Thursday, June 5, 2014

PNoy to get authority over defense purchases

From the Philippine Star posted to ABS-CBN (Jun 4): PNoy to get authority over defense purchases

The Senate is giving the President the authority to decide on the purchase of military aircraft, vessels and materiel from countries with which the Philippines maintains defense cooperation.

Once the amendments to Section 53 on negotiated contract of the Government Procurement Reform Act are approved, this will likely limit the defense department to procuring armored vehicles, high-tech communications equipment, radar systems, sophisticated weapons, among others, from the US and Australia.

The signing of Senate committee report no. 35 came amid questions raised on the legality of the Enhanced Development Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) signed with the US.

Senate finance committee chairman Sen. Francis Escudero and Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV sponsored the measure that also allows the President to approve the major procurement of equipment or materiel of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

Once approved by the majority, the provision will likely provide advantage to US and Australia, with which the Philippines has established defense agreements via the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and the RP-Australia Status of Visiting Forces Agreement (SOVFA), respectively.

Escudero pointed to Australia as another country with which the Philippines has a defense pact.

Trillanes was quick to explain the amendments were made not to benefit the US, adding his initial proposals were more generic in terms of amendments.
“For now, it’s only with the US but we could have similar agreements with other countries in the future,” he said.

Trillanes, chairman of the Senate committee on national defense and security, filed Senate bill 1657. Under his version, there was no mention that the procurement should only be done with countries where the Philippines has defense cooperation agreement.

Under the committee report, the proposed amendments to Section 53 on negotiated procurement under the Republic Act 9184, otherwise known as the Government Procurement Reform Act, retains the provision that exempts the AFP from public bidding.

“The interests of the country shall be protected by exempting the AFP from public bidding and allowing it to negotiate directly with an agency or instrumentality of another country with which the Philippines has entered into a defense cooperation agreement or otherwise maintains diplomatic relations,” read the amendments to Section 53.

The phrase replaces: “And/or the existence defense partnerships, the procurement by the AFP of the abovementioned equipment should be exempted from the requirement of public bidding under this Act: Provided, that, said determination is supported by the approval by the President, and concurred in by both chairmen of the National Defense and Security committees of the Senate and the House of Representatives.”

The authority covers major procurement of aircraft, vessels, tanks, armored vehicles, high-tech communications equipment, radar systems, sophisticated weapon systems and high-powered firearms and/or defense-related consultancy services,” which are not locally available.

Meanwhile, South Korea has donated a transport ship and 16 rubber boats to the Philippine Navy, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said yesterday.
Gazmin added the South Korean government would also provide computers to the AFP to further enhance its Humanitarian and Disaster Response (HADR) program.

Gazmin made the announcement after his arrival from South Korea where he attended a three-day bilateral meeting with his counterparts.

PIA conducts basic journalism training for public affairs officers of Northern Luzon Command

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jun 6): PIA conducts basic journalism training for public affairs officers of Northern Luzon Command

CAMP AQUINO, Tarlac City -- Philippine Information Agency (PIA) Region 3 recently conducted a two-day basic journalism training for designated public affairs officers of Air Force, Army and Naval units within the Northern Luzon Command (NOLCOM).

“This aims to teach the uniformed personnel on the basics of newswriting, photojournalism and photo editing in order for them to be able to effectively perform their duties and thus becoming our reliable partners,” PIA Regional Director William Beltran said.

The activity was conducted pursuant to the vision of former NOLCOM commander and now Armed Forces of the Philippines Vice Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr. of integrating the power of information and communication in delivering better service to the Filipino people.

Tarlac Provincial Manager Lorie Gene Cruz and Pampanga Provincial Manager Carlo Lorenzo Datu served as lecturers.

PIA earlier signed a Memorandum of Agreement with NOLCOM for partnership in various areas of development communication namely research, information development, information dissemination, and institutional development.

Soldier killed, 3 wounded in Maguindanao IED blast

From InterAksyon (Jun 6): Soldier killed, 3 wounded in Maguindanao IED blast

An Army truck blasted by an IED in Maguindanao (photo by Dennis Arcon,

A soldier was killed and three others, including an officer, were wounded when an improvised explosive device blasted their vehicle in Datu Unsay town, Maguindanao Thursday.

Abu Misri Mama, spokesman of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, claimed responsibility for the ambush.

The BIFF broke away from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front after rejecting peace negotiations with government to pursue their struggle for secession.

Hours after the noontime explosion, a clash also broke out between soldiers and BIFF gunmen in Barangay Satan, on the boundary of Datu Unsay and Shariff Aguak towns.

Colonel Dickson Hermoso, spokesman of the 6th Infantry Division, said at least two rebels were wounded, adding that the BIFF could have suffered more casualties after the Army called in artillery on the gunmen as they retreated into the forests.

Colonel Donald Hongitan, commander of the 45th Infantry Battalion, said Lieutenant Lemuel Manicdo, Technical Sergeant Pio Hunuldang, Corporal Joel Kanseran and a Private First Class Tabihe were returning from a civil military operation in Camp Omar when the roadside bomb went off in Barangay Maitumaig just past noon.

Tabihe, who was driving, was killed immediately.

The wounded soldiers are being treated at the Camp Siongco hospital.
An explosive ordnance disposal team said the IED was crafted from a 105mm howitzer shell and was triggered by a cellular phone.

Last month, Colonel Gener del Rosario, the newly assigned commander of the 1st Mechanized Brigade, survived an IED attack on his convoy on the Meta Bridge, also in Datu Unsay, that killed a member of his security detail and wounded four others.

BIFF bandits, soldiers clash anew in Maguindanao

From ABS-CBN (Jun 6): BIFF bandits, soldiers clash anew in Maguindanao

Government troops immediately pursued suspected members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) following a bomb attack Thursday in Datu Unsay, Maguindanao that left a soldier dead.

Lt. Col. Donald Hongitan, commanding officer of the Army's 45th Infantry Battalion, told ABS-CBN News that government troops engaged suspected BIFF bandits in a firefight in several villages in Datu Unsay.

No casualty was reported from the side of government troops, but he said there was information that two BIFF rebels were wounded.

He said the rebels were forced to retreat, but pursuit operations were still ongoing.

BIFF spokesperson Abu Missry Mama, meanwhile, told ABS-CBN News in a text message that the group will investigate who was behind the blast. He did not confirm whether BIFF was behind the attack.

Army 6th Infantry Division spokesperson Col. Dickson Hermoso earlier said troops from 45th IB's Charlie Company were on their way from Camp Omar to the battalion headquarters in Datu Unsay when an improvised explosive device (IED) went off.

The military truck's driver was killed, while 3 others were wounded. One of the wounded was the commander of Charlie Company.

The incident happened just a kilometer away from the national highway in Datu Unsay.

Camp Omar was used as headquarters by the BIFF under the self-declared leadership of 105th Base Commander Ameril Umbra Kato before they were forced to leave after a series of military operations against them in 2012.

