Sunday, January 26, 2014

MNLF ready to 'decolonize' Mindanao

From ABS-CBN (Jan 27): MNLF ready to 'decolonize' Mindanao

The Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) considers the breakthrough in the peace talks between the Moro Islamic Liberation (MILF) and the Philippine government as a signal for it to finally pursue full independence for Mindanao.

MNLF spokesperson Absalom Cerveza said the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB), whose fourth and final annex (Normzalization) was jointly signed over the weekend by the MILF and the Philippine government, effectively abrogates the 1996 final peace agreement and the 1976 Tripoli Agreement.

"Mayroon nang umiiral na agreement, hindi lang gaanong natutupad ng mahusay. Ito ay pinag-uusapan na ayusin pero habang naguusap pa, the government again entered into another agreement involving the same geographical area, involving the same people, and involving approximately the same amount of power to be vested," Cerveza told dzMM.

"I am beginning to fear that we did not sign in Jakarta an agreement with the government. It would appear the agreement that we have signed was only between [then] President Fidel Ramos and [MNLF], because the next president did not give any respect to this very honorable agreement."

The signing of the four annexes on power sharing, revenue generation and wealth sharing, transitional arrangements and modalities, and normalization, as well as the addendum on Bangsamoro Waters, paves the way for the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB).

Cerveza said the the recent breakthrough is considered the "final nail in the coffin" for the talks between the MNLF and the government. The MNLF takes this as a signal for it to pursue its plan to reclaim Mindanao.

The MILF, whose peace panel is led by Mohagher Iqbal, is a breakaway group of the MNLF.

"We are very happy because ngayon, tinanggal na sa aming mga kamay ang tali, [dahil] nakatali kami sa gobyerno to honor our commitment in the negotiations on the Tripoli agreement. So ngayon, that will open to us the opportunity to start a new movement to decolonize the whole of Mindanao," he said.

Hostilities a possibility

Cerveza said hostilities could occur as a result of the breakthrough in the GPH-MILF peace process, but he noted that this is not the course the MNLF is planning to take.

"The moment you take away the rights of people in the place where they are, ang resulta nyan ay gulo. But I hope there will be more prudence on those who are drafting the law na hindi maging ganoon. But I do not know how they will be able to do it," he said.

Cerveza said the MNLF, whose Nur Misuari faction was blamed for the Zamboanga City incursion that left over 200 dead, will still "work for a peaceful process".
One of the steps being considered by the separatist group is to bring the matter before the United Nations.

"Ang hirap kasi, ang perception ng marami na mag-gyera na tayo. Hindi po iyon eh. Naghahanap tayo ng mapayapang paraan para makamtan natin ang kinabukasan," he said.

Cerveza also clarified that the MNLF has no plans of campaigning against the Bangsamoro Basic Law once the bill creating the Bangsamoro region is enacted into law and then submitted to the people for a plebiscite.

"We would not like to be a party sa ginagawa ng gobyernong ito. We are just going to pursue ano mang mga paraan na makamtan natin ang kapayapaan at makamtan natin ang pagkasarinlan ng Mindanao, he said.

"We are trying to consolidate, meet with people, and we have already started yesterday at magpapatuloy ito. At ano ang magiging kahitnanan nito, we will have to wait it unfolding in the coming days."

'Some MILF troops angry over FAB'

Cerveza, citing "raw information" from one of his sources, said the signing of the final annex of the FAB emboldened more MILF troops to defect from the group and join MNLF.

"I got raw information that there is already taking place an exodus of rank and file [members] of the MILF because they do not agree. Ang pinirmahan sa Malaysia [has] the most contentious issue and that is the surrender of firearms. The regulars do not agree that they will have to surrender their firearms," he said.

"I was talking to a responsible commander of the a group in central Mindanao and he told me that pinoprocess na nila po ang mga lumalapit na sa kanila at malapit na. Ang estimate nila nung isang gabi is 70 percent of the forces of the MILF."

MILF: GPH, MILF clinch deal on Normalization Annex

From the MILF Website (Jan 26): GPH, MILF clinch deal on Normalization Annex

The Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the country's largest Muslim rebel group have reached a deal to end four decades of insurgency in the southern Philippines that has killed tens of thousands of people, the Sunstar reported on January 25.
Philippine presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said government negotiators and the leaders of the 11,000-strong Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) concluded talks Saturday on the final document, involving the gradual deactivation of rebel forces. The document was signed yesterday afternoon.

The accord, along with three other agreements on transitional arrangement and modalities, wealth-sharing and power-sharing, will make up a comprehensive peace pact that is expected to be signed in Manila soon.

The talks that started last Wednesday, January 22 were held in Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, which has been brokering the negotiations.

While other armed groups remain, turning the Moro rebel group into a government ally is seen as a key step to end the Muslim insurgency.

Peace pact is “world’s showcase”

Meanwhile, Malaysian facilitator Tengku Dato’ Ab Ghafar Tengku Mohammed of the GPH-MILF Peace Talks looks at the nearly completed comprehensive peace agreement as the Philippines’ second major contribution to the world, after People Power in 1986.

“The Philippines gave the world People Power in 1986. This is another,” He told MindaNews that the peace agreement is a “world’s showcase”.

“Where in the world,” he asked, “can you find a country of 90% Catholics giving autonomy to Muslims?”

Within the context of a majority-minority population, the GPH-MILF peace pact is a “world’s showcase” in peace-building, he said.

Tengku, the talks’ facilitator from 2001 to 2002 and from April 2011, said what is coming out of the “genuine negotiations” is “the most advanced autonomous body in the world.”

He described the parties as “committed” and the political negotiation as “genuine” and “sincere.”

Tengku also noted how the Philippine government considered the asymmetric relationship that the MILF proposed.

The Philippines is a unitary state with a presidential system of government. But under the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) signed on October 15, 2012, the parties agreed that Bangsamoro, the new autonomous political entity that would replace the 24-year old Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, would have a ministerial form of government, said a report by MindaNews on January 24.

The two parties on Thursday agreed to call the comprehensive peace pact as the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB).

This weekend’s signing will pave the way for the completion of the CAB.
The CAB will be signed in the Philippines but the panels have yet to agree on the date and venue of the signing.

‘NPA trying to expand in Neg. Occ.’

