Tuesday, February 25, 2014

MILF commander thanks military custodians

From MindaNews (Feb 26): MILF commander thanks military custodians

The commander of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s 118th Base Command who was arrested  late Sunday afternoon and released early Tuesday evening thanked the 6th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army for the “mainit na pagtanggap” (warm reception) given him while he was in their custody.

Ustadz Wahid Tundok was arrested in a checkpoint in Cotabato City late Sunday afternoon by a joint team of police operatives from the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) and the Marines. Reports said he was served a warrant for multiple murder and arson.

Fearing possible retaliation from Tundok’s followers, the CIDG turned him over to the 6th Infantry Division for safekeeping on Sunday night. Tundok stayed there until a local court granted his motion for reinvestigation of the issuance of the warrant.”

In Maguindanaon, Tundok also thanked the GPH-MILF Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH) as well as Datu Saudi Ampatuan mayor Sam Dimaukom,  Shariff Aguak mayor Zahara Upam Ampatuan, peace advocates and the leadership of the MILF.

He said his release is proof of the commitment of  both the GPH and MILF in the final stages of the peace process.

The two panels on January 25 signed the Annex on Normalization, the last of four Annexes to the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) and are preparing to sign the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) next month.

Dimaukom, a relative of Tundok, said they did everything to prevent any untoward incident that may lead to the collapse of the peace process.

Dimaukom was among those who fetched Tundok from the 6th ID camp in Datu Odin Sinsuat town before they proceeded to the MILF’s Camp Darapanan in Sultan Kudarat town, also in Maguindanao early Tuesday evening.

“Yun ang purpose ko na di ko siya bibitawan dahil may tensyon na sa ground, para din madali ko lang siya kausapin, para matawagan ang ground commander kung sakali at hindi na lumawak pa ang gulo”  (That was the purpose why I didn’t leave him behind, because there was tension on the ground and it would be easier for him to call the ground commander, if ever trouble ensued, and prevent it from expanding).


Palace rejects bilateral talks with China, to pursue arbitration case

From GMA News (Feb 26): Palace rejects bilateral talks with China, to pursue arbitration case

Malacañang on Wednesday rejected the call of the Chinese government for bilateral negotiations in connection with the alleged harassment of Filipino fishermen at the disputed Scarborough (Panatag) Shoal by Chinese authorities.

Instead, the Philippines will pursue the arbitration case it filed before the United Nations (UN), according to deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte on Wednesday.

During a press conference, Valte said the government is already preparing the memorial—or written pleading—for submission. The memorial will be the country's formal statement regarding China’s claim of sovereignty over territories in the South China Sea.

“So essentially, the memorial is already being prepared. While I can tell you generally that it will contain the position of government when it comes to this, I cannot delve into specifics," she said.

"[But] I think we have already made a solid case before the international community," Valte added.

The Philippines, through the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), has filed a diplomatic protest against China over several cases of harassment of Filipino fishermen, including last month’s water cannon attack, in Manila-claimed Panatag Shoal off the South China Sea.

China, meanwhile, has urged the Philippines "to work with the Chinese side to resolve differences through bilateral consultations and negotiations.”


MILF: Bangsamoro Relief Operation Group distributes relief goods to Maguindanao evacuees

Posted to the MILF Website (Feb 26): Bangsamoro Relief Operation Group distributes relief goods to Maguindanao evacuees

The Bangsamoro Relief Operation Group based in Marawi City distributed relief goods last February 16 to evacuees in a remote village in Datu Piang, Maguindanao affected by the recent armed clashes between the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).
The skirmishes affected the towns of Sultan Sa Barongis, Datu Piang, Mamasapano, Rajah Buayan, and Datu Abdullah Sangki, all in Maguindanao.

Some families from the towns of Midsayap and Pikit in North Cotabato have also left their homes, according to the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao’s Humanitarian Emergency Action Response Team.

Agakhan M.Sharief , lead convener of the relief operations told the evacuees that  "Bangsamoro is like  one body, If one part is hurt, the whole body feels it."

The group travelled all the way from Marawi City to Datu Piang, Maguindanao. They boarded a motorized boat just to reach their destination.

Among the group who participated in the relief operations were Ridjaluudeen; Khadijah Mohammad Islamic Academy (KMIA); Philippine Muslim Teachers College (PMTC), Free the Bangsamoro Movement (FBM) and MinRHac.

MILF: Philippines National Police raids MILF positions in Sarangani

From the MILF Website (Feb 26): Philippines National Police raids MILF positions in Sarangani

Members of Philippine National Police belonging to the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) and Special Action Force (SAF) raided positions of MILF-BIAF 105th Base Command at Barangay Lagundi, Kiamba, and Barangay Daliao, Maasim, both in Sarangani Province on February 18, 2014 which started around 3:00 in the morning that resulted to a brief skirmishes.
The raiders were searching for alleged illegal drugs in the MILF controlled areas and were serving a search warrant.

Two MILF members from Barangay Lagundi, and a Moro civilian from Barangay Daliao were brought to Camp Fermin Lera, General Santos City for questioning. There were no confirmed reports of casualties from both sides.

