Friday, July 11, 2014

Peasant leader slain in Bicol tags Army - rights groups

From InterAksyon (Jul 12): Peasant leader slain in Bicol tags Army - rights groups

The leader of a coconut farmers’ group in Albay was shot by motorcycle-riding gunmen Friday morning and, before he died, identified the attackers as soldiers, human rights organizations said.

Hustisya and Karapatan said Edgardo Lopez, 40, president of the provincial chapter of the Bicol Coconut Planters Association, was shot three times in front of a store in Barangay Mayon in Daraga town.

A statement from the group said before he died at a hospital, Lopez said: “Army an nagbadil sako (The Army shot me).”

Karapatan-Bicol spokesman Vince Casilihan said Lopez had been harassed by the military before his murder.

In April, troops of the 901st Infantry Brigade surrounded Lopez’s home because communist rebels were allegedly hiding out there. The troops also allegedly warned him against joining rallies and supporting the New People’s Army.

Karapatan-Bicol says the peasant leader is the 50th victim of extrajudicial killings in the region alone since President Benigno Aquino III assumed office in 2010, accounting for a quarter of the 204 murders recorded by Hustisya during this period.

2 SAF men ‘missing’ in NPA clash found dead

From the Philippine Star (Jul 12): 2 SAF men ‘missing’ in NPA clash found dead

Two members of the police Special Action Force (SAF) were found dead yesterday, three days after they were reported missing in an encounter with New People’s Army rebels in a village in Toril district here.

At least six other SAF men and an Army soldier were wounded as the insurgents attacked government forces doing peace and development work in the adjoining villages of Baracatan and Cabantian.

The remains of PO1 Manuel Anganoy and PO2 Ninoy Bunagan would be brought to Luzon where their families reside.

Photo: Battle-ready

From the Manila Standard Today (Jul 12): Photo: Battle-ready

Members of the  Naval Special Operations Group and Naval Air Group conduct heliborne maneuver training on July 11, 2014 at Sangley Point, Cavite. DANNY PATA

US, China fail to paper over cracks in ties

From the Manila Times (Jul 11): US, China fail to paper over cracks in ties

BEIJING: The United States and China on late on Thursday ended two days of high-stakes talks seeking to put on a show of unity despite failure to paper over obvious fault lines on cyber-spying and maritime disputes.

Sitting alongside his Chinese hosts, US Secretary of State John Kerry rapped them for what he described as the “chilling effect” of Internet hacking on US businesses.

“Instances of cyber theft have harmed our business and threatened our nation’s
competitiveness,” Kerry warned in a joint closing session in the marble-columned Great Hall of the People, which abuts Tiananmen Square.

“The loss of intellectual property through cyber [spying] has a chilling effect on innovation and investment,” he warned.

His remarks came as The New York Times reported that Chinese hackers accessed US government computers containing personal information on all federal employees in March.

The perpetrators appeared to be targeting the files of people who had applied for top-security clearances, the Times said, quoting senior US officials.

Kerry said the claim was under investigation.

To Beijing’s anger, Washington indicted five Chinese military officers in May for hacking into US companies.

The issue was among many disputes and challenges discussed by the world’s two leading economic powers during the sixth annual Strategic and Economic Dialogue.

China insists that it too is a victim of hacking, and accuses Washington of hypocrisy since it conducts sweeping surveillance around the world.

Leaks by former government contractor Edward Snowden have alleged widespread US snooping on China.

State Councillor Yang Jiechi said cybersecurity was a “common threat and challenge facing all countries.”

“Cyberspace should not become a tool for damaging the interests of other countries,” Yang warned at an event billed as a press conference, but was merely a reading of statements by the two sides.

Despite pleas from the US, Beijing did not agree to resume a cybersecurity working group which it suspended after the unprecedented indictments.

Kerry also pressed Beijing on human rights, and later told reporters that Washington would always stand up for “our values and promote human rights and freedoms.”

He said he had “raised concerns about recent detentions and arrests” of journalists and lawyers with his Chinese counterparts.

Territorial tensions

 The two sides also disagreed on how to resolve tensions in the South and East China Seas, amid warnings from the US that Beijing risks triggering conflict as it presses its claims to large swathes of territory.

“We do believe that claimants should exercise restraint and adhere to peaceful and diplomatic ways,” Kerry insisted.

But Yang earlier gave up no ground saying: “China is committed to upholding its territorial sovereignty and maritime rights.”

“The Chinese urged the US side to adopt an objective, just position and honor its commitment of not choosing sides,” he added.

However, the two economic powerhouses did manage to find some common ground.
Kerry said the two sides had agreed “on the importance and urgency of achieving a denuclearized, stable and prosperous Korean peninsula.”

They had discussed “specific ways” to ensure North Korea complies with its obligations, Kerry said, without giving details.

There was also agreement on efforts to fight climate change, and US officials welcomed moves to open up the Chinese economy.

Washington officials and lawmakers have repeatedly lambasted Beijing for failing to play by global rules.

US Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew said the two sides had “made progress on fostering greater competition over the past two days.”

“Today, China committed to reduce market intervention as conditions permit, and is making preparations to provide greater transparency including on foreign exchange,” Lew said.

“This commitment will help accelerate the move to a more market determined exchange rate, and is central to creating a level playing field. This also reflects the increasing role and responsibility China has in promoting balanced and strong growth in the global economy,” he added.

While the US does not brand China a currency manipulator, it has long argued that its currency, the yuan, is undervalued and gives Chinese traders an unfair advantage.

Earlier this month the World Trade Organization (WTO) called on China to make its trade policies more transparent amid a “striking” lack of clarity on its rules.

China, which recently became the largest trader in the 160-member group, has failed to live up to transparency commitments it made when it joined the organization in 2001, WTO members said.

Army forms task force against armed groups in Central Luzon

From the Manila Times (Jul 11): Army forms task force against armed groups in Central Luzon

BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya: The Philippine Army has formed a task force to monitor the movement of armed groups along the boundary of Nueva Vizcaya and Quirino as well as Nueva Vizcaya and Ifugao provinces.

Lt. Col. Eugene Mata, commanding officer of the 6th Infantry Division, said there has been an increased and frequent movement of armed groups due to the planned construction of a large-scale hydro electric dam project in Kasibu town here and in Quirino province.