From the Visayan Daily Star (Jan 27): ‘NPA trying to expand in Neg. Occ.’

The New People’s Army is trying to expand and recover areas it formerly controlled in Negros Occidental, because of their displacement in Negros Oriental, Maj. Gen. Aurelio Baladad, 3rd Infantry Division commander, said.

Baladad, who supervises the internal security operations in Negros and Panay islands, said Negros Oriental is becoming peaceful, while the NPA remnants, who had been displaced by sustained military operations, coupled with Bayanihan activities, are fleeing towards Negros Occidental.

“We want to prevent that,” Baladad, who met with representatives of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace Process Friday in Talisay City in Negros Occidental, said.

Baladad said, “We need the support of everybody in addressing the insurgency problem under the Bayanihan concept”.

He condemned the series of killings in Negros island, including the killing of two civilians by the NPA in Isabela and Siaton towns, as well as the recent attack of an hacienda compound in Kabankalan City, where the rebels held 25 civilians as hostages.

In a statement is issued the National Democratic Front-Negros, laughed off the military claims that the NPA is getting weaker in Negros. On the contrary, NDF spokesman Frank Fernandez claimed, the Armed Forces of the Philippines failed to crush the revolutionary movement.

Baladad reported that 45 rebels surrendered to them last year in Negros and Panay.

7 more rebels surrender to Eastern Mindanao Command

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 27): 7 more rebels surrender to Eastern Mindanao Command

Unable to take the lawless activities being undertaken by the New People's Army (NPA) to support their senseless movement, seven fighters of the rebel group voluntarily surrendered troopers of the Eastern Mindanao Command in Compostela Valley, South Cotabato and Davao Oriental during the weekend.

The first surrender took place in Barangay Salingkumot, Baganga town, Davao Oriental last Jan. 24.

Two rebels, identified as "Bryan" and "Jason", both members of the NPA's Southern Mindanao Regional Committee, surrendered to the soldiers of the 67th Infantry Battalion around noon.

The second surrender took place in Sitio Tuboran, Barangay Ned in Lake Cebu, South Cotabato around 9:00 a.m. of Jan. 25.

The surrenderees were identified as Ailyn Pandatu, Ena Pandatu, Bonjoe Ulaw, and Dodok Quileste.

They turned themselves in to troopers of the 27th Infantry Battalion.

On Jan. 26, Efren Genoya, a suspected team leader of the NPA's extortion unit, also surrendered to the 66th Infantry Battalion in Barangay Cabinuangan, New Bataan, Compostela Valley Province around 8:00 a.m.

Capt. Alberto Caber, Eastern Mindanao Command spokesperson, said these returnees revealed that they were persuaded by the false promises of the NPA leaders and decided to surrender as they could no longer stomach the idea of conducting criminal activities just to fund their movement.

All seven surrenderees also want to be reunited with their respective families and become meaningful citizens in the community.

"They are now undergoing interview at respective headquarters and for proper disposition," Caber stressed.

For the record, there were a total of 200 NPA surrenderees for the calendar year 2013 and a total of 20 NPA surrenderees in the Eastern Mindanao Command area of responsibility as of this year.

The concerned units facilitated the livelihood and cash assistance for the NPA returnees.

Eastern Mindanao Command chief Lt. Gen. Ricardo Rainier G. Cruz III commended the returnees for deciding to return to the folds of the law and be reunited with their respective families.

“I am confident that there would be more NPA returnees in the coming days. This is the result of the collaboration between our local officials, community and our Bayanihan teams on peace outreach works in the far flung barangays," he added.

(URGENT) Govt forces launch preventive action vs. BIFF in North Cotabato, Maguindanao borders

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 27): (URGENT) Govt forces launch preventive action vs. BIFF in North Cotabato, Maguindanao borders

PIKIT, North Cotabato -- The military here launched Monday a massive law enforcement operations against renegade Moro rebels who set off bombs in the borders of Maguindanao and North Cotabato on Saturday night.

Colonel Dickson Hermoso, speaking for the 6th Infantry Division, said the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) set off an improvised explosive device in Barangay Ulandang, Midsayap, North Cotabato while another band of guerillas were seen massing in the borders of Pikit, North Cotabato and the towns of Saydona Mustapha, Datu Piang and Sultan sa Barongis in Maguindanao.

The massing of BIFF forces came after the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) signed the last of the four annexes of the Framework Agreement on Bangsamoro in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

“We have been trying to bend our tolerance but the bandits continue its lawlessness, we cannot allow this to happen,” Hermoso told reporters.

He said the surgical operations was carried out after BIFF forces set off an improvised bomb fashioned from 81-mm mortar at a roadside in Barangay Ulandang, Midsayap on Saturday night seconds after a convoy of 40th Infantry Battalion soldiers passed by. Nobody was hurt in the blast.

The Army’s 602nd Infantry Brigade fired more than 20 rounds of 105 howtizers toward Barangay Paidu Pulangi in Pikit, North Cotabato Sunday to prevent the bandits from crossing toward North Cotabato.

As this shelling was happening, residents of Barangays Paidu Pulangi, Kabasalan and nearby villages, have fled to the town center to avoid getting caught in the crossfire.

“So far no casualty was reported,” Hermoso said. “We act even before they can occupy civilian communities.”

More troops from the 7th Infantry Battalion based in Pikit were also moved to the North Cotabato-Maguindanao border as blocking force while the Army’s 2nd Mechanized Infantry Brigade was deployed in the towns of Datu Piang, Shariff Saydona and Sultan sa Barongis in Maguindanao.

“We are containing the BIFF in one area in the marshland so they cannot sow terror in other areas,” Hermoso said.

Tahira Kalantungan, chair of the Pikit municipal disaster risk reduction and management council, said the local government has imposed forced evacuation to residents in the boundary of Maguindanao and North Cotabato.

“We have no actual number of evacuees but we are asking them to leave their homes due to mortar shelling,” she said.

PA's 10th Infantry Division expresses full support for Annex of Normalization

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 27): PA's 10th Infantry Division expresses full support for Annex of Normalization

With the signing on Saturday by the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) of the Annex of Normalization, the final and fourth part of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro, officials of the Philippine Army's 10th Infantry Division said on Monday they will do everything they can to ensure that peace will prevail in Mindanao.

