Sunday, June 1, 2014

Stronger US missile defence in Pacific: in words against North Korea, but in fact - China

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 2): Stronger US missile defence in Pacific: in words against North Korea, but in fact - China

The United States proposes to South Korea to deploy ground-based missile defence systems in the country. Representatives of South Korea, Japan and the U.S. discussed these plans at a security conference in Singapore on Saturday. The U.S. mulls seriously South Korea for possible deployment of a mobile missile defence system used for interception of medium-range missiles, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The U.S. offers to deliver to South Korea ground-based anti-ballistic missile defence systems Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) designed to shoot down medium-range ballistic missiles in their terminal phase using a hit-to-kill approach.

Contrary to South Korea, Japan has been involved in creation of a missile defence system in the region already for a long time. Seoul has not participated in this programme due to a territorial dispute with Tokyo and a factor of historical memory [Korea was Japan’s colony from 1910 until 1945]. The Pentagon believes that Tokyo and Seoul should settle their disagreements for forming a U.S.-Japanese-South Korean tripartite union, some kind of a military alliance in Asia similar to the North Atlantic Alliance.

In Europe NATO confronts Russia, such alliance in the Asia-Pacific region with other regional countries involved in it may stand against China. Military analysts polled by Itar-Tass believe that declaring protection of allies in the Asia-Pacific region from a North Korean nuclear threat the Pentagon is creating a missile defence system in Asia to neutralize Beijing military potential. In their view, in a speech at U.S. Military Academy West Point on Wednesday U.S. President Barack Obama has intentionally thrown out a sharp innuendo not only against Russia, but also China, stating, “Regional aggression that goes unchecked - whether in southern Ukraine or the South China Sea, or anywhere else in the world - will ultimately impact our allies and could draw in our military.”

“Naturally, the Americans name Pyongyang’s nuclear threat as a reason for building up missile defence potential in the Pacific, but military specialists understand that China is set as a target. Beijing steps up effectively potential of its short-and medium-range missiles against aircraft-carrying assault forces and the Pentagon felt this danger. Therefore, U.S. retaliatory measures are predictable no matter how the Americans try to disguise them under a North Korean threat,” Deputy Director of the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) Institute of U.S. and Canadian Studies Maj Gen Pavel Zolotarev, former chief of the Information Analytical Centre of the Russian Defence Ministry, told Itar-Tass.

“The Pentagon already has a radar station in Japan and is mounting a second radar there. Now it is advisable for the Americans to have the very missiles THAAD near guidance systems. If they are deployed in South Korea a missile launch area will happen to be closer not only to North Korea, but also China. Meanwhile, these are mobile anti-ballistic missile systems which can be targeted against Pyongyang and Beijing depending on the situation,” the military expert noted.

Washington places a larger emphasis on missile defence development in the Pacific Ocean than in the Euro-Atlantic region, as 90 percent of information and assault vehicles of U.S. defensive force are deployed in the Asia-Pacific region. This takes place amid a changing strategic balance of forces in the Asia-Pacific region where Chinese fleet is growing massively. In the total number of combat units Chinese naval forces are already ranked second in the world after the U.S. Chinese shipbuilding programme is the most large-scale one in the world and surpasses U.S. programme [expect for aircraft carriers] and other NATO states. Meanwhile, China invests major resources in build-up of its strategic triad - aviation, intercontinental ballistic missiles and missile-carrying nuclear submarines, particularly a naval component of this triad,” Director of the RAS Centre of International Security Aleksey Arbatov told Itar-Tass.

“An American missile defence system officially being stationed in Asia is targeted against North Korea which had made a test-launch of a ballistic missile over Japan in 2012 and had conducted a third nuclear weapon test in 2013, stirring up one more acute crisis and was probably preparing a fourth military nuclear test. However, further growth of U.S. military presence in Northeast Asia will be excessive to rebuff North Korean missiles and cannot have any other goal but to hamper an increase of Chinese nuclear deterrence potential,” the analyst said.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry has described U.S. plans to deploy missile defence systems in the region in diplomatic way typical for China, noting that this factor would not promote maintenance of stability and strategic balance of forces in the Asia-Pacific region.

Army, cops secure N. Cotabato village harassed by gunmen over land dispute

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 2): Army, cops secure N. Cotabato village harassed by gunmen over land dispute

Police and military personnel have been deployed in a remote village here harassed by gunmen on Sunday where a 12-year-old girl was injured by a stray bullet.

The girl was accidentally injured when armed men claiming ownership of a vast track of land in Tulunan, North Cotabato fired at villagers, Senior Insp. Ronnie Cordero.

Cordero, Tulunan municipal police office chief, said the group of Commander Musa harassed residents of Barangay (village) Popoyon and nearby sub-villages.

The attack triggered by a long standing land dispute forced about 136 families to flee to Barangay Poblacion to avoid getting caught in the crossfire.

“It was a long standing land conflict, the armed men have been harassing the villagers to drive them away so they can claim the farmland,” Cordero said.

According to Cordero, the farmers owned the land as evidenced by land titles but the group of Commander Musa also claimed ownership, thus the recurring peace and order problem.

He said farmers were being sniped by the group of Commander Musa who came from nearby Datu Paglas town in Maguindanao. Cordero said Commander Musa does not belong to any revolutionary group but maintains an armed group of civilians.

Cordero said Mayor Lani Candolada had already created Task Force Land Dispute to settle the conflict.

Cordero said police and military authorities are now deployed near the village to prevent lawless elements from coming near the village. Male villagers return to Barangay Popoyon but would return to evacuation site at night time.

The vast track of land was planted with coconut, rubber and corn.

Workers form the town social welfare office are now attending to the needs of displaced families whose children failed to attend the first day of classes in Barangay Popoyon Elementary School.

Maco LGU fails to establish communications with abductors

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 2): Maco LGU fails to establish communications with abductors

The Municipal Crisis Committee of Maco, Compostela Valley Province is still facing a black wall on the abduction of survey inspectors from Manila as it criticized the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) of breaching protocols on coordinating with local officials in the conduct of ground survey for its National Greening Program.

“We neither have contacts with the abductors nor the survey inspectors,” Maco Vice Mayor Voltaire Rimando, who is now tasked to head the Crisis Committee said.

Rimando said the Crisis Committee cannot move forward as it might pre-empt any efforts or activities for the safe release of the survey inspectors.

Rimando expressed disappointment that DENR or any of its provincial and community environment offices did not coordinate with the local government unit prior to the conduct of the survey.

Rimando confirmed there were only five abducted by unidentified armed group.

He said the employees from the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) were not taken by the abductors, thus there was no truth that three were released.

He said standard protocol in visiting local areas should have been observed, especially that similar incidents have happened in the past citing abductions of some members of the military and police.

Rimando said even after the abduction was reported, no one from the regional, provincial or community environment offices reached out to them.

While the driver with the rented Prado car of the survey inspectors has reportedly returned to New Leyte barangay center, Rimando said no information was relayed to them.

“What happens now is just to wait for their eventual appearance. We have no words from them. Maybe they are still in a state of confusion…or maybe because there is no work today, so they did not come to us. But we are closely monitoring the situation. We really have no contacts with them,” Rimando said in a phone interview on Sunday.

