Friday, April 17, 2015

Army official hails 87th IB

From the Philippine Information Agency (Apr 17): Army official hails 87th IB
An army official hailed the sterling service of the 87th Hinirang Infantry Battalion in the province of Samar.

Major General Jet Velarmino, 8th Infantry Division Commanding  General, in his message to the battalion during its 5th anniversary, said that the battalion headed by Lt Col Antonio Dulnuan has somehow paved the way for the declaration of most municipalities under it as “Manageable Conflict-affected and Development-Ready” (MCADR).  

This means that the area has somehow addressed their basic poverty and conflict issues and that the insurgents’ interference to the economic activity in the area is already negligible and can be easily address by the local police. 

“Your success is much as yours as they are ours.”

He advised them though that their success is not a reason to stop or slow down. That their past glory should only serve as reference and that they should even strive more  to surpass their achievements.

“As long as there are threat groups, our job is not yet done,” said Velarmino.

While he ordered them to be tough on insurgents, he added that they must be “tougher on the root causes of insurgency”.

He explained that with the Bayanihan program, he deploys army elements to barangays to check out issues that they want resolved. The list then is given to the local government units which are resolved in the peace and development meetings conducted by the army with the different national and local government agencies in attendance.

He added that if unresolved, these issues go to the military channels where negotiations are done in the upper level of the departments.

“We do not only apply force to win the peace but we implement, focused military operations, stakeholders engagement, bayanihan efforts and legal cooperation.”

By legal cooperation, the official said it meant that they have filed charges against identified perpetrators of crimes.

The 8th ID Commander added that the whole division is working overtime and fastracking its programs to be able to declare the whole Eastern Visayas peaceful and ready for development.

'Stucco ninja' Pinoy soldiers amaze U.S. troops in Balikatan 2015 in Palawan

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 18): 'Stucco ninja' Pinoy soldiers amaze U.S. troops in Balikatan 2015 in Palawan

“Stuccoing” is when construction aggregates, binders, and water are amalgamated together to form a material that is applied wet, and hardens to a very compressed solid on walls and ceilings to camouflage visually unappealing building sights.

And to Filipino construction workers, it’s a normal activity that is part of completing structures that does not earn so much attention.

But in the Engineering Civic Action Program (ENCAP) of the 31st iteration of the bilateral exercise Balikatan (shoulder-to-shoulder) 2015 that is constructing classroom buildings in four sites in Puerto Princesa, it has become a source of amazement, admiration, and exchanged learning between participating Filipino and U.S. soldiers.

Lieutenant Commander Mike Guzzi, current operations officer of the Civil Engineering Corps (CEC) of the Naval Construction Group ONE, 30th Naval Construction Regiment of the U.S. Navy, cannot believe Friday how fast Pfc. Julius Cameon of the Engineering Construction Battalion (ECB) of the Philippine Army (PA), TSgt. Benito Maceda, and TSgt. Alan Magbanua of the Philippine Air Force (PAF) are “stuccoing” the classroom buildings that are part of the humanitarian assistance and training activities of this year’s Balikatan.

Guzzi said the shoulder-to-shoulder exercise is a great opportunity for U.S. soldiers to come to Puerto Princesa, Palawan to practice some of the skills that they have lost for the last 10-12 years stationed in other countries like the Middle East.

“This is a great way to re-learn, and practice things like concrete, making reinforcement bars, blocking, which are essential to the structures that we’re going to build in other places after Palawan,” he said.

“Re-learning,” he explained, means Cameon, Maceda, and Magbanua are demonstrating how to stucco the classroom buildings at high-speed without compromising durability, permanence, and climate change resiliency.

In fact, he said, they have labeled the three, and other Filipino soldiers as “stucco ninjas” due to their excellent skills in coating classroom building walls with fine plasters, and bravely going across high beams.

“There are two big things here. Number one is innovation. I’ve been amazed that sometimes the U.S. engineer, maybe, if he doesn’t have the right tools, looks like he cannot accomplish the mission. The Filipino engineer, he would say, I can work by getting a piece of rebar (reinforcement bar), and create a tool to get the project moving,” Guzzi told the Philippine News Agency (PNA) during a tour Friday of the classroom buildings in two sites in Barangay San Rafael, one at Sitio Sabang, Barangay Cabayugan, and in a high school in Barangay Sta. Lourdes.

More importantly, he said “what the U.S. soldiers are learning from their Filipino counterparts is the block and the stucco works.”

“Block and stucco… you know, we don’t have that opportunity in our projects to do that type of work. Here, the Filipinos are amazing; they can draw up stuccos quickly, and our guys are not nearly as fast,” he added.

Cameon said it is not easy to teach his U.S. counterparts. Lightheartedly, he enlightened that this is because his “English supply is limited, and his nose is constantly bleeding.”

“Mahirap dahil nauubusan ako ng English, pero kapag pinapakita ko na, natutuwa sila at naiintindihan naman nila. Bilib na bilib sila kasi mabilis kami mag-palitada (It’s hard because I always run out of English, but if I show them how to do it, they become happy and they understand. They are so surprised at our speed in doing stucco),” Cameon said, adding the U.S. soldiers are very eager to learn.

The fact that the Filipino soldiers are sometimes crossing the beams of the classroom buildings without using safety harnesses, or fear of falling, also dumbfounds them, said Sgt. Eric Schultz, on the other hand.

“We are learning a lot here, especially as far as block and concrete construction. There is a lot of improvising works, and there’s no one set of doing things. Everything we’re doing is a little bit different,” Schultz said, supplying that the Filipino soldiers’ ways of doing things in construction impress him a lot.

Pointing to the beams of the classroom building at San Rafael Elementary High School (SRES), he expressed that the manner the Filipino soldiers are able “to jump upon them, run around to get the trusses up real fast without safety straps are just remarkable, and something he cannot do.”

Guzzi and the other U.S. soldiers jointly constructing the classroom buildings with their Filipino counterparts are not the only ones astounded by the “unusual constructions creativities and skills” but also Brig. General Joaquin Malavet, commanding general of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Brigade.

Malavet, who personally witnessed Cameon in an elementary school in Sabang with Brig. Gen. Guillermo Molina, deputy chief of the Western Command, had to give him a coin-like souvenir for his unbelievable and notable speed in stuccoing.

“It’s unreal how he’s doing it fast, and he’s teaching our guys here how to do it even creatively,” Malavet said.

He added that Cameon’s and the other two Filipino soldiers’ tolerance in showing the stucco and blocking techniques, and the graciousness and warm spirit that the communities are displaying resonate the true meaning behind the word “Balikatan,” which is “doing things together shoulder-to-shoulder.”

“I do believe that their warmth and their graciousness resonated. When we talk about Balikatan, and the meaning behind it -- shoulder-to-shoulder -- I don’t think it resonates any more than here in Palawan,” Malavet said, adding they demonstrate the strength and perseverance of the Philippines and the U.S. in making the world a better place.

