Thursday, November 6, 2014

Royal Sulu Army trying to resume invasion in Sabah

From Ang Malaya (Nov 7): Royal Sulu Army trying to resume invasion in Sabah

Remaining supporters of the late Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III in Sabah are believed to be trying to resume operations. It can be remembered that supporters of the sultanate, Royal Sulu Army, tried to take over Sabah resulting to lethal encounters with Malaysian government forces February of last year.

“They are mainly in the east-coast areas, such as Semporna and Lahad Datu,” Sabah Police Commissioner Datuk Jalaluddin Abdul Rahman said in a monthly police meeting in Sabah.

Eastern Sabah Security Command and a special police task force are conducting clean up operations against the Royal Sulu Army and its supporters.

Two allegedly RSA members were killed in a shoot out last October 30 in the town of Penampang Baru. Sabah Police Commissioner said they were posing as Malaysians with falsified identification cards. He added that RSA has been raising funds through robberies and kidnappings.

“They have links to the kidnap-for-ransom group led by the notorious Muktadir brothers,” Jalaluddin noted.

Malaysian government chose not to divulge further details on the current operations. Current number of Royal Sulu Army members in Sabah was not disclosed.

4 hurt in Bukidnon bus bombing

From the Philippine Star (Nov 7): 4 hurt in Bukidnon bus bombing

Soldiers and policeman inspect the surroundings of the scene of Thursday's bus bombing in Maramag town in Bukidnon. (PIA Bukidnon Provincial Office)

BUKIDNON - Four passengers were hurt Thursday when a powerful explosion ripped through a bus in Maramag town in the province while en route to Cagayan de Oro City.

The victims identified as Paquito Jivares, 61; Lyn Quadero, 21; Diolola Fostanes, 36 and Daniel Sincero, 45, were seated near the engine at the rear of the Rural Transit Bus, where the improvised explosive device was planted.

Inspector Jiselle Lou Longakit, speaking on behalf of the Bukidnon provincial police office, said the bus came from Tacurong City in Central Mindanao, bound for Cagayan de Oro City.

The blast damaged the engine and shattered the protective glass panes at the rear sides of the bus.

Dozens of buses and business establishments in Tacurong City and nearby towns in the neighboring Sultan Kudarat and Maguindanao provinces have been bombed by extortionists.

Longakit said the wounded passengers have been declared out of danger by doctors at the hospital where they were brought for medication.

Responding police ordnance experts are still trying to determine the type of bomb used in the attack.

Watchmen, peasants repel bandits collecting 'revolutionary tax'

From the Philippine Star (Nov 7): Watchmen, peasants repel bandits collecting 'revolutionary tax'

Community watchmen and armed peasants prevented on late Wednesday an attempt by bandits to intrude into an isolated barangay in Kabacan town to collect revolutionary tax from villagers.

The gang, led by Commander Gafur and Abdilla Matitik, scampered away after failing to breach through the defense perimeters around Barangay Pedtad, which they attacked from different directions.

Superintendent Jordine Maribojo, chief of the Kabacan municipal police, said villagers, led by barangay chair Romeo Mantawil, engaged the bandits, armed with assault rifles and shoulder-fire grenade launchers, in a 20-minute running firefight, preventing them from closing in.

Barangay officials said the marauding gunmen have been trying to get through agricultural enclaves in Barangay Pedtad to collect “protection money” from residents.

The attack was their third in the past six months, according to community leaders.

Mantawil said no one from his constituent-villagers who fused ranks together and helped drive the armed men away was hurt in the encounter.

CPP/Sine Proletaryo: Video -- Yolanda: Rebolusyonaryong pagdaig sa kalamidad

Sine Proletaryo propaganda video posted to the CPP Website (Nov 4):

"Yolanda: Overcoming calamity through revolution" is Sine Proletaryo's offering in commemoration of the November 8 tragedy which killed thousands and ravaged entire cities and communities. Featuring interviews with Red fighters, Party members and leaders of revolutionary mass organizations, as well as footages NPA teams took during and after the storm, it explores how revolution is waged amid the calamity in guerilla fronts in Eastern Visayas and Panay.

CPP/NDF: BS Aquino is a criminal who must face justice over the Yolanda tragedy

NDF propaganda statement posted to the CPP Website (Nov 6): BS Aquino is a criminal who must face justice over the Yolanda tragedy

Fr. Santiago Salas (Ka Sanny)
NDFP Eastern Visayas Chapter
The National Democratic Front-Eastern Visayas today expressed support for the movement of Yolanda survivors against President Benigno Simeon Aquino III and said it is “a movement to bring a criminal to justice for repeatedly violating the rights of the people.” “The reason why the Yolanda survivors are agitating against Aquino is that he should have been thrown out of office and into prison right after Typhoon Yolanda last November 8, 2013,” said Fr. Santiago “Ka Sanny” Salas, NDF-EV spokesperson. “BS Aquino virtually made use of an act of nature as a weapon of mass destruction against the poor, afterwards relentlessly starving, neglecting, displacing, and intimidating them. The last straw is that the Yolanda rehabilitation master plan recently signed by Aquino is nothing but another largesse of the pork barrel regime to big bureaucrats and big business at the expense of the poor.

