Wednesday, April 23, 2014

NPA commander tagged in Cagayan mayor's slay

From the Philippine Star posted to ABS-CBN (Apr 24): NPA commander tagged in Cagayan mayor's slay

A New People's Army (NPA) commander has been tagged as one of the gunmen of Mayor Carlito Pentecostes Jr. of Gonzaga, Cagayan, bolstering police suspicion that communist rebels were behind the killing.

NPA leader David Soriano, alias Ka Colly, was identified through a footage of the closed-circuit television (CCTV) camera installed at the Gonzaga town hall grounds where Pentecostes was gunned down last Monday, according to the regional police.

Chief Superintendent Miguel Laurel, Cagayan Valley police director, said Soriano, second in command of the NPA’s Northern Front Committee, was caught by the CCTV camera as one of the armed men in camouflage who gunned down the mayor.

Earlier reports said Pentecostes, 60, was shot by two of eight Armalite-wielding men who went near him while he was presiding over last Monday’s flag-raising ceremony.

Pentecostes, according to the reports, even greeted the armed men as they emerged from a van in front of the municipal hall, thinking they were military personnel making a courtesy call on him.

Laurel told The STAR that the hard drive of the CCTV camera was brought to Manila for decoding.

Soriano’s NPA unit reportedly operates in the Cagayan towns of Baggao, Gattaran, Amulung, Alcala, Sto. Niño, Rizal, Lasam, Allacapan, Gonzaga, Sta. Teresita, Aparri, Claveria, Ballesteros, Abulug, Pamplona, and Sanchez Mira, as well as in Calanasan, Flora, Pudtol and Sta. Marcela towns in Apayao province.

Soriano’s eight-man group was among at least 30 armed men who stormed the municipal hall and its vicinity during the assault.

A joint Army-police team is now pursuing the armed men in the Sierra Madre mountain ranges.

The armed men’s four getaway vehicles, included a police vehicle, were recovered in the remote Gonzaga village of Barangay Iska a few hours after the raid. Reports said the vehicles were totally burned.

Despite the police claim that NPA guerrillas were behind Pentecostes’ killing, the mayor’s family insisted that politics had something to do with it.

“This is about politics. The armed men are mercenaries of politicians. We don’t believe that it was the NPA who killed our brother. The way we see it his killing was related to politics,” said Pentecostes’ elder brother Edward.

He also belied reports that his brother’s killing had something to do with his support for the provincial government-sanctioned black sand mining in Gonzaga town.

“Those behind this condemnable act are just riding on the issue of mining. Besides, mining activities in Gonzaga have been stopped. If it’s about mining, they should have him killed during his first term,” he said.

Despite his being pro-mining, Pentecostes won overwhelmingly in his second mayoral bid in last year’s midterm elections against Esperlita Garcia, a known anti-mining activist.

Garcia, a distant relative of the slain mayor, is the president of the Gonzaga Alliance for Environmental Protection and Preservation.

Lt. Gen. Gregorio Catapang, chief of the Armed Forces’ Northern Luzon Command, also expressed doubts that the NPA was behind the killing. He was in Gonzaga the other day to oversee the pursuit operation against the armed group.

Catapang said last Monday’s attack was not the usual approach of communist rebels.

He said he was also surprised that a big number of armed men staged the assault, although Gonzaga, besides being generally peaceful, has already been classified as insurgency-free.

Meanwhile, Gonzaga Vice Mayor Rene Salvanera, Pentecostes’ political party mate, officially assumed the mayoral post the other day. He took his oath of office before Cagayan Regional Trial Court Judge Neljoe Cortes.

Army boosts transform road map

From the Manila Bulletin (Apr 23): Army boosts transform road map

Fort Ramon Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija  — The 7th Infantry Division (7ID), under its new commander Brig. Gen Glorioso Miranda, conducted an Army Transformation Road Map Trainers’ Training to increase the soldiers’ professional skills.

The three-day seminar was  participated in by Personnel and Operations Officers from post and line units as well as the principal and alternate members of the 7ID Army Transformation Roadmap Technical Working Group, officials said yesterday.

The workshop had four modules:

Module 1 — Understanding the ATR, giving the ATR overview;

Module 2 — Scorecard Development Process which tackled role clarification, unit objectives and output presentation;

Module 3 — Performance Management Process which was about scorecard validation, link to budget, strategic communication and scorecard monitoring;

Module 4 — Strategy Evaluation Mechanisms, about the strategy review, operations review and output presentation, said Capt. Mark Anthony Ruellos, public affairs officer.

The Philippine Army believes there is a need to reform the organization and to enhance the critical system within it.

The Philippine Army has been very supportive of the various reforms by using a Governance Framework to realize Army Transformation.

The ATR has the vision “A World Class Army” that is a source of National Pride.

ATR’s primary purpose is to transform the Army into a better, more dynamic, more responsive, more capable and more professional army committed to its mandate of serving the people and securing the land.

It provides a national and long term basis for the organization, establishes and synchronizes the various reform initiatives and to advance and institutionalize good governance and performance excellence.

AFP urges pensioners to settle accounts

From the Manila Bulletin (Apr 23): AFP urges pensioners to settle accounts

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) urged pensioners to settle their bank accounts used for pensions to ensure that they can get their benefits without a hitch.

In an advisory issued on Wednesday, AFP urged pensioners to apply or transfer their bank accounts only to authorized government servicing banks (AGSB) such as the Land Bank of the Philippines, United Coconut Planters Bank, Philippine Veterans Bank, and Development Bank of the Philippines. This is to avoid any problems in receiving pensions, especially those pensioners who have receiving accounts in other banks, AFP said.

AFP said pensioners should get a letter of introduction (LOI) in the nearest Finance Service Unit (FSU) in their respective area and submit it to any AGSB to open an AFP pension account.

A copy of the LOI and pension account number should be presented to Pension and Gratuity Management Center (PGMC) in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City until June 20, 2014, AFP added.

The advisory comes as the Department of Budget and Management announced the same day that it has released almost P10 billion funds for the pensions and other benefits of AFP personnel and war veterans.

Out of the total fund released, P7.5 billion was allocated for more than 120, 000 AFP pensioners, including 2,583 new beneficiaries for 2014, DBM said.

With this, AFP said it has been undertaking several security measures through its Pension and Gratuity Management Center (PGMC) to ensure the integrity of its beneficiary list and to avoid ghost pensioners.

Capt. Mark Posadas, AFP Public Affairs Office research head, told Manila Bulletin Online that the AFP has set up a system to ensure that only legitimate AFP pensioners will be included in their payroll system.

“This system entails regular coordination and crosschecking with other agencies like the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office, National Statistics Office, the Bureau of Immigration and the Ombudsman,” Posadas said.

The AFP also requires all pensioners “to update their status annually by appearing in person and submitting a proof of life,” Posadas added.

Moreover, a computer system called Pension Management Information System is being used to maintain all the data of AFP pensioners, he said.

“Various forms of information campaign are frequently conducted for the AFP active personnel to know the retire law and updated procedures and requirements for benefit application,” Posadas stressed.

Meanwhile, the other P2.40 billion fund was released by DBM for the 208, 458 members of the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO) to cover their old age pensions, death pensions, disability pensions, and total administrative disability (TAD) pensions for the second quarter of the year.

Both funds were sourced from the Pension and Gratuity Fund under the 2014 General Appropriations Act (GAA), DBM added.

MILF members spring arrested kin in Lanao del Sur

From the Philippine Star (Apr 24): MILF members spring arrested kin in Lanao del Sur

Moro rebels on Wednesday flagged down at a secluded stretch of the Narciso Ramos Highway in Balindong, Lanao del Sur a police convoy and set free their detained relatives policemen were to bring to the provincial jail in Marawi City.

Chief Supt. Noel Delos Reyes, director of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao police, has tagged a local band of Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) guerrillas as behind the attack.

The MILF gunmen carted away the firearms of the policemen they took at gunpoint before they escaped, along with their relatives, whom members of the Picong town police were to bring to Marawi City a day after they were arrested for illegal possession of firearms.

“The arrested alleged offenders were caught by our men at a checkpoint in Picong a day before the incident,” Delos Reyes said.

Delos Reyes said he had asked the joint GPH-MILF ceasefire committee to investigate on the incident, and  recover  the government-owned firearms the rebels took away.

“We have put our pursuit operations on hold to enable the ceasefire mechanisms to work freely to resolve this case,” Delos Reyes said.

Delos Reyes appealed to the central leadership of the MILF to censure the guerrillas involved in the incident.

