Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Anti-EDCA groups eye appeal

From the Philippine Star (Jan 13): Anti-EDCA groups eye appeal



Militants stage a protest against the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement in front of the Supreme Court yesterday. AP

Militant groups yesterday maintained the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) with the United States violates the sovereignty of the Philippines.

Renato Reyes of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) said they are considering the possibility of filing a motion for reconsideration of the Supreme Court (SC) decision upholding the EDCA.

“We shall immediately consult with our lawyers regarding a possible motion for reconsideration, especially since the SC vote was not unanimous. We shall continue to expose and oppose US intervention in the Philippines,” Reyes said.

Bayan maintained that EDCA is not the solution to the problem of China’s incursions, not when the EDCA also violates the country’s sovereignty.

Reyes claimed the EDCA would allow construction of US military facilities on Philippine soil and free use of the country’s military bases by US troops.

He said the US would use the Philippines as a launching pad to exercise power over the Pacific region.

Reyes added the Supreme Court must have considered in its decision how the Senate resolved to reject the US bases in the Philippines in 1991.

The League of Filipino Students also criticized the government for using the maritime issue against China as pretext for pushing the EDCA.

It also claimed the agreement, signed by the US and Philippine governments hours before the state visit of US President Barack Obama in 2014, violates Article XXIII Section 25 of the 1987 Constitution, stating that foreign military bases and troops “shall not be allowed in the Philippines except under a treaty duly concurred in by the Senate.”

The women’s group Gabriela expressed concern over the proliferation of cases against women after the EDCA was upheld by the SC.

Joms Salvador of Gabriela said 800 cases of violence against women were filed against US servicemen, with at least nine other US military men, both active and retired, slapping cases from abandonment to domestic violence received by Gabriela.

Kabataan party-list Rep. Terry Ridon lamented the decision of the SC declaring the EDCA as constitutional.

He said the SC missed an historic opportunity to stand for sovereignty.

“The decision will set the stage for the return of the US bases in the country albeit disguised as Philippine bases under US control and supervision,” Ridon said.

http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2016/01/13/1542058/anti-edca-groups-eye-appeal

DND to spend P84 million for sniper, machine gun bullets

From the Philippine Star (Jan 13): DND to spend P84 million for sniper, machine gun bullets                



A bid bulletin posted on the Philippine Government Electronic Procurement System website said the project involves the supply and delivery of 7.62mm finished components for the government arsenal. KRIZ JOHN ROSALES

The Department of National Defense (DND) will spend at least P84 million to buy ammunition for sniper rifles and machine guns to enhance the country’s military security operations.

A bid bulletin posted on the Philippine Government Electronic Procurement System website said the project involves the supply and delivery of 7.62mm finished components for the government arsenal.

The bidding, which will be open to local and foreign bidders subject to the eligibility conditions provided in the implementing rules of the procurement law, will be held next month.

Interested bidders should have completed, within the last five years from the date of submission and receipt of bids, a contract similar to the project.

Prospective suppliers may buy a complete set of bidding documents at the DND Bids and Awards Committee secretariat in Camp Aguinaldo for P50,000. The documents may also be downloaded from the website of the Philippine Government Electronic Procurement System provided that the bidders would pay for them before the submission of bids.

http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2016/01/13/1542063/dnd-spend-p84-million-sniper-machine-gun-bullets

NPA still a threat to May polls — AFP

From the Daily Tribune (Jan 13): NPA still a threat to May polls — AFP

The communist New People’s Army (NPA) remains the number one threat to the May national elections, the military said yesterday.

Col. Noel Detoyato, chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines-Public Affairs Office (AFP-PAO), said that the presence of armed communist rebels in different parts of the country poses threat to the peaceful conduct of the May 9 presidential polls.

“NPA is still the threat because of their propensity to conduct extortion activities,” Detoyato said.

“Unlike other armed threat groups that are confined in certain areas only, the NPAs maintain presence in various parts of the country,” he added.

According to Detoyato, the military has been receiving reports that the NPA has already started collecting permits to campaign and permits to win in their areas of operation.

He said that the money collected by the NPAs through “extortion” is used for more violence.

Detoyato said that the military, in coordination with the Philippine National Police (PNP), is taking solid action to thwart the communist activities.

“We urge those targeted by these NPA activities not to give in to extortion,” Detoyato said.

Meanwhile, the military also claimed that the videos showing Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) bandits claiming affiliation with jihadist group Islamic State in Syria and Iraq (ISIS) are nothing but propaganda.

“Our reaction remains consistent, that this is a continuing attempt by local terrorists to attract attention. There remains no credible, verified and direct connection to the bigger group in the Middle East up to this time,” AFP spokesman Col. Restituto Padilla said.

Earlier, a video showing ASG high-ranking leader Isnilon Hapilon and other ranking bandit leaders pledging allegiance to ISIS circulated online.

“The AFP is already taking proactive measures in preventing the spread of extremist ideology and terrorist activities in the country,” he added.

http://www.tribune.net.ph/nation/npa-still-a-threat-to-may-polls-afp

PHL protests China test landing in Kagitingan Reef in Spratlys

From GMA News (Jan 13): PHL protests China test landing in Kagitingan Reef in Spratlys

The Philippines has protested China's test landing in the Manila-claimed Kagitingan Reef (Fiery Cross Reef) in the Spratlys, calling it a provocative action that raises tensions in the region.

“We formally protested on 8 January 2016 the recent test flights conducted by China to the Kagitingan Reef (Fiery Cross Reef) and its provocative actions restricting the freedom of navigation and overflight in the WPS (West Philippine Sea),” Foreign Affairs spokesperson Charles Jose said in a text message.

“These actions by China have elevated tensions and anxiety in the region and are in violation of the spirit and letter of the ASEAN China DOC (Declaration on the Conduct of Parties),” Jose added.

A Chinese newspaper earlier reported that last week, China landed two test flights on an island it has built in the West Philippines Sea. It said the test flights proved that the “airport has the capacity to ensure the safe operation of large civilian aircraft.”

Foreign Affairs Secretary  Albert del Rosario earlier said the test flights and landings on the reef claimed by the Philippines might lead to a Chinese air defense zone in the disputed waters if left unchallenged.

