Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Extortion cause of NPA harassment in North Cotabato town; mayor calls for localized dialogue

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 21): Extortion cause of NPA harassment in North Cotabato town; mayor calls for localized dialogue
Authorities here believed the harassment carried out by communist rebels in a rubber plantation warehouse here was due to extortion.

Mayor Rudy Caoagdan of Makilala said prior to the attack by seven men who posed as applicants of the rubber firm, leaders of the New Peoples Army asked for a meeting with the owner of Pharma Rubber Industries. The meeting did not materialize.

Caoagdan could not say what was the purpose of the meeting but he said he can only surmise that the rebels wanted to extort from the banana firm.

”Extortion was obviously the motive,” Caoagdan said.

Rubber plantation owners in Makilala, the leader in raw rubber production in North Cotabato, have been receiving extortion letters from the communist guerrillas. If demands are rejected, the rebels would harass the companies, he said.

At 6:30 a.m. on Monday, seven men riding tandem on motorbikes arrived at the warehouse of Pharma Rubber Industries to submit application letters as rubber tappers.

Once inside the warehouse office in Purok 5, Barangay San Vicente, the suspects pulled hand gun and disarmed the security guards of M-16 Armalite rifles, hand guns, ammunition and radio equipment.

The suspects then fled toward Barangay Luna Sur, a known bailiwick of the communist movement.

At about 7 a.m. a roadside bomb went off in Barangay San Vicente, the same road network leading to the firm’s warehouse.

Police said the road side bomb was intended for responding police or military personnel after the NPAs harassed the warehouse.

The blast hurt a motorist and a by stander.

Previous incidents of harassment in Makilala were always accompanied by roadside bombs.

“We are putting up plans to ensure the safety of business firms operating in the province,” he said.

Caoagdan expressed the belief that the security of everybody in the villages of Makilala was not the sole responsibility of the Army or the police.

”We need the support of the civilian populace to prevent similar incidents in the future,” he said, adding that the local government is bent on preventing violence in the mountains of Makilala where the communist movement has been active.

He called on the NPAs to open its door to localized peace talks so that no innocent civilians will be in danger.

”We are all brothers and sisters, we are all Filipinos, why don’t we talk and work together for the betterment of our people,” he told the NPAs through DXND Radyo Bida.

The Army has condemned the NPA for using weapons of mass destruction.

He said Army plainclothesmen will be deployed in areas known to be infiltrated by the NPA.


Chinese coast guards ward off Pangasinan fishermen from Scarborough Shoal

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 21): Chinese coast guards ward off Pangasinan fishermen from Scarborough Shoal

Some 50 fishermen from both Pangasinan and Zambales on board 19 fishing boats were shooed away from the Scarborough Shoal by Chinese coast guards manning three vessels last Sunday.

A radio report said that because of the incident the fishermen turned back to shore and reported the matter to their local authorities and the Philippine Coast Guard, which are expected to report the same to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) as well as the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

The Pangasinan fishermen were from Barangay Cato in Infanta town who used to be fishing on clear days near the Scarborough Shoal, a rich fishing ground in the West Philipine Sea.

Scarborough, is a shoal lying some 150 nautical miles in the West Philippine Sea off the province of Zambales.

It is a rich fishing ground frequented by fishermen from both Pangasinan and Zambales till the Chinese coast guard moved in to intercept a Philippine vessel that arrested Chinese fishermen who were poaching live turtles.

This resulted in weeks of standoff between coast guards of both the Philippines and China three years ago.

It is in the Scarborough Shoal where Pangasinan fishermen used to take shelter during harsh weather condition in the West Philippine Sea.

But it is now being claimed by China which in fact stationed their coast guard there to ward off any intruder.


RP-US, Australian troops in Balikatan 2015 assure ‘climate change resilient’ classrooms in Palawan

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 21): RP-US, Australian troops in Balikatan 2015 assure ‘climate change resilient’ classrooms in Palawan

Classroom buildings being constructed jointly by RP-US and Aussie troops underneath the shoulder-to-shoulder Balikatan 2015 bilateral exercise are all “climate change resilient.”