Among those the MILF rebels had set free is a woman. The detainees were caught carrying guns Tuesday while passing through a police checkpoint along a highway in Picong, a coastal town in the second district of Lanao del Sur.

“The `rescue’ happened a day after they were arrested for illegal possession of firearms. It is the work of policemen to arrest people carrying guns without proper authorization from government,” Delos Reyes said.

The incident was the MILF’s second affront against the Lanao del Sur provincial police in less than 12 months.

MILF rebels had sprung last year a detained relative from the Marawi City police office, and even kidnapped the city’s police chief, whom they used as a “shield” to prevent pursuing soldiers and policemen from closing in.

The rebels gunned down for resisting captivity the officer’s civilian brother-in-law, who was at the precinct when they barged in.

The kidnapped police officer was released without any ransom about 10  hours later through the intercession of local officials.

MILF: Isabela City Mayor categorically declares “NO” for Bangsamoro

Posted to the MILF Website (Apr 24): Isabela City Mayor categorically declares “NO” for Bangsamoro

More than two weeks after the historic signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) in Malacanang Palace where over a thousand of people attended led by President Benigno C. Aquino III, MILF officials led Chairman Al-Hadz Murad Ebrahim and Malaysian Prime Minister Tun Najib Razak, foreign dignitaries and regional, national and international development and peace partners who witnessed the signing of the peace pact, the City Government of Isabela in Basilan sponsored a Forum on the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) and the FAB’s four annexes on April 14 at the Formation Center, this City.
Participants to the forum were barangay officials from the city’s 45 barangays, members of the city council, department heads, NGO representatives, Christian religious leaders, the City Police and members of the Philippine Army as well as members of local media. Speakers were Professor Moy Edding, Political Science Instructor of the Western Mindanao State University WMSU), Zamboanga City and BTC Commissioner Pedrito Eisma, but the latter failed to show up due to previous commitment in Manila.

During the opening program, Mayor Cherrylyn Santos-Akbar officially declared that she personally decides for NO for the Bangsamoro new political entity considering that the city populace had already spoken for exclusion in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) during the 2001 expanded ARMM plebiscite. She explained that although under the Annex on power sharing it provides for the non-diminutions of powers and authority already enjoyed by the local government units but she is more apprehensive on the future Bangsamoro Local Government Code on the terms, “UNLESS OTHERWISE, MODIFIED, ALTERED AND AMENDED if members of the Bangsamoro Assembly found it necessary to improve its services.

Mayor Santos-Akbar further feared that the moment Isabela City would be under the Bangsamoro Government, the faith of the Internal Revenue Allocation (IRA) for the LGUs may already be put into uncertainty.

On his part, Professor Edding questioned the term Bangsamoro in the agreement because it may cause for a constitutional infirmity considering that in the constitution it does not provides so. He further explained that the 1987 constitution provides that only the term Muslim Mindanao Autonomous Government was clearly mentioned and stipulated and not Bangsamoro Autonomous Government as provided in the CAB signed last March 27, 2014.

Professor Edding added that the envisioned ministerial form of government for the Bangsamoro is also another legal question that may be raised the moment the basic law shall have been enacted by the House of Representatives and the Senate later this year.

But Mr. Allan Pisingan, head of a Civil Society Organization in Basilan and Renald Bucoy, President of the Association of Barangay Chairmen (ABC) reacted on Professor Edding’s predicament emphasizing that the proper forum which can determine the constitutionality of the issue is the Supreme Court. Our tasked at this time is to let the people understand the provisions of the Bangsamoro Agreement so that during the ratification of the BBL, qualified voters may freely decide whether to vote for yes or no, the ABC President Bucoy added.

Mr. Pisingan, likewise appealed to the participants to give peace a chance to work for the betterment of everybody in the Bangsamoro area. He reminded that in war the victims are not only the two warring parties referring to government forces and MILF combatants, but also  innocent civilians who become collateral damage with their properties destroyed during conflict.

In another development, Isabela City Bishop Martin Jumoad suggested that position paper protesting the inclusion of Isabela City to the proposed Bangsamoro Government must be made. While Professor Maximo Eisma in his remarks said that the “Bangsamoro means the destruction of the church”.“no”-for-bangsamoro

BAYAN: Filipino activists kick off internationally coordinated protests vs Obama Asia trip

From the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN-New Patriotic Alliance) Website (Apr 23): Filipino activists kick off internationally coordinated protests vs Obama Asia trip


News Release
April 23, 2014

On the day United States President Barack Obama is set to arrive in Japan on the first leg of his East Asia tour, activists under the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (New Patriotic Alliance) marched to the US embassy in Manila to denounce what they called the “US imperialist agenda in Asia”. The groups clashed with police who were guarding the US embassy. Police used a water cannon against the protesters.

“The US pivot to Asia combines military rebalancing and free trade agreements like the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement. The US seeks to maintain its dominance in the region by violating the national sovereignty and plundering the economies of their  so-called ‘allies’. The people of Asia stand to gain nothing from the Obama visit and the US agenda he carries,” said Bayan secretary general Renato M. Reyes, Jr.

Bayan is coordinating with various anti-bases and anti-globalization groups in Japan, South Korea and the United States for a series of protests against the US pivot and the TPPA. Apart from the April 23 protest in Manila, anti-bases and anti-war groups in Japan such as the Asia-Wide Campaign are set to hold protests in time for the US-Japan Summit on April 24. Groups in South Korea are also expected to hold protests against US military bases in the Korean peninsula and the continued implementation of the US-Korea Free Trade Agreement and the promotion of the TPPA. Bayan-USA will join Japanese and Korean activists in the US for coordinated actions in the afternoon of April 25 in Los Angeles, Seattle, New York and San Francisco. Filipino migrants are expected to hold protest actions on April 27.

On April 28 and 29, Bayan will lead a nationally coordinated protest as Obama lands in Manila and witnesses the signing of the Agreement on Enhanced
Defense Cooperation, a de facto basing pact disguised as an access agreement.

“We will fight the new defense agreement with the US. We oppose this new form of US military occupation and colonization. The US military and economic agenda will only reinforce the status of the Philippines as an American neo-colony, and Philippine president Benigno Aquino III as Obama’s cheerleader and puppet in Asia,” Reyes said.

“We demand regional peace and development. We join our friends from Japan, Korea, Guam, and Australia to demand the removal of US troops in Asia and the Pacific. We reject US economic dictates as we fight for genuine economic sovereignty. We condemn both the Aquino and Obama regimes for exploiting the maritime dispute with China in order to justify entrenching US troops in the region. Our national interest will not be served if we take the side of one bully against another,” he added.

(COT) RPOC 12 keeps watch over NPA, BIFF threats in South Central Mindanao

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 23): (COT) RPOC 12 keeps watch over NPA, BIFF threats in South Central Mindanao

Security concerns of communities have remained as top priority of the military and local chief executives in Region 12.

Col. Marcos Norman Flores, Jr. Army’s 1002nd Infantry Brigade commander said the communist New People’s Army (NPA) and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) both remain as big threats to the relative peace currently prevailing in the region brought about by the government peace overture with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

“Intensifying security in the Cotabato area remains a priority concern of the 1002nd Brigade,” Flores said.

The brigade’s area of responsibility practically covers South Central Mindanao or SOCKKSARGEN, which includes the provinces of Sultan Kudarat, South Cotabato, Sarangani, Davao del Sur, Davao Occidental, North Cotabato and the cities therein.

Reports said that the NPA guerrilla fronts are expanding its operations particularly in North Cotabato, prompting the military to intensify its operations in the province.

Flores said his unit has the 57th Infantry Battalion (IB) covering Kidapawan City, Arakan, Magpet, Antipas and President Roxas in North Cotabato; the 39th IB in Sultan Kudarat; 27th IB and 73rd IB in Sarangani; and the 102DRC as reserved force.

During the Regional Peace and Order Council 12 (RPOC 12) meeting held in Koronadal City on April 22, the military official lauded North Cotabato Governor Emmylou Mendoza for her advocacy in initiating peace dialogues with communities frequented by NPA and BIFF rebels.

Mendoza, for her part, said nthe provincial government is committed to reciprocate the national government’s endeavour to attain long-lasting peace in Mindanao particularly in North Cotabato.

More so, the governor has proposed before the council to look into the possibility of providing vehicles for highway patrol groups (HPGs) operating in the SOCKKSARGEN area.

“This is to enable the HPGs to conduct highway operations more efficiently. Currently the HPGs have no ample vehicle support to do their task,” Mendoza said.

