “fruits of the AFP’s people-centered attitude made more Filipinos believe in the real intention of the military to push progress, peace and stability.” He said there are at least 120,000 members of the AFP and they are supported by some 62,000 Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit (Cafgu) members.
Catapang, who was extensively assigned in Pampanga as a junior army officer, said the declaration will make Central Luzon “a super economic region.”
Brig. Gen. Henry Sabarre, commander of the 703rd Infantry, said “there are no more New People’s Army [NPA] bases and members operating in Pampanga.”
He is in charge of the seven Central Luzon provinces except Aurora and Nueva Ecija.
“What we have here are NPA remnants,” he said.
Tetangco, a prominent businessmen engaged in construction and real estate, said “the most important thing for investors is peace before they decide to invest.”
“Roads can be made but peace is necessary to attract more investors,” Tetangco said.
Vic Ubaldo, assistant regional director of the National Economic and Development Authority, earlier told the BusinessMirror that “Pampanga is favored by investors” among the provinces in Central Luzon.
Pineda said Pampanga is the center of business in Luzon, adding that “all major companies and offices are in Pampanga,” including the City of San Fernando and Clark Freeport.
In a recent National Statistical Coordination Board report, Pampanga was ranked among the 10 most developed provinces in the country, with total investment pegged at P95 billion in 2012.
The total investment in Pampanga is at least 76 percent of the investments in Central Luzon, the same report said.  
Pineda said “it’s fitting that Pampanga was declared insurgency-free because it was in the province that the leftist movement was launched.”
In 1932, Pedro Abad Santos, who was born in San Fernando, Pampanga, founded the Socialist Party of the Philippines. It’s in the same party that the NPA, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, was born in 1969 and was started at the boundary of Pampanga and Tarlac.
Pineda hailed Bautista for “his effective ways in the AFP to help bring about progress.”  
Board Member Rosve Henson said “the MOA was signed following the passage of the resolution allowing Pineda to forge an agreement with the military.”

AFP, DND switch to cashless transactions

From ABS-CBN (Jan 15): AFP, DND switch to cashless transactions

Two government departments and the Philippine military will be switching to cashless transactions this year in an effort to curb corruption in procurements of minor items such as airplane tickets and meals, President Aquino announced Wednesday.

Speaking at the start of the three-day Good Governance Summit, the President said there is a need to trim down the huge volume of cash transactions in government offices that can pose a temptation to even honest government employees.

Aquino said cashless purchase cards (CPC) will be issued to agencies "for low value payments of a restricted number and type of goods and services."

He said the CPCs will resemble ordinary credit cards with additional restrictions more suited to the needs of government.

Cashless purchase cards will first be distributed to the Department of Budget and Management, Department of National Defense and the General Headquarters of the Armed Forces of the Philippines during the first quarter of the year.

The cards can be used to purchase medical supplies, meals, transportation of official documents, airline tickets, and construction supplies for minor repairs.

"If all goes well, the program will be rolled out and cashless purchase cards will be distributed in other national government agencies next year," the President said.

He also said suspicious use of the cards can be tracked easily and will also allow the budget department to collate data on which programs need funding and how much cash is needed on a daily basis in government offices.

A statement on the official Philippine government website ( said the cashless purchase cards is a joint effort between the Aquino administration and Citibank, through which the government’s financial transactions will be made entirely through electronic means instead of cash or checks.

"The Cashless Card will function in much the same manner as a corporate credit card, which government employees and offices can use for their procurement needs," it said.

Aquino said 54% of all government retail transactions are done through a cashless system. He said the goal of his administration is to make government financial transactions "100% check-less and 80% cash-less" before the end of the year.

Similarly, the President said the government will also launch Open Data Philippines, which will be the single and comprehensive portal for all government data. The portal will have more than 400 data sets spanning all departments and agencies and will be made accessible to the public through, starting January 16.

Aquino said data on the use of the cashless purchase cards will be made available in the Open Data portal. He said the portal will also include information such as total number of enrollment of students in public secondary schools at a certain period as well as procurement data.

He said opening of data will make statistics understandable through the use of reader-friendly visualizations.

"As the project progresses, we can only expect the wealth and depth of data online to grow," he said.

Gov't, MILF to resume peace talks on January 22

From ABS-CBN (Jan 15): Gov't, MILF to resume peace talks on January 22

It's back to the negotiating table for the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) later this month.

They will resume peace talks on January 22 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, which is acting as facilitator.