“This is the final step towards forging a comprehensive peace agreement with the MILF and we have to be optimistic about it. If as envisioned that this will ultimately afford genuine peace, sustainable development and more opportunities for Mindanaoans, then we, by all means support it,” said Major Gen. Ariel Bernardo, commander of the 10th Infantry Division based in Compostela Valley.

Last Saturday, the Philippine government and the MILF signed the Annex of Normalization in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

This forms an integral part of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro signed by the parties in October 2012, and lays the foundations to a process that aims to ensure human security in the proposed Bangsamoro communities by achieving improved quality of life, livelihood and political participation for its people.

“We have to make sure that our efforts for peace will not be thwarted by other groups who want only chaos in our country. We will continue our focused military operations against other armed threats, and more importantly we will remain committed to winning the peace in the communities,” Bernardo said.

Normalization 101: Firearms, amnesties and rebel camps

From Rappler (Jan 27): Normalization 101: Firearms, amnesties and rebel camps

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – From foes to partners.

The historic firearms deal signed by the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on Saturday, January 25, was the most sensitive and emotional issue on the part of the former insurgents.

As MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal said: "All the agreements are substantive and important and very very hard, but the issue of normalization is the most sensitive, emotional... As far as I know it entails a lot of sacrifices on the part of the MILF because to build real peace in Mindanao, we have to decommission our forces."

But the landmark deal does not entail a simple laying down of arms for the MILF.

As the peace process in Mindanao moves away from the negotiating table, how will the normalization process be implemented on the ground?

No surrender of arms, just putting them 'beyond use'

What will happen to the MILF's firearms and weapons? How many arms and troops will be decommissioned?

The normalization annex does not provide immediate answers to this question. Instead, an Independent Decommissioning Body will be tasked to recommend the most appropriate manner of dealing with rebel firearms after conducting an inventory and verifying the weapons and members of MILF's armed wing, the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF).

The government and the MILF have considered examples around the world, such as the Irish Republican Army model, where firearms were stored in a warehouse. The MILF, however, has ruled out the destruction of weapons.

One thing is for sure – the decommissioning process will not happen in an instant but rather in a "gradual and phased" manner, where the MILF will decommission a specific number of arms and weapons in certain timeframes. This will also coincide with parallel commitments from the government to redeploy armed and police forces in Mindanao and lead the disbandment of private armed groups.

From camps to communities

To help former rebels live a life beyond the armed struggle, customized socio-economic programs will be made available depending on their needs. A trust fund to accommodate multi-donor country support will be set up for this purpose.

As part of the normalization process, the following rebel camps will be transformed into "peaceful and productive" communities:

Camp Abubakar as-Siddique in Maguindanao

Camp Bilal in Lanao Del Norte and Lanao del Sur

Camp Omar ibn al-Khattab in Maguindanao

Camp Rajamuda in North Cotabato and Maguindanao

Camp Badre in Maguindanao

Camp Busrah Somiorang in Lanao del Sur

Both sides also committed to provide special socio-economic programs for women.


The government will grant amnesty and pardon to MILF troops charged with or convicted of crimes and offenses connected to the armed conflict in Mindanao.

This is expected to happen around February or March, government peace panel chair Miriam Coronel-Ferrer said in a report by the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

In an effort to "heal the wounds of conflict," a separate committee will also be created to recommend the most appropriate transitional justice mechanism for the Bangsamoro that would address historical injustices.

Who will oversee the process?

A number of coordinating bodies – composed of members from both sides as well as international players – will be created to facilitate the various aspects of normalization. These include:

Joint Normalization Committee

Main body that will oversee the normalization process

Terms of reference to be released within 2 months after the signing of the annex on normalization

Joint Peace and Security Committee

Composed of 3 representatives each from the government and the MILF- Tasked to coordinate with the two parties' central command and develop guidelines for effective partnership

Joint Peace and Security Teams

To be composed of Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine National Police and BIAF members that will be assigned in areas across Mindanao

Transitional Justice and Reconciliation Commission

Tasked to study and recommend appropriate mechanisms for transitional justice and reconciliation

To be headed by an international expert

The terms of existing bodies monitoring the ceasefire agreement such as the International Monitoring Team, Coordinating Committee on Cessation of Hostilites and the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group or AHJAG were also extended.

Earlier, the Independent Commission on Policing (ICP) – tasked to recommend the most appropriate form of police force for the Bangsamoro – was convened.

Police force

The Bangsamoro police force will be "professional and civilian in character," according to the annex. However, it does not identify the structure of the future police force. This will be subject to recommendations from the ICP.

The interim Bangsamoro Transition Authority shall have "substantial participation" in choosing the head to be selected from a list of 3 eligible officers as recommended by the PNP.

Redployment of AFP troops

As the situation in Mindanao gets better, the government will also redeploy AFP units and troops assigned in Bangsamoro areas.

Like the MILF, AFP troops in Mindanao will also be subjected to a joint security assessment and inventory so that only a number "necessary for national defense and security" will be retained.


When will all these parallel processes happen?

The timetable will be released upon the signing of the comprehensive agreement on the Bangamoro, according to the annex.

Soldiers attack MILF breakaway units

From Rappler (Jan 27): Soldiers attack MILF breakaway units

BREAKAWAY GROUP. Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) standing guard during a clandestine press conference at Camp Omar, in the town of Datu Unsay in Maguindanao. August 2011. File photo by Ted Aljibe/AFP

BREAKAWAY GROUP. Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) standing guard during a clandestine press conference at Camp Omar, in the town of Datu Unsay in Maguindanao. August 2011. File photo by Ted Aljibe/AFP

Only hours after the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) signed the "Annex on Normalization," which would pave the way for the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, fighting erupted in Maguindanao between soldiers and members of a breakaway group of the MILF.

Abu Misry Mama, spokesman of the breakaway Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), said one of their units was attacked by Army troops in Sultan Sa Barongis town at around 10 am Sunday, January 26.

"The fighting lasted an hour resulting [in] one injured BIFF member," Mama said. The rebel was hit by a splinter in his leg.

In a phone interview, Mama said the Army suddenly moved its forces and equipment to Datu Piang town, firing mortars and 105mm howitzer cannons. "Our base is far away from where their artillery are landing but we will attack the soldiers once they come closer to our position," Mama said.

