Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Armed men torch construction equipment in Camarines Norte

From ABS-CBN (May 7): Armed men torch construction equipment in Camarines Norte

CAMARINES NORTE -- Four armed men torched a drum carrier and a cement mixer on Tuesday afternoon in Sitio Submakin, Paracale, Camarines Norte, police said on Wednesday.

The suspects also opened more than 100 cement bags and scattered their contents.

Authorities said the equipment and the cement were supposed to be used for a road project in the area.

One of the suspects allegedly told a local resident that the project contractors must pay a "revolutionary tax."

The suspects fled toward Sitio Cabactinan, according to witnesses.

The damage was estimated to be worth around P67,000.

The Philippine Army's 49th Infantry Batallion said the incident was caused by a misunderstanding between the project contractor and workers, and was not related to the communist New People's Army (NPA) rebels.

Military releases live-in partner of arrested CPP-NPA leader

From InterAksyon (May 8): Military releases live-in partner of arrested CPP-NPA leader

Alleged CPP/NPA leader Roy Erecre. PHOTO FROM PNP

The military on Thursday said it has released the live-in partner of communist leader Roy Erecre after the couple was arrested Wednesday in Davao City.

“Judith Jaron-Niog, live-in partner of Roy Erecre, was released after the apprehending officers found no basis to further hold her,” said Capt. Alberto Caber, spokesman of the Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom).

Agents of the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP) and the police’s Criminal Investigation and Detection group (CIDG) nabbed the duo allegedly while on island-hopping trip around 11 a.m. on Wednesday.

Caber said Erecre, alias Toto/Pasyong, is secretary general of the Central Visayas Regional Committee of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA).

He said Erecre was arrested by virtue of a warrant of arrest issued by a court. He did not elaborate.

Erecre was brought to the headquarters of the Armed Forces’ Central Command (Cencom) in Cebu City.

Based on the list provided by Caber, confiscated from Erecre were P352,000 cash, Nokia cellular phone, 16GB flash drive USB, and assorted documents and receipts.

Erecre’s arrest followed the arrest of other high-ranking leaders of the CPP-NPA.

Earlier arrests

On May 5, Lt. Col. Lloyd Cabacungan, spokesman of the Southern Luzon Command (Solcom), said his unit arrested Sandy Malaca alias Jamay/Injil/Arjin in Barangay Pinagbuhatan, Pasig City.

He said Malaca is a member of the Sentro de Grabidad, Komiteng Larangang Guerrilla 77, Komiteng Probinsiya, Albay.

Cabacungan said Malaca has an arrest warrant for murder issued by a court in San Jose, Camarines Sur.

Last Friday, the military said it arrested Felix Armodia alias Jing/Jade, CPP-NPA Front Committee secretary operating in in Davao del Sur, South Cotabato, and in Tulunan, North Cotabato.

Armodia was nabbed at his safe house in Tampakan, South Cotabato.
Just recently, CPP-NPA leaders Benito and Wilma Tiamzon, along with five other suspected ranking rebel leaders, were arrested in Aloguinsan, Cebu. They are currently detained at the Custodial Center of Camp Crame, the national headquarters of the Philippine National Police (PNP) in Quezon City.

This was followed by the arrest of eight-month pregnant Andrea Rosal and her male companion in Caloocan City. Rosal is the daughter of the late NPA spokesman Gregorio Rosal alias Ka Roger.

Opinion: Rido and the Annex on Normalization

Opinion piece in the Sun Star-Davao (May 6): Rido and the Annex on Normalization

IN RECENT years, there has been an increase in case studies in the issue of "rido" and management of "rido" in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. Several recommendations for further studies were suggested by the academe and civil society organizations in order to address the violence and conflict in Muslim communities. However, while there have been studies, "rido" has continuously happening and the challenge on the process of Normalization as identified by both peace panels, Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, for the Bangsamoro political entity is a reality that our communities has to address.

The OPAPP's primer tells us that "the Annex on the Normalization is one of the four (4) Annexes that provide details to the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB). It is a process through which communities affected by the decades-long armed conflict in Mindanao can return to peaceful life and pursue sustainable livelihoods free from fear of violence and crime. It also involves the redress of unresolved legitimate grievances and the rehabilitation of conflict affected areas". Thus, it also aim to address the conflict caused by "rido".

The Asia Foundation (TAF) recently just launched their expanded version of their book entitled Rido: Clan Feuding and Conflict Management in Mindanao. This book explains the nature, causes, effects, and management of rido in Mindanao. The TAF study was based on a survey that was undertaken in 2002 where the data showed that clan conflict is more prevalent in Central Mindanao. TAF also stated that "rido interacts with other forms of conflict, notably separatist insurgencies, and thus managing those conflict more intractable." (TAF, 2007)

Rido means feuding or clan conflicts. Dr. Steven Rood of TAF wrote that "feuds between clans are known throughout history - Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet is a tragedy, after all, because the two lovers come from different families".

The study on rido by TAF "mapped the incidence of clan conflicts in Mindanao and conducted in-depth investigations into the root causes of the conflicts, the parties involved, the conditions for their escalation and recurrence, the relationship to other forms of conflict, and the potential for conflict resolution.

My recollection and idea about "rido" started since I was a young boy in my grade school. One night, my uncle (my dad's first cousin) arrived in our home in Cotabato City informing my dad that his brother was gunned down in one of the restaurants at town area. With no much discussions, dad and his cousin drove to Parang and called for a family meeting. While the family of my uncle was mourning and arranging the Islamic burial rites, the Lidasans' male were arming themselves and conducted a private investigation. My uncle was murdered by a hired killer due to maratabat issues. I was too young back then and I was not part of the whole process of managing the rido, but I heard from my mom that justice was served. After few years had passed, my mom told me that "nakasaup tanu den" (your family was able to do justice of your uncle's death).

The death of my uncle was not the only case of rido that my clan ever experienced. On both sides, Lidasans and Sinsuats, I had very close relatives who were killed because of rido due to maratabat (approximate the concepts of honor, self-esteem, and prestige but is sometimes equated to lineage or social status in the community (TAF, 2007), politics, business rivalries, petty disagreements, and even because of land conflict between two siblings. Even as early as 1950s, prominent Cotabato political families once had a rido with our clans. And even during the era of the Sultanates of our ancestors, rido has been one of the main causes that our communities and families were divided.

It is a given fact that feuding and revenge killings are common to many societies throughout human history. Local gang and frat wars experienced this day in and day out. The question I would like to answer is that, "in areas where government or a central authority is weak and in areas where there is a perceived lack of justice and security, can we really address "rido"?

Based on the way our indigenous practices handled rido, even without the help of the national government, we were able to address this problem. We have systems and protocols of managing and addressing rido. It is not through the usual courts systems as introduced by our state.

The Bangsamoro political entity will be tested in the days to come. How will the MILF decommission their Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF)? Will the traditional and political warlords "decommission" their private armies in the guise of CVOs and CAFGUs or as blue guards?

We are not naive of these realities. We recognized them and our communities have ways of addressing rido in our own ways. How do we balance cultural and religious practices or the "adat betad" with that of the State law?
The book Rido of TAF recommends that we need to recognize, enhance, and support the development of mixed or hybrid institutions or systems composed of formal and informal structures that our communities are utilizing when handling and managing conflicts. I agree with this idea.
Thus, the success of the Bangsamoro, especially in terms of the Normalization, requires not only a military solution of disarming the armed groups but also to allow the community recognize and utilize indigenous ways of addressing rido and conflict through active non violence.

Gunmen fluent in Malay, says farm worker

From the Star Online (May 8): Gunmen fluent in Malay, says farm worker

LAHAD DATU: The group of men who kidnapped Wonderful Terrace fish farm manager Yang Zai Lin is said to be fluent in Bahasa Malaysia.

A worker at the farm on Pulau Baik, some 18km from Lahad Datu town, said the five kidnappers had initially spoken in Bajau.

