Wednesday, April 9, 2014

NPA on La Castellana, 2013 Deaths ‘Ambush, Not Massacre’

From the Negros Daily Bulletin (Apr 10): NPA on La Castellana, 2013 Deaths ‘Ambush, Not Massacre’

After a lengthy and wide-ranging even detailed investigation of the Poso Village, La Castellana town ambush launched by the unit of the Leonardo Panaligan, Central Negros Command of the New People’s Army (NPA) more than a year ago which killed and wounded several policemen and resulted in the killing of two civilians who had hitched a ride on a cargo truck, the main Boy Gatmaitan Command bared the results of its probe in a statement made available to members of the Negros media yesterday, generally saying that no massacre happened as claimed by the government, the guerilla army has no criminal liability and therefore, it is not under obligation to provide indemnification to the victims, said the spokesman, Ka Juanito Magbanua.

"There was also no need to set up a special military court by the NPA to tackle the alleged culpability of the squad which carried out the ambush," Ka Juanito Magbanua added. "The charges could well be tackled and was decided upon administratively by the Negros Island Party Committee (NIRPC) and its military arm, the NPA command in the Negros Island front."

In the portion of the lengthy statement, Ka Juanito Magbanua explained that the ambush, therefore, military action by the NPA was against a considered military target and against the state’s armed forces generally.

The ambush staged by the NPA squad was based on the principle of military necessity, distinction and proportionality and with the strict observance of Provision of the International Humanitarian Laws and under the Comprehensive agreement on Human Rights and International Humanitarian Laws inked between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front (NDF) during the initial rounds of the peace agreement having been negotiated by both sides.

As a military force, the essence of the police units, Barangay Peacekeeping Action Teams (BPAT) involved various aspects as structure, training, subculture and functions which were military in nature.

And it is the concept and principled stand of the NPA not to harm civilians and the fact that they had hitched a ride on board was a failure of intelligence, laxed discipline and violation of strict centralism of the CPP and rules of its guerilla unit, the NPA and which primarily warrants only administrative discipline.

As a rule, the main NPA unit and the various front units are prohibited from launching ambuscades and attacks against the military when there are civilians around except when truly sure that they can control and ensure safety even when the fighting is ongoing.

Many times, the NPAs have stopped launching ambuscades when seeing that civilians are around.

Stopping the military attacks had been an NPA strict disciplinary practice under its rules.

But even then when possible, the people’s army makes a supreme effort to ensure that collateral damage in any of its ambuscades or attacks were limited to the barest minimum in consideration of civilians.

So, because of the declared proven administrative lapses, the NPA unit is meted disciplinary action, to include officials and men who carried out the Poso Village ambush. The disciplinary actions ranged from but warning, strong warning, transfer to an area of assignment and probation accompanied by criticism and self-criticisms. The disciplinary actions due to lapses are meted upon the unit commander with the lapses either by omission or commissions.

For the Negros Island population at large, they are also informed that the NPA is obligated and duty-bound under pain of sanctions to follow three main rules of discipline and eight points of attention.

While commander and guerillas are enjoined strictly not to engage in gambling and drunkenness, obey orders in all your actions, not to take any single or piece of needle or thread from the people in areas of operations and report all items confiscated. The eight points of attention are be polite and courteous in all your actions, pay for what you buy, return everything borrowed, repair materials ruined and not say unkind words against the masses, not to destroy crops, not to abuse women and not to ill-treat captives. And the NPA is ready to help civilians as long as they could be safe when approaching those killed and wounded in the ambush.

NPA leader killed in Mt. Province

From the Manila Times (Apr 9): NPA leader killed in Mt. Province

CAMP DANGWA, Benguet: A leader of the New People’s Army (NPA) operating in the tri-borders of Abra, Mountain Province and Ilocos Sur also known as AMPIS area was killed during an encounter with government troops on April 2.

Cordillera Police Regional Office director Chief Supt. Isagani Nerez identified the fatality as Daniel Pinading Alunday alias Tikid, team leader of Squad 2, West Chico Line of the Kilu–sang Larangan Guerilla (KLG) Marco Command operating in Mount Province.

“The Philippine National Police Provincial Regional Office in Cordillera, in joint operations with the Armed Forces of the Philippines, is currently conducting offensive internal security operations in the AMPIS area to liberate the communities from the stronghold of armed groups, which harass, terrorize and commit atrocious acts against the people in the AMPIS area,” Nerez said.

He said that while PRO-Cordillera is offering an olive branch to the rebels, it is willing and ready to go to war against them.

“The people of Cordillera love peace, and we encourage our brothers in the mountains to help us attain peace by laying down their arms and return to the folds of the law. PRO-Cordillera wants peace, but we are also ready to go to war if our offer of peace is rejected,” Nerez said.

Nerez said the internal security operations against insurgents also aims to stop criminal activities of rebels such as illegal logging, mining and drug trade in the AMPIS area.

“Our operation against the insurgents will continue as long as it takes in order to protect the people. We will continue to enforce the laws and to ensure public safety and security in the whole region,” Nerez said.

Palace: Alonto not an ‘impostor’

From the Manila Times (Apr 10): Palace: Alonto not an ‘impostor’

MALACAÑANG on Wednesday defended a self-proclaimed leader of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) who served as panelist in a tripartite meeting to hasten the peace process in Mindanao.

Presidential Peace Adviser Teresita Deles said Datu Abul Khayr Alonto, who is being accused of being an “impostor” by MNLF leaders, has the right to sit in the panel.

“We are still waiting for the Organization of Islamic Cooperation [OIC] to convene the meeting. I’m directly in charge of this table,” Deles told The Manila Times.

Reacting to a warning by Ustadz Pendie Colano, the overall chairman of the Selatan State Revolutionary Committee, a sub-wing of the MNLF, that Alonto is parading himself as chairman of the MNLF Central Committee, the peace adviser said they are talking to all stakeholders.

“We are talking to all MNLF leaders including local ground commanders who are open and willing to cooperate with the government to bring just and lasting peace to Mindanao and improve the lives of their people,” Deles said.

Colano claimed that President Benigno Aquino 3rd’s acceptance of Alonto as a panelist in the tripartite meeting was meant “to destroy the leadership of the MNLF.”

According to him, Aquino “did not even evaluate or validate information from the concerned MNLF organization if [Alonto] is a legitimate member of the MNLF.”

But Deles belied this, saying Alonto was, in fact, a co-founder of the MNLF.

“Alonto was a co-founder of MNLF, a member of the MNLF Top 90. He recruited [former Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Governor Nur] Misuari into the MNLF,” she pointed out.

According to her, the MNLF has split into several groups, causing an infighting among its leaders and followers.

“There is no single person who represents MNLF at this time as they have broken up into several factions. There are at least three claiming the title of central committee chairman, the latest being Alonto,” Deles also told The Times.

Originally scheduled for September 16, 2013, the tripartite meeting was postponed indefinitely.

The meeting aims to review the 1996 peace deal between the Ramos administration and the MNLF.


Also on Wednesday, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) downplayed claims that 4,000 of its members have joined the MNLF.

