Thursday, April 30, 2015

102nd brigade supports GMA-7 “Plastic ni Juan” project

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 30): 102nd brigade supports GMA-7 “Plastic ni Juan” project

IPIL, Zamboanga Sibugay – Having seen the impact of the “Plastic ni Juan” project to the community and environment, the 102nd Infantry “Igsoon” Brigade with the help of the Ipil Taebo Enthusiast Organization has replicated it here to benefit several schools in the province.

As an opening salvo, the group led by Captain Divar Crisostomo, civil military operations officer of 102nd Infantry Brigade has recently visited several establishments in Ipil town to collect plastic wastes.

As a result, the group was able to collect 14 sacks of plastic bottles from Barangay Sanito, AJJ-JC Store, Zamboanga del Sur Electric Cooperative (ZAMSURECO)-II, Zamboanga Sibugay Provincial Police Office (ZSPPO) and Sibugay Grand Plaza Hotel, which were among the first participating groups and agencies.

“We are planning to collect more before we turn-over next the collected plastic bottles to the Tabak Division next month,” Capt. Crisostomo said in a media interview.

“Plastic ni Juan: Sa Plastic at Basura may Dalang Pag-asa” is an eco-project of the television network Global Media Arts (GMA)-7 aimed at collecting waste plastics to be recycled into plastic chairs that will be donated to public schools.

Crisostomo said public schools in Zamboanga Sibugay province would be the beneficiaries of the effort of 102nd brigade.

“This will not only benefit our schools but the environment as well. I believe we have so much wastes that we have to attend to. And this is just the right answer how we must address the issue,” Crisostomo pointed out.

Crisostomo also lauded the efforts of the Ipil Taebo Enthusiast Organization for making it a success.

“They coordinated with the establishments and made this all possible.”This project was first initiated by the 1st Infantry Tabak Division of the Philippine Army, which was able to turn-over last month more than 100 kilos of empty plastic containers to Eat Bulaga at the Broadway Centrum in Quezon City.

US welcome to use 'civilian facilities' in South China Sea -China

From InterAksyon (May 1): US welcome to use 'civilian facilities' in South China Sea -China

Chinese ships and dredgers at Kagitingan (Fiery Cross) Reef

The United States and other countries will be welcome to use civilian facilities China is building in the South China Sea for search and rescue and weather forecasting "when conditions are right," China's navy chief has told a senior US officer.

China claims 90 percent of the South China Sea, which is believed to be rich in oil and gas, with overlapping claims from Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan.

Recent satellite images show China has made rapid progress in building an airstrip suitable for military use in the disputed Spratly Islands and may be planning another.

Those moves, along with other reclamations, have caused alarm around the region and in Washington too, with the issue dominating a summit of Southeast Asian leaders this week, to China's displeasure.

In a teleconference with the US Chief of Naval Operations Jonathan Greenert, China's navy chief Wu Shengli said China's building work in the South China Sea would not affect freedom of navigation or overflight.

"Instead, it will improve the ability in these seas of public services like weather forecasting and maritime search and rescue, fulfilling international obligations to maintain the security of international seas," Wu said, according to a Chinese Defense Ministry statement released late on Thursday.

"(We) welcome international organizations, the United States and relevant countries to use these facilities in the future when conditions are right, to have cooperation on humanitarian search and rescue and disaster relief," Wu added.

The statement cited Greenert as saying he hoped China could explain to countries in the region in a timely manner the aim of the building work. It would also be good for maintaining stability and freedom of navigation if other countries could use such facilities for joint humanitarian operations, he said.

Disputes over how to tackle an increasingly assertive stance by China - an ally of several Southeast Asian states - in the strategic South China Sea make the issue the region's biggest potential military flashpoint.

China this week accused Vietnam, the Philippines and others of carrying out their own illegal building work.

While the militaries of China and the United States have worked hard to improve communication and cooperation, there is still deep mistrust. In 2013, a US guided missile cruiser narrowly avoided a collision with a Chinese warship in the South China Sea.

Wu said US surveillance operations were "totally out of step" with efforts to improve their military relations.

