Wednesday, May 14, 2014

2 NPAs killed in encounter in Gingoog City

From ABS-CBN (May 15): 2 NPAs killed in encounter in Gingoog City

Two suspected members of the New People’s Army (NPA) were killed in an encounter with government troops in Sitio Mangilit, Barangay Bal-ason, Gingoog City.

Lt. Col. Jose Leonard B. Gille, commanding officer of 4th civil-military operation, said the still unidentified men may have been members of the Guerilla Front 4B, North Central Mindanao Regional Command of the NPA.

Recovered from the scene were two M-16 rifles, Gille said.

According to Gille, they received information about the presence of NPA members in the area prior to the encounter.

Gille said the NPA members killed may have been responsible for the ambush on former Gingoog City Mayor Ruth Guingona in 2013.

Guingona survived, but 2 of her aides died.

MILF: MILF chief, OIC Secretary General discuss Moro issue in Jeddah

From the MILF Website (May 15): MILF chief, OIC Secretary General discuss Moro issue in Jeddah

Chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the current Secretary General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), H. E. Iyad bin Amin Madani, have met at the OIC General Headquarters in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on May 10 to discuss various issues particularly the relationship between the MNLF and the MILF and the peace pacts they respectedly signed with the Manila government.   

Iyad assumed office on January 13, 2014; and his deputy is Essam Sharaf. He preceded by Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu.

Present during the meeting were other leaders of the MILF as follows: Sayed Abdulsamad, Haji Mahmur Estino of Sulu, and an MILF representative to the OIC, who was not named in the report. Joining the OIC secretary general were Ambassador Kassim Almasry and Dr. Hassan Abedein, head of the OIC Minorities Department.

The two leaders also discussed ways to strengthen the Bangsamoro Coordinating Forum (BCF) which is a mechanism whereby all the factions of the MNLF including that of Nur Misuari and the MILF will sit and jointly tackle common issues that affect the various groups and the Bangsamoro people in general.

The chair of the BCF will rotate among the senior leaders of the various factions.

According to a source privy to some details of the discussion told Maradika that the main concern of the OIC leader is how to connect the GPH-MNLF Final Peace Agreement with the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) which was signed between the MILF and the government in Manila on March 27, 2014.

Murad explained that the 42 consensus points agreed in GPH-MNLF peace negotiation were already subsumed in the CAB, while the three remaining issues which the MNLF claimed to have been not implemented (provisional government, wealth-sharing arrangement, and plebiscite for the entire 13 provinces and five cities) are also part of the CAB.

Two senior leaders of the MNLF have accepted the governorship of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), namely Nur Misuari and Parouk Hussin.

On the part of the MILF, the ARMM was offered to it on three occasions but it rejected it consistently. The MILF considered the ARMM as no political solution to the Bangsamoro Question. President also described it as a “failed experiment”.

Also in their discussion points were as follows:

1.    Updates on the GPH-MILF peace process and the current situation in the Bangsamoro homeland;

2.    Comparison between the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) and the GPH-MNLF 1996 Final Peace Agreement as an implementation of the 1976 Tripoli Agreement;

3.    Concept of decommissioning of MILF under the normalization process.  Chairman Murad explained that the decommissioned weapons will not be surrendered to the GPH or destroyed but to be deposited beyond use with the Independent Decommissioning Body (IDB) composed of one (1) representative each from Turkey, Brunei and Norway and two each from the MILF and the GPH.  The decommissioning shall be gradually implemented synchronized with the establishment of the Police Force for the Bangsamoro, redeployment of the AFP, disbandment of Private Armies and implementation of Socio-Economic program for the MILF combatants in order to return to civilian life;

4.    Possible economic intervention of the OIC through the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) by unfreezing the development funds for Southern Philippines and/or appropriate additional development funds for immediate implementation in the area especially during the transition period in order to sustain the impact of the peace agreement and ensure its success;

5.    Accreditation of the Bangsamoro as the official observer to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation instead of the MNLF since the MNLF at this point in time does not represent the interest of the entire Muslims in Southern Philippines.  Murad explained that the Bangsamoro is already recognized as the national identity of the native inhabitants of Mindanao and the islands who are majority Muslims.  Representation to the OIC meetings or conferences can be agreed upon in the Bangsamoro Coordinating Forum or may be chosen by the Office of the Secretary General from nominees of the Bangsamoro Coordinating Forum;

6.    Briefing on the inclusive policy of the MILF in the implementation process of the CAB and the establishment of the Bangsamoro government.  We have been very consistent in our call to all brothers and sisters in other organizations including the MNLF and the entire population in the area to participate and be part of the process.  In fact several factions of the MNLF have already declared their support to the CAB and are actively participating in the process; and

7.    The MILF plan to transform itself into a mass based non-government organization undertaking socio-economic and Islamic awareness programs side by side with the Bangsamoro government.

MILF: MILF conducts peace dialogue with Teduray residents of Upi village

From the MILF Website (May 14): MILF conducts peace dialogue with Teduray residents of Upi village

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) through its Municipal Political Committee headed by Chairman Mensong Sumael conducted peace dialogue with Teduray residents of Nangi, Upi, Maguindanao on the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro on May 10, 2014.
Aside from the native inhabitants who trooped to the venue to listen to the speakers, Village Chairman Fernado Barneso, Sr. and members of the barangay council also attended the activity. Other participants also include members of the local MILF committee. The dialogue started with a du’a followed by the message of Chairman Barneso.

He said, “Actually we respect and are supportive to the proposed Bangsamoro but we would like also to fully understand the features of CAB, the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) and the four Annexes so that we can also help in enlightening our people to avoid confusions and misunderstanding of the peace agreement”.

Al Haj Suharto, MILF Maguindanao Information Committee Provincial Director clarified the issue of going to war with someone, groups of people or government in the Islamic concept. “In Islam you’re not allowed to fight without solid reason except defending yourself from oppression or cruelty in order to attain justice and have peace”.

Professor Esmael Abdula delved on the peace process expounded on the FAB, highlights of CAB and the four annexes.  Abdula is currently the Chairman of the Campaign and Mass Mobilization, Sub Committee on Information, Committee on Information and member of the Steering Committee of Bangsamoro Leadership and Management Institute (BLMI) at the same time the institute’s training officer.

Abdula pointed out that the roots cause of the Mindanao conflict were foreign and local colonizations of the Moro homeland that marginalized our people and devastated the region. “This isn’t a conflict between Muslims and Non-Muslims; it’s a fight against oppression,” Abdula said further.

Listening to the presentation of Abdula, the participants became aware of the Mindanao problem and the benefits the inclusive Bangsamoro region can provide or offer to the people. They instead asked on how to resolve local conflict in the barangay and appealed to have similar dialogue that will involve other residents of Barangay Nangi.