The planned Diduyon Hydroelectric Power Project with an 88-meter high Roller-Compacted Concrete (RCC) dam and an installed capacity of 324 MW is a large-scale Hydroelectric Power Project reportedly going to displace residents in Kasibu town and in Quirino.

Mata said the task force will go after armed groups who usually use the Vizcaya-Ifugao boundary as entry and exit points to Ambaguio, Villaverde and Bagabag towns.

“The group was formed to go after these armed groups without encountering problems on political boundary issues,” Mata said.

In its monitoring operations from January to June 2014, the Army has recorded at least nine non-violent activities of armed groups along the Nueva Vizcaya-Ifugao and Nueva Vizcaya–Nueva Ecija boundaries.

Mata said they are still verifying if these groups are the same with those who were also sighted along the boundary of Nueva Vizcaya and Quirino provinces.

He said a slight increase on the sightings of armed groups were recorded in the remote areas of Kasibu here and Quirino province who are reportedly sympathizing with residents who are opposed to the said planned construction of Diduyon Dam.

Japan able to aid US ships under attack: minister

Posted to the Manila Bulletin (Jul 12): Japan able to aid US ships under attack: minister

Japan’s new policy on military action would allow its forces to come to the aid of a US naval ship under attack, Tokyo’s defense minister said Friday.

In a visit to Washington, Itsunori Onodera cited the hypothetical scenario as he sought to explain the Japanese government’s controversial decision to ease decades-long restrictions on the country’s military.

If US warships were sent to defend Japan, and those ships were attacked, the Japanese “constitution was interpreted to say we could not help that ship,” Onodera told an audience at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank.

But taking action to assist an ally was “what an ally should naturally do,” he said through an interpreter. “That’s how this change in policy should be understood.”

Onodera said the change approved by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s cabinet on July 1 would bolster Tokyo’s alliance with the United States, opening the way to new forms of military cooperation.

“We believe this will dramatically deepen our ties with the United States,” Onodera said.

Japan’s decision to reinterpret its pacificist constitution has provoked anger at home as well as among its neighbors, with China expressing outrage and alarm.

The ground-breaking shift has come against the backdrop of soaring regional tensions with China over disputed islands.

But the United States has endorsed the change and at an earlier joint press conference at the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel praised Tokyo’s move.

“This bold, historic, landmark decision will enable Japan to significantly increase its contribution to regional and global security and expand its role on the world stage,” Hagel said.

Washington has long encouraged Japan to go ahead with the change to permit Tokyo to share more of the burden in what has been a lopsided defense relationship.

The Japanese minister sought to counter criticism of the shift in policy, arguing it would enable Tokyo to better protect its population and deter potential adversaries.

Onodera also said Japan had increased defense spending for the first time in years and was improving its “world-class” missile defense system, setting up amphibious units and strengthening its “maritime forces” to “protect our islands.”

The rise in defense spending has been seen as a bid to counter China’s growing military muscle and assertive stance on territorial claims.

Onodera said Japan was always open to dialogue with China but if faced with “unilateral” actions, “we must respond firmly.”

U.S. wants freeze on acts stoking South China Sea tensions

Posted to the Manila Bulletin (Jul 12): U.S. wants freeze on acts stoking South China Sea tensions

The United States said on Friday it wants Beijing and rival countries to clamp a voluntary freeze on actions aggravating territorial disputes in the South China Sea.

Michael Fuchs, U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state for Strategy and Multilateral Affairs, said no country was solely responsible for escalating tensions in the region. But he reiterated the U.S. view that “provocative and unilateral” behavior by China had raised questions about its willingness to abide by international law.

Washington wants the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and China to have “a real and substantive discussion” to flesh out a call for self-restraint contained in a Declaration of Conduct they agreed to in 2002, with a view toward signing a formal maritime Code of Conduct, Fuchs said.

“We’ve called for claimant states to clarify and agree to voluntarily freeze certain actions and activities that escalate disputes and cause instability as described in the DOC,” Fuchs told a Washington think tank, giving details of a proposal he said had been put to both China and ASEAN states, but which has received little public attention.

A U.S. official said the issue was raised again this week with China at the annual Strategic and Economic Dialogue, a bilateral forum that seeks to manage an increasingly complex and at times testy relationship. The official declined to give details of China’s response.

China claims 90 percent of the South China Sea, which is believed to contain oil and gas deposits and has rich fishery resources. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan also lay claim to parts of the sea, where about $5 trillion of ship-borne trade passes every year.

Recent weeks have seen flareups in the disputes, including anti-Chinese violence in Vietnam after China’s state oil company CNOOC deployed an oil rig in waters also claimed by Hanoi.

Fuchs said deciding what elements were included in a freeze would ultimately be up to the claimants, but these could include recommitting not to establish new outposts or seize territory another claimant had occupied before the 2002 declaration.

Claimants could also clarify what types of actions were provocative and what were merely efforts to maintain a long-existing presence dating back to before 2002, Fuchs added.

“For example, alterations that fundamentally change the nature, size or capabilities of the presence could fall under the freeze, whereas routine maintenance operations would be permissible,” he said.

Fuchs said claimants could also agree to refrain from unilateral enforcement measures against long-standing economic activities by other claimants in disputed areas.

“All of these measures … would more clearly define the type of activities already suggested by the DOC, to which the parties have already committed,” Fuchs said.

“The agreement would not affect any party until all claimants had agreed to abide by its terms,” he said. “Moreover, if adopted the freeze would not be prejudicial to the resolution of competing claims.”

Fuchs said the freeze would create an environment for negotiations on a China-ASEAN Code of Conduct “that would dramatically lower the risk of a dangerous incident.”

“We make this suggestion as an idea to spark serious discussions about ways to reduce tensions and address these disputes. The claimants themselves should get together to address the parameters of a freeze.”

The Philippines, one of the ASEAN states with competing claims with China, called in June for all claimant states in the region to halt construction activities that may raise tensions.

CPP/NDF-CNL: On the occasion of the 50th year founding anniversary of the St. Francis Xavier Regional Major Seminary of Mindanao (REMASE)

NDF/CNL propaganda statement posted to the CPP Website (Jul 11): On the occasion of the 50th year founding anniversary of the St. Francis Xavier Regional Major Seminary of Mindanao (REMASE)
CNL Southern Mindanao Chapter
The Christians for National Liberation (CNL) Southern Mindanao conveys its warmest revolutionary greetings to the members and alumni of the St. Francis Xavier Regional Major Seminary of Mindanao (REMASE) who are celebrating the seminary’s 50th year founding anniversary on July 11, 2014.