“One of my colleagues who first encountered the men told me they spoke Malay with him,” the 22-year-old, who only wanted to be known as Nus, said yesterday.

“They could understand each other very well when the abductors enquired about the location of our boss’ room,” he added.
The gunmen’s main target is believed to be the Hong Kong-based owner who had left on Monday night, hours before the raid, after a four-day stay at the farm.

Nus also said that Yang was a good man and manager, and hoped that he would be released as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, a Kuching-based Chinese consulate official was also here to visit the farm house to better understand the situation while meeting with police in the area.

Officials get reports that Chinese national has been taken to Jolo

From the Star Online (May 8): Officials get reports that Chinese national has been taken to Jolo

LAHAD DATU: Police have called off an intensive search for kidnapped farm manager Yang Zai Lin as they believe he has been taken into a notorious Abu Sayyaf stronghold at Jolo Island in southern Philippines.

Philippines officials are indicating that the group that abducted him could have entered Jolo Island late on Tuesday as an intensive search along the Tawi Tawi chain of islands straddling Sabah sea borders failed to make any sighting of the abductors or their speedboat.

Tawi Tawi police chief Col Joey Salido said they called off the air and sea hunt for the suspects after they received reports that the gunmen had entered the Sulu province.

Upon being informed by Malaysian authorities on Tuesday morning, the navy, coastguards and police launched a hunt for the gunmen but no sightings were made.

“I was informed by the Naval Task Force 62 commander that the gunmen had entered the Sulu area so we called off the operations,” said Col Salido, explaining that helicopters were sent towards the border islands of Sibutu and Panglima Sagula to conduct searches.

The Sulu officials said they had yet to receive information on the whereabouts of the gunmen and Yang.

Five gunmen sneaked into the Wonderful Terrace Sdn Fish Farm, owned by the Hong Kong-based businessman in a 40HP speedboat before grabbing Yang. They let off the farm’s security guard with a slap at about 2.45am on Tuesday.

They gunmen switched to a higher-powered speedboat before a brief firefight with pursuing Malaysian security forces. However, they managed to slip into Sibutu before escaping at about 6.20am.

The Tawi Tawi-based gangs with spotters among the coastal villagers usually hand over abducted victims to splinter Abu Sayyaf groups.

Meanwhile, reports quoting Mindanao State University professor Octavio Dinampo, a social worker, said an extremist Abu Sayyaf group under Redullan Sahiron was holding tourist Gao Huayun, 29, and resort worker Marcy Dayawan, 40, who were snatched by gunmen from the Singamata Reef Resort in Semporna on April 2.

He claimed the two were in Bud Taran in Talipao village in Jolo together with Germans Dr Stefan Viktor Okonek, 72, and Henrite Dielen, 42, abducted from their yacht in waters around the southern Philippines island of Palawan close to Sabah’s northern Kudat district.

Is the hand of Misuari behind spate of kidnappings?

From the Star Online (May 8): Is the hand of Misuari behind spate of kidnappings?

LAHAD DATU: Former Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) chairman Nur Misuari (pic) is thought to be the unseen hand behind the spate of kidnappings in Sabah’s east coast.

His motives range from him needing money to flee the Philippines to taking revenge on Kuala Lumpur for handing him back to Manila after he fled to Sabah in 2001 following a failed rebellion.

Officials on both sides of the Malaysia-Philippines border are not ruling out the possibility that the 72-year-old ex-Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao governor, now a fugitive, has had a hand in the kidnappings carried out by former members of MNLF.

“There is a possibility that Misuari is behind it. They are challenging the defences. They seem to be targeting only Chinese nationals.
“Is it a retaliation to sour KL-Beijing ties?” an official asked when trying to assess a bigger agenda.

Although they admitted that Sabah was a soft and lucrative target for kidnap-for-ransom groups based in southern Philippines, Misuari or his men could be working with them.

Former MNLF members, they explained, were part of the Sulu armed intrusion of Kg Tanduo in Lahad Datu last year and were alleged to have been involved in three recent kidnappings.

Misuari – believed to be hiding in the mountainous Patikul village in Jolo Island after his failed siege on Zamboanga City in September 2013 – has many times threatened to take revenge against Malaysia.

Officials see the possibility of Misuari working through his loyal former MNLF members in Sabah with kidnap gangs and using existing Abu Sayyaf splinter groups in Jolo to negotiate ransom.

Many of Misuari’s ex-members –said to be living in Sabah coastal villages – were not happy with the recent Bangsa Moro peace deal between Manila and Moro Islamic Liberation Front brokered by Malaysia.

Tiamzons tell Quezon City court to drop abduction cases

From the Manila Standard Today (May 7): Tiamzons tell Quezon City court to drop abduction cases

Benito Tiamzon and wife Wilma, alleged leaders of the Communist Party of the Philippines, on Tuesday asked the Quezon City Regional Trial Court to dismiss the charges of abduction with serious illegal detention filed against them.

In a 19-page omnibus motion, the couple through the Public Interest Law Center and National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, also asked Branch 81 Judge Madonna Echeverri to set aside their April 8 arraignment, saying the proceeding was invalid.

The Tiamzons said the charges must be deemed “absorbed” in the rebellion case that was dismissed by the Supreme Court on June 1, 2007, citing the alleged incidents were in furtherance of rebellion.

They were accused of abducting Lieutenants Clarito Santos, Oscar Singson, Rommel Salamanca and Abraham Casis on May 1, 1988 in Barangay Taguan, Candelaria, Quezon and Sergeant John Jacob ofthe Narcotics Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines on June 1, 1988 in Mauban, Quezon.

“The abduction was politically motivated. As the political purpose alleged in the information in these cases is clear, the present cases must be absorbed in the rebellion case pursuant to the Hernandez doctrine,” their motion read.

Tiamzon counsels further said the alleged kidnapping with serious illegal detention cases must be considered common crimes, but instead be absorbed in rebellion case.

“The separate prosecution of the cases must no longer be allowed. They should be deemed to have been terminated with the dismissal of the rebellion case in Makati by the SC, of which they are mere ingredients,” the motion said.

The couple invoked 1987 Constitution citing “no person shall be held to answer for a criminal offense without due process of law” under Section 14 of Article 14.

“The accused were informed of such arraignment late afternoon of April 7,” the omnibus motion said. “Although they were able to communicate to their counsel and informed them about the setting, there was no sufficient time for the counsel and their clients to confer,” the omnibus motion stated.

Echeverri gave the prosecution 10 days to file a comment on the motion.

MILF: Mindanao Alliance for Peace holds rally in Isabela City for early passage of BBL

From the MILF Website (May 8): Mindanao Alliance for Peace holds rally in Isabela City for early passage of BBL

Efforts of Isabela City Mayor Cherrylyn Santos preventing the Moros in Basilan from holding a peaceful rally were in vain as more than ten thousand local residents Moros and settlers alike courageously gathered and conducted the activity on May 4, 2014 at the Basilan State College Compound, Isabela City.
The rally was spearheaded by the Mindanao Alliance for Peace (MAP) and local coalition of CSO’s, PO’s and NGO’s. The participants came from Sumisip, Tipo-Tipo, Albarka, Tuburan, Muhammad Ajul, Akbar municipalities and Lamitan City. The brave and determined Moros were escorted by members of the Philippine Army from their assembly area to the college campus.

One of the participants, Sitti Mariam, a resident of the city was furiously angry on Mayor Santos for refusing the conduct of the peaceful gathering in the city. She said that their rights to peacefully assemble and expression were being curtailed by Mayor Santos. She continued saying that the mayor is dividing her constituents along ethnic lines in furtherance of her political interest in Isabela City.