CPP/NDF: NPA/NPA strikes at 67th IB-Army, Cateel Mayor Nunez

NPA statement posted to the CPP Website (May 13): NPA strikes at 67th IB-Army, Cateel Mayor Nunez

Roel Agustin II
NPA Comval-Davao East Coast Subregion Subregional Command
The New People’s Army Comval-Davao East Coast Subregional Command launched a series of tactical offensives against the 67th Infantry Battalion to give justice to victims of Typhoon Pablo who continue to suffer from offensive military operations, state’s gross negligence and corruption.
  • Two soldiers were wounded from the snipe shots of Red fighters from the NPA’s Guerrilla Front 15 Operations Command in Brgy. Binondo, Baganga, Davao Oriental last April 23, at 11am. Two hours later, four soldiers were killed when the NPA discharged a command detonated explosive in Purok 7 Tanggaan, Brgy. Manurigao, New Bataan. The troops came from its offensive operations in Brgy. Pichon, Caraga town, Davao Oriental.
  • On May 5 at 5pm, one was killed when the NPA sniped at the battalion’s Reengineered Special Operations Team in Brgy. Pagsabangan, New Bataan.
  • On May 11, the NPA Guerrilla Front 20 Operations Command imposed sanctions against logging lord Cateel Mayor Camilo Nunez, burning 1 bulldozer in sitio Yapsay, Taytayan, Cateel, Davao Oriental. The sanction was not only part of the total log ban campaign currently being implemented region-wide, but also to punish Nunez for neglecting the long-term rehabilitation of Cateel residents who were victims of the December 4, 2012 Typhoon Pablo tragedy.
Up to now, thousands of peasants and residents of Cateel continue to wallow from lack of decent houses, damaged roads, lack of health services and food production subsidy. The lack of support for Typhoon Pablo victims is glaring despite the millions poured in to supposedly rehabilitate disaster-hit towns of Davao Oriental and Compostela Valley. The measly performance of reactionary welfare agencies is shown even in the minimal accomplishment of its housing program: from a target of 1,300 houses, only 110 houses of substandard materials were built. As Typhoon Pablo survivors continue in their suffering, wanton logging and mining operations are being done in the ravaged towns of Baganga, Cateel and Boston, with complicity from Nunez, his sister, Gov. Corazon Malanyaon and Cong. Elmer Dayanghirang.

Military operations by the 67th IB have continued, spawning human rights abuses and leaving a trail of terror in the villages that they scour and occupy. Residents and peasant leaders who complain of the lack of social services are identified and picked up by the military for interrogation. The military checks entry of all relief goods, logistical support and road rehabilitation equipment coming from private groups and donors on suspicion that these are backed by the NPA. Even farms and fishing implements run by farm cooperatives have been destroyed by the military.
Military checkpoints are placed to implement regular food blockade, while fascist troops also occupy villages, schools and chapels. Military abuses are rampant in order to silence people’s organizations who struggle against severe hunger and poverty in the wake of Pablo and Agaton storms.

To widen its intelligence network, the military abets the organization of 10 individual-groupings of residents using the pretext of securing income through the DSWD’s cash for work scheme, employment, Philhealth cards, and congressional scholarship in exchange for intelligence information. The 67thIB’s intelligence, psywar agents and soldiers in Peace and Development Outreach Program sponsor gambling in the villages and exploit women. To dissuade the widespread abuse by abusive intel operatives, on April 14, NPA’s Guerilla Front 15 Operations Command arrested and later released one of the BIN (Barangay Intelligence Network) informants in Brgy. Binondo, Baganga, Davao Oriental.

Even wives of Cafgu members were not spared from the Army’s sexual exploitation, when an incidence of attempted rape last month triggered an uprising of Cafgu members resulting in the killing of one Sgt. Aikal of the 67th in sitio Nabunga, Boston, Davao Oriental.

The 67th IB has been notorious since day 1 after Typhoon Pablo struck when its goons killed progressive leader Cristina Jose. It continues to this day as mad dogs, ever berserk in trampling the rights of disaster victims and protecting politician loggers and miners. As it attempts to strike terror in the hearts of the masses, the NPA counters them with fierce battles and guerrilla warfare. Red fighters under the New People’s Comval-Davao East Coast Subregional Command persevere in launching agrarian revolution to help families of Typhoon Pablo victims march to full recovery and real development.

CPP/NDF: NDFP condemns illegal arrest and detention of NDFP Consultant Roy Erecre

NDF propaganda statement posted to the CPP Website (May 12): NDFP condemns illegal arrest and detention of NDFP Consultant Roy Erecre
Luis Jalandoni
NDFP Negotiating Panel
The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) Negotiating Panel vigorously condemns the illegal arrest and detention of NDFP Consultant Roy Arboladera Erecre. He was arrested on 7 May 2014 in Barangay (village) Bajada, Davao City, by the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) of the Philippine National Police (PNP), and the Eastern Mindanao Command of the Philippine Army under Captain Caber. He is currently detained at the Bohol district jail in Tagbilaran City.

Mr. Erecre holds an NDFP Document of Identification No. ND978243 under the assumed name Vide Alguna. He was issued a Letter of Acknowledgment as an NDFP Consultant for the Visayas on 20 April 2001 by then GRP Negotiating Panel Chairman Silvestre H. Bello III. The Letter of Acknowledgment states: “The above named person is entitled to the safety and immunity guarantees (JASIG) for the duration of the peace negotiations. You are hereby required to facilitate the safe conduct and free passage of the above named person.”

We condemn the Armed Forces of the Philippines and PNP units for disregarding Roy Erecre’s NDFP Document of Identification, which he had in his possession upon the illegal arrest. We demand his immediate and unconditional release. For the meantime, his rights to be visited by his relatives and lawyers must be respected.

We hold the Aquino regime accountable for this latest gross violation of the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG). In addition to the illegal arrest and detention of NDFP Consultants Benito Tiamzon and Wilma Austria, and the continued violation of the rights of more than a dozen other NDFP consultants and JASIG-protected personnel, this continued refusal of the Aquino regime to comply with its obligations according to the JASIG and the Comprehensive Agreement of Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) is a big obstacle to the holding of peace negotiations between the regime and the NDFP.

