Tuesday, August 26, 2014

MNLF official: ISIS recruitment in Mindanao possible

From the Philippine Star (Aug 26): MNLF official: ISIS recruitment in Mindanao possible

A senior official of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) said the reported recruitment conducted by the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIS) in Mindanao is possible and not distant with the continuous existence of local militant groups, including the Abu Sayyaf and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fightera (BIFF).

Habib Mujahab Hashim, chief of the MNLF’s Islamic Command Council, said they heard about the reported presence of Sunni preachers allegedly conducting recruitment for ISIS members.

“But I can not confirm nor deny it,” Hashim said. “But it is very possible.”

Hashim said the situation in Mindanao region might allow local militants to be lured by joining the dreaded Islamic extremist group that wants to propagate the Islamic caliphate.

“The Philippine government should solve the persistent problem of Abu Sayyaf and other militant problems,” Hashim said.

The military remained mum about reports or recruitment of Abu Sayyaf and BIFF members joining the ISIS.

Lt. Gen. Rustico Guerrero, commander of Western Mindanao Command, said they have no specific reports about ISIS-related activities in the region.

“Let us not give them the media attention they need. That is what terrorists need to create fear,” Guerrero said.

Guerrero said their focus is to continue eradicating the Abu Sayyaf group, Jemaah Islamiyah and its cohorts operating in the area.

Reports and video clips posted in the social media showed an Abu Sayyaf leader and some of his followers have pledged their support to the ISIS.

There were information suggested that some of the Abu Sayyaf members slipped out of their way into Syria fighting alongside with the ISIS.

 'Analyzing the situation'

The military is not discounting the possibility that terrorist group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is recruiting young men in parts of Mindanao.

Armed Forces spokesman Maj. Gen. Domingo Tutaan Jr. said they are continuously validating the information, which was relayed earlier by former President Fidel Ramos and Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte.

“The thing that we like to state is we are analyzing this situation. We are not dismissing the information,” Tutaan told reporters in Camp Aguinaldo Tuesday.

“The information regarding the alleged sending of Filipino youths to the ISIS is continuously being verified,” he added.

Tutaan said the Armed Forces Eastern Mindanao Command is now coordinating with Duterte regarding the matter. He could not say if similar coordination is being done with Ramos.

“We are putting the information all together. We do not want to cause undue alarm,” Tutaan said.

ISIS is an extremist group that seeks to establish an Islamic state in the Middle East. The jihadist group is responsible for the killing of several non-Muslims including American journalist James Foley.

Early this month, Ramos told ABS-CBN News Channel that at least 100 young Filipino Muslims have infiltrated Iraq to undergo trainings with the ISIS. Duterte later on confirmed that some of the ISIS recruits were from Davao.

A video clip showing Filipino lawless groups Abu Sayyaf and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement (BIFM) pledging alliance to ISIS recently surfaced online.

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), however, believes an alliance among the three groups is “very unlikely.”

“The report that some 100 elements of the Abu Sayyaf Group and so-called Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement have traveled to the Middle East and joined the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria is very unlikely,” the group said in an editorial posted on its website luwaran.com.

“The MILF has no verified report about it. In our view, there is more loss than gain for the two groups in joining the ISIS,” it added.

MILF said the threat is not in the two groups joining the ISIS because their number is “too tiny to be felt and make a difference.”

“The ISIS is overflowing with volunteers from all over the world, including those from the United States, United Kingdom, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Australia,” it said.

“The threat really comes from the extremism espoused by the ISIS. Ideas are contagious and infectious. Wild ideas are attractive to those who want adventures and pre-occupied with hatred and revenge.”


Kahumbo identifies victims for kidnappers

From the Star Online (Aug 27): Kahumbo identifies victims for kidnappers

Urban operative: Kahumbo’s main duty is to identify targets to be kidnapped by Abu Sayyaf.

Urban operative: Kahumbo’s main duty is to identify targets to be kidnapped by Abu Sayyaf.

KOTA KINABALU: Apo Kahumbo @ Mubin Halil is an intelligence gatherer for Abu Sayyaf, whose main duty is to identify possible targets for the gunmen to kidnap.

Describing him as an urban operative, Mindanao State University lecturer Octavio A. Dinampo said Kahumbo, who is in his mid-30s, was a native of Patikul in Jolo island.

“I know of him and I’ve met him,” he said, describing Kahumbo as being “skinny, 5ft 7in tall and has spiky hair”.

He said Kahumbo’s presence in Tawi Tawi indicated that he (Kahumbo) was likely on his way to Sabah.
“As an urban operative, he would be familiar with places like Sandakan, Lahad Datu and Semporna,” he said, adding that Kahumbo would blend in with the Suluk or Tausug and Yakan communities in these districts.

“These operatives use their knowledge to identify possible kidnap victims and watch their movements as well as the fast boats to be used in the abductions,” he said.

Dinampo was himself kidnapped along with famous Filipino news anchor Ces Drilon and others on Jolo island on June 8, 2008.

They were released nine days later after ransoms were paid.

Describing Kahumbo’s arrest as important, Dinampo said any information from him would enable Philippine security officials to know the inner workings of the Abu Sayyaf group.


