Friday, May 2, 2014

Balikatan troops start civic projects

From the Manila Times (May 2): Balikatan troops start civic projects

The Southern Luzon Command (Solcom) is leading the Joint Civil-Military Task Force in conducting humanitarian civic activities under Balikatan 2014 in Albay Province until May 17, 2014.

The command’s 901st Infantry Brigade, 9th Infantry Division, the Philippine Army, the Naval Forces Southern Luzon (Navforsol) and Tactical Operations Group 5 will lead 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.

Solcom chief Lt. Gen. Caesar Ronnie Ordoyo said his troops and their US counterparts are in the middle of constructing a health center, a two-room classroom building and a water catchment system and are concreting of sidewalk in Malobago Elementary School in Barangay Malobago and building another one-room school building in Doña Mercedes Elementary School, both in Guinobatan town, Albay.

Ordoyo added that they are installing a water storage tank and constructing a public rest room in Barangay Pawa in Legazpi City, while the repair and renovation of a school building is ongoing in Tamaoyan Elementary School in Barangay Tamaoyan, Legazpi City.

The engineering works are jointly through the efforts of 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,” aided by US engineers.

“Along with these projects, our troops continuously conduct civil-military symposia by engaging subject matter experts of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the United States Forces to exchange best practices and ideas in order to further develop methods of operations in each area of civil-military operation,” Ordoyo told The Manila Times.

Also, a symposium on cooperative health and community relations was organized with professional health practitioners in Bicol region to promote and encourage multi-sectoral participation in Balikatan 2014.

Ordoyo believes that the Balikatan, which aimed to enhance the capabilities and interoperability of AFP and US troops, would address significant areas of concern and provide assistance on areas where need is great and strengthen humanitarian assistance mechanism through non-traditional approach.

Japan sets naval drills amid East China Sea tensions

Posted to the Manila Times (May 2): Japan sets naval drills amid East China Sea tensions

Japan is to stage amphibious landing drills in the East China Sea, coinciding with wargames Russia and China are holding near islands at the center of a Tokyo-Beijing territorial row.

About 1,330 personnel, four naval vessels and aircraft from Japan’s three services will be involved in exercises in the Amami group of islands and in waters east of Okinawa, the defense ministry said in a press release, adding they were intended to bolster Japan’s ability to “defend islands”.

The statement was issued on Thursday hours after China’s state media, quoting the country’s defense ministry, said the Chinese and Russian navies will stage joint exercises “off Shanghai” in late May.

Also, three Chinese coastguard ships sailed through disputed waters in the East China Sea on Friday as Beijing maintained its defiant stance after US President Barack Obama backed Tokyo in the row.

The Japanese coastguard said the Chinese vessels entered the 12-nautical-mile band of territorial waters around one of the Senkaku islands, which China also claims and calls the Diaoyus, shortly before noon.

The Japanese naval exercises will take place in waters northwest of the Japanese-controlled Senkaku islands, which China also claims and calls the Diaoyus, Chinese media said, quoting a Russian radio report.

On Friday, three Chinese coastguard ships sailed inside territorial waters off the disputed islands for about three hours, being chased by Japanese patrols.

It was the third such incursion since US President Barack Obama vigorously reasserted on April 24 that Washington would defend Japan under a bilateral military treaty if China initiated an attack in the tense dispute.

China has already dismissed Obama’s position, saying that the islands are “China’s inherent territory.”

Chinese ships have regularly approached these islands— thought to harbor natural resources—since Japan nationalized some of them in September 2012, reigniting a long-running territorial dispute.

The Japanese landing drills “to defend and recapture islands” run from May 10 to 27 and will focus on the tiny uninhabited isle of Eniya off Amami Oshima island, according to media reports.

“The Defense Ministry has been strengthening the capabilities of amphibious operations in response to China’s maritime advances,” the Kyodo news agency said, “and the landing drills in the Amami islands are seen as a move to keep China in check.”

Regular exercises for China

 The joint Russian-Chinese drills were officially described as “regular exercises” and come after the two countries held similar maneuvers in July last year off Vladivostok on Russia’s Far East coast.

In April 2012, the two navies staged joint drills in the Yellow Sea.

China may want to use the joint drills to demonstrate its coordination with Russia in the East China Sea and keep Japan and the United States in check, Kyodo reported.

A Japanese defense ministry official told Agence France-Presse, “China is widely seen to have used such drills in boosting its navy’s operational capability.”

The official, charged with policy research, said he could not tell if the upcoming drills were linked to the island dispute.

“But if naval capability improves overall, it may be useful for China in various areas such as its relations with Taiwan and its operations in the East China Sea and the South China Sea,” the official added.

6 soldiers killed, 15 hurt in NPA attacks in Ilocos Sur

From the Philippine Star (May 3): 6 soldiers killed, 15 hurt in NPA attacks in Ilocos Sur

Six government troopers have been killed while at least 15 others have been wounded in separate attacks by New People’s Army (NPA) rebels in far-flung mountain villages in Ilocos Sur since Thursday.

The latest attack, according to reports, claimed the lives of three Army soldiers who were waylaid by communist rebels, believed to belong to the NPA’s Kilusang Larangang Gerilya, while they were patrolling in Barangay Malideg, Quirino town yesterday morning.

At least 13 soldiers, reportedly all belonging to the 50th Infantry Battalion of the Army’s Isabela-based 5th Infantry Division, were also wounded in attack.

The soldiers’ identities, however, were not immediately made available, as military authorities have yet to inform their families.

Pursuit operations by joint Army and police operatives were ongoing as of press time.

Three other Army soldiers, also from the 50th IB, were slain and two colleagues were wounded in an NPA ambush in adjoining Cervantes town on Thursday.

The Army said its troops were on their way back to their camp from a “bayanihan activity” in Sitio Daing when they were waylaid by guerrillas in the remote mountain area at around 9:30 a.m. Thursday.

Reports identified the fatalities in the Cervantes attack as Cpl. Edward Ryan Pingel and Pfcs. Ralph Henry Balungot and Joey Labert Alejandro, and those wounded as Pfcs. Arnel Parungao and Rommel Pilien.

Although outnumbered, the 5th ID said its troops, on board a KM450 vehicle, still managed to fire back, which also led to their recovery of a .45-caliber pistol, four spent M-16 Armalite shells, and fragments from an explosive device.

Soldiers recover firearms

From the Visayan Daily Star (May 3): Soldiers recover firearms

Soldiers of the 11 th Infantry Battalion recovered guns and ammunition after an encounter with a group of suspected New People's Army rebels in Sitio Kabudburan, Brgy. Amontay, Binalbagan, Negros Occidental, yesterday.

1Lt. Von Ryan Gomez, 11IB Civil Military Operations officer, said the Army troopers were conducting a security patrol in the place, when by suspected armed rebels, fired at them triggering about five minutes of firefight.