The raids at the said areas were clear violations of the GPH-MILF ceasefire agreement.


Army soldiers, NPA rebels figure in 2 encounters in CamSur in one day

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 25): Army soldiers, NPA rebels figure in 2 encounters in CamSur in one day

Two separate encounters occurred between members of the 42nd Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army and New People's Army (NPA) rebels in the towns of Bato and Pasacao, both in the province of Camarines Sur, on Monday.

A belated police report said the first encounter took place at about 12:00 noon in Barangay Sooc, Bato, Camarines Sur, which lasted in 10 minutes.

The dissidents immediately retreated towards the direction of Albay when reinforcements from the government side arrived.

The second clash happened at about 4:00 p.m. in Sitio Caliriohan, Barangay Bagong Sirang, Pasacao, Camarines Sur, where another group of rebels engaged members of the Bravo Company of the 42nd IB who were on a patrol mission in the area.

A ten-minute firefight ensued, after which the rebels fled, the report said.

Military officials believed that the two groups that the soldiers encountered would merge to stage ambush missions on government troopers conducting patrol operations in various parts of Camarines Sur.


Albay insurgency-free by June – Army commander

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 25): Albay insurgency-free by June – Army commander

CAMP GEN. SIMEON A. OLA, Legazpi City -– By June, Albay province is insurgency-free, a top Philippine Army official said.

Col, Raul Farnacio, commanding officer of the 901st Infantry Brigade, assured Albayanos that the insurgency problem in the province now is at a minimal level -- thus, his June timetable in setting the province as dissident-free.

Farnacio cited the continuous clearing operations his troops are doing against the New People's Army (NPA) in the area.

He said the rebels are now weakening in the villages of Legazpi City, Guinobatan, Camalig, Daraga and Jovellar which are under the process of being cleared by government troops.

The Army official said that anytime in June, they will already turn over to the Philippine National Police and the local Peace and Order Council the maintenance of peace, order and security in the entire province of Albay.

He, however, did not discount the possibility of the strong presence of the rebels in neighboring provinces who may launch offensives against their forces.

“But we are always ready for any eventuality,” Farnacio said.

In the past months and years, several top officials of the NPA have already been captured or killed.

“This is a big blow on the rebels,” the military commander said.

Albay Gov. Joey Sarte Salceda expressed satisfaction over Farnacio’s assurance of a rebel-free Albay by June as it will boost his program of bolstering tourism and business in the province.

Foreign tourists have been coming to Albay in the past months to visit the province’s various attractive tourist spots and enjoy the Albayano hospitality.


Trooper killed in encounter with NPA extortion teams in Samar

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 25): Trooper killed in encounter with NPA extortion teams in Samar

A trooper from the 87th Infantry Battalion was killed following a 15-minute firefight with suspected New People's Army (NPA) extortion teams in Jiabong town, Samar last Sunday.

Belated reports from Capt. Amado Gutierrez, 8th Infantry Division spokesperson, said the encounter took place around 9:30 a.m. on February 23.

He added that soldiers from their 87th Infantry Battalion were conducting routine security patrols and community service in the vicinity of Barangays Lulugayan and Camarubo-an, Jiabong town when it chanced upon NPA extortion teams resulting in the encounter.

Gutierrez said the rebels immediately retreated after taking an undetermined number of injured or casualty. Pursuit operations are still ongoing.

He declined to identify the fallen soldier pending notification of the latter's next-of-kin.


80 rebel guns seized by Eastern Mindanao Command troops

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 25): 80 rebel guns seized by Eastern Mindanao Command troops

Troopers from the Eastern Mindanao Command have seized around 80 rebel firearms during the 14-month period covering the entire 2013 and first two months of the present year, Capt. Alberto Caber said on Tuesday.

Weapons seized by the unit in its anti-insurgency operations include 43 M-16 automatic rifles, 13 AK-47, 11 M-1 "Garand," eight M-14s and four carbines.

The Eastern Mindanao Command covers the provinces of Agusan Del Norte, Agusan Del Sur, Bukidnon, Camiguin, Davao del Norte, Davao Del Sur, Davao Oriental, Misamis Oriental, Surigao Del Norte, and Surigao Del Sur.

Caber said they expect to capture more rebel weapons before the end of 2014.


ASEAN navy officers, defense researchers now crafting HADR

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 25): ASEAN navy officers, defense researchers now crafting HADR

Around 30 ASEAN navy officers and civilian defense researchers gathered at the Heritage Hotel in Pasay City on Tuesday to work on a common protocol for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations (HADR) in the region.

Senior naval officers from Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore and Vietnam, along with civilian defense researchers from Singapore and the Philippines, are now crafting a document that will guide the bilateral and multilateral arrangements to HADR actions of the various maritime and naval forces in the ASEAN region.

The participants will also become the initial Navy focal persons on HADR for their respective navies.

The workshop was initiated and hosted by the Philippine Navy following the challenges, problems and difficulties it encountered in the multinational disaster response during super typhoon "Yolanda" in November last year.

The common protocol for HADR operations, if finally approved and signed into a formal agreement by all ASEAN navies, is expected to provide common procedures as reference for planning, training and conduct of HADR operations in accordance with international standards and principles.