“Aquino continues to dodge his criminal accountability for the despicable attacks on the social and economic rights of the Yolanda survivors. It is one reason for his evasion of peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines that should already be tackling socio-economic reforms, including the plight of calamity survivors. ”

Fr. Salas slammed Aquino as responsible for thousands of deaths that have become “collateral damage” under the prevailing social injustice in the country. “BS Aquino is more than a dullard but a mean and vicious political leader who, despite forecasts of a supertyphoon and predictions of a devastating storm surge, let millions of poor Filipinos remain in harm’s way. Even the few who were in government evacuation centers were reached and killed by the storm surge in Tacloban City and elsewhere. The number of deaths may reach tens of thousands, while the government estimate of 6,300 killed is understated because unidentified bodies were not counted. In contrast, Vietnam did not have any deaths after it was hit next by Yolanda because its government carried out mandatory evacuation of all vulnerable people.

“Aquino also violated national sovereignty by throwing open the door to US military intervention in the guise of disaster relief and humanitarian assistance to the Yolanda. Thus US imperialism and its puppet Aquino regime paved the way for the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement and the continuation of exploitative neocolonial relations, including economic plunder that also contributes to climate change and consequent natural disasters like Typhoon Yolanda.”

The NDF-EV spokesperson also said Aquino took a week to decide on massive delivery of emergency aid to hard-hit areas, while failing to sustain relief services in the succeeding months. “Aquino let the people languish and sent soldiers first of all to gag the people’s uproar because they had no food, water or electricity in the storm’s aftermath. He also tried to end government relief operations as early as December 2013, and several more times in the ensuing months, even though the people were desperate because the storm had completely destroyed commercial and food crops in the hard-hit areas. Many relief goods even rotted in warehouses without even reaching the Yolanda survivors. The people are still struggling to survive one year after the storm because of Aquino’s paltry relief operations despite the added efforts of international relief organizations of up to P34 trillion pesos of aid that remain unaccounted for.

“The Yolanda rehabilitation master plan is also too little, too late and too corrupt. It took up to a year for Aquino to approve a master plan of P167.9 billion, less than half of the initial P360 billion estimate for reconstruction, the latter also not commensurate to the government-estimated damages of P571.1 billion. The Yolanda survivors are thus left to suffer in the same way like other victims of calamities such as of typhoons Pablo and Sendong, the Bohol earthquake, and the Zamboanga siege.”

Fr. Salas said Aquino arrogantly disenfranchised the urban and rural poor while fattening the pockets of corrupt bureaucrats and big business. “Aquino imposed no-build and no-dwelling policies on the urban poor communities in Tacloban City and other areas. He is thus mandating, for example, the forcible eviction of 33 barangays in Tacloban City slated for completion on December 2014. Thousands still live in tent cities and mediocre government-built bunkhouses that are unfit for human dwelling. Meanwhile, big businessmen who are cronies of the regime are investing in the major commercial and transportation center in Eastern Visayas, Tacloban City, to build not only resettlement sites but business enclaves in areas where the urban poor are to be cleared. They include Manny Pangilinan, Enrique Razon, Henry Sy and other families in various big businesses such as Gokongwei, Aboitiz, Gaisano and others.

“The peasants who are the majority of Yolanda survivors stand to suffer the most. The damage to agriculture which is the main economic activity in Eastern Visayas is estimated by Yolanda survivors at P144 billion pesos. But there is no mention of government aid for agriculture in the P167.9 billion Yolanda rehabilitation master plan. The coconut industry that was completely devastated will take up to a decade to recover. Other commercial and food crops are still struggling, leaving the the peasants poorer than ever.”

According to Fr. Salas, the seething discontent of the Yolanda survivors are leading them to demand the ouster of Aquino. “The Yolanda survivors have been demanding justice in democratic mass struggles since January 2014 even as the Aquino government is wracked by the pork barrel corruption scandal. Aquino has not only ignored their plight but stepped up military operations through Oplan Bayanihan. At least two Yolanda survivors fighting for their rights have been murdered in Samar and Leyte by government forces, while communities of survivors are harassed by the military as well as threatened with withdrawal of government aid. Aquino treats the peasants in Eastern Visayas in the same way of ruling class arrogance in his family’s Hacienda Luisita where he is frustrating the implementation of agrarian reform.”

Fr. Salas saluted the Yolanda survivors for persevering in their struggle for justice. “The justice system of the reactionary ruling system prevents the people from haling BS Aquino to court, much less putting him in prison. It is through their democratic mass struggle and broad unity that the Yolanda survivors and the people can fight to remove Aquino from office and try him as a criminal who so grievously violated the people’s comprehensive rights. By pursuing revolutionary struggle, the people can overthrow the entire reactionary ruling system and attain national liberation and democracy.”

P226B eyed till 2016 for Moro region

From Business World (Nov 6): P226B eyed till 2016 for Moro region

THE ENVISIONED new autonomous Moro region will need about P226 billion to lay development foundations until 2016, with nearly half that amount requiring international assistance and private sector funding, state economic officials said at the Philippines Development Forum for Bangsamoro yesterday in Davao City.

“It’s a work in progress... what was discussed and presented this morning to the President and (Finance) Secretary (Cesar V.) Purisima is an amount equivalent to about P220 billion from 2014 to 2016, and the available fund that’s already... in the budget is about P111 billion,” Budget Secretary Florencio B. Abad told reporters at the sidelines of the forum.

