Tuesday, June 3, 2014

MILF: Editorial -- The MILF is easy to deal with

Editorial posted to the MILF Website (Jun 2): The MILF is easy to deal with

The MILF is not a radical movement; it simply is very consistent to what it has committed and is being committed to it. What is settled is settled. All its previous counterparts from government in the span of 17 years of hard and protracted peace negotiations can perhaps attest to this characterization.
This consistency is enshrined in the MILF’s Islamic ideology that abhors Muslim to breach a contract, be it made with a Muslim or a non-Muslim. There is no difference in the gravity of the accountability or sin whether the aggrieved party is a Muslim or not. A commitment is a commitment, period. Moreover, inconsistency or using a more fitting term, backtracking, creates chaos and enmity.

The MILF is naturally easy to deal with provided that the other party also abides and complies with their obligations. And therefore, without saying, the MILF is hard to deal with if the other party dishonors or violates commitments made in signed documents. 

It is this consistency that catapulted the GPH-MILF peace negotiations into new heights and successes including the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB). The history of the peace talks consistently showed that more and more agreements were signed if the sitting president in Malacañang Palace is trustworthy and straight-forward. The case of President Benigno Aquino III is our reference here.

This constancy also explains the staying power of the MILF. If other Moro liberation organizations lost steams in the closing stretch of their peace deal with the government, the MILF has no signs of it. The fact that the GPH-MILF peace process is really designed as a problem-solving exercise to address the Bangsamoro Problem/Question ensures the consistency of documents both in concepts and principles and implementation mechanisms signed from day one of the negotiation in January 1997 to the signing of the CAB in March 2014. Unlike the 1976 Tripoli Agreement between the MNLF and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and its implementing agreement the GRP-MNLF Final Peace Agreement in September 1996, which is framed solely on the grant of autonomy to the Bangsamoro, the GPH-MILF Tripoli Agreement of 2001 and its fleshing out in the CAB never forecloses the right of the Bangsamoro people to self-determination.  Principles are not subject of negotiation; only strategies and tactics to implement them can be sorted out and agreed.

God willing, the MILF will weather all challenges ahead. If it had withstood the harshness of the armed conflict for 42 years, the challenges ahead can also be overcome.  Of course, the task will not be easy. The difficulty lies in the nature of the MILF as a revolutionary organization, which had been trained mainly in armed combat but not in nation-building. However, in coping up with these challenges the MILF will adopt a policy of capacity mobilization; meaning, the MILF has to be inclusive and draws support from all sectors of the Bangsamoro. After all, the fruits of the struggle and the negotiation are for the benefit of the entire people of the Bangsamoro. The MILF is just one segment.


MILF: BLMI conducts advocacy at Balut Island, Davao Del Sur

From the MILF Website (Jun 4): BLMI conducts advocacy at Balut Island, Davao Del Sur

Heads of the Research and Community Organizing Units of the Bangsamoro Leadership and Management Institute (BLMI) together with some top brass officials of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF); SWC Officers and Bangsamoro Women Auxilliary Brigade (BWAB) took their line of duty towards the remote and farthest island of Balut in Davao Del Sur or officially known as Sarangani Municipality.
The delegation of peace advocates from the BLMI and the MILF made their way towards the island on board a fishing boat from General Santos City and conducted consultation with the local residents on May 29, 2014.

The people that inhabit the island belong to the Sangil Tribe, a Moro ethnic group who have long wanted to be apprised and enlightened on the GPH-MILF Peace process, the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) and the upcoming Bangsamoro Region.
The program was held at the open court at Barangay Mabila, Municipality of Sarangani, Davao del sur. 

The Muslim Religious sector and officials of the Sarangani Municipal Government hosted and facilitated the one-day program.   Barangay Chairman Bial Malong and some municipal councilors welcomed the delegates and expressed their profound gratitude to the delegation on behalf of the municipal mayor and the residents.

Officers of the local Philippine National Police (PNP) and the BIAF also expressed their respective messages of support and appreciation to the conduct of the activity.

Sheikh Sam Alabat, BLMI Extension service Unit Head /Community organizing talked on Shariah and Politics in Islam.

This writer touched on the CAB and the envisioned Bangsamoro ministerial form of Government.

Ustadz Radjolon M. Barotoc. Provincial Muslim Affairs Coordinator emphasized the essentiality of understanding and respect between and among the tri-people, Muslims, Christians and the Bilaans, the indigenous people (IP) inhabiting the mountainous areas of the island.
Ustadz Mahmod Barotoc, a Sharia Lawyer also imparted valuable message on human discipline based on Islamic perspective. “In Islamic leadership, living by example, acting as a role model for the youth and constituents are very important and can help propel the Bangsamoro in achieving its vision, mission and development program” he stressed. 

The participants expressed their heartfelt gratitude to the team hoping to have similar advocacy in the future.


MILF: Bangsamoro Basic Law is not being watered- down: Secretary Lacierda

Posted to the MILF Website (Jun 4): Bangsamoro Basic Law is not being watered- down: Secretary Lacierda

The Office of the President (OP) may not be able to submit to Philippine Congress the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) as the latter will adjourn next week and the measure is still being fine-tuned by the legal team of the Palace to ensure that every provision adheres to the Constitution.
The BBL was supposedly transmitted to Congress on May 5 but the Office of the President failed to meet its deadline.

Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda told reporters yesterday, June 2 that the BBL is “not being watered-down” and assured the people that the, “ BBL is not being delayed, only that they were being careful”.

Lacierda also said the draft basic law, submitted to the Office of the President on April 14, is still being evaluated and studied by the Palace legal team.

The bill that was crafted by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) would pave the way for the replacement of the existing Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao with a new political entity called Bangsamoro under a ministerial form of government.

Congress adjourns June 14 and resumes sessions on July 28 for President Aquino’s State of the Nation Address or SONA.

The Palace and the Commission on Elections earlier said the bill should be enacted into law this year to give them enough time to prepare for the 2016 elections.

Asked why it was taking so long, Lacierda said “it’s the evaluation of the bill itself.”

“They have to go through each and every provision just to be sure that it is in sync with all the agreements made,” Lacierda said.

The drafting of the law came after the issuance of Executive Order No. 120 in late part of 2012 by President Benigno Aquino III which created the BTC. The government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front signed a Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) on March 27 at the ground of the Presidential Palace in the presence of foreign diplomats, government officials, MILF officials, representatives from international and local non-government organization and other development partners.

Lacierda assured MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal that the bill would reflect the CAB and its annexes.

Lacierda said he could not discuss the contentious points because he was not part of the review committee.

He said they want the proposed law to stand judicial scrutiny, especially since there were criticisms that it is unconstitutional.

“To a large extent, we want to make sure that when it goes to Congress, it will be as smooth as possible,” Lacierda said. (Source :PhilStar, June 3, 2014)


CPP: Stench of corruption is driving the people to oust the Aquino regime

Anti-government propaganda statement posted to the CPP Website (Jun 3): Stench of corruption is driving the people to oust the Aquino regime

Communist Party of the Philippines
Benigno Aquino III and his regime reek of corruption. After close to four years of endless chatter about “clean governance,” Aquino has shown himself to be no different from past regimes in terms of promoting and benefiting from bureacrat capitalist corruption.

Aquino is a great pretender. He rode on the people’s anger at the corruption of the previous Arroyo regime and styled himself as the champion of the “righteous path.” His anti-corruption noise, however, has simply served to camouflage the widespread and deep-seated corruption of the Philippine government under his rule.

