Tuesday, August 5, 2014

'Stormtroopers' lauded for its peace, development efforts

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 6): 'Stormtroopers' lauded for its peace, development efforts

The Catbalogan-based Infantry Division on Tuesday was feted for its peace and development efforts in the Eastern Visayas.

This was stated by Central Command head Lt. Gen. John Bonafos in a statement forwarded Wednesday.

“This is an opportune time to commend the 'Stormtroopers' (nickname of the 8th Infantry Division) for the accomplishments and the successes you have made in weakening the enemy by constricting their movements and activities," he added.

Bonafos also took this opportunity to thank the officers and enlisted personnel of the 8th Infantry Division for its part in the humanitarian assistance disaster response when super typhoon 'Yolanda' struck the region in Nov. 8.

Other accomplishments of the unit include 56 encounters against NPA rebels which resulted to the neutralization of eight NPA rebels and the recovery of 22 high-powered and 16 low-powered firearms.

In addition, it facilitated the surrender of 50 NPA rebels to the government who brought along with them eight high powered and 15 low–powered firearms.

Under the Comprehensive Local Integration Program (CLIP) of the Office of the Presidential Assistant on Peace Process (OPAPP), the 8th Infantry Division was able to facilitate the release of PHP1.19 million worth of benefits for 21 of the surrenderees.

Other surrenderees who have not yet received their benefits are still on process and due to be released anytime.

In performing its mandate, 12 of its soldiers made the ultimate sacrifice of defending our beloved country, while 18 soldiers were wounded in action during the same period.

Bonafos said that 8th Infantry Division was also instrumental in the declaration of 20 of 26 towns of Samar and 21 out of 24 towns of Northern Samar as Manageable Conflict-Affected and Development-Ready (MCADR) areas.

By the end 2014 all the remaining towns are expected to be declared as MCADR, meaning, peace and order will be stable as NPA influence and presence in the above-mentioned towns will be minimal and can be adequately addressed by the local governments units thru the Philippine National Police.


8th ID marks 26th anniversary of serving the people in disaster while securing the land

From the Philippine Information Agency (Aug 4): 8th ID marks 26th anniversary of serving the people in disaster while securing the land

CATBALOGAN CITY, Samar - The 8th Infantry Division Philippine Army based in Catbalogan City marked its 26th anniversary drumbeating its service to the people especially the victims of calamities and disaster.

In an audio-visual presentation, it underscored the significant role of the Storm troopers Division during rescue operations in disasters that hit Eastern Visayas.

The elements of 8th ID with its different battalions and units all over Samar, Leyte and Biliran responded first in calamities like the flashflood in Ormoc City (Leyte) in 1991,  the Guinsaugon, St Bernard, S Leyte, landslide tragedy in 2006 and the super typhoon Yolanda in Tacloban, Samar and Leyte in 2013.

“In all of these tragedies, our 8th ID storm troopers braved them all,” said the AVP.

Central Command Chief  LtGen John Bonafos who served as Guest of Honor praised the “Storm troopers” for their bravery, steadfastness and resiliency.

“Nakakamangha po ang ipinakitang kagitingan at kabayanihan ng ating mga tropa sa Silangang Visayas.”

Commanding General of the 8th ID, Jet Velarmino in his message said that his troops’ commitment remains , unflinching in the midst of the different challenges of the division.

Spotted in the VIP row were Samar Governor Sharee Ann Tan, Rep Mel Senen Sarmiento of Samar first district, Rep Emil Ong of Northern Samar and Vice Governor Carlo Loreto of Leyte.

The division through its different disaster relief operations heralded their theme: 8th Infantry “Storm troopers Division Kabalikat ng Sambayanan Patungo Sa Mapayapa at Maunlad na Silangang Bisayas”.


No coup threat in Eastern Visayas says 8th ID commander

From the Philippine Information Agency (Aug 5): No coup threat in Eastern Visayas says 8th ID commander

“We must unite our gains and stand our momentum. In the face of any trial, the consistency and solidness of the army in the region will always be our best assurance,” 8th Infantry Division Commanding General Jet Velarmino said during the 8th ID 26th Anniversary.
Velarmino denied reports that dissatisfied members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) are plotting a coup d’état against the administration of President Benigno Aquino III.
Amid coup allegations, Velarmino said that there is no need for a loyalty check among officers and troops of the AFP in the region.
He stressed that they are all loyal to the duly constituted authorities, loyal to the flag, country and people and the AFP is a professional organization.
“I assure you that our army in the region are focused on our mandate of protecting the people and the state,” he added.
The general also said that in his area, he has not heard about such coup and have not monitored any activity of its possibility among them.
Meanwhile, Lt. General John Bonafos, commander of the Central Command and the guest of Honor during the 8th ID anniversary said that AFP remains partisan-free and professional.
Bonafos assured thatthe AFP would do its mandate to protect the constitution and continue its mission to serve the Filipino people.


Bulldozer, backhoe gisunog sa Mati City

From the Mindanao Examiner BlogSpot site (Aug 5): Bulldozer, backhoe gisunog sa Mati City (Bulldozer, backhoe burned in Mati City)

Mati City -- Duha ka bulldozer ug duha ka backhoe ang gisunog sa mga sakop sa New People’s Army didto sa Purok Sawidan sa Barangay Tagbinonga, sakop niini nga ciudad.

Matud pa sa driver sa motorsiklo nga namasahero nga dili magpabutyag sa iyang pangalan nga gipara sila sa mga sobra 50 ka armadong mga tawo nga nagpa-ila nga sila NPA ug paglabay sa pipila ka minuto ilang gidauban ang mga nahisgutang ekipo.

Matud pa sa drayer nga ang gipangsunog nga mga ekipo mao ang gigamit sa pagmina sa lugar nga nahasulod sa area sa DMC.


Chairman Murad commends JICA - BTC Task Force for Quick Impact Projects

From the MILF Website (Aug 6): Chairman Murad commends JICA - BTC Task Force for Quick Impact Projects

Chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) commended the robust efforts of the Japan International Cooperation Agency - Bangsamoro Transition Commission (JICA – BTC) Task Force in ensuring the transparent and inclusive implementation of the Quick Impact Projects (QIP) as the immediate dividend of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB).
Chairman Murad stressed this during the courtesy call and kick-off briefing of the JICA – BTC Task Force at the MILF Administrative Headquarters in Camp Darapanan, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao last week.

“We convey to the Government of Japan and its people the endless gratitude of the MILF and the Bangsamoro for the continuing robust support and assistance being extended to the peace process between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the MILF,” Chairman Murad said.

“As much as possible participatory approach in the implementation and decision – making process in this project in order to ensure greater ownership and sustainability,” The MILF Chairman stressed.

Al Haj Murad and JICA President Akihiro Tanaka agreed on the implementation of the QIPs in their meeting following the signing of the GPH - MILF Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) last March 27, 2014 in Malacanang Palace.

QIPs is a component program of the Comprehensive Capacity Development Program for Bangsamoro (CCDP-B), a JICA funded project to be implemented in collaboration with Bangsamoro Transition Commission. Under this program is the delivery of public services responsive to community needs in the areas affected by conflict in the Mindanao.

Sinichi Masuda, Chief Advisor of JICA Office in Cotabato City, explained that QIPs are driven by the popular motive of realizing the immediate gains of the GPH – MILF CAB particularly during the transition processes in line with democratic principles and equipping the preparation for the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) and the regular Bangsamoro Government.

20 QIPs such as multi-purpose community halls, renovation of school buildings / classrooms, warehouses, solar driers, and livelihood facilities will be implemented in the provinces of Maguindanao, Cotabato, Lanao del Sur, Lanao del Norte, Sulu, Tawi – Tawi, Basilan, Saranggani, Sultan Kudarat, Compostela Valley, Davao Oriental, and Zamboanga Sibugay in this fiscal year.