The Bangsamoro Development Plan (BDP), Mr. Abad said, still faces a funding shortfall of about P109 billion.

A presentation of the Bangsamoro Development Authority showed the plan will need P225.7 billion until 2016.

Mr. Abad said figures are preliminary and would need the approval of President Benigno S.C. Aquino III which could come “pretty soon.”

National Treasurer Rosalia V. de Leon said in an interview at the sidelines of the forum that the gap could be filled with additional government funding or tapping the help of the private sector and multilateral lenders.

“It can be national government (NG), it can be private sector, it can be a GOCC (government-owned and -controlled corporation),” Ms. de Leon said.

“Most likely it would be NG. That would be our support to the Bangsamoro.”

Other options being considered include official development assistance, internal revenue allotment of local governments concerned, as well as private sector financing of livelihood programs.

Sought for more details on funding requirements, Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, chairman of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), said “[f]or the long term, it’s more than P500 billion”.


The BDP, described as “a blueprint for the development of the Bangsamoro into a just, peaceful, and prosperous society”, focuses on seven key areas: livelihood, infrastructure, education, social services, environment, culture & identity, as well as security and normalization.

The entire plan has three phases: the first phase (2015 to mid-2016 when Mr. Aquino steps down) will consist of “stabilization and pump-priming programs”, while the second phase (mid-2016 to 2022) will consist of “medium-term strategic interventions and investments to build a strong foundation for the Bangsamoro”. A “third phase” after 2022 will consist of “long-term development towards a sustained just economy”.


Speaking at the forum, Mr. Aquino cited government plans to “uplift” the situation of Muslim Mindanao which, he said, has been deprived of “legitimate opportunities” amid the four-decade-old conflict.

The national government’s role, Mr. Aquino said, ranges from enacting the Bangsamoro Basic Law that will replace the failed Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) with a new political entity that will govern a bigger area to be determined in a plebiscite next year, as well as investments in infrastructure and livelihood programs aimed at supporting “lasting” peace.

The government’s 1996 peace deal with the Moro National Liberation Front, from which the MILF seceded, is widely perceived to have failed in its objective of bringing peace and development to conflict-ridden provinces in Mindanao.

Latest official data cited by the BDP show ARMM’s:

• gross domestic product (GDP) growing 3.6% last year -- the slowest among Mindanao’s six regions -- compared to the entire economy’s 7.2%;

• GDP per capita at P29,608 last year, compared to the entire Mindanao’s P79,902 and the country’s P117,603; and

• poverty incidence at 55.8% in 2012, compared to Mindanao’s 39.1% and 25.2% for the entire country.


In her welcome statement yesterday, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos-Deles cited the need for a massive reconstruction program similar to the Marshall Plan that helped rebuild war-torn Europe.

“Forty years of protracted armed struggle in Mindanao may be a far cry from the aftermath of World War 2 in Europe, but we are here to humbly take counsel from the lessons of the past,” Ms. Quintos-Deles said in her speech, a copy of which was e-mailed to media.

“Where the Marshall Plan was a strategic move to forestall the march of communism over the impoverished millions of Europe, our Bangsamoro Development Plan is our very own shield against the raging forces of extremism that are advancing to the shores of other lands,” she added.

“This is the best way forward.”

In his opening remarks at the forum, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio M. Balisacan cited the need for a strong start.

“We cannot overemphasize the importance of this transition period, which has already begun in mid-2014 and will continue until mid-2016,” Mr. Balisacan said in his speech.

“In just two short years, we need to demonstrate the dividends of peace in the Bangsamoro region by progressively bridging the development gaps caused by decades of conflict; we need to attain the stability and normality necessary to achieve sustainable and inclusive growth in the succeeding years and ensure lasting peace in all its communities,” he added.

“The social, economic and political foundations that will be laid during this time are crucial to the success of the new Bangsamoro government that will be established pursuant to the Bangsamoro Basic Law.”

Representatives of foreign funding agencies expressed support but did not offer specific commitments.

“We are fully committed to help all the parties in successful peace efforts and long-term development,” Axel van Trotsenburg World Bank vice-president for the East Asia and Pacific Region, said in an interview at the sidelines of the forum.

“We also don’t define it by making a big declaration today and then checking out tomorrow,” he added.

“What you need to have is a long-term commitment. We would like to have a very active part.”

Steven A. Rood, The Asia Foundation’s country representative to the Philippines, said: “The fact of the matter is donors take a while because they have to have plans and those plans are approved by headquarters.”

“In the short term, the initial quick winds will be under the national government,” Mr. Rood stressed.

“There are many possibilities. I’m not sure everything will be funded by 2016 [but] the World Bank -- many donors in fact -- have expressed interest.”

