Tuesday, January 21, 2014

VIDEO | China plans new patrol in disputed South China Sea

From InterAksyon (Jan 22): VIDEO | China plans new patrol in disputed South China Sea

China will set up new civilian patrols with a 5,000-tonne vessel in the disputed South China Sea, state-run media said on Tuesday, in another move that could inflame territorial disputes.

Beijing claims much of the waters and has put a vast swathe of it under the administration of Sansha city, in the contested Paracel islands, which also hosts a military garrison.

Local authorities will "provide a 5,000-tonne patrol vessel at Sansha and gradually set up a system of three regular patrols", China Ocean News reported, citing an agreement between the city and the island province of Hainan, which oversees it.

The intent was to "safeguard national sovereign rights and benefits, develop at-sea assistance, ensure navigational safety" among other reasons, the report said.

Even minor moves by China that appear to assert territorial claims can provoke a regional reaction, as the Asian giant is engaged in disputes with several neighbors, including an escalating row with Japan over islands in the East China Sea which has raised fears of unintended conflict.

Portions of the South China Sea are also claimed by the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.

Earlier this month both the US and Philippines criticized a law approved in Hainan in November reaffirming an existing requirement that foreign fishing vessels obtain permission to enter its waters.

China also declared in November an Air Defense Identification Zone over parts of the East China Sea -- including the islands disputed with Japan -- provoking vehement condemnation from Tokyo and Washington.

Aircraft entering the zone were required to identify themselves and maintain communication with Chinese authorities.

[Video report]

http://www.interaksyon.com/article/79167/video--china-plans-new-patrol-in-disputed-south-china-sea

China denies state media report on centralized military command

From InterAksyon (Jan 7): China denies state media report on centralized military command

China denied on Tuesday a state media report that said its military will establish a joint operational command structure for its forces to improve coordination between different parts of the defense system.

The English-language China Daily newspaper reported last week that the government would implement a joint command system "in due course" and it had already launched pilot programs to that effect.

"With regards to this, the Defense Ministry has clarified that the relevant report is groundless," the ministry said in a statement on its website.

The People's Daily, the mouthpiece of the Communist Party, and its sister tabloid, the Global Times, carried the denials on Monday, citing unidentified ministry sources. The ministry posted the People's Daily report on its website on Tuesday.

China has been moving rapidly to upgrade its military hardware, but military analysts say operational integration of complex and disparate systems across a regionalized command structure is a major challenge.

In the past, regional-level military commanders have enjoyed major latitude over their forces and branches of the military have remained highly independent of each other, making it difficult to exercise the centralized control necessary to use new weapons systems effectively in concert.

The Defense Ministry reiterated a statement last November by its spokesman, Yang Yujun, saying that establishing a joint operational command system was a "necessary requirement."

"In this regard, our army has actively explored this," Yang said, adding that it would form a "joint operational command system with Chinese characteristics." He did not elaborate.

http://www.interaksyon.com/article/78181/china-denies-state-media-report-on-centralized-military-command

Trillanes seeks to codify ban on chemical weapons in PH

From InterAksyon (Jan 22): Trillanes seeks to codify ban on chemical weapons in PH

Senator Antonio Trillanes IV has filed a bill that seeks to establish a legislative framework for the full implementation in the country of the Chemical Weapons Convention of 1993, to which the Philippines is a signatory.

The international agreement provides for the elimination and prohibits the development of chemical weapons.

If passed, Senate Bill 2042, or the Chemical Weapons Prohibition Act, would affirm the country’s commitment to the pact, which has been signed by 190 states, Trillanes said.

“We have been firm in honoring our obligations under the Convention. In fact, the Anti-Terrorism Council of the Office of the President, which acts as the Philippine National Authority on the Chemical Weapons Convention, has been participating in different activities and capacity-building trainings related to the Convention’s implementation, together with other government agencies and private sector,” Trillanes said. “However, despite our efforts, we cannot fully implement its provisions in the country due to lack of a legislative framework that will give teeth to its implementation.”

Trillanes, a former Navy captain, is chairman of the Senate committee on national defense and security.

The bill “prohibits, under any circumstance, the development, production, manufacture, acquisition, possession, stockpile, retention, transfer, or use of chemical weapons, or engagement in any other activities prohibited under the Convention.”

It also establishes a permanent Philippine National Authority for the Chemical Weapons Convention that It will serve as the national coordinating body for effective liaison with the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the implementing body of the Convention, and other state parties to the Convention.

http://www.interaksyon.com/article/79199/trillanes-seeks-to-codify-ban-on-chemical-weapons-in-ph

Philippine rebels execute ex-government militia

From the Mindanao Examiner blog site (Jan 22): Philippine rebels execute ex-government militia



Suspected communist rebels barged into a small karaoke house and fatally shot a former government militia in the southern Philippine province of Zamboanga del Norte, police said.

Police said Fernando Saldon, 51, died instantly from the attack carried out by two young New People’s Army rebels as their companions waited outside the karaoke house in the village of Santa Maria in Leon Postigo town.

Saldon arrived first at the karaoke house owned by Ricky Busca and then the two rebels came later along with their group and shot the victim repeatedly. The gunmen escaped after the killing.

“The victim sustained multiple gunshot wounds in his chest, stomach, left hand and at the back portion that caused his instantaneous death,” a police report said.

The rebels have been fighting for decades now for the establishment of a separate communist state in the country.

http://mindanaoexaminer.blogspot.com/2014/01/philippine-rebels-execute-ex-government.html

Ex-AFP chief accountant held liable for P4.8M rubber boats deal

From Malaya (Jan 21): Ex-AFP chief accountant held liable for P4.8M rubber boats deal

The Commission on Audit has held former AFP chief accountant Danilo C. Moro accountable in the questioned purchase of rubber boats for the Philippine Navy in 1999.
 
In a decision released last January 16, COA junked Moro’s appeal seeking his exclusion in the notice of disallowance dated April 12, 2009 concerning the purchase of 36 units of rubber boats that government auditors found to be overpriced.
 
In his motion for reconsideration filed with COA on October 21, 2011, Moro claimed he merely certified the availability of funds for the purchase of rubber boats after he was ordered to do so by military superiors in 1999.
 
