Wednesday, June 25, 2014

‘Maharaja Omar’ and five other suspected Sulu terrorists nabbed in Kunak

From the Rakyat Post (Jun 26): ‘Maharaja Omar’ and five other suspected Sulu terrorists nabbed in Kunak

One of the Sulu terrorists, identified as Maharaja Omar was blindfolded and handcuffed by police when arrested with five others at Kampung Pengkalan in Kunak on Wednesday morning.


A man who goes by the name “Maharaja Omar” and claims to possess invisibility powers could not do his “magic” when enforcement personnel barged into his house at Kampung Pengkalan in Kunak yesterday morning.

It was learnt that Maharaja Omar, who also practises black magic, is trying to revive the Kiram militant group, which was responsible for the intrusion in Lahad Datu in February last year.

The “revived group” intended to pursue the Sultanate of Sulu’s claim over Sabah.

Maharaja Omar, believed to be in his 40s, was arrested with five other suspected Sulu militants, comprising his 61-year-old father; a Malaysian police corporal; two other men and a woman.

Police also seized membership cards and appointment letters of the Sulu sultanate, several documents linked to the sultanate, as well as weapons from them.

Residents in Kunak raised a false alarm, claiming curfew was imposed after seeing the heavy police presence in and around the small town in Tawau, located the east coast of Sabah.

It was learnt that police had blocked all entry and exit points to and from Kunak to prevent the six suspected terrorists from escaping, but these routes were later made accessible after the arrests were carried out.

This latest joint operation between the Bukit Aman Special Branch and Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom) is a follow-up to last year’s intrusion incident.

All six suspected Sulu terrorists are being detained under Section 124(C) of the Penal Code and would be investigated under the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (Sosma).

Apart from the special operation, Esscom also launched a seven-hour Op Gasak which started at 3am and detained 129 illegal immigrants, including 34 women, at several locations in Kunak.

In last year’s intrusion incident, a total of 10 Malaysian security personnel were killed after a group of armed terrorists intruded into Lahad Datu via Kampung Tanduo.

Why Malaysia, unlike Philippines, keeps quiet on sea row

From the Philippine Star (Jun 25): Why Malaysia, unlike Philippines, keeps quiet on sea row

Sundown over the South China Sea as seen from Malaysia's Kota Kinabalu. Tam Sadek/CC BY-ND

Malaysia also has overlapping claims with China on several coastal territories in the South China Sea, but it has a "broad consensus" with the Asian power.

This is what the Chinese Foreign Ministry claimed in its statement to the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday, answering queries on why Malaysia has been downplaying the sea row when its Southeast Asian neighbors like the Philippines and Vietnam have been outspoken against China's show of force in the maritime region.

"Malaysia and China have disputes in the South China Sea. But the two sides share broad consensus on appropriately handling the disputes issues," the Chinese agency said.

Asked to give a reaction on the matter, the Malaysia government did not respond to the US-based newspaper.

The Philippines' and Vietnam's rivalries with China have escalated the past year as Beijing started reclamation work in Philippine-claimed waters and put up two oil rigs in what Vietnam considers part of its maritime territory.

The Philippines has also lodged an arbitration case against China under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea--a move Beijing condemned as unneighborly.

Japan, meanwhile, was recently embroiled in a more heated rivalry with China over the East China Sea, with the row reaching its height in Chinese and Japanese military planes and ships almost colliding in the contested area.

Malaysia, on the other hand, has been more interested in furthering positive relations with China by avoiding making remarks and moves that may trigger Beijing's retaliation.

In a study for the US state department, envoy John Finkbeiner said Malaysia has lessened economic dependence on the US and strengthened trade relations with China.

"Malaysia appears to pursue a non-confrontational approach in the sovereignty dispute, which differs markedly compared to Vietnam and the Philippines," Finkbeiner said.

"The first pillar regards Malaysia’s firm commitment to increase its trade and investment ties with the world’s most dynamic economy in order to hedge its other strong economic  ties, with the US in particular," he added.

Neither has Malaysia taken seriously Chinese projections and assertions in the South China Sea without beefing up its defense to avert future conflict.

Finkbeiner pointed out that Malaysia's military spending fell in 2009 and 2010 before slightly increasing in 2011, but levels remain unremarkable.

In comparison, the Philippines has heavily invested in military maritime capabilities as well as its Coast Guard the past years seeing Chinese domination in the strategic waterway a threat.

Malaysia, however, does not seem to completely bandwagon with China by maintaining strong military-to-military ties with the US and other Western powers, Finkbeiner said.

"Malaysia’s primary aim was to cultivate a regional balance of power and thus inhibit dominance by any single power," he explained. "Thus Malaysia  helped further regional balance between the U.S. and China, much the same way it cultivated its own balance between the two powers."

MNLF leaders unite, recognize Misuari leadership

From the Philippine Star (Jun 25): MNLF leaders unite, recognize Misuari leadership

The fragmented leaders of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) have agreed to unify under the leadership of its founding chief and chairman Nur Misuari, one of its senior leaders revealed Wednesday.

The unity of the MNLF leaders, contained in its position paper dubbed as the ‘Jeddah formula’ was signed by its 10 senior leaders and members of the central committee last June 11 in Jeddah before their meeting with the Secretary General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), said Habib Mudjahad Hashim, chairman of the MNLF’s Islamic Command Council (ICC) who is one of the signatories.

The other signatories of the MNLF position paper were Ustadz Abdulbaki Abubakar, Jimmy Labawan, Abdul Jabbar Narra, Yahodza Simpal, Muslimin Sema, Hatimil Hassan, Shakiruddin Bajin, Randolp Parcasio and Mashur Jundam.

“All MNLF brothers (leaders) signified and signed for the unity. It’s a sign of unity within the ranks of the MNLF,” Hashim said. 

In recognizing the leadership of Misuari, the MNLF leaders also support the call of the former to go back in their original struggle for independence of the Bangsamoro Republik.

“But this will be only the final option if the government will abrogate the 1996 Final Peace Agreement. This is our political and legal option,” Hashim said.

The MNLF leaders called on the OIC to seek on the Philippine government to withdraw the warrant of arrest against Misuari to allow the latter for his official travel specially meeting with the OIC abroad and that his case must be reviewed by the Department of Justice (DOJ).

Misuari, who is at large, is facing charges of rebellion and violation of humanitarian law, genocide and other crimes against humanity following the Sept. 9 siege staged by his faction in Zamboanga City. More than 200 people were killed and 120,000 residents were displaced by the devastation of four barangays.

Hashim said while the MNLF leadership sought the dropping of the warrant of arrest, they do not condone the atrocity in Zamboanga City.

“We recognized the rule of law and we seek the DOJ to have a review on the case of Brother Nur,” Hashim said.

City Mayor Ma. Isabelle Climaco-Salazar said will leave the case on the DOJ that has jurisdiction of the case against Misuari.

Hashim said the MNLF leaders also jointly acknowledge the OIC in welcoming the Comprehensive Agreement in the Bangsamoro (CAB) just “as partial fulfillment” with their 1976 Tripoli and 1996 peace accords.

The MNLF leadership split in the mid and late 90’s over disagreements on the leadership of Misuari after the latter took the helm of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and unilaterally took the front’s stewardship.

The disparity and friction in MNLF leadership aggravated after Misuari lost his re-election bid in ARMM against a government supported candidate, MNLF leader Dr. Parouk Hussein.

