Sunday, December 28, 2014

Army debunks NPA accusation on SOMO violation

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 29): Army debunks NPA accusation on SOMO violation

The 67th Infantry Battalion conducting Peace and Development Outreach Program (PDOP) in the First District of Davao Oriental denounced the accusations of the Communist Party of the Philippines and New People’s Army (CPP-NPA)against the 67IB alleged violations of the AFP’s unilateral one-month suspension of military operations (SOMO) in the observance of Yuletide season.

PDOP is part of the “Whole of Government Approach” to resolve issues on the ground especially those that directly affect the peace and development situation in the area. Peace and Development Teams (PDTs) of 67th Infantry Battalion were already deployed in post-conflict areas (PCAs) of Boston, Cateel, Baganga and Caraga, Davao Oriental and continuously conducting peace advocacy and development programs, project and activities in those remote areas which are considered “susceptible to CNN recruitment through intimidations and fears” long before the AFP’s announcement of the SOMO on December 18, contrary to the allegations of the NPA.

The deployment of PDTs is highly supported and appreciated by the different Local Government Units (LGUs) and their constituents as manifested in their Letter of Acceptance and the voluntarily executed Pledge of Support to the AFP soldiers presence in those areas.

During this season of Christmas, gift-giving of food packs for the residents, slippers and backpacks for the children is part of the yearly activity of this Battalion to share something to our less-privileged countrymen.

Normally, the PDTs activities in PCAs are community assistances such as the delivery of different livelihood trainings and support like Staple Food Production (Corn/Gulayan/Cassava/Peanuts), Livestocks Raising, Fishponds, Small-scale business/IGP ventures, distribution of different farm input seedlings to the populace and also related capability trainings on Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Response (HADR) to prepare them in the event of calamities.

Likewise, the AFP does the linkaging works on the facilitation of Agricultural Post-harvest equipment, conduct of Medical/Dental Mission, Community-based projects like the Water System, Extension Schools and ‘Pabahay’ Programs. These are all “continuing programs” as we focus on addressing the needs of the people and capacitate them to be development-ready in tandem with concerned LGU and other government agencies in the area.

PDTs in Barangay Malibago were already in the area since second quarter of the year to secure the ongoing road rehabilitation from Barangay Taytayan to Sitio Patong of Barangay Malibago which is a joint PLGU/MLGU/AFP effort while PDTs in Sitio Bangas, Barangay Mainit were conducting Needs Assessment Surveys (NAS) to identify the current issues and concerns of the residents in order to be appropriately resolved in collaboration with the Local Government of Davao Oriental together with line agencies.

On the other hand, PDTs in Barangay Binondo of Baganga have just finished and turned over the Barangay Health Sub-station that they started in 2013. The presence of military forces in these depressed areas is continuing because they are mandated to protect and secure the people from all kinds of threat.

Moreover, 67IB soldiers are there to secure the upcoming government flagship projects that are usual targets of NPA attacks. These are the following: Integrated Products Agri-farming, Hydro-electric power source, Tourist sites development and Road concreting of Embarcadero-Binondo roadnet under the OPAPP-PAMANA Projects.

“The good relationship between the AFP forces and civilians is a living proof that the people in Davao Oriental are fed up already and do not support and believe the NPA and its Communist Ideology as a solution to basic problems in the communities. The populace really wanted development to flourish in their areas and revive once and for all the unity among them through the ‘Bayanihan’ Spirit.” LTC Michael Banua, Battalion Commander of 67th Infantry Battalion said.

“It saddens us that the NPA does not want development to enter in these areas which ironically is the main issue that they are exploiting unceasingly. Now that the government is seriously attending to these issues and concerns, they are obstructing its implementation. If their cause is really for the good of the people, why not lay down their arms and join us in achieving lasting peace and development of our country,” Banua posed the challenge.

Truth of the matter, the success of PDOP activities through the “Convergence Effort” of LGUs/LGAs and the AFP that effectively address the issues and concerns of the local populace by focusing also on “People-centered Approach” really hurt the CPP-NPA and its Legal Left Organizations (LLOs) in re-influencing their former mass bases as they have basically no more elbow room to pursue their ill motives of destroying the image of the government and conduct communist teach-ins by force and creating fears among the people if they would not cooperate. Many of our countrymen testify that they are just afraid or scared by the NPAs but do not believe anymore their Communist indoctrination of fighting the Government, as a solution to achieving Peace and Development in the countryside.

“We in the AFP and the rest of our stakeholders will continue to be the catalysts for peace and development in Davao Oriental and those ongoing humanitarian and non-violent efforts are consistent and in adherence to the provisions of SOMO,” Banua said.

Troops foil bombing attempt in Lamitan City

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 29): Troops foil bombing attempt in Lamitan City
Government troops have foiled a roadside bombing attempt by suspected Abu Sayyaf brigands in Lamitan City, Basilan province, a police official said.

Senior Insp. Gean Gallardo, Lamitan City police chief, said this came about following the discovery of an improvised bomb around 3:30 p.m. Saturday along the Basilan circumferential road particularly in Barangay Parangbasak, Lamitan City.

Gallardo said the improvised bomb was discovered following information from concerned residents in the area.

Gallardo said they immediately cordoned the place and coordinated with the Army’s explosive ordnance demolition (EOD) for proper action.

He said Army’s 39th EOD team rendered safe procedures and disrupted the improvised bomb around 4:45 p.m. of the same day.

He said the component of the IED was placed in a paint container with attached handheld as the triggering device.

Meanwhile, Gallardo ordered his personnel to intensify roving patrol along the highway in Lamitan City to ensure the protection of motorists in the area.

2 roadside bombings foiled

From the Sub Star-Zamboanga (Dec 28): 2 roadside bombings foiled

Basilan province from Google Maps.

The police and military authorities have foiled roadside bombing attempts in the provinces of Basilan and Surigao del Sur, official said.

Both attempts were foiled with the discovery of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) through information provided by concerned residents.

The IED in Basilan was discovered around 3:30 p.m. Saturday along the circumferential road of the province in the village of Parangbasak, Lamitan City.

Senior Inspector Gean Gallardo, Lamitan City police chief, said his personnel in coordination with the 3rd Scout Ranger Battalion troops immediately cordoned the area to prevent casualty especially civilian motorists.

Gallardo said the Army’s 39th Explosive Ordnance Demolition Team rendered safe procedures and disrupted the improvised bomb around 4:45 p.m. of the same day.

Gallardo said the component of the IED was placed in paint container with handheld radio attached as the triggering device.

Gallardo said they are conducting thorough investigation to unmask the perpetrators of the bombing attempt.

The IED in Surigao del Sur was discovered Friday along the San Isidro-Mahaba Road in the municipality of Marihatag.

Major Ezra Balagtey, Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom) public affairs officer, disclosed that the EOD and K-9 teams from the Army’s 4th Infantry Division were not able to immediately render safe procedure due to the presence of New People’s Army (NPA) snipers.