Laude family asking P200 million for death of Jeffrey

From Ang Malaya (Apr 29): Laude family asking P200 million for death of Jeffrey

Laude family is asking for PhP200 million for the death of Filipino transgender Jeffrey “Jennifer” Laude from the camp of US Marine Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton. Jeffrey’s sister Marilou said the amount is still not enough but this will stand as warning for other American servicemen.

According to Laude family, P100 million is for the agony their family went through for the cruel death of Jeffrey and the other P100 million for civil damages.

“P100 million moral and P100 million exemplary as civil damages,” Attorney Harry Roque, family’s counsel told GMA News Online.

Trial of US Marine Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton is being held at Olongapo Regional Trial Court as a marathon trial every Monday and Tuesday weekly. Visiting Forces Agreement says that local courts have one year to complete a legal proceedings.

China tries to defend massive reclamation: Tells Philippines to shut up

From Ang Malaya (Apr 30): China tries to defend massive reclamation: Tells Philippines to shut up

A day after ASEAN members expressed serious concerns over China’s massive reclamation in West Philippine Sea, China accuses Philippines of doing large scale construction in Spratly Islands in the past.

“For quite a long time, a few ASEAN countries such as the Philippines and Vietnam have been carrying out large-scale construction on China’s maritime features of Nansha illegally seized by them,” a Chinese foreign ministry official said.

“The Philippines has built and expanded an airport on China’s Zhongye Dao (Pag-asa Island) of Nansha (Spratly), and built a dock and other facilities on the island. It has also built so-called tourism facilities on Zhongye Dao, Mahuan Dao (Lawak Island), Feixin Dao (Patag Island) and other islands and reefs,” China said.

“What’s more, the Philippines has attempted to occupy the Ren’ai Jiao (Ayungin Shoal) by reinforcing its illegally “grounded” military vessel on it,” the official added.

“China is gravely concerned about and firmly opposed to the aforementioned illegal activities, urging the countries concerned to immediately terminate all words and actions that infringe upon China’s sovereignty and rights and interests,” China’s foreign ministry said.

What the communist country did not say was Philippines built an airstrip in Pagasa Island and grounded a military vessel in Ayungin Shoal prior to the signing of Declaration On The Conduct Of Parties In The South China Sea. The DOC was signed year 2002 where ASEAN members and China are signatories.

Article 5 of the said declaration says parties must “exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities that would complicate or escalate disputes and affect peace and stability.”

Japan, US: China continues to make forays into the oceans

From Ang Malaya (Apr 30): Japan, US: China continues to make forays into the oceans

United States of America President Barrack Obama and Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe share concern over China’s massive reclamation in West Philippine Sea. US and Japan, during PM Abe’s state visit in US, unveiled new defense cooperation guidelines.

“We share a concern about China’s land reclamation and construction activities in the South China Sea, and the United States and Japan are united in our commitment to freedom of navigation, respect for international law, and the peaceful resolution of disputes without coercion,” Obama said in a joint press conference with his Japanese counterpart April 28.

Rather than resolve maritime issues throughout East Asia and Southeast Asia through normal international dispute settlements, China is flexing their muscles, Obama added.

“In the East China Sea and in the South China Sea, China continues to make forays into the oceans,” Abe said.

Japan-US alliance now indispensable: Assures to defend allies

From Ang Malaya (Apr 30): Japan-US alliance now indispensable: Assures to defend allies

Japan and United States of America establish mechanism to defend an ally when need arises. “Today we mark the establishment of Japan’s capacity to defend not just its own territory, but also the United States and other partners as needed,” US Secretary of State John Kerry said during the unveiling of new guidelines on US-Japan defense cooperation.

“This is a historic meeting. It’s a historic transition in the defense relationship between our two countries,” the American government official said.

“Together, our forces will be more flexible and better prepared to cooperate on a range of challenges, from maritime security to disaster response. Our forces will plan, train and operate even more closely,” US President Obama said. “We’ll expand our cooperation, including on cyber threats and in space. And Japan will take on greater roles and responsibilities in the Asia Pacific and around the world.”

“We hope to promote a broad-based Japan-U.S. security and defense cooperation so that the deterrents as well as responsibilities of the Japan-U.S. alliance will be further strengthened,” Japan Foreign Affairs Fumio Kishida.

