Friday, June 6, 2014

Armed men kidnap two laborers

From Solar News (Jun 6): Armed men kidnap two laborers

Armed men abducted two workers of a construction firm in Sulu on Thursday morning (June 5).
Police identified the victims as Romigio "Jingjong" Lingayon and Joselito Gonzales.
Lingayon and Gonzales reportedly came from Maimbung town and were on their way to Jolo town proper when they were flagged down by at least seven unidentified suspects.
The victims were then dragged into a waiting vehicle which sped towards a still undetermined location.
The two were employed by a construction company working on an infrastructure project by Sulu Vice Governor Abdusakur Tan.

Another dead body of NPA killed in Surigao Norte clash recovered

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jun 6): Another dead body of NPA killed in Surigao Norte clash recovered

The troops of 30th Infantry (Python) Battalion, 4th Infantry (Diamond) Division, Philippine Army based in Sta. Cruz, Placer who were in pursuit operations in connection with their recent encounter with more or less 20 members of the New People’s Army (NPA) rebels on the morning of May 29, 2014 at Mt. Taglintian, Brgy Tagbuyawan, Mainit, this province have recovered another one dead body of NPA killed lying on a dead river, approximately 400 meters from the encounter site.

The body was recovered around 11 a.m. on Tuesday, June 1, 2014.  The recovery brings three NPAs killed (body count) during the encounter.

The found decomposing body was identified by a reliable informants as a certain AKA Aileen, female between 25-30 years old, 5’1” in height, a member of the NPA’s Sandatahang Platun Pampropaganda 9SPP) 16-B, Guerilla Front 16, Northeastern Mindanao Regional Committee and a suspected member of the Indigenous People (IP) based on her physical features. The dead body suffered bullet wounds on the right leg and assessed to have been abandoned by her fleeing comrades immediately after the encounter.

The said body was turned over to the Barangay Officials of Brgy. Tagbuyawan and to the local police authority for proper disposition.

30IB Commanding Officer Lieutenant Colonel Arsenio Sadural said that the whole troops of the Philippine Army are saddened for another Filipino victim losing her life in the nonsense and deceptive recruitment strategy of the NPA’s targeting the less fortunate members of the IP communities.

“The act of abandoning a female comrade in the battle is presumably a mortal sin in the revolutionary movement," Sadural said.

AFP: Communist insurgency weakened by Tiamzons’ arrest

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jun7): AFP: Communist insurgency weakened by Tiamzons’ arrest

Communist Party of the Philippines and New People’s Army chief Benito Tiamzon (left) and his wife, Wilma (right). INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Friday said the decades-old communist insurgency has been “weakened” by the arrest of Benito and Wilma Tiamzon, who are believed to have taken over the top leadership of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA).

Still, the AFP is determining exactly how many NPA fighters are left in the field following a wave of surrenders that began after the Tiamzons’ arrest in late March. Last year, the military said there were some 4,000 communist rebels all over the country.

“The actual count is still being determined [because] a lot of those are based on previous reports. So to validate if these (4,000) are still active is a challenge,” AFP public affairs chief Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala told the Inquirer.

Nonetheless, Zagala said the AFP believes the communist insurgency has been “weakened” in general by the arrest of the Tiamzons because of the decline in “violent incidents” initiated by the NPA rebels.

“Definitely, the arrest affected the organization and we expect they further weaken,” Zagala said.

The Philippines has been fighting the communist insurgency for more than four decades, the longest-running insurgency problem in the Southeast Asian region.

In Bukidnon on Thursday, 54 communist rebels under the Front Committee 34 (FC 34) led by Embay Casal Gayaw alias “Rixan” surrendered to the 403rd Infantry Brigade in Impalambong, Malaybalay City. They also gave up their individual firearms.

The FC 34 operated in the boundaries of Agusan, Bukidnon and Davao.
“I am here to thank you for returning to the government fold and finally realizing that the armed struggle is not the solution,” AFP chief of staff Gen. Emmanuel Bautista said in a message to the returnees.

“Taking the lives of your fellow Filipinos is not the solution to resolve poverty. We all have problems to face and there are a lot of threats that will come, but I can assure you that we can overcome all of these if we will unite as Filipinos,” Bautista said.

Bautista was the architect of the government’s anti-insurgency campaign called Internal Peace and Security Plan Bayanihan, a multisectoral approach in solving the decades-old insurgency problem that is rooted in poverty and inequality.

The surrender of the FC 34 members has brought to over 200 the number of NPA rebels to surrender to the military since the Tiamzons’ arrest.

The same month as the arrest, 72 rebels surrendered, followed by another 97 in May.

Zagala attributed the recent surrenders to the disillusionment of the NPA members, particularly those recruited from indigenous communities “because of undelivered promises.”

The former rebels will receive cash grants from the AFP in exchange for the firearms they surrendered to authorities.

Some of the returnees also received support packages including an initial cash assistance of P15,000 and a livelihood assistance worth P50,000 from the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process.

China widens stake in disputed waters

From the Manila Standard Today (Jun 6): China widens stake in disputed waters

Chinese vessels deployed to new areas in Kalayaan
There seems to be no stopping China from staking its claim in the entire South China Sea (West Philippine Sea).

This after President Benigno Aquino III confirmed on Thursday that China has deployed ships capable of doing reclamation projects in Gavin Reef and Cuateron (Calderon) Reef, two areas in the disputed Kalayaan Island Group also known as Spratly Islands.

The fresh deployment came on the heels of China’s reclamation project in Mabini Reef, which is within the Philippines’ 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone.

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

“Amongst them, there appears to be movement of ships—although we are 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 Gavin Reef and in Cuateron Reef (Calderon Reef),” he added.

Aquino said that based on the photos that were shown to him, the Chinese ships deployed in the two areas in KIG have the capacity to do reclamation projects.

The president also downplayed the impact of China’s decision not to participate in the ongoing arbitration case before the United Nations tribunal in The Hague.

The case seeks to declare China’s nine-dash line policy claiming almost the entire West Philippine Sea as illegal.

Aquino said even if China does not participate, the UN tribunal will still come up with a ruling, which he hopes will favor the Philippine position.

“There will be a decision: whose claim is right? Which part of whose claim is right? The decision will be out for the entire international community and that, hopefully, will clarify all of the disputes and will lead to a clear determination on the rights and obligations of each countries,” he added.

This developed as leaders of the Group of Seven industrialized nations had said they were deeply concerned by tensions in the East and South China Sea.