Massive hunt launched for Kiram followers in Sabah

From GMA News (Nov 6): Massive hunt launched for Kiram followers in Sabah

Police in Sabah have launched a massive hunt for followers of the late Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III, over allegations they are planning to cause trouble in the area, a Malaysian news site reported Thursday.
Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom) personnel and a special police task force are involved in the hunt, Malaysia's The Star Online reported.
“They are mainly in the east-coast areas, such as Semporna and Lahad Datu,” said Sabah Police Commissioner Datuk Jalaluddin Abdul Rahman.
But he declined to give further details of the operation or say how many of the militants are believed to be there.
Last year, Kiram's followers engaged Sabah and Malaysian authorities in a standoff and deadly encounters, prompting Malaysian authorities to launch an offensive against them.
While Kiram died late last year, he ordered his followers to continue their efforts to reclaim Sabah.
The Star Online report said police presently believe Kiram's followers are planning to cause trouble in Sabah and raise funds through crimes like robberies and kidnappings.
Recent incidents
Last Oct. 30, two suspected Kiram followers were killed in a shootout with police at the Penampang Baru township. Both were described as Filipinos aged 42 and 50.
“Both were illegal immigrants,” Jalaluddin said, adding that one man had a false Malaysian identity card while the other had a Philippine passport.
He added they are not discounting the possibility the Kiram followers have links to a kidnap gang led by the Muktadir brothers.
The Muktadir brothers – Badong, Ali "Brown," and Nikson – are believed to be behind kidnappings in the state over the past few years.
The report cited speculation that the Kiram followers may have recruited former Moro National Liberation Front members.
Meanwhile, a sea curfew enforced in six districts on the east coast of Sabah in July, has been extended to Nov 22.

US, Philippines start 'PHIBLEX' drills as special forces mission draws down

From IHS Janes 360 (Nov 6): US, Philippines start 'PHIBLEX' drills as special forces mission draws down

The view from USS Germantown towards USS Peleliu at Subic Bay on 24 September. Source: US Navy

The United States and Philippine militaries began 11 day-long 'PHIBLEX' amphibious and disaster relief exercises involving about 5,000 sailors and marines from the two countries on 29 September - a month after the US disbanded the Joint Special Operations Task Force - Philippines (JSOTF-P).

Tarawa-class landing helicopter assault ship USS Peleliu (LHA-5) is leading an expeditionary strike group that also includes Whidbey Island-class dock landing ship USS Germantown (LSD-42) and the embarked 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit. The two ships docked in Subic Bay ahead of the drills in the latest example of the increased US presence at its former naval base.

According to the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA), 72 US warships and submarines visited the port between January and June 2014. That figure compares with a total of 88 US naval vessel visits in 2012, 54 in 2011 and 51 in 2010.

The move from JSOFT-P, which ran for 14 years and focused on counter-terrorism in southern Philippines, to more conventional military-to-military exercises reflects changing threat perceptions in Manila and Washington.

The political side of this includes the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), which was signed on 28 April and outlines the ways in which US assets can be deployed in the Philippines. Local sensitivities to the US previous role as a colonial master and enabler of the Marcos regime have ensured that all bases in the Philippines remain under local control, even if the lion's share of the assets deployed there are American.

The signing of EDCA coincided with the deactivation of JSOTF-P, which a US spokesman said had served its purpose. "Our partnership with the Philippine security forces has been successful in drastically reducing the capabilities of domestic and transnational terrorist groups in the Philippines - to the point where they have largely devolved into disorganised groups resorting to criminal undertakings to sustain their activities," a 26 June statement said.

JSOTF-P was established in 2000 and headquartered since 2002 alongside the Armed Forces of the Philippines' (AFP's) Western Mindanao Command at Camp Navarro, Zamboanga, on the southern island of Mindanao. Unlike the 5,000-strong 'PHIBLEX' drills, it typically consisted of 600 personnel from mostly special operations units. In recent months the task force drew down to 320 members.

Under strict rules of engagement, JSOTF-P personnel were barred from combat operations in the Philippines, with US embassy officials in Manila telling IHS Jane's that even a perception of its forces engaging in combat would constitute "mission failure".

JSOTF-P said the cornerstone of its mission has been "capacity building, civil-military operations, information operations and intelligence support operations". The task force has provided unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), unmarked aircraft/helicopters and a maritime support vessel that proved critical in supporting AFP military operations. JSOTF-P's primary targets were Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) and Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) extremists. The ASG has been whittled down to an estimated 300 members.

A transition plan will see "some key capabilities transition to rotational elements, primarily deployed from special operations forces and assigned under PACOM [Pacific Command]," according to a US Department of Defense statement. Part of this transition will entail working with Philippine headquarters rather than tactical units on the ground. It is understood the new organisation will be called the PACOM Augmentation Team, but its size has not been specified.

US military assistance will continue via joint combined exercise training, foreign liaison elements, counter-terrorism advice and expeditionary response capabilities, as illustrated in June when it was announced DynCorp International had been awarded a second option on a USD37.9 million contract to support JSOTF-P facilities and activities until June 2015.

However, the US admits it "does not know what the final disposition will look like," but it will continue supporting the AFP to ensure violent armed groups do not regain a foothold. Shortly before his retirement in July, General Emmanuel Bautista, the AFP's chief of staff, praised enhanced training opportunities with the US. "If we're to defend each other, we need to train together, and we need to develop habits of cooperation on exercise so that we'll be prepared for any contingency," he told IHS Jane's .