He added that many civilians have already left their homes to seek safer ground.
As of posting, military officials said soldiers have stepped up their operations against BIFF units in Datu Piang.

Regional military spokesman Dickson Hermoso told Agence France-Presse the attacks were launched in a bid to arrest about 25 leaders of the BIFF.

Hermoso said the MILF was helping the military. "The MILF are part of the law enforcement operations. They are just securing their communities so those (BIFF fighters) cannot enter. They are also angry at the BIFF," he told AFP.

MILF military spokesman Von al-Haq confirmed that the military had coordinated with the MILF before the attack. "The BIFF cannot enter (our territories.) We have a line where we have re-positioned (personnel). If they run there, they cannot enter there unless they are surrendering," he told AFP.


Led by former 105th Base Commander Ameril Umra Kato, the BIFF splintered from the MILF after serious disagreements on the conduct of the peace negotiations with the government.

The government and the MILF peace panels hurdled the final obstacle to a peace agreement with the signing on Saturday, January 25, of the annex on how to deal with the rebels and their firearms. (READ: Gov't, MILF sign historic firearms deal)

Shortly after, the military vowed it will continue to stop what it calls "spoilers" of the peace process – groups staging violent attacks to oppose the agreement.

"Rest assured that our focused military operations will continue, to ensure that the peace process is not hampered or disrupted by spoilers and other threats," said AFP spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Ramon Zagala.

Among the so-called spoilers are the BIFF and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), particularly the faction led by founder Nur Misuari.

Military mounts offensive after BIFF opens hostilities

From InterAksyon (Jan 26): Military mounts offensive after BIFF opens hostilities

The military has deployed three battalions, or around 1,500 troops in an offensive against a Moro rebel faction that has been harassing government positions since the weekend.

The 6th Infantry Division launched the offensive Monday morning, shortly after fighters of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, which broke away from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front two years ago, resumed harassing military outposts and vehicles carrying troops in Maguindanao province earlier in the day.

6th ID spokesman Colonel Dickson Hermoso said Monday’s offensive was a “law enforcement operation in partnership with the local police” against BIFF units and leaders who have “sown chaos in the areas of Cotabato and Maguindanao,” particularly the towns of Shariff Saidona Mustapha, Sultan sa Barongis and Datu Piang in Maguindanao and Pikit in North Cotabato.


[Video: 6th ID spokesman Col. Dickson Hermoso announcing the offensive (video by Dennis Arcon,]

The government operations are also reportedly supported by MILF fighters.

BIFF fighters had also been reportedly harassing military outposts and vehicles since Saturday, just before the signing of the Annex of Normalization of the Framework Agreement on Bangsamoro between the government and the MILF.

Before the offensive was announced, intermittent explosions were noted along the boundary of North Cotabato and Maguindanao early Monday morning.

A series of explosions also rocked Lanao del Sur, North Cotabato and Cotabato provinces Friday and Saturday, although one of the blasts, which wounded seven soldiers in Makilala town, North Cotabato early Saturday, was blamed on the New People’s Army.

The first explosion, near the municipal hall of Malabang, Lanao del Sur on Friday night, was caused by dynamite laced with petroleum and ammonium nitrate.

Saturday afternoon, a homemade bomb targeted a military vehicle in Barangay Nabalawag, Midsayap, Cotabato that was carrying a squad of soldiers who had just delivered tents to a camp. No one was hurt in the incident.

And around 8 p.m. Saturday, a barangay councilor’s home was the target of a grenade attack in Pikit, North Cotabato. Although no one was hurt, the attack left relatives of Barangay Inug-og Councilor Anthony Angob terrified.

Among the military’s principal targets is BIFF commander Ustadz Muhaiden Animbang, who uses the noms de guerre Kagul Kadialen and Karialan, who leads some 250 fighters.

A picture from a wanted poster of BIFF commander Ustadz Muhaiden Animbang (Dennis Arcon,

However, the military would not comment on the whereabouts and condition of Ustadz Ameril Umbra Kato, the former MILF commander who founded the BIFF, who reportedly suffered a stroke shortly after leading the breakaway and has not been heard from since.

There have been reports of civilians fleeing their homes in Datu Piang to avoid the crossfire.

7 NPA rebels surrender in Mindanao

From the Mindanao Examiner blog site (Jan 26): 7 NPA rebels surrender in Mindanao

The Philippine Army said 7 communist rebels have surrendered separately on Sunday in the southern region of Mindanao where security forces are battling the New People’s Army.

Army Captain Alberto Caber, a spokesman for the Eastern Mindanao Command, said the latest surrender of NPA rebels added to 200 more that yielded to them last year.

He said many of those who surrendered had complained about the hardships in the mountains and the false promises made by NPA commanders, and the government offer of amnesty and livelihood to rebels on top of various social programs aimed at luring them into the folds of the law.

Caber identified the surrenderees as Efren Genoya, who is an alleged leader of a NPA extortion unit; Ailyn Pandatu, Ena Pandatu, Bonjoe Ulaw, Dodok Quileste; and two others known only by their first name as Bryan and Jason.

He said the rebels surrendered to the 66th Infantry Battalion, 67th Infantry Battalion and the 27th Infantry Battalion in Compostela Valley, South Cotabato and Davao Oriental provinces.

Gen. Ricardo Rainier Cruz III, the division commander, commended the surrender of rebels. “I am confident that there would be more NPA returnees in the coming days. This is the result of the collaboration between our local officials, community and our Bayanihan teams on peace outreach works in the far flung villages,” Cruz said.

There was no immediate statement from the NPA about the surrender of the rebels.

The NPA continues to wage a secessionist war in an attempt to put up its own communist state in the country.

MILF: Editorial -- Good intentions, but....

Editorial posted to the MILF Website (Jan 24): Good intentions, but....

Man has all the good intentions in the world but there is always that consequence, positive or negative, of every decision or act made that affects others. This is in reference to the so-called MILF group in Zamboanga City that wanted to put up an MILF Bangsamoro Political Office in the village of Cawit in this city.
The MILF central leadership is cognizant of the controversy but it decided to handle it in a low profile way.  The MILF understands the feeling of Zamboanga City Mayor Ma. Isabelle Climaco-Salazar. Whoever is in her place will feel the same way. The MNLF’s siege of Zamboanga City in November 2013 is still fresh in her mind as well as to the other residents of the city especially the victims.