“This is plain propaganda and the handiwork of people opposed to the attainment of peace in Mindanao,” Von Al Haq, spokesman for the MILF Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF), said.

Al Haq was reacting to Colano’s claim that four MILF commanders and their followers rejoined the MNLF.

“There is no valid reason for MILF members to shift to another Moro front in Mindanao because our men are all aware of our struggle and the outcome of the peace process since they were part of it,” he said.

Al Haq dismissed claims of Colano that Malaysia acted as mediator in the peace process with the MILF because it wants to retain Sabah.

“There is no basis [for] such claim, we consider them [MILF] as anti-peace and that the issue of Sabah was not part of the MILF peace process,” he said.

Al Haq noted that the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) is inclusive, therefore it includes the MNLF and all other inhabitants of Mindanao.

The CAB was signed by the government and the MILF in March this year.

Threat to Philippines is threat to US – Goldberg

From the Manila Times (Apr 9): Threat to Philippines is threat to US – Goldberg

PILAR, Bataan: United States (US) Ambassador to Manila Philip Goldberg on Wednesday declared that any threat facing the Philippines is also a threat to America, stressing the need for the two countries to strengthen their military to respond better to man-made threats and natural disasters.

“As treaty allies, when the Philippines faces threats or natural disasters, so do we,” said the US envoy during rites celebrating Araw ng Kagitingan (the Day of Valor) on Mount Samat in Bataan province.

Goldberg pointed out that defense ties between the two countries had been bolstered by the entry of a former enemy, Japan, into a mutual alliance with them.

“Today, it is remarkable that not just our two nations, but three, the US, the Philippines and Japan, have forged close and enduring friendships, alliances and strategic partnerships based on democratic values and mutual respect that came from the blood and sacrifice of our reliant soldiers,” the US official stressed.

Goldberg’s remarks came after US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel defended the Philippines’ claims over its territories in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea). Hagel, who earlier warned China against “redrawing” its borders, was in Beijing for a state visit.

There, he clashed with his Chinese counterpart on the issue on Japan and the Philippines.

“The Philippines and Japan are long-time allies of the United States. We have mutual self-defense treaties with each of those countries,” Hagel said.

The US defense chief added that his government is “fully committed to those treaty obligations.”

Hagel accused China of fanning tensions in the disputed regions by declaring an air defense zone in the East China Sea with “no collaboration, no consultation.” These, he pointed out, could “eventually get to dangerous conflict.”

China’s minister of Defense Gen. Chang Wanquan said Beijing would make “no compromise, no concession, no treaty.”

Closer alliance

Goldberg said the last world war brought the US and the Philippines closer together as allies in the Pacific.

“In both American and Filipino families, these events have been passed down by the guerillas and soldiers who shared their stories of courage and friendship to the next generations. Their shared history of heroism binds individuals and countries together and moves us forward toward our common goals. Like soldiers walking side by side, our friendship is stronger through the adversity we have faced together. It is a shared history of sacrifice that forges the special relationships of today,” he added.

The US, the Philippines and Japan, the US ambassador said, will make each step “toward further peace and prosperity, democracy and the rule of law,” which is a way to honor those who died valiantly after the fall of Bataan and Corregidor.

“As shown in history and until this very day, we can and will continue to work together, shoulder-to-shoulder, to improve each other’s military and our nations as a whole. As Typhoon Yolanda demonstrated, when our nations’ soldiers and civilians work together, we are prepared to react and respond to any disaster,” Goldberg added.

Friends and partners

President Benigno Aquino 3rd echoed the US ambassador’s statements, saying former rivals who once shot at each other are now friends and allies.

But he stressed that Filipinos will always defend the country’s interests, the same way that soldiers fought invaders during World War II.

“Even back then, it was clear to all Filipinos. Small though we may be, if we know that we are on the side of what is right and just, we will fight,” Aquino said.

“And on this day, I ask all of you to join me in declaring the Filipino will always stand for what is right,” he added.

In his speech, the President called attention to the fact that the former foes are now allies who have come to “understand and cooperate with one another.”

“Today, it is clear that we are friends and partners, understanding that we are fellow citizens of humanity, with our own goals and our own fears, capable of comprehending the thinking, culture and principles of each one, and working together to achieve the collective aspirations of our countries. In this way, we can ensure that the dark chapter of our history will not repeat itself,” he said. “Former rivals have shaken one another’s hands, embraced each other, and said, ‘The conflict is over, my friend. Let us help each other.’”

The Philippine government has repeatedly said t it will not resort to violence or escalate tensions in its long-standing territorial dispute with China.

The country has pursued international arbitration and submitted a memorial against China, which refused to join the arbitration.

China, the Philippines and other Southeast Asian nations have overlapping claims over the West Philippine Sea.

Heroes, too

The President lauded the seven Marines stationed at Ayungin Shoal, led by First Lt. Mike Pelotera.

“Just think of the gravity of their sacrifice. For five months, their entire world revolved around the sea. They had almost no communication with their families, there were even times when the supplies and food they needed were blocked from reaching them. Day and night, on board the stranded BRP Sierra Madre, their dedication was anchored on keeping watch over, and safeguarding, our territory,” he said.

“This is why, together with our veterans, soldiers like them are among those we honor today. The Filipino nation salutes all of you,” Aquino added.

“Beterano at kawal Pilipino, saludo sa inyo ang sambayanang Pilipino [Veterans and soldiers, the entire nation salutes you],” the President said.

Communists insist on safe passage

From the Manila Standard Today (Apr 10): Communists insist on safe passage

The Communist Party of the Philippines-National Democratic Front on Tuesday proposed a six-month timeframe for peace talks with the government to complete the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms.

At the same time, NDF chief negotiator Luis Jalandoni insisted that the government must respect the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees, which the rebel group has consistently invoked to press for the release of its detained leaders and consultants.

Last month, CPP chairman Benito Tiamzon and his wife, Wilma Austria, were arrested in Cebu.

Jalandoni insisted that the Jasig issue is “essential” to the peace process and not merely “procedural matters” as described by presidential peace adviser Teresita Deles.

“It requires being true to one’s word of honor. Who would trust a government that does not comply with agreements and contracts it has entered into?” Jalandoni said.

In a separate statement, CPP founding chairman and political consultant Jose Ma. Sison warned that if previously signed agreements, including the Jasig, are not respected, “the people will not see the need for negotiating and making agreements with such reneging regime.”

The government has stood firm on its position that the Jasig has already become inoperative because of the NDF’s failure to keep a hard copy of the list containing the photographs, real names, and aliases of all NDF consultants who enjoy safe conduct passes.

Aside from the Tiamzon couple, other high-ranking communist leaders who are still detained are Tirso Alcantara, Alan Jazmines, Emeterio Antalan, Leopoldo Caloza, Pedro Codaste, Alfredo Mapano, Eduardo Sarmiento, Paterno Opo, Dario Tomada, and Marilyn Badayos-Condes.

Still, Jalandoni said both parties can start reviving the stalled talks with informal consultations in Norway in the last week of May.

He said this should be followed by a two-week marathon meeting in Norway “for the formal resumption of peace negotiations.”