The RPOC 12 supported and immediately approved Mendoza’s proposal during the deliberation.

The council also discussed other essential issues confronting the region such as the tri-boundary conflict involving Tulunan in North Cotabato, Columbio in Sultan Kudarat and Datu Paglas in Maguindanao; and the updates on the GPH-MILF Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro.

DVIDS: AFP, U.S. break ground with community members on HCA projects

From DVIDS (Apr 23): AFP, U.S. break ground with community members on HCA projects
ALBAY, Philippines – Community leaders and members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and U.S. armed forces joined together April 22 - 23 for groundbreaking ceremonies at Engineering Civic Assistance Program sites around the Albay province, Philippines.

The work done at the ENCAP sites represents a portion of the humanitarian civic assistance projects and events taking place as a part of Exercise Balikatan.

“Being here is special for us and the Filipinos,” said U.S. Marine Gunnery Sgt. Byron Jacobson, a civil affairs team chief. “We have the opportunity to help the local community with projects, while at the same time build strong inter-operability.”

The ceremonies took place at and celebrated the improvements being made in each of the ENCAP locations, including renovations of Tamaoyan Elementary School; construction of a comfort room in Barangay Pawa; construction of classrooms and a health clinic in Malobago; and construction of classrooms at Mercedes Elementary School.

“Everyone in the community appreciates our combined work,” said Philippine Army Cpl. Rene Dacoco, combat camera specialist. “It shows that we’re all here for the people.”

Humanitarian assistance and training activities enable our service members to get to know each other, train together, and provide assistance to local communities while strengthening the longstanding relationship between the Philippines and the U.S.

“These projects are a good way to meet with the locals and have a good interaction between both countries,” said U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Roel Dauz, the operations chief of the U.S. service members at Tamaoyan Elementary School. “Both sides learning from each other and build a partnership for the two nations.”

DVIDS: AFP, US service members discuss Legazpi City HCA projects

From DVIDS (Apr 22): AFP, US service members discuss Legazpi City HCA projects

AFP, US service members discuss Legazpi City HCA projects

U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Jason Johnson, left, receives a “Team Albay” shirt from Gov. Joey S. Salceda April 21 following a press conference in Legazpi City, Albay Province, Philippines. Salceda presented similar shirts, as well as provincial passports, to every U.S. service member at the conference to welcome them to the city. The press conference was held to discuss humanitarian civic assistance projects planned in the area as a part of Exercise Balikatan, an annual bilateral exercise between the Armed Forces of the Philippines and United States armed forces that strengthens the bond and improves interoperability between the two countries. Salceda is the governor of Albay, and Johnson is the deputy commander for the Joint Civil Military Operations Task Force, U.S. armed forces

LEGAZPI CITY, Albay Province, Philippines – Leaders from Legazpi City, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and United States armed forces came together April 21 for a press conference to mark the beginning of humanitarian civic actions as a part of Exercise Balikatan in Legazpi City, Albay Province, Philippines.

Balikatan, a Filipino term meaning “shoulder-to-shoulder,” is an annual, bilateral exercise that strengthens the bond between the two nations, while improving the interoperability and readiness of both forces.

“Continuing the work between our country and America helps develop a strong bond and camaraderie,” said Capt. Renato Yongque, deputy commander for naval forces South Luzon, Philippine Navy. “Both countries can exchange knowledge and ideas while improving closeness with one another.”

Participants in the conference discussed the planned humanitarian civic assistance projects taking place in Albay, including the Engineering Civic Assistance Program and cooperative healthcare engagements. The ENCAP features several construction projects at local schools and health centers, and the CHE includes healthcare assistance programs and subject matter expert exchanges.

“It’s always better working together like this,” said U.S. Army Maj. Rory Walley, one of the CHE subject matter experts at the event. “Helping our allies is a great experience, and we learn more about each other. It’s a win-win situation.”

The shared HCA projects will also focus on improving the quality of life for the people of the Albay Province, while strengthening the relationship between AFP and U.S. forces.

“What this exercise leaves behind in the hearts of our people is far more important than the cement or physical things we will see come out of this,” said Joey S. Salceda, governor of Albay. “This face-to-face engagement between our countries will reinforce the relationship between the people of the Philippines and the United States of America.”

DBM shells out P10-B for AFP, PVAO pensioners

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 23): DBM shells out P10-B for AFP, PVAO pensioners

As part of the Aquino administration’s commitment to support the country’s retired men in uniform, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) has released a combined amount of P9.91 billion to the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) for the second-quarter pension requirements of war veterans and retired military personnel.

DBM Secretary Florencio "Butch" Abad said that P7.50 billion of the total amount will benefit 120,296 pensioners of the AFP, of which 2,583 comprise new beneficiaries for 2014. Both releases were sourced from the Pension and Gratuity Fund under the 2014 General Appropriations Act (GAA)

“This latest release guarantees the timely delivery of regular pension benefits to our retired military personnel for the second quarter of the year," he said.

At the same time, Abad said the government continues its transparency efforts to update, validate and cleanse our list of beneficiaries so that it's free of invalid, duplicate, and ghost entries.

"Our pensioners and their families will therefore receive the benefits due them much more quickly and efficiently, all while we ensure greater accountability in the payment process," he said.

Meanwhile, some P2.40 billion was released to 208,458 PVAO veterans to cover old age pensions, death pensions, disability pensions, and total administrative disability (TAD) pensions for the second quarter of the year.

The DBM chief noted that the automation of pension payments is one among several administration-led initiatives to tap digital technology to strengthen transparency and accountability in the Philippine bureaucracy.

“Before we began clearing the list of pension beneficiaries, we found out that hundreds of millions were going to ghost pensioners or deceased retirees every year. Switching from check to ATM payments nipped these anomalies in the bud," Abad said.

"More important, however, is the fact that we're able to give better support to our retired military personnel and our war veterans. Such digitization and cashless initiatives ultimately allow us to deliver public services faster and protect government processes from corruption," he added.

No security threats detected in Obama visit

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 23): No security threats detected in Obama visit

With the upcoming state visit of US President Barack Obama, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Wednesday said they are still to detect any security threats against the American chief executive's trip.

Obama's trip is slated on April 28 to 29.

"We are still to detect any security threats," said AFP public affairs office chief Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala.

But this does not mean that they will lessen the security preparations.

He also clarified that the Presidential Security Group (PSG) is the lead agency in securing Obama's visit.

"PSG is lead agency regarding security of President Obama in coordination with the US Secret Service," Zagala stressed.

The US Secret Service contingent has been in the Philippines since Monday.

The AFP public affairs office chief added that these units will work together in all security concerns during the visit.

"AFP and the Philippine National Police will be in support together with the Department of Transportation and Communications and Metropolitan Manila Development Authority. Other government agencies will also support security requirements when tasked," he added.

Zagala stressed that initial planning between the PSG and US Secret Service has began last Monday and will continue until the plan will be finished.

"The AFP through the PSG will ensure the protection of President Obama and is confident in the vast experience and capabilities of the PSG in VIP protection," he stressed.

Navy conducting sonar studies

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 24): Navy conducting sonar studies

With sonar playing an invaluable role in maritime defense, the Naval Research and Development Center (NRDC) announced that it is conducting its own sonar studies with the goal of developing indigenous ones for the country.

Lt. Cmdr. Gregory Fabic, Philippine Navy spokesperson, said that this is under the NRDC's Project "Ilalim" (Filipino for under).

"Project 'Ilalim' involves the study of sonar systems of platforms included in Defense Acquisition System projects (ex. Frigate and others)," he added.

The objective is to absorb the sonar technology (operation and maintenance) in preparation for the development of a morecomplex type of fixed or mobile underwater monitoring system thru re-engineering, Fabic pointed out.

Sonar (originally an acronym for Sound Navigation And Ranging) is a technique that uses sound propagation (usually underwater, as in submarine navigation) to navigate, communicate with or detect objects on or under the surface of the water, such as other vessels.

Two types of technology share the name "sonar": passive sonar is essentially listening for the sound made by vessels; active sonar is emitting pulses of sounds and listening for echoes.

Sonar may be used as a means of acoustic location and of measurement of the echo characteristics of "targets" in the water.

Civilian positions up for grabs in PA's 3rd Infantry Division

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 23): Civilian positions up for grabs in PA's 3rd Infantry Division

The Capiz-based 3rd Infantry Division of the Philippine Army has announced it is opening its roster for organizational structure to professionals who want to join it as civilian employees.

