Sunday, April 13, 2014

MILF hopes for smooth journey of proposed bill for Bangsamoro government

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 14): MILF hopes for smooth journey of proposed bill for Bangsamoro government
The Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) tasked to draft a proposed bill that will replace the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) is hoping Philippine Congress will give its long awaited nod for the creation of the new political entity for muslims in Southern Philippines.

Mohaqher Iqbal, BTC chairperson, said the commission will submit this afternoon to Malacanang the proposed bill that will legalize the establishment of the Bangsamoro government in Mindanao.

"We are looking for a smooth debate and eventual approval of the bill that will define the outcome of the government and Moro rebel peace negotiations," Mohaqher Iqbal, chief negotiator of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), said.

The BTC, composed of seven representatives from the government and eight representatives from the MILF, had drafted the proposed law after a series of consultations with all sectors in the proposed Bangsamoro govenrment to be composed of ARMM provinces as core area and four towns and 39 villages outside the region.

Once the bill reaches Malacanang, President Aquino is expected to certify it as urgent bill and forward to Philippine Congress.

Iqbal said the proposed law is open to revisions by Malacanang acceptable to both parties.

The Bangsamoro Basic Law is the ultimate outcome of 17 years of peace negotiations by Manila and MILF.

A multi-sectoral group will hold simultaneous peace rallies in various parts of Mindanao and in Manila in support of the journey of the proposed law.

Roxas orders audit of senior officials in PNP to resolve PMA, PNPA rivalry

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Apr 13): Roxas orders audit of senior officials in PNP to resolve PMA, PNPA rivalry

Interior Secretary Mar Roxas. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

It doesn’t matter if you’re crispy pata or fried chicken.

Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II has stepped into the purported rift between graduates of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) and the Philippine National Police Academy (PNPA) — jokingly referred to as crispy pata and fried chicken, respectively — and ordered an audit of senior police officials occupying major posts in the 148,000-strong police force.

Roxas, an adopted member of the PMA Class of 1984, maintained that the source of one’s commission to the force (whether PMA or PNPA) should not be a basis for promoting and designating police officials.

“This is one of those issues which can be addressed by reviewing the existing policies. There should not be a bata-bata system (favoritism)” or personal quota system. It’s wrong,” Roxas told reporters here on Saturday.

“There should be a clear set of rules in promoting and appointing PNP officers, particularly to critical posts. We should not forget that this issue involves security, law and order…security against terroristic acts and drug trafficking,” he said.

The interior secretary said he has ordered Deputy Director General Felipe Rojas Jr., the PNP deputy chief for administration, to submit to him the names of PNPA and PMA alumni designated to key police units.

PNPA graduates have been complaining about the alleged bias in the designation of senior police officers in the police force, claiming PMA alumni were being favored for plum posts.

Roxas said he had yet to see the letter sent to him by members of the PNPA Alumni Association Inc. who sought his assistance in addressing the alleged inequitable designation of alumni of the country’s premier police and military academies.

“The list should include the number of PNPA and PMA graduates in the PNP and where they are currently assigned. But it’s not just for the sake of accounting them.

You must understand that one has to serve a minimum number of years before he or she can be promoted to a star-rank,” Roxas said.

“While I understand that there is some kind of rivalry (between alumni of PMA and PNPA), it should not be an issue. If their training is good and their performance is remarkable, they should be promoted accordingly.”

US sweetens defense deal; PH seeks review

From the Manila Standard Today (Apr 14): US sweetens defense deal; PH seeks review

PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino III will use the 1987 Constitution and the  national interest in reviewing the draft of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement between the Philippines and the United States, Malacañang said on Sunday.

“The agreement has to be aligned with our Constitution and must uphold the national interest of the Philippines,” Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said.

“These will be the President’s guiding principles in reviewing the draft.”

Coloma made his statement even as the left-leaning Bagong Alyansang Makabayan said the US was offering humanitarian assistance and disaster response to the Philippines as an incentive to speed up the approval of the EDCA.

“True assistance should not require any military pact,” said Renato Reyes Jr., the group’s secretary-general.

“Why is the so-called assistance being tied to the military pact? That is deception."

Reyes said the agreement had a section called humanitarian assistance and disaster response or HADR, and particularly in the areas devastated by super typhoon Yolanda.

“The United States has no real interest to help us develop our military capability. It wants to keep the Armed Forces of the Philippines dependent on US aid,” Reyes said.

“They are using HADR to justify the pact. The US is the only country offering the so-called HADR in exchange for a military pact.”

Coloma could not yet confirm if Aquino has received a copy of the draft EDCA from the Philippine negotiating panel led by Defense Undersecretary Pio Batino.

But he said there was no concerted effort to make sure the EDCA was signed during the visit of US President Barack Obama on April 28.

“There is no deadline for the signing of the agreement,” Coloma said.

“What’s important is that this pact must reflect the highest interest of our country in terms of national defense.”

On Friday, Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Cuisia said the EDCA would only allow the American military to use the facilities of the Armed Forces of the Philippines “at the invitation of the Philippines.”

He said the US would also be required to get the consent of the Philippines as to what it could bring into the country, where all forms of nuclear weapons would be prohibited in accordance with the Constitution.

But Reyes said the Filipinos must not be fooled into thinking that the US would willingly serve as a counterbalance to China through its Asian pivot without getting the lion’s share from the EDCA.

“The imminent signing of the so-called EDCA will be a gross violation of Philippine sovereignty and the Constitution,” Reyes said.

“The oft-repeated rationale is that we need this agreement with the US to protect ourselves from Chinese incursions. So what Aquino is basically saying is, to protect Filipinos from the neighborhood bully, we’re inviting a rapist inside our house to do as he pleases. That is the implication of this agreement.”

Gov’t aims to shut down Sulu ‘kidnapping industry'

From the Manila Bulletin (Apr 13): Gov’t aims to shut down Sulu ‘kidnapping industry’

Authorities have been meeting with local officials and cause-oriented groups based in Sulu to expand the intelligence and operational cooperation to erase its notorious tag as the kidnapping haven of the country.

Chief Superintendent Agrimero Cruz, Jr., commander of a police task force in-charge of ending kidnapping activities in Sulu, said officials down to the town and barangay levels, along with leaders of various groups in Sulu, have been attending a series of dialogues with the police and the military the  past weeks.

“During the meetings, it seems that they are seriously affected by the news describing Sulu as the favorite hideout of kidnappers and their victims,” Cruz told the Manila Bulletin by phone.

“They are determined to remove that tag because according to them, it does not sound right and fair and it is already affecting the image of Sulu especially for investors,” he added.

Cruz said they initiated the dialogue during his assumption of a new post last month.
It will be recalled that the national government had expressed alarm over kidnapping activities in Mindanao, in which most of the victims had been turned over to the Sulu-based Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), a bandit group linked to the al-Qaeda, “for safekeeping.”