“The U.S.-Japan alliance characterized by the firmness of its bond is now indispensable to the peace and stability of not only the Asia Pacific but to the world,” Japan Prime Minister Abe said.

Japan may soon land maritime patrol aircraft in Philippines

From Ang Malaya (Apr 30): Japan may soon land maritime patrol aircraft in Philippines

Japan may soon seek permission from Philippine government to land air assets in Filipino air bases in a bid to join United States in conducting maritime air patrols in South China Sea. Japanese maritime air patrol in South China Sea is currently being discussed within Japanese military, Reuters reports.

A US military source of Reuters said that if Japan decides to begin flights in South China Sea, Tokyo may ask the Philippines for access to air bases under disaster relief training and other joint training exercises to give Japanese aircraft added range to stay out on patrol longer.

Japan Defense Minister Gen Nakatani said Japan may consider involvement in the disputed South China Sea, Kyodo News reports last February 3. He said that Japan currently does not conduct patrols in South China Sea, however, it may be considered in the future because the situation in South China Sea has an impact on Japan’s national security.

“We want to be a country that can contribute to peace and prosperity of the world,” Japan Prime Minister Abe said recently in US.

Philippines and Japan, in January 2015, inked “Memorandum on Defense Cooperation and Exchanges between the Ministry of Defense of Japan and the Department of National Defense of the Republic of the Philippines” that will facilitate closer relationship between Japan Self-Defense Forces and Armed Forces of the Philippines in security and defense field.

Under the said memorandum, Japanese Ministry of Defense-JSDF will conduct capacity building assistance for members of Philippine Air Force and joint naval training based on Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea.

This coming June 2 to 5, President Aquino is scheduled for a state visit to Japan. The visit will focus on the enhancement of the Philippine-Japan Strategic Partnership.

China wary on new Japan-US defense guidelines: Japan now able to defend not just US

Ang Malaya (Apr 30): China wary on new Japan-US defense guidelines: Japan now able to defend not just US

After Japan and United States updated guidelines on defense cooperation, China said “We will keep an eye on the future security cooperation between America and Japan.” Chinese foreign ministry said Japan-US alliance should not damage peace in Asia-Pacific.

“It is our strong belief that the US and Japan shoulder the responsibility of ensuring that a third party’s interests will not be damaged and peace and stability of the Asia-Pacific not be undermined by their alliance,” China’s ministry said.

The Chinese government also issued statement regarding Japan and US leaders’ expression of concern over massive reclamation in West Philippine Sea.

“America and Japan are not parties to the South China Sea issue. They should be objective and impartial, and refrain from words and deeds that may complicate the dispute and sabotage regional peace and stability,” the communist country added.

Japan and US recently unveiled new guidelines on defense cooperation that will establish “Japan’s capacity to defend not just its own territory, but also the United States and other partners as needed,” US Secretary of State John Kerry said.

Militants slam Int'l meet

From the Visayan Daily Star (Apr 30): Militants slam Int'l meet

Militants marked the first day of Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in Bacolod City, by staging a protest march from the Provincial Capitol Lagoon Park to the Bacolod Public Plaza, where they held a rally yesterday.

Christian Tuayon, secretary general of Bayan-Negros, said about 300 of them marched down the main thoroughfares of Bacolod to show their opposition to the holding of the APEC conference in Bacolod.

The protest was the start of more protests from Bayan-Negros and other allied groups against the APEC meeting in the city, with an allotted budget of P4.3 billion, Tuayon said.

He said APEC is dominated by the imperialist United States and is a venue where it can impose its neo-liberal policies that leads to globalization and liberalization, affecting small countries such as the Philippines.

Tuayon said they are only exposing the true agenda of imperialist US.

He said they are waiting for augmentation from central and northern Negros to again converge and stage a protest today, as President Benigno Aquino III arrives Bacolod City.

Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate will join the rallyists, Tuayon said.

Tuayon claimed that some of their forces in the northern part of Negros were held by Special Action Force operatives, near Victorias City.

He said they condemn the act since it is a clear violation of their right to abode and their constitutional right to join protests.

The militants will try to get near the SMX Convention Center where the APEC meeting on disaster risk finance is being held, Tuayon said.