Balagtey said the 2nd Scout Ranger Battalion troops and policemen were forced to close the highway to prevent untoward incidents.
He said the highway remained impassable for several hours until 9 p.m. Friday since the EOD and K-9 Teams only managed to render safety recovery procedure until night time.

Balagtey said the EOD and K-9 Teams have recovered in the area a five-kilogram improvised bomb fashioned out as a landmine with complete accessories such as electric wire and blasting cap.

Nevertheless, Balagtey said the attempt of the NPA rebels to set-off a landmine was foiled.

Gov’t, MILF peace panels to strengthen 2014 milestones

From the Business World (Dec 28): Gov’t, MILF peace panels to strengthen 2014 milestones

Members of the government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) peace panels hail 2014 as a milestone year for finding a resolution to the drawn-out conflict in Muslim areas in southern Philippines and they are intent on fortifying what has been achieved on paper through actual work on the ground.

“We achieved many milestones for the peace process in 2014. Of utmost importance, we signed the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro with the MILF on March 27, successfully concluding more than 17 years of negotiations and signaling an end to the decades-old conflict,” Presidential Peace Adviser Teresita Q. Deles said in an interview.

Consequently, the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) was submitted on Sept. 10 to both houses of Congress and public consultations were held in various parts of Mindanao as part of the deliberation process.

Members of both the House of Representatives and the Senate have committed to pass the BBL within the first quarter of 2015.

Ms. Deles, whose office oversees the government’s peace initiatives with armed groups, said the historic signing of the peace agreement has once again demonstrated that the longstanding problem in Mindanao could be resolved through a genuine negotiation.

Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, the government chief negotiator with the MILF, described 2014 as a year when the government and the MILF established foundations to ensure that the southern peace process will not suffer a setback in the future.

“[E]verything is on track and moving steadily towards the establishment of the Bangsamoro by 2016. There will definitely be humps and grinds along the way but we know that, with the support of our people, we will be able to overcome all challenges in the spirit of true partnership with the MILF,” Ms. Deles said.

However, one of the challenges is making the people understand that the peace deal between the MILF and the government is separate from the previous pacts that were signed between the government and another Muslim group, the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).

“It is, in fact, an enhanced version of all previous peace agreements to make the autonomous region in Mindanao as genuine as possible,” Mohagher Iqbal, MILF’s chief negotiator, said, stressing that the BBL built on the gains as well as the lessons of the past agreements.

Some hardliners in the MNLF -- an organization from which the MILF broke away from and has since disintegrated into several other factions -- are opposing the MILF-government arrangement, claiming that it oversteps the previous peace agreements.

The MNLF faction under Nur Misuari, who led the previous peace deal with the government signed in 1996 under the Ramos administration, launched a siege in Zamboanga City in September 2013 ostensibly to express its disagreement to envisioned new Bangsamoro territory.

However, other MNLF senior leaders have expressed support for the proposed BBL.

Abdul “Kong” Sahrin, secretary-general of the MNLF central committee under the Sema faction, said his group believes there are ways on ensuring that the gains of the previous peace agreements will not be forgotten.

MNLF faction’s leader Muslimin Sema is among those pushing for the harmonization of all southern peace agreements and is part of the so called “Jeddah Formula” that composed the Bangsamoro Coordination Forum (BCF) along with senior leaders of the MILF.

The BCF was created by the 57-nation Organization of the Islamic Cooperation to bridge the differences of the two Moro groups. The BCF was reactivated in Saudi last October.

Once the BBL is passed by Congress and signed by the President, the future Bangsamoro region, which will be run under a parliamentary form of government, will replace the existing Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

According to Ms. Deles, the Bangsamoro law “will entrench the Bangsamoro that is expected to bring shared security and shared prosperity in Bangsamoro and the rest of the country, which we expect to radiate to our ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) neighbors and beyond.”

“Preparations are under way for the implementation of the normalization process. The normalization bodies have been activated and operationalized and we hope to start the first phase of decommissioning by early next year,” she added.

Paduano denies absenteeism report

From the Sun Star-Bacolod (Dec 27): Paduano denies absenteeism report

ABANG Lingkod party-list Rep. Joseph Stephen Paduano denied reports that came out in national media that he is included in the list of congressman with the most number of absences.

“I have not seen the report but one of my staff reported it to me,” Paduano said.

A national TV report stated that Paduano is on the list of congressmen with the most number of absences.

The list is led by former president and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who has no attendance at all.

Paduano is listed as present in only five sessions, followed by another Negros Occidental Rep. Julio Ledesma IV of the First District, with only 32 sessions present.

“To set the record straight, since I was proclaimed I have never been absent from Congress," he said. “I have never been absent from my committees’ hearings, much more from the plenary."

“I plan to send a statement to the national media to clarify the report." Paduano said.
He added that every week he goes to Manila for three to four days to attend the sessions and return home to Bacolod during Fridays and weekends.

"Maybe it was a one year report of the House, because from May 28, 2014 downward or a total of about 10 months, I was not present as I was not yet proclaimed," Paduano said.

Paduano, also known as Carapali Luahalti when he was still national commander of the Revolutionary Proletarian Army-Alex Boncayao Brigade, was proclaimed only in May this year.

In the May 2013 elections, Abang Lingkod was disqualified by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) after it was found not representing any marginalized sector.

The Supreme Court later ordered the Comelec to proclaim previously disqualified Abang Lingkod as one of the winning groups in the May 2013 party-list elections.

CPP anniversary peaceful – military

From the Sun Star-Bacolod (Dec 27): CPP anniversary peaceful – military

 THE Philippine Army reported that no violence was committed related to the 46th anniversary of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) Friday.

The military in Negros Occidental said that streamers were put up in the approach of Barangay Suay, Himamaylan City bearing the words in red paint," NPA checkpoint and 46th Anniversary of the NPA."

The Himamaylan City Police Station has already ordered the removal of the streamers.

Meanwhile, the CPP’s armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA), under the Leonardo Panaligan Command said in a statement that the recruitment activities of the NPA continue.

“In fact, in one week's time only, (we) were able to recruit about 45 new members,” said its spokesman Ka JB Regalado.

Regalado said that most of the new recruits are students and that the rebels continue to have a strong mass base.

CPP: Photos -- CPP 46th Anniversary in Marihatag, Surigao del Sur

Photo album posted to the CPP Website (Dec 26): Photos: CPP 46th Anniversary in Marihatag, Surigao del Sur

Despite the heavy rains, distance and attempts of of the scout rangers of the AFP to prevent the people from attending, more than 15,000 people attended the Peace Consultation and Celebration of the 46th anniversary of the CPP in Marihatag, Surigao del Sur last December 26, 2014
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CPP/NPA: Upat ang patay ug lain pang pito ang samaron sa mga sundalo sa Bravo Company sa 29th IB

NPA propaganda statement posted to the CPP Website (Dec 23): Upat ang patay ug lain pang pito ang samaron sa mga sundalo sa Bravo Company sa 29th IB (Four soldiers dead and seven others wounded in Bravo Company of the 29th IB)

Omar Ibarra
Western Agusan Norte-Agusan Sur Sub-Regional Command (Western Agusan Norte-Agusan Sur Sub-Regional Command)

Upat ang patay ug lain pang pito ang samaron sa mga sundalo sa Bravo Company sa 29th IB dihang gipabuthan sa command detonated explosive sa usa ka tim sa New People’s Army ilalum sa Western Agusan Norte – Agusan Sur Sub-Regional Command niadtong Disyembre 22 sa alas 8:00 sa buntag sa Rizal, Buenavista, Agusan del Norte.