The G7 leaders meeting in Brussels warned against any use of force in the area, where the United States has warned Beijing over increasing territorial assertiveness.

“We are deeply concerned by tensions in the East and South China Sea,” the leaders said in a statement at the end of a first day of talks in the Belgian capital.

“We oppose any unilateral attempt by any party to assert its territorial or maritime claims through the use of intimidation, coercion or force.”

The statement did not mention any country by name but called on all countries to follow international law in resolving competing claims.

Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario, meanwhile, said that the department could not confirm how many ships had been deployed in the two reefs as they have yet to see the reports on this.

Del Rosario said they have to clearly establish the report before they file another protest against China.

But he admitted that it is concerned about China’s alleged new “reclamation” in Gaven and Calderon reefs, saying that China has “effectively changed the status quo.”

The DFA chief, however, said they might not send ships in the area, because “we have ways of monitoring (the incident).”

Del Rosario said also agreed with Aquino’s view in the arbitration, as he said that it is not relevant if China refused to participate to the arbitration.

Del Rosario said that even without China’s participation from the hearing, the case before the Arbitral Tribunal will move forward.

He said that the Philippines had invited China “many times” to participate in the arbitration, but Beijing has repeatedly rejected the invitation and maintained that their sovereignty over the oil-resource-rich sea is “indisputable.”

“The decision for them not to participate is their own decision, and I think they taken a good look what serves their national interest,” he added.

Del Rosario said the arbitration will not only benefit the Philippines, but also China and other claimant-countries whose freedom of navigation is being jeopardized by Beijing’s claims.

The Philippines has submitted its memorial on March 31 this year while China was recently asked by the arbitral tribunal to send its counter-argument by December 15 this year.

The region is being claimed in whole by China, and in part by the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei.

Del Rosario said an arbitration is the last possible resort for the Philippines since it has exhausted all other means--political and diplomatic--to resolve the dispute and halt China’s growing assertiveness in the region.

In an event that the Arbitral Tribunal finally decides on the Philippines’ case and that China refused to follow international law, del Rosario said that “China as a world power would like to be respected and would like to be considered as a responsible state and in order for that to happen they must respect the rule of law”.

The tribunal in The Hague gave Beijing until Dec. 15 to reply to the Philippine motion.

Del Rosario, meanwhile, said that it appears that China does not want to expedite the conclusion of the Code of Conduct.

The DFA chief added that China, with an almost 1.3 billion population, is on an “expansion agenda” in the resource-rich region.”

Del Rosario said that the Philippines will continue to work “feverishly” with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) for the implementation of the 2002 Declaration of the Code of Conduct (DOC) and the conclusion of the COC.

Chinese defense envoy hits US on budget claim

From the Manila Standard Today (Jun 7): Chinese defense envoy hits US on budget claim

BEIJING—China’s defence ministry on Friday hit back at a US report which claimed Beijing underestimated its growing defence budget by nearly 20 percent, state-media said.

In an annual report required by Congress, the Pentagon said that China’s defence budget for 2013 was likely nearing $145 billion last year, higher than the officially announced $119.5 billion.

But China’s defence ministry said in a statement that it “resolutely opposes” the report, state-run Xinhua news agency said.

The report “makes pointless accusations, exaggerates the ‘Chinese military threat’ and is a completely wrong course of action,” Xinhua cited the ministry’s information office as saying.

The news agency’s dispatch did not directly address the claims that Beijing underestimated its defence budget.

The United States and its allies, especially Japan, have repeatedly voiced concern about the Chinese military’s lack of transparency amid growing tensions between Beijing and neighbouring countries over maritime disputes.

PH has yet to file ‘reef’ pay claims

From the Manila Standard Today (Jun 7): PH has yet to file ‘reef’ pay claims

THE United States regrets the damage wreaked by a US minesweeper at the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park 16 months ago and it is prepared to give compensation, but the Philippine government has not yet given its compensation request, according to Ambassador Philip Goldberg.

“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,” Goldberg said during a visit to Puerto Princesa City in Palawan.

Goldberg said they had already completed a review of the incident involving the Avenger-class minesweeper USS Guardian which ran aground the Tubbataha Reef, a World Heritage Site, on Jan. 17, 2013.

“The people involved have received punishments as a result, and that’s very important,” he said, referring to the vessel’s officers who were blamed for a series of errors, bad leadership decisions and poor planning that caused the grounding.

A US Navy probe caused the relief of the Guardian’s commanding officer Lt. Cmdr. Mark Rice, executive officer Lt. Daniel Tyler and the ship’s enlisted assistant navigator and the officer of the deck at the time.

Goldberg said the US also went to “great lengths” over 10 weeks to remove the Guardian from the reef with minimal additional damage, but marine experts still estimated the damage to reach $1.3 million involving 2,345.67 square meters of reef.

The assessment was made by a team of experts from the Tubbataha Management Office, Department of Science and Technology and the Worldwide Fund for Nature.

Goldberg’s predecessor, former ambassador Harry Thomas, even admitted last year the US knew that rehabilitating the reef would take years.

“Lastly, there is the question of compensation, and we are awaiting for the compensation request from the Philippine government,” the ambassador said.

“We will review it. We are in the process of discussing it and that will come too. But we will address it also,” he added.

Last month, marine biologists from the University of Queensland in Australia said the damage to Tubbataha Reef was more extensive than first thought.

According to Dr Benjamin Neal, a comparison of images and data captured across the area where the USS Guardian ran aground indicated the reef had been very slow to regenerate.

“The ship ran aground in a marine protected area, which is one of the most pristine reefs in the Philippines,” Neal said.

“It appears the reef outside the direct impact zone was also damaged, probably by strong wave and current action that was altered by the presence of the ship.”

Demolition crews took two months to dismantle the wooden Avenger-class minesweeper ship, using a giant, floating crane.

Working with Tubbataha Management Officers, Neal and colleagues at the Catlin Seaview Survey used a special panoramic camera system that gave them greater insight into the recovery of the damaged Tubbataha Reef.

China warns ‘outsiders’: Stay out of sea dispute

From the Daily Tribune (Jun 7): China warns ‘outsiders’: Stay out of sea dispute

China has signaled for the United States and other members of the Group of 7 (G7) to stay out of disputes over the South and East China Sea, saying Beijing will not hesitate to respond to provocations infringing on its sovereignty or that of undermining maritime peace and stability.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said China has always been a steadfast force in maintaining peace and stability in the South and East China Sea as well as in safeguarding the United Nations charter, basic codes of international relations and fundamental principles of international law.