Moro also denied allegations of unlawful diversion of public funds saying then President Joseph Estrada approved the realignment from the AFP’s budget for precision test and measurement instruments after the Navy requested money for the more pressing need for “disaster response equipment.”
 
COA however said Moro’s appeal was filed beyond the 30-day deadline for motions for reconsiderations on adverse rulings.
 
The ruling was signed by COA chairperson Ma. Gracia Pulido-Tan and Commissioners Heidi Mendoza and Rowena Guanzon.
 
In the same decision, the COA Commission Proper said Moro   raised old arguments that it had previously considered and overruled.
 
 The most recent ruling affirmed findings that the procurement should be disallowed because of overpricing since the rubber boats bought in the 1999 deal was valued at P1.4 million per unit against COA’s canvass price of only P1.265 million which already included markup.
 
A special audit team also reported evidence of contract-splitting and diversion of funds allocated for a different purpose without the required approval of the Office of the President.

http://malaya.com.ph/business-news/news/ex-afp-chief-accountant-held-liable-p48m-rubber-boats-deal

Races for top PAF, navy posts tighten

From Malaya (Jan22): Races for top PAF, navy posts tighten

AT least eight senior officers are among contenders to the post of Air Force and Navy chiefs.
 
Air Force chief Lt. Gen. Lauro Catalino dela Cruz is reaching the mandatory retirement age of 56 on April 30 and Navy chief Vice Adm. Jose Luis Alano, on May 1.
 
In the Air Force chief race, Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Delgado, AFP deputy chief of staff for plans (J5), reportedly has the advantage.
 
A source said Delgado is closely associated with the family of President Aquino having been assigned with the Presidential Security Group in the 1980s, during the time of Aquino’s mother, the late President Corazon Aquino.
 
A member of the Philippine Military Academy Class of 1982, the 53-year-old Delgado also served as senior military assistant to the incumbent president a couple of years ago.
 
“Very much (qualified),” the source said, adding that Delgado is a combat pilot and flew MG-520 attack helicopters. He said Delgado also served as commander of the 15th Strike Wing before he assumed his current post.
 
“As J5, he is instrumental in our capability upgrade as a force, jointly with the AFP. (He has) sound moral background and character,” the source also said.
 
Three other officers are reportedly vying for the top Air Force position. They are AFP deputy chief of staff Lt. Gen. Felicito Virgillo Trinidad (PMA Class ‘82), 3rd Air Division commander Maj. Gen. Nicanor Vivar (PMA Class ‘82) and Chief of Air Staff Maj. Gen. Edgar Fallorina (PMA Class ‘83).
 
Dela Cruz is a member of PMA Class ‘80.
 
For the post of Navy chief, among the contenders are Rear Admirals Leopoldo Alano (PMA Class ‘82), commander of the Naval Forces Central and younger brother of the current chief; Chief of Naval Staff Jesus Millan (PMA class ‘82); Isabelo Gador (PMA Class ‘81), chief of the Naval Forces Western Mindanao Command; and Renan Suarez (PMA Class ‘82), chief of the Naval Education and Training Command (PMA Class ‘82.)
 
The elder Alano belongs to PMA Class ‘79.
 
A Navy officer said Gador, a PMA classmate of the AFP chief Gen. Emmanuel Bautista, has a big chance of becoming Navy chief.
 
“He supervised the Navy SEALs and Marines during the Zambo crisis. He had a good accomplishment and he was recognized by Pnoy (President Aquino) because of that,” he said referring to the attack in Zamboanga City last September by a faction of the Moro National Liberation Front.
 
Army chief Lt. Gen. Noel Coballes (Class ‘80) is also retiring on February 7. 
 
Earlier reports said the contenders are Northern Luzon Command chief Lt. Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang (Class ‘81), Central Command chief Maj. Gen. John Bonafos (Class ‘82), 7th Infantry Division chief Maj. Gen. Hernando Iriberri (Class ‘83), and 4th Infantry Division chief Maj. Gen. Ricardo Visaya (Class ‘83).
 

Palawan gov't gives financial support to 3 rebel returnees

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 22): Palawan gov't gives financial support to 3 rebel returnees

Fulfilling his commitment to help rebel returnees if they lay down their arms and go back to the fold of the law, Palawan Governor Jose Alvarez awarded Tuesday financial support to three former members of the New People’s Army (NPA).

The rebel returnees, who were not named, each received P25,000 that they can use to start rebuilding their lives after surrendering as members of the leftist movement’s Southern Palawan Command.

The Provincial Information Office (PIO) said the amounts that were awarded to the rebel returnees were provided by the provincial government under the Local Social Integration Program (LSIP) initiative of the Western Command (Wescom) in close partnership with the Provincial Social Welfare and Development Office (PSWDO), and other concerned agencies.

Under the LSIP, the Wescom, PSWDO and other government agencies shall pull efforts together to provide support to rebel returnees.

It has a fund of P5,000,000 that the PSWDO said was allocated for the first time under the leadership of Alvarez.

In the private event that was held at the Governor’s Office at the Provincial Capitol Compound, the PIO said Alvarez also announced that he shall be including the rebel returnees and others who will choose to lay down their arms and return to government fold in other livelihood programs of the province.

He said they can benefit from the coffee and cacao industries that will begin this month in the southern Palawan towns of Brooke’s Point, Narra, Quezon and others.

Their children’s future will be given fresh opportunities because they will be included too, in the Programang Pang-Edukasyon ng Pamahalaang Panlalawigan that grants scholarships.

The rebel returnees, Alvarez furthered, will be enrolled in skills training programs with learnings they can use to further improve their employment opportunities.

The Wescom begged off from naming the rebel returnees, saying their lives are better this way.

http://www.pna.gov.ph/index.php?idn=2&sid=&nid=2&rid=608000

Only proven ship designs will be evaluated in P18-B frigate project

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 22): Only proven ship designs will be evaluated in P18-B frigate project

Only proven ship designs and specifications will be evaluated once the Philippine Navy (PN) technical working group and its private consultants starts looking into the plans submitted by the proponents for the Department of National Defense (DND)'s P18-billion frigate project.