In an earlier interview, government chief negotiator Alexander Padilla said he is awaiting word from Norway on the agenda of the talks being pushed by the NDF.

Jalandoni said both parties could spend a month to talk about the issues surrounding the Hacienda Luisita - the vast sugar estate owned by the family of President Benigno Aquino III.

The NDF also wants the following items tabled for discussion:

- an effective and comprehensive rehabilitation program for the areas affected by super typhoon Yolanda within two months, with help from Norway and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization;

- an agreement on the Public Private Partnership and its effects on demolitions of urban poor communities within three months;

- the issue of skyrocketing prices of gas and oil, food, electricity, water and other basic commodities within three months;

- the issue of privatization of the Fabella and Orthopedic hospitals and related issues within three months;

- the issue of foreign destructive mining, the displacement of indigenous peoples and peasants, and destruction of their livelihood within four months;

- all other issues such as health, housing and rights of women, children and elderly, to be included in the Caser within six months.

Jalandoni said the government’s response to the NDF proposals will reflect the true intentions of President Benigno Aquino III with regards to the peace talks.

“Does (Aquino) take seriously the people’s demands for a just peace, or is his priority the imprisonment of NDF consultants and political prisoners?” Jalandoni said.

US, Chinese military brass trade rebukes

Posted to the Manila Standard Today (Apr 10): US, Chinese military brass trade rebukes

BEIJING—Visiting US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Chinese military chiefs traded warnings and rebukes Tuesday as they clashed over Beijing’s territorial disputes with its neighbours, North Korea’s missile program and cyber espionage.

Both sides were clearly at odds over a litany of issues, despite Hagel and his counterpart General Chang Wanquan calling for more dialogue between the world’s strongest and largest militaries, with the American coming under hostile questioning from a roomful of People’s Liberation Army officers.

One member of the audience told Hagel the United States feared China’s rise and was sowing trouble among its Pacific neighbors to “hamper” Beijing because one day “China will be too big a challenge for the United States to cope with”.

“Therefore you are using such issues ... to make trouble to hamper (China’s) development,” the officer said.

Hagel assured the audience that America had no interest in trying to “contain China” and that it took no position in such disputes. But he also cautioned repeatedly during the day that the United States would stand by its allies.

“We have mutual self defense treaties with each of those two countries,” Hagel said, referring to Japan and the Philippines. “And we are fully committed to those treaty obligations.”

The Pentagon chief denied the US was trying to hold China back but the tough questioning contrasted with the deferential reception given to his predecessor Leon Panetta at a similar event two years ago.

Hagel faced a blunt reprimand in an earlier meeting with a senior officer, General Fan Changlong, vice-chairman of China’s Central Military Commission, according to an account from the official state news agency Xinhua.

Referring to critical comments by Hagel earlier in his Asia trip, Fan said the “Chinese people, including myself, are dissatisfied with such remarks”.

Hagel’s press secretary acknowledged the two “shared a very frank exchange of views”.

In his speech at the PLA National Defense University, Hagel confronted several disagreements head on, scolding China for its support of North Korea while warning against “coercion” in territorial disputes with its smaller neighbors in the South China Sea and East China Sea.

Amid rising tensions between China and Japan as well as the Philippines, Hagel emphasised Washington’s military alliance with Japan and other Asian partners, saying: “Our commitment to allies in the region is unwavering.”

China and Japan are embroiled in a bitter row over disputed islands administered by Tokyo in the East China Sea, raising concerns of a potential armed clash between the Asian powers.

And in the South China Sea, the Philippines is at odds with China over a disputed reef, where Beijing recently tried to block a boat ferrying supplies to Filipino troops in the area. China also has disputes with Viet-nam and others in the area.

China’s defense minister, General Chang Wanquan, blamed America’s allies—Japan and the Philippines—for the tensions, suggesting Washington needed to restrain its partners.

Beijing hoped the United States would keep Tokyo “within bounds and not be permissive” Chang told a joint press conference in the Chinese capital.

“China has indisputable sovereignty” over the islands in dispute with Japan, Chang said, calling territorial sovereignty a “core issue” on which “we will make no compromise”.

But he suggested China would not take pre-emptive action: “We will not take the initiative to stir up troubles.”

Last November Beijing unilaterally declared an air defense identification zone (ADIZ) over the East China Sea, including the disputed islands, prompting condemnation by Washington.

Beijing requires aircraft flying through its ADIZ to identify themselves and maintain communication with Chinese authorities, but the zone is not a claim of sovereignty.

Hagel said countries have a right to ADIZs but said setting them up without consulting other governments was risky as it could lead to “misunderstandings” and “eventually get to a dangerous conflict”.

Hagel also called on China to play a more constructive role on North Korea, saying Beijing risked damaging its image in the world by failing to rein in the regime, which has recently test-fired medium range missiles.

“Continuing to support a regime that engages in these provocative and dangerous actions, and oppresses its people, will only hurt China’s international standing,” he said.

The discord on Tuesday came after an initially positive tone on Monday, when Chinese naval officers gave Hagel a tour of the country’s new aircraft carrier at a base in Qingdao, a rare move for the normally secretive PLA.

Hagel thanked the Chinese for the ship tour and called it a promising step, but another sore point emerged Tuesday as Hagel prodded Beijing to pursue a more open dialogue on cyber espionage.

Fort Magsaysay shrinking, losing 460 hectares yearly

From the Manila Bulletin (Apr 8): Fort Magsaysay shrinking, losing 460 hectares yearly

CAPTAIN REYES: ‘The reservation is now down to 45,837 hectares from a high of 73,000 hectares in 1955.’ (Sheen Crisologo)

CAPTAIN REYES: ‘The reservation is now down to 45,837 hectares from a high of 73,000 hectares in 1955.’ (Sheen Crisologo)

Fort Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija — This military camp has been shrinking in size over the years at an average of 460 hectares per year, owing to the issuance of various presidential proclamations and the intrusion of thousands of informal settlers.

Army Captain Robert Reyes, adjutant of the 7th Infantry Division based in this camp, told a press briefing recently that the reservation is now down to 45,837 hectares from a high of 73,000 when it was first established pursuant to Presidential Decree 237 on Dec. 19, 1955.

Reyes said they are now looking into various ways and means to somehow recover and retain its land area.

“We are now looking into the different proclamations, directives and reviewing them. Of course there are areas we can no longer recover. And we refer other claims to the Office of the SolGen (Solicitor General),” he said.

At present, he said their goal is to be able to utilize the areas.

Reyes said some other areas, like the 3,100 hectares in Laur town, have already been segregated as settlement for victims of the Mt. Pinatubo eruptions.

“These 3,100 hectares are now the subject of a review and we need further study,” he said.

Reyes said that the situation is worsened by the proliferation of informal settlers. He said they are proposing two relocation sites to house the informal settlers who have grown to 15,000 individuals.

The presence of these informal settlers has been setting back efforts to fully develop the reservation.

The division said that they are planning to turn portions of the reservation into a vast area for agriculture production, including 3,000 hectares for bamboo plantation.