Major Ray Tiongson, the unit's spokesperson, said that their Office of the Assistant Chief of Staff for Personnel, is hiring for the following vacant positions: two Administrative Officers II; one Psychologist I; one Nutritionist/Dietician; and two Administrative Aides IV.

For Administrative Officer II, one must be a graduate of any Baccalaureate Degree, with or without experience and a Career Service Professional Eligible.

For Psychologist I, he/she must be a BS Psychology graduate, with or without experience and a Career Service Professional eligible.

For Nutritionist/Dietician, a BS Food and Nutrition graduate, with or without experience and has a Republic Act No. 1080 (Nutritionist) Eligibility.

For Administrative Aide IV, applicants must have at least 72 units in college, with or without experience and a Career Service Sub-Professional Eligible.

Aside from security of tenure in the government service, other benefits include a competitive salary, clothing allowance, Magna Carta for hospital personnel; leave benefits and a chance to participate in trainings both local and abroad.

Interested applicants must submit an application letter along with their updated resumé, transcript of records, diploma, proof of Civil Service Eligibility and National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), police and barangay clearances to the 3rd Infantry Division commander, Major Gen. Aurelio Baladad.

ASG operative nabbed in Zamboanga City

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 23): ASG operative nabbed in Zamboanga City

A member of the Abu Sayyaf Ajijul Group was arrested by Task Force Zamboanga operatives during operations in Pahawag sa Baliwasan, Zamboanga City Wednesday morning.

This took place around 10:35 a.m., Col. Adrelino Colina, Task Force Zamboanga commander, said.

He identified the arrested brigand as Nabil Tahali Idjiran alias "Abu Darren".

Idjiran has pending arrest warrants for murder in relation to the Sipadan kidnapping in 2001 and Pearl Farm raid in Samal Island sometime in 2001.

The suspect was caught by authorities masquerading as a fish vendor. He said Idjiran did not resist arrest.

No weapon was recovered in the suspect's possession.

Colina said that they are still determining what Idjiran is doing in the area.

The Ajijul Group of the ASG is composed of 14 brigands according to military intelligence.

The group operates within the environs of Zamboanga City.

PA commemorates 63rd anniversary of Battle of Yultong

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 23): PA commemorates 63rd anniversary of Battle of Yultong

The Philippine Army (PA) commemorated on Wednesday the 63rd anniversary of the Battle of Yultong during the 1950-1953 Korean War.

This was highlighted by a wreath-laying and commemorative program at the Korean War Memorial Pylon at the Libingan ng mga Bayani in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City.

The activity was spearheaded by guest-of-honor Lee Hyuk, ambassador of the Republic of Korea to the Philippines.

The event commemorated the bravery and gallantry demonstrated by Filipino troopers who fought and died in the Korean War.

Senior military officers and personnel led by Army vice commander Major Gen. Romulo M. Cabantac Jr., Filipino war veterans and their dependents and other government officials were also present during the celebration.

In September 1950, the 10th Battalion Combat Team was sent to Korea to compose the Philippine Expeditionary Force to Korea or PEFTOK.

The Filipino troops were deployed to South Korea in fulfillment of the Philippines' pledge of assistance to the United Nations effort to stem North Korea’s invasion of South Korea on June 25, 1950.

During this year’s celebration, the Philippine Army as well as the people of the Republic of Korea remember the heroism of the PEFTOK soldiers and their invaluable service not just to the country, but to the attainment of world peace as well.

“Some 7,000 Filipino soldiers fought side by side with other UN Forces in the Battle of Yuldong against the forces of North Korea and China for the people of South Korea. We will never forget that," Ambassador Lee said.

NPA rebels free abducted Army sergeant in Compostela Valley

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 23): NPA rebels free abducted Army sergeant in Compostela Valley

A military man abducted by New People's Army (NPA) rebels last April 4 was released on Wednesday at Barangay Casoon, Monkayo town, Compostela Valley Province.

Capt. Ernest Carolina, spokesperson of the Philippine Army's 10th Infantry Division, said Sgt. Jeric Curay was released at around noontime.

Efforts to free the soldier from his NPA captors were spearheaded by Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, Carolina said.

Curay was abducted at Barangay Andap, Laak, Compostela Valley Province in the morning of April 4. He was unarmed at that time.

"His abduction was a CARHRIHL (Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law) violation. Curay will undergo physical and psychological stress debriefing by the Camp Panacan Station Hospital for further evaluation," Carolina said.

3 landmines recovered in Compostela Valley

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 24): 3 landmines recovered in Compostela Valley

Troopers from the Army's 10th Infantry Division have recovered three rebel landmines in separate locations in Compostela Valley last April 22.

In a statement forwarded Thursday by Capt. Ernest Carolina, spokesperson of the Panacan-based military unit, said the first landmine was discovered 9 a.m. by a peace and development team (PDT) of the 9th Infantry Battalion in Purok 4, Brgy Panibasan, Maco, Compostela Valley Province.

Retrieved was one improvised dual purpose landmine, improvised electric blasting cap and approximately 100 meters firing wire.

Thirty minutes later, this time a PDT from 71st Infantry Battalion discovered two improvised landmines with detonating accessories in a road in Brgy Napnapan, Pantukan, Compostela Valley Province.

On both occasions the landmines were said to have been discovered because of reports from concerned citizens.

"This is the result of a growing concern in the communities about their rights to a peaceful community. Violence was never a way to achieve this, and those who value peace understand what we are working for," 10th Infantry Division commander Major Gen. Ariel B. Bernardo said.

The Comprehensive Agreement on Respect of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law signed by the Government of the Philippines and National Democratic Front prohibits for both parties the subjection of civilians to violence related to the armed conflict, landmines among the particularly mentioned in Part 4, Article 4, Paragraph 4 of the document.

The Eastern Mindanao Command statistics said one out of five deaths and injuries caused by landmines in its area since 2010, is a civilian.

Gov't satisfied with US support over sea row – Malacanang

From the Sun Star (Apr 23): Gov't satisfied with US support over sea row – Malacanang

THE Aquino government is satisfied with the support it is getting from the United States, especially regarding the country's territorial dispute with China over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), a Palace official said Wednesday.

Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. said that statements of support from the US "have been encouraging and tend to affirm the cooperation and the partnership of both countries."

He said the government is also pleased with the actions the US has taken as these actions are "aligned with the pronouncements they have made."

In a recent trip to Japan, US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the US remains committed to its defense treaty partners in Asia, including the Philippines, amid a more aggressive posturing of China in the region.

The Philippines continues to get American support in terms of beefing up its military capability through annual joint training exercises with US troops.

The Philippine military also recently acquired two ships from the US to strengthen its capability to patrol its coastline, especially in the West Philippine Sea.

US President Barack Obama is set to arrive in Manila on Monday for a two-day visit.
Coloma said the visit would provide President Benigno Aquino III and Obama "an opportunity to exchange views and their strategic vision for the 21st century and discuss new avenues to further strengthen the longstanding relations between the two countries by intensifying political and security cooperation, expanding trade and investments, tourism and development cooperation, and deepening people-to-people ties."

He further said that the meeting will allow the two leaders to "discuss continued cooperation on the rehabilitation of Yolanda-affected areas."

Coloma noted that Obama's visit is the peak of a series of recent high-level exchanges between the two countries.

Last year, US Secretary of State John Kerry and Hagel visited the Philippines. Early this year, US Senator and member of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee Marco Rubio, and US Congressman Ed Royce, who also chairs the Foreign Affairs Committee of the US House of Representatives, visited Manila.

"The treaty alliance between the Philippines and the US has been a cornerstone of peace and stability in the region. The United States is the only defense treaty ally of the Philippines," Coloma said.

"This wide-ranging security partnership includes joint military exercises, such as Balikatan and humanitarian assistance and disaster response activities, to defense and security assistance that supports Philippine efforts toward achieving enhanced defense capabilities," he added.

Coloma also noted that the US continues to be the major trading partner of the country, with total trade amounting to US$14.5 billion in 2013. Last year, the US was the second largest export destination of the Philippines after Japan, with exports reaching US$7.8 billion.

"The US is one of the Philippines’ top sources of assistance. From 2011 up to 2013, US assistance to the Philippines has amounted to over a billion dollars. The development and military assistance covers a broad range of programs, from enhancing defense capabilities to supporting the good governance reform agenda, poverty reduction, and improving public infrastructure,” Coloma said.

He said that people-to-people ties are strong with an estimated 2.27 million Filipinos living in the United States, while thousands of US tourists visit the Philippines every year. In 2013, more than 670,000 American tourists visited the Philippines.