Despite the putting-up of checkpoints at all entry points to the city, the participants being escorted by army troopers bravely entered the city proper as members of the city police failed to stop them. One youth participant Yusuf Agpi talked to this writer saying “what kind of democracy do we have? We are being denied to gather and convey to the Philippine Congress our appeal for the speedy passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) without alterations or changes as drafted by the Bangsamoro Transition Commision (BTC).

Dr. Nasser A. Salain, College President of the state college warmly welcomed the participants and their guests saying that, “The purpose of our gathering today is to appeal to the two chambers to deliberate and enact the BBL because BTA is just one year from now”.

Streamers and placards dominated the venue with one saying, “Congress Love our children, pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law”.

Oscar Pamaran, one of the speakers from LGU of Lamitan City asked “Congress please act and pass the BBL because we the Moros and peace loving Filipinos are tired of conflict that ravaged our communities in Mindanao Region and the island provinces for more than 42 years”. The people of Mindanao had been deprived of development”.

Ms. Hajar Muarip from an NGO said “Kami po ay umaapela sa kongreso na madaliin ang pagtalakay sa BBL at ipasa na eto upang sa ganon makamtan na po namin ang kapayapaan lalo na sa Bangsamoro sapagkat apektado kami pati mga anak namin” (We appeal to congress to fast tract the deliberations on the BBL and pass it soonest possible time so that we can ultimately attain peace especially in Bangsamoro. We are so affected including our children)

In her message, Ms. Nuora Iklaman representing the women sector said “Hinihiling po naming sa ating mga kagalang-galang na miyembro ng Kongreso na ipasa na po ang BBL pagkat ito na lang po ang ating inaasahang daan na magbibigay ng tunay na kasagutan sa ating dekadekadang problema hindi lang para sa amin kundi para sa kapakanan ng aming mga anak at ng susunod pang mga henerasyon”(We asked our honorable lawmakers in the House of Representatives and Senate to pass the BBL because this is the only path towards ending the decades-old problem not just for us but also for the sake of our children and the generations to come).

When some speakers recalled and mentioned the oppressions committed against the Bangsamoro many if not all were so emotional and chanted Allahu Akbar, Allahu akbar, Allahu Akbar (Allah is Greatest). The program ended at 3PM.

MILF: Tawi-Tawi residents join “walk-for-peace” in Bongao

From the MILF Website (May 8): Tawi-Tawi residents join “walk-for-peace” in Bongao

People of Tawi-Tawi representing various ethnic groups but mostly from the Sama tribes; MILF members and supporters staged a “Walk-for-Peace” on May 4 at the DepEd Compound, Poblacion Bongao, Tawi-Tawi.

The participants comprising more than three (3) thousand people paraded around downtown and called for the early passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) by the Philippine Congress.

The activity was highlighted by a simple programme with speakers emphasizing the significance of the walk-for-peace in support to the call of various sectors in Mindanao for Congress to deliberate and enact the BBL as soon as possible.

The walk-for-peace was simultaneously held with peace rallies of the same purpose held in various cities and towns in Mindanao. Similar rally was also held at the vicinity of Batasan Complex in Quezon City where the House of Representatives building is located.“walk-for-peace”-in-bongao

MILF: JICA officials pay courtesy call to MILF Chairman; share new activities for the Bangsamoro

From the MILF Website (May 7): JICA officials pay courtesy call to MILF Chairman; share new activities for the Bangsamoro

Last April 22, 2014, the JICA Officials headed by Mr. Naoyuki Ochiai, Senior Advisor for Peace Building of the Economic Infrastructure Department of JICA Headquarters, visited Camp Darapanan in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao for a courtesy call to Chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim and other members of the Central Committee namely, 1st Vice Chairman Ghazali Jaafar, Chief Of Staff, BIAF, Sammy Al Mansoor, Secretary to the Chairman Mr. Muhammad Ameen, General Staff Spiritual Adviser (Morsheed) Ustadz Abdulkadir Abdullah and General Staff Administrative Officer Mr. Toks Ebrahim welcomed the JICA Mission.
Mr. Ochiai updated Chairman Murad and the members of the MILF Central Committee on the recently concluded Signing of the Memorandum of Understanding for the Quick Impact Projects between the Bangsamoro Transition Commission and Bangsamoro Development Agency in JICA Philippine Office last April 21, 2014. This QIP Project will be implemented under the Comprehensive Capacity Development Project for Bangsamoro where BTC will be the over-all supervisor and BDA will be in-charge of social preparation of the selected communities.

JICA will also hold the 6th Consolidation for Peace in Hiroshima, Japan in furthering its support to the Bangsamoro in which key officials of the MILF, Government of the Philippines, sectors of women, academe, religious, media and civil society will be invited.

These updates from the JICA Mission were appreciated by the MILF Officials and expressed their gratitude to the Japanese government and people for their continuing support to the Bangsamoro.

Mr. Juro Chikaraishi, the Senior Advisor for Peace and Development based in JICA Philippine Office, reiterates the continuous support of the Government of Japan to the Bangsamoro towards the establishment of the new political entity and further to the Bangsamoro Autonomous Government.

Mr. Ochiai was joined by his colleagues from JICA Headquarters Dr. Sachiko Ishikawa, also a Senior Advisor for Peacebuilding, from JICA Philippine Office, Mr. Juro Chikaraishi, from JICA Cotabato Project Office, Mr. Shu Nishimaru and Field Coordinator Ms. Samrah Karon, and also the only Japanese member to the International Monitoring Team – Mindanao 9 Mr. Takayuki Nakagawa in this courtesy call to MILF.

MILF: Thousands of Suluans join peace rally

From the MILF Website (May 6): Thousands of Suluans join peace rally

Approximately five thousand people joined a peace rally on May 4 at Plaza Marina, Barangay Port Area, Jolo, Sulu. The participants came from the islands of Siasi, Pangutaran, Pandami, Pata, Lugus, Panglima Tahil, and as far as Tongkil and mainland Sulu and were clamoring for the early passage by Congress of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).
Sulu is known to be the bastion of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) but the so- called “390 MNLF members” also participated in the rally. PAZAMBASULTA, a group of Suluans and other ethnic tribes of the island provinces co-organized the rally.

A Council of Imams (Religious leaders) represented by Tuan Arsaid also supported the peace gathering. He said that, “we are gathered here in support to the BBL and the Council of Imams are very supportive to the BBL”. The Council believes that the signed peace agreement between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) could bring back the so called “PEACE TIME” in the province of Sulu. He quoted a verse from the Holy Qur’an about “peace”.

Father Villanueva, a representative from the Christian sector said, “We would like to know the Bangsamoro Basic Law”.

The rally was also supported by group of Tausog women headed by Sitti Ruaid Ismi. She said “The women are the most affected when there is war that is why we support peace”. She also asked Congress not to delay the deliberations and enactment of the BBL. “This is not just for Muslim but also for our Christian brothers and sisters.

The organizers said “We are one in calling His Excellency President Benigno Aquino III to resolve Mindanao problem.”

The rally at Jolo was simultaneously held with similar rallies in different parts of Mindanao and another one at the Batasan Complex on May 5.

Ranking NPA leader arrested

From the Visayan Daily Star (May 8): Ranking NPA leader arrested

An elusive leader of the Komiteng Rehiyonal Sentral Bisayas of the New People’s Army was arrested in Davao City at around 11:15 a.m. yesterday.

Erecre, alleged KR-SB secretary, was nabbed by combined elements of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group of the Philippine National Police, and members of the Davao City Police Station, under the supervision of the Eastern Mindanao Command and the Central Command of the AFP.

Roy Erecre, “alias Toto and Pasyong”, was arrested by virtue of warrants of arrest for robbery-in-band and frustrated murder charges near the Doña Vicenta Subdivision in Barangay Bajada, Davao City, a police report said.

The warrant for the robbery-in-band complaint, under Criminal Case No. 2116, was issued by Judge Felina Digal-Vano of the 15th Municipal Circuit Trial Court in Bilar Bohol, with no bail recommended.