“We are very concerned about the fact that China had already flown their flights to Fiery Cross Reef and we are also concerned that there are plans to do more,” Del Rosario said last week at a joint press conference with British Foreign Minister Philip Hammond.

Vietnam, which is also claiming the reef, had also protested the move.

China has rejected Vietnam's protest, saying the test flights are "completely within China’s sovereignty."

http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/550993/news/nation/phl-protests-china-test-landing-in-kagitingan-reef-in-spratlys

Hanoi slams ‘erroneous statements’ on China island flights

From GMA News (Jan 13): Hanoi slams ‘erroneous statements’ on China island flights

Hanoi accused Beijing of making "erroneous statements" in the latest round of an escalating diplomatic spat over flights to a disputed reef in the South China Sea.

China has conducted several flights this year through Vietnamese airspace to a newly built runway on the Fiery Cross reef in the Spratly Island group, which is claimed by both countries.

Vietnam has accused Beijing of threatening regional safety with the "unannounced" flights, but China hit back, arguing it has the right to conduct "state aviation activities."

Hanoi fired off the latest barb late Tuesday in the increasingly bitter diplomatic spat, saying China was making "erroneous statements" by claiming it had informed Vietnamese air traffic control about the flights.

"Ho Chi Minh... Control Center did not receive any notification by China of the flight plans," Foreign Ministry Spokesman Le Hai Binh said in a statement released late Tuesday.

The flights are "aimed at asserting their illegal sovereignty claims over the Trong Sa archipelago," he said, referring to the Spratlys by their Vietnamese name.

Vietnam this year logged at least 46 incidents of Chinese planes flying without warning through airspace monitored by air traffic control in the southern metropolis of Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon, according to authorities cited by local media.

State media also reported that Vietnam sent a protest letter about the flights to Beijing, as well as the United Nations' International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

Beijing began work in 2014 on a 3,000-meter (9,800-foot) runway on Fiery Cross reef, around 1,000 kilometres (600 miles) from China's island province of Hainan.

China's claim to almost all of the South China Sea puts it at odds with regional neighbors the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan, which also stake partial claims

http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/551020/news/world/hanoi-slams-erroneous-statements-on-china-island-flights

Four civilians abducted, released by NPA: army

From the Mindanao Times (Jan 12): Four civilians abducted, released by NPA: army

FOUR civilians, including a pregnant teen, were reportedly abducted by alleged members of New People’s Army in Barangay Malamodao in Maco, Compostela  Valley last week.
 
Col. Macairog S. Alberto, commander of 1001st Infantry Brigade, identified the victims as Arlyn Camporedondo, 38; Reniel Matog, 30; Jenefe Matayab, 20, all residents of Purok 1–B of the same barangay; and AJ Tucona, 15, resident of Purok 2.
 
According to Alberto, they might be suspected by the rebels as pro-military.
 
“One of the girls there was a girlfriend of a soldier,” he said.
 
Pursuit operations were immediately conducted when the report of abduction reached the authorities. They were released by their captors on Jan. 7 at Barangay Malamodao .
 
The victims were then brought to Maco Police Station for debriefing.
 
In a separate interview, Capt. Rhyan Batchar, spokesperson of 10th Infantry Division, said they were abducted by the rebels inside their house in the cover of darkness to avoid the patroling soldiers.
 
“Allegedly, their abductors wanted to talk to them but they were released the next day,” he said.
 
Sr. Inspector Melanie Hermosisima, commander of Maco Police Station, said they will file a case against the NPA.
 

Basilan province is bastion of power of Abu Sayyaf rebels

From the Mindanao Examiner (Jan 12): Basilan province is bastion of power of Abu Sayyaf rebels 







The Abu Sayyaf pledges allegiance anew to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in these screen grab from a video released recently by the notorious rebel group. (Mindanao Examiner Photo – Mohd Saaduddin)

Basilan province in the restive Muslim autonomous region has become the bastion of power of the jihadist group Abu Sayyaf after it pledged allegiance anew to the caliph of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and named new leaders aligned with the international Islamic extremist group.

In a propaganda video released by the Abu Sayyaf and picked up by international media, more than two dozen gunmen – including child warriors – led by rebel leader Isnilon Hapilon were seen hiking in the hinterlands of Basilan while chanting the “Dawlah Islamiyah (Islamic State)” after which they recited an Arabic script of  bayah or pledge of allegiance.

Hapilon alias Abu Abdullah was named as the new leader of the “Harakatul Islamiyah” (Islamic Movement)” the new name given to the Abu Sayyaf by its founder Abdurajak Abubakar Janjalani who was slain in a police shootout in Basilan in December 1998.

The Abu Sayyaf evolved to a notorious group known for having carried out kidnappings, bombings and other criminal activities in southern Philippines. The US government has offered a $5 million bounty for Hapilon’s head – dead or alive.

In the video, Hapilon was shown with Abu Harith Al-Filibbieni , who is reported to be deputy commander of the al-Ansar Infantry Division of the ISIS, and Mohd Najib Husen (Hussein) alias Abu Annas Al Muhajir, a division head of the Ansar al-Sharia of the ISIS.

The rebels explained in the video that they had previously done the bayah, but did it again in front of their new leaders. It was unknown when the video was recorded, but it was released just after the military’s Western Mindanao Command in Zamboanga City claimed last month that Husen was killed during offensive operations against the Abu Sayyaf in the troubled province of Basilan in December.

Husen was with other Malaysian jihadists – Mahmud Ahmad, Muhammad Joraimee Awang Raimee, Amin Baco and Jeknal Adil – who fled to southern Philippines reportedly to recruit militants and send them to “Dar al-Harb (place of war),” referring to Syria and Iraq, where the ISIS established its own caliphate state.

The Abu Sayyaf hoisted a black flag similar to those being used by the Khilafah Islamiyah Movement and other hard-line radical jihadist groups like the Boko Haram in Africa.

In Maguindanao and nearby provinces, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and the Ansarul Khilafah also pledged allegiance to the ISIS. Radical militants in Indonesia and Malaysia, including the Southeast Asian terror group Jema’ah Islamiyah had also done the same.

Just last month, the jihadists also released a video of the ISIS’s Alhayat Media Center which shows the Philippines as among countries in Southeast Asia they were planning to expand its “Khilafah (caliphate).”