Chief of US troops in PH explains role under EDCA

From Solar News (May 13): Chief of US troops in PH explains role under EDCA

Col. Robert McDowell, commander of the Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines (Image captured from Solar News TV clip)
Following days of intense joint training exercises, Filipino and American soldiers took time to honor those who came before them.
They had a wreath-laying in Cabanatuan City, at the Pangatian War Memorial, the site of a concentration camp where Filipino guerilla and American liberation troops fought to rescue 516 allied prisoners of war.
Col. Robert McDowell, commander of the Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines (JSOTFP), said: "It was people like this, long before any of us were born, that in a very difficult time, showed us what shoulder to shoulder means."
McDowell is based in Zamboanga City where American forces have set up, starting in 2002, facilities inside the Western Mindanao Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
Twelve years since their so-called rotational deployment to the region, the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) was forged.
In a rare interview with media, McDowell did admit the prolonged stay of US forces in Mindanao can be compared to the concept of the new defense deal.
"That is correct," he said. "We will be at places where Philippine armed forces are already at. We're not going to create any new bases. We serve at the pleasure of the Philippine government, and we work in numbers that are acceptable to the Philippine people as a whole, and what the government allows."
McDowell said that, despite the shift in focus of the two armed forces' priorities – from counter-terrorism in early 2000 to maritime security now – the US will keep its forces in Mindanao.
According to reports, American troops in the region have been gradually downsized in preparation for their redeployment to other parts of the country, depending on the agreed terms under EDCA.
"In reality, the mission and numbers of JSOTFP have actually decreased for many years," he said. "Well before EDCA, we've been reduced in numbers.
There was a point in time where we, just a few years ago, had well into over 500 soldiers down there. We're much smaller than that and a lot of that is due to the fact that the Philippine armed forces are very successful in what they are doing."
With EDCA still facing tough scrutiny by lawmakers, both Philippine and US forces will have to contend in the conduct of joint exercises for now.
On Sunday (May 11), Philippine Marine troops held a mock nearshore raid of an enemy hideout as their American counterparts observed closely.
It was also a chance for Marines to display the new riverine boats donated by US, as they made a simulated clandestine attack on their target.
The objective of the amphibious raid exercise was to test the interoperability of Filipino and US forces in a ship to shore combat operation. But then again, this wasjust an exercise. It will have to take more than Balikatan war-games for this to happen in the real life.
The Philippine Constitution clearly forbids foreign forces from engaging in combat on Philippine soil, something US forces in Mindanao have been accused of violating, by actively participating in operations to destroy terror groups like the Abu Sayyaf.
Under the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty, the US and the Philippines are compelled to aid each other in the event of an external attack.
Col. Alvin Parreño, superintendent of the Marine Corps Training Center, said: "The importance of this is the combined operation which might come later on. During invasion, war, or rebellion – at least we are ready for that. And, at least... the interoperability is very helpful to the troops."
Philippine officials insist that EDCA will simply pave the way for more joint activities like war-games, with the objective of advancing bilateral defense relations with US.
"There's not any need for us to have any wider access at this point in time," McDowell said. "The Philippine government and the armed forces have provided us plenty of access to work with the Philippine armed forces as needed. And again, it's been such a brotherhood, it's been easy to work that piece."
It remains to be seen whether EDCA will equally serve the best interests of Manila and Washington.
With a lukewarm reception of the military accord in Congress, it looks like the agreement's authors – at least on the Philippine side – will still have to do a lot of convincing.

Gingoog city Mayor pushes call for peace

From the Philippine Information Agency (May 14): Gingoog city Mayor pushes call for peace

Underscoring the importance in attaining unity and progress, Gingoog City Mayor Ruth de Lara Guingona calls for peace and making nonviolent solutions to conflicts.

This was in line with the recent encounter of the 403rd Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army - 58th Infantry Battalion (58thIB) and the New People’s Army (NPA) on May 12 this year at sitio Mangilit in barangay Bal-ason, having two casualties of the armed group.

The Mayor’s peace call is gaining massive support from the affected communities across the city.

The successful operation was due to the joint efforts of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the overwhelming support of the local populace, said Mayor Guingona.

She also cited AFP’s intensified efforts in securing the city from lawlessness and violence.

Meanwhile, Col. Francisco Pabayo heads the 403Bde as the commanding officer while Lt. Col. Jose Eriel Niembra for 58thIB.

2 ‘rebels’ yield

From the Visayan Daily Star (May 14): 2 ‘rebels’ yield

Two men who claimed to be members of the New People’s Army in southern Negros Oriental voluntarily surrendered to the 79th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army Monday.

They were identified as “Dagul”, 21, and “Ivan”, 29, (not their real names), alleged members of Squad 3, Sentro de Gravidad Platoon of the South East Front-Komiteng Rehiyon Negros operating in Pamplona and San Jose towns, and in the boundaries of Sta. Catalina and Siaton, in Negros Oriental.

The former rebels said they lost interest in pursuing the armed struggle and decided to leave the underground movement because of internal conflicts in the organization. They also said they can sense that it is on the brink of collapse, a press release from the 79th IB said yesterday.

They said their surrender was to clear their names and go back to mainstream society to live peacefully with their families.

Lt. Col. Harold Anthony Pascua, acting commanding officer of the 79th IB, d said the surrender of the two “a clear manifestation that the New People’s Army in the area is weak and in skeletal condition as they experience both combat and social pressure”.

Pascua added that now that the province of Negros Oriental has been declared as Conflict Manageable and Development Ready, more and more pressure among the people will be experienced by the armed group and he is calling on the remaining elements of the NPA in Negros Oriental to lay down their arms and, together, solve the problems peacefully.

The 79th IB will help facilitate, through the Provincial Social Welfare and Development Office, the surrender of ‘Dagul” and “Ivan” for them to avail of the Local Social Integration Program of the province, that provides cash assistance for livelihood.

Army soldiers recover cache of firearms in Negros Oriental

From the Philippine News Agency (May 14): Army soldiers recover cache of firearms in Negros Oriental

Troops of the 79th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army recovered Tuesday a cache of firearms at Sitio Pag-inuman in Barangay Bahian, Tanjay City in Negros Oriental.

Lt. Alex Robillos, civil military operations officer of the battalion, said around 4 a.m. Tuesday, soldiers retrieved three M-16 rifles and one long magazine as well as personal belongings and “subversive documents of high intelligence value”.

The successful recovery of the firearms is attributed to the information provided by concerned citizens to the Army unit, said Robillos.

To recall, 79th IB troops clashed with suspected NPA members in Barangay Bahian last March 8 which resulted in the evacuation of residents who said they were afraid to get caught in the crossfire.

They later returned to their homes after they were assured of their safety.

On March 11, another encounter ensued between the suspected rebels and soldiers in Barangay Sto. Nino, also in Tanjay City.

The series of encounters and the recovery of firearms from the alleged NPA rebels is attributed to the continued support and cooperation of the civilian populace especially after Negros Oriental was declared conflict manageable and development ready as far as the insurgency problem is concerned.

Lt. Col. Harold Anthony F. Pascua, acting commanding officer of the 79th IB, was quoted by Robillos as saying that “this is the result of the cooperation of the Negrenses and the people themselves are now the ones reporting regarding the enemy presence and activities” and “put an end” to the NPA.

Pascua also reiterated his call to the remaining elements of the NPA to lay down their arms and peacefully surrender, avail of the Social Integration Program of the government and be a productive member of the mainstream society.

US pilots play big brothers to Tacloban children

From the Philippine News Agency (May 14): US pilots play big brothers to Tacloban children 

Major Justin Hill, a United States Marine Corps member, piloted the C-130 aircraft that brought on Saturday morning a composite team of volunteer medics who come from the PHL-US Balikatan Exercise 2014 being held in Albay.

With them were Albay-based mediamen, including this stringer.