Disgruntled and provoked, Misuari launched attack in Jolo, Sulu, and Zamboanga City  in 2002 where he escaped, but he was captured in Sabah months later and detained in Manila. This prompted the Sema faction to elect its 15-man committee and oust Misuari from the chairmanship.

“The OIC which was apparently worried over the fragmented leadership and called for the unity as it continue to affect efforts in bringing solution to the Bangsamoro problem,” Hashim said.

The MNLF under Misuari has remained and is recognized as the sole observer to the OIC, an organization of the 57-Muslim states.

China to PH, Japan: Accept ‘historical’ claim

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jun 26): China to PH, Japan: Accept ‘historical’ claim

The Philippines and Japan should accept China’s “historical” claim in the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea) instead of complicating the ongoing maritime dispute, an official said Thursday.

“It is our opinion that relevant countries should show sincerity and move towards the same direction with China, rather than deliberately stir up tension and bring additional complicated factors to the regional situation,” Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying said in a press conference in Beijing Wednesday, the transcript of which was posted online.

“I’d like to point out that China has been long committed to resolving disputes concerning territory and maritime jurisdiction with countries directly concerned through bilateral negotiation and coordination on the basis of respecting historical facts and international laws,” Hua said in response to a question about the recent bilateral talks between Philippine President Benigno Aquino III and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tokyo.

Aquino and Abe discussed the growing tension between China and both countries over disputed territories in the South China Sea and East China Sea.

Aquino supported Japan’s move to change its constitution to allow for “collective self-defense,” something that China has repeatedly criticized and objected.

China claims nearly the entire South China Sea, including parts of the Philippines 200- nautical mile exclusive economic zone and the Spratly Group of Islands, citing “historical facts.”

The Philippines has challenged China’s “nine-dash line” claim by filing an arbitration case before the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea (Itlos), saying it has no basis in international law.

China has repeatedly refused to participate in the arbitration case and insisted only on bilateral negotiations, citing its “indisputable sovereignty” over the region.

Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio debunked China’s “historical basis” by showing China’s own ancient maps in his series of public lectures.

“There is not a single ancient map, whether made by Chinese or foreigners, showing that the Spratlys and Scarborough Shoal were ever part of Chinese territory,” Carpio said.

“China’s so-called historical facts to justify its nine-dash line are glaringly inconsistent with actual historical facts, based on China’s own historical maps, constitutions and official pronouncements,” he said.

Hua accused Japan and the Philippines of threatening the peace and security of the region by encouraging the expansion of Japan’s military.

“We hope that interactions between countries concerned can inject positive energy to the maintaining of regional peace and stability and play a constructive role, not the opposite,” she said.

“Due to historical reasons, China pays close attention to Japan’s policy changes concerning military security which also raise common concern from its Asian neighbors and the international community,” Hua said.

US: China’s offshore behavior hurts its standing

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jun 26): US: China’s offshore behavior hurts its standing

A senior U.S. official says China’s coercive efforts to enforce its territorial claims in disputed waters are not just raising tensions but damaging its international standing.

Top diplomat for East Asia, Daniel Russel, was speaking at a congressional hearing Wednesday, two weeks ahead of high-level talks between the two global powers in Beijing.

Russel said Washington wanted to build “strategic trust” with Beijing and economic cooperation, but would also push for the release of political prisoners.

Russel criticized China’s recent actions in the East and South China Seas which he said had left its neighbors “understandably alarmed.”

China is locked in a standoff with Vietnam after deploying oil rigs in waters claimed by nations, and has running territorial disputes with U.S. treaty allies, Japan and the Philippines.

MILF: Pagilidan Province holds forum on Bangsamoro

From the MILF Website (Jun 25): Pagilidan Province holds forum on Bangsamoro

Communities comprising the MILF’s Pagilidan Province (Illana Bay in Lanao del Norte) held forum on Bangsamoro on June 21, 2014 at madrasah school building Barangay Sigayan, Sultan Naga Dimaporo (SND), Lanao del Norte. 
Several sectors including the 5th Brigade of 115th Base Command of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF)-MILF participated in the activity. In his opening remarks, Mr. Jovanie A. Mamantuc, a community leader took note of the importance of the program as an avenue for enlightening the people on the GPH-MILF signed agreements that will entrench the Bangsamoro new political entity.

Invited speaker Abdulkadir M. Abubakar, clearly related the chronology of the Bangsamoro struggle way back from the founding of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) towards the formation of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the negotiations that it entered into with the government.

In his presentation, he said; that Bangsamoro struggle started when the Spaniards arrived in the Philippines armed with their Sword and the Cross to conquer and Christianize the native inhabitants.

The people of Luzon and the Visayas were easily subdued and embraced the White Religion but the Moros fought the conquistadores in their entire occupation of the Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao for a total of 377 years and remained an unconquered people.

When general Emilio Aguinaldo declared Philippine Independence in 1898, and subsequently the Americans gave the Philippines its independence in 1946, the Moros did not recognized both acts claiming they were not consulted and no constitutional due process was ever made.

Mr. Abubakar also mentioned the agreements signed between the MILF-GPH such as the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) and its four annexes that forms part of the Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro signed last March 27, 2014 in Manila. He highlighted his lecture by illustrating the road map towards the creation of the Bangsamoro Region.

He encouraged residents of Pagilidan province to join the biometric registration with the COMELEC to be able to participate in the plebiscite for Bangsamoro.

Before winding up his lecture, he personally express his sincerest (Ikhlash) gratitude to the Mujaahideens in joining the struggle and for their support to the peace process which he consider as a big JihadI and Ibaadah ( worship ) to Allah S.W.T.

The municipality of Sultan Naga Dimaporo (SND) is not part of the core areas of the proposed Bangsamoro Region but whose residents are almost 100% Moro-Iranon. A 10% of the registered voters may file a petition, signifying their interest to participate in the plebiscite.

The forum was facilitated by Dato Abdulcair “JOHNNY” Balindong, a community leader of Sigayan, SND and Cmdr. Zainoden H. Abdellah of the 5th Brigade 115th Base Command of the BIA-MILF. 

At the end of the forum, the participants and the facilitators organized themselves into PAGILIDAN FARMERS FOR PEACE AND DEVELOPMENT (PFPAD).

It’s not ‘might is right’ in South China Sea – Singapore

From the Manila Bulletin (Jun 26): It’s not ‘might is right’ in South China Sea – Singapore

Singapore’s prime minister said Tuesday international law should determine how territorial disputes in the South China Sea are resolved, rather than the notion that “might is right.”

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong was responding to a question about China’s expansive territorial claims in resource-rich oceans that have spooked some of its Southeast Asian neighbors.

Singapore is not a claimant state in the South China Sea, but is supportive of efforts by Southeast Asia’s regional bloc to negotiate with China a code of conduct to manage and resolve the territorial disputes, that have increased regional tension. The city state also balances its strong ties with Washington with cordial relations with Beijing.

Lee noted that China says its claims have a historical basis that predates international law.

“I’m not a lawyer so I presume there’s some plausibility in that argument,” Lee told the Council on Foreign Relations during a visit to Washington, “but from the point of view of a country which must survive in the international system where there are big countries and small, outcomes cannot be determined just by might is right.

“I think international law must have a big weight in how disputes are resolved,” Lee said, also praising for the U.S. generally following such principles.

