Sunday, May 18, 2014

Maximum security

From Mindanao Newsbits section of the Manila Bulletin (May 16): Maximum security

CAMP BANCASI, Butuan City – The 4th Infantry Division, the largest Army division of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in Mindanao, had established “maximum security,” a new camp regulation adopted to eliminate “possible security breach” involving sensitive facilities inside the camp.

The 4th ID has three infantry brigades – the 401st in Surigao provinces, 402nd in Agusan provinces and 403rd in Misamis and Bukidnon provinces and several other operational control (Opcon) units including tactical operations group deployed at various areas in Northeastern and Northern Mindanao regions.

Caloocan barangay execs to put up own checkpoints

From the Manila Standard Today (May 17): Caloocan barangay execs to put up own checkpoints

Caloocan Mayor Oscar Malapitan expressed support to the move of the city council enabling barangay officials to put up checkpoints as part of his administration’s anti-criminality campaign.

The resolution, authored by First District Councilor Aurora “Onet” Henson, cited the recent spate of violence that resulted in the death of two village leaders.

Malapitan said the measure, along with police visibility, would boost public security toward upholding the rule law.

In Henson’s proposal, village checkpoints should be clearly marked, located in well-lit areas and “where circumstances warrant” and to be manned by police in official uniform and at least two barangay watchmen.

Senior Supt. Bernard Tambaoan, Caloocan police chief, has released the photographs of two suspects who were riding a motorcycle when they shot dead Kagawad Rogelio Escano and Kagawad Gerry Moralla.

Malapitan and the Caloocan police have put up a P200,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the suspects who have been linked to the Alex Boncayao Brigade death squad of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People Army.

Sarangani coal plant 42% complete

From the Business World (May 18): Sarangani coal plant 42% complete

 “The plant, with an initial capacity of 105-MW will be operational by October 2015 and will reach the full 210-MW capacity by 2016,” Nicandro R. Fucoy, Sarangani Energy vice-president for project implementation, said during a media briefing and tour of the plant’s facilities on Friday.

The power plant, which occupies a 23.2-hectare area inside the 54-hectare Kamanga Agro-Industrial Ecozone, now employs 1,625 workers, with 82% from the host community.

Because of its location, the company is entitled to enjoy perks and benefits, including income tax holidays and duty-free importation of equipment for the plant.

It is under the Alsons Power Holdings, Inc. and located in the municipality of Maasim, four kilometers from General Santos City.

Alsons is a Mindanao-based conglomerate controlled by the Alcantara family, which was formerly into logging and wood processing.

The plant’s initial 105-MW (Section 1) output will provide power to around 3.47 million people in Sarangani, General Santos City, South Cotabato, Compostela Valley, Agusan del Norte, Agusan del Sur, Tagum City, Samal Island, and most parts of Davao del Norte.

Even before Section 1 of the coal-fired power plant is completed, it is already 100%-contracted as the company has already entered into 25-year power sales agreements with the South Cotabato Electric Cooperative for 70 MW, the Davao del Norte Electric Cooperative for 15 MW, Agusan del Norte Electric Cooperative, Inc. for 10 MW and the Agusan del Sur Electric Cooperative, Inc. for 10 MW.

“The coal-fired power plant is the single biggest investment in Sarangani Province and the entire Region 12 (Soccsksargen),” said Maasim Mayor Aniceto P. Lopez.

The 210-MW coal plant has a total cost of $570 million. Section 1 of the plant alone costs $309 million, including the transmission lines.

The 52,000-hectare municipality of Maasim is a fishing community of 40 barangays inhabited by around 62,000 people. With a meager P5-million revenue from local taxes, the municipal government largely relies on the P121-million Internal Revenue Allotment from the national government for most of its projects.

With the power plant, however, Maasim is set to get approximately P15 million per year, with a 2% share in the gross income earned by the plant. The municipality will also get P550,000 in terms of real property taxes every year.

“We are one if not the poorest municipality here. The coal power plant was given by God to this war-torn municipality,” Mr. Lopez said.

Many of the residents here are members of the New People’s Army or the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, but with the coal-fired plant in place, the mayor said, most of them are now working with Sarangani Energy.

Mr. Lopez also said the number one critic of the coal-fired power plant is the Catholic Church, but he does not care because majority of the residents agree with his decision to allow the construction of the plant, resulting in his re-election in 2013. The mayor has been supportive of the power plant ever since the idea was hatched in 2010, so he considers it his legacy.

The coal-fired power plant had been the target of many advocacy groups, including international environment group Greenpeace. The group’s campaign ship Rainbow Warrior docked at Makar Wharf in General Santos City in 2010 to support local protest actions against the power plant.

Greenpeace has been urging governments worldwide to take action against climate change by opting for renewable energy sources instead of coal-fired power plants.

Sarangani Bay, which measures 215,950 hectares, is the location of Alson Powers’ coal-fired power plant was declared a protected seascape in 1996.

The company said it has committed to protect the bay by not drawing or discharging water from or into it.

“We will source our cooling water from the Siguil River, which is 12 kilometers from the plant site. The company is presently installing the underground water pipes that will connect the plant to the river,” said Fernando Corrales, plant project manager.

A water treatment plant is being constructed where the used cooling water will be treated before it will be poured into an aquaculture plant where tilapia will be raised.

“This will be the only power plant that will not only produce power but also fishes. This will be the showcase of the safe technology we are implementing here,” Mr. Corrales added.

Mr. Fucoy said the coal plant will use clean coal technology with the use of a circulating fluidized bed boiler and low-sulfur coal from Kalimantan, Indonesia. The boiler, which is about the size of a 15-storey building, will be the main structure of the power plant.

“Some people argue there is no clean coal, but we follow the Clean Air Act standards when it comes to mercury, sulfur and other emissions. All our emissions will be below the levels prescribed by the government,” Mr. Fucoy said.

NPA rebels urged to work in oil palm plantation

From the Business World (May 18): NPA rebels urged to work in oil palm plantation

DAVAO CITY -- Employment in an oil palm plantation could be an alternative livelihood for communist rebels, Mayor Rodrigo R. Duterte said.

Mr. Duterte said a Malaysian firm has expressed intention to establish up to 50,000 hectares of oil palm plantations all over Mindanao with the city’s Paquibato district, an area highly suitable to the crop, as a priority site.

However, Mr. Duterte admitted that Paquibato is a lair of the rebel group New People’s Army (NPA).

Thus, he plans to talk to Leoncio Pitao, alias Kumander Parago, to offer his proposal for the rebels to work in the proposed oil palm plantation and see if they want that type of life instead of living in the mountains and fighting the government.

There is no need for the rebels to surrender, Mr. Duterte told reporters. “Just stop the war, bury your arms and work,” he said.

Once an agreement with rebels is reached, the mayor vowed to talk to the Malaysian firm and will ask the company to provide employment only for Paquibato residents.

“This is a good opportunity for the rebels and if they agree to welcome the Malaysian investors and let them work peacefully in the area, then I will give this to them,” he said.

The establishment of an oil palm plantation in Paquibato is expected to spur economic growth in the area, which will address economic woes among the residents as well as the rebels.

Mr. Duterte said he could not blame the residents of Paquibato for supporting the rebels because they have lived in poverty for years. The only way to address their problem is to provide a livelihood opportunity for them and this is a good opportunity, he added.

Mr. Duterte, however, warned the rebels not to ask revolutionary taxes or exorbitant wages from the investors since minimum wage is fair enough. Paquibato is more than an hour’s drive from the city center.

Dr. Pablito P. Pamplona, secretary of the Davao Oriental oil palm development council, has urged the government to promote the crop among investors as it is a lucrative industry.

Among the member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, only the Philippines has not taken full advantage of the opportunity offered by oil palm with only 45,608 hectares planted to the crop compared with Thailand’s 625,000 hectares, Malaysia’s 4.5 million hectares and Indonesia’s 7.5 million hectares.

Mr. Pamplona said oil palm is an ideal crop for farmers who want to earn more because they can harvest within two and a half years.