The use of government power and privilege for gain by state officials, their families or benefactors remains rampant under the Aquino regime. Corrupt practices under Aquino are exemplified by the following:

(a) Making use of public funds to strengthen Aquino’s hold on political power. Aquino has used both the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) and the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) as pork barrel funds in order to have members of congress and senate, as well as local government officials, toe the Malacañang line. Public funds have been used to ensure the loyalty of Liberal Party members and diverted to private bank accounts in the form of kickbacks for government officials.
(b) Favoring cronies and big oligarchs in granting government infrastructure contracts under the Public-Private Partnership Program. The biggest beneficiaries of government contracts are also the biggest contributors to the Aquino’s 2010 presidential campaign—Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco, Henry Sy, Manuel Pangilinan, the Ayalas, Consunjis and other big bourgeois compradors. Bidding for such big-ticket projects as the MRT maintenance contract, the “modernization” of the Philippine orthopedic hospitals and others have been invariaby rigged. In several instances, only one bid was submitted while other qualified bidders withdrawing. This clearly suggests that Aquino’s PPP projects have already been negotiated and distributed among his closest big oligarch supporters. It is believed that such negotiations are handled directly by Aquino through his siblings, as in the case of the reported involvement of Ballsy Aquino in the government contract to purchase new train coaches for the MRT.
The Cojuangco clan has also received bureaucratic favor in having been paid P471.5 million for land acquisition costs of Hacienda Luisita by the Land Bank of the Philippines when it should only have received P304 million.
(c) Smuggling through legal and illegal channels. One year into the Aquino regime, it was established by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Direction of Trade that smuggling has worsened threefold compared to previous years and amounted to $19 billion in 2011. Last year, Aquino made a big show of removing his first appointee to the customs bureau and made loud accusations that certain officials have not been following his “righteous path.” Yet, not one has been charged or punished, leading to the conclusion that such drama was only meant to remove certain customs officials who whose loyalty to the Aquino clique has been found wanting. Large amounts of smuggled goods, especially rice, onions, garlic, pork, poultry and other agricultural produce continue to be dumped into the Philippine market, pulling down farmgate prices to the detriment of small peasants and rural producers.
(d) Granting tax exemptions and holidays to big comprador companies while increasing the tax burden against the people, imposing overly stringent measures against small taxpayers and treating them like criminals. The Aquino regime’s tax policies are heavily skewed in favor of big business. As many as 40% of the top 100 companies in the Philippines are not among the Bureau of Internal Revenue’s list of top 500 corporate taxpayers. Many foreign big business operations, including oil and mining companies, are among the biggest beneficiaries of tax exemptions. Aquino’s tax officials have remained silent on the exemptions granted to big profit-making companies but have vociferously condemned doctors and other small professional and middle-class earners as tax-cheats.
(e) Covering up for Aquino’s key officials and pro-Aquino members of the congress and senate charged with receiving kickbacks or facilitating the transfer of public funds to private accounts. Despite having been named in the pork barrel scam, Aquino’s budget and agricultural secretaries “continue to enjoy the president’s trust” and exercise the same power, authority and privilege which they have been accused of using for corruption. Aquino’s transportation secretary, despite having been involved in the rigged bidding for the MRT maintenance contract, remains in his cabinet. He describes his public works secretary as one of the most honest despite the fact that the DPWH continues to be one of the flagships of corruption.
The “anti-corruption” rhetoric has simply served as a weapon wielded by the ruling Aquino clique against its political opponents. That it has made use of the pork barrel issue to selectively charge anti-Aquino senators has become starkly clear as none of the pro-Aquino officials accused of receiving kickbacks or bribe money has been similarly subjected to investigations and public condemnation. Meanwhile, it continues to bungle the cases of corruption and plunder against former president Gloria Arroyo and provide her with privileges in detention.

There has been no fundamental change in the orientation of the ruling system. Government remains an instrument of the ruling classes of big compradors, landlords and big bureaucrat capitalists. Political power is wielded by the ruling Aquino clique to serve the interests of Aquino family, its cronies, the pro-Aquino oligarchs and foreign big business.

The broad masses of workers and peasants and the middle class sectors of ordinary income-earners have fast grown tired of Aquino’s “righteous path” rhetoric as they have yet to see any fundamental change in the way that the reactionary government is being run. To them, it remains the exclusive domain of the ruling classes. They continue to suffer from the burdens of corruption as public funds line up the pockets of big officials and public health, education, housing and other essential social services continue to deteriorate or become inaccessible.

The Filipino people are already sick of the stench of corruption under the Aquino regime. They demand an end to Aquino’s coverups of his officials involved neck-deep in the pork barrel kickback scam. They demand to hold Aquino responsible for the use of pork barrel funds and his promotion of corruption through the discretionary disbursement of billions of pesos of public funds. They demand an end to Aquino’s public-private partnership program where big oligarchs connive with the Aquino regime to make use of public funds to burden the people with privatized transportation and other services.

In the face of widespread corruption, the Filipino people intensify their demand for the ouster of the Aquino regime to put an end to its lies, pretensions to righteousness and false claims of economic progress. They call for the establishment of an broad anti-corruption front to unite all democratic forces and isolate the corrupt ruling Aquino regime.

The ever worsening socio-economic conditions of the people underscore the need for them to struggle for the ouster of the Aquino regime. They seek to belie the claims of the Aquino regime that its “good governance” has resulted in a “Philippine miracle”. They are vigorously putting forward the demands for higher wages, lower prices, larger budgetary allocations for public education and health services, employment, land reform and other democratic demands.

The Filipino people seek the ouster of the Aquino regime before its term expires in 2016. There is urgency to their struggle to oust the Aquino regime as the Aquino clique is currently seeking to consolidate its political power precisely by controlling the purse strings in order to ensure the outcome of the 2016 elections and perpetuate its power, its lies and corruption.

The CPP and all revolutionary forces support the Filipino people’s clamor to oust the corrupt and mendacious Aquino regime. It calls on all democratic forces to unite under the banner of anti-corruption and tear down Aquino’s false flags of “good government” and “righteous path.” The CPP calls on the New People’s Army (NPA) to further intensify revolutionary armed struggle as their contribution to the Filipino people’s mass struggles to oust the Aquino regime.

The struggle to oust the bureaucrat capitalist US-Aquino regime is a component of the Filipino people’s struggle to overthrow the semi-colonial and semifeudal system.


Ability to patrol country's EEZ boosted with shipboard deployment of AW-109Es

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 4): Ability to patrol country's EEZ boosted with shipboard deployment of AW-109Es

With the shipboard deployment of the Philippine Navy (PN)'s AgustaWestland AW-109Es, the ability of the country to patrol and defend its vast EEZ (exclusive economic zone) was greatly boosted.

This was revealed by Navy public affairs office chief Lt. Cmdr. Gregory Fabic in a message to the PNA.

"The AW-109Es are (now) incorporated in PF-15 (BRP Gregorio Del Pilar) and PF-16 (BRP Ramon Alcaraz). They will provide the required air mission of the Del Pilar class frigates that will enhance (the PN's) maritime security within our EEZ in order to safeguard our country's rich maritime resources," he added.

The Philippines' EEZ covers 2,265,684 (135,783) square kilometers.

The Navy's AW-109Es was formally activated and tasked to join the fleet last May 21.