Also present during the meeting were Muhammad Ameen, Chairman of Secretariat of the MILF Central Committee, Sinichi Masuda, Mr. Fumio Tunai, Japanese Project Consultant, Takayuki Nakagawa, IMT Japanese representative, Muhajirin Ali, Project Director, Dr. Norodin Salam, Project Manager, Nomaire Mustapha, Coordinator of the Project Component, Usop Kasan Jr. Project Officer and staff of JICA – BTC Task Force.


Palace sees BBL breakthrough soon

From the Manila Times (Aug 5): Palace sees BBL breakthrough soon

AMID warnings that delay in the submission of the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) to Congress may again lead to a bigger conflict in Mindanao, Malacanang on Tuesday gave assurances that the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) peace panels will be able to thresh out their differences “soon.”

Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. is hopeful that whatever snags that delayed the crafting of the final draft that will establish a Bangsamoro entity in areas now under the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) will be smoothened out.

“We remain hopeful that an agreement will be reached soon,” Coloma said in a text message to The Manila Times.

He also expressed hope that ongoing negotiations will lead to formulation of the draft BBL that complies with the Constitution and the signed Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB).

The government and MILF peace panels are in the thick of 10-day negotiations to iron out kinks in the draft. Malacañang had said it plans to submit the BBL draft to Congress within the month.

Presidential Peace Adviser Teresita Quintos Deles said each meeting by the parties “is a breakthrough” that will eventually establish a common ground.

“Everyday that the parties are working hard together for a common goal is a breakthrough, right? Let’s wait for the panels to make the proper announcements at the time they deem appropriate,” she added, also in a text message.

But a political analyst warned that the government may again face another Muslim uprising in Mindanao unless the panels hammering out the final BBL draft finish the job soon and submit the measure for congressional approval by year-end.

Ramon Casiple also scored the “secrecy” of the discussions between the government and MILF panels, stressing that the issue on autonomy has again reemerged as a point of disagreement.

Casiple said the two sides have no choice but to succeed in forging the BBL, lest they push the country back to the brink of war.

“They both have no choice but to succeed. Failure means war, no MILF, and weakened Aquino administration,” he pointed out.

Casiple said the issue on autonomy and power sharing must also be discussed publicly to douse speculations that Malacanang may be attempting to wrest control of the autonomous region.

“The negotiations are confidential. But the real issue is on the question of autonomy. Is the Bangsamoro under the President?” he asked.

A Muslim leader who is close to Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) Chairman Nur Misuari echoed Casiple’s fear that war may again erupt not only with the MILF but also with other Muslim groups if the issues are not settled fast.

Speaking on condition that he would not be named, Misuari’s “emissary” said the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro itself “is truly unconstitutional and premature” from the very beginning because it violates a peace pact signed in 1996 between the MNLF and the Ramos administration.

The MILF sprang from the MNLF.

The source said they are of the belief that the peace deal with the MILF was unconstitutional because it violated the principle of “constitutional supremacy.”

Thus, he added, the government can work to “rectify” the Organic Act that created the ARMM.

“There is still a need to amend the Organic Act . . . but it can never be amended unless the 42 defective provisions of Republic Act 9054 are rectified because these are the provisions that the MNLF had insistently wanted the government to correct,” the MNLF leader said.

The “defects” of the act, he added, will be discussed in a coming review by the government and MNLF panels, among other stakeholders.

The MNLF leader said President Benigno Aquino 3rd cannot just expand the powers and territories covered by the ARMM unless the 1996 peace agreement has been fully implemented.

On Monday, an insider who is privy to the ongoing discussions between the peace panels said power-sharing and autonomy are the key issues that stand in the way of the final draft of the BBL.

He told The Times that although autonomy and power-sharing had been defined in previous agreements, the two sides continue to wrangle over the final terms that will go into the draft to be submitted to Congress.

“The bone of contention is that there should be flexibility in making the BBL conform with the Constitution. That’s what the MILF wants. The other side, however, disregarded this flexibility and now wants a very restrictive BBL,” the source, a lawyer, said.


China rejects PH sea proposal

From the Manila Times (Aug 5): China rejects PH sea proposal

China has rejected the Philippine proposal to freeze all provocative actions in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), where Beijing has constructed an airstrip and a school and drilled for oil.

Yi Xianliang, the deputy director of the Boundary and Ocean Affairs Department of China’s Foreign Ministry, said the proposal is unhelpful and that it would undermine plans to conclude a more binding Code of Conduct (COC).

A moratorium on all construction activities in the West Philippine Sea is the first step in the Triple Action Plan (TAP) that will be proposed by the Philippines at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Regional Forum (ARF) to be held in the city of Nay Pyi Taw in Myanmar.

The second and third parts of the plan involve implementation of the 2002 Declaration on the Code of Conduct (DOC) and the conclusion of the COC, and the final solution for the disputes.

The United States has backed up Manila’s proposal, believing that a freeze on “provocative actions” in the disputed but resource-rich waters will be “helpful” in maintaining peace and stability.

Michael Fuchs, a State Department deputy assistant secretary in the East Asian and Pacific Affairs bureau, said what constitutes “provocative actions” in the region will be up to the claimants to define.

He, however, spoke against new outposts, new seizure of territories, construction and land reclamation.

The Philippines earlier called on China to stop its “ambitious expansionism” in the region after Beijing reclaimed at least five Philippine-claimed reefs: Mabini Reef, Malvar Reef, Calderon Reef, Burgos Reed and Kennan Reef.

But Yi said negotiations on the proposed “freeze” would only undermine talks on coming up with the Code of Conduct. He added that there was a “double standard” on activities in the West Philippine Sea.

Yi was quoted in several reports as saying, “Why is it that when other countries wantonly build airports, nobody says a word? But China has only this year started small and necessary construction, to raise living conditions on the islands, and so many people raise doubts.”

He said nobody can change China’s position that it holds sovereignty over 90 percent of the resource-rich sea, and that it would only negotiate with claimant-countries on a bilateral level.

Yi criticized Washington for interfering in a regional issue and said the global superpower should let involved parties handle the issue.

“Trust in us Asian people to use Asian means and wisdom to resolve our own problems,” he said.

But the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said China’s stance will not stop the Philippines from presenting its proposal at the Asean summit.

The TAP will “manage tensions in the area for the sake of regional peace and stability,” Charles Jose, DFA spokesman, said.

“We believe that our framework proposal is positive, constructive and comprehensive, and will be beneficial to everyone in the region,” Jose added.

Malacanang said the Philippine government will continue to push for a moratorium on any construction in disputed territories in the West Philippine Sea.

“We won’t be shaken by any refusal since we believe that our position is justified,” Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said in a news conference.

Chito Santa Romana, a China expert, said the Philippines may have a chance to “overcome” Beijing’s rejection if other countries will fully support TAP.

“Despite the Chinese rejection, it bears watching how much support the Philippine proposal will get from other claimant countries and the rest of Asean, as well as from the other countries that are part of the Asean Regional Forum. A solid support from the other claimant countries and the overwhelming majority of ARF participants are the best chances for the Philippines to overcome the Chinese rejection. Otherwise, the Philippines will face an uphill diplomatic battle,” Santa Romana added.

Parts of the The West Philippine Sea are also being claimed by Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei Darussalam.


US to press for voluntary freeze over South China Sea isles

From the Manila Bulletin (Aug 6): US to press for voluntary freeze over South China Sea isles

US Secretary of State John Kerry will press for a voluntary freeze on actions aggravating territorial disputes in the South China Sea despite Beijing’s rejection of the idea when he attends the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) in Myanmar this weekend.

Southeast Asian foreign ministers will meet and hold security talks in Myanmar with counterparts, including those from the United States and China with escalating tensions over maritime disputes in Asia likely to be a major issue.

Daniel Russel, the State Department’s senior diplomat for the East Asia region said the call was not new and was “not rocket science,” but “common sense.”