As they were marching towards the SMX Convention Center yesterday afternoon, they were blocked by policemen in full battle gear with shields, near Police Station 1 at Rizal Street.

Metal railings were also placed on the streets to prevent protestors from entering the street leading to SMX Convention Center.

The traffic flow also became congested at Rizal and San Juan streets because of chaos between the protestors and the police.

City Administrator Rolando Villamor negotiated with the protestors, through Sarah Villamor, secretary general of the National Union of People's Lawyers, not to proceed to the SMX Convention Center.

Villamor said the negotiation took place peacefully and the militants agreed to hold their protest near the San Sebastian Cathedral, up to 8 p.m. last night.*

‘Big brother’: AFP chief lauds US help in protecting PHL interests in sea dispute

From GMA News (Apr 30): ‘Big brother’: AFP chief lauds US help in protecting PHL interests in sea dispute

Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of staff Gen. Gregorio Catapang on Thursday lauded the US for helping the country protect its interests in the middle of a dispute with China over territories in the South China Sea.

Catapang made the remark during the closing ceremonies of this year's Balikatan joint military exercises between Filipino and US troops.

"There is no other country that can help us in addressing these global concern, no other country we can think about but the United States of America, our big brother, our friend and our ally," Catapang said.

In an interview after the ceremony, Catapang said the joint military exercises had helped strengthen the country's capabilities, particularly in addressing maritime security issues in the West Philippine Sea—or that portion of the South China Sea claimed by the Philippines.

"It's more of developing our capabilities through these Balikatan exercises that the US is helping us protect our national interest in the West Philippine Sea," Catapang said.

Catapang said that aside from internal security problems, the country was also facing global challenges such as terrorism, maritime security issues, climate change, and transnational crimes.

He said the help of the United States in addressing these issues was significant.

He added that the country should eventually have enough capabilities to "stand up and be able to protect our national interest."

"We are developing our armed forces through this training, it can help us a lot," he added. However, "we also have to buy our own equipment and improve our own capabilities, more ships, airplanes, amphibious vehicles," Capatang said.

More than 11,500 Filipino and US troops are involved in the 10-day joint military exercises, which officially ended on Thursday.

Catapang said he was thankful for the participation of the United States that had spent $15 million to move in the troops participating in the exercises.

For his part,  Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, in a statement read by Defense Undersecretary Pio Lorenzo Batino, said "personal ties and strengthened institutional links would certainly enhance our collective capacity to meet common security challenges."

"I am certain that this training program has improved our professional skills in various aspects and facets of our combined and joint military operational endeavors," he added.

'Never stand alone'

Joni Scandola, deputy chief of mission for the US Embassy, said the joint military exercises was the "manifestation of the commitment of the United States of America to you, our friend and ally, the Republic of the Philippines."

"I would like to reinforce a promise that our President made just one year ago: 'Allies never stand alone'," Scandola said.

"We are standing with you, side by side, not just for an annual exercise, but for whenever our partnership is truly needed," she added.

‘MILF, gov’t forces work hand in hand vs violence’

From the Business World (Apr 28): ‘MILF, gov’t forces work hand in hand vs violence’

A MUSLIM rebel group has been working with government security forces to stem violence arising from shadow economies such as kidnapping and the drug trade, data collected by the World Bank-funded Bangsamoro Conflict Monitoring System (BCMS) said.

“[T]here is clear evidence that the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has been working hand in hand with government security forces to stem violent shadow economies,” International Alert Country Manager Francisco J. Lara, Jr. said on Monday, citing data from the 2011-2014 BCMS report.
Although the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) -- through its spokesperson Brig. Gen. Joselito E. Kakilala said in a text message that he “has not come across” International Alert’s report -- MILF chief peace negotiator Mohagher Q. Iqbal confirmed its findings.

“To a certain extent, yes, especially through the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG),” Mr. Iqbal said through text, referring to the cooperative mechanism between the government and the MILF that responds to criminality and terrorism in areas with MILF presence.

Mr. Iqbal refused to elaborate although the BCMS presentation said that the “alliance with the MILF is crucial in countering the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) threat.”

Based on the same presentation, cases of violent conflict in the region rose to almost 1,200 cases in 2014 from only 700 the year before.