The Abu Sayyaf is now using the Daesh flag and also the Khilafah Islamiyah Movement and other radical groups in Lanao del Sur, also in the Muslim autonomous region where local militants of the Ghuraba (Strangers) – both the Ghuraba and Khilafah Islamiyah Movement are headed by a leader called Humam Abdul Najid, who was implicated in the 2013 Cagayan de Oro City bombings.

In October 2014, the jihadists Ghuraba had claimed that they established the Khilafah after courting other radical jihadists in the South to vow their allegiance to the Muslims’ caliph al-Baghdadi.

The Ghuraba is reportedly harboring foreign militants, including an agent of the Jama’at al-Tawhid wal-Jihad, a group believed to be the original name of now infamous international threat group ISIS.

The Khilafah Islamiyah Movement and Ghuraba militants declared jihad or holy war in February 1, 2013 following a deadly (attack) against security forces in Marawi City.

http://mindanaoexaminer.com/basilan-province-is-bastion-of-power-of-abu-sayyaf-rebels/

PN MPAC up for dry-docking, repairs

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 13): PN MPAC up for dry-docking, repairs

In line with efforts to ensure that all its available naval craft are mission and seaworthy at all times, the Philippine Navy (PN) announced it is allocating Php2,575,609.76 for the dry-docking and repairs of one of its six multi-purpose attack craft (MPAC).

Scheduled for maintenance is MPAC with hull number BA-485.

Winning bidders are required to deliver the services and other items needed for the repairs within 45 calendar days, the bid bulletin from the Philippine Government Electronic Procurement System said.

Bid opening is on Jan. 18, 9 a.m. at the Office of the PN Bids and Awards Committee Bonifacio Naval Station, Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City.

An MPAC measures 16.5 meters long, 4.76 meters wide and has a draft of one meter and a top speed of 45 knots.

Each costs around Php90 million and has a range 300 nautical miles.

The hull is made of high-quality aluminum and is crewed by one officer and four enlisted personnel.

It is capable of carrying 16 fully-equipped troopers or two tons of cargo.

MPAC is capable of operating in territorial waters up to "Sea State 3" (slight waves) without any system degradation.

It is armed with one .50 caliber and two 7.62mm machine guns.

http://www.pna.gov.ph/index.php?idn=1&sid=&nid=1&rid=845909

Family of beheaded Malaysian hostage to claim his remains from Manila

From Asia One (Jan 12): Family of beheaded Malaysian hostage to claim his remains from Manila



Photo: The Star/ANN Sharon Ling

KUCHING - The Sarawak government will assist the family of slain Malaysian hostage Bernard Then to bring back his remains from the Philippines.

State Welfare, Women and Family Development Minister Datuk Fatimah Abdullah will accompany Then's parents, siblings and wife to Manila on Thursday.

Fatimah said Then's body would be flown from Zamboanga City to Manila on Thursday and cremated at the Pasay City public cemetery on Friday morning.

"The family's wish is for the cremation to be conducted by a Catholic priest. The ashes are going to be brought back to Kuala Lumpur on Saturday and another ceremony will be carried out there," she told reporters here on Tuesday.

Fatimah said Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem had instructed the state government to give all assistance needed to the family, including flight tickets and accommodation.

"On behalf of the state government, I once again convey our condolences to Then's family. It has been very difficult for them and this will bring closure to a painful episode for the family," she said.

Then, 39, and Ocean King seafood restaurant manager Thien Nyuk Fun were kidnapped from Sandakan on May 15 last year.

Thien was released on Nov 8 while Then was reportedly beheaded by his captors on Nov 11.

http://news.asiaone.com/news/malaysia/family-beheaded-malaysian-hostage-claim-his-remains-manila

Philippine Air Force to acquire ammunition for FA-50 aircraft

Posted to Air Force-Technology.com (Jan 11): Philippine Air Force to acquire ammunition for FA-50 aircraft

The Philippine Air Force (PAF) has reportedly unveiled plans to acquire ammunition for two of its new FA-50 Golden Eagle fighter jets that were delivered by Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) last year.

The Southeast Asian country will invest $2.25m to purchase 93,600 rounds of 20mm ammunition for the Korean-made fighter jets' A50 gun system, reported Inquirer.

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesperson colonel Restituto Padilla was quoted by the publication as saying: "Part of the procurement process is the armament system for our FA-50 fighters.

"This purchase is part of the arms acquisition package for our aircraft."

The two jets are part of the 12 FA-50s that South Korea's KAI will deliver to PAF under a Php18.9bn ($400m) government-to-government contract signed in 2013. The remaining aircraft are scheduled to be delivered by 2017.

The fighter jets will enhance the air force's capabilities in patrolling the country's airspace, especially in the disputed waters of the West Philippine Sea.

Additionally, the Philippines Department of National Defense (DND) is planning to buy 17,280 RR-170 chaffs and 8,640 MJU-7 infrared flares with impulsive cartridges.

These will be fitted on the Elbit Elisra countermeasure dispenser system of the FA-50 fighter jets.

A light combat derivative of the T-50 supersonic advanced jet trainer, the FA-50 is capable of carrying up to 4.5t of weapons including air-to-air/air-to-surface missiles, machine guns, precision guided bombers such as the joint direct attack munitions (JDAM), and the CBUs.

The fighter jet is equipped with night vision imaging system and provides improved self-protection with the radar warning receiver and the counter measure dispenser system.

http://www.airforce-technology.com/news/newsphilippine-air-force-to-acquire-ammunition-for-fa-50-aircraft-4773771

China defends South China Sea reef landings after Vietnam complaint

From Channel News Asia (Jan 11): China defends South China Sea reef landings after Vietnam complaint

Chinese civilian aircraft have conducted several test landings on Fiery Cross Reef, one of three runways China has been building for more than a year by dredging sand up onto reefs and atolls in the Spratly Islands.

BEIJING: China on Monday (Jan 11) rejected a complaint from Vietnam that China had failed to notify it about flights to an island it has built in disputed waters in the South China Sea saying it was China's territory and it did not need to notify anyone.

Chinese civilian aircraft have conducted several test landings on Fiery Cross Reef, one of three runways China has been building for more than a year by dredging sand up onto reefs and atolls in the Spratly Islands.

Vietnam and the Philippines have both objected to the flights and the United States, which has criticised China's construction of islands in the South China Sea, has expressed concern about an increase in tension in the region. Vietnam says China's landings were on what it calls an "illegally" built reef, and has vowed to defend its sovereignty through peaceful measures.