A priority for Kerry would be to lower tensions in the South China Sea, where about $5 trillion of maritime trade passes annually, and China and four members of the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have rival claims.

“The regional economy is too important and too fragile for any country or any claimant to use the threat of military force or paramilitary force in retaliation, for intimidation, or as a coercive effort,” Russel told a news briefing on Monday.

He said there was room for rival claimants “to take some voluntary steps, and to identify actions they find troubling if not provocative on the part of other claimants, and to offer, if everyone will agree, to renounce those kinds of actions.”

Such steps could include abiding by an existing agreement not to seize unoccupied land features, or more significantly, a moratorium in land reclamation efforts, Russel said.


China said it can build whatever it wants on its islands in the South China Sea.  China claims 90 percent of the sea, which is believed to contain oil and gas deposits and has rich fishery resources.

Yi Xianliang, deputy head of the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s Boundary and Ocean Affairs Departments, told reporters that China had every right to build on its islands as a way of improving basic living conditions there.

“The Spratly Islands are China’s intrinsic territory, and what China does or doesn’t do is up to the Chinese government. Nobody can change the government’s position,” Yi said.

It was a double standard to bring this issue up now when other countries had been doing similar things for years, he added.

“Why is it that when other countries want only build airports, nobody says a word? But China has only this year started small and necessary construction, to raise living conditions on the islands – and so many people raise doubts.”

Hong Kong media have reported that China is planning to build an air base on Fiery Cross Reef, though Yi said he was unaware of any such plans.

Yi said that proposals for a “freeze” on tension-raising activities were not helpful, and could be seen as an effort to undermine drawn-out efforts by China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) for a code of conduct in the South China Sea by acting as a replacement for the code.

He said that if the United States had such a proposal, he had not seen it and that in any case the South China Sea was an issue for countries directly involved.

“Trust in us Asian people to use Asian means and wisdom to resolve our own problems,” he said.

The Philippines has also said it will propose a freeze at the ARF meeting, as well as implementation of a code of conduct and arbitration to settle disputes.

Manila called last month for a meeting of the four ASEAN claimants – itself, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam – ahead of ARF to hammer out a common stand in dealings with China. Efforts to launch such talks since December 2012 have so far failed.

China has been increasingly assertive in pressing its territorial claims and Washington fears misunderstandings could inadvertently lead to open conflict.

Russel said Washington wanted to see accelerated efforts by ASEAN and China to agree on a code of conduct.

China’s recent withdrawal of an oil rig from waters also contested by Vietnam had removed a serious irritant, he said, but it had left anger and tension and “serious questions on behalf of China’s neighbors about China’s long-term strategy.”


Military on alert for brewing conflict between 2 MILF factions

From the Philippine Star (Aug 5): Military on alert for brewing conflict between 2 MILF factions

The military is scrambling to contain a possible escalation of hostilities between two groups of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in Pagalungan, Maguindanao.

Capt. Alvin Macatangay, spokesman of the Philippine Army’s 603rd Brigade, which has jurisdiction over Pagalungan and nearby towns in North Cotabato, said the tension between the two MILF factions heightened after last week’s murder of a guerilla named Usman Pandapatan.

Pandapatan, who belonged to the MILF’s 108th Base Command, was reportedly shot dead by members of a rival group in Barangay Damalasak, a secluded district in Pagalungan.

Interior farming enclaves in Pagalungan have been repeatedly rocked by violent clashes in recent years between rival MILF groups locked in political and land disputes.

Macatangay said there are talks circulating among local folks purporting that Pandapatan was killed by a group led by a certain Kagi Dagiman, who is also a member of the MILF.

Macatangay said the two groups can only be pacified by the MILF leadership, with the help of the joint Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities.

The joint ceasefire committee is comprised of representatives from the MILF, the police and the military.
Local officials and traditional Moro leaders have also been trying to pacify the two groups, according to Macatangay.


69 Abus charged for Eid’l Fitr ambush in Sulu

From the Philippine Star (Aug 6): 69 Abus charged for Eid’l Fitr ambush in Sulu

Criminal charges were filed on Monday against 69 Abu Sayyaf bandits, including four of its leaders, for their alleged participation in an ambush that left 25 people dead and several others wounded during an Eid’l Fitr celebration in Sulu.

Chief Superintendent Reuben Theodore Sindac, spokesperson for the Philippine National Police (PNP), said among those charged were Idang Susukan, Tawing Umair, Sibih Pisih, and Ustadz Igasan, all leaders of the bandit group.

“The charges were filed on Monday before the Sulu prosecutor’s office,” Sindac said.

He said the multiple murder, multiple frustrated murder and multiple attempted murder charges were based on the testimonies of the witnesses and other evidence recovered from the crime scene.

Last July 28, some 40 people – mostly women and children – were attacked by more than 50 armed men in Talipao town in Sulu.

The victims were on their way to Jolo to take part in the celebration of the end of Ramadan. Investigators are pursuing several angles, including rido or clan war, as motive for the attack.

They said the ambush could also be a form of revenge against members of a village peace force who help soldiers track bandits’ movements.

Authorities have since then intensified security measures in the area to prevent a repeat of the incident.


NPA leader nabbed in Iloilo

From the Philippine Star (Aug 6): NPA leader nabbed in Iloilo

An alleged ranking leader of the communist New People’s Army (NPA) was arrested in Jaro, Iloilo City yesterday morning.

Eduardo Esteban, 60, was arrested by soldiers and the police at his house in Landheights Subdivision, Barangay Buntatala.

The arrest was based on a warrant issued by Judge Corpus Alzate of Bangued, Abra, for murder. Sources said Esteban has a P5.8-million bounty for his capture.

Authorities recovered from the suspect a clutch bag reportedly containing a loaded caliber .38 pistol, a PhilHealth identication card and a pocketbook.

Sources said Esteban is the financial director of the NPA in Cordillera, although some reports said he belongs to the central committee.

He reportedly holds the same rank as alleged NPA leaders Benito and Wilma Tiamzon, who were arrested in Cebu last March.


ISIS threats and followers in the Philippines

Posted to Rappler (Aug 5): ISIS threats and followers in the Philippines (by Rommel C. Banlaoi

The Philippine government has to implement a strong preventive counter measure before this threat develops into a many-headed monster that is hard to defeat

Isnilon Hapilon’s video showing him performing a pledge of allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is another strong indication that the Islamic Caliphate of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has followers in the Philippines.

So far, this is the third video showing Muslim Filipino militants pledging an allegiance to ISIS.

Known personalities associated with the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) and the Rajah Solaiman Islamic Movement (RSIM) are suspected to have spearheaded these oaths of allegiance to ISIS because of their penchant to use the Black Flag in their propaganda activities. But there is not enough evidence to make a firm conclusion that the ASG and RSIM have become part of ISIS.

Hapilon is an ASG commander operating largely in Basilan. He is directly commanding two main sub-commanders of the ASG in Basilan: Puruji Indama and Marzan Ajilul who are both engaged in kidnap-for-ransom rather than Islamic propagation activities.

The bulk of ASG membership is in Sulu with Radullan Sahiron as the overall operational commander and Yassir Igasan as the overall religious commander.

Igasan was rumored to have taken the helm of the ASG as the Amir of the ASG after the death of Khadaffy Janjalani. But this claim is currently being challenged because Sahiron wields more power and influence than Igasan.

Though Sahiron and Igasan have not been reported to have undertaken a pledge of allegiance to ISIS, Hapilon’s video shows that ISIS has followers inside the ASG.

A previous video filmed inside a Philippine prison showing Muslim detainees performing an oath of allegiance to ISIS has prompted suspicion that Ahmad Santos may have organized the activity.

Santos is said to have founded the RSIM, a militant organization of Muslim converts in the Philippines. Though RSIM is currently dormant because of the arrest of its key leaders, it continues to operate in Philippine prison facilities.

