Saturday, May 16, 2015

KL, Sulu sultanate hold talks on Sabah claim

From the Manila Standard Today (May 16): KL, Sulu sultanate hold talks on Sabah claim

The Sultanate of Sulu and top Malaysian officials held exploratory talks last week over three key issues aimed at resolving the century-old Sabah issue, an official said Friday.

The issues were the 15-percent share of the Sultanate of Sulu in the Gross national Product of Sabah, power sharing in the state of Sabah, and the restoration of the Sultan of Sulu as Sultan of Sabah, said Sultan Abraham Idjirani, secretary-general of the Sultanate of Sulu.

He said the Malaysian officials were sent by Prime Minister Najib Razak to thresh out the pressing issues relating to Sabah, which for years had caused security problems for both parties.

Idjirani said the proposed 15-percent share in Sabah’s GNP was a new mechanism devised by the Sulu Sultanate to replace the rent on Sabah being paid to the sultanate, which is 5,300 ringgit or P67,000 a year.

Idjirani described the rent as diminutive and said the sultanate must share the income that Malaysia was earning in the oil- and gas-rich Sabah.

Informed sources said Malaysia was offering the Sultanate two options on Sabah: a possible lump sum payment or a higher rental fee.

When asked to comment, Idjirani said they would rather pursue the immediate resolution of the Sabah issue.

“If the GNP of Sabah is $100 billion annually, the Sultanate of Sulu... would get a hefty $15 billion for the same period—a major turning point that could spur massive socio-economic development in Mindanao,” Idjirani said.

He said of that amount, 5 percent would go to the Royal families of the Sultanate while the remaining 10 percent would be distributed equally to the provinces of Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Basilan, the Zamboanga peninsula, Palawan and part of the Visayas.

“This matter would surely spur socio-economic development in those areas,” Idjirani said.

 He said Malaysia should consider sharing Sabah’s GNP with the sultanate since it had benefited from Sabah’s natural resources for decades at the expense of the Sultanate of Sulu, which had sovereign rights over the island.

The other point raised by the Sultanate was the possible power sharing in the composition of the state assembly of Sabah, wherein Royal families and twenty eight ethnic groups in Sabah would be given seats.

Today, Idjirani said, Sabah’s state assembly had 57 representatives, and mostly from the ruling royal families of the federal state of Malaysia. If Malaysia accepted the proposition, that number  could rise to about 100 assembly men in the state of Sabah.

“The inclusion of 28 ethnic groups, including the royal families of the Sultanate of Sulu, would equally represent all the ethnic groups in the Sabah assembly,” Idjirani said.

 The third issue discussed was the restoration of the Sultan of Sulu as Sultan of Sabah.

 “Since Sabah is the ancestral territory of the Sultanate of Sulu and was incorporated illegally by Great Britain into the federation of Malaysia, that title of Sultan has been removed, and in order to resolve the sovereignty of Sabah they should restore the Sultanate of Sulu as the Sultan of Sabah,” Idjirani said.

US Marines unifies amphibious forces in Asia

From the Business World (May 14): US Marines unifies amphibious forces in Asia

The US Marine Corps (USMC) is bringing together foreign commanders from amphibious forces deployed mostly in the Asia-Pacific for a conference aimed at taking initial steps to integrate their operations, with China excluded from the event, according to officials and planning documents.

This Oct. 5, 2014 US Marine Corps handout photo shows US Marine Corps amphibious vehicles carrying Philippine Marines to conduct a simulated mechanized raid as part of Amphibious Landing Exercise 15 at the Naval Education Training Command, Zambales. -- AFP
The effort centers on a first-of-its-kind conference between the Marine Corps and military officials from 23 countries that opens in Hawaii on Monday. More than half the nations attending are from Asia, including some embroiled in territorial disputes with China such as Japan, the Philippines and Vietnam.
On the agenda will be amphibious assault tactics, including ship-to-shore assaults, and a demonstration of shore landing tactics, said a USMC spokesman in Hawaii.
A planning document prepared by a consultant to the US military and reviewed by Reuters notes that China should “not be invited” because it’s a “competitor” to the United States and some of the countries attending.

Washington has grown increasingly critical of China’s assertiveness in the disputed South China Sea, especially its land reclamation around seven reefs in the Spratly chain. Satellite images show at least one airstrip under construction.

A US official said on Tuesday that the Pentagon was considering sending US military aircraft and ships to assert freedom of navigation around the reefs.

Asked about China’s exclusion, the Marine spokesman said US law prohibited military-to-military exchanges with China at such events.
US defense officials added that it was not unusual to exclude Chinese military personnel from participating in some training hosted by US forces.

China took part in US-led Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) naval exercises last year with more than 20 countries, but one defense official noted its participation was limited to things like humanitarian relief, and search and rescue operations.

China’s Defense Ministry had no immediate comment.


Amphibious forces specialize in launching maritime operations including beach landings from boats and helicopters, and are often used to deliver and coordinate aid following natural disasters. The vast island-dotted and disaster-prone geography of Asia lends itself to such operations.

A key goal of the Hawaii meeting would be to lay the groundwork for multilateral amphibious exercises, including drills between participant nations, even without US involvement, the planning document said.

On Tuesday, the visiting military officials will observe a US Marine exercise involving helicopter carriers, landing ships and other vessels that will create an offshore sea base that could be used in combat or to coordinate disaster relief.