The workshop will also cover mutually agreed standard operation procedures, including organization, administrative support, planning and communications guide to be used by the participating ASEAN navies.


Japan Coast Guard in PHL for a 3-day training exercise on maritime law enforcement

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 25): Japan Coast Guard in PHL for a 3-day training exercise on maritime law enforcement

A delegation from the Japan Coast Guard (JCG) arrived in the country on Tuesday for a three-day training exercise with their counterparts at the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG).

PCG Commandant Vice Admiral Rodolfo Isorena welcomed the JCG head by Lt. Cmdr. Tadao Nishizono during the courtesy call at the PCG headquarters in Manila.

Isorena said the JCG delegation together with the PCG will engage in the training exercises on Integrated Maritime Seaborne Law Enforcement scheduled Feb. 25 to 27 at Pier 13, South Harbor, Manila.

The PCG chief said the exercises include discussions on cross border law enforcement activities as both groups will also tackle issues on the application of rules of engagement against poaching and illegal intrusion.

Isorena said the actual training exercise simulating a poaching incident will be held on the third and final day of the training exercises at Manila Bay.


PA activates Fort Bonifacio Commissary & Exchange Store

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 25): PA activates Fort Bonifacio Commissary & Exchange Store

The Philippine Army (PA) on Monday inaugurated its newly-constructed Fort Bonifacio Commissary & Exchange Store (FB C&X) in Taguig City.

In a statement, the PA said Lt. Gen. Virgilio O. Domingo, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) deputy-chief-of-staff, was present as guest of honor and speaker.

Domingo was warmly welcomed by the Army commander, Major Gen. Hernando DCA Iriberri, who was also special guest during the inauguration.

"This is why the AFP leadership remains committed in its aim to meet the needs of the AFP personnel in the most convenient means possible. Likewise, it is also desired that their dependents be also provided with the same benefits in return for the service they have selflessly rendered throughout the years," he stressed.

The C&X Store provides most of the basic commodities the soldiers and their families need on a day-to-day basis. It is the cheapest of its kind, compared to those sold in other regular grocery stores and supermarkets outside military camps, because the items are VAT (value added tax)-exempt.

With a floor area of 1,578 square meters, the new concessionaire can accommodate wide range of products which are neatly organized in shelves.

The large area is also air-conditioned, which makes it more convenient for the shoppers, who are mostly soldiers, military dependents, and civilian employees.

Previously, the commissary occupied a very limited space, which was originally intended to be the Enlisted Personnel Mess Hall.

Aside from its well-organized interior features, the new commissary has a drug store to cater to the basic medical needs of its primary customers.

The plan was conceptualized by the Office of the Army Chief Engineers (OACE), but was funded by the AFP Commissary Exchange Store. It cost P15 million to build.

The construction, which was carried out by a private contractor, the ACS Development and Property Managers Inc., started last Sept. 24.

For the past several years, the government has continued its unending support to all Commissary and Exchange stores nationwide by providing millions of pesos worth of tax credit certificates which eventually garnered millions worth of profit that sustain its operations.


Water cannon attack on Filipino fishermen does not merit military response

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 25): Water cannon attack on Filipino fishermen does not merit military response

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Tuesday said there is no need to respond militarily to the Chinese Coast Guard's water cannon attack against Filipino fishermen.

"The incident is alarming, however, we do not (believe that this) merits a military response," said AFP public affairs chief Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala.

Zagala noted the Philippines does not want to escalate the already volatile situation in the area.

"It is a concern that merits further discussion on how to deal in such situations, that's why it's very important that there is a code of conduct that must be agreed upon by all claimants to avoid such incidents such as this," he pointed out.


Securing territorial waters core competency of Western Command

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 26): Securing territorial waters core competency of Western Command

Having the Palawan-based Western Command secure Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal is very ideal militarily as securing territorial waters is the unit's "core competency".

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) public affairs office chief Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala Tuesday stressed this when asked whether the Western Command will be overextended by this task.

The transfer took place last week.

This was done through the orders of AFP chief-of-staff Gen. Emmanuel Bautista.

"That is their core competency (securing territorial waters). Remember that the Western Command traditionally is commanded by an Air Force or a Navy officer primarily because of (its) external (defense implications)," he added.

By this, Zagala means that the Western Command is geared towards handling threats from the air and sea.

He also clarified that the decision to transfer Scarborough Shoal from the Northern Luzon Command to the Western Command aims to enhance the "unity of command and assets of the AFP" in terms of external defense capabilities.

"We want to enhance our external defense capabilities and in order to do that it should be commanded by one commander," the AFP public affairs chief stressed.

Zagala stressed that no major upheaval will take place despite Scarborough Shoal being attached to the Western Command areas of responsibility, as the said unit is primarily tasked to defend Philippine territorial waters.

Western Command is tasked to secure Palawan territorial waters and the Western Philippine Sea.

"These are all at sea, if you look at it and the Western Command has the necessary assets (both air and sea) that can address territorial defense and monitoring," he added.

And should there be an immediate need to deploy naval assets to respond to possible incidents in Scarborough Shoal, Zagala said that the Western Command can always use prepositioned naval assets in nearby areas.