Barangay New Leyte, according to Rimando, is the farthest area in the southern part of Maco and known as a red area.

He said New Leyte is tenement area formerly belonging to the North Davao Mining Corporation but is now under the Philippine Mining Development Corporation (PMDC).

Rimando pointed out the importance of coordinating with the LGU to avoid relaying information based from speculations.

“Somebody from CENRO should appear before the police station and tell what the real score is…we don’t know the situation. Probably they did not reach out to us realizing they have committed a blunder,” Rimando said in Bisaya.

Rimando said they just rely on information from the Chief of Police of Maco, who is now in the area to gather information on the abduction incident.

On Friday night, the Eastern Mindanao Command received reports from its ground forces that survey inspectors of the DENR were abducted by unidentified armed men on Friday (May 30) afternoon at Barangay New Leyte, Maco town, ComVal.

Eastern Mindanao Command Information Officer Capt. Alberto Caber said the six survey inspectors identified as Kendrik Wong, Nico Lasaca, Chris Favila, Matthew Cua, Jonas Loredo and Tim Sabina were in the area undertaking a validation and survey on the Php 1 billion National Greening Program of the government.

DVIDS: CFE-DMHA talks HADR lessons learned in Manila

From DVIDS (May 29): CFE-DMHA talks HADR lessons learned in Manila

PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii – Mara Langevin, a disaster management and humanitarian assistance (DMHA) adviser for the Center for Excellence in Disaster Management and Humanitarian Assistance, gave a presentation on civil-military coordination guidelines during disaster response operations at the U.S. Naval War College 10th Regional Alumni Symposium in Manila, Philippines, May 23.

More than 100 alumni and guests attended the two-day symposium from 14 countries throughout the Asia-Pacific region to discuss global maritime partnerships through a series of panels that discussed freedom of navigation, information sharing and interoperability, and lessons learned from humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations.

“During the [humanitarian assistance and disaster response] panel, lessons learned from civil-military responses of both the Philippines and U.S. to Typhoon Haiyan were discussed, as well as the responses to the 2010 Haiti earthquake and the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami,” said Langevin. “The presentations provided different viewpoints from individual national perspectives that can be incorporated into future coordination efforts.”

Of the many lessons of past disasters, the audience highlighted transparency and information sharing among regional responders as areas needing improvement, said Langevin. She responded by noting the availability of information databases like CFE-DMHA's Virtual Information Resource Center to archive lessons for future reference, and how increasing liaison officers, utilizing preexisting relationships and prearranged agreements can increase transparency and trust within coordination.

Members of the DMHA panel also discussed ways individual nations can incorporate lessons learned from past disaster response operations.

“We need to improve on how we manage the support, how to look beyond the [military to military support] and evoke the [U.S.-Philippines Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement] to expand on HADR support, civil-military coordination and how they are managed,” said Undersecretary Benito T. Ramos, of the Philippine Office of Civil Defense.

The symposium was co-hosted by Rear Adm. Walter E. "Ted" Carter Jr., president of the U.S. Naval War College, and Vice Adm. Jesus C. Milan, flag officer in command of the Philippine navy.

"Much of our future depends on the peace and stability of the maritime domain,” said Milan. “Activities such as this symposium would help cull and mine the inner depths of our visions, thoughts and ideas for creative solutions and answers."

Gov’t troops in Cagayan act as village watchmen, referees

From the Philippine Star (Jun 1): Gov’t troops in Cagayan act as village watchmen, referees

PALAUI ISLAND, San Vicente, Cagayan, Philippines – Unlike their colleagues deployed to secure the country’s regime of islands in the West Philippine Sea, the troops on security and territorial duty deployed here are relatively luckier.

While their counterparts in Palawan are constantly on their toes because of China’s aggressive behavior in the region, the soldiers here are tasked as barangay watchmen – mostly to break up fights among the local residents composed of 300 families.

“Aside from our official duties in guarding our territory, often we perform referee duties,” Marine T/Sgt, Rogelio Jabalde said.

Jabalde is deputy commander of the Punta Verde naval outpost based in this island where the South China Sea and the Pacific Ocean meet.

Life here, according to Jabalde, is not as stressful compared to being deployed in the western side of the country where China is laying claim to the islands and reefs comprising the Spratlys.

There are only a handful of troops deployed here – Jabalde, the Marine and two Navy men – all from the Philippine Navy’s Camelo Osias Naval Base in mainland Sta. Ana town.

“Aside from acting as referees to break up fights of local residents here, we do patrol our waters around the island against fishermen engaged in illegal fishing,” Jabalde said.

With the deployment of troops in this island, suspected poachers from Taiwan are no longer seen fighting it out with local fishermen.

“It’s been a long time that we haven’t seen a Taiwanese fishing vessel in our waters,” said Charlie Acebedo, a resident of the island.

Palaui Island is located between the mainland of Luzon and Camiguin Island, part of the Calayan Island Group.

The Calayan Island group is near Balintang Channel where only last year, a suspected Taiwanese poacher was killed by patrolling Philippine Coast Guard personnel.

While the waters off Cagayan are already free of Taiwanese poachers, the intrusions are continuing in the still unguarded waters of Batanes.

The Balintang incident brought diplomatic relations between Manila and Taipei to a new low. Relations improved with the indictment of the PCG personnel involved.

Recently, a Taiwanese fishing boat ran aground in one of the reefs in Batanes, but the absence of a bigger ship to tow the vessel afforded time for other Taiwanese vessels to salvage and tow it back to Taiwan.

“Before, they used to be around doing poaching and illegal fishing in our waters but now they’re gone,” Acebedo said.

Apart from being a fisherman, Acebedo also works as tourism officer in Palaui.

The island is fast becoming a tourism area after serving as the venue of the “Survivor” reality series last year.

Other groups of fishermen added they are competing with Taiwanese fishermen in deep-sea fishing in the seas off Batanes.

“The Taiwanese are no longer here but in Batanes, they are numerous. It’s because there are no troops in the islands there,” one of the fishermen said.

The military said a plan is being worked out to deploy troops in the islets in Batanes.

Going north

Known as the northern frontier, the country’s territorial waters under the jurisdiction of Batanes and Cagayan remains widely unsecured against poaching and illegal fishing.

“A proposal on this particular deployment, patterned after our territorial and domain awareness operations within our regime of islands in the Spratlys, is currently under study,” an official said.

The official added the plans are to deploy troops in the seven uninhabited islets close to the territorial waters off Taiwan.

Once the proposal is approved, troops will be initially deployed in Y’ami Island and the North Island, all located in the northernmost portion of the country’s territorial waters facing Taiwan.

A survey was conducted by the provincial government of Batanes and the military in all the seven islets and discovered that they are all habitable, with the presence of fresh water.

“For now, there’s nobody staying in all these islets but a herd of goats that are being stolen and regularly being butchered by intruding Taiwanese, Vietnamese and Chinese fishermen,” another official said.

The location of these islets is highly strategic in terms of military and economic value, as the surrounding waters serve as passageways of foreign fishermen sailing from the South China Sea to fish at Benham Rise in the Pacific.