The ASG, once in custody of the kidnap victims, also takes over the negotiation for ransom.

Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas went to Sulu early this year to preside a meeting with local officials to end kidnapping activities in the province.
Recently, a Chinese tourist and a Filipina resort worker were abducted in Sabah and were reportedly brought in Mindanao.

Local authorities would not confirm it although there were reports that it was the Abu Sayyaf which did it and that an $11-million ransom is being asked.

Cruz said part of the initial action plan is the identification of the sea routes of Abu Sayyaf and their cohorts in Sulu — meaning the usual area where kidnappers would land in the province to turn over their victims to Abu Sayyaf.

The three areas identified and confirmed by local officials and cause-oriented groups are the shorelines of Jolo, Indanan and Patikul towns.

“We have already deployed enough police forces in these areas purposely to deny them with both entry and exit points,” said Cruz.

The police forces, according to him, will be backed by Marine commandos.

The intelligence build-up, on the other hand, will be beefed up by local officials and other cause-oriented groups.

“We will continuously strengthen our partnership with the community because this will be an effective tool to finally end the kidnapping problem here in the province,” said Cruz.

Bangsamoro law challenge in SC seen

From Malaya (Apr 14): Bangsamoro law challenge in SC seen

SEN. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. yesterday expressed confidence that the Bangsamoro basic law will be passed by Congress within the timeline set by government but said its implementation will face a “legal storm” before the Supreme Court.
“(My) fearless forecast is pag naipasa na sa both houses (of Congress) ‘yan, i-cha-challenge agad yan sa Supreme Court dahil sa constitutionality question; a question of sovereignty within a sovereignty.
Alam ko kasi marami na ang nagsasabi sa akin that they will test it in the (Supreme) court…to challenge it.”
Marcos chairs the Senate committee on local government which will hear the proposed Bangsamoro basic law (BBL).
The BBL is being drafted by a transition commission. Government is hoping to submit it to Congress next month for passage before the year ends.
The BBL will create a Bangsamoro political entity by 2016. The entity will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. The passage of the BBL means the start of preparations for a plebiscite which will be held the first quarter of 2015 in the provinces and cities that will be covered by the new Bangsamoro political entity.
Marcos said he wants to see a permanent peace being enjoyed by all in Mindanao.
“I am for peace in Mindanao. Everybody is for peace; nobody is against peace at suportado naman lahat na magkaroon ng kapayapaan sa mga magulong area sa Mindanao,” he said.
Marcos’ panel is expected to schedule a hearing immediately after the draft bill is submitted to Congress.
Earlier, Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago said the Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro which was signed last month with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front is unconstitutional because it violates the principle of constitutional supremacy, and because the Constitution allows an autonomous region and not a sub-state that will exercise sovereign powers reserved only for the central government.

Years of US presence did not modernize AFP – Bayan

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Apr 13): Years of US presence did not modernize AFP – Bayan

Bayan Secretary General Renato Reyes Jr. INQUIRER file photo

Militant group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) on Sunday lambasted President Benigno Aquino III’s administration, claiming it should not rely on the United States to defend Philippine territory and modernize the military.

“Stand up to China, we must. But let’s not delude ourselves that the US is our protector. The US is only after its own agenda,” Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. said in a statement.

He said the Philippines is “getting the short end of the stick” by again inviting the US into its territory through the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).

The eighth round of negotiations on the EDCA between the two countries was concluded on Friday. Once signed by the Philippine and US government, it will give the US military access to facilities of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Cuisia assured the public that the US will have to get the consent of the government before bringing in anything. He also said it will make it easier for the US to aid the AFP in its modernization program.

But Reyes said the Philippines’ previous experience with the US belies such claims.

“There is also no empirical evidence to support the assertion that giving US forces access to our facilities will modernize our AFP. During the time of the US bases, and even under the VFA, the same argument was used yet our AFP still remained backward,” he said.

Reyes said that instead of the Philippines benefiting from the agreement, it is the US that is taking advantage of the situation.

“The US pivot to Asia involves US allies shouldering the cost of hosting US forces. The US fiscal crisis is making it increasingly difficult for the US to sustain its self-appointed role of global policeman. It is why countries like Japan, South Korea, Philippines and Australia are being asked to share the burden by providing bases and access to bases,” the Bayan secretary general pointed out.

Bayan said it will hold protests against the EDCA this week and in time for the visit of US President Barack Obama by the end of the month. Reyes said they already “linked up with anti-bases activists in the US, Japan and South Korea.”

Meanwhile, Bayan Muna Representatives Neri Javier Colmenares and Carlos Isagani Zarate said their group is considering questioning the EDCA before the Supreme Court.

“This early we are already studying the option of questioning the EDCA at the Supreme Court because it is a clear violation of our Constitution particularly Sections 3 and 7 and possibly Section 8 of Article II. We are also of the position that this is not a mere executive agreement but a treaty and should be scrutinized by the Senate and the House of Representatives,” Colmenares said.

Section 3 of the Philippine Constitution states that “Civilian authority is, at all times, supreme over the military. The Armed Forces of the Philippines is the protector of the people and the State. Its goal is to secure the sovereignty of the State and the integrity of the national territory.”

Meanwhile, Section 7 states that “The State shall pursue an independent foreign policy. In its relations with other states, the paramount consideration shall be national sovereignty, territorial integrity, national interest, and the right to self-determination.”

Section 8 of Article II pertains to the Philippine police “of freedom from nuclear weapons in its territory.”

Rebels burn drilling rig in Ilocos Sur

From the Manila Times (Apr 13): Rebels burn drilling rig in Ilocos Sur

The New People’s Army (NPA) burned the drilling rig at a mining firm in Quirino, Ilocos Sur on Friday as punishment for environmental destruction.

NPA’s Ilocos Sur–based Alfredo Cesar Command spokesperson Armando Silva said a large diamond drilling machine of the Freeport McMoran-Phelps Dodge mining company in Patiacan, Quirino was torched at around 1 a.m. “to punish the said company for four years of destructive exploration and to support the community’s overwhelming rejection of the extension of the company’s exploration project.”

Silva said a community referendum on April 2 rejected the extension of the exploration project.

Phelps Dodge, in partnership with Northern Horizon, has an exploration permit covering 5,870 hectares in Quirino including Barangay Laylaya of Besao, Mountain Province. Exploration at Barangay Patiacan began in July 2010.

During the voting in 2006 and 2009, the villagers rejected the exploration activities but on May 2010, the firm finally got the villagers’ nod.

But Silva blamed the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) for being “instrumental to the betrayal of the people’s interests when it supported Phelps Dodge’s maneuverings to get a Free Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) from the people in spite of their repeated rejections.”