China offers PH 'carrot' to quit case

From Rappler (Feb 26): China offers PH 'carrot' to quit case

In a last-ditch attempt to derail a historic case, China has offered the Philippines incentives such as the mutual withdrawal of ships from the disputed Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal, sources told Rappler.

China wants to stop the Philippines from submitting its written pleading, called a memorial, to the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) by March 30, these sources said.

Asked for comment, the Chinese Embassy said it has “no information to offer” about this.

But former national security adviser Roilo Golez said China is “worried” about the memorial. “In fact, they're even offering a carrot so that we don't submit on the deadline,” he said.

The “carrot,” he said, is the offer to mutually withdraw from the shoal in the contested West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

Golez told Rappler he got this information from one of the back channels in the maritime dispute, but refused to reveal his source.

Panatag is now practically occupied by Chinese ships following a tense standoff in 2012 where the Philippines withdrew its ship. At least 3 Chinese coast guard ships are in the area, based on latest military reports. There are local and fishing vessels there too. (READ: PH military beefs up Scarborough)

A former congressman in touch with several sources on the dispute, Golez helped convene the West Philippine Sea Coalition, which stands “in dignified defiance of China.” In July 2013, the group even led a protest that forced the Chinese consulate to temporarily close “for security reasons.” (READ: Filipinos tell China: Bad feng shui to take what isn't yours)

He is not alone in making the claim about China's offer. Two insiders in government also confirmed this to Rappler.

China's offer 'not enough'

Behind the scenes, President Benigno Aquino III convened his entire Cabinet in the last week of January to discuss China's offer, according to a source privy to government meetings held in relation to this. It was a closed-door session that the Palace did not announce.

Through a lawmaker who acted as a backdoor negotiator, China reportedly offered not only the mutual withdrawal from Panatag, but also more investments.

This issue divided the Cabinet. Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario stood by his position to pursue the case, the source said.

When asked if the Philippines is considering not to submit the memorial, another insider said, “At this time, no.”

This Palace source explained the Cabinet wasn't happy with China's offer to withdraw from Panatag. “With what's on the table, there's not enough.”

The issue, after all, “did not start there,” and is “just a manifestation of an earlier problem.”

The government's other concern, according to the source, is that the offer came from a backdoor channel. It was possible that the negotiator talked to the wrong people.

The source said the Palace, however, is not completely closing its doors on China's offer. To submit the memorial is Aquino's choice in the end.

In any case, a senior government official said the situation “will get worse before it gets better.” “China is doing everything it can to make things difficult for us,” the official said.

The Philippines last year brought the territorial row before the ITLOS after it said it “has exhausted all political and diplomatic avenues for a peaceful negotiated settlement of its maritime dispute with China.”

In February 2013, China formally rejected the arbitral proceedings. But its refusal will not necessarily impede the proceedings, according to Annex VII of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). (READ: Top maritime judge to hear PH case vs China)

China stresses negotiations

Chinese Embassy spokesman Zhang Hua told Rappler he has “no information to offer” about the reported proposal to withdraw from Panatag. (READ: China envoy arrives as PH deadline looms)

“China stays committed to solving disputes through negotiations with the countries directly concerned,” Zhang said.

He added, “The Chinese side has actually repeatedly expounded on its position regarding the Philippines' arbitration on the South China Sea, and our position [of rejecting arbitration] remains unchanged.”

Despite this, the Philippines said it is bent on submitting its written pleading. In a media briefing on Tuesday, February 25, Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman Raul Hernandez said the Philippines is “preparing” to submit its memorial by March 30.

The Philippines' lawyer in its case against China, Paul Reichler, said the memorial “will be submitted to the arbitral tribunal on time, that is, on or before March 30, 2014.”

“I am aware of no reason why this would not happen,” Reichler said in an e-mail to Rappler.

Strong case vs 'sign of weakness'

When asked how difficult this case is compared to others, this lawyer of more than two decades said:

“Every case is different, and presents different challenges and opportunities, so I would not want to compare the Philippines/China case to any other.”

“I will simply say that the entire legal team that has been engaged by the Philippines believes that the Philippines has a strong case, both on jurisdiction and on the merits,” Reichler said. (READ: PH lawyer on China: Being 'int'l outlaw' has its price)

In contrast, Golez said, China's offer is “a sign of weakness, because they're worried.”
“Why should we reward them for withdrawing from our own territory, from our own exclusive economic zone? They should not be rewarded,” he said.

“Number two, if we don't file according to the deadline, that will diminish our standing in the ITLOS. Because if we're delayed, that means we don't hold enough documents, right? So that might weaken us. It's like an ordinary case. When you ask for a postponement, that means that you lack the materials, and you still need materials,” he added in a mix of English and Filipino.

Deciding not to file the memorial, Golez explained, “might affect us irreversibly.”
“If they withdraw today, they can come back tomorrow. There's no parity in the possible exchange of concessions,” he said.

Soldier killed in clash with NPA in Samar

From InterAksyon (Feb 26): Soldier killed in clash with NPA in Samar

The military is hunting a band of New People’s Army guerrillas who killed a government soldier in an encounter in Jiabong town, some 11 kilometers from the headquarters of the Army’s 8th Infantry Division in Catbalogan City.