The US Marines were the “logical integrator” for amphibious capabilities in Asia, which would interest allies like Japan, South Korea and Australia, said Michael Green, senior vice-president at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

“(It would) also be helpful to other partners dealing with vulnerabilities from natural disasters to encroachment and coercion by large maritime claimants,” he said.

China claims most of the South China Sea. The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also claim parts of the waterway.

China last month defended its Spratlys reclamation, saying the new islands would provide civilian services such as search and rescue facilities.

Beijing is also at loggerheads with Japan over uninhabited isles in the East China Sea.

Joma: Aquino lacks sincerity in peace talks

From the pro-CPP online propaganda publication Bulatlat (May 15): Joma: Aquino lacks sincerity in peace talks

“He shows his bad faith, selfishness and incorrigible penchant for cruelty by putting in advance of formal talks his precondition that he will continue to violate Jasig and CAHRIHL and further on by allowing the issuance of warrants of arrest against NDFP consultants in connection with the baseless and false Hilongos charge.”


The founding chairman of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) rebutted the statements of President Benigno Aquino III on the peace talks between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).

In a statement sent through email, Jose Maria Sison, NDFP’s chief political consultant, said, “It is Aquino who lacks sincerity in peace negotiations between the GPH and NDFP.”

Aquino was quoted in a report [3]saying, “Government is always open to talking peace. But we also need to see their sincerity.” Aquino further said the communists have raised “impossible demands” with respect to the peace negotiations.

For the NDFP, however, Aquino “has wantonly violated the existing agreements.” Sison cited in particular The Hague Joint Declaration, the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CAHRIHL), the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (Jasig) and the Joint Agreement on the Formation, Sequence and Operationalization of the Reciprocal Working Committees.

Sixteen NDFP consultants are currently detained. The NDFP has maintained that the arrest and detention of their consultants is a violation of Jasig, which provides safety, and immunity guarantees to all the participants in the peace talks.

“He shows his bad faith, selfishness and incorrigible penchant for cruelty by putting in advance of formal talks his precondition that he will continue to violate Jasig and CAHRIHL and further on by allowing the issuance of warrants of arrest against NDFP consultants in connection with the baseless and false Hilongos charge,” Sison said.

Sison is referring to the multiple murder charges against more than 70 activists, including NDFP consultants Benito Tiamzon, Wilma Austria, Randall Echanis, Rafael Baylosis and Vicente Ladlad, in relation to the “fake mass grave in Inopacan, Leyte.”

The case was filed in 2006 at the height of the filing of trumped-up charges against critics of then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Lawyers of the NDFP consultants said the Hilongos case is “simply a recycled case filed with the sole motive of persecuting their clients.”

Five of the alleged victims, whose skeletal remains were allegedly found in Monterico village, Baybay, Leyte on June 27, 2000 were the same alleged victims [4] in the Hilongos case, whose skeletal remains were allegedly found on August 26, 2006 in Mt. Sapang Dako, Inopacan, Leyte.

Last week, the accused were arraigned at the Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 32 despite a pending petition for certiorari filed with the Supreme Court.

Austria, Echanis, Baylosis and Ladlad are publicly known as NDFP consultants and are thus covered by Jasig. Tiamzon, meanwhile, is the holder of NDFP Document of Identification ND 978227 under the assumed name “Crising Banaag.”

At the time of the arrest in March 2014, Tiamzon and Austria both had with them a Letter of Acknowledgment signed by then GRP Negotiating Panel Chairman Silvestre H. Bello III which states: “The above named person is entitled to the safety and immunity guarantees [5] as provided under the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (Jasig) for the duration of the peace negotiations. You are hereby required to facilitate the safe conduct and free passage of the above named person.”

With regard to the special track on the peace talks, Sison said Aquino has allowed Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Deles to “sabotage every step in the so-called special track from the time of Ronald Llamas to that of Hernani Braganza.”

“Now, Deles wants to humiliate and insult the NDFP by putting forward the self-proclaimed designer of Oplan Bayanihan as the chief negotiator of the GPH,” Sison said, referring to retired Gen. Emmanuel Bautista.

“By his callous and malicious statement, probably advised by Deles, Aquino has made it necessary for the NDFP to consider again whether or not it is useful at all to negotiate with a lameduck regime which is obsessed with violating existing agreements and which is predetermined to leave a legacy of ruining the peace negotiations with the NDFP and even messing up those with the MILF by committing the Mamasapano fiasco,” Sison said.

Is America about to Get Tough in the South China Sea?

From The National Interest (May 16): Is America about to Get Tough in the South China Sea?

Hopefully, Beijing will take the United States more seriously. But in case China chooses to test American resolve, Washington had better be sure that the cavalry is ready...

How the United States has treated maritime disputes in East Asia over the last 40 years owes much to a little-known cable that was drafted in the waning hours of December 31, 1970. On that night, Chinese patrol boats were shadowing an American oil exploration ship, the Gulftrex, in the disputed waters of the East China Sea. In Washington, a small group of officials from the U.S. Departments of State and Defense gathered to discuss how the United States should handle the situation if it escalated.