Vietnam's civil aviation authorities also said China's aircraft flew into its "flight information region" without prior notification and "flight operations of Chinese aircraft have threatened safe exploitation of international air routes".

China's foreign ministry spokesman, Hong Lei, said that complaint was "groundless" and reiterated that China had sovereignty over the area.

"According to international law, national aviation activities are not subject to relevant restrictions from international civil aviation conventions and the International Civil Aviation Organization," Hong told a regular briefing.

Anyway, he said, China had notified Vietnam about the flights. China's Xinhua news agency last Wednesday announced two test flights to the island, four days after it angered Vietnam with its first landing on the runway.

China claims virtually the whole of the South China Sea. Each year, more than US$5 trillion of world trade is shipped through the South China Sea, where Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan have rival territorial claims.

http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/asiapacific/china-defends-south-china/2416232.html

PNoy insists on passing contentious BBL version

From The Standard (Jan 12): PNoy insists on passing contentious BBL version

THE Aquino administration of President Benigno Aquino III is intent on having Congress approve the controversial Palace version of the Bangsamoro Basic Law despite legislative hurdles and even a suggestion to leave the matter to the administration to be elected in May.

“The determination of the administration to have the BBL [approved] in Congress, in support of the peace process, does not waver,” said Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. in reaction to the suggestion of Magdalo party-list Rep. Gary Alejano to leave the matter to the next administration.
President Benigno Aquino III
Alejano said it would be better to leave the BBL until after the election so that it is not used by candidates as an election issue.

Alejano said the House can barely muster a quorum and they do not have enough time to tackle every provision in the BBL.

“In my personal perspective, let the next administration tackle this. If we will push this now and a lot of issues remain unsolved, violence in Mindanao might worsen,” said Alejano, saying the true relationship between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters is one key issue.

Senatorial candidate and Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez also warned that forcing the passage of a legally flawed BBL during the current Congress may make the country an international laughing stock.

Romualdez, a lawyer and president of the Philippine Constitution Association, said most peace advocates want a BBL that will lead to true and lasting peace that is legally binding and not unconstitutional.

“We all want peace. We all want the peace process to push through. But instead of attaining long-lasting peace in Mindanao we might end up in chaos because of so many confusing and conflicting provisions—provisions that do not conform with the Constitution and other laws of the Republic,” Romualdez said during his interview on on dwIZ’s “Karambola.”

“We will be a laughing stock of the world if we pass a peace measure that is legally flawed and violates our Constitution.” Romualdez said, adding there is still time for Congress to work on “legal” BBL as it will only take political will to pass one.

“If we have political will, we can work on a measure that is free from any legal infirmity,” Romualdez, a senatorial candidate, said.

Romualdez said the revised BBL prepared by Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr., chairman of the Senate local government committee, should be the model for a “truthful” BBL.

Marcos’ draft bill took out several provisions that provide greater powers and resources for the new political entity that will replace the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

Romualdez said he is hopeful that the House of Representatives will be able to come up with its own version that advances not only the interests of a few but of the many, including marginalized tribal folk in Mindanao.

Last year, Romualdez and the Philconsa filed a 26-page petition before the Supreme Court seeking to declare the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro and the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro unconstitutional, but the high court dismissed the suite as premature.

http://thestandard.com.ph/news/-main-stories/top-stories/196561/pnoy-insists-on-passing-contentious-bbl-version.html

AFP insists NPA strength down to 3,900

From the Philippine Star (Jan 12): AFP insists NPA strength down to 3,900



The figures presented by the Armed Forces of the Philippines about the strength of the New People’s Army are not consistent with the ones released in 2015. Philstar.com/File photo

The military stands by the communist insurgency figures reported by Armed Forces chief Gen. Hernando Iriberri last week, virtually rejecting its own press release distributed last year.

“We stand by the figures we reported. These are based on the briefing of our officials involved in operations and intelligence,” Armed Forces public affairs Col. Noel Detoyato said.

Detoyato stressed that all data released to the media had undergone validation. He, however, declined to comment on the military press release issued last year, which claimed that the rebels' strength has dwindled to less than 3,000.

Last week, Iriberri announced that the number of New People’s Army (NPA) members dropped to 3,926 as of the end of 2015 from 4,443 in 2014.

The figure, however, is not consistent with those issued by the military last year.

According to a military press release dated July 3, 2015, there were 3,200 NPA members as of the end of 2014. The press release also claimed that the number of armed rebels has decreased to less than 3,000 in the first three months of 2015.

“Based on the 2014 Yearend report, there were 3,200 armed members (NPA). In the first quarter of 2015, the AFP has recorded the neutralization of 340 armed members,” the press release read.

“Neutralized” pertains to rebels who were killed, arrested or captured by security forces.

If the armed forces press release issued last year is accurate, then the number of NPA members increased to 3,926 last year from 3,200 in 2014. Such figure would refute the military's often repeated claim that the NPA is on a decline.

On the other hand, if Iriberri is correct in saying that the NPA's strength was at 4,443 in 2014, then the 2015 press release was inaccurate and the military merely exaggerated its accomplishments.

It also means that the military has failed to significantly reduce the number of NPA members as the figure has been at around 4,000 since 2010.

http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2016/01/12/1541823/afp-insists-npa-strength-down-3900

MNLF denies forging pact with Abu Sayyaf

From ABS-CBN (Jan 12): MNLF denies forging pact with Abu Sayyaf
MANILA - The Moro National Liberation Front denied Tuesday that it is forging a pact with the Abu Sayyaf Group during a meeting of its troops in Sulu last January 10.

In an interview on radio dzMM, MNLF spokesman Absalum Cerveza denied reports that they invited the Abu Sayyaf Group to their January 10 meeting to establish ties.

He said ASG fighters may have been present in the gathering because it coincided with a "kanduli" or fiesta. He noted that many ASG and MNLF members are related by blood.

"Ang mga kaanak, dumadalo. Kung saan man ang kanilang affiliation, that is not the issue. They are just there for their relatives," Cerveza said.

"It was an open convocation. Wala namang security na ini-install para hindi makapasok iyung mga hindi member ng MNLF. Everybody was welcome to come if they like to," he added.

