Saturday, July 4, 2015

Muslim students find learning English can be fun

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jul 4): Muslim students find learning English can be fun

WOMANPOWER When My Peace started in Marawi City, there was hardly any participating female student, but that changed dramatically as the months passed. “With this program, we provide Mindanao youth access to the world,” said Andrew Kelly of the US Embassy in Manila which funded the program. JIGO RACAZA/CONTRIBUTOR

WOMANPOWER When My Peace started in Marawi City, there was hardly any participating female student, but that changed dramatically as the months passed. “With this program, we provide Mindanao youth access to the world,” said Andrew Kelly of the US Embassy in Manila which funded the program. JIGO RACAZA/CONTRIBUTOR

On June 5, 16-year-old Shoaib Shamsoddin stood in front of an assembly of madrassa, or Islamic school, students from all over Mindanao and began to chant a passage from the Koran.

Wearing traditional Muslim clothes, he threw his deep, musical voice across the hall, the well-enunciated “h’s” and “f’s” and “k’s” of the Arabic words punctuating his prayer, asking God for forgiveness, seeking atonement for mistakes by offering good deeds.

While Waib, as friends call the prayer leader, clearly deserved the perfect scores he consistently got in his Arabic class, this assembly was a thanksgiving for an answered prayer: learning the English language.

“When we study hard, by the grace of God, we manage to get 100 percent in some of our subjects. But despite our best efforts, we could not ace our English class,” Waib, who studies at the Jamiatu Muslim Mindanao at Darussalam, Matampay, Marawi City, admitted after the ceremony. “That’s why we are very happy to be in this program and learn English in a fun, exciting way.”

Pioneering program

Just as the new school year got under way, Waib and 88 other students from Zamboanga City and the Lanao provinces gathered here for graduation from a pioneering English-language learning program called Madrassa Youth Promoting English Advancement for Community Empowerment (My Peace).

My Peace was divided into four modules: grammar, parts of speech, pronunciation and reading.

“We made sure that learning would be fun,” said Dr. Edralin C. Manla of the School of Education at Xavier University-Ateneo de Cagayan in Cagayan de Oro City.

Manla headed the My Peace module-writing team, which included three educators from Marawi City and another two from Zamboanga City.

She said: “We made sure that each class would have the four A’s—activity, analysis, abstraction and application.

“For instance, when we introduced nouns, we began with an activity, the Name Game. The students would sit in a circle and they would take turns enumerating names of persons or places or things that begin with certain letters of the alphabet under time constraint.

“It was a thrilling game that drew in the whole class’ participation. Afterward, we did an analysis by asking the students why they found the game easy or difficult.

“The abstraction would be the class proper, and we would tell the students that the names they enumerated in the game were actually nouns, an important part of speech.
“At the end of the session, we would have presentations, outputs, and oral activities that would serve as an application of the day’s learning.”

When the modules were ready, the module writers facilitated the teachers’ training.

Think Thomasites

More than 60 teachers volunteered for My Peace, many of them graduates of US government exchange programs.

In her address to fellow My Peace graduates, Fatima Jihan, 12, from the Sarang Bangun Learning Center in Newslane, Baliwasan, Zamboanga City, quoted the Prophet Muhammad, saying, “Seeking knowledge is obligatory for all Muslims.”

Resplendent in a fully beaded gown, she said their journey did not end with the graduation ceremony that evening. “Our journey has just begun,” she said in flawless English.

As a demonstration of the graduates’ English-language proficiency, they went in front of the assembly and recited Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Bells” in a mesmerizing manner, mining the poem’s musicality.

“The Philippines is our oldest ally in Asia,” said Andrew Kelly of the US Embassy in Manila, which funded the program.

“When we first came here more than a hundred years ago, the Thomasites began to teach English in the Philippines,” he said. “Today, English is the language of business and commerce, new technology, and international relations. Through My Peace, we encourage young people to learn English and provide them with access to the world.”

Peace and stability

Kelly, who was in Davao for the first time to personally hand over to the pioneering My Peace graduates their certificates of completion, said, “Peace and stability in Mindanao make for a healthier Philippines. And that is important to us.”

Five of the 10 poorest provinces in the country are in Mindanao. Topping the list is Lanao del Sur, whose capital is Marawi City, considered the Islamic City of the Philippines, and home to a number of influential madaris (plural of madrassa).

According to the Department of Education (DepEd), 17 of the 30 “illiterate barangays” in the country are in Mindanao.

“Poverty as well as lack of quality education and other life skills preparation make the youth in conflict-affected areas of Mindanao vulnerable and at great risk,” said community worker Rodel Tan Roa, coordinator of the My Peace program.

Roa, who is also the founder and executive director of the Naawan HELPS-Communities Inc., the main partner of the US Embassy for this project, explained that madrassa education is a fundamental aspect of Muslim life in the Philippines.

“Madaris are mostly privately owned and focus on Arabic language and Islamic values, often pushing aside English, math, and science. Integrating Islamic education into the public school system has faced challenges, including the lack of resources.

The My Peace project seeks to address this gap by providing English-language instruction to Muslim youth in a culturally appropriate manner,” Roa said.

My Peace rolled out in July last year in Marawi City and Zamboanga City.
The participants selected were between 15 and 21 years old and “their English proficiency level was zero or, at most, Grade 2 level,” Roa said.

During the year of My Peace sessions, Waib looked forward to weekends, when he and his 18-year-old brother, Hassanodin (better known as “Odin”), would ride in the van that would take them and the other students from Marawi City to Iligan City, an hour away down the coast.

They would spend the night there, together with the other students so they could focus on their English study.
Adventure with prepositions

Waib said, “It was like an adventure. We had new classmates. There were new teachers for every session. They kept on asking us if we were OK, if we understood the lessons, if we had any questions.

“We played a lot of games. I touched a computer for the first time and learned how to work on it. There was no boring moment.

“Once, I was sad because I really could not understand prepositions. But the teacher came to me and cheered me up. She said prepositions sometimes link words and establish relationships of thought, and she linked our hands and we began to dance like children, and suddenly I was happy.”

Waib and Odin did not grow up in Marawi City. They said that they have the same address as Hashim Salamat, the founder of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF): Tugaig, Barira, Maguindanao. The place is better known as the site of the former MILF stronghold, Camp Abubakar.