During both years, the largest causes of conflict were violence that arose from shadow economies, which cover illegal firearms, illegal drugs, kidnap for ransom, illegal gambling, human trafficking, financial scams, and extortion, BCMS Team Leader Liezl P. Bugtay said.
Out of these, Ms. Bugtay said that the “production and trade in illicit guns and drugs and kidnap for ransom activities produced more violent conflict than the other shadow or underground economies” from 2011 to 2014.

Moreover, shadow economies topped the causes of violent conflict from 2011 to 2014. Extrajudicial issues were the 2nd, with political issues, identity issues, governance issues and resource issues following.
Meanwhile, Mr. Lara said that data produced by the BCMS provides “a deeper understanding of the causes of conflict in an area important in the Philippines.”

Data can also be used to measure performance, he said.

“You can monitor the performance of state and non-state actors” with regards to conflict, to see the impact of work being done in the Bangsamoro.

“The third is for historical reasons, the injustices perpetrated in Mindanao. It’s a very relevant project that puts the spotlight on the different causes of violence,” Mr. Lara said.

During the open forum, International Alert methodology specialist Ever J. Abasolo said that they are not noting conflicts just for the sake of it.

“We hope at some point we can influence development planning and policy making,” Mr. Abasolo said, adding that “most plans are blind of conflict data” as violence is “currently not considered.”

The BCMS sources its data from police and media reports of violent crime, including ‘blotter reports, spot reports and progress reports.”

Multi-Stakeholder Validation Groups (MSVG) based in Western Mindanao State University, Mindanao State University-Iligan Institute of Technology and Mindanao State University-General Santos City, International Alert’s partners, validate the reports in the BCMS.

Cyberespionage groups hit Office of the President

From the Business World (Apr 30): Cyberespionage groups hit Office of the President

THE OFFICE of the President, the police, and the armed forces were among several Philippine agencies found to have been “infected” by two recently discovered cyberespionage groups, international software security group Kaspersky Lab said in a statement.

Government agencies in the Philippines and several Southeast Asian nations were infected by the groups called Naikon and Hellsing, the statement said.

Although the analysts do not yet know who are behind the cyberespionage groups, they noted that orchestrated attempts to get sensitive, confidential data do not come from “just some regular hackers.”
Security researchers first discovered Naikon, which targeted government agencies in South and Southeast Asian nations.

Philippine agencies also infected by Naikon were: the Office of the Cabinet Secretary, the Presidential Management Staff, the Department of Justice, the Office of the Solicitor General, National Security Council, the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency, and the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines.
Meanwhile, Hellsing was discovered targeting government agencies in countries along the South China Sea, as well as diplomatic agencies in the United States.

Its infected e-mail attachments had file names that made them seem like correspondence on national security and foreign relations.
Vicente Diaz, principal security researcher of Kaspersky Lab’s Global Research and Analysis Team (GReAT), noted that special malware were made to spy and steal government and corporate data.

Kaspersky Lab’s data also revealed that there were 6,043 incidents of hosted malware in the country for the first quarter of the year, placing it at 78th rank worldwide.
“It is designed not only to steal corporate data but also data from government institutions, from research, and the military,” Mr. Diaz said. “This malware is not attacking everyone. It is attacking a few people, a few institutions. They don’t want to be discovered. They want to use these malwares for years and get all the data they want from their victims.”
In terms of computer virus infection, the Philippines ranks 47th among 176 countries surveyed.

Philippines ‘more secure’ after war games with US

From the Business World (Apr 30): Philippines ‘more secure’ after war games with US

THE PHILIPPINES “is becoming more secure,” a United States official said on Thursday, after both countries formally concluded annual war games at an event in Clark Air Base in Pampanga.

“The Philippines is becoming more secure but its neighbors do not become less,” US exercise director Lt. Gen. John A. Toolan said, a reference to China, which has undertaken massive reclamation activities over territories claimed by both Beijing and Manila.

The military exercises, which involved hundreds of Filipino and American troops and more than 50 Australian soldiers, began on April 21 at the Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea, an area that Manila calls the West Philippine Sea.

The shoal is a rich fishing ground China has controlled since the end of a maritime standoff with the Philippines in 2012.