Gikan sa command post sa Bravo Company sa Barangay Rizal ang usa ka platun nga tropa padulong sa pagrelyibo sa ilang tropa nga nagpabiling nagpundo sa Sitio Bangkaling, Nongnong, Butuan City sakay sa usa ka six by six truck. Wala na nakabalos pa pagpabuto ang mga nagsakay sa 6 × 6 tungod sa impact sa buto sa eksplosibo. Nakalabay ang lima ka minutos ayha nakaabot ang laing tropa nila aron pag-rescue. Ang mga sundalo nga kintahay nag-rescue, nagpataka pagpamusil punting bisan asa nga nakaigo sa usa ka batan-on nga naglampas sa pilapil sa ilang basakan. Gawas sa boto sa eksplosibo, wala nay laing boto nga naggikan sa tampi sa mga NPA. Busa, klaro nga bunga lang sa hunahuna sa mga sundalo sa 29th IB ang ilang estorya sa 10-ka minuto nga sinukliay og bala.

Bisan unsaon pagpangulipas sa militar ug kapulisan ang kaswalti sa maong hitabo, dili matago sa daghang mga lumulupyo sa palibot, mga lumalabay sa nahitaboan ug mga nanimuyo silingan sa ilang kampo ang tinuod nga ihap sa ilang kaswalti.

Kining maong hitabo tin-aw nga nagbutyag sa pagka-bakak sa mga pamahayag sa mga tigpamaba sa AFP ug PNP nga hugot silang nagsunod sa mando sa SOMO ug SOPO sa ilang itoy nga presidenteng si BS Aquino. Hangtud karon, wala nagwidro ang usa ka platun nga tropa sa 29th IB nga nagpabilin pa sa Sitio Bangkaling, Nongnong, Butuan City. Ang pagpadayon sa mga COPD ug ang tinalawan nga pagpusil-patay kang Brgy. Kapitan Nicasio Precioso, Sr. nga taga- Balit, San Luis, Agusan del Sur, dili kaduha-duhaang binuhatan sa mga pasistang kasundaluhan nga maoy tinuod nga nagasabwag og terorismo sa kabukiran bisan panahon sa Kapaskuhan.

Sa laing bahin, ang tanang yunit gerilya sa New People’s Army ug mga milisyang bayan, hugot nga mosanong sa mando sa Komite Sentral sa Partido Komunista sa Pilipinas sa pagsuspende sa tanang opensibang aksyon sa Disyembre 24 hangtud 26 sa pagsaulog sa pasko ug ika-46 nga anibersaryo sa PKP, Disyembre 31 hangtud Enero 1, 2015 sa pagsugat sa bag-ong tuig, ug Enero 15 ngadto sa 19, 2015 sa pagbisita sa Pilipinas ni Pope Francis.

Panahon niining deklarasyon sa ceasefire, magpabiling alerto, aktibong magdepensa, ug andam makig-away ang tanang mga yunit sa NPA ug milisyang bayan aron depensahan ang kaugalingon kung dunay ilunsad nga sekretong pagpangatake ang mga tropa sa APF ug kapulisan o kaha sa pagpakgang sa bisan unsang pagsulay sa paghimo og bangis nga pagpasipala sa katawhan.

MILF: Passage of BBL urged ahead of election fever

Posted to the MILF Website (Dec 28): Passage of BBL urged ahead of election fever


MalacaƱang is urging Congress to pass the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law and other priority measures before the election fever heats up in 2015, the penultimate year of the Aquino administration.
The Aquino government is seeking to institutionalize reforms in Mindanao by replacing the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao with a Bangsamoro government.

“Hopefully we succeed in 2015 and the remainder of the President’s term,” deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said yesterday.

“This coming year, in the first quarter, the government will be quite busy. But, notwithstanding that, our priority of course is the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law, which is already in Congress,” Valte said over radio dzRB.

Congress adjourned on Dec. 20 for the holidays and will resume session on Jan. 19.
Valte said lawmakers were busy with the 2015 national budget in the last quarter of the year.

She noted the passage of the budget has been getting faster each year since the Aquino administration took over.

“We are hoping that our priority pieces of legislation will be given ample attention,” Valte said, adding the executive branch would be busy with the visit of Pope Francis in January and the country’s hosting of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Leaders’ Summit and other meetings also next year.

Valte said they were hoping there would be no delays in the passage of important bills even as candidates for the 2016 general elections would likely start preparing for their campaign.

“Of course, being a separate and co-equal branch of government, we will continue to work with them on the priority pieces of legislation that both sides would want to see coming to fruition for 2015,” Valte said.

She said the executive would not be distracted from their job.

“There are still quite a lot of things that need to be done,” Valte said.
Valte maintained President Aquino himself was focused on work and had only been giving hints as to what characteristics his preferred successor should have.

She said the President wants someone who can continue the reforms he has started and which have been fueling economic growth.

“Even to us, the President has not mentioned when he would announce his choice for the person that he would support in 2016,” Valte said.

Greater effort

What is certain, she said, is the administration’s commitment to work much harder in its last one and a half years.

As President Aquino noted in his Christmas message, Valte said the season “offers each one of us a chance to look back and reflect on the year that was” as well as “prepare for the coming year.”

“The Aquino administration has always engaged in this process of reflection and learning. Government can never be complacent: each reform, each program is consistently evaluated, as we continue to find ways to improve our service to the Filipino people,” Valte said.

Valte said the 2015 national budget embodied such principle as the document itself contained significant reforms.

“For instance, Performance Informed Budgeting makes clear the targets and accountabilities of each agency alongside their respective budgets. There is also the (General Appropriations Act)-as-Release-Document system, which allows government to speed up the implementation of programs and projects,” Valte said.
She also said the President’s visit to areas affected by Typhoon Ruby last Monday reflected the government’s commitment to learning and improving on past efforts.

“National government, affected local government units and the citizenry all exhibited the highest degree of cooperation and preparation before Ruby hit, minimizing the loss of life and damage to property,” she said.

“In all these efforts, as the President has always said, it is by working together that the Filipino people have been able to spur positive change in the country – change that will continue in the year ahead, so long as both the government and the citizenry continue to engage each other in a constructive and positive manner,” Valte said.

