Tuesday, June 17, 2014

AFP mum on Joma's return as CPP chief

From the Philippine Star (Jun 17): AFP mum on Joma's return as CPP chief

The military on Tuesday kept mum on reports that self-exiled rebel leader Jose Ma. Sison is again calling the shots for the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), saying it would continue to perform its mission regardless of who is leading the group.

Armed Forces public affairs chief Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala could not confirm the supposed change in the communist leadership, which supposedly took place after CPP chairman Benito Tiamzon and his wife Wilma were arrested in March.

“We have not released an information on that,” Zagala said.

“Regardless of who their leader is, our goal is to end the armed struggle. What is important is we deal with the New People's Army (NPA) on the ground,” he added.

Zagala said they would continue to reach out to the rebels to convince them to live peaceful lives.

“Although there is no peace process, there are other means to implement the peace process by working with stakeholders,” he said.

“What is important to us is that we're able to continue to talk with the New People's Army on the ground and their leaders in order to end the armed struggle.”

A security official who requested anonymity has said Sison is calling the shots anew for the CPP following the capture of the Tiamzons last March.

The source said Sison would likely play the role until a permanent successor to Tiamzon is named.

“For now, Joma (Sison) is the one dictating orders but he can only deal with policy because you have to be here to lead the revolution,”  the source said.

The official said it might take about a year before the CPP could name Tiamzon’s successor.

Sison served as CPP chairman until he left for The Netherlands in 1987.

Tiamzon, his wife Wilma, and five other rebels were apprehended by security forces in Aloguinsan, Cebu last March 22, a development that officials claimed would cause a leadership vacuum in the insurgent movement.

The Tiamzons are facing 15 counts of murder and was arrested on a warrant issued by a regional trial court in Leyte.


AFP: Sison can’t lead communist revolution

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jun 17): AFP: Sison can’t lead communist revolution

Communist Party of the Philippines founding chair Jose Ma. Sison. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

Even with communist founder Jose Maria Sison calling the shots for the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army, the Armed Forces of the Philippines remains steadfast in continuing its goal of persuading the rebels to join their “quest for peace.”

Lieutenant Colonel Ramon Zagala, AFP Public Affairs Office Chief, said the AFP is not concerned with “whoever” is leading the communists, as long as government troops remain steadfast in their mission for peace.

A military source said that Sison, who is in self-exile in the Netherlands, would temporarily call the shots for the communist party before a permanent replacement for the Tiamzon couple takes the seat.

“For now, Joma (Sison) is the one dictating orders, but he can only deal with policies because one has to be here to lead the revolution,” the source, who requested anonymity as he is not allowed to speak to the media, said.

Benito and Wilma Tiamzon were arrested on March 22 in Cebu.

Zagala said that they would still encourage communist rebels to abandon their arms.

“Whoever the leader is of the NPA, we will continue to reach out to their members to abandon the armed struggle and join our quest for peace,” he said. “We want to reach out to their members and to return to mainstream society and give up the hardships of living in the underground movement.”

Zagala added that the military would continue to persuade the armed leftists to join the government and find a “peaceful solutions to their problems.”


2 soldiers wounded in clash with rebels in Agusan

From the Philippine Star (Jun 17): 2 soldiers wounded in clash with rebels in Agusan

Two soldiers have been wounded in fighting against leftist rebels in Mindanao yesterday, the police said today.

The latest clash happened as troops from the army's 26th Infantry Battalion chanced upon some 10 New People's Army guerrillas in Mt. Ararat village, Bayugan City in Mindanao's Agusan del Sur province yesterday morning, according to Superintendent Martin Gamba, spokesperson of Caraga police regional office.

Gamba said soldiers were on combat patrol when they ran into NPA gunmen, sparking a brief gunfight that left two soldiers wounded, who were promptly brought to a local hospital for treatment.

Pursuit operations were now being launched against the fleeing rebels who may have also suffered casualties, said Gamba.


Humanitarian mission planned for Kalayaan islands

From the Philippine Star posted to ABS-CBN (Jul 18): Humanitarian mission planned for Kalayaan islands

Amid rising tensions in the West Philippine Sea, a group of civilians and soldiers will hold a humanitarian mission in the Kalayaan Island Group next month, a military official said yesterday.

The mission aims to provide assistance to local residents and to support troops securing the country’s remote islands, Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc, chief of the Armed Forces 7th Relations Group, said.

“They are planning to conduct a humanitarian mission in the Kalayaan Island Group and they are now in the process of gathering cash and in kind donations from different people and organizations around the world,” Cabunoc told The STAR. “Among the recipients of the project are our own soldiers.”

Cabunoc declined to say when the activity would be held, citing security reasons.

The military needs to get the approval of the defense department before pushing through with the mission, he said.

“The donors are enthusiastic and willing to provide assistance,” Cabunoc said. “They also want to show appreciation to soldiers who are defending our territory.”

The humanitarian mission will be conducted by a group called Operation Freedomland, the local government of Kalayaan and the military.

Among the beneficiaries of the donations are the Marines stationed in BRP Sierra Madre, the grounded ship that serves as a Philippine detachment in Ayungin Shoal off Palawan.

Cabunoc said the mission was not meant to create tension among claimants in the West Philippine Sea, particularly China.

“It’s for humanitarian reasons. It’s not an act of war. It’s not offensive. It’s not a violation of the UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea) and the Declaration of the Code of Conduct,” he said.

Kalayaan is a fifth class municipality in Palawan. It is located in Pag-asa, the second largest island in the disputed Spratlys archipelago.

The Philippines has built a town hall, a 1.3-kilometer airstrip, a naval station, a health center and a kindergarten school in the island.

The underdeveloped Kalayaan town needs medicine, food and educational materials for its school children, Cabunoc said.

Donors can send a message to the Facebook pages “Major Harold Magallanes Cabunoc” and “Kawal Pinoy.” They can also call the Armed Forces 7th Civil Relations Group at 937-9437.

Diplomatic solution

Despite China’s rejection for a moratorium on the construction of a military base in the disputed South China Sea, the Philippine government will continue to pursue the diplomatic and peaceful tack on the issue.

“We prefer to focus on diplomatic, political and legal options that lead the way toward the peaceful settlement of disputes,” Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. of the Presidential Communications Operations Office said.

He issued the statement when asked whether Manila will hold dialogues with allies Vietnam and the US, even as Beijing refused to participate in the talks, saying these countries have been making provocations in the disputed waters.


2 Abus tagged in twin kidnaps fall; militants threaten to behead 2 captives

From the Philippine Star (Jun 18): 2 Abus tagged in twin kidnaps fall; militants threaten to behead 2 captives

Security forces have captured two Abu Sayyaf militants in Zamboanga City, including one who was allegedly involved in the kidnappings of an American teenage boy and an Australian man, officials said yesterday.