"Only proven (frigate) designs will be evaluated," PN technical working group head Commodore Roland Mercado said.

This will ensure that only the best and affordable ships will be acquired by the Navy.

Evaluation will start by February. Each proponent is given one week each to present and explain their designs to the PN group.

Inspection of the designs and technical specifications will be done in Sangley Point Naval Station in Cavite.

During this period, the hull, powerplant, communications, and weapon systems designs will be closely looked into by the PN technical working group and its private consultants.

As of this posting, only four shipbuilders have successfully passed the first stage of the bidding for the P18-billion frigate project. This involves the inspection of company eligibility documents.

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

Three other shipbuilding firms joined the bidding but the DND declared their documents to be deficient.

These companies, identified as Garden Reach Shipbuilders & Engineers Ltd. of India, STX France SA and Thyssenkrupp Marine System, have filed a motion for reconsideration at the DND.

Some technical specifications of the DND's P18-billion frigate program have been revealed by MaxDefense: Philippines, a blogsite for Philippine defense related matters.

This includes a capability to conduct air-to-air warfare (AAW),anti-surface warfare (ASuW), anti-submarine warfare (ASW), and electronic warfare (EW).

Aside from this, these naval vessels should be able to do extended maritime patrol with an embarked helicopter and operating up to Sea State 6.

It must also have a range of 4,500 nautical miles at 15 knots, endurance of 30 days in tropical condition, and capable of running up to 25 knots of continuous speed.

Navigation equipment of the two ships, at a minimum, must consist of two navigation radars; GPS; depth sounding set; and vessel tracking system compatible to PN's existing system.

The frigates' weapon system, at a minimum, should consist of a 76-mm gun; stabilized secondary gun; four .50-caliber machine guns; surface-to-surface missile launchers; surface-to-air missile launching system; and anti-submarine torpedoes.

http://www.pna.gov.ph/index.php?idn=1&sid=&nid=1&rid=607909

Former MNLF members conduct peace forum

From the Business World (Jan 21): Former MNLF members conduct peace forum

In an effort to update Moro communities on the southern process, a group of former combatants of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) initiated a forum for women on the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro in Ampatuan, Maguindanao late last week.

Around 200 women attended the forum in Barangay Kauran, an area classified as a Peace and Development Community by the government of the Philippines (GPH) and the MNLF. The activity was organized by the Kadtabanga Foundation for Peace and Development Advocates, Inc., a nongovernmental organization composed of former MNLF combatants.

The forum is a significant development since the MILF, which is now negotiating with the government, and the MNLF have taken separate political paths. Also, the MNLF is traditionally strong in Western Mindanao while Central Mindanao, where the forum was held, is a bailiwick of the MILF.

Rabie Angkal, an academic at the Cotabato City State Polytechnic College who served as key speaker in the forum, urged the participants to rally behind the framework agreement forged even if the 1996 Final Peace Agreement between the government and the MNLF remains active.

“With the (framework agreement), the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) aim to bring just and lasting peace in Mindanao that is inclusive to all. We know that despite the GPH-MNLF 1996 agreement, conflict still continues in some parts of the island,” Mr. Angkal said in Filipino. “Now we are at a point where both the GPH and the MILF are sincerely pursuing the attainment of just and lasting peace in Mindanao, so let us all support it,” Mr. Angkal added.

Marlon Peter Dedumo, Mindanao Media Bureau director of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, said it is important for the people of Mindanao to have convergence in the efforts to bring genuine peace to the region. “Let us all embrace the path of peace,” he said in his solidarity message.

Lt. Torino Inso, commander of the Bravo Company under the 46th Infantry Battalion, lauded the community-level consultation as a way to gather support for the peace talks.

http://www.bworldonline.com/content.php?section=Nation&title=Former-MNLF-members-conduct-peace-forum&id=82317

Bangsamoro body close to finishing draft of basic law—MILF

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jan 21): Bangsamoro body close to finishing draft of basic law—MILF



MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

NORTH COTABATO, Philippines—The Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) is nearing completion of the Bangsamoro Basic Law, a milestone that makes the once elusive peace in Mindanao more attainable nowadays, according to the chief negotiator of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Mohagher Iqbal, together with the commissioners of the BTC, announced this on Monday, when he paid a courtesy call to Cotabato Governor Emmylou Mendoza and bring his message of peace.

Mendoza, in her welcome remarks elaborated the importance of Iqbal’s visit and the meaningful message the BTC has brought to Cotabate├▒os.

“It is essential that we engage in consultations and discussions about the Bangsamoro and know what stage of the road map to its establishment it is now,” she said.

She reiterated her support to the peace process and assured the Commission of the provincial government’s support for peace initiatives such as forum, dialogues and other measures to address the apprehensions of the people.

“The time has come for the people of Mindanao to set aside hatred, differences and conflict. We have to come into terms and achieve long lasting peace in this part of the country,” Iqbal said, reading his message in front of the top officials of the provincial government of Cotabato.

Iqbal said the BTC and the quest for Bangsamoro establishment would face bigger challenges especially in the drafting of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

“The drafting of the BBL will finally be finished in April of this year and we hope for the best that President Benigno Aquino will endorse it as a priority bill,” Iqbal added.

A referendum will take place in 2016 to the envisioned core territories of the Bangsamoro.

The BTC came with the delegation from the International Monitoring Team (IMT) led by Major Gen. Dato Abdul Rahim bin Mohd Yusuff.

With him were other members of IMT whose responsibility was to keep an eye on the implementation of the ceasefire agreement between the Philippine government and the MILF.
http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/567221/bangsamoro-body-close-to-finishing-draft-of-basic-law-milf

New Sulu sultan vows to reclaim Sabah again if talks fail

From ABS-CBN (Jan 21): New Sulu sultan vows to reclaim Sabah again if talks fail

The newly-installed Sultan of Sulu Esmail Kiram II on Tuesday declared that their fight for ownership of North Borneo continues.

His spokesman, Abraham Idjirani, said they are not ruling out the possibility of sending their men to reclaim Sabah if diplomatic talks fail.