At the time, the United States was still militarily engaged in South Vietnam; and some officials feared that the Gulftrex could turn into another Pueblo incident (in which North Korea seized an American surveillance ship and imprisoned its crew). After a lengthy debate, the decision was made not to use U.S. forces to protect the ship, since it had already been warned that it would be sailing in disputed waters; and a cable was sent to U.S. Pacific Command. Underlying that decision was an assumption that the United States would remain neutral in the region’s maritime disputes. In fact, American policy was to “not only be one of scrupulous noninvolvement, but of active discouragement.

For decades thereafter, the cable’s underlying assumption set the pattern for a hands-off U.S. policy towards such maritime disputes in the region, including the South China Sea. The United States would not take sides in the disputes, but would encourage the countries involved in them to resolve their conflicts peacefully.

On Tuesday, it seemed that Washington was about to change that policy. A Pentagon official revealed that Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter had requested options for asserting the freedom of navigation through the South China Sea. Those options included sending American ships and planes within 12 nautical miles (22 kilometers) of Chinese-held islands in the South China Sea. There was precedence for this. The United States similarly showed the flag in the Gulf of Sidra when Libya claimed those waters and in the Persian Gulf when Iran preyed on international shipping during the 1980s. A visible American military presence near the Spratly Islands would also help steady U.S. allies and partners in the region.

But why was such a major policy shift necessary at all? Part of the answer lies in China’s rise, of course. Given its political and economic heft, China feels that it can be more assertive in the South China Sea. But another part of the answer lies in how President Barack Obama’s administration has conducted its foreign policy. In almost every crisis it has faced—in Egypt, Syria, Libya, Crimea and eastern Ukraine—it has seemed unsure, both of itself and American interests. Its policies have been perceived as confused and prone to vacillation. That has caused many Asian leaders, including those in Beijing, to doubt American commitment and resolve. Indeed, Obama had to personally travel to Asia last fall to reassure U.S. allies, who have come to see the president as diffident about international security.

Given that perception, China sensed that it could afford to disregard the incremental signs of American displeasure to realize its objectives. Neither the modest increase in American military engagement with the region’s countries, nor the signing of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement between the United States and Philippines caused China to relent. Finally, in December 2014, the U.S. Department of State directly interjected itself into the South China Sea dispute for the first time. It published a report that questioned the basis of China’s maritime claims. But rather than heed the American admonition, China accelerated its land-reclamation activities across the region, creating about 2,000 acres of new land and its first airfield in the Spratly archipelago. Beijing clearly doubts the credibility of the Obama administration to stand in its way.

Despite much talk about its rebalance to Asia, the Obama administration has made few efforts that have convincingly demonstrated its commitment to the region—surely nothing that approaches China’s major military buildup or its $90 billion offer of economic development funds. So far, the United States has contented itself with repositioning its military assets across the Asia-Pacific, rather than meaningfully adding to them.

How American credibility is perceived could be heard in the remarkable tone of a speech given by the U.S. ambassador to the Philippines in March 2015. He had to stress that “We make no pretense that we are helping the Philippines,” as if to say: this time we really mean it. After all, the Obama administration has complained about Chinese actions in the South China Sea before, but has rarely taken a stand without an exit. It revitalized the U.S. mutual defense treaty with the Philippines, but then made clear that Philippine claims in the South China Sea lay outside the treaty’s protection. China may have seen that as another mixed signal.

The United States now finds itself in an unenviable position where it feels that it must respond to China’s actions in the South China Sea. No doubt Secretary of State John Kerry conveyed that message to Beijing on his trip to China this week. But at the moment the United States is still in the middle of its rebalance to Asia. It has only one littoral combat ship—the Fort Worth, based in Singapore—that can patrol near the Spratly Islands (which it did for the first time on Monday) or quickly respond to a crisis there.

Washington may have chosen to pursue a more forceful posture in the region. Hopefully, Beijing will take the United States more seriously. But in case China chooses to test American resolve, Washington had better be sure that the cavalry is ready over the horizon.

Army chief keeps mum on alleged corruption issue; supplier eyes filing of more charges

From InterAksyon (May 16): Army chief keeps mum on alleged corruption issue; supplier eyes filing of more charges

Philippine Army Chief Hernando Irriberi.

The Philippine Army is mum over corruption allegations hurled against its commanding general, even as more suppliers, according to sources, are reportedly set to be filing more charges against Lt. Gen. Hernando DCA Irriberi.

The other charges set to be filed are said to be administrative and criminal in form, in connection with other "big-ticket items" allegedly laced with irregularities involving billions of pesos in public funds.

Despite repeated telephone calls and text messages to get his side, Irriberi, through his spokesman, Lt. Col. Noel Detoyato, the efforts of journalists have remained unanswered as Detoyato continues to ignore them. has secured a copy of a nine-page complaint filed on May 5, 2014, by Roperlynn Comahig, a representative of JoaviPhilippines Corporation (JPC), against Irriberi for allegedly delaying the delivery of at least three contracts for the supply of ammunition for the Army with a total amount of P97.8 million.

JPC, reportedly led by businesswoman Jocelyn Magcale as President/Chief Executive Officer, has partnered with foreign firms Talon Security Consulting & Trade Ltd. (TSCTL) and Kompanija Sloboda, A.D. (KSAD) for these procurements.

The firm is based at Forbeswood Heights, Tower 2, Bonifacio Global City in Taguig City.