Lieutenant Colonel Antonio B. Dulnuan Jr., commanding officer of the 87th Infantry Battalion, reported that his men were patrolling in Barangays Lulugayan and Camarubu-an Sunday when the rebels fired on them, triggering a 15-minute gun battle.

Although the military claimed there were traces of blood on the rebels’ withdrawal route, they could not confirm any NPA casualties.

Despite the loss of the soldier, Dulnuan said the troops “were able to prevent the (rebels) from threatening and extorting money from the villagers.”

In a related development, four NPA guerrillas surrendered in Northern Samar.

Captain Amado Gutierrez, 8th ID public affairs office chief, said the rebels surrendered to the 34th Infantry Battalion.

However, he declined to name the surrendered guerrillas but said one of them, who surrendered first on February 7, handed in a .22 caliber pistol.

The other three, the commander of an NPA militia unit based in Barangay Malidon, Gamay, and two of his men gave up to a military “Bayanihan Team.”

The government offers cash incentives to rebels who surrender with their firearms under the “Guns for Peace” program: P200,000 for a light machine gun, P60,000 for an M14 assault rifle, P50,000 for an M16 Armalite rifle, and P40,000 for an M203.

Rebels who surrender are also provided livelihood assistance and other benefits under the Comprehensive Local Integration Program.


Arrested MILF commander released

From InterAksyon (Feb 25): Arrested MILF commander released

After two days of detention, Moro Islamic Liberation Front 118th Base Commander Ustadz Abdulwahid Tundok was released at past six Tuesday night.

This was based on the release order of Regional Trial Court Branch 13 Judge George Habido.

His release was also made possible with the help of the MILF Central Committee, Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities, Ad Hoc Joint Action Group, and local Maguindanao officials Datu Saudi Ampatuan Mayor Samsudin Dimaukom and  Shariff Aguak Mayor Bai Zahara Ampatuan.

Tundok was immediately brought to MILF’s Camp Daraparan in Sultan Kudarat where he was happily welcomed by high-ranking officials of MILF.

Tundok, who has warrants for multiple murder and arson, was arrested Sunday afternoon at a Marines checkpoint in Cotabato City.

The arrest alarmed Maguindanao and Cotabato City as his supporters warned of retaliation.

Tundok was treated well during his two-day detention at the 6th Infantry Division headquarters, according to Datu Saudi Ampatuan Mayor Sam Dimaukom.

Tundok is a resident of Datu Saudi Ampatuan, as most members of Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, a group that split from MILF.

The arrest and detention was a minor snag in the ongoing peace efforts between the MILF and the Philippine government, with the MILF insisting that its members and officials enjoy temporary immunity from arrest.


China dismisses PH 'water cannon' protest, insists on South China Sea rule

From InterAksyon (Feb 25): China dismisses PH 'water cannon' protest, insists on South China Sea rule

China on Tuesday rejected the Philippine diplomatic protest over the water hosing of Filipino fishermen in Bajo de Masinloc last January 27.

“The Chinese side does not accept the so-called ‘protest’ by the Philippine side,” said the Chinese embassy in a statement emailed to media outfits.

This, even as it urged “the Philippine side to work with the Chinese side to resolve differences through bilateral consultations and negotiations.”

The Chinese embassy in Manila insisted that “China has indisputable sovereignty over South China Sea Islands and their adjacent waters, Huangyan Island included.”

Huangyan is the name China gives Baja de Masinloc, which is also known as Scarborough Shoal and Panatag Shoal.

“Chinese government vessels are conducting regular patrols within China's jurisdiction,” the statement read.

[Video report]

Earlier in the day, President Benigno Aquino III said the Philippines would seek an explanation from China for the reported use of water cannons by its coast guard to drive away Filipino fishermen from the disputed shoal.

"We will, through a diplomatic message that may take many forms, ask them (China) to explain what this incident is all about," said Aquino, who was in Cebu to attend the 28th anniversary of the 1986 People Power uprising.

"I am not sure if (firing water cannons) is their SOP (standard operating procedure) kasi yesterday may (because yesterday there were) Filipino fishermen inside the shoal," Aquino said. "But it is still proper for us to ask them what the incident is all about."

"I am sure the DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs) is already preparing a formal protest," he added.

The January 27 water cannon incident was first disclosed Monday by Armed Forces chief Gen. Emmanuel Bautista before a forum of the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines.

"The Chinese coast guard tried to drive away Filipino fishing vessels to the extent of using water cannon," Bautista told the forum.


CPP: Use lessons of Edsa 1986 to oust the US-Aquino regime!

Propaganda statement posted to the CPP Web site (Feb 25): Use lessons of Edsa 1986 to oust the US-Aquino regime!
Communist Party of the Philippines
The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) joins the Filipino people in recalling the Edsa 1986 uprising. The celebration of the Edsa 1986 gains particular significance this year as this occur amid mounting calls for the ouster of the US-Aquino regime.

