Thursday, May 1, 2014

Expanded US access to Subic ‘base’ eyed

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (May 2): Expanded US access to Subic ‘base’ eyed

SUBIC BAY FREEPORT, Philippines—Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) representatives are to meet with Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) officials to discuss expanded access by American troops at the former US Navy base here, an SBMA official said.

Zharrex Santos, manager of SBMA’s airport department, said on Wednesday there were plans to use portions of the airport here in connection with the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (Edca) but “no definite details” had been agreed upon yet.

The Subic airport has been serving as a jumpoff point for US troops participating in military exercises, he said.

Santos said the arrival of the latest batch of American troops in the free port was covered by the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), not by the Edca.

About 100 American soldiers landed in Subic on April 23 to take part in the exercises.

National security

“Some of them were deployed somewhere in the country and might stay for two weeks, while others stayed in the airport area to establish work stations,” Santos said.

The US Navy built the airport during the Korean War in the 1950s. It was rehabilitated in 1992 after the US Navy left Subic Naval Base.

SBMA Chair Roberto Garcia said earlier that his agency, which manages the free port, supported the new agreement on the military’s use of sections of the free port “as this would strengthen national security.”

He said the new agreement had become necessary because of incidents in the West Philippine Sea, especially in Scarborough Shoal, where Filipino fishermen had been barred by Chinese Coast Guard vessels.

Garcia said the Subic Bay International Airport was being readied to accommodate a squadron of combat planes of the Philippine Air Force.

The squadron will be stationed at the former Federal Express terminal, he said.

Balikatan exercises

Subic Bay also serves as the home port of the frigates BRP Alcaraz and the BRP Gregorio del Pilar, the newest additions to the Philippine Navy fleet, Garcia said.

This month, Philippine and US soldiers will hold the annual Balikatan military exercises in various places in the country.

The exercises, scheduled for May 5-16, will focus on maritime security, humanitarian assistance and disaster response, according to the AFP.

Try us, says visiting French Navy commander

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (May 2): Try us, says visiting French Navy commander

This visiting French Navy commander says the Philippines need not put its eggs in one basket as it rebuilds its defense capability, or rely on hand-me-downs from the Americans.

Cmdr. Frédéric Daumas said on Wednesday night Aquino administration might consider looking at other sources of military equipment other than its traditional allies such as the United States.

The commanding officer of the frigate Prairial said in an interview aboard the multimission maritime surveillance vessel docked at the port of Manila he was hopeful the Philippines would give the French a shot at supplying vessels to its naval force, one ill-equipped to protect the country’s vast coastline and economic zone.

“It will be a good idea to have procurements from other countries,” he said, not just from the United States. “It’s not to say that they are not our best ally, because they are the best ally of everybody. But you don’t need to have only one ally, and you don’t need to put all your eggs in the same basket,” Daumas said.

He made the statement when asked what a ship like the Prairial could offer the Philippines compared to one from, say, the United States.

The Philippine Navy’s newest frigates, the BRP Gregorio del Pilar and BRP Ramon Alcaraz, were acquisitions from the United States, both refitted as Navy ships after decades of use by the US Coast Guard.

“I think you already have a lot of American equipment. Most of your ships are coming from the American Navy, second-hand ships. I think it is good to have different ways of working, different procedures, different organizations, and if you have only one major partner, probably you deprive yourself of having a variety of points of view, a variety of partnerships,” he said.

He said the Prairial was designed for low- or medium-intensity missions. “It’s not a very big cruiser or a destroyer but is very well-adapted for what we have to do and maybe for what the Filipino Navy would like to do in the coming years to patrol more and more in the islands and regionally,” said Daumas.

Based in the French Polynesian island of Tahiti, the Prairial is here on a five-day goodwill visit that ends Friday. Among a fleet of six sister ships of the French Navy, the vessel arrived in Manila on Monday. It last dropped anchor here nine years ago.

The Philippine Navy was expected to hold basic at-sea exercises with some of the 94 French sailors of the Prairial Friday, pursuing a 15-year-old aide-mémoire signed between the two naval forces “to cooperate, to better know each other, to exchange information,” said Daumas.

Also part of the mission, he said, was to show the Philippines what the Prairial, a 94-meter long-range, diesel-powered vessel, could do and how it could fit into the country’s needs. He said France was among nations now bidding to supply ships to the Philippines, but conceded he was not privy to the progress in talks.

What is being offered to the Philippines, he said, is an upgraded version of the 22-year-old vessel, including a better radar system and an expanded hangar to accommodate more embarked helicopters. Currently, the frigate could carry one helicopter—the French-made Alouette III.

Manila is the second stop in the Prairial’s fourth-month deployment in the Pacific, which began in Guam. It is also scheduled to visit China, Japan and Korea, with the tour culminating in the ship’s participation in the 20-nation Rim of the Pacific Exercise in Hawaii later this year.

Daumas said the French Navy’s port visits and engagements in international drills were part of the common goal of protecting freedom of navigation in the Pacific area, an issue also of high concern for the Philippines amid maritime disputes with China.

“The freedom of navigation is something which is very important, which comes from the Middle Ages and which needs to go on and on. So, of course, we do not want to escalate any crisis or to create any diplomatic incident, but we want to reaffirm that we apply the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and that with all our partners, we have a common understanding on what needs to be done,” Daumas said.

US juggling ‘too many’ humanitarian crises worldwide

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (May 2): US juggling ‘too many’ humanitarian crises worldwide

The United States is contending with too many global humanitarian crises at once to comprehensively fund relief efforts, the State Department told Congress Thursday, urging other nations to step up.

The aid landscape this year looked particularly challenging given the emergencies in South Sudan and the Central African Republic (CAR), where brutal rebellions and ethno-religious violence have left thousands of people dead, displaced millions and pushed countless more to the brink of famine.

“Thanks to Congress, we have appropriations to do more this year, but as you know we are contending with too many humanitarian emergencies,” Assistant Secretary of State Anne Richard, who oversees population, refugees and migration issues, told a House hearing on the CAR.

Some 2,000 people have been killed and nearly a million displaced since ethnic and religious strife swept the Central African Republic in late 2013, according to the State Department.

It is coordinating some $67 million in humanitarian aid for CAR this year, and in mid-April the United Nations called for $274 million to address humanitarian needs in the region related to the crisis there.

But the donor community risks its aid being spread too thin on the ground.
“Unrest in CAR is happening at the same time as upheaval and violence in South Sudan and widespread conflict in Syria,” Richards told a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Africa and global health.

Philippines’ devastating typhoon

Other major crises demanding world attention: continuing unrest in Ukraine, Mali’s refugees, the aftermath of the Philippines’ devastating typhoon, renewed violence in Darfur, and war-weary Afghanistan.

“It’s a very difficult situation,” with key aid groups like World Food Program stretched thin, said Richard, who traveled to CAR in April and heard testimonies from victims of brutal, spiralling violence.

Congressman Christopher Smith, who chairs the subcommittee, complained that some aid groups operating in CAR were doing so on an “absolute shoestring,” and that it was imperative to boost funding to such groups.
Richard said expanding the donor pool—such as in the Syria conflict, when Gulf states engaged on the humanitarian front—was a priority.

“We would like to see more countries who haven’t been traditional donors join us,” she said.

Congress appropriated $1.3 billion for total US Agency for International Development operations for 2014, about $215 million less than the 2013 level.

China, Russia to hold naval drills

From the Manila Standard Today (May 1): China, Russia to hold naval drills

BEIJING—China and Russia will carry out joint naval exercises in the East China Sea later this month, state media reported Thursday, with China and Japan embroiled in a territorial dispute in the area.

The drills, to take place off Shanghai, are scheduled for late in the month, the official Xinhua news agency said in a brief report, citing China’s defence ministry.