Notorious gang leader linked to kidnappings nabbed

From Asia One (Aug 27): Notorious gang leader linked to kidnappings nabbed

Notorious gang leader linked to kidnappings nabbed

KOTA KINABALU - A notorious gang leader, believed to be one of the masterminds behind several cross-border kidnappings with links to the Abu Sayyaf terror group, has been arrested in southern Philippines.
The man, identified as Apo Kahumbo who operated from the Tawi Tawi chain of islands, has been wanted by both the Philippine and Malaysian police for many years.
He and his group of gunmen are also linked to another notorious gang of kidnappers headed by the Muktadil brothers, who have been identified by Malaysian police as being responsible for several recent abductions in Sabah.
Philippine National Police Tawi Tawi chief Col Joey Salido told The Star that Kahumbo was detained early yesterday in a joint operation involving several security agencies at one of the Tawi Tawi islands, less than a half-hour boat ride from Sabah's east coast.
Security officials, said Col Salido, were now verifying the man's background information, including his origin, age and the gunmen in his group.
Kahumbo, he said, was being held by the Philippine security forces at the Tawi Tawi provincial capital of Bongao.
However, he declined to say how and exactly where Kahumbo was detained, other than that "this individual is wanted for questioning and was invited to talk to us".
"We are also looking to verify whether or not he is responsible for a number of kidnappings in the Philippines and Sabah," he said, adding that Kahumbo would be charged in court if there was sufficient evidence.
According to Malaysian intelligence sources, Kahumbo was also known as Mubin Halil.
The sources said Kahumbo might also have been responsible for the latest Pulau Mabul attack, during which Filipino gunmen fatally shot Marine Police Kpl Abdul Rajah Jamuan, 32, and kidnapped his colleague Kons Zakiah Aleip, 26, from the Mabul Water Bungalows Resort on July 12.
According to the sources, Kahumbo had been one of the masterminds responsible for several kidnappings in Semporna, Lahad Datu and Kunak since early this year.
Philippine intelligence sources based in Zamboanga City said Kahumbo was an Abu Sayyaf member based in Tawi Tawi where kidnap victims were usually taken to before being brought to the Abu Sayyaf lair on Jolo island.
They believed Kahumbo commanded a gang of eight gunmen, identified only as Amilbangsa, Roslam, Tamsi, Seahorse, Abrasar, Adunay, Nikson and Darwin.
"Kahumbo's group is clan based. Most of the members are his relatives," said a source.
Intelligence sources also believed the Kahumbo gang and the Muktadil brothers with another group known as Anjang-Anjang were collaborating and supporting each other in the cross-border kidnappings.
Malaysian police recently released photographs of two members of the Muktadil brothers group who are wanted for kidnappings in Sabah.
According to the sources, the Muktadil brothers were led by Badong, who is a protégé of Kahumbo.

MNLF official: Misuari surfaces, renews call for independence

From the Philippine Star (Aug 26): MNLF official: Misuari surfaces, renews call for independence

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines - Fugitive Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) founding chairman Nur Misuari surfaced and reiterated his declaration of independence to show strong opposition against the agreement forged by the government with his group's breakaway faction Moro Islamic Liberation Front, an MNLF official said.

Habib Mujahab Hashim, MNLF’s Islamic Command Council chief, said he was informed of Misuari’s declaration  by the former’s secretary-general Ustadz Murshi as the group commemorated the first year of independence under the Bangsamoro Republik last August 12, 2013 at Barangay Lampaya, Panamao town.

“I was informed there was a gathering (of MNLF members and leaders) but not so big with limited number of commanders and he (Misuari) surfaced to reiterate his call for independence,” Hashim said via phone interview.

Hashim said Misuari maintained his call for independence after the planned closure of the tripartite review on the 1996 MNLF final peace agreement which he said was the government's unilateral act of abrogating the accord.

The MNLF official also belied military reports that Misuari is already ailing and weak while in hiding in Sulu to avoid being arrested.

“He is very much in command and strong contrary to the reports of the military and police about Misuari’s health condition,” Hashim said.

Misuari went into hiding after allegedly directing the Zamboanga siege last September 9,  with more than 500 of his members led by Ustadz Habier Malik taking at least four villages and attempting to raise their Bangsamoro Republik flag.

The siege that lasted for 23 days left close to 200 people killed, more than 100 people wounded, including civilians, soldiers, police and rebels, and sent over 120,000 people fleeing their homes.

Misuari with over 200 followers was charged with rebellion and violation of the international humanitarian law.

Meanwhile, ​Hashim also said that MNLF foreign affair secretary Abubakar Abdulbaki met with Misuari on Sunday in Sulu and briefed the leader of the result of the MNLF meeting with the Organization of Islamic Cooperation last June.

Hashim said the military was informed of the visit and meeting of Abdulbaki with Misuari to allay security fears.

“There is nothing to worry or be apprehensive about the meeting. It was more on political and the military were informed,” Hashim added.


ASG leader nabbed in Tawi-Tawi operations

From the Manila Times (Aug 27): ASG leader nabbed in Tawi-Tawi operations

Units of the Philippine National Police (PNP) have successfully arrested a Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) leader wanted for kidnapping and homicide cases in Malaysia during operations in Barangay Sanga-Sanga, Bongao, Tawi-Tawi Tuesday morning. The operation took place 10 a.m.

The arrested suspect was identified as Mobin Hailil alias “Kahumbo”.

Director Getulio S. Napenas, Special Action Front commander, said Hailil was nabbed by the joint members of 5th Special Action Battalion (5SAB), Special Action Force, Regional Intelligence Unit (RIU) -9, Tawi-Tawi Police Provincial Office and Air Force Intelligence Unit.

Confiscated from his possession were one caliber .45 Colt pistol loaded with six rounds of ammunition and one Mark 2 grenade.

Hailil was involved in kidnapping and killings in Mabbul Island, Malaysia.


‘Sparrow Unit’ behind assassinations in Bukidnon, Misamis, says military

From the Manila Bulletin (Aug 26): ‘Sparrow Unit’ behind assassinations in Bukidnon, Misamis, says military

Cagayan De Oro City, Misamis Oriental — The military is verifying reports of the presence in this region of the New People’s Army’s (NPA’s) “Sparrow Unit” from other parts of Mindanao.

Major Christian Uy, spokesman of the 4th Infantry Division, said the presence of the NPA”s trained assassins from other parts of Mindanao came up in the investigation into the killing of a Bukidnon town mayor and a Misamis Oriental councilor, recently.

It will be recalled that suspected NPA rebels killed Impasug-ong Mayor Mario Okinlay in an ambush in his own town in Bukidnon, last July 2.

Likewise, a statement released by the NPA owned up to the killing of a Councilor Cecilio Abuhan last Thursday in the town of Opol, Misamis Oriental.

The NPA statement read: “A team under the Regional Command of the North Central Mindanao Region assassinated councilor Cecilio ‘Anggong’ Abuhan, at 4:00 p.m. on August 21, 2014, at Bagocboc, Opol, Misamis Oriental.”

Uy said a Sparrow Unit of the NPA from another part of Mindanao could be behind the assassination of Abuhan, even as witnesses said the assassins are in their young ages and armed with .45-caliber and .9mm handguns.

Abuhan succumbed to eight bullet wounds – six in the head and two in the body – from .45-caliber and .9mm pistols.

He was riding a single motorcycle when ambushed by armed men who escaped using two motorcycles.

Uy said it appears that the communist rebels are not just into banditry anymore, but also entered the gun-for-hire business, even importing Sparrow Unit’s assassins from other parts of Mindanao.

Margilen Abuhan, wife of the slain councilor and who is a chairwoman in Barangay Bagokbok, said she received information that her husband was among the targets of a liquidation squad of the NPA.