The wounded soldiers were brought to the Integrated Provincial Health Office and were later transferred to Camp Siongco Station Hospital in Awang, Datu Odin Sinsuat.

Hermoso said government troops are convinced that the IED was meant for soldiers who will pass by the area.

Around three weeks ago, an explosion also occurred on a bridge in Datu Unsay which left several soldiers injured.

Tawi-Tawi police say Abu Sayyaf not behind abduction of 3

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jun 5): Tawi-Tawi police say Abu Sayyaf not behind abduction of 3

BONGAO, Philippines – Police authorities in the province said Monday’s abduction of three people here was an isolated case and was not the work of the Abu Sayyaf.

Superintendent Cerrazid Umabong, Tawi-Tawi police said, based on what the police had gathered, the abduction of Joseph Bani, 49; Joshua Bani, 21; and Teroy Hajan, 51, could have been triggered by personal motives.

But he admitted the police did not have a “clear background” on the abducted victims.

The three victims were residents of Barangay (village) Fishery here. They were taken from their homes by armed men, whose identities were also undetermined, Umabong said.

The last known involvement of the Abu Sayyaf in an abduction case in the province was that of birdwatchers Dutch national Ewold Horn and Swiss Lorenzo Vinciguerra in February 2012.

The two Europeans remain in the hands of the bandit group, which has since moved them to Sulu.

Indonesia breaks suspected Jemaah Islamiyah cells

From Khabar Southeast Asia (Jun 6): Indonesia breaks suspected Jemaah Islamiyah cells

Densus 88 officers nab 10 men who were on the country's Most Wanted List.

Indonesian National Police spokesman Boy Rafli Amar holds a sketch of a suspected bomb courier during a Jakarta news conference in March 2011. On May 21st, Boy announced the arrest of 10 suspected Jemaah Islamiyah members. [AFP]

Indonesian National Police spokesman Boy Rafli Amar holds a sketch of a suspected bomb courier during a Jakarta news conference in March 2011. On May 21st, Boy announced the arrest of 10 suspected Jemaah Islamiyah members. [AFP]

Indonesian police have arrested ten suspected terrorists with alleged links to Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) and al-Qaeda.

Police counterterrorism unit Densus 88 arrested the men-- who had been on Indonesia's Most Wanted List (DPO) for a decade-- during May raids in Java and Sulawesi, National Police spokesman Boy Rafli Amar said.

"They were arrested at different times and places," he told Khabar Southeast Asia at his office on May 21st, adding later the suspects were "linked to al-Qaeda and JI cells".

According to the Jakarta Globe, two were involved in the 2005 bombing of the Tentena market in Central Sulawesi that killed 22 people. The Jakarta Post reported during the arrests, police also seized weapons and explosives.
Boy released a list of the ten suspects.

Suspect Ibnu Khaldun (also known as Bondan, Royan, Sularno, or Gunawan) was arrested on a bus in Indramayu, West Java.

"Ibnu had attended a military training with Abu Sayyaf's group in the Philippines from 1999 to 2002," Boy said.

Information given by Ibnu led to Densus 88 arresting other suspects including Ramuji (alias Kapten) in Lamongan, East Java, Boy said.

Six other suspects – Suyata (alias Suyoto), Galih Setiawan Badawi Rachman, Slamet Sucipto, Abdul Rofiq, Rohmat Jauhar Arifin (alias Nano) and Muhammad Yusuf (alias Kuswoyo) were all arrested in Klaten, Central Java.

Police were still investigating whether those arrested in Klaten are connected to the Eastern Indonesia Mujahideen (MIT), Boy said.

The last two suspects – Gunawab and Andi Alkautsar – were arrested respectively, in Semarang, Central Java and in Wajo district, South Sulawesi.

JI: still a threat

The arrests of the suspected JI members come as Indonesia gears up for the July 9th presidential election.

"Their movement and actions are now much smaller but they are still present and operating," terrorism expert Wawan Purwanto said of JI during a phone interview with Khabar.

Terrorism in Indonesia cannot be separated from JI, and therefore the terror group must be disbanded once and for all, As'ad Said Ali, former State Intelligence Agency (BIN) deputy director told Khabar.

"If Indonesia disbands JI, it will also disrupt their network overseas. We also need to monitor for JI members who have already trained overseas, including in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Malaysia, and the Philippines," As'ad said.

In addition, all underground movements and military training must be dismantled, he added.

"If we can do so, all of these radical actions and terrorism in Indonesia will completely disappear, including its roots."

Peace adviser reiterates commitment to complete peace, dev’t projects in Cordillera region

From the Manila Times (Jun 6): Peace adviser reiterates commitment to complete peace, dev’t projects in Cordillera region

MANKAYAN, Benguet: Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos Deles reiterated the government’s commitment to deliver the promises of the peace pact in Cordillera through a series of recent visits and dialogues in the provinces of Benguet and Abra.

Deles visited community development sites in Manabo, Abra, and Mankayan, Benguet — taking note of the success of the Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan (PAMANA) projects in the said municipalities.

On Sunday, June 1, the peace adviser formally opened farm-to-market roads funded through the said program.

“Today, we open an improved road, it is very appropriate, we hope, that as you walk that road, you remember that our President walks the ‘tuwid na daan (straight path),’” Deles said during the ceremonies.

“And that road should be well-maintained by both the provincial and local governments because more ‘tuwid na daan’ will lead to more roads and that is our hope—that the roads and the livelihood will leave a PNoy legacy that would be remembered: that we could turn armed conflict into development and claim peace to be our own.”

The peace adviser also expressed her appreciation in “seeing PAMANA working so well in the Cordilleras.”

The Madago-Casakgudan and Cabiten-Kamantaki farm-to-market road projects are only two among the 81 community development projects in the Cordillera region.

In 2011, the government signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the Cordillera Bodong Administration (CBA) and Cordillera People’s Liberation Army (CPLA) to secure peace in the region.

Part of the agreement is the socio-economic development of its members and provision of development projects for their communities.

Implementation of the projects are being done through PAMANA, not only in the provinces of Abra and Benguet, but also in Apayao, Ifugao, Kalinga and Mountain Province.

In Benguet, the 4.2-kilometer Cabiten–Kamantaki farm-to-market road was subject to an improvement project benefiting 454 households and more than 2,000 hectares of farmlands.

During the visit, Deles also participated in a tree-planting ceremony and checked an organic free-range chicken project being handled by a people’s organization formed by the former CPLA.

In Abra, a 1.5-kilometer Madago-Casakgudan farm-to-market road was completed, providing ease in the transport of rice, mangoes, corns, vegetables and other local products to Bangued and some to Baguio City.

There, she also met with former CPLA members now employed as forest guards under the Department of Environment and Natural Resource’s Bantay Gubat program.

Cognizant of the problems encountered during the implementation of the MOA, Deles assured that the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process—together with the entire government, both the local and national levels—will be working to address the gaps and secure the gains of the signed peace agreement.