The drills were described as “regular exercises” and come after the two countries held similar manoeuvres last year off Russia’s Far East coast, Xinhua said.

China and Japan both claim a small, uninhabited archipelago in the East China Sea, administered by Japan as the Senkaku Islands, but which China calls the Diaoyu Islands.

The dispute has simmered for decades, but tensions have spiked since 2012 when Tokyo purchased islands in the chain it did not already own. Beijing has taken an increasingly hard line on the issue ever since.

Ships and aircraft from both countries regularly patrol waters around the contested territory and have on occasion come perilously close to armed clashes.

The location of the planned drill was described by Xinhua as “off Shanghai”, which would be well north of the disputed area. The contested zone lies to the northeast of Taiwan and to the southwest of Japan’s southern island of Okinawa.

Japan and Russia also have a long-running territorial dispute centred on four islands off Japan’s northern coast seized by the Soviet Union at the end of World War II.

Abu casualties mount after 3-hour firefight

From the Manila Standard Today (May 2): Abu casualties mount after 3-hour firefight

The Abu Sayyaf Group suffered more casualties during a three-hour intense fighting with the military at a known lair in Patikul, Sulu, thus bringing to 25 the number of its dead members since the clashes broke out on Tuesday.

The military confirmed that Yasser Igasan, a prominent leader of the bandit group, was wounded during the clash between a contingent of the 2nd Marine Brigade and some 300 ASG elements at Sitio Kan Jimao, Barrage Buhanginan, Patikul.

Capt Ryan Lacuesta, civilian-military operations chief of the 2nd Marine Brigade said 25 militants were killed in the bloody clash  after the bandits tried to retake their camp.

Lacuesta said that the ASG men were led by Commanders Idan Susukan, Ninok Sappari, also known as Igasan and Radullan Sahiron, the top leader of the ASG.

Lt. Gen Rustico Guerrero, Western Mindanao Commander chief,  confirmed that 20 of the 25 dead ASG rebels have been identified by the residents of Patikul. A soldier was also slain while 17 marine soldiers, including   two junior officers were wounded but their names were temporarily withheld pending notifications of their next of kin.

The Marines fired 105mm artillery and 81 mortars, backed by MG529 attack helicopters to flush out the ASG from their underground bunkers.

The ASG attack was meant to avenge the killing of 18 of their comrades in Basilan battle with army troopers and retake their camps with makeshit huts that was seized by the military during Monday’s firefight, the official said.

Timeline: US-PHL security relations, from bases to visiting forces

From GMA News (Apr 28): Timeline: US-PHL security relations, from bases to visiting forces

After gaining independence from American colonizers, the Philippine government entered into its first defense agreement with the United States in 1947. Since then, both sides have inked several security deals including the latest one – the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement – signed Monday hours before the arrival of US President Barack Obama in the country.

This timeline traces the history of military agreements between both sides, from the now-defunct bases agreement to the rotational presence of US forces that some protesters have criticized as an infringement on Philippine sovereignty.

Bandits, Islamic militants, still active in Mindanao–US report

From the Business Mirror (May 1): Bandits, Islamic militants, still active in Mindanao–US report

THE Armed Forces should exert more effort to curtail the growth of bandit and terrorist groups in the country that are still scattered in areas around Mindanao, particularly in Sulu and Basilan, despite a drastic decrease in membership.
A country report on terrorism that was issued by the US State Department noted that while the memberships of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) and even the Jema’ah Islamiyah (JI) have been successfully pared downed through the country’s joint efforts with the US, bandits and terrorists are still present in some areas in the South.
“Abu Sayyaf Group members, numbering a few hundred, were known to be present in remote areas in Mindanao, especially on the islands of Basilan and Sulu,” the report, which was released on April 30, said.
JI members, of whom there are only a small number remaining, are in a few isolated pockets of Mindanao,” the report added.
The ASG and the JI are both linked with the international terror group al-Qaeda. The Abu Sayyaf, however, has resorted to banditry like kidnapping for ransom to raise funds.
The country report, which examined the state of terrorism in countries around the world, said the country’s geography abetted the existence of terrorism, although ongoing counterterrorism operations were also successful.
“The geographical composition of the Philippines, spread out over 7,107 islands, made it difficult for the central government to maintain a presence in all areas,” it said.
“Counterterrorism operations over the past 12 years, however, have been successful at isolating the location and constraining the activities of transnational terrorists,” it added.
The report cited the Sulu archipelago and even the Sulawesi Sea as a principal problem.
“The numerous islands in the Sulawesi Sea and the Sulu Archipelago make it a difficult region for authorities to monitor. The range of licit and illicit activities that occur there—including worker migration, tourism and trade—pose additional challenges to identifying and countering the terrorist threat,” it said.
While the US State Department noted that Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines had improved their efforts to control their shared maritime boundaries, including through the US-funded Coast Watch South radar network, the expanse remained difficult to control.
“Surveillance improved, but remained partial at best, and traditional smuggling and piracy groups have provided an effective cover for terrorist activities, including the movement of personnel, equipment and funds,” it said.
Overall, it also said Southeast Asia “is vulnerable to exploitation by illicit traffickers and proliferators given the high volume of global trade that ships through the region, as well as the existence of smuggling and proliferation networks.”
“Weak strategic trade controls, legal and regulatory frameworks, inadequate maritime law enforcement and security capabilities, as well as emerging and reemerging infectious disease and burgeoning bioscience capacity, make Southeast Asia an area of concern for weapons of mass-destruction proliferation,” it added.

Intel officer, civilian die in NPA ambush in Sorsogon

From the Bicol Today (May 1): Intel officer, civilian die in NPA ambush in Sorsogon

Photo courtesy Wikipedia

Photo courtesy Wikipedia

LEGAZPI CITY, 1May2014 — A Philippine Army intelligence officer and a civilian died while another military man was seriously wounded in an ambush staged by New People’s Army (NPA) rebels on Wednesday morning in Barangay San Antonio, Casiguran, Sorsogon.

A police report identified the dead military officer as Cpl. Edison Capital, 31, married and a member of the Alpha Company, 30th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army, and the civilian casualty as Anthony Habalo, who was hit by a stray bullet.

Being treated at the Sorsogon Provincial Hospital is Pfc. Jenly Balbis, 26, single, of Pili, Camarines Sur, and also an intelligence officer of the 30th IB.

Based on the report, the ambush occurred at about 8:30 a.m. while the two intelligence officers were patrolling the area on board a motorcycle to check on the security in the area where they have their camp.

The rebels, who were in an ambush position, fired at them — resulting in the death on the spot of Capital and civilian Habalo, who was passing by the area and hit by astray bullet.

The rebels immediately fled to an unknown direction and were pursued by reinforcing government troopers.

SOLCOM spearheads Balikatan 2014 in the Bicol Region

From the Bicol Today (May 2): SOLCOM spearheads Balikatan 2014 in the Bicol Region

The Southern Luzon Command (SOLCOM) based here and their American military counterparts spearhead this week until May 17 the “Balikatan 2014” or the Joint Civil-Military Task Force (JCMOTF) in conducting humanitarian civic activities in the province of Albay.

The joint military and civilian activities are undertaken through the Command’s 901st Infantry (Fight ‘Em) Brigade, 9th Infantry (Spear) Division, Philippine Army, Naval Forces Southern Luzon (NAVFORSOL) and Tactical Operations Group 5.

Under these arrangements, SOLCOM and US troops conduct various humanitarian and civic activities such as the construction and renovation of school-buildings, medical and veterinary services, medical symposia including training and other cooperative expertise-exchange endeavors in Legazpi City and Guinobatan, Albay.

SOLCOM Commander Lt. General Caesar Ronnie F. Ordoyo said the SOLCOM troops and US counterparts are currently constructing a health center, two-room classroom building, water catchment system and concreting of sidewalk in Malobago Elementary School in Barangay Malobago in Guinobatan.