Hong was reacting to the G7 summit’s latest communique expressing concern over the regional maritime tensions.

The G7 leaders in a statement at the end of a first day of talks in Brussels said they “are deeply concerned by tensions in the East and South China Sea.”

“We oppose any unilateral attempt by any party to assert its territorial or maritime claims through the use of intimidation, coercion or force.”

But Hong stressed China firmly safeguards its territorial sovereignty, maritime rights and national security, maintains order and navigation freedom in its water area and airspace, according to relevant international law and conventions.

According to the Chinese official, Beijing has committed to resolving disputes regarding maritime disputes through bilateral negotiation and discussions with directly concerned parties.

“Practices have proved negotiation and discussions among directly concerned parties are the most effective way for resolving disputes, and it will deteriorate the disputes and increase the instability of the region if more parties are involved,” Xinhua quoting Hong as saying.

The spokesman said China hopes countries outside the region to resolve disputes with respect of objective facts and a fair position, instead of intensifying the tension, building antagonism and complicating the regional situation.

China is locked in territorial disputes in the South China Sea, which Beijing claims almost entirely.

The Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam claim parts of the sea, with Manila and Hanoi being the most vocal in opposing China’s claims.
Taiwan is also a claimant.

Japan nationalized the Senkaku islands in the East China Sea, which China also claims and calls the Diaoyus, in 2012, setting off a tense confrontation with Beijing.

In Manila, the Department of National Defense (DND) yesterday said the latest reclamation activities of China on two disputed areas in the South China Sea, locally called West Philippine Sea, only deteriorate the already “fragile” stability in the region.

Peter Paul Galvez, spokesman of the DND, said that per latest monitoring by Philippine authorities, China has been conducting reclamation on Calderon or Cuarteron Reef and Gaven Reef, both part of the Kalayaan islands Group (KIGs) or the Spratlys in the West Philippine Sea.

The activities on Calderon Reef were discovered last week of March while that in Gaven Reef were reported last week of May.

Galvez said such activities by China are blatant disregard of the Declaration of Conduct (DOC) signed by all claimant-countries, including China.

“It’s a serious concern and blatant disregard of the DOC,” he stressed.
“These will cause further deterioration of the fragile balance of peace and stability in the region,” he added.

On Thursday, President Aquino announced the latest Chinese activities in the disputed West Philippine Sea. He expressed concern over the latest developments in the area.

Galvez stressed the government’s stand for all claimant-countries to observe rule of law.

He said the latest developments in the KIGs only highlight the need for a biding Code of Conduct among the countries which have overlapping claims over the territories believed to be rich with oil and other minerals.

“We reiterate strict observance of international law and agreements in peacefully settling concerns and the urgency of coming up with the code of conduct,” said Galvez.

Aside from its activities in Gaven and Calderon reefs, China is also conducting reclamation activities on Mabini Reef.

Chinese increased activities in the West Philippine Sea have sparked tensions with both the Philippines and Vietnam.

The Philippines had filed formal complaint against China before the International Tribunal on the Law of the Seas (Itlos) which already gave Beijing until December 15 this year to defend its claims over the territories in the West Philippine Sea.

China, however, continues to refuse participation in the international tribunal.

Goldberg discusses peace, security in Jolo

From the Business Mirror (Jun 6): Goldberg discusses peace, security in Jolo

AMERICAN Ambassador Philip S. Goldberg concluded a successful trip to Jolo on June 2, his first visit to the island in the Sulu archipelago, and held a meeting with the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
He discussed local concerns and how the United States and the Philippines can continue to work together to promote peace and security. The ambassador also met with US troops in Jolo temporarily to advise and assist the AFP.
He also spent some time with a small group of alumni of US government youth-exchange programs to hear about their experiences, and discuss how they contribute to their communities through volunteerism.
The US has a number of ongoing programs that benefit the people of Jolo.
Since 2004, 40 local young people have benefited from the US Department of State exchange programs, such as the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study Program, a one-year high-school exchange program; and the Philippine Youth Leadership Program, a monthlong training focused on conflict resolution and interfaith tolerance. 
Sulu Island is also a primary focus area for a United States Department of Justice (USDOJ) program to help build capacity within the PNP.
The  USDOJ’s International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Program (Icitap) has worked with the PNP to train approximately 1,300 PNP officers (a number of which originate from Sulu) in areas such as community policing, media relations, basic police operations and crime-scene investigation. 
Icitap assistance also helped establish a PNP training center in Jolo, so that its officers can receive training locally, instead of having to travel to Manila or elsewhere.
As part of the US government’s support for peace, stability and good governance in the Philippines, the United States Agency for International Development  has been working in Sulu province, Jolo City and Maimbung town to build local capacity for better delivery of education and health services, and has an ongoing project to support increased engagement between communities and local governments.  

US enjoys wide support in Asia despite China rise

Posted to the Manila Times (Jun 6): US enjoys wide support in Asia despite China rise

Policymakers in most Asian countries support a robust US role in the region even though many expect China to become the most dominant power, a survey said on Thursday (Friday in Manila).

An 11-nation survey of experts, who are not in government but are seen as influential, found strong backing in almost every country except China for President Barack Obama’s stated policy of “pivoting” US resources toward Asia.

The study by the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies found that elites largely expected China’s clout to keep growing. But when asked what would be best for their countries, wide majorities in the United States as well as its regional partners Australia, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan chose continued US leadership, even if Washington’s power declines in relative terms.

Elites in Southeast Asia and India preferred international cooperation, with marginal numbers even in China itself saying that Beijing’s supremacy would be in their countries’ best interest.

Japan, whose relationship with China has been deteriorating, was the most enthusiastic about a dominant US position. Only two percent of Japanese experts said China played a positive role in regional security and 83 percent expected Japan’s most important economic relationship in a decade to be with the United States, even though China is already Japan’s largest trading partner.

On the other end of the spectrum, Southeast Asian nations preferred a “quiet, persistent presence” by the United States, said Bonnie Glaser, a China expert at the center.

Southeast Asians appreciate the US commitment to freedom of navigation amid tensions with Beijing in the South China Sea, but “they really don’t want to see confrontation and friction between the United States and China,” Glaser said at the release of the survey.

No Chinese ‘hubris’

One surprise in the survey was in China itself, where 71 percent of experts predicted that the United States would be the dominant power in East Asia in 2024— more than said so in any other country, including even the United States.