Government negotiators are confident they can finish the remaining annex on normalization which will be the basis for a post-conflict Bangsamoro.

There are four annexes in the framework agreement on the Bangsamoro.

In February last year, the first annex on transitional arrangements and modalities was signed.

Five months later, the annex on wealth-sharing was completed. Before 2013 ended, both sides finished work on the annex on power-sharing.

The peace talks with the MILF began in 1997, and since then both sides have made progress in completing a final peace deal.

Chinese scholar: 9-dash line without legal basis...yet

From the Philippine Star (Jan 15): Chinese scholar: 9-dash line without legal basis...yet

Chinese scholar Wu Shicun, president of Beijng-sponsored National Institute for South China Sea Studies.  Nanhai

'Beijing unlikely to establish ADIZ in South China Sea'

MANILA, Philippines - China may be using the nine-dotted line to draw the extent of its claim over the disputed South China Sea, but  it has yet to establish a legal basis for doing so, says an eminent Chinese scholar.

Wu Shicun, president of state-sponsored center for South China Sea studies in Beijing, belied foreign reports that Beijing will also declare an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) in what the Philippines calls the West Philippine Sea.

"Chinese authorities haven't defined the nine-dashed line in a legal sense and haven't published the territorial sea baseline for the Nansha (Spratlys) Islands," Wu said in a column on Beijing-run English daily The Global Times on Tuesday.

"It requires comprehensive legal and technological preparations to establish an ADIZ in the South China Sea, which is much more complicated than doing so in the East China Sea. Even if all obstacles are eliminated, China will not necessarily take this course in the South China Sea," Wu said.

Wu, an advocate of China's "historical" claim over the disputed maritime territory, said that China's plans to establish an ADIZ in the South China Sea soon are merely "groundless accusations."

"Despite such groundless accusations, no hasty actions to establish an ADIZ are required given the complexity of territorial disputes surrounding the South China Sea," Wu said.

In instituting the air zone over virtually the entire East China Sea last November, China believes that Japan itself unilaterally extended the ADIZ to cover the disputed Diaoyu or Senkaku Islands in the 1960s.

The 9-dash line, in contrast, demarcates and claims almost the entire South China Sea, resulting in protests by the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei, Taiwan and Malaysia.

The line is acknowledged to have first appeared in a Chinese publication in 1948 as indicated by the Kuomintang ruling party at that time.

The Philippines said the demarcation violated the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Ironically, however, China was among the nations that ratified the UNCLOS.

The overlapping claims of the five countries are said to be partly motivated by oil resources believed to be found in the islands and reefs.

Military to acquire 2 more ships

From the Philippine Star (Jan 15): Military to acquire 2 more ships

The Philippines is planning to acquire two more ships to boost the maritime security capabilities of its military, one of the most poorly-equipped in the region.

Armed Forces chief Gen. Emmanuel Bautista told the ABS-CBN News Channel Wednesday that the military needs to purchase about six naval vessels.
“Ideally we need about six (ships)… That’s part of the plan. In fact we are (conducting) bidding for two frigates so we will acquire them in a couple of years,” the military chief said.

“We realized that there is a real threat out there in terms of securing, defending our territory. We need to be very conscious about that," he added.

The Philippines has acquired two frigates from the United States (US) namely the BRP Gregorio del Pilar, which arrived in the country in 2011 and BRP Ramon Alcaraz, which became part of the Navy inventory last year. The two ships are part of Washington’s excess defense articles program and are now patrolling the country’s territorial waters.

The bidding for two more ships worth P18 billion is underway. The STAR earlier reported that at least four companies have qualified to enter the next stage of the bidding.

These companies are Navantia Sepi (RTR Ventures) of Spain, and South Korean firms STX Offshore & Shipbuilding, Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering Co. Ltd., and Hyundai Heavy Industries Inc.

The second stage of the bidding will involve the opening of financial proposals and technical documents. This phase will determine if the bidders’ offers are within the approved budget of P18 billion and if their ships comply with the specifications provided in the bid documents.
Security officials will soon thresh out details of the acquisition of two other vessels.

Bautista, however, said other maritime security equipment will be purchased through the $40-million military aid announced by US State Secretary John Kerry when he visited the Philippines last month.

He said among the items to be prioritized are radars, maritime patrol aircraft and patrol ships.