Silva explained, “the destruction of the diamond drilling machine of Freeport McMoran-Phelps Dodge in Patiacan is the NPA’s act of uniting with the widespread opposition of the people of Patiacan and the entire municipality of Quirino against the ongoing exploration project in Patiacan and sitio Maliten of Barangay Laylaya.”

Based in the United States (US), Phelps Dodge is one of the world’s largest copper producers. It also operates in Chile and Australia.

Phelps Dodge tried to start an exploration project in Patiacan in 2006 but was opposed by the elders and the community.

But in May 2010, Phelps Dodge got a “yes” vote for a two-year contract and a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with three conditions (concreting of the road to the barangay, scholarships for the children of Patiacan and employment for the people of Patiacan) was signed between the company and the indigenous people’s organization created by the NCIP in Patiacan.

Exploration activities started on July 2010, but the villagers complained about the company’s failure to meet the conditions under the MOA.

On April 2, 2012, the referendum for a two-year extension of the exploration project resulted to a ‘no’ vote but five months later, Phelps Dodge in another referendum reportedly got a favorable result.

But Silva said the firm never kept their promises.

2,844 army reservists inducted

From the Visayan Daily Star (Apr 12): 2,844 army reservists inducted

Five colleges and universities in Negros Oriental produced 2,844 additional young reservists under the ROTC program who were recently turned over to the 3rd  Infantry Standby Reserve Brigade, in the presence of Armed Forces of the Philippines officials.

Col. Arturo Umbac, commander of the 3rd  Infantry Standby Reserve Brigade of Negros Oriental, accepted, inducted and integrated the reservists into the reserve component of the AFP.

Maj. Gen John Bonafos, commanding general of the AFP Central Command, was guest of honor at the rites held at the Foundation University, while Brig. Gen. Robert Theodore Romero (ret) was guest speaker at Silliman University.

Umbac administered the oath of allegiance to the reservists.

Also present was 302nd  brigade commander, Brig. Gen. Francisco Patrimonio, and Col. Arturo Pascua, commanding officer of the 7RCDG, ARESCOM.

Col. Leandro Ayop, Silliman University ROTC commandant, turned over to the standby reserve brigade around 898 army reservists, while Maj. Henrick Abad, ROTC commandant of Foundation University, St Paul University, Negros Oriental State University, and Villaflores College, turned over 1,945 from the four ROTC units.

New book on “Bangsamoro” now off the press

From MindaNews (Apr 13): New book on “Bangsamoro” now off the press

The book, "Bangsamoro: Documents and Materials," is the first book on the Bangsamoro peace process published two weeks after the March 27, 2014 signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro. MindaNews photo by Gregorio Bueno

The book, “Bangsamoro: Documents and Materials,” is the first book on the Bangsamoro peace process published two weeks after the March 27, 2014 signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro. MindaNews photo by Gregorio Bueno

The two-volume “Bangsamoro: Documents and Materials” published by the Ateneo de Davao University in partnership with MindaNews, is now off the press, the first book on the Bangsamoro peace process published after  the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) on March 27.

“Bangsamoro: Documents and Materials” is a compilation of speeches, news, commentaries, documents and statements on the recently-signed CAB, the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) signed on October 15, 2012 and its four annexes — Wealth-Sharing, Power-Sharing,  Normalization and Transitional Arrangements and Modalities, and Addendum on Bangsamoro waters.

The book was launched at the Ateneo de Davao University on Wednesday, at the end of the first day of the “Conversations on Peacebuilding in Mindanao” organized by the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines’ Episcopal Commission on Inter-religious Dialogue (CBCP-ECID) and the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines (CEAP).

The commentaries in “Bangsamoro: Documents and Materials,” written mostly by Mindanawons, were earlier published in, the online publication of MindaNews, and the weekly OUR Mindanao newsmagazine. The commentaries represent diverse views on the issue.

MILF: BTC Chair Iqbal meets community-based media

Posted to the MILF Website (Apr 13): BTC Chair Iqbal meets community-based media

On April 9, Chairman Mohagher Iqbal of the MILF Peace Panel, the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) and MILF Central Committee on Information met with community-based media in the hinterland’s town of Upi where 85% indigenous peoples (Teduray and Lambangian) lived with the agenda  "Understanding CAB & Bangsamoro Basic Law". Commissioner Timuay Melanio Ulama representing the IPs was also present.   

In the said meeting, Chairman Iqbal updated members of the local-based media on the undertakings of the BTC and mentioned the creation of 7 BTC Committees and special committees such as  Feedback and Recommendation Committee,  Task Force Mamalu-Tabunaway, MNLF and other rebel Groups.

The BTC comprising fifteen members including its chairman is at the last stretch of finalizing the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) and in matter of days ready for submission to President Benigno C. Aquino III.

The March 31, 2014 previously mentioned as the date for the submission of the BBL was reset due to some unforeseen events.

The President who witnessed the historic signing of the peace deal last March 27, 2014 will certify the draft law as urgent measure.

“Hopefully, Congress will enact a law that would capture the demands of the Bangsamoro people,” Iqbal told the members of the media.

Once enacted and signed by President Aquino, the BBL will be submitted in a plebiscite to the people in the proposed Bangsamoro region for ratification. Once ratified, an enhanced Bangsamoro autonomous region will be established replacing the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

Chairman Iqbal said that two Teduray Mayors in Maguindanao sent a letter to the MILF stating their trust and confidence on the Moro Front and expressed their support to the peace process.   

This coming April 24-26, 2014, members of the GPH and MILF peace panel together with their Technical Working Group (TWG) will be in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia  to deliberate on how to effectively implement the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro signed last January 27 at the Kalayaan Ground of Malacanang Palace in Manila.

MILF: BTC Comm Group Undertakes GIS Training

Posted to the MILF Website (Apr 13): BTC Comm Group Undertakes GIS Training

Staff members and volunteers of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) Communication Group went through a training on Geographical Information System (GIS) through the assistance of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).
The two-week long training began last February 1 to 9 and continued on March 24 to 31 at the JICA office in Cotabato City.

The activity gave the participants a broad introduction to GIS and the technical capability to manage the contents of the QGIS software which includes Tools and Features, Creating and Editing Feature Classes, Attributes, Vector Data Manipulation, Digitization, Map Projections in Data Layers, Map Canvas, and Print Composer.

Participants included Amirah Gayak, Haron Salah, Nasiri Abas and Fahad Taher, all attached to the BTC Communications Group.

In a short closing program on April 8, JICA Project Coordinator Mr. Shu Nishimaru awarded certificates of completion to the trainees.

JICA sponsored the training through the SRDP Consulting Inc. The trainors’ team included Engr. Gina Milarion (Project Leader), Ms. Grace Desusa (Project Coordinator), Engr. Vanessa Macaspac, (GIS Specialist), Engr. Claire Lynn Reyes (GIS Expert) and Ms. Quenie Ungkakay (Project Assistant).