We salute the founders, teachers, theologians and the whole members of the REMASE for producing priests and servants of God who have served God and God’s people for the needs of the Mindanao church over the last 50 years. Since its inception on July 11, 1964, the REMASE has produced more than 700 priests who have served in various dioceses in the country and in Mindanao while several have also become bishops and archbishops.

But what truly inspires CNL with REMASE’s golden year anniversary is to share the collective memory of priests who have taken another path to serve God’s flock well, who have formed their own “diocese”—to serve the least served, the most dispossessed among God’s people.

This year’s golden year celebration of REMASE brings to mind the legacy of Fr. Bert Salac, Fr. William Galleto and Fr. Frank Navarro and countless others who exemplified the legacy of Christ- the Church’s preferential option for the poor and who internalized the gospels denouncing elitism and exploitation by taking the path of armed struggle to defend the oppressed.

We pay homage to REMASE for persevering in producing diocesan and religious priests, men of God who live up to Jesus’ own deeds and sacrifices. REMASE priests and seminarians for the first three decades since its inception have integrated with the toiling peasants, Lumads and workers, and internalized Jesus’ revolutionary resistance against the evils of imperialism or the Roman Empire during his day, by exposing the ills of the US-Marcos dictatorship and embracing armed struggle and the revolutionary movement.

Indeed, REMASE was instrumental in inviting and shaping the idealistic and passionate young men who had the calling and the vocation to serve God. During the 1970s and the 1980s, in their classrooms of the seminary, while they went through formation for the priesthood, outside the halls, they witnessed the horrors of Martial Law, the cries of the urban poor who were threatened for eviction and the struggles of the working class for an end to wage slavery.

Activism sprung from the grounds and walls of the REMASE. The seminarians then simply could not ignore the burgeoning pedagogy of the oppressed, as like the 12 disciples and adherents of Jesus Christ who gave up the comforts of their families and proclaimed the liberation of the Anawim. Hundreds of REMASE’s seminarians went on to become priests serving poor parishes in the countryside and slums of Mindanao.
Some of them eventually became forerunners of the CNL in Mindanao in the 1980s. They served the oppressed and exploited people and promoted the national-democratic movement among the clergy and the laity. The CNL members who hail from REMASE and who fought the US-Marcos fascist dictatorship and the succeeding regimes took the risks and struggled hard. Among these activist priests, many went on to become cadres, full-time fighters and commanders of the New People’s Army and underground organizers in the revolutionary movement.

In remembering this rich history and achievements, we congratulate REMASE for being instrumental in recruiting bright and compassionate priests who went on to serving more than their lives and their parishes. They served well even sectors outside their scope.

And so we exhort more, as REMASE’s golden year celebration should be an occasion to reinvigorate its role in producing priests who can carry out the essence of the ministry of Jesus Christ. It is a ministry that denounces corruption, tax burdens, and other impositions by the elite towards the poor. It is a ministry that denounces false sacrifices of the rich and liberates the modern-day slaves. It is a ministry not ruled by conservatives and clerico-fascists but by leaders who have the ability to attract and draw millions of people for social change, even more than the capacity of false prophets who are the evangelists of fundamentalist and charismatic movements, the Christian Right who preach escapism, fatalism, and worship the golden calf of capitalism. They harp on the people’s spiritual fervor and religious interest, but only the true prophets and servants of the people are able to promote their integral liberation.

REMASE should mold young men who can rise as genuine prophets of our times, who can educate and analyze the ills of society, and have the ability and creative methods to mobilize and organize the masses against bureaucrat capitalism, feudalism and imperialism. They must stand strong just like the laity who are Chosen to be Brave. They must commit to genuine conversion by mirroring in themselves and their lifestyle the simplicity of the poor, and embracing their struggle for liberation through the National Democratic Revolution.

Here’s to a most fruitful and meaningful golden year celebration, long live REMASE!

 Long live CNL! Long live the national democratic revolution! Long live the Filipino people!

[The Christians for National Liberation (CNL) is the underground political organization of Christians committed to the new democratic revolution to build a just, sovereign, democratic and progressive Philippine society. CNL is an allied organization of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).]

Military mum on dismissal of charges vs Andrea Rosal

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jul 11): Military mum on dismissal of charges vs Andrea Rosal
The military on Friday refused to comment on the court’s decision clearing Andrea Rosal, daughter of New People’s Army spokesperson Gregorio “Ka Roger” Rosal, of kidnapping and murder charges.

“We cannot yet comment on this particular case. We are still verifying through our [Judge Advocate General's Office] regarding the said court’s resolution and whatever decision it is we will respect it,” military spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Ramon Zagala said.

But Zagala added that it doesn’t change the fact that as a key personality of the Southern Tagalog Regional Party Committee, “she is an accessory to all the crimes the NPA in the area has committed.”

“She also hasn’t publicly denied membership in the NPA,” Zagala said.

On Thursday, the Pasig Regional Trial Court dismissed the kidnapping and murder cases against Rosal, saying there was “no basis for Rosal’s inclusion in the indictment for two counts of kidnapping with murder.”

“This court finds that there is no allegation whatsoever that accused Andrea Rosal participated in the abduction and murder of the victims. Neither is there an asseveration that she ordered the kidnapping and killing,” the two-page ruling said.

Last March, authorities arrested the eight-month pregnant Rosal and her companion in Caloocan City. She lost her child due to complications after birth while in the custody of Bureau of Jail Management and Penology.