Senior Inspector Alwin Baclao, Opol police chief, said the investigation is focusing on the motive of the killing to identify the gunmen. Abuhan had been in politics since 1994 and was serving his second term as councilor.

The NPA statement accuses Abuhan of accumulating firearms for his private army, alleged involvement in various human rights abuses and crimes that are anti-people, and for burning more than 20 houses in 2004 and 2008.

The NPA also accused the slain Abuhan of “direct involvement” for the death of farmers and Lumad leaders Gilbert Paborada ug Rolen Langala.


Marine battalion teams arrive in Zambo to help keep the peace

From the Business World (Aug 26): Marine battalion teams arrive in Zambo to help keep the peace

ZAMBOANGA CITY -- Two Marine Battalion Landing Teams have arrived here, the Western Mindanao Command confirmed, as last year’s September siege, which lasted nearly a month, nears its first anniversary.
The teams are intended to help the joint Task Force Zamboanga maintain peace and security, authorities said, days after unverified reports sent via text messaging indicated another possible attack by the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) have been passed around.
Besides claiming dozens of lives from both parties, including civilians, the siege also damaged the city’s sports complex after it was used as an evacuation center for more than 100,00 persons who were displaced by fierce gun battle.

For its part, the local government has allocated P280 million to rehabilitate the city’s sports complex, including the rubberized track oval, which was in “total wreck,” Dr. Cecile C. Atilano, newly appointed City Sports Development Officer, told the media here.

The Joaquin F. Enriquez Memorial Sports Complex still houses some 25,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) even though the city’s athletes are already using parts of it for training.

The city government earlier said it is set to transfer the remaining IDPs to another temporary site before the end of the year.

As of August, local government records showed there are still 25,498 IDPs that make up 4,776 families.

On Sept. 9 last year, some 500 members of the MNLF launched simultaneous attacks in five coastal villages in this city and advanced into the city.

MILF: Moro women leaders join Scenario Building Exercises for Climate Change Adaptation

Posted to the MILF Website (Aug 27): Moro women leaders join Scenario Building Exercises for Climate Change Adaptation

Three Moro women leaders participated in the General Santos City Scenario Building Exercises for Climate Change Adaptation which is part of the Business Risk Assessment and the Management of Climate Change Impacts Study held at Green Leaf Hotel in General Santos City on August 12-13, 2014.
Representatives from the business sector, local government units and civil society organizations joined the exercises where they also learned the current status of the environment.

The Moro women leaders who are also environmental advocates who joined the activity were Engr. Tita Suib, Chairperson of Muslim Business Forum, Bai Ruby  Kanda, President of Royal Ladies group in the city, and Zuraida Anayatin, a convener of Mothers for Peace in Gensan Zuraida M. Anayatin.

The study is spearheaded by World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) with the financial support of BPI Foundation.

The project rationale states that it aims at helping city planners and decision-makers assess climate change impacts, identify opportunities and decide on a sustainable strategy, site-specific interventions and standards of next practice that will allow the city to retain economic viability and respond more competitively in climate-defined future.

Moreover, it also aims to provide key stakeholders from the business sector and local government a practical understanding of governance and site-specific business vulnerabilities, risks and opportunities in key cities.

The project covered the cities of Baguio, Cebu, Davao and Iloilo in 2011, CDO, Dagupan , Laoag and Zamboanga in 2012, Angeles, Batangas, Naga and Tacloban in 2013 and currently continues in the towns of General Santos, Puerto Princess, Butuan and Santiago.


MILF: Stakeholders validate Bangsamoro Conflict Monitoring System in Gensan

Posted to the MILF Website (Aug 27): Stakeholders validate Bangsamoro Conflict Monitoring System in Gensan

Representatives from the Civil Society Organization, academe, Philippine National Police, and Armed Forces of the Philippines joined in the 2nd Multi-Stakeholders Validation Group Meeting for the Bangsamoro Conflict Monitoring System (BCMS) held at East Asia Royale Hotel in General Santos City on August 23, 2014.
BCMS is a subnational conflict monitoring system that aims to systematically monitor the incidence, causes, and costs of violent conflict and crime in the Bangsamoro.

Information generated from the system about violence and conflict can contribute to policy making, development strategies and peacebuilding approaches.

BCMS establishes a database on violence that enables end-users to monitor and assess the performance, verify the results and impact, of various development and peacebuilding initiatives in stemming violence, eventually contributing towards learning in development and peacebuilding.

The system works through harvesting data that includes photographic capture of incidents from police and print media and then encoded to the database. The data thereafter undergo the process of validation, audit, analysis and visualization.

For the data dissemination and outreach, the conduct of feedback sessions is involved to ensure that the data results and policy implications reach their intended targets and are responsive to the needs of both state and non-state actors involved in development and peacebuilding activities.

Through visualization in graphs and maps, end-users can view the trend of particular incident of conflict like Rido, murder, or carnapping in certain area at a given period.

BCMS is realized through the partnership forged between International Alert and the World Bank and between Alert and with three academic institutions: the Mindanao State University (MSU)-Gensan, MSU-Iligan and Western Mindanao State University.

Data gathered by the system covers 2011 to 2013. The research team harvested Information from regional, provincial and municipal police offices and local tabloids particularly the Mindanao Cross.


US deployed Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group in Asia-Pacific

From AngMalaya (Aug 26): US deployed Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group in Asia-Pacific

“The Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group departed August 22 for a scheduled deployment to the Western Pacific and U.S. Central Command area of responsibility,” United States Navy said in a news release.

The strike group has approximately 6,200 Sailors and will focus on maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts.

Carl Vinson carrier is supported by cruiser USS Bunker Hill, destroyers USS Gridley, USS Sterett, and USS Dewey. These support warships will “provide deterrence to potential adversaries, promote peace and security, preserve freedom of the seas, and provide humanitarian/disaster relief as necessary.”

The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson is embarked with at least five squadron of F/A 18 variants.

According to US Navy this is a planned deployment. The strike group will patrol in the Pacific and Middle East.

Prior to deployment, August 19, a US Navy P-8 anti-submarine warfare jet encountered a Chinese fighter jet. Pentagon described it as “very, very close” and “very dangerous.”

White House also vowed to protect American citizens regardless of international boundaries. This is amid Islamic State’s terror activities in Iraq and Syria.