Santos is also being suspected of leading the translation in Filipino of an Al-Qaeda doctrine on “Muslim Prisoners of War.” His brother-in-law, Dinno Amor R. Pareja, is suspected to be the Abu Jihad Khair Rahman Al-Luzuni who posted a video on November 6, 2012 calling on Muslims in the Philippines to join the jihad. `Pareja is being accused to be the creator of a website, Islamic Emirate of the Philippines-The Black Flag Movement, which is akin to ISIS.

(The image above shows a Filipino translation of the Al-Qaeda Doctrine on Muslim Prisoners of War)

(The image above is a screen shot of the website of the "Islamic Emirate of the Philippines")


That ISIS has followers in the Philippines can no longer be doubted based on these videos and websites.

In fact, reports obtained from reliable official sources have indicated that two Filipinos have died in the Syrian conflict “as part of the Opposition.”

Intelligence reports also revealed that some Muslim Filipino Mujahideens in Syria calling themselves as “veterans” have already returned to the Philippines to propagate the ISIS ideology.

Another reliable source claimed that around 100 Muslim Filipino fighters are suspected to have traveled to the Middle East to undergo military training in support of ISIS, the main opposition group in Syria. However, this number is being challenged by other authorities. Unconfirmed media reports, however, showed that around 200 Muslim Filipino fighters were sent to the Middle East to fight in Syria.

Indeed, ISIS threat to Philippine security is becoming more and more real rather than imagined.

The Philippine government has to implement a strong preventive counter-measure before this threat develops into a many-headed monster that is hard to defeat.

Rommel Banlaoi is Head of the Center for Intelligence National Security Studies (CINSS) of the Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research (PIPVTR) and teaches at the department of international studies, Miriam College.


China: Spratly Islands are 'intrinsic territory'

Posted to MarineLink (Aug 4): China: Spratly Islands are 'intrinsic territory'

China can build whatever it wants on its islands in the South China Sea, a senior Chinese official said on Monday, rejecting proposals ahead of a key regional meeting to freeze any activity that may raise tensions in disputed waters there.
Southeast Asian foreign ministers this week hold security talks with counterparts, including those from the United States and China, in Myanmar, with escalating tensions over maritime disputes in Asia likely to be a major issue.

The Philippines will propose a freeze on all activity that raises tension in disputed waters in the South China Sea as part of a three-part plan at the ASEAN Regional Forum meeting, Manila's foreign minister said last week.

The United States, a close ally and former colonial power in the Philippines, has also called on all parties to halt activity in the disputed sea to ease tension.

Manila has accused China of carrying out reclamation work on at least three shoals in the Spratly Islands, where most of the overlapping claims lie, especially between China and the Philippines.

Yi Xianliang, deputy head of the Chinese Foreign Ministry's Boundary and Ocean Affairs Departments, told reporters that China had every right to build on its islands as a way of improving basic living conditions there.

"The Spratly Islands are China's intrinsic territory, and what China does or doesn't do is up to the Chinese government. Nobody can change the government's position," Yi said.

It was a double standard to bring this issue up now when other countries had been doing similar things for years, he added.

"Why is it that when other countries wantonly build airports, nobody says a word? But China has only this year started small and necessary construction, to raise living conditions on the islands - and so many people raise doubts."

Hong Kong media have reported that China is planning to build an air base on Fiery Cross Reef, though Yi said he was unaware of any such plans.

Yi said that proposals for a "freeze" on tension-raising activities were not helpful, and could be seen as an effort to undermine drawn-out efforts by China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) for a code of conduct in the South China Sea by acting as a replacement for the code.

If the United States had come up with such a proposal then he had not seen it, Yi said, adding that in any case the South China Sea was an issue for those countries directly involved.

"Trust in us Asian people to use Asian means and wisdom to resolve our own problems," he said.

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.

China's placing of an oil rig in waters also claimed by Vietnam around the Paracel Islands in May added to regional concerns about China's intentions. However, China removed the rig last month.


China urged to shun military aggression

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Aug 5): China urged to shun military aggression

China should return to the path of peaceful economic progress and shun military aggression if it wants to continue to be respected as a global power that can be a balance in Asia against the United States (US), the British Ambassador said in a forum Monday.

British Ambassador Asif Ahmad also said that China must stop ignoring the calls for it to participate in diplomatic processes such as the arbitration case before the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea (ITLOS).

“If China wants to be respected as a country of great history, tradition, contribution to world culture, and now a great economic power, I think it has earned that right. If it wants to be respected as a country that uses its military assets for good, that too can be [achieved],” Ahmad said when asked about recent fears about China’s growing military power.

“But what has become an inevitable result of [China's militarization], is people are wondering what the real intention of China is,” he said in the forum that focused on diplomacy as a tool in conflict resolution.

Philippines and China are locked in a maritime dispute over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) with the Philippines filing for arbitration challenging China’s nine-dash line claim that covers nearly 90 percent of the South China Sea.

Chinese ships have maintained control of the waters around Spratly Islands, Scarborough Shoal off the coast of Zambales and have previously used water cannons against Filipino fishermen to force them out of the area.

Land reclamation activities in several reefs are also being conducted by China as seen in a series of aerial reconnaissance photographs released by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).

China is also ranked second in the world in terms of military expenditure following the US, according to a 2013 study by the Stockholm International Peace and Research Institute (SIPRI).

“We are not against any country arming itself for defense purposes. The issue is intent and use, and you can use those … for peaceful purposes, for genuine self defense, and for international emergencies,” Ahmad said.

He however expressed fear that there will be an accident amid the heightened tensions in the South China Sea that would lead to open conflict.

“My fear that an accident or an incident will escalate into something that will lead governments to take action that will irrevocably destroy the peace and security of this region. That is something that we do not accept,” Ahmad said.

“If one is to draw some conclusions from all of the wars between countries since 1947, there are two thoughts that are clear to me. Firstly, wars begin when diplomacy fails and secondly, wars end when diplomacy begins,” he said.


PAF buys new C-130 planes from US to boost PH sea security, disaster management

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Aug 5): PAF buys new C-130 planes from US to boost PH sea security, disaster management

Strengthening its air assets, the Philippine Air Force is set to acquire new C-130 planes from the United States Department of Defense.

In a statement from the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, the State Department approved a possible Foreign Military Sale to the country for two C-130 planes together with training, equipment, parts, and logistical support for an estimated cost of $61 million or nearly P2.67 billion.

“This proposed sale would contribute to US security and foreign policy goals by building the Philippines’ maritime domain security capacity and deepening our overall strategic partnership with the Philippines,” the statement said.

As part of the deal, the DoD would include 10 T56-16 engines, eight of which are installed and two as spare.

Also included are logistical sustainment and support for a period of three years, modification equipment and labor costs, spare and repair parts, support equipment, publications and technical documentation, aircraft ferry support, personnel training and training equipment, US Government and contractor logistics and technical support services, and other related elements of logistics and program support.

DSCA said that contractor requirements were being researched and would be fulfilled through competition.

“The Government of the Philippines desires these additional C-130s to bolster its lift capabilities, which are essential for providing humanitarian assistance and disaster relief,” the statement from the DSCA added.

During the aftermath of Super Typhoon “Yolanda,” the PAF used all three of its C-130s extensively to transport displaced people and humanitarian aid to Eastern Visayas.

Also, the DSCA said that with the new planes, the Philippines could hold humanitarian missions and disaster response better and without much support from the US.

DSCA assured that there would be no impact on the military situation in nthe region with the possible arrival of the planes.

“The proposed sale of these aircraft and support will not alter the basic military balance in the region.”

MNLF expects BBL deadlock due to constitutional restraints

From the Daily Tribune (Aug 5): MNLF expects BBL deadlock due to constitutional restraints

The Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) yesterday expressed no surprise over the “impasse” in the peace negotiations between the government of the Philippines (GRP) and its breakaway faction Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), citing the limitations under the Constitution.