As for administration achievements in the last four and a half years, Valte cited the following as contained in an infographic prepared by the Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office: average gross domestic product of six percent (from 4.6 percent in 2007 to second quarter of 2010); 7,125.63 closing value as of Dec. 19 at the Philippine Stock Exchange Index (from 3,372.71 closing value on June 29, 2010); investment grade from various credit rating agencies (from speculative grade in the past administration); $4.88-billion foreign direct investments in the first three quarters of 2014 (from $2.06 billion full year in 2009 and $1.07 billion full year in 2010); and tax revenues to GDP ratio of 13.3 percent in 2013 (from 12.2 percent and 12.1 percent in 2009 and 2010, respectively).

Others include: 4,478,562 households and homeless street families as conditional cash transfer beneficiaries as of November of this year from 786,534 households as of July 2010; 81.76 million covered by the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. as of August 2014 from 47.07 million as of December 2010; employment rate of 94 percent as of October of this year from 92.9 percent as of October 2009; P383.1-billion budget for education in 2014 from P225.1 billion in 2010; 66,813 classrooms built from July 2010 to 2013 from 17,305 from 2005 to June 2010; and 4,681,307 tourist arrivals in 2013 from 3,017,099 in 2009.

Valte said the government is also in the thick of preparations for the visit of Pope Francis next month and the country’s hosting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Leaders’ Summit in November 2015.

Security is the number one concern during the pope’s visit, Valte said, as the pontiff would have various activities that are expected to be crowd drawers, including those in the Rizal Park, Manila Cathedral, University of Santo Tomas and Tacloban City in Leyte. The pope, as head of state of the Vatican, will also have a meeting with President Aquino.

With regard to APEC, Valte said they were making sure that the venues will be well-prepared, as it is the biggest event in November.

“We are expecting 10,000 visitors for the APEC Leaders’ week in November...The other smaller events, the maximum is around 1,400; sometimes we will host 300 (or) 400 people...We are also preparing for those with equal fervor,” Valte said.

MILF: BBL constitutional pitfalls noted

Posted to the MILF Website (Dec 28): BBL constitutional pitfalls noted

The vast powers on fiscal autonomy and taxation to be given the envisioned Bangsamoro government could be a constitutional pitfall for the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).
The Senate Tax Study and Research Office (STSRO) said the draft law contained in Senate Bill 2408 is replete with tax and policy provisions that could run counter to the Constitution.

It has submitted a copy of the study to the Senate committee on local government chaired by Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

In its official publication Tax Bits, the STSRO underscored section 1 of the proposed proposed law seeking to give the envisioned Bangsamoro government fiscal autonomy for it to attain the highest form of economic self-sufficiency and genuine development.
“This preliminary section provides a hint as to the scope of the delegated taxing powers given to those under the territory of the proposed Bangsamoro,” the STSRO said.

“The (envisioned) Bangsamoro government shall be entitled to all fund sources enumerated herein, and shall have the power to create its sources of revenues as provided in this law. It shall prepare its budget and shall allocate funds in accordance with an annual appropriations law passed by the Bangsamoro Parliament.

“The form, content and manner of preparation of the budget shall be prescribed by law enacted by the Bangsamoro Parliament.”

The STSRO said the Constitution does not allow Congress to delegate its legislative powers.

Section 24 of the Constitution provides: “All appropriation, revenue or tariff bills, bills authorizing increase of the public debt, bills of local application and private bills, shall originate exclusively in the House of Representatives, but the Senate may proposed or concur with amendments.”

The STSRO said the proposed law would give the envisioned Bangsamoro government the power of taxation.

The envisioned Bangsamoro government would be allowed to collect capital gains tax, documentary stamp tax, donor’s tax, estate tax, income tax on banks and other financial institutions, and fees on vessels registered with the Bangsamoro government, and on agricultural and aquatic products, and tolls on bridges and roads.

The STSRO said the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) adheres to the principle of a “one-fund” concept under Presidential Decree No. 1177.

The one-fund policy concept requires that all income and revenues of the government must accrue to the General Fund.

It can therefore be freely allocated to fund programs and projects of government as prioritized.

Fiscal autonomy
In another position paper, lawyer Sherry Ann Salazar, Senate Indirect Taxes Branch director, said fiscal autonomy under Republic Acts 6734 and 9054, the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) was given the power to create its own sources of revenues and to levy taxes, fees and charges, subject only to the provisions under the Constitution and the Organic Act.

Salazar said the definition of fiscal autonomy under the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law is more extensive.

“This is because emphasis is given on its right to attain the highest form of economic self-sufficiency and genuine development,” she said.

While the Commission on Audit (COA) can audit the ARMM, the Bangsamoro government will be given authority to create its own auditing body.

“The STSRO said the enactment of Senate Bill 2408 would jeopardized the powers of the Internal Revenue commissioner to supervise the collection of national internal revenue taxes and to interpret tax laws and to decide tax cases.”

The envisioned Bangsamoro government would be granted the power to offer tax incentives to attract investors.

The STSRO also raised the administrative problem on revenue-sharing scheme.

“The envisioned Bangsamoro government would be allowed to establish economic zones and industrial centers and free ports, to receive grants and donations; regulate the manufacture and distribution of foods, drinks, drugs and tobacco, establish Awqaf (endowment) and charitable trusts, foreign investment, and to operate public utilities.

Misuari rejects invitation

Nur Misuari has rejected an invitation to attend a congressional hearing on the proposed BBL.

Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) spokesman Absalum Cerveza said Misuari or any of his representative is not interested in participating in the hearing as the draft law would practically abrogate the 1996 peace agreement between the government and the MNLF.

He has already informed an emissary of Senate committee on local governments chairman Ferdinand Marcos II about Misuari’s decision, he added.

In a telephone interview, Cerveza told The STAR the MNLF has not yet received the invitation of Cagayan de Oro city Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, but that they would make the same response once they receive it.

“The Bangsamoro Basic Law deals with the same agreement, the same territory and the same people that had been forged in the 1996 peace agreement,” he said.
Cerveza said he sees a strong possibility that the Supreme Court (SC) will declare the BBL unconstitutional because of the government’s exiting peace agreement with the MNLF.

“The BBL hearings is an exercise in futility because eventually it will be declared unconstitutional,” he said.

‘Principled politics’

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is introducing “principled politics” to foster peace and sustainable development in the proposed Bansgamoro core territory.

Speaking to reporters on Thursday, MILF chairman Al-Haj Murad Ebrahim said their newly-formed United Bangsamoro Justice Party (UBJP) aims to “humanize” politics in southern Moro communities.

UBJP secretary-general Sammy Al-Mansour said registry books indicated that more than 100,000 MILF members and supporters participated in their first ever three-day conclave at the MILF’s main bastion, Camp Darapanan in Sultan Kudarat in Maguindanao. – With Perseus Echeminada, John Unson

MILF: 2014 a breakthrough year in GPH-MILF peace process

Posted to the MILF Website (Dec 28): 2014 a breakthrough year in GPH-MILF peace process

CAMP DARAPANAN, Maguindanao - Year 2014 will be remembered as the year MalacaƱang and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) forged a truce meant to put closure to decades of secessionist strife in the country’s south.
The local Muslim, Christian and Lumad communities are optimistic that the March 27, 2014 Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro (CAB), a product of 17 years of negotiation, will usher in lasting peace in the restive southern Mindanao, where Moro rebels have been fighting for self-rule since the early 1970s.