MILF: Muslim community leader urges gov’t to sincerely implement the Bangsamoro peace deal

From the MILF Website (May 17): Muslim community leader urges gov’t to sincerely implement the Bangsamoro peace deal

A Muslim community leader urges the Philippine Government to implement the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) sincerely with notion that “We do not want to repeat the same mistake again for according to the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) not all provisions of the Philippine Government-MNLF peace agreement were implemented.”
The government and MNLF, represented by MNLF Chairman Prof. Nur Misuari, signed in 1996 the final peace accord with hope that the agreement will bring peace and development in Southern Philippines.

“A Mu’min (believer) should not be bitten twice by the same snake coming from the same hole,” said Ustadz Akman Abtahi, President of Al-Hiqma Learning Institute and Chairman of Purok Bangsamoro in Barangay Calumpang, General Santos City, during the Muslim Leaders Consultative Dialogue/Forum on April 8, 2014 at Mindanao State University- Gensan.

Abtahi pointed out that for the Muslims, an agreement is indeed sacred and it deserves respect and “must be implemented.”

Imam Jimmy Ubpon, President of General Santos City Council of Imams, further stressed the need to adhere to an agreement for Muslims consider it sacred.

Abtahi added, “What will happen if the Bangsamoro peace agreement won’t be implemented? I do not want to predict.”

“Is there a guarantee that the draft basic law will still be 100% intact after it will be  scrutinized by Congress?” he asked. “How will the MILF react if they will not be satisfied?” he further asked.

“Actually there are no changes in the process now compared with the MNLF deal,” he recalled.

He said the government has three branches, executive, legislative and judiciary which he suggested should have representatives that had constituted the GPH Peace Panel “so that there will be no more question.”

“We should have also looked at that matter unlike now, only the executive entered into agreement with the Bangsamoro,”  he elaborated.’t-to-sincerely-implement-the-bangsamoro-peace-deal

MILF: Nonviolent Peaceforce, UNYPAD conduct FGD for Community Leaders in Lanao Del Sur

From the MILF Website (May 18): Nonviolent Peaceforce, UNYPAD conduct FGD for Community Leaders in Lanao Del Sur

The Nonviolent Peaceforce in the Philippines (NPP)—unarmed Peacekeeping Force, conducted focus group discussions (FDG) on strengthening the security sector and non-state actors’ efforts on peacebuilding.
The activity was facilitated by the United Youth for Peace and Development (UNYPAD) and was held on May 7, 2014 at Ressan Snack Inn, Malabang, Lanao del Sur.

One of the participants said, “In our search for lasting peace in Mindanao, Lanao Del Sur is now beset with the so-called local clan feuds or ‘rido’ and ‘drug pushing,’ we attended this seminar so that we can be part in finding solutions to the problems or totally eradicate them.”

Reports said that alleged organized armed groups in the municipalities of Malabang and Picong are involved in “rido” and illegal drugs pushing.

According to UNYPAD Coastal Ranao Chapter, the FGD participants came from the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF) and Political Committee of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the Philippine National Police (PNP), Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) personnel, Early Warning and Early Response (EWER) monitors, professionals, representatives from religious groups, traditional leaders and some local government employees of Malabang.

The Chief of Police of Malabang town, Alrashed Tulawi asked for help and cooperation from different sectors in the locality in stabilizing peace and order situation in Malabang.

Aleem Said Mo’men, Committee on Da’wah in Ranao Region, said, “Without support from local government and the security sector, including non-state actors, it is too difficult to settle local conflicts involving warring clans or families.” “Rido and illegal drugs-related problems couldn’t be addressed in our area without their help,” he stressed. 

A member of Markazzoshabab Fil Philippine, Aleem Alioden Dimaayao disclosed that despite the presence and efforts of the security sector assigned in Malabang, the problem on “rido” and illegal drugs pushing remained unresolved.

“I believe that the only solution is the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) by Congress so that the Bangsamoro Government can fully implement its provisions and solve once and for all the nagging problems on family feuds and illegal drugs”, Dimaayao said.

The Brigade Commander of Inner Guard Base, BIAF-MILF, “Lemon 3” expressed his support on matters that pertain to security and safety of civilians.

He said, “if the PNP and AFP will ask for help, the BIAF is always ready to help for the sake of stability and peace in Lanao Del Sur”.

The Chief Administrative Officer of 115th Base Command, Datu Tery strongly recommended to the PNP to identify and arrest individuals that may possess illegal firearms at Malabang Poblacion.

On his part, Malabang Muncipal Engineer Camar Mauyag persistently called on authorities in the past to disband private armies and address the proliferation of illegal fire arms. “…because when there are no guns, there are no more killings,” he said.

The program concluded with a message of support from the UNYPAD Provincial Chairman of Coastal Ranao Chapter, Omair B. Saripada. He sought the support of all stakeholders in the region to the BBL in order to achieve lasting peace and tranquillity in Mindanao.

NPA rebel in policeman’s fatal ambush captured

From the Daily Zamboanga Times (May 18): NPA rebel in policeman’s fatal ambush captured

Police and military forces have captured one of the six New People’s Army (NPA) rebels responsible for the ambush slay attempt of a policeman in this province, a top police official announced Friday.

Captured was Efren Binigay, 25, a resident of Sitio Gatian, Barangay Timolan in Tigbao, Zamboanga Del Sur, according to provincial police director, Senior Supt. Sofronio Ecaldre.
Ecaldre said that Binigay was captured Thursday by the combined police and Army’s 53rd Infantry Battalion forces in a pursuit operation in the hinterlands of Tigbao town.
The pursuit operations was launched after six NPA rebels ambushed Senior Police Officer 4 (SPO4) Eleazar C. Carcallas on Wednesday in Barangay Tigbao, Tigabao town.
Although wounded, Carcallas was able to put up a fight until reinforcement arrived, forcing the rebels to fled.
Carcallas was on the way home from duty at the time he was ambushed.
Ecaldre said that Binigay is now detained at the provincial headquarters while appropriate charges are set to be filed against him.
The pursuing forces have seized high-powered firearms when they captured Binigay, Ecaldre said.

All’s well between vets’ group, Carolina

From the Manila Times (May 18): All’s well between vets’ group, Carolina

On the second day of the Veterans Federation of the Philippines’ (VFP) first National President’s Convention, VFP Executive Vice President retired Col. Bonifacio de Gracia clarified that they are not denouncing the power of retired Lt. Gen. Ernesto Carolina over VFP.

Carolina, Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO) administrator, was interviewed on Saturday after being informed by the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines that VFP is allegedly denouncing his control over the said organization.

Carolina explained during the interview that he has the power to suspend, delay or demolish VFP anytime he wants because the law grants him the power to do so.

De Gracia, on the other hand, told The Manila Times that the purpose of the VFP national convention is only to discuss what they called the “eight issues” of VFP involving changing their existing constitution and by-laws to be approved by the Department of National Defense (DND).

“I don’t remember saying that we denounce anyone’s power or that somebody’s intruding our operations,” de Gracia said.

Under Republic Act 2640, DND has control and supervision over VFP. Any action or decision of the federation or of its Supreme Council shall be subjected to the approval of the DND Secretary.

De Gracia said that they respect the law and will submit to it. However, he said that the process was bypassed because their Supreme Council was not consulted by DND before deciding to change their existing constitution and by-laws.

For this, de Gracia and the rest of the Supreme Council decided to conduct the convention in order to clarify things and consult their members regarding the federation’s “eight issues”.

Also identified in the “eight issues” is the revision of VFP’s Election Code by the PVAO that would impose age limits in nominating and electing officers, change their organizational structure, and change the application and receiving process of their monthly pensions.

De Gracia was saddened after hearing Carolina say that he can demolish VFP anytime.

“Huwag naman sana [I hope he does not do so],” De Gracia said.
VFP is a private organization that leads the unification of all veterans’ organizations in the country.

Today, they already have a total of 42,419 members which is 30 percent of the country’s veterans.