Gomez said the fleeing rebels left behind a 357 caliber revolver with six ammunition, a homemade 12 gauge shotgun with a magazine containing a live ammunition, and a back pack containing personal belongings and subversive documents that were recovered at the encounter site.

Soldiers pursuing the fleeing rebels, who dispersed into small groups, also noticed traces of bloodstains along their withdrawal routes, indicating that they had suffered casualties in the brief gunbattle, he added.

No casualty was reported on the government side.

Two days earlier, a squad-sized unit of Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit led by a certain Cpl. Galapin, also encountered seven suspected rebels in Sitio Bulabog, Brgy. Tanlad, Tayasan, Negros Oriental.

Gomez said the rebels, split into two groups and fled towards Sitio Pagatanan and Lantad proper, leaving behind a .45 caliber pistol with six ammunition at the encounter site.

Lt. Col. Paulito Idul,11IB commander, said in a statement he issued that the two recent encounters in Tayasan, Negros Oriental, and Binalbagan, Negros Occidental, have proven that the rebels are no longer enjoying the support of the people, who have been reporting their presence to government troops.

Idul also expressed his gratitude to the civilians for their continued support to the 11IB, and urged everyone to continue supporting the peace and security efforts of the Philippine Army, especially in central Negros.*

Navy gets more military aid from US

From ABS-CBN (May 3): Navy gets more military aid from US

The US government's foreign military financing to the Philippines has been increasing although only for the Navy, which does not have a bad record of human rights violations.

Earlier, Ambassador to Washington Jose Cuisia Jr. was quoted in a report as saying the country stood to receive more US military assistance once the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) was signed.

For this year, Cuisia said the US allocated about $50 million in foreign military financing for the Philippines, nearly double the previous year’s sum.

Defense Undersecretary Pio Lorenzo Batino, chairman of the Philippine negotiating panel for EDCA, denied the military assistance was still tied to the human rights records of the Philippines.

“In previous years, a certain portion of the (fund) was withheld due to alleged high level of human rights violations. But for the most recent foreign military financing, it was substantially increased and no amount was withheld as it was allocated for the Philippine Navy,” Batino said but did not give specific amounts.

Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said the government, particularly the Department of National Defense (DND), had been forthright in addressing human rights issues and that it was understandable for the US to look into reports about the Philippines as they made an assessment on the military aid to be provided to the country.

According to Cuisia, it would be up to the Armed Forces to determine their needs vis-à-vis the military assistance from the US.

Cuisia said the military was considering newer vessels and that Washington also promised to help it acquire long-range maritime patrol aircraft to enable the Philippines to keep closer watch on its maritime borders in the West Philippine Sea.

The Philippines was also set to get another $40 million from a US global security contingency fund to be used strictly to boost naval capability, based on an earlier Reuters report.

During his state visit, US President Barack Obama pledged to assist the Philippines in the establishment of a National Coast Watch Center.

The NCWC is an inter-agency mechanism aimed at enhancing maritime border security and enhancing governance in the country’s maritime domains pursuant to Executive Order No. 57 issued in September 2011.

“The US wants to promote enhanced maritime information sharing with its allies namely the Philippines, Japan and Australia, as this would be helpful in managing maritime conflicts and disputes,” Coloma said.

Suspected NPA leader killed in Sorsogon clash

From GMA News (May 3): Suspected NPA leader killed in Sorsogon clash

A suspected communist New People's Army leader was killed in an encounter with government security forces in Magallanes town, Sorsogon last Sunday morning.

In a statement released on Saturday, May 3, Brig. General Joselito, commander of the 903rd Infantry Brigade, identified the slain rebel as a certain Recto Golimlim, believed to be the head of the group's explosive department, and a member of executive committee of the Bicol Regional Party Committee.

He said Golimlim, who has a P2.5 million bounty on his head, was believed to have been killed during the firefight, which lasted for 10 minutes, between the Army troops and at least four other rebels at about 9:15 a.m. on April 27.

He added that members of the Army's 31st Infantry Battalion and the 9th K9 Battalion, recovered the rebel's remains in a follow up operation at about 3:30 p.m. on April 28, a day after the clash.

Reward was given to informants, he added.

PHL to offer renewed US military use of Subic

From GMA News (May 2): PHL to offer renewed US military use of Subic

The Philippines said Friday it plans to give the United States access to five military bases under a deal that could see US forces return to their giant former facility at Subic Bay.

An access deal signed last week would allow the US to rotate more aircraft, ships, equipment and troops over the next 10 years at unspecified bases in the territory of the Asian ally strategically facing the South China Sea.

The two countries are now in follow-up talks to select the Filipino bases, said defence undersecretary Pio Batino, the chief Filipino negotiator.

"Right now, the discussions would be ranging from three to five (Filipino military) bases," he told reporters.

"That's not the final, but that is the starting discussion point."

The Philippines is offering Fort Magsaysay, a sprawling army base about 100 kilometers (62 miles) north of Manila that regularly hosts annual large-scale US-Filipino military exercises, Batino said.

He added "limited portions of Subic" would also be offered, but declined to identify the three other bases under consideration.

The Philippines intends to conclude the discussions not later than September 30, Batino added.

The deal for increased US access is part of Philippine efforts to boost its weak military capabilities at a time of deep tensions with China over competing claims to parts of the South China Sea.

China claims most of the sea, even waters close to the Philippines and other countries in the region.

Subic, facing the South China Sea, was the former repair yard of the Japan-based US Pacific fleet.

American forces vacated it in 1992, along with nearby Clark Air Base, after the Philippine Senate refused to extend a bases treaty, ending nearly a century of major US military presence.

It is now a civilian free port, but maintains a US-era military runway and a deep harbor that is still used by American warships stopping over for military exercises or for regular provisioning.

Bound by a mutual defence pact, the US and the Philippines engage in regular war games that see thousands of US troops and state-of-the-art American military hardware brought to the Philippines.

The Philippines signed the bases access deal last week, hours ahead of a state visit to Manila by American President Barack Obama.

The deal also allows the US to build structures inside the bases for use by its forces, as well as to store supplies and equipment.

Army, rights group trade barbs over natives’ plight

From the Mindanao Gold Star Daily (May 3): Army, rights group trade barbs over natives’ plight

THE Army and a group advocating for tribal rights traded accusations against each other over the alleged exploitation of indigenous people in San Fernando, Bukidnon.

In a press statement, the tribal group Kalumbay claimed that around 200 Matigsalug families have evacuated from San Fernando, Bukidnon earlier this week due to aerial bombardment by helicopters from the 68th Infantry Battalion.

But in an interview, 4th Infantry Division acting spokesperson Lt. Col. Leonard Gille denied that the 68th Infantry Battalion launched an operation in the area.

“Dugay na man to nga naa mi gi-pursue nga mga NPA. That was last March pa,” Gille said.

Instead, he said that Kalumbay must have been misinformed because the closest Army unit in the area is the 60th Infantry Battalion which is under the 1st Infantry Division in nearby Davao del Norte.