Milagros Morales, assistant regional director of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources in Cagayan Valley, lamented the absence of troops to serve as a deterrent force in the surrounding islets comprising Batanes province.

She said the absence of any deterrent force has emboldened not only the Taiwanese fishermen but also those from China and Vietnam to conduct poaching and illegal fishing in the waters of the province.

“After last year’s shooting incident in Balintang Channel, they never left. We felt helpless because we don’t have anything to stop them,” Morales said.

She also lamented the absence of the military territorial force in the area has emboldened foreign poachers to venture closer to the island town of Itbayat.

She said a lone government vessel coming from her homeport in Sta. Ana, Cagayan had to be dispatched to Batanes to patrol the Itbayat waters.

At Benham Rise, a government research vessel is also in the area to guide fishermen on what type of fishing is suitable to further increase their daily catch.

Angel Encarnacion, Batanes provincial officer, said the deployment of a Bureau of Fisheries vessel to the province is in support of the ongoing maritime and territorial domain awareness patrol being conducted by a lone Navy ship.

Last year, Encarnacion said local fishery enforcers accosted a Taiwanese fishing vessel docked near Itbayat, but failed to seize the foreign ship and apprehend its crewmembers in the absence of a bigger ship to tow the intruding vessel to the capital town of Basco.

“That is one of the primary reasons why a plan is being studied to deploy troops for maritime and territorial duties in the Batanes,” said the official.

If only soldiers were deployed in the area, the Balintang Channel shooting incident could have been avoided, he said.

Battle erupts; 100 families flee

From the Manila Standard Today (Jun 2): Battle erupts; 100 families flee

SURIGAO CITY, Surigao del Norte—About 100 families fled their homes in the lakeside town of Mainit following an encounter between government troops and the communist New People’s Army (NPA) in nearby barangay last Thursday, city and barangay officials said.

Barangay leader Bae Taglatawan said residents abandoned their homes in the hinterland barangays of Tagbuyawan and Tapian after soldiers killed two rebels in a gunbattle with about 20 rebels in the area.

“Some of them stayed with their relatives in the poblacion and many more occupied the public schools, which serve as temporary evacuation centers,” said Taglatawan said.

Soldiers of the 30th Infantry Division were on patrol when they encountered the rebels. After the firefight they recovered four high-powered firearms and several rounds of ammunition, hand-held radios, food and medical supplies.

A few days ago, soldiers from the 36th Infantry Battalion also encountered a group of rebels in the remote town of Carmen in Surigao del Sur but no casualties were reported. Last week about 97 rebels coming from different parts of Caraga Region surrendered to the military in a ceremony in Prosperidad, Agusan del Sur.

Mainit Mayor Ramon Mondano confirmed reports of residents escaping from the two barangays but said there was no actual headcount of the number of evacuees because many of them were taken in by relatives in the poblacion.

Nokie Calunsag, coordinator of an environmentalist group Save Lake Mainit Movement, said in addition to the two NPA rebels an unidentified woman was also killed during the fighting.

Lt. Jake Guellega, who led the soldiers during the fighting, said the rebels retreated and scampered to various direction during the fighting that dragged on for more than 30 minutes.

“There were indications that they suffered more casualties based on the bloodstains and personal belongings that they left behind,” Guellega said.

Major General Ricardo Visaya, Commder of the Army’s 4th Infantry Division, commended his men and said the encounter was “a result of our commitment to protect the people and secure our environment and keep our5 society from harm against the NPA.”

“We thank the local populace in the area. They provided the necessary information, which led to the successful conduct of our operation,” Visaya said.

Poser over release of two by Filipino gunmen

From The Sun Daily (Jun 1): Poser over release of two by Filipino gunmen

PETALING JAYA: Was a ransom paid for the release of the two women kidnapped by suspected Filipino gunmen on April 2?

This poser was raised after news agency Reuters reported today that the release of 29-year-old Chinese tourist Gao Hua Yuan and resort worker Marcy Dayawan, 40, in a joint effort by Malaysian and Philippines authorities was only achieved after the payment of a "large ransom".

However, Deputy Inspector-General of Police Datuk Seri Mohd Bakri Mohd Zinin said today that negotiations between the Philippine authorities and the kidnappers was all it took to secure the release of the two on Friday.

Quoting Philippine police sources, the Reuters report said the women were freed after a large amount of money was paid.

"It has been rare for Abu Sayyaf to release abductees without a ransom being paid," the report said without including details of the amount paid and source of the funds.

Mohd Bakri said the ransom demand made by the gunmen for the release of the duo was not paid.

"Of course the motive of every such kidnapping is ransom, but through negotiations nothing was paid for their freedom. The victims returned to their countries on Saturday and we have recorded their statements.

"We are investigating the case on all aspects including how it occurred and who was behind it. We hope to obtain leads and take action on those responsible.

"We also thank the Philippines government for assisting us," he said after attending the closing ceremony of the Inspector-General of Police Cup ten-pin bowling tournament at Sunway Pyramid.

He said police are investigating if local villagers were in cahoots with the gunmen.

Mohd Bakri said another kidnap victim, Chinese fish farm manager Yang Zai Lin, who was abducted at Pulau Baik in Lahad Datu, Sabah on May 6, was still being held at an undisclosed location in the southern Philippines.

He said it remains unknown if Yang was kidnapped by the same group responsible for the abduction of Gao and Marcy.

Gao and Marcy were snatched from the Singamata Reef Resort off Semporna by five gunmen on April 2.

Weeks later, it was revealed that the gunmen had demanded a ransom of US$11 million (RM36.4 million).

Philippine rebel arrested over landmine attack that killed two US marines

From The Guardian (Jun 1): Philippine rebel arrested over landmine attack that killed two US marines

• Miraji Bairulla, alias Mahang, held in southern town of Indanan
• 2009 attack killed two Americans and a Filipino marine

Philippine police on Sunday captured a suspected Muslim rebel bomber who allegedly was involved in a 2009 landmine attack that killed two US army special forces soldiers and a Filipino marine in a restive southern province.

Miraji Bairulla did not resist when policemen, backed by Philippine marines, served a warrant for his arrest in the town of Indanan in Sulu province, police Senior Superintendent Abraham Orbita said. Bairullah, who uses the rebel name "Mahang", is a bomb expert for the Moro National Liberation Front rebel group, he said.

Bairullah was among militants who placed a powerful landmine that hit and caused a passing Humvee to flip over, killing two US soldiers and a Filipino marine on 29 September 2009, in an isolated stretch of a coconut tree-lined dirt road in Indanan, Orbita said. Two other Filipino marines were wounded in the attack.

No gunbattle ensued after the landmine blast.

The American and Filipino troops came under attack while en route to deliver food and other supplies to US Seabees helping construct a school building and dig a water well for poor villagers of Kagay village in Indanan, a hilly farming town where militants belonging to the Moro National Liberation Front and the smaller but more violent Abu Sayyaf have had an active presence.

US and Filipino forces appeared to have been lured to pass through the land mine-ridden hinterland at the time by the militants, who resented the construction of school building and other projects by outsiders. US military personnel usually travelled by helicopters for safety, but villagers often flew kites, an aviation hazard that prompted the Americans to travel by land, security officials said at the time.