They were formally commissioned last Dec. 22.

The Navy operates three AW-109Es, another two, the armed versions, are expected to be delivered before the end of the year.

The AW-109 "Power" helicopter is a three-ton class eight seat helicopter powered by two Pratt and Whitney PW206C engines.

The spacious cabin is designed to be fitted with a number of modular equipment packages for quick and easy conversion between roles.

The aircraft’s safety features include a fully separated fuel system, dual hydraulic boost system, dual electrical systems and redundant lubrication and cooling systems for the main transmission and engines.

The AW-109 has established itself as the world’s best selling light-twin helicopter for maritime missions.

It's superior speed, capacity and productivity combined with reliability and ease of maintenance make it the most cost effective maritime helicopter in its class.

For shipboard operations the aircraft has a reinforced-wheeled landing gear and deck mooring points as well as extensive corrosion protection measures.

The ability to operate from small ships in high sea state enables the AW-109 to perform its mission when many others helicopters would be confined to the ship’s hangar.

Over 550 AW-109 "Power" and AW-109 light utility helicopters have been ordered for commercial, parapublic and military applications by customers in almost 50 countries.


Sabah police holding rescued Filipina so she can shed light on kidnapping

From InterAksyon (Jun 4): Sabah police holding rescued Filipina so she can shed light on kidnapping

Malaysian police are still detaining the Filipina who was rescued from the band of kidnappers in Jolo Island, in Southern Philippines last Friday, to assist in investigations, said Sabah Police Commissioner Datuk Hamza Taib.

Hamza said Marcy Dayawan or Mimi, 39, is still being detained in Bukit Aman to assist in investigations into the kidnapping including obtaining information from her on the group that might be involved in her abduction together with another Chinese woman.

He said that based on whatever information that might be obtained, police would carry out further investigation on the group that might be involved in the incident including under the Prevention of Crime Act (POCA) 2013 which was gazetted last April 1.

"Once the investigations are finalized, we will hand her over to the Philippine Embassy to be sent back to her country as she is not a Malaysian citizen," he told reporters after officiating the Royal Malaysia Police (PDRM) Reject Corruption Campaign, at the Sabah Contingent Headquarters level, here Tuesday.

Dayawan and another woman, Chinese national Gao Hua Yuan, 28, were kidnapped on Singamata Adventures Reef and Resort in Semporna on April 2 at about 10:30 p.m. by a group of armed men before they were both rescued following cooperative efforts between the Malaysian and Philippine security forces.

Commenting on the development of the kidnapping case of Chinese male national Yang Zai Lin, 34, manager of a fish-rearing center from Baik Island, Lahad Datu, on May 6 at about 2:45 a.m., Hamza said the police force, including officers from Bukit Aman were doing their best to rescue him.

Hamza said the Malaysian police had identified the kidnappers who were demanding ransom and were confident that the group which carried out the Singamata, Semporna kidnapping and the group on Baik Island were connected.

On the shooting case in Lahad Datu which resulted in the death of an army personnel on May 28, Hamza said the case was considered solved with the arrest of 15 army officers.


Troops, rebels clash anew

From the Sun Star-Zamboanga (Jun 3): Troops, rebels clash anew

A SOLDIER was wounded in a clash with New People's Army (NPA) rebels in the hinterlands of Bukidnon, a military official said Tuesday.

Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom) information officer Captain Alberto Caber said the firefight took place around 5 a.m. Tuesday in Kalanganan, San Vicente, Bukidnon.

Caber did not reveal the wounded soldier's identity who is assigned with the Army's 1st Special Forces Battalion.

Caber said the clash broke out and lasted for about 20 minutes while the soldiers were checking the reported extortion activities by the rebels.

He said the rebels fled to different direction and the troops have recovered an M-16 Armalite rifle and a .45 caliber pistol at the clash site.

He said that Eastmincom commander Lieutenant Generral Ricardo Rainier Cruz, III has directed all military commanders in the area to continue its operations against the extortion and arson units of the NPAs.


US admiral: South China Sea friction threatens world stability

From the Philippine Star (Jun 3): US admiral: South China Sea friction threatens world stability

In this May 23, 2014 photo, United States Pacific Commander, Admiral Samuel J. Locklear III speaks to press during the World Economic Forum on East Asia in Manila, Philippines. The forum focuses on the economic development of the Asia-Pacific. US Pacom/Sabrina Black

Admiral Samuel Locklear III, commander of the US Pacific Command, warned Southeast Asian countries against escalating  tensions over South China Sea, a strategic waterway critical to world economy and stability.

In an interview with Japanese broadcaster NHK, the Navy admiral called the disputed waters "friction points" which endanger not only order in the region "but in the entire interconnected economic global system."

The admiral attended the recent Shangri-la Dialogue in Singapore with Asian defense ministers and officials. His statement came after US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel slammed China's destabilizing actions in the contested areas.

Read: Hagel warns China vs. Ayungin, Mabini Reef actions

Locklear said that nations, including the Philippines and China, need to be careful about their rhetoric and provocative acts in asserting their overlapping maritime and territorial claims.

"We encourage all nations in the region to avoid all provocation, and avoid miscalculation," he added.

The official also expressed US' objective in the western Pacific to protect its assets and allies. The Philippines, Japan, Thailand, Australia and South Korea have defense treaties with the US.

Locklear, who leads the dominant military power in the Pacific, said that America has been involved in the region since the early 1800s and is intending to keep peace and prosperity in the next 70 years.

"For about the last 70 years, we have been the centerpiece of the security architecture here. In that 70 years, the peace and prosperity has helped not only the American people, but has helped the people of every country in this region," he said.

Locklear explained that peace upheld by the US in this part of the world allowed Japan, South Korea, Southeast Asian countries and even China to prosper.

"The US doesn't need to be the guarantor of security, but we will certainly remain here and participate," the military official said.


AFP urges raps vs rebels in abduction of environmentalists

From the Philippine Star (Jun 3): AFP urges raps vs rebels in abduction of environmentalists

The New People’s Army (NPA) must be held accountable for the kidnapping of Environment department surveyors last week even if the victims have been freed, the military said on Tuesday.

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) public affairs chief Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala said the military is prepared to bring to justice the communist rebels behind the abduction.

“The AFP is ready to impose its forces shall it be needed, and exhaust all our efforts to put in the bars of justice, NPA members who are guilty of these crimes,” Zagala said in a statement.

“Following the release of the civilians yesterday (June 2), AFP troops vowed to intensify their operations against the NPA particularly in Davao area where they continue to participate in illegal activities such as small-scale mining, extortion and kidnapping,” he added.

On Friday, NPA members abducted four surveyors and one driver tasked by the Environment department to assess a government greening program in Barangay New Leyte in Maco town.

The four surveyors, identified by the rebels as Ken Wong, Chrisandro Favela, Tim Sabino, and Nico Lasaca, are said to be workers of Sky Eye UAV, a firm tapped to conduct the aerial survey. The driver, meanwhile, was identified as Jonas Loredo of the Maria Ave car rental service.

The NPA said the five were “arrested” for using drones and for supposedly intensifying “imperialist mining plunder and counter-revolutionary intelligence in Southern Mindanao.”

The rebels also demanded that Sky Eye stop its “surveillance and intelligence activities” in the area.

The kidnap victims were released Tuesday afternoon in Barangay Panangan-Sangab in Maco through the efforts of Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte 

Zagala denied that the surveyors are involved in surveillance and counter-insurgency activities.