The frustrated murder charge, in Criminal Case No. 14-010-g, was issued by Judge Kathrine Go of Branch 49, 6th Regional Trial Court in San Carlos City, Negros Occidental, with bail set at P200,000.

Erecre’s arrest was announced by Maj. Gen. John Bonafos, commander of the CentCom based in Cebu City, at yesterday’s declaration of Negros Oriental as conflict manageable and development ready province, with the reduction of the insurgency problem to a minimal level.

Also brought in for questioning was Erecre’s alleged live-in partner, Judith Jaron-Niog, “alias Gila”, alleged secretary of the Communications Bureau of the KR-SB.

Military sources said Erecre has been involved in several raids and ambuscades of PNP stations and military units and personnel in the Central Visayas.

These include the June 11, 1999 raid of the headquarters of the PNP Regional Mobile Group, Combat Support Company, and the ambush that led to the death of Lt. Que and Lt. Bungaos in Carmen, Bohol, in 1999, a military report said.

Erecre and Jaron-Niog are now in the custody of the CIDG Region 11.
Bonafos said the arrest of Erecre is timely, with the declaration of Negros Oriental as “conflict manageable and development ready”.

“We can truly show to the public that the organizational structure of the KRSB is already dismantled with the arrest of its highest ranking official,” Bonafos said.

He assured that military and police personnel will take the necessary measures to secure Erecre, a “high profile” person, if he is transferred to Bohol, or wherever he is facing criminal charges.

Meanwhile, Senior Supt. Rey Lyndon Lawas, chief of the PNP Regional Investigation and Detective Management Division, said records at the PNP Regional Office 7 show that Erecre also has standing warrants of arrest for various cases in Negros Oriental and other parts of the Central Visayas.

The cases include mostly rebellion charges and those related to the insurgency movement, Lawas said.

DND chief assures support

From the Visayan Daily Star (May 8): DND chief assures support
to rid NegOr of insurgents

National Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin led the signing of the declaration of Negros Oriental as “conflict manageable and development-ready province”, at the Negros Oriental Convention Center in Dumaguete City yesterday, a government press release said.

The activity is seen as a first step for the Armed Forces of the Philippines to take a supporting role, with the provincial and local government units and the Philippine National Police taking the lead in the anti-insurgency campaign.

Gazmin, who was joined by AFP, PNP, and LGU officials, called the achievement a victory of the "bayanihan" spirit for lasting peace in the country.

He assured the support of the national government to guarantee the sustainability of the status until Negros Oriental is declared insurgency-free.

Army officials in the province explained that the declaration means that the insurgency problem has been reduced to an insignificant level in Negros Oriental, with members of the New People’s Army, the armed component of the National Democratic Front/Communist Party of the Philippines, already dwindling.

Gazmin said the declaration is an accomplishment of the concerted efforts of the AFP, PNP, civil society groups, local governments and all other stakeholders, who contributed in achieving lasting peace.

Gazmin called the signing “historic,” and a reflection of the unity of the civil and military authorities in addressing insurgency in the province.

The military claimed that Negros Oriental is the only province in the Central Visayas that is still insurgency-affected. Cebu, Bohol and Siquijor have already been cleared of the problem.

The police, through its Regional Public Safety Battalion, will be deployed in areas already cleared of the insurgency, while Army troops will cover those still affected.

Present at the signing were Negros Oriental Gov. Roel Degamo, Bohol Gov. Edgardo Chatto, chairman of the Regional Peace and Order Council, AFP and PNP officials, Diocese of Dumaguete Bishop Julito Cortes, at least 10 mayors, led by Amlan Mayor Bentham dela Cruz, head of the provincial League of Mayors, rebel returnees, and representatives from various government agencies, non-government organizations, civil society and the private sector.

US voices concern on Chinese poachers in West Philippine Sea

Posted to the Philippine Star (May 8): US voices concern on Chinese poachers in West Philippine Sea

The United States expressed concern over the latest maritime incident in the disputed West Philippine Sea which involved Chinese fishing vessels carrying endangered marine wildlife.

In a press briefing, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said they have seen reports that Philippine police have seized Chinese and Filipino fishing boats carrying illegally harvested sea turtles near Half Moon Shoal, an area very close to Palawan and locally known as Hasa-Hasa shoal.

"Given the United States works with the international community to combat wildlife trafficking, we are concerned that the vessels appear to be engaged in direct harvest of endangered species of sea turtles," Psaki said.

The American official, however, refused to weigh in beyond the environmental issue of the recent incident.

She urged China and the Philippines to "work together diplomatically" to resolve the matter.

The Philippines said Wednesday authorities seized a Chinese fishing boat with 11 crewmembers and carrying more or less 500 turtles and a local vessel more or less 40 turtles.

Philippine maritime police Chief Superintendent Noel Vargas said the Chinese and Filipino fishermen will face charges of violating Philippine laws prohibiting catches of endangered sea turtles.

The Department of Foreign Affairs said authorities seized the fishing boat and arrested its crew to enforce maritime laws and to uphold sovereign rights over the country's exclusive economic zone.

"Relevant authorities in Palawan will address the case in a just, humane and expeditious manner," the DFA said in a statement.

China, which earlier said via state media that officials lost contact with the 11 fishermen, demanded the immediate release of the Chinese boat and its crew.

Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying said the Chinese Embassy in the Philippines have lodged representations with the Philippine side.

She said China has "indisputable sovereignty over the contested shoal, which is claimed by the Asian giant as part of the Nansha island chain, known internationally as the Spratly Islands.

China lays claim to virtually the entire South China Sea and is locked in an increasingly heated dispute with the Philippines and other nations in the region.

Hua warned the Philippines against taking any "further provocative action."

WATCH: Several hurt as China rams vessels in disputed sea

Posted to the Philippine Star (May 8): WATCH: Several hurt as China rams vessels in disputed sea

In a video released by Vietnam's Ministry of Defense on Wednesday, Chinese ships backed by helicopters are seen ramming Vietnamese vessels trying to prevent China from putting up an oil rig in disputed waters of South China Sea near the Paracel Islands.

Ngo Ngoc Thu, vice commander of the High Command of Vietnam Marine Police, said the footage was provided by Vietnamese fisheries surveillance force showing one of the two incidents this week when Chinese maritime authorities rammed, hit or used water cannons to deter several Vietnamese vessels.

The video was posted on YouTube as taped from a press conference led by Thu, whose comments are subtitled on the video.


[Video: Chinese ships ram Vietnamese vessels in latest oil rig row]

"It can be clearly seen that the cannons on the Chinese ship was uncovered and ready for using at any time," Thu remarked.

Windows of the Vietnamese vessels were also smashed, injuring Vietnamese crew members.

Thu said that China Marine Police still hit a Vietnamese vessel after it turned around and sped up to avoid a confrontation.

Also read: China begins drilling for oil in disputed Sea; Vietnam protests

Military exec says Abu Sayyaf members hiding in Zambo

From the Philippine Star (May 7): Military exec says Abu Sayyaf members hiding in Zambo

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines - Security officials believe several Abu Sayyaf members have been hiding in this city following the twin arrest of two suspects last Saturday in separate hunt operations by police and militant intelligence units.

Col. Andrelino Colina, commander of the anti-terror military unit Task Force Zamboanga (TFZ), identified the arrested suspects as Haridjan Mussali Jinny alias Kim and Jumadil Jamran Usman alias Ondil, who were tagged to be involved in the kidnapping of six members if Jehovah’s Witness in 2002 in Patikul town, Sulu.

Jinny was arrested Saturday afternoon while on duty as a security guard in a store in Mercado Street in the old public market,  while Usman was nabbed the following day along the highway in Barangay Sinunuc, west of this city, according to Colina.

Both arrested suspects, while claiming innocence, have been placed under tactical interrogation as they were facing standing warrants of arrest issued by the court in connection with the kidnapping of the six Jehovah’s Witness members almost 12 years ago.

