Saturday, May 10, 2014

CPP/Ang Bayan: NPA punishes construction company in Hacienda Looc

From the English language edition of the CPP propaganda publication, Ang Bayan (May 7): NPA punishes construction company in Hacienda Looc

The Edgardo Dagli Command (New People’s Army-Batangas) meted punishment on May 2 on Toreja Construction, which is building a road going through an eco-tourism project owned by Henry Sy and the Virata clan in Hacienda Looc, Nasugbu, Batangas. The NPA detroyed two bulldozers, three backhoes, a grader, a road roller, a payloader and a water tanker.

The punitive measure was aimed at registering the people’s firm opposition to Sy’s project which has massively destroyed farmlands and caused widespread human rights violations. Farmers’ huts have been burned, their crops destroyed and seized, and their charcoal supply and wood for house construction forcibly taken by Sy and Virata’s security guards.

CPP/Ang Bayan: 9 soldiers killed, 4 wounded in harassment operations in NSamar

From the English language edition of the CPP propaganda publication, Ang Bayan (May 7): 9 soldiers killed, 4 wounded in harassment operations in NSamar

At least nine soldiers of the 63rd IB were killed and four troopers wounded in a series of harassment operations by the Rodante Urtal Command of the New People’s Army (RUC-NPA) in Northern Samar on April 9-12.

Two soldiers from the battalion’s Bravo Coy were killed and two others wounded in an NPA sniping operation at around 7 a.m. on April 9 in Barangay Cagmanaba, Mondragon. On the same day, the RUC harassed 63rd IB troops at around 9 p.m. in Barangay Flormina in the same town.

The day after, another soldier was killed and two others wounded when the RUC opened fire at elements of the 63rd IB who were on their way back to their camp in Barangay San Isidro, also in Mondragon town. The troopers had just beaten up a farmer who lived in the village.

On April 10, the enemy sustained an undetermined number of casualties in an NPA harassment operation on the 63rd IB in Barangay McKinley, Catarman. The Red fighters were able to retreat safely even if the enemy used helicopters to pursue them.

On March 21, seven enemy soldiers were killed in a misencounters among elements of the 87th IB after the latter’s troops attacked five Red fighters in Barangay Bulwan, Calbiga, Samar.

CPP/Ang Bayan: NPA arrests soldier protecting illegal logging in Davao del Norte

From the English language edition of the CPP propaganda publication, Ang Bayan (May 7): NPA arrests soldier protecting illegal logging in Davao del Norte

Guerrillas under the Comval-North Davao-South Agusan Subregional Command arrested another AFP element protecting illegal loggers.

Captured on the morning of May 3 in Barangay Floria, Kapalong, Davao del Norte was Cpl. Rogelio Rosales of the 60th IB Bravo Coy. Rosales was then making arrangements for the transfer to logs to a plywood factory when he was arrested. A sachet of shabu was also taken from him.

Rosales is one of a group of soldiers protecting TANGGO, a big logging syndicate operating in Trento, Agusan del Sur; Laak, Compostela Valley; and Kapalong, Davao del Norte. They clandestinely transport the logs along the highway at night and bring them to the TPPMC Cuambugan plywood plant. Diosdado Wamilda, a retired policeman, transacts with the plant, and another business partner, Nonoy Magandam, buys logs from Trento.

The NPA implements the total logging ban policy to protect the remaining forests, campaign for reforestation, put a stop to large-scale logging and secure the masses’ livelihood through sustainable communal farming.

Recently, the NPA confiscated logs in Sitio Patel, Barangay Gupitan, Kapalong and in Barangay Datu Davao and Barangay Balwarte, Laak.

CPP/Ang Bayan: 10 soldiers killed; 12 wounded in NPA ambuscades in Davao City

From the English language edition of the CPP propaganda publication, Ang Bayan (May 7): 10 soldiers killed; 12 wounded in NPA ambuscades in Davao City

The 10th ID-Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom) of the AFP has failed to conceal the rising number of casualties suffered by its troops even as it has intensified its psywar and combat operations in the uplands of Davao.

In the latest battle reports from April 26 to May 1, fascist troops suffered ten dead and 12 wounded, according to Ka Rigoberto Sanchez, spokesperson of the Merardo Arce Command of the NPA-Southern Mindanao Regional Operations Command.

On May 1, at around 8 a.m., NPA Red fighters ambushed a platoon under the 69th IB in Sitio Bintuin, Barangay Fatima, Paquibato District in Davao City. The Philippine Army unit had planned on encircling an NPA team, but failed.

After a 30-minute firefight, two soldiers lay dead and four others were wounded. Another soldier was wounded in an ensuing gunbattle at 3 p.m. that day, also in Barangay Fatima.

Fighting first erupted at 3 p.m. of April 26 when the people’s militia used command-detonated explosives against a truckload of soldiers at Km. 3, Barangay Fatima, wounding two soldiers.

The day after, at around 7 a.m., combined forces of the NPA and people’s militia ambushed a platoon under the 84th IB in Sitio Sled, Barangay Dalagdag, killing five troopers and wounding eight others. The firefight occurred a mere 150 meters from the 84th IB’s patrol base.

The NPA ambushed the 84th IB anew on April 30, at around 7 a.m. in Sitio Sled, with the enemy suffering three dead and six wounded.

CPP/Ang Bayan: NPA ambushes 50th IB in Ilocos Sur

From the English language edition of the CPP propaganda publication, Ang Bayan (May 7): NPA ambushes 50th IB in Ilocos Sur

Red fighters under the Alfredo Cesar Command (New People’s Army-Ilocos Sur) launched back-to-back ambushes on the 50th IB on May 1 and 2. All in all, seven soldiers were killed and at least eight were wounded in these ambuscades.

Three 50th IB troopers were killed while two others were wounded in an NPA ambush in Barangay Remedios, Cervantes, about a kilometer away from the battalion’s headquarters. The day after, the NPA ambushed military reinforcements in Barangay Malideg, in the adjacent town of Quirino, killing four soldiers and seriously wounding at least six troopers.

According to Ka Armando Silva, spokesperson of the Alfredo Cesar Command, the two victorious ambushes form part of the NPA’s punitive actions to give justice to the countless victims of the 50th IB’s human rights violations. In particular, the battalion was also punished for its all-out defense of the interests of large-scale and destructive mining operations in the Ilocos region, such as those of Lepanto Consolidated Mining.

CPP/Ang Bayan: NPA seizes 5 firearms in Agusan del Norte

From the English language edition of the CPP propaganda publication, Ang Bayan (May 7): NPA seizes 5 firearms in Agusan del Norte

Red fighters from the New People’s Army (NPA) Front 21 in Northeast Mindanao Region (NEMR) confiscated five firearms from the foreign-owned Alston Mining Company in Tubay, Agusan del Norte on April 5. National Democratic Front-NEMR spokesperson Ka Maria Malaya said the operation was conducted to punish the company for landgrabbing and environmental destruction.

The arms haul consisted of two cal .45 pistols, two .38 revolvers and a shotgun. Aside from the firearms, the Red guerrillas also seized a laptop and 16 VHF radios. The NPA burned two back hoes, two bulldozers, three dumptrucks, a motorcycle and the company office.

After this, a soldier from the 3rd Special Forces Battalion was killed in a sniping operation launched by members of NPA Front 21 in Sitio Lusong, Barangay Puting Bato, Cabadbaran, Agusan del Norte on April 27. After two and a half hours, two other soldiers were wounded in an NPA sniping operation at the Cabadbaran River, in front of Sitio Lusong.