Police and Army troops captured Jimmy Nurilla and Bakrin Haris on Monday in a raid on their hideout in Sangali village. Another militant, a certain Wahid, the main target of the raid, escaped, police said.

The Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission (PAOCC) said without elaborating that the militants were in possession of explosives and rebel documents when arrested.

Nurilla was believed involved in a number of kidnappings, including that of American Kevin Lunsmann, who was 14 when he escaped from his Abu Sayyaf captors in 2011 after five months in captivity in Basilan.

Nurilla was also suspected of involvement in the kidnapping of Warren Richard Rodwell, a former Australian soldier who was freed near Pagadian City in March last year after 15 months of jungle captivity, according to the PAOCC.

Meanwhile, Abu Sayyaf militants have threatened to behead a lowly salaried foreman and his brother-in-law, who were snatched in Indanan, Sulu last June 4, if their families would not pay P7-million ransom.

This prompted Analiza Lingayan, wife of captive foreman Remegio Lingayan, 50, to seek the assistance of local officials for the safe release of her husband and brother-in-law Joselito Gonzales.

The two were seized while working on a project of Sulu Vice Gov. Sakur Tan in Barangay Timbangan, Indanan town.

Mrs. Lingayan said the kidnappers contacted them to relay the ransom demand and their warning that they would harm her husband and Gonzales if the ransom is not paid, although no deadline was set.

She said the kidnappers originally demanded P20 million but reduced it to P7 million, despite their appeal that they could not even raise the lower amount.

“We appealed that we could not raise such a big amount of money because we are poor. We could even hardly provide the food for our own because he (Lingayan) is with you (kidnappers),” she recalled telling one of the kidnappers.

She said the kidnappers allowed her to talk to her husband who said he and Gonzales were being treated nicely and provided with food and clothing.

The Lingayan family has begun soliciting money but has so far raised only about P1,000.


AFP orchestrating NPA mass surrender – CPP

From the Manila Times (Jun 17): AFP orchestrating NPA mass surrender – CPP

THE Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) on Tuesday accused the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) of orchestrating the fake mass surrender to make it appear that the government is winning the war against the New People’s Army (NPA), particularly in Mindanao.

The CPP, chaired by the Netherlands-based Jose Marie Sison, came out with a statement in reaction to an earlier pronouncement by military spokesman Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala that more than 100 rebels have already surrendered following the arrest of communist leaders Benito and Wilma Siazon and five of their bodyguards in Cebu on March 22.

“The AFP’s claims are completely baseless. The surrender ceremonies being conducted by the AFP leadership over the past several months are all a hoax,” said the CPP.

It also accused military officials of recycling old weapons to make it appear that they belong to the rebels so that they could collect the corresponding amount for each gun as provided under the AFP Guns for Peace Program, which ranges from P200,000 for light machine guns, P50,000 for M16 rifles, P60,000 for M14 rifles and P40,000 for M203 grenade launchers, among others.

On the contrary, the CPP claimed, young people from the peasantry, workers and other toiling classes, students and ordinary employees continue to line up to join the NPA across the country.

The CPP also pointed out that all NPA units across the country continue to launch big and small tactical offensives in Mindanao and other parts of the country.

It likewise reiterated its earlier demand for the immediate release of the Tiamzon couple and other peace consultants, saying that they have immunity from arrest as provided under the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) for the duration of the peace negotiations.
The government replied that JASIG has been indefinitely suspended since 2005 and it has informed the National Democratic Front of the Philippines about this.

AFP Public Affairs Office chief Zagala said the CPP’s allegations are all part of a misinformation campaign in misleading the public that the rebels are still united in their efforts to grab power.

“This propaganda is just one of their desperate moves to show to the people that they are still a force to be reckoned with,” he said.

Zagala stressed that the mass surrenders of rebels were all documented and validated.

“The AFP assures that the past surrenders by NPA rebels are legitimate. The identities of these rebels returnees have been validated by our intelligence operatives based on recovered documents from the NPA and testimonies made by past surrenderees,” he added.

Zagala attributed the increasing number of NPAs surrendering to government forces to the underground movement’s weakened leadership as a result of the arrest of the Tiamzons.

He said the AFP leadership is confident that the series of surrenders would also encourage other rebels to lay down their arms and return to the folds of the law.

The latest to surrender was rebel leader Joseph Alpas and NPA member Rogelio Garapan, bringing along their high-powered service firearms, 10 magazines and an anti-personnel landmine.

Alpas, team leader of the Abe Squad 4 of the NPA’s Pulang Bagani Company 3, and his group operate in the Davao area.

Last week, a total of 54 NPA rebels under a certain Embay Casal Gayaw, alleged leader of FC 34 operating in the boundaries of Agusan, Bukidnon, and Davao provinces, also surrendered with 53 assorted firearms to the 403rd Infantry Brigade in Impalambong, Malaybalay City.

“Instead of downplaying this event, the CPP-NPA should just acknowledge the fact that many of their members are opting to leave the armed struggle and live in peace,” Zagala concluded.


MILF: Basilan Ulama Supreme Council presents position paper to Third Party Monitoring Team

From the MILF Website (Jun 18): Basilan Ulama Supreme Council presents position paper to Third Party Monitoring Team

About  40 key leaders of the Isabela City-based Basilan Ulama Supreme Council (BUSC) warmly welcomed members of the Third Party Monitoring Team (TPMT) in their main office last June 10, 2014.
Before the formal dialogue started, Uz. Ahmad Al-Amin, BUSC Secretary General acknowledged the presence of the TPMT members, Chairman Alistair Mcdonald, Huseyin Oruc, member (Turkey), Dr. Rahib Kudto (UNYPAD), Dr. Steven Rood (TAF) and Ms. Karen Tanada of the Pasig Peace Institute Foundation, Inc. He also introduced to their guests the prominent ulama members who were mostly graduates of different prestigious Islamic Universities abroad. 

During his brief opening remarks, Chairman Macdonald said, that, “The mandate of TPMT is to monitor the implementation of all agreements signed between the the GPH-MILF Peace Panels  and listen to  comments and pulse of various sectors in the proposed Bangsamoro core territory and outside of the areas that maybe covered by the new region. The program was held at the Ulama Function Hall of BUSC Office.

Aleem Abdulmuhmin Mujahid and Aleem Yusop Alano, BUSC Vice Chairman and Executive Director respectively both expressed their elation on the recognition of the important role of the ulama in the current peace process. Aleem Alano also said that, “With the participation of the TPMT in monitoring how the agreements are being implemented, it can somehow lessen the threats posed by the so-called spoliers of peace.