Yes, American Commandos Are Still in The Philippines

From War is Boring (Nov 5): Yes, American Commandos Are Still in The Philippines

Special troops help Manila with intel, training and transport

Despite reports that the unit has been disbanded, a secretive U.S. task force is still working with Philippine troops. But even when the element does stand down, American commandos will likely continue to have an important role in the archipelago nation … under some separate organization.
Just goes to show—sometimes switching up organizational charts, while maybe politically beneficial, doesn’t change the reality of day-to-day military operations.
In April, Washington and Manila agreed to refocus their efforts away from fighting Philippine terrorists and separatists. Two months later, the Pentagon’s Pacific headquarters announced plans to close down the Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines.
But “JSOTF-P is still active although the number of personnel assigned has been reduced,” Army major Kari McEwen told War Is Boring by email. The force is “about half [the size] from a few years ago when it was approximately 500,” McEwen added.
And Operation Enduring Freedom-Philippines—the codename for Washington’s mission in the country—is still up and running, U.S. Pacific command explained in response to a Freedom of Information Act request.
Since 2002, the American commandos have helped their Philippine counterparts fight terrorists and separatists in The Philippines’ restive south. The Southeast Asian country quickly became one of the first battlegrounds in Washington’s counterterrorism campaign that followed the 9/11 attacks.
Above—an American commando trains with Philippine troops in 2010. Army photo. At top—a U.S. Air Force MC-130 delivers aid in the aftermath of Typhoon Yolanda. Air Force photo
When Typhoon Yolanda swept through the country in 2013, “teams [were] spread over an area the size of New York to Chicago,” according to an after-action report War Is Boring obtained through another FOIA request.
At the time, the battalion-size unit also had its own small air force and navy, according to a separate declassified briefing.
Military crews and private contractors could snoop on militants and haul personnel and gear around the sprawling archipelago with their planes and helicopters. The small air arm included U-28 spy planes, a CASA 212 twin-engine transport and Bell 214 helicopters.
The task force’s specialized “mothership” vessel could help insert troops into isolated areas. The commandos also had access to smaller amphibious landing craft and other boats.
“Philippine Special Forces … [and] National Police Special Action Forces … instantly recognized the U.S. [Special Operations Forces] brethren” in the aftermath of the typhoon, the task force’s commander declared.
“In the Philippines. SOF has one of the most solid country-team relationships in the entire [region],” the commander’s report added. The task force had “the ability to communicate rapidly with nearly all 27 agencies in the embassy [in Manila].”
U.S. Pacific Command’s current plan is to preserve these relationships by taking a cadre of these commandos and attaching them to the so-called “PACOM Augmentation Team” already operating out of the embassy.
An American special operator talks with Philippine police in 2009. U.S. Navy photo
These augmentation teams are present in embassies around the Pacific performing similar missions. Five years ago, the team in Indonesia was managing “Special Operations Forces (SOF) support to U.S. counterterrorism (CT) activities,” according to a diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks.
The element in The Philippines helped get the word out about aid and services in the wake of Typhoon Yolanda. However, American psychological warfare specialists also apply the same methods to promote friendly governments and disparage insurgent groups.
Of course, the team in The Philippines won’t be out in the field like the current task force is. But the commandos could continue to help share intelligence, ship supplies out to the front lines and move Manila’s troops around.
And as always, the Pentagon maintains plenty of specialized forces in the Pacific region that could rush to The Philippines in a crisis. Two Air Force MC-130s transport planes landed at Clark Air Base in the aftermath of Typhoon Yolanda.
These transports—which are customized for dropping commandos and gear into hostile areas—were already on their way to the country for a training exercise. Special Operations Command also sent a single smaller C-146 to help out.
The Air Force used these two- and four-engine transports to deliver vital humanitarian aid. But the flying branch could just as easily have brought in additional personnel or supplies to help out Manila’s troops.
The regular commando training regimen—nicknamed Balance Piston—is unlikely to end, regardless of where American Special Operations Forces are located in the country. And special operators also take part in larger events such as the annual amphibious landing exercise that wrapped up in October.
The new Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement “will [continue to] facilitate the enhanced rotational presence of U.S. forces, expand opportunities for bilateral training, and support the long-term modernization of the armed forces of The Philippines,” a spokesman for Pacific Command pointed out.
“The long-standing alliance between The Philippines and the United States has contributed to peace, stability and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region for more than 60 years.”

BIFF has split into 3 factions — MILF

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Nov 6): BIFF has split into 3 factions — MILF

The Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement (BIFM) has lost a unified leadership and its armed-wing, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), has split into three factions, according to the head of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which has signed a comprehensive peace agreement with the Philippine government.

Murad Ebrahim, chairman of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), made the claim last Sunday, when asked about the potential threat the group, led by former comrade Ameril Kato, posed to the peace agreement.

Ebrahim, who spoke to reporters during Sunday’s launching of the Bangsamoro Development Plan in nearby Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao, said the MILF has been trying to win BIFF members over.

“We cannot talk to them anymore as a whole organization. What we are doing is the individual approach,” he said.

Ebrahim said that during the talks with individual Kato supporters, some exhibited positive responses although nothing has been finalized as of yet.

“Just like our comrades in the Moro National Liberation Front, they are positive in their response,” he said.

But Ebrahim admitted that there were Kato supporters, whose “doors were already closed” to talks.

He did not say who they were, but added that they were among the “three groups in the BIFF.”

The BIFM was formed by Kato over a serious disagreement with the MILF leadership in the conduct of the peace process. Kato had described the MILF’s stance as a sell-out and not in accordance with what the Muslims had always wanted , which was independence.

In recent months, his armed followers, had repeatedly engaged government troops in Maguindanao.

Abu Misri Mama, BIFF spokesperson, said they were fighting for an independent Bangsamoro.

“We do not care even if we only get one barangay,” he said.