The US assistance aims to improve the Philippines’ maritime security and domain awareness amid recent aggressive actions by China in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

The grant will be spent over three years and will be under the US Global Security Contingency Fund.

“We are upgrading our capabilities to address all our mandates, internal security, defending our territory, and also helping in disaster relief and rescue operations,” Bautista said.

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, according to the Defense department.

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

A total of 16 Navy projects worth P5.3-billion have been completed including the acquisition of frigates 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.

US congressmen want tough stance vs China

From the Philippine Star (Jan 15): US congressmen want tough stance vs China

‘Salami-slice’ policy hit

WASHINGTON – China came under fire Tuesday at a US House joint committee hearing for its alleged propensity to use coercion, bullying and “salami slicing tactics” to secure its maritime interests in the East and South China Seas.

Republican Rep. Steve Chabot called China “dangerously aggressive” and said it was attempting to take disputed territories by gradual force with the “misguided hope that Japan, Southeast Asian nations and the US will just grudgingly accept it.”

Democratic Rep. Ami Bera called for a strong, bipartisan message from Congress that China’s “threatening and provocative moves to assert their maritime territorial claims are unacceptable.”

Republican Rep. Randy Forbes said the US must be “100 percent intolerant of China’s territorial claims and its continued resort to forms of military coercion to alter the status quo in the region.”

China’s pursuit of its “salami slicing” strategy is through a steady progression of small steps which – while not casus belli – can gradually change the status quo in its favor, said Bonnie Glaser, a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

Sometimes China’s actions are unilateral and unprovoked, such as its annual fishing ban and its assertion of expansive fishing rights in the South China Sea and the West Philippine Sea.

Other times, China’s moves are in response to perceived provocations by other countries, which Beijing deliberately escalates in an attempt to create a new status quo in its favor, a tactic described by some experts as “reactive assertiveness.”

In the most egregious example of such behavior in the South China Sea, the standoff between vessels from China and the Philippines in April 2102 at the Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal ended with the Chinese occupying the shoal in violation of an oral understanding reached with Manila to withdraw all vessels from the area, Glaser said.

The standoff began when Chinese maritime surveillance vessels stopped Philippine Navy personnel from arresting Chinese poachers and seizing their illegal catch of giant clams, endangered corals and sharks. The poachers were allowed to leave with their illegal cargo.

The Panatag incident constituted the first instance of a change in the status quo of a land feature in the South China Sea since 1995 when China seized control of Mischief Reef.

Disputes over territory and maritime jurisdiction are a major source of rising tensions and instability as regional nations take tit-for-tat measures to assert their claims, Glaser said, adding the risk of a clash is highest between China and Japan in the East China Sea.

Glaser was one of three experts who testified on Tuesday at a joint House Foreign Affairs subcommittee and a House Armed Services subcommittee hearing on China’s maritime disputes in the East and South China Seas.

Calculated moves
Peter Dutton, professor and director at the China Maritime Studies Institute at the US Naval War College, said Chinese activities are carefully calibrated to achieve their objective without provoking outright conflict with the United States. China’s strategy can best be described as non-militarized coercion, he said.

Non-militarized coercion involves the direct and indirect application of a broad range of national capabilities to favorably alter the situation at sea in China’s favor.

The operational aspects of the strategy include stepped up operations by maritime law enforcement vessels in disputed areas in coordination with civilian fishing vessels in “what might be termed a maritime-style people’s war,” he said.

But in this strategy there is also an important indirect role for the Chinese military, which is never far from any action, to deter China’s opponent from considering escalation.

While the US and China have numerous disagreements over everything from cyber security to intellectual property, human rights, and trade practices, “our disagreement in the realm of maritime security presents arguably the greatest potential for miscalculation, escalation, and conflict,” said Jeff Smith, director of South Asia Programs at the American Foreign Policy Council.

Testing boundaries and establishing new status quos favorable to China has been a defining feature of China’s regional policy in recent years, he said.
When the US and other countries have faltered in the face of this policy, as was the case with the Philippines at Panatag Shoal, China has advanced its goals and established a new status quo, Smith said.

However, where the US has held firm in its position and demonstrated resolve, Beijing has backed down.

Smith said Washington must do a better job drawing clear red lines between acceptable and unacceptable behavior in the maritime arena, and take decisive steps if and when these lines are crossed.

He added the US should continue regular surveillance activities and other operations aimed at preserving freedom of navigation in the South China Sea. It should also be ready to challenge unlawful or provocative acts by China, he added.