Australia announces $60M to fight radicalization

From AngMalaya (Aug 26): Australia announces $60M to fight radicalization

Associated Press – The Australian government said Tuesday it will spend 64 million Australian dollars ($60 million) on measures to counter violent extremism and radicalization as Islamic State continues to recruit foreign fighters to its ranks in Iraq and Syria.

The measures include strengthened community engagement programs aimed at preventing young Australians from becoming involved with extremist groups and new multi-agency investigation teams to disrupt foreign fighters and their supporters.

The Australian government is giving high priority to reducing the domestic terrorism threat created by homegrown extremists who travel to Syria and Iraq to fight.

Australia and the United State will raise at the United Nations General Assembly in September the need for governments to cooperate against the common threat.

“This is the highest national security risk that we face and we will not rest until we are sure that the Australian people are safe and secure from it,” Foreign Minister Julie Bishop told Parliament.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott said at least 60 Australians were fighting for Islamic State overseas, and another 100 were working or fund-raising within Australia to support the al-Qaida offshoot group and other terror groups.

Islamic leaders have complained that Australia’s Muslim minority is being unfairly targeted by draconian counterterrorism measures, such as a proposed new onus on Australians traveling to terrorism hotbeds to prove that they had legitimate reasons for going there.

But Abbott said Muslims were not being targeted.

“I want to make it absolutely crystal clear that the enemy here is terrorism, it’s not any particular faith, it’s not any particular community,” Abbott told Parliament.

A poll published in The Australian newspaper on Tuesday found that 77 percent of respondents supported laws that would require travelers to prove that they had no contact with terrorist groups while overseas. Another 18 percent opposed the move and 5 percent were undecided.

The poll by Sydney-based market researcher Newspoll was based on a random, nationwide telephone survey of 1,207 voters last weekend. It has 3 percentage point margin of error.


China deploys armed drone to multinational drills

From Ang Malaya (Aug 26): China deploys armed drone to multinational drills

Associated Press – China’s air force said it deployed an armed drone to multinational anti-terrorism drills on Tuesday, underscoring the country’s rapid progress in developing unmanned aerial vehicles.

The drone, which wasn’t identified by type, carried out a successful mission in which it destroyed a mock enemy command vehicle with a missile, the official Xinhua News Agency quoted air force spokesman Shen Jinke as saying.

Shen said the drone’s ability to monitor, identify and destroy objects below in real time makes it an important tool in fighting terrorists. China says radicals fighting Chinese rule in the vast northwestern region of Xinjiang have used illicit border crossings and desert encampments that could be monitored from above.

Chinese aerospace firms have developed dozens of drones, known also as unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs. Many have appeared at air shows and military parades, including some that bear an uncanny resemblance to the Predator, Global Hawk and Reaper models used with deadly effect by the U.S. Air Force and the CIA.

Analysts say that although China still trails the U.S. and Israel, the industry leaders, its technology is maturing rapidly and is on the cusp of widespread use for surveillance and combat strikes.

Tuesday’s mock attack was part of this week’s “Peace Mission-2014″ drills involving more than 7,000 personnel from China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. In all, 70 aircraft of 19 different types, both manned and unmanned, are taking part in the exercises, being held at Zhurihe, China’s largest and most modern training base, located in the vast grasslands of Inner Mongolia.

While Beijing officially eschews military alliances, it has conducted a series of drills with Russian forces, sometimes under the auspices of the six-nation Shanghai Cooperation Organization, or SCO, a Central Asian grouping that is dominated by China and Russia and aims to challenge U.S. influence in Asia.

Several SCO nations border on Afghanistan and Pakistan and face threats from radical Islamic insurgents, providing the impetus for joint anti-terrorism training.


Ex-CAFGU member shot dead

From the Visayan Daily Star (Aug 26): Ex-CAFGU member shot dead

A 75-year-old former member of the Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit-turned barangay tanod chief was shot dead Sunday by five men in Purok 2 in Brgy. Basak, Cauayan, Negros Occidental.

Alfonso Dulla, a barangay tanod chief of Basak, Cauayan, succumbed to multiple gunshot would died on the spot, police said.
Senior Inspector Ramil Robles, Cauayan deputy police chief, said yesterday that Dulla was on his routine walking exercise, when he was followed and shot in the back by one of the five men.
Dulla, who had a .45 caliber pistol, tried to fight back. But he was disarmed by the four other men, who also shot him in the stomach.
Not contented with that, Robles said, the suspects also shot Dulla with his own gun in the face, with the bullet exiting from his head. Robles said they are still trying to verify claims that his death had been perpetrated by New People’s Army rebels, or triggered by personal grudges.
He, however, said that they were told by the family of Dulla that the victim had no enemies.

Taiwan says Chinese military planes breached its airspace

Posted to InterAksyon (Aug 27): Taiwan says Chinese military planes breached its airspace

Taiwan said on Tuesday it had scrambled jets to intercept two Chinese military aircrafts, which breached its airspace four times. 

The incident occurred on Monday and the Chinese planes, identified as Yun-8 transport aircraft, left without incident after Taiwanese fighter jets warned them off, Xiong Ho-ji, major general of Taiwan's Air Force Combatant Command, told reporters.

China's defense ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

According to Xiong, the Chinese aircraft were headed in the direction of the South China Sea and the Philippines.

China and Taiwan have been ruled separately since defeated Nationalist forces fled to the island at the end of a civil war in 1949, and China has never renounced the use of force to bring Taiwan under Beijing's control.

While relations have improved under the China-friendly President Ma Ying-jeou, who has signed a series of landmark economic deals since taking office in 2008, deep political and military suspicions remain.

The breach of Taiwanese air space comes a week after the Pentagon lodged a diplomatic complaint with China about the conduct of a Chinese fighter jet, which it said came within meters of a US Navy patrol plane.

China has said the criticism is groundless and its pilot maintained a safe distance from the US plane.

Ties between China and many of its neighbors have been strained by a string of territorial disputes.


Duterte denies saying some young Muslims to train with ISIS

From MindaNews (Aug 26): Duterte denies saying some young Muslims to train with ISIS

City Mayor Rodrigo R. Duterte has denied categorically linking a group of Filipino Muslims, among them Davao citizens, to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Speaking to reporters Monday night at the Grand Men Seng Hotel, Duterte said the raw intelligence he received from an unnamed source only said there were people who were going to the Middle East to take part in a war.

But he clarified he did not say they were going to train with ISIS.

The mayor added the Armed Forces of the Philippines still did not have the details regarding the report and was still validating the information.