After three years of mendacity, corruption, puppetry, oppression and brutalities, the US-Aquino regime has roused the Filipino people once again to exercise their democratic power in order to carry out direct political action to effect a regime-change in the ruling system.

The Filipino people have two more years before celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Edsa uprising in 2016 in order to wage an all-out campaign to oust the US-Aquino regime. They must masterfully employ their organized strength in propaganda, organizing and mobilization in order to rapidly intensify the mass struggles within this relatively short historical juncture.

They must vigorously carry out political education to unmask the rotten anti-people and pro-imperialist regime headed by Benigno Aquino III. They must tirelessly expose and denounce the corruption in the rapid business expansion of Aquino’s big bourgeois comprador cronies amid widespread poverty and hunger. They must expose his corrupt cacique-style patronage leadership using public funds for political favors; and his accommodation of the criminal syndicates in control of commodity smuggling and tax evasion.

They must protest the rising costs of health care as a result of the privatization of public hospitals; the increasing inaccessibility of education as a result of state abandonment of education and commercialization of education; and the rising costs of electricity, water, oil, transportation and other public utilities as a result of the continuing policy of deregulation. They must denounce Aquino’s criminal neglect of the millions of people who suffered from the devastation wrought by recent typhoons.
Aquino must also be held criminally liable for the failure of his regime to put into place sufficient early warning systems resulting in thousands of deaths in the past calamities.

They must denounce the Aquino regime for imposing a wage-freeze policy amid the spiralling costs of living. They must expose widespread land grabbing and monopolization by big landlords and big plantation operations. They must amplify their demand for land reform and national industrialization.

They must unceasingly expose and condemn widespread abuses of human rights, especially violations of the rights of children, in the use of military suppression against the people. They must expose the lies behind Aquino’s peace rhetoric and demand that it squarely address the roots of the civil war through political negotiations.

The campaign to expose, oppose and oust the US-Aquino regime must take the form of widespread political discussion and activities addressing the outstanding problems of the people.

Organizers of the campaign in the National Capital Region and other urban centers must conscientiously reach out to millions of people in order to arouse, organize and mobilize them. They can mobilize thousands of political activists as an army of propagandists and plan out the rapid expansion of that army with new activists.

Activists can be formed into teams of 3-7 people for propaganda and organizing and strategically deployed in schools, factories, offices and communities, as well as in malls, parks, markets and other places where people conglomerate.

The political skills of activists must be honed in trainings on the outstanding issues exposing the US-Aquino regime. They need to be able to sharply analyze issues and expose the duplicity of Aquino’s expert PR manipulators. They need to adeptly take hold of the principles of mass line in order to effectively link the local issues and conditions of the people with the bigger and general issues.

These teams must daringly and creatively initiate educational seminars and political discussions among the people, employing all possible forms of propaganda—from pamphleteering, setting up wall statements and soapboxes, to conducting corner-store, home-to-home or room-to-room discussions—in order to raise the people’s democratic consciousness and determination to defend and advance their interests and oppose and fight the US-Aquino regime.

The ranks of youth activists from various type of democratic and patriotic organizations must be harnessed as a large corps of propagandists and political movers. They should unleash the energy of the youth and exemplify the untiring propagandists.

They can forge ahead with a mass propaganda movement within and outside their campuses which exposes the worsening social ills under the US-Aquino regime and calls on the people to shape their destiny through direct and collective political action.

In recent history, the Filipino people have twice succeeded in wielding the power of legal direct political action to effect regime change: in overthrowing the Marcos fascist dictatorship in 1986 and the corrupt Estrada regime in 2001. Such direct political action by the people’s democratic mass movement have been carried out within the bounds of the legal political system. Although limited to effecting changes within the ruling system, such direct political action empowers the people, puts them in a position to further influence policy and transforms their consciousness to seek the radical transformation of the existing social order.

Such is the revolutionizing impact of direct political action of both Edsa 1986 and 2001. Thus, the ruling reactionary classes, especially the clique in power, have unceasingly sought to obfuscate the profound relevance of the Edsa people power uprisings of the past. They condescendingly use the term “people power” in the same sense as “horsepower” and seek to purge the democratic meaning of the uprisings with the aim rendering it a useless museum piece.

The reactionary classes invoke “the spirit of Edsa” but dissuade the Filipino people from carrying out further direct political action. This year, Aquino has further pushed forward the emasculation of the meaning Edsa by telling people to unite, not as a direct political act, but purportedly “to confront natural challenges”. The Aquinos have long made claims to the legacy of the Edsa uprisings with the aim of obfuscating the role played by the people and their democratic and patriotic forces. The aim of the Aquinos is not to enhance the people’s democratic political power, but rather, to suppress it.

History has provided the Filipino people with the unique opportunity to reassert the progressive and democratic meaning of the Edsa uprising of 1986 and make use of its lessons to overthrow the ruling Aquino clique.


Philippines frees captured MILF leader

From the Mindanao Examiner blog site (Feb 25): Philippines frees captured MILF leader

The Philippines has freed Tuesday a senior rebel commander of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front arrested by the police in the southern region of Mindanao, a key MILF leader said.