Molina further expounded that “in talking about Balikatan, talking does not only mean about situations that might happen in the future. It is also about communities that might be affected by divergence and how to help them through civic action programs, like the ENCAP of Balikatan.”

“It’s good to know that the sites for the classroom buildings were selected by the teachers, the principals, and the community folks, and even the students. That is good because they saw the need,” he said.

He stated that more than the cost of the classroom buildings is their “value and importance.”

Each 7x18-meter classroom can accommodate 50 students, who would have a difference in their lives because they will learn, and receive education in a relaxed atmosphere, according to the WESCOM deputy chief.

At the Sta. Lourdes National High School (SLNHS), Malavet and Molina were also surprised to learn that parents, students, and teachers are volunteering their services to help the U.S. and Filipino soldiers meet their end of the month of April deadline.

SLNHS teacher Elizabeth Dasmariñas was there to guide volunteer students in coating metal trusses with anti-rust dyes.

One such student was 19-yr. old Gringo Galia, who graduated in high school from SLNHS.

Galia said it is not only him, who volunteered to help his “U.S. and Filipino soldier friends” to build two classroom buildings in his former high school, but also his parents.

“We thought it would be nice to help out here to finish the construction of the school buildings on time, and to give our share to our community. I graduated from this high school, and I am happy that there will be more classrooms for our students from the Balikatan,” Galia said.

All constructions should be finished end of the month, said Guzzi, for turn-over to the administrations of the selected elementary and high schools.

NPA team leader yields in Agusan del Sur

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 18): NPA team leader yields in Agusan del Sur

The perplexities of living in uncertainties and strife in the hinterlands and the desire to live normally with his family prodded a New People's Army team leader to yield himself back to the folds of the law on Friday afternoon.

Reports from Agusan del Sur police reaching the regional headquarters here said that Glenn J. Genete, an alleged team leader of the Baking Primera of the Pulang Bagani Command 3 (PBC-3) of the CPP-NPA left the movement and yielded himself to the police authorities in the town of Sta. Josefa, Agusan del Sur at 12:05 p.m. Friday.

Genete voluntarily surrendered to the joint team of the Regional Intelligence Unit (RIU) 13, the Regional Public Safety Company, PRO 13 Regional Intelligence Division and Sta. Josefa Police at Purok 4, Brgy. Angas, Sta. Josefa, bringing along with him an improvised shotgun with five live ammunition.

The surrenderee is now in police custody. He said many of his former comrades have now come to realize the pointlessness of their cause of armed violence and believed in the objectives and the sincerity of the government in bringing peace and development in the countryside.

The police also assured him that it will facilitate his rehabilitation by linking him up with the proper government agencies which will help him return to his family, provide him livelihood and live a "normal' life again.

74 high-powered firearms seized by NPAs in ComVal

From the Manila Bulletin (Apr 17): 74 high-powered firearms seized by NPAs in ComVal

An undetermined number of New People’s Army (NPA) rebels stormed the mining site owned by Mayor Joselito Brillantes Jr. of Monkayo town in Compostela Valley on Tuesday evening and carted away 74 high-powered firearms.

In a statement, Aris Francisco, spokesperson of NPA-ComVal-North Davao South Agusan sub-Regional Command said that they were able to confiscate three M60 machine guns; 7 M14 rifles; 13 M16 rifles; 9 garand caliber 30 rifles; 3 baby M16 rifles, 1 carbine; 2 bush masters; 1 ultimax; 1 M203 rifle; 1 RPG; 1 galil rifle; 1 AK 200 rifle; 11 shotguns; two 9mm pistols; eight .45 caliber pistols; one .38 caliber pistol; nine KG rifles; 14,000 rounds of assorted ammunition; military vests and radios.

Francisco said that the offensive launched by the NPAs was a punitive action against Mayor Brillantes.

“The NPA punished Mayor Brillantes for his overt participation in the commission of various crimes against the people in the furtherance of his economic and political interest in Monkayo,” Francisco said in the statement.

He added that the mayor’s private armed group “functions as a security unit for his mining business and is responsible for harassing and perpetuating a reign of terror in the area.”

The claim of Francisco was rebutted by authorities particularly on the number of firearms seized during the attack.

In a separate statement, Col. Romeo Brawner Jr., spokesperson of Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom) said that the rebels seized eight high-powered firearms when they attacked the residence of Mayor Brillantes in Purok 7, Barangay Olaycon on Tuesday evening.

Brawner added that a security guard, identified as Roberto Baysa died during the 5-minute attack by the rebels.

Prior to the attack, Brawner reported that the NPAs harassed the patrol base of Alpha Company of 25th IB in Barangay Banlag in the same town.

One (1) CAFGU member was killed during the said harassment, he added.

Lt. Col. Michele Anayron, commander of 25th IB also reported that the NPAs conducted a road blockade on the evening at the national highway in Barangays Olaycon and Banlag.

“This could be a form of counter-attack since we have had so many encounters with the bandits which resulted in the recovery of their high powered firearms, the surrender- of their armed members, and body counts in the previous months. Mayor Brillantes has been very supportive of the government’s counter-insurgency efforts in his town. Joint AFP/PNP pursuit operations are now on-going,” said Lt. Col. Anayron in the same statement.

Cyber-attacks in SE Asia up; experts cite territorial dispute as possible reason

From the Manila Bulletin (Apr 17): Cyber-attacks in SE Asia up; experts cite territorial dispute as possible reason

Cyber-attacks targeting government institutions in Southeast Asia has intensified in the last four years, and security experts here attribute it to possible espionage triggered by the territorial dispute in the South China Sea.

Cyber-espionage is expected to further increase in the coming years as some claimant-countries in the disputed reefs and islets in the South China Sea may attempt to get a heads-up of plans and strategies of rival countries. This is according Costin Raiu, director of the Global Research and Analysis Team of the Kaspersky Lab.

“We’ve noticed an increase in the attacks in the region in 2011 and 2012; like there was a sudden change and there were a lot of APTs (Advanced Persistent Threat) that focused exclusively in the region. You will not find these attacks somewhere else in the world,” Raiu told the Manila Bulletin in an interview during the Cybersecurity Summit sponsored by the Kaspersky Lab here.

APT, according to Wikipedia, is a set of stealthy and continuous computer-hacking processes, often orchestrated by human(s) targeting a specific entity.

Interestingly, the start of the sudden increase in cyber-attacks monitored in the South China Sea also falls on the year, sometime in April, 2011, that the Philippines and China figured in a standoff at the Scarborough Shoal, which is now being occupied by Chinese authorities.

“There are some specific APT groups which they only operate in the South China Sea and they would constantly target institutions and governments which are involved in these territorial disputes,” said Raiu.