Better defense ties seen with Obama visit

From Business World (Apr 13): Better defense ties seen with Obama visit

THE VISIT of United States President Barack H. Obama to the Philippines this month will further strengthen the ties of the two nations particularly in defense and security, a palace official said yesterday.

“The forthcoming visit of President Barack Obama is an opportune time for the Philippines to further strengthen its ties with its ally, the United States,” Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio B. Coloma, Jr. said in press briefing yesterday.

Mr. Coloma noted that the US is a valuable partner of the Philippines in the field of defense and security as well as economy and business.

“We know that the United States is one of the country’s foremost and strategic partner in the field of defense and security; the US is also our partner in different other fields -- economy, trade, and business,” he added.

He said both Filipinos and Americans see that the visit will further boost friendship between the two countries.

Last Friday, Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose L. Cuisia, Jr. confirmed that US President Barack Obama will be in the Philippines on April 28 and 29, in a visit aimed at further strengthening ties with its longtime ally.

News reports quoted Mr. Cuisia as saying that defense and security cooperation, trade and people-to-people exchange are high on the agenda of talks between Mr. Obama and Philippine President Benigno S. C. Aquino III.

“It will be a working visit. The important thing [during this visit] is to reaffirm the strong military alliance, the strong economic relations and people-to-people exchange that they’ve had with the Philippines,” Mr. Cuisia told reporters on the sidelines of a dialogue hosted by the Makati Business Club and Management Association of the Philippines.

The US President will be on a week-long Asian trip that includes visits to Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines later this month.

His visit to the region is expected to reassure Asian allies at odds with China -- like Japan and the Philippines -- of American support amid long unresolved territorial conflicts and disputes.

Meanwhile, newly appointed Foreign Affairs Spokesman Charles C. Jose has earlier said the negotiations with the US on the expanded US military presence in the Philippines “are proceeding on a parallel track with other efforts by Manila to mount a minimum credible defense posture against all possible aggressors.”

The Enhanced Defense Cooperation between the US and the Philippines proposes, among others, allowing more US troops, aircraft and ships to pass through the Philippines, as well as storing equipment in the country that could help mobilize American forces faster -- particularly in the case of natural disasters.

The accord would provide “critical and timely support to the modernization of the Armed Forces of the Philippines [and the] achievement of the country’s minimum credible defense posture.”

Mr. Coloma has said Mr. Obama will meet with Mr. Aquino to “discuss ways to further strengthen the enduring Philippines-US alliance, including the expansion of security, economic and people-to-people ties.”

“President Obama’s visit will provide a new momentum to Philippines-US relations and strengthen the partnership of the two nations in many areas,” Mr. Coloma said.

Kidnapped son of Zambo Norte gasoline station owner released

From the Business Mirror (Apr 13): Kidnapped son of Zambo Norte gasoline station owner released

THE son of a gasoline station owner who was kidnapped early this month in Zamboanga del Norte was released on Sunday by his captors, police said.
Michael Kho, 27, was released by his kidnappers at around 6 a.m. along the shoreline of Barangay Labuan in Zambonga City, said Sr. Insp. Joseph Ortega, spokesman of the Zamboanga peninsula police.
Ortega said Kho has bullet wounds in his shins when he was found.
"The victim suffered bullet wounds on both shins, inflicted by his kidnappers when he resisted during the abduction,” Ortega said.
He could not say whether the victim’s family paid a ransom to the kidnappers. Kho’s family went to Barangay Labuan after learning of his release and found him near a Phoenix gasoline station, Ortega said.
Kho was forcibly taken by armed men on April 1 from the family-owned gasoline station at Barangay Poblacion, Siocon, Zamboanga del Norte.
Ortega said three days after the kidnapping, the police arrested Omar Wahab alias Binday after witnesses tagged him as the lookout for the abductors.

PNoy to ensure PH interest in new security deal with US

From ABS-CBN (Apr 13): PNoy to ensure PH interest in new security deal with US

Malacanang assured the public that national interest will be paramount when President Benigno Aquino III reviews the new security accord with the United States.

In an interview with radio dzRB, Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said Aquino’s guiding principles are the Constitution and the country’s national interest.

This, even if Malacanang does not intend to submit the new defense deal before the Senate for its concurrence.

“We have stated previously the Philippine panel’s position that it is not a new treaty and does not require Senate action,” he said.

The Philippines and the US reached an agreement last Friday on the Enhanced Defense Cooperation, which will allow American soldiers to share bases with the Philippine’s military.

The new deal is also expected to raise the much protected protection versus China, which has been aggressively pushing for ownership in the West Philippine Sea.

The accord is expected to be signed when US President Barack Obama visits on April 28 to 29.

Coloma insisted they are not trying to beat any deadline in behalf of Obama.
“Wala naman po tayong sinusunod na deadline. Wala po tayong itinatakdang pag-aanunsyo diyan,” he said. He said the national interest should not be thrown away in favor of beating a deadline.

Still, Malacanang looks forward to Obama’s visit.

“Maraming dekada (na ang) pakikipagkaibigan (ng) mga Pilipino at Amerikano kaya’t umaasa po tayo na ang darating na pagdalaw ni Pangulong Barack Obama ay higit pang magpapatibay at magpapalakas sa pagkakaibigan at pakikipag-ugnayan ng dalawang bansa sa isa’t isa,” he said.

Abu Sayyaf member killed in Sulu clash

From ABS-CBN (Apr 13): Abu Sayyaf member killed in Sulu clash

A member of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) was killed in a firefight with government forces in Patikul, Sulu on Saturday afternoon, a military official said.

Brig. Gen. Martin Pinto, commander of the 2nd Marine Brigade, said his men clashed with ASG members led by Basaron Aruk and Ninok Sappari while conducting a security patrol around Barangay Danag.

He said the encounter, which lasted about 30 minutes, ended after the terrorists withdrew, leaving the dead body of one their members.

"The firefight started when the Marines encountered the group…while conducting law enforcement and security patrol at the aforementioned area," said Pinto.

Pinto said the Abu Sayyaf suffered an undetermined number of injured, while no one was reported killed or injured in the side of the Marines.

"The Marines are continuously conducting clearing operation in the area and intensifying its efforts to track down the ASG that is responsible for the series of kidnapping and extortion activities in the provinces of Sulu," he added.

Abu Sayyaf is holding a number of hostages in Sulu, including Dutchman Elwold Horn and Swiss Lorenzo Vinciguerra , who were both snatched in Tawi-tawi in February 2012.

The terrorist group also seized a Chinese tourist and a Filipino hotel worker in a resort in Sabah, Malaysia. Officials have said the two hostages may have been taken by the Abu Sayyaf to either Tawi‒Tawi or Sulu.

However, Capt. Ryan Lacuesta, civil military operations officer of the 2nd Marine Brigade, clarified that the clash was not related to the Sabah kidnapping.

