Sunday, June 15, 2014

MILF: Editorial -- Bangsamoro Coordination Forum

Editorial posted to the MILF Website (Jun 15): Bangsamoro Coordination Forum

“There is no substitute for unity.”
This was the declaration of the MILF delegation to the meeting of the Bangsamoro Coordination Forum (BCF) in Jeddah, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia last June 12.

The BCF was set up by the MILF and MNLF in May 2010. It was made possible under the prodding and auspices of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

In the meeting, the MILF was represented by a nine-man delegation and the MNLF by an 11-member delegation. Mohagher Iqbal headed the MILF group, while Sheikh Abdulbaki Abubakar led the MNLF delegation. However, Atty. Randolph “Bong” Parcasio signed the joint statement made during the conclusion of the one-day meeting. For what reason, it was internal to the MNLF delegation.

There at least two ways to achieve this unity; one is good but not reachable, and the other is practical and the only possible arrangement under current situation. After all, with changes and the various transformations sweeping across the Bangsamoro, alliances and coalitions are what matter these days. The heyday of a monolithic organization is a thing of the past and no longer holds currency today. People are tired of being dictated on what to do and what not to do. Moreover, both the MILF and MNLF are supposed to be popularly-based organizations and therefore it is their obligation to run their respective organizations by consultation. The people must be involved to run their lives.

The leaders of both organizations should be credited for being frank and straight-forward with each other during the meeting. They know that they can only find meaning to their face-to-face meeting if they are truthful to each other.

However, overall, the greater credit belong to OIC Secretary General HE Iyad Ameen Madani and Ambassador Kaseem El-Masry for the steering the meeting to its rightful conclusion. The Joint Statement was signed by leaders of both the MILF and MILF in front of the OIC Secretary General.

However, the successful conclusion of the meeting was just the beginning of what we desire ahead of us. The need to operationalize the BCF is very urgent and should be done immediately.  Leaders of both organizations, if they are true to their commitment, must subordinate personal and organizational interests in favor of the common interests.

NPA rebels capture village execs

From the Manila Bulletin (Jun 15): NPA rebels capture village execs

Two village officials were seized by fleeing New People’s Army (NPA) insurgents Friday afternoon in Sarangani province, the military said.

But Capt. Rey Balibagoso, spokesman for the Army’s 102nd Brigade, said the victims were released unharmed less than 24 hours after they were forcibly taken by the NPA.

In a text message, Balibagoso identified the victims as Terso Manambay and Ballota Tamalon, both kagawad at Barangay San Juan, Malungon, Sarangani province.

Balibagoso said the two were abducted by armed NPA insurgents under Manuel Garduque alias “Dodong Sidlak”, “Lucas” around 4:45 p.m. Friday.

“The victims were brought by said NPAs to Sitio Mahayahay, approximately 20 kilometers from Barangay San Juan,” said the Army spokesman.

On Saturday at around 10 a.m., Balibagoso said they received information that Manambay and Tamalon were released by the NPA.

The official added that based on their assessment, the victims were used as human shield by the insurgents to evade government security forces who were then conducting operation in the area.

Balibagoso further said the Army is coordinating with the Philippine National Police (PNP), Malungon mayor Bong Constantino, and San Juan barangay captain Veloso Palacay for the investigation of the incident and filing of appropriate charges against the rebel group.

OIC’s intervention to unite MILF, MNLF underscored

From the Manila Bulletin (Jun 15): OIC’s intervention to unite MILF, MNLF underscored

Jolo, Sulu – The head of the House Committee on Muslim Affairs is urging all Muslim-Filipinos to extend their full support to the move of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to unite the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in an effort to achieve a lasting peace in Mindanao.

Representative Habib Tupay Loong (1st District, Sulu), chairman of the Committee on Muslim affairs, said the move of the OIC to thresh out the differences and unite the MILF and the MNLF is necessary to achieve peace in Mindanao.

He said the OIC’s move is very laudable, and should be supported by all Filipinos – including those living outside Mindanao.

Loong particularly urged the various Muslim sectors in the country to support the move of the OIC, and pray that the two groups would reconcile their differences in the name of the Bangsamoro people.

Loong disclosed that the Muslims in Southern Philippines are faced with a dilemma – having two Muslim liberation movements (MNLF and MILF), forging separate peace agreements with the Philippine government – practically with the same context.

“The peace deal with the MILF will just divide us as Muslims, and may only bring animosity and disenchantment to us, instead of final and lasting peace that we have been clamoring for,” Loong said.