For his part, Philippines exercise director Vice-Admiral Alexander S. Lopez highlighted the importance of the military exercises between the two allies.

In his message, Mr. Lopez said that the war games was the “link among all major events to the general exercise scenario that focused on territorial defense with humanitarian and disaster response implications.”

Owing to the Balikatan (shoulder to shoulder) 2015 exercises, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) now has “enhanced capacity, capability and interoperability,” Mr. Lopez added.

This year’s exercises -- the 31st conducted after both countries entered into a Mutual Defense Treaty -- is a “milestone” in the AFP’s commitment to meeting the actual demands of defending the Philippines, AFP chief Gregorio Pio P. Catapang, Jr. said in a chance interview.

In addressing global challenges, Mr. Catapang said that there is “no other country we can think of (for assistance)” but the United States.

Mr. Catapang added that the Philippines is “not doing anything inside the areas that we control” except for “maintaining the area” in the West Philippine Sea.

Gang Wars Pit Family Against Family in Philippine South

From Bloomberg Business (Apr 29): Gang Wars Pit Family Against Family in Philippine South

A Moro Islamic Liberation Front Sniper

A Moro Islamic Liberation Front sniper from an undisclosed community poses with his .50-caliber M82 Barrett copy, in Maguindanao province, on March 30, 2015. Some communities maintain private armies to protect their properties. Photographer: Norman P. Aquino/Bloomberg

The afternoon heat often sends Filipino farmers inside to rest and brings a stillness to the country’s restive south. That quiet was shattered two months ago by loud gunshots near Kampua Untong’s house, jolting him awake and forcing him to flee his village.

Untong and his family were targeted in a clan war over land in Maguindanao, a poverty-stricken but resource-rich Philippine province where a 40-year Islamic insurgency has claimed about as many lives as the recent conflict in Syria. Under fire from a group of armed men, and with an infant and four children in tow, Untong and his wife ran for an hour to a river where a boat took them to safety.

“I was so scared I left everything behind,” Untong, 46, said outside a relative’s house in the remote village of Kalbugan in late March. “I came home three weeks later only to find our house burned down.” Untong’s soft voice broke, his face wrinkled and burned by years of fishing in a nearby marsh and planting corn.

Containing violence in the area is a bit like facing a Hydra sea monster from Greek mythology -- for every head cut off, two grow back. The Islamic militancy the government is seeking to halt is just part of the disorder that’s stymied President Benigno Aquino’s efforts to bring growth to the poorest part of the country, where conflict has blocked companies from tapping mineral deposits like gold, copper and nickel worth about $312 billion.

Warlords, bandits, and clan wars -- known as “rido” -- all exist alongside, and in many cases intersect with the broader insurgency. Clan wars will probably persist even if Aquino can get a peace deal with the main militant group to stick, given they are deeply entrenched. They can run for decades, involve hundreds of family members and start over a disputed marriage or even a basketball game.

Land, Politics

The fighting around Kalbugan that lasted about a month and killed at least two people was tied to a land dispute and affected 3,900 people, local village captain Sammy Abdul said. Untong says he was suspected of backing the family of Gani Saligan against that of Haji Bayan Abbas. Saligan is a leader of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and Abbas a chief of the rival Moro Islamic Liberation Front, Abdul said.

“When family feuds arise, it’s the organizations they belong to that usually get dragged into the limelight,” Ismael Maulana, who heads the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao’s reconciliation commission, said in Cotabato City, a regional center. In reality, “conflicts on the ground usually have nothing to do with ideology or insurgency,” he said. “Most often, they’re about land and politics.”

Peace Deal

The government has prioritized bringing the main militant group into the fold. Aquino signed a peace accord with the 11,000-strong Moro Islamic in March last year and wants to create a new autonomous political region called Bangsamoro with more powers and wealth to end a conflict that’s killed as many as 200,000 people.

It’s touted by Aquino as a chance to allow sustained exploration of the mining and energy assets in the area. The government estimates 202 million barrels of oil and 821 billion cubic feet of gas lie in the 456,000-hectare (1.1 million-acre) Cotabato basin, which includes the marsh where Untong fishes.

