Wednesday, June 11, 2014

MILF: No space for extremists in Bangsamoro

From the Manila Bulletin (Jun 11): MILF: No space for extremists in Bangsamoro

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) assured participants at a public forum here over the weekend that the proposed Bangsamoro government will have no room for extremists.

“The Bangsamoro authority and leaders will not allow anybody, anyone, or any groups to destroy peace within the Bangsamoro territory,” Vice Chairman for Political Affairs Ghazali Jaafar said, amid resounding applause among hundreds of mixed audience from Muslim, Christian, and Lumad sectors.

“The Bangsamoro government is a democratic government where the rights of the people are guaranteed and everybody can enjoy religious freedom,” he added.

Jaafar’s assurance followed a warning aired by Orlando Cardinal Quevedo a day earlier at an international interfaith dialogue in Cotabato City that extremism, if not addressed squarely, could “hijack” the intents and visions under the Bangsamoro entity.

Quevedo, the archbishop of Cotabato and the first cardinal appointed by the Vatican from Mindanao, bared his sad experiences with extremist elements during his stint in the Sulu archipelago.

The prelate, described by government and MILF authorities as “the Cardinal for Peace,” has been actively campaigning for the transformation of the Muslim Mindanao regional autonomy to people’s higher degree of self-determination under the Bangsamoro political entity.

Ex-NPA rebel shot dead

From the Manila Bulletin (Jun 12): Ex-NPA rebel shot dead

A former New People’s Army (NPA) rebel was shot dead by unidentified men in Brgy. Daan Pare, Orion, Bataan.

Sr. Inspector Ronnie Fabia, chief of police, identified the victim as Julius Ortojan, alias Ka Jomar, 43, of 248 Sitio Pias, Duale, Limay.

Investigation showed that the victim was on his way home on board a motorcycle when unidentified suspects riding a Toyota Innova shot the victim several times hitting him on the different parts of his body.

Police recovered from the crime scene the victim’s wallet, a Samsung cellular phone, and sun glasses.

Further investigation showed that the victim was a rebel returnee and was allegedly implicated in several illegal activities.

US urges China to provide evidence on South China Sea claim to Hague court

From the Manila Bulletin (Jun 12): US urges China to provide evidence on South China Sea claim to Hague court

A senior United States diplomat has called on China to provide evidence to back up its claim to 90 percent of the sea, believed to be rich in energy and minerals.

US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and the Pacific Daniel Russel urged China to seize the “significant opportunity” of a call from an international court last week for evidence to back up its claims.

“This… opens the door to the removal of some ambiguity regarding China’s claim that has helped fuel tension and uncertainty in the region,” Russel said in a telephone briefing with reporters in Hong Kong. Russel said he had raised the issue with regional officials at a meeting in Myanmar of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

A judges’ panel at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague said last week that it was giving China six months to respond to a case filed by the Philippines in March. China’s Foreign Ministry last week restated its refusal to participate.

China rejects any international solution to the territorial disputes and calls for individual talks with claimant countries. The Philippines, Malaysia, and Brunei each claim some of the Spratlys, while China, Taiwan, and Vietnam claim the whole chain.

Servicemen from the Philippines and Vietnam staged a get-together last weekend on a Vietnamese-administered part of the archipelago, playing soccer and volleyball and drinking beer. China denounced the gathering as a “clumsy farce.”

A Philippine navy spokesman told reporters Manila would host a get-together next year on a Philippine-run island, with all claimant countries invited. “If the end is to maintain good relations and amity with a neighboring nation and sports is one of the means to attain it, then the navy will have to pursue it,” Col. Edgard Arevalo said. “The least of our intentions is to pick quarrels with anyone. Definitely, it’s not meant to pick on China.”

China said on Tuesday that it wanted to counter Vietnam’s “slander” to the world about what was happening in disputed areas of the South China Sea, after Beijing asked the United Nations to circulate documents outlining its position.

Tensions have been running particularly high between China and Vietnam, focusing on China’s positioning of an oil rig near another disputed archipelago, the Paracel Islands, which has lead to rammings at sea and anti-Chinese violence in Vietnam.

China and Vietnam have traded accusations about the behavior of their ships, including the use of water cannon and intentional rammings.

Chinese state news agency Xinhua said that Wang Min, China’s deputy permanent representative to the United Nations, had asked UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in a letter to circulate documents outlining China’s position to all UN member states. China, he said, sought to “tell the international community the truth and set straight their understanding on the issue.”

Foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Vietnam had been stepping up its harassment at sea and trying to vilify China on the international stage.

“On the one hand, they have been increasing their damaging and harassing activities on the scene, while internationally everyone has seen they have been unbridled in starting rumors and spreading slander, unreasonably criticizing China,” she told a daily news briefing.

A policy document released at the weekend accused Vietnam of ramming its ships more than 1,000 times in the oil rig dispute, though it said Beijing wanted good relations with its neighbor.

The spat is the most serious deterioration of relations between the Communist states and traditional rivals since a brief war in 1979 following Vietnam’s invasion of Cambodia.

MILF: BLMI concludes TAF’s funded capacity building programs

From the MILF Website (Jun 11): BLMI concludes TAF’s funded capacity building programs

On June 5, 2014, the Bangsamoro Leadership and Management Institute (BLMI) concluded the two remaining capacity building programs funded by The Asia Foundation (TAF) with support from the Australian Agency for International Development (Aus-AID).
On May 29-31, 2014, forty three male participants from line agencies of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) representing various regions in the Bangsamoro attended a three- day activity with the theme:  “Empowering Bangsamoro Potential Leaders & Communities” held at the BLMI Training Center at Crossing Simuay, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao.

Sheikh Mahmod S. Ahmad, BLMI Executive Director welcomed the participants and appealed for their support for the general welfare of the Bangsamoro People.

Prof. Esmael Abdula, BLMI Training Unit Officer together with Salik Abdullah facilitated the program. Abdula shared his experiences and expertise on community engagements.

Dr. Tarhata Guiamalon, lectured on internationally accepted work etiquettes and other related topics that every Bangsamoro leaders and managers must be acquainted with especially when interacting with foreigners. 

Dr. Ruth T. Diang lectured on international protocol and diplomacy that need to be instilled to Bangsamoro future leaders.  

On June 3-5, 2014, the Training for Trainers (TOT) for Community Leaders was also held at BLMI with similar number of participants. Officials of the MILF-BIAF from different areas in Mindanao were among the participants.

The topics include advocacy and strategies in community engagements as a way of preparing them for the challenges that lay ahead once Bangsamoro is in place.

Dr. Abdul S. Pagayao touched on the ministerial form of government. Dr. Tarhata Guiamalon once again delved on work etiquettes and international protocol; underlining its essential contributions for the success of Bangsamoro.  On the last day, Dr. Taugan Kikay, Bangsamoro Sajahatra official touched on the prospective Bangsamoro governance that includes political party formation and electoral system under a ministerial form of government.

The participants also engaged in cordial discussions, sharing of views and concerns with the speakers.

In the closing program the participants expressed their appreciations and gratitude to BLMI Management, speakers; The Asia Foundation (TAF) -Aus – Aid for their continuing support to BLMI, the peace process and the envisioned Bangsamoro Region.’s-funded-capacity-building-programs

Military links BIFF attacks to presence of terror suspect

From the Mindanao Examiner (Jun 11): Military links BIFF attacks to presence of terror suspect

The military had linked fresh attacks by the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in Maguindanao to the alleged presence of a suspected terrorist in the ranks of the breakaway rebel group.