The spokesman denied allegations that they are protecting the Abu Sayyaf and its alleged extortion and abduction acts.

"We have distanced ourselves from the Abu Sayyaf. We do not like to be attached of that shenanigan. Kung may ginagawa man sila, kanila iyun. We do not have control over them just like the military has no control over them," he said.

MISUARI MEETS TROOPS

In the interview, Cerveza confirmed that MNLF founding chairman, fugitive Nur Misuari, led a meeting in Sulu last week.

"It was a general consultation and parliamentary meeting para pag-usap-usapan ang mga hakbang na dapat gawin para mabigyan ng katarungan ang mga bagay-bagay na hindi inaasikaso ng gobyerno natin."

Over 2,000 MNLF from all over Mindanao reportedly converged in Sulu last week for the meeting that Misuari presided.

The MNLF reportedly discussed plans for the Organization of Islamic Cooperation meeting in Jeddah on January 25 to 27, and the replacement of the late Ustadz Zain Jali by Alibashier Sidri as new chair of the Bangsamoro Parliament.

Cerveza added that the MNLF discussed its remaining options to peacefully pursue independence from the national government.

"If there is any possibility for a political solution e iyun ang tatahakin nating landas because we do not want violence. Gusto nating ma-achieve and independence pero through a peaceful and humane way," he said.

HARBORING A FUGITIVE

In the interview, Cerveza confirmed that Misuari faces several charges for the 2013 Zamboanga siege that left 200 people dead and displaced thousands of families.

"We do not like to deny that. Ang sabi ko nga sa kanya, huwag ka masyadong magladlad diyan at baka madisgrasya," he said when asked about Misuari's fugitive status.

He also said the arrest warrant for Misuari has yet to be served.

Misuari has not left Sulu, the spokesman said.

READ: Amnesty for Nur Misuari sought

MalacaƱang on Monday said government forces continue searching for Misuari. Presidential Communications Secretary Sonny Coloma insisted that the outstanding warrant of arrest against the MNLF leader is valid.

http://news.abs-cbn.com/nation/regions/01/12/16/mnlf-denies-forging-pact-with-abu-sayyaf

AFP downplays 'ISIS province' in Mindanao

From ABS-CBN (Jan 12): AFP downplays 'ISIS province' in Mindanao

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Tuesday downplayed the assessment of a Singapore-based terror expert that the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) may soon establish a "wilayat" or province in Mindanao.

"To date, there is no credible, verified and direct link established, and the possibility of establishing of a satellite is unlikely. There remains no credible and direct connection to the bigger group in the Middle East up to this time," AFP spokesperson Col. Restituto Padilla said.

Padilla was pertaining to the statement of analyst Rohan Gunaratna, author of Inside al-Qaeda and head of the International Center for Political Violence and Terrorism Research in Singapore, that the next step ISIS is likely to take in the Philippines is the declaration of wilayat in Mindanao.

On January 4, a video circulated in a jihadi forum, showing Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon and Ansar al-Khilafa leader Abu Sharifa marching with other extremist leaders and pledging allegiance with the ISIS.

But according to Padilla, the video was not that new, noting that some of the personalities shown had been killed during a military offensive in Basilan in December.

Padilla also reiterated that there is no proof that there is a direct connection between the ISIS and local terrorist groups.

"The recent pronouncement of ASG leader Isnilon Hapilon is part of their propaganda and does not necessarily reflect the existence of an ISIS-directed terror operation in the country," he said.

http://news.abs-cbn.com/nation/regions/01/12/16/afp-downplays-isis-province-in-mindanao

Photo: Supreme Court rules EDCA constitutional

From ABS-CBN (Jan 12): Photo: Supreme Court rules EDCA constitutional



Activists hold rattan trays with messages denouncing the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) during a protest outside the Supreme Court in Manila on Tuesday. The Philippine Supreme Court declared the security deal with the United States constitutional.

http://news.abs-cbn.com/image/nation/01/12/16/supreme-court-rules-edca-constitutional

Photo: US sub in Subic for 3-day stop

From ABS-CBN (Jan 12): Photo: US sub in Subic for 3-day stop



The USS Topeka (SSN-754), a Los Angeles-class attack submarine, prepares to dock at the Alava pier of Subic port in Zambales Tuesday, for a three-day port stop. Subic Naval Base is one of the agreed locations that the US government identified as part of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement.

http://news.abs-cbn.com/image/nation/01/12/16/us-sub-in-subic-for-3-day-stop

MILF: Mamasapano incident already a closed book

From ABS-CBN (Jan 12): MILF: Mamasapano incident already a closed book

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on Tuesday maintained its position that the investigation into the Mamasapano incident between the Philippine National Police (PNP) Special Action Force (SAF) and MILF combatants is already over.

This, following the announcement of the Senate to reopen the probe on the January 25, 2015 incident.

Speaking to ABS-CBN in a phone interview, MILF First Vice Chairman Ghazali Jaafar said they consider the incident, which resulted in the the deaths of dozens of SAF troopers and MILF fighters, as a closed book.

Jaafar also said they are satisfied with the probe conducted by the created special investigative commission composed of officials and members of the MILF.

READ: The MILF report on the Mamasapano incident

According to Jaafar, the central committee of the MILF has yet to discuss whether they will appear before the Senate for the new hearing. He said they have yet to receive any form of invitation from the Senate.

Meanwhile, the official said the sanctions against the combatants involved in what they called a "misencounter" are internal to the MILF.

He said there are mechanisms agreed upon by both parties -- the MILF and the government -- that if there is a violation on the ceasefire agreement, the MILF will be the one to impose punishment or sanctions against their men.

Jaafar said they have already submitted to the Philippine government a copy of the results of their own investigation on the Mamasapano encounter.

http://news.abs-cbn.com/nation/regions/01/12/16/milf-mamasapano-incident-already-a-closed-book

AFP to conduct 'focused-military operations' vs rebels extorting from pols

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 12): AFP to conduct 'focused-military operations' vs rebels extorting from pols

In line with efforts to safeguard the May 2016 polls, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) announced it will conduct "focused-military operations" against rebel groups conducting extortion missions against politicians.

"We (will) conduct focused-military operations after those (rebels)," AFP public affairs office chief Col. Noel Detoyato said.

He added this is part of the AFP's action plan to prevent rebels and lawless groups from interfering in the incoming elections.