At the same time, the peace adviser lauded the support of the local government executives, specifically the Governors and Mayors for ensuring the completion of the projects despite challenges and for their roles in sustaining the gains of the MOA.

Deles was joined by fellow OPAPP officials Undersecretary Maria Cleofe Gettie Sandoval, Assistant Secretaries Rose Romero and Danilo Encinas, and Director Martin Perfecto during the site visits.

CPP: CPP denounces US intervention in Zamboanga siege

Anti-US propaganda statement posted to the CPP Website (Jun 5): CPP denounces US intervention in Zamboanga siege

Communist Party of the Philippines
The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) today condemned the US military for intervening in the AFP’s siege of several coastal towns of Zamboanga City against the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) from September to October last year. “The involvement of US military forces, whether through direct combat or providing logistical or intelligence support, constitutes military intervenionism and is a violation of Philippine national sovereignty.”

In remarks made yesterday, US ambassador Philip Goldberg admitted that US military forces were involved in the military operations against the MNLF in Zamboanga City last year, claiming to have provided “vital information and communication assets” to the AFP. Goldberg issued this statement during the turnover of command of the US Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines (JSOTFP) in Zamboanga City yesterday. Outgoing JSOTFP commander Col. Robert McDowell also admitted to having taken part in the siege and considered himself “a silent hero”.

The Aquino government and its military officials have consistently denied US involvement in the month-long siege launched by the AFP against the MNLF. However, news reports at the height of the all-out siege by the AFP clearly showed unmarked aircraft hovering and circling over the site for several hours. Even then, speculation was rife that the unidentified aircraft were drones being operated by the US forces from its base in Camp Navarro in Zamboanga City.

The all-out war of destruction practically levelled the city’s sprawling residential area. The aerial bombing, mortar shelling and machine-gun strafing of homes and buildings displaced 120,000 people who were later prevented from returning to their homes and forced to live in subhuman temporary shelters. Since October, more than 100 people have died of illnesses in the evacuation centers. There is widespread belief that the Aquino regime made use of the MNLF presence in the area to launch an all-out war of destruction to pave the way for plans to use the residential area for commericial and military purposes.

“The Aquino regime and the AFP must be held responsible for having allowed or invited US military interventionism in carrying out its all-out siege and war of destruction in the coastal towns of Rio Hondo, Sta. Barbara and Sta. Catalina,” said the CPP. “In allowing the US military to interfere in Philippine internal affairs, the Aquino regime is paving the way for US interventionism on a larger scale in the future.”

“Even now, the US military has been carrying out all-out surveillance using drones as well as tapping into the telecommunications and internet infrastructure in the Philippines. It has even monitored the cellphone communications of key politicians of the Aquino government,” pointed out the CPP.

“US military forces are also involved in field operations against the New People’s Army across the country. US forces have also been involved in combat operations against the Abu Sayyaf, including carrying out a ‘smart-bomb’ operation in Basilan, believed to have hit several civilians.”

MILF: Religious sector urged to help the Bangsamoro Basic Law win in the plebiscite

Posted to the MILF Website (Jun 6): Religious sector urged to help the Bangsamoro Basic Law win in the plebiscite

A peace advocate urged the Ulama (Islamic scholars) and Asatidz (Madrasah teachers) in the proposed Bangsamoro territory to help in the ratification of the Bangsamoro Basic Law  (BBL)through a plebiscite.
Lawyer Mary Arnado, lead convener of the Mindanao Peoples Caucus, said during the BBL Public Consultation held in General Santos City on May 31, 2014, that the Muslim religious leaders who are influential and highly respected in the Muslim communities play a crucial rule in the plebiscite.

In adherence to the democratic process of the country, after it will be approved by the Congress, the BBL will be subjected to a plebiscite to know if the people accept the new Bangsamoro governance.

Around 30 peace advocates and community leaders from the City of General Santos, and provinces of South Cotabato and Sarangani attended the consultation.

The Mindanao Civil Society Organization Platform for Peace (MCSOPP) spearheaded the activity in collaboration with the Circle of Peacebuilders and the local government unit of General Santos City through the Indigenous Cultural Communities Affairs Division.

Arnado explained the salient points of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro and the economic and political prospects of the proposed Bangsamoro Government.

She further elucidated that the Indigenous Peoples can even have their own local government units under the Bangsamoro Government and have been assured of two seats in the Parliament.

With the proposed block grant and support of foreign countries, Arnado is confident that the new political entity, which is hoped to bring peace and development in Mindanao, will succeed.

The resource person sees that passage of the basic law in Congress is not an issue anymore considering that President Aquino has the support of the majority of the lawmakers but how to win it in the plebiscite is the real challenge because of the presence of Moro local politicians who can use their money to campaign for “No.”

“Don’t tell me that after the plebiscite, only Darapanan accepts the Bangsamoro Basic Law,” she warned. She enjoined all concerned stakeholders to help campaign for “yes” in the plebiscite.

Arnado said it is most probably Congressman Rufus Rodriguez, a lawyer and constitutionalist, who will sponsor the bill and can defend well the proposed BBL in Congress.

The BBL has been forwarded by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission to Malacanang Palace for review by the legal team before it will be presented to Congress.

MILF: Armm workers need not worry, says Iqbal

From the MILF Website (Jun 5): Armm workers need not worry, says Iqbal

MILF Peace Panel Chairman Mohagher Iqbal reassured employees of the ARMM that there is nothing to be worried about even if the autonomous regional government would be abolished.
Speaking before professionals during the June 4 launching of the Human Resource Mapping in Cotabato City, Iqbal categorically said that the abolition would not be an “instant act” but would happen in gradual phases. He guaranteed that all rights of the ARMM workers would be taken cared of.

Moreover, he said that “certainly much of the bureaucracy for the incoming Bangsamoro Transition Authority and I would include the future Bangsamoro government would substantially come from the ARMM because they have the trainings already.”

He also stated “with certainty” that the bulk of the bureaucracy of the future Bangsamoro government would not come from the ranks and file of the MILF since the latter “would enjoy the fruits of the more than 40 years of struggle in some ways that would be fitting and special for them.”

Iqbal explained that the while some of the MILF leaders would be in the prospective Bangsamoro government, majority would not be part of bureaucracy because they are not trained to be part of it. “Their forte and training was something else,” he said.

Value system

He emphasized though that over and above the trainings and competence is to put in place a new value system that gives premium to accountability.

Iqbal noted that it’s the value system that determines the kind of people running a government.

“The MILF envisions that accountability is not only to people but more so to Allah,” Iqbal told the hundreds of Bangsamoro professionals who attended the program being bankrolled by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).


Iqbal, who also chairs the Bangsamoro Transition Commission, asked the professionals to journey with them in the quest for genuine self-governance.

He declared that efforts to transition require the entire Bangsamoro society and thus the MILF has to be inclusive. This inclusive policy includes resource mobilization and capacity development for everybody.

While saying that the human resource mapping is designed to gather data on Bangsamoro professionals, Iqbal said it is “not a promise for jobs, nor positions.” The registration is designed to store files of professionals so that in the event the future Bangsamoro government requires workers, there would be easily accessible database.