Abdul Basit Usman, reportedly a bomb expert with Jemaah Islamiyah, was spotted during a raid on a BIFF camp in Barangay Libutan, Mamasapano town Tuesday, BGen. Edmundo Pangilinan, chief of the 6th Infantry Division said.

Pangilinan said that during the joint police-military raid on the BIFF’s alleged bomb manufacturing facility Usman was wounded but managed to escape “as per report from our operating troops.”

This proves BIFF is not only coddling Jemaah Islamiyah, but it seems they have strong ties,” he added.

He said the discovery of the BIFF camp came after persistent intelligence work and while running after the rebels who attacked military detachments and planted improvised explosive devices along routes taken by government troops.

Pangilinan further said they were still trying to confirm reports that two relatives of Usman were killed during the raid.

The raid on Tuesday was carried out by the 1st Mechanized brigade, 45th Infantry Battalion and the Maguindanao police.

Lt.Col. Donald Hongitan, commander of the 45th Infantry Battalion said the rebels fired rocket-propelled grenades but scampered away as the government forces closed in.

But BIFF spokesperson Abumisry Mama denied his group had links with Jemaah Islamiya.

“From what we learned there was strafing incident in Libutan and we have no troops there, maybe they are looking for somebody else”, Mama said.

Four women were arrested after the raid and were referred to the Maguindanao police women’s desk for interrogation.

The US State Department has offered a $1-million bounty for his killing or capture for his alleged involvement in a spate of bombings in the country. In January 2010, he was reported killed by an American drone aircraft near Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan.

But the Philippine military later said Usman, who was with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front but was expelled from the group for carrying out unauthorized bomb attacks, was alive and hiding in Mindanao.

There has been no conclusive proof on what really happened to Usman after reports came out that he had joined the BIFF.

PH flag to fly in all 9 occupied Spratly islands

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jun 11): PH flag to fly in all 9 occupied Spratly islands

PROUD COLORS  The Philippine flag flies proudly on the deck of the rusting BRP Sierra Madre, which houses a Marine detachment in the disputed Ayungin Shoal where Chinese Coast Guard ships are on regular patrol. On Thursday all the nine Philippine-occupied territories in the Spratly Islands in the West Philippine Sea, including theBRP Sierra Madre, will raise the national flag simultaneously with other military camps on the mainland in celebration of Independence Day. GRIG C. MONTEGRANDE/INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

On Thursday all the nine Philippine-occupied territories in the Spratly Islands in the West Philippine Sea, including the rusty BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin Shoal (Second Thomas Shoal), will raise the national flag simultaneously with other military camps on the mainland in celebration of Independence Day.

The flag-raising ceremony will take place at 7 a.m. in all Kalayaan Island Group (KIG) detachments, Navy spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Gregory Fabic told the Inquirer on Wednesday.

Fabic said the time in the KIG detachments—Ayungin Shoal, Pagasa (Thitu) Island, Lawak (Nanshan) Island, Parola (Northeast Cay) Island, Patag (Flat) Island, Kota (Loaita) Island, Rizal (Commodore) Reef, Likas (West York) Island, and Panata (Lankiam Cay) Island—as well as in all units of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) were synchronized with Philippine Standard Time.

While the flag ceremony is done every year in these territories, military historian Jose Antonio Custodio says it has become more significant today in the face of China’s belligerence in the West Philippine Sea, part of the South China Sea within the Philippines’ 370-kilometer exclusive economic zone.

China claims 90 percent of the South China Sea, and has been harassing the small Marine garrison on Ayungin Shoal, Filipino fishermen at Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal off Zambales province, and reclaiming land on Mabini (Johnson South) Reef, Gavin (Gaven) Reefs, Calderon (Cuarteron) Reef and Malvar (Eldad) Reef.

The Philippines has submitted the territorial dispute to the United Nations International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea for arbitration.

The court has ordered China to comment on the Philippine case by Dec. 15.

Toning down rhetoric

China has refused to take part in the proceedings, but has toned down its rhetoric, with Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua saying on Tuesday, Filipino-Chinese Friendship Day, that the dispute between the two countries was “temporary.”

Malacañang on Wednesday welcomed the “change in tone,” but said that “would not stop the Philippines from seeking international arbitration to settle the dispute.”

Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda acknowledged the “different levels of exchange” between the Philippines and China, but said that “doesn’t mean just because China is investing in this country, it should stop us from asserting or filing an arbitration case against them.”

He said, however, that except for the territorial dispute, the Philippines’ relations with China have been “very positive.”

Custodio said that Thursday’s Independence Day rites in the Kalayaan group were intended to celebrate the sacrifices of the Filipino revolutionary heroes who fought for freedom from colonial rule, the lack of weapons notwithstanding.

“Fast forward to the present, courageous Filipino soldiers are facing off against the armed coercive might of the Chinese who jealously covet our territories to fuel their imperial ambitions. Lacking sophisticated weapons, with no modern surface warships, missiles and jet fighters, Filipino soldiers in far-flung island garrisons and aboard the rusty hulk of the Sierra Madre are our first and only line of defense against Chinese aggression,” Custodio told the Inquirer in an e-mail.

“A century since independence, the courage and indomitable will of the Filipino remain intact and today in our commemoration of Independence Day this is renewed in our pledge to defend the country and in the example of our Filipino soldiers standing on the sands of the islets of the [Kalayaan Island Group] and within the rusting hulk of the BRP Sierra Madre,” Custodio said.

Holding the line

Despite its decrepit condition, the BRP Sierra Madre holds the line for the Philippines in the dispute for territory with China in the West Philippine Sea.

The Philippines grounded the Sierra Madre on Ayungin Shoal in 1999 in response to China’s illegal occupation of Mischief (Panganiban) Reef four years earlier.

The Sierra Madre remains “very important to us,” said Philippine Fleet commander Rear Adm. Jesus Bernardino.

“It is an extension of our territory. Everywhere it goes, it represents our territory. She is at Ayungin Shoal now. Nobody can contest that it is still our territory,” he said.

Bernardino trained on the Sierra Madre as a young Navy ensign. He was part of the ship’s crew when it transported Filipino performers to various Southeast Asian cities as part of a cultural exchange program sponsored by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean).

Former hospital ship

The Sierra Madre was originally the LST 821 Harnett County, a bemedaled hospital ship that saw action in World War II.

It was transferred to South Vietnam under the Security Assistance Program in 1970 and was named RVNS My Tho (HQ-800).

The United States gave it to the Philippines in 1976 under the Military Assistance Program and the ship was renamed BRP Sierra Madre.

Should the Philippine Navy decide to decommission the Sierra Madre, it would have to inform the US military before it could use parts of the ship.

As the one that did the tactical design of the Sierra Madre, “[the United States] would be part of the process of decommissioning for security reasons to ensure that the scraps of metal won’t be used for other purposes,” Philippine Fleet spokesperson Lt. j.g. Rommel Rodriguez explained.

Bernardino said he remained proud of the Sierra Madre despite its present condition.

“I am still proud of it. It is still serving the Navy. It is still serving the country as a platform for our troops there. Even if [people say] it’s in an advanced stage of deterioration, it is still serving its purpose,” Bernardino said.

Bernardino also said that contrary to popular belief, the Sierra Madre “can still last many more productive years.”

“It looks rickety, but, no, it’s not,” he said.

Fabic said that after the 7 a.m. flag-raising ceremony, the troops in the Kalayaan group would “go back to their daily tasks.”

And it’s no easy task, to defend a country’s sovereignty.