“Contrary to what the NPA is claiming, the civilians were there to bring services to the people by undertaking validation and survey on the government’s National Greening Program in the area,” Zagala said.

“They used an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) for anti-logging aerial reconnaissance and not for intelligence surveillance,” he added.

Zagala said the NPA is being paranoid for believing that the civilians were using the drones for intelligence and for calling them “instruments of mass genocide and civilian destruction.”


Designs of China's planned base on Mabini Reef surface

From the Philippine Star (Jun 4): Designs of China's planned base on Mabini Reef surface

A Chinese solider stands guard over Johnson South (Mabini) Reef in the disputed part of South China Sea on March 24, 2013. Xinhua

Chinese designs of a proposed man-made island on Philippine-claimed Mabini (Johnson South) Reef in the South China Sea were recently released by an arm of the China State Shipbuilding Corporation.

The Ninth Design and Research Institute of the state-owned contractor bared three-dimensional design plans for reclamation project on disputed waters showing an artificial island consisting of military airport, a long airstrip and a boat harbor for law enforcement.

About 30 hectares or 74 acres of the reef are proposed to be reclaimed, purportedly for the China People's Liberation Army to strengthen its posture in the contested maritime area, claimed by the Philippines, Vietnam and Malaysia.

Coordinates stated in the website of China State Shipbuilding Corporation point to the location of China's planned artificial island in Philippine-claimed waters. (Generated by Philstar.com via Google Maps)

Chinese government design of proposed military base to be built Mabini Reef. CSSC

Design of a vessel transformed into a floating work platform. CSSC

Designs of various areas in the planned man-made island. CSSC

China sees the construction of an airport in South China Sea as a way to stake its claim and assert its sovereignty over Kalayaan Islands or Spratlys, which it calls Nansha Islands.

The Asian power also argues that China claimed Johnson South Reef, which it calls Chigua, from the Vietnamese in the 1988 skirmish. China took advantage of its victory in naval battle to occupy six maritime features in Spratlys.

The company's website also displayed a work platform used for the construction. Civilian ships are planned to be modified to become a low-cost, "large floating production platform" in the South China Sea.

The engineers said that other vessels will be used to deliver water as no sources for groundwater in the island.

Last weekend, United States Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel called China's reclamation efforts on multiple locations destabilizing and threatening to freedom of navigation and overflight in the strategic waterway.

"The United States will not look the other way when fundamental principles of the international order are being challenged," Hagel warned.

Read: Hagel warns China vs. Ayungin, Mabini Reef actions

Last month, the Department of Foreign Affairs released aerial photos of the development of China's reclamation work from March 2012 to March 2014 in what the Philippines considers part of its 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone.

Images from the South China Research Forum, meanwhile, show what observers call "massive construction" on Mabini Reef.

View: Closer look at the Mabini Reef reclamation

Spotted in the area are a ship carrying gravel or sand, concrete-mixing plants, earth-moving machinery such as large cranes, fuel or liquid tanks, a vessel which appears to be housing for workers and a Chinese frigate as a support ship.

China's reclamation. Screenshot from nhjd.net


Armed men harass North Cotabato village; 200 families displaced

From the Philippine Star (Jun 3): Armed men harass North Cotabato village; 200 families displaced

Some 200 families abandoned their homes located in disputed agricultural enclaves in Tulunan town that gunmen attacked and plundered over the weekend, local officials said.

Senior Inspector Ronnie Cordero, chief of the Tulunan municipal police, said the atrocity, perpetrated by a certain Commander Musa and his men on Sunday, left a 12-year-old child wounded.

Musa and his men reportedly arrived at Barangay Popoyon in Tulunan town and, without warning, opened fire at houses and shot farmers plowing their fields nearby.

“These armed men have been harassing the villagers to drive them out of the area,” Cordero told reporters.

Musa and his followers have been asserting ownership over the farms of local peasants, in total disregard of the Torrens land titles, and government land grant records being kept by the farmers.

Musa and his men, who are ethnic Maguindanaons from nearby Datu Paglas town in Maguindanao, have been ignoring invitations for a peace dialogue with Barangay Popoyon residents and officials of the Tulunan local government unit.

Cordero said the lands that Musa's group is trying to grab are planted with coconuts, rubber, and other orchard trees that are intercropped with corn and other short-term cash crops.

Workers from the local social welfare office are now attending to the needs of the displaced families, who are presently confined in makeshift relief sites and houses of their relatives.


6 MNLF leaders face raps for death of Pinoy, US soldiers

From the Philippine Star (Jun 3): 6 MNLF leaders face raps for death of Pinoy, US soldiers

At least six commanders of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) are facing murder charges for the death of two US soldiers and a Filipino trooper in a bomb attack in Indanan, Sulu in 2009.

In a resolution dated March 18, 2010, the Sulu provincial prosecutors office found probable cause to charge MNLF commanders Khaid Adjibon, Ahadon Adak, Tahil Sali, Abraham Joel, Jun Abijon Kira Adain and 26 other MNLF members with three counts of murder.

The victims of the attack were identified as Pfc. Jerwin Jose Estrada of the Philippine Marines, and US soldiers Jack Martin and Christopher Shaw.

The complaint – filed by US Army Sgt. Isaac David Simpson, Sgt. William Ken Jackson and Jonjon Guieb and their witnesses Andy William Buenaflor and Albashi Usman – alleged that the joint US Army and Philippine Marines team were on their way to Barangay Kagay in Indanan when their vehicle hit a roadside bomb allegedly planted by the MNLF rebels.

Buenaflor claimed the attack was in retaliation for the killing of three civilians in an air strike conducted by the Marines on Sept. 20, 2009 in Barangay Batubatun.

The case was initially filed before a Sulu court and was transferred to a Cebu court for security reasons.


Military base to rise in former Zamboanga siege zone

From the Philippine Star (Jun 3): Military base to rise in former Zamboanga siege zone

The Zamboanga City government will put up a military base in the former conflict zone to ensure security in coastal villages devastated by Moro National Liberation Front's (MNLF) siege last year.

Mayor Ma. Isabelle Climaco-Salazar said cluster heads of the Zamboanga Rehabilitation Roadmap to Recovery (Z3R) on Monday raised the idea to Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council (NDRRMC) chief Alexander Pama in a teleconference.

Salazar said the Z3R requested the release of P143.675 million for the acquisition, development and construction of military facilities in in Rio Hondo, a former conflict zone that was utilized by close to 500 MNLF rebels under the faction of Nur Misuari as their staging point during the Sept. 9 siege that crippled the city for almost a month.

Salazar said the requested fund is the remaining amount from the P3.5-billion pesos rehabilitation package approved by President Benigno Aquino III to rebuild the devastated district.

The establishment of the military security camp was based on the post conflict needs assessment conducted by the Office of Civil Defense.

Authorities recognized the sea coast and labyrinths of water channels in the mangrove areas in Barangay Rio Hondo have been vulnerable and used by various threat groups, including drug traffickers, smugglers and kidnappers, in staging their criminal activities in the city.

“We want to make sure that the internally displaced persons who will return to the area as well as the city will be safe and secured from any threats again,” Salazar said.

Meanwhile, a model duplex-loftable house units is almost completed and would soon be occupied by members of those IDPs who were displaced during the conflict, according to city planning officer and rehabilitation cluster-in-charge Rodrigo Sicat.