Colina said the suspects have escaped the continuous military operations in Sulu  by  disguising as residents of this city.

“Some of the suspects were just hiding here believing the operations are focused in the islands of Basilan and Sulu,” Colina told newsmen.

The military official said intelligence monitoring has been stepped up  to hunt the suspects who are still believed to be hiding in this city.

BIFF attacks Army detachments in Maguindanao

From the Philippine Star (May 8): BIFF attacks Army detachments in Maguindanao

MAGUINDANAO, Philippines -- Members of the outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) simultaneously attacked Thursday dawn Army positions along a national highway in the second district of the province, the military said.

The BIFF bandits, led by Samad Simpal, Kadaffy Abdulatip and a certain Bungos, first fired assault rifles and anti-tank rockets on the roadside detachment of the Army’s 45th Infantry Battalion in Barangay Meta in Datu Saudi, and at nearby military installations, provoking firefights.

Another group had also shelled thrice with shoulder-fire grenades the old provincial capitol compound at Shariff Aguak town, which is being used as a command base of the 1st Mechanized Brigade.

There were no reports of casualties, but the attacks triggered panic among local folks.

The bandits fled to nearby hinterlands after the soldiers returned fire with caliber .50 machineguns and 40 MM grenade projectiles.

The attacks prompted the Army’s 6th Infantry Division to tighten security in the surroundings of the affected towns to prevent a repeat of the group’s dawn incursion.

The Maguindanao provincial police had also deployed more policemen in areas vulnerable to BIFF attacks, according to Senior Supt. Rudelio Jocson, the police director of the province.

The flow of traffic on portions of the Cotabato-Gen. Santos Highway that cuts through Shariff Aguak and Datu Unsay remained normal, but under heavy guard by soldiers positioned at strategic hills overlooking the thoroughfare.

The BIFF, led by Saudi-trained cleric Ameril Ombra Kato, does not recognize the July 1997 Agreement on General Cessation of Hostilities between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

Kato, feared for his terror activities, began as chief of the MILF’s 105th Base Command, but got  booted out in 2010  due to insubordination and irreconcilable differences with his superiors and, subsequently, launched the BIFF.

Police deploy agents to search for missing German couple

From the Philippine Star (May 8): Police deploy agents to search for missing German couple

Police intelligence units have been mobilized around Sulu province to verify reports that two German nationals kidnapped late April between high sees of Malaysia and Palawan are in the southern province.

A police official privy to the operation said thata technical working group (TWG) composed of local leaders and police intelligence operatives have been working on the ground, searching for the possible presence of Stefan Viktor Okonek, 71, and her female companion, Herike Diesen, 55.

“There is physical movement of the technical body and our police unit there to verify the possible presence of the victims (Germans),” said the police official, who asked not to be named.

The police source said the operations were launched after they received reports of the German couple's possible presence in the province.

He said they are also tracing the whereabouts of Chinese kidnap victim Gao Huayuan and Filipina Mercelita Dayawan and other local victims, who are believed to be held by the dreaded Abu Sayyaf Group.

Gao, and Dayawan were seized from the Singhmata Resort off Semporna, Malaysia and brought to Sulu by the Abu Sayyaf gunmen.

Munitions in fire-hit armory used for teaching, no danger to public, says Army official

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (May 8): Munitions in fire-hit armory used for teaching, no danger to public, says Army official

Lieutenant Colonel Noel Detoyato. RYAN LEAGOGO/
The ammunition housed in a storage facility of the Philippine Army at Fort Bonifacio in Taguig City razed by fire Wednesday were “instructional materials” only and did not endanger the public, a spokesman said Thursday.

In a television interview, Lieutenant Colonel Noel Detoyato said the bulk of the munitions were stored in a facility outside of the city. Those that were inside the fire-hit building were used for teaching.

Detoyato’s assurance came less than 24 hours after the Army spokesman himself and fire officials said that the armory that burned down earlier on Wednesday wasn’t built adequately to hold ammunition.

The fire caused a series of explosions that injured 25 people. As of Wednesday night, members of the Explosive Ordnance Division (EOD) were clearing the scene of the fire of undetonated explosive devices.

Tejada said, however, that most of these were “live bullets” that may have scattered around the area following the blasts from munitions hit by fire as it spread through the armory.

Tejada said the road leading to the facility would remain closed and a certain distance would be observed until the area is declared safe.

As of posting time, investigation into the cause of the fire is ongoing.

Soliman slams NPA’s use of children as shields

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (May 8): Soliman slams NPA’s use of children as shields

Social Welfare Secretary Dinky Soliman on Wednesday condemned the use of children as human shields by the communist New People’s Army (NPA) as the latter retreated from an encounter with the military in Compostela Valley late last month.

In a statement following the release of the young hostages late Tuesday, Soliman said the NPA should respect civilians, particularly children, as they are noncombatants.

“We strongly condemn this act of using civilians, most especially innocent children, as human shields. This is a clear and grave violation of human rights and international humanitarian law,” she said.

She said the four children were still suffering from trauma despite being released on Tuesday night.

On April 14, after intense fighting between government troops and NPA guerillas in Maco, Compostela Valley, the communist rebels reportedly fled, taking with them 39 residents, including two women and four children, of Maragusan, Compostela Valley, to use as human shields.

Soliman said the government has been consistent in showing its sincerity and proving its openness to dialogue with different groups to achieve peace.

“And yet, there are those who continue to resort to violence and inhumane ways to further their personal agenda, jeopardizing the lives of innocent people,” she said.

Gov’t, MILF panels back in Malaysia to form Int’l Decommissioning Body

From the Daily Tribune (May 7): Gov’t, MILF panels back in Malaysia to form Int’l Decommissioning Body

Government chief negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer said the government of the Philippines (GRP) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) peace panels returned to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia following a discussion on the composition of the different bodies that will oversee and implement the normalization process.

Coronel-Ferrer said that the International Decommissioning Body (IDB) would take the lead in the gradual process of decommissioning of MILF forces and weapons.

The creation of the IDB was part on the Annex on Normalization, a part of the Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro (CAB).

The IDB shall be composed of three foreign experts, including the chairperson, and four local experts jointly nominated by the parties. The parties would also invite three states to provide the foreign experts.

“The IDB would be the one to supervise, oversee and basically implement the decommissioning process,” Coronel-Ferrer said.

She said the procedure is for the MILF to submit a list of weapons and combatants, an inventory after which, the IDB will verify the list and work toward the programming of the decommissioning schedule as agreed upon in the Annex on Normalization.

“We really have to put up the body as soon as possible so that the job of verification of the inventory that would be submitted by the MILF will begin. And everything proceeds from there,” Coronel-Ferrer said.

The chief negotiator said that until they were able to verify the number of weapons, the kinds of weapons and also the combatants who and where they were located, they cannot actually begin the socio-economic programs.

“There will be no wholesale integration of the forces of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front into the Armed Forces of the Philippines nor the Philippine National Police (PNP) similar to the integration of the Moro National Liberation Front undertaken during the Ramos administration,” she said.

There is a provision for the setting up of the police force for the Bangsamoro, which will still be part of the PNP, and it will be significantly provided with resources to guarantee its professionalism and capability to take charge of peace and order concerns, Coronel-Ferrer added.

Based on the Annex on Normalization, the decommissioning of MILF forces should be parallel and commensurate to the implementation of all the agreements of the parties.

Military probes new abduction in Sabah

From the Business World (May 7): Military probes new abduction in Sabah

The military in western Mindanao is looking at information circulating here that the latest abduction of a Chinese national in Lahad Datu, Sabah, early Tuesday involves members of the Abu Sayyaf Group.

Reports also claimed the kidnap victim, said to be a Chinese national, has been brought to Sulu.