Glaser, on her part, said the US Congress should encourage other governments and legislatures in the Asia-Pacific to back the Philippines’ right to use available international arbitration mechanisms to address its territorial dispute with China.

So far, only the US and Japan have explicitly endorsed the Philippine government’s decisionto file a case with the UNCLOS arbitration panel.

If a large number of countries, including members of ASEAN, speak out in support of the application of international law to resolve disputes, Beijing might conclude that flouting the ruling of the tribunal is too costly, Glaser said.

Ignore China's fishing rules, PH military chief tells fishermen

From Rappler (Jan 15): Ignore China's fishing rules, PH military chief tells fishermen

COMBATIVE: Armed Forces chief General Emmanuel Bautista tells local fishermen to ignore China's fishing rules. Photo by Carmela Fonbuena

COMBATIVE: Armed Forces chief General Emmanuel Bautista tells local fishermen to ignore China's fishing rules. Photo by Carmela Fonbuena

Philippine military chief General Emmanuel Bautista told local fishermen to ignore China's new fishing rules requiring foreigners to seek its permission to fish in the disputed South China Sea.

"We will ignore the fisheries law of China.... Our fishermen should go on fishing. They should go on with their lives," Bautista told reporters on Wednesday, January 15, during a visit to this province.
"Should we give in to threats, intimidation, terror, violence of any armed group? We should stand up for our rights," Bautista added. (READ: PH slams China law on fishing boats)
The Philippine government has denounced the new rules imposed by China, saying they reinforce "China's expansive claim” under the 9-dash line.
China uses the 9-dash line, a demarcation mark, to claim virtually the whole South China Sea. The 9-dash line overlaps with the Philippines' 200-mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ). Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the Philippines has the sovereign rights to explore and exploit, and conserve and manage natural resources, among others, within its EEZ.

[Video: PH military chief tells fishermen to ignore China fishing rules]

Chinese ships

The Philippine military, one of the weakest in Asia, is acquiring new navy ships and aircraft as the tension with China continues to escalate. Bautista said they were able to monitor Chinese ships in the Philippine territory but he refused to give details.
In 2012, the two countries were engaged in a months-long naval standoff over the Panatag Shoal, a rocky sandbar off the coast of Zambales.
Bautista announced they want to acquire 2 more navy ships from treaty ally US to boost its maritime protection. He said at least 6 frigates are needed to effectively guard the country's long coastline.
The country has two warships – BRP Gregorio Del Pilar and BRP Ramon Alcarazacquired through the US Excess Defense Article and a military assistance program.
Outside the US assistance, the Philippines is also acquiring 2 new frigates for P18 billion. The bidding process is ongoing.
The administration of President Benigno Aquino III has alloted at least P85.3 billion for the revised AFP modernization program for 2013-2017. Aside from frigates, fighter jets and other aircraft are among its big ticket acquisitions.
"Within the last year, we realized that there is a real threat out there in terms of securing, defending our territory," Bautista said. US Secretary of State John Kerry recently announced they are giving fresh military assistance to the Philippines.
The Philippines position is to pursue a peaceful resolution of the maritime dispute through an arbitration case before the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS). But Bautista said the military is prepared for "any eventuality."
"We submit to the peaceful resolution of the conflict without saying that we will not prepare for any contingency, any eventuality. This is why we have the AFP modernization program to be able to achieve minimum credible deterrence," Bautista said.

China planning permanent structures on Bajo de Masinloc?

From InterAksyon (Jan 14): China planning permanent structures on Bajo de Masinloc?

China has maintained a continued naval presence on Bajo de Masinloc or Scarborough Shoal, which is widely seen as a preparation for the establishment of a permanent structure well within Philippine territorial waters in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

A confidential Philippine government report acknowledged that Beijing will use its growing military capability to assert its sovereignty and control in the disputed territories despite Manila’s assertions and continued diplomatic efforts to resolve the disputes.

Documents obtained by News5 showed that Chinese Coast Guard and Marine Surveillance vessels have been constantly present on the shoal as far back as April 2012.

Apart from the ships, it appears China has also been placing buoys as a “prelude” to the establishment of a permanent presence on the shoal.

Bajo de Masinloc, the largest atoll in the West Philippine Sea, which China calls Huangyan Island, sits on an area believed to hold vast mineral, oil, and gas reserves.