Another one-room school building in the Doña Mercedes Elementary School also in Guinobatan is a joint civil-military work in progress.

In addition, Lt. Gen. Ordoyo also underscored that the installation of water storage tank and construction of a public rest room will benefit the residents of Barangay Pawa in Legazpi City.

Ordoyo added that another repair and renovation of school building is on-going in Tamaoyan Elementary School in Barangay Tamaoyan also in Legazpi City.

He said the 565th Engineering Construction Battalion of 51st Engineering Brigade, Philippine Army; Air Engineering Wing of the Philippine Air Force and the Philippine Navy Engineering Team “Seabees” along with the US engineers are now working shoulder to shoulder to complete these engineering works.

“Besides these infra projects, our troops continuously conduct civil-military symposia by engaging military experts of both the Philippines and United States Armed Forces to share best practices and ideas in order to further develop methods of operations in each area of civil-military operation,” Lt. Gen. Ordoyo explained.

A symposium on cooperative health and community relations was organized with the participation of professional health practitioners in Bicol region in order to promote and encourage multi-sectoral participation in the Balikatan 2014.

The SOLCOM commanding general pointed out that “Balikatan” aims to enhance the capabilities and inter-operability of the AFP and US troops to address significant areas of concern and provide assistance on areas where the need is greatest. The joint military partnership activities will also strengthen humanitarian assistance mechanism through non-traditional approach.

China: Keep Pacific Ocean 'pacific'

From the Philippine Star posted to ABS-CBN (May 2): China: Keep Pacific Ocean 'pacific'

China called on the Philippines and the United States to ensure the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) signed between the two treaty allies on Monday is justifiable and consistent with the principle of regional peace and stability.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang made the statement on Wednesday in response to questions on whether China believed the EDCA, which increases US military presence in the Philippines, is an attempt by the US to contain Beijing.

“We also maintain that upholding peace and stability of the Asia Pacific is in the interest of all parties of the region and requires common efforts of all. It is justifiable for people to ask that any agreement between the US and the Philippines be consistent with this principle and not at the cost of mutual trust between regional countries and regional peace and stability,” Qin said in a press conference.

US President Barack Obama wrapped up his four-nation Asia tour on Tuesday after visiting the Philippines and the signing of the EDCA.

Obama said the Philippines will not stand alone when confronting external attacks, as the US is firm in its commitment to help its ally under a 63-year-old mutual defense agreement.

The new defense deal seeks to advance the implementation of the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty with the Philippines by strengthening external defense and maritime security.

“With regard to President Obama’s visit to the four Asian countries, we have expounded on our principled position on China-related issues. We believe that relevant parties should all make positive efforts to enhance mutual trust and cooperation and promote common peace, stability and prosperity in this region, rather than the opposite. The Pacific Ocean should be kept pacific,” Qin said.

The Philippines said on Wednesday the US is obliged to help the country in the event its troops or its territory is attacked, including in the disputed waters in the South China Sea.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said the Mutual Defense Treaty with the US would come into play if any Philippine territory in the Pacific area comes under attack.

Del Rosario pointed out that the US, in a diplomatic letter in 1999, had affirmed the South China Sea is considered part of the Pacific area.


On the other hand, President Aquino slammed the foreign blockade of Ayungin Shoal that is making it difficult for the Philippines to guard its territorial domain in the West Philippine Sea.

Aquino pointed out the Filipino troops in Ayungin Shoal have been constantly harassed by foreign ships.

“You might have heard of this. Nine Marines led by First Lt. Mike Pelotera were supposed to be at Ayungin for only three months but they stayed there for almost five months. The reason: foreign ships repeatedly blocked our navy ship bringing in troops to replace them, shooing us away from a territory that is not theirs but is rightfully ours,” Aquino said during the command turnover of the Navy leadership at Sangley Point in Cavite on Wednesday.

Ayungin Shoal is within the country’s 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and currently being guarded by a contingent of Marines stationed at the grounded Navy ship BRP Sierra Madre.

Aquino lauded the troops in the Sierra Madre for being steadfast in guarding the shoal amid China’s aggressive claim over the area since last year.

Two Chinese coast guard vessels deployed at Ayungin since May last year tried to block a Filipino vessel bringing in food and fresh troops to relieve their colleagues in the Sierra Madre last month.

Troops on forward deployment in Ayungin as well as those stationed in the country’s regime of islands in the region are rotated every three months but the “Ayungin 9” remained at the Sierra Madre for an extended time due to the Chinese naval blockade.

“Aboard our BRP Sierra Madre, in a real sense of the word, they live in a water world because wherever they may look, it’s all water around them.
Yet, despite these challenges and sacrifices, being away from their families and sleeping in the cold of the night, they continue to perform their duties,” the President said.

Also known as Second Thomas Shoal, Ayungin has become a new flashpoint in the South China Sea, which according to regional security experts, is a vital area.

The maritime hotspots in the area have been spawned by China’s encompassing territorial claim to almost the entire region and deploying its surveillance vessels and warships as it aggressively engages other countries laying claim to the islands, specifically the Philippines and Vietnam.

“China is becoming increasingly assertive in its claims and its recent move to block Philippine boats carrying supplies to their troops stationed in the Second Thomas Shoal is indicative of this trend,” said The Diplomat, an international current affairs magazine for the Asia-Pacific region in its report the other day.

3 soldiers killed in NPA ambush in Ilocos Sur

From ABS-CBN (May 1): 3 soldiers killed in NPA ambush in Ilocos Sur

Three soldiers were killed in an ambush by suspected members of the New People's Army (NPA) in Cervantes, Ilocos Sur on Thursday morning, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said.

Maj. Emmanuel Garcia, civil military operations officer of the AFP's Northern Luzon Command, said soldiers from the 50th Infantry Battalion, on board military vehicles, were on their way to a store when they were ambushed by the rebels in Sitio Daing, Barangay Remedios at around 9 a.m.

Garcia said the soldiers were supposed to buy medicines and water for their May 6-7 medical mission in the villages of Alangtin and Tubtuba in Tubo, Abra.

One soldier was wounded in the attack, he said.

Meanwhile, one soldier was also killed in a firefight with members of the NPA in Maitum, Sarangani on Thursday morning, according to 10th Infantry Division spokesperson Capt. Ernest Carolina.

A clash with the rebel group in Barangay Fatima, Paquibato District, Davao also left four soldiers from the the 69th Infantry Battalion wounded.

Wounded soldiers in Sulu receive medals

From ABS-CBN (May 1): Wounded soldiers in Sulu receive medals

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) awarded medals and gave financial assistance to 19 soldiers who were injured in an operation launched against members of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) in Sitio Kanjimao, Barangay Buhanginan, Patikul, Sulu.

The new Flag Officer In Command of the Philippine Navy, Rear Admiral Jesus C. Millan, and Commander of Western Mindanao Command Lt. Gen Rustico Guerrero officiated the distribution of medals to the wounded soldiers Thursday morning.

In an interview, Millan said he went to Zamboanga City to check on the condition of his men who were injured in the Patikul clash.

He said he is meeting with other Navy officers for an orientation on security operations relating to Naval Forces Western Mindanao (NAVFORWEM)'s area of responsibility.

Guerrero said at least 20 of 25 Abu Sayyaf casualties have been identified. One of the wounded is ASG sub-leader Yasser Igasan.

Guerrero said the recent capture of an ASG camp in in Sitio Kanjimao will affect the bandits' operations since the camp was used to train new recruits and convene members of the group.

He, however, admitted that they are still verifying the figures, all solely dependent on testimonies of villagers who saw the withdrawing members of the ASG after the operation.