They said their father, Shamsoddin, and their mother, Marian, both farmers, had five children.

Odin remembered that it was lunchtime when the bombing began at Camp Abubakar a few years back.

He said there were many houses that were on fire. Their family fled the camp.
Odin said that by the time they reached their cousins’ house in Cotabato, he was running a high fever.

Change for the better

Odin and Waib said life was difficult and they wanted to change their lives for the better. And that was why their parents sent them off to the Islamic school in Marawi City.

They rent a room in a house in the town center. Odin lets his younger brother sleep on the bed and he sleeps on a thin foam on the floor. Their only appliances in the room are a rice cooker and a pitcher-like water heater.

They wake up at 4 a.m. to clean up then go out and walk to the nearby mosque, where they join the community for the 4:30 a.m. prayer.

When they return home, the rice would already be cooked and the two would sit down for what they call “sacrifice eating,” their meal consisting only of steamed rice.

Once in three months, their mother comes for a visit and she brings chicken and fried fish. When they have extra money, Odin goes to the street and buys chicken feet to go with their rice.

The two boys admitted, though, that more often than not, they would eat rice before going off to the prayers. “It is difficult to pray when you are hungry,” Waib said. “You cannot focus.”

When they graduated from the My Peace program on June 5, Odin said, “I now have a Facebook account. I created it during one of the My Peace sessions. And I have many Facebook friends.”

Waib said, “I made new friends, too. I learned a lot. The world is a big place. There are so many experiences. And I am happy.”

Reward from Allah

Grade 8 student Fatima Jihan from Zamboanga City graduated with Waib. They were both My Peace awardees, each receiving a brand-new multimedia tablet.

Fatima said, “The past 10 months have been a fruitful learning experience. Our English classes were very enjoyable.

“Our teachers, many of whom have been to the US, inspired us with their American accents and their cheerfulness.

“But they also taught us entrepreneurial skills. We cooked and fed many madrassa students. We went to the sea and planted mangroves.

“It was my first time to plant a tree. It felt great to be of help. It is not all about studying but about doing one’s share for the greater good.

“Surely, there is a reward from Allah.”

Unexpected reward

For My Peace student Sittie A. Dima, 17, the reward came unexpectedly.
For many months, she traveled from her home in Poblacion in Tangcal, Lanao del Norte, to attend the My Peace sessions in Iligan City.

Roa said, “Her hometown is 16 km up the sawmill from Kolambugan town on the highway. It is one of the interior towns in the province. The road is bumpy and dusty, and when it rains it is a river of mud.

“There seems to be no government presence. There is no public water system. They cut trees for a living—logs, firewood. It would seem like a godforsaken place.

“When I went there to pay my respects to the community and invite them to the My Peace project, I met Commander Batman of the MILF. He was happy that his town was included in My Peace.”

How to use a mouse

Sittie did not mind the tiring travel to the monthly sessions. She said, “I enjoyed our classes. I learned a lot. My favorite was working on the computer. I did not know one can do research using the computer. When I did not know what a word meant, I just checked out the dictionary on the computer. I began to love computers.”

The My Peace program gave the Tangcal community two desktop computers through Sittie.

“My parents, who are farmers, built a cabinet so we could store the computers for safety,” Sittie said. “The other two students from my town who were also with My Peace also own the computers.

“My house is beside the Army detachment, so we agreed to keep the computer in my house. Together, we teach our friends and schoolmates how to work on the computer. Microsoft Word, Powerpoint, even how to use a mouse.

“Now, people come to the house and ask us to encode their letters of application and biodata, and we earn a little income from such things.

“I want to help my family. I want to help my siblings finish their studies. I used to be shy. But through the My Peace activities, now I am not afraid to meet people and talk to them. I want to be an uztad and teach Arabic.”

Roa is pleased with the way things turned out. He said, “I am happy we were able to empower the youth for equal opportunities. We were able to change their outlooks. We were able to help them change themselves and their communities. We were able to wage the peace. That is the most important thing of all.”

Looking to the future

The brothers Odin and Waib said they needed to focus. When they finish their studies at the Jamiatu Muslim Mindanao, they will be considered “sanawi” (graduates) and can go back to their hometown and become “imam” (priests) if there is no imam in the community. Or they can be invited by an incumbent imam to be his assistant.

If they do well in school, they can pursue further studies abroad. They can study Shariah law in Saudi Arabia and on their return they will be “alim,” or doctors, as opposed to “uztad,” or local graduate.

The ultimate would be to become “mufti,” the revered master who has the sole discretion to decide on the prayer schedule.

In Marawi City, after the early-morning prayer, the prayers are held at noon, 3 p.m., 6 p.m., and 7 p.m.

By 6:50 a.m., the Shamsoddin brothers are off to school in their polo shirts and khaki pants and arrive in class at 7:30 a.m


Wives of MILF members also hope for peace

From the Manila Times (Jul 4): Wives of MILF members also hope for peace

SIMUAY, SULTAN KUDARAT, Maguindanao: After the symbolic turn over of firearms by Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) members to the national government, it is the women’s turn to voice out their desire for peace in Mindanao.

The wives of MILF combatants hope for the start of real peace after the decommissioning of firearms.

Norbaisa Nenis, a wife of one of the 145 MILF combatants who participated in the decommissioning process last June 16, said she is happy because their life could be peaceful soon.

She is pleased with the strong commitment displayed by her husband towards doing something concrete and personal so the Bangsamoro peace process would move forward.

“Masaya kami at sana tuloy-tuloy na ito at maging simula na talaga ito ng kapayapaan (We are happy and we hope this [process] continues and this becomes the beginning of achieving peace.),” said Nenis.

Her husband dedicated decades of his life to the Bangsamoro struggle as a combatant of the military arm of the MILF, the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces or BIAF.

Nenis hopes the peace process, which her husband is supporting, would also help the Moros achieve their right to self-determination.

MILF Peace Panel Chair Mohagher Iqbal has given the assurance that all 145 who were decommissioned were members of the MILF’s BIAF.

“The ceremonial decom-missioning showcased that the MILF is complying with our obligations in the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB),” said Iqbal who earlier described the decommissioning as a difficult process, yet it is a commitment for the sake of peace.

It can be noted that decom-missioning is a gradual process that aims to put the arms and forces of the group beyond use as agreed by the Parties under the Annex on Normalization of the CAB.