The finding “really gives the lie, if you will, to this notion that all Chinese are just brimming with hubris and assertiveness and aggressiveness,” said Christopher Johnson, another China expert at the center and a former CIA analyst.

Johnson said the survey reflected a shift from the 2008 economic crisis, when many Chinese predicted a steep US decline, as well as growing doubts within China on whether it can sustain growth.

The survey reflects the views of elites, not government officials or the public. Chinese President Xi Jinping has called for a new form of relationship with the United States and has been seen as increasingly assertive in challenging Japan, Vietnam and the Philippines at sea.

An outlier in the survey was Thailand, which is a long-standing US ally.
Some 89 percent of Thai experts said China would exert the most power in East Asia in 10 years and fewer than 10 percent said continued US leadership was in their country’s best interest—views sharply different to those in other US allies.

IEP: UMMAH Updates 06-05-2014

Posted to the Islamic Emirate of the Philippines Facebook page (Jun 5): UMMAH Updates 06-05-2014 1:00 pm

BIFM-BIFF Military Operations Program...
Target : American Car Convoy
Location : Brgy Maitumaig, Datu Unsay, Maguindanao

Report :

The Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement - Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters has launched the new Regular Military Operations Program.

1 American Hammer was destroyed with 5 casualties and 3 were severely injured.
One of the GRP intelligence asset was also captured and executed.

ALLAHu Akbar! ALLAHu Akbar! ALLAHu Akbar!

Make Du'a for the Mujahideen who are honorably fighting to protect and establish the Deen of ALLAH wherever they are.

Make Du'a to ALLAH for ourselves to help us and guide us to be amongst those whom who are true to their oath to ALLAH and tirelessly fight against ALLAH's enemies.

Make Du'a to ALLAH to help us and protect us from the evils of the Infidels and the Murtadeen and make us NOT amongst those who befriend them and make them allies against our bothers who are honorably defending ALLAH's Deen Al-Islam, for a very cheap price of physical safety and worldly praise.

Help and Support our Mujahideen brothers in anyway you can, thus, in turn doing yourself a favor through helping them.

Be reminded of the rewards ALLAH has promised for doing so.

Be reminded of the Great Rewards ALLAH has promised for those who are true to their oaths to ALLAH till they acheive the Greatest of Success, Martyrdom!

Be reminded of the punishments ALLAH has promised for those who lag behind, sitting amongst the weak/disabled, women and the children of the UMMAH where they are able to fight!

ALLAhumagfilrliy wal Muslimina wal Muslimaah, wal Mu'mineena Wal Mu'minah, Wal Mujahideena Wal Mujahidah

ALLAHumma Unsuril Islamah wal Muslimina wal Muqatilina fiy sabiliLLAHirRabbil Alamin

Don't forget to Like, Comment and Share!!
JazakumuLLAHu Khairan Katheeran WabarakumuLLAHu Fiqkum

MILF: Moro farmer murdered and beheaded, MinRHac condemns the killing

Posted to the MILF Website (Jun 6): Moro farmer murdered and beheaded, MinRHac condemns the killing

[Graphic photo of headless body of Kenti Diagao]

A Moro farmer, Kenti Diagao, 44 years old with four (4) children and a resident of Sitio Taculen, Barangay East Patadon, Kidapawan City in North Cotabato was treacherously murdered and beheaded by unidentified armed men at about 10:00am on May 30, 2014 while at his farm at West Patadon, Matalam, North Cotabato to harvest his agricultural products.
Responding members of the Matalam Philippine National Police (PNP) to the crime scene found empty shells of 12 Gauge Shotgun believed to have been used in the murder of Diagao. He suffered from multiple gunshot wounds at the back of his body an indication that he was shot treacherously while tending his farm.  His family recovered his body but failed to locate his head and are crying for justice.

In a press release dated June 2, 2014, Abdulbasit R. Benito, Executive Director of the Mindanao Human Rights Action Center (MinHRAC) condemned Diagao’s barbaric murder in the highest possible term, urged and demanded to the LGU’s of Kidapawan City, Matalam and the Provincial Government of North Cotabato to immediately conduct an impartial investigation and give justice to the bereaved family of Diagao.
MinHRAC in its press release also demanded to concerned authorities to help the victim’s family seek for justice. It further called on the LGU’s to provide assistance for the immediate needs of the family. It also challenged the GPH-MILF Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities to intercede and help resolve the incident in the earliest possible time.

MILF: Northern Sulu celebrates Israh Wal Mi’raj with peace advocacy

From the MILF Website (Jun 6): Northern Sulu celebrates Israh Wal Mi’raj with peace advocacy

Al Israh Wal Mi’raj or the Ascension of Prophet Muhammad (PBUP) to Heaven was celebrated by residents of Northern Sulu on May 29, 2014 at Barangay Lower Patibulan, Municipality of Panamao, Sulu with large numbers of participants  comprising mostly of faculty and students of Ma’had Putlih Munawira Imran Al-Islamie, Lower Patibulan, Panamao, Sulu; LGU Officials, local residents, the women sector; Officers of PAZAMBATASUL; officers and members of the MILF in Sulu.
Part of the celebration was a lecture and presentation of salient features of Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB), the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) and the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

Ustadz Mohammad Nadzmie Imran, Principal of Ma’had Putlih Munawira acted as the Emcee that started with a recital of few verses of the Holy Qur’an by Ustaza Sitti Ruaida Imran Ismi, MPAMIA Administrator. The welcome message was delivered by Mr. Abdulmotalib K. Ismi, Madaris Division Coordinator who expressed his warmest gratitude to all of the participants and guests for attending the day-long program.

The speakers came from the Sajahatra Bangsamoro Sulu-Tawi-Tawi. Aleem Mohammad Alshaid A. Abdulmajid, President of Sulu Council of Imam Guidance & Preaching stressed the importance of Al Israh wal Mi’raj to the Ummah.

Amersab Hji. Naguib M. Sangkula, Chairman, Tarbiya Bangsamoro, Ms. Sabibna J.. Jammang, Chairperson, SWC Committee on Home Economics, and Ustadz Abdulmannan A. Imran of  PAZAMBATASUL also spoke on Mi’raj and some important issues on BBL.

This writer, Information Director of Northern Sulu and BTC Radio Anchor on-the-Air discussed exhaustively the FAB and its annexes, CAB and the Primer on BTC and BBL.