It was a year ago when hundreds of members of the Sultanate of Sulu, led by Raja Muda Agbimuddin Kiram, was accused by Malaysia of invading North Borneo.

"As we pursue to recover possession of North Borneo, we are appealing to the United Nations to take the necessary preferential attentions for a peaceful resolution of the conflict to avoid further bloodshed," Kiram said.

The 34th Sultanate of Sulu also called on the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) to help in the peaceful resolution in the claim over Sabah. He likewise urged President Benigno Aquino III to support their cause.

"In the pursuit of our historic rights and legal claims, we urge the Philippine government to support the Sultanate of Sulu in its claim over North Borneo by historic and moral obligations," he said.

The Sultanate has created what it calls an "organized legal panel" that will pursue cases in the International Court of Justice, and it also plans to file charges in the London Court since Britain was involved in the lease agreement in 1957.

Idjirani said that while Sultan Kiram's initial order was a peaceful settlement through dialogues and negotiations, if all diplomatic ways are rendered useless, some of their members might just do what Raja Muda did exactly a year ago.

"That is the possibility, if cessation of hostilities will not be resolved, iyon ang magiging resulta," Idjirani said.

The sultanate's political adviser, Almarim Centi Tillah, echoed what Idjirani said and warned the Philippine government against not paying attention to them. He said the government should pursue the Sabah claim similar to the way it pursues its claims over Spratly Islands and Scarborough Shoal.

"If this government deny us of our constitutional rights as citizens to be protected, we have the option to decide if we still want to be part of this country," he said.

Raja Muda and some of his men are still in Sabah, still alive and wandering around from place to place, according to Idjirani.

They are aware that Malaysia is cracking down on illegal aliens, and that hundreds of Filipinos mostly from the Sulu archipelago are in danger of either being jailed or deported.

"They are summarily rounded up and to be deported because of absence of legal document, they deserve the assistance and protection of the Philippine Government," Kiram said.

Palace says open to discuss Sabah claim

Meanwhile, the Palace said it is open to a call for a dialogue to discuss the Sabah claim.

"Ang atin pong posisyon diyan ay isang posisyon ng pagiging bukas sa dialogue at willingness to talk dahil sila naman po ay mamamayang Pilipino at habang ang kanilang sinusulong ay ayon sa batas, wala naman po tayong suliranin na makipag-ugnayan at makipagtalakayan sa sa kanila," Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Sonny Coloma said.

Coloma also said the Philippine Embassy in Malaysia is ready to assist Filipinos needing assistance there.

http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/focus/01/21/14/new-sulu-sultan-vows-reclaim-sabah-again-if-talks-fail

Sultanate blames govt for Pinoy woes in Sabah

From Solar News (Jan 21): Sultanate blames govt for Pinoy woes in Sabah



The Sultanate of Sulu's Secretary General Abraham Idjirani blames the government for failing to stop Malaysia's crackdown on undocumented foreign workers.

Idjirani says Malaysia's crackdown, particularly in Sabah, would have been prevented if the government had approved the sultanate's proposal to create a Sabah refugee commission in 2010.

The sultanate is asserting its sovereignty claim over Sabah and calls on the government to support this.

Data from the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) shows around 400,000 Filipinos work in Sabah.

So far, no one has expressed intent to be repatriated. DFA Spokesman Raul Hernandez said: "We have no reports of repatriation in Sabah."

Idjirani said: "The sultanate was suggesting both the sultanate and the Aquino administration create an inter-agency undertaking in preparation for Filipinos who may be deported from Sabah, so we don't get caught unaware."

Hernandez added that the government "through the Philippine embassy in Kuala Lumpur and its attached agencies, will continue to provide necessary assistance to undocumented Filipinos who may be affected by the crackdown of illegal foreign workers in Malaysia."

http://www.solarnews.ph/news/regional/2014/01/21/sultanate-blames-govt-for-pinoy-woes-in-sabah#.Ut6XRD8o6AI

PH should pursue claim over North Borneo—Sultan Kiram II

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jan 21): PH should pursue claim over North Borneo—Sultan Kiram II



As the Lahad Datu standoff in Sabah neared its first year, the Sulu sultanate urged the Philippine government to pursue its claim over North Borneo.

“In the pursuit of our historic rights and legal claim, we urge the Aquino administration to support the Sultanate of Sulu in its claim over North Borneo by historic and moral obligations,” the new sultan Ismail Kiram II said in a statement.

Kiram said that the title to North Borneo or Sabah, which was transferred to Malaysia by the Bristih government, was not those of a sovereign but those of a lease.

“Owing to historic and legal facts, it is now incumbent on President Benigno Simeon Aquino III to do what he has to do if our president reckons the inhabitants of Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Basilan, the Zamboanga peninsula and Palawan as citizens of the Republic of the Philippines,” he pointed out.

Kiram also called on Malaysia to “rectify its wrongdoings to the Filipino people in the greatest landgrabbing in human history.”

It was in January last year when forces led by Raja Muda Agbimuddin Kiram stormed Lahad Datu in Sabah to assert their claims in Sulu. The standoff went for over a month and killed about a dozen of Kiram’s followers.

The Sultanate’s secretary general Ibrahim Idjirani also made an appeal to the United Nations for a peaceful resolution to avoid bloodshed.

“We appeal to the United Nations (UN) to take the necessary preferential attention for a peaceful resolution to avoid bloodshed and likewise to the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) to help us in our claim,” he said.

http://globalnation.inquirer.net/97269/ph-should-pursue-claim-over-north-borneo-sultan-kiram-ii

CPP/NDF: Resuming peace negotiations with Aquino or next president

From CPP Website (Jan 21): Resuming peace negotiations with Aquino or next president

47_jms
Prof. Jose Maria Sison
Chief Political Consultant
NDFP National Democratic Front of the Philippines
 
Interview with Prof. JOSE MARIA SISON
NDFP Chief Political Consultant
By Delfin T. Mallari Jr.
Correspondent, Philippine Daily Inquirer


DELFIN T. MALLARI, Jr. (DTM): Is there really no more chance for the resumption of the peace negotiations under the Benigno Aquino III administration?

