Sunday, May 17, 2015

MNLF denies talks with Malaysia over Sabah

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (May 17): MNLF denies talks with Malaysia over Sabah

The Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) denied reports that it is negotiating the ongoing claims of the Sultanate of Sulu over Sabah with the Malaysian government.

In a statement sent to the Inquirer, the MNLF claimed that its founding chair Nur Misuari has not authorized anyone to talk with any emissary from the Malaysian government.

“Chairman Professor Nur Misuari of the Central Committee of the Moro National Liberation (MNLF) has categorically denied giving tacit approval to any departmentalized committee of the Front, especially the MNLF foreign affairs and any state chairmanship committee, to negotiate with any Malaysian officialdom on the status of North Borneo (now Sabah and Sarawak),” the MNLF said.

Misuari, who is hiding after the hostilities in Zamboanga in 2013, maintains his position that only the Sultanate of Sulu can pursue the negotiations for the Sabah claim.

“Respecting the fervent wish of the late Sultan Muhammad Jamalul Kiram III to let alone the Islamic Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo (SSNB) to negotiate peacefully with the Muslim leaders of Malaysia to settle the controversial issue in order not to repeat the March 2013 Lahad Datu, Sabah incident, Chairman Misuari has dismissed the media reports as unfounded and without any ounce of truth involving the MNLF in any level talks,” the MNLF statement said.

The MNLF, however, asserted that the Sabah case is a non-issue because it is the “home-base for different tribal groupings of Muslims from different regions of Southeast Asia that have enjoyed peaceful and harmonious co-existence with the Chinese and Christian populace in the area.”

The statement followed reports that MNLF peace panel spokesperson Absalom Cerveza allegedly divulged about a negotiation with Malaysia.

“On this development, Chairman Misuari has personally contacted the MNLF Christian leader informing him of the falsehood of the media report as the MNLF Central Committee has never sanctioned any level meetings with any Malaysian officials on the North Borneo issue,” the statement said.

Meanwhile, Misuari called for a meeting with top MNLF officials on May 20 to discuss the recent updates on the peace negotiations in Mindanao.

“Furthermore, giving more importance to the strategic peace initiatives now undertaken by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) whose leadership has even recently conducted significant meetings in Davao City with the MNLF and MILF leaders in highlighting the implementation of the September 2, 1996 MNLF-OIC-GRP Peace agreements, Chairman Misuari has called the attention of the Davao City-based MNLF Vice-Chairman Abdul-Aziz Olamit and all MNLF foreign affairs committee officialdom to attend a special meeting in the Bangsamoro homeland on May 20, this year,” the MNLF said.

The meeting will also tackle discussions on how the MNLF as a permanent observer to the OIC will “present the sad case of the Philippine government under President Benigno S. Aquino III, who has repeatedly shown disrespect to the 1996 peace agreement by totally ignoring the comprehensive and correct implementation of the international accord.”

The MNLF also hinted that Misuari might attend Islamic Conference of Foreign Ministers (ICFM) meeting in Kuwait this month where he will have the opportunity to present the disappointment of the MNLF over the alleged sidelining of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement.

AFP recovers bomb components in ASG leader's house

From ABS-CBN (May 16): AFP recovers bomb components in ASG leader's house

BASILAN - The Armed Forces of the Philippines recovered several bomb components in one of the houses of an Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) leader in Barangay Tuburan Proper in Mohammad Ajul, Basilan.

The bomb components include metal pipes, LPG tanks, battery, electrical wires, cellphones and other materials.

There were also some empty boxes of hand-held radios and battery chargers.

Lieutenant General Rustico Guerero, chief of the Western Mindanao Command, said the bomb components were recovered in the house of Abbas Alam, one of the ASG sub-leaders in Basilan.

Alam is a native of Mohammad Ajul and has been living in Barangay Tuburan Proper in the last few years with some relatives.

He was previously arrested for murder and frustrated murder in relation to the ASG's activities, but his cases were dismissed.