Following the talks spearheaded by the OIC in Jeddah, a more comprehensive peace agreement is expected to be drawn – with both parties eventually ending their differences.

Earlier, Loong made an appeal to OIC Secretary General Eyed Amin Madani to exercise the OICs influence to invite the MNLF, MILF, and the Philippine government to a quadripartite meeting.

With the OIC as mediator, the MNLF and the MILF will be able to thresh out and resolve their differences, and to reconcile and integrate their separate agreements – the 1996 Final Peace Agreement, and the Bangsamoro Framework Agreement – so as to link them with the OIC-brokered Tripoli Agreement of 1976 in the interest of reaching a final and lasting peace.

Photo: Khair Mundos and comrades at a camp in the Southern Philippines

Posted to the Washington Post (Jun 14): Photo: Khair Mundos and comrades at a camp in the Southern Philippines

In this undated photo made available, Wednesday, June 11, 2014, by Philippine National Police in Manila, Philippines, Khair Mundos, left, a top commander of the Abu Sayyaf extremist group who is on the U.S. list of most-wanted terrorists and has once acknowledged receiving al-Qaida funds to finance local bombings, poses with his comrades while training at their camp on Mindanao island in southern Philippines. Philippine security officials said 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. (Philippine National Police/Associated Press)

DND postpones bidding for major ticket items

From the Philippine Star (Jun 15): DND postpones bidding for major ticket items

The Department of National Defense (DND) has rescheduled the opening of bids for its programmed acquisition of major ticket items for the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Defense Undersecretary Natalio Ecarma III, chairman of the DND Bids and Awards Committee, informed prospective bidders who signified their intentions to provide the Philippine Navy with two anti-submarine helicopters that the submission and opening of bids for the P5.4-billion project has been moved to June 24 at 10 a.m.

The two anti-submarine helicopters would include munitions, mission essentials and instrument landing system.

Once purchased, the two armed anti-submarine helicopters are expected to be deployed on board the BRP Gregorio del Pilar and BRP Ramon Alcaraz.

The Philippine Navy has received delivery of three anti-submarine helicopters that were earlier procured from defense contractor Augusta Westland.

On the other hand, Fernando Manalo, chairman of the DND Special Bids and Awards Committee-1, also announced the first stage bid submission and opening for two long-range patrol aircraft scheduled last June 13 has been moved to July 9, also at 10 a.m.

The government, under the revised Armed Forces modernization program, has allotted P5.976 million for the purchase of long range patrol aircraft to boost the Philippine Air Force’s patrol capabilities.

At present, the PAF is mainly relying on old Fokkers, Nomads and Islanders for air patrol.

No explanation was given on why the biddings for the major ticket items were postponed.

In a related development, a letter of credit is expected to be opened anytime this month for a squadron of F/A-50 Fighting Eagle that the government is acquiring from South Korea to the tune of P18 billion.

Two F/A-50 fighter trainer jets are expected to be delivered 18 months after the opening of the L/C, with the next two planes to be delivered within a year after the first delivery.

The other eight planes that will complete the 12 units of jet fighters to be supplied by the South Korean-based defense manufacturer will be arriving in the country on a staggered basis within a period of eight months.

Rebels seize, free 2 Sarangani village execs

From the Philippine Star (Jun 16): Rebels seize, free 2 Sarangani village execs

Suspected New People’s Army (NPA) guerrillas snatched on Friday two village councilmen in Sarangani but released them the following day, the military reported yesterday.

Terso Manambay and Ballota Tamalon were kidnapped at around 4:45 p.m. in Barangay San Juan in Malungon town, said Capt. Rey Balibagoso, spokesman for the Army’s 1002nd Infantry Brigade.

The kidnappers, reportedly led by a certain Manuel Garduque, brought the victims to Sitio Mahayahay, some 20 kilometers from Barangay San Juan.

On Saturday morning, security officials received a report that Manambay and Tamalon have been released.

“Our assessment is that the NPA rebels used them as human shields to be able to get out of the village, as (there is a) military operation in the area,” Balibagoso said.

The military is working with the police and the local government to file charges against the rebels behind the incident.

Rebels admit raid in Butuan

From the Manila Standard Today (Jun 16): Rebels admit raid in Butuan

BUTUAN CITY, Agusan del Norte—The New People’s Army has claimed responsibility for raiding last June 8 the house of Mayor Ramon Calo in Carmen, Agusan del Norte.

In a statement sent to the media, NPA spokesman Ka Omar said the attack was due to his anti-people activities.