Before the forum ends the BUSC presented their position paper viz-a-viz the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), signed on March 27, 2014 at Malacanang Palace, Manila. Among the salient contents of the Ulama position paper are as follows:

1.    The BUSC is convinced on the eminence of the comprehensive peace and justice to reign in Mindanao which led to the signing of the CAB. Hence, we unanimously expressed our unequivocal support to the faithful implementation of the historic peace deal;

2.    The BUSC is manifesting its willingness to help and become partner in advocating the CAB and the provisions of the BBL within its capacities to the grass-roots level of the Bangsamoro communities;

3.    The BUSC hereby strongly suggest through the TPMT that the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) exerts significant influence for the immediate re-unification of the MNLF-MILF ranks so that once and for all, genuine peace can be achieve and the gains of the GPH-MILF peace process are sustaned;

4.    It  urged the GPH-MILF peace panels through the TPMT to immediately organized the joint security tasked force/team contained in the Annex on Normalization to normalize the situation in some localities in Bangsamoro core areas;

5.    It likewise asked His Excellency President Benigno C. Aquino III to exercise strong political will by neutralizing  the spoilers of peace in Mindanao, that may result at  achieving widest and popular acceptability of the BBL in the Bangsamoro Core territories.


Officials back peace

From the Visayan Daily Star (Jun 18): Officials back peace
drive in 5th district


Soldier-participants in the Marching for Peace, Serving the Countryside activity arrive in Brgy. Quintin Remo, Moises Padilla, after more than five hours of foot marching from Brgy. Cabacungan, La Castellana.

Local government officials in the 5th district of Negros Occidental yesterday lauded and supported the “winning the peace” campaign of the Philippine Army and National Police, under the Provincial Peace Integration and Development Unit.

The campaign aims to bring the government closer to the people, especially those residing in the hinterlands of the province.
Mayor Ella Garcia-Yulo said yesterday that the Marching for Peace, Serving the Countryside activity of the 303rd Infantry Brigade and PNP units, which made its first convergence in Brgy. Quintin Remo, Moises Padilla, showed the people that the government cares for them.
Barangay officials and residents of Quintin Remo in Moises Padilla, aired their concerns on the “rough road” linking their hinterland community to the town poblacion, like those in the hinterlands of 1st district of Negros Occidental, where the first Marching for Peace, Serving the Countryside activity, was held late last year.
Mirasol and Gov. Alfredo Marañon Jr. said they will include the proposed construction and concreting of farm-to-market roads in the area to the Philippine Rural Development Program, and its enrollment in the farm-to-market road program of the Department of Agriculture.
La Castellana Mayor Alberto Nicor lauded the activity of the Army and PNP, in tandem with provincial and local government units, as well as civil society groups, that he said shows government sincerity, in uplifting the lives of the marginalized sector in the countryside.
Marañon also lauded the residents of Brgy. Quintin Remo for their strength and will, and encouraged the parents to prioritize the education of their children, as one way of combating poverty.
Hundreds of barangay residents also availed of free medical and health related activities, relief goods and food packs, livelihood supplies and medicines.
About 800 armed military and police personnel joined the march for peace, that started Monday in Brgy. Cabacungan to Brgy. Puso, La Castellana, and made a stopover yesterday in Brgy. Quintin Remo, Moises Padilla.
Col. Jon Aying, 303rd Infantry Brigade commander, who led the march with Lt. Col. Paulito Idol, 11th Infantry Battalion commanding officer, said this aims to show the people that they are the legitimate force of the government, ready anytime to protect them.
In the ESTOCA (Escalante-Toboso-Calatrava) areas, Aying said they are in the second phase of their winning the peace campaign, and are engaging in grassroot community development planning with leaders of insurgency-affected communities.
Present at the activity were Senior Supt. Milko Lirazan, Moises Padilla Vice Mayor Edwin Presquito, Provincial Engr. Ernie Mapa, Provincial Planning and Development Officer Maria Lina Sanogal and Quintin Remo barangay chairwoman Felisa Villaflor.

MILF: Madrasatul Anwarudin Al Islamie holds commencement exercises

From the MILF Website (Jun 18): Madrasatul Anwarudin Al Islamie holds commencement exercises

The Madrasatul Anwarudin Al Islamie held its commencement exercises on June 15, 2014 at Sitio Ganasi, Barangay Nunguan, Pikit North Cotabato.  

The graduation ceremony was attended by parents, residents, local government officials and community leaders. Also in attendance were the Chairs of the MILF-Ligawasan Provincial and Municipal Committee on Information.

Cotabato Provincial Board member Hon. Dulia D. Sultan delivered an inspirational message and stressed the importance of unity and residents’ support to the envisioned Bangsamoro Government.

“As local government official, I strongly support the proposed Bangsamoro Government. Unity and Understanding between and among all people of North Cotabato are very important, that any negative perception on the GPH-MILF peace process and the Bangsamoro Basic law (BBL) is unhelpful” she said.

The peace efforts must be nurtured and the general welfare of Bangsamoro must prevail at all times”, Board member Sultan further said. 

The BLMI Extension and Research Units team were among the invited resource speakers.

Board Member Sultan revealed to this writer their plan of action on holding advocacies that will be finalized this June 21, 2014. The peace building measure is dubbed as “Cotabato Peace Advocate Group (CPAG) that will be spearheaded by North Cotabato local government unit. Community leaders, religious sectors and the academe shall be tapped as part of the core group.

She will also launch massive registration of voters in North Cotabato remote areas and find legal ways on how to ease the requirements imposed by COMELEC considering most Moros residing in remote villages do not have birth certificates that hamper them in the COMELEC’s biometric registration.

Sheikh Sam Alabat and this writer gave inspirational messages to the graduating students and updated them on the GPH-MILF Peace process” They appealed to the audience to support and safeguard the gains of the peace process saying the outcome and fruits of the agreements will redound to the general welfare of Mindanaons and the entire country.    
Community and religious leaders made similar appeal to the villagers and urged them to rally behind the peace process as every Bangsamoro or Filipino has the obligation to nurture and nourish it for common good.

Nunguan is remote a barangay of Pikit and its residents are predominantly Moros and their major source of livelihood is farming.

CPP: Aquino clique earning billions from rice importation amid soaring prices

Propaganda statement from the CPP Website (Jun 17): Aquino clique earning billions from rice importation amid soaring prices

Communist Party of the Philippines
The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) today condemned the ruling Aquino regime and its slew of corrupt bureacuratic officials for pocketing billions of pesos in overpriced rice importation contracts amid its failure to address the continuing rise in the price of rice that has resulted in grave hardships for the people.

The CPP called on the Filipino people to hold the Aquino regime responsible for entering into anomalous rice importation contracts while failing to extend substantial support to the peasant masses to help increase domestic rice production.

The average price per kilo of rice has risen by at least two pesos over the past several days. This comes on top of the sharp P8-10 increase in the average price of rice under the Arroyo regime. There has also been a sharp increase in the prices of garlic, as well as a steady increase in the prices of sugar, ginger and other food items.

“Contrary to claims that his regime will work for rice self-sufficiency, Aquino has, in fact, perpetuated the Arroyo policy of rice importation as this has proven to be one of the biggest source of bureacrat capitalist profit,” said the CPP. Philippine rice imports are set to reach 2 million tons for 2013-14, up by 33% from 1.5 million tons during the previous period.