Aside from this, Detoyato urged politicians not to give to the New People's Army (NPA) election extortion scheme.

"The NPAs call it 'permit-to-campaign' and 'permit-to-win' but we simpluy call it extortion, so if it extortion, don't give in to extortionists," he added.

Detoyato said they are constantly monitoring the situation on the field.

"We are (encouraging) them to report it to the Commission on Elections, to the police, to the nearest military (unit) so that we can take proper action," Detoyato said.

The military official said the AFP, while doing everything to counter the NPA extortion threat, is dependent on the information provided by the public.

Detoyato added that giving in to the rebels' extortion threat means additional funds for the latter's violent activities

http://www.pna.gov.ph/index.php?idn=1&sid=&nid=1&rid=845523

Troops, ASG brigands clash in Patikul, Sulu

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 12): Troops, ASG brigands clash in Patikul, Sulu

Government forces are hot on trail of an Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) brigands that figured in a firefight Tuesday with troops in Patikul, Sulu.

Brig. Gen. Alan Arrojado, Joint Task Group Sulu commander, said target of the pursuit operations is the group of Ninok Sapari and of a certain Abu Alkam.

Arrojado said the troops were conducting focused military operations when they clashed with the group of Sapari and Alkam around 3 p.m. Tuesday in Sitio Buanbuan, Barangay Latih, Patikul.

Arrojado said the firefight lasted for about five minutes after which the ASG brigands ran towards Barangay Bungkaong, also in Patikul town.

He said there was no casualty on the government side “while it is still undetermined on the enemy side.”

He said the troops from the Army's 35th Infantry Battalion have recovered at the clash site three backpacks, assorted police and military uniforms, foodstuffs and one motorcycle.

http://www.pna.gov.ph/index.php?idn=&sid=&nid=&rid=845848

AFP personnel told to comply with COMELEC gun ban

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 12): AFP personnel told to comply with COMELEC gun ban

With the COMELEC gun ban now in effect, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) reminded all of its personnel not to bring their weapons outside when not on official duty or without permission from the poll body.

This is to avoid sanctions for violators of the electoral order, said AFP public affairs office chief Col. Noel Detoyato.

"As early as December, we told all of our troops of the impending COMELEC gun ban and told them of the consequences. The Chief-of-Staff (Gen. Hernando DCA Iriberri) also told all our senior commanders to frequently remind their troops on what to do and not to do during the prohibition period," he said in Filipino.

The COMELEC gun ban which started January 10 and will last until June 8, is part of the preparations to ensure that peaceful and orderly national elections on May 9.

http://www.pna.gov.ph/index.php?idn=1&sid=&nid=1&rid=845612

DND-GA to purchase PhP84-M worth of 7.62mm 'finished components'

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 12): DND-GA to purchase PhP84-M worth of 7.62mm 'finished components'

The Department of National Defense-Government Arsenal (DND-GA) is in the market for PhP84 million worth of 7.62mm "finished components," which refers to the primer, heads, powder and shells.

The 7.62mm bullet is used to arm light machine guns and sniper rifles of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

The money will be sourced from the FY 2016 General Appropriations Act, according to the bid bulletin posted at the Philippine Government Electronic Procurement System.

Winning bidders are required to deliver the items within 120 calendar days from notice to proceed.

They must also have completed a similar project within the last five years.

The DND-GA will hold a pre-bid conference on Jan. 21, 1:30 p.m. at DND-Bids and Awards Committee Conference Room, Basement, Left Wing, DND Building, Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

Bid opening is on Feb. 4, 10 a.m. at the same venue.

http://www.pna.gov.ph/index.php?idn=1&sid=&nid=1&rid=845643

(News Analysis) China test flights rattling the region

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 12): (News Analysis) China test flights rattling the region

Tensions broke out anew in the South China Sea after Beijing announced on January 4, 2016 that it had sent a civilian plane to test a three-kilometer runway it had built on Fiery Cross Reef, one of the sites of China’s island-building activities. This was followed by a statement released by Xinhua last January 6 on new flights carried out by China Southern Airlines and Hainan Airlines.

Vietnam immediately filed a formal protest against the move, saying China’s actions are causing anxiety and could endanger freedom of overflight. The United States and Japan both expressed concerns, with Tokyo saying that China’s unilateral actions are an attempt to change realities on the ground and create a fait accompli.

Philippine Secretary of Foreign Affairs Albert Del Rosario said last week that Manila would protest the flights and raised concerns on the repercussions of the Chinese provocative activities “if they are not challenged”.

Del Rosario’s British counterpart, Foreign Secretary Hammond, who was in Manila last week for a visit, said the freedom of navigation and overflights were “non-negotiable” and constitute “red lines” for the United Kingdom.

China has transformed Fiery Cross Reef, a low-tide elevation that generates no maritime entitlements under the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), into an artificial island with an airstrip and other facilities.

While analysts said China could have been trying to alter the Fiery Cross Reef and other low-tide elevations to gain maritime entitlements, experts said this is not allowed under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Scientists and environmental groups worldwide have also scored the island-building as damaging to the Spratly’s well-documented rich marine environment.

Prior to the test flights, Beijing has come under intense scrutiny because of its attempts to restrict freedom of navigation and overflight in the Spratlys. Beijing challenged Freedom of Navigation (FON) operations and patrols from the United States and Australia.

In December, China reportedly used audio warnings, flashing lights and flare warnings against Philippine Air Force (PAF) overflights over several features in the South China Sea under the Kalayaan Group of Islands. The flights are a standard part of the Philippines’ usual maritime patrol in the area, which Manila had been regularly conducting sans Chinese protest for the past decades. China likewise used audio warnings against other civilian flights in the area.

These recent developments have worsened the situation in the South China Sea, where China has carried out its massive and ecologically-destructive island-building amidst calls from the international community for Beijing to exercise self-restraint and adhere to relevant regional agreements and international law.

China’s neighbors have collectively criticized China’s show of force amid new realities on the ground, even as Beijing’s spokespersons continue to affirm publicly its commitment to the ASEAN–China Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea.

ASEAN, composed of 10 Southeast Asian nations including 4 claimant states Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei, have made clear their concerns on China’s island-building activities at the Joint CommuniquĆ© issued by the Ministers following a meeting on August 4, 2015 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. They bewailed that these activities have worsened the situation as they have eroded trust and brought tensions to new highs.

