Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Arrested MILF member turned over to ceasefire body

From the Philippine Star (Feb 26): Arrested MILF member turned over to ceasefire body

Authorities turned over Tuesday night to the ceasefire committee of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front cashiered MILF leader Imam Wahid Tundok, three days after he was arrested by policemen for multiple murder and arson.

Tundok was nabbed  at a checkpoint in Matampay District in Cotabato City Sunday by agents of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, invoking an old warrant for his arrest issued by a local court.

Von Al-Haq, spokesman of the MILF, told reporters government representatives turned over Tundok to their ceasefire committee past 6 p.m. Tuesday.

The government’s chief negotiator, Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, told Catholic station dxMS in Cotabato City Wednesday morning that the warrant for Tundok’s arrest had been lifted.

Ferrer added that Tundok's arrest will not affect the GPH-MILF talks.

Tundok is chief of the MILF’s 118th Base Command, which operates in Maguindanao’s adjoining Datu Piang, Datu Saudi and Salibo towns.

Tundok, for security reasons, was detained at Camp Siongco, the command center of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, on the behest of the CIDG.

“We followed the necessary process in seeking the release of Wahid Tundok, based on our ceasefire agreement with government,” Al-Haq said.

He said the release of Tundok was authorized by Judge George Jabido of the Regional Trial Court Branch 13 in Cotabato City.

Ghadzali Jaafar, MILF’s vice chairman for political affairs, said on Monday that their men with standing cases in courts should enjoy temporary immunity from arrest, and even prosecution, to prevent misunderstandings that could affect the the on-going peace talks with government.

Jaafar has said that the CIDG’s uncoordinated arrest of Tundok will not affect the peace negotiations.

The government and the MILF are to mutually cooperate in addressing security issues in hostile areas in Mindanao according to the provisions of the Agreement on General Cessation of Hostilities, which representatives from both sides crafted in Cagayan de Oro City in July 1997.

Tundok, an archenemy of Saudi-trained cleric Ameril Ombra Kato, founder of the outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, was on his way to Datu Saudi town from a meeting with members of the MILF’s central committee in Camp Darapanan in the first district of the province when he was intercepted by CIDG agents.

Tundok and his men were said to have assisted the military in its two-week “police action” last January against the BIFF, which is known for banditry and terror activities.

Local officials and peace activists have criticized the CIDG for initiating the arrest of Tundok amid a ceasefire accord, raising concern over its effect to  the GPH-MILF talks.

Mayor Samsudin Dimaukom of Datu Saudi town had told reporters that Tundok stayed overnight in his house in Cotabato City after the police and the military turned him over to the MILF.

Tundok, who is an Islamic theologian, is popular for his guerrilla exploits, having led attacks on military installations in 2000, after then President Joseph Estrada declared an all out war against the MILF.

Tundok and his men also figured in fierce clashes with the military in 2003, and in 2008.

Danger seen ahead for planned MILF peace deal

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Feb 26): Danger seen ahead for planned MILF peace deal

Philippine President Benigno Aquino III is on the brink of an accord to end one of Asia’s longest and deadliest rebellions, but renegade guerrillas, hostile politicians and the nation’s highest court lie in potential ambush.

After completing negotiations last month, Aquino is expected to sign within weeks a final peace deal with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) for a power-sharing arrangement with the nation’s Muslim minority in the south.

In a process patterned on the 1998 Good Friday accord that ended the Northern Ireland conflict, the MILF would then gradually disband its 12,000-member force and put its weapons “beyond use”.

If successful, the accord would end a conflict that began in the 1970s, claimed an estimated 150,000 lives and condemned large parts of the fertile southern Philippines to violence-plagued poverty.

The Philippines’ Muslim population of about five million people regard the south as their ancestral homelands, and the MILF has led the armed quest for independence or autonomy.

But, after 18 years of stop-start negotiations that produced repeated false dawns, even Aquino’s peace chiefs are warning that the toughest stages are yet to come.

“We can expect that there will be a lot of difficulties,” said university professor Miriam Ferrer, who led the government negotiators.

“If the negotiations were hard, so much more the implementation.”

Neutralizing the spoilers

As the process gets under way, the government will need to stamp out the threat of other armed groups in the still-largely lawless region who oppose peace.