"The visit of President Obama affirms the vigor of our strategic partnership and alliance, and the strength of our people-to-people ties," Coloma said.

Obama visit to give 'clearer understanding' of PH-US alliance

From Rappler (Apr 23): Obama visit to give 'clearer understanding' of PH-US alliance

US President Barack Obama and President Benigno Aquino III will discuss key issues on PH-US cooperation, including the South China Sea dispute

The Philippines expects to have a “clearer understanding” of its strategic partnership with the United States in at least 4 key areas, including political and security cooperation, when US President Barack Obama visits the country for the first time next week.

Days before the visit, there remains the looming possibility that Obama and President Benigno Aquino III will witness the signing of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation agreement between the two countries.

Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr said in a news briefing on Wednesday, April 23, that Obama's visit will be the “peak” of high-level exchanges between the two countries under the current administration.

He said topics to be discussed by the leaders when they meet in Malacañang are political and security cooperation, trade and investments expansion, tourism and development cooperation, deepening people-to-people ties, and the rehabilitation of areas affected by Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan).

"From the Philippine perspective, we would like to be able to arrive at a clearer understanding with the US on important aspects of the strategic partnership in those areas," Coloma said.

Responding to questions, he said the two leaders will surely discuss the territorial dispute between China and the Philippines.

"There are evolving and changing realities in global and regional security, and it is apparent that the situation in the South China Sea is part of that evolving situation," Coloma said.

Asked if Aquino will seek an assurance from Obama regarding the Philippines’ territorial dispute with China, Coloma said, “President Aquino will certainly discuss with President Obama what he believes to be our priority concerns and concerns that are aligned to our national interest.”

Obama is expected to arrive in the country early afternoon Monday, April 28, and will proceed to Malacañang for bilateral talks with Aquino, followed by a joint press conference. He will be feted to a Palace dinner in his honor.

On his second day, the US President has engagements with the US embassy in the Philippines, and is expected to visit the World War II American cemetery in Taguig.

Deal or no deal

The main issue that continues to generate buzz about the visit is the possible signing of a defense deal that will allow the increased presence of American troops in the country.

Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose L Cuisia Jr told Rappler that both sides are "still hopeful" the signing will take place during Obama's visit.

"We're still working on it. Hopefully there will be a signing," he said.

He said concerns that the agreement is being rushed are not valid, citing the fact there have already been 8 rounds of negotiations between the two nations.

"That's the impression people are getting. To say it is being rushed, it will be done in a few weeks and a few months – it's been over a year of back and forth between Manila and Washington," Cuisia said.

The Philippine panel negotiating an agreement with the US has submitted a draft of the agreement for Aquino's review.

The US and the Philippines have had a wide-ranging security partnership. The treaty alliance between the Philippines and the US "has been a cornerstone of peace and stability in the region," said Malacañang. The United States is the country's only defense treaty ally.

The partnership has also included joint military exercises, humanitarian assistance and disaster response (HADR) activities, and defense and security assistance in support of the Philippines' aim to enhance defense capabilities.

TPP talks

Coloma said the Philippines will also explore the feasibility of joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, although Cuisia admitted the Philippines still has a ways to go.

"The Philippines may take some years to meet all the requirements. We also have some restrictions on foreign ownership in certain sectors that will prevent us from complying fully with TPP requirements," Cuisia said. "If you have those economic restrictions then how do you comply?"

TPP membership would require the Philippines to amend its constitution, which the Aquino administration does not support.

The TPP, a trade and economic partnership, began as an obscure grouping of Singapore, Brunei, New Zealand and Chile but it gained momentum when the US joined in 2008, with Obama since focusing on the potential pact as a tool to advance American economic interests in the Asia Pacific.

Currently, 12 countries – Australia, Brunei, Chile, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States, and Vietnam – are negotiating the agreement.

The US is one of the Philippines' major trading partners, and a top source of development assistance, amounting to over $1 billion in the last two years, for various programs from defense capabilities enhancement to good governance reform support, poverty reduction, and improving public infrastructure.

The two countries also enjoy strong people-to-people ties with about 2.27 million Filipinos living in the US. Thousands of US tourists also visit the Philippines annually and vice-versa.

Obama's visit comes just days after the Pew Research Center's Global Attitudes Project shows a higher percentage of Filipinos surveyed – 85% to be exact – having a more "favorable" view of the American people. Americans come second in the survey, with 84% saying they have a "favorable" view of themselves.

PH arrests extremist in Malaysia resort kidnapping

From Rappler (Apr 24): PH arrests extremist in Malaysia resort kidnapping

Nabil Talahi Idjiran, a member of the Abu Sayyaf Group who took part in kidnapping tourists in Malaysia's Sipadan island in 2000, is arrested Zamboanga City

Philippine forces on Wednesday, April 23, arrested a Muslim extremist believed to have taken part in the kidnapping of 21 people from a Malaysian resort in 2000, a senior commander said.

Such cross-border kidnappings have become more common recently with militants from the lawless southern Philippines travelling to nearby Malaysia, where there are many dive resorts popular with foreign tourists.

Nabil Talahi Idjiran, a member of the Abu Sayyaf Group who took part in one such raid on Malaysia's Sipadan island, was arrested in the port city of Zamboanga in Mindanao, said Colonel Andrelino Colina, head of a special anti-terror task force.

"He was one of the members of the group that kidnapped them (the 21 hostages)," Colina told Agence France-Presse.

Watch this report below.

[Video: Philippines arrests extremist in Malaysia resort kidnapping]

Idjiran also took turns guarding the hostages who were taken across the sea border to the remote Philippine island of Jolo, he added.

The kidnapping of the 21 mostly Western holiday-makers was one of the most brazen attacks by the Abu Sayyaf, an Islamic extremist group founded in the 1990s with seed money from Al-Qaeda mastermind Osama bin Laden.

The hostages endured months of captivity in the jungles of Jolo, about 955 kilometers (515 miles) south of Manila, until they were ransomed off for millions of dollars.

Colina said Idjiran is also believed to have taken part in another attempt to raid a luxury resort in the southern Philippines in May 2001 that was foiled by its security staff.

The Abu Sayyaf, blamed for the worst terror attacks in Philippine history, are also believed to be behind recent kidnappings of tourists from Malaysia.

In 2013, a Taiwanese tourist was killed and his wife abducted in one such raid. The widow later walked free.

A Chinese tourist and a Filipina resort worker were seized by suspected Abu Sayyaf members from a Malaysian resort earlier this month.

Colina said it is possible that the two latest hostages might also be hidden in the Jolo jungles.

However, he said it was unlikely Idjiran was involved in the latest abductions as military intelligence operatives had monitored him around Zamboanga City since last year.

Rebels were all over municipio, some openly manning traffic before Cagayan mayor slay

From InterAksyon (Apr 23): Rebels were all over municipio, some openly manning traffic before Cagayan mayor slay

That the New People’s Army was able to assassinate a Cagayan mayor in broad-daylight at Monday’s flag ceremony exposes the weak intelligence capability of both the police and military in the province, which also hosts the regional police office.

“At around 5 a.m., just barely three hours before they killed the mayor, some residents claimed they saw several armed men in camouflage uniforms arriving in batches and converging at the back of the NFA storage building. But they thought the men were soldiers who might be escorts of an officer or someone who will come visit the municipal hall,” a police investigator said.

The officer spoke to on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk about the matter.

At around 8 a.m. on Monday, as Gonzaga Mayor Carlito Pentecostes was about to go up the podium to deliver his speech after the flag-raising, one of the five armed men in camouflage uniforms approached him and fired his M-16 rifle, killing the local chief executive.

Reportedly, three policemen, as well as the mayor’s civilian bodyguards, were nearby but were all disarmed by the rebels.

The officer said the rebels numbering about 50 may have positioned in groups at the four corners of the municipal hall.

“At least eight of them were manning traffic on both ends of the national highway fronting the municipal hall. There were some at the back of the municipal hall, some joined the flag-raising formation, and some were scattered on the left and right sides of the building. Practically, all areas were covered,” the officer said.

The rebels withdrew to Barangay Isca, 6 to 7 kilometers away from the municipal hall.

The NPA has yet to issue an official statement but they left leaflets warning politicians and businessmen engaging in illegal black sand mining in the province. The warning came from the NPA Henry Abraham Command.

New mayor

On Tuesday, the vice mayor, Rene Salvanera, was installed mayor by the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) which was attended by top military and police commanders including Northern Luzon Command (Nolcom) Lt. Gen. Gregorio Catapang.