Beijing’s relations with its neighbors have soured since 2012, after China took increasingly assertive actions in the disputed South China Sea. A stand-off between China and the Philippines broke out that year after Beijing prevented Manila from arresting illegal Chinese fishermen caught poaching in waters off Scarborough Shoal. China grabbed control of the said shoal, prompting the Philippines to file a case against China at a United Nations (UN)-backed arbitration tribunal. Beijing has refused to participate in the proceedings and said it will not honor the tribunal’s decision.

China’s recent actions only highlight the urgency and importance of the UN Tribunal decision. Philippine authorities have said the decision could be announced early in 2016 and is legally-binding, including on China.

In 2014, a stand-off between Vietnam and China over Beijing’s unilateral act of moving an oil rig in waters occupied by both nations resulted in popular anti-China protests and riots across Vietnam. Relations between Hanoi and Beijing plunged into an all-time low following the ruckus.

China’s frantic building of artificial islands beginning 2014 have prompted concerns that Beijing might be trying to gain greater ability to flex its military muscle in the disputed areas, in the face of its legally flawed nine-dash line claim over the entire South China Sea.

In 2002, China and members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have signed a declaration of conduct on the South China Sea where they pledged to act with self-restraint and refrain from non-use of force or threat of force. Observers argue that China’s recent actions contravene the salient points of agreement in the declaration.

ASEAN is hoping to sign a more formal code of conduct to bind all parties to the dispute and bring peace in the region, even with China seen to stall negotiations on such a code.

http://www.pna.gov.ph/index.php?idn=1&sid=&nid=1&rid=845605

ASG-ISIS ties merely propaganda -- AFP

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 12): ASG-ISIS ties merely propaganda -- AFP

Videos showing Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) bandits claiming affiliation with jihadist group Islamic State in Syria and Iraq (ISIS) are nothing but propaganda.

This was disclosed by Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesperson Col. Restituto Padilla Tuesday.

"Our reaction remains consistent, that this is a continuing attempt by local terrorists to attract attention. There remains no credible, verified and direct connection to the bigger group in the Middle East up to this time," he added.

Earlier, a video showing ASG high-ranking leader Isnilon Hapilon and other ranking bandit leaders pledging allegiance to ISIS circulated online.

"The AFP is already taking proactive measures in preventing the spread of extremist ideology and terrorist activities in the country," he added.

In addition, Padilla said pronouncements made by Hapilon concerning their ties to ISIS is propaganda and does not necessarily reflect the existence of an ISIS-directed terror operation in the country.

"Despite this, the AFP is all out in its intelligence monitoring and focused military operations against terror groups in the country. Our intensified operations will catch up to them whether or not they have pledged their allegiance to the Daesh," he added.

http://www.pna.gov.ph/index.php?idn=1&sid=&nid=1&rid=845657

USS Topeka now in Subic Bay

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 12): USS Topeka now in Subic Bay

The USS Topeka (SSN-754), a Los Angeles attack submarine, arrived at Subic Bay, Zambales for a routine port Tuesday morning.

The ship arrived around 10:30 a.m., which is part of the ship's routine Indo-Asia-Pacific deployment.

The USS Topeka has a crew of 160 officers and enlisted personnel.

“The United States Navy continues to enjoy a close relationship with the Republic of the Philippines,” said USS Topeka commanding officer Cmdr. David P. Lammers.

“Through port visits such as this one, we strengthen our ties and foster valuable cultural exchange. The more we interact, the better we will understand one another and the stronger our alliance will become. I appreciate the efforts that make us feel so welcome when we visit Subic Bay,” he added.

Filipino-American sailors aboard will have an opportunity to connect with their heritage.

“Having moved from the Philippines and been raised in California from the age of three, I never really had a chance to experience true Filipino culture outside of my own family,” said machinist mate 1st Class Juan Paulo Reyes.

“This trip to Subic that the Navy has offered me is a great opportunity to explore my heritage and connect with members of my family still in the Philippines,” he added.

For many crew members, this is their first time visiting the Philippines.

The USS Topeka is capable of operating at depths greater than 800 feet at speeds up to 25 nautical miles per hour.

Measuring more than 300 feet long and weighing more than 6,000 tons, the USS Topeka is one of the stealthiest submarines in the world.

It is capable of supporting a multitude of missions, including anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface ship warfare, strike, surveillance and reconnaissance.

Commissioned in 1989, the USS Topeka has a long standing tradition of excellence and achievement. Its crew is highly trained and capable of supporting the boat through any mission cycle within short notice.

http://www.pna.gov.ph/index.php?idn=1&sid=&nid=1&rid=845677

AFP welcomes SC ruling declaring EDCA constitutional

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 12): AFP welcomes SC ruling declaring EDCA constitutional

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Tuesday welcomes the Supreme Court (SC) decision declaring the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) as constitutional.

"The AFP welcomes the recent decision of the SC on the constitutionality of the EDCA. This decision bodes well for deepening our defense cooperation with a key ally. As part of our shared goals with the US under this agreement,we look forward to further enhancing inter-operability, addressing short-term capability gaps, promoting long term modernization of our forces, helping maintain maritime security and maritime domain awareness, and developing HADR capabilities," AFP chief-of-staff Gen. Hernando DCA Iriberri said in a message to the PNA.

He added the EDCA will help the military in improving its capacity to perform its mandate to protect the people and secure the state.

The SC on Tuesday voted 10-4-1 declaring the EDCA constitutional.

Under EDCA, US forces will be allowed access to Philippine military bases.

http://www.pna.gov.ph/index.php?idn=1&sid=&nid=1&rid=845709

US Embassy: EDCA will upgrade capability of AFP

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 12): US Embassy: EDCA will upgrade capability of AFP

The United States on Tuesday welcomed the Supreme Court’s ruling to uphold the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), saying the military accord will further strengthen the bilateral relationship between Manila and Washington.

Finalized after eight rounds of talks that began in August 2013, the new accord signed in 2014 grants U.S. troops access to designated Philippine military facilities, the right to construct facilities, and pre-position equipment, aircraft and vessels, but rules out permanent basing.

The Philippine Constitution outlaws foreign military bases in the country unless covered by a treaty.