A look at China’s territorial claims

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jul 11): A look at China’s territorial claims

china-world map

China’s latest published map shows its claim over the South China Sea by marking ten dash lines around the region just off the coasts of Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, and the Philippines’ islands of Palawan and Luzon. PHOTO sourced from China Daily/ANN

BEIJING—China’s efforts to counter the United States’ “pivot to Asia” and raise its own influence on the continent are complicated by territorial disputes, mostly at sea but also along its land border. Many of the disputes have been simmering for decades, although some have heated up in recent years. Here is a summary of Beijing’s border disputes:
TAIWAN: Taiwan itself is claimed by Beijing as a part of Chinese territory, and Beijing has vowed to bring it under control, by force if necessary. This claim has been the principal driver of the modernization of China’s People’s Liberation Army since the end of the Cold War. Taiwan was incorporated into the Qing Dynasty in the 17th century, then was turned into a province in 1885. It was ceded to Japan in perpetuity in 1895 then handed over to the Republic of China in 1945. In all, it’s been governed from the mainland for just five of the last 119 years. Since 2008, Beijing has set aside its threats against Taiwan as part of building economic ties with the island in hopes of eventual reunification, though it has not given up its sovereignty claim.
JAPAN: Beijing’s dispute with Tokyo is by far its most bitter, centering on a chain of islands the Chinese call Diaoyu and Japanese call Senkaku. The uninhabited islands are 410 kilometers (250 miles) west of Okinawa and 186 kilometers (116 miles) northeast of Taiwan’s main island. The largest, Diaoyu Dao, or Uotsuri-shima, covers only 4.32 square kilometers (1.6 square miles) while the others are mere specks. China says they were stolen by Japan in 1895 and should have been returned at the end of World War II. Taiwan, which calls them Diaoyutai, also claims the islands but has worked out an arrangement with Japan guaranteeing its fishermen access to the area, and it rejects any notion of joining with Beijing on the matter. China and Japan are also at odds over exploitation of East China Sea gas deposits, while Tokyo was the primary target of China’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ) announced last year.
SOUTH CHINA SEA: The South China Sea, also believed to contain significant petroleum reserves, is the most complex of China’s border disputes. China claims virtually the entire 425,000 square kilometers (164,000 square miles) of sea and its 750-plus islands, rocks and everything else above water, although it remains vague and inconsistent about what legal definitions apply. At times, it refers to them as territorial waters, at other times not. It is also vague about the exact limits of its famous “nine-dashed line” with which it demarcates its claim. Taiwan, whose Nationalist government invented the dashes in 1947, makes an identical claim but isn’t an active participant in the current disputes.

Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines and Brunei also claim parts of the South China Sea.

The main island groups are the Paracels (controlled by China, which calls them Xisha), the Pratas (Dongsha, controlled by Taiwan) and the Spratlys (called Nansha by China). All six governments sparring over the South China Sea have claims in the Spratlys.

Disputes between China and Vietnam focus on the Paracel islands, two of which Vietnam had occupied until being violently expelled by Chinese forces in 1974. China said the action was in self-defense. China and Vietnam also clashed in the Spratlys in 1988, leaving China in control of a half-dozen reefs and outcroppings.

The Philippines and China have competing claims over Second Thomas Shoal, Scarborough Shoal, Mischief Reef and related islands in the Spratlys. Unlike Vietnam, which has a capable, submarine-equipped navy, the Philippines has little more than surplus World War II-era US ships and not a single fighter jet.

Indonesia and China have no formal dispute, though in 2010, Indonesia’s navy came close to a shooting encounter with Chinese vessels that had entered waters off Jakarta’s Natuna island gas field near the sea. Indonesian officials said the incident was an intrusion by fishermen and not part of a territorial dispute.

Aside from ongoing territorial standoffs with Vietnam and the Philippines in two disputed areas, China has been adding sand to reefs and rocks in the Spratlys, apparently so it can build military installations on the contested islands. There is speculation that China may also announce an air defense identification zone over the South China Sea as part of its efforts to keep US surveillance planes away from its southern coast.
INDIA: China has an active territorial dispute with India along their 6,400-kilometer (4,000-mile) border high in the Himalayas. Most prominently, China claims the Indian province of Arunachal Pradesh (83,743 square kilometers, 32,333 square miles) in the east, while India says China is illegally occupying Aksai Chin (37,244 square kilometers, 14,380 square miles) bordering Jammu and Kashmir in the east. No shots have been fired across the border since a brief but bloody frontier war in 1962. They agreed to a line of actual control in 1996 and began talks on settling the dispute.
RUSSIA/CENTRAL ASIA: At the end of the Cold War, China still had significant border disputes with Russia and former Soviet Central Asia. All have been settled amicably, although some Chinese have pointed out that Russia currently controls territory once under Chinese rule, including the island of Sakhalin.
MINOR DISPUTES: China has a minor border dispute with Bhutan and the sides have no diplomatic ties. It also has an obscure dispute with South Korea over a submerged rock that both claim. South Korea controls the feature, known variously as Socotra Rock, Leodo and Suyanjiao, and has built an ocean research station and helipad over it.

Army deploys peacekeepers after MNLF, MILF clash in North Cotabato over land dispute

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 11): Army deploys peacekeepers after MNLF, MILF clash in North Cotabato over land dispute

More peacekeeping forces of the military were sent to remote villages here after two Moro rebel groups clashed over land dispute and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) harassed Army and militia detachment in Barangay Malamote.

Separate clashes involving MILF and rival Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and MILF against militiamen and soldiers occurred at dawn Thursday, Lt. Leonard Lopez, speaking for the 7th Infantry Battalion.

Separate skirmishes involving MILF commander Unzon and militiamen also occurred just as MILF and MNLF members traded bullets in nearby Barangay Manubuan, also in Matalam.

No casualty was reported in the MILF, MNLF clashes that the Army believed was triggered by a long standing family feud involving farmers who happened to BE affiliated with either of the two Moro fronts.

The firefight started at about 3 a.m. and ceased about four hours later.

As both sides traded bullets, another band of MILF members clashed with government militiamen and soldiers at about 4 a.m. in nearby Sitio Maligaya, Barangay Malamote, Matalam, North Cotabato

Lopez said an Army temporary detachment in Sito Maligaya was harassed by about 50 MILF belonging to 108th base command.

The harassment forced government forces to return fire, triggering a sporadic exchange of bullets for about three hours.

“Our forces were deployed there to serve as peacekeeping force in a land conflict involving MILF and some farmers,” Lopez said.

An unidentified farmer was wounded when he was hit by stray bullets in Barangay Malamote. But Lopez said the Army is yet to verify the report.

Several families have moved to nearby villages to avoid getting caught in crossfire as both warring groups are still in the area as of this writing.

Late last month, MILF forces harassed Moro farmers who owned vast track of lands in Barangay Malamote.