While Irriberi is silent on the issue, multiple sources within the Department of National Defense indicated that he could face more charges over much bigger projects that had existing and/or pending contracts with other firms linked to Magcale, such as the Stone of David Tactical Equipment Co.

Accordingly, Magcale's father hails from Israel, with the surname Utzurrum.

"She's reportedly planning to file next week administrative and criminal charges against some Army officials, including Irriberi, and defense officials for unwarranted delays for her firms' contracts. Let's see if this will happen," said a source from the Department of National Defense (DND) who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Still, Magcale could not be reached for comment.

Allegedly, Magcale and her foreign partners are eyeing up to P5 billion worth of contracts for the Army's plan to procure "shore-based missile" and the missile system for the Navy's Multi-Purpose Attack Craft (MPAC).

In 2013, Stone of David is said to have joined the DND's bidding for the Navy's two multi-purpose transport vessels worth P2 billion each. But Magcale, being the President and CEO of the firm, later decided to withdraw from the bidding due to technical and procedural problems allegedly imposed by the DND-Bids and Awards Committee.

"I know for a fact that the she [Magcale] has many friends and contacts, both active and retired generals, at the DND and AFP. She's very influential. That's why she obtained lots of projects. I've heard also that many generals have investments in the firms she represents, either as stockholders or incorporators," the source said further.

A second source said that Magcale's filing of the case before the Office of the Ombudsman against Irriberi "has the blessings" of some generals.

Stone of David was also linked to the controversial purchase of 3,840 armor vests worth P120 million in 2013 that Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin rejected in January 2014 because they were found defective after several series of tests.

Stone of David reportedly partnered with a Serbia-based company, UM-Merkata, for the supply of armor vests supposed to be delivered and used by government forces fighting more than 500 rogue members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) during the September 2013 siege in Zamboanga City.

The suppliers, however, failed to deliver the vests, compelling the Armed Forces of the Philippines to undertake an emergency purchase of about 1,000 armor vests for the troops through the Philippine International Trading Corporation of the Department of Trade and Industry.

Another source indicated that there is information the defective armor vests delivered by Stone of David and UM-Merkata are rotting inside a warehouse at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City.

"I think the case has been elevated for arbitration. I'm not really sure what that could mean, but this could lead to some form of settlement or other," the source said.

US, China set for high-stakes rivalry in skies above South China Sea

From InterAksyon (May 16): US, China set for high-stakes rivalry in skies above South China Sea

USS Fort Worth (Reuters file)

When the US navy sent a littoral combat ship on its first patrol of the disputed Spratly islands in the South China Sea during the past week, it was watching the skies as well.

The USS Fort Worth, one of the most modern ships in the US navy, dispatched a reconnaissance drone and a Seahawk helicopter to patrol the airspace, according to a little-noticed statement on the navy's website.

While the navy didn't mention China's rapid land reclamation in the Spratlys, the ship's actions were a demonstration of US capabilities in the event Beijing declares an Air Defense Identification Zone in the area -- a move experts and some US military officials see as increasingly likely.

"It's not inevitable but if we are betting paychecks I'll bet that they will eventually declare one, I just don't know when," said a senior US commander familiar with the situation in Asia.

ADIZs are not governed by formal treaties or laws but are used by some nations to extend control beyond national borders, requiring civilian and military aircraft to identify themselves or face possible military interception.

China sparked condemnation from the United States and Japan when it imposed an ADIZ in the East China Sea, above uninhabited islands disputed with Tokyo, in late 2013.

Chinese military facilities now under construction on Fiery Cross Reef in the Spratlys, including a 3,000-meter (10,000-foot) runway and airborne early warning radars, could be operational by the year-end, said the US commander, who declined to be identified.

Recent satellite images also show reclamation work on Subi Reef creating landmasses that, if joined together, could make space for a similar-sized airstrip.

Growing concern in Washington that China might impose air and sea restrictions in the Spratlys once it completes work on its seven artificial islands is likely to be on the agenda when US Secretary of State John Kerry meets Chinese leaders in Beijing this weekend for previously scheduled talks.

Tough to enforce

Asia's rising power claims sovereignty over most of the South China Sea, through which $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year. The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei also have overlapping claims.

China has said it had every right to set up an ADIZ but that current conditions in the South China Sea did not warrant one.

Enforcing such an ADIZ would be difficult even with two airstrips capable of handling fighter planes in the Spratlys, as well as an expanded airstrip on Woody island in the disputed Paracel island chain further north because of the distances involved, regional military officials and experts said.

The Spratlys for example lie more than 1,100 km (680 miles) from the Chinese mainland, putting China's well-equipped airbases along its coastline well out of reach.

"Even with the new reclamations, it is going to be a stretch for China to routinely enforce such a zone that far south," said Richard Bitzinger, a regional security analyst at Singapore's S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies.

The Japanese and US military ignore the ADIZ above the East China Sea, as does Japan's two major carriers, ANA Holdings and Japan Airlines.

A study produced by the independent US Congressional Research Service earlier this year noted that, while China's air force actively monitors that zone with ground radar from its coastline, it had generally shown restraint in enforcement.

China's planes were unlikely to maintain a constant presence over the East China Sea, the study noted, citing a US air force assessment.

Risk of escalation

The South China Sea might prove more problematic for China given the complexity of the dispute and the possibility of challenges from the US navy and air force.