An MILF splinter group that still wants independence, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), has a deadly history of trying to derail peace efforts.

It may only have a few hundred armed followers, but in 2008 it attacked Christian towns across the south in an effort to destroy a previous peace plan, leaving more than 400 people dead and displacing 750,000 others.

Immediately after negotiations with the MILF ended last month, security forces launched an assault against the BIFF in which 53 of its fighters and a soldier were killed.

“Neutralizing the BIFF will be a big help to the autonomous political entity. It would be one headache less with the spoilers taken out,” regional military spokesman Colonel Dickson Hermoso told Agence France-Presse.

However, the BIFF continues seeking to attract MILF members unhappy with the peace plan, while there are other rival groups who feel excluded from the process and remain a threat.

One is the MILF’s rival Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), which signed a peace deal in 1996 that is regarded by Aquino as a failure.

MNLF founder Nur Misuari’s followers attacked the southern port of Zamboanga in September last year in an effort to wreck the peace talks, leaving more than 220 people dead.

Amid this backdrop, convincing the MILF to give up their weapons, a task to be supervised by a neutral body of foreign experts, is expected to be one of the toughest challenges.

Misuari’s men never gave up their arms, allowing the region to suffer from banditry and political warlords with their own private armies.

Problems with power-sharing

Tensions are expected to be nearly as high in Manila, where Congress must swiftly pass a “basic law” creating the Muslim self-rule area.

This would cover about 10 percent of the mainly Catholic nation’s total land, with its own police force, a regional parliament and power to levy taxes — all powderkeg issues.

“Congress is the main battleground. Congress can make or unmake things,” said Steven Rood, country director for the US-based Asia Foundation and a member of a monitoring team invited by the negotiators to observe the peace process.

Political analyst Rommel Banlaoi also warned some Christian politicians from the planned autonomous region were hostile to the idea of power-sharing as this would dilute or destroy their power bases.

“Some congressmen do not believe in the peace agreement and will reject (the proposed law)… or will find ways to delay the whole thing,” Banlaoi, president of the Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research, told AFP.

Opponents are also widely expected to challenge the creation of a Muslim autonomous region in the Supreme Court.

Aquino need only look back to 2008, when his predecessor Gloria Arroyo’s bid to strike peace with the MILF crumbled at the Supreme Court, to know that everything can still unravel.

The Supreme Court ruled a draft deal that would have handed over large areas of the south to MILF control was unconstitutional, in a verdict that led the group to break off peace talks.

However Teresita Deles, Aquino’s chief adviser on the peace process, said the government was confident it would be able to defend the deal against any legal challenge.

Aquino had warned his negotiators to “learn lessons from the past” and offer only concessions allowed by the Philippine constitution, Deles told reporters.

Aquino has only a narrow window in which to deliver his end of the bargain before his single six-year term ends in mid-2016, with no certainty his successor will share his vision.

That means Congress must pass the law by next year, to be ratified in a referendum within the succeeding four months by voters within the planned autonomous region.

Despite all the obstacles, the government and others involved in the process are cautiously optimistic that peace will be achieved.

“The timetable is definitely tight, but doable,” the Asia Foundation’s Rood said.

Photo: Freed MILF commander (Ustadz Wahid Tundok)

From MindaNews (Feb 26): Photo: Freed MILF commander


Freed commander Ustadz Wahid Tundok of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s 118th Base Command during a press briefing Wednesday morning, thanked the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, the mayors of Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Shariff Aguak and other Maguindanao towns, the ceasefire committee of the government and MILF peace panels and other peace stakeholders, for his immediate release. He said his arrest Sunday was a test of their patience to achieve peace . MindaNews photo by Ferdinandh B. Cabrera

Military bucks planned release of MILF commander

From the Business Mirror (Feb 26): Military bucks planned release of MILF commander