"There is no confirmation yet," Brig. Gen. Martin N. Pinto, commander of the 2nd Marine Brigade based in the capital town of Jolo, told BusinessWorld in an interview.

On Tuesday, five armed men wearing military uniforms on board a speedboat abducted Yang Zai Lin, 34, manager of a fish farm in Lahad Datu.

Reports from Malaysian authorities said the kidnappers were armed with M16 rifles, had paddled a 40-horsepower white boat to the fish farm avoiding the facility’s security guards.

Following the new abduction in Sabah, Malaysia’s Star Online news Web site reported that chief minister Datuk Musa Aman has announced that a curfew and travel restrictions would be imposed in high-risk areas off the coast of Sabah.

Last month, the Abu Sayyaf Group also abducted Chinese tourist Gao Huayun and a Filipina resort worker identified as Marcy Dayawan at Singamata Adventures and Reef Resort in the town of Semporna.

The Abu Sayyaf Group, which is believed to have a strong link with the al Qaeda terror organization, is known for kidnap-for-ransom activities as well as bombings in western pats of Mindanao.

The group was set up in the 1990s, reportedly with seed money from al Qaeda mastermind Osama bin Laden.

Last November, suspected Abu Sayyaf gunmen kidnapped a Taiwanese couple holidaying in another Sabah resort.

The husband was killed during the abduction.

His wife was freed after being held for 36 days on the main Sulu island of Jolo.

A ransom is believed to have been paid for her release.

China wants Philippines to free fishing ship, crew

Posted to ABS-CBN (May 7): China wants Philippines to free fishing ship, crew

China has demanded the Philippines release a Chinese fishing boat and its crew seized in the disputed South China Sea on Wednesday (May 7), the latest flare-up in the oil and gas-rich waters that are claimed wholly or in part by six nations.

Philippine authorities said a maritime police patrol apprehended a Chinese fishing boat around 7 a.m. on Tuesday off Half Moon Shoal in the Spratly Islands on the South China Sea.

The boat has 11 crew and police found about 350 turtles in the vessel, some of which were already dead, a police report said, adding that a Philippine boat with crew was also seized, and found to have 70 turtles on board. Several species of sea turtles are protected under Philippine law.

China, which claims almost the entire South China Sea, rejecting rival claims from Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei, said the Philippines had to release the boat and the fishermen.

"China has indisputable sovereignty over the Spratly islands and surrounding waters, including the Half Moon Shoal. Currently, the Chinese coast guard vessel(s) have arrived at the scene. The China's Foreign Ministry and the Chinese embassy to the Philippines have made representations to the Philippines immediately after the incident happened, demanding that it provide a rational explanation and immediately release the people and the vessel. We once again warn the Philippines not to take any provocative actions," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a daily news briefing in Beijing.

There are frequent tensions in the South China Sea between China and the other claimant nations, particularly Vietnam and the Philippines, both of which say Beijing has harassed their ships in the waters there.

While there are frequent stand-offs between fishermen and the various claimant states in the South China Sea, the actual detention of Chinese fishermen or the seizure of a boat is rare.

Tensions are also brewing in another part of the sea, where China has warned Vietnam not to disturb activities of Chinese companies operating near disputed islands. Earlier, Hanoi condemned the movement of a giant Chinese oil rig into what it said was its territorial waters.

A look at Subic bay after EDCA signing

Posted to ABS-CBN (May 7): A look at Subic bay after EDCA signing

SUBIC BAY - Aside from helping the Philippine military improve its capabilities, especially in defending the country's territory, the increased presence of US forces in the Philippines under the two countries' newly signed defense agreement is also seen to pump the local economy.

But social activists also fear for the revival of widespread prostitution, at least in this former US naval base, which is likely one of the facilities that US troops will have access to when Manila and Washington start implementing their Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement.

The agreement, which authorities say is a contract to implement their 1998 Visiting Forces Agreement, was signed last April 28 amid the Philippines' and United States' shared concern over China's aggressive assertion of its claims in the South China Sea. Defense ties between Manila and Washington are anchored on their 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty.

By granting the US military wider access to Philippine military facilities and allowing it to preposition defense equipment, supplies and materiel, the new agreement, which is good initially for 10 years, aims not only to enhance the two militaries' capabilities but also to facilitate humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, especially for the Philippines, which is frequently hit by calamities.

While authorities have yet to identify the facilities where the US military can be temporarily stationed under the agreement, Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority chairman Roberto Garcia acknowledges the possibility of Subic Bay being one of those since the Philippine Air Force and Philippine Navy are already expected to utilize portions of this strategic area this year at the earliest.

Subic Bay, located in Zambales province north of Manila, was home to what used to be the largest overseas naval facility of the US military until 1992 after the Philippine Senate refused to renew the 1947 US-Philippines Military Bases Agreement. A year earlier, the US Air Force also left its base in nearby Pampanga province for the same reason and due to the explosion of Mt. Pinatubo volcano.

The two bases have since been converted into economic hubs, granting special privileges to investors and locators, and generating jobs for around 170,000 people.

"This was their (U.S. military) home for many, many years. So they're very comfortable here in Subic. And Subic has the benefit of the maritime, so they can bring their heavy equipment here," Garcia said in an interview last Monday.

"Subic Bay Freeport is the only free port that has a port facility and an international airport. That's a very rare combination," he noted, adding it is also close to the disputed areas in the South China Sea, such as Scarborough Shoal, long a favorite fishing ground of Filipino fishermen but one which China has effectively controlled since 2012.

According to Garcia, the SBMA is set to sign an agreement later this year with the Philippine military for use of a portion of the unutilized airport in Subic by the air force, and three ports by the navy.

Garcia said that for 15 years and without any charge, the air force intends to use 15 out of the airport's 200 hectares to station fighter jets that will be acquired from South Korea, while the navy wants to homeport in Subic the two Hamilton-class cutters that it got from the United States.

"We're just accommodating the Philippine Air Force and Philippine Navy because of national security concerns. So they'll operate side by side with the present businesses," Garcia said, disclosing that the free port currently has 1,800 companies, with total investments of around $9 billion, a 90,000-strong workforce, and exports worth around $1 billion a year.

Asked if he thinks Subic will become a military base again, he said, "No, only certain facilities of Subic Bay Freeport will be used for military purposes."

And when these facilities are already in place, he said, joint use of these with the US military under the new defense agreement may then happen.
Still, Garcia believes that more frequent visits of more US troops and vessels in Subic may already be observed ahead of the installation of the Philippine military facilities because of the new agreement.

The SBMA has recorded 73 arrivals of US military vessels in 2013, compared with 51 in 2010, 55 in 2011 and 87 in 2012. From January to March this year, there were 33 visits.

These figures are significantly higher than 15 in 2004 and 18 in 2005.
"I think everybody agrees that the presence of the Americans here will improve the national security posture of the Philippines. But the side effect, of course, is it will be an addition to the economy, especially to the local businessmen who supply the ships with water and other services. And when the servicemen come on shore, they go to the restaurants, hotels or shopping malls," Garcia said.

Rose Baldeo, president of the Subic Bay Freeport Chamber of Commerce which groups most of the companies inside the economic zone, told Kyodo News that maritime and tourist-oriented businesses like hotels and restaurants are indeed expected to enjoy economic benefits from an increased US military presence.

Rolen Paulino, mayor of Olongapo City which is immediately outside the free port zone, also welcomes the development, especially because tourism contributes to about 50 percent of the local economy.

"If these Americans come here, automatically, we look at them as tourists," he said.

But Fr. Shay Cullen, a missionary priest who founded the People's Recovery, Empowerment and Development Assistance Foundation that campaigns against sexual exploitation and installation of US military bases in the Philippines, expresses worry about the expansion of the already existing sex trade in Subic, Olongapo and the immediate surroundings with the presence of more U.S. troops.

"We expect the U.S. military to have their highest moral standards on display," Cullen said.