Each member pays a membership fee of P500 per year that will be distributed to his respective association to be used as maintenance operating expense.

De Gracia said the VFP only registers 30 percent of the veterans in the country as members because membership is not compulsory.

However, he is welcoming all the veterans all over the country to join the VFP and contribute to the efforts to reunite all the war veterans in the Philippines.

“Let us always look back and appreciate the hardships of the veterans to acquire the freedom we are enjoying today,” De Gracia said.

Around 10,000 prisoners of war died during the 1942 Death March at the height of the Second World War. Their sacrifice is now commemorated in the Dambana ng Kagitingan in Bataan.

“Also, let us give them their due cost for their bravery and ever loyal service to the country,” De Gracia added.

Sagada villagers launch ‘Operation Baklas’ to fight NPA

From the Manila Times (May 18): Sagada villagers launch ‘Operation Baklas’ to fight NPA

RESIDENTS of Sagada in Mountain Province has launched “Operation Baklas” aimed at ending the astrocities of New People’s Army (NPA) in their town, the Philippine Army said on Sunday.

Brigadier General Roger Salvador, commander of the 501st Infantry Brigade (501IB) of the Army’s Fifth Infantry Division (5ID), said the villagers conducted “Operation Baklas” in Aguid village and nearby areas on Friday.

“This was done because of the consensus reached by the townspeople during the peace conference [on] May 7,” Salvador said.

During the conference, the villagers came up with “Operation Baklas” and agreed that it will be done regularly to prevent the [rebels] from entering their town.

Salvador said “Operation Baklas” is the result of recent attacks and human rights violations committed by NPA rebels in Sagada.

Earlier, Sagada was declared as “zone of peace” which has effectively barred armed soldiers and NPA rebels from entering the town.

Local government officials said it was declared as zone of peace “to project a peaceful Sagada and attract more tourists in the area.”

But officials said the NPA has “utterly disregarded” this zone of peace and built temporary camps around the place.

The military cited NPA’s attack on March 29 which resulted to the wounding of several Philippine National Police (PNP) personnel. In June of last year, the NPA ambushed police trainees in Tadian town, killing one and wounding dozens.

“The people are showing anger against the [rebel group] for terrorizing unarmed civilians and continuing extortion activities committed mostly against the poor people of Sagada,” Salvador explained.

“A kilo of rice given to the NPA [New People’s Army] may be insignificant for a lot of people in the lowlands but it may mean one family going hungry in the highlands of Cordillera,” he added.

Salvador said that what is happening in Sagada is an excellent example of people fed up with violence and who found the courage to unite and reject the NPA “terrorists” and allow peace to reign in their town.

MNLF to fight bid of MILF

From the Manila Bulletin (May 18): MNLF to fight bid of MILF

The Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) will not be a passive kibitzer regarding the proposal to accredit the “Bangsamoro” as observer at the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

MNLF senior leaders Dr. Abdurahman Amin and Habib Mujahab Hashim, who chairs the Islamic Command Council (MNLF-ICC), told the Manila Bulletin they would fight this at the pan-Islamic body.

“They should not take that step,” said Amin, the MNLF’s permanent liaison to the OIC, adding he believes the attempt to replace the MNLF at the OIC would create dissension among the Bangsamoro people, more so the MNLF.

He and Hashim said the MNLF would fight it out the MILF’s proposal to replace the former with the Bangsamoro at the OIC.

Amin said he has an unsolicited advice to MILF Chairman Al-Haji Murad Ebrahim: “Before taking that road to the OIC, concentrate first on the Bangsamoro Basic Law because it is facing obstacles.”

Murad traveled to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, last month where he had a meeting with OIC Secretary General Ameen Iyad Madani.

They discussed many topics, one of them the MILF’s proposal to accredit the Bangsamoro, “as the official observer” to the OIC.

If granted by the 57-member pan-Islamic non-state organization, second biggest to the United Nations, it would entail the replacement of the MNLF.

Murad said the “Bangsamoro is already recognized as the national identity of the native inhabitants of Mindanao and the islands who are majority Muslims.”

Unlike others, the MNLF, Amin said, has an open mind about the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), which the Philippine government and the MILF signed on March 27.

The term “Bangsamoro” is the name given to a new political entity (NPE) being created as a result of the signing of the CAB. It is being crafted to replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

The OIC foreign ministers decided through Resolution No. 1/8-P in May 1977 “to admit as an exceptional measure the (MNLF) as Observer within the Islamic Conference… that the admission of the (MNLF) should not be considered as a precedent.”

Later in another resolution, they recognized the MNLF as the “legal representative of the Muslims in Southern Philippines” and still later described the group as the “sole legitimate representative of the Bangsamoro people.”

Hashim said he does not believe that the MNLF could be replaced that easily at the OIC as observer.

“The Philippine government tried in the past but did not make it, when it applied for an observer status,” he recalled.

Hashim said the OIC granted the MNLF the observer status as a special case and without precedent.

“Now, the OIC’s new Charter makes it even more difficult for political organizations to be granted the status of an observer, which is only by consensus of the 57 member countries,” he stressed.

Amin said what the MILF did would anger the MNLF, saying it was not an encouragement to work together.

Maguindanao peace gains cited

From the Manila Bulletin (May 18): Maguindanao peace gains cited

Guindulungan, Maguindanao — Following the government signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) this year, reinvigorated communities and vibrant economic activities have begun sprouting in erstwhile combat areas of this province, according to the local military leadership.

Maj. Gen. Romeo Gapuz, commander of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, cited as example the villages along the highway linking Maguindanao and General Santos City where military and MILF forces had fought fiercely for years before the protracted Mindanao peace process brought forth final pacts summed up in the CAB.

“If you observed our surroundings, new communities have mushroomed along the highway. Also, trade between Awang [in Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao] and General Santos City has become vibrant,” Gapuz said in Pilipino at the recent celebration here of 11th year foundation of this town.

A tangible proof, Gapuz said, is the tremendous increase in traffic from this town to Awang, the base of the 6th ID headquarters.

Gapuz, who is retiring on May 26, was invited as one of the guests of honor during this town’s 11th foundation anniversary celebration where host officials paid tribute to his administration’s active support to the peace process.

“The peace that we used to see in the distance is now in our midst. Let us harness it for meaningful growth in our communities,” Gapuz told hundreds of celebrating officials and residents.

The military official urged the public to continue rallying the CAB, which the government and MILF peace panels signed last March 27 as a basis for the creation of a more powerful Bangsamoro entity in lieu of the existing Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

Guindulungan Mayor Antao Midtimbang said the local government supports the CAB and that its people are ready to participate in the plebiscite because “we’ve longed for peace for 42 years.”

Midtimbang said his town has, this early, started reaping initial benefits from the peace process.

“Before, people would just gossip along the roads but now they think of engaging in decent work,” he said in the vernacular.

‘Balikatan’ among Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia

From the Manila Bulletin (May 17): ‘Balikatan’ among Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia

The Indonesian National Police (INP) is seeking a Balikatan-like war games with its counterparts in the Philippines and Malaysia to strengthen border patrol against transnational crimes like smuggling, illegal drugs shipment and human trafficking.

Balikatan is an annual military exercise between the Philippines and the United States aimed at strengthening the interoperability against all kinds of security threats.

The proposal made by INP Commissioner General Suhardi Alius would call for a regular conduct of maritime law enforcement exercises that also aimed at strengthening the coordination and interoperability of the three police forces.

The Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia share a vast tri-border corridor in the Sulu-Sulawesi Sea which is described as a vital sea lane for trade and commerce in the Asia-Pacific region.

The problem is that the same areas are also the favorite routes of criminal syndicates engaged in various transnational crimes that also include terrorism and even kidnapping-for-ransom.

Just recently, suspected Abu Sayyaf Group members kidnapped a Chinese tourist in Sabah and allegedly took them either in Basilan or Sulu. The most recent is the alleged kidnapping of two Germans near the boundary of Philippines and Malaysia.