The town of San Fernando is the closest municipality to Davao del Norte, lying on the edge of Talaingod town.

Gille however acknowledged that there were indigenous people who have gone to the poblacion of San Fernando town, claiming they were dislodged by military operations.

“Ang gihimo lang sa mayor sa maong dapit mao ang pagpanghatag og mga pagkaon nila kay naa na man sila, lisod pud og abogon,” Gille said.

Gille claimed they are not “real evacuees” but they were only instigated by Kalumbay to pose as war evacuees so people in the area would believe that an Army operation has caused hassle in their municipality.

“Ang ila propaganda ra g’yud ni sa mga walhon. Dili ko motuo nga tunay kini nga mga evacuees,” he said.

Kalumbay chair Jomorito Goaynon maintained the existence of 250 Matigsalug families dislodged from their homes early this week.

Goaynon said these families came from barangays Bunakaw and San Jose.
The tribal evacuees in nearby Davao del Norte, however are real.

Early this week, an agreement was reached between the Army and the tribes so they could go back to their hometown.

But Gille insisted that the conflict in Davao del Norte never spilled over to Bukidnon.

Although San Fernando and Talaingod are adjacent to each other, the mountainous terrain in San Fernando is so rugged that if one goes to the other, he needs to travel through the Buda highway, passing by Davao City in the process. The whole journey is a 240-kilometer turnaround.

MILF: Newly installed MNLF Chairman Alonto supports GPH-MILF Peace Agreement

Posted to the MILF Website (May 2): Newly installed MNLF Chairman Alonto supports GPH-MILF Peace Agreement

Abul Khayr Alonto, one of the original Top 90 Freedom Fighters who was recently installed as Chairman of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) replacing Nur Misuari expressed his strong support to the peace process and the peace agreement inked between the GPH and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
The MILF has been fighting for self-determination for a Moro homeland the past more than 40 years.  He urged Muslims to support the Bangsamoro agreement between the Aquino government and the MILF, the country’s largest Muslim rebel group claiming to have 12 thousand armed fighters.

Alonto, speaking on a government owned television network last month also said his group is all-out in supporting the peace process and urged the Philippine Congress to approve the new political entity called Bangsamoro which shall replace the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) branded by President Benigno C. Aquino III as a “failed experiment”.

He said that the Moro people should unite and 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”.

“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.

But in the light of this development majority of the MNLF is still loyal to Misuari who is wanted by authorities for masterminding the September 2013 Zamboanga siege that killed and wounded 400 people mostly MNLF combatants and displaced 130,000 innocent civilians.  Misuari was deposed in 2000 by his senior officials headed by his Foreign Affairs chief Parouk Hussein. Hussien along with former Cotabato City mayor, then city vice mayor Muslimen Sema and other top ranking MNLF leader made up the so-called Council of 15.

But Hussein was also deposed several years later after the Council of 15, disgruntled at his leadership, restored Misuari as head of the MNLF in 2007.

For lack of trust and confidence, Sema and his group again ousted Misuari in 2008. Misuari was appointed as MNLF Chairman emeritus to appease him but declined the post.

As of posting, Sema has not issued any public statement about Alonto’s declaration. With Alonto assuming the chairmanship of the MNLF the Moro Front breaks into three, the Alonto Faction, the Sema faction and the little known Islamic Command Council headed by Habib Mujahab Hashim.

CPP: The EDCA is lopsided in favor of US and is an outright violation of Philippine sovereignty

From the CPP Website (May 2): The EDCA is lopsided in favor of US and is an outright violation of Philippine sovereignty

Communist Party of the Philippines
The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) condemns the defense and security officials of the Aquino and Obama governments for their brazen lies in promoting the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) which grants US forces basing rights in the Philippines.

A closer study of the text of the EDCA, a copy of which was only made publicly available the day after it was signed, reveals the agreement to be grossly lopsided in favor of the US government and military and in outright violation of Philippine sovereignty.

Article III, Section 1 authorizes US forces to conduct “training; transit; support and related activities; refuelling of aircraft; bunkering of vessels; temporary maintenance of vehicles, vessels and aircraft; temporary accommodation of personnel; communications; prepositioning of equipment, supplies and materiel; deploying forces and materiel; and other such activites as the Parties may agree.”

This section grants US forces the authority to carry out just about the whole gamut of possible military operations within their camps.

Contrary to their previous public pronouncements, there is no provision in the EDCA that access to so-called Agreed Locations is to be granted “upon the invitation” of the Philippines. Sovereignty over these areas is surrendered to the US as its forces are granted authority to do practically anything that a military force need and want within its military bases.

Allowed the right to preposition and deploy its forces and war materiél within the US-controlled areas, these Agreed Locations can and will serve as US launching pads for its wars of aggression and gunboat diplomacy operations. Recall how the US used Clark and Subic as launching pads from which it carried out its wars of aggression against Vietnam from the 1950s to the 1960s as well as against Iran in the 1970s.

The EDCA clearly disregards Philippine sovereignty as the US is not required to ask the permission of the Philippine government before using the so-called Agreed Locations as bases for launching any foreign military operation. By signing the EDCA, the Aquino regime has allowed the Philippines to be bound the foreign and military policy of the US and has surrendered the sovereign right of the Philippines to independently determine its foreign policy.

The EDCA further opens the doors to US access to public land and facilities, beyond the so-called Agreed Locations, as indicated by Article III Section 2. It is further implied that such access will be provided to US forces automatically upon their request, requiring no prior agreement or arrangement.

This will pave the way for the US’ use of roads, ports and airfields by US forces outside AFP military camps, including those in Subic and Clark, as well as any and all airports and ports across the country. Since the EDCA does not explicitly specify the parameters of “transit or temporary access”, the US forces are practically allowed to establish permanent access to such facilities through successive transit operations as it “requests”.

Under the guise of “humanitarian operations”, the US has retained access to the Tacloban and Mactan airports, as well as the airstrip and naval port in Guiuan, long after US forces participated in the Yolanda relief operations.
The gross lopsidedness of the EDCA is likewise underscored by the fact that US access to the so-called Agreed Locations is being made available “without rental or similar costs”, making it worse than the defunct Military Bases Agreement of 1946 which required the US to pay an annual rent.

The provisions of the EDCA which stipulates that titles and ownership of Agreed Locations shall be retained by the Philippines is an empty formality. It is also mere formality that the locations are declared to be under the authority of the Philippines, when in another provision (Art. III, Sec. 5), granting Philippine officials “prompt access” is subject to ‘operational safety and security requirements’."

This is an outright insult to AFP base commanders who will be barred from carrying out ‘surprise visits’ to check on the activities of the US forces within the so-called Agreed Locations which are supposed to be under his authority.