Observers say the presence of top military and police bigwigs during the change of guard at Gonzaga was to show that they were on top of the internal security situation in the region.

This developed as Police Regional Office 2 (PRO2) Chief Superintendent Miguel Laurel ordered his top intelligence officers to explain why they should not be fired from their positions for possible security lapses.

Ordered to explain were Senior Supt. Joselito Santos and Supt. Jessie Tamayao, intelligence chief of PRO2 and Cagayan Provincial Police Office, respectively.
Tamayao was just a month-old in his position.

The Gonzaga incident was already strike two for Santos as the region’s top intelligence officer.

In May 2013, Philippine National Police (PNP) chief General Alan Purisima ordered the relief of Santos along with Cagayan Provincial Public Safety Company (PPSC) commander Supt. James Cipriano, then intelligence chief of the Cagayan PPO, for failure of intelligence that resulted in the deadly ambush in Allacapan town.

In that said NPA ambush, eight were killed and seven others were seriously wounded, all members of the 24th Special Action Company of Special Action Force (SAF).
Also relieved then were Senior Insp. Ronnie Albino, former head of the 24th SAC, and Supt. Nestor Lobos, former commander of SAF’s 2nd Special Action Battalion.

How Santos was able to regain his position is a matter Laurel has yet to explain.

Also, Senior Supt. Gregorio Lim was already Cagayan provincial police commander at that time when the Allacapan ambush occurred. He was not fired though and continues to enjoy his position up to this time. also learned that during the raid, the chief of police of Gonzaga, Senior Insp. Ronnie Siriban, and his deputy, Insp. Edison Lagua, were not at the police station. Lagua himself was a survivor of an NPA ambush in Rizal town two years ago.

Both Siriban and Lagua had been fired from their positions while investigation commenced.

The raid happened at a time when a red alert was still in effect nationwide as the Philippine National Police’s (PNP) Oplan “Sumvac” was implemented for the Holy Week.

China won't swallow 'bitter pill' of ceding sovereign rights: military official

From InterAksyon (Apr 24): China won't swallow 'bitter pill' of ceding sovereign rights: military official

China will not "swallow the bitter pill" of ceding its sovereign rights to others, a senior military official told foreign naval leaders on Wednesday, as the country takes an increasingly assertive approach to guarding its maritime territory.

"No country should expect China to swallow the bitter pill of our sovereignty, national security or development interests being compromised," said Fan Changlong, vice chairman of the powerful Central Military Commission.

The commission is China's top military council, chaired by President Xi Jinping.
Fan, who met US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel this month in Beijing, made the remarks to delegates at the Western Pacific Naval Symposium in the coastal city of Qingdao, where naval leaders from more than 20 countries were meeting.

He also sought to assuage fears that China's rise as a naval power posed a threat to other nations.

"Some people worry that China becoming a strong maritime power means a new maritime hegemony that will harm regional stability and global peace. Such worries are completely unnecessary," Fan said.

"Never will China follow the path that some major countries took to pursue maritime hegemony and colonization of other countries, or exploitation of their resources."

China's modernizing navy has taken an increasingly assertive stance in guarding what it sees as its sovereign maritime territory in the East China and South China Seas.
Fan added that China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) would work to take on more maritime responsibility.

"The PLA will actively participate with a cooperative spirit and undertake more responsibility and obligations for a harmonious ocean," he said.

The conference on Tuesday approved a maritime communications deal meant to ensure that accidental naval altercations do not develop into a conflict. Signatories, including China, Japan, the Philippines and Malaysia, agreed to the framework, which had been in the works for more than a decade.

Delegates from Western and Asian countries said the deal was not intended to resolve territorial disputes, including those between China and its neighbors.

Japan, China navy chiefs meet

The navy chiefs from China and Japan had a 15-minute exchange during a ceremony at the conference, Japan's Kyodo news agency reported, a rare meeting amid tensions between the two countries over territorial disputes in the East China Sea.

"Given the current state of Japanese-Chinese relations, it is good that we were able to talk to each other," Admiral Katsutoshi Kawano, chief of staff of Japan's Maritime Self-Defense Force, said of the meeting on Monday with PLA navy chief Admiral Wu Shengli, according to Kyodo.

"We both agreed on the importance of the code of behavior."

Earlier this week, Chinese media quoted a navy spokesman as saying that the commander of the navy would refuse to meet Japanese military officials at the conference "in view of the wrong words and deeds by the Japanese leaders".

Naval leaders on Wednesday expressed hope that the voluntary agreement - essentially a "rules of the road" for communication at sea - would be implemented.

"Each of us will choose freely whether we decide to employ it or not aboard naval or air assets. I do hope all of us will use it in a very short time frame," said Rear Admiral Anne Cullerre, commander of French maritime forces in the Pacific.

Chinese delegates say the agreement will have no impact on China's maritime patrols in disputed waters.

According to the minutes of the 2012 symposium in Kuala Lumpur, China was alone in opposing the agreement, known as the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea (CUES).

China objected because it viewed the word "code" in the title as "a legal term with binding force", Chinese Vice Admiral Ding Yiping said at the time.

Ding had also objected to English being the primary language of communication as outlined in the document.

China, more than 12 countries, including PH, sign 'Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea'

From InterAksyon (Apr 23): China, more than 12 countries, including PH, sign 'Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea'

China, the United States, Japan, the Philippines and more than a dozen other Asia-Pacific countries have signed a naval agreement aimed at ensuring miscommunication between ships at sea does not escalate into conflict.

The Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea, which was agreed Tuesday in the eastern port city of Qingdao, would reduce the potential for "situations to arise that could lead to conflict in busy sea lanes," the state-run China Daily said.

China is embroiled in a series of territorial disputes with neighbors in the South and East China Seas that have frequently led to military jets being scrambled but not open conflict.

Beijing also feels threatened by an increase in US naval power in the region.

In December, a US-guided missile warship, the Cowpens, had to make a sharp turn to avoid colliding with a Chinese naval ship that cut in front of it, according to the Pentagon.

Gary Li, an analyst with the consultancy IHS, described the agreement as "the ideal thing for China to grab hold of -- the rules of the road."

"It is not some kind of comprehensive 'covers all' code of conduct. It is a mechanism towards de-escalation," he told AFP.

"If anything happens again during one of these confrontations, or they run into the US Navy, which they undoubtedly will do more frequently in the next few decades as China builds up more blue water capability … so I see it coming into play more crucially in these moments, so you will not have a repeat of the US Cowpens, for example."

The agreement would allow redress for China if it was blamed for an encounter, Li said, adding that China would also benefit from the agreement being "flexible," given that it is not legally binding.

The agreement was passed at the Western Pacific Naval Symposium, a meeting held every two years of more than 20 countries including the US as well as Japan and the Philippines, which are locked in bitter disputes with China over contested territory.

The US is focusing greater attention on Asia and has boosted its military presence in the region, a move that has alarmed China and emboldened its rivals.

China meanwhile has rapidly modernized its military. Its first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, went into service 18 months ago, and its forces outnumber its main rival Japan in virtually every area, the International Institute for Strategic Studies said in a February report.

CPP/Sison: Concerning the maritime dispute of the Philippines and China

Sison propaganda statement posted to the CPP Website (Apr 23): Concerning the maritime dispute of the Philippines and China

Prof. Jose Maria Sison
Founding Chairman
Communist Party of the Philippines
China’s 9-dash line claim of indisputable sovereignty over 90% of the South China Sea violates the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and robs the Philippines of 80% of its Exclusive Economic Zone and 100% of its Extended Continental Shelf.
1. Why do you support the Philippine reactionary state in invoking the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and pursuing an arbitration case against China before the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea (ITLOS), particularly in the Arbitral Tribunal based in The Hague?

JMS: What I support is not so much the Philippine reactionary state as the invocation of the UNCLOS and upholding the sovereign rights of the Philippines and the Filipino people over the 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ) as well as the extended continental shelf (ECS) in another 150 nautical miles from the outer limits of the EEZ. Thus, I have urged the Philippine government to act promptly on the matter.

It so happens that the Philippine state has the legal personality to pursue the case before the ITLOS. It is fine that it has filed a case against China under UNCLOS in January 2013 and the ITLOS has referred the case for hearing by one of its four mechanisms, the Arbitral Tribunal based in The Hague. On March 30, 2014 the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs submitted its Memorial to the Arbitral Tribunal that is hearing the case.