Lee added that the Chinese have seen other great powers during history that have tried to rise by “might” only to rise and then fall. He said the Chinese “are trying not to make the same mistake.”

The United States has been critical of what it considers provocative Chinese actions to assert its territorial claims, most recently by positioning oil rig in waters also claimed by Vietnam. China has also had standoffs at sea with US ally the Philippines.

China says Philippines stirring tensions after Aquino supports Japan

From InterAksyon (Jun 26): China says Philippines stirring tensions after Aquino supports Japan

Philippine President Benigno Aquino III and Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe attend a joint news conference at the prime minister's official residence in Tokyo June 24, 2014. REUTERS/Yuya Shino

China on Wednesday accused the Philippines of creating tension in the region and urged Manila to show "sincerity" in upholding stability after President Benigno Aquino III welcomed Japan's more assertive military policy.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made it clear on Tuesday he wanted an early agreement with his ruling party's dovish junior partner to ease constitutional curbs that have kept Japan's military from fighting abroad since World War Two.

Aquino said after meeting Abe that "nations of goodwill can only benefit if the Japanese government is empowered to assist others".

China's foreign ministry said Aquino's statement had complicated an already difficult situation.

"We think that the relevant country should earnestly show its sincerity, meet China halfway, rather than creating tensions and rivalry and adding new, complicating factors to the situation in the region," spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a daily news briefing.

Hua urged Manila to "play a positive and constructive role" for peace and stability, "rather than the reverse".

Japan and the Philippines are locked in disputes with China over territorial claims, respectively, in the East China Sea and South China Sea. Sino-Japanese ties have also long been plagued by what Beijing sees as Japan's failure to atone for its often brutal occupation of parts of China in the 1930s and 1940s.

"Because of historical reasons, China has maintained a high degree of concern about Japan's policy movements in the military and security fields," Hua said.

China, she said, hoped Japan would "understand and respect the legitimate concerns" of neighboring countries.

State media earlier said China had unveiled a new official map of the country giving greater play to its claims on the South China Sea, making the disputed waters and its numerous islets and reefs more clearly seem like national territory.

Previous maps included China's claims to most of the South China Sea, but in a little box normally in a bottom corner to enable the rest of the country to fit easily onto a single leaf.

It was not clear, however, to what extent the map was new. Reuters was able to buy a very similar one, first printed last year, in one of Beijing's main book stores.

All on one map

The map described by media reports is longer and dispenses with the box. It shows continental China and its self-declared boundary in the South China Sea - stretching to the coasts of Malaysia, Vietnam and the Philippines - on one complete map.

"The islands of the South China Sea on the traditional map of China are shown in a cut-away box, and readers cannot fully, directly know the full map of China," the ruling Communist Party's official People's Daily said on its website.

The new map "has important meaning for promoting citizens' better understanding of ... maintaining (our) maritime rights and territorial integrity," an unnamed official with its publishers told the newspaper.

Hua told reporters people should not read too much into the issuing of the new map.

"The goal is to serve the Chinese public. As for the intentions, I think there is no need to make too much of any association here," she said.

Charles Jose, spokesman of the Philippines’ Department of Foreign Affairs, said the publication of the map showed China's "unreasonably expansive claims" that he said contravened international law.

"And it is precisely such ambitious expansionism that is causing tension in the South China Sea," he told reporters.

Beijing claims about 90 percent of the South China Sea. Parts of the potentially energy-rich waters are also subject to claims by the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.

Tensions have risen sharply in the region in recent months, especially between China and both Vietnam and the Philippines.

China's positioning of an oil rig in waters claimed by both Beijing and Hanoi last month has led to rammings at sea between ships from both countries and anti-Chinese violence in Vietnam.

Philippine rebels plotting to spring captured leader in South

From the Mindanao Examiner BlogSpot site (Jun 25): Philippine rebels plotting to spring captured leader in South

Children look at the pictures of their parents - public school teacher Aslaime Pangader and her husband Nait Pangader - who were allegedly abducted by MILF members on June 18 in Pantao Ragat town in Lanao del Norte. (Mindanao Examiner Photo - Mark Navales)

Philippine authorities have tightened security in the southern province of Lanao del Norte after intelligence reports suggested that rogue Moro Islamic Liberation Front members were planning to attack a prison facility and spring their captured leader.

An alleged MILF commander Majid Abuat - whose group is allied with MILF commander Abdurahman Macapaar - is being held at the provincial jail here after policemen captured him while pursuing a group of armed men tagged as behind the abduction of a public school teacher Aslaime Pangader and her husband Nait on June 18 in Pantao Ragat town.

The couple was travelling on a motorcycle when gunmen intercepted them.

Because of the intelligence report, the 2nd Mechanized Infantry Brigade under Col. Demy Tejarez said they have deployed additional forces in Iligan City to guard the prison against possible attacks by Abuat’s followers. “We have deployed soldiers to guard the prison as a precaution,” Tejarez told reporters.

Police said Abuat is also facing multiple murder charges filed against him in 2010. Abuat’s armed followers now wanted a prisoner swap. The motive of the abduction is still unclear.

The abduction of the couple left their four children under the care of the woman’s 40-year old sister Ashnia Limpao, who appealed to the government to help in securing the safe release of the hostages.

“The children are suffering and they are confused because they don’t know what is going on and why their parents are being held against their will by rebels,” she said.

There was no immediate statement from the MILF, but security officials, through the ad hoc joint action group, have informed the former rebel group about the situation.

Pantao Ragat Mayor Eleanor Lantud also appealed to the rebels to free the couple. She said the group of Macapaar has also been reported issuing arrest warrants for people accused of crimes under the Islamic law.

Macapaar, also known as Commander Bravo, and another MILF leader Ameril Kato, were linked by authorities to deadly attacks in 2008 after a failed agreement on the Muslim homeland deal between the MILF and the Filipino government.

The MILF has signed a peace agreement with Manila in March this year.

PHL, US troops begin CARAT exercises

From GMA News (Jun 25): PHL, US troops begin CARAT exercises

Troops from the Philippines and United States will participate in the 20th Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) joint military exercises on Thursday.
The US Embassy in Manila on Wednesday said a US Navy task group that includes ships, aircraft, Sailors and Marines will take part in the exercise.
Exercise events will occur in "several locations ashore and at sea including Subic Bay, San Antonio in Zambales, Sangley Point in Cavite City, and Ternate."
"This year’s CARAT Philippines will focus on combined operations at sea, amphibious landings, diving and salvage, and maritime patrol and reconnaissance flights.  Sailors and Marines will exchange best practices and share information with their Philippine Armed Forces counterparts during multiple professional exchanges and seminars ashore," it said.
The embassy added that civil action projects, community service events and band concerts would facilitate interaction with the local community.
Previous CARAT exercises were held in Mindanao (2012), Palawan (2011), Subic Bay (2010 and 2013), Cebu (2009) and other locations.
"As in years past, the sea phase will take place in international waters west of Subic Bay," the embassy said.
No relation to current events
The embassy said CARAT, which promotes regional maritime cooperation with many participating navies, "is not in response to current events."

The Philippines is in the middle of a dispute with China over territories in the West Philippine Sea.