Kaspersky Lab, a private company involved in IT security, has been working with the International Police in detecting cyber-attacks across the world.

“I would assume that this is all about geopolitical influences and obtaining geopolitical advantages. All these can be used, it’s helpful if you learn the plans of the others opponents,” said Raiu.

But Raiu would not say which country who is engaged in the territorial dispute has been at the forefront of cyber-attacks. As a private company, he said they choose to stay away from political activities of every country.

At the height of the South China Sea territorial dispute after the 2011 Panatag Shoal incidents, suspected hackers from China and the Philippines had engaged in cyber-attack war, targeting not only the websites of government institutions but private firms as well.

Such a cyberwar was apparently meant to sabotage the webpage of the targets but security experts here are saying that cyber-attacks sometimes go beyond sabotage as a motive.


In his presentation for the Cybersecurity Summit, Eugene Kaspersky, chairman and chief executive officer of the Kaspersky Lab, said espionage is one of the three main motivating forces in cyber-attacks aside from sabotage and to get easy money.

In the case of the South China Sea territorial dispute, Raiu explained that the battle to get as much information of the plans and strategies of some claimant-countries could be motivated by the “Art of War” philosophy that highlights the importance of spying in order to win a war.

“If you read in the “Art of War,” it says espionage is a key factor in winning any war. If you go to the war unprepared, you will never win,” said Raiu.


Raiu said that the intensified cyber-attacks since 2011 may just be the start of a very long cyber-warfare triggered by the South China Sea territorial dispute.

“I think the cyber warfare will be long. This will not be solved in next two, three, or five years. This will be a long process,” he said.

MILF ‘softens a bit’, Senate eyes itemized budget for BBL

From the Manila Bulletin (Apr 18): MILF ‘softens a bit’, Senate eyes itemized budget for BBL

The secessionist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has shown signs of softening its rigid position that it will not accept a Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) if a single comma is changed by Congress.

This developed as Senate Finance Committee chairman Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero said he is expecting that the appropriation for the Bangsamoro government for the first year of its implementation would exceed to more than P70 billion, and thus will push for an itemized budgeting for any appropriations under the proposed Bangsamoro basic law (BBL).

Escudero said he believes that the spending package for the BBL could still go up, contrary to the assurances made by the government peace panel that the measure does not have a high price tag.

 The Annual Block Grant alone, estimated to be P27-billion, Escudero said is by far the biggest amount among the breakdown.

Mohagher Iqbal, chief negotiator of the MILF, said that the MILF stands by the original BBL as crafted “but we are open to enhancement and improvement.’’

Some MILF leaders had made noises about a possible violent reaction to a watered down BBL version.

Iqbal’s comment was made this week just before Sen. Ferdinand ‘’Bongbong’’ R. Marcos Jr., chairman of the Senate local government committee, briefed Senate reporters on what happened in his committee hearing at a separate Senate committee room on the BBL.

Marcos said the issue of the MILF chief negotiator’s use of his alias ‘’Mohagher Iqbal,’’ and refusal to reveal his true identity took about two hours of the committee’s time last Monday.

During that press briefing, Marcos noted that the MILF ‘’has softened that position a little bit.’’

Marcos then asked the MILF to be reasonable on amendments to be done by legislators to make the BBL acceptable to both sides.

Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago, chairperson of the Senate constitutional amendments committee, heard the views of top constitutionalists of the country on the constitutional issues surrounding the BBL.

Santiago later said that she found the BBL unconstitutional as it creates a Bangsamoro sub-state within a state.

The Marcos committee is the lead committee of three committees tasked by Senate President Franklin M. Drilon to fine-tune the BBL. The two others are Santiago’s committee and the Senate peace, unification and reconciliation committee chaired by Sen. Teofisto Guingona III.

 Asked to comment on the views of the country’s constitutionalists that the BBL is unconstitutional, Iqbal said both the MILF and the Office of the Presidential Adviser for Peace Process (OPAPP) and even Malacanang made sure that nothing in the BBL as crafted should be regarded as unconstitutional.

Asked how could this be done, Iqbal said the BBL should be looked into ‘’provision for provision.’’

Marcos said he does not feel at ease with Iqbal’s intransigence on his refusal to reveal his true identity although Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter S. Cayetano said the real identity of Iqbal is ‘’Datucan Abas.’’

Iqbal had admitted using several aliases while negotiating for a peace accord with the Philippine government.

He, however, had assured senators that he, along with other MILF officials, would reveal their true identities after the passage of the BBL by Congress.

Marcos could not still make a definitive schedule on when the Senate would act on the BBL.

He said his committee would soon conduct public hearings in Zamboanga city and Jolo and later in Manila before drafting his committee report to be submitted for Senate floor debate.

Both the Senate and the House of Representatives are currently on a six-week recess. They resume regular session on May 4.


 The government peace panel and neither the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) seems to have been transparent as to the exact amount of the fund that would be funneled to the block grant.

 “The proposal did not specify the exact amount of this fund. But take note that under Article XII, Section 15 of the BBL proposal, the block grant cannot be lower than the last budget received by the ARMM. For 2015, ARMM received P25.22 billion,” Escudero pointed out.

 The Senate, he said, has the right to scrutinize if government funds that would be poured in to the proposed Bangsamoro government would be delivered exactly the way as it is proposed.

 He said the budget allocated for the BBL should be itemized in the same manner appropriations of every local government unit (LGU) in the country is listed.

 “We are pouring in so much money in the region. What are we, our people, getting out of it? That’s why we have to study it carefully, specify all items carefully, fairly and judiciously,” the senator said.

 Escudero said his committee has come out with a breakdown of the total funding under the BBL measure and figured the amount is just a rough estimate provided by the peace panel.

 “This is just a ballpark figure. They can impose taxes and fees and charges on their own. They can explore and exploit natural resources and these have not yet been factored in,” Escudero explained.

 Based on the computation of the finance committee, P25.2-billion of the P70-billion will come from the Annual Block Grant; P7-billion from the Special Development Fund; P1-billion from the Transition Fund; P12.6-billion from the National Government Subsidy; P19.9-billion from the Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA); P1.7-billion from the ARMM/Bangsamoro collections; and a one-time P2.6-billion Normalization Fund.

DND welcomes prospect of more US military equipment in PHL

From GMA News (Apr 17): DND welcomes prospect of more US military equipment in PHL

The Department of National Defense on Friday said it is open to the idea of the US deploying its air and naval equipment to the country, amid China's "agressive activities" in disputed waters off the western Philippine coast.
According to DND spokesman Peter Galvez, the deployment of more US defense equipment – if it materializes – will bolster the Philippines' defense capability.
“All these capabilities are very welcome, it will definitely enhance our capability to address several of our strategic concerns,” Galvez said.
“We have planned and looked where these may be appropriately deployed. Subic and Clark are among those areas that are being considered,” he continued.
Galvez's statement comes after Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said in a television interview that the US plans to send more navy and air force assets to Asia.
Del Rosario also sought more "substantive" support from the US, a long-time ally of the Philippines, to counter China's rapid expansion in the South China Sea.