Hundreds of American military personnel have been providing counterterrorism training and advising Filipino troops battling al-Qaida-linked Abu Sayyaf militants in southern provinces including Sulu since 2002. That year, an American Green Beret was killed by a bomb outside an army camp in southern Zamboanga city in an attack blamed on Abu Sayyaf militants.

The Moro National Liberation Front was once the largest Muslim rebel group in the south, homeland of minority Muslims in the largely Roman Catholic Philippines, until it signed an autonomy deal with the government in 1996. Many of the rebels, however, held on to their firearms despite the peace deal and later resumed attacks. Others defected from the Moro group and organised the Abu Sayyaf in the early 1990s.

PHL, Malaysian officials working for release of abducted Chinese believed held in Jolo

From GMA News (Jun 1): PHL, Malaysian officials working for release of abducted Chinese believed held in Jolo

After working for the release of a Filipina resort worker and a Chinese tourist, Philippine and Malaysian officials have shifted their attention to securing the release of a Chinese fish farm manager abducted in Sabah last May.

Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom) director-general Datuk Mohamad Mantek said Philippine and Malaysian security officials are in negotiations for the release of fish farm manager Yang Zai Lin, Malaysia's The Star Online reported late Sunday.

“The possibility of getting his freedom is good,” the report quoted Mohamad as saying after meeting with representatives of the Kota Kinabalu Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

On May 6, armed men abducted Yang Zai Lin, a fish farm manager, at Pulau Baik in Lahad Datu.

Yang is believed to be "safe" in Jolo, the Star Online report said.

Last Friday, Philippine and Malaysian negotiators managed to secure the release of Marcelita Dayawan, 40, and Chinese Gao Huayun, 29. The two were abducted from a floating resort April 2.

Different kidnappers

Meanwhile, Mohamad said their findings showed the group behind the women's abduction was different from the one that abducted Yang.

He said there are 14 kidnap-for-ransom groups in the southern Philippines, seven of which are reportedly active.

Also, Mohamad said Esscom is eyeing a forward operations base using a former oil platform in the waters off Semporna district by year-end.

This would bolster the security forces’ ability to detect intrusion into Malaysian waters, he said.

Troops fail to locate abducted DENR workers

From the Daily Tribune (Jun 2): Troops fail to locate abducted DENR workers

Military tracking teams have yet to locate the six Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) inspectors who were abducted by still unidentified armed men in Compostela Valley province in violence-stricken Mindanao, the latest in a number of attacks against environmental workers there in recent years.

“For info, still no contact on both victims and (their) abductors,” Capt. Alberto Caber, Eastern Mindanao Command spokesman, yesterday said.

“Our primary concern is for the safe release of the civilians,” Eastern Mindanao Command chief Lt. Gen. Ricardo Rainier Cruz III earlier said.

The victims were on their way to undertake validation and survey on the National Greening Program of the government in the area when snatched by the suspects.

Soldiers from the 1001st Infantry Brigade have joined the Philippine National Police in the pursuit and tracking operations.

The military also expressed belief that the victims could have been mistaken as government troops for using “drone” while conducting aerial survey in Maco town.

“That is our belief, that it was the NPA (New People’s Army) because they (DENR workers) flew drone…our assessment is that they were mistaken and suspected as military because they used drone,” Caber said.

He added a crisis management committee, headed by Vice Mayor Voltaire Rimando of Maco was immediately activated to address the abduction.

“We are expecting negotiations…we will follow the committee,” Caber stressed.

Rimando, for his part, maintained that there is still no confirmation if the NPA was responsible in the abduction.

“Even then military could not confirm…it’s premature to declare that it was the NPA,” he added.

According to Caber, the DENR workers used a remote controlled sky eye while conducting aerial survey in the area.

“While they were in the barangay flying the sky eye, armed men aboard motorcycles and they (DENR workers) were told that they will be investigated and were taken,” he said.

Taken were DENR survey inspectors identified as Kendrik Wong, Nico Lasaca, Chris Favila, Matthew Cua, Jonas Loredo and Tim Sabina.

At least 20 forest rangers have been killed since the government imposed a nationwide logging ban to combat widespread illegal logging in 2010.

The rangers are often poorly equipped and up against illegal loggers backed by a private armed unit and sometimes corrupt local officials, the department has said.

MILF getting delay in BBL okay

From the Daily Tribune (Jun 2): MILF getting delay in BBL okay

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is prodding the government to submit the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) to Congress as it remains hanging more than one month after it was submitted to Malacanang. The MILF, in its official website, expressed concern over the fate of the BBL, saying time is not on the side of the BBL’s approval.

“All parties must tighten their belt to ensure the smooth-sailing of the BBL. For sure, we do not have the benefit of so much time at our disposal,” the MILF said in its website.

A Palace official said last May 25 that Malacanang is stepping up its review of the Bangsamoro Basic Law, saying that it will be soon submitted to Congress which it had not done until now.

Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal said time is running out for the submission of the draft law to Congress.

Iqbal also chairs the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC), comprised of experts from the government and the MILF, which drafted the bill.

Deputy presidential spokesman Abigail Valte said the Palace is working very hard on the review of the draft law and the President himself made several follow ups on the Palace undertaking.

The MILF submitted its proposed BBL, crafted by the 15-member Bangsamoro Transition Committee (BTC), to the Office of the President (OP) last April 22 or less than a month after the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) last March 27.

“The proposed BBL is supposed to be the start of the work to legislate a political agreement contained in the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro,” the MILF said.

The MILF explained that it is for this reason that most of the provisions of the BBL were copy-pasted from signed documents; others were culled from recommendations from civil society organizations (CSOs), non-government organizations (NGOs), local government units (LGUs), peace workers and individuals; and the rest to flesh out gray areas in the CAB but taking account its spirit.

“But sure enough, the dose of medicine contained in the BBL, as crafted by the BTC, will not please everybody’s taste. This includes people whose vocation and forte is to see only the legal side of the document or argument. In such an eventuality, the long haul ahead can be predicted”, the MILF said.

The MILF said the BTC, chaired by MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal, is ready for engagement with the OP in furtherance of the BBL.

“On the side of the BTC, it has never doubted that this engagement with the OP is forthcoming, because there is no other way to handle it. With heart and soul, the BTC commissioners have poured it all in crafting this historic document. All of the 15 commissioners, except one, signed the BBL”, said the MILF.On the other hand, the MILF said it will not engage into any matter pertaining to the BBL outside the peace negotiation but vowed to closely monitor the developments.

“For the MILF, there will be no open engagement vis-à-vis BBL, except perhaps by those connected with the peace negotiation. But surely, it will monitor the movement of the document very closely. Any slip in the handling can spell a great difference,” said the MILF.

“This can only be averted through strong partnership with government”, it added.

“The President himself has made several follow-ups on the legal team but the President is also cognizant and is understanding of the task that is at hand,” Valte said.

Valte also said the President also was a given a copy of the three-inch thick BBL draft.

Valte quoted the President as saying: “I am very cognizant of the urgency but I’m also understanding of the task at hand.”