The husband of Normala Balitoc had been an MILF combatant since 1972 and was among those selected to join the first batch of decom-missioned MILF fighters.

Balitoc revealed that despite being a combatant for the MILF since 1972, her husband finished high school, and like most Moro families, found it difficult to raise a family during the years of conflict.

“It was difficult for us surviving as our husband leaves every now and then to join battles,” she said.

Now that her husband has been decommissioned, Balitoc said she hopes that the livelihood support to be provided by government can indeed help their children build peaceful and progressive lives.

Japan joins US-Australia war games amid China tensions

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jul 5): Japan joins US-Australia war games amid China tensions
 In this  Sept. 2, 2012 file photo, the survey ship Koyo Maru, left, chartered by Tokyo Metropolitan Government officials, sails around Minamikojima, foreground, Kitakojima, middle right, and Uotsuri, background, the tiny islands in the East China Sea, called Senkaku in Japanese and Diaoyu in Chinese. Japanese were voting Sunday, Dec. 16 in parliamentary elections that were expected to put the once-dominant conservatives back in power after a three-year break — and bring in a more nationalistic government amid tensions with big neighbor China. Japan's largest opposition Liberal Democratic Party leader Shinzo Abe in particular has taken a tough stance toward Beijing in the election campaign amid a simmering dispute over the islands in the East China Sea that are controlled by Japan but also claimed by China and Taiwan. AP Photo/Kyodo News, File

In this Sept. 2, 2012 file photo, the survey ship Koyo Maru, left, chartered by Tokyo Metropolitan Government officials, sails around Minamikojima, foreground, Kitakojima, middle right, and Uotsuri, background, the tiny islands in the East China Sea, called Senkaku in Japanese and Diaoyu in Chinese. Rising tensions in disputed territories are seen as a reason for Japan joining war games between the US and Australia. AP
The United States and Australia kicked off a massive joint biennial military exercise on Sunday, with Japan taking part for the first time as tensions with China over territorial rows loom over the drills.

The two-week “Talisman Sabre” exercise in the Northern Territory and Queensland state involves 30,000 personnel from the US and Australia practicing operations at sea, in the air and on land.

Some 40 personnel from Japan’s army — the Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF) — will join the American contingent, while more than 500 troops from New Zealand are also involved in the exercise, which concludes on July 21.

“It is a very, very important alliance,” Prime Minister Tony Abbott said Friday in Sydney on board the USS Blue Ridge, which is taking part in the exercise, referring to Australia-US ties.

“It’s a very important relationship and right now we are facing quite significant challenges in many parts of the world but particularly in the Middle East.”

The war games, being held for the sixth time, come as China flexes its strategic and economic muscle in the region.

Beijing has been building artificial islands and facilities in disputed waters in the South China Sea, and has a separate territorial dispute with Japan over the Tokyo-controlled Senkaku islands — which it calls the Diaoyus — in the East China Sea.

“There’s subtle message going out that at every level — from hardware to technical and strategic expertise and cooperation — the main American allies and America are working very closely together largely to account for China,” John Lee, a China specialist at the University of Sydney, told AFP.

“It’s definitely linked to the notion that China is becoming more assertive and that it seems to be putting money into military capabilities to back up its assertiveness in the South China Sea in particular.”

Beijing rejected US criticism of its reclamation works in the South China Sea during the annual Shangri-La Dialogue meeting in May, saying it was just exercising its sovereignty.

Stepping up Japan ties

The US has been pursuing a foreign policy “pivot” towards Asia, which has rattled China, and is rotating Marines through northern Australia — a move announced by President Barack Obama in 2011.

While Beijing would not be pleased with Japan’s involvement in the drills, it would also not be surprised, experts said.

Australia has stepped up its relationship with Japan in recent years and last July Abbott described his counterpart Shinzo Abe as “a very, very close friend” during a state visit to Canberra.

The Australian government is also considering buying Soryu-class submarines from Japan, which Lee said would be fully integrated with US weapons systems.

“It’s a continuation of a deepening security relationship between Australia and Japan,” Andrew Davies, a senior defense capability analyst at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, told AFP of Japan’s inclusion in the exercise.

“It’s been a work in progress for at least a decade now and it’s gathering pace, and Australia and Japan are looking for opportunities to do things together in the military space.”

At the same time, the US’s regional strategic relationships were evolving even before China’s recent actions, with a shift away from bilateral pacts towards multilateral alliances, Davies said.

America’s other allies — such as Singapore, Malaysia, India, Vietnam and the Philippines — would be supportive of the exercise, as well as Australia and Japan’s activities in the region, Lee added.

“Undoubtedly it would be received very well because all the other countries are desperately hoping that America and capable allies can actually work together to counter China,” he said.

Japan’s involvement has in part also been driven by domestic politics, Asian security specialist Craig Snyder of Deakin University said, as Abe’s right-wing government tries to increase Tokyo’s participation in regional security.

Palawan welcomes new Naval Forces West commander

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 4): Palawan welcomes new Naval Forces West commander

The Armed Forces of the Philippines’ (AFP) Naval Forces West (NFW) in Palawan has a new commander in the person of Commodore Jorge F. Amba.

Amba took over the post as commander of the NFW Thursday from Commodore Manuel Natalio Abinuman in a simple turn-over ceremony in Ulugan Bay, Barangay Macarascas here that was witnessed by Philippine Navy (PN) flag officer in command Vice Admiral Jesus Milan.

Amba said his topmost priority is taking care of the country’s territorial and internal defense through humanitarian assistance and environmental protection.

He added that foremost in his assignment in Palawan is to take care of the country’s interest in the disputed West Philippines Sea.

The issue in the West Philippines Sea, according to Amba, is not new to navy officers like him, especially because he had gone a lot to the disputed region when he was commanding officer of the BRP Quezon and BRP Rizal navy ships.

Amba is known for his active support to the Kariton Open High School (KOHS), where the Fleet-Marine Ready Force (FMRF) he formerly headed donated books to the children being fostered in "kariton" education by head master Efren G. Peñaflorida, Jr., a CNN Hero awardee.

PRO-2 turns over to Army’s 17th IB three excavated corpses of soldiers

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 4): PRO-2 turns over to Army’s 17th IB three excavated corpses of soldiers

TUGUEGARAO CITY -- The Police Regional Office-2 had facilitated the turnover to Philippine Army’s 17th Infantry Batallion of three decomposed remains of soldiers that were excavated from a shallow grave inside a small church in Sitio Masi, Rizal, Cagayan, on Friday.