Lawyer Emmanuel Fontanilla, spokesman of the MNLF, said that the GRP-MILF was really bound for a stalemate because the Aquino government cannot deliver what was earlier agreed upon by the peace panels.

Fontanilla also criticized the Aquino administration for using the same ploy used against the MNLF, which signed a Final Peace Agreement (FPA) with the government in 1996.

“The same deceitful ploy is being used against our brother MILF. The government cannot deliver because of constitutional limitation,” Fontanilla told The Tribune.

According to Fontanilla, the Aquino administration’s ploy was meant to serve its political interest and not addressing the decades-old Mindanao conflict.

“Aquino’s political interest and survival is their political scheme,” Fontanilla said.

Fontanilla, however, stressed that the MNLF is not against the peaceful resolution of the Bangsamoro conflict.

He said the MNLF’s pursuit for an independent Bangsamoro Republik is continuing with constant dialog with the people of Mindanao.

“As per our interview with Christian brothers and sisters, greater number of people of Mindanao are supportive of the peaceful process of independence,” Fontanilla said.

The MNLF has accused the government of the Philippines of not fully implementing the 1996 FPA, prompting its leader Nur Misuari to push for his Bangsamoro Republik.

The peace negotiations between the GRP and MILF hit a snag after Malacañang returned to the MILF a “diluted” draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), which would pave the way for the establishment of a Bangsamoro entity.

Prior to the return of the “diluted” BBL, the MILF has been complaining of so much delay in the review of the proposed law by the Office of the President. The OP took 61 days to come up with its version of the draft law.

The MILF branded the Malacañang version of the BBL as not meant to address the Bangsamoro Question and departed from the letter and spirit of the FAB signed Oct. 15, 2012.

The FAB signing led to the creation of the Bangsamoro Transision Commission (BTC), led by MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal.

The MILF has insisted that the signed FAB and its Annexes should not be renegotiated even after Malacañang returned what MILF branded as heavily diluted version of the BBL.

“All those issues that are settled in the FAB and its Annexes will not be subject for renegotiation; and settled language in the FAB and its Annexes will not be subject for renegotiation,” the MILF insisted.

The GRP and MILF peace panels are currently meeting in Davao City to resolve the issue of the “diluted” BBL. 


Army vows to sanction military men in viral video

From ABS-CBN (Aug 5): Army vows to sanction military men in viral video

The Philippine Army leadership vowed to punish those involved in a viral video showing 18 men wearing military uniforms brutally beating a man before shooting him to death.

In a text message, Lt. Gen. Hernando Iriberri, commanding general of the Army, said an investigation is now ongoing at the level of the Philippine Army headquarters to establish whether there were Army personnel involved in the incident.

The Army chief vowed to impose corresponding sanctions against any Army personnel who would be found liable.

He said the Army will not tolerate these kinds of acts if indeed members of the Army are involved.


CPP/NPA: NPA punishes intelligence handler, 11 other enemy casualties killed in various guerrilla actions in EV

NPA propaganda statement posted to the CPP Website (Aug 5): NPA punishes intelligence handler, 11 other enemy casualties killed in various guerrilla actions in EV

Karlos Manuel
NPA Eastern Visayas Regional Operations Command (Efren Martires Command)
The Efren Martires Command (EMC) of the New People’s Army (NPA) in Eastern Visayas (EV) today claimed responsibility for the punishment of an intelligence handler of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, as well as inflicting 11 other casualties killed on the enemy side in various guerrilla actions in the region. "The special operations group of the EMC carried out the death sentence of the people’s court on Jojo “Jerson” Rafales last August 1 at 5 p.m. in Calbiga, Samar," said Ka Karlos Manuel, EMC spokesperson. “Rafales was a paramilitary CAFGU element and was sentenced to death for setting up intelligence networks in Calbiga, Pinabacdao and Basey towns. He was involved in the killing of activist leader Rodolfo Dagumay Basada in Pinabacdao last June 29, and the attempted killing of another activist, Ariel Dacallos, in Calbiga last July 31. Seized from Rafales was a .45 pistol and two spare magazines.”

In other developments, Manuel said that the NPA also dealt 11 casualties killed in action on the 8th Infantry Division. "Last Aug. 2, Red fighters of the EMC harassed 21 elements of the 87th Infantry Battalion then on operations in Brgy. Magdawat, Pinabacdao, Samar. The gunbattle raged from 10 a.m. to past 12 noon. Five enemy soldiers were killed in action while the NPA had no casualty. Meanwhile, last July 11, an NPA sniper team shot and killed one soldier of the 87th IB’s 19-element “peace and development team” then operating in the same barangay. The NPA harassments were in punishment for the military’s various human rights violations in Calbiga and Pinabacdao on top of the people’s continuing sufferings in these towns after Supertyphoon Yolanda."

“Five soldiers were also killed and six wounded last June 17 after a platoon of Red fighters of the Mt. Amandewin Command defended itself when the 19th IB attempted to raid their encampment in the area between Brgy. Hugpa and Brgy. Mahilaum, Ormoc City. There were no NPA casualties in the 50-minute gunbattle. But the following day, the 19th IB battalion commander went to the abandoned NPA camp for photo ops and boasted to the media that the NPA had many casualties, just to cover up their shameful defeat.”

The EMC spokesperson said the NPA will step up tactical offensives in Eastern Visayas to defend the people from the Aquino government’s atrocities. “The people of EV are still suffering after Supertyphoon Yolanda but they are now being battered by the Aquino government’s Oplan Bayanihan. Thus the NPA is supporting the people’s struggle to oust the Aquino regime and fight for genuine reconstruction through revolutionary change. Because the Aquino regime is corrupt,unjust, cruel, rotten to the core and treasonous in the extreme, it is bound to fall like the Marcos and Estrada regimes.”


AW-159 likely to be PN's first ASW helicopters

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 5): AW-159 likely to be PN's first ASW helicopters

There is a strong possibility that the AgustaWestland AW-159 "Wildcat" will be selected as the Philippine Navy's (PN's) first anti-submarine warfare (ASW) helicopter.

This was revealed by a military source Tuesday.

The former made this statement after noting that the AW-159 complies satisfactorily with all the requirements set by the Department of National Defense.

The AW-159 (previously called the Future Lynx and Lynx Wildcat) is an improved version of the Westland Super Lynx military helicopter.

The AW-159 will serve in the battlefield utility, search and rescue and anti-surface warfare roles.

The helicopter has been ordered for the Royal Navy and British Army.

It is to enter service with the British Army in 2014 and with the Royal Navy in 2015.

It has a crew of two, has a maximum speed of 291 km/h (181 mph), range of 777 km (483 miles), ferry range of 963 km (598 miles) and an endurance of one and a-half hours (fours hours and 30 minutes if fitted with auxiliary fuel)

The AW-159 is fitted with forward firing CRV7 rockets and machine guns, pintel mounted machine gun, Sea Skua missiles and Sting-Ray torpedoes and depth charges.

The ASW helicopter project is worth P5.4 billion.

Some of its specifications include:

-Endurance of at least two hours in ASW configuration;

-Range of 240 nautical miles in full ASW configuration;

-Must provide individual crew stations for pilots and operational crew to safely operate necessary sensor/equipment during ASW and ASUW (anti-surface warfare) operations. Nevertheless, suppliers may present other options which are responsive to the requirements based on modern technologies being applied in other foreign navies;

-Shall be fitted with an automatic/main rotor blade fold system (if four bladed) and/or tail pylon fold system if longer than the ship's helicopter hangar;

-Identification Friend or Foe (IFF)/Selective Identification Feature (SIF);

-Portable downlink receiver, at least one unit brand-new unit per helicopter, must be ready to be installed in any surface ship or ground station specified by Philippine Navy (PN), and must be interoperable with the installed data link system of the ASW helicopter.