“The President has been periodically checking on the review,” she said.
Congress will ratify the BBL which will replace the organic act that created the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

Peace Adviser Teresita Deles expressed confidence that the draft bill would be submitted before Congress adjourns on June 7.

She said the President wants to make it sure that he certifies the draft as urgent that can be defended in Congress during deliberations.

Deles said the Chief Executive does not want false promises to achieve a lasting peace in Mindanao which for several decades ravaged the region.

Last month, a group of Philippine officials, mostly members of Congress, have made a five-day study visit to Spain where they experienced a first-hand observation on the workings of Spain’s autonomous region that could serve as a model for the proposed Bangsamoro substate.

Deles, who was also a member of the delegation, said that during the study visit, the Filipino delegation was given a first-hand view of the experiences of Spain in the setting up of its 17 autonomous communities, provided with best practices and lessons learned on the relationships between the central and autonomous governments as well as on territorial and political organization, public administration, decentralization and models of local autonomy.

The legislators also visited the local government units of Galicia, namely, the municipalities of Santiago and Cambados as well as Madrid for in-depth discussions on their specific autonomy systems.

“We’ve heard from the people themselves. We’ve heard it from the President of the Parliament of Galicia, we’ve also heard from the mayor of the town of Cambados. We’ve also heard from the Xunta de Galicia (Government of Galicia), the executive branch, and met the President,” Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, a member of the delegation, said.

OPAPP pointed out that the Philippine legislators foresee a spur in development in the future Bangsamoro region following the study visit on Spain’s autonomy models.

“I am now envisioning a spur in Bangsamoro development,” Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III said.

Pimentel, along with Senator Pia Cayetano and Representatives Deputy Speaker Pangalian Balindong, Jim Hataman-Salliman, Jesus Sacdalan, Bai Sandra Sema, Nancy Catamco, Rodolfo Biazon, Teodoro Baguilat Jr. and Arnulfo Go, participated in the study trip organized by the Spanish Embassy in Manila and funded by the Agencia Española de Cooperacion Internacional para el Desarollo (AECID).

Philippine Ambassador to Spain Carlos Salinas accompanied the Philippine delegation throughout the visit.

“During this study trip, we were exposed to European Union standards and I am hoping that these EU standards can creep into the drafting of the Bangsamoro Basic Law,” Pimentel said.

“If Europe is progressive because of these standards, I am hoping that the Bangsamoro will also progress,” he said.

Pimentel was referring to the different standards in governance and administration put in place by the Spanish national government and being followed and implemented by the autonomous regions.

On the other hand, Cayetano cited the health care in the autonomous community of Galicia as an example. “The national government and the national laws still dictate the number of systems or standards that one must provide but the implementation reside with the autonomous government,” she said.

“Seeing how it works here gives me better ideas on how to share the power,” Cayetano said.

“In all of these learning and information they gave us, somehow we have a working knowledge on how a country like Spain which gave autonomy to 17 regions can become a model for possible adaptation on the BBL (Bangsamoro Basic Law),” Rodriguez added.

Other delegates to the study visit included OPAPP officials, namely Undersecretary Jose Lorena, Assistant Secretary Rose Romero, Director Polly Michelle Cunanan and the legal team of the government peace panel, Atty. Anna Tarhata Basman and Atty. Armi Bayot.

Village leaders confirm arrested NPA ‘leader’ is a carpenter

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jun 1): Village leaders confirm arrested NPA ‘leader’ is a carpenter

ANTIMINING activist Romeo Rivera Jr., a carpenter, is held at the Digos City police station following his arrest on the suspicion that he is actually Felix Armodia, a top New People’s Army leader in Southern Mindanao. ORLANDO DINOY/INQUIRER MINDANAO

Barangay (village) leaders in a remote village in Koronadal City in South Cotabato have confirmed that the mining activist the military claimed to be the ranking New People’s Army leader Felix Armodia was actually an ordinary carpenter named Romeo Rivera Jr., they usually sought for help when they needed to do some carpentry job in their village, a Bayan Muna partylist lawmaker said.

Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Zarate, who accompanied a fact-finding mission to Sitio Lasang in the village of San Roque in Koronadal on Thursday, said the villagers said they personally knew Rivera Jr., the ordinary carpenter village officials usually sought whenever they needed some carpentry works in their village.

Rivera was taken from his house in  San Roque last May 2 by police and military troops who served him the warrant of arrests of Felix Armodia, the NPA leader the military claimed to be operating in the Davao del Sur area.

“All the residents and barangay officials we interviewed attested to the fact that Rivera Jr. has been a long time resident in the place; that he is an ordinary panday the barangay officials usually hired for their repair and other construction works,” Zarate said. “They also said he is engaged in the production of organic fertilizer like vermiculture and that he is also active in the anti-mining campaign, being a convenor of Panalipdan Tampakan,” Zarate told the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

“They cannot believe he is an NPA or that he is “Felix Armodia” the alleged NPA leader whose warrants of arrests are being used by the AFP to justify his detention,” he added.

But Zarate said he thought Rivera’s arrest was not “just a simple case of mistaken identity,” but a deliberate attempt to harass and vilify him.

“They charged him as ‘Felix Armodia’ so that he will be neutralized in his anti-mining activities,” said Zarate, who vowed to call for an investigation of Rivera’s case in Congress. “This is a deliberate attempt to send a chilling message to other anti-mining activists and human rights defenders.”

Zarate said Bayan Muna would call for an investigation of Rivera’s case and other similar cases in Congress.

He said a case similar to that of Rivera happened in Manila in 2013 when the Armed Forces of the Philippines arrested a security guard named Rolly Panesa and presented him as a ranking NPA official.

The Court of Appeals ordered the release of Panesa after his relatives filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus. The court said Panesa was not what the military claimed he was. But despite the court order, the AFP did not return the reward they gave to the military asset who helped in his arrest.

Kidnapped man in Lanao del Norte rescued

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jun 1): Kidnapped man in Lanao del Norte rescued

A kidnap victim in Lanao del Norte was rescued by authorities early Sunday, the military said.

Kevin Jhon Montajes, 22, married, a resident of Tubod who was seized last May 16, was recovered by combined police and military forces in Dalama village in Munai town of the same province at about 2 a.m., said Captain Franco Suelto of the Army’s First Infantry Division.

He was later brought to Sanitarium Hospital for check-up.

One of the kidnapping suspects was also arrested, identified as Nabel Balowa Balabagan. He was handed over to the police for filing of appropriate charges.

Suelto could not immediately say the motive behind the kidnapping or whether ransom was paid.

A village chief in Libertad village, identified as Rogelio Narciso, 61, in Kolambugan town of the same province, was also abducted by armed men last May 28. Motive was kidnap for ransom.

Navy bases for defense of West Philippine Sea suffer lack of funds

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jun 1): Navy bases for defense of West Philippine Sea suffer lack of funds

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

The Philippine Navy’s plans for developing Naval Forces West (Navforwest) and Oyster Bay in Palawan, the bases which are the country’s first line of defense in the West Philippine Sea, have suffered a hitch.

Despite the urgent need to improve the bases, the plans for their development cannot proceed because the P500-million budget for them was to be sourced from the Malampaya Fund which the Supreme Court has last year ruled may not be used for other than energy-related projects.