“They are not only losing public support, losing symphatizers and armed members but also their supplies of firearms and ammunition are waning thus they are forced to rob and steal firearms,” Calo told Manila Standard before attending the Talent Night in the Search of Mutya Ng Agusan del Norte at the Municipal Gym.

“All in all I lost more than P300,000 worth of items.”

Calo said if he were at home at the time, “I would have been forced to fight them. Let us see of who will left alive.”

Carmen Police said five men wearing Army uniform with AK 47 rifles and handguns barged Calo’s compound and tied up Junpol V. Tubo and Jeffrey L. Liro of the  Carmen Task Force, and Junson T. Mabacyaw, a helper.

The inventory of items allegedly taken by the suspects during the raid consisted of one Elisco M16 rifle (Serial 031457), one 9mm Jericho pistol (Serial 146034), one  9mm UZI (Serial 140359), two 12 gauge shotguns, one samurai sword, one attache case containing a passbook, and 10 check booklets.

According to Calo, nearly 100 police and military troops have joined to provide security at his residence.

“This is an added expenses to my part because government will not shoulder personal expenses like providing food for your security personnel” he said.

Agusan del Norte Governor Maria Angelica Rossdell Amante-Matba, Talent Night keynote speaker, condemned the attack as a terrorist act.

Calo is an ally of Matba, provincial chairwoman and Caraga regional vice chairwoman of the Liberal Party.

Davao City mayor offers Malaysian, Thai oil-palm venture to NPAs

From the Business Mirror (Jun 15): Davao City mayor offers Malaysian, Thai oil-palm venture to NPAs

PAQUIBATO DISTRICT, Davao City—Mayor Rodrigo Duterte offered to New People’s Army guerrillas a multimillion-peso oil-palm plan of Malaysian and Thai business groups, in another bold move to contain any outbreak of violence in this northern hinterland.

Duterte publicly announced the offer a week earlier but on the commemoration of the 116th Independence Day in this restive district, he repeated the offer while the top brass of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) listened, as with the residents of the 11 barangays of this district.
Duterte assured the guerrillas, and their mass supporters here, that he would not ask them to surrender nor turn in their weapons.
“You can hide them anywhere, hang them on trees or stack them inside those bananas. My offer is for you to avail yourselves of this opportunity for work.” He said Malaysian and Thai corporations told him they were interested to open up an oil-palm plantation in the city, and the required area of 100,000 hectares would make the venture the biggest yet in the country.
“If you agree to work on this project, I will promise you that it will be given only to you and your people here,” he said. He added that he would ask President Aquino to allow him to close Paquibato, 70 kilometers north of downtown Davao City.
He said Armed Forces Chief Gen. Emmanuel Bautista would not likely mind keeping the soldiers off the area. “Just one thing: I would not ask you to surrender, or lay down your weapons. But do not impose taxation,” he said.
Mel Joseph Escobidal, Paquibato barangay chairman, said the mayor has yet to inform him of the details but said the district may have the area needed. Alberto Laydan, 64, an Ata tribal purok (community) leader of Barangay Salapawan, also of Paquibato district, said his neighbors did not know of the mayor’s offer yet. But he said the oil-palm plantation would be welcomed in his place.
Paquibato is one of the hotbeds of insurgency, traversing the sparsely populated mountain boundary with Loreto and San Fernando towns of Bukidnon to the north, Arakan Valley of North Cotabato to the west and Talaingod town of Davao del Norte to the east. On Thursday, 40 government agencies held its first Serbisyo Caravan, a periodic gathering of national government agencies to render food relief, medical and dental services, processing of documents and to sit down with barangay leaders.
The place is populated by the Ata tribe, and its subtribal communities of Ata Matigsalog and Ata Manobo.

Joma Sison back at the helm of CPP?

From ABS-CBN (Jun 15): Joma Sison back at the helm of CPP?

Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founding chairman Jose Maria Sison is again giving directions to the party, but only on a temporary basis.

An intelligence official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said Sison has been giving general policies after CPP chairman Benito Tiamzon was arrested three months ago.

“He is giving general policy but he cannot dictate the operations (of the NPA)… They have functional commissions, like the national military commission,” the official explained.

The official said a full-time chairman, from whom the New People’s Army will take orders, will have to be based in the country.

Sison founded the communist party in 1968 and was arrested during the martial law years. He was released from detention in the 1980s and eventually went on exile in Netherlands.

“For sure, Joma wants this,” the official said of Sison’s new role. “There is an organization rift in the CPP. Joma wants peace talks, which is against the position of Tiamzon.”