This was assured both by Lieutenant Commander Mike Guzzi, the current operations officer for the 30th Naval Construction Regiment (NCR) of the Civil Engineer Corps (CEC), United States Navy (USN), and Lt. Col. Noel dela Cruz, group commander of the 6th Civil Relations Group (CRG), Civil Relations Services (CRS) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) during Monday’s press conference at the Western Command (WESCOM) that officially opened the Balikatan’s engineering civic action program (ENCAP) activities in Puerto Princesa.

Dela Cruz and Guzzi are this year’s shoulder-to-shoulder partners in ensuring that the ENCAP classroom buildings being constructed in three sites in this capital city, are carried out cooperatively and collaboratively to withstand any harsh effects due to climate change.

The school buildings are under construction in barangays San Rafael, Sta. Lourdes, and Cabayugan.

“These are very structurally sound school buildings, the design of which was provided to us by the DepEd (Department of Education). They have beams and columns that are properly clipped affixed together and can support the addition of second floors, as well as withstand stresses that might be brought in by climate change,” said Guzzi during Monday’s press conference that officially opened the 31st iteration of Balikatan this year in Palawan.

He added that they will also have open sockets underneath roofs that would consent air to flow and circulate within the classroom buildings for them not to be too warm for the students as time approaches summer.

Additionally, Brig. Gen. Guillermo Molina, deputy commander for administration and logistics of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ (AFP) Western Command (WESCOM), supplied that in constructing the classroom buildings, the environmental conditions in the communities were carefully considered.

He explained this means their ENCAP partnership ensured that the classroom buildings will not be set up in areas, where significant risks can happen due to changes in weather patterns.

“When it comes to the environmental aspect; you can see that they far exceed our provisions for safety. You can see the beams and columns, they have the right dimensions, they can endure, and can last up to hundred years,” the top-ranking military official said.

Each school building – two in San Rafael, one in Sta. Lourdes, and another in Cabayugan – has two classrooms that can accommodate 40-50 pupils, according to Dela Cruz of the 6th CRG.

“At the end of the day, it will not only all accommodate around 400; it will benefit whoever wants to use the classrooms,” he said.

Aside from the classroom buildings, Dela Cruz said there might also be “discretionary projects” that they might do, such as school fences, basketball courts, pathway cementing, and others.

He explained that this is to avoid wasting excesses in supplies that are originally for the schools, like cements and steel bars.


Former MNLF combatants receive PhP15-M livelihood projects from PAMANA-ARMM

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 22): Former MNLF combatants receive PhP15-M livelihood projects from PAMANA-ARMM

ISABELA CITY, Basilan -- The Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), through the PAyapa at MAsaganang PamayaNAn (PAMANA) program, released on Wednesday PhP15 million worth of livelihood projects to former Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) combatants in this province.

PAMANA-ARMM program manager Dong Anayatin, on behalf of ARMM Gov. Mujiv Hataman, spearheaded the release of the livelihood projects to the 46 identified beneficiaries.

Each of the beneficiaries received a unit of 13-horse power motorized banca with complete fishing gears.

They were also given 26 sets of fish aggregate devices locally known as “payao” that serves as fish shelter.

The beneficiaries of the livelihood projects are from the nearby town of Al-Barka and island municipalities of Hadji Muhtamad and Tabuan-Lasa.

Anayatin advised the beneficiaries to put to good use the fishing gears given them to earn a living for their respective families.

The beneficiaries have expressed their heartfelt gratitude to ARMM and the national government for providing them livelihood projects.

PAMANA is a national government program that extends development interventions to isolated, hard-to-reach communities, and conflict-affected communities, ensuring that they are not left behind.

The design and delivery of PAMANA is conflict-sensitive and peace-promoting to ensure peace is maintained in the community.


(Feature) PMC troopers' exposure to U.S. AAVs to regenerate PN's war-fighting capability

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 21): (Feature) PMC troopers' exposure to U.S. AAVs to regenerate PN's war-fighting capability

The exposure of Philippine Marine Corps (PMC) troopers to the latest American AAVs (amphibious assault vehicles) is part of the efforts to upgrade the war-fighting capability of the Navy's elite shock troops.