Mindanao can attract as much as $1 billion in investment under the new autonomous region, the government has said. Development of the island, which accounted for about 14 percent of Philippine economic output in 2013, is crucial to Aquino’s goal of as much as 8 percent annual growth by 2016.

Family Warfare

The government has said little about tackling other sources of violence in Mindanao, including rido. “Development will be difficult if investors are worried that they might offend somebody or their employees might get into a family feud,” Steven Rood, country head of the Asia Foundation, said by phone.

“Family warfare in the Mindanao region continues because of a weak rule of law,” Rood said. “Vendetta killings involving families happen elsewhere, but nowhere are they more prevalent.”

At least three people were killed and eight others hurt when armed men strafed a community in Lanao del Sur province on April 25, the military said. The motive may have been revenge after a recent rape, Agence France-Presse reported, citing a senior police officer. Villagers fled in fear of further attacks, it said.

The proposed Bangsamoro law seeks to address all conflicts through a stronger justice system, Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, the government’s chief peace negotiator, said in an interview. “We need to undertake all the other institutional reforms that cover elections, security, political dynasties and even culture and values.”

Maulana, whose office tracks vendetta killings in Mindanao, expects fights to increase ahead of the campaign period for the 2016 national election.

Brothers Kill

“It’s the time when political families vie for votes and, sometimes, brothers kill each other for government positions,” he said. “The Maguindanao massacre is a prime example of that.”

Gunmen in November 2009 stopped a convoy carrying family and supporters of gubernatorial candidate Esmael Mangudadatu plus journalists, executing 58. Then-governor Andal Ampatuan Sr. and his son are fighting murder charges over the attack.

“Clan wars, seldom mentioned and a frequent source of conflict, are a big obstacle to peace,” Mangudadatu, now Maguindanao governor, said in Manila on March 27. “Family feuds have existed since I was little and we need to settle them if we want peace.”

No Gun

The aftermath of clan wars is often more serious than insurgency, Maulana said. “People can go back to their homes after the cease-fire, but a person who happens to be a relative or a friend of a warring family becomes an easy target.”

Nearly 124,000 people were newly displaced due to conflict and violence in the Philippines last year, with fighting between the government and Islamic groups the main reason alongside “incidents of clan violence,” according to the Geneva-based Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre.

About 127,000 people were still uprooted in the country as of March, it said.

Fish merchant Buka Abdul, 39, is one of those people. “I heard the sound of what seemed like 50-caliber machine guns from about 100 hundred men,” he said of the Feb. 13 clash in Kalbugan. “I ran as fast as I can, with my wife and five children,” he said. “I didn’t want to die.”

Abdul, who has only a basic primary education, said he doesn’t own a gun and just wants to earn a living. That didn’t stop BIFF rebels from burning his house down.

“The government must understand the relationship between clans and Muslim rebel groups if it wants lasting peace in the autonomous region and Mindanao as a whole,” said Ramon Casiple, executive director of the Institute for Political and Electoral Reform in Manila.

‘I’m Scared’

Lawmakers have committed to pass a bill creating the new Bangsamoro entity by June. The ARMM, created during a previous attempt at peace, had a 56 percent poverty rate in 2012, the highest in the country and more than twice the national average. Economic growth averaged 2.4 percent from 2012 to 2013, compared with the nation’s 7 percent.

“The proposed Bangsamoro entity is a big step toward solving the Mindanao peace problem,” ARMM executive secretary Laisa Alamia said in Cotabato City on April 1. “But it alone won’t solve the problem.”

Efforts to reach a peace accord were dealt a blow in January when a botched police action against suspected terrorists in Mindanao left 44 troops dead.

Untong is now caught between the desire to keep his family safe and the need to survive. The fisherman-farmer said he wants to return and rebuild his house soon.

“I’m scared that fighting will recur, but what can I do?” he asked. “I need to work so I can feed my family.”

Abu Sayyaf holding Sibugay mayor

From the Philippine Star posted to ABS-CBN (Apr 30): Abu Sayyaf holding Sibugay mayor

The mayor of Naga town in Zamboanga Sibugay, whom unidentified gunmen seized at her home on April 6, is now in the hands of the Abu Sayyaf in Sulu, a military official said yesterday.