A proposed land use plan also intends to set up a logistics center, an economic and industrial zone, eco-tourism area, reforestation area, a plantation area for fruit-bearing and non-fruit bearing trees, a livestock and vegetable area and 240 hectares for the proposed transfer of the National Bilibid Prisons (NBP) in Muntinlupa to this camp.

Also being eyed is the construction of a hangar/warehouse for stockpiling of relief goods and other rescue support.

The proposed site for the NBP is in Barangay Nazareth, Gen. Tinio town.

On April 10, 2013, then-commanding general and now Northern Luzon (Nolcom) commanding general, Lt. Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang and Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) Director Franklin Bucayu surveyed three possible sites for the NBP, two in Nazareth and one in Canantong, Laur.

“These are just proposals at this point but we intend to pursue them if we can,” Reyes said.

US think tank belittles book’s view on sea dispute

From the Manila Bulletin (Apr 10): US think tank belittles book’s view on sea dispute

Public service professionals in the Philippines are “among the best any government can produce,” according to one of the most influential conservative research organizations in the United States.

The statement was made by Walter Lohman, director of The Heritage Foundation’s Asian Studies Center. Lohman spoke up for the Philippines after a top global thinker” described the country as “less a country than a ramshackle empire ruled from Luzon” in his latest work about the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) territorial dispute.

The Heritage Foundation is an American conservative think tank based in Washington, D.C. It was ranked fifth in Foreign Policy magazine’s 2009 list of the nation’s most influential think tanks.

Demonstration Of Weakness

In his newly published book “Asia’s Cauldron: The South China Sea and the End of a Stable Pacific,” American journalist Robert Kaplan also highlighted the seemingly futile attempt of the Philippines to thwart China’s rising power considering the former’s battered armed forces. He described the Philippines’ appeal to international law in pursuit of its territorial claims as “the ultimate demonstration of weakness.”

Kaplan was named by Foreign Policy magazine as one of the world’s “top 100 global thinkers” in 2012. He is the national correspondent for The Atlantic magazine and writer for American global intelligence company Strategic Forecasting, Inc.

In his critique of the book, Lohman, said the author’s depiction of the Philippines “is uncharitable to say the least.”

Book Filled With Misjudgements

In his critique of the book, Lohman, said: “Whatever motivates such a sweeping conclusion, it cannot be an objective examination of the facts,” said Lohman. He dismissed it as a book filled with “mischaracterizations and misjudgments about the current state of affairs” particularly on a chapter devoted to the Philippines’ supposed vain appeal to international law in pursuit of its territorial claims.

“There are many other people of principle in the service of their nation in both government and civil society,” said Lohman. He pointed out that “the country that created President Ferdinand Macros” also produced the “near-sainted parents” of President Benigno Aquino III.

He said Kaplan also failed to fully understand the current state of Washington-Manila relationship as he still sees the Philippines as nothing but “America’s Colonial Burden,” citing the title of one of the book’s chapters.

Mischief Reef

According to Lohman, the Philippines “had long ago re-learned the value of the US-Philippines alliance—if they had indeed forgotten it—at Mischief Reef in 1995.”

The Mischief Reef, which the Philippines calls the Panganiban Reef, is 150 miles West of Palawan, the Philippines’ nearest land mass, and 620 miles South-East of China.

In 1995, China built initial structures on stilts while the Philippine Navy was not patrolling the area due to the monsoon season. The Philippine government immediately protested this action. However, the Chinese government rejected the protest and said that the structures were shelter for fishermen.

However, when the Mischief Reef dispute came to the fore that year, the US government merely reacted cautiously making clear its neutrality.

“In a more serious examination of the problems presented American policy makers in the South China Sea, Kaplan would have told the full story of Scarborough Shoal in 2012,” he said.

Standoff in 2012

Lohman was referring to the standoff between China and the Philippines which began on April 8, 2012 over the Philippine Navy apprehension of eight Chinese fishing vessels in the disputed Scarborough Shoal.

Since then, tensions have continued between the two countries.

Under a 2012 deal mediated by the US, China and the Philippines promised to withdraw their forces from the shoal until a deal over its ownership could be reached.
The Philippines complied with the agreement and withdrew. China, however, did not abide the agreement and maintained its presence at the shoal, effectively militarizing it.

“What they learned in 2012 was that they cannot bank on America’s clout with (China),” said Lohman. “All observers—including Obama administration officials—tell the same story. The US leaned on the Philippines to remove their ships from Scarborough on the promise that it would demand the same of the Chinese. The Philippines did as asked; the Chinese—whether or not they were ever actually asked by the US—did not.”

MILF forms political party, entice bets

From the Manila Bulletin (Apr 10): MILF forms political party, entice bets

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has formed its political party to “continue the struggle” for self-determination without the use of guns starting from the 2016 synchronized national,  regional and national elections.

Ghazali Jaafar, vice chairman for political affairs of the 11,000-strong MILF, announced this latest move in the face of an impending completion by a 15-member transition commission of its draft of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) for subsequent review by the Office of the President and legislation by Congress.

The MILF political party called United Bangsamoro Justice Party will field candidates in the 2016 polls for elective officials of the would-be created Bangsamoro new autonomous political entity (NAPE), according to Jaafar.

Jaafar said the MILF political party, which has been submitted to the Securities and Exchange Commission for consideration before accreditation by the Commission on Elections, has already established chapters in major areas of the Bangsamoro entity, such as the five provinces of ARMM.

“We have already named chairs(of chapters)  in Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Lanao del Sur and Maguindanao and other areas,” Jaafar was quoted as saying.

With the political party, Iqbal says the rebels “will continue the struggle, but no longer with arms,” Mohagher Iqbal, chairman of the MILF peace panel and the Bangsamoro Transition Commission, said Tuesday.

The formation of the MILF political party came after the government and the MILF signed last March 27 the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), the summation of all peace deals they had earlier forged to carve the more powerful NAPE.

According to Jaafar, the party was formed weeks ago and has chapters now in major areas included in the Bangsamoro entity proposed for establishment next year in replacement of the 24-year old Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

Envisioned as core territory of the Bangsamoro region the present geographical area of ARMM (Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Sulu, Basilan and Tawi-Tawi as well as Marawi and Lamitan cities), the municipalities of Baloi, Munai, Nunungan, Pantar, Tagoloan and Tangkal in Lanao del Norte and 39 villages in Pigcawayan, Kabacan, Carmen, Aleosan, Pikit and Midsayap towns in North Cotabato.

Majority of residents of the Bangsamoro core territory voted for autonomy in the 2001 plebiscite for ARMM expansion. They would be asked anew of their preference in another plebiscite next year for the ratification of a Congress-legislated BBL.

Jaafar and Iqbal alongside Presidential Peace Adviser Teresita “Ging” Deles and Maguindanao Governor Esmael Mangudadatu held a press conference last Sunday in Buluan town where the elected provincial official hosted that same day a grand kanduli or thanksgiving banquet for the signing of the CAB.

The two MILF leaders did not mention at the press conference about the formation of the political party, joining instead Sec. Deles and Gov, Mangudadatu in campaigning for public support to the passage of the BBL and its eventual ratification, and other processes concerning the implementation of the CAB.

The MILF officials, in another report, said their political party welcome any candidate as long as “he or she is for the good of the Bangsamoro.