With the scene of clashes about a kilometer from the highway linking Cotabato province to Davao City, Lopez road security personnel have been provided to ensure the safety of commuters.

Following Thursday’s armed conflict, the government and MILF ceasefire committee members have been sent to help defuse the tension.

The fighting occurred while Muslims, including the protagonists, were observing the fasting month of Ramadan.

MILF chief appeals for patience on delayed BBL passage issue

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 11): MILF chief appeals for patience on delayed BBL passage issue

CAMP DARAPANAN, Maguindanao - - Patience is the key.

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) would persevere in pushing for its ongoing peace progression with the government, due to the organization’s profound trust and confidence with President Benigno Aquino lll.

“I still personally believe that we (MILF) are going to sign a peace agreement with the Aquino administration,” MILF Chairman Al Haj Murad, said here Thursday in an interview.

Murad’s statement came on the heels of reports that many changes are being threshed out by the government legal team on the draft of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), to pave the way for the creation of the Bangsamoro entity that would replace the old, graft-ridden ARMM set up.

On April 22 this year, the Bangsamoro Transition Commission, composed of seven state nominees and eight MILF representatives, submitted before the government a 97-page BBL draft for the Office of the President to review and later endorse to Congress as urgent measure.

Murad said up to now the BBL draft remains under review at the Aquino’s office.

The President earlier said that he would like to see a signed peace deal with the MILF before his term ends in 2016.

“Amid these goings-on, I can say that there is still time for the President to endorse the BBL draft to Congress. We need to have patience,” Murad said.

Murad said the MILF, the largest Moro rebel organization fighting for self-determination in Mindanao, took some 17 years to come up with a comprehensive peace overture with the government and he would not like to see the effort discarded.

“I still believe that the President himself is eager to get things done for the prosperity of Mindanao,” he said.Currently, members of the government legal team are fine-tuning pitches in the BBL draft to conform to the Philippine Constitution.

US Ambassador Goldberg to visit Albay on Monday

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 11): US Ambassador Goldberg to visit Albay on Monday

US Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg will visit the province of Albay on Monday next week.

Goldberg's purpose is to personally see the Disaster Risk Reduction Management and Climate Change Adaptation program of the province in cooperation with the Bicol University.

Albay has been known worldwide as a model and center of DRRM-CCA domain in the entire country.

The ambassador will meet with Governor Joey Sarte Salceda; Dr. Cedric Daep, chief of the Albay Provincial Safety and Emergency Management Office and director of the DRRM-CCA Training Institute; Dr. Fay Patria Lauraya, BU president; and eight mayors in the province.

With Goldberg are officials of the World Food Program and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

In this connection, Dr. Lani Pabilando, BU Extension Services Office director, said the university has long been a partner of the province in its DRRM and CCA program and the same is true with the WFP and the USAID.

BU's role through her office will be education and training.

Among the projects the BU has been undertaking under the collaboration with Albay -- and other provinces like Sorsogon -- are mainstreaming of DRRM-CCA in the NSTP curriculum, Family Preparedness and Food Security and Synergizing Science and Technology with Indigenous Knowledge System on Climate-Smart DRRM through Extension in selected local government units down to the barangay level.

Davao Muslim civic group joins hands with military for peace and development

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 11): Davao Muslim civic group joins hands with military for peace and development

Several Muslim communities in this city has unified its forces to help in the peace and development campaign of the government.

The United Muslim Council for Peace and Development (UMCPD), which was formed sometime in 2004, is a Muslim civic organization that organizes the different Muslim community in this city with an endeavor of maximizing peace and development thru a cultural unification.

UMCPD is one of the most active organizations that provided community-based activities for the Muslim communities such as livelihood projects and construction of mosques and Madrasah building of different tribes in Davao.

Their community endeavors made the Army’s 10th Infantry Division (10th ID) particularly the Task Force Davao (TFD) to recognize them to be a legitimate civic organization for its invaluable support to anti terrorism campaign.

UMCPD has contributed in alleviating the condition of vulnerable communities within the 10th ID’s area from 2013-2014 through its initiatives of enhancing the “Bayanihan” effort for peace and development not only the city but also in the whole region.

Datu Mohammad Buhisan, president of UMCPD expressed his heartfelt gratitude to the 10th ID for choosing them as a partner organization which contributed in attaining the successful accomplishments of the division’s campaign. Likewise, the 10ID and TFD have expressed their appreciation and recognition to the UMCPD’s enormous contributions to their campaign.

"Rewards are the greatest realization of our goals. Peace and development can be attained through collaborative effort of our stakeholders,” says Major General Ariel Bernardo, Commander of the 10ID.

Meanwhile, Colonel Macairog Alberto encouraged the people and other civic organizations to continue the partnership in sustaining peace and development as part of the Bayanihan program of the government.

“Alone we can do so little but binding us together we can do so much,” Alberto added.

UMCPD and the Army in Davao City are optimistic that this endeavor will pave the way to the road of peace and the attainment of socio-economic development long awaited by the people of Mindanao.

Rebels cart away firearms in Capiz raid

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 11): Rebels cart away firearms in Capiz raid

A group of armed men believed to be members of the New People’s Army (NPA) raided the compound of the village chieftain in Barangay Gibato, Dumarao, Capiz, carting away at least five firearms before they escape.

Belated police report reaching here on Thursday afternoon said that on Wednesday, a group of at least 60 armed NPA rebels forced their way inside the compound of barangay captain Sixto Castilla and other neighboring houses in the said barangay which hostile intruders searched for firearms.

SPO3 Antonio Ponce of the Dumarao Municipal Police Station confirmed that the barangay captain lost three firearms to the armed raiders including two .9mm pistols and one 12-gauge shotgun owned by his brother Jiger Castilla.

Apart from Castilla, the alleged rebels also searched the neighboring houses where they took away a 12-gauge shotgun and .45 caliber pistol owned by village watchmen Hope Margarejo and Jonel Daquilana.

Ponce said the village chieftain had just arrived from a session when the two armed rebels accosted him and engaged him in brief conversation as other armed men scoured the house for firearms.

The Dumarao PNP learned that prior to the incident, Castilla who is concurrently the president of the Association of Barangay Captains of Dumarao, received extortion letters from the rebel group.

Meanwhile, high-powered explosives placed inside a fatigue pouch were recovered Tuesday afternoon in a far-flung village in Dumalag, Capiz.