“The Aquino regime’s claims that the rise in the prices of rice and other commodities is only ‘temporary’ is a vain attempt to defend its agricultural liberalization and deregulation policies,” said the CPP. “The increase in the prices of rice puts to the fore the failure of the Aquino regime to deliver on its declared objective of attaining rice self-sufficiency and ending dependence on rice importation.”

“The Aquino regime has instead chosen to continue to carry out massive rice importation in order to pocket scandalous amounts of kickbacks,” said the CPP. It cited the contract signed by Agriculture Sec. Prospero Alcala with VINAFOOD II of Vietnam to supply the Philippines with 800,000 tons of rice from May to August this year. The Metro Manila Vendors Association noted that the contract sets freightage rates at $54 per ton ($30 above prevailing rates). Secretary Alcala is set to pocket P1.048 billion in kickbacks from this contract. He is also accused of pocketing P457.2 billion in a similar rice importation contract with Vietnam in May 2013.

“Secretary Alcala remains among Aquino’s most trusted official despite having been involved in several corruption cases,” said the CPP. Aquino has refused to heed widespread clamor for Alcala’s removal from the agriculture department.

“The liberalization of agricultural trade has led to rampant rice smuggling, much of which is controlled by big compradors in the rice cartel, which have long controlled rice supply and trade in the Philippines,” said the CPP. “The local rice cartel, in collaboration with the Aquino regime, has insidiously manipulated the supply of rice in the domestic market in order to push up prices, and in turn, provide the government with justification for further importing rice.”

“The continued rise in the price of rice and other basic food items will further push up the basic costs of living and cause greater hardships for the toiling masses of workers, peasants, the semi-proletariat and the middle class of ordinary income earners,” said the CPP.


Regional jihad faces difficulties: terrorism expert

From Khabar Southeast Asia (Jun 17): Regional jihad faces difficulties: terrorism expert

Extremist groups across Southeast Asia fail to establish a jihadist base in the region and Thailand's Deep South insurgents are uninterested in global jihad, Solahudin says.

Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rebels attend a March 27th Sultan Kudarat, Philippines rally in favour of a peace agreement with the Filipino government. [Ted Aljibe/AFP]

Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rebels attend a March 27th Sultan Kudarat, Philippines rally in favour of a peace agreement with the Filipino government. [Ted Aljibe/AFP]

In a follow-up to his Khabar Southeast Asia February interview, Indonesian journalist and terrorism expert Solahudin talks about the regional extremist threat and how radicals take to Facebook to communicate among themselves.

Khabar: Does terrorism in the Philippines and Thailand have similar roots as in Indonesia?

Solahudin: What I understand is that there are two major groups in the Philippines. One was established by former combatants in Afghanistan. The second group, the Rajah Sulaiman Islamic Movement (RSIM), was founded by Ahmed Santos, a Filipino who became radicalised while living in Saudi Arabia.

The first group is influenced by the Abu Sayyaf group, which led them to terrorism. They are different from the one in Thailand, which is not involved in global jihad.

The one in Thailand is more of an insurgency. There was once an Al-Qaeda Southeast Asian branch based in Malaysia that tried to enter the Deep South but failed. From what I have learned, the groups in Thailand, especially in Pattani, are not interested in what Al-Qaeda offered.

They are busy with their own agenda. That is why going to Syria for jihad has [become] a trend among groups in Indonesia and the Philippines, but not in Thailand.

Regional jihad continues to face difficulties. They want to establish jihadist headquarters in Southeast Asia to accommodate a bigger interest, but this has failed. This whole time they only have focused on leading local jihads and holding joint military trainings.

An outstanding effort like the one by the Philippines government to enter into a peace agreement with groups such as MILF (the Moro Islamic Liberation Front) is very helpful.

So these groups are less interested in global jihad. And strict law enforcement is the key to fighting terrorism in many Southeast Asian countries like Malaysia, the Philippines and Indonesia.

Khabar: How effectively are radical groups using social media tools like Facebook and Twitter to recruit people and spread their messages?

Solahudin: The internet is effective enough to help these groups recruit new members and get in touch with their members through websites or social media.

Recruitments on Facebook are rare …. The group that attempted to bomb the Burmese embassy in Jakarta first met on Facebook. They were actively involved in a discussion forum on Facebook. The groups in Jakarta, Madiun and Solo, which were first mistaken with the HASMI group, also met on Facebook.

They then organised to have a meeting to launch a terror attack, though that subsequently failed.

These groups [in Jakarta, Madiun and Solo] interacted a lot on Facebook. Along with technological developments, the internet has helped them a lot in succeeding with their missions. They used to meet each other face-to-face, but now they can have discussions online.


Samar resident tips military on NPA firearm

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jul 17): Samar resident tips military on NPA firearm

A local resident played tipster to the Philippine Army that led to the confiscation of a high-powered firearm from an alleged New People’s Army rebel.

Major Amado Gutierrez, Public Affairs Chief of the 8th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army, said government troops from the 52nd Infantry Battalion recovered one caliber .30 Carbine rifle, with one magazine and 11 live bullets that was hidden in a forested area near a farm in Barangay (village) San Andres, Villareal, Samar.

Lieutenant Colonel William Peñafiel, Commanding Officer of the 52nd Infantry Battalion, sent a recovery team based in Sitio Cantaba, Barangay Caticugan, Sta Rita, Samar, to the area after a local resident tipped them of the NPA activity.

“The recovery of the rebel firearm will lessen the capability of the rebels to sow terror among our people,” Peñafiel said. “In this token, I encourage others to be proactive in peace-building and be not just onlookers of what is happening in our communities.”

Peñafiel encouraged residents to “break away from the silent majority and speak out” on the activities of the NPA.


Guv urges police visibility,

From the Visayan Daily Star (Jun 17): Guv urges police visibility,
no yielding to rebel tax demands

Negros Occidental Gov. Alfredo Marañon Jr. yesterday called on the management of sugar mills and other firms in Negros Occidental not to give in to the Communist rebels’ demands for revolutionary taxes.

At the same time he called on the Army and police to step up their visibility to prevent rebel attacks on firms that refuse to heed their demands.
New People’s Army rebels raided and bombed a transloading station of the Lopez Sugar Corp. in Sitio Santa Ana, Brgy. Mabini, Escalante City, Negros Occidental, last week for the alleged failure of the company to pay them revolutionary tax, the governor noted.
Damaged by the explosion were a core sampler laboratory, a crane, platform weighing scale, gas pumping station and a Fuzo hauler truck.
Marañon congratulated Lopez Sugar Corp. and those operating the transloading station for not giving in to the rebel demands.
Col. Jon Aying, 303rd Infantry Brigade commander, earlier said the three possible motives for the bombing could be for extortion purposes, a diversionary tactic of the NPA to lessen the pressure on them by the military, and to ambush police and military personnel, who may respond to their atrocities.