On April 28, a Marine was killed while 19 soldiers were wounded during a three-hour gun fight with the Abu Sayyaf Group.

The military said there are still more than 14 kidnap victims being held in Sulu, including two European bird watchers who were abducted in 2012.
Guerrero said all the hostages are alive, according to an intelligence source.

Death toll in Abu clashes in Sulu rises to 26

From ABS-CBN (May 1): Death toll in Abu clashes in Sulu rises to 26

The death toll in the clashes between government soldiers and Abu Sayyaf bandits is now at 26, the military said.

Captain Ryan Lacuesta, Civil Military Operations Officer of the 2nd Marine Brigade, said 25 Abu Sayyaf bandits and one Marine soldier were killed in the heavy exchange of fire and grenade in Patikul, Sulu.

The clashes erupted on Tuesday, a day after the Marines seized an Abu Sayyaf stronghold.

Lacuesta said 20 of the slain Abu Sayyaf members have been identified.

The military said the gunfight erupted after the Abu Sayyaf bandits, led by Radulan Sahiron alias Commander Putol, attempted to regain control of the area which had served as a stronghold for the group.

Brig. Gen. Martin Pinto, commander of the 2nd Marine Brigade and Joint Task Force Sulu, said the seized camp was important to Abu Sayyaf because it was being used by the group as a detention area for its kidnap victims and training site for new recruits.

Lacuesta said the military will build its camp on the seized Abu Sayyaf haven, in an attempt to finally contain the group which is blamed for the series of attacks and kidnappings in the south.

The Abu Sayyaf, considered a terrorist group by the United States, was funded using seed money from Al-Qaeda in the 1990s.

Roxas wants report on PMA-PNPA rivalry

From the Philippine Star posted to ABS-CBN (May 2): Roxas wants report on PMA-PNPA rivalry

The supposed rivalry between alumni of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) and the Philippine National Police Academy (PNPA) over assignment and promotion in the police organization remains unresolved.

Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas II said he has yet to receive the report from PNP officials.

Roxas ordered the PNP leadership last month to submit to him the list of police officials, their respective positions and whether they are alumni of the PMA or PNPA.

“I haven’t seen any report,” he told The STAR. “But I know ginagawa nila (they’re preparing it). In fact, I met with some members of the alumni of the PNPA. We had some discussions on some data.”

President Aquino also ordered PNP chief Director General Alan Purisima to ensure a “more equitable and proportionate” appointment and promotion of graduates of the PNPA and the PMA.

The President earlier approved the promotion of 10 police officials, eight of them PMA graduates, one from the PNPA and a West Point Academy alumnus.

Roxas denounced the alleged “bata-bata” or patronage system in the PNP, saying there should be a “level playing field” in the promotion and assignment of officers in the police force.

US soldiers build bridges of friendship in Albay

From the Philippine News Agency (May 1): US soldiers build bridges of friendship in Albay

Barely a week of working with villagers in remote communities in Albay, soldiers of the United States Armed Forces have already built bridges of friendship with cooperation of the locals here where they are undertaking a humanitarian mission.

US Army Staff Sgt. Adriane A. Hackleyson and two of his companions in the 84th Engineering Battalion, 643rd Company based in Hawaii, which is currently constructing a clinic in Barangay Malobago in this town, have developed friendship with children when they took time to read a book for them during their break time. Hackleyson and his colleagues -- US Marines SPC Ryan R. Marshell and LCPL Ezequiel E. Santelices of the MWSS 172 Combat Engineering based in Okinawa, Japan – took turns in reading a book for their new-found friends Angel O. Diaz, 11; Chattelyn Pearl Arevalo, 11; and Danna Joy Oliquindo, 11 – all incoming Grade 6 pupils in June at the Malobago Elementary School.

In return, the friendly children here also taught the US soldiers how to read a Filipino book as well as speak the local dialect as a way of exchanging information and culture.

Army Captain Edward Ellingson, USAF Civil-Military Operations chief, said that in his 25 years in military service, this is his first time for him to engage in humanitarian service as a departure from the usual military work as his job is in air defense artillery, which, he said, means his task is to shoot down enemy aircraft.

“I’m so happy with this mission because we’re able to work with a community where our soldiers have fostered good relationship with the people in Albay and learned a lot from our Filipino counterpart. The building we erected might crumble in the future but the friendship and the memories we gained will be cherished forever,” Ellingson said.

“We’re working together today for a better tomorrow. From the ground, Filipino children are so friendly playing with our soldiers. I’ve been to 23 countries and this is my first time in the Philippines. The Filipino smile is a very sincere one. My experience here is among the best and the most productive mission,” he added.

The month-long RP-US Balikatan 2014 humanitarian mission in Albay began on Tuesday but in less than a week of working in the remote communities of Guinobatan town and Legazpi City, the US troops have won the hearts and minds of the people in the countryside.

Col. Curtis Lee, the commander of the Joint Civil Military Operations Task Force and the Balikatan 2014 USAF, said they are working shoulder to shoulder with the Armed Forces of the Philippines and work directly with the people.

“You will see our men from the USAF out there in your communities doing engineering projects and working with your medical community personnel, and we want to emphasize that we will be learning as much from you as you are from us. We are all here to share the best practices,” Lee said.

The Balikatan Exercise 2014 is a bilateral activity between the AFP and the USAF focusing on Humanitarian Civic Assistance Programs with two major categories; the Engineering Civic Assistance Program (ENCAP) and Cooperative Healthcare Engagement (CHE), which are aimed to benefit the communities of Legazpi and the town of Guinobatan.

The ENCAP includes construction of classrooms at the Malobago Elementary School and the Doña Mercedes Elementary School, construction of a public comfort room at Barangay Pawa in Legazpi, repairs and improvements in the Tamaoyan Elementary School, and construction of a barangay health center at Barangay Malobago in Guinobatan.

For the CHE program, there will be a health symposium with professional health workers from the Bicol Region, expert exchanges of ideas with barangay health workers, and healthcare engagements with people in Barangay Sinungtan and Barangay Doña Mercedes in Guinobatan, and Barangay Rawis in Legazpi.

US Armed Forces lady officer returns to Legazpi City with more medical provisions for villagers

From the Philippine News Agency (May 1): US Armed Forces lady officer returns to Legazpi City with more medical provisions for villagers

“I shall return.”

Thus promised Major Grace Janosek of the United States Armed Forces (USAF) last year to residents of Barangay Bigaa here, to bring more medical supplies and equipment.

USAF and Armed Forces of the Philippines soldiers conducted the U.S.-Philippines Bilateral Amphibious Landing Exercise (PHIBLEX) in September 2013, and held a medical and dental mission in the village, treating thousands of residents.

Due to the huge number of patients who lined up for the mission, it ran out of medicines and supplies, prompting Major Janosek, Team Leader 3 of the Civil Affairs of the US Marine Corps, to vow to come back and bring more-than-sufficient medical provisions with her.

And she did a "MacArthur".

Janosek went to Barangay Bigaa on Wednesday afternoon and turned over to Barangay Captain (village chief) Bobby Arienda baby bassinets, medical examination table, medical file cabinet, table bedside cabinet, wheelchair, sharp container (50 pieces), bedside stand, arm splint (20 pieces), surgical sponge (250 pieces), surgical pack (50 pieces), bed sheet (200 pieces), bandage (500 pieces), health and comfort kit Type 1 (500 pieces), scale, thermometer (25 pieces), cuff blood-fluid warmer (25 pieces), stethoscope (25 pieces) and nebulizer (3 pieces) for the use of the village health unit.

The medical supplies and equipment were worth thousands of US dollars, Janosek said.

Arienda expressed his deep gratitude to Janosek and her companions, while the whole village burst into applause and cheers when they saw what the lady soldier brought as she promised last year.