The model is just part of the 1,458 duplex-loftable units that will be constructed with an amount of P332,956,356 million in the devastated areas of Sta. Catalina, Sta. Barbara and Rio Hondo.

“This project is already on the ground and is expected to be completed in two weeks’ time,” Sicat said.

Salazar said “the construction of the housing unit is a proof that the city rehabilitation efforts is steadily progressing, with the concept of build back better.”

Sicat said the Department of Public Works and Highways also approved the designs of the house on stilts where at least 4,666 units will be constructed in the coastal village of Mariki by the National Housing Authority.


MILF's Jaafar says Malacañang taking too long in reviewing draft Bangsamoro law

From GMA News (Jun 3): MILF's Jaafar says Malacañang taking too long in reviewing draft Bangsamoro law

Malacañang is taking too long in reviewing the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law that it will submit to Congress for its approval before yearend, a ranking leader of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front said on Tuesday.
“Natatagalan hindi lamang kami, kundi ang buong sambayanang Bangsamoro at, probably, buong mamamayan ng Mindanao,” MILF vice chairperson for political affairs Ghadzali Jaafar said in an interview.
“[Alam] ng lahat na ang delay sa pagkasubmit nito sa Congress of the Philippines, ay bawat araw na delay... lumiliit yung pagkakataon upang mabuo itong panukalang batas ng Bangsamoro na s'yang importante para sa Bangsamoro government, sapagkat kung walang batas ang isang gobyerno, hindi tatakbo ito bilang isang gobyerno,” Jaafar said.

The Aquino administration wants the Bangsamoro charter passed before the end of 2014. Malacanang, however, has yet to finish its review of the draft basic law that it will submit to Congress for scrutiny and approval.
Asked if the MILF was concerned that the Philippine government was no longer interested in the implementation of the peace agreement, Jaafar said, “Mahirap na sagutin yan, pero masasabi ko sayo nagaalaala ang mga Bangsamoro people at Bangsamoro leaders sa delay.”
On whether the delay could result in some form of violence, Jaafar said, “I am not saying that but the question is what will happen... if the ratification of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law is delayed, what will the Bangsamoro do?” 
“Will the Bangsamoro accept that?  If they reject, what will they do? That I cannot answer for the moment,” Jaafar said.
Asked whether Malacañang still believes in the importance of the Bangsamoro law, Jaafar said, “Malacañang tanungin mo hindi kami.”
“We are not impatient.  We are not,” Jaafar said but indicated a concern that the country's lawmakers might have insufficient time to deliberate on the basic law and pass it within the year.

Int'l tribunal gives China till Dec 15 to file counter-memorial over sea row with PHL

From GMA News (Jun 4): Int'l tribunal gives China till Dec 15 to file counter-memorial over sea row with PHL

An international arbitral tribunal has given China until December 15 to file its counter-memorial over a territorial row with the Philippines involving parts of the South China Sea.

The Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration issued its second Procedural Order, after the second meeting of the Arbitral Tribunal's members last May 14 and 15.

"In Procedural Order No. 2, the Arbitral Tribunal fixes 15 December 2014 as the date for China to submit its Counter-Memorial responding to the Philippines’ Memorial. The Arbitral Tribunal will determine the further course of the proceedings, including the need for, and scheduling of any other written submissions and hearings, at an appropriate later stage, after seeking the views of the Parties," it said.


Military forces in Compostela Valley warned vs NPA drone

From the Business Mirror (Jun 3): Military forces in Compostela Valley warned vs NPA drone

Military forces in Compostela Valley were warned on Tuesday against an unmanned aerial vehicle, or drone, seized by New People’s Army (NPA) rebels from a team of contractors of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

Military officials remained uncertain as to the whereabouts of the drone after the NPA seized and later released the DENR team late on Monday, after 72 hours of captivity.
Ranking military officials in the province said the communist guerrillas may have started using the UAV, that is equipped with a camera, to spy on detachments and even movements of troops in the province.
If the rebels have been able to operate the drone, then military forces on the ground will be at a disadvantage as they could easily be spotted by the communist guerrillas.
The four contractors have not been able to report to Matthew Cua, founder of the Manila-based contracting firm, Skyeye UAV Services, on the location of the equipment used when they mapped out the area around the interior of Maco, Compostela Valley.
“We are still assessing the situation,” Cua told a news briefing at the DENR regional office here.
Cua was among the Skyeye’s personnel earlier named in a military report as having been taken hostage by a unit of the NPA on Friday in New Leyte, Maco.
Cua clarified that only four Skyeye personnel were taken: Kendrick Wong, Nico Lasaca, Chris Favila and Tim Sabino. A local driver, Jonas Loredo, was also kidnapped.
A statement released on Saturday by the NPA Comval Davao Gulf Subregional Command said it confiscated from them a “sky-surfer drone and two multirotor drones, two laptops and a global-positioning system device.”
“We don’t know yet what happened to the equipment,” he said, adding that he allowed the abducted men “to take their bath, eat and sleep.”
He said he did not ask them yet on what happened to the equipment.
The NPA rebels said in a statement that they released the Skyeye personnel on condition that the contractor would not continue its “surveillance and intelligence activities.”
Cua said the NPAs were probably convinced of the innocent nature of their work on the consistency of the answers of his personnel.
He added that the drone was unlike the spy drones used by the US. He said the drone used in the particular instance in their Maco mapping only has a two-meter wingspan. “Really very small,” he said.
Skyeye owns the drone, and Cua said that UAVs have varying dimensions “depending on the nature and requirement of the work.”
The five persons were released to this city’s Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, but did not disclose the place where the Skyeye personnel were released.
DENR Executive Regional Director Joselyn Marcus Fragada said the contractor was conducting an aerial surveillance of the coffee and cacao plantations allowed under the National Greening Program, the banner reforestation program of the administration, which seeks to restore part of the forest cover of the Philippines.
“We really want to know if there are really plants inside these plantations, and we want to determine the progress of the program,” he said.
Just one lesson learned, he said, “from this experience: we want the Skyeye and other independent contractors to coordinate all their actions with us.”

No term extension for AFP chief, Palace says

From ABS-CBN (Jun 3): No term extension for AFP chief, Palace says

A Palace official gave no indications that the term of Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief Emmanuel Bautista may be extended due to the tensions in the West Philippine Sea.

Communications Secretary Sonny Coloma was asked about the possibility in Tuesday's briefing.

Bautista retires late July.

"Wala po tayong nalalaman na ganyang konsiderasyon dahil ang patakaran ng Pangulo ay sundin kung ano iyong nasa batas and there is a fixed term.

The term expires at the 56 birthday of the occupant of the position," he said.

Coloma, however, said the selection of the next AFP chief will be guided by the present challenges and realities.

"Makatitiyak tayo na ang batayan sa pagpili ay iyong kung sino ba ang pinakamahusay ang kapabilidad para magampanan ang mga tungkulin ng pinuno ng Estado Mayor -- Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines -- given the present challenges and realities. Kaya't makatitiyak tayo na sa pagpili ng susunod na hepe iyan ang magiging panuntunan or criterion of the President who is the most capable officer who can lead the Armed Forces in this time of challenge and opportunity."

According to Coloma, government would rather strengthen institutions.
"Ang mahalaga naman dito ay iyong pagpapalakas ng buong institusyon. Kapag pinag-usapan kasi natin ang military, hindi lang naman iyong nasa itaas, ano. When we speak of institutional capability, it also means raising the standards of capability and performance of the entire officer corps as well as the men and women in uniform," he said.