It took the plane almost one hour in the air from Legazpi airport to the Tacloban (Daniel Z. Romualdez) airport.

Hill confessed that it was his first time to land in that airport.

The Balikatan Exercise 2014 group that went to Tacloban City was composed of combined medical personnel from the Armed Forces of the Philippines, US and Australia, including support personnel.

The team’s mission was to conduct a medical mission to the typhoon-stricken villagers now housed in tents at the Fisherman’s Village Elementary School in Barangay 88.

Hill and his co-pilot, USMC Captain Christopher J. Kim, also proceeded to the Fisherman’s Village Elementary School.

He sat beside Jesusa Garido, 7, who was sketching a home surrounded with trees and with children playing nearby as the sun smiled at her dream house.

In front of the friendly USMC pilots were John Rey Lago, 12, and his friends Jake Obias, 10, and John Paul Garido, 10.

These children are among the residents displaced by powerful typhoon “Yolanda” (International name: Haiyan) that left massive devastation on government and private properties, killed more than 6,000 people and rendered homeless tens of thousands of people who are now currently living in the tent city.

Hill and Kim served as teachers and big brothers for a few hours to Jesusa, Jake, John Rey, John Paul and other children whose parents lined up for the free medical services provided by the medical team.

Unlike Hill, Kim had served for a month in Tacloban City in a humanitarian service mission that brought food stuff, water, medicines and other necessities of the typhoon victims.

He flew from Okinawa, Japan to Tacloban.

“I was here for a month during the height of the relief mission -- dropped off food, water and other supplies and transported people to Manila. But this is my first time to interact with the children and typhoon Haiyan survivors personally, and I’m happy to be with them,” Kim said.

As the pilots played with and exchanged pleasantries with the children in an open space covered with tarpaulin within the compound of the school, buddies John Ray and Jake shared their trauma through drawings.

John illustrated his artwork that showed a volcano, a sea with big waves engulfing houses and his friend running for safety.

John handed his drawing over to Hill, who said John’s art work represents his experience when Haiyan hit Tacloban City on November 8, 2013.

“It represents what he saw,” Hill said.

John Paul drew a helicopter and gave it to Kim as his way of expressing “thank you” for helping them.

When asked why he sketched a chopper, John Paul said he wanted to thank the soldiers for giving them food during the hardest time of their lives after the onslaught of Yolanda.

Beyond the innocence and happy smiles of the typhoon-stricken children currently packed up in the tent city, they said their ultimate wish is to have a new home for them to be able to live a normal life again.

Their problems are lack of potable water, unsanitary surroundings and the impact of extreme weather, said Myrna Vallan, 30.

Myrna’s mother, Corazon, 54, died on Jan. 1 while housed in the tent city due to diarrhea.

“We’re facing extreme hardship here, no enough food, no water and very unsafe due to unhealthy surroundings,” she said.

Diarrhea, fever and cough are the most common diseases they incur, Myrna added.

“On daytime, it is very hot here and so cold during nighttime and this situation aggravates our bad condition,” she lamented.

Myrna said the arrival of US, AFP and Australian humanitarian medical team was very timely as his son Raymart, 6, has been suffering from diarrhea and fever.

Rochiel Lacaba, 33, mother of three-year-old girl Alexis, said their pressing concerns are the possible spread of diseases, lack of food and water.

“Thanks to these soldiers for conducting this medical mission because we can now avail of free medicines and check-up for our ailing children,” Lacaba said.

The volunteer medics were led by US Marine Major Jason Johnson and Navy Captain Ramon Raneles of the AFP.

The Balikatan is a long-standing military activity between US and Philippines troops which has strengthened the relationship between the two countries.

Balikatan 2014, the 30th strong bilateral exercise, focuses on humanitarian assistance and disaster response where soldiers from the two countries work together, or shoulder-to-shoulder, to improve each other’s military forces, especially during disaster response episodes.

Military recovers slain bodies of communist rebels

From the Philippine News Agency (May 14): Military recovers slain bodies of communist rebels

The military on Tuesday has recovered two unidentified bodies of two suspected communist rebels killed in an armed encounter on the outskirts of Gingoog City last Monday, the military reported on Wednesday.

Lt. Jose Gille, the acting spokesperson of the army’s 4th Infantry Division here, said that the encounter took place in the farming village of Bal-ason in Gingoog City while the army’s 58th Infantry Battalion was on patrol last Monday morning.

The government troopers encountered an undetermined number of New People’s Army (NPA) rebels believed members of the Front 4B of the communist North Central Mindanao Regional Committee, which resulted in a five minute running gun battle in the area, Gille said.

He said that the bodies of the slain rebels were recovered only on Tuesday when the military conducted a clearing operation in the encounter site.

According to Gille, the army operatives also recovered two M-16 rifles beside the bodies of the slain communist rebels who were believed to be among the group who ambushed Gingoog City Mayor Ruthie Guingona sometime in April 2013.

He said that the civilian residents in Bal-ason have tipped off the military of the presence of an unidentified armed group who were reportedly extorting the local farmers there.

“The successful military operations were the result of information provided by the local residents and barangay officials who were fed up of the rebel extortion activities in the area,” Gille added.

Maj. Gen. Ricardo Visaya, commander of the army’s 4th ID, said that the military operations against the NPA bandits will continue with renewed vigor to protect the people of Gingoog and Misamis Oriental.

The government, however, welcomes those who will surrender and rejoin mainstream society. There are government programs for those who will opt to lay down their arms, Visaya said.

He said the downfall of the communist movement in the region becomes inevitable with the surrender of 170 former rebels from Misamis Oriental, Bukidnon and the CARAGA region since mid last year.

The rebels also turned over a total of 173 assorted firearms, Visaya added.

CHR: 'Flip-flop' stand of rebel returnee caused by fear

From the Philippine News Agency (May 14): CHR: 'Flip-flop' stand of rebel returnee caused by fear

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) in Negros Oriental on Wednesday warned militant groups that they will be held accountable if something happened to a rebel returnee who did a flip-flop stance recently, much to the surprise of local government and military officials.

CHR special investigator Dr. Jess Cañete was referring to the conflicting statements of Gennie Labrador, a former member of the New People’s Army (NPA) who had earlier received financial assistance from the provincial government under the Social Integration Program for former rebels.

Labrador was one of the 30 rebel returnees who received cash incentives from the provincial government during the recent declaration of Negros Oriental as conflict manageable and development ready province.

The rebel returnee, however, sprung a surprise and announced at a press conference called for by the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan and the Karapatan days after the declaration was made that he was not a former NPA member but was urged to admit the same by government authorities.

During that press conference, the militant groups criticized the declaration as misleading, saying that the basic social problems, more particularly poverty has not been addressed by government and as such, the insurgency problem will still persist.

However, Labrador did a back-flip late Wednesday afternoon and confirmed that he was, indeed, a former NPA member prior to his surrender, said Cañete.