THE military is up in arms over the planned release of a ranking commander of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) who was arrested at checkpoint of a joint team of policemen and soldiers in Cotabato City on Sunday.
Some junior officers said the law should not be bended in the case of Wahid Tundok, commander of the MILF’s 118th Base Command, who is facing more than a hundred of criminal cases, including the killing of 10 soldiers in 2009.
A statement from the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (Opapp) said on Wednesday that “preparations are underway for the formal release of Tundok, following the recall of the warrant of arrest order by Branch 15 of the Regional Trial Court in Cotabato City on Tuesday.”
“The turnover by the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group of the National Police to the MILF-Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities [CCCH] will take place tomorrow [Thursday] in the presence of the International Monitoring Team, the Government-CCCH, the Ad-hoc Joint Action Group and several local government officials,” the statement added.
Military officers criticized the Opapp for facilitating the release of Tundok under the government’s peace agreement with the MILF, despite knowing that he is facing more than a hundred cases, including multiple murder.
An official report released in 2008 by the National Police said Tundok was among the leaders and members of the MILF who attacked several towns in Central Mindanao after the Supreme Court rejected the memorandum of agreement on the Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) that the government signed with the rebel group in 2008.
The National Police said it had filed a total of at least 110 criminal cases against leaders and members of the MILF that included Ameril Umbra Kato and Tundok over the attack.
Specifically, Tundok is facing 31 counts of murder and 30 counts of robbery that were filed in connection with the pillage and burning if the towns of Pigcawayan, Alamada, Libungan, Midsayap, Aleosan and Pikit in North Cotabato during the attack.
Civilian-populated areas in North Cotabato, Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur and Lanao del Norte were attacked by the MILF under Kato, Tundok and other leaders of the group inn retaliation over the rejection of the MOA-AD.
Aside from Kato and Tundok, also named in the charges that were filed by the Central Mindanao police commander under then Chief Supt. Felicisimo Khu Jr. were Mustapha Gundalanga alias Comander Tha and Commanders Abdul Bayan, Jack Abas, Mohammad, Bravo, Ismael Manalasal and Haun Sinadato.
They were accused of “taking 26 barangays in five municipalities in North Cotabato” beginning on July 1, 2008.
“The complaints may not be enough but for sure this will make Kato and his men pay for what they did to the civilians in North Cotabato,” Khu said.
Aside from the attack and burning of villages and the killing of civilians, the police said Tundok also led the attack on the detachment of the Army’s 71st Infantry Battalion in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, on January 7, 2005, where 10 soldiers were killed and another soldier went missing.
“The attackers also took 10 long firearms and one caliber .50 machine gun,” the police said.
Tundok was reportedly among the contacts of the Jemaah Islamiyah and the international terror group al-Qaeda in the country.

CPP/NDF: 28 years hence, the EDSA promise is ever more elusive

Propaganda statement posted to the CPP Website (Feb 25): 28 years hence, the EDSA promise is ever more elusive

Jorge Madlos (Ka Oris)
NDFP Mindanao Chapter
Twenty-eight years hence, the promise of the EDSA people’s uprising — the hope for basic change, for betterment in the lives of the vast majority of Filipinos — is year after year becoming ever more an elusive dream. The regimes of Cory Aquino, Ramos, Estrada, Arroyo and Benigno Aquino III have miserably failed to fulfil the promise of EDSA because their selfish class interest dictates that such has never been the intent. These five successive US imperialist puppet regimes have instead reversed the initial gains of the people’s uprising, as can clearly be seen from our political, economic and social realities.

The promise of broadening democracy has never happened and is neither forthcoming. The series of elections peddled by the ruling elite as a hallmark of democracy is, at most, just a way to settle who should hold the reign in power among the elite and is never meant to truly realize their jargon of “people empowerment” as deceptively crafted in their local government code. The would-be success of ending 27 years of brutal dictatorship under Marcos is nullified by the resurrection to power of the Marcoses themselves and their henchmen, and the intensification of repression under such Martial Law copies as Oplan Lambat Bitag under the Cory Aquino and Ramos regimes, Oplan Makabayan under Estrada and Oplan Bantay Laya by Arroyo. And now, Oplan Bayanihan, Aquino III’s dreaded military strategy conducted in the name of “Internal Security” and the economic interest of his imperialist masters and the local ruling classes.

What the people have gained by way of the provision in the Cory Constitution banning US bases from our soil and nuclear warships from our seas and shores is totally reversed by her son’s acquiescence to the unlimited stay and unhampered freedom of US troops to brandish their advanced weaponry anywhere they like in the Philippines and to continue having their nuclear-powered warships ply our seas and dock in our ports.
And where are these “economic gains” promised by the past four as well as the present US-puppet regimes? Poverty incidence has continued to rise in spite of their much ballyhooed poverty alleviation programs.