Prof. JOSE MARIA SISON (JMS): The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) policy is to negotiate with the government of the Republic of the Philippines (GPH) in accordance with The Hague Joint Declaration, Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees, the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law, and other agreements. The Aquino regime is responsible for paralyzing the peace negotiations by refusing to comply with these agreements.

DTM: If there really is no more chance, would this mean that the Filipino people would need to wait three years before the resumption of peace talks? That is, if the next president would be interested in peace talks.

JMS: The Aquino regime is responsible for blocking the peace negotiations and is in contempt of the people who desire a just and lasting peace. In fact, the Aquino regime announced last April 2013 that it had already terminated the peace negotiations. Please look at the pertinent back issue of your newspaper. The NDFP does not take responsibility for the decision of the current or next president of the GPH to resume the peace negotiations or not.

DTM: If presidential elections were to occur tomorrow – and most likely even is 2016 – there would be only two possible main contenders: Jojo Binay and Mar Roxas. In your view, as peace consultant of the NDFP, who is more likely to resume peace talks and be successful at it? What would be your basis for saying so?

JMS: As Chief Political Consultant of the NDFP in peace negotiations, I am not in the business or game of publicly estimating or predicting who is the next GPH president. Whoever is the next president, he or she will consider peace negotiations as an option in the face of the worsening social and political crisis, and the growing strength of the people’s armed revolutionary movement for national liberation and democracy.

DTM: At the minimum, what are the demands of the NDFP to the GRP for you to return to the negotiating table?

JMS: It is the Aquino regime that has run away from peace negotiations. The NDFP can resume peace negotiations even with the Aquino regime if it shows respect for and comply with existing agreements. The agreements require that the GPH fulfill its obligations regarding the substantive agenda of the negotiations, the safety and immunity guarantees for NDFP peace consultants, and the release of political prisoners falsely accused of common crimes. These are not unilateral demands or preconditions by the NDFP. They are obligations of the GPH stipulated by agreements between the GPH and NDFP.

DTM: On your part, if the GRP gives in to your demands, what would the NDFP-CPP-NPA be prepared to grant in return?

JMS: The NDFP is not asking for anything outside of the existing agreements and is not offering anything outside of the same agreements, which have been mutually approved and signed. You or anyone else should not make it appear that the NDFP is begging for any favor from a reactionary government that refuses to fulfill its obligations and dishonors its own signature on solemnly made agreements.

http://www.philippinerevolution.net/statements/20140121_resuming-peace-negotiations-with-aquino-or-next-president

Navy launches strategy in the south amid China's aggressiveness

From the Philippine Star (Jan 21): Navy launches strategy in the south amid China's aggressiveness

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines -- The Philippine Navy has launched its "active archipelagic strategy" to defend and secure the country's territory  in the face of China's aggressiveness over the disputed West Philippine Sea, said Naval Chief Vice Admiral Jose Luis Alano.

However, Alano  refused to elaborate about the naval effort in asserting its mission following Beijing's  fishing rule in the disputed waters it claimed to be as part of its territory.

According to Alano, their security effort has been there and was not in response to the posturing of the Chinese  over the resource-rich disputed territory.

“This (active archipelagic strategy security plan) is something that has already been there. As we do that, we are creating more prosperity. And with prosperity more things needs to be secure for our people,” Alano said when asked by newsmen if the naval operational plan was in response to the Chinese domination and control of the disputed territory.

Alano said the Navy is developing its capability.

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin earlier said  the military is willing to escort and secure Filipino fishermen following China's fishing rules.

Alano said the Navy continues to improve (and) increase its capabilities and the upgrades are  in the pipeline under the modernization of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

Alano has also installed Tuesday a new commander of the naval command base here.

Alano placed Rear Admiral Jesus Millan as commander of the Naval Forces Western Mindanao (NFWM), the largest navy operational command  to replace Vice Rear Admiral Isabelo Gador in a formal turn-over of command ceremony held at the ground of Romula Espaldon naval base in Lower Calarian in this city.

Gador was promoted to a higher position being the incoming Naval Vice Commander.

Alano, who presided  over the change of command ceremony, credited Gador’s leadership in helping quell the siege staged by the rebels of the Nur Misuari faction of the  Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in September in this city.

The attack of the MNLF rebels was detected initially by the patrolling naval boat following the encounter that left one of its personnel killed and prevented possible succeeding reinforcement of the rebels coming from Sulu and Basilan through the seas.

Alano reminded the new leadership of the NFWM of the vital role of the base here as the Philippine Navy's largest operational command in ensuring  stability in this part of the country.

http://www.philstar.com/nation/2014/01/21/1281424/navy-launches-strategy-south-amid-chinas-aggressiveness

DND evaluates prospective frigate designs, specifications in Feb.

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 21): DND evaluates prospective frigate designs, specifications in Feb.

Starting this February, the four shipbuilders deemed qualified to participate in the next stage of the bidding for the Department of National Defense (DND)'s P18-billion frigate program will be given a week to present their respective designs and technical specifications.

This was revealed by Commodore Roland Mercado, Philippine Navy (PN) technical working group head for the frigate program, during an interview.

He added that the frigate specifications presented by each company, will be evaluated and assessed by Navy personnel and private consultants well versed in warship design.

The presentation will be conducted in the Navy's Sangley Point Base in Cavite.

Most of these experts will be naval architects, Mercado stated.

The four shipbuilders who qualified for the next round of bidding 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 former successfully passed the first stage of the bidding process, which involved the inspection of company documents.

Relatedly, the PN official said that they have already submitted a request for P25 million which will be used to pay the private consultants who will evaluate the frigate designs.

He added that they will be using the same group of experts who have scrutinized the designs submitted for the strategic sealift vessels program of the PN.

The latter contract was eventually awarded to PT Pal Indonesia (Persero) in August last year.

The project is worth P3.8 billion.

Some technical specifications of the DND's P18-billion frigate program have been revealed by MaxDefense: Philippines, a blogsite for Philippine defense related matters.

This includes a capability to conduct air-to-air warfare (AAW),anti-surface warfare (ASuW), anti-wubmarine warfare (ASW), and electronic warfare (EW).

Aside from this, these naval vessels should be able to do extended maritime patrol with an embarked helicopter and operating up to Sea State 6.