After this, Alam went back to Basilan and became an ally of Malaysian Bomb expert Moho Najib bin Husen, who is also linked to Jemaah Islamiyah.

Husen is believed to have conducted training on bomb making in Mohammad Ajul. His students were ASG members.

He has extensive knowledge on how to make improvised explosive devices using available resources in their area.

But the military said there were no new designs of bombs recovered in Mohammad Ajul.

Guerrero said the bombs assembled and being produced in the house of Alam are intended to create chaos in Basilan, Zamboanga City and other provinces near the Zamboanga Peninsula.

"We consider this as a significant recovery of AFP, as well as in coordination with the police, na-neutralize ang factory nila and then we always make sure that this will not be replicated in other areas." Guerrero said.

Before the discovery of the so-called bomb factory of the ASG, the rebels attacked the municipal police station of Mohammad Ajul. They planted a bomb in the police station and even raised their Shahada flag, which is similar to the flag of the terrorist group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

The military acted as reinforcements to the policemen and civilian volunteers, prompting the ASG to leave Barangay Tuburan Proper.

The commander of Joint Task Group Basilan, Colonel Rolly Bautista, said they considered the presence of Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) members in Mohammad Ajul before proceeding with their operation.

He said they had to avoid passing by some MILF communities and opted to use their water assets to get to Barangay Tuburan Proper.

Bautista also coordinated with top MILF officials to make sure that there will be no mis-encounter between government troops and the MILF.

"Ang dynamics kasi dito, ang vicinity nito ay surrounded by MILF communities, so apparently we cannot just move to the area, so we have to coordinate with the different commanders. The dynamics of the MILF forces, some are controlled by their commanders, but some particularly those younger members do not obey orders from their superiors."

The MILF inked a peace deal with the Philippine government in a bid to create a new Bangsamoro government and bring peace and development to the region.

Mohammad Ajul Mayor Talib Pawaki also questioned why the MILF members are not helping the government forces in the operation against the ASG.

He said there are some MILF members who have been helping the ASG.

The chief of police of Mohammad Ajul municipal police station, Senior Inspector Faizal Tandico, said three barangays were directly affected by the armed conflict in the area.

These are barangays Tuburan Proper, Basakan and Languyan. Most of the residents in these barangays have fled to safer places.

More than 700 families have been displaced in the conflict and are now staying with their relatives living in nearby municipalities in Basilan.

The military said it is not yet safe for residents to go back to their homes, as the operation against the ASG is still ongoing.

Next week, the Municipal Peace and Order Council will meet to discuss how to restore peace and order in the affected barangays of Mohammad Ajul.

Php10-M allocated for maintenance, repair of F-27 aircraft

From the Philippine News Agency (May 17): Php10-M allocated for maintenance, repair of F-27 aircraft

A total of Php10,565,915 has been allocated by the Philippine Air Force (PAF) for the repair and maintenance of one of its three Fokker F-27 "Friendship" transport aircraft.

Pre-bid conference is scheduled for May 21 at 1 p.m. PAF Procurement Center Conference Room, Villamor Air Base, Pasay City.

The submission and opening of bids is at 9 a.m. at the same venue, on June 4.

Prospective bidders should have an experience in similar project within the last five years.

The PAF is known to operate three units of the F-27 for transport missions.

Last May 11, an F-27, on training mission, was damaged after its nose gear collapsed while landing at the Legazpi Airport in Albay.

UN, MILF to launch 'Children, not soldiers' campaign

From the Philippine News Agency (May 17): UN, MILF to launch 'Children, not soldiers' campaign

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the United Nations will jointly launch a program that will protect the children in Moro communities and prevent them from becoming child warriors.

The launching will be held May 18 here with local and international representatives in attendance, Edward Guerra, chair of the 5-man member panel of UN-MILF action plan, said.

Ghadzali Jaafar, MILF vice chair for political affairs said MILF is in the process of completing the UN-MILF action plan program on the non-use of children as combatants.

Guerra said panel will strictly implement sanctions if any of MILF members violate the general order of non-involvement of children as combatants during armed conflict.