Philippine Navy to get ship, boats from South Korea

From ABS-CBN (Jun 3): Philippine Navy to get ship, boats from South Korea

South Korea is giving the Philippine Navy a transport ship, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said Monday.

Seoul will also send 16 rubber boats and computers.

Gazmin went to Seoul Thursday to meet with his South Korean counterpart, Kim Kwan-jin.

"They gave an LCU (Landing Craft Utility), rubber boats, and computers," said Gazmin, who returned to Manila last Saturday.

He did not immediately say when the equipment will arrive in the Philippines.

Gazmin also discussed humanitarian assistance and disaster response with Kim.

He also expressed his gratitude for the role of South Korean troops in the ongoing rehabilitation of typhoon-hit Eastern Visayas.

At least 500 South Korean troops arrived in Leyte last December to help in the construction of structures, including school buildings.

They are due to return to South Korea by December this year.

The transport ship will boost the capability of the Navy, Gazmin said. It can be used in the transport of troops for operations, and relief goods intended for calamity victims.

Last March, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Gen. Emmanuel Bautista signed a P18.9-billion contract with Korean Aerospace Industries for the supply of 12 FA-50 fighter jets for the Philippine Air Force.

Two of the jets are due to be delivered to the Air Force next year. The FA-50s are expected to enhance the capability of the Air Force.


US military assisted PH forces during Battle of Zamboanga

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jun 3): US military assisted PH forces during Battle of Zamboanga

A US military unit stationed in Mindanao assisted Philippine soldiers with “information and communication assets” during a 23-day battle between government troops and renegade guerrillas of the Moro National Liberation Front here in September last year.

US Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg made the admission here during Monday’s ceremonial turnover of command of the Joint Special Operations Task Force Philippines (JSOTFP) here.

During that period the JSOTFP provided vital information, communication assets to help Philippine forces,” Goldberg said in his speech. “The constructive relationships with the military and civilian leaders here were critical in enabling JSOTFP team members to provide situational awareness to our partners and also to the embassy, which contributed to the arrest of over a hundred fighters that were involved in that attack by the MNLF.”

Colonel Robert McDowell, the JSOTFP commander, was replaced by Colonel Erik Brown.

It was “a monumental opportunity” to have been part of the resolution of the monthlong siege of Zamboanga City, McDowell told the Philippine Daily Inquirer in an interview.

“It represented what we worked together for so many years, shoulder to shoulder, that will make a difference. To be a silent hero, it’s really quite an honor. It is the fact that I was able to be part of it and I will never forget it,” he added.

McDowell also lauded the sacrifices made by the members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines despite the limitations.

“What I have seen is the Philippine armed forces are very capable in rendering aid and assistance to the Filipino people, and they are very capable of eliminating a threat and they care much about their country,” he said.

“I think what they did in Zamboanga was more phenomenal than what most US troops could have done with such little notice. They performed brilliantly,” Mc Dowell added.

Mayor Maria Isabelle Climaco Salazar said the American soldiers provided maps and latrines at the height of the siege.

“They supported in terms of maps. They were  the first group to give us latrines (for the evacuees),” the mayor said.


163 displaced families in NorCot town due to armed conflict return home

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 3): 163 displaced families in NorCot town due to armed conflict return home

The local government here has convinced some 163 families who fled their homes after armed men harassed their communities to return home as normalcy has been restored.

Mayor Lani Candolada of Tulunan, North Cotabato said the displaced families were already extended with relief assistance from the local government unit through the town’s social welfare and development office.

Mayor Candolada said most of the 163 families who fled their homes in the village of Popoyon Sunday after gunmen claiming ownership of vast tracks of lands attacked them, leaving a 12-year-old girl wounded.

“I told them that normalcy has been restored in Barangay Popoyon but some evacuees, especially those near the area where harassment occurred, returned home at day and went back to evacuation sites at night,” she said.

According to Senior Insp. Ronnie Cordero, Tulunan police chief, the displaced families fled after gunmen, led by a certain Commander Musa, fired at villages farming in Barangay Popoyon last Sunday morning.

Some civilians who were armed traded shots with the attackers.

“It was a long standing land dispute and we are trying to address it through peaceful means,” Candolada said.

She added previous agreements have been reached but “somehow not implemented on the grounds.”

She said she sought the help of traditional Muslim leaders and all stakeholders were involved in finding a win-win solution,” she added.

Candolada said adding that she was not losing hope the parties involved in the land dispute could come together and reach a lasting agreement.

According to the lady mayor, the current occupant of the farm lots have evidence to show they legally owned the land but other claimants also insisted they legally own the disputed lot, thus the recurring conflict.

To prevent further violence, Candolada said soldiers and policemen have been deployed in the village of Popoyon where farmers have to start planting rice and other agricultural crops since it is already planting season.


NPA weapons seized in Bukidnon encounter

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 3): NPA weapons seized in Bukidnon encounter

Troopers from the 1st Special Forces Battalion, a field unit of the Eastern Mindanao Command, has captured two New People's Army (NPA) firearms during an encounter with the rebel group in Sitio Kalanganan, San Vicente town, Bukidnon Tuesday early morning.

Capt. Alberto Caber, the command's spokesperson, said the 20-minute firefight took place around 5 a.m.

He added that their troops were responding to reports that the rebels were conducting extortion mission in the area.

One soldier was wounded in the firefight. Pursuing government units recovered an M-16 automatic rifle and a .45 caliber pistol belonging to the rebels.

“There is no let up against these criminals. We are supporting the PNP in their law enforcement operations," Eastern Mindanao Command chief Lt. Gen. Ricardo Rainier Cruz III said.

He added that there will be no let up in their operations against the extortion and arson activities of the rebels.


Petinglay assumes as PAF commanding officer for Western Visayas

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 3): Petinglay assumes as PAF commanding officer for Western Visayas
Col. Ronie Petinglay of San Remigio, Antique assumed on Tuesday as commanding officer of the Philippine Air Force (PAF) Technical Operations Group for Western Visayas in a turnover of command held at their headquarters in Dingle, Iloilo.

The turnover of command was led by Major General Romeo V Poquiz of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

Petinglay took over the post vacated by Col. Jose Bonifacio Calub.

Petinglay is a graduate of the Philippine Military Academy Class 1994. He had various assignments including in Villamor Air Base and Clark Air Base in Pampanga.

Petinglay also attended schooling at the Air Force Command College in China.


ROK Araw Force to commemorate Korean War with Filipino war veterans in Leyte

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 3): ROK Araw Force to commemorate Korean War with Filipino war veterans in Leyte

The South Korean Force that is doing rehabilitation and humanitarian works in Leyte province will have a simple ceremony to commemorate the 64th anniversary of the Korean War wayback June 25, 1950 to July 27, 1953.

Families of surviving Filipino war veterans who fought alongside South Korean soldiers during the Korean War will be invited to be part of the event to be held at the Araw Force Joint Support Group camp in Candahug, Palo Leyte, said commander Chulwon Lee.

The commemoration will be held On June 24, a day prior the June 25 anniversary when the Korean War started.

Filipino soldiers who were sent to the Korean War were part of the Philippine Expeditionary Forces to Korea (PEFTOK) Philippine Army contingent of the United Nations (UN).