US donates Post-Blast Investigation Kits to Philippine National Police

From the Mindanao Examiner Website (Jun 11): US donates Post-Blast Investigation Kits to Philippine National Police

The United States donated Post-Blast Investigation Kits to the Philippines as part of its support to the Aquino government and the national police force.

The donation, made under the Anti-Terrorism Assistance Program of the US Embassy Diplomatic Security Service, was turned over to Police Director General Alan Purisima in a ceremony attended by senior police officers at Camp Crame in Quezon City.

Ronald Dizon, the Resident Program Manager, led the handover of 16 pallets of kits to Purisima.

The kit will help post-blast scene technicians in their work and investigation. The US also has been providing various training programs for the Philippine National Police in an effort to further equip it in its investigation and other functions.

Police Director Alan Purisima and Ronald Dizon sign donation documents for Post-Blast Investigation Kits.

Abu Sayyaf bomb expert sent to jail

From the Philippine Star (Jun 11): Abu Sayyaf bomb expert sent to jail

A suspected Abu Sayyaf bomber captured by the government security forces has been sent to jail following orders from the local court in Zamboanga City, an official said.

Senior Inspector Joseph Ortega, spokesman of Police Regional Office 9, said the court under the sala of Judge Gregorio dela Cruz Peña also recommended no bail for the detention of the suspect identified as Nujir Ahidji alias Abu Jomar, a native of Jolo, Sulu.

Ortega said the court issued the commitment order last Monday for Ahidji who is charged for illegal possession of explosives.

The suspect, tagged as a bomb expert of the Abu Sayyaf group, was captured by the combined intelligence forces of the Philippine National Police, bomb squad, Task Force Zamboanga and Military Intelligence Group 9 last May 17 in a village just outside the military headquarters of Western Mindanao Command in Barangay Upper Calarian.

City Police Office director Senior Superintendent Angelito Casimiro said the arrest of Ahidji thwarted the bombing plot of the Abu Sayyaf group in Zamboanga City.

Casimiro said three days after tracking, police and military intelligence group recovered one of the improvised explosive devices laid by the terror group in the city.

BIFF bandits’ lairs yield guns, bombs, stolen motorbikes

From the Philippine Star (Jun 11): BIFF bandits’ lairs yield guns, bombs, stolen motorbikes

MAGUINDANAO, Philippines – Government troops pursuing Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) bandits behind Tuesday’s dawn attack in Mamasapano town recovered firearms, improvised explosives and stolen motorcycles in the hideouts they had abandoned in haste.

Col. Dickson Hermoso, spokesman of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, said military units in Mamasapano and surrounding towns are now bracing for possible retaliation by the BIFF for its losses in a series of encounters since Monday.

BIFF bandits attacked patrolling government troops in Mamasapano on Tuesday, and villagers said four of them were slain in clashes with Army soldiers, although only two bodies have been recovered.

Hermoso said the bandits’ lairs yielded three M-16 assault rifles, a shoulder-fire rocket launcher, a dozen roadside bombs, and seven stolen motorcycles.

Soldiers earlier recovered a Barret .50-caliber sniping rifle, a launching tube for 60-millimeter explosive projectile, and bomb-making materials along the bandits’ escape route.

“What I can confirm is that our soldiers had recovered two cadavers of the enemies. Talk is rife among villagers that there are two other slain BIFF bandits (whose bodies were) taken away by their escaping companions, but that is something we still have to validate. The information relayed to us by local officials and barangay leaders, seemed true,” Hermoso said.

Hermoso said troops led by Lt. Col. Donald Hongitan of the Army’s 45th Infantry Battalion, and Col. Gener del Rosario, commanding officer of the 1st Mechanized Brigade, also recovered a laptop containing files on the BIFF’s extortion and bomb fabrication activities.

Soldiers also arrested four women while roaming around the bandits’ enclaves in the middle of rice fields at the boundary of Mamasapano and Shariff Saidona towns.

The four, believed to be wives of bandits, were found carrying explosives and assorted ammunition. They were turned over to the police, Hermoso said.

Photo: Captured ASG leader Khair Mundos

From Rappler(Jun 11): Photo: Captured ASG leader Khair Mundos

CAUGHT. Philippine police arrest Khair Mundos, who was previously arrested for facilitating the transfer of funds from the al-Qaida to Abu Sayyaf Group leader Khadaffy Janjalani. Photo courtesy of the PNP PIO

CAUGHT. Philippine police arrest Khair Mundos, who was previously arrested for facilitating the transfer of funds from the al-Qaida to Abu Sayyaf Group leader Khadaffy Janjalani. Photo courtesy of the PNP PIO

Two killed, top JI operative wounded in Maguindanao raid

From GMA News (Jun 11): Two killed, top JI operative wounded in Maguindanao raid

Abdul Basit Usman, reputed to be a bomb expert from the local terror group Jemaah Islamiyah, was reported wounded in a joint military and police raid in an isolated barangay in the province but he managed to escape, military officials said Wednesday.

Two of Usman's relatives were killed in the incident, according to a military report.

Troops from the First Mechanized brigade and 45th Infantry Battalion, together with Maguindanao police personnel, raided Usman's hideout at around 5:45 a.m. Tuesday, the report said.

“They fired rocket-propelled grenades at the assaulting team, but we coordinated our efforts and struck it right... suddenly, they were scampering to different directions as we closed in on them,” said ground commander Lt.Col. Donald Hongitan of the 45th IB.

Brigadier General Edmundo Pangilinan, commanding general of the Philippine Army’s 6th Division, said security forces managed to locate the hideout and explosives manufacturing facility of the Al Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiya after persistent intelligence work.

He said four women were also arrested during raid and were turned over to the Maguindanao Police Women’s Desk for questioning.

Citing reports, he said one of the women could be the wife of either Usman or Marwan, another JI top operative from Malaysia who was with the group.

A $1million reward was offered to anyone who can provide information that could lead to Usman's capture.


Joint police and military operations are still being undertaken against another group, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), which is believed to have been involved in previous attacks on military detachments, Pangilinan said.

“During the raid he (Usman) was there. He was wounded as per report from our operating troops. This proves BIFF is not only coddling Jemaah Islamiyah but it seems they have strong ties,” he added.

But Abumisry Mama, spokesperson for the BIFF, denied the accusation.

“From what we learned, there was a strafing incident in Barangay Libutan and we have no troops there. Maybe they are looking for somebody else,” Mama said.

PHL, other claimants need be to be firm over territorial row with China — Int'l affairs expert

From GMA News (Jun 11): PHL, other claimants need be to be firm over territorial row with China — Int'l affairs expert

As China aggressively shows its determination to take control of the disputed areas in the South China Sea, other claimant countries should be firm in staking their claims while the US must keep a cool head because the tiff is going to be a “long game,” an expert on international affairs said Wednesday.

In an interview on GMA News TV's "News To Go," Dr. Robert Sutter, a professor of Practice of International Affairs at the Elliott School of George Washington University, said: “At this point, the Chinese remain very determined to move ahead."

[But] “I don't think China will go to war with the US. They are very careful to avoid confrontation with the US," he said.

As with rebalancing policy of the US in the region, Sutter said "it is very important and very good. It shows the Barack Obama administration is in it for a long game.”

He cited the US-China crisis in the Taiwan Strait, which had dragged from 1995 to 2008.

"Both US and Chinese forces were facing each other head to head over Taiwan. We were on alert, they were on alert. One false move and we could have a conflict directly between the forces. That was dangerous, we got through that, I think we'll get through this,” he said.

Sutter said what he is seeing in the territorial disputes is that China "is taking over pieces of territory with Coast Guard forces backed up by economic sanctions and diplomatic threats.”