We are looking at various possible roots of this odd problem. First, if indeed the group is really MILF’s, then this is due to their low ideological and political consciousness. They are innocent that the MILF is still not an above-ground organization. The only deal it has with government is through the current peace negotiation. Aside from that there is none. We have to wait for the signing of the comprehensive agreement for the Bangsamoro (CAB) between the government and the MILF before we can expect some signs of transformation from a revolutionary armed organization towards a social movement. Second, there are MILF members 2013 or 2014; meaning, they have just affiliated to the MILF very recently. This is due to the positive development in the GPH-MILF peace negotiation, which is creating a bandwagon effect that cascades into the mind of multiple numbers of people, which in turn might develop or mature into a tipping point that pushes for a trend.  And third, perhaps, there is over-reaction on the part of the village official who received the letter and perceived it as a danger in the offing.

We appreciated very much the matured handling of the row by Mayor Climaco. We know how difficult for her to balance the situation. Admittedly, Moro-Christian relations here are very fragile. Besides, both confessional groups have deep attachments and valid claims to the city. For the Moros, Zamboanga City had been the capital of the Moro Province from 1903 to 1913. Until 1923, the Moros were the majority group here. Similarly, the Christians considered the city as citadel of Christianity in Mindanao. The Spaniards and their Filipino allies were able to defend Fort Pilar from successive Moro attacks for centuries. They called it today, rightly or otherwise, as the only Latin City in the Philippines, because its dialect Chavacano is heavily rooted from the Spanish language.

For sure, it is not fair to assert that the Christians’ claim of residency is not valid. Similarly, it is unjust if the Moros would be denied the right of domicile to the city. Both communities have equal rights over the city. Any leader who denied this equal right and opportunity for the two groups is not fair.

More troops to be deployed to Caraga

From MindaNews (Jan 26): More troops to be deployed to Caraga

More soldiers will be deployed to the Caraga region in the coming weeks to boost the fight against the New People’s Army (NPA), an Army official said on Friday.

Maj. Gen. Ricardo Visaya, commander of the 4th Infantry Division (4ID), revealed the planned troop augmentation in the region during his visit at the 402nd Infantry Brigade headquarters.

Caraga covers the provinces of Agusan del Norte, Agusan del Sur, Surigao del Norte, Surigao del Sur and Dinagat Islands.

Visaya said additional troops will also be sent to the provinces of Bukidnon, Misamis Oriental and Camiguin.

He said the 1st Special Forces Battalion which arrived at the 4ID headquarters in Cagayan de Oro City last week will be deployed to Bukidnon.

“As for Caraga region, we expect two weeks from now the arrival of the 4th Scout Ranger Battalion and maybe a month from now two more army battalions and a brigade,” he added.

Visaya further said the Philippine Air Force unit stationed in Cagayan de Oro would be transferred to Caraga.

“As our ground troops will be moving in, our operations in the ground will be supported by the Philippine Air Force. There are now plans for the Tactical Operations Group I0 based in Lumbia, Cagayan del Oro City to be moved to Bancasi in Butuan City to further support in the augmentation of our troops in the region,” he said.

The 1st Special Forces Battalion was supposed to arrive last November but was sent to Tacloban City to provide additional security after super typhoon Yolanda leveled the city, Lt. Col. Nasser Ledesma, the battalion commander, told MindaNews upon their arrival last week.

Bukidnon, northern Mindanao’s landlocked province, hogged the headlines last year with the NPA attacks on fruit giant Del Monte Philippines’ base in Manolo Fortich town in February and on the police station of Kibawe town in December.

GPH, MILF extend IMT, AHJAG tour of duty by another year

From MindaNews (Jan 26): GPH, MILF extend IMT, AHJAG tour of duty by another year

Barely a  day after signing the last of the four annexes to the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) that would now pave the way for the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), the peace panels of the Philippine government (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) buckled down to work on Sunday morning by convening again at the State Room of the Palace of the Golden Horses hotel.

Government peace panel chair Miriam Coronel-Ferrer told MindaNews they convened to discuss the “next steps towards the comprehensive agreement.”

The meeting began at around 10 a.m. and ended at 12:40 p.m. with both parties agreeing to continue in the Philippines the discussions on the details of what would go into the final text of the CAB.

MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal told MindaNews they already submitted their draft text for the CAB to the GPH panel through the Malaysian facilitator late Friday. “We will thresh out the details in the  Philippines,” he said.

On Friday, both panels did not appear to be on the same page as to what would go into the CAB, with Ferrer saying it was “parang introductory” and Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Secretary Teresita Quintos-Deles saying it was “parang cover.”

For Iqbal, the text of the CAB is more than just an introduction or a cover page. He told MindaNews Friday morning that there are some issues that they want clearly spelled out in the text of the CAB. He declined to elaborate.

No date has been set for the signing of the CAB but both Ferrer and Iqbal are eyeing “February or March.”

The two panels also agreed on Sunday morning to extend the tours of duty of the Malaysian-led  International Monitoring Team (IMT) and the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG) for another year  in recognition of their important roles in the peace process.

But the number of personnel for the IMT will be reduced a bit. Details were not made available.

The panels on January 25 last year extended the mandate of the IMT until March 2014 and the AHJAG to February 14, 2014.

The IMT is mandated to monitor the ceasefire agreements between the GPH and MILF “in order to create a conducive environment for peace negotiations and development initiatives in the conflict-affected areas of Mindanao.”  The IMT was first deployed in 2004, its mandate renewed annually.

The AHJAG on the other hand is a joint team against criminal elements operating in “MILF areas/communities, in order to pursue and apprehend such criminal elements.” The group operates in tandem with their respective Coordinating Committees on the Cessation of Hostilities.”

The panels on Saturday evening signed the Annex on Normalization and the Addendum on Bangsamoro Waters and Zones of Joint Cooperation.

Under the FAB which was signed on October 15, 2012, the panels agreed that the status quo is unacceptable and that they would work for the creation of a new autonomous political entity called the Bangsamoro, to replace the 24-year old Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM),  by June 30, 2016.