"Were putting route security in the area because a logistics convoy will be passing by.We´re checking on enemy presence in the area," he said.

Lacuesta added that they have no information if the Abu Sayyaf men were in the area to ambush the convoy of the Marines.

Army peace teams sent to conflict-affected villages in NorCot town

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 13): Army peace teams sent to conflict-affected villages in NorCot town

The Philippine Army's 39th Infantry Battalion (IB) dispatched teams Saturday for its peace and development outreach program (PDOP) in Makilala, North Cotabato, citing the importance of the Internal Peace and Security Plan (IPSP) Bayanihan of the Armed Force of the Philippines (AFP).

The PDOP has one team each assigned to Makilala’s 29 villages.

Makilala is a municipality bordering Magsaysay and Bansalan towns in Davao del Sur, formerly used as pathway of New Peoples’ Army (NPA) rebels in crisscrossing the two provinces.

Earlier this year, the 39th IB based in Sta. Cruz, Davao del Sur, formally expanded its area of responsibility to Makilala, which was drawn from the Army’s 57th IB.

Lt. Aldrin Moral, 39th IB civil-military operations officer, said government troopers would stay in the villages for three months to conduct surveys and assessment in relation to the delivery of services to the conflict-affected areas.

He said two PDOP teams were earlier deployed in the remote villages of Batasan, Luayon, Villa Flores and Malungon, all in Makilala.

He stressed that the troops intend to build peace, especially in the rebel-infested communities.

“We will assess the needs of the communities and help them to be ready for development," Moral said.

Latest AFP reports cited that military units completed 43 percent of peace and development team immersions in 1,797 villages in Central Mindanao, including those in North Cotabato province.

Albay hosts Balikatan 2014

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 13): Albay hosts Balikatan 2014

Albay hosts gain the Philippines-United States annual joint military exercises this year, Balikatan, with a month-long series of humanitarian and civic assistance (HCA) activities in this city and in Guinobatan town, from April 21 to May 22.

Balikatan 2014 (BK14) organizers have earlier booked about 400 hotel rooms for the purpose, for a full month period, representing about 60% of high-end quality room capacity in the province. The event is the fifth similar PHL-US military-related activities which Albay had hosted since 2007.

Albay Gov. Joey Salceda said BK14 lends support to the provincial and local government units community outreach initiatives, enhances the program’s interoperability between the participants and local stakeholders, promote the BK14 Exercises and further enhance PHL-US bilateral relations.

Salceda said BK14 civic assistance activities will include Engineering Civic Assistance Program (ENCAP), Cooperative Healthcare (MED/VET) engagements, and Civil Military Operations and Community relations activities in Legazpi City, Guinobatan and several other nearby towns.

BK14 activities, held simultaneously in other parts of the country, involve some 5,500 US and Filipino military personnel. In Albay, some 400 US soldiers will participate in the HCA.

Albay had consistently hosted past humanitarian activities with US, most prominently, the Amphibious Landing Exercises or Phiblex last year, the US Pacific Angel in 2010, the RP-US Balikatan in 2009, and the visit of USS Peleliu in 2007.

For this year, BK14 will hold three ENCAPs in Guinobatan. In Barangay Malobago, it will construct a barangay health center and two classrooms at the Malobago Elementary School, aside from the repairs of the school’s sanitary, water and electrical facilities. In Barangay Mercedes it will also construct one classroom and repair other facilities.

In Legazpi City, ENCAP activities include the construction of public toilet and water facilities in Barangay Pawa, and repair of the Tamaoyan Elementary School in Barangay Tamaoyan and its sanitary, water and electrical facilities.

BK14’s Cooperative health engagement includes health symposia with professional health workers in at least five barangays of Legazpi City and Guinobatan town where AFP and US soldiers are already deployed.

Balikatan is a long-standing joint military activity between the US and the Philippines. It is a process of continuous learning and enhancement on the inter-operability of their respective military units which also serve to further strengthen the relationship between the two countries.

Salceda said BK14 activities include a series of field trainings Naval Station in San Miguel, San Antonio in Zambales; Puerto Princesa City in Palawan; Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija; Clark Air Base in Pampanga; Ternate in Cavite; and Crow Valley in Tarlac.

Pacquiao win symbolizes Filipino capability to excel -AFP

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 13): Pacquiao win symbolizes Filipino capability to excel -AFP

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesperson Major Gen. Domingo Tutaan Jr. said on Sunday the decisive win of Filipino boxing icon Manny "Pacman" Pacquiao over American Timothy Bradley symbolizes the Filipino's capability to excel and rise in any challenge.

"The AFP shares with the Filipino people the victory of Manny Pacquiao. As a reserve officer in the Philippine Army, he manifested how Filipinos rise to excel in whatever undertaking we face as we all work hard to accomplish our goals as a people and as a nation. We are all honored by his victory," he added.

Tutaan said they did not expect Pacquiao to lose in his rematch bout with Bradley as he worked very hard for the win.

Aside from this, the AFP spokesperson said that Pacquiao's determination was also a big factor in his victory.

For his part, Philippine Army commander Lt. Gen. Hernando DCA Iriberri said the decisive win of Pacquiao over Bradley symbolizes the warrior spirit of the Filipino soldier.

"Today, the PA is one with the Filipino people in celebrating the victory of Manny Pacquiao. We stand proud once again that our very own Lt. Col. Manny Pacquiao (Reserve) emerged victorious in his bout against Tim Bradley," he added.

"More than the display of a true warrior spirit, Pacman's victory symbolizes the core values of the men and women of the PA's honor, patriotism and duty. Our salute to Congressman Manny Pacquiao," he said.

Basilan clash won’t affect timetable of Bangsamoro Law -- Palace

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 13): Basilan clash won’t affect timetable of Bangsamoro Law -- Palace

Despite the recent clash in Basilan that killed at least seven people and injured 28 others in an encounter with Abu Sayyaf elements, Malacanang on Sunday said that it won’t affect the timetable of the Bangsamoro Basic Law.

Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) secretary Herminio Coloma Jr., in an interview on state-run dzRB Radyo ng Bayan, said that the government remains determined to complete it whatever the odds.

“Hindi po apektado ‘yung ating timetable doon sa Bangsamoro Law,” Coloma said. “Buong-buo ang ating determinasyon at kumpyansa na maisasagawa ito sa kabila ng mga ibang pangyayari diyan, ano.”

“Our timetable on the Bangsamoro Law is not affected (by the recent clash),” Coloma said. “We have full determination and confidence that we will accomplish it despite these incidents.”

At present, the drafted law will be reviewed by the Office of the President before Congress resumes session on May 5.

Coloma, however, did not provide a definite deadline on when the draft law will be transmitted to Congress.