This was disclosed by Philippine amphibious assault exercise director Col. Doroteo Jose Jalandoni during a briefing shortly after Tuesday's military exercise at the North Beach training area in Naval Education and Training Command, Naval Station Leovigildo Gantioqui in San Antonio, Zambales.

While waiting for the PMC to acquire vehicles similar to the armored AAVs, he said that training and exposure to similar equipment is needed to ensure that Filipino marines will not have difficulties in adjusting to their new equipment.

Twenty-one AAVs participated in Tuesday's amphibious assault activity.

These were supported by the USS Green Bay (LPD-20), their mother ship, two "Huey" helicopters and two "Cobra" gunships and 600 Marines, 200 of them Filipinos.

Earlier, the Philippine Navy announced that it is acquiring eight units of amphibious assault vehicles for the PMC.

"It will be utilized to land the surface assault elements of the landing force and their equipment in a single lift from the assault shipping during amphibious operations to inland objectives and to conduct mechanized operations and related combat support missions in subsequent operations ashore," PN vice commander Rear Admiral Caesar Taccad said.

The amphibious assault vehicles can also provide direct fire support, screen and mechanized operations for international security operations.

"Similarly for humanitarian assistance disaster relief operations for devastated areas, having the capability of beaching during ship-to-shore movement of troops and cargoes," Taccad said.

He added that the project is now waiting for the Department of National Defense (DND) to issue a notice of award.

The DND has allocated PhP2.5 billion for the project.

The fund will be sourced from the Revised Armed Forces of the Philippines Modernization Program.

This includes integrated logistic support, DND bidding and awards committee vice chair Efren Fernandez earlier said.

Interested bidders must have completed a similar project within the last 10 years.

Winning bidders, meanwhile, must be capable of delivering the vehicles within 910 calendar days of the opening of the letter of credit.


PHL Marine troops get glimpse of U.S. AAVs

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 21): PHL Marine troops get glimpse of U.S. AAVs

Aside from boosting their ability to operate with one another, elements of the Philippine Marine Corps (PMC) working hand-in-hand with their United States counterparts got a first-hand glimpse of the modern amphibious assault vehicles (AAVs) during the Balikatan exercise which was held at the North Beach training area in Naval Education and Training Command, Naval Station Leovigildo Gantioqui here Tuesday morning.

Twenty-one AAVs took part in the amphibious assault portion of Balikatan 2015.

Around 600 Marine troopers -- 400 Americans and 200 Filipinos -- took part in the exercise which began at 10 a.m.

The AAVs came from the USS Green Bay (LPD-20), one of the four American ships participating in this year's Balikatan exercise.

Each AAV carries 20 soldiers and their equipment.

Tuesday's scenario involved American and Filipino troopers "beating off" a fictional enemy, the "Calabanians" who "invaded Philippine territory" after a "falling out" with the country.

In the hour-long exercise, joint US and Filipino troopers, supported by "Huey" combat utility helicopters and "Cobra" gunships, "defeated the enemy" after a series of engagements.

Three AAV waves, each consisting of seven vehicles, participated in the activity which was terminated at around 11 a.m.

“Amphibious assaults are considered to be among the Marines’ primary capabilities and this exercise will be a good test of how our own amphibious units could team up with their U.S. counterparts in staging a crucial vessel-to-shore operation,” Armed Forces of the Philippines public information officer for Balikatan 2015 Lt. Col. Marlowe E. Patria said.

Present during Tuesday's amphibious assault exercise were Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, Visiting Forces Agreement Commission Executive Director Eduardo Oban, AFP chief-of-staff Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr, and major services commanders.


Marcos to invite MNLF officials as suggested by OIC in BBL hearings

From the Philippine News Agency (M=Apr 21): Marcos to invite MNLF officials as suggested by OIC in BBL hearings

Senator Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos Jr. on Tuesday said he will invite the leadership of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in the next Senate hearing to get their opinion on the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

Marcos made this comment after Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Secretary General Iyad Bin Amin Madami suggested to consult other stakeholders and armed groups, specifically the MNLF, in the peace process.

”This is something they (OIC) have asked to examine and to look into. So I think this is a good piece of advice. We will follow it and we are trying to get in touch with some of the MNLF leaders if they can attend hearing so that we can hear their side,” Marcos said in a phone-patch interview with Senate media.