The Philippines has repeatedly protested continuing Chinese reclamation works in parts of the South China Sea that Manila claims as part of the country's exclusive economic zone.

Global problem

Earlier on Friday, President Benigno Aquino III said China's actions in disputed marine areas in the South China Sea – parts of it Manila calls the West Philippine Sea – should be considered a global problem, not just a regional issue.

Also, Aquino said Beijing’s activities in the Spratlys will affect the flow of goods between and among countries.

“Ngayon, we keep asserting na ‘yung problema sa South China Sea hindi regional problem. Problema ng buong mundo,” the President said.

He also welcomed statements of support from the international community, including the recent statement from G7 foreign ministers opposing China’s reclamation activities in disputed waters.

“‘Yung pagsasalita ng mga ibang bansa, lalo na ‘yung hindi talaga nandito sa ating lugar, kumikilala doon sa bigat ng problema na problema ng lahat,” Aquino said.

Moreover, Aquino said that he will once again push for the crafting of a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea during the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in Malaysia later this month.

Recent satellite images showed an airstrip suitable for military use being built by China on reclaimed parts of Kagitingan Reef in the disputed Spratly archipelago.

Beijing is also reportedly undertaking reclamation work on Subu Reef in the Spratlys, creating landmasses that, if joined together, could create space for another 3,000-meter (3,281-yard) airstrip.

Govt stops P1.2B Huey deal

From the Manila Standard Today (Apr 18): Govt stops P1.2B Huey deal

THE Philippines has terminated the contract to purchase 21 helicopters worth about P1.2 billion, a Palace official said Friday.

“[Defense Secretary Voltaire] Gazmin terminated the contract and issued a blacklisting order against the supplier,” said Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. in a text message to the Malacanang Press Corps yesterday.

“We only have accepted 7 UH-1 helicopters,” Coloma also said in the text message. “We continue to commit to the  observance of our procurement laws and defend what is advantageous to the government.”

The Department of National Defense (DND) earlier said  they were  planning to scrap the contract for the supply of 21 UH-1 helicopters worth P1.2 billion, citing the supplier’s failure to deliver the air assets on time.

In a notice to terminate forwarded last March to the joint venture of Rice Aircraft Services Inc. and Eagle Copters Ltd., Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin informed the supplier of its failure to comply with the delivery schedule.

“You are hereby ordered to submit a verified position paper stating why the contract should not be terminated within seven days upon receipt thereof,” Gazmin said in the notice addressed to Robert Rice, the official representative of the joint venture.

Gazmin, who cited the  procurement law, said the contract for the purchase of UH-1 helicopters will  be partially terminated for exceeding the 10 percent maximum liquidated damages.

Gazmin said the liquidated damage is equivalent to one tenth of the one percent of the unperformed portion per day of delay. The supplier pays liquidated damage if it fails to meet delivery timetables.

The government has the option to terminate a contract if the supplier exceeds the 10 percent maximum liquidated damages as provided by law.

Gazmin said the joint venture of Rice and Eagle Copters exceeded the 10 percent maximum liquidated damages on January  31, 2015.

“You failed to comply with the agreed schedule of requirement of the contract agreement which provides that the delivery should be within 180 calendar days upon the opening of the letter of credit,” Gazmin told the supplier.

A letter of credit is a document that assures the supplier that the government will honor its financial obligations.

Gazmin said the letter of credit was opened on March 27, 2014 and deadline for the delivery of contract was on September  23, 2014.

Philippines: Maritime piracy down by half, Coast Guard says

From the Business World posted to the Hellenic Shipping News (Apr 18): Philippines: Maritime piracy down by half, Coast Guard says

Maritime piracy in the Philippines dropped by 50 percent compared with last year, according to the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG).

Latest data from the Coast Guard showed that incidents of piracy and armed robberies against ships in Philippine waters fell to seven last year, from 14 in 2013. Of these seven incidents, two incidents each were reported off Tawi-Tawi province and Manila’s South Harbor, and the others were reported in the provinces of Zamboanga Sibugay, Batangas, and Bataan.

But last month, the PCG reported a failed attempt to loot a foreign vessel, the first such incident this year.

Sought for comment, the PCG in an email cited “Pertinent information received by the PCG from the ReCAAP-Information Sharing Center (ISC) “as being “very useful in tracking down the hijacked vessels and the suspects.”

From 2009 to 2014, there were 70 recorded cases of maritime piracy, claiming the lives of 13 people, with eight subsequently classified as missing.

The PCG also said in an email that there have been “no significant attacks against large vessels, except for petty robberies on board foreign vessels at the anchorage areas perpetrated by plain thieves, although vessels under 3 GT (gross tons), particularly those engaged in fishing and interisland trade in Southern Philippines, have been the perennial victims of extortion and piracy committed by lawless elements whose main reason for conducting maritime piracy is to supplement the diminishing resources of their movements.”

The PCG said among its challenges are piracy cases outside Philippine waters, citing the January hijacking of a tanker in Indonesia waters that was later found off the waters of Davao Oriental province.

NPA rebel surrenders in Agnor

From the Philippine Information Agency (Apr 17): NPA rebel surrenders in Agnor

New People’s Army (NPA) rebel voluntarily surrendered to troops of the 29th Infantry Batallion (29IB), 4th Infantry Division, Philippine Army thru the Second Special Force Company, 1st Special Forces Battalion, Philippine Army, stationed in Barangay Baleguian, Jabonga, Agusan del Norte, Wednesday, Apr. 15, 2015.

The surrenderee, a certain Allan Quijano Tabura Jr. alias Roger; 26 years old; a resident of Sabang, Tayaga, Claver, Surigao del Norte, is a member of the Samahang Partido Pangpolitika 16A, Guerilla Front Committee 16, North Eastern Mindanao Regional Command that covers the towns of Santiago, Jabonga and Kitcharao, all in Agusan del Norte and portion of Alegria, Surigao del Norte. He brought along one AK47 (SN: Defaced), five magazines with 145 rounds of ammunitions and a Bandolier.   
He disclosed that, there were series of encounters happened between their group (NPA) and the government troops just within the Zapanta Valley area of Barangay Bangayan, Kitcharao, this province.

According to his revelations, the NPA group has promised to help their families in terms of financial assistance but it never happened and instead they were forced to do extortion activities and sow terror and fear to the populace.

He also said that he saw a lot of meaningless loss of lives and realized that the armed struggle is no longer necessary and to die in a group of anti-people, anti-life and anti-God is worthless.