“People has to be the focus of development and empowerment since our society has already suffered a lot,” Iqbal said.


Iqbal was grateful to the Government of Japan and JICA for the several assistances they have been extending to the Bangsamoro.

Japan has been playing active roles in the International Monitoring Team (IMT), International Contact Group (ICG) and Independent Commission on Policing (ICP).  

Mr. Takahiro Morita, Senior Representative of JICA Philippine Office, joined his fellow Japanese Shinichi Masuda (JICA Chief Advisor) and Kazuhiro Okamoto (HRD Expert) in witnessing the launching event.

Professionals can register online at or send their datasheet to the office of the Human Resource Implementation Unit at 3/F Al Nor Building, Sinsuat Avenue, Cotabato City.

MILF: Delayed submission of BBL to Congress won’t affect peace process: Secretary Deles

Posted to the MILF Website (Jun 5): Delayed submission of BBL to Congress won’t affect peace process: Secretary Deles

Dismissing speculations that the peace process could suffer a setback with the delay in the submission to Congress of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) Teresita Deles said, “I know some people would like to take advantage of that and try to stir up some things, but I think the two parties are committed to try to explain this to everyone,”
At the send-off reception for the Philippine delegation to the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict hosted by the United Kingdom and Australia Tuesday night, June 5, Secretary Deles said that, “The reality is there is so much support for it. It just needs to be explained. The processes are not meant to delay or to weaken or diminish. As I’ve said, the fact that it has taken time should be seen as a reflection of how serious government is here,” she said.

"President Aquino will lead the campaign to get the Bangsamoro Basic Law passed.Earlier, Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda in a statement also assured the people and BTC Chair Mohagher Iqbal that the BBL is “not being watered-down” and “the measure is being fine-tuned” by the legal team of the Office of the President.

The draft basic law, submitted to the Office of the President on April 14 by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission, is still being evaluated and studied by the Palace legal team. It would replace the existing Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao with a new region called Bangsamoro with a ministerial form of government.

Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said MalacaƱang is likely to submit the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law a few days after Congress resumes session on July 28.

“The feedback is that they’ve virtually completed their review of it and I’m not certain there’s anything to gain by having it submitted in the last few days (of the first regular session),” he told reporters.(Source: PhilStar, June 5, 2014)’t-affect-peace-process-secretary-deles

MILF: MILF Committee on Information conducts series of peace advocacies in Lanao areas

From the MILF Website (Jun 5): MILF Committee on Information conducts series of peace advocacies in Lanao areas

The Maguindanao and Iranun MILF Provincial Committees on Information conducted peace advocacies on the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) in Lanao areas.

The first activity was held atPagilidan Province (Lanao Del Sur) on May 31, 2014. It was hosted by the Provincial Political Committee of Pagilidanheaded by Chairman Alim Sharif Baguan and Vice Chairman HadjiNhorBaguanincooperation with the MILF-BIAF 115th Base Command under Brigade CommanderHadjiHamimLacongan and Deputy Commander Yasser Mandagla. About 700 people participated in the program including Madalig LGU officials headed by its barangay chairman and SPO1 DiamelBaguan of the local Philippine National Police (PNP).

Invited speakers were AbouAsma, Provincial Information Director of Iranon Province and Alhadj Suharto of Maguindanao province..

DirectorAlhadj Suharto emphasized the importance of registering with theCommission on Election (COMELEC) so that they can vote for the ratification of the Bangsamoro Basic Law that maybe conducted by late 2014 or early 2015. Director AbouAsma discussed the salient features of the CAB. After the presentations and discussions of the topics at hand, an open forum followed where clarifications and concerns on vital issues were raised and intelligently responded by the speakers.

Another peace advocacy was also conducted atDatuBibitDaling Elementary School, BarangayBaguiguicon, Magsaysay, LanaoDel Norte on June 1, 2014 where about 200 residents attended comprising Muslims and settlers. Also in attendance were the Police Inspector of Magsaysay Allan C.Ocolaris and a companion, members of the AFP 35th NB A Coy under 2nd lieutenant Gaston C. Duyugen and Ms. Zenaida Omar, Principal of the school.

With the delegation of Alhadj Suharto andAbouAsmawhereProfessor Abu Murshid Mas-od and Engineer Ping Limbaged of Mindanao Alliance for Peace (MAP). The speakers delved on the importance of registering with the COMELEC, the Annex on Normalization.Open forum followed where participants raised their doubts, concerns and clarification on some importance issues.

In his brief message, Police Inspector Ocolares said, “I, you, and they shall be integrated with peace. The lifelong peace is found in the CAB. It will inspire the next generations with regards to fair and impartial implementation of justice and so we support peace”.

The vagueness of the CAB especiallyon the issue of contagious areas as mentioned in the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB), the speakers explained clearly its meaning to the participants and they chanted, “YES to BANGSAMORO!!!”

54 NPA rebels surrender in Bukidnon

From MindaNews (Jun 5): 54 NPA rebels surrender in Bukidnon

MALAYBALAY, Bukidnon – Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff General Emmanuel Bautista received the surrender of 54 New People’s Army rebels this morning, the fourth of such surrender since the Fourth Infantry Division started the “Guns for Peace” program last year.

Bautista received the surrender of the rebels, including their firearms – six World War II vintage firearms and 25 shotguns – at Camp Osito D. Bahian, headquarters of the 403rd Infantry Brigade in Barangay Impalambong here Wednesday morning.

The AFP Chief of Staff was on the way to Central Mindanao University to attend the Mindanao Social Business Summit when he learned of the surrender and made a quick detour.

Col. Francisco Pabayo, commanding officer of the 403IB, said the rebels were members of the NPA’s Guerilla Front 34 led by a certain Emboy Casal Gayan aka Rixan operating in the tri-boundaries of Agusan, Bukidnon and Davao provinces.

Bautista said the “Guns for Peace” program has made the communist armed rebellion “irrelevant” as the country emerged from being the “sick man of Asia” into one of the emerging developing nations.

Speaking at the Mindanao Social Business Summit, Bautista said they have dismantled the communist insurgency in 42 provinces during the three-year period since the government anti-insurgency program “Oplan Bayanihan” was implemented in 2011.

Bautista said the ragtag communist insurgents are now limited to 14 provinces where they harass business and mining firms from whom they extort revolutionary taxes.

“Insurgency and violence is no longer part of the psyche our nation,” he said.

Since October 31, 2013, More than 209 NPA rebels have surrendered to the military in Bukidnon and Caraga region. They surrendered in three batches and brought in 206 high-powered firearms.

Task Force Davao has new commander

From the Mindanao Examiner Website (Jun 5): Task Force Davao has new commander

Major General Ariel Bernardo presides over the assumption of Colonel Macairog Alberto as Task Force Davao commander.

DAVAO CITY  – Philippine Army Colonel Macairog Alberto was assumed as the new commander of the Task Force Davao here.