“It did not mean that if they are not MILF members, they will not be allowed to run anymore,” Iqbal said.

Deles also announced Tuesday that with the MILF’s massive drive for the implementation of the CAB, the government is expecting “a growing legion of peace advocates campaigning for the entrenchment of the Bangsamoro government.”

“I think we can be confident about the results of the (2015) plebiscite,” Deles said on Sunday in Buluan where she attended a thanksgiving hosted by Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu for the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro.

Gov. Mangudadatu, who was inducted Sunday as elected president of the Alliance for Just Peace and Development – an apolitical group of professionals supporting the current peace process, has expressed optimism the BBL, once enacted, would be ratified overwhelmingly in Maguindanao.

Reds’ tale of P1M taken during arrest called a concoction

From Malaya (Apr 10): Reds’ tale of P1M taken during arrest called a concoction

THE militant group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) yesterday asked the Armed Forces to return the P1.5 million that it said the military seized from communist leaders Benito Tiamzon and Wilma Austria during their arrest in Cebu last month.
Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. said Tiamzon, chairman of the Communist Party of the Philippines, and Austria, CPP secretary general, told him that money was for victims of super typhoon “Yolanda.”
He said Tiamzon and Austria relayed the same message in handwritten letter sent to a Bayan forum last April 5 in Quezon City.
The military called it “propaganda.”
“They are trying to divert the issue from the crimes committed by the couple,” said Maj. Gen. Eduardo Año, chief of the Intelligence Service of the AFP (ISAFP).
The ISAFP and operatives of the PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group served the arrest warrants on Tiamzon and Austria for multiple murder and multiple frustrated murder last March 22.
He dared Bayan to file a case against the arresting team in court. He said the arrest was properly documented by the CIDG.
“Ang dapat i-emphasize dito, nahuli yung mag-asawa dahil sa maraming krimeng ginawa nila. Yun ang main issue dito,” said Año.
“Kahit sinkong duling hindi kukuha yung PNP at AFP dun...Hindi kukunin ng AFP saka PNP yung pera para masira yung pagkakuha ng mag-asawa na yan...Napakalaking effort ito na ginawa ng Armed Forces at saka pulis,” he said.
An earlier military statement did not mention any cash recovered from the couple during their arrest. The statement said the “major items” seized from the couple were four handguns, magazines and ammunition, two hand grenades, two vans, four laptop computers, 16 cellphones, and 20 flash drives.
Reyes said according to the letter from Tiamzon and Austria, the money is with the military’s Central Command.
Reyes said the issue on the confiscated money was already raised by the couple’s lawyers “at the first instance after their arrest” by the military, but to no avail.
Tiamzon and Austria are detained at the PNP Custodial Center in Camp Crame.
They refused to enter any plea during their arraignment at a Quezon City court last Tuesday for charges of kidnapping with serious illegal detention. They are accused of abducting four military officers and a narcotics command agent at a checkpoint in 1988. 
The murder charges were in relation to their alleged involvement in the killing of civilians in Inopacan, Leyte, whose bodies were discovered in a mass grave in 2006.

China fires shot across US bow ahead of Obama’s Asia trip

From Malaya (Apr 10): China fires shot across US bow ahead of Obama’s Asia trip

In one of the many frank exchanges US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel had in China this week, General Fan Changlong told him how one of his uncles died as a slave in a Japanese mine during World War Two.
Fan, deputy head of China’s powerful Central Military Commission, spoke about the lessons of history, signalling Beijing’s concerns that the United States was siding with Japan against China.
Hagel replied by saying his own father had helped fight Japanese forces in World War Two.
“The secretary made it very clear that we should be informed by history but not driven by it,” a US official told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity to recount a conversation on Tuesday that he described as terse.
The exchange sums up the frustration in China over America’s role in Asia, where in the eyes of Beijing, Washington is increasingly supporting Japan as well as other countries over territorial disputes with China. The United States has said it is not taking sides but stands ready to defend its allies.
China, some experts said, appeared to be getting anxious that recent tough talk from US officials over the disputed East and South China Seas could be a preview of what US President Barack Obama would say when he visits Asia this month.
Dispensing with diplomatic protocol, China has made clear this week that it does not want Obama jumping in with both feet when he travels to Japan, the Philippines and Malaysia.
While Beijing has territorial disputes with all three, its ties with Japan and the Philippines, both US allies, are in the deep freeze. Obama will also visit South Korea, with whom Beijing is enjoying warm relations.
China is at loggerheads with Japan in the East China Sea over uninhabited islets that are administered by Tokyo. China also claims most of the South China Sea. The Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei and Taiwan claim parts of those waters.
“Obama needs to pay serious consideration to this issue when he comes to Asia...China has already put this message across during the meetings with Hagel,” said Ruan Zongze, a former diplomat with the China Institute of International Studies in Beijing, a think tank linked to the Foreign Ministry.
“The United States is moving in a direction we don’t want to see, taking sides with Japan and the Philippines, and China is extremely unhappy about this.”
An Obama administration official acknowledged to reporters traveling with Hagel that the tone was sharper on issues surrounding the South and East China Seas than it had been on the last visit by a US defense secretary to China. That was when Hagel’s predecessor Leon Panetta visited in 2012.
“But in other areas the tone was actually improved,” the Obama administration official said, pointing to discussions on Sino-US military cooperation and even North Korea.
On Tuesday, Chinese Defense Minister Chang Wanquan told Hagel that Washington should restrain Japan and chided the Philippines.

Treaty, 'shared history of sacrifice' compel US to fulfill defense commitment to PH - envoy

From InterAksyon (Apr 9): Treaty, 'shared history of sacrifice' compel US to fulfill defense commitment to PH - envoy