There are going to be tensions but that will not lead to conflict, he added.

“They (Chinese) are trying to intimidate people but they are not resorting to force because if they did they might engage the US..., [a scenario] China is very wary [about]," he said.

The force being used by China on the ships of the Philippines and Vietnam recently was done by its civilian forces, Sutter said.

“This is not the Army or the Navy and they are very careful to avoid the Army or the Navy doing this because that would be an international confrontation which could involve the United States,” he said.

Aside from China and the Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, Brunei, and Malaysia have overlapping claims in the South China Sea.

Don't put value on Chinese words

On the other hand, Sutter said claimant countries should not put much value on the words of Chinese officials saying they want the territorial issue to be resolved peacefully.

“They are determined to gain control on this territory, that is the uppermost priority for China," he said.

Vietnam tried hard to engage China, he said, but Beijing's response was the setting up of an oil rig in Paracel Islands, a move Sutter believes is a direct affront to Vietnam.

For a long time, China had wanted to take control of the disputed islands. Now that its capabilities are stronger, it is using its might to achieve its goal.

“The main issue [for China] is nationalism, sovereignty, and security – but the sovereignty in particular. Their Coast Guard is bigger, they are able to surround Philippine ships, they overwhelmed them. These are probes, these are not direct attacks but they are overwhelming. I think they (China) will continue (doing this),” Sutter said.

What should be done?

Sutter said claimant countries must show to China the cost of its aggressive behavior to stop Beijing from bullying them.

He cited the recent US-Philippines enhanced defense agreement as one of the possible "costs" China has to pay for its bullying game.

“China has suffered tremendous reputation cost (because of the issue) but reputation costs don't matter that much to the Chinese when they deal with sovereignty issue because they are very tough on this.

"So it has to come in other ways, one cost is the deepening of the US security presence in the region. China does not want that,” he said.

Sutter said America's increased presence in the region will show China that its actions are provoking the countries to invite the US to have a closer military relationship with them.

“We (the US) can go to China saying we are deepening our relationships with the region, you don't like it one bit, we know that... but we are deepening it anyway because the countries in the region want that for reassurance purposes and so we will continue to do that,” he said.

Other calibrated moves

Aside from a deepening relations between the US and claimant countries, Sutter believes other “calibrated” moves should be done to stop China's aggressive activities in the disputed territories.

“There probably need to be some other cost and I'm not sure what they are now but they have to be very carefully calibrated because the goal isn't to confront China from the US point of view. The goal is to reach some sort of an understanding with the Chinese to stop this kind of behavior,” he said.

Sutter said the US does not take a position on the disputes themselves but has a strong position on the aggressive and coercive moves.

“I think Americans will increasingly take actions that will show the Chinese the cost (of their behavior) and get them to calm down a bit on this issue. It will make them realize that by doing this they are going to face the costs in various ways,” he said.

He said China knows it will not gain much by dragging powerful countries into the dispute.

Photo: Wanted Abu Sayyaf commander nabbed in Paranaque (Khair Mundos)

From GMA News (Jun 11):  Photo: Wanted Abu Sayyaf commander nabbed in Paranaque (Khair Mundos)


After a seven-year manhunt, Khair Mundos, a top ranking Abu Sayyaf leader who has a $500,000 bounty on the US Most Wanted list, was arrested by PNP-CIDG agents in Barangay San Dionisio, Parañaque City on Wednesday, June 11. Mundos is believed to be a financier of the bandit group. GMA News

Filipino militant linked to al Qaeda arrested

From the Business World (Jun 11): Filipino militant linked to al Qaeda arrested

PHILIPPINE SECURITY forces yesterday captured a top al Qaeda-linked Islamist wanted by the United States and involved in the kidnapping of Western tourists, and hailed the arrest as a major blow to his militant network.

The Christian-majority Philippines has a Muslim minority largely based in its resource-rich southern islands where Muslim rebels have been fighting for autonomy for years.

The head of military intelligence, Major Gen. Eduardo Ano, said the captured militant, Khair Mundos, was an expert bomb-maker and the “spiritual leader” of the Abu Sayyaf faction, which rose to notoriety early last decade by kidnapping foreigners.

“This is a big blow to their organization,” Mr. Ano told reporters yesterday.

“They lost one of their leaders and they now feel insecure. We will try to get them one after another, we will not stop.”

The US had offered a $500,000 bounty for the arrest of Mundos. The Philippines offered P5 million ($114,400) for his recapture after he escaped from prison in 2007.

Mundos fled from the southern Philippines as security forces closed in on him and had been in hiding for months with relatives in the Manila suburb of Parañaque City, Mr. Ano said.

Soldiers and policemen swooped on his hideout and grabbed him early yesterday.

Security forces seized four guns, as well as training manuals used by the Indonesian militant group Jemaah Islamiyah (JI).

“We finally tracked him down,” said Benjamin Magalong, head of police criminal investigation group.

“This is a product of two months surveillance work.”

Mundos had raised funds for the Abu Sayyaf in the Middle East and funneled money from al Qaeda for bombings in the southern Philippines before his first arrest in 2004.

In 2001, Mundos bought a speed boat used in a raid on a Philippine island resort in which several tourists, including three Americans, were kidnapped.

One American woman was rescued a year later, but two Americans including her husband were killed.

The militants are currently holding three people from China, one from Japan, one from the Netherlands, one Swiss and two Germans, Philippine officials say.

The US State Department’s “Rewards for Justice” Web site describes Mundos as a “key leader and financier” of the Abu Sayyaf, an Islamic militant group blamed for the worst extremist attacks in the Philippines.

The group, founded with seed money from al Qaeda, is believed to have only a few hundred militants but has successfully carried out deadly bomb attacks and kidnappings, often targeting foreigners and Christians.

Mundos had been captured in 2004 in the southern Philippine region of Mindanao, a largely lawless area roughly 1,000 kilometers from Manila where the Abu Sayyaf is based.

He was arrested “on the first-ever money laundering charges against terrorists”, according to the “Rewards for Justice” Web site.

It said Mundos confessed in custody to having arranged the transfer of al Qaeda funds to the Abu Sayyaf’s top leader for bombings and other criminal acts throughout Mindanao.

He was also charged in the Philippines with multiple murder charges.

However, Mundos was among dozens of militants who escaped from Kidapawan City prison in Mindanao in February 2007, as part of a well-planned break.

Muslim insurgents using grenade launchers blasted their way into the jail before dawn, then pinned down a handful of guards with rifle fire while Mundos and the others fled.

Manila’s criminal investigation chief, Senior Supt. Roberto Fajardo, said Mundos had fled to the capital to avoid pursuit in the South, but he would not disclose how long the militant had been hiding in the city.

“It was getting too hot (in the South) so he came here while waiting for things to cool down,” Mr. Fajardo told reporters.

Mundos was detained just outside the house of a relative and did not resist arrest, according to another senior police officer involved who asked not to be named.

Mundos is one of the three main Islamist ideologues of the Abu Sayyaf, according to military intelligence officers. His brother, Burham Mundos, is also a key financier with direct links to the JI.

The US military has had about 500 troops rotating through the southern Philippines since 2002 to train Filipino soldiers how to combat the Abu Sayyaf.

Many Abu Sayyaf leaders have been captured or killed, but it continues to pose a threat in the South, kidnapping people and carrying out bomb attacks.

The militants are able to draw support from local Muslim communities who feel they have been persecuted for centuries by Christian rulers in Manila.

They also get money for weapons from their successful kidnap-for-ransom ventures.