The PEFTOK was composed of 7,500 troops and was the fourth largest force under the United Nations Command. They took part in the Battle of Yultong Bridge and the Battle of Hill Eerie.

A total of 112 Filipino Soldiers were "killed in action" during the Korean War.

Among the prominent personalities who were sent in South Korea during the Korean War were former Senator Benigno Aquino Jr and former Philippine President Fidel V Ramos who was then a lieutenant.

This gesture of the Filipino in sending military troops to the Korean War was reciprocated by the South Korean government by means of sending troops to Yolanda stricken province of Leyte to provide rehabilitation assistance by repairing local government facilities and structures, said Col Lee.

In addition, houses of Filipino veterans that were destroyed by typhoon Yolanda have been repaired to include three houses from towns of Carigara, Dagami and Tacloban City.

Col Lee also revealed that during the commemoration younger children (grandchildren) of surviving war veterans will be awarded with scholarship grants.

Moreover, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin will visit their base camp this June 10, Col Lee revealed.

The secretary of national defense will be giving recognition to their troops for their out-pouring support to the rehabilitation process of the national government to Yolanda devastated towns of Palo, Tanauan and Tolosa.

This is the second recognition their troops will receive from officials of the Philippine government.

Last month Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff General Emmanuel T Bautista during his visit to the base camp awarded the Araw Forces with Military Civic Action medal.


Abducted surveyors: We don’t operate US-like spy drones

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 3): Abducted surveyors: We don’t operate US-like spy drones

The Skyeye UAV has brushed aside speculations it is operating a US-like drones in conducting aerial validation of the government’s P1-billion National Greening Program (NGP), saying “our drones are Styrofoam-based specialized for auditing and tracing survivability of plants.”

Chief Executive Officer Matthew Cua, whose Skyeye UAV team were abducted by the New People’s Army (NPA) on May 31 in Barangay New Leyte, Maco town, Compostela Valley while conducting validation of the NGP, said his firm uses specialized bare bones drones specially designed for the NGP to audit, count and see survivability of the plants.

Cua, who was not among those taken by the NPAs, said their drones used for NGP are customized with a two-meter wing span drones. These cannot fly on mountains but only over plantations.

Earlier, the NPA said the surveyors were held for their “culpable violation of the policy of the People’s Democratic Government for bringing in surveillance gadgets, for undertaking reconnaissance of base guerrillas of the New People’s Army and, thus, abetting the enemy’s counter-revolutionary campaign against the revolutionary forces and environmental plunder.”

Cua said his team Ken Wong, Chrisandro Favila, Tim Sabino and Nico Lasaca, who were abducted by the rebels, explained their technology when they were questioned during their abduction.

He stressed theirs was purely validating the NGP program; and, despite the abduction, Skyeye is committed to help the DENR in all its programs, particularly the NGP.

Cua, together with DENR XI Regional Director Joselin Marcus Fragada, held a press conference to explain their contract with the DENR and the drones Skyeye is using.

According to Cua, they are operating a new equipment that could have caught the attention of the people in an area which is not used to such technology.

He said it raises eyebrows of people on what they are doing. Thus he said, on Friday afternoon his crew were approached and questioned by armed men.

Cua said the NPAs were asking mostly on what the team is doing.

“Our team is primarily for the NGP auditing,” he reiterated.

Cua confirmed that some of their equipment were destroyed mainly due to mishandling. He does not know yet whether the validation could be used for their reporting to DENR.

In a statement earlier, the rebels said they have confiscated one sky surfer drone and two multi-rotor drones, two laptops and one GPS.

“I still need to do inventory of our equipment,” Cua told reporters, emphasizing that his priority concern upon the release of his team was to see their condition.

He said the personal belongings of his team were recovered.

In light of the abduction, Cua said he will continue to support the DENR.

He said he knew the area is an NPA lair.

While they are following procedures, Cua said it might not have been enough.

On the other hand, Fragada said the incident should serve as warning for everybody, including all DENR contractors, on the need for proper coordination when operating in areas territories.

Both Fragada and Cua expressed thanks to Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, who facilitated the release of the Skyeye crew and one rented car driver on Monday afternoon.

Cua said his colleagues are in good spirits, safe and were not hurt during the 72 hours in captivity by the NPA.


Army to establish more wellness farms in Negros Occidental

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 3): Army to establish more wellness farms in Negros Occidental

The Negros First-Army Wellness Farm project of the 303rd Infantry Brigade based at its headquarters in Murcia, Negros Occidental will be replicated in other areas in the province.

The Wellness Farm initiative aims to “win the peace” in the province. Majority of its beneficiaries are rebel returnees.

Col. Jon Aying, commander of the 303rd IB, said the program is designed to ensure food security, generate basic income and sustainability, especially for former New People’s Army rebels and their families.

In Murcia, the Army Wellness Farm lies on a 2.5-hectare lot inside the Camp Major Nelson Gerona. It has been successful in producing organic products such as vegetables, livestock and poultry.

Organic farming is one of their non-traditional innovations in addressing the insurgency problem in Negros Occidental, Aying said.

“We want to capacitate former rebels by teaching them organic farming and other means of livelihood to ensure sustainable sources of income when they re-integrate to the community,” he added.

Most of the rebel returnees who are beneficiaries of the project surrendered to the 303rd IB from 2011 to 2012.

Army soldiers and members of the Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit are also helping cultivate the Wellness Farm in Murcia.

Aying said he is planning to set up satellite Wellness Farms in the first, fifth and sixth districts of the province to serve as “learning and livelihood centers” with the support of the provincial government of Negros Occidental.

“The program recognizes economic capacity-building of the beneficiaries to become self-reliant and less vulnerable, with a projection towards their permanent settlement and production areas assured of protection from lawlessness and natural disasters,” the Army official said.

Negros Occidental remains one of the provinces where the communist insurgency is still active, particularly in the first, fifth, and sixth districts.

Aying said the armed struggle has become an intergenerational practice in some families, and a way of life in a culture of violence.

To respond to this social predicament, the 303rd IB adopted the Wellness Program based on an integrated framework consistent with the peace and development concept of the Provincial Peace, Integration and Development Unit (Pro-PIDU).

The Pro-PIDU, a sub-committee of the Provincial Peace and Order Council of Negros Occidental, is spearheading the campaign to address the root causes of insurgency in the province.


Zambo seige victims receive help NGOs, AFP

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 2): Zambo seige victims receive help NGOs, AFP

The affected residents of the siege continue to suffer even the war between government security forces and a faction of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) had ended.

After the siege, residents were left homeless and forced to live in the evacuation centers for several months.

Unfortunately, death toll of evacuees has already reached more than 120 in the evacuation camps, of which more than 50 percent were children.

More than 64,000 remain displaced in evacuation centers and temporary shelter sites, most of them staying at the Joaquin Enriquez Memorial Grandstand.

As part of its Service for Peace program, the Teach Peace Build Peace Movement (TPBPM) collaborated with the Junior Chamber International (JCI) Manila through their “Oplan Damayan” project to help victims of the Zamboanga siege.

Also committed to the project were the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Young Moro Professionals Network (YMPN), a non-government organization composed of young Moros, whose primary purpose is to serve the common interests of the Bangsamoro people.

Through the project, the TPBPM received a donation of five 20 feet-container vans with relief goods such as food, mineral water, and new clothes, among others, which were shipped from Manila to Zamboanga through the help of the Philippine Span Asia Carrier Corporation.