"Ang nilalayon ay maisumite ito sa ating Kongreso sa lalong madaling panahon para (sa) kanilang talakayan at maganap ‘yung pagsasabatas nito na naaayon sa takdang timetable," the PCOO chief said.

“Our goal is to submit the draft law to Congress at the soonest possible time for their deliberations and its passage according to the timetable,” the PCOO chief said.

The proposed law will be certified as urgent by President Benigno S. Aquino III once it is passed on to Congress.

DSA 2014 Highlights Asean Cooperation In Defense Industry

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 13): DSA 2014 Highlights Asean Cooperation In Defense Industry

The Defense Services Asia 2014 (DSA) defense technology and equipment exhibition that starts Monday will see close cooperation between Malaysia and other Asean countries in the defence industry.

Defense Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein said the DSA exhibition would become the platform for the countries involved to coordinate their respective defense to face any likely future threats.

"DSA's target is to ensure Asean is seen as a bloc that can cooperate and coordinate, in terms of the defence industry, besides focusing on issues related to new threats," he told a media conference after visiting the DSA exhibition site here Sunday.

He said Malaysia was expected to chair the Asean Summit Conference 2015 while the solidarity cooperation among member countries in the defense and security industry would be given emphasis.

DSA Exhibition 2014, which will commence until this Thursday, is a static defense technology and equipment exhibition as well as latest generic security solution and armament system to meet the requirements of the country's security forces and that of the Asia-Pacific countries.

Hishammuddin said this year's event recorded the largest participation since it was first organized in 1988, involving about 1,000 defense industry companies from 50 countries compared to 850 exhibitors in 2012.

He said the reduction in the defense budget was also the main element in organizing it through coordination within the Asean countries.

"If we look from outside the box and see that we are facing the same threat, then the Asean countries can cooperate with each other so as not to have any wastage in the defence budget.

"It is important for us to find noble and creative ways to look at the defence industry and one way to do it is to look at Asean as one market," he said.

Asean's membership comprises Brunei Darussalam, the Philippines, Indonesia, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Bangsamoro draft law complete, set to be submitted to Palace

From Rappler (Apr 13): Bangsamoro draft law complete, set to be submitted to Palace

Mindanao CSOs will hold a rally Monday afternoon to mark another step forward in the peace roadmap

Two weeks after its self-imposed deadline, the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) is set to transmit the final draft of the basic law for an enhanced political entity in Mindanao to President Benigno Aquino III on Monday, April 14.

Members of the BTC are expected to join the march from Mendiola to Malacañang led by the Mindanao Civil Society Organizations Platform for Peace (MCSOPP) Monday afternoon, said BTC communications officer Abdullah Cusain.

Quoting the MCSOPP, Mindanews on Saturday, April 12 reported that the BTC is ready to submit the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law to Malacañang for evaluation and review. The MCSOPP – a network of over 120 groups across Mindanao – has been tapped by the BTC to hold public consultations and information dissemination campaigns about the Bangsamoro.

The draft law is expected to undergo intense scrutiny, especially with regard to its constitutionality. But the public will have to wait for the content of the law.

The BTC version of the draft law will not be released to the public yet. "There are protocols to be observed," Cusain said. "It will still be evaluated by Malacañang. It would be difficult if analysis would already come in when the evaluation has not been completed."

The Bangsamoro Basic Law puts into a legal framework the agreements under the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro signed by the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on March 27, 2014.

Mohagher Iqbal, who served as the chief negotiator for the MILF, also heads the BTC.


Malacañang has 3 weeks to review the proposed law before Congress resumes session on May 5.

Palace Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr did not provide a definite deadline on when the Malacañang-approved version of the measure will be transmitted to Congress.

"Ang nilalayon ay maisumite ito sa ating Kongreso sa lalong madaling panahon para [sa] kanilang talakayan at maganap ‘yung pagsasabatas nito na naaayon sa takdang timetable," Coloma said Sunday, April 13.

(Our goal is to submit the draft law to Congress at the soonest possible time for their deliberations and its passage according to the timetable.)

As indicated in the final peace pact, President Benigno Aquino III will certify the proposed law as urgent once it is transmitted to Congress.

Both Senate and House leaders have vowed to pass the law by the end of 2014 but the journey of the law in Congress is not expected to be smooth-sailing.

This early, lawmakers, including Sen Miriam Defensor-Santiago and Zamboanga Rep Celso Lobregat, have raised issues about the legality of the measure.

The government, for its part, have repeatedly said that the peace pact was forged according to the "flexibilities" of the Constitution.


The longer each stage of the peace process takes, the shorter the transition phase from the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) towards the Bangsamoro becomes.

Once the basic law is approved in Congress and signed into law, residents of areas in Mindanao earlier identified in the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro will vote on whether they want to ratify the measure and be included in the proposed region in a plebiscite.

Should it hurdle the plebiscite, the interim Bangsamoro Transition Authority – to be led by the MILF – will take over until the election of the first set of officials during the 2016 national elections.

Under the final peace pact, the envisioned Bangsamoro political entity is designed to have a wider territory than the ARMM and enjoy greater political and fiscal powers than its predecessor.

Both the government and the MILF hope to complete the transition phase, including the decommissioning of rebel firearms and troops, by 2016 – a process that aims to end 4 decades of armed struggle in parts of Mindanao. (INFOGRAPHIC: The Bangsamoro peace deal at a glance)

Lawmakers threaten to bring new PH, US military deal to SC

From Rappler (Apr 13): Lawmakers threaten to bring new PH, US military deal to SC

The Philippine panel on April 11 announced it was ready to submit to Malacañang the draft of the new military agreement with the US following the conclusion of Round 8 of talks

Militant lawmakers are threatening to go to the Supreme Court (SC) to block the new military agreement that the Philippines is negotiating with the US.

Titled Enhanced Defense Cooperation, the agreement will allow increased presence of American troops in the Philippines, give them more access to the country's military bases, and allow them to build facilities inside the bases.

“This early we are already studying the option of questioning the AEDC at the Supreme Court because it is a clear violation of our Constitution particularly Sections 3 and 7 and possibly Section 8 of Article II. We are also of the position that this is not a mere executive agreement but a treaty and should be scrutinized by the Senate and the House of Representatives,” said Bayan Muna Repsentative Neri Colmenares.

He said the agreement "will practically bring back US military bases in the Philippines without a treaty, without rent, and without limits." It's the same concern that Senator Miriam Santiago earlier raised.

The Philippine panel on Friday, April 11 announced it is ready to submit to Malacañang the draft of the new military agreement with the US following the conclusion of Round 8 of talks. Malacañang continues to deny the agreement is being rushed for the visit of US President Barack Obama in late April. (READ: PH, US draft military deal for Aquino review)

Philippine panel chairman Defense Undersecretary Pio Lorenzo Batino also maintained that the agreement doesn't need Senate ratification because it is only an implementation of existing treaties with the US – the Mutual Defense Treaty and the Visiting Forces Agreement.