The Abu Sayyaf was also blamed for the bombing of a passenger ferry in Manila Bay in 2004 in which more than 100 people were killed, the worst militant attack in the Philippines’ recent history.

Mr. Ano said Mundos was not in Manila to plan or lead any attack in the capital, but was simply trying to avoid capture.

No other details about the raid were immediately given.

Top Filipino terror suspect captured near Naia

From the Business Mirror (Jun 11): Top Filipino terror suspect captured near Naia

PHILIPPINE Army troops and police on Wednesday captured a top Filipino commander of the Abu Sayyaf extremist group who is on the US list of most-wanted terrorists and has acknowledged receiving al-Qaeda funds to finance bombings in the country.
Philippine security officials said Khair Mundos was arrested in a slum community near Manila’s international airport but it was not immediately clear why he was in the capital. The military and police have been hunting him for his alleged involvement in bombings and kidnappings.
Mundos is one of the highest-ranking terrorist suspects to be captured in the country in years. He was captured in 2004 but escaped in 2007.
Military Intelligence Chief Maj. Gen. Eduardo Ano described Mundos’s capture as a major blow to Abu Sayyaf, where he has served as a top commander, financial and logistical officer, trainer and planner of attacks.
The US State Department said Mundos, who also faces money-laundering charges, acknowledged that he arranged the transfer of al-Qaeda funds to the Abu Sayyaf to finance bombings and other attacks in the Philippines.
The State Department announced a $500,000 reward in 2009 for the killing or capture of Mundos. US authorities said he has worked as a financier for Abu Sayyaf.
He has led Abu Sayyaf militants on southern Basilan and is known to have links with members of the Southeast Asian militant network Jemaah Islamiyah.
Abu Sayyaf, which has an estimated 300 armed fighters split into about six factions, has been blamed for deadly bomb attacks, ransom kidnappings and beheadings. It was founded in the early 1990s on jungle-clad Basilan, near Zamboanga, a region 860 kilometers (540 miles) south of Manila where American counterterrorism troops have been stationed for more than a decade.

PAF to celebrate 67th founding anniversary on July 1

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 11): PAF to celebrate 67th founding anniversary on July 1

The Philippine Air Force (PAF) will celebrate its 67th founding anniversary on July 1 with the theme: ”PAF 2014: SOAR HIGH PAF for Peace, Freedom and Development.”

Lt. Col. Enrico Canaya, Air Force spokesperson, said the PAF will demonstrate the proficiency of pilots in their aerobatic maneuvers, the discipline of soldiers during the parade and review and its readiness for combat, disasters and calamities and support to national development through a capability demonstration at Clark Field in Pampanga.

According to Canaya, the PAF has lined up several pre-anniversary activities. These included the following:

* Bloodletting campaign held from May 5 to 30 with the theme: “Dugong Alay, Dugtong Buhay.” This was conducted in all Air Force Bases to generate substantial blood collection for donation to partner institutions in partnership with the Philippine Red Cross (PRC), Philippine Blood Center (PBC) and other charitable blood service organizations.

Canaya said that as of June 9, the PAF had collected a total of 316,800 cc of blood with 704 volunteers from civilian and military personnel.

* Children’s Day with the theme: “Masayang Kabataan, Masiglang Pamayanan.” This was conducted at all PAF major bases from May 12 to June 6, in partnership with the Department of Social Welfare and Development, children’s foundations, orphanages and Air Force Bases’ Youth Clubs.

This provided the youth a pleasant and lasting experience and made them resilient to enemy propaganda. As of June 9, a total of 1,758 children had participated in the activity.

* A joint weekend retreat seminar was held on May 23-25, 2014 at the Carmelite Missionaries Center of Spirituality in Tagaytay City, attended by PAF commanders, staff and non-commissioned officers (NCOs).

The activity was a marital, family and parenting weekend retreat to strengthen marriage, develop a family spirituality and help reduce marital, family problems that may affect work performances and to help NCOs develop skills in initial counseling techniques and empower them to address the problems of their peers and subordinates more effectively.

* Tree planting activities were also done to support the government’s National Greening Program. The activity was held from May 26 to June 15 at areas identified by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

* It was in partnership with DENR, local government units (LGUs), cause-oriented groups and reservists.

As of June 9, a total of 4,033 saplings/seedlings were already planted.

* An anniversary fun run with the theme: “Takbong Hukbong Himpapawid Para sa Karunungan at Kinabukasan ng Kabataan 2014” was held last June 1 at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) Complex, Pasay City.

The purpose of this activity was to raise funds for scholarship programs intended for deserving military dependents.

Mall exhibits will be held on June 11-13 at Mall of Asia and June 18-22 at SM Clark in Pampanga. The purpose of this activity is to show to the public the capability and equipment of the PAF.

An Air Power Symposium (APS) will be held on July 16 at the World Trade Center, Pasay City with the theme “Rapid and Flexible Response: The Role of Air Power in the Security Environment.”

The APS is part of the Asian Defense and Security (ADAS) 2014 scheduled from July 16-18. This is a one-day event that will highlight the importance of air power to the nation’s stability and development.

It will serve as the intellectual centerpiece for the PAF's 67th Anniversary celebration.

This event will be attended by senior PAF and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) officers, various Air chiefs or their representatives from ASEAN and other Air Forces, selected key officials of the Department of National Defense and other government agencies and other stakeholders from the public and private sectors.

Ranking ASG leader bagged in Paranaque - ISAFP chief

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 11): Ranking ASG leader bagged in Paranaque - ISAFP chief

Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP) commander Major Gen. Eduardo Ano on Wednesday confirmed the arrest of Khair Mundos, a ranking Abu Sayyaf Group leader, during an operation in San Isidro, Paranaque City Wednesday morning.

He added that the operation, which was conducted by Army intelligence operatives, took place around 9:45 a.m.

Ano said that incessant military pressure in Mindanao prompted Mundos to flee and seek shelter with his relatives in Metro Manila.

He also clarified that the ASG leader has no plans to conduct bombing attacks in Metro Manila.

The ISAFP chief added that the ASG leader's capture has a huge impact on the terrorist organization as Mundos is considered their bravest operative and known to lead bombing operations.

"He (Mundos) has good standing in the ASG and is even considered one of their spiritual leaders. Those people lost one of their leaders," Ano said.

Ano stated that Mundos has direct links with Jemaah Islamiyah and Al-Qaeda terrorist organizations.

US authorities have placed a USD500,000 reward for Mundos' capture and arrest.

NPA leader, follower surrender in Davao Oriental

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 11): NPA leader, follower surrender in Davao Oriental
A New People’s Army (NPA) leader and one of his members surrendered to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the local government of Mati City in Davao Oriental, bringing along high-powered firearms on Monday.

In a statement forwarded by AFP public affairs office chief Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala, the surrenderees were identified as Joseph Alpas also known as "Roland" and team leader of the Abe Squad 4 of the NPA’s Pulang Bagani Company 3.

He and his team member, Rogelio M. Garapan alias "Ganie" voluntarily surrendered on Monday to Mati City Vice Mayor Glenda Rabat Gayta, 701st Brigade Commander, Col. Benjamin R. Madrigal Jr., and Senior Supt. Jose C. Carumba.

They brought along with them one M-14 carbine and an M-4 automatic rifle with 10 magazines and an anti-personnel landmine.

The rebel returnees are now under the custody of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) through Davao Oriental Halfway House – a processing center for former rebels.

The surrendered firearms and improvised landmine on the other hand, are now at the 701st Brigade headquarters for processing under the government’s Guns for Peace program.