In the afternoon, a reading of Al-Israh wal Mi’raj was made by more or less 50 students of Ma’had Putlih Munawira  Imran Al-Islamie.

The organizers closely coordinated with the municipal mayor and barangay officials for the conduct of the program.

The MILF Provincial Committee on Information plans to conduct more peace advocacies in other parts of Sulu Province.’raj-with-peace-advocacy

Peace pact signing long overdue – solon

From the Visayan Daily Star (Jun 6): Peace pact signing long overdue – solon

Abang Lingkod Rep. Stephen Paduano said yesterday that the signing of a closure agreement to the peace talks between the government and the Rebolusyonaryong Partido ng Manggagawa-Pilipinas-Revolutionary Proletarian Army-Alex Boncayao Brigade (Tabara Paduano Group) has long been overdue.

Paduano, who used to be the national commander of the RPA-ABB, said he will meet Monday next week with Presidential Adviser on Peace Process Teresita Deles to inquire about the status of the closure agreement and hopes to get a clear view of it from her.
The RPM-RPA-ABB, a breakaway faction of the New People’s Army, entered into peace talks with the government in year 2000.
OPPAP Undersecretary Maria Cleofe Gettie Sandoval had said earlier that the draft closure agreement underwent a review by the Office of the President for appropriate action.
Sandoval said the delay in its approval was due to the “due diligence review”.
Negros Occidental Gov. Alfredo Marañon had earlier expressed dismay at the delay in the signing of the closure agreement.
The supporters of Paduano yesterday held a motorcade and a victory party in Bacolod City, for his proclamation as the newest member of the House of Representatives, after more than two years of battle with the Comelec.
Paduano said he was designated as a member of four House committees in Agrarian Reform, Planning and Urban Development, Natural Communities as well as Aqua and Fisheries.

US: China military capability grows amid tensions

From the Philippine Star (Jun 6): US: China military capability grows amid tensions

China shows growing capability to project military power beyond its shores, the Defense Department said Thursday.

In an annual report to Congress, the Pentagon said China is developing and testing new types of missiles, expanding the reach of its navy and upgrading its air force. China is also investing in military capabilities in cyberspace, space and electronic warfare.

The report said China's military modernization was driven primarily by potential conflict in the Taiwan Strait, but also by its expanding interests and influence abroad, and increased tensions in the East China and South China seas. In November, China conducted its largest naval exercise to date in the Philippine Sea.

China has been engaged in territorial disputes with several of its neighbors, including U.S. allies Japan and the Philippines. China is currently locked in a tense, offshore standoff with the Vietnam.

In a long-standing U.S. criticism of China's military expansion over the past two decades, the Pentagon criticized China's lack of openness about its strategy, which it said has caused concerns in Asia.

"Absent greater transparency from China and a change in its behavior, these concerns will likely intensify as the PLA's military modernization program progresses," the report said, referring to China's People's Liberation Army.

China's government in March announced a 12.2 percent increase in military spending to $132 billion. That followed last year's 10.7 percent increase to $114 billion, giving China the second-highest defense budget for any nation behind the U.S., which spent $600.4 billion on its military last year.

DND: China's reclamation in 2 more reefs worsening situation

From the Philippine Star (Jun 6): DND: China's reclamation in 2 more reefs worsening situation

China’s reclamation in two reefs in the disputed Spratly Islands could worsen the already fragile balance of peace and stability in the region, the Department of National Defense (DND) said on Friday.

DND Spokesman Peter Galvez said the reclamation in Calderon (Cuarteron) and Gaven Reefs goes against the Declaration on the Code of Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC).

“It’s a serious concern and a blatant disregard of the DOC,” Galvez said in a text message.

“This will cause further deterioration of the fragile balance of peace and stability in the region,” he added.

The DOC calls on claimants to exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities that would complicate or escalate disputes and affect peace and stability. These include refraining from inhabiting uninhabited islands, reefs, shoals, cays and other features.

However, a binding code of conduct that will govern the actions of claimants has yet to be crafted.

Galvez said agreements calling for the peaceful resolution of concerns and the international law should be strictly observed.

He also stressed the urgent need to come up with a code of conduct among claimants in the West Philippine Sea.

On Thursday, President Aquino revealed that he had received reports about the movement of Chinese ships in Calderon and Gaven Reefs, areas that are within the Philippines’ 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone.

Aquino said some of the ships spotted in the area were capable of reclamation activities.

Galvez said the movements in Calderon Reef were monitored in March while the activities in Gaven Reef were detected sometime in May.

Gaven Reef is close to Itu-Aba, the biggest island in the Spratlys where a Taiwanese garrison is located. It is beside Namyit Island, an area controlled by Vietnam.

Calderon Reef, meanwhile, is close to Malaysian-claimed waters and the Central Reef, East Reef and Pearson Reef, all under the control of Vietnam.
Aquino revealed the activities in Calderon and Gaven Reefs less than a month after the Philippines protested China’s reclamation in Mabini (Johnson South) Reef, which is about 263 nautical miles from Puerto Princesa, Palawan.

China rejected the Philippines’ protest and maintained that it has sovereignty over the reef.

China, which claims about 90 percent of the West Philippine Sea, has been building structures in disputed areas that are covered by its wide-reaching territorial claim.

It has built a garrison in Panganiban (Mischief) Reef off Palawan and has set up a naval blockade in Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal, where a grounded ship serving as Philippine military detachment is located.

China has also maintained its presence in Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal off Zambales, making it impossible for local fishermen to operate in the area.

The United States and its allies have raised concerns over the possible impact of China's actions on regional security and freedom of navigation.

2 BIFF members killed in Maguindanao

From the Philippine Star (Jun 6): 2 BIFF members killed in Maguindanao

Two members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and one soldier were killed in violent incidents that erupted in Maguindanao last Thursday.

Col. Dickson Hermoso, spokesman of the Army’s 6th division, said one soldier was killed and three others were hurt after an improvised explosive device believed to be planted by BIFF militants went off at 12:45 p.m. in Barangay Maitumaig, Datu Unsay town.

A clash occurred at around 5 p.m. after pursuing troops from the 45th battalion and the 1st Mechanized Battalion caught up with the rebels in Barangay Meta in the same municipality at around 5 p.m.

Hermoso said at least two BIFF members had been killed during the firefight which lasted for about an hour. There were no reported casualties from the side of the military.

“Government troops are still in pursuit mode as of this report,” he said.

The BIFF broke away from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) because of differences over the peace talks with the government.