To Bolster Its Claims, China Plants Islands in Disputed Waters

From the New York Times (Jun 16): To Bolster Its Claims, China Plants Islands in Disputed Waters

A Philippine surveillance photo shows an island that China has created on a reef among the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. Credit Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs, via Associated Press        

The islands have all that one could ask of a tropical resort destination: white sand, turquoise waters and sea winds.

But they took shape only in the last several months, and they are already emerging as a major point of conflict in the increasingly bitter territorial disputes between China and other Asian nations.
China has been moving sand onto reefs and shoals to add several new islands to the Spratly archipelago, in what foreign officials say is a new effort to expand the Chinese footprint in the South China Sea. The officials say the islands will be able to support large buildings, human habitation and surveillance equipment, including radar.
The island-building has alarmed Vietnam, the Philippines and other Southeast Asian nations that also claim sovereignty over the Spratlys. Since April, the Philippines has filed protests to China against land reclamation at two reefs. This month, the Philippine president, Benigno S. Aquino III, criticized the movements of Chinese ships that he said could be engaged in island-building at two other sites.
Chinese actions have also worried senior United States officials. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel scolded China for “land reclamation activities at multiple locations” in the South China Sea at a contentious security conference in Singapore in late May.
Critics say the islands will allow China to install better surveillance technology and resupply stations for government vessels. Some analysts say the Chinese military is eyeing a perch in the Spratlys as part of a long-term strategy of power projection across the Western Pacific.
Perhaps just as important, the new islands could allow China to claim it has an exclusive economic zone within 200 nautical miles of each island, which is defined in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. The Philippines has argued at an international tribunal that China occupies only rocks and reefs and not true islands that qualify for economic zones.
“By creating the appearance of an island, China may be seeking to strengthen the merits of its claims,” said M. Taylor Fravel, a political scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
But analysts note that other countries did not build islands, and that they generally erected their structures before 2002, when China and nine Southeast Asian nations signed the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea. One clause says the parties must “exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities” that would escalate tensions and must refrain from inhabiting any currently uninhabited land features.
Although the agreement is nonbinding and does not explicitly ban building on the islands or the creation of new ones, some analysts say those activities are covered.
“It’s changing the status quo,” said Carlyle A. Thayer, an emeritus professor of politics at the University of New South Wales in Australia. “It can only raise tensions.”
Since January, China has been building three or four islands, projected to be 20 to 40 acres each, one Western official said. He added that there appeared to be at least one installation intended for military use, and that the new islands could be used for resupplying ships, including Chinese maritime patrol vessels.
Last month, China set off alarms in the region and in Washington when a state-owned oil company placed an exploratory oil rig farther north in the South China Sea, by the contested Paracel Islands near Vietnam. The rig ignited diplomatic strife and violent anti-China protests in Vietnam.
But the island-building “is bigger than the oil rig,” said the Western official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid upsetting diplomatic discussions. “These islands are here to stay.”
Officials say Johnson South Reef, which China seized in 1988 after killing about 70 Vietnamese soldiers or sailors in a skirmish, is the most developed of the islands so far. “It’s Johnson Island now; it’s not Johnson Reef anymore,” the Western official said. Filipino officials released aerial photographs last month showing structures and a large ship.
[Map: Territorial Disputes in the Waters Near China
Le Hai Binh, a spokesman for the Vietnamese Foreign Ministry, said in an email statement that Vietnam had sovereignty over the entire Spratly archipelago and that “China has been illegally implementing activities of expansion and construction” around Johnson Reef and other sites claimed by Vietnam.
He said Vietnam demanded that China “immediately stop illegal activities of expansion and construction” on the reef and “withdraw its vessels and facilities from the area.”
The Spratlys comprise hundreds of reefs, rocks, sandbars and tiny atolls spread over 160,000 square miles. Six governments have overlapping claims in the area. China and Vietnam also have competing claims for the Paracel Islands, in the area where the Chinese oil rig still sits. Both areas have abundant fish and some oil and gas reserves.
Jin Canrong, a professor of international studies at Renmin University of China, said he believed that the construction on Johnson South Reef was “a technical test, to see if such things can be done.” Should China want to try island-building on a larger scale, he said, a logical choice would be Fiery Cross Reef, about 90 miles west of Johnson South.
Last month, digital sketches of structures intended for the Spratlys circulated on Chinese news websites, including that of Global Times, a newspaper owned by People’s Daily, the Communist Party mouthpiece. The sketches, labeled a research study, showed a new island with shipping docks, parking lots and an airfield with a runway, airplanes and hangars.
Reports said the images were from the China Shipbuilding NDRI Engineering Company, in Shanghai. When asked about the sketches over the phone, a woman at the company said they were “too sensitive” and had been taken off the firm’s website. She declined to comment further.
Wu Shicun, president of the National Institute for South China Sea Studies, a government-linked research group on Hainan Island, said Chinese construction was intended mainly to augment the country’s fisheries administration and humanitarian relief capabilities, not for military purposes.
“Our facilities are worse than those of both the Philippines and Vietnam,” he said. “You see that Vietnam even has a soccer field.”
Vietnamese and Filipino naval personnel played soccer during a June 8 conclave on Southwest Cay Island, which is controlled by Vietnam.
“Clearly this was meant to enrage the Chinese people,” Mr. Wu said. The island has been occupied by the Vietnamese military since the 1970s but is also claimed by China and the Philippines.
Christopher K. Johnson, the chief China analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, in Washington, said China’s recent moves were partly to make up for the fact that the Chinese military focused mainly on Taiwan for more than a decade while Vietnam and the Philippines developed facilities on shoals and reefs they controlled.
He said Chinese military officials were probably keeping in mind future long-range naval power projections. “There’s no doubt that they would love to have some kind of a naval facility on one of these things,” he said.
Chinese military leaders have talked in recent years of building up a navy that can operate beyond what is commonly called the “first island chain” — islands closer to mainland Asia that include the Spratlys and Paracels — to penetrate the “second island chain,” which includes Guam and other territories farther east.
Mr. Thayer, the Australian analyst, said he had seen no signs yet that China was building large military facilities or a runway on the new islands. But he said there was a clear conclusion to be drawn from China’s actions in both the South China Sea and the East China Sea, where China contends with Japan over islands.
“None of this is an isolated incident,” he said. “It seems to be a new plan to assert Chinese sovereignty. This isn’t something that will go away. This is a constant thing that will raise tensions, and at the same time no one has a good response to it.”

NDRRMC: 500 displaced by govt-NPA fighting in Sarangani

From GMA News (Jun 17): NDRRMC: 500 displaced by govt-NPA fighting in Sarangani

At least 500 people were forced to flee their homes due to an armed encounter between soldiers and communist New People's Army rebels on Monday, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council said Tuesday.