Unemployment according to conservative estimates has risen to 12.7 million Filipino workers. Their bogus land reform has only enriched the Aquino-Cojuangco clan together with other traditional landed classes.

Imperialist-led multinational plantations throughout the country are fast expanding, grabbing what land is left among the peasant masses, Moro and the Lumad. They have never been interested in truly industrializing our country because their imperialist bosses have not allow that and have bound us eternally instead as an exporter of raw materials and a consumer of imperialist products. Worse, our forest, mountains, plains, shores and seas have been ravaged by the combined plunder of the imperialist and their local stooges right before our very eyes.

Social services such as health, transport, electricity, education and other services have worsened and becoming ever more unavailable to the workers, peasants, youth, women, Moro and the indigenous peoples, including the elder citizens. Ironically, a huge chunk of the people’s money goes to unbridled corruption since the Cory Aquino regime down to the regime of her son – the newly crowned “pork barrel King”.

Where shall we go from here and what path shall we follow? Our only road to salvation is revolutionary change through a people’s democratic revolution that shall immediately build a socialist system upon victory. Our solution for the peasant problem is agrarian revolution that shall start from the gradual reduction of feudal and semi-feudal exploitation until we have mustered the political power to freely distribute land to the peasants, with a perspective of advancing this into collective agricultural undertakings. We will industrialize the country, one that serves to develop hand-in-hand with our genuine land reform program, while improving the well-being of our worker population. Our socialist system will ensure the equitable distribution of our social wealth as well as the availability of basic and higher education, health care, housing, transportation and other social services.

We have not achieved all these 28 years after EDSA people’s uprising, even through the bourgeois periodic election. We must smash the reactionary government so that a truly democratic people’s government shall rise up. And this can be done only if we have the political and military power to do so. It is imperative therefore for us to strengthen our army, the New People’s Army, and we must build a broad united front so that the vast majority of the Filipino people shall, together with their people’s army, dismantle all reactionary regimes barring our path to total victory.

Although these tasks entail so much sacrifice along the protracted course of the struggle, we can persevere in this revolutionary struggle however long and protracted it may take because this is the only road to our national salvation and democracy.

And as the ruling clique led by Aquino III celebrates and mocks at the EDSA victory, we shall all together shout in unison – Down with the US-Aquino regime! Tanggalin sa poder si Benigno Aquino III, ngayon na!
Long live the National Democratic Revolution with a socialist perspective!

Westmincom honors outgoing International Monitoring Team Batch 8

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 26): Westmincom honors outgoing International Monitoring Team Batch 8

The Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) have afforded honors to the outgoing peace monitors in an exit call Wednesday at Camp Navarro that houses the Westmincom headquarters in this city.

Westmincom chief Lt. Gen. Rustico Guerrero awarded medals to the members of the outgoing International Monitoring Team (IMT) Batch 8 (2013) headed by Maj. Gen. Dato Fadzil Bin Mokhtar of the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF).

The IMT Batch 8 comprises of 13 members, including Fadzil, who are from the armed forces of Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia, Japan and Norway.

Guerrero also presented a memento to Fadzil during the simple but meaningful awarding ceremony.

Prior to the awarding of medals, Westmincom deputy commander Brig. Gen. Orlando De Leon rendered a departure honor to Fadzil and his team.

The mission of the IMT Batch 8 ends March 12, 2014 and they will be replaced by the IMT Batch 9.

Earlier, the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) announced that a new contingent of peace monitors is set to arrive in March.

The OPAPP said that the new IMT contingent will be serving its mandate for another year or until March 2015.

The IMT monitors the ceasefire, civilian protection component, rehabilitation and development, and socio-economic agreements between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Police intercept bomb-making component in Zambo Norte

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 26): Police intercept bomb-making component in Zambo Norte

The police have intercepted a shipment of bomb-making chemical powder aboard a passenger bus in the province of Zamboanga del Norte, a police official announced Wednesday.