Four M203 grenade launchers were found by a certain Nelson in Sitio Bajatingon, Barangay San Martin, Dumalag town and he turned it over to SPO4 Pedro Celino of the CIDG Capiz.

Celino believed the explosives were left behind by fleeing rebels who figured in a recent firefight with soldiers of the 61st Infantry Battalion in Barangay Lahug, Tapaz, Capiz where a rebel was killed and six others were injured.

PN to participate in ADAS 2014

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 11): PN to participate in ADAS 2014

The Philippine Navy (PN) will participate in the three-day Asian Defense, Security and Crisis Management Exhibition and Conference (ADAS) which is scheduled on July 16-18 at the World Trade Center in Pasay City, the PN said in a statement on Friday.

Expected to attend are Ministers of Defense, Chiefs of Defense Forces and Major Services Chiefs of ASEAN countries as well as other countries in the Asia-Pacific region.

Organized and sponsored by APAC Expo Pte Ltd. based in Singapore, the event aims to showcase products and services from the leading global defense and security companies.

ADAS will likewise provide an opportunity for the Philippine military leadership to enhance its relationships with counterparts in ASEAN countries and exploit potential tie-up with foreign defense industries.

As part of the activity, the PN will be hosting a symposium with the objectives of strengthening regional security through multilateral collaboration with ASEAN navies, especially on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) operations.

During the symposium, topics on PN’s experiences on multinational cooperation on HADR operations, its HADR capabilities and common protocol for ASEAN navies HADR Operations will be discussed by resource speakers from the Philippine Fleet, Fleet-Marine Ready Force and Office of the Naval Strategic Studies, respectively.

ADAS is expected to enhance the PN’s capability to absorb new technologies relative to the establishment of Naval Research and Development Center (NRDC), the research arm of the Philippine Navy responsible for enhancing PN's war fighting systems, develop new technologies and naval ordnance as well as improve Weapons, Communications, Electronic and Information Systems (WCEIS).

Further, the event would be an opportunity for the PN to expose the Defense Acquisition System Assessment Teams (DASAT), NRDC Triad and other personnel on different sources of information in relation with their research for upcoming acquisitions.

AFP chief gets plaque of recognition from UNHCR

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 11): AFP chief gets plaque of recognition from UNHCR

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief-of-staff Gen. Emmanuel T. Bautista received a plaque of recognition from the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR) on Friday for his leadership in minimizing the effect of conflict to civilian populations.

The plaque was awarded by UNHCR Country Representative Bernard Kerblat after their meeting at the AFP general headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

Kerblat cited Bautista’s achievements of humanitarian objectives in “assisting civilian populations affected by forced displacement.”

The UN official also acknowledged the AFP's Internal Peace and Security Plan "Bayanihan" for its “explicit references to major parts of the International Humanitarian Law, including internal displacement.”

Outgoing AFP chief vows to address 'friendly fire' issue

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 11): Outgoing AFP chief vows to address 'friendly fire' issue

Outgoing Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief-of-staff Gen. Emmanuel T. Bautista on Friday vowed to address the "friendly fire" incident in Sulu which killed six troopers last month.

"I am constituting a BOI (board of inquiry) from the level of the general headquarters to look into this report and find out what we can do and the appropriate actions that we need to take, to address that issue," he said.

Bautista said he creceived the BOI report conducted by Western Mindanao Command head Lt. Gen. Rustico Guerrero, last Monday.

"It's an unfortunate incident, nobody wants that but it happened, as you all know even among the best armies in the world that occurs and lately we've seen that, even with the United States Army in Afghanistan, and it is (a) hazard that we face as members of the Armed Forces," he added.

The AFP chief is scheduled to step down by July 20.

"And what is being done is to be conscious about it and to learn from all these incidents so it does not happen (again)," Bautista pointed out.

He declined to comment on whether the parties responsible for the incident will be punished, adding they better wait for conclusion of the investigation before coming out with a statement.

Six troopers of the Joint Special Operations Group (JSOG) were killed after their command post was accidentally hit by a 105mm shell.

The JSOG troopers were supposed to reinforce the Marine Force Reconnaissance that was attacked by Abu Sayyaf Group brigands last June 19 in Barangay Kagay, in Patikul town.

The ambush killed one Marine officer and wounded 11 others.

This prompted survivors to call for fire support from a nearby Marine 105mm battery.

The consequent shelling hit the position of the JSOG operatives, killing six troopers immediately.

Outgoing AFP chief thanks officers, enlisted personnel for continuous support

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 11): Outgoing AFP chief thanks officers, enlisted personnel for continuous support

With just nine days left before his retirement this July 20, outgoing Armed Forces of the Philippines(AFP) chief-of-staff Gen. Emmanuel T. Bautista on Friday took time to thank all the officers and enlisted personnel under his command for a job well done.

"We thank them for their support but more importantly, we thank them for the services that they have rendered, the heroism that they have demonstrated, that they have shown and I am very grateful for that and as their chief-of-staff I'd like to recognize their efforts, their sacrifices," he added.

And when asked about his assessment on his tour of duty as AFP chief, Bautista admitted to facing many challenges but stressed that he did his job as well as he could.

"Looking back I just did my job and (during my term), I faced many challenges and did my best to face it," Bautista said.

He was referring to incidents in the West Philippines Sea, Zamboanga City siege and numerous natural calamities and disasters that battered the country.

The AFP chief declined to comment on who will be the one to replace him or the names of the candidates.

"My lips are sealed, thank you," Bautista pointed.

The AFP chief added that biggest challenge that will be facing his successor is still China which is still bent on claiming portions of the West Philippines Sea.

"Our strategy there is to pursue (our claims) through arbitration as we renounced war as instrument of policy," he concluded.

AFP chief orders new probe on 'friendly fire' deaths

From Rappler (Jul 11): AFP chief orders new probe on 'friendly fire' deaths

General Emmanuel Bautista constitutes the Board of Inquiry after confirmation that 6 Joint Special Operations Group members were accidentally killed by friendly fire in June

Armed Forces chief General Emmanuel Bautista. Rappler photo

Armed Forces chief General Emmanuel Bautista. Rappler photo

Armed Forces chief General Emmanuel Bautista is constituting a new body that will probe the accidental death of 6 elite soldiers in June because of friendly fire in Sulu.