Marcos expressed optimism that the MILF officials will cooperate with the Senate and will share their thoughts about the proposed BBL which seeks the creation of the Bangsamoro government in Mindanao.

Marcos, chairman of the Senate committee on local government, said the OIC leader particularly advised the Senate to discuss with MNLF and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) about previous peace agreements such as the Tripoli and the Jakarta agreements signed between the Philippines and the MNLF in 1996.

”We will invite the MNLF and I’m sure they will attend and I’m sure there will be good discussion on how the relation of these agreements signed by the MNLF and Comprehensive Agreements on the Bangsamoro signed by the MILF,” Marcos said.

Marcos said former MNLF chairman Nur Misuari, being the fugitive, cannot be invited but new MNLF chairman Datu Hadji Abul Khayr Alonto will be asked to attend the BBL hearing.

Marcos said the Senate will also invite Indigenous Peoples (IPs), Sultanates and other stakeholders in the remaining BBL hearings.

The senator, however, clarified that the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) will no longer be invited after the group has expressed opposition to the ongoing peace process between the government and the MILF.

”They (BIFF) said they will not be part of the peace process because what they are doing is to war with the government to separate from the Philippines and those were non-negotiable points,” Marcos said.

Marcos believes that the MILF leadership would not oppose the suggestion of the OIC chief to include other groups particularly the MNLF in the BBL hearings.

”I think they (MILF) will not oppose because the MILF is also part of the MNLF before. We want to talk to all concerned groups in Mindanao,” Marcos said.

The lawmaker said he intends to conduct two hearings in Mindanao particularly in Zamboana and Jolo and at least two more in Metro Manila before preparing his committee report on the proposed BBL.

He said the constitutionality issues of the BBL which the Senate committee on constitutional amendments and revision of codes chaired by Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago will be included in his committee report.

”The local government, being the primary committee, will write all the committee reports including the findings of the peace and reconciliation and the constitutional amendments,” Marcos explained.

Marcos said the suggestion of the OIC to include the MNLF in the BBL discussion would not delay the peace process.

”I don’t know how long it will take but we will not stop. Definitely we can have committee report during the next session period,” Marcos said.

The Senate is set to resume regular session on May 4.

Senate President Franklin Drilon said the Senate has to finish the BBL before the second regular session of the 16th Congress ends in June 11 this year.


CIDG captures 2 rebel group leaders in Zamboanga del Norte and Surigao City

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 21): CIDG captures 2 rebel group leaders in Zamboanga del Norte and Surigao City

The Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) has arrested two suspected ranking leaders of the New People’s Army (NPA) in two separate operations in Zamboanga del Norte and Surigao City.

CIDG director Benjamin Magalong identified one of the suspect as Rodrigo Tayasan, Local Communist Movement (LCM) leader, who was collared by the combined forces of CIDG Zamboanga Del Norte, personnel of RIU9-IG, RID-PRO9, Piñan MPS and Military Intelligence Group (MIG) in Barangay Sta. Fe in Pinan, Zamboanga del Norte.

Magalong said Tayasan, who is facing a string of criminal charges ranging from damage to property and multiple murder and has a reward of Php300,000 for his arrest.

A background check revealed that Tayasan is a former executive committee member of the Sub-Section Committee of the NPA’s Western Mindanao Regional Party Committee.

He became inactive in 2006 but began to be active again and served as the deputy secretary of the regional committee,” said Magalong.

Magalong said the the other suspect identified as Bonifacio Platil was collared in a firing range in Barangay Luna in Surigao City.

Platil is reportedly carrying the alias Thadeus Anob Uray and facing charges of murder and multiple attempted murder.

“Based on our intelligence report, Platil is the 2nd deputy secretary of the Sub-Regional Committee of the Northeastern Mindanao Regional Committee,” said Magalong.

In arresting the two suspected NPA leaders, Magalong said they were backed up by the military.