In a report posted on its website Tuesday evening, the NDRRMC said the encounter displaced the 500 in five sitios of Barangay San Juan in Malungon town in Sarangani.

The displaced people were brought to the barangay hall of San Juan and the Kalahi building, it said.

For now, the NDRRMC said the Malungon Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council is prepared to deploy responders and relief goods.

On the other hand, the Armed Forces of the Philippines had secured the affected area while the local Philippine National Police remains on alert, the NDRRMC said.


AFP: Any CPP leadership change won’t affect military’s goal to end conflict

From GMA News (Jun 17): AFP: Any CPP leadership change won’t affect military’s goal to end conflict

Any leadership change in the Communist Party of the Philippines will not change the military's goal of ending armed struggle in the country, an Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesperson said Tuesday.

“What's important is we deal with the New People’s Army on the ground,” said Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala in response to reports that self-exiled CPP founder Jose Maria Sison had assumed leadership of the group after the arrest of CPP chairman Benito Tiamzon and his wife Wilma in March.

Sison, who has resided in The Netherlands since 1987, is temporarily directing the CPP, according to a senior intelligence officer who recently spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Zagala said that the military will continue to reach out to the CPP's armed wing, the NPA.

“We want to reach out to their members to return to the mainstream society and give up the hardships of living in the underground movement,” he said.

“We encourage them to join the government in finding a peaceful solution to their problems so they could become productive members of the society. It is the [NPA] members, in the first place, who face danger and risk their lives,” Zagala added.

In March, Sison claimed that the Tiamzons' arrest did not result in a leadership vacuum at the CPP.


Security operations ongoing in Saranggani versus rebel force that terrorized IDP community

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 17): Security operations ongoing in Saranggani versus rebel force that terrorized IDP community

Security operations are now being conducted against a New People’s Army (NPA) band that terrorized and drove away a community of indigenous people (IDP) living in Barangay San Juan, Malungon town, Saranggani province.

Capt. Rey Balibagoso, 1002nd Infantry Brigade public affairs officer, said the NPA harassment started last Friday when a rebel group under Manuel Garduque alias “Dodong Sidlak”, reportedly of the Guerilla Front 75 arrived and threatened the civilian population there with harm.

This took place shortly after the rebels abducted two “barangay tanods” as people in the above-mentioned community refused to support the NPA movement.

The second incident of rebel harassment took place Monday night when NPA fighters sporadically fired shots in the air.

The civilians fled the area after the rebels spread word that the military will come in force to make war with them.

Balibagoso said that around 200 B’laan tribe members are now sheltered at the San Juan barangay hall due to this NPA atrocity.

Steps are also being conducted to feed, shelter and assist these displaced IDPs, he added.


Negros First-Army Wellness Farm program eyed for replication nationwide

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 17): Negros First-Army Wellness Farm program eyed for replication nationwide

After its successful implementation in Negros Occidental,the Negros First–Army Wellness Farm program of the 303rd Infantry Brigade is being eyed for duplication in other units of the Philippine Army and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) around the country.

Aimed to “win the peace,” the Negros First–Army Wellness Farm situated inside the Camp Major Nelson Gerona of the 303rd IB in Barangay Minoyan, Murcia, includes rebel returnees as majority of its beneficiaries.

The Institute for Solidarity in Asia, a non-government organization that advocates making good governance a shared responsibility, said in its letter to Army chief Lt. Gen. Hernando DCA Iriberri, that “the creation of a wellness farm that benefits local communities affected by the armed conflict is a shining example of what could happen when the tenets of Bayanihan are imbibed to winning the peace”.

Dr. Jesus Estanislao, ISA chairman, said initiatives such as this are imperative to the success of the Philippine Army.

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

The farm, situated on a 2.5-hectare lot, produces organic products such as vegetables, livestock and poultry.

Aying said they are expanding the wellness farm program to three of the six districts of Negros Occidental with the support of the provincial government led by Gov. Alfredo Marañon Jr.

Moreover, Estanislao called on Iriberri to explore the sharing of what he described as “best practices” to other Infantry brigade units, or even to the AFP Unified Commands.

“Please let your troops, especially the brigade of Col. Aying, know that we applaud their efforts in nation building,” Estanislao said in his letter to Iriberri.

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

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


5th Infantry Division gets new administrative building

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 18): 5th Infantry Division gets new administrative building

In line with the Army Transformation Roadmap (ATR), the Isabela-based 5th Infantry Division inaugurated its new administrative building at its headquarters in Camp Melchor F. Dela Cruz, in Gamu, Isabela last June 16.

Reports forwarded by Major Calixto D. Cadano, 5th Infantry Division spokesperson Wednesday, said the building was constructed by the 513rd Engineer Construction Battalion.

It is designed to accommodate the different offices of the unit currently being house in the old admin building which was devastated by typhoon "Juan" which struck the area few years ago.

The inauguration ceremony was graced by Army vice commander Major Gen. Romulo Cabantac, Jr.

Cadano said the new administrative building is a manifestation of efforts to modernize and upgrade Army facilities nationwide.


AFP-PNP ink agreement on security matters covering 47 vital installations in Negros Oriental

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 17): AFP-PNP ink agreement on security matters covering 47 vital installations in Negros Oriental

Key officials of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), represented by the Philippine Army, on Tuesday signed a memorandum of agreement on matters involving the security concerns of 47 vital installations in Negros Oriental.

The agreements comes as part of the recent declaration of Negros Oriental as conflict manageable and development ready after both the AFP and the PNP had announced the reduction of the insurgency problem in the province.

Signing the agreement at the PNP headquarters of the Negros Oriental Provincial Police Office (NOPPO) late Tuesday were Col. Allan Martin, the recently-installed commander of the 302nd Brigade based in Tanjay City, and Sr. Supt. Mariano Natuel, Jr., OIC PNP provincial director.

With this development, some of the vital installations previously under the care of the military are now being handed over to the PNP.

Of the 47 identified vital installations under threat levels “high”, “moderate” and “low”, 45 will now be the responsibility of and under the supervision of the PNP while two will be assigned to the Army.

The two are the geothermal giant Energy Development Corporation’s Southern Negros Geothermal Project and the Green Core Geothermal, Inc. in Valencia, Negros Oriental while the 45 vital installations across the province, include the airport in Dumaguete City, sea ports, wharves, bus terminals, electric cooperatives, telecommunications facilities, and water reservoirs,

Probable course of action by the “enemy” include bombing, sabotage, extortion and arson.

According to both officials, the signing of the agreement was to put things in writing regarding the deployment of security troops as well as other concerns in various public and private vital installations in the province.

Col. Martin said the agreement is to primarily identify who shall be in charge of certain vital installations in Negros Oriental but it does not necessarily mean that the Philippine Army will no longer be actively involved in securing these facilities.