Contrary to claims of retaining Philippine authority over the Agreed Locations, the EDCA specifies: (a) that the US forces and its contractors will have “unimpeded access” (Art. IV, Sec. 4) to the said locations for all activities relating to prepositioning and storage of war materiél; (b) that such prepositioned equipment, supplies and materiél will be “for the exclusive use of United States forces”; and © that US “shall have control over the access to and disposition” of such materiél and ‘shall have the unencumbered right’ to remove such materiél from the Philippines.

Aquino’s officials have repeatedly claimed that the structures to be built by the US will automatically be owned by the Philippine government.
However, Art. 5, Sec. 2 specify that upon return to the Philippines of the Agreed Locations, there will be consultations concerning “compensation for improvements or construction” which means the US military can demand payment for such structures, even when these were constructed for the use of the US forces, and are of no use to the Philippines.

Under Art. VII, Sec. 1, US forces are further granted by the Philippine government the priviledge to use water, electricity and other public facilities on terms and conditions enjoyed only by the Philippine government. The EDCA practically gives the US forces the status of a sovereign by granting priveldges reserved only for the Philippine government.

The US forces are further granted sovereign powers in Art. VII, Sec. 2 which allow the US forces “to operate its own telecommunication system” and make use of the radio spectrum “free of cost”. In contrast, all radio operators in the Philippines go through a rigorous process of getting a franchise to use the radio spectrum and brodcast over the airwaves.

The puppet officials of the Aquino regime seem to enjoy the insults of their imperialist masters.

Indeed, there is a provision explicity stating that the prepositioned materiél of the US shall not include nuclear weapons (Art. IV, Sec 6). This, however, is but an empty declaration as there is no way for the Philippines to ensure compliance, especially in the face of standing US policy of neither confirming nor denying the presence of nuclear weapons in their nuclear-capable warships or jetfighters.

The abovecited provision of the EDCA which stipulated exclusive access of the US to its prepositioned materiél largely impede the Philippines from taking any action to ensure compliance of the US with the Philippine 1987 constitution prohibiting nuclear weapons.

Let us recall that the US has yet to make a clear accounting of the nuclear weapons it prepositioned in the Philippines during the 1970s and 1980s, as gleaned from declassified US government documents.

Based on recent experience, the Filipino people cannot trust the US government to comply with the provisions on health and environment.
When US forces left Clark Air Base and Subic Naval Base in 1992, it refused to foot the bill for the cleanup of the toxic waste it has left. Such toxic waste has already contaminated the water supply in Clark and nearby areas.

More recently, the US has refused to take responsibility for the dumping of toxic waste at the Subic waters in October 2012. After more than a year, the US has refused to make payments for the damages caused by the grounding of the US warship USS Guardian in early 2013.

CPP: Message to Filipino workers on May 1

From the CPP Website (May 1): Message to Filipino workers on May 1

Communist Party of the Philippines
The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) extends its revolutionary greetings to the Filipino working class on the occasion of International Worker’s Day. Let us pay our highest respects to the heroes of the working class movement in the Philippines, from Isabelo delos Reyes to Crisanto Evangelista, from Amado V. Hernandez to Ka Bert Olalia and Crispin Beltran.

Let us fully appreciate the history of the Filipino working class struggles, the sacrifices and victories of previous generations of workers and the critical tasks that must be shouldered by the present generation of workers in order to defend their democratic rights and carry forward their democratic mass struggles amid relentless attacks and worsening exploitation by foreign big monopoly capitalists and their local partners.

Let us firmly grasp the key role played by the Filipino workers in leading the Filipino people’s national democratic revolution that seeks to end the oppressive and exploitative semicolonial and semifeudal system and pave the way for socialist revolution and construction.

The urgent need to carry forward the national democratic revolution is underscored by the current situation of the Filipino working class. The oppression, exploitation and socio-economic conditions of the Filipino workers have rapidly worsened over the past three decades of neoliberalism and labor flexibilization policies. These have further sharply declined under the protracted and continuing global capitalist crisis since 2008.

Wage levels have constantly dropped relative to the constant and sharp increase in the cost of living. Minimum wages are presently set at less than half of the daily needs of a family of six to live decently. Minimum wage laws have been undermined by the regionalization of minimum wages since the late 1980s and outrightly contradicted by the Two-Tier Wage Policy of the Aquino regime which sets grossly low “floor wages” (based on government underestimations of poverty levels) as bases for setting wages. The latest proposal to come out of the Aquino bureaucracy is to completely abolish the minimum wage law by making its implementation optional.

The democratic rights of workers have been constantly attacked by the labor-flexibilization policies of the past three decades. Security of tenure, a fundamental right won by workers through arduous struggles throughout the 20th century, has been taken away by various policies, laws and practices in the name of “flexible employment schemes.” The practice of labor contractualization was set forth in RA 6715 or the Herrera Law which amended the Labor Code in 1989.

The most prevalent and oppressive of these is the practice of different forms of “labor-only contracting” where workers have become permanent contractuals, ever threatened with removal. Job contracts last typically five months or less. Young workers are especially vulnerable to ever worsening forms of “flexible” employment where they are subjected to the most inhumane conditions at the workplace. These include arrangements between training schools and companies where students are required to work for little or no pay for months on end. In certain schools, students are even required to pay for their “training” in factories, hotels, hospitals and other workplaces.

After three decades, close to 100% of rank-and-file workers are contractuals. Rank and file workers who remain regular workers through sheer resistance are still threatened with removal from their jobs through forced retirement, job redundancy and other means.

With their right to unionize rights relentlessly attacked, it is estimated that the number of workers belonging to unions has dropped to less than 5% from 15% in the 1980s. Key union leaders have been targeted for retrenchment. Not a few have been killed or subjected to criminal prosecution. Indirectly, the right to unionize has been effectively curtailed through the contractualization of labor. Labor contracts bar workers from joining unions and from carrying out collective action.

The significant losses in terms of organized labor strength has made the Filipino workers ever more vulnerable to worsening forms of oppression and exploitation, with their socio-economic conditions and state of democratic rights at their lowest compared to the past century.

The attacks against the Filipino workers are set to further intensify in the next years as the crisis of the global capitalist system continues to worsen.
Goaded by the American Chamber of Commerce, the IMF and foreign banks, the Aquino regime plans to put into place policies to further pull down wages in competition with China, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Thailand, Indonesia and other countries where workers’ wages are kept low to “attract foreign investments” in assembly plants.

At the same time, the Aquino regime has perpetuated the policy of exporting labor. To serve this purpose, Aquino has stepped up efforts to expand the government “training school” and transform the entire educational system to churn out young workers for the labor-export market. Young students are being trained as barristas, masseurs, welders, cooks, bakers, nurses and caregivers, not to serve the development of the domestic economy, but rather, to deploy them to the US, the Middle East and other countries. Aquino’s only palpable solution to the widespread problem of unemployment is no different from the solutions of the regimes of the past 30 years.

There is an urgent need to counter the neoliberal attacks against the Filipino workers and advance their aspirations for higher wages, better working conditions and job security. The national democratic labor movement in the Philippines must persevere in arousing, organizing and mobilizing the Filipino workers and their families.