It must also have a range 4,500 nautical miles at 15 knots, endurance of 30 days in tropical condition and capable of running up to 25 knots of continuous speed.

The frigates must be also able to carry two rigid hull inflatable boats (RHIB) aside from having the ability to operate at Sea State 6, non-degradation of warfare mission at Sea State 5, helicopter operation at Sea State 4; and RHIB operations at Sea State 3

Propulsion systems, at a minimum, should consist of two engines and two propellers with reduction gear box; power supply: minimum of three diesel generators; and capable of replenishment at sea capable.

Navigation equipment of the two ships, at a minimum, must consist of two navigation radars (X and S-band) with at least one in solid state design, capable of automatic radar plotting aid (ARPA), automatic identification system (AIS) and automatic tracking aid (ATA).

The frigates must be also be equipped with GPS; depth sounding set; vessel tracking system compatible to PN's existing system.

Communications:

- Standard VHF AM/FM and UHF radios;

- Satellite Communications (SATCOM) system;

- Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) system;-

- "Fitted for but not with" Tactical Data Link (NATO standard), still to be determined which type, supplied by PN;

- Local Area Network (LAN);

-Connectivity to the PN's Littoral Observation Stations and Maritime Research Information Center.

The frigates sensors, at a minimum should consist of:

- Combat Management System (CMS), readily upgradable;

- Fire Control System integrated to CMS, can track and engage surface, air and missile targets simultaneously;

- Fire Control Radar and/or Electro-Optical targeting system;

- Electronic Support Measures (ESM) with Radio Detection and Finding (RDF);

- 2D air search radar for air surveillance and target acquisition, minimum range of 80nmi, can detect sea-skimming missiles with maximum altitude of 10ft., integrated to ESM and CMS;

- 2D surface search radar, can detect anti-ship missile threats minimum range of 40nmi, integrated to ESM and CMS;

- Passive and active sonar systems;

- Decoy launcher minimum six tubes per side or centrally rotating launcher

The frigates' weapon system, at a minimum, should consist of:

- 76mm gun at forward section with target tracking radar and/or electro-optical target acquisition and fire control computer;

- one stabilized secondary gun;

- four . 50-caliber machine guns;

- primary and secondary guns shall be integrated to combat management system;

four surface-to-surface missile launchers, minimum 50km range, active homing seeker and ECCM capability;

- surface-to-air missile launching system, minimum quadruple launcher, minimum 6km range, IR or semi-active homing seeker, with ECCM and/or IR CCM capability;

- anti-submarine torpedoes, minimum range 2km, minimum depth 500m, with acoustic countermeasures capability, two triple launchers (one on each side).

http://www.pna.gov.ph/index.php?idn=1&sid=&nid=1&rid=607464

113 AFP men found positive for drug use now under custody

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 21): 113 AFP men found positive for drug use now under custody

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said on Tuesday the 113 military personnel, found positive of drug-use, are now under the custody of their units respective provost marshals.

Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala, AFP public affairs office chief, said that these personnel, once found guilty of a military court, will be dismissed dishonorably from the service.

He also said these sanctions will be imposed regardless of the rank of those found guilty of drug abuse.

Task Force Moses, the AFP’s anti-drug body reports that in 2013 alone, 20,000 personnel were targeted for the random drug-testing.

Of these, 113 were found guilty of drug abuse.

Zagala earlier said that the AFP will increase by 20 percent its random drug checks for 2014.

http://www.pna.gov.ph/index.php?idn=1&sid=&nid=1&rid=607553

1st C-295 aircraft to be delivered within 18 months

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 21): 1st C-295 aircraft to be delivered within 18 months

Should EADS/CASA-Airbus Military pass the post qualification stage set by the Department of National Defense (DND) for its P5.3 billion medium lift fixed wing project, the first of three C-295 aircraft will be delivered within 18 months upon the opening of the letter of credit.

This will begin by Feb. 1 when members of the technical working group have arrived in Spain, DND undersecretary Fernando Manalo said.

Upon delivery of the first aircraft, the second plane will be delivered after four months and the third after another four months.

EADS/CASA-Airbus Military was declared the only eligible bidder for the DND's medium lift fixed-wing aircraft after competitor PT Dirgantara Indonesia was declared out of the running for its failure to meet the requirements of the DND.

The DND Special Bids and Awards Committee-1 (SBAC-1) said PT Dirgantara’s plane, the C-235, was not compliant with the technical specifications provided by the bid documents.

It added that the Indonesian manufacturer's plane could only carry 34 paratroopers, lower than the 40 set by the DND.

The bid documents also required that the aircraft can carry 11,000 pounds at 950 nautical miles but PT Dirgantara’s plane can only carry 10,120 pounds.

The Spanish aircraft manufacturer offered to supply three C-295 aircraft for P5.29 billion or slightly lower then the P5.3 billion contract price set by the DND.

http://www.pna.gov.ph/index.php?idn=1&sid=&nid=1&rid=607663

10th Infantry Division chief laud residents for timely tips on landmine cache

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 21): 10th Infantry Division chief laud residents for timely tips on landmine cache

The 10th Infantry Division commander, Major Gen. Ariel B. Bernardo, on Tuesday expressed his thanks to the civilians who provided his troopers with the location of the New People's Army (NPA) landmine cache in Sitio Mampait, Barangay Mansanitas, Loreto town, Agusan Del Sur.

This resulted in a successful operation with the recovery of 44 landmines and eight sacks of PVC pipes, batteries, detonating cords, improvised firing devices and several other explosive components Sunday morning, he added.

"It is through cooperation like this that we will finally put a stop to this and win the peace for our people," Bernardo stressed.

It could be recalled that the 163 landmines and the manufacturing facility captured last December were in the same area.

President Benigno Aquino III lauded the achievement stating that it will prevent death and injury of non-combatants.

http://www.pna.gov.ph/index.php?idn=1&sid=&nid=1&rid=607755

Former rebels attend fora on Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 21): Former rebels attend fora on Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro 

While their leaders have expressed opposition to the proposed convergence of two Moro fronts in Mindanao, former guerillas of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in Ampatuan town in Maguindanao have welcomed the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

They actively participated in a forum Tuesday in Barangay Kauran, Ampatuan, Maguindanao where MILF leaders and non-government organizations disseminate information about the FAB.