The action plan has six benchmarks to be complied by MILF.

The MILF along with other three rebel groups, Abu Sayyaf (ASG), New People’s Army (NPA) and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) operating in the country were included in the UN-Secretary General’s list as organizations using child soldiers.

During last year’s take-off of the program, UNICEF country representative Lotta Sylwander described it as “very unique move” of MILF as the only non-state armed group in the world attempting to be delisted from the list of groups that engaged children as combatants.

On Monday, the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and MILF will jointly launch “Children, Not Soldiers” campaign in Cotabato City.

The campaign is a series of public events to be managed by the MILF, in coordination with the UNICEF for the next four months, in their base commands to signal their commitment that no child should be recruited or associated with any future MILF armed endeavor.

“What we want for the children in Mindanao is to have a happy, healthy and peaceful childhood, we don’t want children to be fighting, carrying guns or used as spies but rather learning and playing,” Rebecca Pankhurst, UNICEF’s chief field officer, said.

Wilma Madato, a member of Bangsamoro Islamic Women Auxillary Brigade(BIWAB) member, the action plan is a sure way forward to the future of their children.

Speaking to reporters, Madato said mothers become fathers too when their husbands were out. “So we make sure if our husband is not around, we strive hard to continue the studies of the children”, Madato said.

The MILF is nearing completion a comprehensive peace process with Manila after 17 years of tedious peace negotiations. A draft bill that will complete the process is on its final stage of deliberation in the Philippine Congress.

Guerra said a UNICEF-MILF campaign is expected to raise the standards of spreading the message to the Moro fighters, their children and families in communities across Mindanao.

Armed organizations should comply that no child under the age of 18 should be engaged in any form of military endeavor.

Turkey gov't, MILF dev't agency put up orphanage center

From the Philippine News Agency (May 17): Turkey gov't, MILF dev't agency put up orphanage center

The development arm of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Insano Yardim Vakfi of Turkey, today inaugurated an orphanage center that will cater to orphans form Moro communities, officials said.

The orphanage center was officially opened Sunday afternoon in Barangay Tamotaka 1, Cotabato City.

The ceremony was graced by distinguished guests from the international and local organizations, members of the parliament of the republic of Turkey, the Turkey ambassador to the Philippines, the peace panel of the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the MILF, city government of Cotabato and the International Monitoring Team (IMT).

In his opening remarks, City Vice Mayor Abdullah Andang thanked Turkey government and expressed pride that the orphanage is established in the City.

Accordingly, the opening of the orphanage clearly showed the continuing progress of Cotabato, with the coming in of people from other countries all over the world.

Omer Kesmen, IHH representative to Cotabato City presented a brief history of the orphanage.

He explained the naming of the center after Ugur Suleyman Soylemez. The latter, accordingly, is among the martyrs in Turkey who fought for justice for the humanitarian situation in Gaza, Palestine.

Mohagher Iqbal, chairman of MILF peace panel commended the government of Turkey for the deep commitment and support to the peace process, being a major member of the International Contact Group (ICG), the Third Party Monitoring Team (TPMT), and the Independent Decommissioning Body (IDB).

Iqbal thanked IHH for the help extended through this orphanage. He stressed the importance of education as long term resolution to the Bangsamoro problem.

Prof. Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, chair of the GPH peace panel, having listened to the brief history of the orphanage, convinced that indeed, everyone in the event is united by a common humanity.

“We are united, not because of any ideology, not that we have the GPH-MILF peace agreement, not that we are friends with Turkey, but is because we share the common humanity. We have to care about the future of our children”, Ferrer said.

Major Gen. Dato Sheikh Mousin Bin Sheikh Hassan, Head of Mission of the IMT, called for an importance of peace towards better community. He stressed the importance of family where children are molded.

“If we have to teach peace in this world, we shall begin with our children. This orphanage is the foundation of the well-being of the children, abandoned by their parents, so let us give them peace,” Maj. Hassan stated.