China's presence 

The Philippine government report of China’s continued naval presence comes after major developments involving the South China Sea disputes: China’s enforcement of a fisheries law and China state media reports that Beijing has readied a “detailed combat plan” to seize control of Pag–asa Island in the Kalayaan Island Group, located in the Philippine zone of the disputed Spratly islands.

“The Philippines is so arrogant as to announce in the New Year that it will increase its navy and air force deployment at Zhongye (Pag–Asa)  Island, a Chinese island that it has illegally occupied for years,” the Qianzhan report said, emphasizing further: “The battle is aimed at recovery of the island stolen by the Philippines from China.”

But the report assured that, “There will be no invasion into Filipino territories.”

Government documents showed that for whole 2013, China has maintained at least one ship in the Bajo de Masinloc/Scarborough Shoal area. The only times the Chinese ships withdrew from the area was in July and November due to bad weather “but returned a few days after.”

In April 2012, the Philippines intercepted eight Chinese fishing vessels on Bajo de Masinloc and seized large amounts of illegal collected corals, giant clams, and live sharks. China protested the seizures, insisting Bajo de Masinloc is within Chinese territory.

Manila strongly argued that Bajo de Masinloc is not part of the disputed territories wit China and that it is 124 nautical miles from the coast of Luzon – well within the 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone of the Philippines.

Similar to Mischief Reef? 

Since the start of the standoff in April 2012, Chinese Maritime Surveillance and PLA Navy ships were present on Bajo de Masinloc. The government report stated the presence of the ships there is part of a China’s pattern to establish a permanent presence – similar to what they did in Mischief Reef.

“China has a history of occupying islands or territory that does not belong to her, just like the case of Mischief Reef. We should not discount the possibility that it will exert its full influence and capacity in order to occupy disputed areas in the West Philippine Sea and Scarborough Shoal as evidence by the prepositioning of naval frigates and destroyers,” the confidential government report stated.

Surveillance photos, taken in August 2013, show three Chinese coast guard vessels were seen at the shoal’s entrance. The photos also showed that China has placed a white buoy and built a concrete platform near the shoal’s entrance.

The Chinese Coast Guard vessels were identified by their hull numbers: BN 1127, BN 1117, and BN 3412.

“The sighting of buoys at Scarborough Shoal is seen as a prelude to occupation as patterned from the occupation of Mischief Reef in 1995,” the documents stated, adding that the Chinese ships allows them to respond “quickly to a contingency at Scarborough Shoal.”

The buoy and concrete platform are different from the 75 concrete blocks found in the area, which Manila had earlier claimed was placed by China. It was later found out the blocks were placed by the US since the area was once used as a gunnery range.

In the Mischief Reef case, the Philippine discovered buoys and concrete platforms placed by China but Beijing at that time insisted they wouldl just build shelters on stilts for its fishermen.

However, over the years, Beijing gradually built a massive garrison made up of four complexes with 13 multi–storey buildings that can house up to 50 soldiers. The Mischief Reef complex is also equipped with satellite communications and radar facilities, a windmill to provide power, helicopter landing pads, and docks for patrol ships.

The report likewise warned that China is expected to show “more assertive actions” should Manila confront them anew over Bajo de Masinloc.

According to the report, among the expected Chinese reponses to Manila are: a show of force to demonstrate effective control of Scarborough Shoal; deploy more maritime law enforcement ships to prevent the Philippines’ from patrolling the area and the construction / placement of more buoys around Scarborough Shoal.

Philippine Coast Guard has maintained patrols in the area, shadowing the Chinese ships.

The report concluded by stressing that “the situation at Scarborough Shoal requires the Philippines to remain vigilant and ready in any eventuality should tensions escalate between the two claimants.”

Bajo de Masinloc's importance to China

French geographer Francois-Xavier Bonnet, research associate of the Bangkok-based Research Institute on Contemporary Southeast Asia, explains the importance of Bajo de Masinloc to China in his November 2012 paper titled Geopolitics of Scarborough Shoal.

He says the shoal is part of a larger archipelago called Zhongsha Qundao, whose only features above sea level are the few rocks on Bajo de Masinloc.

“The stakes are high... If China loses these rocks, it would not only lose the natural resources around the shoal (fishing grounds and the potential deposits of polymetallic nodules4) but also the possibility of claiming Zhongsha Qundao and, by consequence, the whole of the South China Sea,” says Bonnet.