The BIFF has criticized the MILF for abandoning its original stance of independence from the Philippines.

Last March, the government and the MILF signed a final peace agreement that would pave way to the creation of a Bangsamoro region with enhanced political and fiscal autonomy.

Soldier dead, 3 wounded in BIFF roadside bombing

From the Philippine Star (Jun 7): Soldier dead, 3 wounded in BIFF roadside bombing

MAGUINDANAO, Philippines– A soldier was killed while three others, including a lieutenant, were critically wounded on Thursday when Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) bandits set off a roadside bomb on a secluded stretch of a farm-to-market road in Datu Unsay town here.

The victims, who belong to the Army’s 45th Infantry Battalion, were on their way to their headquarters in a nearby town from a humanitarian outreach mission in a Teduray village in Datu Unsay when the bandits set off the improvised explosive as the truck carrying them passed by.

Lt. Col. Donald Hongitan, 45th IB commanding officer,  said Pfc. Jesus Tabije died from multiple shrapnel wounds. Wounded were 1Lt. Lemuel Manicdo, Sgt. Pio Himoldang, and Cpl. Joel Canceran.

Responding Army ordnance experts said the bomb was set off from a distance using a mobile phone.

The explosion was so powerful that it crippled the light truck carrying the soldiers.

Last month, two soldiers were killed while five others were wounded in a roadside bombing in Barangay Meta, also in Datu Unsay.

Col. Dickson Hermoso, spokesman of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, said the BIFF retaliated for the heavy losses it suffered in recent military operations with the government gaining control of its main enclave in Barangay Ganta at the boundary of Maguindanao’s Datu Piang and Saidona Mustapha towns.

Gov. Alvarez hopes America's ‘huge’ interest in Palawan could redound to development

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 6): Gov. Alvarez hopes America's ‘huge’ interest in Palawan could redound to development

Palawan Governor Jose Alvarez is hopeful that the U.S. government’s interest in the province would not only redound to security, and peace and order, but also to development of the local economy and the people as he welcomed Thursday afternoon Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg at the Provincial Capitol here.

In an interview following a dialogue he and Goldberg conducted with members of the Palawan Chamber of Commerce (PCC) and the Palawan Tourism Council (PTC) at his conference room, Alvarez described the interest of the U.S. government in helping the province develop economically as “huge,” adding he was optimistic of this to translate to development that the province needs badly.

“There interest in Palawan is huge. In fact, it is because of them that the DPWH (Department of Public Works and Highways) allocated here over P3 billion for infrastructure,” Alvarez said.

He added this is probably because the U.S. government sees that President Benigno Aquino III is decanting around P 1.3 trillion funds to support infrastructure development, and in Palawan, the local government is aware where this needs to be placed.

“In 2014, and the coming years until 2016, they can see where the President is putting funds, and they’re always discussing where to place this. Here in Palawan, of course, we know how to maximize this and where to place this, right?” he said.

In the cacao, coffee, and rubber projects, where the U.S. government is helping through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID)-supported COMPETE program, the governor said help is through the laying of ground works and financial support provided through banks that act as “lending institutions.”

“With this, we hope that the support the U.S. government is providing should redound not only to security, and peace and order, but also development of Palawan, and its people,” Alvarez said.

U. S. Ambassador Philip Goldberg, who was in the city for an official visit, expressed that with Palawan’s long historical relationship with the United States, it is important that help is provided to bail out its residents from the throes of poverty.

“A thriving community means, a thriving province, and we’re interested in helping make that happen with the engagement of the local government, like what your governor is doing for your province,” Goldberg said.

Goldberg said the business community’s focus is in the development of the tourism industry, and clearly, it is one where a lot of potentials can be developed.

“Even before I arrive in the Philippines, I already knew about Palawan. I knew about it because there is a great interest, especially with some of the resorts here, where American travelers dive and other great opportunities here in the tourism area,” he said.

From the dialogue with the business community, Goldberg said there is also an interest to move forward to manufacturing, agriculture involving cacao, coffee and rubber farming, information technology, and other industries that can produce jobs for the Palaweños.

“There are great challenges in the health sector, and areas where we can maybe help also… so, yes… our interest also, goes beyond tourism, but it’s really to continue to help our friends and partners here… our great allies as they confront these problems. We have a very great history together… the United States and the Philippines, and here in Palawan, you can see it in microcosm,” he said.

“Suffering together and fighting together during World War II,” Goldberg said “there are all kinds of things that bring the U.S. and the Philippines, particularly Palawan together as people,” and their people-to-people relationship is very strong.”

“We are trying to build on all of that, and our trust is in trying to help the Philippines on many fronts, and because it’s good for us, as well as your country,” he stressed.

Ulugan Bay in Puerto Princesa ripe for new airport; can be a city soon – Gov. Alvarez

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 6): Ulugan Bay in Puerto Princesa ripe for new airport; can be a city soon – Gov. Alvarez

With exciting developments at Ulugan Bay in Barangay Marufinas, where the Naval Forces West (NFW) headquarters is located following the signing of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), Palawan Governor Jose Alvarez said it will soon be ripe as the site of a new airport and can be a potential new city.

In interviews with the media Thursday following an official visit from U.S. Ambassador Philip Goldberg’s at the Governor’s Office, Provincial Capitol Building, Alvarez said that Ulugan Bay has all the promises of a fitting site for a brand new airport in Puerto Princesa.

“If you ask me, I have a suggestion to Mayor (Lucilo) Bayron to make one more airport… though the city is not my territory… in Ulugan Bay. It is very a beautiful site for an airport because the approach is all seawater,” he said, adding the new airport can be constructed 2.7 kilometer runway in between two roads.

He stated that if a new airport is constructed in the barangay area, and development crawls in considering its proximity to the Puerto Princesa Underground River (PPUR) at Sitio Sabang, Barangay Cabayugan, “it can be a new city in Palawan.”

“The current airport, in the next 25 years, will become very, very congested, so, it’s high time,” he said.

Alvarez cited as sample the United States’ 54 million dollar funding of the Sarangani Airport upon seeing that the bay is a potential site for increased tourism activities.

“The future airport, if constructed in Ulugan Bay, can be vital to the Philippines defense and the American presence, if they will come. This is because in the next 10 years, this airport in Puerto Princesa will become really crowded,” he said, “for their aircrafts to land.”

Governor Alvarez said that for him, a new airport in Ulugan Bay “is not at all only related to EDCA but to boost tourism in Puerto Princesa since access to the PPUR will become easier.”