Police Regional Office-9 (RPO-9) information officer Chief Insp. Ariel Huesca said the bomb-making component was intercepted around 7:30 a.m. Monday at the bus terminal in Sindangan town, Zamboanga del Norte.

Huesca said the bomb-making chemical was intercepted after an informant sent a text message to the police station in Sindangan about a “suspicious flour” shipment by a female passenger aboard a bus from coming from Dipolog City en route to Ipil, Zamboanga Sibugay.

Huesca said the shipment turned out to be a nine-kilo ammonium nitrate packed in two plastic bags. It is being used in fabricating improvised bomb.

He said the owner of the cargo managed to elude arrest.

He said investigation showed that the unidentified female passenger boarded the bus in Barangay Galas, Dipolog City.

However, he said the passenger disembarked when the bus reached Barangay Dohinob in the town of Roxas.

She paid P20 fare for the cargo to be brought to the bus terminal in Ipil, Zamboanga Sibugay, where it will be picked up by “someone.”

2 rebels surrender to Army soldiers in Compostela Valley

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 26): 2 rebels surrender to Army soldiers in Compostela Valley

Two members of the New People's Army (NPA) surrendered to troopers of the 28th Infantry Battalion in Barangay Langgawisan, Maragusan town, Compostela Valley on Tuesday, the Eastern Mindanao Command said.

Capt. Alberto Caber, the command's spokesperson, identified the surrenderees as Efraim Manlitok Pinangot and Jovanie Olmido Atabay, both members of the NPA's underground mass organization.

Caber said Pinangot and Atabay expressed their disillusionment with the NPA cause and realized that they were just being used as pawns in the rebels' intimidation and extortion activities.

The two are now undergoing debriefing at the Marangusan police headquarters.

last Jan. 10, six members of the NPA's underground mass organization voluntarily surrendered to the soldiers of 27th Infantry Battalion in Barangay Tasiman, Lake Sebu, South Cotabato.

Missile-armed MPACs now on the way

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 26): Missile-armed MPACs now on the way

The Department of National Defense (DND) is allocating P270 million to acquire three MPACs (multi-purpose attack craft) to boost the capabilities of the Philippine Navy (PN).

DND Undersecretary Fernando Manalo said the sum includes "mission essential equipment and an initial logistic support packages."

The money will be sourced from the AFP Modernization Act Trust Fund of 2000.

He added that interested bidders should also equipped these MPACs with provisions for advanced weapons system (remote weapon systems and missile launch system).

Mission essential equipment includes day/night electronic navigation systems, communication suites, safety-of-life-at-sea, propulsion system and seamanship and ship-handling gears.

Pre-bid conference will be held on Feb. 28 at the DND bidding and awards committee in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

Winning bidders must be able to deliver the MPACs within 540 working days of the opening of the letter of credit.

Interested parties must have experience on a similar project within the last 10 years.

Bidders must be the suppliers themselves, Manalo added.

The PN currently operates a force of six MPACs.

Three of the PN's MPACs are sourced from Taiwan while the remaining three were ordered from Filipino shipbuilder Propmech Corporation, which is based in Subic Bay, Zambales.

These ships are 16.5 meters long, 4.76 meters wide and has a draft of one meter and a top speed of 45 knots.

Each ship costs around P90 million and has a range of 300 nautical miles. The hull is made of high-quality aluminum and is crewed by one officer and four enlisted personnel.

It is also capable of carrying 16 fully-equipped troopers or two tons of cargo.

The MPAC is capable of operating in territorial waters up to "Sea State 3" (slight waves) without any system degradation.

It is armed with one .50 caliber and two 7.62mm machine guns.

Western Command prepared to carry out mandate despite Scarborough Shoal tasking

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 26): Western Command prepared to carry out mandate despite Scarborough Shoal tasking

Despite being given the new task to secure Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal, the Palawan-based Western Command is more than prepared to carry out its mandate.

"By mandate, (the) Western Command will have to patrol that area and the rest of our area of responsibility utilizing all the necessary assets we have for the purpose of monitoring and reporting to higher headquarters," said Western Command spokesperson 1st Lt. Cheryl Tindog in a text message to the PNA.

Scarborough Shoal, upon orders of Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief-of-staff Gen. Emmanuel Bautista, was taken from the Northern Luzon Command area of responsibility and assigned to the Western Command last week.