"Any peace deal between the GPH and MILF will not discriminate the MNLF," Professor Rabie Angkal of the Cotabato City State Polytechnic College told former MNLF fighters.

Barangay Kauran is a recognized peace and development community established after the 1996 peace accord was signed by Manila and MNLF. It was brokered by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

The other day, a bigger and more politically active faction of the MNLF, led by former Cotabato City Mayor Muslimin Sema, has expressed opposition to calls for convergence of the MNLF and MILF, saying it was an insult to the OIC which brokered the peace process.

The former MNLF combatants and their families and relatives listened as speakers from the forum on FAB explained the intricacies of the upcoming peace agreement.

"It is inclusive and never exclusive to the MILF," Angkal said.

The new political entity the FAB has envisioned will replace the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) which Malacanang described as "failed experiment."

Organized by the Kadtatabanga Foundation for Peace and Development Advocates, Inc., a non-government organization whose members include MNLF and MILF members, the forum aims to educate the Moro masses about the peace deal where they are considered stakeholders.

It also aims to solicit support from all sectors so any peace deal will not fail unlike the previous Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain which signing did not push through.

http://www.pna.gov.ph/index.php?idn=2&sid=&nid=2&rid=607691

Backpack with RPG, M203 grenade launcher found

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 21): Backpack with RPG, M203 grenade launcher found

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY --Police bomb disposal authorities here are investigating who could be the owner of a backpack found by a civilian near a government seed farm in Barangay Sta. Monica containing a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) and an M203 grenade launcher.

SPO2 Greg Echague of the City Police Office (CPO) Counter Intelligence Group (CIG) said they are now investigating how the backpack got to be in the grassy area near the Palawan Seed Farm (PSF) Sunday night.

The backpack was discovered by a civilian, who reportedly took it home first. When the unnamed individual opened it, he reportedly got scared upon seeing its content.

“He contacted me to report the backpack because he’s scared that something might happen,” Echague said.

The senior police officer said it was good that the civilian turned over the backpack to them since if the M203 would be misused, it can hurt around 10 people, while the RPG can obliterate one whole house.

“He brought the backpack to his house in Sandiwa on the night of January 19 and he kept it. What was dangerous was that the rifle grenade was still inserted in its case. It was good that he did not pull the RPG because the triggering device was there. If he did, it might have exploded with the M203; that would be a big damage,” he said.

The backpack is now under the care of the CPO’s Explosive Ordinance Division in Barangay San Manuel.

Echague advised that should individuals discover similar materials, they should immediately turn them over to police authorities to avoid accidents.

http://www.pna.gov.ph/index.php?idn=2&sid=&nid=2&rid=607716

Palace still hopeful MNLF joins MILF in the crafting of peace deals

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 21): Palace still hopeful MNLF joins MILF in the crafting of peace deals

The Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) may have rejected offers to join the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in peace talks with the national government, but Malacanang remains hopeful that they will eventually concede.

Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. on Tuesday’s Palace briefing said that the national government continues to exert efforts to achieve peace agreements which will eventually lead to Mindanao’s progress.

“The national government continues to encourage all Filipinos, whatever affiliation, to join the process,” Coloma said in Filipino.

“That is why we continue to hope that our brothers and sisters who do not want to agree or join will eventually see its good outcomes,” he added.

He said that the word “Bangsamoro” in the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro referred to all ethnic, cultural and indigenous people in Mindanao and not only the MILF.

“It (peace agreement) is an inclusive process and we hope that all people under the Bangsamoro concept will be included,” he said.

The agreement aims to replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) before the three-year term of incumbent ARMM officials ends in 2016

On Wednesday, the normalization annex and addendum to Bangsamoro waters is expected to be signed between the MILF and the national government so that the final peace agreement can be established.

http://www.pna.gov.ph/index.php?idn=0&sid=&nid=0&rid=607779

Government continues to engage stakeholders to ensure Mindanao peace

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 21): Government continues to engage stakeholders to ensure Mindanao peace

The government remains hopeful that groups opposing the peace agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) will eventually support the Mindanao peace process, the Palace said on Tuesday.

It was reported that the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) rejected proposals to unite with the MILF in crafting the Bangsamoro Framework Agreement with the government.

“Patuloy po ang pagpupunyagi at pagsisikap ng ating pamahalaan na matamo ang kabuuan ng pakikipagsunduang pangkapayapaan na makakatulong po sa pagpapaunlad ng buong Kamindanaoan,” Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio “Sonny” Coloma Jr. said in a press briefing in Malacanang.

Coloma said the Aquino government wants to persuade all the stakeholders in the Mindanao peace process to join the initiative for the benefit of the region.

“Kaya patuloy rin po iyong ating pag-asa na makikita ng ating mga kapatid na hindi pa sumasang-ayon at hindi pa lumalahok ang kabutihan na matatamo natin kapag nagkaroon na ng kabuuang kasunduang pangkapayapaan hinggil sa Mindanao,” he added.

The government continues to talk with the MNLF, being one of the stakeholders in Mindanao, he said.

Coloma also noted that even before the Zamboanga standoff last year, there were ongoing discussions between the Philippine government and the MNLF in Indonesia. Both sides were discussing the remaining issues of the Tripoli agreement.

http://www.pna.gov.ph/index.php?idn=0&sid=&nid=0&rid=607797

Hunt for Misuari won’t impede MNLF peace talks with government -- Palace

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 21): Hunt for Misuari won’t impede MNLF peace talks with government -- Palace

Malacanang on Tuesday said that peace talks between the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the national government will not be hindered by the manhunt for its chairman, Nur Misuari.

Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said in a Palace briefing Tuesday that despite the chairman’s absence, there were many other factions in the MNLF.

“Mr. Misuari is not the only embodiment to a presentation of the MNLF, that’s why it is possible to continue negotiating, to continue talking with the MNLF even while we are pursuing (him),” Coloma said.

He explained that apparently, authority will continue to track him down as he remained a subject of warrant of arrest.