CPP/NPA-NCMROC: COPD ug mga peke nga surenderee—desperadong pagpanglingla sa AFP

NPA propaganda statement just posted to the CPP Website (May 8): COPD ug mga peke nga surenderee—desperadong pagpanglingla sa AFP

Alan Juanito
NPA North Central Mindanao Regional Operations Command (Julito Tiro Command)
Samot nga nagkadesperado ang AFP karong kapin duha ka tuig na lang ang nahabiling panahon sa implementasyon sa ilang Oplan Bayanihan. Sa kapakyas niini pagkab-ot sa mga target sa unang yugto sa OpBay (2010-2013), mas gipasubsub niini karon ang saywar nga component sa iyang triad operations, samtang padayong ginalunsad ang dinagkung operasyong militar ug pagpaniktik.

Karon, nabutyag na sab ang tinuod nga kinaiya sa Community Organizing for Peace and Development (COPD) isip instrumentong pang-saywar sa gipahigayon sa 8th IB PA nga usa ka kontra-NPA nga pulong-pulong sa Mayo 7 kung asa gihakot nila ang kapin-kon-kulang 200 ka mga lumulupyo sa mga baryo ug sityo sa Impasug-ong, Bukidnon. Giparada kini nga mga tawo isip mga NPA ug mga tigsuporta sa rebolusyonaryong kalihukan nga kuno “mibalik sa sabakan sa gubyerno.” Gipundok-pundok nila ang mga tumatambong sa matag komunidad ug gipadala og mga banner nga nagbiay-biay sa rebolusyonaryong kalihukan. Gipugos sab sila pagpasinggit-singgit og mga panawagan sa pagbagsak sa NPA.

Mao kini ang kulminasyon sa pila na ka bulan nilang COPD operations sa kabaryuhan sa Bukidnon ug Misamis Oriental, kung asa daghang mga pulong-pulong sab ang gipahigayon sa mga lokalidad. Kaluha sa ilang pagpundo sa mga komunidad ang pagpanglapas sa tawhanong katungod. Nagpahamtang sila og food blockade sa Kalabugao ug Hagpa, Impasug-ong ug sa Urika ug Hindangon, Gingoog City, kung asa gilimitahan lang sa 5-10 ka kilo nga bugas ang gitugot nga paliton sa mga tawo matag semana. Ginaharang sila sa dalan ug ginatimbang ang ilang dala aron masiguro ang pagpatuman niini. Dakung dislokasyon sab sa panginabuhian sa masa ang resulta sa gipatuman nilang population control sa Victory, San Luis, Malitbog, Bukidnon kung asa gilimitahan ang mga lumulupyo sa pag-adto sa ilang mga uma gikan alas 9:00 sa buntag hangtud alas 3:00 sa hapon. Gawasnong nagasulod-gawas ang mga sundalo sa kabalayan sa mga komunidad.

Dili na bag-o ang ingon niining pakana sa kaaway. Susamang panghitabo ang natala sa Loreto, Agusan del Sur niadtong miaging bulan kung asa 26 ka mga lumulupyo, lakip mga bata, ang gideklara isip mga nagsurender nga NPA. Marso 29 niining tuiga, atol gyud sa ika-45 anibersaryo sa NPA, naglunsad ang 4th ID og seremonya sa Camp Evangelista, Cagayan de Oro kung asa misurender kuno ang 72 ka mga indibidwal, nga naglakip sa mga bata. Niadtong 2012, giparada sab nila ang kapin 80 ka mga surenderee sa Bukidnon, nga kadaghanan mga yanong mag-uuma ug Lumad.

Tumong nilang i-project sa masmidya ug patuohon ang publiko nga nagkahuyang na ang rebolusyonaryong kalihukan sa rehiyon ug epektibo ang mga taktika sa ilang pasistang Oplan. Sigurado sab nga sakyan sa mga oportunistang opisyal ang kahigayunang makapangwarta sa programang PAMANA sa rehimen pinaagi sa pagtigbas sa gigahin nga pondo alang sa “rehabilitasyon” sa mga surenderee.

Apan ang mismong pagpasubsub nila sa ilang triad operations, ingon man ang walay-puas nga paggukod sa mga aktibista sa syudad ug kabukiran, iligal nga pag-aresto ug pagdetine sa yanong mga mag-uuma ug pagpatay sa mga progresibong lider maoy nagpamatuod sa kadesperado sa rehimen ug liderato sa 4th ID. Ang dayag nga pasismo maoy hinagiban sa nagkadugta ug nagakatay-og nga rehimen. Sama sa iro nga mamaak kay mahadlok masipaan, mas mibangis ang AFP tungod sa kahingawa niining maulawan sa mata sa publiko tungod sa mga kapildihang naangkon niini sa malampusong taktikal nga mga opensiba sa NPA ug sa dili ikalilong nga pag-abante sa rebolusyonaryong kalihukan sa rehiyon.

Kinahanglang pursigidong ibutyag ug batukan sa katawhan ang pasistang triad operations sa Oplan Bayanihan. Angay suklan sa masa sa kabukiran ang mga pakanang COPD sa kaaway aron ampingan ang integridad sa ilang mga komunidad ug ang katungod sa ilang mga lumulupyo. Kinahanglan dugangan pa sa rebolusyonaryong kalihukan ang mga paningkamot sa pagpakyas sa Oplan Bayanihan ug sa tanang bangis ug malinglahong mga unod niini.

Korean stars, soldiers rebuild facilities in Leyte

From the Philippine Information Agency (May 10): Korean stars, soldiers rebuild facilities in Leyte

MOHON, TANAUAN, Leyte, May 10 (PIA) - The cast of the Korean reality TV show “Real Men” were at Barangay Mohon in Tanauan, Leyte this week to help Korean soldiers rebuild facilities damaged by typhoon “Yolanda.

Imagine the amazement of the barangay residents when they realized that Super Junior M’s Henry Lau, ZE:A’s Hyungsik, actor Kim Soo Ro, singer K.Will, Park Hyung-sik, Park Gun-hyung, Chung Jung-myung, Seo Kyung-suk and Australian Sam Hammington have joined Korea’s Araw Unit  which was dispatched to the Philippines starting last December, in restoring facilities in Leyte.

It was learned that the cast and crew arrived in the country last May 5 and immediately flew to Leyte. They will be in the country until Saturday, May 10.

Kelvin Amarille, Barangay Mohon DEvelopment Information Officer, told the Philippine Information Agency that the cast and crew arrived in Barangay Mohon on May 6 where they helped repair the Mohon Elementary School and the covered court in the barangay.

It was gathered that this is the first overseas shoot for “Real Men,” a show where celebrities experience Korean military life. The Korean soldiers and the cast of the Real Men were seen rebuilding the Mohon Elementary School.

The Araw Unit is part of the humanitarian assistance efforts of the government of South Korea. Since December, the team has restored 16 facilities in Leyte including 10 elementary schools, five public facilities and one hospital. They have provided medical treatment to about 1 million residents.

Moreover, Araw Unit has partnered with TESDA for the training on operations of heavy equipment and has conducted Korean language classes.

“For the last 100 days, we planted seeds of hope with our efforts and passion while operating the damage recovery mission. We will do our best to make the Philippines remember Korea and the Araw unit within their hearts long after we leave,” said Col. Lee Cheol-won, the commander of the Araw Unit.