But the ARMM’s three-year term from 2013 will be cut short to give way to the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) which will take over from the ARMM when the Bangsamoro Basic Law is ratified.

The FAB provides for four annexes that both parties committed to complete by yearend 2012.  But they were unable to follow their timeline. Aside from the Annex on Normalization, the Annex on Transitional Arrangements and Modalities was signed in February; the Annex on Revenue Generation and Wealth Sharing in July; the Annex on Power-Sharing in December with both parties agreeing to tackle the contentious Bangsamoro Waters issue as an addendum to the annexes on power- and wealth-sharing.

BIFF, MNLF-Misuari skeptical of latest peace accord

From the Manila Bulletin (Jan 26): BIFF, MNLF-Misuari skeptical of latest peace accord

Spokesmen of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and the Moro National Liberation Front-Misuari Group (MNLF-Misuari) have extended their congratulatory messages  to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the government for recently reaching peace accord in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. However, both spokespersons Abu Misry Mama (BIFF) and Emmanuel Fontanilla  (MNLF-Misuari) don’t believe it will solve the peace problem in Mindanao.

In an interview with Manila Bulletin on Sunday, Misry was dismissive of the latest peace accord.

“Congratulations po sa kanila (to them),” Misry said then laughed.

“Pero hanggang pirma lang yan, sa implementation parang malabo yata (It’s only good until signing, implementation doesn’t seem clear),” Misry told the Manila Bulletin.

He added that the BIFF will continue its fight to establish an independent Islamic state in Mindanao.

Part of the accord signed in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on Saturday was for the MILF to abandon their armed struggle in exchange for much broader autonomy in regions in Mindanao that will be under the MILF’s control.

“We are not fighting for autonomy, we are for an independent Islamic state here”, Misry insisted.

For the MNLF-Misuari faction, Fontanilla told Manila Bulletin that while they appreciate the efforts of the MILF and the government, the new peace accord does not represent the concrete solution to the problems in Mindanao because only a few people and group were involved in the process.

“Where are the Tausugs, Yakans, Badjaos and the Maranaos?” Fontanilla asked.

He added that the perceived solution is only an illusion and a deceitful action of MalacaƱang to serve its political agenda and accommodate the United States of America’s (USA) and Malaysia’s interests in the natural resources of Mindanao particularly its oil reserves.

Both Misry and Fontanilla believe that the peace accord will not prosper as various sectors and groups in Mindanao will oppose it during plebiscite.

All MILF detainees get amnesty

The Daily Tribune (Jan 27): All MILF detainees get amnesty

Part of the normalization annex in the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) provides for a general amnesty to Muslim insurgents but only if they are members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in exchange for the decommissioning of the armed units of the rebel group, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Deles said.

The amnesty provision was aimed at facilitating “the healing of the wounds of conflict and the return to normal life,” Deles said.

Under the normalization annex, a joint task force will also be formed to develop six major MILF camps as “peaceful and productive communities” but did not provide any details on the timeframe of the plan.

“There will be no more camps, they will become peaceful, unarmed communities,” Deles said. “(MILF stronghold) Camp Abubakar will no longer be known as such,” she said.

Deles claimed that another provision seeks the forming of an independent Decommissioning Body to be led by foreign experts to oversee the deactivation of rebel forces and collection of their weapons and, in exchange, military presence in the autonomous region would be scaled down and a joint assessment would be made for an orderly redeployment of troops and “avoid a security vacuum.”

“They need to be assured that they will be secure even if they are decommissioned and their weapons put beyond use,” Deles said.

The government and the MILF projected a final peace deal to be called the comprehensive agreement on Bangsamoro (CAB) would be signed within weeks. A “comprehensive agreement” with the MILF should be signed in February or March, Manila’s chief negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer said.

“We have just been discussing the next steps and our goal is to be able to get a good schedule for that,” she said from the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur where the last round of talks was held.

“We have set a time frame of between February and March,” she added.

The talks that began in 1996 with the 12,000-strong MILF are aimed at ending an insurgency in the country’s south that has left an estimated 150,000 people dead since the 1970s.

On Saturday, both sides agreed on a “normalization” deal detailing how the rebels will hand over their weapons and the creation of a security force to police what will be a self-ruled Muslim region.

Both sides had previously signed deals on power-sharing, taxation and governance, but the last agreement was more sensitive because the MILF had repeatedly warned it would not lay down its arms unless other threat groups in the south were disarmed.
After the final deal is signed, President Benigno Aquino is expected to sign a “basic law” for the creation of a new autonomous region for the Muslims.

This would then be passed to Congress, and subjected to a referendum, with Aquino hoping to have it completed by the time he ends his six-year term in 2016.

Long years of insurgency have left much of the southern region of Mindanao volatile, with a proliferation of unlicensed firearms in the hands of other armed groups, including Al Qaeda-linked militants and offshoots that are opposed to the talks.

But Ferrer said that to thwart any possible armed challenges, a joint security group composed of MILF fighters and government forces would be tasked to patrol the areas to be covered during the transition phase.

“There will always be contrarians, but as far as the partnership between the MILF and the government is concerned, we have mechanisms that will allow us to address peace and order concerns more effectively,” Ferrer said.

She did not specify any group, but the toughest challenge to the peace deal came in September, when hundreds of supporters of rebel leader Nur Misuari laid siege to a key southern port city, leaving more than 240 dead in three weeks of fighting.

Misuari, who remains at large, founded the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), from which the MILF splintered in the late 1970s.

MILF vice chairman for political affairs, Ghazali Jaafar, told AFP Sunday that the rebels were “ecstatic” over the new development but said much work remained to be done.

“The next step is that we will have to talk about the final wording of the comprehensive compact agreement,” he said. “Meantime, a transitional commission will have to start drafting the basic law to be sent to Congress.”

He said he believed a final deal would be in place “soon” but that some members of Congress in the mainly Catholic country may oppose the agreement.

Ferrer however said the peace process was “on track” to meet Aquino’s deadline.
“We believe the majority of our people and our decision- and opinion-makers are on our side,” she said.

The United States, Japan and the Europan Union were also upbeat about the breakthrough, calling it a historic moment that could finally bring peace to the region.

“This agreement offers the promise of peace, security, and economic prosperity now and for future generations in Mindanao,” US Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement.