According to the official, the arrest of Tiamzon and his wife, CPP secretary general Wilma Austria, has already taken a toll on the armed wing of the communist group, with many members already demoralized.

Some have surrendered, while many more were captured, the official said.

The official estimated that it may take at least a year before the CPP appoints a new leader.

“I think this may take one year, if they are to follow the process,” the official said, noting that the new CPP chairman has to be elected by members of the CPP Central Committee. The committee can’t convene immediately, however, because many of its members are in jail or are abroad.

The official said Tiamzon’s successor could be former NPA leader Vic Ladlad, who is also a consultant in the peace talks.

“We have reports that they are eyeing Vic Ladlad as the replacement but he has pending cases and he is already above ground and he is involved in the peace talks. That is why this (assumption) is not going to be automatic,” the official said.

China builds school on disputed South China Sea island: media

Posted to InterAksyon (Jun 15): China builds school on disputed South China Sea island: media

Top view of Sansha City shows detail of frenzied development right after China established the area in the disputed Paracels in 2012 as its own "city" in order to administer a wide swathe of waters and islands in the South China Sea. AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE

China has begun building a school on the contested Paracel islands, state media reported, as the Asian giant further asserts its claims in escalating territorial disputes in the South China Sea.

The school on Chinese-held Sansha or Woody Island will serve about 40 children whose parents work there, the official news agency Xinhua reported on Saturday, adding that construction will cost about 36 million yuan ($5.8 million) and take a year and a half.

China established Sansha as a city in 2012 to administer a wide swathe of waters and islands in the South China Sea, creating an oddity that is by far the world's largest city by area but has a minuscule population of around 1,000 people.

Parts of the South China Sea, which is home to key shipping routes and is believed to sit atop vast gas deposits, are also claimed by the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.

But Beijing claims the waters almost in their entirety and is engaged in increasingly bitter rows with its neighbours over their sovereignty.

China placed an oil rig in disputed waters near the Paracel islands in May, sparking deadly anti-Chinese riots in Vietnam.

Sansha hosts a military garrison and this year began setting up a patrol system intended in part to "safeguard national sovereign rights". Expanded infrastructure and tourism are in the works, domestic media have reported.

Relations between China and Vietnam have plummeted over the oil rig row, with Beijing saying on Friday that Vietnamese ships have rammed its vessels more than 1,500 times since early last month.

ANALYSIS | South China Sea trade routes safe despite rows

Posted to InterAksyon (Jun15): ANALYSIS | South China Sea trade routes safe despite rows

Despite territorial stand-offs between China and other nations bordering the South China Sea, analysts say governments know better than to choke off the trade shipping routes that are the lifeblood of their economies.

The escalating disputes this year between China and some of its neighbors over their rival territorial claims in the sea have led to water cannons being fired in one hotspot area and deadly anti-Chinese riots in Vietnam.

The Philippines has also sought military help from the United States in the face of what it calls "bullying" Chinese tactics, signing a pact that will soon allow thousands of US troops onto Filipino bases facing the sea.

The worsening rows have inevitably raised questions over whether they will impact the sea's shipping lanes, which are among the busiest in the world and see more than half of all oil tanker trade flow through them.

But analysts believe all nations involved, particularly China, will ensure that the diplomatic and military maneuverings do not jeopardize such an important economic lifeline.

"It's not in China's interests, and it's not in the interests of Japan, South Korea, or Taiwan to have some sort of blockade or disruption," said Jayendu Krishna, a Singapore-based analyst with industry consultancy firm Drewry Maritime Services.

"I'm not worried. I don't think it will happen."

The Philippines, Vietnam, and other regional powers believe China is the instigator in the fresh eruptions in the disputes, which have been going on for decades but have been managed without confrontation for much of the time.

Asia's most populous nation claims nearly all of the sea, even waters approaching the coasts of its neighbors.

Taiwan has a replica claim, while Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Brunei insist they have sovereign rights to areas closer to their coasts.

Vietnam's trigger for fury was China's deployment last month of an oil rig in waters near the Paracel islands.

Anti-Chinese riots promptly broke out in the southeast Asian nation, leading to at least three deaths and a number of arson attacks against factories that were either Chinese-owned or perceived to be. Beijing says four Chinese citizens died in the unrest.

The Philippines has been the most vocal critic in recent years, accusing China of a multitude of aggressive acts, including the takeover in 2012 of a shoal that had been a rich fishing ground for Filipinos.