“The ongoing financial issue has caused setbacks to the implementation of the projects as legal issues have to be sorted out diligently by the government,” said defense department spokesperson Peter Galvez.

Under the Navy’s planned work schedule, construction at Oyster Bay should have been in full swing by now and some projects should have been completed by August.

But the only activities that could be seen on a visit to Oyster Bay last week were the construction of a boathouse and the exercise routines of the sailors whose ships were docked there at the time.

The main pier is in obvious need of repair as its wooden planks are rickety.

The development of the Navforwest headquarters and Oyster Bay are in line with the strategic goals of the government on maritime security and territorial defense.

Aside from the improvement of the naval detachments, the plan includes upgrading the Navy’s radar systems that would conduct monitoring activities similar to the government’s Coast Watch System.

Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, a former naval officer, said in a phone interview he believed that the Malampaya Fund should also be used for “security-related expenditures of the AFP.”

“This will range from the upgrading of the AFP’s capability for bases development … anything concerning or related to providing security to the Malampaya oil rig,” Trillanes said.

He explained that the “energy-related activities” were being protected by the military during its regular patrols of the Malampaya natural gas field, hence, one cannot be separated from the other.

Trillanes said he will file a bill on Monday to amend Presidential Decree No. 910 to expand the coverage of the Malampaya Fund’s uses to include the financing of security-related expenditures of the AFP.

This would include operational support, capability materiel and technology development provided by the AFP “with the end in view of safeguarding the whole Malampaya undertaking,” he said.

President Aquino’s visit to Navforwest headquarters at Ulugan Bay on May 27 for the Navy Day celebrations was viewed as a symbolic gesture by the Commander in Chief whose rhetoric has been quite strong against China in the face of the territorial row between the two countries.

Bomb fails to explode at military detachment

From the Manila Times (Jun 1): Bomb fails to explode at military detachment

ROGUE Muslim rebels tried but failed to bomb a military detachment in a remote village in Maguindanao on Friday.

Reports at Camp Aguinaldo said government troops recovered a homemade bomb in front of a military detachment in Datu Piang.

The bomb, fashioned out from an 80mm mortar shell, was allegedly owned by Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), a breaaway group of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). BIFF opposed the peace agreement between MILF and the government.

China hits back at US, Japan

Posted to the Manila Times (Jun 1): China hits back at US, Japan

China denounced Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Sunday for “provocative” remarks accusing Beijing of destabilizing actions in contested Asian waters.

Lieutenant General Wang Guanzhong, deputy chief of the general staff of the People’s Liberation Army, told an Asian security forum in Singapore that strong comments made by Abe and Hagel at the conference were “unacceptable.”

Abe had opened the Shangri-La Dialogue on Friday by urging countries to respect the rule of law —an apparent reference to what rivals consider aggressive Chinese behavior over disputed areas in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) and East China Sea.

Hagel on Saturday warned China against “destabilizing actions” in the South China Sea and listed a number of alleged infractions, including against the Philippines and Vietnam, the two most vocal critics of Beijing’s claims.

“The Chinese delegation… have this feeling that the speeches of Mr Abe and Mr Hagel are a provocative action against China,” Wang, dressed in full military uniform, said in an address to the forum.

Abe had left Saturday and Hagel departed early Sunday before Wang spoke.
The Pentagon said Hagel and Wang held a brief meeting on Saturday in which they “exchanged views about issues important to both the US and China, as well as to the region.”

About midway into his prepared speech in which he said China “will never seek hegemony and foreign expansion,” Wang diverted from the script.

He accused Abe and Hagel of “coordinating” with each other to attack China.

“This is simply unimaginable,” said Wang, the highest ranking military official in the Chinese delegation, adding that the US and Japanese speeches were “unacceptable and not in the spirit of this Shangri-La Dialogue.”

“The speeches made by Mr Abe and Mr Hagel gave me the impression that they coordinated with each other, they supported each other, they encouraged each other and they took the advantage of speaking first… and staged provocative actions and challenges against China,” he said.

‘Destabilizing actions’

Hagel issued a blunt message to Beijing on Saturday, saying “China has undertaken destabilizing, unilateral actions asserting its claims in the South China Sea.”

He accused China of restricting the Philippines’ access to Scarborough Shoal, putting pressure on Manila’s long-standing presence in Second Thomas Shoal, beginning land reclamation at various locations and moving an oil rig into disputed waters with Vietnam.

Hagel said that while Washington does not take sides on rival claims, “we firmly oppose any nation’s use of intimidation, coercion, or the threat of force to assert these claims.”

Abe in turn pledged that his country would play a larger role in promoting peace in Asia as his administration moves to reshape the Japanese military’s purely defensive stance.

Beijing and Tokyo contest islands in the East China Sea.

Moro rebel 'bomber' nabbed

From the Sun Star (Jun 1): Moro rebel 'bomber' nabbed

Police said they have captured a suspected Moro rebel bomber believed to be involved in a 2009 landmine attack that killed two US Special Forces soldiers and a Filipino marine in a volatile southern province.

Senior Superintendent Abraham Orbita, Sulu provincial police chief, said Miraji Bairulla did not resist when government forces served a warrant for his arrest Sunday in Indanan town.

Bairullah, who uses the rebel name "Mahang," is a bomb expert of the rebel group the Moro National Liberation Front, according to Orbita.

Orbita said the suspect was among militants who placed a landmine that hit a passing Humvee and killed two US soldiers and a Filipino marine in Indanan on September 29, 2009, in Sulu, where Moro bandit groups are active.

MILF: Notre Dame University Students attend Values Transformation Training at BLMI

From the MILF Website (Jun 1): Notre Dame University Students attend Values Transformation Training at BLMI

Twenty Five female students from the Notre Dame University (NDU), Cotabato City held their Values Transformation Training (VTT) at the Bangsamoro Leadership and Management Institute (BLMI) Training Hall on May 26-28, 2014.
The three-day activity was initiated by the Jum’iatul Tilmizzat Organization, an all- Female Muslim Student organization from different field of study of Notre Dame University.  Resource Lecturers were from the Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA) Mindanao Women’s Advocacy for good Governance, and BLMI.

The program was aimed at strengthening the Faith (Iman) of the participants; raise their awareness on the current societal Issues that transgresses Islam and affects them directly or indirectly nowadays.

Ms. Norhaya P. Pango, Mechanical Engineering Student and the organization’s president facilitated the program and was assisted by some of her peers with the supervision of the BLMI Staff.    

Ustadz Omar Hamdan, BDA Officer discussed about BDA and its programs and lectured on values enhancement and its importance in the lives of every Muslim.

Ms. Zaharia Kasim, touched on the Five Pillars of Islam that every Muslim, male or female are oblige to follow and perform while on earth as commanded by the Divine Creator Allah subhanahu wataalah.

Ms. Lani Guiamadel lectured on how to develop Islamic Values through in-depth understanding of Islam and stressed the essence of humane and civility when dealing with non- Muslims and the importance of patience and perseverance when facing vexation and upsets.

Sheikh Sam Alabat, a Shariah Lawyer and BLMI Unit head of Community Organizing lectured on Shariah Law and cited the importance of youth participation in advocacies that promotes youth involvement in  a productive and meaningful activities in society.