It is also in 2014 when the MILF began its conversion from a revolutionary organization, which splintered from the Moro National Liberation Front in the early 1980s, into a political front in a bid to pursue its peace and development goals through governance, which is for the group an entirely new arena.

The MILF’s political preparations, which took off with the December 23 to 25 symbolic launching of its newly formed United Bangsamoro Justice Party (UBJP), is in line with its quest to govern Mindanao’s Muslim groups and contemporary non-Muslim and indigenous hinterland folks through the Bangsamoro government, to be created based on the CAB and the Oct. 15, 2013 Framework Agreement on Bangsamoro.
The event was held at the MILF's main base, Camp Darapanan, located in Sultan Kudarat town in the first district of Maguindanao.

Thousands of MILF members and supporters joined the activity and pledged allegiance to the UBJP.

The MILF's chieftain, Al-Haj Murad Ebrahim, said their political party will pit candidates for elective positions in the upcoming Bangsamoro government, which will hold its first ever elections in 2016.

The enabling measure for the creation of the Bangsamoro entity, the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law, is now in Congress, expected to be passed into law by early 2015.

The bill, once enacted and ratified via a plebiscite, will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao with a more politically empowered Bangsamoro region.
Even Mindanao’s Catholic figurehead, Orlando Cardinal Quevedo, is praying for lasting peace in the region.

In his 2014 Christmas pastoral message, Quevedo, concurrent archbishop of the Cotabato Diocese, called on Catholics in Mindanao to pray for the success of the southern peace process.

Quevedo, who belongs to the Oblates of Mary Immaculate congregation, said his Christmas prayers also included supplications for the national government to succeed in its campaign against criminality and terrorism.

The MILF is confident it can address domestic peace and security concerns through the Bangsamoro government.

However, Mohaquer Iqbal, Chair of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission, said the Bangsamoro government would need the support of all sectors in its core territory to succeed.

He said the MILF will cease to exist as a revolutionary organization once the Bangsamoro government is in place.

“It will become a diplomatic, socio-economic and political arm of the Bangsamoro people that would continue to struggle for peace and development and the full realization of their aspiration for self-governance in the context of the right-to-self determination doctrine,” Iqbal said.

Iqbal, as chair of the MILF’s peace panel, was instrumental in the crafting of the CAB.
Iqbal said the government-MILF peace deal can be chronicled as Asia’s longest peace process in terms of time spent by both sides on negotiations and in addressing the challenges and constraints met along the way.

Peace talks between the government and the MILF started on Jan. 7, 1997, about three months after the MNLF’s Nur Misuari and President Fidel Ramos forged a final peace accord, which the influential Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) helped broker.

Several member-countries of the OIC, a bloc of more than 50 Muslim states, including petroleum-exporting nations in the Middle East and North Africa, have also been helping push the GPH-MILF peace efforts forward.

The 1997 government-MILF ceasefire is, in fact, being enforced in flashpoint areas by the International Monitoring Team, comprised of military personnel from Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia and Libya, and non-uniformed conflict resolution experts from Norway, Japan and the European Union.

Reds: No objection to ‘Oplan Bayanihan’ brains as PH peace panel head

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Dec 28): Reds: No objection to ‘Oplan Bayanihan’ brains as PH peace panel head

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) will not object should President Aquino appoint the chief architect of the government’s anti-insurgency master plan as head of its peace negotiating panel.

CPP founder Jose Maria Sison said the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) had been informed since last month of the possible appointment of retired-Armed Forces chief of staff General Emmanuel Bautista as the government’s lead negotiator in renewed peace talks.

Bautista is credited as the brains behind the Internal Peace and Security Plan, better known as “Oplan Bayanihan,” aimed at ending the 46-year rebellion of the New People’s Army (NPA) before the end of Aquino’s term in 2016.

The on-again, off-again talks are expected to resume next month.

“We have offered no objection because he has already retired from the military service,” Sison, also the NDFP chief political consultant, said in an online interview from his base in Utrecht, the Netherlands, Sunday morning.

The NDFP is the political arm of the CPP that has been engaged in peace negotiations with the government for the past 27 years.

 Former government chief negotiator Alexander Padilla has gone on to head Philhealth after exploratory talks on the resumption of the talks collapsed last year following both parties failure to agree on issues over the release of detained rebels and a long ceasefire.

The Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process has reportedly recommended to the President the appointment of Bautista as the government’s chief peace negotiator with the NDFP.

Bautista’s Oplan Bayanihan involves the participation of all stakeholders with greater emphasis on the non-combat dimension to end the communist rebellion.

However, Karapatan, a militant group of human rights advocates, claimed that Oplan Bayanihan was behind the killings of political activists and massive human rights violations.

In August, Bautista was appointed executive director of the Cabinet Cluster on Security, Justice, and Peace with the rank of undersecretary. Hewas AFP chief of staff from January 2013 until his retirement in June.

In an interview with Sison in March, he said he preferred people like 1-Bap partylist Rep. Silvestre H. Bello III and the late Tarlac Rep. Jose Yap as head of the government panel.

Sison said Bello and Yap were both committed to the government side but knew how to respond to the demands of the revolutionary movement.

Peace talks won’t lead to settlement, says CPP

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Dec 28): Peace talks won’t lead to settlement, says CPP


SISTERS ACT Jorge Madlos, spokesperson for the National Democratic Front in Mindanao, poses for a selfie with nuns who joined a Mindanao-wide peace consultation meeting inside a guerrilla zone in Surigao del Sur. INQUIRER MINDANAO

SURIGAO DEL SUR—The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) has vowed to pursue its goal to establish a Marxist government despite the pronouncement of its leaders here that they are open to the resumption of peace negotiations with the government.

In an editorial published on its website (, the CPP said it did not expect the negotiations to reach a political settlement.

“There should be no illusion that the ongoing peace negotiations with the reactionary government will soon lead to comprehensive agreements on social, economic and political problems as bases for a just and lasting peace,” it said.

The CPP cited as the “biggest obstacle” in the talks the government’s “antinational, antidemocratic and antipeople character” and its officials who regard the process “as the means for the capitulation and pacification of the revolutionary forces and the people.”

It found one good thing about the negotiations, however.

“The NDFP is able to broadcast the Program for a People’s Democratic Revolution and help bring about the victory of the revolution in the long run or before then, help bring about truce and cooperation with a government that is not led by the party, but which adopts patriotic and progressive policies to deal with the severe crisis brought about by imperialism and reaction,” the CPP said.

The NDFP is the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, the party’s political arm.

Seeing no end to the problems that gave rise to the communist movement, the CPP said it had no other choice “but to persevere in the people’s democratic revolution through protracted people’s war against US imperialism and the local exploiting classes of big compradors and landlords.”