Worker activists must tirelessly engage in propaganda and education work in order to rouse the workers and militate them to wage collective action. They must ceaselessly expose the evils of neoliberalism and flexible labor. They must help the the young generation of workers study the history of the working class movement in the Philippines and learn its lessons in order to guide their current mass struggles to advance their democratic aspirations. They must shatter the imperialist-imposed culture of fear, docility, submission and acceptance that divides the workers and subjects them to greater exploitation and oppression.

They must exert all-out effort in building unions, waging struggles for wage increases and better working conditions and asserting that such rights and demands be accorded to all workers, be they regular or contractual workers. Despite the great difficulties and all-out suppression, workers have achieved important victories in building unions and various types of associations both inside and outside the factories.

Working class communities must serve as the base for mass organizing employed workers, the unemployed and their families. Worker activists and activists of the youth and student movement must tirelessly build working class organizations in the communities in order to serve as mainstays of the workers’ movement.

As such, working class communities are a bastion of the workers’ movement from which they can wage struggles to push forward the demand for wage increases, lower prices of food and fuel, higher allocation for health, education and other social services, employment, industrialization and land reform and fight the Aquino regime’s cronyism and corruption, privatization schemes and other such policies that serve foreign big business, sell out the country’s patriomy and subject the workers and toiling masses to exploitation, oppression and worsening socio-economic conditions.

Indeed, the Filipino workers face great challenges. These are, however, not insurmountable. But in order to leap forward, the activists of the national democratic workers’ movement in the Philippines must be ready to make sacrifices in shouldering the difficult tasks of arousing, organizing and mobilizing the Filipino workers. The youth and students activists should extend assistance in order to help reach out a greater number of workers and their communities.

It is crucial for the revolutionary and progressive forces to advance the national democratic workers’ movement. The sustained increase in the strength of the workers’ mass movement will serve as the key in strengthening the democratic mass movement’s capability to defend and advance the democratic aspirations of the people amid greater liberalization, privatization, deregulation and denationalization; and confront and cause the downfall of one ruling reactionary regime after another.

Heightened US imperialist intervention and the increased presence of American combat troops in the Philippines demand that the Filipino workers unite under the banner of patriotism. It reminds the Filipino workers of the lead role that they played in the struggle against colonialism from the turn of the 20th century until the 1940s and the struggles they waged against neocolonial control since then.

At the same time, the advance of the national democratic workers’ movement will serve the advance of the rural mass movement and the revolutionary armed struggle in the countryside, by serving as an inspiration for mass struggle and resistance; and becoming a wellspring of activists and cadres that will serve the peasant mass struggles for land reform; and of Red commanders and fighters of the New People’s Army.

2 Reds killed in Bicol clashes

From Tempo (May 2): 2 Reds killed in Bicol clashes

CAMP G. NAKAR, Lucena City – A leader and a member of the New People’s Army (NPA) were killed while a barangay chief believed to be a supporter of the communist rebels was arrested in separate clashes with government forces in Bicol region, the Southern Luzon Command (Solcom) reported yesterday.

Lt. Gen. Caesar Ronnie F. Ordoyo, Solcom commanding general, said that elements of 5SRC and 31st Infantry Battalion were conducting regular patrol when they encountered 10 rebels with amazons at Barangay Lapinig, Magallanes, Sorsogon.

Ordoyo said a certain Nolan, vice platoon leader of Komiting Probinsya (KOMPROB)–Sorsogon, died while one Eddie G. Albur, 45, barangay chairman of Coco Cabitan, Bulan, Sorsogon, was arrested during the firefight.

The military said Albur, a supporter of the rebels, is now in the custody of the Philippine National Police (PNP) for further investigation.

The troops recovered from the clash site an improvised explosive device (IED) with paraphernalia and other personal belongings of the rebels after a 10-minute firefight.

The rebels withdrew towards northwest direction, leaving behind the body of Nolan.

Ordoyo also reported that another rebel identifi ed as Virgilio M. Olavides, alias Rodel and a member of KOMPROB- ALBAY, was also killed in another encounter with military forces last Monday in Barangay. Matanglad, Pio Duran, Albay.

79th IB accused of excessive firepower

From the Visayan Daily Star (May 2): 79th IB accused of excessive firepower

A human rights group in Negros Oriental has accused the 79th  Infantry Battalion of committing human rights violations and using excessive firepower during an encounter with New People's Army rebels in Pamplona town last month.

Karapatan provincial chair Jose Luis Blanco said he considered the incident in Sitio Makasakasa, Barangay Balayong, Pamplona on April 3 a case of indiscriminate firing that resulted in damage to property, particularly to the house of Winefreda Rabor.

He said there was no need to use excessive firepower since the situation was already under the control of the Army. Residents in the area, including children, are still recovering from emotional stress, the group claimed.

Brig. Gen. Francisco Patrimonio, commander of the 302 nd  Infantry Brigade, belied the claim of Karapatan, and said the NPAs were taking cover in the concrete walls of the house, and that necessary firepower was needed to flush them out after the more than one hour of negotiations for them to surrender had failed.

He added that the Army did not abandon its promise to help the Rabor family restore the damaged portion of their house.

Gov. Roel Degamo has directed the provincial social welfare office to coordinate with the 79th  IB on the repair of the house, and the availment of financial assistance from the provincial government.

The governor instructed PSWD officer Alice Lagarde to also extend burial assistance to the families of the two rebels killed during the encounter.

News Analysis: Rough sailing for Phl-US defense pact

From the Philippine Star (May 2): News Analysis: Rough sailing for Phl-US defense pact

After the euphoria brought about by the two-day state visit of US President Barack Obama to Manila on April 28-29 where he extolled the 10-year Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) as a reaffirmation of the close ties between the Philippines and the US, the hard reality is now emerging.

And developments in the next few days could actually derail the implementation of the agreement that could give the US military a "free ride" in Philippine military facilities.

Top leaders of the Philippine Congress, both in the Senate and the House of Representatives, said that they would question the legality of EDCA and that it should first be ratified by the Senate.

On Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano said he would seek a consensus on the agreement that grants the US " unimpeded" rent-free access to certain areas in Philippine military bases two decades after the shutdown of Clark Air Base and Subic Bay Naval Base, two former largest overseas American military facilities.

"Of course the allies of the President (Benigno Aquino III) would want it to be part of the VFA (Visiting Forces Agreement), so there's no need for the Senate to concur. But traditionally, the Senate wants to uphold its power and will insist that it exercise its sovereign power," Cayetano said.

The VFA allows the entry to the country of US military personnel and equipment during joint military exercises. But the agreement has been circumvented since a number of American servicemen have been stationed in Mindanao for a longer period of time purportedly to assist the Philippine military in its anti- terrorism drive, particularly against the Al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf militants.