US ambassador to Manila Philip Goldberg stands beside President Aquino at Mt. Samat Shrine at the Araw ng Kagitingan (Day of Valor) rites marking the fall of Bataan to Japanese imperial forces 72 years ago. MALACANANG PHOTO
The United States Ambassador to the Philippines on Wednesday affirmed his country’s broad assurance of aid should its treaty ally come under an external attack, vowing as well continued defense cooperation as it inextricably gets dragged into escalating tensions in Asian waters.
In his speech at the Araw ng Kagitingan (Day of Valor) rites at Mt. Samat Shrine marking the heroic defense of Bataan 72 years ago, Ambassador Philip Goldberg said, "As treaty allies, when the Philippines faces threats or natural disasters, so do we."
Goldberg added that history and recent developments have shown that “we can and will continue to work together shoulder to shoulder to improve each other's militaries and our nations as a whole."
His speech comes as Manila and Washington are finalizing a framework agreement on increased US rotational presence in its former colony, which bore the brunt of World War II Japanese atrocities as Filipinos held the line against the Japanese imperial army from 1942 until the US forces returned in 1944.
Under the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty, the US is obligated to help the Philippines in case of an external armed attack.
Goldberg said their commitment to come to Manila’s aid is not just based on a treaty obligation, but anchored on the shared "history of sacrifice" between Filipino and American soldiers during World War II.
He said the shared history "forges the special relationship" or bond of both Manila and Washington. "Like soldiers walking side by side, our friendship is stronger through the adversity we have faced together.”
This year’s commemoration of Bataan’s Fall was also tinged with ironies: joining President Benigno Simeon Aquino III and Ambassador Goldberg at Mt. Samat Shrine was Japan’s ambassador to Manila Toshinao Urabe, who delivered a stirring short speech apologizing for the “inexplicable suffering” of Filipinos during World War II. Its regrettable role in the last war accounted for Japan’s vow never to wage war on others, he explained.
US engages China over rows with Japan, Philippines
US officials have in the last week come face to face in separate events with Chinese, Philippine and Japanese officials.  Like Manila which has a maritime dispute with Beijing over the West Philippine Sea (how Manila calls its territory in the South China Sea), Tokyo has a separate raging dispute with China over the Senkaku islands in the East China Sea.
Washington was urged by Beijing to rein in its defense ally Japan recently; and on another occasion, it was told by China not to take sides in the South China Sea row with another US defense treaty ally, the Philippines.
Goldberg acknowledged on Wednesday the remarkable circumstances today that found together the three nations bound in remembering the lessons of the last war: “Today, it's remarkable that not just our two nations but three—the US, the Philippines, and Japan—have forged close and enduring friendships alliances and strategic partnerships based on democratic values and mutual respect that came from the blood and sacrifice of our soldiers.”
In his speech, Goldberg did not specify the possible threats that could trigger the US’ coming to the Philippines’ defense, but it was seen as referenced to the continued tension over territorial claims.
Tensions escalated last March 29 when Chinese coastguard vessels tried to prevent a re-supply vessel from approaching the Philippines’ BRP Sierra Madre, hosting a Marine contingent in Ayungin Shoal that is part of the Kalayaan Island Group of the Philippines.
The next day, Manila filed its Memorial, or summary of arguments, before a UN arbitral tribunal in The Hague, where it elevated its complaint against China for what Manila called the “excessive claims” with the nine-dash-line map claiming virtually the entire South China Sea. Beijing’s foreign minister said the filing at The Hague “seriously damaged” their bilateral relations.
The maritime row has been in constant simmer since April 2012, when Chinese military vessels stopped Philippine fishery authorities from arresting Chinese fishermen poaching in Panatag Shoal (Scarborough) off western Luzon.
Arbitration inevitable
The Philippines adopted a three-track approach to the territorial dispute with China, but decided to raise the matter to the UN court after Beijing insisted it would only entertain discussions of a bilateral nature.
The US, Japan and another Spratlys claimant –Vietnam—back the Philippines' decision to seek arbitration, with Washington praising Manila’s steadfast recourse to the rule of law, and noting the implications of the case on freedom of navigation.
Amid China's increasing military presence in the West Philippine Sea, Washington has been stepping up military assistance under Manila’s modernization program, while Japan has been providing equipment for the Philippine coastguard.

PH, US rush agreement allowing Americans access to PH camps in time for Obama visit this April

From InterAksyon (Apr 10): PH, US rush agreement allowing Americans access to PH camps in time for Obama visit this April

The Philippines and United States are set to resume on Thursday discussions on a proposed agreement allowing American military forces access to Philippine camps, this eighth round of talks only three weeks before US President Barack Obama is scheduled to visit the country later this April.

The Philippine government has said the completion of the talks that started August 2013 was not dependent on Obama’s visit. The two-day talks, scheduled April 10 and 11, come soon after the seventh round in March 2014.

Originally called Framework for Increased Rotational Presence of US troops, the proposed pact is now called Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement.  Despite official pronouncements to the contrary, the agreement is widely seen as a deterred to China’s aggression in the South China Sea.

In a Department of Foreign Affairs statement, Defense Undersecretary and Chairman of the Philippine Negotiating Panel Pio Lorenzo Batino highlighted instead the “vital importance” of increasing capabilities to respond to natural and man-made calamities, noting the recent examples of super typhoon Yolanda and the missing Malaysian Airlines jet MH 370.

Batino listed the following benefits from the agreement under negotiations: critical and timely support to the modernization of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, achievement of the country’s minimum credible defense posture, and provision of jobs and other economic opportunities through the local goods and supplies procurement that will be made by the United States military.

The other members of the Philippine Negotiating Panel are Ambassador Lourdes Yparraguirre, Ambassador J. Eduardo Malaya, Justice Undersecretary Francisco Baraan III, and Defense Assistant Secretary for Strategic Assessments Raymund Jose Quilop.

Kidnap of Chinese, Filipino worker in Sabah political

From the Daily Tribune (Apr 9): Kidnap of Chinese, Filipino worker in Sabah political

More than ransom payment, the recent kidnapping of a Filipino hotel worker and a Chinese tourist from a resort off Sabah is “political.”

An informed The Tribune source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that a group linked with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) was responsible in the abduction of Marcelita Dayawan, 40, and Gao Huayuan, 29, from Singamata Reef Resort in Semporna.

The source said that the MNLF-Tausugs want to send the message that they are still a force to reckon with.

“Why are they targeting Semporna? The place is a known stronghold of the MNLF and Tausugs. They want to show that they are in control of the area,” the source said. “More than money, it’s political,’’ he added.

He noted that the MNLF, particularly the Tausugs, supports the Sultanate of Sulu’s claims over Sabah.

Last year, hundreds of supporters of the Sulu Sultanate, led by Rajah Muda Agbimuddin Kiram, laid siege in Lahad Datu, Sabah to revive the sultanate’s claim over the territory. The Malaysian government launched massive military operations against the Filipinos and the conflict ended after two months with scores of people killed.

“They (MNLF-Tausugs) are unhappy with what is happening,” the source said.
The source also identified a certain Hadji Mamih Sangkula, a former leader of the MNLF, as responsible in the kidnapping of Dayawan and Gao Wednesday last week.

The source said that after the abduction, Sangkula’s group went to Tawi-Tawi where another group fetched them and apparently took the victims.

“They (victims) are now in Jolo and passed on to still unknown group,” the source said.

The military earlier tagged Murphy Ambang Ladia, alias Haji Gulam, as the leader of the group that pulled off the kidnapping. Ladia is linked to the terrorist Abu Sayyaf group.

Ladia, the military said, was a former MNLF leader and active member of the Misuari Breakaway Group before joining ASG.

The military’s Western Mindanao Command had established a naval blockade along sea routes of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi Tawi provinces immediately after the kidnapping.

Tribes seek total military pullout from Davao del Norte village

From the Business World (Apr 9): Tribes seek total military pullout from Davao del Norte village

Members of local tribes, or lumads, from Talaingod, Davao del Norte have sought the intercession of the Davao City Council on their request for a total military pullout from their villages.

At least 309 families -- 1,357 individuals -- from eight sitios in Barangay Palma Gil, Talaingod walked for days and hitched a ride heading to Davao City, to seek a sanctuary and neutral ground.

The 68th Infantry Battalion (IB), 60th IB, and the Army’s Special Forces have been conducting operations against rebel groups in Talaingod, about two hours away from here.
“We evacuated after being harassed by the military with their troops and three big airplanes and two helicopters with machine guns,” Datu Dolo Mandausay, spokesman of the evacuees, told members of the Davao City Council on Tuesday (April 8) in the vernacular.