Mohagher Iqbal, the Front’s vice chairman and chief peace negotiator, said Ustadz Wahid Tundok has been released by the authorities. "Ustadz Wahid Tundok is freed," he told the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner.

He earlier said that Tundok’s arrest was illegal because he is covered by the cease-fire agreement between the Philippine government and the MILF, the country’s largest Muslim rebel group.

The two sides are currently negotiating peace and Iqbal earlier said the illegal arrest of Tundok may affect the peace process.

Tundok and several of his followers came from a meeting at the MILF’s Camp Darapanan in Sultan Kudarat town and was heading back to his base when his truck was intercepted by police forces in Cotabato City on February 23.

Iqbal said Tundok’s arrest should have not happened, but police insisted the rebel leader is facing a string of criminal cases from arson to murders. When asked if the MILF is elated or satisfied over the release of Tundok, Iqbal said: "Not much, because that should not happen at all."

Iqbal said the rebel leader may have been set up and his movements monitored that led to his arrest. "This could be a set up by those who are opposing the peace process," he said, adding Tundok is a loyal MILF leader and supportive of the peace talks with government.

Iqbal said another MILF commander, Yusoph Kusain, was also killed by police forces in Maguindanao’s Datu Paglas town following a shootout. The police was trying to arrest Kusain on various criminal cases when the fighting erupted.

Police and military also linked Tundok to Ustadz Ameril Umra Kato, who led a series of attacks in the past against civilian and military targets in Mindanao.

But Abu Misry Mama, a spokesman for Kato’s group, said Tundok was never part of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement and its armed wing the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters. "He is a leader of the MILF and never was part of our group," Mama said in a separate interview.

There was no immediate statement from the police or the military about Tundok’s release. The MILF has been fighting decades for self-determination.


Zamboanga City gov't supports move to deny Nur safe conduct pass

From the Philippine Star (Feb 25): Zamboanga City gov't supports move to deny Nur safe conduct pass

MNLF founder Nur Misuari

The Zamboanga City government strongly supports the move of the lower house not to grant fugitive Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) founder and chairman Nur Misuari a safe conduct pass for his reported involvement in the bloody siege last September.

Mayor Ma. Isabelle Climaco-Salazar said the city government unanimously supported the Magdalo partylist during the Feb. 18 special hearing of the House Committee on peace, unity and reconciliation which conducted an inquiry in aid of legislation on the siege.

“We joined the Magdalo partylist in their resolution that they will never grant Misuari a safe conduct pass. He has to be answerable to all the accusations against him, ” Salazar told newsmen during the briefing on the on going rehabilitation effort on the devastated district brought by the three weeks standoff between the MNLF rebels under Misuari faction and the government troops.

“I, as one of the signatories expect that justice be given to all those who have died and displaced because of the siege,” Salazar added.

The siege left more than 200 rebels, 24 soldiers and police, and 12 civilians killed and while scores other were wounded during the standoff that displaced more than 120,000 civilians and shut down the city government and private operations.

The court charged Misuari and close to 300 followers with rebellion and violation of the International Humanitarian law, genocide and other crimes against humanity.

However, Misuari and a number of his followers have remained at large.

The military confirmed in its latest information that Misuari remains in hiding with his large armed followers in Sulu and has not gone out of the country.

“Our latest is yes (Misuari is still in Sulu),” Lt. Gen. Rustico Guerrero, commander of Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) said.

Guerrero said there is a continuing effort to capture Misuari with the standing warrant of arrest.

“The law enforcement is a police led operation and supported by the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines ). Continuous ‘yong monitoring sa kanya,” Guerrero said.

However, Guerrero said getting Misuari will not be as simple as arresting an ordinary man in a house.

“We’re talking of an MNLF chief and the followers are in the hundreds,” he said.

The military official also confirmed that the fugitive leader was sickly but they have no idea of Misuari’s current condition.


Guv reiterates full support for Army's peace caravan

From the Visayan Daily Star (Feb 25): Guv reiterates full support for Army's peace caravan

Governor Alfredo Marañon Jr. yesterday reiterated his full support for the caravan for peace and development initiated by the Philippine Army, in tandem with multi-sectoral groups, in Negros Occidental.

Marañon said the peace and development caravan will continue, with Col. Jon Aying, 303 rd Infantry Brigade commander, identifying areas to be visited.

“We will always be there to support the effort of the Philippines,' Marañon, who was recently conferred the Bayanihan award by the Armed Forces of the Philippines, said.

The caravan for peace and development on Feb. 21 in Brgy. Puso, La Castellana, a joint effort of the provincial government of Negros Occidental, 11 th Infantry Battalion, 302 nd and the 303 rd Infantry Brigades, in tandem with various government agencies and non-government organizations, benefitted 1,273 barangay residents.

1Lt. Von Ryan Gomez, 11IB Civil Military Operations officer, said the Puso barangay residents availed of medical consultations, dental, massage, haircut and circumcision services, who were also given fruit-bearing and vegetable seedlings.

Brig. Gen. Francisco Patrimonio, 302 nd Infantry Brigade commander, in a statement, said that the AFP will continue to support and facilitate peace initiatives of the government in attaining peace, security and development in the community.*


West Philippine Sea gets a new commander as row with China escalates anew

From InterAksyon (Feb 25): West Philippine Sea gets a new commander as row with China escalates anew

File photo of Lt. General Roy Deveraturda from Central Command website.