“If an airport is there, and close to the PPUR, then travelling will become easy for some tourists, who will want to go there,” he said, supplementing that he is just forward thinking.

Alvarez said he has seen the place, and he knows where the ideal site is located – one that is where no homes have been constructed.

BIFF rebels hurt in clashes with Army in Maguindanao

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 6): BIFF rebels hurt in clashes with Army in Maguindanao

At least two Moro bandits were wounded in clashes Friday with government forces following an improvised bomb attack in Maguindanao that left a soldier killed and three others wounded, the Army here said.

Colonel Dickson Hermoso, speaking for the 6th Infantry Division, said soldiers belonging to the 45th Infantry Battalion, led by Lt. Colonel Donald Hongitan, clashed with Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters in the interior villages of Datu Unsay Friday morning.

No casualty was reported on government side.

Initial report showed two guerillas were seen wounded and carried by their retreating companions as the Army launched offensive.

”They retreated but we are pursuing them,” Hermoso said.

Quoting a report from Lt. Colonel Donald Hongitan, 45th Infantry Battalion commander, Hermoso said there could be more BIFF fatalities after the Army used artillery against the guerillas who fled deep into the forest of Maguindanao.

Hermoso said no reported displacement of civilians as the clash area was far from residential communities.

He said the highway linking Cotabato City and Gen. Santos City remained passable but he advised commuters to refrain from traveling at night and early morning.

NPA Guerrilla captured in Ifugao firefight

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 6): NPA Guerrilla captured in Ifugao firefight

CAMP MELCHOR DELA CRUZ, Gamu, Isabela -- A suspected New People’s Army rebel was captured by the Army’s 54th Infantry Battalion soldiers and villagers after a gunbattle in Barangay Damag, Aguinaldo, Ifugao on June 5 at 5:30 in the afternoon, the military said.

Captured was Jonathan Cudal, an alleged communist guerrilla, who was caught while reportedly fleeing from an Army-rebel skirmish.

He was brought to a medical official for checkup and later to the Aguinaldo police for custody.

Prior to Cudal’s arrest, Army soldiers were tipped off that suspected armed rebels were scouring Damag village, according to Lt. Col. Eddie Pilapil, 54th Infantry Battalion commander.

Maguindanao, PAMANA projects distribute water buffaloes to ex-Moro combatants

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 6): Maguindanao, PAMANA projects distribute water buffaloes to ex-Moro combatants

The provincial government of Maguindanao have dispersed dozens of water buffaloes to former Moro guerrillas as part of the government’s intervention to improve their productivity, officials said today.

The dispersal was part of the Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan (PAMANA) program of the Office of Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP).

To address underdevelopment and low productivity, Maguindanao Governor Esmael Mangudadatu and Presidential Peace Adviser Teresita Deles have been jointly implementing several PAMANA projects in the province.

”It aims to bring former Moro rebels to the mainstream after decades of hiding in the mountains fighting the government forces,” Mangudadatu said.

The PAMANA project aims to make former conflict areas into productive communities by providing the former rebels with livelihood.

Mangudadatu led the dispersal of the water buffaloes in a simple rite at Barangay Popol in Buluan town Thursday.

Aside from water buffaloes dispersal, OPAPP has several other PAMANA projects that benefited former fighters of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) which signed a peace deal with Manila in 1996.

Former Moro guerrillas and their families were also provided with livelihood like indigenous crafts production, cloth weaving, corn and rice farming, among others.

Core shelters were also established in communities previously scenes of skirmishes between government forces and Moro rebels.

Beside the provincial capitol here was a multi-million women’s center funded by the PAMANA funds.

Manguadatu said PAMANA projects helped restore confidence of former Moro combatants on government programs.

Negros Oriental gives cash assistance to 24 rebel returnees

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 6): Negros Oriental gives cash assistance to 24 rebel returnees

The provincial government of Negros Oriental on Friday turned over cash assistance of P3,000 each to 24 more rebel returnees to help them rebuild their lives following their surrender.

Governor Roel Degamo led other civilian and military officials in the turnover of the financial aid to the rebel returnees at the Capitol.

The rebel returnees earlier went through validation and processing by the provincial office of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

They were identified as Langie Desmoparan, Romy Banawa, Bartolome Quita, Danny Potane, Jorgie Quitay, Marcelo Gallardo, Alfredo Recla, Junny Dacal Dacal, Jarvie Edano, Marilou Angcon, Genie Labrador, Jessie Ragay, Pedro Candilaza, Rocelyn Namoco, Joan Gajelloma, Joel Gajelloma, Rosalina Delos Santos, Wyne Alegre, Arnel Aplicador, Jess Potane, Lodie Espadilla, Lovie Espadilla, Rey Sayson and Federico Inoferio.

Six others, namely Benmar Gutib, Sanny Boy Sinda, Ramil Cadelina, Romnick Dacal Dacal, Jory Lascuna and Maribeth Lascuna had also each received P3,000 in assistance from the provincial government last May 7.

The financial assistance is part of the government’s efforts to help former members of the rebel New People’s Army (NPA) to start afresh with their lives after living the underground movement.

Aside from Degamo, also present during the simple turnover ceremony were Lt. Col. Christopher Estella, deputy commander of the 302nd Brigade of the Philippine Army, provincial DSWD chief Alice Legarde, Supt. Reynold Andot representing OIC provincial police director, Supt. Mariano Natuel, Jr., Lt. Col. Harry Pascua of the 79th IB and Lt. Col. Miguel Ceballos of the 20th IB, among others.

Gov. Degamo has repeatedly assured of continuous support to efforts to attain lasting peace in the province, especially now that Negros Oriental has been declared conflict manageable and development ready in terms of the insurgency problem.

Regional Army commander orders massive manhunt vs BIFF after IED blast

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 6): Regional Army commander orders massive manhunt vs BIFF after IED blast

Major General Edmundo Pangilinan, commander of the 6th Infantry Division, on Friday ordered an offensive against Moro bandits responsible in the improvised bomb attack on government forces that left one soldier killed and wounded three others in Maguindanao.

Pangilinan also ordered the deployment of more soldiers along the national highway in Maguindanao following Thursday afternoon’s roadside bomb attack by Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in Barangay Maitumaig, Datu Unsay, Maguindanao.

Pangilinan visited the three wounded soldiers at Camp Siongco Hospital Friday afternoon and commended the infantrymen for their bravery following the blast.