He said many of his fellow evacuees, who are now staying at the city’s compound of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines need food and medicine since many of them are sick.

“The immediate needs of the lumads are food, medicine, clothes and other basic needs,” Aya Lagraje, a teacher from the University of the Philippines in Mindanao who is representing the Save Talaingod Support Group, said. However, she said, the long-term need has to be addressed too particularly the demand for the pullout of government troops in their villages.

Davao City Mayor Rodrigo R. Duterte said the city can provide food for the evacuees for humanitarian reasons but only as far as the city’s resources would allow. He said financial aid for fares or other needs is out of the question since the Commission on Audit has warned him to prioritize spending for the city’s needs only.

Mayor Basilio Libayao of Talaingod apologized to Mr. Duterte for the inconvenience caused by his constituents who evacuated to the city. At the same time, he thanked the mayor for the assistance provided to the lumads.

Colonel Harold N. Cabreros, commander of the Army’s 1003rd Brigade, said the military did not conduct aerial bombings in Barangay Palma Gil and neither did they occupy the houses and school buildings in the Talaingod villages. He said it was the residents themselves who sought their assistance after the rebels threatened the local communities.
“The root cause of this situation is the presence of the communist rebels in the communities,” he said. The troops were only in the area to conduct the peace and development outreach program when they encountered members of the New People’s Army (NPA) Front Committee 55, he added.

Mr. Libayao said the people who brought the lumads to Davao were only using them, saying that he would be the first to know if there was harassment and aerial bombings in the area. He ordered the police to investigate the organizers who led the lumads to Davao City.
Mr. Cabreros said the troops found several NPA encampments in the communities in Barangay Palma Gil as well as several improvised land mines from the NPA camp.
The lumads were urged to return to Talaingod as the government is ready to provide relief assistance as well as an evacuation center for them.

Gov’t eyes P2B from sale of assets

From the Philippine Star (Apr 9): Gov’t eyes P2B from sale of assets

The government is hoping to raise P2 billion this year from the sale of land and mining assets.

Newly-appointed Finance Undersecretary Jose Emmanuel Reverente said the Aquino administration is embarking on an aggressive privatization program with at least nine government assets already identified for disposal until 2016.

He refused to name these assets but said these could include military camps.

Reverente said the Department of Finance is consulting with the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Bases Conversion Development Authority regarding the possible sale of military bases.

“I’m working with the Privatization Management Office to dispose off more government assets this year. We want to support the government’s revenue efforts.  We plan to raise P2 billion a year up to the end of President Aquino’s term in 2016,” Reverente said.

Reverente said the nine assets have yet be valued so it could proceed with the government’s planned divestment program.

“Some of the assets, if not all, have outdated valuations. So that’s why we’re working with transaction advisers to determine the value of those assets. And that’s the first step, so this is like the PPP center doing a project feasibility,” Reverente said.

“So once we have proper valuations we can tell the market now have what we call a reserve price.  Our goal is to have the valuation exercise  completed at the end of the year,” he added.

The BCDA late last year said it was developing a master plan for the partial privatization of the 150-hectare Camp Aguinaldo and other military camps.

The BCDA is mandated to transform former military bases into alternative productive civilian use.

Aside from these, Reverente said the government may also sell shares in some mining companies which include Semirara Mining Corp. and the Nonoc Nickel Mine in Surigao City.

“We have not made a determination whether we will sell it or not. We have about 0.2 percent, it’s not a market mover,” he said.

Philippine Government Delegation Visited 8 Wing/Canadian Forces Base Trenton As Part of Military Training And Cooperation Program

From the Ottawa Citizen (Apr 8): Philippine Government Delegation Visited 8 Wing/Canadian Forces Base Trenton As Part of Military Training And Cooperation Program

A Philippine Government delegation visited 8 Wing/Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Trenton, Ontario, on March 26 during their week-long visit to Canada as part of the Department of National Defence’s Military Training and Cooperation Program (MTCP).

“The MTCP meets the Government of Canada’s foreign and defence policy objectives by expanding and reinforcing Canada’s bilateral defence relations, while raising its national profile on the world stage,” said Jean Neron from the Directorate of Military Training Cooperation. “The Philippine Delegation is here to see how we force generate our rapid disaster assistance response capability with the intent of building a similar capability back home.”

The visit was initiated following the Disaster Assistance Response Team’s (DART) humanitarian assistance to Filipino communities hit by Typhoon Haiyan late last year.

“We are very grateful to the Canadian nation for their assistance through Operation Renaissance and we are very impressed how Canada’s DART capability was deployed very rapidly,” said Jesus Domingo, Assistant Secretary, UN and International Organizations, Department of Foreign Affairs of the Philippines. “We want to know more about the DART with the intent of learning Canada’s best practices so we can apply them in order to help more people.”

During the visit at CFB Trenton, Wing Logistics and Engineering Officer Lieutenant-Colonel Dany Breton briefed the group how the RCAF’s air mobility assets were employed to rapidly deploy the DART to the Philippines. The delegation also visited the DART warehouse, 2 Air Movements Squadron, a CC-177 Globemaster III and the National Air Force Museum of Canada.

Mr. Domingo said that they also visited the Canadian Army’s 1 Canadian Division in Kingston, Ontario, and the Canadian Joint Operations Command (CJOC) in Ottawa. They are also scheduled to visit the Department of Foreign Affairs Trade and Development (DFATD).

“What is admirable is to see the close relationship between DFATD, the Canadian Armed Forces, and other government departments,” said Mr. Domingo. “That’s also what we want to learn from and take points from in addition to how the Canadian military impressively organize expeditionary missions; we see a lot of good things we could apply.”

According to Lieutenant-Colonel Cesar Molina, Assistant Division Chief, Research Development Division, Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, they learned a lot of best practices from Canada that they can replicate to better serve the people.

“Our country is frequented by typhoons and other natural calamities, learning how Canada organize and deploy such an impressive disaster response capability will help advance improve our process in helping our people,” said Lieutenant-Colonel Molina.

Canada’s bilateral relations with the Philippines are strong and friendly, and marked by close cooperation in a variety of areas, which includes promoting democratic development, good governance, rule of law, peace, and the promotion and protection of human rights in the Philippines.

There are ever increasing people-to-people links between Canada and the Philippines, with approximately 800,000 people of Philippine origin in Canada. In recent years the Philippines has become the largest source country for immigrants to Canada. There are approximately 7,500 Canadians residing in the Philippines.