Indeed, on Tuesday, a US official said the Pentagon was considering sending military aircraft and ships to assert freedom of navigation around the Chinese-made islands.

China's Foreign Ministry responded by saying Beijing was "extremely concerned" and demanded clarification.

On Friday it accused the Philippines of working together with the United States to "exaggerate the China threat" over the Spratlys.

China had recently warned Philippine air force and navy planes at least six times to leave the Spratlys, the military commander responsible for the region said last week. The planes refused.

Zhang Baohui, a mainland security expert at Hong Kong's Lingnan University, said he was worried about the risk of confrontation from any US show of force.

"It's reckless," he said, referring to Washington's latest plans.

"It has a built-in dynamic for unintended escalation," he added. "Are they willing to take the consequences of this escalation?"

At sea, tensions are already apparent.

The naval statement about the USS Fort Worth, which can also hunt submarines and support amphibious landings, noted the ship "encountered multiple People's Liberation Army-Navy warships" during its patrol. It did not go into detail.

"Our interactions with Chinese ships continue to be professional and (the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea) helps clarify intentions and prevent miscommunication," Commander Matt Kawas, the Fort Worth's commanding officer, said in the statement.

Aquino 'sabotaging' chances for talks' resumption - Reds

From InterAksyon (May 16): Aquino 'sabotaging' chances for talks' resumption - Reds

Communist rebels accused President Benigno Aquino III of “sabotaging” chances of resuming peace talks just as, they said, they were preparing for the possibility of reopening the stalled negotiations.

The accusations made by Luis Jalandoni, chief negotiator of the National Democratic Front -- which represents the rebels to the peace talks -- and Jose Ma. Sison, Communist Party of the Philippines founder and the NDF’s chief political consultant, were in response to statements by Aquino during an interview with Bombo Radyo last week, in which he said government was “always open to peace talks” but that the rebels “also need to show their sincerity.”

In the interview, Aquino twitted the communists, referring to information from his peace adviser, Secretary Teresita Deles, that, at the height of the controversy following the January 25 Mamasapano incident, the communists imposed “impossible demands” even as they issued “propaganda that they want to talk peace.”

He also accused the NDF of exploiting the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees to claim consultant status for captured rebel leaders as a ploy to get them out of jail.

Jalandoni, in a statement, said with his statements, “Aquino destroys the chances for resumption of peace negotiations between his lame-duck administration and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.”

The NDF chief negotiator said their preparations for a possible resumption of the talks was not propaganda but “in response to calls of peasants and workers to work for genuine land reform and national industrialization in the face of massive poverty, landlessness and spiraling prices of basic commodities,” as well as “to the efforts of peace advocates and the Royal Norwegian Government,” the third-party facilitator of the negotiations.

In his own statement, Sison said Aquino had “wantonly violated” not just the JASIG but other existing agreements between the government and the NDF, including The Hague Joint Declaration, which laid down the framework for the negotiations, the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law, and the Joint Agreement on the Formation, Sequence and Operationalization of the Reciprocal Working Committees.

In the Bombo interview, Aquino also alluded to a “special track” proposed by Sison to fast-track the negotiations.

While describing the proposal, which suggested that an indefinite ceasefire was possible, as “doable,” Aquino said the rebels “took it back.”

However, Sison said Aquino “is out of his mind if he thinks that he can get an agreement on indefinite ceasefire without complying with the aforesaid existing agreements and without a Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms at the same time.”

Army soldiers recover 2 IEDs after clash with NPA in Sorsogon

From the Philippine News Agency (May 15): Army soldiers recover 2 IEDs after clash with NPA in Sorsogon

Philippine Army soldiers recovered two improvised explosive devices (IED) following an encounter on Friday morning with communist rebels in Barangay San Isidro, a remote village in Bulusan, Sorsogon, an Army officer said.

Army Captain Marjorie Panesa, 9th Infantry Division public affairs chief, said an Army platoon led by 1Lt. Julieto Pollescase of the 31st Infantry Battalion was on a security operation when they chanced upon a 15-man New People’s Army (NPA) rebels at Sitio (sub-village) Kapirikuhan, Barangay San Isidro at around 5:30 a.m. Friday.

A 10-minute running gun battle ensued where fleeing communist guerrilla’s left behind two IEDs and wires.

Panesa said the NPA band was headed by guerrilla leader only known as Ka Hazel.

As of press time, Army troopers were still scouring neighboring villages for the fleeing rebels.

As this developed, two militia men survived an NPA attack in Barangay Bagangan in Lupi town in Camarines Sur on Thursday afternoon, Panesa said.

The two militia men, identified only as Lazarte and Carcedo, who are members of the Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit, were preparing for an upcoming event in that village when they were fired at by armed men believed to be communist rebels.

Panesa warned militia forces and soldiers that, according to military intelligence, the NPA is on a killing spree, citing the recent killing of Arlam Madrilejos, a CAFGU member, while doing some marketing last Sunday.

AFP still waiting inter-agency committee order on Chinese ships firing at Filipino fishermen

From the Philippine News Agency (May 15): AFP still waiting inter-agency committee order on Chinese ships firing at Filipino fishermen
While encouraging Filipino fishermen to continue fishing at Scarborough Shoal, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief-of-staff Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang said they are still waiting for their marching orders from the inter-agency committee on what to do in case Chinese Coast Guard ships to fire their water cannons at the fisherfolk.