Chief Supt. Reuben Theodore Sindac, chief police information officer, said the call for the Balikatan-like maritime law enforcement exercises of the three countries was virtually started with the signing of the Memorandum of Agreement between the chiefs of police of the three countries during the 34th ASEANAPOL conference in Pasay City.

“This is to strengthen cooperation and in recognition of the value of enhancing bilateral defense, and establishing a framework to facilitate cooperation and interoperability,” said Sindac.

Sindac said the agreement focuses on information exchange procedures, establishment of communication procedures on terrorism, money laundering, smuggling, piracy and robbery at sea, hijacking, theft of marine resources, marine pollution, illicit trafficking in arms and others.

Under the agreement, the participating countries will designate an organization to act as the communication and liaison center within their respective territory, staffed by representatives from defense, security or police of the respective countries for the implementation of the agreement.

The proposed maritime law exercises comes amid the big accomplishment of the Maritime Group of the Philippine National Police when it arrested 11 Chinese poachers off Palawan.

Indon police proposes joint sea exercise

From the Manila Bulletin (May 18): Indon police proposes joint sea exercise

The Indonesian National Police (INP) is proposing a maritime law enforcement exercise with the Philippines and Malaysia to strengthen border patrol against transnational crimes like smuggling, illegal drugs shipment, and human trafficking.

INP Commissioner General Suhardi Alius recently proposed for a regular conduct of maritime law enforcement exercises that also aimed at strengthening the coordination and interoperability of the three police forces.

The Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia share a vast tri-border corridor in the Sulu-Sulawesi Sea which is described as a vital sea lane for trade and commerce in the Asia-Pacific region.

The areas are also the favorite routes of criminal syndicates engaged in various transnational crimes that also include terrorism and even kidnapping-for-ransom.

Just recently, suspected Abu Sayyaf Group members kidnapped a Chinese tourist in Sabah and allegedly took them either in Basilan or Sulu. The most recent is the alleged kidnapping of two Germans near the boundary of Philippines and Malaysia.

Chief Supt. Reuben Theodore Sindac, chief police information officer, said the call for the ‘balikatan’-like maritime law enforcement exercises of the three countries started with the signing of the Memorandum of Agreement between the chiefs of police of the three countries during the 34th ASEANAPOL conference in Pasay City.

“This is to strengthen cooperation and to recognize the value of enhancing bilateral defense, and establishing a framework to facilitate cooperation and interoperability,” said Sindac.

Sindac said the agreement focuses on information exchange procedures, establishment of communication procedures on terrorism, money laundering, smuggling, piracy and robbery at sea, hijacking, theft of marine resources, marine pollution, illicit trafficking in arms and others.

Under the agreement, the participating countries will designate an organization to act as the communication and liaison center within their respective territory, staffed by representatives from defense, security or police of the respective countries for the implementation of the agreement.

US hits China’s deployment of oil rig in Viet-claimed area

From the Manila Bulletin (May 18): US hits China’s deployment of oil rig in Viet-claimed area

SEA STANDOFF — China Coast Guard 3411 vessel (left) and Vietnam Coast Guard 4032 vessel sail Thursday in the tension-filled area of the South China Sea where Vietnam has protested the construction of Chinese oil rig, Haiyang Shi You 981 (inset). (AP/EPA)

SEA STANDOFF — China Coast Guard 3411 vessel (left) and Vietnam Coast Guard 4032 vessel sail Thursday in the tension-filled area of the South China Sea where Vietnam has protested the construction of Chinese oil rig, Haiyang Shi You 981 (inset). (AP/EPA)

China’s decision to place an oil rig in disputed waters in the South China Sea is a provocative act and raises tensions in the region, the White House said on Friday.

“We consider that act provocative and we consider it one that undermines the goal that we share, which is peaceful resolution of these disputes and general stability in the region,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said at his regularly scheduled briefing.

“We’re very concerned about dangerous conduct and intimidation by government-controlled assets operating in this area,” Carney said.

Anti-Chinese violence flared in Vietnam this week after China put an oil rig in a spot claimed by Hanoi. The move is the latest in a series of confrontations between China and neighbors over small islands in the oil-and-gas-rich body of water, prompting fears that Beijing has adopted a more assertive approach to territorial disputes after seeing Russia annex Crimea.


The White House statement was the most direct US criticism of China since the placement of the oil rig escalated tensions in the region.

During a trip through Asia in April, Obama provided reassurances to several countries that while the United States wants to see maritime disputes settled through diplomacy, it would live up to its obligation to defend its allies in the region.

“These events highlight the need for the claimants to clarify their claims in accordance with international law and to reach agreement on appropriate behavior and activities in disputed areas,” Carney said. He added that while the United States does not take a position in the disputes, it opposes any efforts to settle them by intimidation or coercion.

The Philippines, one of Washington’s closest allies in Asia, has said China is reclaiming land on Mabini (Johnson South) Reef that both countries claim, and is building what appears to be an airstrip on it. It has offered the United States the use of an underdeveloped naval base in Palawan to ensure US warships can enter the vicinity.


With Beijing’s boldest moves in years to lay claim to contested waters off Vietnam, some Asia countries are asking a simple question: Where is Washington?

The move came days after US President Barack Obama had sought to reassure allies in Asia last month that the United States would support them in the face of a more assertive Beijing.

Days after Obama left the region, China deployed the oil drilling rig 150 miles (240 km) off the coast of Vietnam, into a part of the South China Sea claimed by itself and Hanoi. That sparked deadly anti-China riots in central Vietnam and raised questions over whether Obama’s long-promised strategic “pivot” of military assets to Asia is more than talk.

“I wanted to see the US match with stronger action what President Obama said during his recent visit in the Philippines,” a senior Philippine defense official said.

China claims a big area of the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea), setting it in direct conflict with claims of US allies Vietnam and the Philippines. Brunei, Taiwan, and Malaysia also lay claim to parts of the South China Sea.

At stake is control over what are believed to be significant reserves of oil and gas. Estimates for proven and undiscovered oil reserves in the entire sea range from 28 billion to as high as 213 billion barrels of oil, the US Energy Information Administration said in a March 2008 report.


The United States does not have a treaty obligation to defend Vietnam as it does the Philippines, and there was no sign Washington was considering tougher actions such as sending more navy ships to the area or imposing sanctions on Beijing.

Due to the intertwined nature of the US and Chinese economies, there is little appetite in Washington for the kind of punitive measures that have been used against Russia over the Ukraine crisis.

Some China watchers believe a firmer US stand is needed.


The deployment of the Chinese oil rig has prompted Vietnam and China to play a very tense game on high seas.

Each day the Vietnamese ships tried to get close to the rig. And each day they were driven back by the much larger Chinese ships.

But before they sped away, laboring engines spewing black smoke, the Vietnamese delivered a message: “Attention! Attention! We are warning you about your provocative act,” blasted out a recording from a loudspeaker in Vietnamese, Chinese, and English. “We demand you respect Vietnam’s sovereignty. Please immediately halt your activities and leave Vietnamese waters.”

Occasionally colliding with or firing water cannons at each other, Vietnamese and Chinese ships have been shadow-boxing in a sun-dazzled patch of the South China Sea since May 1, when Beijing parked a hulking, $1-billion deep sea oil rig, drawing a furious response from Vietnam.

Vietnam, ten times smaller than its northern neighbor and dependent on it economically, needs all the help it can get in the dispute. Its leaders believe international opinion is on their side. This week they invited foreign journalists to get a closer look at the standoff, the most serious escalation between the countries in years over their overlapping claims.

Detention facilities solely for terrorists across ASEAN eyed

From the Manila Bulletin (May 18): Detention facilities solely for terrorists across ASEAN eyed

The chiefs of police from the 10-member countries of the Association of Southeast Asia Nations (ASEAN) see it worthy to have a detention facility solely for arrested terror suspects from the region.

Director General Alan Purisima, chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP), said the proposal was discussed during the 34th ASEANAPOL held recently in Pasay City and attended by police chiefs from the region.