H.E. Esra Cankorur, Turkey ambassador to the Philippines, stressed also the importance of taking care pf the children especially the orphans.

“Caring the children, investing them thru proper education, guidance and support is in fact the best investment for a society. This becomes more important and scared if orphans are involved, since they are the most vulnerable member in any society,” Cankorur said.

“This project is a work of helping hand, a hand of affection and compassion,” she added.

In his closing remarks, Dr. Mohammad S. Yacob, BDA executive director thanked the government of Turkey for entrusting to BDA the orphanage management thru IHH.

“BDA promises to give the best we can in providing the children a safe and secure home,”Yacob said.

He likewise thanked development partners, international and local non-government organizations, the government, the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and its line agencies and called for support and possible convergence for future assistance to the children.

The orphanage formally opens this year 2015. The management is currently accepting applicants from Bangsamoro communities.

At least 1,000 orphans are targeted per year for the program. In-house orphan service provides full accommodation for children at the orphanage, with support for education and food.

Distant orphan service provides monthly allowance for the accepted children, not necessarily housed in the center.

BDA and IHH partnership began in 2014 thru several humanitarian programs already such as the Qurbani program, relief assistance to displaced families and this orphanage.

4 US military men to testify in Laude case

From Rappler (May 16): 4 US military men to testify in Laude case

The US servicemen return to the Philippines to honor the Philippine-US Visiting Forces Agreement. They vow to cooperate with the investigation.

PUBLIC APPEARANCE. US Marine Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton appears in an Olongapo court over the alleged murder of transgender Filipino Jennifer Laude on December 19, 2014. Photo courtesy of Marilou Laude

PUBLIC APPEARANCE. US Marine Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton appears in an Olongapo court over the alleged murder of transgender Filipino Jennifer Laude on December 19, 2014. Photo courtesy of Marilou Laude

At least 4 members of the US military will be called as witnesses by the prosecution in the trial of murdered transgender Filipino woman Jennifer Laude.

Olongapo City Chief Prosecutor Emelie de los Santos identified the 4 US marines who were called as witnesses: Sergeant Christopher Miller, a rifle watchman; Sergeant Daniel Pulido; Lance Corporal Bennett Dahl; and Corporal Jairn Rose.

All 4 met with government prosecutors led by De los Santos at the Philippine Department of Justice (DOJ) in preparation for their testimony in the murder case where US marine Joseph Scott Pemberton stands as the accused.

The foreign witnesses' meeting with De los Santo lasted for 7 hours.

According to De Los Santos, Pulido, Dahl and Rose were Pemberton’s friends and left the ship at the same time last October 11, 2014. She said Pemberton told Rose and Miller everything that happened that night.

DOJ Undersecretary Jose Justiniano, who is overseeing the Pemberton case, said that the US servicemen returned to the Philippines to honor the Philippine-US Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and vowed to cooperate with Philippine authorities in the investigation.

Justiniano said that the US marines, who would stand as witnesses for the prosecution on the May 18, 19, 25, and 26 trial dates.

The servicemen said “they were just together at Ambyanz Disco and they saw Pemberton and another person, whom they thought was a woman.”

The US servicemen told the US Naval Criminal Investigation Service (NCIS) they saw someone else with Pemberton, but they claimed to not know who he was with.

This dilemma could easily be rectified, according to the DOJ, because they could just show a picture of Laude, and the witnesses could indicate if this was the same person they saw Pemberton with at the bar.

Orphans, streetkids live Navy dream for a day

From Rappler (May 16): Orphans, streetkids live Navy dream for a day

The Philippine Navy lets 40 orphans and street children experience the life of Navy personnel for a day.

[Video report: Orphans, streetkids live Navy dream for a day]

For its 117th founding anniversary celebration, the Philippine Navy lets street children and orphans to experience the life of Navy personnel for a day.

Aside from riding touring museums and riding armored vehicles, the children also get to ride the Navy's planes and ships.

David Lozada reports.

They marched.

They flew.

They sailed.