JCI has been conducting the “Oplan Damayan” for years in order to help those who are in need in times of disasters.

"As a support to our brothers and sisters living in Zamboanga, JCI Manila and TPBPM, in partnership with YMPN and AFP, worked together in fulfilling their basic necessities. After seeing the heartbreaking situation of those affected residents in Zamboanga, we decided to turn over the goods we should be giving to the victims of Yolanda to the victims of the Zamboanga siege, since we think that they are the ones who are mostly in need,” said Steve Allen Tycangco, President of JCI Manila.

Rohaniza Sumndad-Usman, Founder and Executive Director of the TPBPM, emphasized the importance of "bayanihan" in helping people in Zamboanga.

She said, “While we acknowledge the efforts being made by our national and local officials, it is high time that we all work together in the spirit of bayanihan. The more solid support we can give to them in rebuilding their lives, the more hope we can instill in them.”

Gilberto Go, Vice-President of the Philippine Span Asia Carrier Corporation, highlighted the role of the private sector in helping Zamboanga.

“I thought that I should take an action to help the victims. If I don’t, who will? Except for the government agencies, it seems that the private business men had forgotten them. I am also inviting all of the entrepreneurs and businessmen from different parts of the world to please help the Zamboanga siege victims,” he said.

The TPBPM invites interested individuals to be part of its Service for Peace program. For inquiries, contact Bernadette Fernandez at 0915-848-0230 or at teachpeace.mail@gmail.com.


Palace encouraged by supportive statements of allies on peaceful solution to WPS row

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 3): Palace encouraged by supportive statements of allies on peaceful solution to WPS row

Malacanang welcomed on Tuesday the supportive statements of allies and other countries who agreed that the best way to tackle the row on the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) is through seeking a peaceful settlement.

Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr., in a Palace media briefing, said that Malacanang has always emphasized the importance of ASEAN centrality in dealing with such matters.

He noted that during the ASEAN Summit in Myanmar last month, the heads of ASEAN states and governments affirmed the importance of fleshing out a Code of Conduct on the South China Sea.

“Together with the other ASEAN nations, we are advocating the fleshing out of the Code of Conduct,” Coloma said. “We see this as the important opportunity for institutionalizing peace and stability in the region arising from the disputes in the South China Sea.”

Coloma said that in the last ASEAN Summit, most or almost all of the countries in the region have already expressed their support for the Philippine advocacy.

“…We have seen important progress made in our advocacy and we continue to be encouraged by all of these developments,” the PCOO chief stressed.

Furthermore, Coloma noted that in the 13th Asia Security Summit held over the weekend in Singapore, the participants affirmed the importance of respecting the rule of law as the key to regional stability.

“The Philippines’ key allies, namely the United States, Australia, and Japan, expressed similar views that support our country’s basic position on the importance of seeking peaceful settlement of disputes,” Coloma said.

“As the President pointed out in recent interviews with the international press, 40 percent of world commerce passes through the South China Sea; hence, it is important that freedom of navigation, as well as freedom of aviation be upheld as emphasized in the ASEAN-Japan Summit last December 2013,” he added.

On another note, the PCOO chief also pointed out that despite the sea row, the relationship between the Philippines and China does not “define the totality” of its relations.

“We still would like to envision a situation where there will be continuing stability in the South China Sea, as we have pointed out its strategic importance not just to regional, but to global commerce and trade,” he said.

“This is the condition that we see for further stability and economic growth in our region,” he added.


Rebels to pay for abduction of five DENR contractors - AFP

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 3): Rebels to pay for abduction of five DENR contractors - AFP

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Tuesday stated that the New People’s Army (NPA) will be made accountable for the abduction and illegal detention of five Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) surveyors last Friday in Compostela Valley.

The DENR personnel were abducted by the NPA in Barangay New Leyte, Maco, Compostela Valley Province around 2 p.m. last Friday.

This prompted troops from the Eastern Mindanao Command to conduct calculated operations so as to protect the civilians being illegally held by the rebels.

Contrary to what the NPA is claiming, the contractors were there to bring services to the people by undertaking validation and survey on the government’s National Greening Program in the area.

"They used an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) for anti-logging aerial reconnaissance and not for intelligence surveillance," AFP public affairs office chief Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala said.

He added that it was paranoia on the part of the NPA for believing that the civilians were using the UAV for intelligence surveillance even calling them as instruments of mass genocide and civilian destruction.

A UAV is not a spying equipment alone and can also be used for other services supporting development.

This is not the first time the NPAs abducted civilians in Compostela Valley, Zagala stressed.

Last month, about 70 rebels belonging to the NPA's Guerilla Front 2 and Pulang Bagani Command 6 took 39 civilians as human shields in Barangay Golden Valley, Mabini.

These are the same group that perpetrated the abduction in Maco town, about 10 kilometers away from Mabini.

Following the release of the civilians Mondayt, AFP troops vowed to intensify its operations against the NPAs particularly in Davao area where they continue to participate in illegal activities such as small-scale mining, extortion and kidnapping.

"The NPA resort to hostage-taking, abduction and detention on anything that can compromise their disposition. These are criminal acts and violation of the human rights that continue to endanger lives of innocent civilians," Zagala pointed out.

He added that the AFP is ready to impose its forces shall it be needed, and exhaust all our efforts to put in the bars of justice, NPA members who are guilty of these crimes.


Moro youths pass resolution supporting Malacanang's Mindanao peace overtures

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 3): Moro youths pass resolution supporting Malacanang's Mindanao peace overtures

Aware they are among the beneficiaries of the government's peace overtures in southern Philippines, a bloc of young Moro leaders here have authored a resolution expressing support to the efforts of the state and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to establish an MILF-led Bangsamoro political entity.

Both the government and the MILF have already signed a peace deal that will bilaterally put up a Bangsamoro government that will replace the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

Both sides signed the Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro (CAB), which was signed by both sides last March 27 in Malacañang.

The resolution was drafted and passed by the Young Moro Professionals Network (YMPN) in the ARMM expressing their desire that the Mindanao peace process become an integral part of the social mainstream.

It was endorsed by the YMPN to the secretariat of the 10th National Youth Parliament, held last month in Manila.

“We, the youth in the Muslim Mindanao area, want to mainstream the issue of peace process," pointed out Asan Al-Ameen Camlian, 23, of Basilan, a component province of ARMM.

Aside from Basilan, ARMM is composed of Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.

YMPN is currently the largest group of Muslim professionals in the country, which participated in last month’s 10th National Youth Parliament in Manila.

According to Amir Mawalil, director of the ARMM’s Bureau of Public Information, the national youth gathering gave an opportunity for Muslim professionals to ventilate their sentiments and desire toward the achievement of lasting peace in Muslim Mindanao.

Mawalil, also a member of the YMPN, said the recent national gathering, participated in by 204 youth parliamentarians from 17 regions, discussed issues like the future of the Filipino youth, health, employment, education, and involvement in pro-peace and development initiatives.

The ARMM was represented in the 10th NYP by Camlian, Tadzmahar Abdulkadil, Fatimah Jasmeen Alih, Sitti Anieza Darong, Ro-Janna Jamiri, Keith Einstein Pon (Tawi-Tawi), Sittie Fatimah Balt, Mubarak Cabugatan, Roselainie Calil, Lady Hanifah Mindalano (Lanao del Sur), Julamin Paglala, and Amenodin Samporna (Maguindanao).