Army, Impasugong LGU step up “Bayanihan para sa Kapayapaan” cooperation

From the Philippine Information Agency (May 11): Army, Impasugong LGU step up “Bayanihan para sa Kapayapaan” cooperation

IMPASUGONG, Bukidnon -- More than 300 farmers, tribal leaders, youth, women, indigenous people (IPs) and religious groups from different barangays of Impasugong recently gathered at the municipal gymnasium to join the ‘peace assembly’ in an effort to step up cooperation for the town’s peace promotion.

The activity started with the making of ‘peace messages’ and a ‘walk for peace’ around town’s major thoroughfares. It was followed by a concert for peace performed by Rogelio “Waway” Saway and ‘Kadugo’, the famous musical artists of the Talaandig tribe in Bukidnon. The 8IB Band also joined the group onstage.

Mayor Mario T. Okinlay said the event aims to develop channels for peace-building and deal with security threats from outlaws.

“We should give the campaign for peace a higher priority to savour Impasugong’s vast natural abundance. We have a very rich soil and a rich varied cultural life. It has been 45 years since the conflict of beliefs, ideals, and objectives started, which caused problems and loss of lives. It is time for us to unite, work together, and convince our beleaguered brothers in the armed struggle to lay down their arms and join us in our community-based initiatives such as this Peace Assembly,” the mayor said during the ceremony.

Likewise, Lt. Col. Romualdo Raymund B. Landingin, commanding officer of the army’s 8th Infantry Battalion (8IB) said the event aims to promote peace and denounce armed struggle and violence as means of solving problems in the community.

“We acknowledge that there remain complex issues on peace and security that need to be addressed. However, a purely military solution is not enough to fully solve them. Efforts to achieve genuine peace must therefore be supported by all,” he said.

IP’s Mandatory Representative Hon.  Warlito “Datu Masilsil” Sagubay led the Higaonon tribe leaders in the symbolic releasing of “balloons for peace,” which culminated the event.

Anchored on the theme “Armadong pakikibaka at karahasan, hindi solusyon sa mga problema ng Impasugong (armed struggle and violence, not a solution to problems),” the event is an essential part of the army’s “Bayanihan para sa kapayapaan (working together for peace)” program.

Bill revokes ‘No Permit No Rally’ policy of government

From the Philippine News Agency (May 10): Bill revokes ‘No Permit No Rally’ policy of government
Lawmakers have moved to thrash out the 'No Permit No Rally' policy of the government by filing a bill that abolishes Batas Pambansa Blg. 880, which requires people to secure written permit from authorities before they could peaceably assemble in a public place.

House Bill 3668, to be known as 'The Freedom of Expression Act of 2013,' strengthens the right of the people to free expression, peaceably assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances, said Bayan Muna Reps. Neri Colmenares and Carlos Isagani Zarate.

“More often than not,” Colmenares said, “authorities invoke the ‘No Permit, No Rally’ rule to justify the dispersal of rallies.”

“The Marcos-period Batas Pambansa Bilang 880 has been the convenient excuse for state forces to suppress otherwise peaceful demonstrations, effectively curtailing the basic constitutional rights to assembly, free speech and petition of government for redress of grievances,” Colmenares added.

Colmenares said by repealing the “Marcosian relic” law, the bill shall ensure untrammeled exercise of civil rights.

“Its underlying premise is basic: the constitutional rights of the people to peaceably assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances are essential and vital to the individual and the collective strength and stability of the nation,” Colmenares said.

Under the bill, no permit shall be required for any person or persons to organize and hold a public assembly in a highway, boulevard, avenue, road, street, bridge or thoroughfare, park, plaza, square and or any open space of public ownership where people are allowed access.

The organizers and leaders of the public assembly shall, however, inform and coordinate with the mayor or local authority regarding the agenda and details of the said assembly.

They shall also police their own ranks to prevent non-demonstrators from disrupting the lawful activities and avert molestation by demonstrators of the people not participating in the public assembly.

The bill prohibits law enforcement authorities from interfering with the holding of a public assembly but mandates them to adequately ensure public safety by deploying a contingent under the command of a responsible police officer. The police contingent shall be stationed at least 200 meters away from the area of the activity.

The bill also prohibits the dispersal of a public assembly unless such becomes actually violent.

Zarate said under the bill, no personal could be punished or held criminally liable for participating in a public assembly.

“No leader, organizer or participant shall be arrested during the public assembly and no tax shall be imposed upon any means or media used and owned by private individuals for expression as defined herein,” Zarate said.

The bill slaps violators of the act with seven years of imprisonment and perpetual disqualification from public office.

US, Philippine Marines to 'assault hostile beach' Sunday

From the Philippine News Agency (May 10): US, Philippine Marines to 'assault hostile beach' Sunday

With "Balikatan 2014" now on its first week, American and Filipino Marines will "assault a hostile enemy beach" at Ternate, Cavite Sunday.

Joint maneuvers will start 8: 30 a.m., said Philippine Navy Civil Military Operations Group commander Col. Edgard A. Arevalo.

He added both Marine contingents will be aboard the BRP Dagupan City (LC-551).

He said the objective of this exercise is defeat the "enemy" while attaining the highest state of inter-operability through sharing of technique, tactics, and procedures (TTPs) that American and Filipino sailors and Marines practice in their respective armed forces.

The "landing force" is comprised of Philippine Marine Corps (PMC) Special Operations Platoon, PMC Force Reconnaissance, and US Marine Corps Reconnaissance elements on board three of PMC's newly acquired small unit riverine craft.

BRP Dagupan City will provide the platform while BRP Abraham Campo (PG-396) acts as support vessel.

PN Captain Virme Torralba is the commander of the Amphibious Task Force.

"The capability to conduct amphibious operation -- that of being able to launch a seaborne force from the ship to the shore -- is a competency unique to the the Philippine Marine Corps as a type command under the Philippine Navy," Arevalo said.

"This competency of the Philippine Marine Corps is the umbilical cord, so to speak, that binds it with Philippine Fleet that provides the platforms or the ships from where the Marines are landed to some hostile beaches to engage the enemies entrenched inland," he added.

PA's 3rd Infantry Division to mark 40th anniversary on May 20

From the Philippine News Agency (May 11): PA's 3rd Infantry Division to mark 40th anniversary on May 20

The Philippine Army's 3rd Infantry Division has announced that it will be celebrating its 40th anniversary on May 20 at Camp General Macario B. Peralta Jr. in Jamindan, Capiz with the theme “Dagyaw Para sa Kalinaw” (Working together for Peace).

The various activities to be undertaken by the 3ID include the Information Caravan at Robinsons Place, Iloilo City in the form of outdoor and indoor static displays of military capabilities such as from heavy to light armaments, squad organization and functions of personnel and their capabilities, photo booth, free T-shirt printing booth, recruitment booth, performance of the 3rd Infantry Marching Band, and combo mini-concert.

Major Ray Tiongson, 3rd ID spokesperson, said that the activities aim to highlight the unit's accomplishments, to promote and showcase the different programs, activities and related projects of the outfit, and to recognize and enhance cooperation, collaboration and partnership with the stakeholders in “winning the peace campaign in the region.

“This is our way of extending our sincerest thanks to all our partners for their continued collaboration with the Army in advancing the Internal Peace and Security Plan 'Bayanihan' and their involvement in dealing with the multi-faceted challenge of security,” 3rd ID commander Major Gen. Aurelio Baladad said.

As part of the caravan, there will be dismounted parade of the 3rd Infantry Division and equipment in the municipalities of Janiuay and Calinog in Iloilo on May 13.

On May 14 to 15, the caravan will be welcomed by Mayor Rosemarie Gardose in Tapaz, Capiz with the 3rd Infantry Division Marching Band performance, static displays, photo booth, free T-shirt printing booth, recruitment booth and the 3rd Infantry Division combo mini-concert.