As part of their 117th founding anniversary celebration, the Philippine Navy gives 40 street children and orphans the chance to experience the life of uniformed personnel and live the Navy dream.

The children, who come from a local orphanage in Manila, tour military museums, ride armoured vehicles, and eat with navy officers who served as their older siblings for the day.

Philippine Navy public affairs officer Commodore Lued Lincuna says the activity aims to inspire the children to pursue a military career in the future.

Commo. Lued Lincuna, Philippine Navy Public Affairs Officer: Our goal here is to inspire them to somehow consider being a part of the navy in their plans. We let them ride the marines’ tanks, our aircrafts, and now to ride the our cruise so they know what it feels like in the forces.

The activity is eye-opening to the kids who have never flown in an aircraft nor sailed in a ship.

Grace Gigante faces her fear of heights during her first ever flight. Grateful to the navy for giving her the experience, the 15-year-old says she is discerning whether or not to join the military.

Grace Gigante, orphan: My mind was enlightened when they explained the life of a navy man earlier. I realized that it’s not that easy to get in. My dream is to actually become an accountant. But then I learned that you can also train in the navy while pursuing accountancy so I’m really thinking of joining.

With China’s increasing aggression, Lincuna says the armed forces needs to be more dynamic in its recruitment. And that includes making the armed forces a viable career choice for young Filipinos.

Commo. Lued Lincuna, Philippine Navy Public Affairs Officer: The Armed Forces cannot defend our country alone. We need to approach this as an entire nation, as one team. If we do so, there’s nothing we can’t achieve.

With territorial disputes brewing in the West Philippine Sea, the Navy aims to influence more young people to join its ranks. For the street kids who joined today’s activities, a day in the life of the Armed Forces shows them an alternative career where they can have a bright future while serving the country.

Despite tension, Xi says U.S.-China relations are stable

From InterAksyon (May 17): Despite tension, Xi says U.S.-China relations are stable

US Secretary of State John Kerry is met at the Great Hall of the People by President Xi Jinping, who took a calmer tone on the South China Sea issue, a day after his foreign minister rebuked Kerry for expressing concern over China's reclamation in disputed maritime areas. REUTERS PHOTO

China's relations with the United States remain stable, Chinese President Xi Jinping said on Sunday, as he sought to defuse tension over a territorial dispute in the South China Sea that has pitted Washington against Beijing.

"I look forward to continuing to develop this relationship with President Obama and to bring China-U.S. relations to a new height along a track of a new model of major country relationship," Xi told U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry at the end of Kerry's two-day trip to China.

Kerry's trip has been dominated by deepening security concerns about Beijing's maritime ambitions in the South China Sea. China's rapid reclamation effort around seven reefs in the Spratly archipelago of the South China Sea has alarmed claimants such as the Philippines and Vietnam.

On Saturday, Kerry urged China to take action to reduce tension in the South China Sea. His call was rebuffed by China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who said Beijing's determination to protect its interests in the area is "as hard as a rock"

Kerry's trip is intended to prepare for the annual U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue next month in Washington and Xi's expected visit to Washington in September, a trip that Xi said he looked forward to.

Xi has repeatedly told Obama of his desire for a "new model of major country relationship," in which China would be viewed as an equal global player.

But the model also outlines a respect for "each other's sovereign and territorial integrity as well as political system and development path".

"In my view the China-U.S. relationship has remained stable," Xi told Kerry at Beijing's Great Hall of the People at a session open to reporters.

China claims about 90 percent of the 3.5 million sq km (1.35 million sq mile) sea. The Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia, Brunei and Vietnam also claim large parts of it.

Recent satellite images have shown that since about March 2014, China has conducted reclamation work at seven sites in the Spratlys and is constructing a military-sized air strip on Fiery Cross Reef and possibly a second on another reef.

The Philippines, a U.S. treaty ally, has called for urgent action.

Kerry said the United States had stated its concerns about the pace and scope of China's land reclamation in the South China Sea.

On Saturday, China's top diplomat, Yang Jiechi, urged Kerry to "properly control our differences and sensitive issues" as well as "view our strategic intentions objectively and rationally", according to a report by state-run China News Service.