Meanwhile, 29IB Battalion Commander Ltc Adonis Ariel Orio revealed that Tabura is entitled to avail the Comprehensive Local Integration Program (CLIP), one of the many programs of the government for former rebel returnees.

"He will be reintegrated to the mainstream society to start a new life, he will be granted a livelihood assistance, remuneration for the firearm he surrendered, and he can enjoy the life of a normal citizen together with his family," said Orio.

10 reasons why Iqbal should not be prosecuted for using alias, according to DoJ Secretary de Lima

From the Business World (Apr 17): 10 reasons why Iqbal should not be prosecuted for using alias, according to DoJ Secretary de Lima

PROSECUTING MORO Islamic Liberation Front chief negotiator Mohagher Q. Iqbal for using a nom de guerre would be a form of harassment violating the peace process with the government, Secretary Leila M. de Lima said in a 12-page position paper to the House of Representatives.

“Lost in the discussion is the elementary premise that the use of an alias and non-prosecution for such use, at least while the peace process is alive and ongoing, has basis in the very nature of the peace process and the initial agreements entered into to set the stage for the holding of peace talks,” Ms. de Lima told lawmakers.

Listing 10 reasons why Mr. Iqbal could not be prosecuted, Ms. de Lima noted the peace agreement provides protection to negotiators against criminal charges, at least while talking peace with the government.
1. The use of noms de guerre protected rebels’ families.

Ms. de Lima noted that the practice of using noms de guerre -- war names -- originated in historic France and was adopted by revolutionaries to protect their families’ identities. She said national hero Jose Protacio Rizal dropped his last three names after his brother Paciano Alonso Mercado was linked to the martyred priests GomBurZa.

2. Iqbal did violate criminal law -- but is exempted from arrest for now.

Yet, Ms. de Lima’s position paper did not contest politicians’ assertion that Mr. Iqbal’s use of an alias for legal documents was a violation of Article 178 of the Revised Penal Code and the Republic Act No. 6085, which regulates the use of aliases.

“The use of a nom de guerre in a rebel organization in times of rebellion is not one of the authorized uses of pseudonyms under RA 6085, although it may be deemed a crime incidental to... the criminal charge for rebellion,” Ms. de Lima said, adding there may be a violation for executing documents without stating his real name.

But the Justice secretary said the “clear issue here” is whether he could be prosecuted for the violation.

Ms. de Lima said that since MILF negotiators could not be searched or restrained for rebellion as assurance for their safety, they could also not be held for related crimes including the criminal use of an alias.

But this applies “at least throughout the duration of the peace talks,” she said.

In the aftermath of the peace process, Ms. de Lima said that Mr. Iqbal may be given amnesty -- or hunted down as a rebel when hostilities resume after talks break down.

3. Allowing aliases was a concession on the government’s part.

Ms. de Lima said that the government generally allows noms de guerre “as a matter of safety guarantee and personal security during the peace negotiations, where they surface in the legal arena at the risk of exposing themselves and their families.” She noted that the negotiators are working without guarantees peace talks would be successful.

4. Mr. Iqbal’s other personal details are known to the government since 1979.

She also noted that officials of the MILF Central Committee, including Mr. Iqbal, notified the government of their real names when they were issued passports by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).

“This, in itself, can already be considered as an act of good faith and a confidence-building measure on the part of the MILF officials,” the position paper stressed. In any case, she added that government intelligence agencies had kept track of the group’s officials since it broke away from the Moro National Liberation Front in the late 1970s.

5. The government allows aliases to gain MILF’s confidence.

Ms. de Lima said that no peace negotiations will be possible “if the government continues to arrest and detain rebel negotiators... while calling for peace talks. No rebel organization will trust or believe [in the government’s sincerity] if it keeps on arresting their negotiators, leaders or representatives for committing rebellion or... the use of war names.”

She added there is a “tacit understanding” that the government defers from prosecuting rebels for rebellion or related crimes with the view of granting them amnesty upon the conclusion of peace talks.

Demanding the negotiators’ real names, Ms. de Lima said, is “the opposite of a confidence-building measure,” with the government failing to “live up to its commitments to the most basic political pre-conditions” of negotiations.

6. Users of alias cannot be prosecuted because they are guaranteed protection.

Mr. Iqbal could not be prosecuted because he was provided protection by the March 2000 Agreement on Safety and Security Guarantees signed in Cotabato City.

The agreement said that MILF members could not be restrained, seized or harassed for their involvement in peace talks, except in cases they committed common crimes against persons or property. Ms. de Lima said the pact “effectively binds the government to refrain from arresting and prosecuting rebel peace negotiators.”

The demand by some lawmakers to reveal Mr. Iqbal’s real birth name, she said, may be deemed a violation of the 2000 agreement’s provision against harassment of MILF negotiators. On the part of the Executive, she added that giving in to the demands may be akin to reneging on its commitment to protect the negotiators.

7. All government officials are bound by the peace process commitments.

Ms. de Lima added that all government officials, especially Cabinet officials are bound by the state’s commitments in the peace process. She explained that Cabinet officials could not reveal information or take action without the President’s permission.

8. Parties’ identities are not required for contracts to be valid.

She noted that Article 1318 of the Civil Code of the Philippines did not list the identity of the contracting party as a requisite for a contract to be valid; neither would the use of an alias void a contract under the same provision.

In Mr. Iqbal’s case, she said he could not be cited for fraud to void the contract because the government did not compel him to use his birth name. She added that even if the peace agreement could be voided, it would only happen if the government actually renounces or refuses to ratify it.

9. Mr. Iqbal cannot disown the obligations he entered into.

Ms. de Lima added the principle of estoppel does not allow Mr. Iqbal to disown his obligations or present evidence contrary to his admission that he was using an alias.

“He is conclusively presumed, by law, to have entered into [the peace agreement] and cannot, at some future time, be allowed by any court to falsify it,” Ms. de Lima said.

10. Performing obligations in peace agreements is a political issue, not legal.

Concluding her position paper, Ms. de Lima said that “whether or not either party performs its obligations... is not a matter of legality, but politics.”

A party reneging on its obligations would risk losing the goodwill of the other, she said, adding that in such a case, the MILF would not go to the courts when the peace terms are violated because it would not recognize the government’s authority.

She said parties in peace-building could not be bound by “ordinary legal parameters.”
“The most inherent and essential pre-condition to any peace negotiations is government restraint on any legal action against rebel negotiations that would prevent them from freely performing their role as such,” she said.

Mohagher Iqbal the author (Part 1)

From Rappler (Apr 18): Mohagher Iqbal the author (Part 1)

'The otherwise exceptional book by the MILF peace negotiator lacks a critical view of the Moro ruling elite, who compromised principles and came into a mutual accommodation with the Filipino state'

(First of two parts)

People can go nuts over Mohagher Iqbal’s many names and aliases to legally question his ability to represent the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in its negotiations with the government. What fascinates me about the movement’s spokesperson is a talent that is rare among many a revolutionary. Iqbal, or whoever he is, can write.