The US supports the Philippines' move to bring the matter up for arbitration before a United Nations tribunal.
The embassy said the 2014 CARAT series began in late May, and is taking place in Malaysia now. It continues through end-2014 with Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Singapore and Timor-Leste.
"Joint planning for each phase of CARAT begins a year in advance and exercise phases take place during the same general timeframe each year," it said.
Also, the embassy said CARAT Philippines is part of a broader bilateral exercise series the US Navy conducts with nine partner navies in South and Southeast Asia.
It said this aims to "address shared maritime security priorities, strengthen maritime partnerships and enhance interoperability among participating navies."
"The Philippines has participated since the series began in 1995, and CARAT exercises over the past two decades are clear examples of the longstanding and close U.S.-Philippines navy-to-navy relationship," it said.

PHL: New ‘10-dash line’ map shows China’s expansionist ambitions

From GMA News (Jun 25): PHL: New ‘10-dash line’ map shows China’s expansionist ambitions

The Philippines on Wednesday rejected a new map drawn up by China that puts offshore territories also claimed by Manila within Chinese “national boundaries,” saying such a move demonstrates Beijing's expansionist ambitions in the region.

GMA News Online first published the report on China’s new 10-dash line map on July 26, 2013.

The Philippine government protested the map on June 7, 2013 through a note verbale or diplomatic note to the Chinese Embassy. The note “protests the reference to those dash lines as China's national boundaries" and called it a violation of international law.

The new Chinese map, which was first published in January 2013 by China's state mapping authority Sinomap Press, features 10 dashes—one dash more than China's previous demarcation—to mark a huge swath of the South China Sea in a tongue-shaped encirclement as Chinese territory.

 Nine of the dashes are in the South China Sea, while the tenth has been placed near Taiwan, purportedly to signify it as a Chinese province.

"We reiterate that such a publication only shows China's unreasonably expansive claim that is clearly contrary to international law and UNCLOS," Foreign Affairs spokesman Charles Jose said in a text message.

UNCLOS stands for United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, a 1982 accord signed by 163 countries—including the Philippines and China—that aims to govern the use of offshore areas and sets territorial limits of coastal states.

"It is precisely such ambitious expansionism that is causing the tensions in the South China Sea," Jose said.

Coloma: Map not good for regional stability

MalacaƱang on Wednesday said China's new map is not good for regional stability, but noted that the Philippines still wishes to resolve the territorial row peacefully.

"While it is apparent that this move does not promote the cause of regional stability, we reiterate our focus on diplomatic, political and legal options that will bring about the peaceful resolution of disputes on conflicting claims to maritime entitlements in the West Philippine Sea," Presidential Communications Operations Office head Herminio Coloma Jr. said in a statement.

Asked if the Philippines will contest the new map, presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda told GMA News Online that the country's arbitration case already questions the "propriety" of the nine-dash line and they expect the tribunal to rule on the issue.

"Apparently, their old maps weren't historical enough to prove their claim that they had to draw new maps to prove their old claims," he said.

The Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, and Taiwan have been contesting China's massive claim on nearly the entirety of the South China Sea, which is home to vital shipping lanes and where undersea oil and natural gas deposits have been discovered in several areas.

The Philippine government has adopted the name West Philippine Sea to refer to parts of the South China Sea within its territory that are also being claimed by China.

China rejects the claims of its smaller Asian neighbors, saying it has "indisputable sovereignty" over the entire waters.

Manila disputed this claim before a Netherlands-based tribunal operating under the UNCLOS. The Philippines asked the court to declare China's massive territorial claim illegal and invalid.

Philippines seeks 4-nation meeting in sea disputes

From Kyodo News posted to ABS-CBN (Jun 25): Philippines seeks 4-nation meeting in sea disputes

The Philippines has revived its plan to call a meeting among four ASEAN claimants -- itself, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei -- to disputed islands in the South China Sea to hammer out a common position on how to deal with increasingly assertive rival claimant China, Philippine President Benigno Aquino said Tuesday.

Aquino, who flew to Japan for a day-long working visit, said he briefed Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe about the Philippine plan to call a special four-way claimant meeting.

"We told them that we're talking with our ASEAN brethren, especially the three (other) claimant countries leading up to a meeting with China so we have a common stand," Aquino told reporters aboard a Philippine Airlines flight from Tokyo to Hiroshima.

Last week, Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said Manila is trying "to get a consensus among the claimant states and then hopefully everyone will agree so we can set the schedule."

He even said that the Philippines is willing to host the meeting which he hopes will take place before a meeting of ASEAN foreign ministers in Myanmar tentatively set to take place in August.

Del Rosario said that Manila will press for a joint call on China to halt reclamation work in contested waters, such as on Johnson South Reef and Fiery Cross Reef in the Spratly Islands.

"We think that would be the appropriate time to get the claimant states on board, and then go from there," he said.

The Philippines, the most vocal and active among the ASEAN claimants, hatched the idea for the meeting ahead of an ASEAN summit that was held in Cambodia in November 2012.

It had wanted to hold the four-way talks on the sidelines of the summit, but Brunei and Malaysia were reportedly reluctant.

Manila subsequently dropped the idea for the time being, citing scheduling difficulties as the reason for the "postponement." Efforts to revive the plan last year also did not succeed.

The Spratlys are claimed in whole by China, Taiwan and Vietnam, and in part by the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei. Other contested areas in the South China Sea include the Paracel Islands, over which China and Vietnam have come to blows in the past, and Scarborough Shoal, which is hotly disputed between China and the Philippines.

The 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations also includes Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, Singapore and Thailand.

Govt cool to OIC’s plebiscite demand

From the Manila Standard Today (Jun 25): Govt cool to OIC’s plebiscite demand

The Aquino administration was lukewarm to the proposed plebiscite on the new Bangsamoro deal even as it said that it was open to the call of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation for the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law to incorporate the most outstanding features of the 1976 Tripoli Agreement and the 1996 final peace agreement with the Moro National Liberation Front.

“The MNLF can continue to participate in the legislative process that will be led by Congress,” government chief negotiator Miriam Ferrer said in a text message from Japan where she is attending the 6th Consolidation for Peace for Mindanao in Hiroshima.

Ferrer, however, maintained that the draft BBL already incorporated the points raised by the MNLF.

The Bangsamoro Transition Commission consulted with the MILF and incorporated the 42 consensus points in the proposed BBL,” she said.

The draft BBL will implement the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro which was signed by the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

Once approved by Congress, the BBL will pave the way for the creation of the Bangsamoro - a new political entity that would replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

The ARMM emerged as the final product of the 1996 peace accord between the government and the MNLF.

But Ferrer said the leaders of the various MNLF factions - including the group of founding chairman Nur Misuari - were earlier invited to join the BTC in crafting the Basic Law, but they all declined.

Ferrer also shot down the appeal for a new plebiscite, describing such activity as “problematic.”

“Insistence on holding the plebiscite in all 13 provinces mentioned in the 1976 Tripoli Agreement and the 1996 FPA is problematic for the Philippine government. The 2001 plebiscite already complied with this.”

Last week, the OIC issued Resolution No. 2/41-MM entitled “Questions of Muslims in Southern Philippines” that was signed during the 41st session of the Council of Foreign Ministers in Jeddah from June 18-19.

Aside from its call to incorporate the provisions of the 1976 Tripoli Agreement and the 1995 final agreement and the holding of a plebiscite as suggested by the MNLF, the OIC also renewed the mandate of the Peace Committee on the Southern Philippines, currently chaired by Egypt, to “continue the necessary contacts with the Philippine government and the MNLF for the full implementation of the 1996 FPA and the Tripoli agreement.”