PH wants more US ships to counter China threat

From InterAksyon (Jan 15): PH wants more US ships to counter China threat

The BRP Gregorio del Pilar, one of two former US Coast Guard cutters recently acquired by the Philippine Navy. ( file by Bernard Testa)

The Philippines wants to acquire two more navy ships from the United States to boost its maritime protection amid threats from China, the country's military chief said Wednesday.

The new acquisitions would come under the fresh US military assistance announced by US Secretary of State John Kerry when he visited the Philippines last month, Armed Forces chief of staff General Emmanuel Bautista said.

"Within the last year, we realized that there is a real threat out there in terms of securing, defending our territory," Bautista told ANC television.

He said that ideally the country needed about six more frigates to guard its long coastline effectively.

"In fact, we are bidding now for two frigates, hopefully we will be able to acquire them in (a) couple of years," Bautista said.

He said he has made "maritime domain awareness" and protection a key concern of his leadership.

The funds used to boost maritime defense, he said, would come from the $40 million military assistance pledged by Kerry in December.

The Philippines has already acquired two refurbished American frigates in the past two years, and they now lead patrols in the South China Sea.

The Philippines, a long-time US military ally, has been locked in an increasingly tense standoff with China involving disputed reefs and islands in an area Manila calls the West Philippine Sea.

In 2012, the flagship BRP Gregorio del Pilar, the first acquired from the US, confronted Chinese ships on Scarborough Shoal, a small outcrop just off the coast of the country's main island of Luzon.

The Chinese eventually gained control of the outcrop after Manila backed down. However, the government sought UN arbitration to settle the dispute, a move rejected by China.

Manila has also increasingly looked to the US for help, and negotiations are ongoing for an increased rotational presence of American soldiers in the Philippines as part of Washington's "pivot" to Asia.

Bautista said the Gregorio del Pilar, as well as another frigate that arrived last year, have been deployed to protect the country's waters.

"There are Chinese fishing vessels in the West Philippine Sea as we speak," he said, but declined to say where they were in the disputed waters.

China claims nearly all of the South China Sea, including waters near the coast of its neighbors.

Recently, it has declared an "air defense identification zone" over the East China Sea where it is engaged in a dispute with Japan.

Kerry has warned China against imposing a similar restriction over the South China Sea, and said the US government also rejected the zone over the East China Sea.

Last week China also announced a new fisheries law requiring foreign vessels to seek permits for activities in much of the South China Sea, in another move that triggered angry protests from Manila.

Philippine rebels raid town

From the Mindanao Examiner blog site (Jan 14): Philippine rebels raid town

Communist insurgents on Tuesday torched heavy equipment used in government road projects in the southern Philippine province of Sarangani, officials said.

Officials said New People’s Army soldiers struck in the village of Daan Suyan in Malapatan town and failed extortion was likely motive of the attack.

“The construction equipment is being used in road projects by the local government,” Capt. Alberto Caber, a spokesman for the Eastern Mindanao Command, told the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner.

He said the rebels escaped after the burning the equipment, but Lt. Gen. Ricardo Rainier Cruz III, the regional army commander, deployed troops from the 72nd Infantry Battalion to pursue the raiders.

“I encourage everybody to help our soldiers and police elements in their efforts against NPA extortion and attacks on civilians and their properties. These attacks are a violation of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law,” Cruz said.

The rebel group, which is fighting for a separate state, is a signatory to the accord.

MBLT-1 sa Cotabato may bagong commander na

From the Mindanao Examiner blog site (Jan 14): MBLT-1 sa Cotabato may bagong commander na (MBLT-1 in Cotabato has a new commander)

Pormal ng umupo sa kanyang puwesto si Lt. Col. Ronaldo Juan bilang bagong hepe ng Philippine Marines sa Cotabato City sa Mindanao.

Pinalitan ni Juan si Col. Custodio Parcon, Jr, bilang commander ng Marine Battalion Landing Team 1, na itinalaga naman sa Palawan province.

Mismong si Philippine Marines Commandant, Maj. Gen. Romeo Tanalgo, ay nagtungo sa Cotabato City upang pangunahan ang turn-over ceremony.

Nagpasalamat naman si Parcon sa pamunuan ng Philippine Marines at maging sa pamahalaang-lokal at publiko sa suportang ibinigay sa MBLT-1 sa ilalim ng kanyang liderato.

Gayun rin si Juan, nagpasalamat rin ito kay Tanalgo sa tiwalang ipinagkaloob sa kanya bilang bagong commander ng MBLT-1. Nangako naman si Juan na lalo pang pagiibayuhin nito ang kanyang pamunuan sa Cotabato City.