During the PHIBLEX 14, Barangay Bigaa was among the villages benefited by activities undertaken by the US soldiers, especially with the acceptance and cooperation they gave to the foreign visitors.

We are not establishing US bases again -- Palace

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 30): We are not establishing US bases again -- Palace

Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda on Wednesday clarified that the Enhanced Development Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) aims to enhance defense capability of both the Philippines and the United States and not to establish the US military bases again in the country.

”We are not establishing bases again in the country. There is no such thing,” Lacierda said in a media briefing.

”Again, the benefit to us is primarily to enhance our defense capability and also to enhance our disaster response and humanitarian assistance mechanism,” he added.

Lacierda said that the EDCA was also for the modernization of the country's military hardware.

”An enhanced feature on this EDCA is the emphasis also on humanitarian assistance on disaster response, which we saw very, very clearly in the aftermath of typhoon ‘Yolanda’,” he added.

Lacierda said the complete copy of the EDCA has been put up on the official gazette of the Office of the President “for everyone to view and to analyze.”

”We defer in the opinion with Senator Joker Arroyo,” Lacierda said, referring to Arroyo’s statement that US President Barack Obama left the country “nothing on our hand.”

Lacierda said the EDCA basically deals with access and use of agreed locations and does not mean the Philippines will be beholden to the US to fulfill the treaty.

”Will we be beholden? No, I don’t think that under this administration. You can never describe this, the Aquino administration, as beholden to the United States,” he clarified.

”What is important for instance is inter-operability and also capacity building and that’s we’re doing,” he added.

National Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and US ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg signed on Monday the EDCA few hours before Obama arrived last Monday for the fourth and last leg of his Asian visit.

President Aquino urges new PN chief to pursue 'Tuwid na Daan' leadership

From the Philippine News Agency (May 1): President Aquino urges new PN chief to pursue 'Tuwid na Daan' leadership

President Benigno Aquino III on Wednesday urged the new chief of the Philippine Navy to continue the "Tuwid na Daan" (straight path) leadership started by outgoing Flag-Officer-in-Comand Vice Admiral Jose Luis Alano.

”As Vice Admiral Alano stepped down, it is important that his initiatives and reforms he made in Philippine Navy will be paddled forward by your successor,” said President Aquino in his speech during the PN change of command at the Sangley Point in Cavite.

Alano, who spearheaded the Philippine Navy for the last one year and four months, was replaced by Read Admiral Jesus Millan.

”We are confident that Read Admiral Jesus Millan will be able to continue the straight leadership in the Philippine Navy,” the President said.

The President commended Alano for his leadership at the time when the country encountered big challenges such as the Lahad Datu incident, Zamboanga crisis, national disasters like typhoon "Yolanda" and Bohol earthquake, and the dispute in the West Philippine Sea.

”We’re able to witness his brilliant leadership during the times of difficulties that our country encountered. We leaned on the leadership of Vice Admiral Alano,” President Aquino said.

The President also lauded the valor that nine marines called "Ayungin 9" led by 1st Lieutenant Mike Pelotera displayed in defending the Ayungin Shoal despite reports of harassment by foreign vessels.

”It seems we are being driven away from our own territory. But despite this, the valor of our navies and soldiers has emerged,” the President said.

”Now that you have new leader in the Philippine Navy, my appeal to you is to stay strong in your duties. Consider as your anchor the trust and concerns of the Filipino people in fulfilling your mission,” President Aquino added.

Two more foreign shipbuilders join PN's P18-B frigate program

From the Philippine News Agency (May 1): Two more foreign shipbuilders join PN's P18-B frigate program

Two more foreign shipbuilders have joined the Philippine Navy's P18-billion frigate program, according to PN technical working group head Commodore Roland Mercado.

These firms are Garden Reach Shipbuilders & Engineers Ltd. of India and STX France SA, Mercado said.

They were allowed to join in the bidding after their motions for reconsideration were considered by the Department of National Defense (DND) Special Bidding Awards Committee.

They were earlier excluded from the project due to deficiency documents.

These companies now join Navantia Sepi (RTR Ventures) of Spain and South Korean firms STX Offshore & Shipbuilding, Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering Co. Ltd. and Hyundai Heavy Industries Inc. which passed the first stage of the bidding.

Mercado said they are now conducting technical discussions with Garden Reach Shipbuilders & Engineers Ltd. of India and STX France SA.

"After which we will draft the final technical specifications (of the frigates)," he added.

Design assessments of the frigate proponents started last February.

The bidders were given five working days to present their concept.

During this period, hull, power plant, communications, and weapon systems designs were scrutinized closely by the technical working group.

President Aquino leads Philippine Navy change of command in Cavite

From the Philippine News Agency (May 1): President Aquino leads Philippine Navy change of command in Cavite

President Benigno S. Aquino III on Wednesday led the change of command of the Philippine Navy in Sangley Point here, asking Navy personnel to continue their dedication to service for the benefit of the people.

“Ngayong may bago nang magtitimon sa Philippine Navy, ito naman po ang panawagan ko sa inyong hanay: Manatili nawa kayong matatag sa inyong tungkulin,” the President told the uniformed personnel of the Navy.

“Ituring ninyong angkla ang tiwala at malasakit sa inyo ng sambayanang Pilipino, sa pagharap ninyo sa anumang misyon sa serbisyo. Sa huli, nasa iisang bangka pa rin ang ating lahi, iisang bansa pa rin tayong susulong sa pagkamit ng mga tagumpay na matagal na nating minimithi.”

President Aquino said that under his leadership, the government has paid extra attention to the needs of the armed forces with the paramount thrust of modernizing it.

The previous administrations neglected the needs of the military, he said, noting that the present government however will continue to pursue the modernization of the armed forces.

For instance, he said, the Philippine Navy was able to acquire two Hamilton-class Cutters from the US—the BRP Gregorio del Pilar, and BRP Ramon Alcaraz –which now patrol the country’s coastlines.

The Navy also commissioned the BRP Tagbanua, the first landing craft utility made in the Philippines.

These ships are in addition to new sea craft, three new naval helicopters, and the modernization of the country’s coast watch stations, he said.

President Aquino said he is excited to see more upgrade in the Navy under the Revised AFP Modernization Program.

He praised the leadership of outgoing Navy Chief ViceAdmiral Jose Luis Alano, who spearheaded the acquisition of new vessels and equipment for the Navy.

He also commended Alano for accomplishing the Navy’s missions during several crises in the country, such as the Lahad Datu incident, the Zamboanga siege, typhoons Pablo and Santi, as well as the Bohol and Cebu earthquake and super typhoon Yolanda.

The President expressed confidence that new Navy Chief Rear Admiral Jesus Millan would be able to continue the programs initiated by his predecessor.

Prior to his new appointment, Millan was commander of Naval Forces Western Mindanao, chief of Naval staff, commander of the Naval Reserve Command and commander of the Naval Air Group.

Millan was also commander of several Navy vessels, among them the PS 36, PS 31, PG 374 and PG 388.

A member of Philippine Military Academy Class of 1982, Millan is a recipient of the distinguished service stars, the distinguished Navy cross, bronze cross medals, military merit medals and military commendation medals.

Aside from presiding the Navy’s change of command, the President also led the retirement ceremony for Rear Admiral Alano.

Present during the event were Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr., and AFP chief of staff Gen. Emmanuel Bautista.

3 soldiers killed, one hurt in NPA ambush in Ilocos Sur

From the Philippine News Agency (May 1): 3 soldiers killed, one hurt in NPA ambush in Ilocos Sur

Three soldiers, who were out to buy some medicines for a scheduled medical mission, were killed while another one was wounded during an ambush by suspected New People's Army (NPA) fighters in Sitio Daing, Barangay Remedios, Cervantes, Ilocos Sur Thursday morning.