Just last week, a total of 54 NPA rebels under Embay Casal Gayaw, alias Rixan, leader of FC 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.

The increasing number of NPAs surrendering to the government fold is attributed to the group’s weakened leadership following the arrest of Benito and Wilma Tiamzon last March.

Zagala said the AFP reiterates its call to the NPAs who continue to engage in criminal activities to surrender and totally abandon the armed struggle.

In this way, he said more innocent civilians will be spared from their crimes which hamper growth and development in our country.

DND honors South Korea’s Araw Force Contingent for humanitarian acts in Leyte

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 11): DND honors South Korea’s Araw Force Contingent for humanitarian acts in Leyte

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin on Wednesday afforded the South Korean Joint Support Group Araw Force Contingent with the Bakas Parangal Award in a ceremony at their base camp in Candahug village of Palo, Leyte.

Bakas Parangal Award in three categories - Kadakilaan, Kabayanihan and Kagitingan – is a recognition bestowed by the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council (NDRRMC) to individuals or groups that provide exemplary services during times of calamities and disaster.

The award is a reminder that what they done in helping victims of disaster do not only save lives but also change lives.

The Araw Contingent is currently in the province of Leyte helping in the rehabilitation of damaged public infrastructures like school buildings and other local government unit structures.

The contingent is focusing its rehabilitation work at the municipalities of Palo, Tanauan and Tolosa repairing elementary school buildings and local government structures including hospitals.

”South Korean government is one of the first foreign governments that immediately responded to the request of the Philippine government for international aid after typhoon Yolanda devastated provinces in the central part of the country,” said Gazmin in his speech.

“With this, the Philippine government and its people are thanking the South Korean military contingents in their exemplary heroism, kindness and bravery that marks and appreciated by victims of typhoon Yolanda,” he added.

Gazmin added that this will also strengthen more the bilateral relation and friendship of the Republic of South Korea and the Philippines that was forged 64 years ago when Philippine military and South Korean army fought together in the defense of the freedom of South Korea.

South Korean Ambassador to the Philippines Hyuk Lee said that the presence of their country’s soldier in the province did not only forge friendship between two military forces but also among locals where they are conducting rehabilitation works.

Araw Forces is assisted by personnel of the 546th engineering construction battalion of AFP assigned in Tacloban City.

“I had seen that you developed a good working environment with your partner soldiers in the rehabilitation of public structures but you also have great time with the locals,” Lee said.

Lee also stressed to the South Korean troops that their experience in Leyte should be a reminder and should give them lesson of how important it is for people of all nation to help each other and live in harmony.

The award was received by Colonel Chulwon Lee, commander of Joint Support Group Araw Force contingent.

Last month the South Korean troops also received a Military Civic Action Medal from Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff General Emmanuel Bautista.

Wednesday’s awarding ceremony was witnessed by Leyte Governor Leopoldo Dominico Petilla, Palo Mayor Remedios Petilla, Tanauan Mayor Pelagio Tecson Jr., Tolosa Mayor Erwin Ocana, AFP Central Commander General John Bonafos, 8th Infantry Division Commander Major General Jet Velarmino, OCD executive director Undersecretary Alexander Palma and OCD 8 regional director Blanche Gobienchong.

Prior the ceremony Gazmin inspected government structures that were rehabilitated by the group like the Baras Elementary School, Leyte Provincial Hospital and Pawing Elementary School.

Araw Forces will stay until December of this year and the second batch of their military humanitarian contingents will arrive before the end of this month.

Duterte to lead outreach mission to NPA hideaway on 116th Independence Day

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 11): Duterte to lead outreach mission to NPA hideaway on 116th Independence Day
Mayor Rodrigo Duterte will lead government agencies in an outreach mission to mark the 116th Independence Day in Paquibato area known to be a stronghold of the New People’s Army (NPA) for many years.

A flag raising ceremony to start the outreach mission dubbed as “Unity for Peace in Paquibato” will be attended by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Gen. Emmanuel T. Bautista; Eastern Mindanao Command Commander Lt. Gen. Ricardo Rainier G. Cruz III; 10th Infantry Division Commander Maj. Gen. Ariel B. Bernardo; and Philippine National Police (PNP) Regional Chief Supt. Wendy Garcia Rosario.

The Association of Regional Executives of National Agency (ARENA) headed by Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Regional Director Mariano Alquiza will be offering government service.

People from Paquibato District which comprises 13 villages, will take part in the outreach mission. Aside from the “Serbisyo Caravan”, other activities are Interfaith Prayer; Bike for Peace; Unveiling of Peace Monument; Ground Breaking of Joint AFP-PNP Action Center (JAPAC) Facility; Presentation of Former Rebels (FRs); Signing of Covenant for Peace and Development; and “Concert for Peace”.

According to the military, Paquibato district will also be declared peaceful and development-ready by the local and city officials on the same day.

Different city dignitaries are invited to deliver needed basic services as a jumpstart development in the said district.

Paquibato district is situated 50 kilometers north of Davao City and comprised of 13 barangays with a population of 38,266.

New Army brigade commander eyeing zero-insurgency in Negros Oriental

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 11): New Army brigade commander eyeing zero-insurgency in Negros Oriental

The newly-installed commander of the Philippine Army’s 302nd Infantry Brigade based in Tanjay City, Negros Oriental on Wednesday expressed optimism to attain a zero-insurgency status in the province.

Col. Allan Martin, in an interview with reporters immediately after his installation as the new brigade commander Wednesday, pointed out that it has always been the aspiration of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to attain a zero-armed group in Negros Oriental.

It could be very difficult, he admitted, but if Bohol was able to do it, then Negros Oriental could also do the same, Martin said.

Martin said he would try his best to carry on the accomplishments of his predecessor, Brig. Gen. Francisco Patrimonio.

The brigade has done so much under the leadership of Patrimonio and there are activities, programs and projects that have already been aligned, he noted.

Martin also expressed hope of continued support from residents as well as other government agencies in achieving peace and prosperity in the province.

The declaration of the province last month as conflict manageable and development ready in relation to the insurgency was a product of the support and help given by the local officials and the public in general, he added.

Martin officially assumed his post Wednesday in a change of command ceremony presided by Maj. Gen. Aurelio Baladad, commander of the 3rd Infantry Division based in Jamindan, Capiz.

Baladad, in his message, lauded and thanked Patrimonio for the many accomplishments the different Army units under the brigade had earned during his more than two years stint with the 302nd brigade.

At the same time, Baladad encouraged and challenged Martin to do his best in pursuing the activities of the brigade in its quest for peace and development in Negros Oriental.

While Negros Oriental has already been declared as conflict manageable and development ready, the task on hand now is to sustain that status and continue working towards an insurgency-free Negros Oriental.

In the meantime, government forces still have to deal with a bigger problem of attending to the insurgency problem in the adjacent province of Negros Occidental, Baladad said.

The New People’s Army (NPA), the armed component of the Communist Party of the Philippines/National Democratic Front, has reportedly dwindled in numbers, particularly in its armed members in Negros Oriental, the Army said.

But there is still an NPA force to reckon with in Negros Occidental and the Army must ensure there will be no spillover of the rebels to Negros Oriental.

Patrimonio, for his part, thanked the troops, civilian officials, various civic groups and non-government organizations, for their untiring and full support to the brigade’s programs and projects that have played an important part in the brigade’s accomplishments in the past two years or so.

Patrimonio, a member of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Class ’82 and a mistah of Baladad, will be assigned as the latter’s deputy division commander of the 3ID.