"We are still waiting for our marching orders which will come from the inter-agency committee. We will do whatever (orders) is given to us," he added.

Earlier, Western Command head Vice Admiral Alexander Lopez urged Filipino fishermen to continue asserting their fishing rights at Scarborough Shoal as it is legitimate Philippine territory.

"Our message (to Filipino fishermen despite the purported Chinese harassment) is to continue going there (because) it is ours.That's a traditional fishing country," he added.

He made this appeal especially to those fishermen based in Northern Luzon.

At the same time, Lopez said that there is an average three Chinese Coast Guard ships off Scarborough Shoal.

These vessels are deployed there with the sole purpose of driving away Filipino fisherfolks.

He also stressed that they are still to detect any Chinese reclamation efforts in the vicinity.

Scarborough Shoal has been placed under the operational jurisdiction of the Palawan-based Western Command in February 2014.

This was done through the orders of then Armed Forces of the Philippines chief-of-staff Gen. Emmanuel Bautista.

"The area of Bajo De Masinloc (Scarborough Shoal) has been transferred from the Northern Luzon Command to the Western Command, this is to enhance our external defense capabilities which is now being concentrated at the Western Command and unity of effort and command so that our external defense efforts will just be under one commander and that is the Western Command commander," he added.

ASG bandits now in check - AFP

From the Philippine News Agency (May 15):  ASG bandits now in check - AFP

Thanks to the relentless law enforcement operations being conducted by the military and its police counterparts, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief-of-staff Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang said the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) is losing their cohesion and now being checked in their Basilan and Sulu enclaves.

Catapang's statement was also confirmed by a Thursday reports which revealed that ASG bandits were forced to release their teacher captive due to ongoing law enforcement operations.

Col. Alan Arrojado, Joint Task Group Sulu head, identified the victim as Reynadeth Bagonoc-Silvano, 31, married and a school teacher.

She was released by the ASG around 7: 30 a.m. Thursday and was immediately brought to the Joint Task Group Sulu headquarters for debriefing and medical check-up.

However, her 22-year-old brother Russel, was left behind the bandits.

The victims were snatched by suspected ASG men on March 15 in Brgy. Moalboal, Talusan town, Zamboanga Sibugay while enroute to Tuburan Elem School which was an hour's travel from their residence.

Pursuit operations are still ongoing as this posting.

"And come election day, we will run after the PAGS, the private armed groups in coordination with the PNP, we will not hesitate, if we know where the firearms are kept, we will inform the PNP and we will ask them to issue through the judges a search warrant and we will run after them, that's the only way to maintain the peace in our country, nobody have the monopoly of use of violence, it will only be the armed services, the duly constituted armed services of our country should bear arms," he concluded.

2 killed, 10 wounded as security forces capture ASG IED factory in Basilan

From the Philippine News Agency (May 15): 2 killed, 10 wounded as security forces capture ASG IED factory in Basilan

Two people were killed while another 10 were wounded as government troopers captured an improvised explosive device (IED) factory in Sitio Project, Barangay Tuburan Proper, Hji Moh Ajul town, Basilan Thursday.

The incident took place at 8: 25 a.m., Joint Task Force ZAMBASULTA (Zamboanga, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi) head Rear Admiral Reynaldo Yoma said.

He added that government forces encountered 25 ASG elements by Ustadz Abbas Alam along with one Malaysian jihadist Mohammad Najib, triggering a running gun-battle, which lasted for four hours.

After an intense battle, the ASGs retreated leaving one dead.

Intelligence reports indicated that another bandit was killed in the encounter but his companions managed to carry away his body.

Three ASG men were also wounded in the encounter while government forces sustained one dead and seven wounded.

Assorted IEDs were recovered from the captured ASG facility. Pursuit operations are still ongoing.

2 troopers killed, 1 missing in Samar ambush

From the Philippine News Agency (May 16): 2 troopers killed, 1 missing in Samar ambush

Two troopers from the 87th Infantry Battalion were killed while another was wounded during a ambush perpetuated by still unidentified armed groups in Paranas town, Samar Friday.

In the same encounter, a trooper was reported missing, Central Command public affairs chief Lt. Cmdr. Jim Aris Alagao said.

He added that six troopers from said unit had gone to market at Catbalogan City and were cruising Lokilokon-San Jose De Buan Road, Paranas town when fired upon by the suspects at 8:30 a.m..

Two of the troopers were immediately killed while another one was wounded.

Two the six soldiers escaped unscathed.

Operations are now ongoing to locate the missing trooper and apprehend the suspects behind the incident.

4 IEDs seized in Camarines Norte operations

From the Philippine News Agency (May 16): 4 IEDs seized in Camarines Norte operations
Troopers from the 49th Infantry Battalion have recovered four suspected New People's Army (NPA) improvised explosive devices (IEDs) during security operations at Purok 3, Sitio Palali, Barangay Exciban, Labo town, Camarines Norte Saturday.

Recovered were four IEDs stashed inside a metal drum, 9th Infantry Division public affairs office chief Capt. Mardjorie Paimela Panesa said.

She added that government troops were conducting routine security operations when they chanced upon the explosive stash.