“The crisis of the world capitalist system and the domestic ruling system inflicts terrible suffering on the people but generates awareness of the need to wage armed revolution for the national and social liberation of the people,” it added.

BIFF denies role in Maguindanao ambush that killed 3

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Dec 28): BIFF denies role in Maguindanao ambush that killed 3


Members of the breakaway Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF). AFP FILE PHOTO

The Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) denied it was behind Friday’s ambush that killed three civilians in Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Maguindanao.

Earlier, the military’s 6th Infantry Division based in Datu Odin Sinsuat town in the same province said that the gunmen that fired on a Toyota Corolla past 7 p.m. were suspected to be BIFF members.

The BIFF, composed of former Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) members, operates in Datu Saudi Ampatuan, according to authorities.

Capt. Joanne Petinglay, chief of the 6th Infantry Division public affairs unit, said the ambush took place near the Datu Pendililang Elementary School in Barangay Lower Salbu.

The victims, who remained unidentified at the Maguindanao provincial hospital, were headed for Datu Piang town in a Toyota Corolla with license plate number TEM-896. The car was registered to a Raniel Joson of Ulas, Davao City.

Petinglay said the victims—two men and a woman—died of multiple gunshot wounds as two gunmen fired on the vehicle, using M-16 rifles and handguns.

Abu Misry Mama, speaking for the BIFF, denied his group’s involvement in the ambush.

BIFF does not attack civilians, according to Mama.

Last month, an Army major and two others were also killed along the same highway linking Datu Saudi Ampatuan and Datu Piang towns.

The BIFF, through Mama, had claimed responsibility for the ambush.

Bangsamoro law divisive – MNLF

From the Manila Times (Dec 28): Bangsamoro law divisive – MNLF

The Moro National Liberation Front has declared that it is not supporting the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), citing the government’s supposed failure to fully implement a peace agreement that it signed with the MNLF on September 2, 1996.

Besides, MNLF Vice Chairman Jimmy Labawan, officer-in-charge of the MNLF Central Committee, said over the weekend, the BBL is a divide-and rule tactic of the Aquino administration that only creates more serious problems between the Bangsamore people and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Labawan did not say what such problems are.

The government and the MILF signed the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro in March this year and the BBL that is supposed to carry it out is pending in Congress.

In negotiating with then-President Fidel V. Ramos from 1993 to 1996, Nur Misuari, MNLF founder and chairman, insisted on the Tripoli Agreement as anchor of the 1996 peace pact.

Labawan said a meeting held last November 13 in Makati City (Metro Manila) proposed to the government panel settlement of some issues under the 1996 peace agreement, including territorial boundaries and wealth and resources sharing.

Also present at the meeting were representatives from the MNLF and the MILF.

Emmanuel Fontanilla, a lawyer and also the MNLF spokesman, warned in an interview that the BBL will suffer the fate of the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain between the Arroyo administration and the MILF that was eventually declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 2008.

The tripartite meeting in Makati City resulted in the signing of a communique by the Bangsamoro Coordination Forum and the creation of the BCF Executive Bureau that will hold office in Cotabato City in Mindanao.

The executive bureau is composed of three representatives each from the MNLF and MILF and one representative from the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

Labawan said the OIC only recognizes one agreement and that is the 1996 peace agreement with the Misuari-led MNLF.

According to him, MNLF commanders feel that “brushing aside” this peace pact has deprived them of their “hopes and dreams for genuine autonomy in Mindanao for almost 30 years.”

Labawan said another “rebellion” over non-implementation of the 1996 peace agreement is not far-fetched but “we are keeping them (commanders) under control for now.”

Troops alerted for rebel attacks in South

From the Manila Times (Dec 28): Troops alerted for rebel attacks in South

A photo released by the military shows the improvised land mine planted by NPA rebels in Surigao del Sur
A photo released by the military shows the improvised land mine planted by NPA rebels in Surigao del Sur

Troops in Mindanao were placed on heightened alert for rebel attacks following a foiled roadside bombing in Surigao del Sur.

The military reported that New People’s Army (NPA) guerillas planted a powerful bomb on a highway in Marihatag town on Friday and deployed snipers, forcing authorities to seal off the road.

It took hours for soldiers to secure the highway and disarm the improvised explosive.
Major Ezra Balagtey, a spokesman for the Eastern Mindanao Command, said the bomb was discovered by a civilian who informed the military and police authorities.

“The road was impassable until about 9 o’ clock in the evening because of the presence of NPA snipers in the vicinity. Troops did not engage the rebels due to the presence of civilians in the area which prevented Explosive Ordnance Disposal and K-9 teams from 4th Infantry Division to render safety recovery of the explosive not until night time,” Balagtey said.

After the rebels fled, the soldiers recovered a 5-kilogram landmine wired to a blasting cap.

Detainees vow to go on ‘strike’

From the Manila Standard Today (Dec 29): Detainees vow to go on ‘strike’

A TOTAL of 491 political prisoners will stage a five-day hunger strike and fasting during Pope Francis’ visit in as many days in January to dramatize their protest against torture and illegal detention under the Aquino administration.

The human rights group Karapatan said the mothers of two detainees, fresh graduates from UP-Pampanga, had written to the pope asking him to help free their children, saying their sons were abducted by the military in August on false charges.

Marita Cadanao and Rowena Salonga, the mothers of Guiller Martin Cadanao and Gerald Salonga, both 23, said the two had volunteered as researchers and organizers of the Kabataan party-list group as “a way of giving back to the people” “to uplift their lives” and “to make it a worthy place to settle in the future.”

Their letters were sent to the pope along with the letter of suspected New People’s Army rebel Andrea Rosal.

The mothers said Guiller and Gerald were gathering data on the displacement of farmers caused by the government projects in Caranglan, Nueva Ecija, when they were abducted by soldiers belonging to the Third Infantry Battalion on Aug. 9, 2014.

They said their sons were subjected to mental torture for more than 10 hours before they were turned over to the police in the morning of Aug. 10, 2014. They said their sons were accused of being members of the New People’s Army and then jailed in San Jose city in Nueva Ecija.

Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary-general, said Guiller and Gerald were among the 491 political prisoners under the Aquino administration. She said 220 of the 491 were illegally arrested and were now still in detention.

“Aquino seeks to hide the political nature of arresting and detaining them by filing criminal charges against them,” said Jigs Clamor, national coordinator of Samahan ng Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto or Selda.

This is borne out of an unjust societal structure that is propped up by counter-insurgency programs such as Oplan Bayanihan. We support the political prisoners’ appeal to Pope Francis to put an end to these structures that breed injustices.”

Free top Reds, govt panel told

From the Manila Standard Today (Dec 29): Free top Reds, govt panel told

CPP-NDF sets prelude to peace talks

THE Communist Party of the Philippines-National Democratic Front is seeking the release of its consultants, including detained top rebel leaders Benito and Wilma Tiamzon, CPP founding chairman Jose Ma. Sison said.