“All the member countries, based on the discussion, are encouraged to establish specific detention centers for terrorist suspects and prisoners,” said Purisima. “The goal is to prevent them from spreading radical ideas in accordance with laws and policies of respective countries,” he added.

In the Philippines for instance, some of the arrested Abu Sayyaf Group members are detained in a maximum security detention cell in Taguig City.
Purisima said the continuous anti-terrorism drive in the region aims to limit if not end terrorists’ activities.

Purisima said the setting up of detention cells for terrorists is already included in the Joint Communiques signed by the heads of police forces in Southeast Asia.

“The ASEANAPOL also called on all members to reinforce cooperation in preventing and suppressing terrorist activities by implementing strategies in the detection, deterrence, rehabilitation, reorientation, counter-radicalization, de-radicalization and community engagement,” said Purisima, quoting another portion of the Joint Communiques.

To maximize the anti-terror drive, Purisima said all member countries were also encouraged to share regional knowledge and skills to deal with terrorism activities to the  International Criminal Police Organization (ICPO-INTERPOL).

“All ASEANAPOL-member agencies were also encouraged to actively contribute and fully utilize INTERPOL’s databases, and to support the INTERPOL’s Southeast Asia Foreign Fighters Project, an initiative of INTERPOL Fusion Task Force in response to the increasing number of transnational or foreign fighters joining terrorist affiliated factions in conflict zones,” said Purisima.

INTERPOL has maintained the status as a dialogue partner of ASEANAPOL in its annual conferences.

PH-US Balikatan 2014 Cooperative Health Engagement in Tacloban City

Posted to the Samar News (May 10): PH-US Balikatan 2014 Cooperative Health Engagement in Tacloban City

May 10, 2014

CAMP LUKBAN, Catbalogan City, Samar – Troops under the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the United States Armed Forces that formed part of the Balikatan Exercises 2014 conducted cooperative health engagement or medical mission at Fishermen’s Village Elementary School, Brgy. 88, San Jose. Tacloban City on May 10, 2014.

Maj. Gen. Emeraldo C. Magnaye AFP, the Balikatan 2014 AFP Lead Directorate and Brig. Gen Nelson of U.S. Marine Corps led the troops in conducting medical treatment and veterinary services from 9:00a.m. up to 4:00p.m.

The activity was also attended by Atty. Irene Chiu, the executive assistant of the City of Tacloban and Hon. Emelita S. Montalban, Barangay Chairwoman of the host barangay. The activity benefited 544 medical patients broken down into 196 pedia and 348 adult patients. Likewise, 50 dogs and a cat received anti-rabies vaccinations from the veterinary service.

Atty. Chiu in her message appreciated the presence of U.S. and AFP troops in rendering medical mission in their city even after six months when the tragedy struck the city. “You were here during the aftermath of the super typhoon and you are here again six months after. With that, I would like to acknowledge and thank the unsung heroes of the Philippine Army and the U.S. Marines and everyone who responded to Tacloban City during the early part of the tragedy and helped us regain our strength,” she said.

On the part of U.S. forces, Brig Gen Nelson commenting on why they have chosen Tacloban City for the medical mission said, “We felt that after the super typhoon Yolanda, Tacloban City is a great place to anchor Balikatan. We want to show our friendship, and this activity is also a good way to get back to the great people, the Filipinos. I was here three days after the super typhoon and what I see now six months after the typhoon is vast improvement. People have come together in rebuilding communities. The resilience of the Filipino people is amazing and very heart warming.”

Commenting on the Balikatan medical mission in Tacloban City, Maj. Gen. Jet B. Velarmino AFP said, “The Balikatan 2014 cooperative health engagement or medical mission at Brgy 88, Tacloban City manifests that the ‘Bayanihan’ spirit knows no boundaries, as it lingers even among other nationalities, even among U.S Forces. Your Army in Eastern Visayas strongly supports this kind of activity as it puts the people's welfare and well-being above all other considerations.”

Philippine Army Engineers and Republic of Korea Armed Forces completes rehabilitation of Naga-Naga Elementary School in Leyte

Posted to the Samar News (May 10): Philippine Army Engineers and Republic of Korea Armed Forces completes rehabilitation of Naga-Naga Elementary School in Leyte

May 10, 2014

CAMP LUKBAN, Catbalogan City, Samar – Joint effort of the Philippine Army Engineers and Republic of Korea Armed Forces led to another successful completion of the rehabilitation of the Naga-Naga Elementary in Palo, Leyte. The school suffered much damage during the onslaught of ST Yolanda which left most of its school buildings and classrooms inoperable.

No less than the commander of the 8th Infantry Division, Philippine Army attended the completion celebration of the rehabilitated school facilities Naga-Naga Elementary at Barangay Naga-Naga, Palo Leyte on May 9, 2014 along with Hon. Remedios Petilla, Mayor of Palo Leyte and Ms. Divina M. Monhe, Ph.D. Principal of Naga-Naga Elementary School.

Also present during the celebration were the troops under South Korean Joint Support Group Philippines (SK-JSGP) military contingent led by Col. Lee Chul-won and troops under Philippine Army Engineer units led by Maj. Danny Rey Montemayor. The combine troops of SK-JSGP and Philippine Army Engineers were instrumental in the repair and rehabilitation of the school facilities. It was the 8th school rehabilitated and there are still 10 schools currently undergoing repair and rehabilitation works.

Various performances on dancing skills were presented by the South Korean troops, Philippine Army Engineers, PNP personnel and students from different elementary schools of Palo Leyte. The performances were highlighted by the surprise appearance of RAINBOW, a popular South Korean girl K-Pop group. The performance of the K-Pop group mesmerized the crowd especially the South Korean troops and egged the group for more songs. The K-Pop group obliged and ended up performing three songs to the delight of the crowd.

Meanwhile, the first batch of students of the heavy equipment seminar initiated by the SK-JSGP graduated last May 9, 2014. The graduation was graced by Hon. Leopoldo Dominico Petilla, Governor of Leyte and Maj. Gen. Jet B. Velarmino AFP. From March 31, 2014, the students underwent a series of heavy equipment operation training for crane, excavator, pay-loader, bulldozer, and buck hoe. The training of the 39 heavy equipment operation students was accredited by TESDA.

In his message, Maj. Gen. Velarmino AFP lauded the endeavors of the SK-JSGP. He said, “I would like to express my deepest admiration and high regard to our comrades from the Republic of Korea Support Group Philippines "Araw contingents" whose love and passion for our fellow Filipinos brought new hope for the country. Your sweat and sacrifices might not be enough to bring back the lives lost in the super typhoon, but your sweat is more than enough to keep us going with our lives and your effort will forever be etched in our hearts and minds.”

NDF leader cries foul over treatment from military

From ABS-CBN (May 18): NDF leader cries foul over treatment from military

A consultant of the National Democratic Front (NDF) decried the treatment he got from the military during and after his arrest.

According to Roy Erecre, whom the Armed Forces tagged as a senior leader of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), he was denied counsel “as they interrogated and threatened and manhandled me.”

“I didn't know then that having medical treatment with one's family physician translates to ‘island-resort hopping’ of sorts in military mind, and that either constitutes a crime. I and my aide were just surprised that morning of May 7, 2014, when intelligence operatives pounced on us while on our way for my follow-up checkup for diabetes,” he said.

During his arrest, he claimed he was also robbed of his personal belongings. “Until now, my phone, journal, and flash drives haven't been returned,” he said.

He continued that the harassment continued immediately after his abduction.

“This government has kept me incommunicado by transferring me from one detention cell to another across the seas until finally jailing me in Bohol where I once studied and then learned the necessity and worked for the realization of a systemic revolution,” he said.

Davao City agents arrested Erecre and a companion last May 7 supposedly by virtue of a warrant of arrest from the Cebu and Bohol courts for alleged atrocities against civilians and government forces in the late 1990s until the early 2000s.

Ericre believes he experienced manhandling from military authorities for being a consultant to the peace panel.

“It is a role I have taken since Cory Aquino opened peace overtures after the EDSA Revolt. Then and now, the duplicity of this government at feigning negotiations in order to gather intelligence information against its perceived enemies has reached scandalous heights,” he said.