“Let me be clear, because Manila is also bound to misconstrue,” Duterte said. “I said na may nagbulong sa akin dito … na may mga young muslims na pupunta ng Middle East kasi makipagsapalaran sa giyera.”

“I did not say that they will join ISIS. I just said na takot ako na mapunta doon,” he added.

Duterte reiterated that what he feared was the scenario of the young Muslims bringing back to the city a “technology of terror”.

“Pag inimport iyon, medyo magkakaproblema tayo,” he said.

“Whatever your religion may be, whether you’re a Jew or Christian or Muslim, you will not kill innocent people,” he said in reaction to reports the ISIS had killed civilians who were not combatants.

Last Sunday, Duterte was quoted as saying at his weekly television show Gikan sa Masa, Para sa Masa that he was “sad that Filipinos could get into danger for whatever the reason.”

This came after he was asked to comment on raw intelligence from former president Fidel V. Ramos that around 100 Filipino Muslims were allegedly being recruited into the ISIS.

“Whatever happens, these are still Filipinos, that is why we worry about them,” Duterte said.

The mayor added that if the Filipinos would train with ISIS they would take home with them the technology used in terrorism, citing what happened with the Taliban who were trained by the Central Intelligence Agency during the Cold War.

“I’m not condemning anybody here,” he said, adding, “I pity those who go there who want to be martyrs for a cause.”

He said the AFP did not confirm the report of former president Fidel V. Ramos.

He added the situation “was not really a secret.”


Paramilitary, vigilante groups alarm Davao tribesmen

From the Mindanao Examiner BlogSpot site (Aug 26): Paramilitary, vigilante groups alarm Davao tribesmen

Photos provided by the Kilab Multimedia to the Mindanao Examiner Regional Newspaper show tribal leaders during a news conference on the proliferation of paramilitary and vigilante groups in Davao del Norte province.

Tribesmen in the southern Philippines have expressed grave concern over the proliferation of paramilitary and vigilante groups in the region.

According to PASAKA Confederation of Lumad Organizations in Southern Mindanao, these armed groups are being supported by the military and also notorious human rights violators, especially in Davao del Norte province.

The military are using these militia groups to fight the communist rebel group New People’s Army, but there were many reports that even innocent civilians are also being targeted on mere suspicion they are either supporters or members of the NPA.

Hanimay Suazo, Secretary General of Karapatan in Southern Mindanao, also said paramilitary groups bring fear and terror among tribesmen and farmers because militias would often harass and coerce them into supporting the government’s anti-insurgency campaign.

There was no immediate statement from the military about the concerns raised by PASAKA and Karapatan. Both organizations demanded the dismantling of the militia groups.


Army deploy(s) augmentation forces in North Cotabato town to thwart BIFF harassment

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 26): Army deploy(s) augmentation forces in North Cotabato town to thwart BIFF harassment

Additional military forces were deployed in a remote village here after suspected members of the (Bangsamoro) Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) harassed a militia detachment Sunday afternoon that left a civilian wounded, authorities said.

Police identified the victim as Jendy Pelinte, a farmer from Barangay Popoyon, who happened to be near the detachment of 39th Infantry Battalion and Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU).

Captain Calvin Macatangay, speaking for the 602nd Infantry Brigade, said about 50 BIFF forces emerging from the Maguindanao marshland positioned about 200 meters from the Army-CAFGU detachment and opened fire at past 4:00 p.m.

After the bandits fired the first shot, the soldiers and militiamen returned fire forcing the attackers to retreat toward the marshland.

Macatangay said Pelinte, who was tilling his farm at the time, was hit by stray bullets in his legs.

He is now recuperating at a local hospital.

Catapang said the augmentation forces were deployed in the borders of Maguindanao and North Cotabato.

Police and military authorities in the province consider the BIFF as the number one threat to North Cotabato because of its frequent harassment against civilian communities in the boundary.

The BIFF is a breakaway group of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).


Army 301st Brigade has new commander

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 26): Army 301st Brigade has new commander

The Philippine Army 301st Brigade has welcomed its new commander with a simple turnover ceremony on Monday afternoon.

Brigade Gen. Arnold M. Quiapo relinquished his post to Lt. Col. Eric C. Uchida, the 301st Brigade deputy commander, during a ceremony in Camp Hernandez in Dingle, Iloilo province. The turnover of command was presided by MGen. Aurelio B. Baladad, commander of the 3rd Infantry Division.

Quiapo, who has served Panay island for over two years, is relieving his post for a higher responsibility as chief of the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP).

Last week, Quiapo was appointed new ISAFP chief replacing Major General Eduardo Año who assumed as commander of the Philippine Army’s 10th Infantry Division.


PA: Antique, Aklan now conflict manageable areas

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 26): PA: Antique, Aklan now conflict manageable areas

Philippine Army (PA) MGen. Aurelio B. Baladad, Commander of the 3rd Infantry Division, said that Antique and Aklan provinces in Panay island are now being considered conflict manageable areas, thus, they are focusing their clearing operations in Capiz and by next year in Iloilo province.

Baladad, who presided the turnover of command of the PA 301st Brigade that covers Panay island, said that Antique and Aklan provinces are being considered conflict manageable areas with the strength of the New People’s Army (NPA) now weakened and the occurrence of violent incidents reduced.

”The Local Government Unit (LGU) can now manage the peace and order problem,” Baladad said, explaining why the provinces of Antique and Aklan are now conflict manageable areas.

Meanwhile, Baladad said that the Army is focusing on clearing Capiz province this year with its 23 barangays still being influenced by the NPA.

“Next year we will focus again in Iloilo,” Baladad said. He said that Iloilo province still has around 70 barangays being influenced by the NPA.

He said that most affectations are along the boundaries of Capiz and Iloio provinces in Panay island. He mentioned the mountainous Bucari in Leon, Calinog in Iloilo province and Tapaz town in Capiz.

He added that the clearing of areas from the influence of the NPA does not strictly mean military cross fires but the offering of Comprehensive Reintegration Program “to vulnerable pockets of society” and to give them skills to go back to mainstream society.


MILF remains hopeful draft BBL goes to Congress smoothly

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 26): MILF remains hopeful draft BBL goes to Congress smoothly

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has been keeping its hope high the Bangsamoro Basic Law will have a smooth journey from Malacanang to Congress.

In a statement, the MILF said its confidence on President Aquino remains high to date.