In an interview with Manila Standard, Sison also disclosed receiving information from the special team of the government that former Armed Forces chief of staff retired Gen. Emmanuel Bautista will replace Alexander Padilla as head of the government’s negotiating panel.

Sison said the CPP-NDF did not request that Padilla be replaced, even as he described the current government chief negotiator as “hardheaded.”

“Alex Padilla wants to dictate surrender terms instead of pushing for reasonable negotiations between the contending parties. Bautista, on the other hand, is okay as he is a retired military officer. If the retired general is broadminded, he can understand better the peace negotiations and eventually the peace agreement,” he said.

“We were told by the special representatives of the government on Bautista’s possible appointment. The NDF did not ask for Alex to be replaced. It is the prerogative of the government to change its negotiators and other personnel in the peace negotiations,” Sison added.

Padilla is reportedly bent on focusing on his job as head of PhilHealth while Bautista has been credited for crafting the military’s Internal Peace and Security Plan or IPSP-Bayanihan aimed at ending communist insurgency in the country.

Presidential peace adviser Teresita Deles declined to comment on Bautista’s reported appointment.

“There will be an announcement at the appropriate time. I will not confirm or deny anything that does not have the signature of the President,” Deles said.

Sison stressed the importance of releasing the Tiamzon couple —tagged as the head of the New People’s Army—for talks on a truce and cooperation agreement with the government.

“The release of Wilma and Benito is not a precondition to the resumption of the formal peace talks. But it is an obligation under the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees,” he said.

Asked if the government is open to releasing the Tiamzon couple – who were arrested in March in Carcar, Cebu - Deles could not give a definite answer.

“I don’t know. It will depend on what will happen in the formal peace talks,” she said.

On other detained NDF consultants, Deles said: “Those whom we are convinced are needed for the peace talks, we will find a way so they can participate.”

A separate source privy to the backchannel talks aimed at firming up the agenda for January’s formal negotiations said the communist group also asked the government to allow it to reconstitute its list of consultants protected under the JASIG, which was earlier rendered “inoperative” because of the failure of the NDF to store hard copies of the list in a bank in Utrecht.

“It is reasonable to expect that the JASIG be reconstituted first before the formal peace talks,” the source said.

Deles said the government is open to the requests of the NDF but again said this depends on the progress of the formal peace negotiations.

“If there is really a commitment to talk peace, then I think these issues can be considered as residual. But if they insist on putting these issues first on the table without any substantial progress in the peace talks, we might see the same problems as before,” Deles said.

“In principle, we agree that the JASIG must be reconstituted. We are committed to ensure that those who participate in the peace negotiations will have safety and immunity guarantees,” she added.

In an earlier interview, Padilla insisted that the Tiamzon couple, arrested for pending frustrated murder and murder cases, are not covered by JASIG.

“You will recall we had a verification procedure done last July 2011 where through no fault of the government, the NDF failed to open their own files, thus making JASIG inoperative with regards those using aliases and not directly involved in the peace process,” Padilla said.

“To sustain their claim is ridiculous because that would mean they can wage war and violence and when caught, can claim Jasig protection and expect to be released,” he added.

But NDF chief negotiator Luis Jalandoni insisted that the couple are “NDF consultants who have fulfilled and are fulfilling highly significant tasks in the peace negotiations between the government and the NDF.”

“Wilma Austria is holder of NDF Document of Identification ND978226 under her real name. Benito Tiamzon is likewise the holder of NDFP Document of Identification ND 978227 under the assumed name Crising Banaag,” Jalandoni said.

Padilla, however, disputed Jalandoni’s claim.

“The CPP-NPA is well aware of the effects of the failed verification. But they only have themselves to blame for rendering the JASIG inoperative for most of their alleged consultants. If indeed Benito Tiamzon was listed under an alias, he is no longer covered by the JASIG,” Padilla said.

“Wilma Austria, on the other hand, jumped bail when she escaped from detention on Dec. 26, 1989, when there were no peace talks, and six years before the JASIG came into effect. This makes her ineligible for JASIG protection, even assuming she was identified in the JASIG list by her real name,” Padilla added.

Troops seal off Philippine highway after discovery of powerful bomb

From the Mindanao Examiner BlogSpot site (Dec 27): Troops seal off Philippine highway after discovery of powerful bomb

Military photos show the NPA landmine recovered by troops in Surigao del Sur's Marihatag town in southern Philippines. (Mindanao Examiner)
Communist rebels have planted a powerful bomb on a highway and deployed snipers forcing authorities to seal off the road to motorists in southern Philippines, officials said on Saturday.

It took hours for soldiers to finally secure the highway and eventually disarmed the improvised explosive left behind on Friday night by New People’s Army fighters in the town of Marihatag in Surigao del Sur province.

Major Ezra Balagtey, a spokesman for the Eastern Mindanao Command, said the bomb was discovered by a civilian who immediately informed the military and police authorities.

“The road was impassable until about 9 o' clock in the evening because of the presence of NPA snipers in the vicinity. Troops did not engage the rebels due to the presence of civilians in the area which prevented Explosive Ordnance Disposal and K-9 teams from 4th Infantry Division  to render safety recovery of the explosive not until night time,” he said.

Balagtey said no fighting occurred because the rebels eventually fled. He said troops recovered a 5-kilogram landmine attached to a blasting cap and electrical wire.

The NPA has been fighting for decades for the establishment of a communist state in the country.

Marines to get force protection equipment --PN

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 27): Marines to get force protection equipment --PN

The Philippine Navy (PN) has announced that it is acquiring force protection equipment to protect its Marines from injuries caused by bullets and explosive fragments, according to PN vice commander Rear Admiral Caesar Taccad.

"The force protection equipment for the Marines is to protect them from injuries caused by projectiles and shrapnel with minimal restriction to their movement," he said.

The project is now for opening of letter of credit and the equipment is expected to be in service within 2015.

Sufficient units are to be acquired to equip the PN's three Marine brigades, Taccad said.

40mm automatic grenade launcher units in the pipeline for Marine units

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 27): 40mm automatic grenade launcher units in the pipeline for Marine units

To improve its medium range gun and direct fire support capabilities, the Philippine Navy (PN) announced that its Marine units will be getting 40mm automatic grenade launchers by first quarter of 2015.

Navy vice commander Rear Admiral Caesar Taccad said that the weapon is capable of firing "NATO" standard 40mm high velocity grenades.

"This will be used by the Marines as a medium range and direct fire support to maneuvering infantry (units) for enhanced firepower," he added.

Taccad said that the weapon is an "air-cooled, blow back, and belt operated heavy machine gun".

Armed AW-109s to be delivered Monday

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 28): Armed AW-109s to be delivered Monday

The last two AgustaWestland AW-109E "Power" helicopters of the Philippine Navy (PN), this time the armed versions, will be arriving this Monday.

This was disclosed by Navy spokesperson Col. Edgard Arevalo, in a message to the PNA Sunday.