Cayetano said that it is his belief that the agreement constitutes a treaty requiring Senate ratification, adding that under the EDCA, the US would enjoy the same if not more privileges than it did in the previous military bases agreement, which the Philippine Senate abolished in 1991.

Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago, chairman of the Senate foreign relations committee, has asserted that the EDCA should have been submitted first to the Senate for ratification before it was signed.

Several members of the House of Representatives said that they would question the constitutionality of the agreement before the Supreme Court.

The Philippine Constitution prohibits the establishment of foreign military bases or the stationing of foreign troops or facilities in the Philippines except under a treaty duly ratified by the Senate.

"The agreement promises to promote the modernization of the Armed Forces of the Philippines yet it is not clear how this can be accomplished if our country is relegated to being a weapons depot and our soldiers become the glorified security guards of US troops and their equipment," Bayan Muna (Country First) Party Representative Carlos Zarate said.

Zarate criticized the provision that prevents the Philippines from getting a third-party arbiter in case of disputes. "This is scary and alarming. Why should the Philippines allow its hands to be tied like this? We will be at the losing end, once again," he said.

Representative Neri Colmenares, another Bayan Muna assemblyman, said under EDCA, the Philippines will become "the biggest US military base in the world."

"By the stroke of a pen, through the EDCA, the Aquino government cedes all of Philippine sovereignty to the US and makes us second class citizens in our own country. This agreement is very unequal and extremely disadvantageous to Filipino interest, " Colmenares said.

Colmenares said that under EDCA, US forces and their ships and planes may use Philippine facilities for training, maintenance of vessels, prepositioning of military equipment such as jets and warships, as well as staging ground deployment of forces.

"This will make the Philippines a forward base or a launching pad of the US and can attack other countries and may be attacked as well. This is against the spirit of the Constitution and drags us into all the wars of the US," Colmenares said.

The lawmakers said that despite virtually allowing the whole country to be an American military base, the Philippines would not be getting much in return.

After eight months of negotiations, EDCA was finally signed in Manila on Monday hours before the arrival of President Obama to expand the rotational presence of American forces in the Philippines amid the escalating tensions over maritime dispute between the Philippines and China in the South China Sea.

‘Terrorist activities in Phl remain constrained’

Posted to the Philippine Star (May 2): ‘Terrorist activities in Phl remain constrained’

The transition of internal security functions to the Philippine National Police to permit the Armed Forces of the Philippines to shift its focus to enhancing the country’s maritime security and territorial defense capabilities has been slow and ineffective to date, the US State Department said.

However, the ability of terrorist groups – including the Abu Sayyaf, Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) and the Communist Party of the Philippines/New People’s Army (CPP/NPA) – to conduct terrorist activities inside the Philippines remained constrained, the State Department said in its Country Reports on Terrorism 2013.

The report released on Wednesday said the Philippines maintained its strong counterterrorism cooperation with the United States.

It said the creation by the Philippine National Police of the Special Action Force has helped strengthen its law enforcement counterterrorism capabilities. But the SAF remains a relatively small unit.

SAF has received training through multiple sources, including the Joint Special Operations Task Forces-Philippines, and has been designated as a unit that will be given communications equipment through the US Global Security Contingency Fund, the report said.

The Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF)’s signing a Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro last month is said to be a definitive step toward peace in Mindanao.

The report said terrorist incidents such as bombings and raids were more frequent in 2013 than in the years preceding the signing.

It said during the year under review, rogue elements of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) conducted a three-week siege of Zamboanga City, killing dozens of soldiers and policemen and displacing thousands of civilians. Also, a number of smaller armed groups in Mindanao conducted bombings, raids and kidnapping for ransom with increased frequency compared to the years before the signing of the peace pact.

DVIDS: AFP, US armed forces continue Tamaoyan Elementary School renovations

From DVIDS (May 2): AFP, US armed forces continue Tamaoyan Elementary School renovations

AFP, US armed forces continue Tamaoyan Elementary School renovations

Philippine Air Force Staff Sgt. Joselito Huarde, left, and U.S. Air Force Senior Airman James McCullough, repair the roof of Tamaoyan Elementary School April 28 in Legazpi City, Albay Province, Philippines. This construction project is a part of Exercise Balikatan, an annual bilateral training exercise and humanitarian assistance engagement between members of the Philippine and U.S. armed forces, focusing on improving interoperability and strengthening the partnership of the two allied countries. Huarde is a carpentry specialist. McCullough is a structural journeyman with 374th Civil Engineer from Yokota, Japan.

LEGAZPI CITY, Philippines – Civil engineers from the Philippine Air Force worked alongside their U.S. Air Force counterparts April 17 – May 14 to renovate Tamaoyan Elementary School classrooms in Legazpi City, Albay Province, Philippines.

The engineering civic assistance program is part of Exercise Balikatan 2014, an annual bilateral training exercise and humanitarian assistance engagement between members of the Philippine and U.S. armed forces, focusing on improving interoperability and strengthening the partnership of the two allied countries.

Being able to work together has been key to making the project successful and efficient, according to U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Luke D. Zimmerman.

“We are making the school function more safely and comfortably,” said Zimmerman, a civil engineer with 374th Civil Engineer from Yokota, Japan. “Our teamwork is making this project run really smooth and fast.”

The ENCAP site provided each nation’s troops the opportunity to learn and share the unique ways each unit works to best complete the joint construction.

“(Nothing will) stop us from continuing our work,” said U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Kory Carpenter, the ENCAP officer in charge. “Because of the ingenuity of the Filipinos working with us, we see things done in different ways than we might have considered that help us accomplish what we set out to do.”

The elementary school renovations are part of the humanitarian civic assistance programs taking place in the Albay Province, which also includes construction at two other schools, a public restroom, and a health center.

“It’s a privilege to be a part of this rewarding experience,” said Carpenter. “Every day I work here, I walk away knowing we accomplished something important.”

DVIDS: AFP, U.S. armed forces continue health center construction

From DVIDS (May 2): AFP, U.S. armed forces continue health center construction

AFP, U.S. armed forces continue health center construction

Philippine Navy Seaman 1st Class Lawrence Segovia, right, and U.S. Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Lawrence Townsend build a wall for Barangay Malobago Health Center April 29 at Guinobatan, Albay Province, Philippines, April 29. The medical center is part of Exercise Balikatan, an annual bilateral training exercise and humanitarian assistance engagement between members of the Philippine and U.S. armed forces that focuses on strengthening the longstanding alliance and improving interoperability. Segovia is a mason and carpenter, and Townsend is a builder. (Photo by U.S. Marine Cpl. Kevin Crist)

GUINOBATAN, Albay Province, Philippines – Members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and U.S. armed forces work together to build the barangay Malobago Health Center April 17 – May 15 in Guinobatan, Albay Province, Philippines.

The construction of the health center is one of the humanitarian civic assistance programs taking place as a part of Exercise Balikatan, an annual bilateral training exercise and humanitarian assistance engagement between members of the Philippine and U.S. armed forces, focusing on improving interoperability and strengthening the partnership of the two allied countries.