Money for the two ASW helicopters will be sourced from Armed Forces of the Philippines Modernization Trust Fund.

Acquisition of the two ASW helicopters is under the Medium Term Development Capability Plan for 2013 to 2017.

The contract includes munition, mission essential equipment, and integrated logistic support.

Three companies have expressed interest in the project and these are PT Dirgantara Indonesia, Airbus Helicopters and AgustaWestland.

Bid submission and opening took place last July 15.

Winning bidders must be able to deliver the aircraft within 730 calendar days.

This is part of the country's Medium Term Defense Acquisition List for the next four years.

The ASW choppers will be assigned to the BRP Gregorio Del Pilar (PF-15) and BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PF-16).

The acquisition process for these ASW helicopters is expected to go on full gear once the PN completes its five AW-109 order deal from AgustaWestland by the third quarter of 2014.


Military modernization now trickling down to ground units -- AFP execs

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 5): Military modernization now trickling down to ground units -- AFP execs

With the delivery of 27,200 units of brand-new Remington M-4 automatic rifles last Friday, it can now be said that modernization of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is beginning to reach its ground units.

These rifles are expected to be issued to front-line units within a few weeks time.

The M-4 is the replacement of the venerable M-16 automatic rifle which has been serving the country faithfully for the past 40 years.

And to say that officers and enlisted personnel are excited beyond compare to use these new weapons in the field would be an understatement.

Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc, 7th Civil Relations Group commander and a full-blooded Scout Ranger to boot, have this words to say for the new M-4 automatic rifles:

"We are excited to use these much modern rifles (which) we can use to protect the people from armed threats. At the same time, we are proud that the long awaited upgrade of our Vietnam-era weapons has become a reality during the current government."

Cabunoc's words were echoed by Major Emmanuel Garcia, 1st Civil Relation Group head and a former Special Forces operative.

"The arrival of the new M-4 rifles is welcome development. These (weapons) are more reliable and handy than the older M-16. This will bring relative advantage to our troops in the field."

For his part, Major Amado Gutierrez, 8th Infantry Division spokesperson, the unit tasked to secure the Eastern Visayas, said the new weapons will improve the combat performance of their troops in the field.

"Very optimistic that we will do better in our combat operations against lawless elements," he added.

Capt Franco Suelto, 1st Infantry Division spokesperson, stressed that the new M-4 rifles will greatly boost the fighting capability of their men conducting security patrols in Zamboanga Del Sur and nearby provinces.

"The new M-4 automatic rifles is a boost to the fighting capability of our soldiers in the front-lines. This will also uplift the morale of the troops because they will feel the effects of modernization of weaponry of the Army. The Filipino people will be proud of its Army that have modern equipment while serving the people," he pointed out.

Around 63,000 units were acquired by the AFP for P2.4 billion.

The remaining rifles are to be delivered before the end of the year.

Lt. Col. Noel Detoyato, Army spokesperson, earlier said the M-4 is a very versatile weapon and very ideal for close-quarter battle as it fires a more heavy shell than the M-16 automatic rifle it is replacing, thus ensuring greater damage to its target.

The Army spokesperson said that the older M-16s cannot fire these rounds due to the so-called "rifle twisting".

"The old M-16s have a 1-in-12 twist while the M-4s have a 1-in-7 twist making it more powerful," he added.

Detoyato stated that while both weapons have the same range (around 500 meters), the M-4 can be more easily upgraded with modern sighting devices.

"The new M-4s (are) ready for enhancements as it is the A3 model. Its carry handle is removable (thus ensuring) its conversion as 'flattop' rifle with Picattiny rail for night vision gear. It also has a handguard to accommodate TGT designators, flash lights and many other items," he added.

And due to its smaller size than the M-16, Detoyato said the M-4 is more easier to carry in foliage and inside vehicles.

With this characteristics, the weapon is more easier to fire and reload during engagements, he added.

The M-4 is a gas-operated, magazine-fed, selective fire, shoulder-fired weapon with a telescoping stock and 14.5 inch (370 mm) barrel to ease close quarters combat.

It fires the .223 caliber, or 5.56 mm NATO round.


Palace firm on moratorium on construction projects in West Philippine Sea

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 5): Palace firm on moratorium on construction projects in West Philippine Sea

The government will continue to push for a moratorium on any construction in disputed territories in the West Philippine Sea, despite China’s refusal to cooperate, a Palace official said Tuesday.

“Ang ating posisyon dito ay malinaw. Unang-una, nais nating pairalin ang moratorium sa lahat ng lugar na sakop ng maritime entitlement claims; ikalawa, buuin ang Code of Conduct na dapat pairalin; at ikatlo, isulong ang proseso sa UN arbitral tribunal,” Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. said in a press briefing in Malacañang.

He said the Philippines has earned the support of other claimant countries in the Southeast Asian Region.

“Sa lahat ng mga aksyon na iyan, umaani tayo ng suporta at pagkilala ng katuwiran ng ating posisyon mula sa iba’t ibang bansa sa daigdig. Ang pinakahuling natanggap nating ulat ay ang pagpapahayag ng suporta ng Brunei, Vietnam at Indonesia sa posisyon ng Pilipinas, ayon sa Department of Foreign Affairs,” Coloma added.

The Philippines has filed a memorial at the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) against China, which has been carrying out construction projects at the disputed Spratly Islands.

China, through its Foreign Ministry, has rejected the Philippines’ proposal to freeze reclamation projects in the area, which is being claimed by several countries.

“Sa patuloy nating pagtahak sa landas ng kapayapaan at diplomasya, umaani tayo ng suporta sa mga bansang naniniwala sa ating posisyon na batay sa makatuwiran at makatarungang pagtukoy sa mga usaping ito. Kaya hindi tayo natitinag kung anuman ang pagtangi na gagawin dito dahil naniniwala tayo na makatuwiran ang ating posisyon,” said Coloma.


Declaration as manageable conflict and development ready to mark Samar's foundation day

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 5): Declaration as manageable conflict and development ready to mark Samar's foundation day 

The declaration of Samar as manageable conflict- affected and development ready area (MACADRA) will mark the celebration of the province’s 173rd foundation anniversary on Monday.

Governor Sharee Ann Tan de los Santos told reporters Monday that they look forward to the declaration although she was a bit apprehensive when the information was relayed to her by the 8th Infantry Division (8ID) of the Philippine Army (PA).

The apprehension stemmed as there is still presence of insurgents in the province and some towns are still affected by their operations.

She agreed when 8ID commanding officer, Major Gen. Jet Velarmino, explained that the declaration could trigger positive impact to the local economy.

“The declaration does not mean that Samar province is already free from insurgency but rather the influence of insurgents is already manageable, thus making the province ready for development,” she said.

She cited that the action is significant especially that her administration is pushing for investors to venture in the province and help improve the local economy. It’s poor economy resulted to the province having the most number of poor residents who are vulnerable to engaging in illegal activities or prone to human trafficking.

Particularly, she looked forward to a boost in the tourism sector and its allied services once the declaration is done.

Samar has numerous caves such as the Sohoton Cave and Natural Bridge Park in the town of Basey and the Calbiga Cave in the town of Calbiga, the second largest cave system in Asia as among its potential tourism drawer.

Calbayog City, one of the two cities in the province has been dubbed as ‘City of Waterfalls’ with its 16 waterfalls already capturing the interest of tourists.

The Lulugayan falls in Calbiga is also being by the Department of Tourism as another destination in the province. Marabut town is famous for its rock formations and beaches, added Tan.

Amid the declaration, Tan sought assurance from the military authorities that they will remain in the province and they will not reduce their presence in the area.

She also assured the 8ID full support through continuous campaign against insurgency by providing livelihood to vulnerable people and construction of road network to bring basic social services, especially in hinterlands.