The AFP is still obliged to back up the PNP as necessary, Martin said. He reiterated that the Army will not pull out from Negros Oriental even with the latest development regarding the reduction of the insurgency problem to an insignificant level.

The agreement signing is also in compliance with a directive from higher headquarters for the Negros Oriental Joint Implementing Plan “Seguridad de Instolacion”, which has cited a number of references, such as the AFP-PNP Joint Letter Directive 02-2013 entitled “Guidelines in Providing Security to All Vital Government and Private Projects, Undertakings, Facilities and Equipment within Urban and Rural Areas”, and other similar directives from both agencies.

The Negros Oriental Joint Implementing Plan “prescribes the policies, guidelines and procedures in security vital installations, public and private projects, undertakings, facilities and equipment within Negros Oriental.

While Negros Oriental has already been declared conflict manageable and development ready, it does not mean that it is totally free of the insurgency, said Col. Martin.

“Although the enemy has been relegated to an inconsequential level, they are still capable of conducting terroristic activities such as sabotage of vital installations, bombing of populated areas, harassments of police and military/paramilitary forces and the like”, the Joint Implementing Plan noted.

The memorandum of agreement between the PNP, the AFP and the Joint Task Force-Negros Oriental also stipulates that aside from the parties overseeing the security of vital public and/or private installations, projects and equipment, they must also enhance intelligence capability and sharing to effectively monitor potential threats; and conduct sustained AFP and PNP security patrols and checkpoints; conduct joint trainings and regular security meetings, among others.

Negros Oriental is the only province in Central Visayas (Region 7) that is still facing the insurgency problem, according to Army and PNP officials.


Tip from concerned citizen leads to recovery of NPA weapon in Samar town

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 17): Tip from concerned citizen leads to recovery of NPA weapon in Samar town

Thanks to the timely tip from a concerned resident, troopers from the 52nd Infantry Battalion recovered on Sunday a .30 caliber carbine hidden by New People's Army (NPA) rebels in Barangay San Andres, Villareal town, Samar.

In a statement released on Tuesday, 8th Infantry Division spokesperson Major Amado Gutierrez said a magazine containing 11 rounds of ammunition was also recovered.

“The recovery of the rebel firearm will lessen the capability of the rebels to sow terror among our people. In this token, I encourage others to be proactive in peace-building and be not just onlookers of what is happening in our communities. Break away from the silent majority and speak out, so that the rebels will get the message that we are tired of their 45 years of violent activities,” Gutierrez said..

“Emulate the act of the peace-loving local resident of Barangay San Andres, report rebel activities so that we can build a peaceful environment for our families and communities," he added.


Pacific Partnership 2014 to kick off in Tacloban City

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 17): Pacific Partnership 2014 to kick off in Tacloban City

The Pacific Partnership 2014 Civic Action Programs will kick off in Tacloban City and Palo, Leyte this coming June 18.

The activities will be spearheaded by the Joint Task Force Pacific Partnership 2014 (JTF PP14) composed of military units from the Armed Forces of the Philippines, US and Japan.

JTF PP14 will simultaneously conduct groundbreaking of four engineering projects in different areas of Tacloban City and Palo.

The projects are: construction of a four-classroom building and a science building at San Fernando Elementary School, reconstruction of the outpatient building at Tacloban City Hospital and the construction of science building at Castilla Elementary School in Palo.

These projects are slated to be completed third to fourth week of July.

The JTF PP14 will also conduct Key Leader’s Engagement and humanitarian assistance disaster rresponse (HADR) trainings.

Subject matter experts in HADR from the government, NGOs and from the participating Armed Forces will also have the chance to share experiences and views that will enhance capabilities of HADR teams during times of calamities in the future.

Other activities slated to be conducted in the month of July will be series of medical, dental and veterinary civic action programs in the different areas of Tacloban City.

PP14 was originally slated in Luzon area, however, due to the damages caused by super typhoon "Yolanda".

The last Pacific Partnership was in 2012 and was held in Eastern Visayas.

8th Infantry Division commander Major Gen. Jet B. Velarmino said, “the joint Civic Action Programs in Palo, Leyte and Tacloban City by the Armed Forces of U.S, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines will enhance inter-operability of the three participating Armed Forces in addressing HADR concerns in the future. This activity will surely be appreciated by the recipient communities. More than the goodwill is the humanitarian touch of the activity.”

“This humanitarian gesture of the participating Armed Forces from other nations is heartwarming as it exemplifies the 'Bayanihan Spirit' that carried the country over the challenges posed by super typhoon 'Yolanda'/'Haiyan'. It is one of the better ways in enhancing cooperation and goodwill among the participating nations," he concluded.


New PNP uniform to expect by 2015

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 17): New PNP uniform to expect by 2015

Expect a major change on the uniform of the Philippine National Police (PNP) by next year.

Chief Supt. Reuben Theodore Sindac, chief of PNP Public Information Office (PIO), said the PNP leadership confirmed that it is now field-testing a proposed new uniform that will be worn by its 150,000 personnel in the future, with an official saying that they expect to have new sets of uniform by next year.

Sindac said the uniform should be functional, durable, and comfortable to allow policemen to perform their job comfortably.

The first set of the uniform was already presented to the police community, worn by the top four ranking police officials led by PNP Chief Director General Alan Purisima, during Monday’s flag-raising ceremony.

The uniform worn by two police officials during the flag-raising ceremony was the proposed General Office Attire (GOA).

Sindac said the set of uniform was among the top choice from a number of designs presented to the PNP leadership last year.

The proposed uniforms, Sindac said, will be covered by the P14,000 uniform allowance being given to the police every three years.

Sindac also boasts of the security features of the proposed new uniforms which would be hard to copy.

Sindac added that Congress will pass law to have a stiffer penalty for unauthorized wearing of police uniforms.

If ever, this will be the third time the PNP organization will change uniforms since its establishment in 1991 -- the first one was the khaki-colored uniform.


UP Professor: 'China challenging UNCLOS'

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 17): UP Professor: 'China challenging UNCLOS'

China’s snub of the Philippine arbitral claim on the West Philippine Sea and its slew of building projects on disputed reefs in the area are “a serious and belligerent violation of” the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), of which it is a member, according to an outspoken Filipino legal academic at an international law conference in Tokyo.

Speaking at the 5th Annual Meeting of the Japan Society of International law at the Chuo University Law School last Sunday, University of the Philippines professor Harry L. Roque Jr. said that China’s refusal to participate in the arbitration and its unilateral acts in building artificial islands in the disputed maritime area of the Spratly’s constitutes a “serious breach of the UNCLOS since as a party to the Convention, China agreed to refer all matters involving interpretation and application of the UNCLOS to the compulsory and binding dispute settlement procedure of the Convention”.

Roque, who is also Director of the UP Law Center’s Institute of international Legal Studies, said that the international community took a very long time to agree on the provisions of UNCLOS because all countries of the world wanted the Convention to be the “constitution for the seas”.