“CIDG detectives together with our counterparts in AFP are dedicated to continue our service as protectors of the people, continuously hunting these criminals under the directives of DILG Secretary Mar Roxas and PNP-OIC, PDDG Leonardo A. Espina to prevent them from committing other hideous crimes to ensure the security of the public. This is also a pronouncement that we are moving forward and continuing our work after the Mamasapano incident,” he said.

The two arrested NPA leaders were turned over to the local police and will be presented to the courts which issued the arrest warrants against them.


Navy Islander aircraft up for maintenance

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 22):  Navy Islander aircraft up for maintenance

In line with efforts to ensure that all of its air assets are mission-ready at all times, the Philippine Navy (PN) has allocated Php12,479,874 for the acquisition of spare parts needed for the repair and maintenance of one of its Britten-Norman BN-2 Islander aircraft.

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

The said aircraft has a tail number of PN1-304).

The PN is known to operate four Islander aircraft for maritime patrol and surveillance missions.

Pre-bid conference is scheduled for April 27, 9 a.m. at the Office of the PN Bids and Awards Committee, Bonifacio Naval Station, Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City.


Php43-M allocated for acquisition of Huey II spare parts

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 22): Php43-M allocated for acquisition of Huey II spare parts

The Department of National Defense (DND), through its Quick Response Fun CY 2014, is allocating the sum of Php43,189,636. 10 for the acquisition of spare parts needed for the activation of one its Huey II helicopters.

The latter is a more powerful and capable version of the UH-1 helicopter.

Once activated, the Huey II, with tail number 662, will be used for humanitarian assistance and disaster response.

"The guiding principles for this project shall be based on affordability and sustainability while conforming to the requirements of the Philippine Air Force in furtherance of accomplishing its mission," DND bidding and awards committee head Undersecretary Natalio C Ecarma II said in an invitation to bid document.

Delivery of the aircraft parts is required within a period of sixty calendar days for line Item #1(T53-L-703) and forty 45 calendar days for the remaining 157 line items upon issuance of notice to proceed.

Bidders should have completed within five years before the date of submission and receipt of bids, a contract similar to the project.

A pre-bid conference will be held on April 28 at 10 A.M. at DND BAC Conference Room, Basement, Right Wing, DND Building, Camp General Emilio Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

While bid opening and submission is scheduled for May 14, 10 a.m. in the same venue.

PH secures Portugal Navy’s support for maritime cooperation deal

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 22): PH secures Portugal Navy’s support for maritime cooperation deal

The Philippine embassy in Lisbon has secured the support of the Portuguese Navy over the proposed Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation in Maritime Search and Rescue between the Philippine Coast Guard and the latter, which is expected to further strengthen the bilateral cooperation between the two nations.

Philippine Ambassador to Portugal Philippe J. Lhuillier recently paid a courtesy call with Admiral Luis Manuel Fragoso, Chief of the Portuguese Navy.

The visit provided Ambassador Lhuillier the opportunity to express the embassy’s appreciation to the Portuguese Navy, particularly the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centers (MRCC) in Lisbon and Ponta Delgada in the Açores islands, for the vital role they play in evacuating Filipino seafarers in need of medical treatment or attention due to medical issues or accidents onboard their ship in the Atlantic Ocean.

Ambassador Lhuillier likewise acknowledged the Portuguese Navy’s timely alerts to the embassy whenever a Filipino seafarer has been airlifted to a Portuguese medical facility. This enables the embassy to quickly respond to the situation and coordinate with the relevant shipping agent in order to ensure that the rescued Filipino seafarer’s welfare and needs are attended to while undergoing medical treatment, and for the eventual repatriation of the seafarer.

Admiral Fragoso also welcomed and expressed his support for Ambassador Lhuuillier’s initiative to propose a Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation in Maritime Search and Rescue between the Philippine Coast Guard and the Portuguese Navy. A draft of the proposed MOU is currently under review by the Portuguese government.

Noting that Portugal has the 13th largest maritime zone and jurisdiction in the world, Ambassador Lhuillier believes that there is much for both sides to learn and exchange best practices in the area of maritime search and rescue and other related concerns.


Sick Again

I've been sicker than a dog the last couple days and have not felt like posting anything to my blog.  Gotta love spring time flu. Still not feeling my best but will try to post some current items up to the blog.

Retired Analyst