Malaki ang naitutulong ng MBLT-1 sa peace and order situation sa Cotabato City at sa ibat-ibang programa ng Philippine Marines na naaayon sa isinusulong ng Armed Forces of the Philippines at ng pamahalaang Aquino.

Ang turn-over of command ng Marine Battalion Landing Team 1 sa Cotabato City sa Mindanao na kung saan ay itinalaga si Lt. Col. Ronaldo Juan bilang hepe ng Philippine Marines doon.  Pinalitan ni Juan si Col. Custodio Parcon, Jr. (Mindanao Examiner Photo – Mark Navales)

Police tag Abu Sayyaf behind ambush in Southern Philippines

From the Mindanao Examiner blog site (Jan 14): Police tag Abu Sayyaf behind ambush in Southern Philippines

Police have tagged the Abu Sayyaf as behind the recent ambush on a convoy of patrol cars in the southern Philippine province of Sulu.

Gunmen ambushed the convoy in Luuk town and sparked a 45 minute firefight that wounded three policemen.

Senior Superintendent Abraham Orbita, the provincial commander, who was in the convoy, said they were attacked by a small band of Abu Sayyaf gunmen that eventually swelled to about 400 after armed supporters of the terror group blocked the village of Tanduh Bato to prevent them from getting out.

He said two wanted Abu Sayyaf gunmen have been positively identified by the police as among those who ambushed them. The fighting was so fierce that police managed to hold their ground until police reinforcement arrived, but the gunmen broke into smaller groups and dispersed.

Some of those who survived the ambush also denied media reports released by the military in Sulu that the clash was between police forces and government militias. The military also said that soldiers were accompanying the police convoy when it was attacked and that the clash was only brief.

The military also said that the wounded policemen were rushed to a marine hospital in Jolo town, but the police dismissed all military statement and claimed the reports were simply not true.

“We were on our own and we stood our ground and fought the attackers for 45 long minutes. Our wounded were brought to a civilian hospital in Jolo,” one policeman said. “Higher authorities can investigate or ask my companions or our superiors so they would know the truth.”

In May 2009, the police commander of Sulu, Senior Superintendent Julasirim Kasim and three of his aides and a brother, were killed in an ambushed staged by Abu Sayyaf group in Maimbung town.

Kasim had been in the front line in battling the Abu Sayyaf.

The Abu Sayyaf, which means “Bearer of the sword,” has been linked by authorities to the al-Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiya and is blamed on the spate of bombings in the southern Philippines.

Army official identifies two conflict-affected areas in Davao region

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 15): Army official identifies two conflict-affected areas in Davao region

A top military official here has identified two remaining conflict-affected areas in the insurgency campaign in the Davao region, namely Paquibato District in Davao City and Compostela Valley.

Major General Ariel Bernardo, commander of the 10th Infantry Division, said the military is currently refocusing its efforts in clearing these areas from the presence of armed groups through the peace and development outreach program (PDOP).

He said their effort will include the outskirts of Davao City all the way to other parts of North Cotabato like Arakan Valley, Magpet, Makilala and Tulunan in North Cotabato.

Bernardo said the soldiers are aware of the front organizations formed by the communist movement within the communities.

He said through the PDOP, the government will reach out to these groups and explain to them the drive for a lasting peace.

“Most of the front organizations are legal. So we will redirect their efforts for them to cooperate with the government instead of working for the communist movement,” Bernardo said.

He said the rebels and the government might have the same objective of a lasting peace.

Bernardo stressed that the only difference is that the rebels pursue their goals through armed struggle.

He firmly believes that the rebels can effectively work with government if they shift their struggle from armed to parliamentary.

Bernardo also assured that the entry of new military officers to the 10th ID cannot affect the implementation of the PDOP in its area of responsibility.

He said the new officers have undergone thorough immersion and evaluation by him personally.

“They have to understand the best practices being done by the 10th ID particularly the campaign strategies of the PDOP. Aside from being team players, they must buy in our best practices and co-own our efforts by being collaborative, cooperative and mission-focused,” Bernardo said.

He said five lieutenant colonels are due to assume as principals and battalion commanders of his contingent.