"I hope the United States can do more for peace and stability in the region," Yang, who holds the title of State Councillor, was quoted as telling Kerry, referring to the South China Sea.

China has expressed its concern about a possible U.S. plan to send military aircraft and ships to assert freedom of navigation in the South China Sea.

China rejects U.S. involvement in the dispute and has blamed the United States for stoking tension by encouraging countries to engage in "dangerous behavior".

Beijing rebukes US over South China Sea islands row

From InterAksyon (May 17): Beijing rebukes US over South China Sea islands row

US Secretary of State John Kerry shakes hands with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi before the two held weekend talks in Beijing Saturday (May 16, 2015). Mr. Wang took a hardline stance on China's reclamation activities in the South China Sea, after Mr. Kerry urged Beijing to take action to ease tension in the maritime territories. REUTERS PHOTO

China's foreign minister told top US diplomat John Kerry on Saturday that Beijing was "unshakeable" in its defense of sovereignty, as tensions between the powers mount over Chinese island-building in strategic but disputed waters.

The United States is weighing sending warships and surveillance aircraft within 12 nautical miles -- the normal territorial zone around natural land -- of artificial islands that Beijing is building in the West Philippine Sea (or South China Sea).

Such a move could lead to a standoff on the high seas in an area home to vital global shipping lanes and believed to be rich in oil and gas deposits.

Beijing regards almost the whole of the South China Sea as its own and after talks in the Chinese capital Foreign Minister Wang Yi said sternly: "The determination of the Chinese side to safeguard our own sovereignty and territorial integrity is as firm as a rock and it is unshakeable."

Kerry was less assertive in public, saying at their joint press conference that Washington was "concerned about the pace and scope of China’s land reclamation" and urged it "to take actions that will join with everyone to reduce tensions".

The region needed "smart diplomacy", he said, rather than "outposts and military strips".

Senior State Department officials had said ahead of the meeting that Kerry would take a tough line and "leave his Chinese interlocutors in absolutely no doubt that the United States remains committed to maintain freedom of navigation".

"That's a principle that we are determined to uphold," the official added.

The world's top two economies have significant commercial ties and Chinese President Xi Jinping is due to pay a state visit to the United States in September.

But China's ambitions for a place on the world's political stage commensurate with its economic role have seen it cross the United States in multiple fields, and the two have long-running disputes over issues ranging from trade to cyberspying to human rights.

At the same time the United States is China's second-biggest trading partner after the European Union, with two-way commerce worth $555 billion last year, according to Chinese figures.

Beijing is the heavily indebted US government's biggest foreign creditor, figures from Washington showed Friday, reclaiming top spot from Japan with more than $1.26 trillion in Treasury bonds.

Kerry was due to meet senior political and military leaders later.

Washington pressed to send stronger signal

Beijing bases its territorial claims in the South China Sea on a segmented line dating back to Chinese maps of the 1940s.

US officials increasingly believe Washington needs to send a clear signal about China's activities around the Spratly Islands and other disputed territories, while avoiding triggering a crisis.

Pentagon officials last week revealed that Beijing is building artificial islands on top of South China Sea coral reefs at an unprecedented pace, in a land reclamation effort dubbed a "great wall of sand" by one American commander.

The rapid construction comes to 2,000 acres (800 hectares), with 75 percent of the total created in the last five months alone, and includes a runway said to be 3,100 meters (10,200 feet) long.

US government officials stress that under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, only natural land masses create a territorial claim, not artificial islands.

"You can't build sovereignty," an official said.

But the United States has never ratified the convention itself.

Beijing's increasing assertiveness has raised deep concerns across the region in recent years -- as well as its South China Sea claims, which overlap with those of the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan, it is in dispute with Japan over islets in the East China Sea.

The United States is pursuing a foreign policy "pivot" towards Asia which has rattled China.

Beijing defends the island-building as taking place within its own territory and intended to enhance its ability to carry out international obligations such as search and rescue.