Ebrahim said despite the BIFF’s firm stance against the peace agreement, the MILF has remained hopeful that the BIFF would eventually support the comprehensive peace pact, which would install a new Bangsamoro autonomous entity, a new sharing of wealth and resources that would favor the Bangsamoro and the disarmament of the rebel.

Philippines asks foreign donors for at least P100 billion to develop Bangsamoro region

From InterAksyon (Nov 6): Philippines asks foreign donors for at least P100 billion to develop Bangsamoro region

The Philippines is asking the foreign donor community to pick up less than half the tab for the near-term development of the proposed Bangsamoro region.

Documents furnished by the Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA) show that the new autonomous region would require an estimated P225.7 billion in investments through 2016, covering the transition period until the formation of the area's governing body.

This amount is less than that required to wipe out the government's budget deficit for this year, and is much lower than the combined first-half profit of the country's listed companies.

Creation of the region awaits passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law, which Congress promised to accomplish before yearend. The new autonomous region, along with the Bangsamoro Development Plan (BDP), form part of the peace accord that the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) signed earlier.

Economic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan said the government will fund more than half of the amount required, leaving P109 billion that would be sought from the country's foreign donors.

Philippine economic managers are holding the annual pledging session with the donor community in this city, with the dialogue centering on the Bangsamoro region.

"Securing peace would not only be good for Bangsamoro, but the effects will be seen throughout the entire country. The amount of investments that could flow into Bangsamoro areas could be very substantial," said Balisacan, who is also director-general of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA).

"The whole country will benefit from it. If you watch the news, every time there is a crisis in Mindanao, the entire country is affected. Even tourist spots such as Palawan and Boracay (which are outside Mindanao) are affected because of the lack of peace. If we finally solve this problem, it has been a problem for so many decades, it can be a game-changer for us," he said.

According to NEDA, the peace dividend could range from 0.1-0.3 percentage points of increase in the country's gross domestic product (GDP) growth.

"But it could be higher than that if you consider the investments, the effects of the human capital," Balisacan said.

He said the donor community is "aware of the very backward infrastructure and the power situation" in the Bangsamoro areas.

"The challenges are normal but the thing is, they know, they are aware, and they are open to collaborating with development partners, the national government, they are open to see how we can synergize," Balisacan said.

"The plan is a work in progress. What we would want in particular to know is the development requirements all the way to 2016, because the Bangsamoro government will not come in until then," he said.

"For the meantime, we would want to see what can be mobilized by way of national government. The national government has been investing in Mindanao but we would want to see how it can be more directed and more focused, what resources are available, and how the development partners can also come in," he added.

Torn by decades of war, the Bangsamoro areas have lagged behind the country's development, with GDP growth for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) last year at 3.6 percent, or half the national average of 7.2 percent. Poverty incidence stood at 55.8 percent in ARMM compared with the national average of 25.2 percent.

Abu Sayyaf buying arms, gold with ransom from Germans - intel source

From InterAksyon (Nov 6): Abu Sayyaf buying arms, gold with ransom from Germans - intel source

The photo provided by Pokemon showing German hostages Stefan Viktor Okonek and Henrike Diesen with their Abu Sayyaf captors.

(UDPATE 2 - 4:17 p.m.) Members of the Abu Sayyaf have reportedly been purchasing weapons while their wives are buying up gold in Sulu province with the P250 million the group claims to have received in exchange for freeing two German hostages last month, a police intelligence source said Thursday.

The disclosure by the source, who is beased out of Camp Crame and insists on being identified only by the codename “Pokemon,” came as the Philippine National Police filed charges against a number of alleged Abu Sayyaf members involved in the kidnapping of Germans Stefan Victor Okonek and Henrike Dielen.

Pokemon is the source who earlier provided a photo of Stefan Viktor Okonek, 71, and Henrike Dielen, 55, surrounded by gunmen in front of what appears to be a flag similar to that of the Islamic State.

He also disclosed the presence in the country of a Malaysian operative of the Jemaah Islamiya network, Amin Baco, also known as “Abu Jihad,” who reportedly operates with the Abu Sayyaf, and of a Saudi national identified only as Abdurahman, who is also a JI operative and allegedly trains local extremists in urban warfare.

Reports of a ransom surfaced even before Okonek and Dielen, who were seized from a yacht off Palawan earlier this year, were freed on October 17. Immediately after their release, an Abu Sayyaf spokesman, Abu Rami, said they had received the ransom “in full.”

While the government and military have persistently denied this, a video was posted on Facebook last week, although it has been taken down since, purportedly showing Abu Sayyaf members standing around stacks of money, purportedly the ransom.

Sought for a reaction, Armed Forces chief of staff General Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr. said: "I will have that investigated. But I believe that their (Abu Sayyaf) intention of showing the bundles of money is to confuse the public there was indeed a payoff, which is not true. Who knows the money they were showing off is fake."

The military also said the Abu Sayyaf in Sulu, who are believed to be holding 10 more hostages, including European birdwatchers Ewold Horn of The Netherlands and Leo Vinciguerra of Switzerland, has been on the run from troops sent after them following the Germans’ release.

Pokemon, however, said: “Our alpha (assets) told us that the ASG’s and their wives are on a buying splurge for gold and weapons in Sulu.”
In fact, he said, their informants were claiming that the gold supply in the southern province has been dwindling.