Major Emmanuel Garcia, 1st Civil Relations Group commander, said that the unprovoked attack took place at around 9:30 a.m.

He added that all the fatalities and wounded are assigned at the 50th Infantry Battalion of the Isabela-based 5th Infantry Division.

Garcia said the ambush took place while the victims were aboard a military jeep on the way to buy medicines, dental needles, and anesthesia for an incoming medical mission on May 6 and 7.

Pursuit operations for the NPA rebels are ongoing.

Garcia said the names of the soldiers killed in action are temporarily being withheld pending notification of their next of kin.

Lt. Gen. Gregorio Catapang, the Northern Luzon Command chief, said the "sacrifice of our soldiers is a manifestation of our intent to serve the people by focusing on non-combat aspects."

He added: "The death of our soldiers will not stop us from doing what is right. This only strengthens our resolve to further reach out to our people. We call on our brothers who went astray, the members of this armed group, to heed the call of the nation to stop violence and be one with the people in our quest for peace."

Tribesmen celebrate pull out of troops from Davao town

From the Mindanao Examiner BlogSpot site (May 1): Tribesmen celebrate pull out of troops from Davao town

Philippine tribesmen on Wednesday celebrated the pull out of government troops in Davao del Norte’s Talaingod town and praised all those who supported their plight at the height of military offensive against communist rebels in the area.

More than 1,000 tribesmen have fled the town and sought safe refuge with the United Church of Christ in the Philippines in Davao City. Many indigenous villagers have accused the soldiers of harassing them and some even tagged them as members of the rebel group New People’s Army.

They said soldiers put up encampments in civilian communities and public infrastructures, including schools and government buildings. The pull out of troops from at least 11 areas in the town was an offshoot of negotiations initiated by Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte and Davao del Norte Governor Rodolfo del Rosario.

Del Rosario has recently sent a truckload of rice and canned goods for the refugees in Davao City in an effort to convince them to return to the town.

The indigenous group Salugpongan ‘Ta Tanu Ig Kanugon and PASAKA which assisted the refugees thanked all those who supported and sympathized with them in their plight. The indigenous groups celebrated what they considered as “gains” that they have won after almost a month at the evacuation camp provided by the UCCP.

Del Rosario also said that the refugees would be given relief goods and medicines before they return to their respective villages in Talaingod.

Datu Doloman Dawsay of Salugpongan ‘Ta Tanu Ig Kanugon said they will all remain vigilant despite the pull out of troops.

“We gained this victory because we are united. The abuses of the military would not have been exposed if we did not fight. We became victorious because we are militant. The military and their cohorts are really determined to discredit and divide us, but we remain strong. They fabricated a lot of lies just to hide their abuses.”

“They accused us of being NPA to cover-up their crimes against our people. The truth will not come out if we had allowed ourselves to be captive by the military,” he said in a statement sent to the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner.

The group Exodus for Justice and Peace (EJP) also vowed to continue monitoring the areas and the evacuees when they return home. The group warned the military not to retaliate against the leaders and communities that protested their abuses citing various cases in Agusan and Compostela Valley provinces where troops allegedly harassed indigenous leaders who exposed military abuses.

“We are happy that the lumads can now go back to their community,” said EJP’s Pastor Jurie Jaime.

The support group of the Manobos, Defend Talaingod Save Pantaron Range, also said: “The pull out of the military forces in the area is just an initial victory just so the refugees can go back to their homes. But this is just the beginning; the soldiers involved in abusing these people should still be held accountable.”

Refugees get their supply of rice and canned goods sent by the Davao del Norte provincial government to an evacuation camp put up by the United Church of Christ of the Philippines in Davao City where tribesmen who fled military operations in Talaingod town. (Photos by Kilab Multimedia)

ADF participate in Philippines exercise

From the Australian Defense Magazine (May 1): ADF participate in Philippines exercise

Australian Defence Force personnel are participating in a major regional exercise in the Philippines focusing on humanitarian and disaster relief.

Exercise BALIKATAN is an annual Republic of the Philippines-US bilateral military training exercise and humanitarian assistance engagement.

Some 31 ADF personnel have already joined the exercise and will play a supporting role in Exercise BALIKATAN on the islands of Luzon and Palawan.

A further 37 ADF members will deploy on May 8 to the exercise area, bringing the total ADF commitment to 68 personnel.

The focus of BALIKATAN 2014 will be on humanitarian activities throughout the Bicol Region of southern Luzon Island.

Military medical personnel will offer medical, dental and veterinary care. Military engineers will construct and repair schools and other community infrastructure in selected communities.

Participating forces will also conduct command and control exercises from CampAguinaldo in Manila and HQ Western Command (Armed Forces of the Philippines) on Palawan with a series of scenarios focusing on maritime security and disaster relief.

This is the 30th annual bilateral exercise.

The exercise will conclude on 16 May 2014.

More US troops arrive for military exercise

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (May 1): More US troops arrive for military exercise

FORT MAGSAYSAY, Philippines—American soldiers have started arriving in this vast military reservation in Nueva Ecija province for this year’s joint military exercises Balikatan between the United States and the Philippines.

Col. Ronald Villanueva, chief of staff of the Army’s 7th Infantry Division, said the main group of American soldiers will arrive anytime this week.

US troops have been building their barracks and installing communication equipment at the “Tent City,” a camp near the special forces base here.

Capt. Mark Ruelos, 7th ID information officer, said the exercises would be held in several venues beginning May 4.

Balikatan is being done annually to enhance the ability of both the US and Philippine forces to make their systems and organizations, in military operations and disaster response, work together.

In its recent editions, American soldiers would talk about the extraordinary knowledge in jungle survival shared by their Filipino counterparts while Filipinos would cite the modern weapons of the Americans.—

25 Abu Sayyaf rebels killed in Sulu clash

From InterAksyon (May 1): 25 Abu Sayyaf rebels killed in Sulu clash

The number of Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) brigands killed in the fighting in Patikul town, Sulu Tuesday has climbed to 25, or nine persons higher than the 14 reported earlier.

This was revealed by Capt. Ryan Lacuesta, 2nd Marine Brigade civil-military operations officer, Wednesday.

He added that 20 of the slain ASG men have been identified by the military with the remaining five still unidentified as of this posting.

Lacuesta said that the identities of the slain brigands were provided by residents of the area.

Government losses stayed at one Marine trooper killed and 19 others injured.

Fighting stemmed from ASG efforts to recapture their training camp in Sitio Kanjimao, Barangay Buhanginan, Patikul town which was captured around 5 a.m. Tuesday.

Around 100 ASG brigands initially participated in the 4 p.m. attack with their number increasing to 300 as the lawless elements were reinforced by their comrades coming from Indanan and Talipao town.

The captured ASG base has 50 makeshift huts and heavily fortified bunkers.
2nd Marine Brigade commander Brig. Gen. Martin Pinto said artillery fire played a role in the capture of the ASG camp.

He added the Marines employed 105mm howitzers, 81mm mortars, and two MG-520 attack helicopters on the Abu Sayyaf men during the three-hour battle.

Pinto said the Marines plan to convert the Abu Sayyaf lair into a military camp.

PNP to protesters: Guard ranks vs infiltrators

From the Philippine Star (Apr 30): PNP to protesters: Guard ranks vs infiltrators

The Philippine National Police on Wednesday called on groups that would be staging protest actions tomorrow, Labor Day, to guard their own ranks against infiltrators who may create trouble.