Macairog, a member of the Philippine Military Academy Class 1986, replaced Colonel Casiano Monilla, said Captain Alberto Caber, a spokesman for the Eastern Mindanao Command based in Davao City.

Major General Ariel Bernardo, commander of the 10th Infantry Division, presided over the ceremony Wednesday which was attended by Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte and Lieutenant General Ricardo Rainier Cruz III, chief of the Eastern Mindanao Command, among other guests in the police and military, and representatives from various government agencies.

Duterte thanked the military for helping the local police force in maintaining peace and order in Davao City. “I want to thank the military for securing Davao City and for protecting the welfare of the humanity,” Duterte said.

Bernardo also praised the task force for its many accomplishments here. “Task Force Davao displayed a very good performance in anti and counter terrorism in the city, you shall maintain or even surpass this achievement by creating a positive change in your leadership,” Bernardo.

Alberto vowed to pursue peace and development in Davao. “As I face high expectations and challenges in this new position, I feel a great sense of confidence knowing that we have a very cooperative environment, with our stakeholders not only sharing our common purpose and desire, but leading us in the objective of providing good governance and service to our people to eventually achieve a truly secure and progressive environment,” he said.

He said the Task Force Davao has achieved a great milestone in security Davao City and making it a peaceful place and a terrorist-free society for residents.

But despite all these rhetoric praises, the communist New People’s Army rebels are still active in some parts of Davao City, especially in Paquibato District.

Gunmen seized Zamboanga foreman

From the Mindanao Examiner (Jun 6): Gunmen seized Zamboanga foreman

Suspected Abu Sayyaf gunmen snatched a construction foreman near Indanan town in the southern Philippine province of Sulu, police said Friday.

Police said Zamboanga native Remigio Villanueva Lingayan was travelling on a vehicle when flagged down by gunmen near the village of Kan Islam and seized him. Villanueva came from the town of Maimbung and was heading to the capital town of Jolo when the abduction occurred June 5.

Soldiers and policemen pursued the gunmen, but failed to catch up with them. There was no immediate statement from the town’s mayor or village officials, but police said the search is going on for Villanueva.

“We are still searching for the victims,” said Senior Superintendent Abraham Orbita, the provincial police chief.

No group claimed responsibility for the latest abduction, but the town is notorious for Abu Sayyaf kidnapping and many victims had been taken in Indanan in recent years.

Andrea Rosal transferred back to Taguig jail

From Rappler (Jun 5): Andrea Rosal transferred back to Taguig jail

Rosal's lawyer says she was unaware of the decision

Political detainee Andrea Rosal was transferred back to her detention cell at Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City on Wednesday evening, June 4, after a 2-week stay at the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) in Manila.

According to a DZBB report Wednesday, Rosal was escorted by personnel from the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) at around 7:20 pm through Gate 10 of PGH along Padre Faura street.

The gate is often used for the entry and exit of high-profile PGH patients intending to avoid the public and members of the press, a DZMM report said.

Both radio reports said Rosal's lawyer Krissy Conti was shocked by the transfer. She said she did not see any court order.

Conti said she called the Pasig Regional Trial Court Branch 266 and learned that their camp would be furnished with the order by Thursday, June 5.

Death of newborn

On May 17, Rosal gave birth to a baby girl who died of “persistent pulmonary hypertension” a day after. Following allegations that Rosal was not treated well under the bureau's watch, the BJMP clarified that Rosal's medical needs were attended to.

Her case sparked outrage among leftist activists and concern from mainstream society over the treatment of women in detention.
A daughter of the late rebel spokesman Gregorio Rosal, she was arrested on suspicion of links with the communist underground. Arresting authorities alleged that she is the secretary of the New People's Army (NPA) Southern Tagalog Regional Party Committee.
Eight months pregnant at the time, Rosal was arrested on March 27 by joint forces of the Intelligence Services of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP) and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).

Philippines' top diplomat hits China for 'expansion agenda'

From Rappler (Jun 5): Philippines' top diplomat hits China for 'expansion agenda'

Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario doubts if China is serious about speedily crafting a binding code of conduct in the disputed South China Sea

MABINI REEF. The Philippines slams China for its 'excessive reclamation' as shown in this photo dated March 11, 2014. Photo courtesy of DFA

The Philippines' top diplomat criticized China on Thursday, June 5, for its “expansion agenda” that casts doubt on its willingness to craft a binding code of conduct (COC) in the disputed West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

In an interview with reporters, Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario pointed out that while “there has been some modicum of...trying to move” the COC forward, he does not see “any desire on China's part” to craft the COC quickly.

The legally binding COC is seen to replace the non-binding, 12-year-old Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC).

Crafting the COC is one of the tracks pursued by the Philippines to keep peace and stability in the South China Sea. The other track is pursuing a historic case against China before an arbitral tribunal at the Permanent Court of Arbitration. (READ: Tribunal orders China to answer PH pleading)

“I'm not very optimistic about whether China is serious about an expeditious conclusion, because I can see the aggressive provocative acts that we're seeing now, which is...their way to pursue their expansion agenda. I see an expansion agenda. That's clear to everyone,” Del Rosario told reporters on the sidelines of the Asia Europe Meeting (ASEM) Manila Conference.

The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has spoken out against China's “expansionism” in the past.

'Gross violation'

“Expansionism in the form of the 9-dash line in the South China Sea is in gross violation of the rule of law and threatens peace and stability,” said then DFA spokesman Raul Hernandez in February, reports said.

Through its 9-dash line, a demarcation mark, China is claiming virtually the entire South China Sea.

This expansive claim is seen, for one, in China's reclamation activities on the Mabini Reef (Johnson South Reef) in the disputed Spratly Islands.

Speaking to reporters on Thursday, Del Rosario added: "Until this expansion agenda, I believe, is completed, I don't see a desire on their part to conclude the COC, because what effectively is going to happen is, they have an expansion agenda, and you're looking at a COC. You complete your expansion agenda because the COC looks forward; it doesn't look backwards."

“I hope I'm wrong,” he added, as he said the Philippines is working with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to make the COC a reality.

Del Rosario made this statement after Aquino, also on Thursday, said China seems to be boosting its presence in the West Philippine Sea, or parts of the disputed waters claimed by the Philippines. The Philippines fears China is doing another Mabini.

Del Rosario said the Philippines is considering to protest this.

PNP eyes cases vs generals over missing AK-47s

From Rappler (Jun 5): PNP eyes cases vs generals over missing AK-47s

The Philippine National Police (PNP) will be filing cases against at least 19 police personnel over a case of 1,004 missing AK-47 rifles, Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) chief Director Benjamin Magalong said on Thursday, June 5.


[Video report: PNP eyes cases vs generals over missing AK 47s

During a press conference, Magalong said that while the investigation was still ongoing, the CIDG is also preparing to file a case against “around 7 retired and incumbent police generals” over the missing firearms.

Inquiries made by the PNP’s Firearms and Explosives (FEO) office in 2013 revealed there are 1,004 unaccounted for AK-47s that were supposedly acquired by mining firms and security agencies.