The caravan will also cover the municipalities of Jamindan, Mambusao, Sigma and Ivisan on May 16. On May 17, Mayor Angel Alan Celino of Roxas City and Gov. Victor Tanco of Capiz will welcome the caravan at Capiz Provincial Capitol in Roxas City.

On May 19, the caravan will be at the Robinsons Place, Roxas City with the outdoor and indoor static displays of 3ID capabilities, photo booth, free T-shirt printing booth, recruitment booth, performance of the 3rd Infantry Marching Band, and 3rd Infantry combo mini-concert.

Meanwhile, the annual Squad Challenge or the competition between the basic fighting units of the Army will be on May 17-18 which will be held at Camp Peralta, Jamindan, Capiz.

Baladad said, “The accomplishment of the unit’s mission lies on the ability of the squads to carry out their assigned tasks. We have to harness the competencies of our squads which are our basic fighting unit through these activities. They should also be fully complemented, properly trained and equipped in order to be cohesive, effective, and efficient in the performance of their assigned tasks.”

PH-US war games also for counterterrorism, anti-insurgency

From Rappler (May 10): PH-US war games also for counterterrorism, anti-insurgency

The armies of the Philippines and the US train on close quarter battle, long range target shooting, and jungle survival to improve interoperability

INTERNAL THREATS REMAIN: Outside maritime security exercises, Philippines and US troops train on close quarter combat and long range target shooting

INTERNAL THREATS REMAIN: Outside maritime security exercises, Philippines and US troops train on close quarter combat and long range target shooting

NUEVA ECIJA, Philippines - The heat was punishing at 35 degrees Celsius and teams of Filipino and American troops were under the sun in Fort Magsaysay shooting targets 500 meters to 2 kilometers away. Little balls of sweat ran down the face of US Army Major Joseph Weinburgh when he joined the media to talk about the war games.

"One of the things we learned is not to take the Pacific weather for granted. We’re based in Hawaii and we’re also a Pacific Island but just the exposure to heat has been the Number One training lesson," said the officer coming from the Hawaii-based 20th Infantry Battalion.

LESSONS: US Army Major Joseph Weinburgh says Pacific weather should not be taken for granted

LESSONS: US Army Major Joseph Weinburgh says Pacific weather should not be taken for granted
It wasn't normal weather even for the Filipino troops. The province has been registering the highest temperature in the country.

It was the 3rd day of war games and both camps were satisfied with the results. Filipino soldier Sergeant Antonio Seberre said they learned a lot of good tactics especially in avoiding a crossfire or troops accidentally shooting at each other in the field.

"We learned movement techniques to avoid a crossfire. All our movements should be synchronized. It happens in the field, especially when we can't hear each other because of the shooting," he said.

Internal threats remain

Balikatan, which literally means shoulder to shoulder, refers to war games held annually between the Philippines and treaty ally United States. (READ: PH, US troops begin war games near disputed waters)

The exercises in Fort Magsaysay had nothing to do with maritime security, the focus of this year's exercises. It's the concern of the navies. But the armies continue to train because although they have been reduced, internal threats remain, said Captain Mark Anthony Ruelos, spokesperson of the Fort Magsaysay-based 7th Infantry Division. (READ: PH military grappling with insurgency amid China tension)

INTEROPERABILITY: The war games aim to improve the interoperability between the 2 militaries
INTEROPERABILITY: The war games aim to improve the interoperability between the 2 militaries

The US commander of the Joint-Special Operations Task Force-Philippines (JSOTF-P) Colonel Robert McDowell said the situation in Mindanao has improved greatly.

"The mission that we were helping the Philippine Army do with counterterrorism has greatly improved since the beginning. But we have many people in the southern Philippines who are lawless. They want to bring harm to the Philippines and to the people of the Philippines. That still creates a problem down there."

US cooperation with the Philippines, he said, is the "most succesful foreign internal defense counterterrorist operations that we’ve had the pleasure to be a part of" and it will continue "as long as the Philippine government wishes us to participate," he added.

Culturally similar

SHARED CULTURE: US troops don't find it hard to mingle with Filipino troops because of shared interests

SHARED CULTURE: US troops don't find it hard to mingle with Filipino troops because of shared interests
The armies in Fort Magsaysay were training on close quarter battle, long range target shooting, and jungle survival, among others. The goal was to improve the interoperability between the two militaries. Should the need arise, they know how to fight together.
"I have been nothing but impressed with how they performed. Not only with the difficult scenario and difficult terrain. In terms of tactics and with the heat, they did extremely well," Weinburgh said.
There was another thing he realized. "The biggest cultural lesson is how much we’re the same. We listen to the same music. We generally eat the same food. It’s been an absolutely positive experience," Weinburgh said.
The Philippine military is in a transition phase shifting its focus from internal security to external defense. As the military claims successes in the fight against communist insurgency and terrorism in the Southern Philippines, it is working to relegate internal security to the police.
How the newly-signed Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) will be implemented remains to be seen. It paves the way for increased presence of US troops, enables them to preposition defense and disaster equipment in the country, and allows them to build military facilities inside bases.

Cause of PH Army armory fire still a mystery–official

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (May 10): Cause of PH Army armory fire still a mystery–official

Smoke rises from the remains of a Philippine army munitions depot in Taguig City on May 7. AFP FILE PHOTO
Three days after a fire engulfed the Philippine Army’s armory in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City, an official said the cause has remained a mystery.

Lieutenant Colonel Noel Detoyato, Philippine Army spokesman, said that the Bureau of Fire Protection in Taguig handling the investigation was still investigating the cause of the fire, which caused a series of explosions that killed one Army personnel and injured 31 others.

“The Taguig BFP has not submitted anything regarding the cause of the fire,” Detoyato said.

Detoyato said the Philippine Army incurred a total of P19 million in losses based on a report by the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Battalion.

Of the P19 million, P3.65 million were from the destroyed building, while the remaining were from 16 rifles, 14 M14s and two M16s, explosive devices, and office equipment.

US regiment ‘honored’ to stand shoulder to shoulder once again with Filipino troops

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (May 10): US regiment ‘honored’ to stand shoulder to shoulder once again with Filipino troops

FORT MAGSAYSAY, Philippines – For Lieutenant Colonel Dave Zinn, commander of the 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment of the US Army, “Balikatan” (shoulder-to-shoulder) is more than the military exercises staged annually between US and Philippine forces.

Zinn said as far as the 4th Cavalry was concerned, there was a “strong partnership and friendship” that dated back to “70 years ago when his regiment fought shoulder to shoulder with Filipinos in liberating Luzon from the Japanese”.

“It is an honor and privilege to be here as the 4th Cavalry,” Zinn said here Saturday, the second day of the military exercises.

THE VIEW FROM CHINA. US Marines storm a beach along the West Philippine Sea on Friday but only to simulate an amphibious landing during joint US-Philippines military exercises dubbed Balikatan 2014 at San Antonio, Zambales. This year’s war games focus on maritime security. The exercise came even as tensions simmer between the Philippines and China over rival claims to territory in the West Philippine Sea, part of the South China Sea within Manila’s 370-km exclusive economic zone. MARIANNE BERMUDEZ

He recalled a story wherein his predecessors worked 30 miles behind Japanese lines plucking out Filipino and American troops during World War II and working together with locals to hide the rescued soldiers from the Japanese.

“Americans always remember,” he said.

Zinn said with three decades of friendship between the two countries, the Balikatan has become a “cornerstone” of the alliance.