In 1991, the Philippine Senate rejected a treaty that would have extended the stay of American troops in US military bases here. This ended American military presence in the country and shut down key US bases in Clark in Pampanga and Subic in Zambales.

Talks for the Enhanced Defense Cooperation began in August 2012 upon the request of the Philippines, which is counting on US help to respond to the growing tension in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea). Batino said the agreement "would provide significant benefits to the Philippines" in modernizing the military, attaining minimum credible defense posture, and boosting humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR). (READ: US helped PH Navy in Ayungin mission)

Colmenares argued: “Even if they say that “key provisions and modalities of the AEDC would reflect, among others, full respect for Philippine sovereignty, nonpermanence of US troops and no US military basing in the Philippines and a prohibition against nuclear weapons, we all know that these can be circumvented by the fact that in reality it is the US government is the one calling the shots and not the Aquino administration.”

Fellow Bayan Muna representative Carlos Isagani Zarate is not convinced by the Philippines panel's assurances that the US will not bring in nuclear weapons to the country.

"There is a supposed prohibition of nuclear weapons, but that the US maintains a neither confirm or deny policy if their ships or planes carry nuclear weapons aside from this the US military can still bring other types of weapons of mass destruction that would make us a prime target of US enemies. This is a clear threat to our country’s safety and security,” he said.

The panels did not discuss if the Philippine troops will be allowed boarding of US ships but "appropriate officials," meaning Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin or his designated officials, can access the facilities US will build inside the bases.

Abu Sayyaf extremist killed in new clashes

From Rappler (Apr 13): Abu Sayyaf extremist killed in new clashes

The clashes come just a day after 12 people died in a similar shootout

A Muslim extremist has been killed in fighting between soldiers and Abu Sayyaf rebels in the southern Philippines, a day after 12 people died in a similar shootout, the military said Sunday, April 13.

Troops in the strife-torn island of Jolo were on patrol when they clashed with the Islamist guerrillas on Saturday, said military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Ramon Zagala.

Intelligence reports indicated that at least three Abu Sayyaf fighters were wounded in the clash, he added.

Government forces on Friday launched an operation in Basilan island, another southern stronghold of the Abu Sayyaf, to capture two top leaders of the Al-Qaeda-linked group which is accused of beheadings and kidnappings.

They failed to apprehend either Puruji Indama or Isnilon Hapilon.
Seven Abu Sayyaf fighters, two soldiers and three members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighting on the side of the Philippine military were killed in Friday's violence.

Zagala said Saturday's clashes in Jolo were not related to the operation to capture the two chiefs.

The Abu Sayyaf was set up in the 1990s with seed money from Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda network. It has been blamed for the worst terror attacks in the country's history including bombings.

'We will not be ignored again,' say lumad in prospective Bangsamoro

From InterAksyon (Apr 13): 'We will not be ignored again,' say lumad in prospective Bangsamoro

Map showing the ancestral domain of the Teduray Lambangian in Maguindanao

Indigenous people in the prospective Bangsamoro have informed President Benigno Aquino III that they will not allow themselves to be ignored again and will pursue the delineation of their ancestral lands within the new territory.

“Although a handful individuals are critical and not happy about this development and even misinterpret this as causing harm to the peace process -- there’s no stopping now,” leaders of the Teduray, Lambangian, Dulangan Manobo, Erumanen ne Manuvu, Obo Manobo tribes said in an open letter to Aquino.

In the letter, they informed Aquino that they were working with the National Commission on Indigenous People with the delineation of their ancestral lands within the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, which will eventually be dissolved to give way for the new Bangsamoro territory under the terms of the peace agreement between government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

“After seeking guidance from our ancestors, we decided to do what is just and fair to our children’s children -- to carefully prepare the small space for our tribes to thrive as distinct peoples and contribute to the new tomorrow that waits for us in the Bangsamoro,” the tribal leaders said.

There are more than 100,000 lumad within the ARMM who lay claim to an ancestral domain that spans 300,000 hectares of land and coastal waters within 12 municipalities of Maguindanao and parts of neighboring Sultan Kudarat province.

The lumad leaders said what they seek is to be a ““minority of the minority” within the Bangsamoro and that the reaction to the delineation process would determine if this was possible.

Earlier, indigenous people within the ARMM, which was created through the peace agreement between government and the Moro National Liberation Front, said they had been left out of the pact and its aftermath, mainly by the failure to include the autonomous region in the coverage of the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act or even set up an office of the NCIP.

Because of this, the lumad leaders said that since 2005, they “have been supportive all the way” of the peace negotiations between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and had constantly sent proposals and position papers to both sides and engaged them in dialogues since 2005.
The Bangsamoro Transition Commission drafting the law that will create the new entity also has two lumad representatives.

Despite this, they asked: “What have happened to the many years of our engagement with the government, our own LGUs (local government units), the MILF and OPAPP (Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process)? Where have all our proposals gone? Are we to expect the same treatment and inattention to happen to our submissions to the BTC?”

The tribal leaders said that while the framework and comprehensive agreements on the Bangsamoro “may have answered consensus points for the Moro peoples,” they had “raised a lot of crucial questions for us indigenous peoples:
  1. Why was the (IPRA), the very law that protects our rights as Indigenous Peoples not included in the FAB, Annexes and the CAB? And therefore, we believe that our rights won’t be significantly entrenched in the BBL (Bangsamoro Basic Law). The IPRA, which is supposed to be a national law and thereby set as the minimum standard for any legal reforms, has obviously been put aside. It is our national law. It forms the legal basis for our assertion of our rights in any proposition, including the Bangsamoro. In our view, government had surrendered our rights to a political entity, which has yet to prove or even earn its mantle to govern.
  2. Isn’t it that by empowering and providing us our rights to govern our own territory, exercising our culture and recognizing that we are distinct peoples part of the over all peace process?  But where are we in the entire picture? Are we talking about a different peace in the Bangsamoro?
  3. How can we address a competing and contradictory policy over land and ancestral domains by the peace actors themselves? Government instrumentalities are supporting us for as long as the ARMM is not yet abolished; they say that IPRA can still take effect. In apparent contradiction, the MILF Central Committee publicly stated their position on a single ancestral domain and not allowing AD delineation processes (refer to April 1 Editorial, Luwaran, official publication of MILF).
  4. Can the executive branch of the government lead the way to finally overcome the problematics of the IPRA in the ARMM?  We are humbly appealing your esteemed intervention to inspire the process and break this impasse.”
The open letter stressed that the lumad “are not and will never be spoilers, free riders, or even ill-minded whisperers of some sort. Our open, honest yet critically constructive support to the peace process through the early years will bear us out. We remain fully supportive of your administration’s efforts to reach a just and sustainable peace in the Bangsamoro and beyond.”