One cannot say this of the witless Vicente Sotto III (plagiarist), the public-spectacle advocate Alan Peter Cayetano, and the well-endowed legatees of the Marcos dictatorship and its minions, Ferdinand Jr and the Chiz. The jailed former defense minister had a former activist write his hagiography while his co-plotter and successor came up with a tome that diverges considerably from the way he explains matters to a listening public.

Not Iqbal. The fellow writes his own interpretation of Moro affairs and the minority group’s fraught and even hostile relationship with the Philippine state. His first book Bangsamoro, A Nation under Endless Tyranny: History of the Muslims in the Philippines is the first ever attempt to write the history of the Bangsamoro from the perspective of those fighting in their behalf. It is the Moro’s version of Jose Ma. Sison’s Philippine Society and Revolution, if you will. (A free online copy is available for the reading public at

The book’s reach is ambitious, going as far back as 22,000 years ago, when communities began to “migrate” into the archipelago, to the 1997 peace talks that laid the groundwork for the succeeding negotiations. Iqbal/Jubair also devotes some space to explaining why there is basis for Moros to call themselves as a nation – including placing the emergence of Moro nationalism alongside, but parallel, to that of Filipino nationalism. Here, Iqbal differs from scholars like Samuel K. Tan and even Cesar A. Majul, who argue that these two processes were intertwined with each other (hence: Filipino-Muslim struggle).

To critics that point to the absence of unity within the Bangsamoro itself, Iqbal/Jubair writes that what binds it together was “that throughout the 377 years of Spanish presence…the Moros remained unconquered.” Of the American period, however, Iqbal/Jubair hews closely to the argument by Filipino nationalists that the combination of firepower and attraction “mesmerized the minds of the Moros” with “the net result was no ‘moroizing’ (sic) the Moros but ‘filipinizing’ (sic) them in order to pave [their] integration…into one unified state once independence is granted.”

Chapter 7 is the most controversial as this is where Iqbal/Jubair lays out in a methodical manner what Filipino colonialism was all about (again, a first since Nur Misuari never even countenanced writing something similar). This and the subsequent chapters should be the concern of everyone interested in the Moro struggle, to weigh whether Iqbal’s/Jubair’s arguments have basis in fact and are convincing in themselves.

In chapter 9 we get a glimpse, an impartial one admittedly, of what the war was like, as the book narrates some of the major encounters between the warring forces. These engagements involved large numbers of forces and they were vicious. Moros, of course, bore the brunt of the war, and here we see another reason why the anti-Filipino sentiments among the Moros persisted.

Of the pundits who have taken the MILF’s nationalism seriously, it was Rigoberto Tiglao who has begun to poke holes into Iqbal’s/Jubair’s arguments. The former chief of staff of President Gloria Arroyo is clearly biased against the current regime, but his contentions cannot just be dismissed as the ranting of a loyal subaltern – for it is in these chapters that the MILF anchors the justification of its separatist cause.

My comments on the book lie in the absence of a critical view of the Moro ruling elite, the “traditional” and “modern” clans who compromised principles and came into a mutual accommodation with the Filipino state. I’ve raised this in essays written for favorite rags like Rappler and Mindanews, and in a number of occasions Iqbal/Jubair responded to these commentaries. But I found them a tad lame.

It is this nuance that is absent in this otherwise exceptional book – like his rival Misuari, Iqbal/Jubair is diffident in pointing his critical eyes at the political clans that govern the Bangsamoro, sometimes with impunity. He mentions these elites but only in the last pages of his book. And he was quite vague about them, the immediate reason being strategic: like the Moro National Liberation Front, the MILF is realistic enough to admit that it could never win its revolution without at the very least the sympathies of the Moro elite. The latter continues to hold sway over many a Moro community, can muster enough arms and men to engage both state and revolution, and possesses the wealth and the wherewithal to sustain the conflict.

But the Moro elite has also had a long record of turning its back on the rebellion. The MNLF collapsed after 1977 because Misuari could not prevent the elite from leaving the coalition and then turning against him. Manila’s power in Moro Mindanao has also remained unchallenged because it was the likes of Ali Dimaporo and, of late, the Ampatuans who remained loyal to Manila.

This leads one to muse: will the next edition of Bangsamoro engage this problem (as well as those raised by Tiglao)? Pass the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law so Mohagher Iqbal can go back to his first love – being a historian – and thereby further enrich our knowledge of Moro history and politics.

MNLF: BBL stalemate may lead to terrorism

From the Manila Standard Today (Apr 18): MNLF: BBL stalemate may lead to terrorism

A BREAKDOWN in the deliberations on the Bangsamoro Basic Law may force the Moro Islamic Liberation Front to resort to terrorism, even as a Moro leader warned that one of the “vengeance targets” could be media outfits that have published negative news about the controversial bill.

“They are going to resort to terrorism,” said Absalom Cerveza, spokesman of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) from which the MILF broke away when it decided to pursue its own peace agreement with the government in the 1980s.

Cerveza said terrorism was the only response the MILF would be able to come up with because the rebel group “has no capacity to overthrow the government should they wage an all-out war.”

“They will resort to terrorism because they cannot campaign politically for the BBL. They cannot go out and tell the people that they were betrayed. No one will believe them,” Cerveza said.

Cerveza said the MILF had long been considering subsequent actions if the government failes to deliver on its promises.

“In my huddle with MILF peace negotiator Mohaquer Iqbal in Cotabato City, I asked him, ‘have you ever thought of the possibility that the government may betray you?” and he ansered ‘yes.’”

“We will not be surprise if (the government) will betray us,” Cerveza quoted Iqbal as saying. “Let the moments decide what is going to happen.”

But even among Moros, Cerveza said the MILF leadership is losing support because they are perceived to be too involved with their personal wealth.

Cerveza made the claim after another source claimed that at least 200 MILF fighters are already in Metro Manila and one of their potential targets are media outfits critical of the BBL, an imitation of the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris last January.

The source said MILF fighters have started “jihad” prayers in Mindanao and attacks could include attacks on government officials, military detachments as well as bombing of key government and private installations.

“If they wanted to, they can do it. They can even exact revenge by killing journalists. However, the force of public opinion is very hard to defeat,” Cerveza agreed, noting that MILF leaders are not using their personal assets to promote the BBL.

“Their wealth will go up in smoke... They will not sacrifice their personal assets,” Cerveza said. “The MILF has lost its credibility compared to the time of former MILF Chairman Hashim Salamat who has an ideology and idealism.”

“It’s obvious that they received a lot of money and favors and that is why they yielded to the government,” Cerveza said.

But while the military was closely monitoring terrorist activities in Mindanao, the Armed Forces of the Philippine said they have not monitored any serious MILF activity in Metro Manila.