"We are at the transition phase and our capabilities on external defense are being further enhanced," said Tindog.

AFP public affairs office chief Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala earlier stressed that no major upheavals will take place despite Scarborough Shoal being attached to the Western Command areas of responsibility, which is all at sea.

"These are all at sea, if you look at it, we have to look at the perspective of unity of command 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 the Western Command can always use preposition naval assets in nearby areas.

Meanwhile, Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) commandant Vice Admiral Rodolfo Isorena said his ships and personnel are more than willing to escort Filipino fishermen plying the Scarborough Shoals.

He added that they are just waiting for President Benigno S. Aquino III's order.

"We are just waiting for the President (order) for us go and resume patrols there," Isorena stated in Filipino.

50 prospective members of Army technical service unit visit PA headquarters

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 26): 50 prospective members of Army technical service unit visit PA headquarters

Fifty prospective members of the Technical and Administrative Service Pre-Entry Officer Training Class 15-2013 visited the Philippine Army (PA) headquarters in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City Wednesday.

These graduating students were received by Army vice commander Major Gen. Romulo M. Cabantac Jr.

The class, which is composed of lawyers, medical doctors, dentists, veterinarians, nurses, professors, and priests, is set to graduate on March 11 at the Officer Candidate School, Training and Doctrine Command, Camp O'Donnell, Capas, Tarlac.

Lt. Col. Noel Detoyato, PA spokesperson, said that these individuals opted to join the military service as part of the technical and administrative staff of the Armed Forces.

Out of the 50, 12 belong to the Medical Corps, three to the Chaplain Services, six to the Judge Advocate General, 18 to the Nurse Corps, seven to the Dental Corps, three to the Veterinary Services, and one to the Corps of Professors.

Detoyato added that the information briefing regarding PA enabled the students to understand better the Army organization; while the open forum provided them with a more in-depth appreciation of the military and the tasks that they will be doing upon their commissionship.

Cabantac stressed that female officers in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) will have the same rights as that of their male counterparts, and that they are regarded equally, after noting that there is a large percentage of female probationary second lieutenants in this particular class, with 20 of them.

He also advised the group to always remember the basic rules, which is to follow orders and ask permission.

Upon graduation, the probationary second lieutenants will be assigned in the different major services of the AFP.

Also present during the activity were Staff Officers of the PA, as well the Army Chief Surgeon, Army Chief Nurse, Army Chief Dental Surgeon, the Commanding Officer of the Army General Hospital, and the Army Judge Advocate.

PH prepared with 'calibrated response' on China water cannon incident

From InterAksyon (Feb 26): PH prepared with 'calibrated response' on China water cannon incident

The Philippine Coast Guard is ready to deploy patrol ships to Bajo de Masinloc as part of Manila’s “calibrated response” should Chinese ships continue to harass Filipino fishermen using water cannons.

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin told News5 that the filing of the diplomatic protest with the Chinese Embassy is the first step to bringing the water cannon incident to international bodies. Armed Forces Chief Gen. Emmanuel Bautista said earlier Chinese maritime patrol ships used water cannons to drive away Filipino fishermen, who were in the Bajo de Masinloc area.

Manila stressed the actions of the Chinese are illegal and pointed out that Bajo de Masinloc is well within sovereign territorial waters of the Philippines, emphasizing that it is not part of the disputed territories in the West Philippine Sea. Last January, News5 reported that China has maintained a constant naval presence in Bajo de Masinloc (Scarborough Shoal) and at Ayungin Reef – wherein at least two ships – from the Chinese Maritime Surveillance or People’s Liberation Army – Navy are present.

Gazmin said the government is ready to deploy Coast Guard patrol ships to Bajo de Masinloc should Beijing refuse to heed Manila’s diplomatic protest and Chinese ships continue to harass Filipinos fishermen.

“We first file a diplomatic protest on the water cannon incident and [then] pursue the resolution of the issue through the arbitral tribunal,” Gazmin said. “In case the CCG (Chinese Coast Guard) vessel will still persist with water cannons, our response should be calibrated – where we will have the Philippine Coast Guard.”

By tasking the Philippine Coast Guard, Gazmin said Manila wants to maintain a “white on white response and not to heighten the tension.”