Once declared as MACADRA the local government unit and the local police will be leading efforts in managing insurgency while the army will just extend the needed support.


South Korea military contingent repairs Tacloban public elementary school

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 5): South Korea military contingent repairs Tacloban public elementary school

The Araw Force of the South Korea Military Joint Support Group is now working on the repair and rehabilitation of the Manlurip Elementary School, one of the heavily-affected schools when typhoon Yolanda hit this city in November last year.

"It’s a welcome development as most of the students are holding classes in makeshift classrooms," said city vice-mayor Jerry Yaokasin.

Araw Force Public Relation Officer Capt. Kwon Young Woo said it was agreed that they can also extend the repair works outside of the areas that were earlier identified.

Previously, repairs were focused only in Leyte towns to include Palo, Tanauan and Tolosa.

He added that it was the commitment done by United National secretary-general Ban Ki Moon when he visited the school in December last year that made them decide to repair the school.

However, eight months after the visit, there was no repair work done yet prompting them to undertake the much needed rehabilitation to ease the burden of children who are studying under the scorching heat of the sun and sometimes heavy rain.

Yaokasin said that he was thankful for the help of the foreign military troops.

The Araw Force is targeting to finish the repair by August 15.


US approves sale of C130 cargo planes to PH

From Rappler (Aug 5): US approves sale of C130 cargo planes to PH

The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency transmitted on July 23 the required certification to notify the US Congress of the sale

LIFT CAPABILITIES: The Philippine Air Force only has 3 operational C130 cargo planes in its current inventory. Rappler file photo
LIFT CAPABILITIES: The Philippine Air Force only has 3 operational C130 cargo planes in its current inventory. Rappler file photo

The US State Department has approved the request of the Philippines to purchase 2 C130T cargo planes for the Philippine Air Force. The required certification to notify the US Congress of the sale was trasmitted on July 23. The planes will cost about P2.6 billion.

"The State Department has made a determination approving a possible Foreign Military Sale to the Philippines for C-130T aircraft and associated equipment, parts, training and logistical support for an estimated cost of $61 million (P2.6 billion)," reads a July news release of the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA).

The sale includes 10 T56-16 engines (8 installed and 2 spares), and logistical sustainment and support for a period of 3 years, support equipment, aircraft ferry support, personnel training, and spare and repair parts among others.

These cargo planes are critical lift capabilities, necessary in military operations such as humanitariand assistance and disaster response. It can transport up to 120 people or its equivalent weight in terms of relief goods and equipment.

"The Philippines will use this increased lift capability to improve the mobility and resupply of its forces and for the provision of humanitarian assistance in the Philippines and the wider region, thereby reducing the potential level of U.S. assistance requested or needed for these purposes," the news release added.

The Philippine Air Force has only 3 operational C130s, which proved to be challenge when the military needed to immediately transport troops during the September 2013 Zamboanga siege and the distribution of relief goods and evacuation of people in the aftermath of Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) in November 2013.

The US military quickly assisted the Philippine military in responding to Haiyan.

The sale of the C130 cargo planes is also beneficial to the US, the DSCA said.

"This proposed sale would contribute to U.S. security and foreign policy goals by building the Philippines’ maritime domain security capacity and deepening our overall strategic partnership with the Philippines," according to the news release.


2 women kidnapped in Sulu freed by captors

From InterAksyon (Aug 5): 2 women kidnapped in Sulu freed by captors

Suspected Abu Sayyaf gunmen on Monday released two women they had kidnapped in Sulu province the day before, authorities said.

Nursalyn Ahamudin Alih, 26, and Shekinah Tan Hamsain were freed hours of each other, Chief Superintendent Agrimero Cruz Jr., who heads the Philippine National Police's Task Force Sulu, confirmed Tuesday morning.

The two were abducted by three suspected Abu Sayyaf members, two of them identified as Ramsid Sali and Injie, around 2:30 p.m. Sunday in Barangay Kaunayan, Patikul town.

“They (women) were released by the ASG separately… so far we don’t have any information if ransom were paid,” Cruz said in a text message.

Earlier, Western Mindanao Command spokesperson Captain Rowena Muyuela said Alih was released in Sitio Kantitap, Barangay Danag, also in Patikul, around 1 a.m. Monday.

She was escorted by Marine troops and her family to Camp Teodulfo Bautista Station Hospital for medical attention and later brought to her sisters’ residence in Jolo.

Cruz said Hamsain was released around 8 p.m. in Phase 2, Barangay Kakuyagan, also in Patikul.

She was fetched by town police and her mother, and brought to the Integrated Provincial Hospital in Jolo for examination, he added.

The abduction took place even as government security forces have beefed up their presence in Sulu following the deaths of 23 people, including women and children, in an Abu Sayyaf ambush in Talipao town.


Japan jittery as neighbors step up military activity

From InterAksyon (Aug 5): Japan jittery as neighbors step up military activity

Ships of the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force on maneuver (Reuters)

Japan finds itself surrounded by a worsening security environment as North Korea pushes forward with missile development and China and Russia step up military activity in the region, Japan's Defense Ministry said on Tuesday.

The ministry's annual white paper comes after intermittent testing by North Korea of ballistic missiles in defiance of a UN ban, and a record number of scrambles by Japanese fighter jets in April-June due to increased flights by Chinese and Russian planes close to Japan's air space.

"With a trend toward arms buildup and modernization, and brisker military activity by neighboring countries getting prominent, security challenges and destabilizing factors for Japan and the rest of the Asia-Pacific are becoming more serious," the ministry said in the paper.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe returned to power in December 2012 intent on easing the limits of the post-war pacifist constitution on the military to let Japan play a bigger global security role.

Abe's government this year took some historic steps away from Japan's post-war pacifism by easing weapons export restrictions and ending a ban that has kept the military from fighting abroad.

The moves have been viewed warily elsewhere in Asia, in particular in China. Ties between China and Japan were already strained by a territorial dispute over a group of tiny East China Sea isles as well as rows over the legacy of Japan's wartime aggression. Patrol ships from both countries routinely shadow each other near the islands, stoking fear of clashes.

Recently, however, Abe has renewed a call for a bilateral summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping. The two governments are trying to arrange a summit on the sidelines of a Pacific Rim conference in Beijing in November, the Nikkei newspaper said on Monday.

The ministry's report described China's action in maritime disputes with other countries as "high-handed" and called on China to observe international norms.

In November, China launched an air defense identification zone covering a swath of the East China Sea, including the disputed isles, and warned it would take "defensive emergency measures" against aircraft that failed to identify themselves.

"These are very dangerous measures that could lead to the unilateral change of the status quo in the East China Sea, escalation of the situation, and some unexpected development," the ministry said. "We are deeply concerned."

China's defense budget soared fourfold over the past decade to 808 billion yuan ($131 billion), while Japan's defense spending dipped by 1.9 percent over the same period to 4.78 trillion yen ($47 billion), the ministry said.

Japan and the United States are set to revise cooperation guidelines by the end of the year to reflect the changing security environment and better respond to threats in such areas as space and cyber space.

'Global issue’

The Defense Ministry called North Korea's missile and nuclear programs a "grave destabilizing factor" and warned that progress in the projects could embolden the North to resort to more provocation.

"If North Korea extends the range of ballistic missiles further, reduces the size of nuclear arms and turns them into warheads, the country could come to believe it has secured strategic deterrence against the United States," it said.

There is a possibility that the advanced version of North Korea's Taepodong-2 ballistic missiles, when fitted with a warhead weighing less than one ton, could have a range of more than 10,000 km (6,200 miles), covering part of the continental United States, the ministry said.

Japan is also keeping a wary eye on Russia's involvement in turmoil in Ukraine, where Moscow annexed the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea in March.

"This change to the status quo by Russia, with force in the background, is a global issue that affects the entire international society," it said.