Zinn said he told his soldiers to teach their local counterparts what they knew and to learn from them whom he describes as “a force hardened by combat”.

“I told my soldiers to focus on our Philippine Army partners and teach them how we operate,” Zinn said Saturday at Fort Magsaysay. “They are a force hardened by combat and they should also learn from them.”

Colonel Rodolfo Lavadia and Lieutenant Colonel Dave Zinn RYAN LEAGOGO/

Colonel Rodolfo Lavadia, Combined Army Forces Commander of the Philippine Army, said that the Balikatan was meant to focus more on the field exercises of the troops involved.

Zinn added that, even though the main focus of Balikatan 2014 was on maritime security, the exercises have a broad spectrum that involves all branches of the military, Army, Navy, and Air Force.

“Strengthening of the Army involves all,” Zinn said.

He also downplayed the issues of the dispute with China and the parameters of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (Edca).

“This is not related to anything happening right now, not related to what will happen in the South China Sea [West Philippine Sea],” said Lavadia.

Room for fun

Zinn added that even if the Balikatan was a series of military exercises, there’s always a room to put in some fun.

“This morning we had a fun run, it was great the troops were happy and we had fun,” the commander of the American troops said.

US hopes PH troops could use ‘principles’ of combat in conflict situations

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (May 10): US hopes PH troops could use ‘principles’ of combat in conflict situations


[Video: PH troops 'impressive' in Balikatan drills--US]

FORT MAGSAYSAY, Philippines – They could have been in Zamboanga City all over again except that this time, they’re not.

Although 1st  Lieutenant Dominador Tagorda of the Philippine Army said Saturday’s Balikatan exercises employed the same “tactics and techniques” that were used in Zamboanga City to quell the rebellion by the Moro National Liberation Front in September 2013,  the difference this time is being able to do them by applying US “principles” of combat.

Armored vehicles from the 3rd Mechanized Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army, one V150 Commando and three Simba fighting vehicles, took part in the gunnery live fire exercises here.

“We have practiced all week in conducting basic tasks,” Captain John Healy, commander of the 3rd squadron of the 4th cavalry troop, said. “This can be considered as the culmination, after all the classes and hands-on training.”

Healy said that the Philippine forces would not exactly mimic the tactics and techniques that the American troops did but learn the principles behind them.

“They would not exactly mimic our tactics because we use different equipment and machine, rather we would apply our principles during the exercises,” Healy said.

During the drills, the four vehicles which had three-man teams inside – a driver, gunner, and commander – took out targets from 600 meters away.
Alternately taking shots, the gunners used their .50-caliber machine guns atop the vehicles to take out the “enemies”.

Tagorda said the drills were used to simulate jungle and urban warfare, as the vehicles were versatile enough to engage in any accessible terrain.

It was the same tactics and techniques during the Zamboanga siege, he said.
“We practice movements and commands…to maximize the capability of our armored vehicles,” Tagorda said.

Tagorda said, however, that it was not only they who learned from the Americans but that it was two-way.

“We learn from our American counterparts and at the same time they too learn from us as we observe each other during the training,” Tagorda said.

During the training, Healy echoed what his colleagues had to say about Filipino soldiers who participated in this year’s Balikatan. “In a scale of one to 10, they’d be an eight.”

Photos: Live Fire

From the Manila Standard Today (May 11): Photos: Live Fire

Filipino soldiers fire their weapons during a live fire exercise at Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija on May 10, 2014. More than 5,000 US and Philippine troops are currently engaged in annual war games in the Philippines, with a focus on Maritime security. AFP

Marines gird for 'attacks' in war games

From the Manila Standard Today (May 11): Marines gird for 'attacks' in war games

Battle-tested Philippine marines and navymen will show to their American counterparts their capability ito respond to a crisis situation  today during the Balikatan ‘war games’ at the Philippine Marine Base in Ternate, Cavite.

The amphibious exercises or sea drills are designed for the US troops to observe and improve on how Filipino soldiers assault or defend themselves  during  a mock assault at an “enemy beach,” said
Col. Edgard Arevalo, commander of the Navy’s Civil Military Operations Group.

Earlier, both US and Philippine marines had “assaulted”  an enemy base in San Antonio, Zambales with both sides illustrating rapid maneuvers aboard high-speed rubber boats and riverine craft to test individual combat skills.
The naval scenario at the Cavite marine base would include rapid deployment of  Filipino marines aboard a Philippine logistic support vessel BRP Bacolod City (LC 551) in assaulting a fortified hostile beach front target.

Arevalo said the objective of the Balikatan at the Marine Base Gregorio Lim was to defeat the enemy while attaining the highest state of inter-operability through sharing of techniques, tactics and procedure that American and Filipinos sailors and marines performs their respective armed forces.

The exercises would have Marines Corps Operations Platoon aboard three newly acquired Small Unit Riverine craft seeing action.

The RP riverine contingent assaults a target while two vessels from BRP Dagupan City and BRP Abraham Camp, a Patrol Gunboat serves as support vessel.

Arevalo said this battle module during the exercise “will test the capability in the conduct of amphibious operation—that of being able to launch a seaborne force from the ship to the shore—is a competency unique to the Philippine Marine Corps as a type command under the Philippine Navy.”

For its part, the US will take note whether the conduct of the exercise by the Marines in the assault is appropriate or needing improvement.

The Philippine Marines had been describe as the frontline force by the government in any crisis situation particularly in Mindanao battling Abu Sayyaf Group and other muslim militants.

Arevalo said the employment of Philippine navy vessel during the exercise complements the marines operational needs to engage enemies in a critical situation.

“This competency of the Philippine Marine Corps is the umbilical cord, so to speak, that binds it with Philippine Fleet that provides he platforms or the ships from where the Marines are landed to some hostile beaches to engage the enemies entrenched inland, “ Arevalo said.

ASEAN calls on China to speed up maritime security talks

From GMA News (May 10): ASEAN calls on China to speed up maritime security talks

Southeast Asian foreign ministers voiced "serious concerns" on Saturday over naval clashes between Vietnam and China as the regional group's top official urged Beijing to step up efforts to advance talks on maritime security.

Foreign ministers and heads of state of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) are facing a test of unity at their summit this weekend as some members express alarm over China's growing assertiveness in the disputed South China Sea and push for a strong joint statement.

Tensions ratcheted up in the past week after China positioned a huge oil rig in an area also claimed by Vietnam, with each country accusing the other of ramming its ships in the region close to the disputed Paracel Islands.

ASEAN Secretary General Le Luong Minh, who is Vietnamese, told Reuters the incident added urgency to concluding talks between ASEAN and China on agreeing a code of conduct in the resource-rich sea - a set of maritime rules to ease tensions.

But he pointedly said China's efforts to conclude the talks had fallen short of ASEAN's. Despite holding three rounds of talks since last year, the discussions had yet to focus on "substantive issues," he said.

"We need efforts on both sides," he said in an interview on the sidelines of the summit in Myanmar's capital, Naypyitaw.

"On ASEAN, we have made great efforts. We need efforts on the part of China."

Tensions over the sea, which is claimed in part by four ASEAN members as well as China and Taiwan, have strained the group's unity in recent years, resulting in an embarrassing breakdown of a summit in Cambodia in 2012.

In their statement, ASEAN foreign ministers on Saturday called for "an early conclusion" of the code of conduct and expressed concern about "increased tensions in the area".

At the summit, which ends on Sunday, countries including Vietnam and the Philippines are pushing for a strong statement, while others - mindful of China's economic weight - are reluctant to directly criticise Beijing, diplomats say.