It said the BBL has already been submitted to President Aquino who is expected to review it in the light of the letter and spirit of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) and its four Annexes, plus the Addendum on the Bangsamoro Waters.

”We don’t doubt the President will exercise his powers of review diligently, fairly, and fully conscious that the BBL should and must address a problem, the Moro Question, and put it to rest forever,” the MILF said.

”This is our conviction. In short, what we mean is that the BBL we envision is one that complies with the flexibility of the Constitution and, more importantly, one that will lead to the resolution of this question. Short of this, the road ahead is not easy to contemplate on,” the MILF said.

The BBL once approved by Congress will be submitted to the people in the Bangsamoro core territory and will replace the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

Manila and the MILF signed the peace deal in March this year hoping to end the decades old Moro rebellion in southern Philippines.

The MILF also issued a statement downplaying reports the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) sent fighters to train and fight with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

Reports have it that about 100 Filipinos were recruited to fight and train with the ISIS in the Middle East.

”It was unlikely,” the MILF said in its editorial.

“For us, the threat is not in the two groups’ joining the ISIS. Their number is too tiny to be felt and make a difference,” the MILF said. “The threat really comes from the extremism espouses by the ISIS. Ideas are contagious and infectious. Wild ideas are attractive to those who want adventures and pre-occupied with hatred and revenge," the MILF said, adding that the current leadership of the MILF, which is matured, experienced, and reasonable and has done and is doing everything feasible to succeed in this peace undertaking.


Army gives financial assistance to rebel-returnee couple in Ilocos Sur

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 26): Army gives financial assistance to rebel-returnee couple in Ilocos Sur

Governor Ryan Luis Singson assisted Colonel David Diciano, commander of the Philippine Army's 701st Infantry Brigade in turning over the P85,000 check to couple–rebel returnees under the "Guns for peace Program" of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) over the weekend.

The check was received by couple Arnold Mendoza and Jenevic Soriano of Santa Lucia and Cauayan, Ilocos Sur, respectively, in a simple rite last Sunday at the headquarters of the Army's 81st Infantry Batallion based in Barangay Sulvec, Narvacan, Ilocos Sur.

Governor Singson is also looking for job placement for Soriano, who graduated as “cum laude” at the University of Northern Philippines (UNP) and herself a registered nurse.

The Municipal Social Welfare and Development Office (MSWDO) of the local government unit of Narvacan also assured assistance to the rebel returnees.

It was reported that both Soriano and Mendoza joined the New People’s Army (NPA) in the late 1990s but surrendered in 2002.

Today, the former rebels have two children and are living peacefully in Santa Lucia town.


New police handguns arrive in ARMM

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 26): New police handguns arrive in ARMM

Police officials in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao on Wednesday said that more policemen will be issued firearms following the arrival of new hand guns for cops assigned in the provinces of Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.

Chief Supt. Noel Delos Reyes, PNP-ARMM regional director, said a container van arrived Friday at Polloc Port, Parang, Maguindanao loaded with 1,117 pieces of Glock 17 Gen 4 intended for the PNP-ARMM.

In a press statement, Delos Reyes, said the firearms were part of the P1.2 billion handgun procurement by the PNP so that every member of the PNP can possess at least one gun.

“Defintely, we want all our policemen in the region to be equipped with firearms,” he said.

The police officers must use their guns not only to protect themselves but to safeguard the public,” Delos Reyes added.

The hand guns will be issued to qualified personnel of Maguindnao and Lanao del Sur police offices and the Regional Public Safety Battalion.

Superintendent Warren de Leon, PNP-ARMM chief logistics officer, said that the regional office is expecting another batch of firearms anytime soon which will be distributed to Basilan, Sulu and Tawi Tawi police provincial offices.

Delos Reyes said the shipment also included 31,276 rounds of ammunition, 3,351 pieces magazine assembly, 153 pieces patrol shoes, six poles rappelling rope and 16 pieces of tactical belt.

Earlier this month, Delos Reyes admitted the regional police office lacked firearms with some policemen having one or more firearms while others have none.

An internal audit conducted on firearms in the ARMM regional office showed some policemen were issued more than one firearm while many are yet to be issued firearms.

The audit showed that there were 228 police personnel assigned to the field who have more than one issued firearm, Delos Reyes said.

Following the audit, Delos Reyes ordered the recall of 737 issued firearms and re-issued them to other police personnel assigned in various police units in the region, according to threat level and crime situation.

The audit also discovered there were 335 firearms listed in its inventory but remained unaccounted for.

Because of this, he said said his office is now implementing a policy to rationalize the issuance and distribution of mission-essential equipment to line units.

With the new firearms supply, Delos Reyes said he hoped that the region will meet the 1:1 gun per police officer ratio.


3rd Marine Brigade optimistic of lasting peace and accord in Palawan

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 26): 3rd Marine Brigade optimistic of lasting peace and accord in Palawan

3rd Marine Brigade commanding officer Brig. Gen. Armando Bañez is optimistic that with the support of Palawan Governor Jose Alvarez and other local government units (LGUs), the province is assured of lasting peace and accord even with the presence of the remaining small group of members of the leftist movement.

In an interview with the Philippine News Agency (PNA) Monday, Bañez said the support that Alvarez and the provincial government are giving through the Provincial Social Welfare and Development Office (PSWDO), and other concerned government agencies to rebel returnees from the New People’s Army (NPA) proves to be effective.

“It is really the help from the local leadership that has convinced them to leave the mountains and return to government fold to care for the welfare of their families too,” Bañez said.

The commanding officer of the 3rd Marine Brigade (3rd MBDE) of the Philippine Marines Corps (PMC) stationed in Palawan said that when the provincial government kept its words about providing financial assistance to rebel returnees so they could start anew, “it seems that recruitment of the NPA has disintegrated.”

Bañez, who just recently received his star to become a brigadier general in the PMC, expressed optimism that soon, Palawan would be cleared of its insurgency problems.

“What remains today in Palawan are just members, who try to create problems here and there because their threats are no longer making fear out of the people. The partnership between the provincial and municipal governments and the military is strong, and all our efforts are aimed at alleviating poverty and making sure people live in a community where peace and order reign,” Bañez furthered.

Since Alvarez became governor of Palawan, members of the NPA have gone down from the mountains to surrender and take a chance at the support the provincial government is offering.

Earlier, Lt. Cherryl Tindog, spokesperson of the WESCOM, said the military in Palawan “has always been ready” in defending the peace and order in the province, as well as give support to those who will choose to lay down their arms to start new lives.