“We are ready to confront any armed aggression regardless of groups and we will not tolerate anyone from carrying out aggression against anyone,” said Lt. Col. Horold Cabunoc, Public Affairs Office (PAO) chief.

Meanwhile, the MILF breakaway group Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters again attacked a military position in Maguindanao and injured six army soldiers who were hit by a grenade launcher fired by BIFF fighters.

Military reports indicated that the six soldiers were hit by 40mm grenade launchers fired by the BIFF near the troops of the 23rd Mechanized battalion in Barangay Sambulawan in Datu Salibo, Maguindanao at about 6:50 pm Thursday.

Capt. Jo-Ann Petinglay, spokesperson of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, said the troops were conducting blocking operations against BIFF rebels earlier engaged into an ensued fighting in Barangay Sambini in Datu Saudi town last Wednesday, when fired upon by the terrorists.

Petinglay said the troops scampered for battle position and retaliated heavily against the BIFF rebels, inflicting several casualties on the enemy side.

The BIFF attacks was the third incident since the appointment of Esmael Abubakar, alias Bungos as the new BIFF chieftain following the death of BIFF top leader Ameril Umbra Kato last Tuesday due to heart attack.

Army sergeant shoots dead suspected Abu Sayyaf member

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Apr 17): Army sergeant shoots dead suspected Abu Sayyaf member

An Army sergeant shot and killed a suspected member of Abu Sayyaf who went amok inside a military camp in Sulu on Friday.

Col. Allan Arrojado, commander of the Joint Task Group Sulu, said the still unidentified man, who was armed with a knife, entered the camp of the 5th Civil Military Operations Battalion in Barangay Tagbak in Indanan town shortly before noon on Friday.

“While shouting Allahu Akbar, he tried but failed to grab the M16 rifle of one of our duty officers,” he said.

Arrojado said Sgt. Rodolfo Nieves was able to shoot the amok during the scuffle.

He said the military had already notified the Indanan police about the incident.

NBI files charges vs Abu bandits for Gensan bombing

From ABS-CBN (Apr 17): NBI files charges vs Abu bandits for Gensan bombing

The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) on Thursday filed multiple charges of murder and frustrated murder against two members of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) in connection with the April 22, 2002 bombing of Fitmart Mall in General Santos City.

The Counter Terrorism Division of NBI, with the assistance of the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission (PAOCC), filed the additional criminal complaints against Abu Sayyaf members Khair Mundos, his brother Borhan Mundos, and two Saudi Arabians who are currently at large.

A former Abu Sayyaf member who turned government witness said Khair facilitated the financing of the bombing operation with the aid of the two Saudi nationals and that Borhan Mundos planned the bombing operation.

NBI also said Khair Mundos was arrested by the Philippine National Police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) on June 11, 2014 at Barangay San Dionisio, Paranaque City, while Borhan Mundos was re-arrested when he arrived on November 20, 2014 at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).

Both are now under police custody in Camp Crame.

The brothers have previously been charged with various terrorism-related crimes.

Security forces capture 2 kidnappers in Zamboanga province

From the Mindanao Examiner (Apr 17): Security forces capture 2 kidnappers in Zamboanga province

Police and military authorities have arrested two notorious kidnappers in a raid on a village in Zamboanga Sibugay’s Payao town, officials said on Friday.

Officials said the two men – Bandong Wahab and Omma Jain – were being interrogated following their capture during a joint operation by the army and policemen.

Captain Maria Rowena Muyuela, a spokeswoman for the Western Mindanao Command, quoting a report from the 1st Infantry Division, said both Wahab and Jain belong to the Aburi-Sabtal gang operating in the province, some 120 kilometers east of Zamboanga City.

The two men were also included in the police most wanted list for numerous kidnapping and murder charges against them. Their capture came following a long surveillance operation by the military and police, Muyuela said.

She said just recently, soldiers and policemen also captured Muin Biang, one of the most wanted criminals in Zamboanga Sibugay, and a notorious member of another kidnapping gang in the province.

Muyuela, quoting Western Mindanao Command chief General Rustico Guerrero, said: “Significantly, the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police have eliminated three names from the most wanted watch-list, indicating a notable result of the joint military-police operations in the province.”

“The joint law enforcement operations are in alignment with the AFP’s mission to establish an environment “conducive to development” thru inter-agency collaboration. The AFP and PNP continue to conduct joint operations to expedite arrest of lawless elements operating in Zamboanga Peninsula,” Guerrero added.

Muyuela did not say if those arrested were behind the recent kidnappings of two children and Mayor Gemma Adana, of Naga town, in Zamboanga Sibugay, whom police initially claimed were mostly former members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

Capiceños welcome ‘Balikatan’

From the Philippine Information Agency (Apr 17): Capiceños welcome ‘Balikatan’

When the 31st RP – US Balikatan 2015 kicked off in the province, the United States (US) forces were welcomed with the happy and smiling faces of Capiceños, particularly in sites of exercises for humanitarian assistance and disaster response.

“I am honored and happy to be part of the exercises and receive the warm welcome,” said US Navy Captain and US Joint Civil-Military Operations Task Force (JCMOTF) for Palawan and Panay commander James Meyer, adding that the people are friendly and hospitable.

The remark of the US official was affirmed by Capiz Gov. Victor A. Tanco during an interaction with the local media to the delight of Capiz tri-media practitioners, US forces as well as army officials.

“I also speak in behalf of the locals in welcoming the troops,” Tanco  said.

Meyer said that there are about 40 US forces in the province working with Philippine Army counterparts in health engagements, school building construction, basic life support training  and disaster response preparation, among others.

Panay JCMOTF civil affairs teams will also conduct seaport and airport assessment within the week.

The Teams are working with local civic leaders to help identify how to best respond to natural disasters that may occur on the island using the resources that the local governments have on hand.

Balikatan, which means “shoulder-to-shoulder”in Filipino, is an annual bilateral training exercise held since 1984, aimed at improving the ability of Philippine and U.S. military forces to work together during planning, contingency, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations.

The exercises will end this month.

Armed man shouting 'Allahu Akbar' shot dead at military camp's gate in Sulu

From InterAksyon (Apr 17): Armed man shouting 'Allahu Akbar' shot dead at military camp's gate in Sulu

Initial reports reaching Manila said that a knife-wielding man who broke into a military camp in Sulu and tried to grab the rifle of a sentry was shot dead by another soldier before noon on Friday in Barangay Tagbak, Indanan, Sulu.

According to Colonel Alan Arrojado, commander of the Joint Task Group Sulu, the incident happened at around 11:45 a.m. at the Tagbak military detachment of the 5th Civil Military Operations Battalion of the 5th Infantry Division.