As the only medical treatment facility in the area, the Malabago Health Center will serve as the primary care center, and provide preventative and basic medical care for the surrounding community

“When finished, this will be the only medical treatment available within a 45 minute drive from anywhere in the area,” said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Virak Dara, civil engineer. “This medical center will become a landmark in the community.”

Building the medical center has not only provided an opportunity to positively impact the community, but also to strengthen the bond between the Filipino and American service members, according to U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Roberts A. Phelps.

“We are building this medical center from the ground up,” said Phelps, the engineering civic assistance program site noncommissioned officer in charge. “Working with the Philippine military has truly been a bonding experience.”

The joint military civic assistance project allows service members from the Philippines and U.S. to demonstrate the meaning of Balikatan and work “shoulder-to-shoulder.”

“The best part of coming to the Philippines,” said Dara, “has been learning from each other and how we are able to relate through our differences,”

U.S. delegation assists Palawan-based civil relations service in assessment project

From the Philippine News Agency (May 2): U.S. delegation assists Palawan-based civil relations service in assessment project

An American delegation met with representatives from the Palawan-based civil relations service to conduct an assessment project of various units in the province that concluded Tuesday.

Benjamin Hubert, assistant deputy director of the Military Information Support Team (MIST) of the United States, along with various representatives from the Pacific Augmentation Team conducted the assessment project from April 29 to May 2, 2014.

“The guiding purpose behind this assessment project is to establish key partnerships with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)and the country’s security force elements, and determine their operational capabilities, resource deficiencies and future training needs,” Hubert said.

The MIST would specifically establish key partnership with the 6th Civil Relations Group (6CRG), Hubert added.

The American delegation as well as country team members from the Embassy in Manila, traveled to Palawan to meet with their military counterparts and assist in planning to improve civil-military relationships.

“As the lead influence and inform element of the Pacific Augmentation Team, MIST is primarily concerned with learning more about how the 6CRG utilizes messaging and the media to shape perception, counter propaganda and improve civil-military relationships,” he added.

Army Maj. Joseph D. Bugaoan, acting group commander of the 6CRG, said that two of his top priorities are to build capacity in peacekeeping operations and to enhance civil-military relationships.

“The 6CRG aims to gain back the support and loyalty of the people to the government through the conduct of programs and activities designed to win the hearts and minds of the people, and improve civil-military relationships by supporting the civil government and non-government agencies engaged in various activities and projects responsive to the needs of the people,” Bugaoan said.

Cops used gang member to locate Mindanao's most wanted man

From the Philippine News Agency (May 2): Cops used gang member to locate Mindanao's most wanted man

The arrest in April of one of the members of an extortion group led to the arrest of more gang members and one of the most wanted man who bolted and outsmarted government jail officers twice, officials said.

The arrest of Datukan Samad, also known as "Commander Lastikman," and a member of al-Khobar extortion gang, came a month after police agents nabbed Ogie Piang Kimbaw, a member of al-Khobar extortion gang that prey on passenger buses and public transport.

Supt. Rodelio Jocson, Maguindanao police chief, said Kimbaw was a companion of Samad when they bolted the Maguindanao provincial jail in Cotabato City on May 2, 2012.

Samad, who was facing kidnapping, extortion, multiple murder and highway robbery charges, was moved from Kidapawan City jail to Maguindanao where he bolted months later.

While in Kidapawan jail, Samad's followers tried but failed to rescue him. However, three persons were killed, including a Red Cross volunteer giving first aid to wounded civilians, when the attackers fired rocket propelled grenades.

Responding members of the Kidapawan City fire department forced the gunmen to flee toward Barangay Nungan.

Police and military agents believed Samad was a member of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. But the MILF disowned him.

A police intelligence officer said Samad's arrest on Wednesday night at a beer joint in Tacurong City was carried out after Kimbaw provided the police with information on Mindanao's most wanted man.

Before Samad's arrest in Tacurong City, Kimbaw also helped the police in locating Tahir Abubakar, al-Khobar gang member in Buluan, Maguindanao.

Chief Supt. Noel delos Reyes, police director for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), said the arrest of Abubakar was carried out by the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG-ARMM) by virtue of an arrest warrant for murder issued by the Regional Trial Court Branch 11 in Digos City in 2012.

Abubakar who carries a P400,00 for his arrest, accordint to police intelligence officer, was also linked to bombings in Regions 11 and 12, including the bus terminal in Digos City.

Abubakar is now detained at the President Quirino Police Station Detention Facility. He will be moved to Taguig Detention Facility since authorities considered him to be a high profile inmate.

A day after Abubakar was arrested, Commander Lastikman was also cornered at a beer house in Tacurong City.

108 new soldiers sworn in Nueva Ecija

From the Philippine News Agency (May 2): 108 new soldiers sworn in Nueva Ecija

One-hundred eight candidate soldiers have been sworn in as new regular members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

The new privates’ rank insignias were pinned on their uniforms in a simple graduation ceremony held Wednesday at the covered court of the 7th Infantry Division here.

The graduation ceremony was attended by Col. Vicente Yordan, commander of the Philippine Army's 51st Engineering Brigade, Col. Ronald Villanueva, chief of staff, of the 7th Infantry Division and other officers and enlisted personnel of the command.

The soldiers underwent basic military training and engineer combat support operation orientation training that started in October last year.

Private Efren S. Cerino topped the class for earning the highest general average in academic proficiency with a rating of 90.03 percent and Private Roldan G. Lunang obtained the highest general average in physical fitness with a rating of 97.58 percent.

Villanueva congratulated the new graduates and urged them to be loyal and serve to protect and enhance the name of the AFP, particularly the Philippine Army.

He also underscored the role of the new privates as catalysts for peace and development in our country.

The new soldiers will be assigned to the different battalions under 7th Infantry Division to help boost the peace and development efforts.

Army soldiers in Negros seize firearms, ammunition after clash with rebels

From the Philippine News Agency (May 2): Army soldiers in Negros seize firearms, ammunition after clash with rebels

Soldiers of the 11th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army seized guns and ammunition after another encounter with suspected New People’s Army (NPA) rebels in Binalbagan, Negros Occidental Friday morning.

First Lt. Von Ryan Gomez, civil military operations officer of the 11th IB, said the Army soldiers were conducting security patrol operations in Barangay Amontay when the rebels fired upon them, resulting in a 20-minute firefight.

After the rebels fled, the soldiers recovered a .357 caliber revolver with six ammunition, a homemade 12-gauge shotgun with a magazine containing a live ammunition along with a backpack containing subversive documents and personal items.

They also found traces of bloodstains which could mean injuries or casualties among the rebels.

Gomez said no casualty was reported among the government troops.

Friday’s encounter came two days after a squad-size unit of Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit led by Corporal Galapin also clashed with suspected NPA rebels in Sitio Bulabog, Barangay Tanlad, Tayasan, Negros Oriental.