She said the support of Palaweños is also important, particularly in accepting the rebel returnees back in the communities.


House body OKs bill on protecting children in areas of armed conflict

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 26): House body OKs bill on protecting children in areas of armed conflict

The House Committee on the Welfare of Children has reported out for floor deliberation a measure protecting the Filipino children in any part of the country where there are armed conflicts between the government forces and rebel groups.

Rep. Aurora Cerilles (2nd District, Zamboanga del Sur), chairperson of the House body, said the bill (HB 4557 in substitution of the original HB 1332) declares unlawful the acts of killing, torture, intentional maiming, or rape of children, cruel treatment, abduction, using them as hostages, and recruitment of children into government armed forces and other armed groups.

Cerilles also said the bill prohibits the denial of humanitarian access and or assistance to children, attacks on public structures or places where children are usually found; and hamleting, food blockade, intentional armed conflict delays and false reporting of a child in custody, and false branding of children.

The measure shall provide special protection from all forms of abuse, violence, neglect, discrimination and other conditions prejudicial to the development of children in situations of armed conflict and internally displaced.

The measure, to be known as Special Protection of Children in Situations of Armed Conflict Act, shall fully implement the protection guaranteed under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, its Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict, and all other core human rights treaties, particularly, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, among others.

The measure directs the institutionalization of policies, programs, procedures, and services that would facilitate the rescue, release, rehabilitation, and reintegration of children in situations of armed conflict with their families and communities.

Under the bill, parental accountability of children in situations of armed conflict is subject to the existing provisions of Presidential Decree 603 or the Child Welfare Code, the Special Protection of Children Against Child Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act, Republic Act 9208 or the Anti-Trafficking In Persons Act, Republic Act 9231 on the elimination of worst forms of child labor, and Republic Act 10364 or the Expanded Anti-Trafficking In Persons Act.

The measure also grants immunity from suit to anyone who ensures the safety of and provides assistance to children involved in armed conflict.

Criminal cases against children involved in armed conflict shall immediately be dismissed and the child shall be referred to the Local Social Welfare and Development Office (LSWDO), which will assess the child, determine the release to the custody of the parents, or refer the child for prevention, rehabilitation and reintegration.

The bill mandates the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Philippine National Police (PNP), Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP), Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) to submit to the Council for the Welfare of Children (CWC) an inventory of all children in situations of armed conflict under their custody.

The CWC and the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) shall promulgate the implementing rules and regulations of the proposed Act, with proper consultation from all concerned government and non-government organizations, and shall submit to the President and to Congress of the Philippines the annual report.

The CWC shall establish and maintain a database for the monitoring and reporting of children in situations of armed conflict concerns integrated in its monitoring system.

Violators face a fine of not more than P5M and life imprisonment.

Penalties are also imposed on any public officer who prevents, prohibits, refuses or discontinues the implementation of any of provision of the proposed act.

The authors of the bill are Reps. Marcelino Teodoro (1st District, Marikina City), Cinchona Cruz-Gonzales (Party List, CIBAC), Lawrence Lemuel Fortun (1st District, Agusan Del Norte), Ruby Sahali (Lone District, Tawi-Tawi), Gus Tambunting (2nd District, Parañaque City), Lani Mercado-Revilla (2nd District, Cavite), Gina De Venecia (4th District, Pangasinan), Pedro Acharon, Jr. (1st District, South Cotabato), Mariano Piamonte, Jr. (Party List, A Teacher), Magnolia Rosa Antonino-Nadres (4th District, Nueva Ecija), Emmeline Aglipay (Party List, DIWA), Estrellita Suansing (1st District, Nueva Ecija), Isidro Ungab (3rd District, Davao City), Celso Lobregat (1st District, Zamboanga City), Emil Ong ( 2nd District, Northern Samar), Leopoldo Bataoil (2nd District, Pangasinan), Rogelio Espina (Lone District, Biliran), Felix William Fuentebella (4th District Camarines Sur), Elisa Kho (2nd District, Masbate), Angelina Tan (4th District, Quezon), and Linabelle Ruth Villarica (4th District, Bulacan).


'Bushmaster' autocannons to boost surface warfare capability of Gregorio Del Pilar-class frigates --PN

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 26): 'Bushmaster' autocannons to boost surface warfare capability of Gregorio Del Pilar-class frigates --PN

The Philippine Navy (PN) said on Tuesday the installation of the Mark 38 Model 2 "Bushmaster" 25mm autocannons on the two Gregorio Del Pilar-class frigates will greatly increase the surface warfare capability of the vessels.

Surface warfare refers to the capability to detect, engage, and, if necessary, sink naval ships or unidentified vessels that may intrude in the country's vast territorial waters.

"Per available information, the PN's (Gregorio Del Pilar-class) frigates will be installed with (the) 25mm Bushmaster autocannons that will complement the 76mm Oto Melara main gun. It will allow the vessel to handle targets coming fast and that are too close for the ship's 76mm to engage," PN public affairs office chief Lt. Cmdr. Marineth Domingo said.

Aside from this, the Bushmaster autocannon will increase the frigates' firepower, making them more capable of protecting themselves and Philippine waters.

"PF-15 (BRP Gregorio Del Pilar) has the priority in getting these weapons. These will be fitted before the end of the year. After this, the BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PF-16), will be fitted next," Domingo added.

The weapon, commissioned by the U.S. Navy following the terrorist attack on the USS Cole in 2000, was designed to counter high-speed maneuvering surface targets and will be installed in almost all U.S. surface ships by 2015.

The remotely controlled chain gun system can fire as many as 180 25m rounds per minute at targets as far as two kilometers.

These weapons will be fitted by a U.S. Coast Guard team after the PN found out that having a private shipyard install the guns is extremely expensive.


PNP arrest ASG member in Lamitan City, Basilan

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 26): PNP arrest ASG member in Lamitan City, Basilan

A suspected member of the Abu Sayyaf Group tagged in a kidnapping case was arrested in Lamitan City, Basilan, Senior Supt. Wilben Mayor, spokesman of the PNP chief, said on Tuesday.

Mayor identified the suspect as Jauhari Idris alias “Jal and Boy Tinik", who was arrested on Monday around 1:55 a.m. at Barangay Tabdug, Lamitan City, Basilan.

The suspect was arrested in a joint operation of joint members of 53rd and 54th Special Action Company (SAC), 5th Special Action Battalion, and Regional Intelligence Division (RID), Police Regional Office (PRO).