"My concern is for our government to have a separate and strong provision on the abuse of the hospitality of our people. We don't want the U.S. military to abuse it," echoed Baldeo.

Paulino said US troops who violate local laws during their visit should be placed under the custody of Philippine authorities, and not those of the United States, an issue that was contested when a visiting U.S. Marine was convicted of raping a Filipino woman inside Subic in 2005.

Cullen and Baldeo are also wary of possible impacts on the environment, particularly on the discharge of toxic wastes and chemicals by U.S. vessels in the bay, with the latter asking local authorities to be always on their toes and strictly implement environmental laws.

"We already had a glimpse of the past. It's like watching an old movie," Donna May Tamayo, executive director of the Subic Bay Freeport Chamber of Commerce, said of the possible social impacts.

2 Germans abducted by Abu Sayyaf, says prof

From ABS-CBN (May 8): 2 Germans abducted by Abu Sayyaf, says prof

The two German nationals who went missing in the waters between Palawan and Sabah, Malaysia were abducted by the Abu Sayyaf Group, a professor said Thursday.

Mindanao State Unviersity Professor Octavio Dinampo told dzMM that Stefan Viktor Okonek, 72, and his companion, Henrike Dielen, 47, were abducted by Abu Sayyaf bandits led by Ambrin Absara and Muammar Askali off Rio Tuba in Palawan.

The ASG bandits allegedly used a speedboat owned by another ASG leader, Idang Susukan, in snatching the German nationals.

Dinampo said the Germans were not tourists but long-time residents of Palawan. He said according to his informants, the two are now with ASG leader Radulan Sahiron.

Dinampo said the two were initially brought to the ASG stronghold in Sitio Sangay, Barangay Buhanginan in Patikul and were later transported to Barangay Kabbon Takas, also in Patikul.

''They were brought to the mountains where there is a safehouse, away from the military,'' Dinampo said.

Dinampo said the two Germans were made to join European birdwatchers Elwold Horn and Lorenzo Vinciguerra. The two birdwatchers were abducted by the bandit group in Panglima Sugala, Tawi-Tawi on January 31, 2012.

The bandit group was also allegedly behind the abduction of another Chinese national from a resort in Sabah, Malaysia.

The victim was identified as 34-year-old Yang Zai Lin, who worked as a manager at a fish farm.

Yang's abduction occurred about a month after another Chinese national, Gao Huayun, 29, and Filipina Marcy Dayawan, 40, were seized from a resort in Sabah.

Dinampo said Gao suffered a miscarriage while in the hands of Abu Sayyaf.

Negros Oriental declared as conflict manageable and development ready

From the Philippine News Agency (May 7): Negros Oriental declared as conflict manageable and development ready

Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Voltaire Gazmin led Wednesday’s signing of the declaration of Negros Oriental as a conflict manageable and development ready province.

The well-attended signing activity is seen as a first step forward for the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to make a supporting role, allowing the provincial and local government units and the Philippine National Police (PNP) to take the lead in the anti-insurgency campaign.

Gazmin, who was joined by key officials of the AFP and the PNP, as well as local officials, called the achievement of a conflict manageable and development ready status as a victory of the "bayanihan" spirit for lasting peace in the country.

Gazmin assured of national government support to guarantee the sustainability of the status until Negros Oriental will finally be declared insurgency-free.

The declaration means that the insurgency problem has been reduced to an insignificant level in Negros Oriental, with members of the New People’s Army (NPA), the armed component of the National Democratic Front/Communist Party of the Philippines, already dwindling, Army officials in the province explained.

The declaration, which comes days ahead of the extended June 2014 deadline set by the AFP to rid the province of Negros Oriental of the insurgency problem, is an accomplishment for the concerted efforts of the AFP, PNP, civil society groups, local governments and all other stakeholders who contributed in their own ways to achieve lasting peace, said Gazmin.

“Today we are here to renew our pledge of our constitutional duties as freedom loving people to value our liberties and we will resist any attempt to trample upon our democratic ideals. It should be known by all that we are all ready to safeguard our liberties and fulfill our social aspirations,” he said.

Gazmin said the signing of the declaration at the Negros Oriental Convention Center in Dumaguete City is “historic,” a reflection of the unity of the civil and military authorities to address insurgency in the province.

Negros Oriental, according to the military, is the only province in Central Visayas (Region 7) which is still insurgency-affected. Cebu, Bohol and Siquijor have already been cleared of the problem.

Military and police officials have reiterated previous announcements that there will be no pull out of Army troops from Negros Oriental following the declaration.

The police, through its Regional Public Safety Battalion, will just be deployed in areas already cleared of the insurgency while Army troops will still be covering those still affected by the remaining small pockets of NPA groups.

Aside from Gazmin, also present during the signing were Governor Roel Degamo, Bohol Governor Edgardo Chatto who is the chairman of the Regional Peace and Order Council, ranking AFP and PNP officials, Diocese of Dumaguete Bishop Julito Cortes, at least 10 mayors led by Amlan Mayor Bentham dela Cruz who heads the provincial League of Mayors, rebel returnees, and representatives from the various government agencies, non-government organizations, civil society and the private sector, among others.

(Update) 25 injured in Fort Bonifacio fire, explosion

From the Philippine News Agency (May 7): (Update) 25 injured in Fort Bonifacio fire, explosion

The number of people wounded in the fire that occurred at the Explosive and Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Battalion, located at the Army Support Command (ASCOM) in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City Wednesday morning, has now climbed to 25.

The incident took place around 10:28 a.m., Philippine Army (PA) spokesman Lt. Col. Noel Detoyato said.

Initial report revealed that from the fire, an explosion occurred because of the explosive components of the ordnance stored at the said building.

Detoyato said the victims were immediately brought to the Army General Hospital in Fort Bonifacio.

Among the injured were four officers, nine enlisted personnel, and 12 personnel from the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP).

Most of the victims sustained minor wounds, three suffered from second degree burns, while two had avulsed and lacerated wounds on the face and arm.

Six of the victims were evacuated to the AFP Medical Center in V. Luna, while two others were brought to Taguig-Pateros Hospital and Ospital ng Makati.

Detoyato said that the other victims were undergoing treatment at the Army General Hospital.

The fire burned the whole Explosive Ordnance Disposal Battalion Headquarters at the ASCOM.

Explosions occurred while on the process of putting out the fire that caused the injury of the said soldiers and members of the BFP.

Detoyato said the PA is still conducting an in depth investigation to determine other circumstances leading to the fire and explosion.

USS Chicago to arrive in Subic Bay on May 9

From the Philippine News Agency (May 8): USS Chicago to arrive in Subic Bay on May 9

The USS Chicago (SSN-721), a Los Angeles-class fast attack submarine, will be arriving at Subic Bay, Zambales on Friday, May 9 for a routine port call that highlights the strong historic, community, and military connections between the United States and the Republic of the Philippines.

This visit will allow the ship to replenish supplies as well as give the crew an opportunity for rest and relaxation.

The USS Chicago is part of the US Pacific Fleet and is homeported in Guam.

The USS Chicago is commanded by Cmdr. Lance Thompson and crewed by approximately 135 sailors.

Measuring more than 360 feet long and weighing more than 7,000 tons when submerged, the USS Chicago is capable of supporting a multitude of missions including anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface ship warfare, strike, and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance.

Special Report EDCA, a valuable tool in AFP modernization

From the Philippine News Agency (May 8): Special Report EDCA, a valuable tool in AFP modernization

The signing of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) by ranking Filipino and American officials last April 28, has given the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) a much valuable tool in its ongoing modernization.

This was revealed by US Ambassador Philip Goldberg shortly after the formal signing of the agreement last week.

"It (EDCA) will also support the shared goal of promoting the long term modernization of the AFP and will help the AFP maintain and develop additional security, maritime domain awareness and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief capabilities," he stated.