"I'm constituting a Board of Inquiry from the level of the general headquarters to look into this report and find out what we can do and the appropriate action we need to take to address the issue," Bautista told reporters on Friday, July 11.
Asked if officers will be punished for the incident, Bautista said: "I would not want to preempt the investigation." Bautista is retiring next week, July 18.
The Zamboanga-based Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) had earlier submitted a report to Bautista confirming that 6 soldiers were killed on June 19, when they were hit by 105-mm howitzer fire from the Marines, instead of the intended target – the Abu Sayyaf Group.
The incident killed the following members of Joint Special Operations Group (JSOG):
  • Staff Sergeant Efren G. Manayon
  • Sergeant Marvin P. Casareno
  • Sergeant Randy V. Reyes
  • Sergeant Dexter S. Buntia
  • Corporal Randy Morada
  • Corporal Jose Mario M. Moron
"It is an unfortunate incident. Nobody wants that but it happens as you all know even among the best armies in the world, even the US Army in Afghanistan. It’s a hazard that we face as members of the armed forces," Bautista said.
The tragedy was initially blamed on the Abu Sayyaf. The Marines at the time were exchanging heavy gunfire with the terrorist group, which cost the life of First Lieutenant Roger Flores and wounded 12 other Marines.
After Flores was hit, his unit asked for fire support from headquarters. The Marine base responded. But a military probe showed that instead of hitting the Abu Sayyaf, the howitzer landed on the forward base camp of JSOG and killed the soldiers.

Australian ISIS supporter nabbed in Cebu

From Rappler (Jul 11): Australian ISIS supporter nabbed in Cebu

(4th UPDATE) Australian-born Musa Cerantonio is flown to Manila, and is brought to a Bureau of Immigration facility inside Camp Bagong Diwa in Intramuros

ONLINE CHEERLEADER FOR ISIS. Musa Cerantonio after his arrest in Cebu. Photo courtesy of the PNP
ONLINE CHEERLEADER FOR ISIS. Musa Cerantonio after his arrest in Cebu. Photo courtesy of the PNP
Cebu police on Friday, July 11, arrested Australian Musa Cerantonio, named as one of the top two most influential jihadist “inspirations” for fighters in Syria and Iraq.

Police Senior Superintendent Conrad Capa, Deputy Regional Director for Operations in Region 7 confirmed the news to Rappler. Cerantonio, police noted, was "a person of interest to the intel community."

The 29-year-old Cerantonio is a Christian convert to Islam who’s using social media effectively to encourage terrorism and urge Muslims to join the jihad in Syria and Iraq.

Philippine and Australian sources earlier told Rappler that the Melbourne-born Cerantonio has been in the Philippines for nearly a year. He earlier tweeted he was leaving the Philippines to join the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Watch this report below.
[Video report: Australian ISIS supporter nabbed in Cebu

In early June, ISIS militants began their march to capture Iraq’s capital, prompting the United Nations to warn that Iraq’s crisis was "life-threatening."

ISIS is the latest reincarnation of fighters from at least 2 al-Qaeda-linked group. The group traces its roots to al-Qaeda in Iraq, led by the Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who tried to ignite a sectarian war between Sunni and Shiite – and nearly succeeded.

Intelligence sources earlier told Rappler's Maria Ressa that about 200 Australians, 50 Indonesians and about 20 Malaysians have gone to fight the jihad in Syria. Singapore said it’s investigating one Singaporean, while a Filipino intelligence source said at least one Filipino linked to Abu Sayyaf has gone to Syria. (READ: Southeast Asian jihadists join ISIS)

For deportation

Capa said Cerantonio was served a warrant for deportation issued by the Bureau of Commissioners dated July 10, 2014. He was nabbed at around 5:30 am Friday at Barangay Ibo in Lapu-lapu City.

Cebu police have been tracking Cerantonio since last week, but initial tracking began around February or March this year.

Cerantonio did not put up a fight after seeing police outside his apartment in Lapu-lapu. He has thus far refused to speak to police.

The operation was led by Capa and accompanied several region 7 police units and members of the Bureau of Immigration. Cerantonio was flown into Manila Friday evening, and was brought to a Bureau of Immigration (BI) facility inside Camp Bagong Diwa in Intramuros.

ARRESTED. Australian Musa Cerantonio was flown from Cebu to Manila, where he will be brought to Camp Bagong Diwa. Photo by Edwin Llobrera

ARRESTED. Australian Musa Cerantonio was flown from Cebu to Manila, where he will be brought to Camp Bagong Diwa. Photo by Edwin Llobrera

It was earlier reported that he would be brought to the Philippine National Police headquarters Camp Crame and later, the BI facility in Intramuros.

Also arrested was a certain Joean Navarro Montayre, a 32-year-old Filipino national from Candoni, Negros Occidental. Montayre was with Cerantonio at the time of his arrest and is also wanted for estafa. The female suspect was brought to the Mandanue city jail, police said.

Police recovered several SIM cards, cellphones, and other electronic devices during the operation. Cerantonio and Montayre had with them their passports and more than P14,000 in cash, as well as money in different currencies.

Also recovered were postal IDs of a certain “Joebanne Montayre” and “Joean Montayre."

Arresting officer

Capa is no stranger to high-profile arrests. He used to head Task Force Tugis, a group tasked to track down the PNP’s most wanted. Capa led the arrest of businessman Delfin Lee earlier this year.

Barely a week after Lee’s arrest, Capa was relieved and moved to Cebu.

Gov't, MILF end KL meeting on a 'positive note'

From Rappler (Jul 11): Gov't, MILF end KL meeting on a 'positive note'

Discussions in Kuala Lumpur on 'specific concerns' pertaining to a proposed law that creates an autonomous government in Mindanao are to continue in Manila

'WORKSHOP.' Government chief negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer in a discussion with Malaysian Facilitator Tengku Ghafar and Moro Islamic Liberation Front chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal. Photo by OPAPP

'WORKSHOP.' Government chief negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer in a discussion with Malaysian Facilitator Tengku Ghafar and Moro Islamic Liberation Front chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal. Photo by OPAPP

As what government chief negotiator Miriam Coronel Ferrer said at the start of the meeting in Kuala Lumpur, the panels are "not throwing in the towel."