The OIC also urged the holding of a meeting of leaders of both the MNLF and the MILF within the framework of the Bangsamoro Coordination Council, “to find a way for the two peace tracks to merge instead of colliding.”

In Japan, Ferrer would be among the delegates accompanying President President Benigno Aquino III, who is slated to meet today Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

After the meeting with Abe in Tokyo, the president will also attend the 6th COP for Mindanao in Hiroshima.

Expert on South China Sea dispute: Hold on to what we have

From GMA News (Jun 25): Expert on South China Sea dispute: Hold on to what we have

The Philippines must fortify its defense of the areas still in its possession in the West Philippine Sea while awaiting the verdict of the United Nations-backed international arbitral tribunal on its territorial row with Beijing, an expert on China said Tuesday.
Chito Sta. Romana, a journalist who lived in Beijing for more than three decades and worked as Beijing Bureau chief of ABC News, said in a forum on the West Philippine Sea at the University of the Philippines that the government should not idly wait for the decision of the Netherlands-based Permanent Court of Arbitration.
“[While] we have no choice but to go through the arbitration process. We should defend and hold on to what we still have,. But we should not do it in a way that we fire the first shot. Because if that happens, the dispute might escalate into a military conflict and there’s a possibility that we’ll lose control over an island or reef,” Sta. Romana said.
The Philippines has submitted its memorial to the arbitral tribunal detailing the legal bases for its protest against China’s claim over the West Philippine Sea.
China, however, has reiterated its refusal to take part in the arbitration proceedings despite the arbitral tribunal’s order for it to submit a counter memorial to the Philippine complaint by December 15. 2014. 
Military tactics
Sta. Romana said that while China is still lukewarm about entering into an armed conflict with any of the countries it is at odds with because of territorial claims in the South China Sea, it will not hesitate to retaliate with gunfire once it is provoked.
But more than beefing up the country’s military capabilities, Sta. Romana said the Armed Forces of the Philippines should invest in training soldiers to strategize wisely. 
The military should revisit the events that led to the Philippines losing control of Mischief Reef and learn from them, he added.
“Military tactics is important. The reason why we lost Mischief Reef was because of our military’s incorrect understanding of the Chinese military’s tactics,” Sta. Romana said.
The Philippines lost control of Mischief Reef to China in 1995 after the Chinese military put up structures on it. The reef is only about 130 miles away from Palawan.
Politics of patience
Former defense secretary Orly Mercado said Philippine leaders should exercise caution in making hasty remarks about the country’s territorial row with China, since these may further escalate the tensions between the two countries.
He said it will be prudent for the government to exercise patience in trying to resolve its territorial row with China since Beijing is no longer a stranger to playing the waiting game.
“We should practice the politics of patience… we can’t afford to make mistakes. Unfortunately, we Filipinos are not the type who usually come up with a strategic plan. For us, it’s not aim, ready, shoot but shoot, ready, aim,” he said. 
Although the territorial dispute seems unlikely to be resolved anytime soon, Mercado said the Philippines should not close its doors to the possibility of cooperating with China on areas like trade and environmental protection. 
Sta. Romana said the Philippines will have to dialogue to China whether or not it wins its case before the tribunal.
“If the result is positive, we’ll have to mobilize international public opinion to persuade China to follow [the ruling]. If we lose, we have to talk to China. Whatever the result of the arbitration is, we have to be prepared to talk eventually to the adversary,” he said.

Philippine Armed Forces Chief of Staff visits Vietnam

From VietnamNet (Jun 25): Philippine Armed Forces Chief of Staff visits Vietnam

General Emmanuel Bautista, Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and his wife are paying an official visit to Vietnam from June 23-26 at the invitation of Senior Lieutenant General Deputy Defence Minister Do Ba Ty.

philippines, vietnam

At a meeting with the Filipino military delegation in Hanoi on June 24, Lieu.Gen.Do Ba Ty, Chief of the General Staff of the Vietnam People’s Army expressed his conviction that the visit will contribute to strengthening the friendly relations between the two armies and the two peoples.

The two senior military officials said that the two armies have yet to tap potential for bilateral cooperation despite positive developments in bilateral defence cooperation.

They suggested the two armies should promote stronger cooperation in delegation exchange at all levels, personnel training, naval ship visits, search and rescue at sea; solve the problem of fishermen violating the law while fishing in bordering waters and exchange views on matters of mutual concern.

In addition, Vietnam wants the Philippines to cooperate and share their experience in participating in UN peacekeeping mission.

The same day, General Emmanuel Bautista also paid a courtesy visit to General Defence Minister Phung Quang Thanh.

N.Cotabato cop calls for public vigilance vs. bombing

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 25): N.Cotabato cop calls for public vigilance vs. bombing

TULUNAN, North CotabatoPolice authorities here has appealed to the public’s vigilance following the explosion of an improvised explosive device at a roadside here Tuesday noon.

Senior Inspector Ronnie Cordero, Tulunan police chief, said Tuesday’s bomb attack was apparently aimed at sowing fear among the residents in the town’s commercial district.

Quoting investigation report, Cordero said a teenager on board a Honda XRM motorbike arrived in Purok 6, Barangay Sibsib, Tulunan at past 12 noon.

The teenager was carrying a huge cellophane, placed it at a roadside as he bought banana from a store nearby.

Then he hurriedly left, leaving the cellophane beside a pile of lumber along a dirt road at 12:10 p.m.

About two minutes after the teenager left, the IED fashioned from 81 mm mortar went off, creating a crater and disarranging the pile of lumber products. Nobody was hurt.

Cordero said the IED had mobile phone as triggering mechanism similar to bombs set off by suspected extortionists in the past in North Cotabato and Maguindanao.

”We remained clueless as to the motive and the identities of the person who carried the bomb in Purok 6,” Cordero told reporters.

The police suspect the IED was set off to sow fear and not really to maim or kill anybody “because it was left in an unpopulated area.”

In face of bomb attack, Cordero appealed to the public to alert the local police should they see any suspicious looking persons or see plastic bag left unattended anywhere in the town center.

”If you notice something like bags, thermos, baskets or anything suspicious, do not touch it but quickly alert the police and the village watchmen in your area,” Cordero said.

Following the incident, police chokepoints have been set up in Barangay Sibsib where business establishments are located to thwart any bombing attempts.

Araw Forces honor Filipino war veterans in commemoration of 64th Korean War

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 25): Araw Forces honor Filipino war veterans in commemoration of 64th Korean War

Four Filipino war veterans who fought alongside their Korean counterparts during the Korean War were named “Ambassador of Peace” as the Joint Support Group of the Republic of Korea commemorated the 64th Korean War at their base camp in Candahug village of Palo on Tuesday.

The recognition was afforded to surviving war veterans Segundino Gresola of Carigara, Sofio Robrigo of Dagami and Domingo Teves and Domingo Raagas from Tacloban City by Col. Chulwon Lee as approved by the Minister of Patriots and Veterans Affairs of Republic of Korea and the Korean Veterans Association.

Prior to the Araw Forces, as a way of expressing their heartfelt gratitude to these veterans for helping keep democracy in South Korea, Lee's team repaired the houses of the four awardees.