PRO 2’s Public Information Officer Police Supt. Alex delos Santos confirmed this after Bishop Jun Andaya, Vicariate of Tabuk City, handed over the cadavers to PNP- Tuao, which later reported the matter to its higher units.

The cadavers were later identified by the Army to be that of Privates First Class Jay Tugao and Victor Balao-as, and a certain Jayson Santor.

The three, were earlier abducted by armed men, believed to be members of the New People’s Army last Feb. 25 in Sitio Turutukan, San Juan, Zinundungan, Rizal, Cagayan, Santos quoted reports from the 17th IB as saying.

Santos said that last Wednesday, Father Andaya received reports about the discovery of the victims’ remains in Masi, Rizal’s small church prompting them to proceed to the area.

Father Andaya later did the rituals of blessing the corpses along with some barangay kagawads and residents.

NPA rebels gun down fish vendor suspected of being a military asset

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 5): NPA rebels gun down fish vendor suspected of being a military asset

New People's Army (NPA) rebels shot dead a fish vendor who they suspected of being a military and police informer at about 10:00 a.m. Saturday in Barangay Buenos Aires, San Fernando, Masbate.

A police report identified the victim as Bobby Azares Jr., 45, married and resident of Barangay Panisihan, Batuan, Masbate.

The report said Azares was on board his motorcycle with the fish he was selling when men armed with .45-caliber pistol flagged him down.

Thinking the men would be buying fish, he showed the merchandise to them but two young-looking men shot him in his head and body, causing him to fall on the road.

The assailants then casually walked away from the scene after telling bystanders that Azares was a military and police asset who gave authorities information about the rebels' activities in the village.

Police recovered empty shells of .45-caliber pistol in the crime scene.

AFP prepares for 'Big One'

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 4): AFP prepares for 'Big One'

In line with efforts to prepare for the possible movement of the West Valley Fault, which could trigger a massive earthquake, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Saturday announced that it is constantly training and developing the disaster response skills of its personnel.

Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc, AFP public affairs office chief, said that this is to ensure that military personnel will be capable of performing efficiently in disaster and calamity situations.

Just recently, the Joint Task Force-National Capital Region (JTF-NCR) had its Earthquake and Landslide Search and Rescue Orientation Course (ELSAROC) to ensure that the AFP will be able to respond to communities around Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City which might be affected by the quake.

Cabunoc said the AFP is also preparing its troops for flood incidents and other calamities.

"Last May, our officers and enlisted personnel underwent Flood Incident and Response Training (FIRST), Emergency Response Training (ERT) and Incident Command System (ICS) Training," he added.

The JTF-NCR also has an existing HADR Plan “Sagip Tulong 2,” an implementation plan to operational plan “TULONG-BAYANIHAN” & contingency plan “PAGYANIG” to assure the public that AFP will be at the ready when calamity strikes around the General Headquarters in Camp General Emilio Aguinaldo.

Deemed as the first responders for the whole metropolitan, it was important that zero casualty is aimed among the residents and personnel in Camp Aguinaldo.

The National Disaster Risk Reduction & Management Council (NDRRMC) formally announced the kick-off of National Disaster Consciousness Month last June 29.

In observance of the event, all personnel of AFP in Camp General Emilio Aguinaldo joined the camp-wide earthquake drill.

On July 30, the AFP will join the metro-wide earthquake drill managed by Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA).

These activities were also in line with the observance of National Disaster Consciousness Month of July which kicked off June 29.

Being situated in the "Pacific Ring of Fire,” between two tectonic plates (Eurasian and Pacific), Philippines is susceptible to high levels of seismic and volcanic activities.

According to the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology, since 1968, the country has already been hit numerous times by catastrophic earthquakes with a magnitude of more than 6.0.

The strongest recorded earthquakes that struck the Philippines since 1968 occurred in 1976 in Moro Gulf and in 1990 in Panay with a magnitude of 7.9 which resulted to millions of losses and destruction.

Because of its geographical location, several active earthquake generators surround the region, making it one of the most hazard-prone countries in the world.

It is bisected longitudinally by the Philippine Fault which has several subsidiaries. One of which is the Valley Fault System (VFS) which run across the Greater Metro Manila Area (GMMA).

The Marikina Valley Fault, now known as the Valley Fault System (VFS), is thought to pose the greatest threat in the area because of its close proximity.

It contains two major segments, the West Valley Fault (WVF) and the East Valley Fault (EVF). WVF is approximately 100-km-long and runs through the areas of Quezon City, Marikina City, Pasig City, Makati City, Taguig City, Muntinlupa City, and the provinces of Bulacan (Doña Remedios Trinidad, Norzagaray, and San Jose Del Monte City), Rizal (Rodriguez), Laguna (San Pedro City, Biñan City, Sta. Rosa City, Cabuyao City, and Calamba City), and Cavite (Carmona, General Mariano Alvarez and Silang).

In the past 1,400 years, WVF has generated four major movements with an average interval of 200 to 400 years. The last recorded movement of the valley fault system was in 1658.

Because of this, another major movement is highly projected. The anticipated earthquake, which has been labeled as “The Big One,” can produce a magnitude of 7.2 that may result to a very destructive ground shaking, with intensity VIII on PHIVOLCS Earthquake Intensity Scale (PEIS), in Metropolitan Manila and nearby provinces.

This could put over 11 million lives and properties at risk.

Military thankful for Aquino administration's continued modernization support

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 5): Military thankful for Aquino administration's continued modernization support

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has expressed its thanks to the Aquino administration for its continued support to the ongoing modernization of the military, AFP public affairs office chief Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc said Saturday.

Under Republic Act No. 10349, otherwise known as the Act Establishing the Revised AFP Modernization Program, a total of PhP19.1-billion out of the PhP83.9-billion required has been released for the continuous modernization of the military.

This includes expansion of maritime industry; advancement of aerospace industry; infrastructure development; production of firearms and ammunition, manufacturing of quality combat and military uniforms; and expansion of peacekeeping forces.

"The AFP now turns its attention to protecting the territorial integrity and maritime interests of the country," Cabunoc said.