Myanmar, which is chairing ASEAN for the first time this year, signalled a softer approach to China.

Myanmar's government spokesman, Ye Ht, said ASEAN and China have a "very good relationship" and both recognize China's continued growth as a political and economic power should not be marred by conflict with its neighbours.

"China is not only big friends with Myanmar, but China is also the biggest trade partner with most of the ASEAN countries," he told reporters in Naypyitaw. "So China's peaceful rising is very important for the ASEAN region."

Territorial claims

Both Vietnam and staunch US ally the Philippines have insisted the South China Sea be discussed at the summit.

Philippine diplomats told Reuters some member states were opposed to issuing a separate statement on the latest South China Sea dispute or mentioning the tensions in the final communiqué due to be released on Sunday.

China says territorial disputes should be discussed on a bilateral basis. It claims the entire South China Sea, putting it in conflict with Taiwan, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Brunei. The last four are ASEAN members.

Speaking to reporters in Manila, Philippine President Benigno Aquino III rejected calls from China for bilateral talks to resolve territorial issues and said dialogue will not resolve the issues that are also affecting other regional countries.

Tensions spiked in another part of the South China Sea over the past week when Beijing demanded the Philippines release a Chinese fishing boat and its crew seized on Tuesday off Half Moon Shoal (Hasa-Hasa Shoal) in the Spratly Islands, which both countries claim.

BIFF bandit killed in clash, group vows revenge

From ABS-CBN (May 9): BIFF bandit killed in clash, group vows revenge

SHARIFF AGUAK, Maguindanao - A member of the rebel group Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) was killed in an encounter with government soldiers in Datu Unsay town, Maguindanao last Wednesday.

Col. Gener del Rosario, commander of the Philippine Army's 1st Mechanized Infantry Brigade, said the gunfight started when the soldiers sighted the bandits in the area.

The AFP also seized some firearms from the group.

"Mga .45-caliber 'yun, pati mga wirings ginagamit siguro sa paggawa ng IED (improvised explosive device). Meron ding granada," Del Rosario said.

BIFF spokesman Abu Misry Mama confirmed the death of one of his comrades and said the group will avenge the loss.

"Oo, isa sa mga kasama natin ang namatay, nakuha nila ang ilang armas natin," Mama said.

"Hindi tayo titigil hangga't hindi kami nakakaganti. Sila ang naunang umatake sa amin."

The group made true on its promise and harassed an Army detachment in Shariff Aguak the following day.

The exchange of fire lasted for almost half an hour. No casualties were reported in the attack.

Asiya Lindungan, a native resident of Shariff Aguak who lives with her family just in front of the military detachment, said she and her family will never relocate despite the danger of being caught in crossfire.

"Hindi kami aalis dito. Kasi wala pa ang kampo ng mga sundalo dito nandito na kami, nandito ang kabuhayan namin,'' she said.

Mama, meanwhile, said his group will continue to attack military camps.

The military said they are ready for further BIFF attacks.

"Nakahanda kami 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Sana lang hindi nila madamay yung mga sibilyan,'' del Rosario said.

The BIFF is a breakaway group of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) founded by Ameril Umbra Kato. The group is mainly opposed to the peace talks between the MILF and Philippine government.

Opinion: Why we have EDCA today

Opinion piece in the Philippine Star (May 11): Why we have EDCA today

Let’s face it, no amount of reasoning will ever convince those who have made up their minds against the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement between the United States and the Philippines. But the fact is, majority of Filipinos agree we need to secure our alliances to strengthen our external defense capabilities especially with the maritime disputes we face today. China’s aggression continues, its bully tactics directed not only against the Philippines but other claimant-nations in the East and South China Seas – with all indications that the Chinese provocations will not stop.

The Chinese are now shooting water cannons against other vessels in the disputed territories —  causing more tension not only among ASEAN nations but others whose economy could suffer if the trade arteries in disputed maritime territories ever get controlled by one country. Our military defense capabilities are among the weakest in the region – and we have only ourselves to blame as the facts we gathered would indicate.

Fact No. 1: When the US bases were closed down because the Philippine Senate voted against their retention in 1991, the US was actually glad it happened because the operational costs for maintaining bases were getting higher, while advancements in technology were making it easier to sustain American presence overseas even without military bases.

Fact No. 2: When the American troops finally left in 1992, we failed to preserve the integrity of the facilities they left. In fact we flew into Subic Airport with Manny Pangilinan last Thursday for the Ad Summit, and it was obvious that what was envisioned to be a flourishing and progressive Freeport Zone is far from actual reality. We saw it as a wasted opportunity to maintain the American facilities and transform it into something that would showcase our ability to modernize our military. In 1992, the Bases Conversion Development Authority was created primarily to boost the modernization program of the AFP. But to this day, we are just starting to develop a “minimum credible defense posture.”

People are asking, where did all the money from the sale of Fort Bonifacio and the other camps go? It is obvious the AFP is far from modernized, with military hardware and equipment needing serious upgrades. For sure, some of the funds remitted by the BCDA went towards “modernization,” but not everything was coursed through to where it was intended especially after the discovery of the massive corruption in the General Carlos Garcia case.

Fact No. 3: The Abu Sayyaf Group was becoming very strong in the South, sowing terror with kidnapping and extortion activities and it seemed the military was helpless in going after these terrorists. In May 2000, the ASG gained international notoriety because of the Sipadan kidnappings in Malaysia with 21 hostages brought to a terrorist camp in Jolo, Sulu. The following year, they kidnapped 20 tourists in Dos Palmas Resort in Palawan, among them Martin and Gracia Burnham. In September 2001, 9/11 took place. America was stunned, and launched the War on Terror that changed life in America and their ally countries.  Mindanao was identified as a training ground for al-Qaeda terrorists responsible for 9/11 — among them Khalid Sheikh Mohammed who said plans for the deadly 9/11 attacks against the US began in Manila in 1994, with his nephew Ramzi Yousef, the man tagged for the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center — as his conspirator. Together, the two were running an al-Qaeda cell and were doing “test runs” in the Philippines.

Mindanao was becoming a hotbed of extremists and by this time, then-president Joseph Estrada had declared an all-out war against MILF rebels. The enhanced terrorist activities in the South convinced Estrada that the Visiting Forces Agreement was crucial, and we needed a strong ally like the United States to enhance our defense posture and confront the enemy – both external and internal – from a position of strength. No one can dispute that American military training and technology such as the Satellite Global Positioning System helped Philippine troops in locating ASG strongholds and rescuing hostages that include Gracia Burnham, and in subsequently capturing Galib Andang a.k.a. Commander Robot, notorious for beheading hostages.

Fact No. 4: China’s growing belligerence regarding maritime disputes prompted the US Asia pivot policy, aimed at maintaining balance in the Asia Pacific region. China however continuously refuses to submit itself to international arbitration to resolve territorial disputes, and contrary to accusations against Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario that he was too pro-American, the Secretary exhausted everything in reaching out to the Chinese — trying backdoor channeling and all kinds of channeling to no avail. Today, China continues to taunt us. Intelligence information also indicates that without the intervention of the United States, the Chinese military command calculates they can take Metro Manila in less than a week. I remember a Chinese merchant once boasted that if the 1.2 billion people in China all pissed at the same time – a tidal wave would drown the entire Philippines.

Clearly both President Aquino and Secretary Del Rosario did their best in insuring the integrity of the EDCA that we have today. If one would only take the time to carefully look at the facts — then easily the conclusion will be that EDCA is equally beneficial to both the United States and the Philippines. The agreement will actually help our Armed Forces strengthen our external defense and disaster relief capabilities. There is absolutely no truth to those who argue that ultimately US bases will be re-established in the country. The Pentagon has in fact cut down on US bases all over the world including within the continental United States.