"(Monday) is the scheduled arrival of the two AW-109s. These will be tested (air worthiness) and will be (tentatively) commissioned on Jan. 16, 2015," he added.

No other details are available yet, Arevalo stressed.

The last two AW-109s are part of the five helicopter contract signed by the Department of National Defense with AgustaWestland in 2013.

It is worth Php1.33 billion.

The armed versions of the AW-109Es will be armed with machine guns, 20mm cannons and possibly, with air-to-ground rockets.

The AW-109 "Power" helicopter is a three-ton class eight seat helicopter powered by two Pratt and Whitney PW206C engines.

The spacious cabin is designed to be fitted with a number of modular equipment packages for quick and easy conversion between roles.

The aircraft’s safety features include a fully separated fuel system, dual hydraulic boost system, dual electrical systems and redundant lubrication and cooling systems for the main transmission and engines.

The AW-109 has established itself as the world’s best selling light-twin helicopter for maritime missions.

It's superior speed, capacity and productivity combined with reliability and ease of maintenance make it the most cost effective maritime helicopter in its class.

For shipboard operations the aircraft has a reinforced-wheeled landing gear and deck mooring points as well as extensive corrosion protection measures.

The ability to operate from small ships in high sea state enables the AW-109 to perform its mission when many others helicopters would be confined to the ship’s hangar.

Over 550 AW-109 "Power" and AW-109 light utility helicopters have been ordered for commercial, parapublic and military applications by customers in almost 50 countries.

Army blames BIFF in ambush-slay of 3 civilians in Maguindanao

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 28): Army blames BIFF in ambush-slay of 3 civilians in Maguindanao

The military blamed the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in the ambush-slay of three civilians in Barangay Lower Salbu, Datu Piang, Maguindanao Friday night.

Captain Joanne Petinglay, chief of the 6th Infantry Division public affairs unit, said the ambush site was a known bailiwick of the outlawed BIFF.

But Abu Misry Mama, BIFF spokesperson, said his group was not responsible in the incident and blamed the Army instead since the ambush site was near a military and militia detachment.

The ambush occurred at past 7 p.m. in front of Datu Pendililang Elementary School in Barangay Lower Salbu.

The bodies of the victims, who remained unclaimed at Maguindanao provincial hospital in Shariff Aguak as of posting, were on board a Toyota Corolla (TEM-896) heading toward Datu Piang town when two gunmen, opened fire on the vehicle.

Military reports said the vehicle was registered in the name of Raniel Joson, a resident of Ulas district, Davao City.

Petinglay said the victims – two males and a female – were unidentified to date.

Witnesses said two gunmen waited for the vehicle to pass by and opened fire with M-16 Armalite rifle then fled on board a motorbike toward interior portion of Datu Saudi Ampatuan.

Responding police and soldiers failed to catch up with the suspects.

Police recovered empty shells for caliber .45 pistol and M-16 Armalite rifle at the crime scene.

Abu Misry Mama, speaking for the BIFF, denied involvement in the ambush, saying his group does not attack civilians.

Last month, an Army major and two of his men were killed along the same highway linking Datu Saudi Ampatuan and Datu Piang, both in Maguindanao, where the BIFF operates.

Mama claimed they were responsible in that ambush and the execution of three other soldiers.

USAID pledges 5-yr road maintenance in Oriental Mindoro

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 28): USAID pledges 5-yr road maintenance in Oriental Mindoro

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has pledged a five-year road maintenance projects for Oriental Mindoro starting January 2015.

Oriental Mindoro Governor Alfonso V. Umali Jr. said the assistance from USAID was assured to him during a recent meeting of the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) where he sits as official member of the board.

Governor Umali, who is also the president of League of Provinces of the Philippines, said his province has a stretch of 328 kilometers of national highway, 225 kms. of which were already completed by the Department of Public Works of Highways this year while another 57 kms. will be constructed in 2015.

Among the priority road projects which the governor included in his infrastructure program next year is the construction of the Puerto Galera-Abra de Ilog circumferential road which will link the two provinces of Oriental and Occidental Mindoro in the northern part of the Mindoro island.

The governor said Malacanang has released P250-million each for the two provinces to start the road construction of at least 20.33 kms in Puerto Galera and Abra de Ilog municipalities.

Aside from the said infrastructure projects, USAID also serves as main advisor of the two provinces in their energy development program with the thrust of giving electricity to all barangays in the island which is in line with President Benigno Aquino III’s objective of full rural electrification before his term ends in 2016.

Arlene P. Donaire, infrastructure and electricity team leader of USAID COMPETE Project (Advancing Philippine Competitiveness), said it is important for them to know the issues and challenges confronting the two provinces so that they can come out with a comprehensive power development plan for Mindoro like what they did in Palawan and Bohol.

UNDP conducts strat plan for Bangsamoro Dev't Agency ahead of coming Bangsamo gov't

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 28): UNDP conducts strat plan for Bangsamoro Dev't Agency ahead of coming Bangsamo gov't

The Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA), in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), over the weekend conducted a two-day 1st Strategic Planning Workshop for Environment, Natural Resources and Energy (ENRE) Sector of the Bangsamoro Development Plan (BDP) at Club Balai Isabel, Talisay, Batangas.

The 30 participants who attended the workshop are mainly composed of key staff of BDP and UNDP, with participation of BDA chairman Dr. Safrullah Dipatuan including some consultants.

The workshop was aimed at identifying programs and projects doable for ENRE sector, and result of which can be the basis for the formulation of a master plan on the Bangsamoro natural resources.

The BDA, as mandated by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) leadership to continue its coordination and spearheading the development aspect of the peace process, started the initial implementation of the plan in preparation for the upcoming Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA).

Dipatuan said the BDA was appreciative of the UNDP role in providing technical support in the formulation of the BDP-ENRE sector.

“The Bangsamoro is endowed with rich natural resources and beautiful environment that we really need to conserve, preserve and utilize the same.”

"Consult those who know if you do not know," Dipatuan said, quoting a verse from the Qur'an.

“These unending opportunities give us necessary means to focus our approach. We have to take the big challenges ahead of us,” he added.

Ms. Amelia Supetran, UNDP team leader on Energy and Environment, expressed her gratitude to the BDA for the opportunity given them.

“We are very honored and privileged to support BDA in the formulation of the BDP, and we are looking for a clear picture on how we can extend our help,” she said.

Engr. Windel P. Diangcalan, BDA program division head, recognized UNDP for its sustained and untiring support.

“We consider UNDP as a first mover with regard to the BDP implementation. Your help is a clear demonstration of your commitment to pursue peace and development in the Bangsamoro,” he said.

"Congratulations to the BDP team, take ownership what comes out in this strategic workshop," Dr. Ayesha Abubakar, BDP advisory council and BDA senior advisor on planning and research, said.

The Bangsamoro government is expected to assume in 2016 after a plebiscite on the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law now under scrutiny by Philippine Congress.

The new political entity is the result of the government's peace overture in Mindanao withe Moro Islamic Liberation Front.