This writer,  BLMI Research Unit head talked on GPH-MILF Peace process, the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) updates and the envisioned Bangsamoro Government.

At the closing program, BLMI officials reminded the participants to be responsive and participative in state- building endeavors in their own level.

The student participants expressed their gratitude to the speakers and BLMI officials and promised to exert more efforts in furtherance of the Moro aspiration for peace, prosperity and freedom in the Bangsamoro.

Greening of MILF camp needed no negotiation

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jun 1): Greening of MILF camp needed no negotiation

GOVERNMENT officials and leaders of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front launch a greening program in Camp Abubakar. Photo by ARMM BUREAU OF PUBLIC INFORMATION

SULTAN KUDARAT, Maguindanao—It was one endeavor that needed no negotiation. Government officials and leaders of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) launched a program to plant trees in Camp Abubakar, once the main lair of the MILF.

Abubakar used to be the main training camp of MILF rebels when the group severed ties with its mother unit, the Moro National Liberation Front, in 1978.

Ghadzali Jaafar, MILF vice chair for political affairs, regarded Camp Abubakar as a sacred ground of martyrs after government forces took control of it in an all-out war launched by former President Joseph Estrada, a pardoned plunder convict, in 2000.

The military invasion of the rebel camp transformed its name from Abubakar to Camp Iranun, which is now the Army’s 603rd Infantry Brigade base command.

He recounted the former rebel sanctuary in Barangay Togaig, Barira town, as a cold, serene place, with soil so fertile that seeds that fell on the ground soon grew into plants.

Although born and raised in Cotabato City, Jaafar learned to appreciate nature during his long stay at the MILF camp.

Jaafar, a broadcast journalist of the defunct dxMV of the University of Mindanao Broadcasting Network prior to the declaration of martial law in 1972, said the wanton cutting of trees by loggers denuded vast areas of the camp, drastically changing its landscape and climate.

“The climate became humid,” Jaafar said.

He blamed the wide-scale denudation to a government that allowed the destruction of the island’s natural resources by vested interest groups at the expense of local inhabitants who suffer the brunt of flooding, landslides and other natural calamities.

“This is one of the reasons why many joined the Moro rebellion because the once known and cherished Moro homeland was explored and left to ruins by outsiders,” Jaafar said, as he lauded the multimillion-peso greening project of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources at the camp.

Kahal Kedtag, environment secretary for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), said President Aquino in 2011 issued Executive Order No. 29 imposing a log ban in the country, aware of the lapses and abuses of his predecessor on environmental issues.

Kedtag said an estimated 200,000 hectares of land in the ARMM needed more than 800,000 seedlings for its reforestation.

Military suspects NPA in abduction of DENR contractors

From InterAksyon (Jun 1): Military suspects NPA in abduction of DENR contractors

The military on Sunday said the New People’s Army could be behind the abduction of six contractors of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in Maco, Compostela Valley.

 “The NPA is a suspect in this one,” Captain Alberto Caber, spokesman of the Eastern Mindanao Command, said.

However, Maco Vice Mayor Voltaire Rimando, who heads the Crisis Management Committee overseeing efforts to get the victims back safely, said there is as yet no evidence to accuse the rebels.

“Actually, up to now we’ve no contact with either the victims or abductors. Let’s just say for now that the abductors were armed men,” Rimando said.

He said that even the driver of the vehicle rented by the victims, who was released by the abductors, could not say who the kidnappers were.

No one has claimed responsibility for the abduction, although various armed groups are known to operate in the area, including communist guerrillas and private security personnel who work for illegal loggers and miners.

Earlier, provincial police director Senior Supt. Camilo Cascolan said Kendrick Wong, Nico Lasaca, Chris Favila, Matthew Chua, Jonas Loredo, and Tim Sabino, all from Manila, were conducting a survey for the DENR’s National Greening Program when they were seized Friday in Barangay New Leyte.

“We appeal to those who seized them (victims) to release safe and without condition,” Rmiando said as he promised the victims’ families and media of prompt updates as soon as they make contact.

However, Caber, explaining why the rebels were most likely to have abducted the contractors, said, “kasi nagpalipad sila (victims) ng drone.
Malamang, ang assessment namin napagdududahan ngayon itong mga taga-DENR ng NPA na mga military sila kasi nga du’n sa drone. Makikita kasi sila (NPA), ‘yung location nila (because they flew a drone. In our assessment, the NPA would most likely suspect the DENR contractors of being with the military because of the drone. Their location would be identified),” Caber said.

He said a barangay councilman informed the military that the abductors rode motorcycles to where the surveyors and held them at gunpoint.

Malaysia detains Filipina woman freed by Abu Sayyaf

From the Mindanao Examiner BlogSpot site (Jun 1): Malaysia detains Filipina woman freed by Abu Sayyaf

Malaysian authorities have detained a Filipina woman who was freed by the Abu Sayyaf after she and a Chinese tourist were kidnapped by militants tied to Jemaah Islamiya in the southern Philippines.

The news website Rakyat Post based in Kuala Lumpur reported Sunday that the 40-year Marcy Dayawan is being held a day after she and Chinese holidaymaker Gao Huayun, 29, were freed by the Abu Sayyaf group in Sulu province. The duo was kidnapped on April 2 from the Singamata Adventures and Reef Resort in the town of Semporna in Sabah where Dayawan works.

The report quoted Sabah Police Commissioner Datuk Hamza Taib as saying that Dayawan is being interrogated in by the Royal Malaysia Police in Kuala Lumpur in connection to the investigation into the kidnappings. “We will detain her further until we are satisfied and confident that she is not involved in the kidnapping incident,” he said.

The police commissioner said Dayawan was an illegal worker and had entered Sabah illegally. He said the Filipina was employed by resort just two months before the kidnappings. “And if Marcy, who had entered Sabah illegally, is proven to be clean, she will be deported to her country of origin,” he said.

There was no immediate statement from the Philippine Embassy in Kuala Lumpur and the Department of Foreign Affairs in Manila about the detention of Dayawan, and it was unknown if she is being assisted by a lawyer.

The Abu Sayyaf released the two hostages in Parang town after a leader of the former rebel Moro National Liberation Front, Nameh Sangkula, negotiated with the kidnappers for the release of the victims.

It was not immediately known from Philippine authorities how much ransom was paid to the Abu Sayyaf or how tapped Sangkula to negotiate with the terrorist group, blamed for terrorism and spate of kidnappings in Mindanao region.

The kidnappers originally demanded RM36.4 million or equivalent to almost P500 million for the safe release of the Chinese woman and had threatened to behead Dayawan if ransom is not paid. Malaysia Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak insisted that no ransom was paid for the release of the hostages.

The two hostages, who were fetched by Filipino soldiers and police officers, were handed over to Malaysian police officials in Sulu and brought them to Sabah and eventually to Kuala Lumpur where Gao is reunited with her family.

Philippine authorities have tagged Abu Sayyaf commanders Murphy Ladja and Alhabsi Misaya in the kidnappings.