In an interview with reporters and in the presence of Dr. Cañete and provincial Social Welfare and Development Officer Alice Legarde, Labrador claimed that he was just under pressure allegedly by the militant groups which pushed him to say otherwise.

Cañete said he believes Labrador was telling the truth in admitting he was a rebel returnee.

Furthermore, Labrador’s surrender and the subsequent entitlement of the financial assistance were thoroughly and properly documented by the provincial Social Welfare Office.

Dr. Cañete appealed to the militant groups to give peace a chance to prosper in Negros Oriental.

“We should not be fault finders and not derail government programs to improve the lives of the people”, he said.

Labrador had recounted to the CHR chief his activities as an armed member of the NPA until his surrender but admitted he was fearful of retaliation from his former comrades in the underground organization.

But, if in any event Labrador’s previous claim of not being rebel returnee is true, the CHR is ready to subpoena those concerned and have them explain why he was being asked to pass himself off as a former NPA member, Cañete warned.

But he stressed he is inclined to believe Labrador is a former rebel now seeking a new life, based on his interview and interaction with the latter.

If ever Labrador’s life will be under threat, Cañete said he will hold the militant groups responsible.

“I will hold them responsible for the life, safety and security of Labrador, because based on his earlier statements, he said he is not afraid of the government authorities but rather is fearful of these (militant) groups,” Cañete quipped.

“He said that, and I have a recording of his statements,” Cañete added.

DND confirms China's 'earthmoving activities' in Johnson South Reef

From the Philippine News Agency (May 14): DND confirms China's 'earthmoving activities' in Johnson South Reef

The Department of National Defense (DND) on Wednesday confirmed that China is conducting "earthmoving activities" at Johnson South Reef which lies 263 nautical miles away from Puerto Princesa, Palawan.

"The DND confirms (observing) reclamation or earthmoving activities in said areas and to question on whether that (is for construction) of an airfield, we cannot speculate at this point," Defense spokesperson Dr. Peter Paul Galvez said.

Earlier reports claimed that China is constructing an airfield some 300 to 500 meters long.

Galvez said "earthmoving" activities started between January and February this year.

He added Philippine aerial patrols spotted the construction during their reconnaissance flights.

The DND spokesperson declined to comment on how it would impact the security and stability in the contested Spratly Islands, which is being claimed by the Philippines, China, Vietnam, Malaysian, Taiwan, and Brunei.

Sources said that the ongoing construction works in Johnson South Reef is a violation of the Declaration of the Code of Conduct between China and ASEAN which was signed in 2002.

Under the agreement, signatories are prohibited from constructing new facilities in the disputed areas and exercise self restraint.

South Johnson Reef came under Chinese control following two bloody naval skirmishes with Vietnam, which took place in 1975 and 1988, and resulted in the brutal beating of Vietnamese naval forces involved.

(Update) DND tells China to stop construction activities at Johnson South Reef

From the Philippine News Agency (May 14): (Update) DND tells China to stop construction activities at Johnson South Reef

Stressing that its actions at the Johnson South Reef are destabilizing regional peace, Department of National Defense (DND) spokesperson Dr. Peter Paul Galvez told China Wednesday to "stop immediately" its construction activities at the disputed territory.

"This activity contravenes the spirit of the DOC[Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, which was signed by China and the Asean last Nov. 4, 2002] and a security concern of all the region," he stressed.

The DOC which was signed by the Philippines, Myanmar, Vietnam, Indonesia, Singapore, Brunei, Thailand, Cambodia, and China, stipulates that all parties involved will exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities that would complicate or escalate disputes and affect peace and stability.

This includes the refrain from action of inhabiting on the presently uninhabited islands, reefs, shoals, cays, and other features and to handle their differences in a constructive manner.

"These provocative acts, which they should immediately stop, further disturbs the fabric of regional peace and stability," Galvez stressed.

Johnson Reef lies about 263 nautical miles away from Puerto Princesa, Palawan and 190 nautical miles from the tip of Balabac, Palawan.

Galvez made this statement in wake of reports that China is now conducting "earthmoving" activities at Johnson South Reef.

Earlier reports claimed that China is constructing an airfield between 300 to 500 meters in length for use of its aircraft.

Galvez said "earthmoving" activities started between January and February this year.

He added Philippine aerial patrols spotted the construction during their reconnaissance flights.

Johnson South Reef came under Chinese control following two bloody naval skirmishes with Vietnam, which took place in 1975 and 1988, and resulted in the brutal beating of Vietnamese naval forces involved.

In the March 14, 1988 encounter alone, two Vietnamese armed transports were sunk after a gun battle with Chinese frigates.

Seventy Vietnamese sailors were killed while no losses were incurred by the China side.

2 more rebels surrender to Army in Negros Oriental

From the Philippine News Agency (May 14): 2 more rebels surrender to Army in Negros Oriental

Two more New People's Army (NPA) fighters have voluntarily surrendered to the 79th Infantry Battalion in Negros Oriental.

This took place last May 12, a belated report forwarded by 3rd Infantry Division spokesperson Major Ray Tiongson said.

He identified the surrenderees as "Dagul", 21 and "Ivan", 29 for security reasons.

Tiongson said the two are members of Squad 3, Sentro de Grabidad Platoon, South East Front, KR-Negros operating in the areas of Pamplona, San Jose and boundaries of Sta. Catalina and Siaton, Negros Oriental.

He added that pair decided to surrender to give their families a better future.

Tiongson stressed that the two were also convinced by reports of other former NPAs fighters who are now living peacefully and productively with their families.

PH: Spratlys 'airstrip' affirms case vs China

From Rappler (May 14): PH: Spratlys 'airstrip' affirms case vs China

China rejects the Philippines' protest over the construction of a suspected Chinese airstrip in the disputed West Philippine Sea

China's construction of a suspected airstrip in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) proves Manila right in filing a case against Beijing, the Philippines asserted Wednesday, May 14, as China rejected its latest protest.

Philippine presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said this after the Department of National Defense (DND), in a separate briefing, confirmed “ongoing reclamation or earthmoving activities” in Mabini (Johnson) Reef, which is found in the Spratly Islands in the West Philippine Sea.

Lacierda explained that Mabini is claimed by 3 countries: the Philippines, China, and Vietnam.

“This is one instance where the President’s insistence on a multilateral discussion rather than a bilateral dialogue holds true,” Lacierda said.

He added, “How does one conduct a bilateral dialogue with another country where the claimants are more than two countries?”

By “multilateral,” Lacierda referred to the historic case filed by the Philippines against China, which involves a third party – a United Nations-backed arbitral tribunal at the Permanent Court of Arbitration.

China rejects this case and insists on bilateral means – basically one-on-one talks with the Philippines. Experts see this as lopsided because China is one of the Philippines' biggest trading partners and is also a rising superpower. (READ: China's strategy vs PH: Trial by publicity)

China snubs PH protest

Given the Chinese position, which the Philippines described as “rigid,” China rejected the Philippines' protest over its construction of a suspected airstrip.