Gomez said the rebels fled towards Sitio Pagatanan and Lantad proper and left behind a caliber .45 pistol with six ammunition.

Lt. Col. Paulito Idul, commander of the 11th IB, said the two recent encounters in Tayasan, Negros Oriental, and Binalbagan, Negros Occidental proved that the rebels are no longer enjoying the support of the people, who even reported their presence to government troops.

Five soldiers wounded in separate encounters with NPAs

From the Philippine News Agency (May 2): Five soldiers wounded in separate encounters with NPAs

Five soldiers were hurt in two separate encounters with government troops and communist rebels

On Thursday (May 1) morning, four soldiers were injured when a landmine exploded at Sitio Bentu-in, Barangay Fatima, Paquibato District, this city.

Military reports from the Eastern Command identified the wounded soldiers as Sgt. James Cabang, PFC Rommel Castillo, PFC Ben Mondero, and PFC Emmanuel Sebastian, all members of the 69th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army operating in Paquibato District.

Reports said that at around 7 a.m., government troops were responding on information regarding the presence of an armed group at the boundary of Paquibato District and Calinan District, this city.

But on their way, the government troops sighted members of the New People's Army (NPA) which resulted in an armed confrontation between the two groups.

The gunfight which lasted at least 20 minutes, also reportedly resulted in a number of casualties on the side of the NPAs but, authorities are still confirming the report.

Meanwhile, another armed encounter between the government troops belonging to the Army’s 27th IB and NPAs also occurred in Maitum, Saranggani Province at around 8:00 a.m. on the same day.

The incident resulted in the wounding of another soldier whose identity has yet to be released as of press time. A member of the NPA was reportedly killed.

The NPAs have not yet issued a statement on these two incidents.

59 new 2nd lieutenants join PA

From the Philippine News Agency (May 2): 59 new 2nd lieutenants join PA

Fifty-nine newly-commissioned second lieutenants from the Officer Candidate Course (OCS) Class 42-2014 officially joined the Philippine Army after their graduation Friday.

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin was the guest of honor and speaker at the graduation ceremonies that took place at Ricarte Hall, Philippine Army Officers Club House, Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City.

Gazmin was joined by Armed Forces of the Philippines chief Gen. Emmanuel T. Bautista and Army commander Lt. Gen. Hernando DCA Iriberri.

The graduating class was composed of 51 male and eight female officers. Topping the class is 2nd Lt. Howell Jason Kirby A. Buhion from Cagayan de Oro City.

After one year of laborious training and discipline, the 59 young and dynamic individuals from Luzon, the Visayas and Mindanao who took their oaths as Candidate Officers in April 2013, now manifest stability under pressure and are fully equipped with the right training, knowledge and skills to become officers of the Philippine Army.

The new second lieutenants will be assigned to the different units of the PA.

In his speech, Gazmin congratulated the young and active lieutenants who shall form part of the dynamic Officer Corps of the PA.

"Today, they had made initial achievement as they join the Armed Forces of the Philippines in serving the people," he added.

Gazmin also commended Brig. Gen. Ivan Samarita, chief of the Training and Doctrine Command, for "maintaining the high academic standard of the premier academic institution of the Philippine Army."

He likewise exhorted the new officers to fulfill their constitutional duties and the social contract with the Filipino people.

Gazmin said they should be faithful to the Constitution and subordinate to the civilian authority.

Meanwhile, in its effort to further equip the Army organization with a pool of able officers and enlisted personnel, the PA continues to develop programs that would strengthen the personnel capability of the organization in furtherance of the Army Transformation Roadmap.

DND to recommend only 2 PHL military bases under EDCA

From the Philippine News Agency (May 2): DND to recommend only 2 PHL military bases under EDCA

Department of National Defense (DND) undersecretary and Philippine panel negotiation chair Pio Lorenzo Batino on Friday announced that they are looking at the possibility of offering only two Philippine military bases for American use under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).

"The direction of the DND and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is to recommend only the usage of only two military bases, (those) agreed locations as defined under the EDCA and we believe these number of locations will already be sufficient to implement the objectives of the EDCA," he said.

"And number two, the direction of the DND and the AFP when identifying the agreed locations would be to limit and delineate only a limited portion or a limited area of the agreed AFP base which would be shared to the US, it will not be the whole AFP base identified as we need that AFP base," Batino pointed out.

The DND official also clarified that they will also study the areas that will be allocated for the EDCA before declaring it for that purpose.

He declined to comment on how many US soldiers will be deployed to camps as these are operational matters.

"These are operational details, (I) can't just talk about troops (as) these are operational details that differ every year depending on activities approved by the AFP and the Pacific Command through the Mutual Defense Board and the Security Board so we cannot (just give) definite numbers of US troops coming in and out our country," Batino added.

Trooper killed, 6 wounded in NPA ambush in Ilocos Sur

From the Philippine News Agency (May 2): Trooper killed, 6 wounded in NPA ambush in Ilocos Sur

A soldier was killed while six of his companions were wounded after 10 New People's Army (NPA) fighters ambushed them in Barangay Malideg, Quirino town, Ilocos Sur on Friday morning.

Major Emmanuel Garcia, 1st Civil Relations Group commander, said that the soldiers were aboard a KM-450 military vehicle heading towards Sitio Cayus, Barangay Remedios, Cervantes town to help in the construction of the one-kilometer road which will connect Sitio Tubtuba to Sitio Panananuman in Tuba, Abra when attacked by NPA fighters around 4:00 a.m.

In the exchange of gunfire, one soldier was killed and six others were wounded while the NPAs are believed to have also sustained an undetermined number of casualties/injuries.

He added that the troops are also helping in the rehabilitation of the Tubtuba Elementary School.

Pursuit operations are ongoing.

PH sets up Nat'l Coast Watch Center to deter intrusions

From Rappler (May 1): PH sets up Nat'l Coast Watch Center to deter intrusions

The Philippines will also set up radar stations. It is looking at areas in Palawan – El Nido, Rizal, and Sabang – as possible stations for the radar system

The Philippines has started constructing the National Coast Watch Center, a command post facility where different government agencies will work together to enhance the country's maritime border security.

US firm Raytheon bagged the contract to build it.

Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) commandant Vice Admiral Rodolfo Isorena said construction started in April and will be completed by 2015.

The Philippines will also set up radar stations and it is in the initial stage of looking for strategic areas. It is looking at areas in Palawan – El Nido, Rizal, and Sabang – as possible stations for the radar system.

“We are proposing 96 nautical miles range [from the radar station toward the sea]. At least it can cover 200 EEZ (exclusive economic zone),” Isorena said.

The project has a budget of P792 million (about $18 million) to include support integration of data from various agencies into the coast watch center, maritime surveillance system, and radio communications.

Isorena said the National Coast Watch Center will help the coast guard monitor entry of foreign vessels and check if they are carrying weapons of mass destruction.