Any attempt to change the status quo by force makes Japan nervous as China challenges Japan's control over the East China Sea islets, known as the Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China.

The ministry also touched upon another set of small islands, controlled by South Korea but claimed by Japan, saying they were Japan's inherent territory. The islets are called the Takeshima in Japanese and Dokdo in Korean.

The position drew a quick angry reaction from South Korea, which called the claim "preposterous."

Its defense ministry summoned the Japanese embassy military attaché to protest.

"The Japanese government should bear in mind that as long as it continues its unjust claim over Dokdo, the road to improving ties between the two countries can only be a long one," South Korea's foreign ministry said in a statement.


Photo: UXOs destroyed

From MindaNews (Aug 5): Photo: UXOs destroyed

Destruction of 58 UXOs (unexploded ordnance) in Barangay Semba, Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao on August 2, 2014 to ensure they will never be used again. The Explosives and Ordnance Team of the 6th Infantry Division destroyed the UXOs in partnership  with the Swiss Foundation for Mine Action (FSD) and the Philippine Campaign to Ban Landmines (PCBL). A total of 262 UXOs have been destroyed on June 21, July 23 and August 2 this year. Photo courtesy of FSD/PCBL


GPH, MILF peace panels open doors to civil society reps; vow only option is peace

From MindaNews (Aug 5): GPH, MILF peace panels open doors to civil society reps; vow only option is peace  

For the first time in their 10-day meeting here, the peace panels of the government (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) opened their doors, albeit briefly, to representatives of civil society on Monday, Day 4, to work on the final draft of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

At least ten representatives of the Mindanao PeaceWeavers (MPW), an umbrella organization of ten peace networks, visited the panels at the Waterfront Insular Hotel to hand over a two-page 13-paragraph statement titled “Reaffirming Our Solidarity for Peace in Mindanao and our Commitment to accompanying the Bangsamoro Peace Process.”

CSO VISIT. The government and MILF peace panels opened their doords, albeit briefly, to receive representatives of Mindanao's peace groups who handed them a statement of support. The reading of the statement and the responses from the panel chairs took half an hour. MindaNews photo by Carolyn O. Arguillas

CSO VISIT. The government and MILF peace panels opened their doords, albeit briefly, to receive representatives of Mindanao’s peace groups who handed them a statement of support. The reading of the statement and the responses from the panel chairs took half an hour. MindaNews photo by Carolyn O. Arguillas

At the end of the 30-minute exchange in the meeting venue itself, government peace panel chair Miriam Coronel-Ferrer and MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal reiterated their commitment to finish the final text of the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law so it can be submitted to Congress soon.

“Masyado nang maraming inalay dito para makaabot sa punto na ito. Hindi naman siguro talaga ang solusyon lang ay bumalik kung saan tayo nag-umpisa kundi tapusin ang inumpisahan natin” (So much have been done to reach this point. I do not think the solution is to return to where we started but to finish what we started), Ferrer said.

Iqbal said that for the MILF, “we are not thinking of any other option. The only option is peace so that we are pouring everything here so that peace will be possible.”

Break-out, breakthrough
Before reading the statement, Gus Miclat, Executive Director of the Initiatives for International Dialogue, the secretariat of MPW, said they hope the panels reach a breakthrough during the ten-day meeting. He suggested that the two “breakout” rooms be referred to as “breakthrough” rooms instead.

Civil society representatives have been hoping the ten-day meeting here would yield a breakthrough.

The ten-day meeting to work on a "mutually acceptable" draft Bangsamoro Basic Law is dubbed "workshop." MindaNews photo by Carolyn O. Arguillas

The ten-day meeting to work on a “mutually acceptable” draft Bangsamoro Basic Law is dubbed “OPAPP Workshop.” MindaNews photo by Carolyn O. Arguillas

The hotel, then named  “Insular Hotel,” was the same venue of the breakthrough agreement of the government and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in June 1996 that eventually led to the signing of the Final Peace Agreement on September 2 that year.

The GPH-MILF peace panels, along with representatives of the International Contact Group and the Third Party Monitoring Team, and members of the the Pool of Independent Lawyers, have been meeting since August 1 at the Kalaw Room for what is labeled on the signage outside as “OPAPP Workshop.”

Ferrer told MindaNews two lawyers from the office of the Chief Presidential Legal Counsel have joined them starting Monday.

“We understand that some kinks have recently come up in the process of implementing the CAB, particularly in drafting a Basic Law that would give birth—when enacted by Congress and ratified in a plebiscite—to the Bangsamoro political entity. To some extent, the lack of adequate official information about this situation resulted to stirrings of restiveness in several areas,” the MPW noted in its statement read by Miclat.

The MPW said it is praying for the panel members’ “continued personal strength and fortitude as they carry on a task that is made formidable by its historic significance and the weight of expectations from stakeholders within the country and those in the international community,” and for President Benigno Aquino III and MILF Chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, that they “maintain their unwavering stance for this peace process, and continue to keep and nurture the partnership they have built in pursuit of a just resolution of the Moro conflict.

It also urged the public to “stay calm and keep holding on to the aspiration for lasting peace” as this is the “effective way of maintaining sobriety in the communities amid these trying times.”

The panel chairs gave their respective statements as well.

MILF’s Iqbal said civil society organizations play an important role because they are “the voices of reason, voices of moderation and of course voice of urgency.”

He said the written statement given to them “is a very important document … that would encourage both parties to move forward and be determined to surmount all obstacles along the way.”

Iqbal said he has been asked several times about the prospects for peace, particularly at this stage, and if a breakthrough can be expected. He said he tells those who ask that what is important is that both parties are “focused and we do everything possible to make things possible.”

“Very informal”
Ferrer said the 10-day meeting, held behind closed doors, is “a big gathering but in a way very informal.”

The parties come to the venue wearing casual clothes unlike in Kuala Lumpur when they would come to the negotiating table in business attire.

 She acknowledged the roadmap they are following – which is to set up the Bangsamoro political entity by June 30, 2016 — but noted there are developments that could not be anticipated such as what happened to the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law.

 But Ferrer stressed, “we are very flexible and we have mechanisms.” She also cited civil society’s role in reminding them, watching them, demanding explanations from them and providing them moral support.

She also explained that while the Basic Law is a very important aspect of the peace process, other aspects such as transitional justice and normalization are “umaandar din” (also moving).

 The Transitional Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) led by a Swiss expert with members nominated by both GPH and MILF, met last month. The TJRC is mandated to undertake a study and recommend to the panels the “appropriate mechanisms to address the legitimate grievances of the Bangsamoro people, correct historical injustices, and address human rights violations and marginalization through land dispossession, towards healing and reconciliation.”

11 days, 10 days

 It is also tasked to recommend “programs and measures that will bring about the reconciliation of the different communities that have been affected by the conflict.”

The Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC), the body mandated to draft the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) submitted its draft to Malacanang (Office of the President) on April 22. Malacanang returned the draft on June 21 with its comments and proposed revisions.

 MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim and Mohahger Iqbal, chair of the MILF peace panel and BTC, raised their concerns on Malacanang’s proposed revisions in a meeting with President Aquino in Hiroshima on June 24, before the President delivered his keynote address at The Consolidation for Peace for Mindanao seminar. Two days later, Iqbal in a speech in Istanbul, Turkey said the reviewed draft had “heavily diluted” the BTC draft and that if it were made the basis for the BBL, would render the future Bangsamoro political entity less autonomous than the present Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) that it seeks to replace.

The BTC passed a resolution on July 3 elevating to the peace panels its concerns over the proposed revisions to the draft Basic law. The panels had spent a total of 11 days last month — July 8 to 11 in Kuala Lumpur, 18 to 21 and 25 to 27 in Manila — but failed to come up with a “mutually acceptable” draft, hence the 10-day meeting here that started August 1.