The Philippines' Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) disclosed this in a statement as it also confirmed reclamation activities in Mabini.

“On April 4, 2014, the Philippines protested (the) Chinese reclamation on Mabini (Johnson) Reef. The Chinese side rejected the protest,” the DFA said.

In an interview with reporters, Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said China rejected the Philippines' protest because the reef is supposedly part of Chinese territory.

Asked if China was building an airstrip on the reef, Del Rosario said: "That's one possibility."

In its statement, the DFA said President Benigno Aquino III himself “raised the Mabini Reef issue” at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Summit in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar. The department did not discuss China's reaction.

In any case, the DFA said the Philippines already included Mabini in its 4,000-page written pleading against China, called a memorial, “to clarify Mabini Reef's physical character.” (READ: PH strikes back, files pleading vs China)

Earlier on Wednesday, DND spokesman Peter Galvez said “we cannot speculate at this point,” when asked if the construction involves an airstrip.

Galvez is certain, however, that sometime in February, “we observed that the structures are getting bigger,” and that the Philippines “observed this earthmoving activity early this year.”

Mabini and armed conflict

While the Philippines and China fight over Mabini, Vietnam also has a stake in this – which even once resulted in armed conflict.

This happened in 1988, when “3 Vietnamese vessels were sunk and 70 of its soldiers killed” near Mabini, according to a primer published by the University of the Philippines (UP) Asian Center and the UP Institute of Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea.

The primer described this as one of two instances of armed conflict in the South China Sea, “both of them between China and Vietnam.”

Earlier in May, tensions again rose between the two countries after Vietnam accused China of ramming its ships in an encounter near another part of the sea. (READ: Will Vietnam follow PH and file case vs China?)

In a phone call to Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, US Secretary of State John Kerry described the incident as "provocative."

China's claim to nearly all of the South China Sea, which straddles vital sea lanes and is believed to sit on vast oil and gas reserves, has strained its ties with Southeast Asian countries.

The Philippines said it hopes other claimant countries, particularly Vietnam and Malaysia, “can either join us or they can file another case.”

Cop seriously wounded in Zamboanga del Sur rebel attack

From InterAksyon (May 14): Cop seriously wounded in Zamboanga del Sur rebel attack

A policeman was seriously wounded when he was attacked near his home in Zamboanga del Sur province by six gunmen believed to be New People’s Army guerrillas Tuesday.

Meanwhile, in Zamboanga Sibugay, a suspected gunrunner was killed in a shootout with police.

Reports reaching Camp Crame said Senior Police Officer 4 Eleazar Carcallas of the Tigbao municipal police station was walking home in Purok 1, Barangay Tigbao when three gunmen waiting at a variety store fired on him.

Carcallas managed to fight back but three more gunmen appeared and shot him.

Other policemen in the town responded and fought off the gunmen.

Carcallas, who was shot in the right leg and right cheek, was rushed to the Pagadian City Hospital.

The reports said the attack on Carcallas apparently forestalled rebel plans to assault the Tigbao police station.

Meanwhile, in Diplahan town, Zamboanga Sibugay, Jover Guillermo Silim died when he tried to fight off personnel of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group-Western Mindanao who were serving a search warrant at his residence in Purok Bagong Silang, Barangay Kauswagan.

CIDG Westermin Mindanao director Superintendent Luisito Magnaye said Silim, who was armed with an M14 assault rifle, was hit in the chest and was taken to the Wilfredo Palma Memorial Hospital where he died while undergoing treatment.

The police also seized a Baby Armalite, an M16 rifle, a .22 caliber rifle, a carbine, a shotgun, a .45 caliber pistol and an airgun from Silim’s house.

Blast in Pikit, N. Cotabato; no one hurt

From InterAksyon (May 14): Blast in Pikit, N. Cotabato; no one hurt

Another strong explosion rocked the South early Wednesday morning, this time hitting an area outside a gym under construction on the national highway in Pikit, North Cotabato.

No one was injured in the blast at 6 a.m., traced to an improvised explosive device. Police responders from the explosives and ordnance division also defused a second device.

Probers are still working on who caused the latest explosions and why.

Last Friday night (May 9), an IED was found in Shariff Aguak, Maguindanao.

1 day after deadly explosion, 2 homemade bombs found in Datu Unsay, Maguindanao

From InterAksyon (May 14): 1 day after deadly explosion, 2 homemade bombs found in Datu Unsay, Maguindanao

Site of explosion of convoy of new 1st Mechanized Brigade Commander Gener del Rosario, Maguindanao, 13 May 2014. DENNIS ARCON

A day after an explosion killed a soldier in a convoy of the new brigade commander in Maguindanao, two more homemade bombs were found in the town of Datu Unsay, Maguindanao.

The bombs, made from 105-mm Howitzer projectile, were found on the national highway in Barangay Maitumaig 10 a.m. Tuesday, said 6th Infantry Division spokesman Col. Dickson Hermoso.

The bombs were de-fused by the Explosives and Ordnance Team.

Members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters are believed to be behind Monday’s bombing of the convoy of Col. Gener del Rosario, head of the 1st Mechanized Brigade, as well as the planting of these found bombs.
Four other soldiers were wounded in Monday’s bombing.

Security checks are strictly enforced along the national highways of Maguindanao.

Army confirms 2 soldiers held by NPA in Northern Samar

From InterAksyon (May 14): Army confirms 2 soldiers held by NPA in Northern Samar

803rd Infantry Brigade commander Col. Herminigildo Aquino confirms to journalists the capture of two soldiers by the New People's Army in Northern Samar. (photo by Eladio Perfecto,

After days of silence, the military has finally confirmed that two soldiers have been captured and are being held by the New People’s Army in Northern Samar.

Colonel Herminigildo Aquino, commander of the Army’s 803rd Infantry Brigade, admitted the capture of the two soldiers, who he did not name, from the 34th Infantry Battalion based in Palapag town, some 58 kilometers from the provincial capital Catarman.

He made the admission during the “Joint Declaration of Peace and Development Ready Municipalities” at the residence of Governor Jose Ong.

However, an official of Palapag, who asked not to be named, gave the captured soldiers’ family names as Turla and Cisneros.

Reports said the soldiers were with the party of provincial board member Florencio Batula, who was heading to attend the fiesta in Barangay Silhagon in Mapanas town last week.

The convoy was flagged down by guerrillas of the NPA’s Rodante Urtal Command who seized the soldiers then retreated toward the hinterlands on the boundary of Mapanas and Palapag.

Aquino said government forces continue to track down the rebels holding the soldiers.

Ong called on the NPA to release the captives and said he is willing to help negotiate with the rebels for their freedom. The soldiers’ parents have also appealed to the rebels to release them.