The MILF said the whole country should rejoice with the signing of the normalization annex, the last contentious item under the FAB that paved the way for the final agreement.

MILF Vice Chairman Ghadzali Jaafar said that the breakthrough in the peace negotiations between government of the Philippines (GPH) and MILF reached last Thursday evening will usher the end of Mindanao conflict.

“The MILF is not the only one happy but the entire Bangsamoro people, all the people of Mindanao and in the entire Philippines because the signing of the annex on normalization will mean the start of the discussion of the comprehensive compact agreement,” said Jaafar.

“And when the comprehensive compact agreement is signed, it will user in the end of Mindanao conflict, the war in Mindanao because the root-cause of the conflict in Mindanao is the Bangsamoro issue…the desire of the Bangsamoro people to have their own government, a government run by them but it is still under the Republic of the Philippines and it is not separate,” he added.

Jaafar stressed that the agreement being pursued by the MILF will be inclusive of all the Bangsamoro people and not only for the MILF, including the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) from where the MILF broke away before the MNLF signed a Final Peace Agreement in 1996 with the government.

“This agreement is for everybody, for every Bangsamoro including the MNLF,” said Jaafar.

The MILF vice chairman, however, emphasized that the MILF is not asking unification of the two fronts. “What is important is for each Bangsamoro to support this agreement,” he said.

Earlier, the MNLF group of Nur Misuari rejected the invitation of the MILF to participate in the crafting of the Bangsamoro Basic Law.

The MNLF, through spokesman Absalom Cerveza, also warned that the signing of the normalization annex, which calls for disarmament of MILF forces, may lead to disintegration as most Moro fighters would not agree to surrender their firearms to the government.

Cerveza said that disgruntled MILF members would join the MNLF and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters of Ustazd Ameril Umbra Kato, who broke away from the MILF due to difference in handling the peace negotiations.

Jaafar dismissed Cerveza’s warning as speculation.

“That is an speculation. How would Rev Cerveza, with due respect to him, know the feelings of the Moro combatants. He does not know,” said Jaafar.

The signing of the normalization annex was announced Saturday by Malacanang.
According to Jaafar, the crafting of the comprehensive compact agreement can start anytime upon mutual agreement by both parties. He said the drafting will be a “consolidation” and will not come from one group.

Jaafar stressed that all issues tackled in the negotiating table between the MILF and GPH peace panels were approved by the MILF Central Committee.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), meanwhile, expressed readiness to thwart any attempt by the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) to conduct atrocities in response to the signing of the normalization annex of the Framework Agreement on Bangsamoro (FAB) between the government of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

The BIFF, founded by Ustadz Ameril Umbra Kato, broke away from the MILF in 2011 due to differences in handling of the peace negotiations. Kato is known to be among the hardliners who want an independent Islamic state in Mindanao instead of an autonomous territory.

Prior to the signing of the FAB in 2012, the BIFF launched widespread attacks in Central Mindanao.

Col. Dickson Hermoso, spokesman of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division (ID) said the military, in coordination with the police, is ready in case the BIFF launches atrocities.
Hermoso, however, stressed that the BIFF forces are contained in certain areas.

“Most likely, magwawala yan, but they are contained in one place, because they are against the peaceful settlement. But in case magwawala naman sila, our soldiers and policemen are prepared,” said Hermoso.

Hermoso, however, said the military is coordinating closely with appropriate government agencies to0 persuade the BIFF not to resort to violence.

The military placed the strength of the BIFF at 250 members, with only 10 percent considered hardcore.

Meanwhile, AFP-Public Information Office chief Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala welcomed the signing of the normalization annex as another step toward lasting peace in Mindanao.

“The AFP is optimistic that lasting peace and sustainable development for Mindanao is now in our reach as the government is in near realization of forging a final peace agreement with the MILF,” said Zagala.

“Rest assured that our focused military operations will continue, to ensure that the peace process is not hampered or disrupted by spoilers and other threats,” he added.

Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel wanted the public to take time to study all the four FAB annexes including an addendum on Bangsamoro Waters and to actively participate in the national roadmap to peace in Mindanao in light of its critical importance to national development.

“Let us not be indifferent to the gains of peace that have been achieved through peaceful negotiations. I observed how serious both panels were in pursuing a successful conclusion to the ongoing talks. Our country deserves a peace agreement that would lift Mindanao up and onwards to a brighter, more progressive future,” Pimentel stressed.

The senator from Mindanao noted that the Annex on Normalization was an indication of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s sincerity in sealing a peace pact with the government. “There are solid commitments here for the decommissioning of firearms and the socio-economic empowerment of conflict-affected communities. When the MILF combatants fully embrace the cause of peace, it is with the knowledge that their families and communities will gain not just physical security but economic security as well.”

Pimentel said he would study every provision in the four annexes and addendum on the Bangsamoro Waters so he can be an informed source on the complex issues.

“Next to the conclusion of the fourth and final annex to the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro is the formal signing of the comprehensive peace pact that will be the basis of the Bangsamoro Basic Law. As legislators, I expect that we shall all do our homework in studying this comprehensive agreement while the draft law is yet to be submitted to us by the President,” Pimentel added.

Meanwhile, Pimentel said that he is willing to work closely with civil society groups and the legal community in bringing the comprehensive peace pact closer to the people.

“This peace agreement is not only for Mindanao but for the entire country. Mindanao comprises 1/3 of the Philippines. If we are successful in achieving a just and lasting peace in Mindanao, then we will emerge as a stronger, more united and therefore more competitive nation,” Pimentel said.

Senate President Franklin Drilon also hailed the peace panels from both sides and said that the Senate is “more than prepared to work on legislation capacitating the peace accords,” which would end four decades of armed conflict in central Mindanao.

“The completion of all the annexes has proven that we Filipinos are not ruled by our differences, but by our shared desire for peace, equality and prosperity as a nation,” he said.

“The admirable commitment and hard work of both parties- the government, the MILF panel, and the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process- have led to a historic stride in this decades-old quest for peace in Mindanao,” he added.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague also welcomed the pursuit of the comprehensive peace agreement saying the “conclusion of negotiations between the Government of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front for a comprehensive peace agreement is a significant step towards lasting peace and development for Mindanao.”