"Currently, it is setting its sights to ultimately becoming the Armed Forces that the Filipinos can be proud of by 2028 by faithfully following our Transformation Roadmap with developments on our personnel’s skills and capabilities in humanitarian and disaster response and territorial and maritime defense," he added.

The AFP aims to initiate reforms to sustain the ongoing efforts for advocacy and awareness on the West Philippine Sea.

"We push on to gain a credible defense posture that will enable us to win the peace every Filipino deserves. The AFP also strives to better itself with continuous trainings and helping the administration in enriching its relationship with neighboring countries and ensuring protection of the economic interests of our country to pave the way for economic growth," Cabunoc stressed.

He said the military is assuring the public it will continue in its efforts to provide a safe and secured environment conducive to investments and place the country in the international community.

Parago: ‘Fight for change continues’

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Inquirer Mindanao) (Jul 5): Parago: ‘Fight for change continues’

LEONCIO Pitao, alias “Commander Parago,” during his heyday as a guerrilla leader ACE MORANDANTE/CONTRIBUTOR

LEONCIO Pitao, alias “Commander Parago,” during his heyday as a guerrilla leader ACE MORANDANTE/CONTRIBUTOR
The military described him as a “bandit,” a “notorious criminal.” But to the people who knew him, the elusive New People’s Army (NPA) leader Leoncio Pitao, popularly known as “Commander Parago,” was a friend, a husband, a father, an icon and a fighter for the poor and the oppressed.

Only hours after news of Pitao’s killing by soldiers broke out, the outpouring of sympathy from anonymous supporters and prominent political leaders came to his family.

Aside from Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, who ordered Pitao’s body be moved to Cosmopolitan Funeral House from Rivera Funeral Home in Lasang, where the military first took him, former Mayor Sara Duterte and Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte were among the first to offer their sympathies in the form of wreaths.

On social networking site Facebook, some journalists posted their photos with Pitao.

One of those who arrived at Pitao’s wake on Tuesday, former Mindanao Business Council chair Joji Ilagan Bian called him a friend, fighting for a cause she happened to believe in, too.

Different paths

Bian, a business leader for most of her life, found the most unlikely supporter when she ran for a House seat in the second district in the last elections when the NPA released a statement against political dynasties, favoring her over the entrenched Garcia clan.

“He wanted better lives for our people, which have been elusive because of corruption and the lack of empathy by the government,” Bian said in an interview.

“But we chose different paths,” she added.

“Commander Parago chose his path and died fighting for a cause and a dream,” she said. “He was deeply loved and respected by the poor for many reasons, but he also had many enemies.”

“He is a symbol and a victim of social injustice that prevails in our country today,” she said.

For his family, Pitao might be a husband and a father who was always absent but only because he chose to fight for a kind of change that would have a far bigger impact than his own family rising from poverty.

Painful sacrifice

Even at the height of his anguish over the abduction and death of his 20-year-old daughter, Rebelyn, a nurse who was tortured and killed in 2009, Pitao did not waver in his commitment to the revolution, Rigoberto Sanchez, spokesperson for the NPA Southern Mindanao Command, said in a statement.

His daughter’s death followed the killing of Pitao’s brother a year before. Danilo Pitao, who changed his family name to Santiago supposedly to avoid any association with the rebel leader that might complicate his work, was courted by military intelligence agents to track down his brother. But after years of befriending him failed to yield results, Danilo was assassinated in broad daylight in Tagum City.

“If the military thinks they have weakened me because of the death of my daughter, they are wrong,” Pitao was once quoted by reporters in an interview days after Rebelyn’s death.

He never left the movement even at the height of his ailment, when his comrades advised him to take a sick leave and seek treatment in the city for hypertension and diabetes. Instead, he continued working with the people, separating himself from the main combat unit that he formerly headed.

Pitao served the national democratic revolution for close to 37 years, spanning five administrations, from the dead dictator Ferdinand Marcos to current President Aquino, son of the late President Corazon Aquino, who led a peaceful revolt to oust Marcos.

Effective leader

Sanchez called Pitao’s dedication to the cause of national democracy “unstinting,” recalling the time when Pitao was offered a P5-million reward to turn against the revolution, but which he turned down.

The NPA credited Pitao with countless attacks on military targets in the 1980s and 1990s that led to firearms being seized by rebels.

One of his most recent successful missions was the raid on the Davao Penal Colony, which gave rebels additional firearms but with no deaths on the side of government or of the rebels.

Top military officials in the region predicted the eventual downfall of the communist movement after Pitao’s death, but Simon Santiago, NPA Southern Mindanao political director, said Pitao’s death strengthened the rebels’ determination instead.

A man who arrived at Pitao’s wake on Wednesday sketched a portrait of the rebel leader using a pencil and gave it to the family as a gift.

“Even if [you’re dead], you will remain alive in our minds,” the man wrote on a piece of paper.
“The fight for real change will continue,” he wrote, hailing Pitao for devoting his life to the revolution.

Pitao’s body and that of Vanessa Limpag’s, the medic who died with him in the military raid on Sunday, are lying at Cosmopolitan Funeral House. They will be moved to the Almendras gym for public viewing on the weekend, before they are buried separately on Monday, July 6.

Limpag’s body will be brought to her hometown in Zamboanga. Surrounding the two coffins are wreaths from the Davao City police office and from several city councilors who came to the wake.

Other roles

Pitao, who carried a P5.6-million bounty on his head and had been on the military’s most wanted list, had eluded capture for years until his death in Barangay Panialum, Paquibato district, on Sunday. He spent 37 years of his life with the NPA, where he headed Pulang Bagani Command 1, based in Paquibato.

For his wife of 31 years, he was a husband and a father who chose to sacrifice the comfort and warmth of life with his family to dedicate his life to the revolution.

“He used to tell me to prepare myself for his death because in his kind of work, he said, he would surely die,” his wife Evangeline said.

To his sister-in-law, who knew him since he was a boy, Pitao was a kindhearted soul forced to join the movement because of the injustice he had witnessed during martial law.

“We never regretted that he joined the revolution,” the sister-in-law said

SINO'NG MAS MATIMBANG? Aquino weighs option between Visaya and Delgado for top military post

From InterAksyonn (Jul 4): SINO'NG MAS MATIMBANG? Aquino weighs option between Visaya and Delgado for top military post

President Benigno Aquino III is now weighing his options on who between Southern Luzon Command (Solcom) chief Lieutenant General Ricardo Visaya and Air Force chief Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Delgado to select as successor of Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr.