China confirms ongoing work at Mabini Reef, but scoffs at PH protest vs airstrip

From InterAksyon (May 14): China confirms ongoing work at Mabini Reef, but scoffs at PH protest vs airstrip

China has rejected the Philippine protest over the apparent construction of an airstrip on Mabini Reef (also known as Johnson South Reef) in the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, the Department of Foreign Affairs said Wednesday, even as Beijing virtually confirmed there was ongoing work at the place, which it added was none of Manila's business anyway. Malacanang Palace nonetheless said Manila will refrain from escalating tensions and sticks to the multilateral approach for resolving conflicts in the developing flashpoint.

The Philippine protest, as well as its rejection, was revealed a day after Washington described Beijing's recent actions in the region as "provocative."

According to the DFA one-paragraph statement released Wednesday, the Philippines has known since April 4 this year about China's reclamation activities on Mabini Reef.

“The Philippines protested Chinese reclamation on Mabini (Johnson) Reef. The Chinese side rejected the protest,” the DFA said.

“The President raised the Mabini Reef issue in Nay Pyi Taw (in Myanmar during the ASEAN leaders summit),” it said.

At the same time, the Philippines included Mabini Reef in its Memorial submitted before the United Nations arbitral body hearing the case on the Panatay Shoal (Scarborough) in Zambales. The memorial sought “to clarify Mabini Reef’s physical character. “

China confirms ongoing work, but scoffs at PH

China has confirmed construction activities are ongoing at the Mabini Reef (Johnson South Reef) in the West Philippine Sea, but declined to say exactly for what the project is, only asserting that as the area is Chinese territory, it was none of Manila’s business what happens there.

At a regular press briefing Wednesday, Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying, would not confirm the Philippine claim about an air strip being built, but asserted the outcrop was Chinese territory.

"Whatever construction China carries out on the reef is a matter entirely within the scope of China's sovereignty. I don't know what particular intentions the Philippines has in caring so much about this," she said at a regular press briefing Wednesday.

Last week, the Chinese press downplayed the activity at the reef, saying it was merely to renovate the living facilities for troops stationed there
"We can confirm that there is ongoing reclamation or earthmoving activities in that portion,"  spokesman Peter Galvez of the Department of National defemse told reporters Wednesday.

"It has been getting bigger and bigger."

If confirmed, the airstrip would be the first built by China on any of the eight reefs and islands it occupies in the Spratly Islands and would mark a significant escalation in tensions involving several nations in the area.

China claims almost the entire 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.

‘A violation of Declaration on Conduct’

Earlier, Philippine Foreign ministry spokesman Charles Jose told Reuters that China had been moving earth and materials to Mabini Reef, known by the Chinese as Chigua, in recent weeks. He said China was reclaiming land in violation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, an informal code of conduct for the region also known as DOC. "They're about to build an airstrip," Jose said.

He said evidence of the Chinese activity on the reef had been shown in aerial photographs taken by the Philippine Navy. The Philippines and Taiwan already have airstrips in the area.

The ministry had already lodged a protest with the Chinese and raised the issue behind closed doors at last weekend's summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Myanmar, Jose said.

‘Reclamation and earthmoving activities’

Ang puwede nating i-confirm (What we can confirm) is that there is ongoing reclamation or earthmoving activities in that portion…Hindi ko lang alam yung exact laki niya. ‘Yung iba kasi sinasabi 500 meters, ‘yung iba [ang] sabi 300 meters, tapos sinasabi 300 by 300 (I don’t know the exact size.  Some say it’s 500 meters, others say 300 meters, and still others 300 by 300),” Defense spokesman Peter Paul Galvez  said.

 “The department confirms the observation or the ongoing reclamation or earthmoving activities in said area,” he added.

Galvez said the construction could be an airstrip but refused to speculate further.

When did China start construction? “They have existing structure that has been there for several years already...May luma silang structure dun (They have old structures there) but now we observed sometime early this year, January or February, we observed palaki na ng palaki e (it’s become bigger and bigger),” he said.

He said his office got the data from the Philippine military’s maritime patrol missions.

Asked about the impact of this construction to the security and stability and security of the Kalayaan Group of Islands?

Huwag muna tayo siguro pumunta dun kasi assessment yan e, i-confirm na lang muna (Let’s not go to the assessement, let’s just confirm the construction),” he said.

A military official agreed with Jose and said the construction “is a violation of the DOC. It specifies that no new structures should be built. This is a clear violation of the DOC. This is an outright violation of the DOC.”

“We have kept and will keep to it, as we have done in the past, we will keep to our promises under the agreement entered into together with other regional partners and we hope that they do the same,” said the security official who requested that he not be named because he is not authorized to speak on the matter.

Palace keeps multilateral approach

Meanwhile, Malacanang on Wednesday maintained that the Philippines prefers a multilateral approach to address the problem on China’s alleged construction activities in a reef in a disputed West Philippine Sea.

“Our position is we do not want to escalate any tension between China and the Philippines,” said Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda in a Palace press briefing.

Lacierda said Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin informed him “what appears to be a reclamation project” being constructed by China in the Mabini Reef.

He said President Benigno S. Aquino III insisted on multilateral discussion rather than a bilateral dialogue to resolve the dispute, as there are more than two claimant countries to the western offshore waters.

“Emphatically, the President has always said that we prefer a multilateral dialogue consistent with international law, consistent with the rule of law, consistent also with the Declaration on the Conduct of (Parties in the) South China Sea where there has been an emphasis on the provisions on not escalating any further tensions and also, not disrupting the status quo,” Lacierda stressed.

Lacierda said that consistent with the international rule of law, the country will resort to arbitration deemed effective means to resolve the dispute.
”We have obviously taken a diplomatic protest. And we believe that our resort to taking national dispute resolution would have an effective means of resolving this dispute in a peaceful manner and also evoke a support from the international community. As we have seen, several countries have already voiced their support to the diplomatic path that we have taken,” he noted.

Further, Lacierda noted provisions covering activities in the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, which was crafted with the member states of ASEAN as well as the Chinese government. Under such provisions, said Lacierda, parties must undertake to exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities that would complicate or escalate disputes and affect peace and stability.

”Including, among others, refraining from any action of inhabiting the presently uninhabited islands, reefs, shoals, cays, and other features, and to handle their differences in a constructive manner,” he added.

High tension in South China Sea

Tensions in the South China Sea were already high after China moved a large oil rig into an area also claimed by Vietnam. Beijing and Hanoi each accused the other of ramming its ships near the disputed Paracel Islands,
On Tuesday, Kerry said during a phone call with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi that China's introduction of the oil rig and numerous government vessels into the area disputed with Vietnam was "provocative," a State Department spokeswoman confirmed.

China in turn said there had indeed been provocative action taken in the area but that it was not the guilty party, with the foreign ministry blaming the United States for encouraging such behavior. The ministry said Wang had urged Kerry to "act and speak cautiously."

Beijing says the South China Sea issue should be resolved by direct talks between those involved and has bristled at what it sees as unwarranted US interference.

It has also looked askance at the US "pivot" back to Asia, especially Washington's efforts to boost existing military links with Tokyo and Manila.