The CIDG’s probe revealed the rifles ended up in the hands of members of the New People’s Army (NPA). Magalong said 5 of the rifles have since been recovered, following encounters between the Philippine Army and the NPA. Other firearms seized after the encounter could not be traced back to the missing AK-47s since they had already been tampered with.

Magalong named the following police generals and officers as respondents:
  • Director Gil Meneses, PNP Civil Security Group director who is currently on non-duty status
  • Director Napoleon Estilles, Director for Plans and former FEO head
  • Chief Superintendent Raul Petrasanta, PNP Police Regional Office 3 chief and former FEO head
  • Chief Superintendent Tom Rentoy, former PNP Supervisory Office for Security and Investigation Agencies chief
  • Chief Superintendent Regino Catiis, acting executive officer of the PNP Directorate for Comptrollership and formerly chief of the FEO licensing division
  • Senior Superintendent Eduardo Acierto Jr, former chief of the FEO licensing division
The CIDG chief told reporters they may be charged before the Ombudsman for violation of Presidential Decree 1866 and for graft under Republic Act 3019. Ten private individuals may also face charges for the missing rifles, he added.

Estilles is already facing plunder charges for his involvement in a "questionable" deal with a courier company Werfast alongside PNP chief Director General Alan Purisima.

Although he did not give a specific timeframe for the filling of cases, he said the charges will be filed “soon.”

From the FEO to the NPA

Magalong’s announcement comes after months of investigating the missing firearms.

In the middle of the controversy is a certain Isidro Lozada, owner of security agency Caraga Security. Lozada, said Magalong, procured the rifles through authorized firearms dealer Twin Pines Incorporated.

Lozada said the NPA threatened to kill him and his family in 2010 unless he supplied them with firearms.

It was through his firm and several other entities that Lozada was able to get so many firearms for the NPA, said Magalong. The “other entities” – the JTC Mineral Mining Corporation, the Claver Mineral Mining Corporation, and another security agency – did not know about Lozada’s plans, Magalong added.

According to Magalong, the money used to purchase the firearms came from the NPA as well. Lozada simply served as their conduit.

The PNP officials were earlier asked to explain their involvement in the case.

“General Meneses explained Twin Pines is a very established firearms dealer, one they trust. They know it’s legitimate and safe. Twin Pines, on the other hand, said Lozada’s track record was spotless, so they saw nothing shady with his order… only to find out that the order was being delivered to the NPA,” Magalong said.

Twin Pines may also be held liable for the release of firearms. Lozada himself, whom Magalong described as “very cooperative" in the investigation, may also face charges.

Magalong said Lozada purchased the firearms in “trickles” from 2011 to shortly before the May 2013 elections.

Magalong described the transfer of firearms between Lozada and the NPA as “very casual.” The AK-47s were intended to be sold to authorized security agencies or for the security forces of private companies such as mining firms, he added.

Palawan has great interest in maritime security of the Philippines – U.S. Ambassador Goldberg

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 6): Palawan has great interest in maritime security of the Philippines – U.S. Ambassador Goldberg

U.S. Ambassador Philip Goldberg said “Palawan has a great interest in the maritime security of the Philippines” because of its tourism industry and fishing, and other developing industries.

Goldberg said this Thursday afternoon while on a nearly week-long visit to Puerto Princesa in reply to a question asked by a local member of the press on how important Palawan is in terms of foreign policies involving the West Philippines Sea (WPS).

“Clearly, Palawan has a great interest and has a… because of its tourism industry, and because of fishing, and other ah… for other reasons… an interest in the maritime security of the Philippines.

"The coast guard is here, and the navy so the government here obviously has a great interest, I think, and the governor would agree in making sure that this is a good environment for tourism and for business,” he said following a consultation with businessmen and tourism representatives belonging to the Palawan Chamber of Commerce (PCC) and the Palawan Tourism Council (PTC) at the Governor’s Conference Room.

Goldberg added that as far as the U.S. and the Philippine governments are concerned, both agree that the issues involving the WPS or the South China Sea should be settled in “a way that is peaceful, legal, or diplomatic.”

“The countries involved should resolved these issues with mechanism just like the one being used by the Philippine government, which has taken the matter to a tribunal under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS),” he said.

Goldberg reiterated that the U.S. government opposes any use of coercion and intimidation to resolve disputes involving claimant countries in the WPS.

“That is not the proper way or unilateral actions, as you know… Our position is quite clear, and we will support our allies as we have in the Philippines, that they bring this case before the tribunal,” he stated.

The U.S. government, he furthered, is committed to support its allies like the Philippines as they develop to do maritime security, maritime domain awareness, humanitarian assistance, and disaster relief.

“We’ve also signed an enhance defense cooperation agreement (EDCA), which we hope will enhance our ability to do many of the things I just mentioned. So, we’re working very closely and we have a close relationship with the Philippines which is a long-time ally of the United States,” he said.

Ambassador Goldberg also stressed that part of his visit to Palawan as a key province in the Philippines is to re-balance the United States in Asia as the region rises economically.

“We very much see the United States’ prosperity tied to this region as we are in the 21st Century, and our security relationship is important, but people should know also that we’re interested in the joint prosperity of our people to the Filipino people and the people of the United States,” he said.

As Palawan develops economically, the U.S. Ambassador furthered that the U.S. sees the importance of helping the residents of the province through the United States Agency for International Development (USAid)-supported COMPETE program.

“Through the COMPETE programs, we want to help the province unleash some of the potentials here as the governor (Jose Alvarez) and his team, and the private sector work to develop infrastructure, develop airports, roads, electricity – all the things that are needed to help the kind of tourism, other business opportunities that exist here,” he said, inserting that it is really the focus of his visit to Palawan.

The USAID, he averred, has a very strong program in the province and has been present for a long time with concerted efforts on key issues related to development, and with technical assistance provisions.

Goldberg stressed that more than anything, the interest of the U.S. is also to help build strong economies in its allied countries like the Philippines by providing them the parameters they need.

”People should have jobs, should be able to trade more – these are in our interests as well,” said Goldberg.

DILG-12 allots P285.5-M more for PAMANA projects

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 5): DILG-12 allots P285.5-M more for PAMANA projects

The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) in Region 12 has allocated around P258.5 million for the implementation of additional peace and development projects in the region under the PAyapa at MAsaganang pamayaNAn (PAMANA) program.

Reynaldo Bungubung, DILG Region 12 director, said the funds comprise the region’s allocation this year for the PAMANA program, which is a flagship peace-building initiative implemented by the DILG.

He said they specifically allotted a total of P187.2 million for the second congressional district of South Cotabato, P58.8 million for the lone district of Sarangani Province and P12.5 million for the first, second and third districts of Cotabato Province.

The official said the funds will mainly be utilized for the concreting of barangays roads in Maasim town in Sarangani as well as Lake Sebu and T’boli in South Cotabato.