“By prohibiting reservations and by adopting all provision on the basis of consensus, it was the intention of the world community to do away with the use of force and unilateral acts in the resolution of all disputes arising from maritime territory,” said Roque.

Debunking the view expressed recently by Judge Xue Hanquin, the Chinese Judge in the International Court of Justice that states that made declarations when they ratified the UNCLOS, China included, are deemed to have opted out of the dispute settlement procedure of the Convention, Roque noted that China’s subsequent reservations only as to specific subject matters from the jurisdiction of the dispute settlement procedures proves that China agreed to be bound by the procedure. “This means that China is under a very clear obligation to participate in the proceedings, if only to dispute the jurisdiction of the Tribunal,” Roque said.

More worrisome, according to Roque, is China’s recent resort to the use of force in bolstering its claim to the disputed territories.

It has been reported recently that China has been building artificial islands in Johnson South Reef and expanding its artificial island in Fiery Cross reef, and deploying its naval forces to ward off any opposition.

“These constructions are happening in the face of China’s snub of the arbitral proceedings which precisely impugns China’s legal rights to do so. Clearly, China’s conduct is not only illegal as prohibited use of force, but is also contemptuous of the proceedings”, Roque said.

The Philippines is the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea to declare that China’s nine-dash lines is illegal since it is not sanctioned by the UNCLOS. The Philippine claim also asked the Hague -based arbitral tribunal that four “low-water elevations,” so-called because they are only visible during low tide, and where China has build artificial islands, be declared as part of the continental shelf of the Philippines, and that the waters outside of the 12 nautical miles of Panatag shoal be declared as part of the Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone.

Roque belied China’s claim that the waters within the nine-dash lines are generated by land territory and hence, the controversy cannot be resolved under the UNCLOS. “Clearly, the three specific prayers of the Philippines involve interpretation and application of specific provisions to UNCLOS relating to internal waters, territorial sea, Exclusive Economic Zones, islands, and low tide elevations. While the Spratlys dispute without a doubt also involves land territory, these are not the subjects of the Philippines claim, Roque added.

The Chinese academic in the conference, Prof. Zhang Xinjun of Tsinghua University, characterized the Philippine arbitral claim as a “mixed claim” because it involves both claims to sovereignty arising from land territory and not just purely maritime territory. This, he explained, is why the UNCLOS arbitral tribunal lacks jurisdiction over the Philippine claim. He likened the Philippine proceeding to that initiated by Mauritius against the United Kingdom. In this case, while it is also pending, the UK has argued that the dispute settlement proceedings of UNCLOS should not apply because the disputed maritime territory is generated by land territory.

The Japanese academic, Prof. NIishimoto Kentaro of Tohoku University, on the other hand, expressed reservations whether the Philippines could prevail in impugning China's title to all four islands, which the Philippines claimed should form part of the Philippine continental shelf. At least two of these islands are within the 200 nautical miles of Ito Iba Island, currently under the control of Taiwan, and thus may not form part of the Philippine continental shelf, according to the Japanese academic.

He supported however the Philippines position on the nine-dash lines arguing that in seeking a declaration of nullity of these lines, the Philippines was not engaged in maritime delimitation, but in an action for a declaration of rights, which is an issue of interpretation and application of the UNCLOS. He characterized the Philippines position against the Nine-Dash lines as “very strong”.

Japan is also engaged in its own territorial dispute with China over Senkaku Island.


China turns tables on PH over 'moratorium' on tensions

From Rappler (Jun 17): China turns tables on PH over 'moratorium' on tensions

While it conducts reclamation activities, China slams the Philippines for planning to build an airport and upgrade its naval facilities in the South China Sea

DISPUTED ISLANDS. An aerial photo shows Pag-asa (Thitu) Island, part of the disputed Spratly group of islands, in the South China Sea located off the coast of western Philippines on July 20, 2011. File photo by Rolex dela Peña/Pool/AFP

DISPUTED ISLANDS. An aerial photo shows Pag-asa (Thitu) Island, part of the disputed Spratly group of islands, in the South China Sea located off the coast of western Philippines on July 20, 2011. File photo by Rolex dela Peña/Pool/AFP

While the Philippines sought a “moratorium” on tensions in the disputed South China Sea, China said the Southeast Asian country has defeated its purpose by undertaking “provocative actions” in the disputed waters.

Look who's planning to build an airport and upgrade their naval facilities, said the Asian giant that is conducting reclamation activities in the South China Sea.

“The Philippine side, on the one hand, intentionally takes provocative actions while, on the other hand, makes irresponsible remarks on China's legitimate actions which are within China's sovereignty. That is unjustifiable,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said Monday, June 16.

Hua said this after Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario, in a television interview, said the Philippines wants to propose a “moratorium” on “activities that escalate tension.” These include China's reclamation activities in the disputed waters, parts of which the Philippines claims as the West Philippine Sea.

Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman Charles Jose explained that the moratorium is “not really a new proposal." He said it falls under an existing landmark document – the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC), which discourages activities that worsen tensions in the South China Sea. (READ: Philippines to press 'gas pedal' vs sea tensions')

For these statements, Hua rebuffed the Philippines in a media briefing in Beijing.

Turning the tables on the Philippines, Hua pointed out that in December 2013, the Philippines' defense department “announced that they would invest large sums of money to upgrade the airstrips and naval facilities” on Pag-asa Island, known in China as the Zhongye Island.

Then, she said, in January this year, the Philippine military “again announced their plans to build a world-class airport on the so-called Kalayaan Island.”

'Consensus between ASEAN, China'

“We call on the Philippine side to correct its erroneous actions, strictly follow the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, and stop provocations that would further aggravate and complicate the situation,” the Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson said.

China, again, asserted its “indisputable sovereignty” over the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea.

Hua said: “Since the 1970s, the Philippines has illegally and forcefully occupied parts of China's Nansha (Spratly) Islands including the Zhongye Island, in violation of the UN Charter and principles of international law. We demand the Philippines to withdraw all its facilities and personnel on islands illegally seized from China.”

Despite rising concern among the region's diplomats over the South China Sea, Hua also suggested that the Association of Southeast Asian Nations has no problem with China's actions in the disputed waters. (READ: PH weighs proposed ASEAN meet on South China Sea)

She said: “Issues on the sovereignty over islands and reefs of the Nansha Islands are not the ones between China and ASEAN. There is consensus between China and ASEAN on fully and effectively implementing the DOC and negotiating a code of conduct in the South China Sea under that framework. We stand ready to work with relevant countries, strictly follow the DOC and jointly safeguard peace and stability of the South China Sea.”

Taking off from the suggestion of a US diplomat, Del Rosario however is keen on tapping the international community “to step up and to say that we need to manage the tensions in the South China Sea before it gets out of hand.”

China, on the other hand, has rejected third-party involvement in South China Sea disputes, and has insisted on a one-on-one approach with the countries involved.