"We urge the organizers of these mass actions to guard their own ranks against infiltrators and saboteurs who may take advantage of the situation.
"We expect the leaders of these activities to coordinate closely and keep the lines of communication open with police authorities on the ground to ensure the peaceful and orderly outcome of their activities," PNP publicist Chief Superintendent Theodore Reuben Sindac said in a statement.
He said that anti-riot policemen who will be deployed to maintain peace and order during the mass actions will be observing maximum tolerance.
"We assure that there will be no confrontation, no dispersal, and no use of compelling force if only public assemblies are held in accordance with law, and all actions are well within legal bounds," Sindac said.
He said that they will also be deploying police videographers to document and identify those trouble makers during the protest actions.
"These documentation aims to identify the trouble-makers and anarchists, and whatever incriminating scenes captured on tape may be used as evidence to support investigation and prosecution of cases in court," Sindac added.
He said that they are not discounting the possibility that communist rebels will stage attacks during similar occasions.
"Based on historical data, the CPP/NPA (Communist Party of the Philippines/ New People's Army)is known to stage hostile actions during similar occasions, including infiltration and agitation in mass actions, sabotage of public assemblies, and armed attacks on isolated government posts and vital installations in the countryside," he said.
As early as April 29, all PNP units have been placed on heightened alert in preparation for the Labor Day celebration.

IN TAYASAN: Army, NPA clash anew

From the Visayan Daily Star (May 1): IN TAYASAN: Army, NPA clash anew

Seven suspected members of the New People's Army, one a female, clashed with government forces in Barangay Tanlad, Tayasan town, in northern Negros Oriental, yesterday morning, with no casualties reported on the government side.

An initial report said members of the Civilian Armed Auxiliary of the Philippine Army, led by a certain Corporal Galapin, conducting security patrol at around 2:15 a.m. about 300 meters from their detachment in Sitio Bulabog 2, Barangay Tanlad, encountered the alleged NPA group and exchanged fire with the suspected rebels for about 20 minutes. The latter split into two groups later, and withdrew towards Sitio Pagatanan, also in the barangay.

Recovered at the site of the encounter were a .45 caliber pistol, with serial number 3093040, and a magazine with six rounds of live ammunition.

Brig. Gen. Francisco Patrimonio, commander of the 302 nd Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army, based in Tanjay City, Negros Oriental, said intelligence reports showed that the NPA had long been planning a tactical offensive at the CAA detachment in Tayasan but could not come close to the well-secured detachment. He described the encounter as a show of force by the NPA, that is now feeling the pressure of the government in obtaining lasting peace for Negros Oriental.

He said the NPA's Larangan Guerilla-1, operating in northern Negros Oriental, now has only about 40 members from 74, since many have transferred to Negros Occidental.

While Negros Oriental will be declared “conflict manageable and development-ready” on May 7, he said there is still a risk that NPAs from the Negros Occidental side will cross boundaries and undertake harassment activities in Negros Oriental.

MNLF breaks into 3 factions

From the Mindanao Examiner Website (Apr 30): MNLF breaks into 3 factions

A screen shot of Abul Kayr Alonto during a television interview by PTV-4. (Mindanao Examiner Photo)

Weeks after he declared himself new chieftain of the former rebel group Moro National Liberation Front, Abul Kayr Alonto, whose faction claimed to have replaced Nur Misuari, has publicly thrown his support to the peace process between Manila and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which has been fighting for decades for self-determination in the restive southern region of the Philippines.

Alonto, who was among the original founding members of the MNLF, also urged Muslims to support the Bangsamoro agreement between the Aquino government and the MILF, the country’s largest Muslim rebel group.

Speaking on a government television late last month, Alonto also said his group is all-out in supporting the peace process and also urged Congress to approve the new political entity called Bangsamoro which shall replace the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao which is composed of the provinces of Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Maguindanao and Lanao.

Moro people should unite

“The Moro people want to set their house in order but how can they set their house in order when the very key to their own hands is not in their own hands. And the sad part is that the people who want to govern them do not even speak the language that the people to be governed speak. Ito na po ang key and I believe the taught by my grandfather was saying that the key is not in their hands, the key now is the framework basic law that we look forward to that will be approved by Congress or through Constitutional amendment, please do so, let’s do it so that we can unite and spare the future generation of a war of aggression,” Alonto said.

“I will look forward that when the establishment of this government we can have a full fiscal autonomy we can budget what we need, all these revenues coming from our resources just to catch up with the nation must be used for a free education, free health and free shelter para po ang inyong kawawang samba-yanang Moro sa timogan Pilipinas ay magkaroon ng pagkakataon to set their house in order and establish a place in the sun for their children and children to be,” he added.

MNLF still loyal to Misuari
But majority of the MNLF is still loyal to Misuari, although he was deposed in 2000 by his senior officials headed by his Foreign Affairs chief Parouk Hussin - who along with veteran rebel leaders headed by Muslimen Sema, the front’s secretary general – who made up the so-called Council of 15.

Hussin, who eventually became governor of the Muslim autonomous region, was also deposed several years later after the Council of 15, disgruntled at his leadership, put back Misuari as head of the MNLF in 2007.

But Sema and majority of the MNLF leaders ousted Misuari again in 2008 for lack of trust and confidence. Sema’s group previously appointed Misuari as chairman emeritus, but he rejected the position and insisted he is the sole chairman of the MNLF.

Sema has not issued any public statement about Alonto’s declaration.

Misuari signed a peace deal with Manila in September 1996 ending decades of bloody war. After the peace agreement was signed, Misuari became the governor of the Muslim autonomous region and Sema’s group accused him of being an incompetent leader.

And despite the peace accord, Misuari said there was a widespread disillusionment with the weak autonomy they were granted. Under the peace agreement, Manila would have to provide a mini-Marshal Plan to spur economic development in Muslim areas in the South, and livelihood and housing assistance to tens of thousands of former rebels to uplift their poor living standards.

And in November 2001, on the eve of the elections in the Muslim autonomous region, Misuari accused the government of reneging on the peace agreement, and launched a new rebellion in Sulu and Zamboanga City, where more than 100 people were killed.

Misuari then escaped by boat to Malaysia, where he had been arrested and deported to the Philippines where he was jailed and eventually released by then President Gloria Arroyo in exchange for his support to her election bid and her allies in the Senate and Congress in 2004.

But Misuari’s fall had severely affected the MNLF which is now heavily divided and rift among its leaders is becoming more apparent. Misuari also ran thrice for governor in Sulu province even while under detention, but lost.

In September 2013, Mis-uari’s group again launched deadly attacks in Zamboanga City that sparked three weeks of deadly street battles that killed and wounded over 400 people, and left over 130,000 without homes following the burning of several Muslim villages. Misuari remains in hiding following the attacks.

Divide and conquer
But Misuari’s leaders and allies have accused the Aquino government, particularly peace adviser Teresita Deles as behind the rift among MNLF leaders.

Deles, who heads the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, also served under Arroyo and Reynaldo Reyes, a key supporter of Misuari, also accused her as behind Alonto’s move to grab the leadership of the MNLF.

“OPAPP Secretary Deles, who served also under the Arroyo regime, had a hand on creating the so-called 15- member MNLF-EC (Executive Committee) group under (Cotabato City) ex-Vice Mayor Muslimen Sema to divide both the MNLF leadership and freedom fighters and to discredit MNLF Chair Nur Misuari. Now she is again creating another MNLF group using MNLF surrenderees-turned-politicians headed by Abul Khayr Alonto to neutralise Chairman Misuari and to be used by the Aquino regime to deceive both the Filipino and Bangsamoro communities as well as humanity that the new version autonomous government labelled Bangsamoro is the key to ‘just and lasting peace’ in Mindanao,” Reyes told the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner.

“Logically, how can it be the solution to the Mindanao war when the Aquino regime is only negotiating with one splintered group of the MNLF? Can OPPAP hide the truth and hoodwink the people that the mainstream MNLF under Chair Misuari and BIFM (Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement) under Ustaj Umbra Amiril Katu are not now waging the freedom struggle of the oppressed Bangsamoro people of Filipino-colonised Mindanao to regain complete independence and national self-determination?” he asked.