“Definitely, we would like to be able to arrest him because there are charges he is facing,” Coloma said.

The Malacanang official also expressed hope that the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) which rejected offers to craft peace agreements with the MNLF and the government will eventually give in.

He said that these talks were not only necessary to achieve an overall peace agreement, but also development for the whole of Mindanao.

http://www.pna.gov.ph/index.php?idn=&sid=&nid=&rid=607822

Wanted: Consultant for PH Navy's P18.9-B warships deal

From Rappler (Jan 21): Wanted: Consultant for PH Navy's P18.9-B warships deal

MOST CAPABLE: Philippine Navy's BRP Ramon Alcaraz. Photo by Carmela Fonbuena/Rappler

MOST CAPABLE: Philippine Navy's BRP Ramon Alcaraz. Photo by Carmela Fonbuena/Rappler

The Department of National Defense (DND) set aside P25 million to allow the Philippine Navy to hire a consultancy firm that will assist in finalizing the technical specifications of the much-awaited two warships it is acquiring for P18.9 billion.

"The consultant will classify seaworthiness and design...They will provide technical expertise. I'm not saying we do not have it. Pero hindi naman kami nagmamayabang that we know everything," said Commodore Ronald Mercado of the DND Bids and Awards Committee-Technical Working Group (BAC-TWG).

The frigates the Navy is acquiring are not in its current inventory. As the maritime dispute with China continues to escalate, it's a much needed upgrade from the country's most capable warships – the refurbished cutters from US, BRP Ramon Alcaraz, and BRP Gregorio Del Pilar.

"The frigates for bidding are brand new ones. Included in the package are capabilities like having primary and secondary guns, missile system, anti-submarine warfare weapon system, and electronic warfare system," explained Navy spokesman Lt Cmdr Gregory Fabic.

Like the US cutters, the warships should be able to accommodate a helicopter and rigid hull inflatable boats.

The consultancy contract will not be bidded out. Navy chief Vice Admiral Jose Luis Alano will be the approving authority.

"We will have to look first at consultants in the region who have proven experience. I have some people already doing the research. We have to look for a proven expert. And when we've identified it, we have to do some market research," Mercado added.

The Navy-BAC on Monday, January 20, sought an issuance by the DND of a special authority to hire the consultants for P25 million. It was approved by Defense undersecretary for finance Fernando Manalo.

Second stage crucial

The two warships are funded by the P75-billion boost the Aquino administration allotted for the revised Armed Forces of the Philippines revised modernization program. It is one of two big-ticket projects. The other one is the P18-billion project for 12 fighter jets currently stalled in Malaca├▒ang.

Armed Forces chief of staff General Emmanuel Bautista recently said the Philippines needs at least 6 ships to patrol the country's waters. The other two warships may be acquired from the US, too. (READ: PH seeks more US navy ships amid China threat)

Four firms have qualified in the first of a two-stage bidding competitive bidding for the warships – Spanish firm Navantia Sepi (RTR Ventures) and South Korean firms STX Offshore & Shipbuilding, Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering Co Ltd, and Hyundai Heavy Industries Inc.

Three disqualified firms are appealing. The BAC is yet to resolve their motions – Garden Reach Shipbuilders & Engineers Ltd of India, STX France SA, and Thyssenkrupp Marine System.

The Navy is set to proceed with the workshops with the qualified bidders to prepare for the second stage of bidding. The Navy is currently using reservists for help in the bidding process.

Mercado said they need the consultants by February before the BAC can proceed to the more crucial second stage of the bidding process, when the technical aspects and the financial proposals will be discussed.

The consultants will help determine the ship design and the weapons system that the Navy can require of the bidders, considering the funding involved.

http://www.rappler.com/nation/48521-philippines-frigates-consultants

PH gov't, Muslim rebels upbeat in tackling last peace hurdle

From Interaksyon (Jan 21): PH gov't, Muslim rebels upbeat in tackling last peace hurdle

The Philippine government and Muslim rebels said Tuesday they were optimistic of clearing the final hurdle to ending a deadly decades-old rebellion, ahead of a fresh round of talks in Malaysia.

The Kuala Lumpur negotiations on Wednesday will tackle a "normalisation" deal detailing how the rebels will hand over their weapons, and the creation of a security force to police what would be a Muslim self-rule area, they said.

"We are optimistic... we know that the (rebels are) also optimistic and we're happy that we're moving faster and moving forward to a final resolution," Jose Lorena, a junior minister who advises President Benigno Aquino on the talks, told AFP.

"Both sides now have a general idea of where they want to go, and it will just be a matter of refining all the details."

This is the last of four power-sharing accords that must be agreed between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rebels, before a final peace deal can be signed.

Aquino hopes to secure a final peace settlement before leaving office in mid-2016.

But he warned last month that disarming the MILF would be a "heavy and contentious" issue.

MILF vice chairman Ghazali Jaafar was also upbeat about the negotiations.
"There is already an understanding on most of the issues that will be contained in the normalisation annex -- I would say 90 percent," he told AFP.

He said the toughest part would be creating the region's police force, and detailing how it would interact with the Philippine National Police.

"I would say this would also be difficult because the discussion revolves around the security of the Bangsa Moro people (Filipino Muslims) and other residents of the Bangsa Moro (autonomous region)," Jaafar added.

Muslim groups have waged a rebellion since the 1970s. The insurgency has left some 150,000 people dead and parts of the southern Philippines mired in deep poverty and instability.

Apart from the MILF, many other armed groups operate in the south, including former rebels who had resorted to banditry and terrorism.

The situation has left parts of the southern Philippines mired in deep poverty and instability.

Amid deadly attacks there by other Muslim groups opposed to the talks last year, the two sides signed three other preliminary deals, including splitting revenues and power-sharing between the autonomous region and the national government.

Lorena said a commission of Filipino and foreign experts has been meeting separately over the past few months to advise the negotiators on the creation of a security force for the area.

The proposed deal would also govern the deployment of Philippine military forces there, he and Jaafar added.

http://www.interaksyon.com/article/79158/ph-govt-muslim-rebels-upbeat-in-tackling-last-peace-hurdle