Instead of respecting agreements such as the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law and the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG), the government is preoccupied in weakening all these, Ericre said, noting the alleged crackdown of those involved in the peace panel.

“Just weeks before, a similar, bare-faced attack on fellow NDF peace consultants Benito and Wilma Tiamzon was carried out in Cebu,” he said.

“This travesty justice and its own due processes, however, serves only as this government's own undoing. It only exposes the hopeless rottenness of the system this government represents and protects. It merely enflames the people's revolutionary anger and collective desire for holistic change,” he added.

GPH, MILF negotiators discuss CAB, BBL in Davao multi-stakeholders forum

From the Philippine News Agency (May 18): GPH, MILF negotiators discuss CAB, BBL in Davao multi-stakeholders forum

Government Chief Peace Negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Vice Chair for Political Affairs Gadzali Jaafar led a panel of discussants at a multi-stakeholders summit on the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) held at the Ateneo de Davao University (AdDU) on Saturday afternoon.

Ferrer and Jaafar took turns in answering varied questions and suggestions such as possible talks with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), constitutionality of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), and fight against corruption and nepotism in a Bangsamoro government.

On talks with MNLF, Jaafar declared the MILF is open to direct talks anytime with the MNLF for the good of the whole Bangsamoro people but emphasized “they are not enemies.”

“Bukas ang MILF anytime…they can tell us. We will hear their suggestion para sa ikabubuti ng Bangsamoro people (for the good of the Bangsamoro People),” said Jaafar in answer to a question during an open forum on the possibility for the MILF, MNLF and GPH to talk in attaining genuine peace in Mindanao.

Jaafar recalled that the MILF and MNLF leaderships had been talking in the past about how to address peace in Mindanao, conducting meetings, one of which was in Davao City with the Central Committee, to explain what each group wanted for the Bangsamoro people.

“This is only differences of our approach to the problems in Mindanao,” he said, adding that the MNLF has a different approach on how to solve the Bangsamoro problem.

Jaafar said MILF’s approach is anchored on the principle of the late MILF leader Salamat Hashim that negotiations is best and most civilized way to resolve Bangsamoro issues.

He said others have different interest. The MILF’s interest is to deliver home to the Bangsamoro.

On the constitutionality of the BBL which was earlier questioned by Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago, Ferrer assured there is engagement between the executive and legislative departments to make sure the efforts of President Benigno S. Aquino III can be delivered.

Ferrer stressed that both panels have recognized that there is a separation of powers between the executive and legislative departments. She underscored that the issue on constitutionality was best responded in talks to explain the details of BBL.

Both Ferrer and Jaafar said BBL is now under review in Malacañang before it will be submitted to the House of Representatives for deliberations.

About 60 organizations coming from the government security forces, civil society groups, academe, Indigenous Peoples, Muslim and Christian leaders in Mindanao attended the summit was convened by the Al Qalam Institute for Islamic Identities and Dialogue in Southeast Asia and Bantay Bayanihan-Davao for AdDU.

It was aimed at raising awareness on the CAB and the salient points of the prospective Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) and the discourses on Mindanao peace and security in the light of the recently inked agreement.

Troops arrest Abu Sayyaf bomb expert

From the Philippine News Agency (May 18): Troops arrest Abu Sayyaf bomb expert

Zamboanga City -- Combined military and police forces have arrested a suspected Abu Sayyaf bomb expert in a raid on a west coast barangay in this city, a military official announced Sunday.

Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) information officer Capt. Maria Rowena Muyuela identified the arrested Abu Sayyaf bomb expert as Abu Jomar.

Muyuela said Jomar was nabbed when the combined Task Force Zamboanga and local police operatives, armed with a search warrant, raided a house around 7 a.m. Saturday at 5th Street, Southcom village, Barangay Upper Calarian, west of this city.

Muyuela said Jomar’s presence was detected in the area by government intelligence operatives.

The military and the police have joined forces in law enforcement efforts aimed at arresting members of lawless elements in this city.

Muyuela said the raiding team recovered from the possession of Jomar a mobile phone, electrical wirings, adhesive tapes and blasting caps.

She said the arrested suspect was turned over to the police for debriefing and appropriate action.

Gov't troops overrun NPA camp in Misamis Occidental

From the Philippine News Agency (May 18): Gov't troops overrun NPA camp in Misamis Occidental

Government forces on Saturday overran a camp of the New People’s Army (NPA) in the hinterlands of Misamis Occidental, a military official announced Sunday.

Army’s 1st Infantry Division Public Affairs Officer-in-Charge Capt. Franco Suelto said the camp was overran following an hour-long clash that broke out around 9 a.m. Saturday in the boundary of Barangay San Lorenzo, Sinacaban and Barangay Carmen, Jimenez, Misamis Occidental.

Suelto said the troops from the Charlie company of the Army’s 55th Infantry Battalion led by 1Lt. Ernesto Vitor launched the attacked following intelligence report that NPA rebels are encamped in the area.

Suelto said the NPA rebels fled to different directions as they were outmaneuvered by the troops leaving one rebel dead while personal belongings were seized .

He said the slain NPA rebel was identified as Lando Etol also known as Ka Brabra and Ka Brando of the Baking Squad of the NPA’s Front Committee Sendong.

He said the troops recovered from the fallen NPA camp the following: one M-16 Armalite rifle with ammunitions; one short ammunition magazine; one camouflage pack; 100 kilos of rice; 42 meters of wire to be used for Improvised Explosive Devised (IED); personal belongings; and, subversive documents of high intelligence value.

Army’s 55th Infantry Battalion commander Lt. Col. Gerry Besana has ordered his troops to track down the fleeing NPA rebels.

Rebel killed in Misamis Occidental clash

From the Philippine News Agency (May 18): Rebel killed in Misamis Occidental clash

A New People's Army (NPA) fighter was killed following a clash with troopers of the 55th Infantry Battalion at the boundaries of Sitio Katulungan Dako, Brgy Carmen, Jimenez and Brgy San Lorenzo, Sinacaban, Misamis Occidental Saturday morning.

Capt. Franco Suelto, 1st Infantry Division spokesperson, said Sunday an M-16 automatic rifle from the fallen rebel was also captured.

He added that the encounter took place around 9 a.m.

Suelto said that troopers of the 55th Infantry Battalion were conducting routine security patrols in the locality when they encountered an estimated 30 rebels from the NPA's Group Section Committee “Sendong".

He added that this triggered a 45-minute which killed one NPA fighter and wounded many others, prompting the rebel group to fall back.

No losses were reported among the government troopers who were still conducting pursuit operations against the remaining rebels.

Aside from the M-16 automatic rifle, also recovered were one short magazine, one camouflage combat pack, forty-two meters of wire for improvised explosive device, 100 kilos of rice; several personal belongings and subversive documents with intelligence value.

Meanwhile, 1st Infantry Division commander Major Gen. Felicito Vigilio M. Trinidad, Jr., extolled the troops of the 55th Infantry Battalion for their successful operation.

“This is another success of the Filipino people; in the spirit of 'Bayanihan', we can always win the peace while continuing this fight against extortion activities and harassments by the NPAs,” he concluded.

More and more NGOs to help in this year's 'Brigada Eskwela'

From the Philippine News Agency (May 18): More and more NGOs to help in this year's 'Brigada Eskwela'

The 7th Civil Relations Group announced that many non-government organizations (NGOs) will be joining in this year's "Brigada Eskwela" which is slated to begin May 19 to 23.

Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc, the unit commander, said that several non-government organizations have expressed their intention to help in the annual activity.

“We are very happy to announce that the government is getting more support from various partners in this noble mission of preparing the public school facilities prior to the class opening in June. Through the Armed Forces of the Philippines' stakeholders engagement programs, we are able to bridge the NGOs to the lead agency, the education department,” he said.

Wo Rosete, Smart Communications media relations officer, said that their company strongly supports "Brigada Eskwela".

He added that their support to the project began in 2009.