There was no immediate statement either from the Aquino government or Deles about the accusations. Manila and the MILF signed the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro on March 27 at the Presidential Palace after 17 long years of arduous negotiations.

MILF: Sarangani stakeholders to hold Peace Forum to understand Bangsamoro and its economic prospects

From the MILF Website (Apr 30): Sarangani stakeholders to hold Peace Forum to understand Bangsamoro and its economic prospects

Concerned government agencies and Non-Government Organizations will be holding Peace and Investment Forum in the seven municipalities of Sarangani to further understand the proposed Bangsamoro political entity and the economic prospects it will bring especially in Sarangani Province.
The activity will be held in the respective municipal gymnasiums of Alabel, Malungon, Malapatan, Glan, Maasim, Maitum and Kiamba within this month of May.

Speakers coming from  both the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Philippine Government will be invited.

Topics will include the history of the Bangsamoro struggle for self-determination, the GPH-MILF Peace Process with focus on the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro and the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro.

The audiences will also understand how the Ministerial Form of government will run through an Overview of the Bangsamoro Government.

Speaker from the government side will also discuss the role of the Central Government in the establishment of the Bangsamoro Government which is hoped to be realized from 2015-2016 after the Bangsamoro Basic Law will be ratified and accepted by the people through a plebiscite.

The resource person  from the MILF is expected to discuss Islamic Finance and the development of Halal industry and how it will help in the economic upliftment of the Bangsamoro in the province.

The organizers of the activity are comprised of the Provincial Government of Sarangani, Department of Interior and Local Government Sarangani Provincial Office, and SPECTRUM, an alliance of development organizations operating in Sarangani Province.

Target audiences will include barangay and municipal officials and sectoral leaders from the grassroot communities.

MILF: United Overseas Bangsamoro sponsors Seminar-Workshop on Community Organizing

From the MILF Website (Apr 29): United Overseas Bangsamoro sponsors Seminar-Workshop on Community Organizing

The United Arab Emirates-based United Overseas Bangsamoro (UOB-UAE) in partnership with the Bangsamoro Leadership and Management Institute (BLMI) sponsored a three day Seminar workshop on Community Organizing with the theme “Empowering towards Community Organizing” on April 26-29, 2014 at the BLMI Training Hall, Simuay, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao.
Brother Shaek Mama, member of the Board of Directors of UOB –UAE facilitated the program assisted by the BLMI Steering Committee members and Staff.

Sheikh Mahmod S. Ahmad, BLMI Executive Director welcomed the participants comprising  Bangsmaro Overseas Workers, student leaders, government &private employee representing their respective organization / associations. He also informed the participants about how the BLMI was created and its various programs.

The program was aimed at developing the potentials of the participants in community organizing, conduct of advocacies and relevant knowledge and skills deem necessary in their current undertakings.

Professor Esmael Abdula, BLMI Training Unit Officer and Chairman on Mass mobilization and campaign, an MILF –Sub Committee on Information was one of the speakers.

He gave the overview of the program and updated the participants on vital issues related to the GPH-MILF Peace process issues and the salient contexts of Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro  (CAB).  He also mentioned about the BLMI main components and its intervention through capacitating the Bangsamoro prospective future leaders and managers

Resource speaker Mr. Cris T. Yano lectured on the fundamental steps of community organizing. In the last two days of the activity his discussions focused on the comprehensive principles of community organizing and its applications and followed by workshops on SWOT Analysis (strength, weakness, opportunities and threats) on relevant issues normally encountered by organizations or institutions at present.

On the last day, Professor Abdula lectured on Cycle and Process of Organizing and emphasized its essential concepts and its application in a workshop where the participants were able to thrash out the given problem through group discussions.

In the closing program the participants expressed their heartfelt gratitude to UOB-UAE for the assistance they extended and to the BLMI for the successful conduct of the program where the participants’ potentials where undoubtedly enhanced. The same expression of gratitude was also made by Brother Mama.

The UOB-UAE is a people’s organization having linkages and chapters in some part of the Middle- Eastern countries. Its members are mostly Bangsamoro Professionals and skilled workers who are presently employed abroad and actively involved in peace building effort in Mindanao and support the GPH- MILF Peace process and to the CAB.  

After the last speaker (Mama) had spoken, the participants were awarded with certificates of participation.

MILF: Multi-sector groups hold orientation on CAB, offer thanksgiving banquet

From the MILF Website (Apr 28): Multi-sector groups hold orientation on CAB, offer thanksgiving banquet

Multi-sector groups in Sarangani held orientation and offered thanksgiving banquet or “kanduli” as part of a celebration of the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) held on April 23. 2014 at Kabug Beach, Barangay Kapatan, Glan, Sarangani.
The activity was sponsored by the Suguda Buayan Provincial Committee of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, MILF line agencies and Moro communities.

They were joined by the MILF Provincial Committee on Information as well as some LGU members of the province. The theme was: “Let’s understand the peace agreement and give chance to attain lasting peace in Mindanao.”  The site was very much fitting. The radiant beauty of the seashores, the colourful decors and the green “pandalas” over the entrance and around the hub of the activity were very pleasant. The temperature was favourable with the natural ventilation by the cool breeze from the sea.

The MILF Political Committee and hosts were: its Provincial Chairman Hadji Puad Japal; Glan Municipal Chairman Pancho Datukaka; Malapatan Municipal Chairman Alabel Bernard Lacaba; Malungon Municipal Chairman Hasim Danial; and City Chairman Adam Jamblang. The Provincial Committee on Information was led by its Provincial Director Hadji Salih Apad.

The guests from the Central Committee on Information were: Secretary Arman Armada; Campaign and Mobilization Chairman Mike Abdula; Damakling Information Director Abdulaziz B. Talib; Chairman of the Special Agency on Women Council (SAWC)- Ustadza Zahara Zumbaga Taya; member of the Research and Documentation Services (RDS) Abu Hajams; member of the Committee on Production Mike Intao; and member of the Tarbiya (religious) Committee Mike Mamento.

Guests from the Office of the 1st Vice Chairman of the MILF Central Committee were: Mindanao Alliance for Peace (MAP) Vice Chairman Duma Maskud; and another MAP officer- Iskak Dianal. The registry record reveals, there were other more than 1,800 people attended.

Representing the LGUs were Sarangani Board Members: Vergilio Tobias; Abdulrahman Pangolima; and North Cotabato Board Member Mohammad “Kelly” Antao.

Presentation and discussion on the important topic was made by the MAP Vice Chairman Maskud. He touched briefly on the CAB. He explicated on the reserved powers of the Central Government such as national defence, coinage, foreign policy, postal services, citizenship, common market, immigration, customs, and intellectual property rights. The second speaker, Campaign and Mobilization Chairman Abdula likewise tackled the CAB and gave explicit elaborations on it. He dealt much on the four annexes, namely: the Transitional Arrangement and Modalities, Revenue and Wealth Sharing; the Power Sharing, and the Normalization.

The third resource person, Secretary Armada talked on the general prospect of the peace process.  He gave some salient features of the Bangsamoro Basic Law BBL). He narrated the recent signing of the BBL by the BTC Commissioners and its submission to the Office of the President of the Philippines for review, certification as urgent bill and submission to Congress.

Sarangani Board Member Pangolima expressed his full support to the peace agreement. North Cotabato Board Member Antao spoke of his dual obligations as a Bangsamoro and as an LGU official. He called on any survivor of the widely known “Kulong Kulong Massacre”, in Palimbang, Sultan Kudarat to come forward for a surprise gift.

Short open forum concluded the interesting discussions on the CAB. The guests and participants, mindful of the temptation on this white sandy beach, left overwhelmed by the gains of the peace process resulting to the signing of the CAB which they absorbed and carried home.