US ambassador: Phl, US to boost forces

From the Philippine Star (Apr 9): US ambassador: Phl, US to boost forces

In this December 2013 photo, Philippines US Ambassador Philip Goldberg (right) takes group photo with US Pacific Commander Adm. Samuel Locklear (left) and Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of staff Gen. Emmanuel Bautista (center) prior to discussing the progress of Operation Damayan/PhilippinesTyphoon Relief Effort. Sabrina Black/US Pacom
United States Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg said that the Philippines and US will continue to boost their military capabilities amid maritime tensions with China.
"We can and we'll continue to work together shoulder to shoulder to improve each others' militaries and our nations as a whole," Goldberg said In a televised speech on Wednesday in a ceremony honoring heroes of World War II.
Goldberg made the statement as the yearly war games and training exercises between the US and Philippine armed forces  are about start.
He said that the "shared history" of the two allied nations makes the friendship stronger despite social and environmental challenges.
"As Typhoon Yolanda demonstrated, when our nations' soldiers and civilians work together we are prepared to respond to any disaster. As treaty allies, when the Philippine faces threats or natural disasters, so do we," he said, referring to the standing Mutual Defense Treaty signed in 1951 dictating that the countries would come to each other's aid if attacked by a third party.
The US was similarly among the first countries to deploy a humanitarian mission and troops in the aftermath of the deadly typhoon the flattened towns in the Visayas in November last year.
Goldberg also cited the strategic partnership of the Philippines and the US with Japan, their rival during World War II.
"We are thankful that in the end, peace reached our lands, the Philippines, Japan and the United States," he said.

Civilians flee as military launches campaign vs NPA rebels in Southern Philippines

From the Mindanao Examiner (Apr 8): Civilians flee as military launches campaign vs NPA rebels in Southern Philippines

Philippine military offensives against communist rebels have forced an exodus of civilians, mostly indigenous tribesmen, in the southern province of Davao del Norte, human rights groups said.

Hundreds of families have fled the military assault on New People’s Army strongholds in Talaingod town and many of them sought safe refuge in Davao City. Tribesmen and villagers fear they would be caught in the crossfire or arrested or branded as rebels or supporters of the New People’s Army which is waging a secessionist war for many decades now.

Media group Kilab, which documented the exodus of civilians, reported that more than 1,000 tribesmen are currently in Davao City and the number of those escaping the government offensive is steadily increasing by the day. “More than a thousand indigenous people have fled their villages after the Armed Forces of the Philippines persistently tormented their communities. Manobo men, women and children have travelled all the way from Talaingod to Davao City to seek refuge and expose the violations of their right to ancestral land and self-determination,” it said.

The Children Rehabilitation Center has conducted psycho-social intervention to some 500 Ata- Manobo children in their refugee camp at the United Church of Christ of the Philippines’ Haran House. It put the evacuees at around 1,300. “The participants were among the 1, 300 indigenous people from the hinterlands of Talaingod Norte who evacuated due to what they say massive militarization that includes aerial bombing, harassment and military encampment in the schools and communities,” it said.

There were no immediate reports of casualties either in the military or rebel side.

The NPA condemned the government assault, saying the attacks only affected innocent civilians and branded the military campaign as “atrocious operations.”

“The state’s use of overwhelming force against the NPA and its display of superior armament and forces in rugged mountainous terrain of guerrilla zones and bases has been proven in history as a failed formula. The enemy attacks a guerrilla force that is not a fixed military target. It drops bombs against empty camps, it attacks in thin air. Failing that, their overwhelming military force takes a cowardly retreat by instilling fear in the minds of the rural populace and innocent civilians,” a rebel spokesman Rigoberto Sanchez told the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner.

“The AFP’s overweening arrogance and unconcern for the welfare of civilians is also displayed in its recent sortie in Talaingod when the NPA discharged command detonated explosives against their troops. It was obvious that the military exploited the civilians and the media as their protective cover under the pretext of relief operations for displaced Manobos. The AFP does not care one whit if civilians are killed or maimed,” he added.

AFP refers to the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Sanchez said government forces were attacking tribesmen in southern Philippines who are opposing or fighting unabated logging and large-scale mining operations within their ancestral domain. “The AFP’s mission in Talaingod - their unspoken objective - is to punish Lumad Manobos for having practiced their right to self-determination by prevailing over stage neglect and national oppression. The Lumads were in the process of building their own self-sufficient economy, a thing which the state finds abominable, hence the bombing and other abuses. Lumads are fair game to the 10th Infantry Division-Eastern Mindanao Command’s psychological warfare and inhuman operations,” he said.

He said the indigenous people for decades have been deprived of their ancestral rights and fallen victims of state exploitation. “They have waged campaign against land grabbers, large-scale miners and against reactionary laws and programs that try to subvert their rightful claim over their lands. Vastly neglected by the reactionary government, they nurtured farms, schools, under auspices of their own tribal system of leadership,” Sanchez said, adding the military has been tagging tribesmen as rebels or NPA supporters to justify its operations and pave the way for mining firms and logging to further exploit ancestral lands of the natives.

He also branded as “inutile” the military operations against the NPA, saying it would never win because the support of the people on the communist struggle is strong. “Indeed, the AFP, while superior in a war of quick decision, is inutile against a people's army waging widespread and intensive guerrilla warfare in the framework of a protracted people's war,” he said.


The military’s Eastern Mindanao Command strongly denied all accusations of human rights violations and also branded the allegations as mere “propaganda.”

Captain Alberto Caber, a spokesman for the military command, said the operations were aimed at weakening the NPA in the province following reports by civilians of massive abuses and atrocities committed by the rebel group.

“We are the protector of the people and we uphold human rights of every citizen and our operation is aimed at the communist terrorists who continue to their atrocities not only in Davao, but elsewhere in the region,” he said in a separate interview.

Caber also released statements by tribal leaders and politicians in Talaingod denying reports of military abuses in the town. “For truth and peace, there were no abuses committed by the soldiers in the area. If indeed there are, then I myself will defend my people,” Caber quoted Talaingod Mayor Basilio Libayao as saying.

He said the politician also took a swipe on PASAKA, a confederation of indigenous peoples’ organizations in southern Philippines, as behind the evacuation of tribesmen in Davao City.

“The mayor also revealed that the residents were discreetly gathered by a group called PASAKA at night to leave their residences in order to make it appear that the soldiers on peace outreach in the area committed abuses. Mayor Libayao further said that they are seeking assistance from Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte to let the evacuees return to Talaingod,” Caber said.

“We are capable to attend the needs of our constituents. The organizers did not inform local authorities of their plan to bring the evacuees to Davao City. We are seeking assistance to the good mayor of Davao City to bring back our constituents here in our municipality. We also apologize for any disturbance, in one way or another, they may have caused,” the mayor was quoted as saying.

Caber, citing reports by social workers, said only 300 tribesmen have evacuated to Davao City.

Datu Ruben Labawan, leader of the Supreme Tribal Council for Peace and Development, said the evacuees need to return to their respective homes and farms to live normally. “I appeal to the organizers, do not exploit the plight of the indigenous people, do not put us at risk. Please respect us,” he said.

Other tribal leaders said PASAKA does not represent the indigenous tribes in Talaingod and has not right to speak in their behalf.

Caber said troops have captured several rebel camps and recovered landmines during the operations which began just recently.

Lt. Gen. Ricardo Rainier Cruz, the commander of the Eastern Mindanao Command, has ordered military commanders to extend assistance to the villagers affected by the anti-communist campaign. “It is our desire to protect the indigenous people from NPA’s deception and aggression. The military and police will always be there to protect the people. Rest assured that our best effort is to serve the people so they can live peacefully and without fear,” he said.