Visaya, a member of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Matikas Class of 1983, and Delgado, of PMA Sandigan Class ’82, were among five generals Aquino interviewed Wednesday.

The other three who have been deemed out of contention after the interview were Army chief Lt. Gen. Hernando DCA Irriberi (Class ’83), Western Command (Westcom) commander Vice Admiral Alexander Lopez (Class ’82), and Central Command (Centcom) Lt. Gen. Nicanor Vivar (Class ’82).

On July 10, Catapang will turn over the AFP command to his successor as he reaches the mandatory retirement age of 56. He was military chief for less than a year.

‘Revolving door policy’

Now, the choice is also a question of whether or not Aquino will maintain the “revolving door policy” in the selection of the next military chief.

If Aquino chooses Delgado, who has already less than a year remaining in service, then he perpetuates the revolving door policy that his predecessor abused. But if he selects Visaya he would make good on his promise to select a younger general that will serve military chief beyond his term and thus bury the most hated politically-influenced policy.

Delgado will reach mandatory retirement age of 56 in March 2015 while Visaya has until December 2016.

Talk in the Department of National Defense (DND) is that Aquino would choose Delgado but sources close to Aquino said it’s Visaya.

Aquino is again into a situation reminiscent of the case of retired PAF chief Lt. Gen. Lauro Catalino dela Cruz and then Army chief Lt. Gen. Emmanuel Bautista, who was eventually appointed chief of staff by Aquino after intense political lobbying from both camps.

Reports had it that Aquino signed dela Cruz’s appointment a month before his supposed installation as chief of staff only to be recalled a week before turnover of command in favor of Bautista.

Senior officers who were privy to what transpired said Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin convinced Aquino to appoint Bautista by saying the Army has the preponderance of forces on the ground in consideration to the 2013 senatorial election that time.

Earlier, Malacanang spokesmen said Aquino prefers generals to lead the AFP and Philippine National Police (PNP) who are able enough to handle the security challenges of the upcoming Asia-Pacific Economic Conference (APEC) and the 2016 election.

Delgado might have the edge over Visaya as he served at the Presidential Security Group (PSG) during the administration of the late President Corazon Aquino. The general also became the chief security aide of presidential sister and TV host Kris Aquino and later became Aquino’ senior military adviser.

But Visaya has the respect of the President for being one of a handful of “presidential troubleshooters” or “go-to-guys” when others have failed to accomplish their mission.

Opinion: Editorial -- A growing reputation as a bad customer

Editorial from the Manila Times (Jul 3):  Editorial -- A growing reputation as a bad customer

IT was not, as both the spokespersons for the Aquino Administration and the Department of Defense have explained, a ‘suspension’ of three contracts to acquire military aircraft that the Commission on Audit issued last week. It was rather a ‘suspension in audit,’ which requires further documentation and explanation from the government before the audit could continue.

The semantics are unbecoming. The purpose of an audit is to determine whether proper procurement and contract procedures have been followed, and whether money disbursed went where it was supposed to go. While it is true that a project such as equipment procurement can proceed while an audit is ongoing, ‘suspension in audit’ is a serious matter. It indicates that the auditors have encountered issues serious enough to warrant stopping the audit until they are explained, and have the practical effect of suspending the project because of strong indications of anomalies.

 One of the three contracts in question was the P1.2-billion deal to purchase refurbished Bell UH-1H helicopters from US-based Rice Aircraft Services Inc.; The Manila Times first broke the story of grave problems with the deal, including apparently favoritism in the crafting of the contract to ensure that Rice would win the deal, and the substandard, completely unusable aircraft that were delivered as a result.

That deal was stopped after Senate hearings on the matter, but the remaining two, a purchase of Bell 412 helicopters in a government-to-government deal with Canada, and a similar government-to-government contract with South Korea for the purchase of a dozen FA-50 advanced jet trainers, were by all appearances straightforward and properly-handled transactions until the COA spoke up last week.

We are not going to second-guess the work of the COA with regard to the government-to-government deals. If there are anomalies, then it is to the greater benefit of the people that those are discovered and corrected, even if it means canceling a purchase of equipment that the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) desperately needs. But, if the Canadian and Korean deals are proper, as the Palace and military officials insist, then that indicates a certain level of inefficiency on the part of the COA.

Whichever the case, the result is the same: The ‘suspension in audit’ simply makes the present government of the Philippines look like an unreliable customer, one which suppliers cannot be certain will abide by what are fairly conventional agreements and contracts. The reputation as a bad customer is one President BS Aquino 3rd has been cultivating for some time; it began with his arbitrary cancellation – against the recommendations of his own legal, environmental, and engineering advisers – of the Laguna Lake Rehabilitation Project, continued with his virtual abolition by decree of the 1995 Mining Act, and goes on through his at least tacit approval of the shenanigans involved in important projects like the acquisition of an automated voting system, contracting a competent maintenance provider for the barely-functioning MRT-3, and providing a few reliable aircraft for the armed forces.

Having government-to-government deals interrupted is particularly damaging, because those same governments often support private-sector projects to some extent. And while the Aquino Administration’s mouthpiece can plead misbehavior by individual officials (or, in not a few instances, on the part of blameless contractors), this old saying certainly seems to apply: “The common denominator in all your unsatisfying relationships is you.”

If the Administration is incapable of entering into a normal, non-controversial agreement with a supplier without the oversight and assistance of the COA, then perhaps it is time that procurement processes be changed to include the auditors from step one. There just are not that many excuses that can be created by the President’s spokespeople, let alone be convincing to the government’s continually jilted business partners.

4 soldiers wounded in Agusan del Sur explosion

From the Sun Star-Zamboanga (Jul 4): 4 soldiers wounded in Agusan del Sur explosion

FOUR soldiers were wounded when New People’s Army (NPA) rebels set off an improvised bomb at the height of a firefight in the hinterlands of Agusan del Sur, the military reported Saturday.

Lieutenant Colonel Eduardo Gubat, Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom) spokesman, said the explosion occurred around 2:35 p.m. Thursday in the village of Binucayan, Loreto, Agusan del Sur.

Gubat did not identify the wounded soldiers except in saying they belong to the Army’s 26th Infantry Battalion, who were taken to a hospital in Prosperidad, Agusan del Sur.