The 4-day special meeting between the peace panels of the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) meant to iron out concerns on the proposed law creating an enhanced autonomous government in Mindanao ended on a "positive note," their joint statement issued Friday, July 11, said.

The panels said they "achieved modest progress and identified consensus language" in the draft Bangsamoro basic law, a product of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro signed in March.

The parties agreed to continue "working together" to arrive at a "mutually acceptable draft Bangsamoro basic law," the statement said.

"The meeting provided the panels the opportunity to clarify misperceptions and affirm the intent and sincerity of the parties to abide by the signed agreements. They agreed to continue discussions on specific concerns in Manila within the next few days. They recognize the importance of these discussions in order to ensure that the draft law would be submitted to Congress at the soonest possible time," it added.

The meeting came after MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal, who also serves as the chairperson of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) accused Malacañang of "heavily" diluting the basic law.

Earlier, he said the Office of the President produced a version that was worse than the law governing the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, which President Benigno Aquino III himself had called a "failed experiment." (READ: Peace panels in KL to resolve draft issues in draft Bangsamoro law)

Specific details on what aspects of the proposed law, a copy of which has yet to be released to the public, were discussed during the meeting were not mentioned in the statement.


Under the peace deal, the MILF-dominated BTC was tasked to craft the draft law, which was turned over to Malacañang for review before its submission as an urgent bill to Congress.

The envisioned Bangsamoro government is designed to have a unique form of autonomous government with greater fiscal powers.

It took two months before Malacañang was able to return the reviewed version of the measure to the BTC, spurring speculations that the draft law is riddled with unconstitutional provisions.

Since the start of the negotiations, the government has maintained its position that the comprehensive peace deal can be implemented within the flexibilities of the Constitution. The MILF, meanwhile, is of the position that amending the Constitution is needed to bring about real autonomy in Mindanao.

In an indication of how sensitive the issues surrounding the Malacañang review of the draft law are, President Benigno Aquino III himself sought a meeting with Al Haj Murad Ebrahim on the sidelines of a peace forum in Hiroshima, Japan in June.

The meeting did not stop Iqbal, who wears two hats as MILF chief negotiator and BTC chair, from using strong words against the Office of the President days after the Japan meeting for "virtually overhauling" the BTC draft of the basic law.

Soon after Palace reviewers returned their version of the proposed law to the BTC, Iqbal called for a meeting with the BTC. The body issued a resolution elevating the "clarification and resolution of the outstanding issues" on the draft basic law to the panels. Hence, the Kuala Lumpur meeting was held.

In an earlier statement, Ferrer did not label the meeting as "talks" but rather a "workshop" to address concerns.

Members of the BTC also attended the Kuala Lumpur meeting. At least one member, however, chose not to attend, Mindanews reported.

BTC commissioner and MILF negotiating panel member Roberto Maulana Alonto described the proposed law as "mongrelized" and "an absurdity" in a Facebook post republished in Mindanews.

Malaysian facilitator Tengku Dato’ Ab Ghafar Tengku Mohamed hosted the talks. Members of the International Contact Group were also present.

Deadline looming

The parties have 3 weeks to arrive at a consensus on the draft law to beat Aquino's target deadline of passing on the measure to Congress after his State of the Nation Address on July 28.

The President wants Congress to pass the measure by 2015 to give the MILF-led "transition authority" at least one year to lead the shift from the ARMM toward the Bangsamoro.

Once the law hurdles Congress, people will then vote to accept or reject the law, as well as vote in a plebiscite to either be included or excluded in the envisioned Bangsamoro entity.

Once passed, an MILF-led "transition authority" will take over until the election of new officers in the 2016 general elections.

Under the peace deal, the MILF also agreed to decommission rebel firearms and troops in "gradual phases" as each stage in the peace process is achieved.

The current peace process in Mindanao hopes to end 4 decades of war that has killed over 120,000 people.

China hits Philippines over extended oil drilling

From Rappler (Jul 11): China hits Philippines over extended oil drilling

The Philippines extends the permit of Forum Energy, a Pangilinan-led company, to conduct oil drilling activities in the disputed South China Sea

'INDISPUTABLE SOVEREIGHTY.' Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei says China's permission is needed for oil drilling activities in the South China Sea. File photo by AFP

'INDISPUTABLE SOVEREIGHTY.' Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei says China's permission is needed for oil drilling activities in the South China Sea. File photo by AFP

China criticized the Philippines for extending the permit of Forum Energy, a British company led by businessman Manuel V Pangilinan, to conduct oil drilling activities in the disputed West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

“Without permission from China, oil and gas exploration by any foreign companies in waters under China's jurisdiction is illegal and invalid,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said in a media conference in Beijing on Thursday, July 10.

Hong also asserted that China “has indisputable sovereignty” over the Spratly Islands, which the Chinese call Nansha, as well as its adjacent waters.

Hong issued this statement after Forum Energy confirmed on Wednesday, July 9, that the Philippines' Department of Energy “has granted the company's request for an extension to the second sub-phase of Service Contract 72 (SC72).”

In its statement, Forum Energy added that the deadline to complete the second sub-phase, which involves the drilling of two appraisal wells, “has now been extended by one year to August 15, 2016.”

Forum Energy conducts its drilling activities in the contested Recto (Reed) Bank in the West Philippine Sea.

'Respect Philippines' rights'

SC72 covers an 8,800-square-kilometer area – which, as previously revealed by Forum Energy consultant Weatherford Petroleum, possibly contains as much as 16.6 trillion cubic feet of gas and 416 million barrels of oil.

In January 2013, the Philippine government already extended Forum Energy's permit to August 14, 2015.

The Philippine government awarded SC72 to Forum Energy in 2010 to help assert the Southeast Asian country's sovereign rights over parts of the South China Sea, claimed by the Philippines as the West Philippine Sea.

China, on the other hand, is claiming virtually the entire South China Sea.

The Philippines, in fact, accused Chinese vessels of harassing a Philex-contracted exploration vessel at Recto Bank in 2011.

Despite this, Pangilinan earlier said Forum Energy was negotiating with the state-run China National Offshore Oil Corp for the joint exploration of Recto Bank.

His only condition, Pangilinan said, was for CNOOC to respect the Philippines' rights over Recto Bank.

Philippine President Benigno Aquino III has said he is willing to jointly develop Recto Bank as long as the Philippine claim is respected.