The Philippine Coast Guard is considered the equivalent of the Chinese Maritime Surveillance group.

The Philippine Coast Guard spokesman, Commander Armand Balilo, said they are still waiting for orders from Malacanang on whether or not to escort Filipino fishermen to Bajo de Masinloc.

“Our vessels are ready,” Balilo said.

The Chinese Embassy in Manila insisted that China has “indisputable sovereignty over the South China Sea and their adjacent waters.” The Embassy, in a statement, stressed this sovereignty includes Huangyan Islands – the name Bejing gave to Bajo de Masinloc.

China blames PH for water cannon attack, faults Pinoy fishers for 'provocative' act

From InterAksyon (Feb 26): China blames PH for water cannon attack, faults Pinoy fishers for 'provocative' act

China on Wednesday accused the Philippines of "deliberate provocations" over an incident in disputed waters in the South China Sea that drew a protest from Manila about what it called Chinese ships' use of a water cannon on Filipino fishermen.

The Philippines lodged a protest with China on Tuesday over the issue, saying the Chinese were trying to keep the fishermen from fishing in Philippine waters around the Scarborough Shoal.

China's foreign ministry, which has already rejected the complaint, said its boats had every right to respond to "provocative" acts in its territory.

China suspected the aims and identities of several Philippine fishing boats that recently appeared in the waters around the Scarborough Shoal, as some of them appeared to just "hang around", foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said.

The Philippine boats ignored calls from the Chinese ships to leave, with some aboard even adopting a "provocative posture of appearing to spoil for a fight" in activities showing "a strong level of organization and confrontation," Hua said.

"In the face of this seriously provocative behavior, China maintained utmost restraint, and as multiple warnings failed, could not but take the minimum measures to carry out expulsions, which caused no harm to the Philippine fishing boats or personnel," she told a daily news briefing.

The Philippines was guilty of seizing Chinese fishing boats in the South China Sea, Hua said.

"This is like a thief crying, 'Stop, thief!'," she added. "The Chinese government will never tolerate these deliberate provocations."

Since the beginning of the year, China has required foreign fishing boats to get approval before entering waters it claims as its own.

On Jan. 27, a Chinese coastguard vessel tried to drive away Filipino fishermen from Scarborough Shoal by using a water cannon, General Emmanuel Bautista, the head of Philippine military said on Monday.

China claims about 90 percent of the 3.5-million-sq-km (1.35-million-sq-mile) waters of the South China Sea. It provides 10 percent of the global fish catch, carries $5 trillion a year in ship-borne trade and has a seabed believed to be rich in energy reserves.

Taiwan, Malaysia, the Philippines, Brunei and Vietnam also claim parts of the sea.

The Philippines has urged regional grouping the Association of South East Asian Nations to conclude a binding code of conduct with China to avoid accidents and miscalculations in the disputed waters.

The Philippines has taken its dispute with China to arbitration under the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea but China is refusing to participate.

China has rejected challenges to its sovereignty claims and accused the Philippines of illegally occupying Chinese islands in the seas and of provoking tension.

2 NPAs sumuko sa Compostela Valley

From the Mindanao Examiner blog site (Feb 26): 2 NPAs sumuko sa Compostela Valley (2 NPAs surrender in Compostela Valley)

Dalawang miyembro ng rebeldeng New People’s Army ang sumuko sa militar sa bayan ng Maragusan sa Compostela Valley province sa Mindanao.

Kinilala naman ni Capt. Alberto Caber, ang spokesman ng Eastern Mindanao Command, ang mga sumuko na sina Efraim Manlitok Pinanggot alias Jonnel, ang tumatayong chairman ng Sitio Lumad; at Jovanie Olmido Atabay alias Ban-Ban.

Kusang-loob umano ang pagsuko ng dalawa sa 28th Infantry Battalion sa Barangay Langgawisan. Inilagay sa isang ‘tactical interrogation’ ang dalawang rebelde, ayon kay Caber.

Nauna ng hinimok ni Eastern Mindanao Command chief Gen. Ricardo Rianier Cruz III ang mga rebelde na sumuko na lamang sa halip na makipaglaban sa pamahalaan upang sila’y makapamuhay ng payapa kasama ang mga mahal sa buhay.