Kalahi-CIDSS: A decade of enabling communities through genuine people’s participation

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 15): Kalahi-CIDSS: A decade of enabling communities through genuine people’s participation

For over a decade, Kalahi-CIDSS, now known as National Community-Driven Development Program (NCDDP), continues to actualize development in grassroots communities as part of DSWD’s mission in pursuing poverty alleviation and empowerment of poor, vulnerable and disadvantaged communities.

Kalahi-CIDSS stands for Kapit-Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan-Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services.

Employing “Community-Driven Development” (CDD) as a primary strategy, Kalahi-CIDSS trains and engages communities together with their local governments (barangay and municipal) to choose, design, and implement development projects to address their most pressing needs. Through CDD, communities are given control over resources of the Project, and empowered to make decisions.

KALAHI-CIDSS in Region XI had its pilot implementation in the municipality of Sto. Tomas in 2003 followed by the municipalities of Talaingod, Tarragona, Laak, Manay, Mabini, Governor Generoso, New Corella, Compostela, San Isidro [Davao Oriental], Kapalong and Pantukan across phases and modalities until the present.

In 2012, to widen access to basic services and pursue development, Kalahi-CIDSS through its beneficiary communities prioritized, funded and completed 95 sub-projects amounting to Php 45.65 million. This translates to 18 potable water systems, 20 school buildings, 13 potable water systems, 13 road infrastructures, 7 barangay health stations, 5 flood control systems, 2 footbridges, 7 multi-purpose pavements, 3 solar electrification, 2 Libulongan [peace] centers and 18 other social projects that benefited 22,230 households situated in 135 barangays in 8 municipalities in the provinces of Davao del Norte, Davao Oriental and Compostela Valley.

Community projects built using CDD have been found to be cost-effective and have strong community ownership.

In 2013, 99 sub-projects were prioritized and funded at an aggregate cost of Php 29.7 million. This means more school buildings, road infrastructures, barangay health stations, multi-purpose pavements, flood control facilities, canals; and other community projects providing basic social services and improving the lives of 9218 more households in 72 barangays in 6 municipalities within 3 provinces.

At the close of 2013, Kalahi-CIDSS in DSWD Region XI looks at a brighter prospect of a wider beneficiary base with the resumption of 4 previous partner municipalities -New Corella, Governor Generoso, San Isidro [Davao Oriental] and Compostela.

The year 2014 heralds the scale up of Kalahi-CIDSS operations under the NCDDP covering 40 municipalities in 4 provinces of Davao Region with the inclusion of the municipalities of Carmen, Braulio E. Dujali and San Isidro in Davao del Norte; Maco, Mawab, Nabunturan and New Bataan in Compostela Valley; Lupon, Banaybanay, Caraga, Baganga, Cateel and Boston in Davao Oriental; and Kiblawan, Sta. Maria, Jose Abad Santos, Sarangani, Don Marcelino, Malita, Sta. Cruz, Sulop, Magsaysay, Matanao and Malalag in Davao del Sur.

The municipalities of Asuncion, Davao del Norte and Montevista, Compostela Valley will be covered in 2015.

All these initiatives form part of the National Government’s response to the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) to bring down the poverty incidence in the Philippines from 26.5% to 15.6% by year 2015.

Kalahi-CIDSS in Davao Region remains deeply committed to its mandate of service to empower communities through community-driven processes with the goal of improving lives of people in the villages.

Military pursuing rebels who torched construction equipment in Sarangani town

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 15): Military pursuing rebels who torched construction equipment in Sarangani town

Units of the Eastern Mindanao Command are now conducting pursuit operations against the New People's Army (NPA) group who burned construction equipment in Malapatan, Sarangani on Tuesday morning.

Destroyed in the attack, believed brought about by the refusal of the contractor to give in to the NPA's extortion demand, were a backhoe, grader, and a road roller truck.

Capt. Alberto Caber, spokesperson of the Eastern Mindanao Command, said the equipment were being used to construct a road in Sitio Datal Bub, Barangay Daan Suyan in Malapatan town.

No one was reported hurt in this latest NPA atrocity.

The development program is funded by the Malapatan local government.

Caber said the rebels quickly retreated after destroying the equipment.

He added that troopers from 72nd Infantry Battalion and elements of the Malapatan police are now pursuing the NPAs.

"I encourage everybody to help our soldiers and PNP (Philippine National Police) elements in their efforts against NPA extortion and attacks against civilians. This attacks on civilians and their properties are a violation of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law," Eastern Mindanao Command chief Lt. Gen. Ricardo Rainier G. Cruz III said.