“It now appears that they have indeed received the P250 million ransoms paid for the safe release of two German tourists that the group have seized from Palawan last April,” Pokemon said.

However, drawing on information they had received earlier, Pokemon said the indications are that the Abu Sayyaf received P240 million, with P10 million apparently going to “those who helped in the negotiation or to those who brought the ransom money to the ASG.”

Another Crame intelligence source also said an Abu Sayyaf sub-commander, Alden Bagatti, had been contacting Mindanao-based gunrunners.

This source also said Bagati, who he claimed is married to a military officer from Mindanao, could end up buying weapons from the government arsenal.

Aside from Abu Rami, the PNP Anti-Kidnapping Group filed complaints of kidnapping for ransom and serious illegal detention charges against Mundi Sawadjaan alias Mon, Mudjapar Sawadjaan alias Longhair, Yusop Jalmaan alias Job, Roger Saji and Abu Jannah alias Jibang.

Photo of Abu Jannah alias 'Jibang' (in purple shirt) obtained from police intelligence source 'Pokemon'

Marines kill ‘King Cobra’ in Mindanao

From the Mindanao Examiner BlogSpot site (Nov 5): Marines kill ‘King Cobra’ in Mindanao

Marines killed a notorious gang leader allied with the communist rebel group New People’s Army in a clash Wednesday in the southern Philippines, officials said.

Marine Captain Maria Rowena Muyuela, a spokeswoman for the Western Mindanao Command, said troops killed Ibrahim Dayao in the village of Baluan in Sultan Kudarat’s Palimbang town. She said the fighting only lasted 5 minutes.

She said troops also recovered from the area two automatic rifles, a grenade launcher and munitions and other personal belongings of the slain gang leader known in the province as King Cobra.

Muyuela said Dayao was also behind last month’s killing of a farmer in the province. “There is an ongoing operation to capture other members of Cobra’s gang which is allied with the NPA,” she told the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner.

The NPA has been waging a separatist war for many decades now and has been linked by the military to many attacks in the countryside.

Kidnapped Korean freed in Philippines

From the Mindanao Examiner BlogSpot site (Nov 5): Kidnapped Korean freed in Philippines

Abu Sayyaf militants have freed Wednesday an 18-year old South Korean national after almost a month in captivity in Basilan province in the restive Muslim autonomous region in southern Philippines, officials said.

Captain Franco Suelto, a spokesman for the 1st Infantry Brigade, said Li Pei Zhei was freed in the town of Alicia in Zamboanga Sibugay province. He said the victim, who was kidnapped in the town of Kabasalan in September 11, had been held captive in Basilan.

He said Zhei, who runs a merchandise store in Kabasalan, was brought to Alicia town by two gunmen on a boat and abandoned him there. Zhei then asked villagers for direction to the police headquarters where his friends were waiting.

Suelto did not say if ransom was paid to the kidnappers, but he said Brigadier General Gerry Barrientos, the regional army commander, ordered troops to track down Li’s kidnappers.

Marine Captain Maria Rowena Muyuela, a spokeswoman for the Western Mindanao Command, also confirmed the safe release of Zhei, but was not aware if ransom was paid or not by his family.

Other reports said Zhei is a Chinese national, but police said the young man is a South Korean citizen. It said Zhei was kidnapped by four gunmen from his store and then dragged him to a waiting van which was found burned in the village of Timuay Danda also in Kabasalan town, about 130 kilometers from Zamboanga City.

No individual claimed responsibility for the abduction, but suspicion fell heavily on the Abu Sayyaf tagged as behind previous ransom kidnappings in the province.

Just recently, the Korean Embassy expressed alarm over the rising number of Koreans killed by criminals in the Philippines since early this year.

Ambassador Hyuk Lee warned that Korean businessmen will avoid the Philippines and seek safer places for doing business if crimes against Koreans persist.

“The rising incidence of crimes committed against Koreans while in the Philippines either on vacation or on business is a trend that has alarmed the embassy of the Republic of Korea,” he said, adding, specific measures should be adopted by law enforcement agencies to prevent Koreans from being targeted by kidnap and robbery gangs.

Businessman Bae Minju was killed when his car was stolen by armed men on July 27 in the Philippine capital. He was the ninth Korean reported killed in the Philippines since January. His wife was kidnapped, but later released unharmed. The victims’ family driver was arrested in connection with the crime.

In March, the 21-year old college student Lee Ji Won was kidnapped and murdered by a taxi driver and other assailants. Police have arrested four people linked to the murder, but three others remain at large.

The United Korean Community Association in the Philippines has started raising funds to support the investigation efforts of the police in relation to crimes committed against Korean nationals in the Philippines.

The fund will be the source of incentives to be given for the speedy resolution of cases, as well as for publication of a bulletin that will inform Koreans on safety measures and self-defense techniques.

3 injured in suspected bus bombing in Philippines

From the Mindanao Examiner BlogSpot site (Nov 6): 3 injured in suspected bus bombing in Philippines

Provincial buses of the Rural Transit Mindanao have been targeted in the past by rebels in the southern Philippines. (Mindanao Examiner Photo - Geo Solmerano)

At least 3 people were injured when a suspected bomb explosion ripped through a provincial bus on Thursday in the southern Philippine province of Bukidnon, military officials said.

Officials said the bus, owned by Rural Transit Mindanao, originated from Tacurong City, was traveling to Cagayan de Oro City when the explosion occurred on a highway in Maramag town in Bukidnon province.