“We still remember the 7,420 Filipino soldiers who joined the Korean War to protect South Korea and its citizens. More than 100 Filipino soldiers were killed and more than 400 are wounded. With this we express our gratitude and respect for their courage and dedication,” said Col. Lee, commander of the Joint Support Group.

“They had given us the strength and chance to stand again during the time we suffer from despair and pain, we are here to repay the Filipino sacrifice 64 years ago. We promise you that we will continue in helping at the recovery activities that will give typhoon victims the courage to stand up again,” Col. Lee added.

Also given recognition were late Filipino war veterans Pedro Pedrosa, Juanito Ambago, Leo Olegario and Justiniano Servillano, which was accepted on their behalf by their immediate family members.

Filipino military contingent in the Korean War called the Philippine Expeditionary Force to Korea (PEFTOK) is the 4th largest foreign contingents of the 16 nation coalitions of the United Nation to Korean War.

Filipino soldiers participated in the Battle of Imjim River, Battle of Yultong Bridge and Battle of Hill Eerie.

The 7, 420 Filipino soldiers were divided into five combat troops, the 2nd Battalion Combat Team, 10th Battalion Combat Team, 14th Battalion Combat Team, 19th Battalion Combat Team and the 20th Battalion Combat Team.

In these five battalions, three are currently under the 8th Infantry Division - the 14th IB base in Oras, Eastern Samar, 19th IB base in Kananga and the 20th IB.

The commitment of Filipino soldiers in battle only proves that they are not just soldier of the country but soldiers too of people of South Korea, said 8th ID Commanding General Major General Jet Velarmino.

“The Korean War became the foundation of friendship between the Philippines and South Korea. A friendship that has been strengthened not just in time of war but also in times of calamities,” Maj. Gen. Velarmino said, citing the on-going rehabilitation works of the Araw Forces in the three towns of Leyte that were heavily devastated by typhoon Yolanda.

Araw Forces also awarded P10,000 cash assistance and one unit of laptop to family members of the surviving war veterans that they can use for their studies.

The occasion was also graced by Governor Leopoldo Dominico Petilla and Task Force Yolanda chief Colonel Arnulfo Matanguihan.

Armed group releases abducted village chieftain, family

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 25): Armed group releases abducted village chieftain, family

Successful negotiations coupled with pressures from military hot pursuit operations and blocking forces by the police had compelled an armed group to release an abducted village chieftain, his wife and two children a few hours after they were forcefully taken from their home Monday morning , police reports said Wednesday.

Reports from Agusan del Sur reaching the regional headquarters here Wednesday said that tribal chieftain Datu Adelfo Mancugnahan Santos together with his wife and two children were forcefully taken by about 40 heavily armed men believed to be led by a certain Maximo Catarata alias “Boyet Tindogan” of the Guerilla Force-34 of the Southern Mindanao Revolutionary Committee.

The family was taken from their home at the hinterlands of Sitio Pinile, Barangay Valentina, La Paz town in Agusan del Sur, some 18 kilometers from the town proper around 9:00 a.m. on Monday.

The police report added that La Paz police immediately coordinated with Mayor Ambrosio Lim of La Paz town for the activation of the Municipal Crisis Management Committee. Mario Santos Urdanilla, chairperson of Barangay Valentina, was tasked to negotiate with the abductors.

The report stated that about noon on the same day, the victims were all released by their abductors at the height of the hot pursuit operations by the members of the 26th Infantry Battalion, policemen from the Agusan del Sur Provincial Public Safety Company, while the La Paz and Talacogon Municipal Police Stations conducted checkpoints in their areas.

The family safely returned to their home in Barangay Valentina and rest for a few days before the debriefing because of trauma as advised by relatives.

Remains of Ilonggo Marine officer killed in Sulu encounter arrive in Iloilo

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 25): Remains of Ilonggo Marine officer killed in Sulu encounter arrive in Iloilo

The remains of 1Lt. Roger Flores, an Ilonggo Marine officer who died in an encounter with Abu Sayyaf bandits in Sulu last week, were brought home to Iloilo on Wednesday.

Flores’ body arrived at Iloilo International Airport in Cabatuan at around 9 a.m. on board an Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)’s Fokker F27 plane.

Arriving with the remains were Flores' mother, Remia Flores, and some of his fellow Philippine Marines.

Immediate families and friends of Flores welcomed the body at the airport.

Members of the Public Affairs Office of the Philippine Army’s 3rd Infantry Division (3ID) headed by its spokesperson, Major Ray Tiongson were also there along with the Iloilo media.

Currently, Flores' remains lie in state at Somo Funeral Homes in Delgado St., City Proper.

Flores, a native of Barangay Tanza Bonifacio, City Proper, was one of the seven casualties in an encounter between government troops and the Abu Sayyaf group in Patikul town, Sulu Thursday morning.

For his relatives, friends and fellow Ilonggos, Flores is someone that they can be proud of and is a hero.

Flores was a graduate of the Philippine Military Academy Masiglahi Class 2009. He graduated with flying colors as he was the top 3 of the Class. He also went through the Marine Basic Officer Training Course in the United States.

He was supposed to be on his fifth year of service in the Philippine Marines.

Before he entered the PMA, Flores first earned a BS Electrical Engineering degree from the Central Philippine University (CPU).

He was also awarded as one of the Top 10 Outstanding Students of the Philippines.

Flores and his girlfriend were supposed to get married in October this year.

Deles lauds Norway, international community for 'indispensable role' in PHL peace process

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 25): Deles lauds Norway, international community for 'indispensable role' in PHL peace process

“The world came to our aid in many ways — through political support, development programs, technical assistance and, most of all, nurturing the trust and confidence that drove both sides to cross the Rubicon and forge an enduring peace,” Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos Deles shared during a high-level press conference held in this Scandinavian country as part of Oslo Forum 2014.

Deles was referring to the "indispensable role" of the international community that led to the historic signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) last March 27.

The role of the international community in encouraging us through a long and difficult peace process cannot be overemphasized," Deles said. “Peace knows no borders, no political lines, no ethnic demarcations. It has been my privilege as a peace worker to witness men and women of all origins and creeds and coming from distant places gather in one place to stop a conflict, get the parties to the negotiating table, and nurture peace talks to fruition," she added.

The Oslo Forum is an annual gathering of the world’s most influential peace process actors, analysts, experts, and decision makers. In the high-level press conference, Deles joined Norwegian Foreign Minister Borge Brende, United Nations Undersecretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman, Chief of Staff and Head of Presidential Office of the Islamic Republic of Iran Mohammad Nahavadian and 2011 Nobel Peace Prize Awardee Tawakkol Karman.

The peace adviser gave importance to the role of the Royal Norwegian Government for being a "faithful partner" of the Philippine peace process. Norway is currently a member of the International Monitoring Team in Mindanao which monitors the ceasefire, civilian protection, rehabilitation and development and socio-economic agreements between the government and the MILF. It has likewise accepted the invitation of the Parties to serve as a member of the Independent Decommissioning Body that will oversee the decommissioning of MILF arms and forces as part of the normalization process. At the same time, Norway has served as third party facilitator of the peace negotiations between the GPH and the Communist Part of the Philippines/ New Peoples' Army/National Democratic Front since 2001.

The peace adviser shared that the Philippines is now in the process of implementing the CAB.