“As we know from our own experience, many of the most difficult challenges will emerge as the parties work towards implementing the agreement. But the courage and leadership shown by the parties gives great hope that these can be overcome and we are ready to provide whatever further support we can to help the people of Moro and the Philippines recover from this devastating conflict,” he said.

Sulu sultan’s spokesman: Include Pinoys in Sabah in GRP-MILF peace deal

From the Business Mirror (Jan 26): Sulu sultan’s spokesman: Include Pinoys in Sabah in GRP-MILF peace deal

THE spokesman of the Royal Sultanate of Sulu said the peace deal between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) must consider the case of Filipinos in Sabah, whom he claims are taking the brunt of a crackdown by the Malaysian government.
Sulu Sultanate Spokesman Abraham Idjirani also appealed to the Philippine government to probe the alleged rounding-up and maltreatment of Filipinos as a crackdown on undocumented migrants began in Malaysia mid-January.
The government is a party to the peace talks with the MILF, which is being facilitated by Malaysia.
On Saturday the government signed the Annex on Normalization with the MILF in Malaysia in the presence of a Malaysian official that brought much closer to the forging of a peace agreement between the government and the MILF.
Idjirani, however, said the Sultanate is not against the peace agreement between the government and the MILF.
Idjirani said members of the Sultanate will remain in Sabah despite the crackdown. Still, he voiced his concern for the other Filipinos who have no one to turn to.
The Sultanate said the government cannot “smilingly” deal with Malaysia as the facilitator of its talks with the MILF while Filipinos are being hunted like wild animals, rounded up and abused by the Malaysian government.
Followers of the Sultanate and Malaysian forces clashed last year after members of the Sultanate went back to Sabah, which they claimed they owned.
Last week Datu Esmail Kiram II asked the United Nations “to take the necessary preferential attentions for a peaceful resolution of the conflict to avoid further bloodshed, which we do not like to happen again.”
“How can Malaysia continue to occupy, exploit and utilize North Borneo’s [Sabah’s] natural wealth and resources, such as oil, which does not belong to her by historic right and legal title?” he said.
The leader of the Sultanate also appealed to the Organization of Islamic Conference to help in the peaceful resolution of their claim over Sabah.
“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 [Sabah] by historic and moral obligations,” Kiram II also said.

CPP: Video -- War Game

Posted to the CPP Website (Jan 26): Video: War Game

War games are exercises regularly conducted by the NPA to maintain the Red fighters' war footing. Experience dictates that their offensive posture gives them the courage and enthusiasm to thwart the enemy and achieve victories.

Watch more about this in the upcoming video "Istatus: SMR" to be released next week.


CPP: Photos -- Red Salute! CPP45!

Photo album posted to the CPP Website (Jan 25): Photos: Red Salute! CPP45!

Northeast Mindanao Region NPA forces celebrate the 45th anniversary of the Communist Party of the Philippines.
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Pinoy fishermen defy Chinese fishing rules in Panatag

From ABS-CBN (Jan 26): Pinoy fishermen defy Chinese fishing rules in Panatag

Filipino fishermen have ignored the new fishing rules announced by China over disputed fishing grounds in Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said yesterday.

Gazmin said seven local fishing boats were sighted Thursday in the shoal, their traditional fishing grounds, even as China maintained its presence in the shoal, locally known as Bajo de Masinloc, off the coast of Zambales.

“In Bajo de Masinloc, as of (Thursday), the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) reported that they sighted three coast guard vessels of the Chinese in the shoal but seven fishing boats belonging to the Philippines, to Filipino fishermen, were also sighted,” he said.

When asked whether China implemented its controversial fishing rules in Panatag, Gazmin said: “If that were implemented, they (Filipino fishermen) would have been arrested.”

Gazmin said local fishermen could freely fish in the shoal and are not experiencing harassment.

He said the local fishermen went there voluntarily without escort from government authorities.

Located 124 nautical miles from the nearest point in Zambales, Panatag Shoal has been a traditional fishing area for local fishermen.

China started beefing up its presence in the shoal on April 10, 2012, when Chinese surveillance ships barred the Philippine Navy from arresting Chinese poachers who had harvested endangered marine species, including giant clams and corals.

China has since deployed various ships in the area, which is well within the Philippines’ 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone.

The Philippines used to send civilian ships to the area to face off with the Chinese vessels but were pulled out on June 15, 2012 allegedly due to bad weather.

Early this month, Chinese media reported that Beijing would enforce a new law requiring foreign fishing boats to seek its permission before operating in the West Philippine Sea.

The law issued by the Hainan Provincial People’s Congress reportedly took effect last month and covered two million hectares of the disputed area.

The Philippines said it would ignore the law and warned the fishing policy could escalate tensions in the West Philippine Sea. It added that the fishery law is “a gross violation of the international law.”

The defense department, nevertheless, expressed readiness to provide security escort to Filipino fishermen if necessary.


China’s former ambassador to Liberia was named as the next Chinese envoy to the Philippines, replacing Ma Keqing.

Diplomatic sources said Zhao Jianhua will replace Ma, whose tour of duty ended last month.

Zhao also worked at the Asia desk of China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. His first ambassadorial assignment in Africa was to Liberia.

 At an investiture ceremony last Dec. 6, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf admitted Zhao into the Humane Order of African Redemption, with the grade of Knight Great Band.

In the two years and seven months since Zhao presented his Letters of Credence in May 2011, Sirleaf said he had distinguished himself as a representative of China, bringing great dynamism to bilateral relations, and seeking new avenues of cooperation to support Liberia’s reconstruction and development.

Mixed emotions for MNLF on peace deal

From ABS-CBN (Jan 26): Mixed emotions for MNLF on peace deal

The Sema faction of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) has mixed emotions about the signing of the final annex of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on Saturday.

The faction's spokesman, former ARMM assemblyman Romeo Sema, cited the impasse in the peace process between the government and the MNLF pending the implementation of some provisions in the 1996 final peace agreement (FPA).

If some felt betrayed, Sema said the central committee will thoroughly evaluate and study the normalization annex of the Philippine government and the MILF to determine how this compared to the provisions of a regional security force in the FPA.

The MNLF is still hopeful that they can still iron the impasse and immediately convene the tripartite meeting.