He said the other projects are the construction of community peace centers, day care centers, trading centers and multipurpose buildings.

“We’ve been actively encouraging our local government units to submit their detailed project proposals the soonest possible time to facilitate their early approval,” he said.

Bungubung said agency will immediately conduct an onsite validation upon the approval of the submitted project proposals.

The approved funds for the projects will be released after the conduct of the onsite validation, he said.

PAMANA is the government’s program and framework for peace and development in areas affected by conflict and communities covered by existing peace agreements.

The program intends to provide communities with projects funded under the government’s stimulus fund to bring genuine peace and development.

It also aims to “reduce poverty, improve governance and empower communities in situations of conflict,” a project briefer said.

A complementary track to the peace negotiations, it said the program’s main strategy is to bring the government closer to the identified PAMANA areas, “ensuring that the communities benefit from improved delivery of basic social services and are served by responsive, transparent and accountable government units.”

The projects that may be funded by the program include connectivity systems, basic services for economic development, agricultural services and industry investments, economic investments in indigenous people’s areas and disaster-preparedness climate change adaptation interventions.

The fund may also be used as a source of subsidy for major projects of local government units with similar objectives and to finance detailed engineering design costs.

Rebel killed in early morning clash in Ifugao

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 5): Rebel killed in early morning clash in Ifugao

Troopers from the 54th Infantry Battalion have shot and killed a member of the New People's Army (NPA)'s "Kilusang Larangang Guerilya" (KLG) MARCO in Barangay Damag, Aguinaldo town, Ifugao Thursday morning.

The clash started 5: 30 a.m. It lasted for almost an hour resulting in the death of one NPA fighter and wounding of several others.

No losses were reported in the government side.

Recovered at the encounter site was a bandolier with six short M-16 magazines, a rifle grenade, improvised antenna for handheld radio and other subversive paraphernalia.

During the firefight, civilians in the area were used as human shields by the rebels as they took cover at their houses.

Lt. Col. Eddie Pilapil, 54th Infantry Battalion commander, said the presence of the NPAs was reported to them by concerned residents.

“The presence of the NPAs was reported by the civilians in the area who have grown tired and disgusted because of continued extortion activities of the NPA remnants in their barangay," he added.

Army hunts BIFF in bomb attack that killed 1 soldier, hurt 3 others

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 6): Army hunts BIFF in bomb attack that killed 1 soldier, hurt 3 others

Government forces are hunting down a group of outlawed Moro rebels who set off an improvised explosive device in Maguindanao that killed one soldier and wounded three others on Thursday.

Colonel Dickson Hermoso, speaking for the 6th Infantry Division, said the soldiers belonging to 45th Infantry Battalion were heading to its headquarters from Camp Omar when a bomb went off at past 4 p.m.

He did not name the soldier fatality while his next of kin are yet to be officially informed. Among the wounded was the company commander of 45th IB Charlie company.

Hermoso said manhunt has been on-going.

The IED fashioned from 81-mm mortar with mobile phone as trigger mechanism was set off while the soldiers were passing by the village of Maitumaig, Datu Unsay, killing the military driver.

Hermoso blamed the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters as behind the IED attack.

Abu Misry Mama, speaking for the BIFF, claimed they set off the bomb and will continue doing so until the military leave Maguindanao.

Hermoso assured the public that the Maguindanao highway remains safe but discouraged commuters to travel at night or early morning.

President Aquino reveals China is reclaiming land in 2 more disputed reefs

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 5): President Aquino reveals China is reclaiming land in 2 more disputed reefs

President Benigno S. Aquino III disclosed on Thursday that there have been reported movements by Chinese ships in two reefs in the disputed West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

He raised the issue in an interview after his speech at the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) Manila Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction and Management held at the Diamond Hotel.

“The latest report we received is that, and we are again bothered, there seems to be developments in other areas within the disputed seas,” the President said.

“We’re not saying that they are exactly the same ships that were used in Mabini, but there seems to be similar ships at the very least in a feature… one is Gavin Reef, the other is Cuarteron Reef,” he added.

Gavin Reef and Cuarteron Reef are low-tide features in the Spratlys.

The President said he also received photographs of the ships.

“The pictures I saw were just ships that can be used for reclamation,” he said.

Meanwhile, President Aquino also commented on China's refusal to heed the arbitral tribunal’s order for it to comment and defend its claim versus the Philippine position.

“What is the obligation of each of us? As for them, if they (China) are responsible members of the international community, one would hope that they would conform to all the treaties, covenants, and agreements that they have entered into,” the President said.

This meant not just conforming with the Philippines but with so many other countries, especially signatories to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), he added.

Delivery of PAF's AW-109s to start by January 2015

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 5): Delivery of PAF's AW-109s to start by January 2015

The Philippine Air Force (PAF) on Thursday announced that delivery of its AgustaWestland AW-109 attack helicopters will start by January 2015.

This was revealed by Lt. Col. Enrico Canaya in a message to the PNA.

"We are expecting delivery of eight AgustaWestland AW-109 attack helicopters starting January to July 2015," he said.

The PAF contract for its AW-109 attack helicopters is worth P3.4 billion.

The PAF and AgustaWestland signed the contract last November.

The aircraft will be used to perform a range of duties including homeland security, armed reconnaissance and close support.

The contract also includes initial logistics support and training for aircrew and maintenance personnel.

The PAF’s AW-109 attack helicopters will feature a dedicated mission package and equipment including a combination of weapon systems.

The AW-109 "Power" is a three-ton class eight-seat twin engine helicopter.

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 and survivability 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-109s' superior speed, capacity and productivity combined with reliability and ease of maintenance make it the most cost effective helicopter in its class for a range of tasks.

Over 580 AW-109 "Power" and AW-109 LUH helicopters have been ordered for parapublic, military and commercial applications by customers in around 50 countries.

54 NPA rebels surrender in Bukidnon

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 5): 54 NPA rebels surrender in Bukidnon

Fifty-four New People's Army (NPA) fighters formally surrendered Wednesday morning to the Bukidnon-based 403rd Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army.

Major Christian Uy, spokesperson of the 4th Infantry Division based in Cagayan de Oro City, said the rebels were led by Emboy Casal, alias "Rixan" and known to operate in the Agusan, Bukidnon, and Davao areas.

The surrenderees also yielded one Thompson sub-machine gun, three M-1 carbine, one M-1 Garand rifle, one Springfield M-1, three caliber .22 rifle, 25 shotguns, two caliber .45 pistols and 16 revolvers of different calibers.

Uy said the returnees are temporarily housed in the 403rd Infantry Brigade in Malaybalay for the processing of their claims and reorientation seminar to prepare them to join the mainstream society before they will be formally accepted through a ceremony.

This is the fourth time that the 4th Infantry Division experienced huge influx of NPA surrenderees since it launched the government’s guns for peace program last year.

The first was on Oct. 31, 2013, wherein 35 former NPAs surrendered with 39 firearms. The second was on March 27 this year wherein 72 former NPAs surrendered with 69 weapons, and the most recent one was on May 21, when 97 former NPAs surrendered with 93 assorted guns.