Present during the turnover of command ceremony at the brigade headquarters in Camp Leon Kilat, Tanjay City, were Vice Governor Mark Macias, other local officials, heads of government agencies and offices, partners in the different sectors, the media and officials of the Philippine Army’s various units in Negros Island, among others.

Slain rebel identified

From the Visayan Daily Star (Jun 11): Slain rebel identified

Another suspected New People’s Army rebel, who was among those killed in the latest encounter with soldiers in Tanjay City, Negros Oriental, was identified to be a resident of Brgy. Camindangan, Sipalay City, Negros Occidental.

Andrea Guerrero, spokesperson of the Armando Sumayang Jr. Command, confirmed the death of Danny Ligid-Ligid, “alias Ka Mona and Radja”, 31, in an encounter with 79th Infantry Battalion soldiers on May 24 in Brgy. San Antonio, Tanjay City.

The Southwest Negros Guerilla Front and the Pambansang Katipunan ng Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, meanwhile, praised the devotion and bravery of Ligid-Ligid by offering his life to the cause of the revolutionary movement.

Ka Andres Bayani, PKM Southwest District Committee spokesperson, said Ka Radja had been a member of PKM, before he joined the NPA, on recommendation of the Sanga sang Partido sa Baryo.

Ka Radja was the second family member of Ligid-Ligid, who became a martyr of the revolutionary movement, Guerrero, said in a statement he issued.

In January 2012, Donald Diligdilig, 21, was killed in an encounter with Army soldiers in Sitio Mag-asawang Bukid, Brgy. Camindangan, Sipalay City, military records show.

Lt. Col. Rodrigo Sosmena, then commander of the 47th Infantry Battalion, said Donald was among the three members of his family, who had joined the NPA.

Two other members of the NPA, who were also killed in the Tanjay encounter, were identified by the military as Diosdado Dacal-Dacal and Feliz Yanoc, both residents of Santa Catalina, Negros Oriental.

With the death of the four rebels, Brig. Gen. Francisco Patrimonio, outgoing 302nd Infantry Brigade commander, claimed that the total strength of armed regulars of the South East Front-Komiteng Rehiyonal Negros has been reduced to 19 members.

Military says: Bombing diversionary tactic

From the Visayan Daily Star (Jun 11): Military says: Bombing diversionary tactic

The recent bombing of a sugar mill transloading station in Escalante City, Negros Occidental, by the New People’s Army was not just to punish its management for failure to comply with the rebel extortion demands, but also to divert government forces, Col. Jon Aying, 303rd Infantry Brigade commander, said yesterday.

The NPA has raided and destroyed twice the transloading stations of Lopez Sugar Corp. in Brgy. San Jose, Toboso and Brgy, Mabini, Escalante, within four years, military records show.
They used Improvised Explosive Devices in bombing the sugar mill transloading station on Sunday in Escalante City, police investigations also showed.
Aying spelled out three possible motives, for the bombing of the transloading station: extortion; a diversionary tactic of the NPA to lessen the pressure on them by military; and to ambush police and military personnel, who may respond to their atrocities.
Damaged by the explosions were the core sampler laboratory, a crane, platform weighing scale, gas pumping station and a Fuzo hauler truck.
However, the extent of damage was still being assessed by the sugar mill management, as of yesterday, Senior Supt. Milko Lirazan, provincial police director of Negros Occidental, said.
Aying said a coordinated manhunt operation is now being conducted by the 62nd Infantry Battalion, with the participation of the 6th Special Action Battalion, 6th Regional Public Safety Battalion and members of the Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit stationed in the area.
Escalante police chief, Supt. Leo Batiles, said they will collate the testimonies of witnesses, and coordinate with the Philippine Army in identifying the rebel suspects and filing of charges against them.
More than 20 Bayanihan teams of the Philippine Army have been deployed in the so-called guerilla zones of the NPA in the hinterlands of Escalante, Toboso and Calatrava (ESTOCA).
Aying said that with the occupation of NPA guerilla zones by government forces, the rebel group has moved out to other areas of northern Negros after experiencing military debacles.
The ESTOCA area has been the focus of development by the provincial government of Negros Occidental, through its Provincial Peace,Integration and Development Unit, since last year.
The South West Negros Guerilla Front, however, described in its statement, the Negros First Pro-PIDU program of Gov. Alfredo Maranon Jr. and Aying as a form of “psy-war operations” of the military.

PH Navy evacuates stricken crewman from Aussie sub off Samar

From InterAksyon (Jun 11): PH Navy evacuates stricken crewman from Aussie sub off Samar

The Philippine Navy early this week evacuated a sailor stricken with appendicitis from an Australian submarine that had sought assistance off Samar, the military said Wednesday.

“On Sunday afternoon, around 5:56, an Australian submarine surfaced about three nautical miles off Marabut, Samar. It unloaded a patient with appendicitis, probably a crew. Our Navy personnel on board DF339 picked up the patient along with his escort. Immediately thereafter, the submarine left the area,” Lieutenant Commander Jim Alagao, spokesman of the Armed Forces’ Central Command, said in a phone interview.

Alagao said he did not know where the submarine came from.

But he said before it surfaced, the vessel contacted Naval Forces Central Command for assistance in the emergency evacuation of the crewman, who was taken to a hospital in Tacloban City.

The Centcom spokesman declined to identify the sick Australian and his escort, citing military security protocols.

“The following day (Monday), the patient was evacuated to Manila. As per report we received today, the patient’s condition has been improving,” Alagao said, declining to say what hospital the sailor was admitted to.

 He said Navy headquarters in Manila is coordinating with the Department of Foreign Affairs for proper documentation of the two foreign sailors.

In recent years, the Philippine and Australian militaries have been strengthening relations for improved interoperability and disaster response.

Alagao also cited Article 18, Paragraph 2, of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea or UNCLOS, on the Doctrine of Innocent Passage, which covers “... passage includes stopping or anchoring ... rendered necessary by force majeure, or distress or for the purpose of rendering assistance to persons, ships or aircraft in danger or distress.”

Article 20 of UNCLOS also provides, “In the territorial sea, submarines and other underwater vehicles are required to navigate on the surface and to show their flag.”

The Australians, said Alagao, “complied (with) these provisions of the UNCLOS, including the requisite permission under the convention. The Navy binds itself to render all appropriate assistance to any nation whose people or uniformed personnel are similarly situated as in the case of this Australian Navy personnel whose life is in peril."

Alleged rebels seize weapons, cash from Agusan del Norte mayor's home

From InterAksyon (Jun 11): Alleged rebels seize weapons, cash from Agusan del Norte mayor's home

Five gunmen dressed in Army uniforms and who introduced themselves as communist rebels robbed the home of Ramon Calo, mayor of Carmen town Agusan del Norte early this week, carting away weapons, belated police reports said Wednesday.

Calo was in Manila at the time of the incident.

The reports said the gunmen, armed with rifles and pistols, barged into Calo’s house around 7:35 p.m. Sunday and hogtied Junpol Tubo and Jeffrey Liro, members of a “Task Force Carmen” assigned to protect the mayor’s residence.

They then forced their way into the mayor’s room with an axe.

The men took an M16 rifle, a 9mm pistol, two shotguns a 9mm Uzi machine pistol, a samurai sword, and an attaché case containing a passbook, ten check booklets and P615 in cash.

Key Abu Sayyaf leader with $500,000 bounty nabbed in Paranaque

From InterAksyon (Jun 11): Key Abu Sayyaf leader with $500,000 bounty nabbed in Paranaque

The page containing information on Kahir Mundos at the Rewards for Justice website of the US State Department (

A key leader of the Abu Sayyaf who carried a $500,000 bounty from the US government was arrested Wednesday morning in what authorities said was his hideout in Paranaque City.