"EDCA is a mutually beneficial agreement that will enhance our ability to provide rapid humanitarian assistance and help build capacity for the Armed Forces of the Philippines," the US Embassy said in a statement.

"We look forward to working closely with our Philippine partners on the implementation of this agreement."

The Department of Foreign Affairs said EDCA is a critical component of the country's efforts to enhance and strengthen national security and improve its humanitarian assistance and disaster response capabilities.

"With the Supreme Court’s decision, the Philippine and US Governments can now proceed in finalizing the arrangements for its full implementation," the DFA said.

Manila has turned to its long-standing ally, the U.S., Japan and other western allies in an ongoing effort to modernize its ill-equipped military and strengthen its capability to guard and defend its territory in the South China Sea, which is claimed nearly in its entirety by China.

Parts of the resource-rich waters that fall within the Philippines’ internationally-mandated exclusive economic zone has been renamed West Philippine Sea by Manila.

After years of pre-occupation in the wars in Iraq and Afganistan, the U.S. announced an Asian “pivot” and identified the Philippines as a key pillar in its re-balancing to the region where a rising China is fast building clout and influence.

China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan are locked in decades-long territorial rifts due to overlapping claims in the South China Sea, a major international trade route where huge oil and gas deposits have been discovered in several areas. Analysts feared the maritime row could be a flashpoint for major military confrontations.

The government of President Aquino III vowed to resolve territorial disputes with China through diplomacy, but at the same time has undertaken a program to modernize the Philippine military – one of Asia’s weakest - for the country to have a “minimum credible defense posture.”

Beijing insists “indisputable” and “historical” claim of most of the South China Sea – an assertion rejected by its Asian neighbors.

China’s rapidly expanding military presence in the area, including in the West Philippine Sea, prompted the Philippines to seek international arbitration to try to declare Beijing’s massive claim as illegal.

The U.S. said it does not take sides in the disputes but has declared that it is in its national interest to ensure freedom of navigation and aviation and the peaceful settlement of disputes.

For decades, the U.S. maintained large military bases in Clark, Pampanga and Subic Bay in Olongapo, Zambales until Philippine lawmakers voted to close it down in 1991.

Eight years after it shut down its bases, American forces returned to the country under the Visiting Forces Agreement, which was ratified by the Senate in 1999 to govern the temporary stay of U.S. forces for joint trainings with the Philippine military.

http://www.pna.gov.ph/index.php?idn=1&sid=&nid=1&rid=845751

SC upholds power of President to enter into executive agreement

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 12): SC upholds power of President to enter into executive agreement

The Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday upheld the power of the President of the country to enter into an executive agreement involving foreign military bases pursuant to Article 18, Section 25 of the 1987 Philippine Constitution.

This was the reason why the SC dismissed the petitions questioning the legality of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).

Under the said provision of the 1987 Constitution, the President of the country is authorized to enter into an executive agreement involving foreign military bases if such an agreement is merely the implementation of an existing law or treaty.

The SC said that the EDCA is an executive agreement for the implementation of the treaties that allow the presence of foreign troops or foreign military facility in the country.

The said treaties are the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT).

The SC added that as the EDCA is an executive agreement, it does not need the ratification by the Senate.

Because of this, the SC declared the EDCA as constitutional.

The result of the voting was 10-4 in favor of EDCA.

Chief Justice Maria Lourdes P. Aranal Sereno was the ponente of the decision.

The four magistrates who voted against the constitutionality of EDCA were Associate Justices Teresita J. Leonardo-De Castro, Arturo D. Brion, Estela M. Perlas-Bernabe and Marvic F. Leonen.

Associate Justice Francis H. Jardeleza inhibited himself from the voting in the sense that he was the former Solicitor General and handled the case of EDCA.

http://www.pna.gov.ph/index.php?idn=1&sid=&nid=1&rid=845748

EDCA to beef up PHL maritime security, humanitarian disaster relief capabilities

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 12): EDCA to beef up PHL maritime security, humanitarian disaster relief capabilities

With the Enhanced Defense Cooperation with the US declared constitutional by the Supreme Court (SC) Tuesday, efforts to improve Philippine maritime security and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief capabilities will definitely be improved.

Department of National Defense (DND) spokesperson Dr. Peter Paul Galvez in a message to the PNA Tuesday said,"The DND welcomes the ruling of our SC declaring EDCA constitutional. With this development that builds upon our mutual defense treaty, we look forward to advancing our defense modernization and strengthening maritime Security and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief capabilities."

The SC, voting 10-4-1, declared EDCA as constitutional.

It also upheld the position of the government that the EDCA is an executive agreement and does not need the Senate concurrence.

In the same vein, Galvez said this put the Armed Forces of the Philippines in a better position to improve inter-operability with the US military aside from improving the AFP's capabilities.

Finalized after eight rounds of talks that began in August 2013, EDCA, which was signed in 2014, allows US troops access to designated Philippine military facilities, the right to construct facilities, and pre-position equipment, aircraft and vessels, but rules out permanent basing.

http://www.pna.gov.ph/index.php?idn=1&sid=&nid=1&rid=845812

Palace hails SC ruling on EDCA

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 12): Palace hails SC ruling on EDCA

Malacanang hailed on Tuesday the Supreme Court decision affirming the constitutionality of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) considered an important component of infrastructure to strengthen the country’s military capability.

“This ruling boosts the on-going Armed Forces of the Philippines’ (AFP) Modernization Program and paves the way for upgrading our military equipment and capability for national defense as well as for humanitarian assistance and disaster response,” said Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. in a statement.

Citing President Benigno S. Aquino III, Coloma said one of the benefits of the EDCA would be to introduce the AFP to most modern equipment.

He said the SC ruling affirming the constitutionality of EDCA likewise will strengthen the strategic partnership between the Philippines and the United States (US)

Apart from EDCA, the Philippines has Visiting Forces Agreement and Mutual Defense Treaty with the US.

With a vote of 10-4-1, the SC on Tuesday declared that the EDCA between the Philippines and the US is constitutional.

Under the EDCA, the US will be allowed to build structures, store as well as preposition weapons, defense supplies and material, station troops, civilian personnel and defense contractors, transit and station vehicles, vessels and aircraft for a period of 10 years.

The two countries signed the agreement on April 28, 2014.

http://www.pna.gov.ph/index.php?idn=&sid=&nid=&rid=845827