"Before the year ends, our legislators have committed to pass a law that will bring about much needed political and socio-economic reforms under a new regional government, the 'Bangsamoro.' This will be followed by a plebiscite in the areas under the scope of the law next year, ensuing a brief transition period until regional elections are held in May, 2016," Deles said.

According to Deles, the post-agreement scenario is a radical shift from Mindanao’s difficult history of long-drawn conflict, where “people have endured terror, death, and displacement of the most desolate kind" and can be attributed to the proactive leadership and commitment of President Benigno S. Aquino III to the pursuit of true and lasting peace in Mindanao.

She likewise noted that “for peace to have a fighting chance, we need to build sturdy institutions to support it, at the global, regional, and national levels—institutions that are represented at the Oslo Forum."

The Oslo Forum was Deles' last stop in her working visit to Europe, where she represented the Philippines in various events centered around the discussion of peace issues across the world.

AW-109Es to participate in first ever joint naval maneuvers

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 25): AW-109Es to participate in first ever joint naval maneuvers

The Philippine Navy (PN)'s AgustaWestland AW-109E "Power" helicopters will be participating in the first ever joint military exercise during CARAT 2014 scheduled this June 26 to July 1.

CARAT refers to "Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training" between the Philippine and US Navies.

Lt. (JG) Rommel Rodriquez, Philippine Fleet and CARAT 2014 spokesperson, said two AW-109Es will be participating in the flight deck operations phase of the exercise along with the American Sikorsky SH-60 "Seahawk" helicopters.

The AW-109Es first made their shipboard deployment last May 21 aboard the BRP Gregorio Del Pilar (PF-15) and BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PF-16).

The helicopters were delivered and commissioned last December.

CARAT 2014 will be the AW-109E's first time to participate in a joint military exercise.

Over 1,000 US and Filipino troopers and seamen will be participating in CARAT 2014, Rodriguez said.

The American contingent will consist of the USS Halsey (DDG-97) or the USS John S. McCain (DDG-56), an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, USS Ashland (LSD-48), a Whidbey Island-class docking landing ship, USS Safeguard (ARS-50), a Safeguard-class rescue vessel, two landing craft air cushion, underwater demolition teams, Seabees, a mobile diving salvage unit, explosive ordnance division unit, and company sized amphibious assault vehicles.

On the other hand, the Filipino contingent to CARAT 2014 consist of the BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PF-16), BRP Emilio Jacinto (PS-35), an Norman Britten Islander aircraft, one Naval Special Operations Group explosive ordnance unit, three diving teams, two special boat teams, two Marine companies, communications team, band, logistic and Seabees units.

US Navy participants to CARAT 2014 are expected to arrive in Subic Bay, Zambales on Thursday, June 26, he said.

"There will be classroom-style discussions on safety, maritime defense awareness, flight operations, EOD training, and 'cold form' amphibious operations planning," Rodriquez added.

On June 27, the second day of the training, discussions and training on side-scan sonar will take place.

Side-scan sonar is use for hydrographic surveys, and on June 29, both US and Philippine participants will conduct their maritime surveillance exercises.

Rodriquez stated that on June 29, a gunnery exercise will take place 39 nautical miles southwest off Sampaloc Point, which is located on the lower tip of Zambales province.

All surface ship assets involved in CARAT 2014 will participate in this activity, he added.

"(Aside from this), we'll also conduct maritime interdiction operations, visit board-search-and-seizure exercises at sea, all will be within the (above-mentioned) area, riverine (exercises) and diving and communication exercises will take place on June 28 and 29," Rodriquez stressed.

The Philippine Fleet spokesperson also clarified that CARAT 2014 has nothing to do with the ongoing maritime dispute with China concerning Scarborough Shoal.

"This is purely training, a purely maritime training activity that is conducted annually. It has no connection with the current dispute (issue on territorial claims). Just to emphasize that both our Navies have conducted CARAT activities in different areas in the Philippines, the previous CARAT exercise in 2009 was in Cebu, 2010 in Subic, 2011 in Palawan, 2012 held in Mindanao, in 2013 in Subic," Rodriguez said.

Carat is on its 20th year now since its inception (and)this shows the longstanding relations between the two allies," he pointed out.

Rodriquez also stressed that China has nothing to worry about the exercise.

"This has nothing to do with Philippine-China dispute or the territorial dispute in the West Philippine Sea, this is a regular training activity that we are conducting every year, even before this recent territorial issues, we have been conducting this (for a long time)," he concluded.

Eastern Mindanao Command hosts 33rd PHL, Indonesia border meet

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 25): Eastern Mindanao Command hosts 33rd PHL, Indonesia border meet

The Eastern Mindanao Command is hosting the 33rd Republic of the Philippines-Republic of Indonesia (RP-RI) Border Committee Vice Chairmen’s Conference being held Wednesday at the Waterfront Insular Hotel in Davao City.

Capt. Alberto Caber, the command spokesperson, said the conference is another opportunity to further strengthen mutual commitment for a peaceful resolution of issues arising at the border of the two neighboring countries.

The meet aims to discuss proposed agreement which consist of the following agenda:

* Joint RP-RI search and rescue operations at the border seas.

* Information sharing between the Philippine Navy Naval Operations Center and Indonesian Navy Command Control Center and between the Naval Forces Eastern Mindanao Operations Center and the Eastern Fleet Command of the Indonesian Navy.

* Expansion of activities during coordinated patrol (Philippines-Indonesia) such as Humanitarian Assistance Disaster and Relief (HADR) assistance.

* To review the standard operating procedure on mandatory equipment on board vessels crossing the border seas.

* To advise border crossers to pass through border crossing stations prior to their final destination.

* To optimize personnel in border post to minimize undocumented border crossers.

* Use of aircraft in border patrol.

Accordingly, there were border crossers engaged in trading and entering the Philippines and Indonesia territory without passing through the specified border crossing stations.

Caber said the Philippines-Indonesia Border Crossing System is designed to regulate the movement of the inhabitants within the border areas in order to prevent violation of laws of both countries.

Lt. Gen. Ricardo Rainier G. Cruz III, Eastern Mindanao Command chief and Philippine Border Committee chair, warmly welcomed the Vice Chairman of the Republic of Indonesia Border Committee Commander of Naval Main Based in Manado Laksma (Commodore) TNI Raja Morni Harahap and party comprised of military officers and concerned Indonesian government officials.

Laksma Harahap was accorded with traditional military arrival honor by the Vice-Chairman Philippine Border Committee and Commander, Naval Forces Eastern Mindanao Commodore Joel T. Dela Cruz at Eastern Mindanao Command headquarters in Panacan, Davao City.

Regional directors and officials from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, Department of Social Welfare and Development XI, National Statistics Office XI, Maritime Industry Authority XI, Mindanao Development Authority, Bureau of Immigration, Bureau of Quarantine and Department of Foreign Affairs are attending the conference.

“The Philippines and Indonesia are working as a team to come up with a mutually beneficial solution to every issue arising from borders. What we have in common is the willingness to improve relations in order to protect our mutual interest,” Cruz said.

It can be recalled that the Philippines and Indonesia are both signatories to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas (UNCLOS) which later created the Regional Fisheries Management Organization and thereafter created the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission aimed of developing resolutions, conservation and management measures relating to fishing operations in the High Seas at the Pacific Ocean.