Earlier, two IEDs were also recovered by 31st Infantry Battalion during an encounter with New People's Army forces in Bulusan town, Sorsogon Friday morning.

Panesa said that the IEDs will be turned over to the Philippine National Police for documentation and disposal.

Missing trooper in Samar ambush found

From the Philippine News Agency (May 16): Missing trooper in Samar ambush found

The soldier from the 87th Infantry Battalion, earlier reported missing after he and five other companions were ambushed by still unknown armed men in San Jose De Buan, Samar, has been finally located.

This was disclosed by 8th Infantry Division public affairs office chief Major Amado Gutierrez Saturday.

The missing trooper was wounded, he added.

Earlier, two troopers from the 87th Infantry Battalion were killed while another one was wounded after they were ambushed by a still unidentified armed group in Paranas town, Samar Friday.

Two were immediately killed while two others, including the soldier reported missing, were wounded.

The remaining two managed to make a clean getaway.

Gutierrez said the soldiers had just finished buying supplies in Catbalogan City and were on the way back to their camp in San Jose De Buan when were fired upon by the suspects.

"They were all in civilian clothes and unarmed at the time of the attack because they went 'marketing,'" he said.

More and more rebels surrendering to 10th ID units

From the Philippine News Agency (May 16): More and more rebels surrendering to 10th ID units

The number of New People's Army (NPA) fighters, who surrendered to the Davao City-based 10th Infantry Division, hit the 56-mark from January to May 15, 2015.

The voluntary surrender of three ranking NPA leaders on May 13 and 14 highlighted the increasing numnber of surrenderees.

Major Gen. Eduardo M. Año, 10th Infantry Division commander, said that the continuous influx of NPA surrenderees in Davao Region wass a manifestation that a growing demoralization was taking place at the NPA ranks.

"We are again calling on our brothers who are just  deceived by the CPP-NPA propaganda to lay down their arms and embrace a peaceful life with their family in the mainstream society," Año said.

The surrenderees will be enrolled in the government’s Comprehensive Local Integration Program.

Aquino wants talks with communists resumed, but…

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (May 15): Aquino wants talks with communists resumed, but…

President Aquino on Thursday was all for resuming the stalled peace negotiations with the communists but the other side has to show its sincerity.

“Government is always open to talking peace. But we also need to see their sincerity,” Aquino said in an interview over Bombo Radyo.

The President said he does not want the peace negotiations to simply turn into a mechanism that would benefit only the communist insurgents and not the entire nation.

According to Aquino, shortly after the Mamasapano debacle in late January, the communist rebels began making “impossible demands” with respect to the peace negotiations. He did not elaborate.

Aquino lamented that one of the reasons for the latest termination of the talks was the contentious list that the rebels want to be given immunity and safety guarantees.

The list was submitted more than a decade ago to a third party but could no longer be verified because the diskette containing the names was corrupted.

“So now they said, they would come up with a new list,” Aquino said.

“But it seems all those on the [new] list were ones whom government has arrested. It’s like the Monopoly game where there was a ‘Get out of the jail card free.’ And if we arrest someone, the person might be included in the list and that was not what we had agreed on,” he said.

Aquino said this controversial list of consultants to be granted immunity under the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees was one of the reasons given by the communists to walk out of the talks.

The President also lamented that the communists had gone back on the special track initiated by their leader, Jose Ma. Sison.

Sison’s special track proposed, among other things, focusing on discussing a cessation of hostilities. The peace talks under the special track would not include a panel-to-panel negotiation but would involve only the panel chairs and other personalities. But the special track was not implemented because of disagreements between the two parties.

Last week, top leaders of the communist National Democratic Front (NDF) were arraigned for multiple murder charges stemming from the alleged purging of hundreds of rebels suspected to be government spies in Inopacan, Leyte, in the 1980s.

A Manila court entered a plea of not guilty for Satur Ocampo, Randall Echanis, Rafael Baylosis, Vicente Ladlad and spouses Benito and Wilma Tiamzon.

Secretary Teresita Deles, the presidential adviser on the peace process, earlier said that the arraignment of the NDF leaders should not affect the stalled peace talks.

“The important thing is that if the table opens and there is still progress on it, certainly we can do problem solving on this matter,” Deles said.

The Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed group, the New People’s Army, and political arm, the NDF, also accuse the government of insincerity, for continuing with its counterinsurgency programs that the communists alleged have led to human rights violations by the military and the police.

700 families displaced due to Basilan conflict

From ABS-CBN (May 14): 700 families displaced due to Basilan conflict

BASILAN - More than 700 families are still displaced in Basilan after the renewed conflict broke out in some barangays of Mohammad Ajul town last month.

Basilan Police chief Senior Superintendent Mario Buyuccan said policemen and soldiers encountered a group of suspected Abu Sayyaf bandits in Barangay Tuburan Proper in Mohammad Ajul.

The bandits were headed by alleged foreign terrorists who are experts in bomb making.

Last week, the Joint Task group Basilan recovered some improvised explosive devices and Islamic State flags during their operation in Mohammad Ajul.

Two alleged members of Abu Sayyaf Group were killed in the operation.

Basilan social welfare officer Lilia Bucoy said the more than 700 families who fled their homes due to the conflict are now staying with their relatives in Lamitan City and other adjacent municipalities.