A lieutenant general has just been given the formidable post of lone area commander for the West Philippine Sea, flashpoint in the country’s territorial disputes with China, just as tensions are rising anew over the latest incident: Beijing’s use of water cannons on Filipino fishermen.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has designated Lt. Gen. Roy Deveraturda lone area commander in charge of all military operations in the West Philippine Sea—Manila’s name for that part it claims in the South China Sea area that Beijing claims in entirety.

AFP Chief General Emmanuel Bautista signed last week the orders for Deveraturda, commander of Western Command (Westcom), as WPS commander, according to the AFP public affairs chief, Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala.

The Westcom commander now has jurisdiction over all of WPS including Bajo de Masinloc or Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal, an area under de facto Chinese occupation even though it is well within the 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of the Philippines.

A standoff over fishing rights between Chinese and Philippine forces in April 2012 was resolved but only for a short time. Chinese maritime surveillance vessels routinely back up dozens of Chinese fishing boats.

Westcom, based in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan, is set to acquire the first two units of 12 FA-50 “Golden Eagle” lead-in trainer jets that the Philippine Air Force (PAF) will buy from the Republic of Korean Air Force (ROKAF). The trainer jets, worth P18.9 billion, are made by Korean Aerospace, Inc. (KAI) and are meant to boost the Philippines’ territorial patrol capability.

Panatag, just off Masinloc town in Zambales, has been virtually “roped off” by China as its own since the 2012 standoff. The area used to be under the area command of the Northern Luzon Command (NOLCOM) based in Camp Aquino in Tarlac City. It is currently led by Lt. Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang.

Bautista said the Chinese Coast Guard fired water cannons on January 27 to drive away Filipino fishermen from the area, a report that President Benigno Aquino III has directed the Department of Foreign Affairs to get to the bottom of—and to issue a protest.

According to the AFP, the new WPS command setup is meant to enhance external defense capabilities that are now concentrated at Westcom.

All sea and air assets deployed for territorial defense, whether based at NOLCOM and its naval unit, the Naval Forces Northern Luzon based in Sta. Ana, Cagayan, are all under the command of the WPS (Westcom) commander.

Other areas to watch

Besides the Panatag Shoal,  Westcom also has to guard portions of Spratly Islands where the municipality of Kalayaan Island Group (KIG) just off Palawan is located. KIG is composed of 2 islets and 7 reefs, including Ayungin which China has also been posting since last year.

The Philippine Marines has a detachment in Ayungin. The military sentries are housed at the grounded Navy ship, the BRP Sierra Madre.

KIG is currently under the leadership of Mayor Eugenio Bito-onon, who presides over a political office based in Pagasa Island (inhabitants: 300 civilians, not to include military personnel deployed on the island).

Manila is due to submit next month a Memorial before a UN arbitral tribunal where it filed a complaint last year, saying Beijing’s so-called nine-dash line over the South China Sea is excessive.


OPAPP eyes Lanao del Norte for MNLF devt program

From Solar News (Feb 24): OPAPP eyes Lanao del Norte for MNLF devt program

Undersecretary Luisito Montalbo and representatives from the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) visited Lanao del Norte to update members of the Provincial Peace and Order Council (PPOC) on the latest developments in the on-going Moro Islamic Liberation Front-Philippine government (MILF-GRP) peace talks and a program intended for Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) communities.

Montalbo delivered a report during the regular meeting of the PPOC at Macapagal Training Center in the capital Tubod, and revealed a program that will give attention to MNLF communities.

Governor Khalid Dimaporo presided over the PPOC meeting, which was attended by Lanao del Norte town mayors, chiefs of police, Philippine Army officials, DILG personnel, and Pakigdait ug Pag-Amoma Alang sa Kalinaw (Pakigdait) Director Musa Sanguila.

Gov. Dimaporo said OPAPP had done "a very good job" in showing the government's sincerity and letting everyone know that the peace agreement is for all; not just the MILF, but also the MNLF.

Dimaporo said he is thankful that OPAPP has chosen the Province of Lanao del Norte to be one of the pilot recipients of a program that will give attention to MNLF communities.

In connection with OPAPP’s peace-building initiatives under the PAMANA program, a brief presentation on the status of implemented projects was made by DILG Provincial Director Carmelo Enrique Libot.

Among Lanao del Norte towns that benefited from PAMANA are Kauswagan, Munai, Poona Piagapo, Salvador, Tangkal, and Kolambugan.

OPAPP also announced that a new batch of peace monitors under the International Monitoring Team (IMT) will arrive next month.

The IMT Mission 9 will replace the current group, whose mandate will end on March 12, 2014.

IMT is tasked to monitor the cease fire, civilian protection component, rehabilitation and development, and socio-economic agreements between the government and the MILF until March 2015.

The government and MILF also agreed to reduce the number of IMT members to 36 monitors. There will be 14 monitors from Malaysia, nine each from Brunei and Indonesia, and two each from Japan and Norway.