"Our military police and police investigators are still trying to identify the suspect," Arrojado told when asked for details. "Allegedly, the unidentified man surreptitiously entered the main gate of the camp carrying a knife while shouting 'Allahu Akbar (God is great)'," he added.

Arrojado said the suspect tried to grab the M-16 service rifle of a certain Sergeant Gelacio, triggering a scuffle.

During the commotion, a certain Sgt. Nieves, member of the designated quick response team, shot the suspect, killing him on the spot.

MILF still liable for massacre

From the Manila Standard Today (Apr 18): MILF still liable for massacre

JUSTICE Secretary Leila de Lima said Friday the ongoing peace talks between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) will not stop the filing of criminal charages against MILF fighters who killed the 44 police commandos in Mamasapano on Jan. 25.

De Lima added that the MILF cannot invoke the peace process to extricate its commanders or fighters implicated in the murder of the Special Action Force (SAF) commandos.

De Lima
“We’re talking about crimes here that are covered by the criminal justice system. What is clear to me is that even in the course of peace negotiation under a peace process regime, the power of the state to go after violations of criminal laws is not suspended,” De Lima said in an interview.

De Lima she would insist on this stand once she approves the recommendation of the fact-finding team of the Justice Department for the filing of several criminal charges against 90 commanders and members of MILF, Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and private armed groups.

“They (MILF) should understand that we would not accept that argument (that they could not be charged because of the ceasefire agreement). We will insist on our position,” she said.

The MILF, in its own report on the Mamasapano incident, said its fighters were merely defending themselves and that it was the police commandos who had violated a ceasefire agreement.

But the Justice Department report on the same incident said the MILF and other rebels could be charged for the deaths of the police commandos.

The MILF on Friday said it would not surrender any of its men involved in the Mamaspano massacre.

“We have long said that we will not surrender them because they did nothing wrong. They were only defending themselves,” MILF vice chairman for political affairs Ghadzali Jaafar said in a TV interview.

“If it were up to us, it would be better if they are not charged with a crime. The only thing they did was to defend themselves,” Jaafar added.

A spokesman for the military said they expect the MILF will not stop government forces from serviing the arrest warrants on the MILF members.

“Once the court issues the warrants of arrest, we will assist the Philippine National Police when they enforce [them]. That’s our major role, to assist the Philippine National Police in the law enforcement operations,” AFP spokesman Brig. Gen. Joselito Kakilala said.

He said, however, that they would still coordinate with the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group and the Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities.

China says Philippines forcibly occupied islands and reefs in Spratlys

From Ang Malaya (Apr 16): China says Philippines forcibly occupied islands and reefs in Spratlys

The Chinese government is calling on Philippine government to choose the path of strengthening ties with them after hearing report that President Aquino said the international community should fear China’s way of advancing claims in West Philippine Sea and the entire South China Sea.

“The Chinese side urges the Philippine side to respect China’s territorial sovereignty, honor its commitment made in bilateral political documents and the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, return to the right track of resolving the disputes through direct negotiation and do more things that contribute to China-Philippines relations and regional peace and stability,” a Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson said.

The Chinese official also accused Philippines of forcibly occupying islands and reefs in Kalayaan (also known as Spratly, Nansha) group of islands since 1970s “which remains the crux and root of the South China Sea disputes between China and the Philippines.”

The spokesperson again said “China will stay committed to jointly safeguarding peace and stability of the South China Sea along with ASEAN countries.” However, action speaks louder than words.

Asia-Pacific region allies investing in defense complimentary to US capabilities

From Ang Malaya (Apr 6): Asia-Pacific region allies investing in defense complimentary to US capabilities

Commander of United States Forces Pacific Command Admiral Samuel Locklear appeared in US House Committee on Armed Services which is holding a hearing on US military technology superiority.

During the April 15 hearing, the commander discussed Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement between Philippines and United States which was forged to benefit two forces.

“I would say that the Philippines who’s another key ally of JApan, we have – in negotiation for Enhanced Cooperative Defense Agreement that’s currently, you know, being debated inside the Philippines on the political side,” Admiral Locklear said.

“But that has an opportunity to help them improve to get them to a better minimum credible defense. It also has the opportunity for us to strengthen that alliance and strengthen our position in Southeast Asia,” he added.

“The trend of our allies (in Asia-Pacific region) across the board is that they’re investing more in their defense – and in their security, rather than less, and they’re investing more in directions that are complimentary to our capabilities,” the top US military official noted. “So that we all enjoy the same mutual benefits of that security architecture.”

The Admiral said Japan is “buying a large number of F-35s. They’ve expressed an intent to buy the V-22. They also are working on upgrading their Aegis platforms.

They are working with us on Global Hawk. And then we also have a very significant cooperative production with them for the SM 3.2 missile. That’s a $3.2 billion cooperative program with Japan.”

He also discussed how Australia and South Korea are spending on defense.

US Marine Corps C-130 Hercules transports Filipino Marines for Balikatan 2015

From Ang Malaya (Apr 17): US Marine Corps C-130 Hercules transports Filipino Marines for Balikatan 2015

Philippine Marines under 3rd Marine Brigade on April 15 were transported by a US Marine Corps C-130 Hercules from Puerto Princesa to Subic were they will train with their American counterparts during Balikatan 2015.

“Philippine Marines, with 3rd Marine Brigade, Battalion Landing Team 4, load onto a United States Marine Corps C-130 Hercules, Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 152, on Antonio Bautista Air Base, in Puerto Princesa, Republic of the Philippines,” Lance Cpl. Wesley Timm reports for U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific.

He added that “Philippine Marines used the C-130 as transport from Puerto Princesa to Subic, where they will train shoulder to shoulder with Marines from III Marine Expeditionary Force and increase interoperability between partnering nations.”

Exercise Balikatan 2015, seen as the biggest exercise between Philippines and United States in fifteen years, will officially be opened on April 20 and will run until April 30.

China snubs G7 declaration: Says situation is generally stable

From Ang Malaya (Apr 17): China snubs G7 declaration: Says situation is generally stable

Reacting to recent declaration of G7 Foreign Ministers, China said “the situation of this region is generally stable, and relevant cooperation has been moved forward with positive results.”

The Chinese government added that it hopes “relevant countries would fully respect the efforts by regional countries to safeguard regional peace and stability, and do more things that contribute to regional peace and stability.”

Contrary to call of G7, China said “disputes should be resolved through negotiation and consultation by countries directly concerned.”

G7 Foreign Ministers on April 15 call on “all states to pursue the peaceful management or settlement of maritime disputes in accordance with international law, including through internationally recognized legal dispute settlement mechanisms.”

They added that any decisions that may be rendered by the relevant courts and tribunals which are binding on them should be implemented. “We underline the importance of coastal states refraining from unilateral actions that cause permanent physical change to the marine environment in areas pending final delimitation.”

They also expressed strong opposition against any state who uses coercion and force to assert territorial and maritime claims.