He said that he and some of his staff will personally participate in the maintenance and repair works of Culiat Elementary School in Quezon City.

“I am very proud to represent my company in this annual event. This is also part of our advocacy to engage communities and help solve common problems,” Rosete said.

Dulce Gamboa, Talima Foundation president, has supported "Brigada Eskwela" for several years now.

She said that she has advocated volunteerism not only within the family but also among her circle of friends.

“It is heartwarming to help and give something back to the community. I am very happy that I have successfully spread the volunteerism virus within my family especially to my young daughter who is actively participating in community outreach programs like this,” she said.

Carlo Claudio, Rotary Club of Makati-Pasong Tamo president, has organized volunteers from his own club.

“True to our motto, it is service above self. To support the 'Brigada Eskwela', I and my fellow Rotarians will leave our respective offices to give back to our communities,” Claudio, who also carried out a relief mission to help victims in 'Yolanda'-affected areas in November 2013, said.

Cabunoc said that the AFP regularly deploys soldiers to augment the multi-sectoral volunteers for the "Brigada Eskwela".

“As part of the AFP unit in the NCR, the 7th CRG is working under the direction of the Joint Task Force-NCR in providing skilled personnel for specific tasks such as repainting, repairing, and cleaning public school facilities nationwide. For five days, our soldiers will abandon the traditional weapons of war and will engage in a different battle using hammers, paint rollers and soft brooms,” said Cabunoc, whose unit co-organized the painting of the world’s longest peace mural.

PA dominates Australian shooting competition

From the Philippine News Agency (May 18): PA dominates Australian shooting competition

After successfully defending their place in the Team Champion Shot Match, the Philippine Army Shooting Team won the Commander-In-Chief trophy, the most coveted award in the Australian Army Skills at Arms Meeting (AASAM) held at the Combined Arms Training Center, Puckapunyal Military Area in Victoria, Australia from April 28 to May 18.

The 18-man PA contingent, headed by Lt. Col. Palmer M. Parungao, also won a total of 14 gold medals, 56 silver medals and two bronze medals in the AASAM team matches.

The local team competed in different categories, including the Rifle Match, Pistol Match, and Machine Gun for individuals and teams, and combined arms comprised of rifles and machine guns for teams.

Among the competing countries were Australia, Brunei, New Zealand, the United States, the United Kingdom, Tonga, Japan, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines, East Timor, Canada, and France.

The PA contingent is expected to return to Manila on Monday.

AASAM is an annual shooting competition among the different units of the Australian Army aimed to showcase the marksmanship skills of the participating teams.

It likewise serves as a venue to exchange techniques and learn from each other.

With this result, the PA proved to have very high marksmanship skill, making it equal to other Armies, not just in the ASEAN region, but in the world.

Marksmanship skill is one of the basic skills a world- class soldier has to possess in order to gain respect from soldiers of other countries.

In line with the vision of the Army Transformation Roadmap of becoming a world-class army, excellence in marksmanship is being emphasized by the PA in all phases of training.

Newborn baby of detained rebel leader’s daughter dies

From the Mindanao Examiner BlogSpot site (May 18): Newborn baby of detained rebel leader’s daughter dies

A Filipino human rights organization Karapatan on Sunday blamed the Philippine military and jail authorities for the death of the newborn baby of a detained woman accused by the Manila as a member of the communist rebel group New People’s Army.

It said the two-day old baby Diona Andrea Rosal died due to hypoxemia or oxygen deficiency in the blood. “Since her birth, she was on artificial respirator and experienced seizures,” it said, adding the infant died at the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit of the Philippine General Hospital in Manila.

The baby’s mother, Andrea Rosal, was seven months pregnant when security forces arrested her on March 27 this year in Caloocan City. Her father, Gregorio Rosal, a senior NPA leader, died of heart attack on June 22, 2011.

Authorities said Rosal, who is a senior rebel leader in Luzon, is facing a string of criminal charges.

Karapatan said Rosal experienced premature contractions during detention in Camp Bagong Diwa in Quezon City. It said she did not receive any medical attention from jail authorities during her detention and that her transfer to the Philippine General Hospital was in accordance to a court order issued for her immediate hospitalization.

It said the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology deliberately delayed Rosal’s transfer to the hospital despite her pleas. Rosal was pleading to be taken to hospital because of severe contractions since May 15, but jail officials only brought her to hospital the next evening and on May 17 she gave birth.

“We find the BJMP authorities, the Armed Forces of the Philippines and all government agencies responsible for the illegal arrest and detention of Andrea Rosal and accountable for the death of Diona Andrea and the situation of Andrea.”

“Their blatant disregard of the rights of Andrea, including her rights to receive immediate medical care and to be in an environment conducive for conceiving and delivering a healthy child, are apparent in this case. Ang gobyernong ito ay walang puso para sa mga ina at anak tulad ni Andrea at Diona Andrea,” Cristina Palabay, Karapatan Secretary-General, said in a statement sent to the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner.

Palabay said Rosal’s lawyers from the National Union of People’s Lawyers have filed urgent motions for the dismissal of the fabricated charges against her, including her immediate hospitalization.

Rosal has denied all accusations against her. There was no immediate statement from the military and jail authorities about the accusations of Karapatan.

Troops kill NPA rebel in Misamis clash

From the Mindanao Examiner BlogSpot site (May 18): Troops kill NPA rebel in Misamis clash

Government soldiers killed on communist rebel in a clash in the southern Philippine province of Misamis Occidental, an army spokesman said Sunday.

Capt. Jefferson Mamauag, of the 1st Infantry Division, said the fighting broke out in the village of San Lorenzo in Sinacaban town after troops tracked down a group of New People’s Army rebels.

He said no soldiers were injured or killed in the fighting and that troops recovered the body of the slain rebel and his M16 automatic rifle.

Mamauag said troops from the 55th Infantry Battalion were pursuing other rebels who escaped during the fighting.

There was no immediate statement from the NPA – which has been fighting for a separate Maoist state - about the clash.

69 children of ex-CPLA join AFP

From the Philippine Information Agency (May 17): 69 children of ex-CPLA join AFP

CAMP MECHOR DELA CRUZ, Gamu, Isabela – Some 69 sons and daughters of the Cordillera People’s Liberation Army (CPLA) who have undergone the 6-month military training are now joining the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

The trainees, who graduated recently, were beneficiaries of the government’s integration program for former rebels.

Private First Class Rochelle Tawagon, who topped the training, is proud to join the military organization.

She vowed to fulfill the mission and vision of the armed forces and apply the knowledge and training she learned in the army camp.

On the other hand, Ifugao governor Denis Habawel, who acted as guest speaker during the graduation ceremony, has commended the effort of the government in pushing for lasting peace through the integration program.

Habawel also acknowledged the leaders of the Cordillera Forum for Peace and Development (CFPD) for their support in the integration program.

He likewise advised the new soldiers to adhere to the discipline they learned inside the camp.

Balikatan 2014 helps build communities in Albay

From the Philippine Star (May 18): Balikatan 2014 helps build communities in Albay

LEGAZPI CITY, Philippines - – Completed projects under the engineering civic assistance program of Balikatan 2014 were turned over to beneficiaries after the annual bilateral exercises between the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the US military ended here Friday.

US Marine Maj. Jason Johnson, deputy commander of the Joint Civil Military Operations Task Force (JCMOTF) based at Camp General Simeon Ola, commended all the participants for a job well done.

“We’re so proud we have renovated Tamaoyan Elementary School among the many projects we’ve done; one of them was a comfort room in Barangay Pawa here as well as a school in Doña Mercedes, two classrooms in Barangay Malobago and a health clinic,” Johnson said.

Johnson led the turnover of the completed projects at the Tamaoyan Elementary School Friday.

Johnson said some 165 USAF servicemen as well as seven Australians took part in the humanitarian mission from April 5 to May 17.

Asked to comment on the quality of constructed projects, Johnson remarked, “They were absolutely beautiful.”