The 4th Infantry Division in Cagayan de Oro City said at least 3 passengers were wounded in the blast. “Troops from the 23rd Infantry Battalion and the local police authorities are investigating the explosion that injured three people,” Major Christian Uy, an army spokesman, told the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner.

The military’s Western Mindanao Command said the explosion shattered the rear portion of the bus. “The bus sustained damages and the blast shattered the back most portion windows and injured a still undetermined number of passengers,” Captain Maria Rowena Muyuela, a spokeswoman, said, adding, authorities were investigating the cause of the blast.

Just in April, security forces also recovered an improvised explosive planted on another Rural Transit bus in Tacurong City. The bomb, assembled from a 60mm mortar attached to an old mobile phone and concealed in a cardboard box, was discovered by two passengers and immediately disarmed by soldiers.

But in August 2012, a bomb explosion ripped through a Rural bus in Zamboanga City and wounded at least 5 people, including a boy. The powerful blast tore open the rear and the left side of the bus, which came from Pagadian City in Zamboanga del Sur province.

No individual or group claimed responsibility for the bombing, but security forces are battling rebels in Mindanao.

Deadly Abu Sayyaf attack in Basilan, what went wrong?

From the Mindanao Examiner BlogSpot site (Nov 6): Deadly Abu Sayyaf attack in Basilan, what went wrong?

Soldiers carry one of six caskets of soldiers slain in Abu Sayyaf attack in the restive province of Basilan in southern Philippines.(Mindanao Examiner Photo - Ely Dumaboc)

A military investigation into the recent deadly attack by the al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf in Basilan province showed that militants were targeting to kill the local brigade commander and probably other government officials in his group who was due to inspect a government road project in Sumisip town.

Colonel Roland Bautista, who heads the 104th Infantry Brigade in the restive province, was to inspect a portion of the circumferential road in the town with Mujiv Hataman, the governor of the Muslim autonomous region, a day after militants led by Radzmi Jannatul attacked and killed 6 army soldiers sent to secure the area.

Among those killed in the November 2 attack in the village of Libug was 2nd Lieutenant Jun Corpuz, platoon leader of the Alpha Company of the 64th Infantry Battalion. Two other soldiers survived, but were wounded in the fighting that ensued in Sumisip, a known stronghold of the Abu Sayyaf. 

The soldiers were part a team of eight sent by Lt. Col. Melisan Raymund Recaido, the battalion commander, according to an army officer privy to the probe which was ordered by Armed Forces chief General Gregorio Catapang.

“They group of Lt. Jun Corpuz were sent by the battalion commander to secure the area where Colonel Roland Bautista was due to visit the next day, November 3, to inspect the road project in Sumisip town, but unknown to them, the Abu Sayyaf (militants) were already encamped in Libug and were just waiting for the arrival of the brigade commander and his party.”

“Colonel Bautista was the real target of the Abu Sayyaf and the presence of the group of Lt. Corpuz in the village of Libug was just coincidental and unfortunate. The eight soldiers broke into two groups and the four were killed because of an explosion from a grenade, probably fired from an M203, and one soldier was even hacked by the Abu Sayyaf, and Lt. Corpuz was eventually shot and killed while trying to maneuver. Two soldiers survived the fierce fighting, but they are wounded as well,” the source told the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner.

The officer said the investigation does not stop there because probers are now looking into why Corpuz was sent to Sumisip to clear an area with only a squad of 7 soldiers instead of at least a section comprising 14 soldiers. Corpuz’s group was one of three deployed one kilometer apart from each other in Sumisip that prevented soldiers from reinforcing the embattled squad.

The source before troops could reinforce the embattled soldiers only a small group of Muslim pro-government militias manning a detachment from afar aided the group of Corpuz by sniping Abu Sayyaf fighters. But the same group may have known about the presence of the militants in the village of Libug because they refused to join Corpuz’s team in securing the area and gave various alibis. “That is also being investigated now. They may have intelligence information about the Abu Sayyaf, but did not share this to Lt. Corpuz and opted to stay in the detachment,” the officer said.

The deadly attack on Corpuz also exposed the vulnerability of the 64th Infantry Battalion – it lack soldiers to effectively carry out its mission in Basilan. The battalion, which originally headquartered in Maguindanao province, has only about 380 soldiers instead of 525 troops, and many of its members had deserted or gone on leave without permission after learning they would be deployed to Basilan.

It was unknown whether Recaido would be relieved by Catapang as battalion commander following the death of Corpuz and his soldiers.

Security officials said Corpuz’s team was patrolling the village when they engaged about 20 militants sparking a fierce gun battle that lasted almost 45 minutes. They said the Abu Sayyaf attack was meant to derail the completion of the 135-kilometer Basilan Circumferential Road project launched by the Department of Public Works and Highways during the time of President Fidel Ramos in the 1990s, but works continue up to now.

The military also helped construct the road project which was financed through a concessional facility extended by Saudi Arabia.  The loan of 75 million Saudi riyals was extended on October 2005 - to revive the project after being stalled for many years - while the Filipino government provided a counterpart fund of 1.118 billion pesos.

The circumferential road project is seen as a major infrastructure initiative to lift Basilan from poverty and bring prosperity in the province as part of the government’s campaign against local terrorism and lawlessness in the area.