China claims “indisputable sovereignty” over 90 per cent of the South China under the so-called 9-dash line map in violation of the UNCLOS. It has hypocritically called for peaceful negotiations and consultations over what it asserts as non-negotiable issue and has also called for shelving disputes and going into joint development projects in the EEZ and ECS of the Philippines. For quite sometime, the consistent point of China has been to maneuver and paralyze the Philippines into a position of acquiescence to the false claim of China and prevent a legal case from being brought before the ITLOS under the UNCLOS.

If China is allowed to violate the UNCLOS and claim 90 percent of the South China Sea under the so-called 9-dash line map, the Philippines would suffer the loss of 80 per cent of its EEZ in the West Philippine Sea, including the Reed Bank and even Malampaya. It would also lose all its ECS. We have practically lost Mischief Reef and the Scarborough Shoal to what is veritably Chinese aggression.

Irrespective of the political and social character of the present government occupying the seat of the Philippines in the community of states, the Filipino people and all patriotic and progressive forces must uphold the national sovereignty and safeguard the territorial integrity of the Philippines, including sovereignty over the territorial sea and the internal waters and sovereign rights over the EEZ and ECS. These are fundamental points of principle in the Program of the People’s Democratic Revolution.

2. The arbitration case is supposed to involve a maritime dispute rather than a territorial dispute. Why a maritime dispute? What are the implications and consequences?

JMS: It is a given fact that the Philippines and China have their sovereign rights over their respective EEZs under the UNCLOS beyond their respective 12-mile territorial seas from their respective baselines. The EEZs, including the ECSs, of both countries do not overrlap and are far apart from each other by hundreds of nautical miles. And the UNCLOS has extinguished the so-called historical rights of China over the islets, reefs and shoals outside of its EEZ and ECS. Moreover, these so-called historical rights beyond Hainan island are false and baseless even in the time before the UNCLOS.

The Philippine case brought before the ITLOS involves a maritime dispute. It is not about a territorial dispute or a case of maritime delineation, which is not governed by the UNCLOS and is not within the jurisdiction of the ITLOS. What the Philippines is simply after in the legal case is a court ruling that there are no overlapping EECs and ECSs between the Philippines and China and that China has no reason whatsoever to prevent or interfere with the Philippines enjoying its sovereign exclusive rights over its own EEZ and ECS.

There is no territorial dispute whatsoever between the Philippines and China, involving issues of sovereignty or ownership over land territory, such as islands or other elevations above water at high tide. Rocks or reefs that are below water at high tide cannot be considered land that is subject to territorial dispute. They are properly subject to maritime dispute that is governed by the UNCLOS.

 Under the UNCLOS, maritime disputes among the signatory states like the Philippines and China are subject to compulsory arbitration. In contrast, territorial disputes can be the subject of arbitration only with the consent of each disputant state.

According to the Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio who has done scholarly legal work on the matter, the arbitration case of the Philippines against China is solely a maritime dispute. It does not involve any territorial dispute. The Philippines asks the tribunal whether China’s 9-dash lines can negate the EEZ that is guaranteed to the Philippines under UNCLOS. The aggrieved state also asks the tribunal whether rocks above water at high tide, like Scarborough Shoal, generate a 200-nautical mile EEZ or only a 12-nautical mile territorial sea. The Philippines further asks the tribunal whether China can appropriate low-tide elevations (LTEs), like Mischief Reef and Subi Reef, within the Philippines’ EEZ.

3. The whole world knows how China arrogantly claims almost the entire South China Sea as being under its “indisputable sovereignty”, how in this regard it has expressed contempt towards any judicial process and how it has engaged in bullying and in aggressive occupation of islets and rocks within the EEZ of the Philippines. But in legal terms, how does China react to the arbitration case filed by the Philippines? And how does the Philippines answer?

JMS: China is determined to avoid participation in the proceedings of the Arbitral Tribunal. It argues that the Arbitral Tribunal has no jurisdiction over the case submitted by the Philippines, supposedly for two reasons: first, China can opt out of compulsory arbitration because the dispute involves maritime boundary delimitation arising from overlapping EEZs of the Philippines and China, requiring the consent of both to litigate; and second, China’s 9-dash line claim is a historical right that predates UNCLOS and cannot be invalidated by UNCLOS.

The answer of the Philippines is that the waters within China’s 9-dash lines do not constitute an EEZ because said lines are not drawn from baselines along the coast of China or any of its islands. China’s 9-dash lines do not comply with the UNCLOS for drawing EEZs. There is in fact no EEZ of China that overlaps with the Philippines’ EEZ. Relative to the Scarborough area, China’s baselines are either along the coast of Hainan Island, which is 580 NM from Luzon, or along the coast of mainland China, which is 485 NM miles from the Zambales coastline in Luzon facing Scarborough Shoal. Even the Chinese-held Paracels are 480 miles from Luzon.

Low-tide elevations (LTEs) in the Spratlys within the 200-nautical mile EEZ of the Philippines, like Mischief Reef and Subi Reef, are subject to the sovereign rights of the Philippines. Under the UNCLOS, only the Philippines can construct structures here. China has no right whatsoever to occupy and construct structures on any of the LTEs in the EEZ of the Philippines.

4. How does the Philippine debunk China’s invocation of historical rights to claim almost the entirety of the China Sea and even certain habitable islands (as in the Paracels) previously conceded to Vietnam at the 1951 San Francisco Peace Conference and nonhabitable islets, shoals and reefs that are within the EEZ of the Philippines and other countries?

JMS: The prevalent view, if not almost unanimous, among non-Chinese scholars on the law of the sea is that China’s “historical right” to the waters within the 9-dash lines in the South China Sea is completely without basis under international law. First of all, the UNCLOS extinguished all historical rights of other states within the EEZ of a coastal state. Thus, the term “exclusive” is used to denote the sovereign rights of a coastal state over its exclusive economic zone. Fishing rights that people from Hainan, Taiwan and Japan previously enjoyed in what would become the Philippine EEZ were automatically terminated upon the effectivity of UNCLOS. The UNCLOS does not allow any state to invoke historical rights in order to claim the EEZs or ECSs of other coastal states.

The historical records show that never did any state claim, beyond the 12-nautical mile territorial sea, that the South China Sea is its internal waters or territorial sea, until 1947 when China domestically released its 9-dash line map and 2009 when China officially notified the world of its 9-dash line claim and submitted the 9-dash line map to the United Nations Secretary General. No country other than China recognizes the validity and effectivity of China’s 9-dash line claim. China has never effectively enforced its claim between 1947 and 1994 when UNCLOS took effect, and even thereafter. Outside of the valid territorial sea of China, ships have freely crossed the South China Sea and planes have flown over it, without having to get permission from China.

The waters enclosed within China’s 9-dash lines cannot form part of China’s EEZ or ECS because they are beyond the limits of China’s EEZ and ECS as drawn from China’s baselines in accordance with UNCLOS. Such waters do not fall under any of the maritime zones – internal waters, territorial sea, EEZ and ECS – which are recognized by international law or UNCLOS. So far, China has not explained to the world what kind of maritime regime the 9-dash line waters fall under. It simply keeps on harping ad nauseam that it has “indisputable sovereignty” over such waters by “historical right.”

5. You have made fun of China’s “historical right” to having “indisputable sovereignty” over the entire South China Sea by comparing it with the irridentist ambitions of Mussolini to reclaim the territories that previously belonged to the ancient Roman empire. Don’t you think that it is useful to examine and test the factual basis of the “historical right” invoked and asserted by China in order to debunk its arrogant claim to “indisputable sovereignty” over the South China Sea.

JMS: Indeed, it is useful to examine and test the factual basis of China’s claim of sovereignty over the South China Sea as a matter of “historical right”. And in the process, you can have a few laughs. For instance, China claims that Scarborough Shoal, or Huangyan Island to the Chinese, is the Nanhai island that the 13th century Chinese astronomer-engineer-mathematician Guo Shoujing allegedly visited in 1279, upon the order of Kublai Khan, the first emperor of the Yuan Dynasty, to conduct a survey of the Four Seas to update the Sung Dynasty calendar system.

But in the document entitled “China’s Sovereignty Over Xisha and Zhongsa Islands Is Indisputable” dated January 30, 1980, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs officially declared that the Nanhai island that Guo Shoujing visited in 1279 was in Xisha or what is internationally called the Paracels, a group of islands more than 380 nautical miles from Scarborough Shoal. China has thus debunked itself and is estopped from claiming the shoal. The Chinese claim to the shoal becomes hilarious when the purported historical account depicts Guo Shoujing going ashore on the small rock and building on it a massive observatory with a height of 12.6 meters.