More reservists seen in next Balikatan

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (May 18): More reservists seen in next Balikatan

The recent Balikatan joint military exercises with the United States and Australia involved over 200 reservists of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and officials hope more will participate in next year’s war games to hone their military skills.

Philippine marines take their positions after being dislodged by a fast boat with their US counterpart during the joint U.S.-Philippines military exercise dubbed Balikatan 2014 Friday, May 9, 2014 at the Naval Training Exercise Command, a former US naval base, and facing the South China Sea at San Antonio township, Zambales province northwest of Manila, Philippines.AP

“It’s part of our whole-nation concept where not only the military deals with the security-issues of our country,” AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Emmanuel Bautista told the Inquirer on Friday.

“Our reservists are actually our (military’s) link to the rest of the nation so we want them to get involved and appreciate the situation we face now … how we deal with the security situation,” he said.

At the recently concluded Balikatan, reservists from the Philippine Army, Navy and Air Force participated in different activities, from the battle staff to the assault live fire exercises to the humanitarian projects.

A total of 244 reservists joined this year’s exercises, said Navy Capt. Rigoberto Banta of the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Reservists and Retirees Affairs.

Banta said the reservists included medical doctors, lawyers, businessmen, engineers, seafarers and professors, among others.

He said the battle staff exercises held at the Western Command in Palawan and the Joint Task Force-National Capital Region were also staffed by reservists who were senior officers.

Other reservists participated in the field training exercises “where their skills are developed,” Banta said.

The Army reservists were at the field exercises at Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija; those from the Air Force were at Clark Field in Pampanga, while those from the Navy got a chance to board US Navy ships.

Army troops to join Brigada Eskwela

From the Philippine Star (May 18): Army troops to join Brigada Eskwela

The Philippine Army is deploying a battalion of its troops in Metro Manila tomorrow to support the Department of Education (DepEd)’s Brigada Eskwela or National Schools Maintenance Week.

Brigada Eskwela is a yearly joint undertaking of concerned government agencies a month before the official opening of classes nationwide. This year, classes will open on June 2.

The soldiers, along with teachers and parents, will clean schools, repair damaged school facilities and do maintenance work like repainting.

Army spokesman Lt. Col. Noel Detoyato said 500 soldiers from the Civil Military Operations Group, Civil Military Operations Battalion and the Headquarters and Headquarters Support Group will be deployed to 33 schools in Muntilupa City, Taguig City, Makati City, Marikina City, Caloocan City, Pasay City, Pateros and Tondo, Manila starting tomorrow.

“This annual activity is also our way of communicating with the children as per the Army’s Transformation Roadmap; an Army that is more responsive, reliable, capable and committed to its mandate of serving the people and securing the land,” Detoyato said.

Meanwhile, over 2,000 employees of business process outsourcing firm Telus International Philippines took part in Brigada Eskwela yesterday morning in two public schools in Manila.

DepEd and Telus gathered the firm’s call center agents straight from their night shift to volunteer for the cleaning of the Isabelo de los Reyes Elementary School in Tondo and Cayetano Arellano Elementary School in Sta. Cruz, Manila.

Sayyaf bomber arrested outside military base in Zamboanga City

From the Mindanao Examiner Website (May 18): Sayyaf bomber arrested outside military base in Zamboanga City

Joint army and police forces raided a village outside a Philippine military base hosting US forces in Zamboanga City and arrested a suspected Abu Sayyaf bomber, officials said Sunday.

Officials said policemen, backed by soldiers, swooped down on the 5th Street in Southcom village outside the Western Mindanao Command headquarters and arrested the militant who goes by the name Abu Jomar.

Capt. Maria Rowena Muyuela, a spokeswoman for the Western Mindanao Command, said the militant was arrested following a long surveillance operation. “The raid resulted to the apprehension of Abu Jomar, who is a member of the Abu Sayyaf Group, and an explosives expert,” she told the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner.

She said the weekend raid was covered by a search warrant issued by a local judge Gregorio Dela Peña III. She said troops also seized a still undetermined number of blasting caps, electrical wirings and tapes, and a cell phone from Abu Jomar, who is currently being interrogated to determine if his group is plotting to bomb Zamboanga City.

Muyuela said the operation against the Abu Sayyaf is continuing in Zamboanga and other areas in the region. “The Western Mindanao Command and the Philippine National Police are jointly intensifying law enforcement operations in order to eliminate criminal activities through expeditious arrest of remaining leaders and members of the Abu Sayyaf Group and other lawless elements,” she said.

The Western Mindanao Command is one of several military bases in southern Philippines where the US maintains a high-security facility under the command of the Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines which is helping local troops fight terrorism.

Just recently, police also captured a 36-year old Abu Sayyaf militant, Harijin Jinny, in downtown Zamboanga while working as a security guard on a store just outside the police headquarters.

Last month, police commandos raided an Abu Sayyaf hideout in Zamboanga’s Santa Maria village and killed 2 militants and captured 6 more following a firefight that wounded one policeman. Commandos recovered four .45-caliber pistols and three fragmentation grenades from the hideout.

UK terror warning up
Just this week, the United Kingdom has warned its citizens against travelling to southern Philippines due to threats of terrorism and clashes between security forces and insurgents, and kidnappings.

“The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advise against all travel to south-west Mindanao and the Sulu archipelago because of on-going terrorist activity and clashes between the military and insurgent groups. The FCO advice against all but essential travel to the remainder of Mindanao for the same reasons,” it said in an updated advisory which can be accessed on this URL

Britain said there are several terrorist groups operating in the Philippines that continue to pose a threat. It also said there is a high threat of terrorism throughout the Philippines and terrorist groups – among them the local Abu Sayyaf and the Indonesian Jemaah Islamiya, including the communist rebel New People’s Army and other associated groups - continue to plan attacks and have the capacity and the intent to carry out attacks at anytime and anywhere in the country.

It said although there is hope that the Bangsamoro framework peace agreement will bring the 40 year insurgency in the south of the country to an end, extreme elements within the two main insurgent groups, the Moro National Liberation Front and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, continue to pose a security threat, including the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters which broke away with the MILF and is responsible for the series of attacks on military targets in Mindanao.

The BIFF under Ustadz Ameril Umra Kato set off a bomb recently in Maguindanao’s Datu Unsay town killing two soldiers and wounding several more. The explosion hit a military convoy carrying Col. Gener del Rosario, commander of the 1st Mechanized Infantry Brigade, on their way to the 6th Infantry Division in Awang town.

The United Kingdom also cited past against civilian targets in Mindanao - in 2013 attacks have taken place in Cotabato City and Cagayan de Oro and there remains a threat of attacks throughout much of Mindanao – “attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places frequented by foreigners like airports, shopping malls, public transport and places of worship.”

“Be aware of the risk of terrorist attacks to all forms of public transport: road, rail, sea and air. Terrorist groups have threatened to attack passenger ferries and other vessels, particularly those operating from Mindanao. You should avoid using public transport throughout Mindanao,” the British travel advisory further said.

It said there is a threat from kidnapping, particularly in the southern Philippines where kidnapping could occur anywhere, including on coastal and island resorts and on dive boats and sites in the Sulu Sea.

“Foreigners have been targeted in rural, urban and coastal areas in the past. In April 2014, two foreign nationals were kidnapped while yachting in the Sulu Sea. In February 2012, 2 foreign nationals were kidnapped from Parangan in the township of Panglima Sugala in the Tawi-Tawi island province.”

“The long-standing policy of the British government is not to make substantive concessions to hostage takers. The British government considers that paying ransoms and releasing prisoners increases the risk of further hostage taking,” it said.

Britain was referring to the two German yachters Stefan Viktor Okonek, 71, and his companion, Herike Diesen, 55, who disappeared recently at sea off Palawan province. Their empty yacht was recovered by Philippine authorities off Palawan in the Sulu Sea. And the two European wildlife photographers Ewold Horn, 52, from Holland; and Lorenzo Vinciguerre, 47, from Switzerland, who were taken captive by in the coastal village of Parangan in Panglima Sugala town two years ago.