They said they consider Aquino a “kefeduwan” or indigenous peacemaker “in-the-making,” a title he will have deserved when “you come over to our villages as a full-fledged ‘kefeduwan’.

Only then, they said, “we can say that peace is really at hand. A genuine peace for all.”

Reds own 'punitive' attacks on Ilocos, Compostela Valley mining firms

From InterAksyon (Apr 13): Reds own 'punitive' attacks on Ilocos, Compostela Valley mining firms

Communist rebels claimed responsibility for recent attacks on mining firms in Ilocos Sur and Compostela Valley, calling these punitive actions for the companies’ alleged environmental destruction and abuses against workers of indigenous people.

In Ilocos Sur, the New People’s Army’s provincial unit, the Alfredo Cesar Command, said it burned a diamond-drilling machine of Freeport McMoran-Phelps Dodge in Barangay Patiacan, Quirino town Friday, April 11, “to punish the said company for four years of destructive exploration and to support the community’s overwhelming rejection of the extension of the company’s exploration project in a referendum last April 2, 2014.”

The NPA’s ComVal-Davao Gulf Sub-region Sub-regional Command, on the other hand, said it had “detonated explosives” against troops of the Army’s 9th Infantry Battalion at the Masara Apex Tenement Complex in Compostela Valley on Saturday in what it called a “follow-up to an earlier successful tactical offensive when Red fighters under the 6th Pulang Bagani Company and the Guerrilla Front 27 Operations Command, and Guerrilla Front 2 Operations Command-NPA imposed punitive sanction against the US-owned St. Augustine Gold and Copper Ltd., and Malaysia-owned Apex mining, two biggest foreign mining firms in Southern Mindanao on April 7 and 10, respectively.”

“The companies grossly and repeatedly violated regulations of the People's Democratic Government with regards to environmental protection, workers' welfare and people's livelihood,” Daniel Ibarra, spokesman of the Mindanao rebel command, said.

Armando Silva, spokesman of the Ilocos Sur rebels, called the attack on Freeport McMoran-Phelps Dodge “the NPA’s act of uniting with the widespread opposition of the people of Patiacan and the entire municipality of Quirino against the ongoing exploration project in Patiacan and sitio Maliten of Barangay Laylaya.”

“The revolutionary movement remains firm in its opposition to large-scale mining of foreign and local mining companies like Freeport McMoran-Phelps Dodge which will only plunder the ancestral lands and natural resources of the people and wreak havoc on their environment, livelihood and communities,” he added.

Silva said Phelps-Dodge, one of the world’s largest copper producers, “owns the companies Makilala which has an exploration project covering 2,719 hectares in Pasil, Kalinga and another large area in the Bicol region; and Malibato which has an exploration application covering more than 11,158 hectares of Mountain Province, Abra and Ilocos Sur.”

He acknowledged that after the firm’s bid for an exploration project in Patiacan met strong opposition in 2006 and was again rejected in a 2009 referendum, Phelps Dodge secured a two-year agreement from the community in May 2010 on three conditions: concreting of the road to the barangay, scholarships for the children of Patiacan and employment for the people of Patiacan.

However, because of the firm’s alleged failure to comply with these conditions, its bid to extend its exploration was rejected in an April 2012 referendum and again in the one held early this month.

Meanwhile, Ibarra said the NPA raid on the five mining tunnels of Apex in Masara, Maco town destroyed heavy equipment and several vehicles while several portable drills were destroyed at the St. Augustine mine in Pantukan town.

The rebel spokesman said the Apex was attacked for the following reasons:
  1. “Failure to stop expansion of underground and open-pit mining operations despite warnings issued in April and October 2013
  2. Expansion of mining operations in reserved forest areas in Maco that were defined by the organs of political power in the area's guerrilla base
  3. Failure to address and indemnify casualties after two landslides that also wiped out Barangay Mainit, Maco. The Apex Mining Corporation has caused widespread ecological destruction and the massive displacement of peasant and Lumad families since the 1970s. The already damaged soil has caused landslides and flash floods even with minimal monsoon rains and storms.
  4. Low wages at P301 daily, retrenchment and threat of retrenchment of its mining workers by June this year
  5. Failure to comply with its responsibility to rehabilitate streams and bridges in Maco as part of the reparation deal it signed with 91 families in Barangay Tagbarus, Elizalde, Panibasan, Panangan and Malamudao, who were affected by Supertyphoon Pablo in December 4, 2012.
  6. Company's active role in funding and backing the 9th Infantry Battalion's counter-revolutionary operations against the NPA that has led to the death of civilian, Wilmar Bargas and arbitrary violation of human rights of residents and small-scale miners.”
On the other hand, he claimed St. Augustine “wantonly violated revolutionary policies when they operated outside of their tenements, and due to setting up of military outposts, conducting regular seizure and check-up of things brought in and out by small-scale miners, controlling of movement of civilians, and aggressive psychological warfare against tribal leaders through dole-out projects.”

Sagada folk order Army out of villages

From InterAksyon (Apr 13): Sagada folk order Army out of villages

Residents of two villages in the northern part of noted travel destination Sagada town, Mountain Province drove out troops of the Army’s 50th Infantry Brigade who attempted to establish detachments in their communities.

The soldiers, commanded by Lieutenant Brian Arcincilla, arrived in Barangay Pidlisan on April 10 and bared their plans to set up camp at the “dap-ay,” a term commonly used to refer to an open meeting place although it properly means an indigenous socio-political institution usually composed of elders, and at the village primary school, both located in the center of the community.

The soldiers said they were there to secure the community following a clash with the New People’s Army at Bandong Hill, which lies on the border of Sagada and Bontoc town, major parts of which are located within Pidlisan and Barangay Aguid.

But the Pidlisan residents, led by their barangay captain, Jojo Briones, told the troops to set up their detachment outside the community, reminding them that Sagada and its villages have been declared a zone of peace within which no armed military or rebel presence is allowed.

Arcinilla tried to stand his ground but the troops left Pidlisan after a Sagada official raised the issue with 50th IB commander Lieutenant Colonel Richard Sibayan.

The soldiers went to Aguid and stayed at the gymnasium there but eventually left Saturday.

Sibayan, in a phone interview, said he agreed to pull out his men, who had come from Abra province, when Sagada Mayor Eduardo Latawan Jr. informed him of the villagers’ opposition.

Nevertheless, he said, “I requested the mayor to have a dialogue with the officials of the barangays of northern Sagada.”

At the same time, he questioned why Sagada officials invoked the zone of peace declaration only when it involved the military but not the NPA.

But Latawan’s secretary, Robert Pangod, pointed out that when the March 29 clash broke out in Barangay Dalican, Sagada officials helped evacuate government casualties. Two policemen were killed and two others were wounded in the incident.