There were no evacuation centers set up for the internally displaced families.

Bucoy said most of the evacuees prefer staying with their relatives over seeking home in temporary evacuation centers like public schools.

Authorities have identified six areas in Lamitan City and Mohammad Ajul where they could gather the evacuees whenever the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and other government agencies distribute relief goods and other assistance.

Bucoy said three barangays in Mohammad Ajul are directly affected by the conflict, and one of these is now considered as ghost village since most of the residents in the place have fled to a safer place.

Colonel Rolly Bautista, commander of Joint Task Group Basilan, said Abu Sayyaf bandits are still occupying a remote place in Mohammad Ajul.

On Wednesday morning, alleged Abu Sayyaf bandits harassed policemen who were securing the municipal police station of Mohamma Ajul.

There were no reported casualties from both sides after a few minutes of gun battle.

Tensions remain high in the area, as the military continuously support the efforts of the police to secure the place and some of the civilians who opted to stay in their homes.

Regional disaster management officer Ramil Masukat said they cannot force the evacuees to go back to their respective homes without the advise of the police and military.

The regional government has allocated funds for additional relief goods for the 700 families, but this may not be enough to fulfill the needs of the evacuees.

Muktadil brothers linked to latest Sabah abductions

From the Star Online (May 15): Muktadil brothers linked to latest Sabah abductions

Security personnel carrying out investigations at the restaurant in Sandakan

Security personnel carrying out investigations at the restaurant in Sandakan

PETALING JAYA: Two siblings known as the Muktadil Brothers are believed to be behind Thursday's abduction of a restaurant owner and customer at a popular seaside restaurant in Sandakan.

According to Home Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, the incident happened at around 7.40pm at the Ocean King resturant at Jalan Batu Sapi in Sandakan.

Inspector General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar said police have not ruled out militants in carrying out the daring abduction.

The two victims were identified as Thien Nyuk Fun, 50, the manager of the restaurant, and Bernard Then Ted Fen, 39, an electrical consultant based in Cambodia.

“Four kidnappers went to the restaurant using two M16 guns and a pistol. We could not get the boat description. Early intelligence believes that the Muktadil Brother are behind this,” said Ahmad Zahid.

At least four men, believed linked to the Abu Sayyaf kidnap group, had stormed into the restaurant causing the patrons to flee.

Police have been keeping a lookout for the brothers believed to be key suspects in cross border kidnapping and murder in the state.

They believed the Muktadil brothers were still at large in their native southern Philippines.

Nilson Muktadil, who is his 30s, and his 40-something brother Badong @ Adzmil Muktadil, are the main culprits in a number of kidnapping cases in the state’s east coast.

The Star had reported that the Muktadil brothers were born to a life of violent crime, specialising in cross-border kidnapping.

The brothers were part of the southern Philippines’ Tawi-Tawi island-based kidnap-for-ransom group.

He said Nilson had lived in Kampung Bangau-Bangau and was believed to be involved in the April 2 kidnapping of Chinese tourist Gao Huayun, 29, and Filipino worker Marcy Dayawan, 40.
Together with his sibling, they are believed to have over 40 men for their kidnap-for-ransom activities and four boats equipped with 40HP to 70HP outboard engines.

Gunmen with possible links to Abu Sayyaf abduct 2 in Sabah - report

From GMA News (May 15): Gunmen with possible links to Abu Sayyaf abduct 2 in Sabah - report

Armed men believed to have ties with the Abu Sayyaf bandit group on Thursday evening abducted two people from a seaside restaurant in Sabah, a Malaysian news site reported.
Four gunmen struck at the Ocean King Seafood Restaurant near Sandakan at about 8 p.m. and abducted the manager and a customer, The Star Online reported.
One of the four was armed with an automatic rifle with bullets strapped on his chest while another had a pistol, the report said.
Sabah authorities are hunting the group, who the report said is believed to be "cross-border kidnap gangs" with links to the Abu Sayyaf.
The report quoted restaurant owner Chung Yan Tsim as saying those abducted included his sister-in-law, 48, and a male customer. Chung's sister-in-law manages the restaurant.
"They fled in a boat. There wore no mask and there was no shooting," Chung said.
It took the gunmen less than a minute to pull off the abduction, the report said.
Security forces went on alert, noting Sandakan is just an hour's ride from the Bakungan Besar in southern Philippines via speedboat.
Eastern Sabah Security Command commander Datuk Abdul Rashid Harun said they were at the scene and taking necessary action but declined to elaborate.

Man linked to Abu Sayyaf shot dead in Sulu — police

From GMA News (May 14): Man linked to Abu Sayyaf shot dead in Sulu — police  

A tricycle driver suspected of having possible links to two Abu Sayyaf sub-leaders was shot dead in Indanan town in Sulu province early Wednesday, police said.
The victim identified as Ben Ahamad was shot behind his house at Annur Village in Barangay Buanza, GMA News correspondent Peewee Bacuño reported.
Citing initial police reports, Bacuño said Ahamad's assailant used a cal-.45 pistol in the shooting, then fled toward Ummol Quorah Village.
Bacuño also cited police information linking Ahamad, who died from gunshot wounds in different parts of the body, to Abu Sayyaf sub-leaders Yasser Igasan and Idang Susukan.
Police are still determining the motive behind the shooting.