“We encourage the remaining members of the NPA rebels to come down from the mountains, lay down their arms, reunite with their loved ones and return to mainstream of our society. Our government is working hard for their safety and well-being,” 4th Infantry Division commander Major Gen. Ricardo Visaya said.

PHL mulls protest vs China for new incursions, says DFA Chief

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 5): PHL mulls protest vs China for new incursions, says DFA Chief

A diplomatic protest will be filed by the Philippines against China once its construction activities in two Manila-claimed reefs in the South China Sea have been confirmed, Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said on Thursday.

President Benigno S. Aquino disclosed that an unspecified number of Chinese vessels were spotted on Gaven and Calderon Reefs, leading to speculations that China will also reclaim the areas like what it did to another Philippine-claimed feature, the Mabini Reef.

The two reefs, Philippine officials said, are part of Philippine territory.

A portion of the South China Sea within the Philippines’ territorial limits have been renamed West Philippine Sea by the Philippine government.

“Right now, we aren’t sure and we are taking a good look. If in fact it’s clear to us that the status quo is being changed then we will take a look at a formal protest,” Del Rosario told reporters.

Del Rosario said the Philippines has no confirmation if the Chinese vessels are shipping construction materials to the reef, but said their mere presence in the area is a cause for concern.

“It’s concerning because it would be in the same manner as Mabini in terms of violation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea because you are effectively changing the status quo and you are raising tension,” he said.

“If we were able to come up with a picture of what they intend to do there and if it is what they’re doing in Mabini you can be sure that we will protest,” he added.

China does not recognize the claims of the Philippines and other claimants in the South China Sea like Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan, insisting its ownership of the resource-rich waters is “indisputable.”

Manila called Chinese actions in the South China Sea a violation of a South China Sea declaration that calls on all claimants to exercise restraint, refrain from undertaking construction activities and stop new occupation of features. China is a signatory to the accord.

South Korea to give 'Pohang' class corvette to PHL --DND spokesperson

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 5): South Korea to give 'Pohang' class corvette to PHL --DND spokesperson

The South Korean government will be donating a corvette to the Philippines before the end of 2014, Department of National Defense spokesperson Dr. Peter Paul Galvez said on Thursday.

He added that the corvette will be one of South Korea's "Pohang" class and there is a big possibility that the ship will be handed to the Philippine Navy with all its weapons and sensor system intact.

The "Pohang" class corvette is a general purpose vessel operated by the Republic of Korean Navy.

They have served in a coastal defense role during the late Cold War and post Cold War period.

A total of 24 "Pohang" class vessels were built, all constructed in South Korea. Twenty-one vessels remain in service.

A "Pohang" class corvette weighs around 1,200 long tons and has a length of 289 feet and 8 inches.

It has a beam of 32 feet and 10 inches and a draft of nine feet and six inches.

The ship is powered by CODOG (combined diesel and gas propulsion system). "Pohang" corvettes have a maximum speed of 32 knots and a cruising speed of 15 knots.

It has a range of 4,000 nautical miles and a crew of 95 officers and enlisted personnel.

Sensors and processing systems include one AN/SQS-58 hull-mounted sonar.

The ships are armed with Harpoon and Exocet anti-ship missiles, a 76mm Oto Melara automatic cannon, a Breda 40mm twin cannons and two Mark 32 triple torpedo tubes (with 6 Mark 46 torpedoes) and 12 Mark 9 depth charges.

Announcement that South Korea will be giving a "Pohang" class corvette to the Philippines came in the wake of reports that the former will be also donating an LCU (landing craft utility) to the Navy.

PAF AW-109 pilots, maintenance crews to start training by July

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 6): PAF AW-109 pilots, maintenance crews to start training by July

Philippine Air Force (PAF) spokesperson Lt. Col. Enrico Canaya on Friday announced that pilots and maintenance crews of their soon-to-be delivered AgustaWestland AW-109 attack helicopters will start their training in Italy this coming July.

These group consists of eight pilots and 22 maintenance personnel.

"They will start their training by July in (Cesto Calende) Italy as part of the acquisition package," Canaya pointed out.

He added that this helicopters will boosts the PAF's capability in providing close air support to combat forces in the ground.

The PAF and AgustaWestland signed the contract last November.

The aircraft will be used to perform a range of duties including homeland security, armed reconnaissance and close support.

The contract also includes initial logistics support and training for aircrew and maintenance personnel.

The deal is worth P3.44 billion.

The PAF’s AW-109 attack helicopters will feature a dedicated mission package and equipment including a combination of weapon systems.

The AW-109 "Power" is a three-ton class eight seat twin engine helicopter.

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 and survivability 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-109s' superior speed, capacity and productivity combined with reliability and ease of maintenance make it the most cost effective helicopter in its class for a range of government tasks.

Over 580 AW-109 "Power" and AW-109 LUH helicopters have been ordered for parapublic, military and commercial applications by customers in around 50 countries.

U.S. govt still awaiting for compensation request from RP on minesweeper grounding in Tubbataha

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 6): U.S. govt still awaiting for compensation request from RP on minesweeper grounding in Tubbataha

U.S. Ambassador Philip Goldberg reiterated Thursday his government’s regret over the grounding of its Avenger-class mine countermeasures ship USS Guardian (MCM-5) in the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park (TRNP) World Heritage Site last January, and said that until now they are awaiting for the Philippine government to send the “compensation request.”

Ambassador Goldberg, who has been in this city since Wednesday for an official visit involving United States Agency for International Development (USAID)-supported Advancing Philippine Competitiveness (Compete) projects, said the accidental stranding of the USS Guardian in the Philippine marine protected site off the Sulu Sea was something they are sorry for.

“We regret very much what happened and we’ve expressed that many times to the government of the Philippines as well as the people of the Philippines. It was an accident that we are very sorry it took place,” Goldberg said, adding they have taken on several things to resolve the results of the incident.

The first, he explained, was agreeing to do a review of what happened, which had already been completed with the Philippine government, to ensure it will not happen again.

Second, was holding the people responsible for the grounding accountable. “The people involved have received punishments as a result, and that’s very important,” he said.

The third was “going to great lengths” to remove the ship with minimal damage off the atoll, where it got beached.

“Lastly, there is the question of compensation, and we are awaiting for that compensation request from the Philippine government, and we will review it, and ah… we will review it, and ah… we are in the process of discussing it and that will come too. But ah… we will wait because that is a government-to-government matter. But we will address it also,” the Ambassador said.

In January 2013, the USS Guardian accidentally ran aground in the Tubbataha Reefs located about 130 kilometers southeast of Palawan province while making its way to Indonesia through the Sulu Sea.

Ten weeks after the whole minesweeper was carefully taken off the marine park on March 10, an assessment later conducted by marine experts placed the damage that the USS Guardian caused at U.S. $ 1.3 million involving 2,345.67 square meters of reef.

These damages have not yet been compensated as of press time.