In a commentary Saturday, China's official news agency Xinhua said the United States was guilty of "thinly veiled hypocrisy".

"The United States is not a party in the South China Sea disputes, which are between China and other claimants and should be handled by those directly involved," it said.

"Washington has no valid grounds whatsoever to point an accusing finger at Beijing over South China Sea. Instead, it needs to look at itself in the mirror," it went on, accusing the United States of seeking "a pretext to maintain its hegemonic presence in the region".

Philippines hunts Malaysian suspect with Al-Qaeda-linked militants

From InterAksyon (May 17): Philippines hunts Malaysian suspect with Al-Qaeda-linked militants

Government forces in the southern Philippines said Saturday they were hunting a suspected Malaysian bomb-maker who may be helping local Al-Qaeda-linked extremists.

The suspect, identified as Mohammad Najib, is believed to have fled after troops overran one of their bomb-making camps on the southern island of Basilan on Thursday, said Colonel Joselito Rolando Bautista, the island's military commander.

Three militants and one soldier were killed when soldiers overran the camp of the Abu Sayyaf group, an armed band founded in the 1990s with seed money from Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda network.

"Mohammad Najib has been helping Ustadz Abbas Alam, the Abu Sayyaf leader in the area in making bombs and recruiting young people," he told reporters.

Local mayor Jain Pawaki said residents had also told him that a Malaysian had been assisting the Abu Sayyaf especially in bomb-making.

The two officials made the remarks while escorting reporters to the captured Abu Sayyaf outpost and showed off captured transceiver radio sets, nails, ammonium nitrate, rolls of wire, electrical components and iron pipes rigged with explosives.

They also showed several black flags that are similar to the ones used by the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria.

"The recovery is a big blow to the operation of the Abu Sayyaf and their plots to stage bombings were prevented," Bautista said.

The Abu Sayyaf gained international notoriety for the worst militant attacks in Philippine history including bombings and kidnapping Christians and foreigners for ransom.

Their attacks include the 2004 firebombing of a ferry off Manila Bay that killed more than 100 people.

Despite receiving training assistance from the United States, the Philippines has struggled to contain the Abu Sayyaf, whose leader last year pledged allegiance to the Islamic State movement.

Experts say GPH-MILF peace pact a significant achievement in fighting terrorism

From MindaNews (May 17): Experts say GPH-MILF peace pact a significant achievement in fighting terrorism

International security analysts  and Singapore based geopolitical experts  led by former Ambassador Ong Keng Yong, former Secretary-General of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) lauded the Philippines for the Mindanao peace process that he said would decrease radicalization and entry for ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) type of groups in the region.

Biveer Sing of S Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS)  told the conference on “Radicalization in East Asia:  Addressing  the Challenges of the Expanding ISIS Influence”   at the Edsa Shangrila on May 15 that the peace accord between government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is a “significant achievement in fighting terrorism.”

He said Mindanao won’t become a hub with the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) that would pave the way for the establishment of a Bangsamoro government.

What affects one region affects the other, said Yong.

Southeast Asia is not immune to the influence of the ISIS particularly in the area of movement of personnel and channeling of resources, he said.

But Yong sees the BBL as the settlement of a historic grievance that had fueled radicalism, extremism, and terrorism.

Rep. Rodolfo Biazon (Muntinlupa), a former Armed Forces Chief of Staff, said what they need to resolve in the BLL are the issues on constitutionality.

Biazon was among 185 conference participants.

The BBL will be voted upon this Monday at the Ad Hoc Committee level in Congress.

Cardinal Orlando Quevedo, lead convener of the Friends of Peace in a text message expressed fears the amendments that would remove constitutional bodies in the BBL such as the Human Rights Commission would render the Bangsamoro less autonomous than the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) that it seeks to replace.

Organizers of the Conference on radicalization included the Philippine Center for Islam and Democracy (PCID), Mindanao State University, University of the Philippines Center for Integrative and Development Studies UPCIDS), UP law Center, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) of the Nanyang Technological University.