Mayor said the warrant was issued by Provincial Prosecutor Domingo D. Kinazo of the 9th Judicial Region, Branch 1, Isabela City, Basilan for the crime of Kidnapping and Serious Illegal Detention with no bail recommended.

He said Idris is now under the custody of Regional Intelligence Division, PRO-9 for proper disposition.


Islamic State not posing a security threat to PHL --AFP

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 26): Islamic State not posing a security threat to PHL --AFP

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesperson Major Gen. Domingo Tutaan Jr. said on Tuesday the extremist Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is not posing any security threats in the country.

Stressing that there is no Islamic State threat in the Philippines, Tutaan urged the public not be alarmed by reports claiming that scores of Filipino Muslim youths were recruited in Davao City by the militants to aid them in their fighting in Iraq and Syria.

As a precautionary measure, he said that the AFPis verifying all information regarding the matter and coordinating with Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte and former President Fidel V. Ramos on the issue of around 100 Muslim youths joining the jihadists in Iraq.

"The information regarding alleged Filipino youths who were sent to the ISIS is continuously being verified," Tutaan said.

However, Tutaan clarified that they are not dismissing the information of Ramos and Duterte nor accepting it without any reservation.

"We are not totally discounting the report, nor are we contradicting it. We are on the investigation cycle and we are verifying all information," the AFP spokesperson said.


Defense, health departments sign MOA revitalizing VHP

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 26): Defense, health departments sign MOA revitalizing VHP

In a bid to provide quality health care to Filipino veterans and their families, the Defense and Health Departments on Tuesday signed a memorandum of agreement (MOA) revitalizing the Veterans Hospital Program (VHP).

This was done to help veterans and their dependents living in far-flung provinces.

Signing the MOA in behalf of their respective departments were Secretary Voltaire Gazmin for Defense and Secretary Enrique Ona for Health.

This took place at the DND social hall in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

The VHP is expected to benefit about 500,000 Filipino veterans nationwide.

The renewed agreement signed between the two important line agencies of the government seeks to make the implementation of the VHP in all hospitals under the Department of Health nationwide.

The VHP is a program that extends hospitalization and medical care benefits to Filipino veterans and their dependents nationwide in hospitals that are accredited by the Veterans Memorial Medical Center (VMMC) and the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO).

It provides partial hospital subsidy of Php1,200 per day of hospital confinement net of other applicable discounts up to a maximum of 45 days per patient per year to be reimbursed by PVAO-VMMC to the accredited hospitals.

It also gives partial reimbursement of certain select procedures and additional benefits such as cataract surgery, cardiac procedures such as angiogram, angioplasty, pace-maker placement and heart by-pass; endoaneurysmectomy, and chemotherapeutic agents.

In addition, partial reimbursement may also be given to veterans and dependents that need hearing aid, hernia mesh, orthopedic implants and braces and dentures.

According to PVAO statistics, as of August 2014, there are 36,281 living World War II and Post-War veterans and an estimated 140,000 legal dependents who are entitled to avail of hospitalization and health care benefits from the government.

The VHP is seen as an immediate and temporary solution to the concerns of veterans and their families, especially those who are residing in remote provinces who have no convenient access to the VMMC, the only veterans hospital in the country that is located in Quezon City. It is being implemented in partnership with 70 hospitals under the DOH and 531 government hospitals under the local government units.

At present, select private tertiary hospitals have also been selected to give veterans and their dependents more choices.

In his speech, Gazmin said that Congress has taken cognizance of the need to establish more veterans hospitals for those who reside in remote provinces, with House Bill No. 2225 being deliberated in the House of Representatives, and Senate Bill No. 830 in the Senate, both seeking to establish Veterans Memorial Medical Centers in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.

He also appealed for the inclusion of living World War II veterans and surviving spouses as beneficiaries in DOH’s Universal Healthcare Program for them to enjoy PhilHealth coverage as sponsored members.

“There are only 14,013 living World War II veterans at present who die at a rate of 300 per month. We earnestly hope that this request be given utmost priority so that we may realize the ultimate goal that “no veteran should pay for his own medicines,” Gazmin said.

For his part, Ona said they are already exploring the possibility of expanding PhilHealth insurance coverage to include all surviving World War II veterans.

“This is a promise we intend to keep,” he added.

“We cannot overemphasize the invaluable contributions that our veterans have done to our country that enjoys its sovereignty, and to Filipinos who enjoy their freedom… And because many of our veterans are now in the twilight years and with deteriorating health, the Department of Health is here to address and assist in their share of those healthcare needs,” Ona concluded.


President Aquino still reviewing draft Bangsamoro Basic Law

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 26): President Aquino still reviewing draft Bangsamoro Basic Law

President Benigno S. Aquino III is still reviewing the draft of the Bangsamoro Basic Law that was submitted to him last week, a Palace official said Tuesday.

"Patuloy na pinag-aaralan ng Pangulo ang inihaing draft Bangsamoro Basic Law," said Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. in a press briefing in Malacañang.

"Ang susunod na hakbang ay ang agarang paghain nito sa Kogreso bilang urgent legislative measure. Merong sense of urgency dito, dahil sa nailatag na timetable ng Bangsamoro peace process," he added.

According to Coloma, Presidential peace adviser Teresita Deles said both the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) peace panels have already agreed on significant issues, and that is why they decided to forward the draft to the President.

The draft Bangsamoro Basic Law was submitted to President Aquino on Wednesday evening.

Once the draft law is approved by Congress, a plebiscite will be held and a transition authority will be created in preparation for the conduct of an election in the Bangsamoro in 2016.

President Aquino has vowed to push for the conduct of a fair and democratic poll in the region before he leaves office in 2016.


AFP to deploy Marines in coastal areas

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 26): AFP to deploy Marines in coastal areas

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) will be deploying Marine units in the priority coasts of the country.

This is in-line with the military transition to external defense mode, said AFP chief-of-staff Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang said.

Contributing to this is the return of peace to Mindanao area once the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Government of the Philippines conclude their peace talks.

Such priority areas, Catapang said, include the West Philippine Sea, Batanes, Palawan and Tawi Tawi.

At present, Marine units were deployed in Ulugan Bay in Palawan to augment Philippine Navy units.

The area is considered vital by AFP planners as it is very near the features being claimed by the Philippines in the Spratly Islands Group.

"Transition phases would be more on the West Philippine Sea and Batanes," Catapang said.