Gubat said the troops were sent on security patrol following the reported presence of NPA rebels when the clash ensued in the village of Binucayan, Loreto town.

He said the NPA rebels have set off an improvised bomb fashioned out as landmine that resulted to the injury of the four soldiers.

He said the rebels fled carrying some of their wounded companions based on information gathered from the civilians near the clash site.

He said the troops have recovered the following items the NPAs abandoned at the clash site: three unexploded improvised bombs; 310 meters electrical wires; five liters of gasoline; four backpacks; raincoat; tent; subscriber identification module (SIM) cards; and, a medical kit.

4 troopers hurt in Agusan blast

From the Philippine Star (Jul 5): 4 troopers hurt in Agusan blast

At least four Army troopers were wounded when an improvised explosive device (IED) believed planted by New People’s Army (NPA) guerrillas went off in Loreto, Agusan del Sur yesterday.

The soldiers, who belong to the Army’s 26th Infantry Battalion, were brought to the nearby Patin-ay Hospital for treatment.

The Armed Forces Eastern Mindanao Command said the troopers were responding to a report about the presence of armed men in Barangay Binucayan.

Civilians informed the military that NPA rebels, who were wounded in an earlier encounter in Veruela town, were brought by their colleagues to the village.

The military recovered three IEDs, electrical wires, five liters of gasoline, backpacks, raincoats and bullet shells from the site.

87 Leyte villages insurgency-free - Army

Posted to InterAksyon (Jul 4): 87 Leyte villages insurgency-free - Army

Communist rebels help plant after Yolanda. VIDEOGRAB

The Philippine Army has cleared 87 out of 189 villages in Leyte province known to be hideouts of the New People’s Army (NPA).

Col. Dino Dolina, commander of the Army’s 802nd Brigade based in Ormoc City, said that these rebel-free areas are in Jaro, Burauen, Carigara, Albuera, Ormoc City, and Baybay City.

Clearing operation is ongoing in some 102 villages mostly in Albuera and Ormoc City known to be the hotbeds of insurgents.

These areas are also seen to have societal issues that are being used by the rebels to persuade citizens to join their group.

Although presence of rebel groups is still felt in the province, Dolina clarified that they seldom have encounter with them, making Leyte province more peaceful than Samar areas.

Dolina added that as part of the military’s effort to win villages and people, they are encouraging citizens in rebel-influenced areas to participate in livelihood projects supported by the military.

Governor Leopoldo Dominico Petilla said his government is focusing on ending poverty-related problems by providing livelihood and agricultural support to farmers in far-flung villages, which are main targets of rebel group’s recruitment.

“High incidence of poverty means a break-down of peace and order,” said Petilla.

He said that his administration is promoting livelihood projects of the provincial government in partnership with the military.

On the other hand, Dolina informed members of the provincial peace and order council that they are verifying and monitoring reports about NPA members reported to be coercing some politicians and private contractors in the province.

“A local official from Bohol and a vice-mayor from Cebu had already confirmed this report, but they are still verifying the information here in Leyte,” the official said.

Goldberg: US committed to PH security

From the Philippine Star posted to ABS-CBN (Jul 4): Goldberg: US committed to PH security

No one should doubt the United States’ commitment to the security of the Philippines, America’s top diplomat in Manila said Thursday night.

US Ambassador Philip Goldberg, at the reception for the 239th anniversary of US Independence reiterated that their commitment to defend the Philippines is iron-clad.

"We continue to face the future standing shoulder to shoulder, confident in an alliance that is tried, tested and, as President (Barack) Obama and Secretary of Defense (Ashton) Carter have made clear, is iron-clad. No one should question our commitment to Philippine security," Goldberg added.

The ambassador praised the Philippines for pursuing peaceful, legal and diplomatic means in the South China Sea dispute.

"At the same time, we salute the Philippines for its efforts to solve regional problems peacefully, legally and diplomatically," Goldberg said during the reception, with Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua in attendance.

Not only is the US-Philippine alliance great, it is undergoing great renewal, Goldberg said. He said July 4 is also an important day in Philippine history because it marks Philippine-American Friendship Day.

"In fact, we are doing more together than at any time in a generation: in assistance, in security and in commerce," Goldberg said in his speech.

“And we’re doing so as the Philippine government works to modernize, fight corruption and provide more equitable growth,” he said.

The Philippines, he said, is both the oldest democracy in Asia and the oldest US ally in the region, and the two countries have stood shoulder to shoulder for more than 70 years.

Goldberg also thanked President Aquino and Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario for their strong and principled leadership on the South China Sea issue.

In an interview with reporters, Goldberg called China’s announcement of its plan to start building military facilities on reclaimed land “disappointing.”

The US and several other countries have expressed concern over China’s reclamation in the South China Sea and West Philippine Sea and called on claimant countries to freeze provocative activities.

“You’ve heard from Washington that the announcement that the Chinese made was disappointing because they also talked about building up in those features. And that’s not what I think reduces tension in the region or helps the situation,” Goldberg told reporters.

Washington, he said, would like to see more dialogue and greater adherence to legal and diplomatic and peaceful means to settle claim.

“That’s why we supported the Philippines’ right to take the case to ITLOS to help settle some of the issues surrounding South China Sea,” he said. ITLOS stands for International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea.

AFP chief bids execs farewell

From the Philippine Star posted to ABS-CBN (Jul 4): AFP chief bids execs farewell

Outgoing Armed Forces of the Philippines Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang bid goodbye yesterday to the AFP’s top officials, most of them contenders for the post he will vacate seven days from today.

Catapang will relinquish command on Friday, a day before he bows out of military service on July 11, his 56th birthday.

Malacañang has yet to announce his replacement.

Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc, AFP public affairs office chief, said the Board of Generals has come up with a shortlist from which President Aquino, as commander-in-chief, will pick the next AFP chief.

While Cabunoc declined to name names, sources said the contenders have been narrowed down to Army chief Lt. Gen. Hernando Iriberri, Air Force chief Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Delgado and Southern Luzon Command chief Lt. Gen. Ricardo Visayas.

Also being considered are Central Visayas Command chief Lt. Gen. Nicanor Vivar and Western Command chief Vice Admiral Alexander Lopez.

All the contenders are set to retire next year: Lopez on Feb. 17; Delgado, March 20; Iriberri, April 22; Vivar, Aug. 12; and Visaya on Dec. 8.