The Murillo map is the oldest map in the world showing Scarborough Shoal as part of the Philippine archipelago. It was first issued in 1734 during the Spanish colonial period. It is entitled Mapa de las Islas Filipinas. It was drawn up by the Spanish priest Fr. Pedro Murillo. It clearly shows Scarborough Shoal, then called Panacot, in the vicinity of Zambales. Filipino fishermen called the shoal Panacot and often went to it for fishing.

One more absurd and funny claim of China is that the southernmost territory in the South China Sea is James Shoal, 50 nautical miles from the coast of Bintulu, Sarawak, East Malaysia. This shoal is a fully submerged reef, 22 meters under water. It is entirely within Malaysia’s EEZ and is more than 950 nautical miles from China. It is obvious that Chinese leaders and cartographers claimed James Shoal as China’s southernmost territory without anyone of them seeing it. But once more the Chinese narrative goes hilarious as it speaks of Chinese going ashore to “visit” James Shoal. James Shoal is unique for being the only national border in the world that is fully under the sea and too far beyond the territorial sea of the claimant state.

Many errors crept into the map of South China Sea made by the “Inspection Committee for Land and Water Maps” created by the Republic of China in 1933. The committee merely copied the existing British maps and changed the names of the islands by either translating them or transliterating them to make them sound Chinese. For example, Antelope Reef was translated as Lingyang and Spratly Island was transliterated as Sipulateli. The Chinese map even copied 20 errors in the British map (which misrepresented non-islands as islands) which the British map makers would later correct.

All Chinese official maps during the Yuan, Ming and Ching Dynasties acknowledged Hainan island as the southernmost border of China. These Chinese dynasty maps never mentioned the Paracels, the Spratlys, Scarborough Shoal, the 9-dash lines or the U-shaped lines. The Chinese Government officially declared to the world in 1932 that the “southernmost part of Chinese territory” or border was Hainan Island. In the 1951 San Francisco Peace Conference, the Soviet Union demanded on behalf of China that the Paracels and Spratlys be turned over to China but the demand was rejected by a vote of 48 states to 3 states.

The Chinese should not mislead themselves into thinking that they own the entire South China Sea just because the European mariners and cartographers gave it such name. The Chinese do not own it as much as the Indians do not own the entire Indian Ocean. Long before the Chinese imperial admiral Zeng He undertook his famous sea voyages from 1405 to 1433 A.D., the prehistoric inhabitants of the Philippines had fished in the waters, now within the Philippine EEZ, and the Filipino traders had become masters of the South China Sea in the course of trading with China, Indochina and their brother Malays in what are now Indonesia, Kalimantan and Malaysia.

6. A Chinese professor from the University of Beijing wrote recently that China has the right to own islands, islets, reefs and shoals even within the EEZ of the Philippines, as in the case of British isles being dependencies of Britain even as they are geographically far closer to France?

JMS: Such scholars conveniently do not mention the fact that the British isles referred to have long been inhabited by the British and have been recognized as British dependencies by nearby states and to my knowledge all other countries. They might as well mention the colonial possessions of Britain in far flung areas in the history of British colonialism and imperialism. In an effort to hold on to the Malvinas or what they they call the Falklands, the British have combined the aggressive use of imperialist force and the deployment of British settlers.

7. Is it possible and mutually beneficial for the Philippines and China to engage in joint development projects within the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines? What are now the obstacles? Why is it that China has manifested aggressive behavior?

JMS: It is possible and mutually beneficial if first of all both China and the Philippines simultaneously recognize their sovereign rights over their respective EEZs and ECSs and then immediately agree on joint development projects. It is preposterous if such joint development is subject to the precondition of recognizing China’s “indisputable sovereignty” under its 9-dash line claim over almost the entire South China Sea.

Surrendering to such precondition would mean the Philippines giving away and losing automatically at least 80 per cent of the EEZ and 100 per cent ECS and probably even losing the right to free and safe navigation in the South China Sea. Not one of the claimant states to the Spratlys has accepted China’s joint development offer because of the precondition of recognizing China’s imperial claims of “indisputable sovereignty” over the South China Sea.

The Philippines and the Filipino people cannot take lightly or ignore the aggressive actions already taken by China in connection with its greedy claim of owning almost the entire South China Sea. Through aggressive actions, China has grabbed the Mischief Reef in 1995 and Scarborough Shoal in 2012. Earlier it grabbed from Vietnam the Paracels in 1974 and Fiery Reef Cross in 1988. By all indications, China is poised to force out the handful of Philippine marines aboard the shipwrecked Philippine navy boat on Ayungin Reef, a low tide elevation in the EEZ of the Philippines in the Spratlys. Armed aggression violates the UN Charter.

The Filipino people should understand that China since the death of Mao has become a capitalist country. As the neoliberal partner of US imperialism, it has prominently promoted big comprador operations such as the proliferation of export-oriented sweatshops, privatization of the rural industries built under Mao and the wanton use of finance capital to generate a private construction boom and consumerism among less than 10 per cent of the population.

It converted proletarian state power into a bourgeois nationalist power and indeed developed further its industrial base, including its production of advanced weapons. Although it still has a relatively low per capita GDP, China is already a big capitalist power with the economic features of a modern imperialist power and is on the verge of a definitive kind of military aggression.

8. In legal terms, what are the prospects of the arbitration case filed by the Philippines against China? What are the prospects in political and economic terms? How do you take into account the further entrenchment of US imperialism in the Philippines and the collusion and contention between the US and China?

JMS: The Philippines has a good chance of winning the case. The approach in the case is excellent. It is a maritime dispute and not a territorial dispute. It attacks the outrageous claim of “indisputable sovereignty” over the South China Sea. To be benefited is not only the Philippines but also the other state claimants to EEZs and ECSs under the UNCLOS and all the people of the world who are interested in free and safe navigation over the South China Sea by ship and by airplane.

I estimate that the judges will make a ruling that yields the benefits that I have just mentioned and that keeps the South China Sea from becoming a hotbed of aggression based on the overreaching claims of China or the US. China insists that it can defy compulsory arbitration by arguing out of court that the case filed by the Philippines with the ITLOS is not a maritime dispute but territorial dispute or dispute over maritime delineation which are not governed by the UNCLOS and are outside the jurisdiction of the UNCLOS.

It cannot escape from compulsory arbitration because the tribunal can consider and rule on the pleading of the Philippines and weigh the arguments given by China for not participating in the process. If the ruling of the Arbitral Tribunal is not favorable to it, China will probably behave better in the face of the international community or will proceed on a path of imperialist aggression.

A decision favorable to the Philippines can be a good basis for pro-actively offering cooperation to China and for telling the US to stop pretending as the protector of the Philippines against China and to cease its unbridled plundering and further military entrenchment in the Philippines. Unlike the US, China is a country that has never carried out a full-scale aggression to conquer the Philippines. It has the capacity and probable willingness to help the Philippines achieve national industrialization through equitable and friendly economic and trade relations.

However, the Philippines and the Filipino people must be always vigilant to the relationship of collusion and contention between the US and China in a world still suffering from imperialism, neocolonialism and the revisionist betrayal of socialism and the revolutionary forces of the people are just beginning to reinvigorate themselves and resurge.

9. What ought to be the long term view of the Filipino people and the patriotic and progressive forces in upholding national sovereignty, territorial integrity and sovereign rights over the exclusive economic zone and the extended continental shelf?

JMS: The Philippines should be independent of the US, China and other capitalist powers. To have their own strength and gain the respect, solidarity and cooperation of other peoples, the Filipino people should win the new democratic revolution and proceed to the socialist revolution. They must attain national sovereignty and democracy for the toiling masses of workers and peasants, realize social justice, carry out land reform and national industrialization, promote a patriotic and progressive culture and develop cooperative relations with all countries for the sake of peace and development.

10. What would you suggest as study material for understanding the dispute of the Philippines and China in connection with the latter’s claim of indisputable sovereignty over the entire South China Sea and even the West Philippine Sea, where the Philippines has its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and extended continental shelf (ECS)?

JMS: The most studious should read and study the 4000-page memorial of the Philippines in its arbitration case against China, submitted to The Hague-based Arbitral Tribunal.

There are plenty of scholarly legal works on the issue by Filipino and foreign experts on international law and the law of the sea. But for general readers, I suggest as the most concise and yet comprehensive and profound material is the speech of Supreme Court Senior Justice Antonio Carpio, “What’s at Stake in Our Case Vs. China,” delivered before the Philippines Women’s Judges Association on March 14, 2014.