AFP recommends reduction of distance for military running tests

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 25): AFP recommends reduction of distance for military running tests

In a bid to ensure that all its physical endurance training are within international safety standards, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Wednesday announced that it has recommended lowering the distance for its running tests from 3.2 kilometers to just 2 kilometers.

The process is now on its transition, AFP public affairs office chief Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala said.

Running tests are conducted every semester.

"Right now the AFP is having a transition in its conduct of the physical fitness test primarily by lowering the test for running from 3.2 kilometers to 2 kilometers, there is a technical working group that was established and this technical working group studied five Asian militaries within the region and the study showed that (on the) average, the average length for physical fitness test during runs are 2 kilometers," he added.

This is 1.2 kilometers less than what the AFP is using.

Zagala said that the tests run for the Singaporean military is at 1.8 kilometers while 2.4 kilometers for Indonesia.

While the three other countries, which he did not specify, do not exceed 2 kilometers in their conduct of running tests.

He added that this findings formed part of the report of the technical working group.

Aside from these studies, Zagala said that AFP technical working group also consulted various sports medicine consultants and military medical professionals who stated that once runners reached or completed the 2-kilometer run there will be a point that severe exhaustion will be reached and trigger illness on those taking the exams.

" These two factors have been considered and are now under study by the AFP special services upon the direction of our chief-of-staff, after this transition they will now make a recommendation if we will continue to use the 2-kilometer test run. (And I would like to point out that) the United States Air Force uses just the 2 kilometer running tests," he added.

Reforms ongoing in police, military to ensure public safety, says Aquino

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 25): Reforms ongoing in police, military to ensure public safety, says Aquino

President Benigno S. Aquino III said reforms are being made in the country's law enforcement system, as well as in the military to ensure public security.

In an interview with members of the Philippine media on Tuesday, the President said that while there are concerns on the way the police do their jobs, they also have many achievements.

One of the reforms in the police force is increasing the number of policemen patrolling the streets, he said.

The Philippine National Police (PNP) is training 15,000 policemen who were previously tied up with clerical work especially in Camp Crame. Office work will be taken over by civilian employees, he said.

The government is also working to fix problems in the pension of the police and the military because this is a major stumbling block in hiring of more policemen and soldiers, he said.

One of the laws on pension reforms is now in Congress, he noted.

The President emphasized the need to increase the number of policemen and soldiers, saying that the figure has remained at 250,000 since the 1986 EDSA People Power revolution.

To make communities safer, the ideal policeman to civilian ratio is 1 to 500, he said.

There is also massive funding for both the police and the military, which is called “shoot, scoot, and communicate,” he said, adding that the government is investing on transportation— motorcycles, vans and trucks— as well as communication systems for both the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the PNP for them to be more effective.

The police is also regularly conducting checkpoints and stepping up their operations against unlicensed firearms, he said.

The Chief Executive further reported developments in recent sensational killings. He said several arrests have been made in connection with the murders of Pangasinan Mayor Ernesto Balolong and hotel owner Richard King.

The police is also pursuing a number of leads in the murder of car racer Ferdinand Pastor, he said.

4th Infantry Division observes Arbor Day

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 25): 4th Infantry Division observes Arbor Day
In celebration of the National Arbor Day, the Cagayan De Oro-based 4th Infantry “Diamond” Division and its various line units conducted simultaneous tree planting activity at their various headquarters Wednesday morning.

Capt. Christian Uy, 4th Infantry Division spokesperson, said they were aided by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources of Regions – 10 and 13, local government units, schools, civil society groups and the citizenry in this pro-environment endeavor.

Thousands of different tree species were planted in two regions.

"The objectives (of the tree planting activities) are to create awareness on the uniqueness and fragility of our ecosystem and biodiversity; to encourage the people to show concern about environmental protection and see these trees look like in the future; and improve landscape and aesthetics and adds tranquility to the surrounding areas," Uy said.

4th Infantry Division commander Major Gen. Ricardo R. Visaya said that he is hoping that this activity will bind the Filipinos to become one nation and bring back the lost glory of Mother Nature.

"Your Army is more than willing to support this kind of advocacy as we are the steward of our country’s territory and the protector of the people and environment,” he added.

Arbor Day is a holiday in which individuals and groups are encouraged to plant and care for trees.

It has been institutionalized to be observed every June 25 throughout the nation by planting trees and ornamental plants and other forms of relevant activities.

The necessity to promote a healthier ecosystem for the people through the rehabilitation and re-greening of the environment was stressed in Proclamation No. 643.

US task force to participate in CARAT 2014

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 25): US task force to participate in CARAT 2014
A US Navy task force, composed of four ships, will be participating in CARAT 2014, which will formally start this June 26.

CARAT refers to "Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training."

The American contingent will consist of the USS Halsey (DDG-97) or the USS John S. McCain (DDG-56), an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, USS Ashland (LSD-48), a Whidbey Island-class docking landing ship, USS Safeguard (ARS-50), a Safeguard-class rescue vessel, two landing craft air cushion, underwater demolition teams, Seabees, a mobile diving salvage unit, explosive ordnance division unit, and company sized amphibious assault vehicles.

The US Embassy in Manila, in a statement, said CARAT Philippines is part of a broader bilateral exercise series the US Navy conducts with nine partner navies in South and Southeast Asia to address shared maritime security priorities, strengthen maritime partnerships and enhance interoperability among participating navies.

The Philippines has participated since the series began in 1995, and CARAT exercises over the past two decades are clear examples of the longstanding and close US-Philippines navy-to-navy relationship.

As a long-standing exercise, CARAT promotes regional maritime cooperation with many participating navies; it is not in response to current events.

The 2014 CARAT series began in late May, is taking place in Malaysia now, and continues through end of year with Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Singapore and Timor-Leste.

Joint planning for each phase of CARAT begins a year in advance and exercise phases take place during the same general time frame each year.

This year’s CARAT Philippines will focus on combined operations at sea, amphibious landings, diving and salvage, and maritime patrol and reconnaissance flights.

Sailors and Marines will exchange best practices and share information with their Philippine Armed Forces counterparts during multiple professional exchanges and seminars ashore.

Civil action projects, community service events and band concerts will facilitate interaction with the local community.

2014 Exercise events will occur in several locations ashore and at sea including Subic Bay, San Antonio in Zambales, Sangley Point in Cavite City, and Ternate. Previous CARAT exercises were held in Mindanao (2012), Palawan (2011), Subic Bay (2010 and 2013), Cebu (2009) and other locations.

As in years past, the sea phase will take place in international waters west of Subic Bay.

Kidnappers free Zambo businesswoman

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 25): Kidnappers free Zambo businesswoman

Kidnappers believed to have ties with the Abu Sayyaf Brigands have released a ZamboangueƱa businesswoman following series of negotiations, a former government official disclosed Wednesday.

Former Basilan Vice-Gov. Alrasheed Sakkalahul said the businesswoman, Sabrina Voon, 28, was freed noontime Wednesday at a private wharf in Barangay Baliwasan, west of this city.

Voon was seized by six gunmen who barged into her residence on the evening of February 19, this year, in Barangay Mercedes, 12.75 kilometers east of this city.

Sakkalahul said Voon’s release came after negotiations he facilitated between the families and the Basilan-based kidnappers upon the request of the family of the victim.

However, Sakkalahul said he has no idea whether or not the family of Voon paid ransom in exchange for the release of the victim.

Information gathered that Voon was met by her family upon her release.