Right after the blast, elements of the 45th Infantry Battalion, led by battalion commander Lt. Colonel Donald Hongitan, conducted massive pursuit operations that resulted in the serious injuries of three BIFF members.

The BIFF used an IED fashioned from 105 howitzers ammunition with mobile phone as trigger mechanism.

Pangilinan also lashed at the Moro bandits for using weapon of mass destruction.

Among the wounded was Lt. Leemuel Manicdo, commander of the 45th IB Charlie company stationed in Barangay Maitumaig, Datu Saudi Ampatuan town in Maguindanao.

Colonel Dickson Hermoso, speaking for the 6th Infantry Division, said more BIFF were believed to have been killed or wounded but carried by their retreating comrades who fled deep into the Mt. Firis in the borders of Datu Unsay, Shariff Aguak and South Upi, all in Maguindanao.

Hermoso said the injuries suffered by the soldiers were all in their legs and are now recuperating at the military hospital.

Ifugao villagers capture NPA fighter

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 6): Ifugao villagers capture NPA fighter

Tired of the incessant extortion and terrorism being done by the rebels, a New People's Army (NPA) fighter was captured by residents of Barangay Damag, Aguinaldo town, Ifugao Thursday morning.

This took place shortly after the 5: 30 a.m. encounter with NPA forces where troopers of the 54th Infantry Battalion succeeded in killing one rebel and wounding several others.

The captured rebel was identified as Jonathan Cudal.

Lt. Col. Eddie Pilapil, 54th Infantry Battalion commander, said that Cudal's father was also a member of the NPA movement.

He added that the latter was captured by residents and immediately handed over to his men.

Pilapil said that they had Cudal checked by doctors to ensure that he was not harmed by the civilians.

The captured rebel was immediately handed to Aguinaldo Municipal Police Station for filing of appropriate charges.

Prior to the incident, villagers tipped off the presence of the NPAs who are on extortion activities and collecting foodstuffs from the people.

“The civilians themselves told us about the presence of the NPAs in their barangay," the 54th Infantry Battalion commander stressed.

It can be recalled that the people of Sagada, Mountain Province searched for NPA camps in their place last month in order to dismantle them.

The search and destroy operation was the result of the consensus reached by the people to affirm Sagada’s declaration as a “Peace Zone”.

Sagada’s economy was affected by the NPA activities especially the tourism sector as tourists arrival is declining because of peace and order situation concerns.

According to the locals of Sagada, the search and destroy operations of NPA camps will continue on a regular basis to prevent the rebels from entering their town again.

Bicol's most wanted with P800,000 head prize collared by CIDG

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 6): Bicol's most wanted with P800,000 head prize collared by CIDG

The Philippine National Police-Criminal Investigation Detection Group (PNP-CIDG) on Friday announced the arrest of the most wanted person in Bicol region.

In a statement, Director Benjamin Magalong, chief of the PNP-CIDG, identified the suspect as Ronnel Arquillo, considered to be the most wanted person in Bicol Region has been nabbed by the combined elements of Masbate CIDT-CIDG led by Police Chief Inspector Edgar Balagso in his hiding place in Mobo, Masbate on Thursday.

Magalong said Arquillo, who is also a member of the NPA Bicol Regional Party Committee, was nabbed on the strength of warrants of arrest issued by Judge Arnel A. Dating of Branch 41, Daet, Camarines Norte for frustrated murder (2 counts) and Judge Sancho Dames II, of RTC Branch 38 in Daet, Camarines Norte for murder.

He added that Arquillo, who has a monetary reward amounting to P800,000, has been turned-over to the court of origin.

Number of surrendering rebels in Eastern Mindanao increasing -- AFP

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 6): Number of surrendering rebels in Eastern Mindanao increasing -- AFP

With the government delivering more infrastructure and livelihood in the countryside, more rebels are surrendering in the Eastern Mindanao area, said Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief-of-staff Gen. Emmanuel Bautista on Friday.

He made the announcement after 53 communist rebels under Embay Casal Gayaw alias "Rixan", leader of the New People's Army (NPA) Front Committee 34 operating in the boundaries of Agusan, Bukidnon, and Davao provinces, surrendered with 53 assorted firearms to the 403rd Infantry Brigade at Impalambong, Malaybalay City last Wednesday.

Mass surrenders are occurring in the rebel ranks due to the growing disappointment of indigenous communities on the NPA leadership in the area because of undelivered promises.

Wednesday's surrender followed the 97 NPAs who left the rebel group last month and 72 rebels in March.

The snowballing number of former NPA rebels can also be attributed to the diminished leadership following the arrest of Benito and Wilma Tiamzon, ranking leaders of the group, early this year.

With this, the AFP continues to reach out to the rebel group to abandon their armed struggle and join the government in finding a peaceful solution to their problems.

"The AFP will also intensify its partnership with local chief executives and private organizations to address the grievances of Filipinos in far-flung communities to prevent selfish interests from taking advantage of the situation," Bautista stressed.

He added that the former rebels are expected to receive cash grants from the AFP for the surrendered firearms.

Many rebel returnees also received other support packages including initial cash assistance of ₱15,000 and livelihood assistance of ₱50,000 coming from Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process.

Bautista lauded the rebels “for returning to the government fold, and finally realizing that the armed struggle is not the solution."

"Taking the lives of your fellow Filipinos is not the solution to resolve poverty. We all have problems to face and there are a lot of threats that will come but I can assure you that we can overcome all of these if we will unite together as Filipinos,” he concluded.

PN thanks South Korea for corvette donation

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 6): PN thanks South Korea for corvette donation

The Philippine Navy (PN) on Friday expressed its thanks to the South Korean government for donating a "Pohang" class corvette to the country.

"The Navy welcomes this kind of support from the Government of South Korea," PN public affairs office chief Cmdr. Gregory Fabic said.

He added that the corvette, once formally commissioned in the PN, will be an additional asset for the Philippine Fleet's Offshore Combat Force.

"(The corvette) could be utilized for territorial defense operations," Fabic stated.

The ship is expected to arrive in the Philippines before the end of 2014.

This was earlier confirmed by Defense spokesperson Dr. Peter Paul Galvez in a message to the PNA.

He added that it is a big possibility that the ship will be handed to the PN with all its weapons and sensor system intact.

The "Pohang" class corvette is a general purpose vessel operated by the Republic of Korea Navy that 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 9 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 a 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 a LCU (landing craft utility) to the Navy.