Director-General Datuk Mohammad Mentek, of the Eastern Sabah Security Command, has previously linked the kidnappers to the 2000 kidnappings of 21 mostly European holidaymakers and Asian workers at the Pulau Sipadan resort; and also in the kidnapping in November of a Taiwanese woman on Pom Pom Island, also in Sabah.

Malaysian authorities also said gunmen snatched May 6 a Chinese fish farm manager in Lahad Datu town in Sabah and clashed briefly with pursuing patrol before disappearing into the southern Philippines. At least 5 armed men on a speedboat intruded into the Wonderful Terrace and seized the 34-year Yang Zai Lin after he came out to check the commotion at the farm.

The latest abduction has forced Sabah authorities to declare curfew and travel restrictions in several areas there.

In November last year, the al-Qaeda linked Abu Sayyaf group kidnapped a Taiwanese tourist Chang An Wei, 58, after killing her husband Hsu Li Min, 57, in a daring cross-border raid in Sabah’s Pom Pom Island.

The woman was eventually released a month later near the village of Liban in Talipao town in Sulu after paying ransom. The Abu Sayyaf has resorted to ransom kidnappings to raise money for the purchase weapons and fund terror attacks in the Philippines.

Philippine tribesmen urged to return home

From the Mindanao Examiner BlogSpot site (Jun 1): Philippine tribesmen urged to return home

A Philippine tribal leader has urged his fellow tribesmen to return to their ancestral land in Mount Firis in Maguindanao province who fled more than four decades ago following the outbreak of Muslim rebellion in the southern region.

Timuay Melanio Ulama, now a member of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission, said it is time for the tribesmen to return to their own domain because there is now peace in Mindanao after the signing of a political deal between the Aquino government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front rebels.

The Comprehensive Agreement of Bangsamoro signed by peace negotiators in March will pave the way for the creation of a new autonomous region which will be home to Muslim, Christian and the indigenous tribes in Mindanao.  The new region will replace the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao comprised of Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Lanao del Sur and Maguindanao, including the cities of Lamitan and Marawi.

In a recent ceremony held in the town of Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Ulama, who also heads the Organization of Teduray and Lambangian Conference, said the peace agreement would bring fresh hope not only to his tribe, but to Muslims and Christians, to live in unity and peace and work together for the development of the Bangsamoro region and its people.

Mohagher Iqbal, the MILF vice chairman and chief peace negotiator, said under the new Bangsamoro law, all sectors of the society will be represented because it promotes representation of women, indigenous peoples, settlers and the youth “as these will have their respective seats in the Bangsamoro Parliament.”

The Teduray tribe covered more than 10,000 hectares in Mount Firis, but the rebellion forced them to flee from their ancestral domain.

Iqbal, who is also the chairman of the 15-member Bangsamoro Transition Commission, ensured the inclusion of concerns of the indigenous people in the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law they submitted to President Benigno Aquino for his signature in April.

He said among these concerns were the right of the tribesmen for native titles and respect to indigenous customs and traditions, justice system, and political structures; right to an equitable share in the revenues from utilization of resources in their ancestral land; right to free and prior and informed consent; right to political participation including at least two reserved seats for the indigenous people in the parliament; right to basic services; and right to freedom of choice to self-identity.

Aquino is yet to sign the draft before it goes to Congress for ratification before the government can hold a plebiscite in Muslim areas for residents to decide whether to join the new autonomous government.

Troops fail to locate 6 abducted forestry surveyors in Southern Philippines

From the Mindanao Examiner BlogSpot site (Jun 1): Troops fail to locate 6 abducted forestry surveyors in Southern Philippines

Government troops on Sunday failed to locate six forestry surveyors who were abducted in Compostela Valley province in the restive southern region of Mindanao where security forces are fighting terrorism and communist rebellion.

“Troops have returned empty handed, but the search is continuing and hopefully we could rescue them safely,” Capt. Alberto Caber, a spokesman for the Eastern Mindanao Command, told the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner.

The six men, all working for the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, were sent to the town of Maco to undertake a survey for the government’s forest rehabilitation project called National Greening Program when gunmen in three motorcycles seized them.

Caber identified the surveyors as Kendrik Wong, Nico Lasaca, Chris Favila, Matthew Cua, Jonas Loredo and Tim Sabina.

He said the six men were also bringing with them one unmanned aerial drone which they are using in the survey and this, too, was taken by the gang. He said no group has claimed responsibility for the abductions, but the province is a known stronghold of the communist rebel group New People’s Army, and a known lair of illegal gold miners.

The NPA, which is fighting for the establishment of a separate communist state, has not issued any statement denying or owing up to the abduction of the government workers.

Shariff Aguak, 1st Mechanized Brigade at MILF nagtulong-tulong sa peace project

From the Mindanao Examiner BlogSpot site (Jun 1): Shariff Aguak, 1st Mechanized Brigade at MILF nagtulong-tulong sa peace project

Daan-daang katao ang nagtulong-tulong sa isang community clean-up program sa bayan ng Shariff Aguak sa lalawigan ng Maguindanao na kung saan ay isang medical mission rin ang inilunsad ng pamahalaang lokal at ng militar katuwang ang Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

Mismong si Shariff Aguak Mayor Zahara Upam Ampatuan ang nanguna sa naturang proyekto katuwang ang mga empleyado ng pamahalaan, at ang mga residente sa nasabing bayan. Ang clean-up drive at medical mission ay inulunsad bilang bahagi naman ng selebrasyon ng ika-apat na anibersaryo ng 1st Mechanized Brigade sa ilalim ng pamumuno ni Col. Gener del Rosario na naka-base sa bayan.

Nakibahagi rin ang MILF at ang lokal na pulisya at iba pang sektor sa naturang pagdiriwang bilang suporta sa komunidad at pakikiisa sa naturang proyekto. Natuwa naman ang mga residente sa nasabing proyekto at sa nakitang nilang pagkakaisa ng lahat sa bayan ng Shariff Aguak.

Kilalang peace advocate si Mayor Zahara at ilang beses na rin itong naglunsad ng kanduli o thanksgiving na dinaluhan ng MILF, pulisya at militar na nagsilbing palatandaan ng kanilang hangarin na magkaroon ng katahimikan hindi lamang sa Shariff Aguak o ibang bayan ng Maguindanao, kundi sa buong Mindanao at bansa.

“Tuloy-tuloy naman yun ating mga peace and development projects dito sa Shariff Aguak at suportado rin ng mga mamamayan at ibat-ibang mga sektor ang ating isinusulong dahil lahat naman tayo ay kapayapaan ang hangarin.

Nagpapasalamat rin tayo sa lahat ng mga sektor, sa militar, sa pulisya at sa MILF at napakaganda ng ating samahan dito,” ani Mayor Zahara sa panayam ng Mindanao Examiner.

Maging si Col. Gener ay ito rin ang tugon at ipinangako pa nito na suportado ng militar ang kapayapaan sa Mindanao.

Si Shariff Aguak Mayor Zahara Upam Ampatuan at Col. Gener del Rosario, ang commander ng 1st Mechanized Brigade, sa paglulunsad ng community clean-up drive at medical mission sa naturang bayan na matatagpuan sa Maguindanao, isa sa limang lalawigan sa ilalim ng Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. (Mindanao Examiner Photo – Mark Navales)