This is possible as the EDCA has a section which states that "value of prepositioned materiel in the enhancement of AFP defense capabilities and possible transfer of purchase of materiel determined to be excess."

Sources said this means that defense equipment or materiel deemed excess by the Americans can be sold to Philippines for "friendship prices".

A good example of these is the acquisition of the BRP Gregorio Del Pilar (PF-15) and BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PF-16), vessels considered surplus by the US Coast Guard.

These patrol ships were transferred to the Philippines in 2011 and 2013 and are now considered the most modern vessels of the Navy.

Aside from giving the AFP a chance to acquire more modern equipment at a reasonable price, EDCA is also designed to promote the following between Filipino and American forces:


-Strengthening AFP for external defense

-Maritime Security

-Maritime Domain Awareness

-Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Response (HADR).

And in the position paper released by the Department of National Defense (DND), these steps are now being done through the holding of joint training exercises such as "Balikatan" and undertaking humanitarian assistance and disaster relief cooperation such as in the aftermath of Typhoon "Yolanda" last Nov. 8.

"We need look no further than the response to Typhoon 'Yolanda' which made landfall six months ago today to see the immeasurable value of those relationship. By the end of the initial relief efforts after 'Yolanda' in November the US military coordinated over USD 31million worth of assistance and working shoulder-to-shoulder with their Philippine counterparts, help evacuate over 21,000 people and move over 2,000 tons of supplies from government and civilian relief organizations into the affected areas," Goldberg earlier said.

"Operation 'Damayan' was proof of the American commitment to close friends and neighbors in the Philippines in times of need, the successful response to Typhoon 'Yolanda' began with exercises like this one, regular bilateral training and operations develop strong bonds and effective teamwork which enable rapid and effective action in times of crisis, so remember while this maybe an exercise the skills you practice here have real world implications for the safety and security not just of the Philippines but the entire region," he added.

The DND paper also said that to improve on the above, the Philippines and the US intend to undertake additional cooperation by way of:

-Construction of facilities and infrastructure upgrades;

-Storage and prepositioning of defense and HADR equipment, supplies and materiél.

DND Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, meanwhile, said the signing of the EDCA manifested the "deepened relationship" between the Philippines and the United States.

"The document we signed not only manifests the deepened relationship between the Philippines and the United States but equally serve as a framework for furthering our alliance as encapsulated in the title Enhanced Defense Cooperation, underpinned by the common goal of being able to meet the security challenges that both the Philippines and the United States share in common," he pointed.

Gazmin said the alliance between the two country has continued to evolve as both nations constantly search for mechanism that would enhance its individual and collective abilities to face such security challenges.

"At a time when external armed attack was the key concern, we forged the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) and put in place a Mutual Defense Board (MDB) when non-traditional security challenges came at the forefront we entered into the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) which enabled our forces to train together and established the Security Engagement Board (SEB)," he pointed out.

"As defense and security challenges have become more complex, we (both the Philippines and United States) have realized the utility of having an agreement that would further enhance our ability to face those complicated challenges," the DND chief related.

Gazmin also added that just a few weeks ago, he and US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel had an opportunity to talk about the important role which the EDCA would be playing in the furtherance of the relationship Filipino and American military establishments.

"This agreement allows us to work on what is called under the MDT, which is the development of individual and collective capacities, and sustains our ability to undertake what is possible under the VFA which are training and exercises. Most importantly, it enables us to do more by making the necessary equipment and infrastructure available whenever they are needed for the exercises and other activities that we do as allies," he stressed.

The DND chief added that while the EDCA allows the Philippines and the US to do more in terms of military cooperation, the agreement remains anchored on the principle encapsulated in the MDT and what it possible through the VFA.

"Alliances evolve. Partnership develops. Engagement mature. But all throughout, it is the shared thrust to move forward together that keeps what is in place such as the MDT and the VFA relevant and offers the prospect of having new mechanisms, such as the agreement, possible. This is the essence of a maturing relationship. This is the spirit behind the agreement," Gazmin stressed.

And contrary to claims made by militant groups, the EDCA does not give authority to the American forces to bring nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction.

"Prohibition of entry to the Philippines of nuclear weapons, and reference to respective obligations of both Parties under the Chemical Weapons Convention and the Biological Weapons Convention," the DND paper on the EDCA stressed.

It also pointed out that both parties must expressed strong commitment to protect environment, human health and safety; preference for Philippine suppliers of goods, products and service in US military procurement; and, regular consultation on the implementation of the agreement.

Aside from these, other EDCA main features include:

-Clear provisions that the US would “not establish a permanent military presence or base in the Philippines;

-US access to and use of designated areas in AFP owned and controlled facilities (“Agreed Locations”) will be at the invitation of the Philippine Government;

-Prior consent of the Philippines, through the MDB and SEB, with regard to US access and use of Agreed Locations which may be listed in an annex and further described in implementing arrangements;

-Philippines retention of primary responsibility for security of the Agreed Locations;

-Access of the AFP base commander to the entire area of the Agreed Locations;

-Philippine ownership of buildings and infrastructure once constructed by US military;

-Sharing and joint use of facilities in the Agreed Locations, including those built by the US military;

-Value of prepositioned materiél in the enhancement of AFP defense capabilities and possible transfer or purchase of materiél determined to be excess;

The DND paper also answered concerns about the return of US bases in the country

"The agreement is very clear on this matter and specifies in the Preamble the Parties’ understanding for the US not to establish a permanent military presence or base in the territory of the Philippines. The EDCA does not authorize the establishment of US bases. It allows the US military access to agreed location," it said.

The EDCA also mandates that before constructions and other activities can be undertaken, prior consent of the Philippines will have to be secured through the MDB and SEB that were established under the MDT and the VFA.

The AFP base commander will have access to the entire area of the facilities shared with the US military. The Philippines will also own any building and similar infrastructure that will be built by the US military.

Activities to be undertaken under EDCA will likewise have to be approved by the Philippines through the MDB and SEB.

As this develops, efforts to modernize the Philippine Navy (PN), in a bid to carry out its mandate of protecting the country's vast territorial waters, are now underway.

Projects aimed for this initiatives include acquisitions of two brand-new missile capable frigates, missile-armed MPACs and two anti-submarine helicopters, to name a few.

Earlier, the DND announced that it is allocating P5.4 billion for the acquisition of two anti-submarine warfare (ASW) helicopters.

The money will be sourced from Armed Forces of the Philippines Modernization Trust Fund.

Acquisition of the two ASW helicopters are under the Medium Term Development Capability Plan for 2013 to 2017.

DND undersecretary Natalio C. Ecarma, Bidding and Awards Committee chair, said the contract includes munition, mission essential equipment, and integrated logistic support.

He added that the aircraft must be delivered within 730 calendar days.

Pre-bid conference is slated this May 20 at the DND Bidding and Awards Committee conference room, basement right wing, DND Building, Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

First stage will be at June 3 and with second stage bidding to be announce latter.

Another big-ticket item in the frigate project which has a budget of P18 billion.

Commodore Roland Mercado, Navy technical working group head for the frigate program, said two more foreign shipbuilders have joined the project.

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

They were allowed to join in the bidding after their motions for reconsideration were considered by the 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. who have successfully passed the first stage of the bidding.

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

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

Design assessments of the frigate proponents started last February.

Each bidder was given five working days to present their concept.

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

While the MPAC project, which has budget of P270 million, aims to acquire three MPACs (multi-purpose attack craft) to boost the capabilities of the PN.

DND undersecretary Fernando Manalo said the sum includes "mission essential equipment and an initial logistic support packages."

The money will be sourced from the AFP Modernization Act Trust Fund of 2000.

He added that interested bidders should also equipped these MPACs with provisions for advanced weapons system (remote weapon systems and missile launch system).

Mission essential equipment includes day/night electronic navigation systems, communication suites, safety-of-life-at-sea, propulsion system and seamanship and ship-handling gears.