DVIDS: Balikatan volunteers paint school in Puerto Princesa

From DVIDS (May 10): Balikatan volunteers paint school in Puerto Princesa

PUERTA PRINCESA, Philippines -- At the Barangay Inagawan Elementary and High School, volunteers from the US Marine Corps, Navy, Army and the Royal Australian Navy painted the student health center, two student bus stop shelters and planted 20 eggplant seedlings in the school’s garden.

At the Barangay Inagawan Elementary and High School, volunteers from the US Marine Corps, Navy, Army and the Royal Australian Navy painted the student health center, two student bus stop shelters and planted 20 eggplant seedlings in the school’s garden.

“I hope our efforts today reflect our respect for the people of Palawan. Getting out here and working together builds even stronger bonds of cooperation and friendship,” said U.S. Marine Lt Col. Brian Lewis, officer-in-charge of the staff planning exercise for Balikatan 2014.

The Puerto Princesa Mayor’s office suggested that the Balikatan participants volunteer in Inagawan to help with ongoing restoration efforts. The relationship with Barangay Ingawan is ongoing. In 2013, Balikatan volunteers painted several other buildings within the community.

“Inagawan is one of the adopted Barangays,” said Julie Blanco, coordinator with IReach, a popular non-governmental organization that helps out local schools in more than 63 Batangas in here. “We really appreciate the help from the Balikatan participants.”

The volunteers are here working with the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Western Command as part of Balikatan, an annual bilateral training exercise to improve the AFP and U.S. military force interoperability during planning, contingency, humanitarian assistance, and disaster relief operations.

The principle of the school, Norma Delacruz, expressed her appreciation for the volunteers. Her administration oversees the wellness and education of more than 300 children. She said the school administration has been overwhelmed with ongoing renovations. She was very appreciative that the volunteers donated all of the paint and supplies, allowing the school to put the funds toward other needs.

Most of the volunteers were first time visitors to the Philippines.

“The best part of volunteering is seeing the smiles on the faces of the residents,” said U.S. Marine Capt. Christopher Wiese, a communications advisor for the STAFFEX. “Lending a helping hand is a universal way to communicate because at some point in time we have all needed a little help ourselves and understand the basic principle that we are stronger together.”

Local villagers, school administrators and volunteers from IReach soon joined the Balikatan volunteers. When the students return to school they will see their Student Health Center and bus stops freshly painted with the school’s bold colors, green and yellow.

After a long day of work, the guest volunteers joined the Inagawan local volunteers for a “salu-salu” or picnic by the beach. The local residents and volunteers shared stories and snapped some photos as a reminder of the event.

MILF: Editorial -- Popular ratification of Bangsamoro

Editorial posted to the MILF Website (May 10): Popular ratification of Bangsamoro

Even before it reaches Congress, the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) has already been popularly ratified by the people. They have endorsed the BBL for adoption by the Office of the President (OP) without any diminution as crafted by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC).
More than 200,000 people have assembled in seven cities and four towns in Mindanao, as well as in Metropolitan Manila particularly in Taguig City where substantial Moro populations are domiciled to openly approve and ratify the BBL. They appealed to Congress, which will eventually take hold of the fate of the BBL either this month or in June, not to water down the proposed BBL as originally forwarded to the OP. They also appealed to President Benigno Aquino III to personally look at the proposed BBL and as much as possible to guard the pristine form as originally submitted by the BTC.

The BBL is crafted on the basis of the letter and spirit of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) and extra care and conscious deliberation have been adopted by the BTC so that everything therein will stand the test of any legal challenge. It has been sanitized of any virus so that it would not follow the sorrow fate of the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) which was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in July 2008. This is why the BTC will propose in a separate document proposals to amend the Philippine Constitution to finally put to rest the Bangsamoro Question.

The reason for this separate proposal is well known. First, both the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) and Executive Order No. 120 signed by President Aquino in 2012 creating the BTC mandated it to make proposals, if necessary, to amend the Constitution. And second, the Constitution is too limited and narrow to fully address the Bangsamoro Question and once and for all put to rest the armed conflict in Mindanao between the Bangsamoro and the Philippine state.

Clearly, this problem or question is too big and complex that the present Constitution cannot fully accommodate. Fundamentally, this problem is equivalent to Bangsamoro right to self-determination, which the late founder of the MILF, Sheikh Salamat Hashim, succinctly asserted that it can only be expressed in two ways namely, independence or meaningful autonomy.  With granting of an independent state to the Bangsamoro not in any signed document or not possible at all, therefore, the deliberation of the BBL versus the Constitution has to be stretched to the limit. After all, what is above the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) which is no doubt an administrative region, and just below an independent state is so wide that creativity and flexibility in accommodating provisions of the BBL is the better part of judgment. Any conservative stance in applying the law into the provisions of the BBL will hardly get us somewhere and forward.

As above stated, the people, the source of sovereignty in this country, have already spoken in support of the BBL proposed by the BTC. It is only fair that these voices of the people must not leave unheeded to. We are sure that more voices in the form of rallies are in the offing.

MILF: Civil Society Organizations stage rally in front of Philippine Congress

From the MILF Website (May 10): Civil Society Organizations stage rally in front of Philippine Congress

More than a thousand rallyists led by the Mindanao Alliance for Peace (MAP) gathered in front of the Congress of the Philippines on May 5, 2014, urging lawmakers to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) without delay. The BBL and the upcoming Bangsamoro Region are seen as the gateway towards attaining peace in volatile and undeveloped region of Mindanao.
“The participants of this peace rally came from different areas of Metro Manila, and they have participated voluntarily to show their strong support for the enactment of BBL as they believe  that only the realization of the Bangsamoro Government can finally put bloodsheds into closure in Mindanao,” Bobby Benito, Deputy Spokesperson of MAP, said.

“Similar gathering by peace advocates and other concerned residents shall continue here in Metro Manila and Mindanao until the BBL is enacted into law by Congress,” Benito also said.

Asked about the influence of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in the said activity, Haji Murshid Mascud, Vice Chairman of the MAP, said: “This is purely Civil Society Organizations initiated activity.”

“...But the reality is we invited all Bangsamoro to participate as resolving the Mindanao question is everybody’s concern, because of this, there might be some MILF and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) members that participated without necessarily making any influence on the activity,” he clarified.

Mahdie Amella, Executive Director of the Mindanao Action for Peace and Development Initiative (MAPAD INITIATIVE), said that the said rally was successful as expected.

“The manifesto of the rally was submitted to Feliciano “Sonny” Belmonte, Speaker of the House of Congress and Congressman Rufus Rodriguez, a Mindanaoan” he disclosed.

Kamim Makmod, Chairman of the United Youth for Peace and Development in the national capital region (UNYPAD-NCR) said that his officers and members from organized chapters in Metro Manila participated in the rally in full force.

“The UNYPAD has been supporting the GPH-MILF peace process from the start, and we will continue to extend our support until peace finally reigns in Mindanao,” Makmod stressed.

Benito said that United Youth of the Philippines (UNYPHIL), Filipino-Muslim Foundation (FilMus), Women Group (Ummahat), Muslim Youth Brotherhood (MYB), Anak Mindnao, Norul Salam, ICARE FOR BANGSAMORO, NORONISA, IIS, UMAT, NANGSA, CMAMA, PHILPAD, MINSUPALA, ICP are among other organizations that participated in the rally.