The remote and otherwise unremarkable Johnson South Reef has been a catalyst for conflict in the past. In March 1988, China and Vietnam fought a brief naval skirmish on and around the reef with up to 90 Vietnamese reported killed.

China has been aggressively enforcing its “nine-dash line” claims which overlap their neighbors’ 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ) such as those in the West Philippine Sea (SEA).

Over the past couple of years, China has established its position in Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal in Masinloc, Zambales and Ayungin Reef in Spratlys.

Over the Panatag dispute, Manila has challenged Beijing to prove its territorial claims before an arbitral court of the United Nations in the hope of peacefully settling the dispute.

China's airstrip in Spratlys could be the first step in air defense zone

From InterAksyon (May 14): China's airstrip in Spratlys could be the first step in air defense zone

As seen in documents and photos obtained by News5 in 2011, this is the top view of a reef supply and fortress platform built by China on Mabini Reef, which Beijing calls Chigua. The Philippines is protesting reclamation activities in the area, amid reports that this time, Beijing is building its first air strip in the disputed areas, a possible prelude to declaring an ADIZ over the South China Sea.

China’s construction of an airstrip at Mabini Reef could be the first step in Beijing’s plan to establish an air defense identification zone (ADIZ) over the disputed Spratly Islands and the entire South China Sea.

This was the assessment of a top Aquino administration defense official, who has intimate knowledge of China’s recent activities in the disputed Spratly Islands. Both the Departments of Defense and Foreign Affairs confirmed there have been construction activities in Mabini Reef (internationally known as Johnson South Reef) but which China calls Chigua Reef.

Dr. Peter Paul Galvez, spokesman of the Department of National Defense, confirmed “ongoing reclamation or earthmoving activities” at Mabini Reef and noted the dimensions of the construction area are consistent with that of an airstrip. 

“If indeed this is an airstrip, then definitely it will be of great security concern,” the defense official warned. When asked if it could be the start of Beijing’s plan to put up an air defense zone over the South China Sea, the official replied: “Possible.”

In late 2013, Beijing announced it was enforcing an air defense zone over the East China Sea, which covers a group of islands disputed by China and Japan.  Last Febraury, the Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun warned China was planning an air defense identification zone for the South China Sea as well.

Under the ADIZ, all foreign aircraft are required to report their movements to China.

The United States warned China against considering any South China Sea ADIZ plan. China denied it had such a plan.

First air strip, but 6 garrisons so far

But if the construction activities at Mabini Reef are confirmed to be an airstrip, this would be the first one built by China on any of the eight reefs and islands it occupies in the Spratlys.

Apart from the Philippines and China, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam have their own claims in the Spratlys – which is widely believed to hold vast reserves of oil and gas and is also known as a prime fishing area.
As far back as 2001, China has been aggressively building up its armed garrisons and facilities in six islands and reefs located well inside the Philippine territory of the Spratlys.

China has gradually built up its garrisons at the Kagitingan Reef (Fiery Cross Reef), Calderon Reef (Cuarteron Reef), Zamora Reef (Subi Reef). Gaven Reef, Mabini Reef (Chigua Reef) and Panganiban Reef (Mischief Reef).

In a 2005 confidential report, it was noted China built a permanent reef fortress and supply platform at Mabini Reef. Those facilities can continue to operate even if wind gusts reach 71 knots. Surveillance photos showed that Chinese garrison was armed with a naval cannons and crew served machine guns.

An exclusive report by News5 in May 2011 showed documents and photographs it obtained showing that military garrisons and outposts are located in six reefs that are part of the Kalayaan Island Group.

Marines launch sports program in Sulu province

From the Mindnao Examiner BlogSpot site (May 13): Marines launch sports program in Sulu province

Sulu Governor Totoh Tan and members of the Marine Battalion Landing Team - 6 during the handover of the donation of trophies and medals to the Philippines Marines in Patikul town. (Photo by Franzie Sali - Special to the Mindanao Examiner)

Sulu Governor Totoh Tan has donated Tuesday various medals and trophies to the Philippine Marines in support to the military’s sports development program in the southern province.

Tan, also a sportsman himself, has been actively promoting sports among the youth in the province just as his father – former Governor Sakur Tan – did during his administration.

He handed over the donation to the soldiers of the Marine Battalion Landing Team-6 (MBLT-6) at the Provincial Capitol. The marines are stationed in the village of Buhanginan in the town of Patikul where they launched the sports program for the youth.

The MBLT-6 also launched the 3rd Patikul Inter-Barangays Basketball League 2014 which is aimed at fostering camaraderie and teamwork among villagers and promotes the values of sportsmanship.

The military praised Tan for his support to the endeavor of the marines in Patikul.

Crane truck torched in Lanao Sur

From the Mindanao Examiner BlogSpot site (May 14): Crane truck torched in Lanao Sur

Photos courtesy of Lanao del Sur Electric Cooperative

Gunmen on Tuesday torched a crane truck contracted by an electric cooperative to hasten energy projects in Lanao del Sur province in the Muslim autonomous region in southern Philippines.

The armed men were in several vehicles when they attacked the truck along Ramain Highway and fired their guns indiscriminately in the air before fleeing.

The truck, owned by a company called Jera, was contracted by the Lanao del Sur Electric Cooperative which filed a police report about the attack.

There was no report of casualties in the attack. The motive of the arson is still unknown and no group has claimed responsibility for the attack.

Police and military authorities have not released any statement about the incident.

Brave cop fights off 6 rebels in Zamboanga province

From the Mindanao Examiner BlogSpot site (May 14): Brave cop fights off 6 rebels in Zamboanga province

A policeman was wounded in a gun battle Wednesday after he fought off 6 suspected communist rebels who attacked him outside his house in the southern Philippines, officials told the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner.

Officials said Senior Police Officer 4 Eleazar Carcallas was heading home alone when he was in the town of Tigbao in Zamboanga del Sur province.

The gunmen, who split into two groups, waited for Carcallas outside his house and attacked him with pistols and submachine guns, but the officer managed to fight back until the rebels fled.

“SPO4 Carcallas is a brave policeman and he managed to fight off his attackers, who are believed to be members of the New People’s Army, out to kill him. We have tightened security not only in the town, but the whole province as well because of this attack,” said Senior Inspector Joseph Ortega, a regional police spokesman.

He said Carcallas was shot in the leg and chin and rushed to hospital in Pagadian City.

It was not the first time rebels attack a policeman in Tigbao town. On April 2012, dozens of communist rebels also stormed the town’s police headquarters and carted weapons and took one policeman Juhali Faisal hostage in their escape.

The attack on Carcallas came two days after rebels also clashed with troops in the village of Bal-ason in Gingoog City.

Two rebels were killed in the fighting and soldiers recovered 2 automatic rifles, according to Captain Alberto Caber, a spokesman for the Eastern Mindanao Command.

The NPA has been fighting for decades for the establishment of a Maoist state in the country.