Aquino earlier said he prefers to appoint younger generals who will serve beyond his term, which will end in June next year.

China urges trade with PH across 'sea of peace'

From Rappler (Jul 4): China urges trade with PH across 'sea of peace'

'The problem lies with President Aquino,' says a Chinese official whose grandfather was buried in the Philippines

'MARITIME SILK ROAD.' A diorama at the Quanzhou Maritime Museum in Fujian, China, depicts part of the ancient 'maritime silk road' that includes the disputed South China Sea. Photo by Paterno Esmaquel II/Rappler

'MARITIME SILK ROAD.' A diorama at the Quanzhou Maritime Museum in Fujian, China, depicts part of the ancient 'maritime silk road' that includes the disputed South China Sea. Photo by Paterno Esmaquel II/Rappler

FUJIAN, China – More than a century ago, the ancestors of Zheng Zhi Qiang braved the South China Sea to reach the Philippines, the land of promise for thousands of Chinese.
Zheng's grandfather, for one, ran a business in Luzon, the Philippine island group that includes the capital Manila. Who knows, Zheng said, if his grandfather got married and even sired children in the Philippines? After all, the old man would visit his wife in China for only one or two months, and spend the rest of each year in the Southeast Asian country.
Eventually his grandfather was buried in the Philippines – home to more than a million Filipinos of Chinese ancestry mostly from China's Fujian province.
Zheng, an official of Fujian province, recounted this to illustrate the "long history of friendly exchanges" between China and the Philippines. It's a bond forged by his ancestors through the South China Sea, a "sea of peace" that is now a flashpoint of conflict between the two countries.
He said the two countries should keep a close relationship. Echoing the Chinese government, he then urged better trade between China and the Philippines across the disputed South China Sea, as Beijing revives an ancient trade route in the Asia Pacific.
Zheng – the deputy director of the foreign affairs and overseas Chinese affairs office in Quanzhou, a ciy in Fujian province – joined a dinner with Filipino and Thai journalists on Wednesday, July 1, as part of a program by the Chinese foreign ministry.
There he answered, among other things, questions about the Philippines and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, China's project to boost maritime trade in the region. (READ: PH and China's 21st Century Maritime Silk Road)
Is the South China Sea dispute, for instance, affecting the Philippines' role in the Maritime Silk Road?
"China is open to the international community," Zheng told reporters through a translator. "So the problem lies with President Aquino."
Zheng was referring to Aquino's unflinching position on the sea dispute. Unlike his predecessor Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, whom a think tank viewed as "more receptive to Beijing's commercial incentives," Aquino angered the Chinese by approving a historic case against China over the South China Sea.
In Beijing, a Chinese editor told us it doesn't help that Aquino's family comes from China's Fujian province. (READ: Aquino's Chinese ancestry fuels anger in Beijing)
Zheng said: "With the future development of the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, I think that there will be more opportunities for both sides to have future developments. It's a kind of a win-win situation."
'Embarrassed' Chinese Filipinos
He also said he has met with many Chinese Filipinos, "and all of them expect that the South China Sea issue will be settled very soon so that both countries will be benefited."
Zheng pointed out that Chinese Filipinos "stand in between" their ancestors' homeland, China, and their country, the Philippines. "They're kind of in the middle, very embarrassed." (READ: Philippines and China: Beyond the sea dispute)
LINKS WITH PHILIPPINES. Zheng Zhi Qiang, an official in China's Fujian province, says his grandfather ran a business in the Philippines. Photo by Paterno Esmaquel II/Rappler
LINKS WITH PHILIPPINES. Zheng Zhi Qiang, an official in China's Fujian province, says his grandfather ran a business in the Philippines. Photo by Paterno Esmaquel II/Rappler
"Originally, the South China Sea was a sea of peace, of peaceful coexistence. So it is very surprising for them to see that kind of unpleasant situation," he said.
Dr Chu Yanli, senior counsellor of Fujian's foreign affairs office, agreed that the Philippines can join the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road.
Referring to Filipinos, Chu said participating in the maritime project "depends on your government."
"If you actively want to join it and put more passion and attach more importance to it, I think that depends on your government, because China is open to all the countries who are ready, who prefer to join the initiative," Chu said.
Asked about potential benefits if the Philippines joins the Maritime Silk Road, Chu cited possible gains in infrastructure and expertise, among other things. "Mutual learning and mutual benefit – that's definitely bilateral, not for one side. And also, how much benefits you can get, I think, is based on and according to the extent to which you are involved."
The Philippines, however, has been cautious about a proposed project with China along the Maritime Silk Road: jointly exploring resources with China in the South China Sea. This is because the project could mean the Philippines dropping its claim over the disputed waters. (READ: Aquino: Venture with Beijing harder to keep than marriage)
The Chinese Embassy in the Philippines, for its part, earlier assured the Philippines that "is definitely part of the 21st century Maritime Silk Road."
"China welcomes the Philippines to be a proactive and constructive partner of the 21st century Maritime Silk Road, which serves the national interests of the Philippines and will contribute to the social and economic development of the Philippines," according to an embassy statement quoted by the media in November 2014.
Largest source of imports
China remains one of the Philippines' biggest trading partners.
China, in fact, was the Philippines' largest source of imports as of March.
The trade volume between the Philippines and Fujian province alone, according to Chu, is $4.96 billion.
Chu added that imports and exports between the Philippines and Fujian rose by 12.9% from January to May this year.
She said the Fujian provincial government has also approved investments in the Philippines worth $15.2 million. This is for 18 Fujianese companies "in mineral exploitation, food processing, communications, and also construction."
In the Fujianese city of Xiamen, Chen Jianjin, vice senior officer of the Xiamen Commerce Bureau, told Filipino reporters in April that China is planning 9 projects "directly connected to the Philippines."
Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua pointed out that over the past 40 years, trade between the two countries has enjoyed a "560 times growth."
Philippine statistics also show that 1.5% of the Philippine population comes from the ethnic Chinese community. Many others as well have Chinese ancestry. The richest man in the Philippines, Henry Sy, and other top Filipino businessmen also come from Chinese families.
Zhao said, "We are destined to be friends and partners."
Still, China's critics in the Philippines have called for a boycott of Chinese products because of the dispute over the South China Sea. Saying its ties with China go beyond the maritime row, the Philippine government has disowned this initiative.