The Philippines has expressed fresh alarm in recent months after photos emerged showing Chinese land reclamation activities on tiny islets in the Spratlys archipelago.

The photos have led to speculation that China intends to build military installations on new artificial islands within the Philippines' exclusive economic zone.

However, Krishna said China would be careful to ensure its actions did not lead to a military conflict that would disrupt shipping lanes, pointing out it had the most to lose.

"A large fraction of the trade flowing through the South China Sea is destined to, or originating from, China," he said.

"They need that for their economy."

'Only war' will disrupt trade routes

Shivaji Das, a Singapore-based senior vice president with global consultancy firm Frost and Sullivan, said only a war would lead to a disruption of the South China Sea trade routes.

"And I don't see that happening. All the countries have an immense stake (in keeping the trade routes open)," he said.

Das also said the rules of "freedom of navigation" in the sea had rarely been broken by governments anywhere in the world in recent history, with those threats coming more from piracy.

"When it comes to commerce, all the countries have their exclusive economic zones but they still allow for freedom of navigation of merchant ships. And that won't be affected unless there's an actual conflict in the zone," he said.

Meanwhile, commodities traders have looked at the political and military posturing with ambivalence.

The stunningly successful offensives by Islamic militants in recent days to take control of cities in Iraq has driven up global oil prices.

But tensions in the South China Sea have not been a factor for oil prices, according to Victor Shum, the Singapore-based vice president of IHS Energy Insight, an industry consultancy.

1 soldier killed, another wounded in Zamboanga clashes

From the Mindanao Examiner BlogSpot site (Jun 16): 1 soldier killed, another wounded in Zamboanga clashes

Communist rebels killed one government soldier and wounded another in separate clashes in the southern Philippines, officials said on Sunday.

Officials said New People’s Army rebels attacked a soldier, who was a member of the 53rd Infantry Battalion, in the village of Ocapan in Zamboanga del Sur’s Guipos town.

The soldier, whose identity was not released by the military, tried to fight off the attackers, but had been killed, according Capt. Franco Suelto, a spokesman for the 1st Infantry Division.

“The soldier managed to return fire but was out-numbered by rebels and he sustained gunshot wounds on his chest and head that caused his instantaneous death. Troops of 53rd Infantry Battalion Immediately responded in the area found the lifeless body of the victim without his issued firearms,” he said.

Suelto said troops were tracking down the attackers. “A pursuit operation was immediately launched to bring the suspects to justice. The name of the soldier was withheld prior informing his nearest of kin,” he said.

He said the slain soldier was also a member of the army’s peace and development team involved in various humanitarian programs in the province.

“We extend our deepest sympathies to the families and friends of the soldier killed.  He died protecting the Filipino people and in pursuit of peace and development. It is unfortunate and sad that our soldier was ambushed while serving the people.  Our troops are in the community to bring peace and development as part of the Bayanihan Activities,” Suelto said.

He said one soldier, from the 10th Infantry Battalion, was also wounded in a clash over the weekend in the village of Midatag in Leon Postigo town in Zamboanga del Norte province.

He said troops, led by Lt. Levie Jolly Bulawan, were patrolling the village when they encountered a group of rebels and a firefight ensued. The fighting lasted over 20 minutes.

The NPA has been fighting for a separate communist state in the country.

Young NPA amazon surrenders to the military in Zamboanga Norte

From the Mindanao Examiner BlogSpot site (Jun 16): Young NPA amazon surrenders to the military in Zamboanga Norte

A 19-year old female fighter of the communist rebel group New People’s Army surrendered Sunday to the military after her group abandoned her following a firefight in Zamboanga del Norte’s Leon Postigo town.

Capt. Franco Suelto, a spokesman for the 1st Infantry Division, said Mary Sadia, alias Ka Lisa, also surrendered her M16 automatic rifle and five magazines, including a rifle grenade, to Lt. Levie Jolly Bulawan, of the 10th Infantry Battalion.

“She revealed that her comrades abandoned her during the firefight with the government troops. Instead of re-joining his comrades, she opted to surrender to rejoin the mainstream society and live a normal and peaceful life with her family,” Suelto said.

Sadia’s group clashed with troops under Bulawan on June 14 also in Leon Postigo town where one government soldier was wounded.

Colonel Aminkadra Undug, the division commander, praised the troops involved in the surrender of Sadia. “Her surrender is a proof of our sincerity in promoting peace and we urge other rebels to come and join us and live peacefully with your family,” he said.

The NPA is the military wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines which has been fighting for decades for the establishment of a separate state in the country.