On May 4, simultaneous rallies were held in the different cities and towns in Mindanao to advance the call for congress to deliberate and enact the BBL, where hundreds of thousands of Bangsamoro and Indigenous Peoples (IP’s) participated.

PHL jails Chinese fishermen for infringing wildlife law

From GMA News (May 10): PHL jails Chinese fishermen for infringing wildlife law

PNP Palawan detains 11 Chinese, 7 Pinoy fishermen for poaching

Policemen on Thursday, May 8, keep watch over 11 Chinese fishermen as they arrive in Puerto Princesa. The fishermen were arrested by the PNP Maritime Group at Hasa-Hasa Shoal west of Palawan on May 6. The Chinese were caught with seven Filipino fishermen transferring 350 marine turtles on their fishing vessel. The turtles are in the endangered specie list. Reuters/Liezel Chiu

The Philippines has jailed 11 Chinese fishermen caught with endangered sea turtles off a disputed shoal in the South China Sea, officials said on Saturday, rejecting demands from China to free the men.

China has claims on the South China Sea, an area rich in energy deposits and an important passageway traversed each year by $5 trillion worth of ship-borne goods. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam also have claims on the area.

The Philippine National Police on Tuesday intercepted a Chinese fishing boat carrying about 350 marine turtles off Half Moon Shoal in the Spratlys, arrested its crew and took them to the southwestern province of Palawan to face charges of violating wildlife protection laws.

If found guilty, the fishermen, who were transferred to a provincial jail late on Friday, face prison terms ranging from 12 to 20 years. But each can post bail of 150,000 pesos ($3,400) to secure temporary liberty while facing trial.

"They will remain in detention until the office of the provincial prosecutor has determined whether there is probable cause for the filing of formal charges," said Allen Ross Rodriguez, a government lawyer.

China's embassy in Manila on Thursday sent a diplomat to Palawan to interview the fishermen and work for their early release. But authorities said they must go through the judicial process.

A panel of Philippine officials has to decide separately on charges of illegal entry after the fishermen were caught about 60 miles (95 km) off Palawan, but within the country's exclusive economic zone.

China has demanded the release of the vessel and its crew, saying it has undisputed sovereignty over the area and adjacent waters in the South China Sea.

Tension is also rising in the Paracel islands after China parked its biggest mobile oil rig 120 miles (193 km) off the coast of Vietnam, with each country accusing the other of ramming its ships in the area, in the worst setback for Sino-Vietnamese ties in years.

The incidents in the Paracel and Spratlys islands are likely to be taken up by Southeast Asian leaders who are due to hold an annual summit in Myanmar's capital on Sunday.

Aquino to take up territorial row with China at ASEAN summit in Myanmar

From GMA News (May 10): Aquino to take up territorial row with China at ASEAN summit in Myanmar

President Benigno Aquino III will take up the Philippines' territorial dispute with China during the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit in Myanmar.

Aquino Saturday urged fellow Southeast Asian leaders to face up to the threat posed by China's contentious claims to most of the South China Sea as they headed to a regional summit.

Aquino said the issue concerned the "security" of Southeast Asia.

A report by GMA News' Lei Alviz on GMA News TV's "News TV Live" said Aquino stressed the need for the rule of law in addressing such disputes.

Even though not all ASEAN members are involved in maritime territorial disputes with China, Aquino said the issue concerned the security of the region as a whole.

"We wish to emphasize, uphold and follow the rule of law in resolving these territorial issues so that the rights of all countries involved will be recognised and respected," Aquino said in a speech at Manila airport.

"This step mirrors our belief that an issue that affects all countries in the region cannot be effectively resolved merely through a dialogue between two countries," he added.

In his departure statement, Aquino also said he will push for unity among ASEAN countries while attending the summit in Myanmar, radio dzBB's Mao dela Cruz reported.

The president will also thank the Philippines' ASEAN neighbors for their help in the wake of super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan).

President Aquino boarded a Philippine Airlines PR-001 flight for Myanmar at 1:05 p.m.

Officials seeing him off at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 2 included secretaries Leila de Lima (justice) and Proceso Alcala (agriculture), and House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr.

Aquino said he is to return to the Philippines before dawn Monday.

Southeast Asia as flashpoint

Manila filed a case at a UN tribunal in March challenging Chinese claims to most of the strategic sea. Aquino said he would discuss the case's regional implications with fellow Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) leaders meeting in Myanmar.

Myanmar is hosting the two-day meeting amid a flare-up of high-seas tensions between ASEAN members Vietnam and the Philippines and regional superpower China, also one of their main economic partners.

China claims most of the South China Sea, including waters and rocks close to the shores of its neighbors, and the Philippines and Vietnam have both accused Beijing of increasingly aggressive moves to assert its claims.

These claims also overlap those of Taiwan, as well as ASEAN members Brunei and Malaysia.

The sea is crisscrossed by fishing and shipping lanes and is thought to contain huge oil and gas reserves.

Hanoi said this week that Chinese ships that had surrounded a Chinese deep-water oil rig in waters claimed by Vietnam had used water cannon against, as well as rammed, Vietnamese patrol vessels there.

Meanwhile, Manila said it arrested 11 crew members of a Chinese-flagged fishing boat Tuesday for poaching hundreds of protected marine turtles in waters that are part of the Philippines' exclusive economic zone.

China has rejected arbitration in the Philippines' UN case, preferring to settle the issue through bilateral negotiations while insisting its sovereignty over these areas was "indisputable".

The other ASEAN members are Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, Singapore and Thailand.

The weekend summit in Naypyidaw follows a visit to Asia late last month by US President Barack Obama in which he restated support for Asian allies the Philippines and Japan, which is locked in its own maritime territorial dispute with China.

More than 5,000 US and Filipino troops are currently engaged in annual war games in the Philippines, with a focus on maritime security.

Presidential Legislative Liaison Office Secretary Mamba fetes Army division men

From the Philippine News Agency (May 10): Presidential Legislative Liaison Office Secretary Mamba fetes Army division men

CAMP MELCHOR DELA CRUZ, Isabela -- Secretary Manuel Mamba, the head of the Presidential Legislative Liaison Office, has awarded 13 personnel of the Army’s 5th Infantry Division for their exemplary performances in the conduct of AFP Internal Peace and Security Plan (IPSP) through “Bayanihan” here.

Mamba, the guest speaker, was assisted by Maj. Gen. Benito Antonio De Leon, commander of the Army’s 5th Infantry Division in giving Military Merit Medals to 11 deserving personnel of the Command for their rendered meritorious services.

In his message to the Star troopers, Secretary Mamba urged the leadership of 5ID Commander to lead the soldiers through the straight and narrow path of justice, honor and service and guide them through the challenges that come hand in hand with the sacrifices each and every soldier has embraced in the service of God and country.

He said that the life of our Filipino soldiers is full of sacrifice because of limited resources as compared to soldiers of rich nations. However, “the plight of our soldiers has not gone unnoticed under the leadership of our Commander-In-Chief, His Excellency Benigno Simeon Aquino III”, he added.

He further praised the new campaign strategy of the AFP which is the Internal Peace and Security Plan “Bayanihan”.

“This Bayanihan activity was immensely demonstrated by our Filipino soldiers together with American soldiers to the victims of Typhoon Yolanda which served as shining example to the whole world that if we stand united, there are no obstacles that cannot be hurdled, there are no tragedies that cannot be overcome,” he emphasized.

“As partner for peace and development, the combat soldier transformed themselves into developer who shared a genuine concern not only the security of our people but also for their general well-being,” he said.