Major General Eduardo Ano, chief of the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, said the capture of Khair Mundos in Barangay San Isidro around 9:45 a.m. was the result of surveillance-drive efforts by the Philippine Army.

“It’s our Army intelligence unit that worked hard to pinpoint the whereabouts of this notorious Abu Sayyaf leader and they were able to pin him down at his safe house in Paranaque,” Ano said, adding that the police’s Criminal Investigation and Detection Group assisted in the arrest.

The US Department of State “Rewards for Justice” website describes Mundos as a “key leader and financier” of the Abu Sayyaf who was arrested in May 2004 on money laundering charges.

At the time, Mundos supposedly confessed to arranging fund transfers from Al Qaeda to Abu Sayyaf leader Khadaffy Janjalani for use “in bombings and other criminal acts throughout Mindanao.”

However, Mundos escaped from the provincial jail in Kidapawan City in 2007.

Aside from the US bounty, the Philippines also offered P5 million for Mundos’ arrest.

Ano said Mundos was forced to flee Mindanao because he was already “too hot to handle” for relatives and supporters in Basilan and Sulu.

Hinahabol-habol sa Mindanao ‘yan. Dahil sa pressure kaya pumunta rito sa Manila para magtago. May mga relatives ‘yan dito sa Manila, eh (He was being hunted in Mindanao. Because of the pressure he came to Manila to hide. He has relatives in Manila),” the ISAFP chief said.

He quickly dismissed the idea Mundos was on a bombing mission in Metro Manila.

“No, no that’s not true. He’s here to hide,” he stressed.

Ano predicted the arrest of Mundos would be a big blow to the morale of his followers.

Sa Abu Sayyaf si Khair Mundos ay malaki ang pagrespeto nila sa kanya. Dahil kasi malakas ang loob, siya ang nagsasagawa ng bombing, saka spiritual leader din nila. Talagang may standing siya sa (In the Abu Sayyaf, there is great respect for Khair Mundos. This is because he is daring, he carries out bombings, and is also their spiritual leader. He really has standing within the) ASG. Now, those people lost one of their leaders, siyempre makakaramdam ang mga ‘yan ng insecurity dahil ‘yung boss nila na si Mundos nahuli (of course they will feel insecure because their boss Mundos has been captured).

These past few days a good number of ASG leaders and members were arrested in different operations,” Ano said.

He described Mundos as one of the “best students” of the Indonesia-based terror movement Jemaah Islamiya.

“He is a true-blue Abu Sayyaf trained for bomb-making by the JI. The JI loves him very much. Kaya madalas kasakasama siya ng mga (Which is why he is a constant companion of the) JI,” Ano said.

NOT 1 BUT 5 | China carrying out land reclamation work in more areas in Spratly Islands

From InterAksyon (Jun 11): NOT 1 BUT 5 | China carrying out land reclamation work in more areas in Spratly Islands

Calderon Reef is seen in this Philippine Government photo circa 2003, when the Chinese started building the structures.

China is carrying out land reclamation operations in not just one but a total of five areas in the disputed Spratly Islands – areas that are well within the Philippine zone, according to sources.

The Aquino Administration had revealed in March that China was carrying out land reclamation activities in Mabini Reef, internationally known as Johnson South Reef, which is part of the Kalayaan Island Group. The Department of the Foreign Affairs released a series of photographs to show how the small Chinese garrison has been expanded to almost 9 hectares in just two years.

Then, there were speculations China would build an airstrip in Mabini Reef and once operational, Beijing can enforce an Air Defense Interdiction Zone (ADIZ).

Apparently, however, China was busy carrying out reclamation work in four more areas: Cuarteron Reef, Hughes Reef, Gaven Reef and Eldad Reef.

Senior Aquino administration officials confirmed to TV5 the Chinese activities, pointing out recent surveillance flights over the area confirmed the presence of dredging and “material displacement” ships. President Aquino has seen the surveillance photos, which were taken in March and April this year, and was reportedly surprised at the extent of China’s activities.

Despite these recent developments, President Aquino and Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua exchanged conciliatory statements at Tuesday night's twin celebrations hosted by the Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry Inc. (FFCCCII), and both stressed the territorial disputes do not define the “thousand-year-old friendship” of Manila and Beijing.

Senior Aquino Administration officials showed to TV5 the surveillance photos taken at Gaven Reef, Cuarteron Reef and Keenan Reef.

Work in progress at 3 reefs

At Gaven Reef, which the Philippines calls Burgos Reef, three dredgers and an ocean tug were seen. One of the dredgers, identified as Tian Jing Hao, has deployed a long hose to suck up seabed material and redistribute this to the reclaimed area. Another dredger, the Nina Hai Tuo, can also be seen working in another area of Gaven Reef.

China had built a troop and supply garrison at Gaven Reef as far back as 2003. The garrison has several gun emplacements, including a large bore naval gun. The garrison also had a platform where supply ships can dock.

Officials said the reclamation operations at Gaven Reef are expected to last to a month or more, “barring any environmental setbacks.”

At Hughes Reef, which the Philippines calls Kennan Reef, a lone dredger can be seen, and a sizeable area has already been reclaimed. Several construction equipment can be seen on the reclaimed area. China has built a permanent reef fortress and supply platform, which also have several gun emplacements and a helicopter landing pad.

At Cuarteron Reef, which the Philippines calls Calderon Reef, a dredger equipped with a long black house can be seen spreading seabed material over a wide area. The reclamation work is being done near the Chinese garrison which has been built up into a permanent reef fortress, which is equipped with radar and communications equipment.

At Eldad Reef, which the Philippines calls Malvar Reef, a ship can be seen anchored off the reef and a backhoe is seen moving seabed materials.

Philippine government officials estimate that reclamation activities at Calderon and Eldad reefs will last for a month.

At Johnson Reef, which the Philippines calls Mabini Reef, the reclamation work was completed last March. The reclaimed area is estimated to be around 90,000 square meters and the perimeter has been secured to prevent erosion.

Located in one corner of the reclaimed area is a Chinese garrison, which also serves as a communications and radar facilities and is equipped with naval guns. A helicopter landing pad was built in the garrison as well as a small dock.

Aquino, Zhao conciliatory

In their respective speeches Tuesday night before the Federation of Filipino Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry on the occasion of Filipino – Chinese Friendship day, President Aquino and Ambassador Zhao expressed confidence that the disputes can be settled peacefully, though Zhao harped on bilateral negotiations as a mode - affirming Beijing's stand to reject arbitration in a UN tribunal where Manila had filed a complaint.

Ambassador Zhao described the Philippine-China territorial disputes as “temporary… compared with our thousand year old friendship and extensive cooperation.”

“China always attached great importance to its relationship with the Philippines, and I believe that we have the wisdom, the patience and the courage to settle the disputes through negotiations and consultations. I am fully confident about the future of China-Philippines relations,” Ambassador Zhao stressed.

President Aquino appeared to have been taken by surprise at Ambassador Zhao’s conciliatory tone, describing it as “very poignant and well thought.”

“Our relationships are based on so many more things, not just on this dispute, and that peace and stability are necessary component for our own – for everybody’s – progress,” the Chief Executive said in his extemporaneous remarks. He recalled that in his 2011 meeting with Chinese President  Hu Jintao, the latter reiterated maritime border issues and territorial disputes “should not be the sum total of our relationships.”

“To hear that reiterated today truly fills our heart,” the President added.