Mayor Gemma Adana’s captors have turned her over to the Abu Sayyaf, said Rear Admiral Reynaldo Yoma, commander of the Naval Forces Western Mindanao and Joint Task Force ZambaSulTa.

“We cannot give their exact location as they are constantly on the move,” Yoma said.

Adana was having dinner with her family in Barangay Taytay Manubo when six unidentified gunmen took her and escaped on a motorboat.

Police earlier tagged a renegade faction of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in the kidnapping.

The kidnappers have not contacted Adana’s family. Earlier reports said there was a P100-million ransom demand, but it was denied by an official who is close to the Adanas.

Yoma vowed to recover the remaining captives of the Abu Sayyaf in Sulu. Among them are Dutch birdwatcher Elwold Horn, a Japanese man, a Korean businessman, two teachers and relatives of a town mayor.

“We have continuous operations for the recovery of all the victims and neutralization of the Abu Sayyaf,” he said.

Illustrated Jalandoni bio could spark debate on graphic novel

From GMA News (Apr 29): Illustrated Jalandoni bio could spark debate on graphic novel

Luis Jalandoni and author Ina Alleco R. Silverio at the launch of 'Louie Jalandoni: Revolutionary: An Illustrated Biography'. Photos courtesy of Arkibong Bayan

Members of the international diplomatic community packed the  anteroom of Ang Bahay ng Alumni's Luciano E. Salazar Hall at the University of the Philippines in Diliman last April 25 for the launch of Ina Alleco R. Silverio’s "Louie Jalandoni: Revolutionary, An Illustrated Biography."

Together with activists from church-based organizations, leaders of grassroots groups, artists, academics and students, they raised their copies of the book, which sold out at the event.

The International Network of Philippine Studies (INPS) and Concerned Artists of the Philippines (CAP) led the launch of the graphic bio of ex-priest Luis Jalandoni, chairman of the National Democratic front of the Philippines (NDFP) panel in its peace negotiations with the Government of the Philippines (GPH).

It features 11 chapters drawn and illustrated by six artists led by UP College of Fine Arts Dean Neil Doloricon, Renan Ortiz, Max Santiago, Enrico Maniago, Fernando Argosino, Mervin Malonzo, and Roberto Elias.

In an interview with GMA News Online, Silverio said that the book was the product of 15 days’ worth of conversations with Jalandoni.

“I was in the Netherlands in August 2010 on a personal trip with my family, and Ka Coni [Coni Ledesma of the NDFP peace panel] congratulated me on my first book ‘Ka Bel, The Life and Struggle of Crispin Beltran,’ which had come out two months before,” she said.

“We got to talking about how important it was to write about the lives of senior activists
so that lessons from their experiences fighting the Marcos dictatorship and building political mass organizations could be shared with the current generation of activists and even ordinary Filipinos,” Silverio added.

“She asked me what my next project was, and I said, well, maybe I should write about her and her husband, Luis Jalandoni.”

Workshop project

The book's art director Renan Ortiz introduces the illustrators and artists who worked on the book.
Silverio brought the project to the 53rd UP National Writers Workshop, organized by the UP Institute of Creative Writing (UP ICW) last year.

Looking back, she said one of the most crucial criticisms she received was that the narrative was too linear, too chronological. “I had to jar the reader out of complacency when reading. To do this I put in vignettes that did not follow the timeline in between chapters, and in the middle part I inserted an essay on the peace process and Ka Louie’s role in it,” she explained.

In June 2014, Silverio had a three-day session with Jalandoni to lay the finishing touches to the book. “Ang daming nawala sa book kasi I had to focus on Louie. He had so many stories about other people, mga masa na tumulong sa kanya, people who inspired him, people he looked up to. It was sometimes hard to get him back to talking about himself kasi he's so humble,” she said.

In her poetics, she mentioned, “I am writing this biography in a form of a graphic novel because I want it to come in a form that is popular. I want it to be read by the younger generation of Filipinos who are in great need of role models; I want the younger generation of Filipinos to become aware that such men as Mr. Jalandoni exist, and that they continue to give their life to the cause of national freedom and democracy.”

But UP IWP Director Butch Dalisay thought otherwise.

“I think ‘graphic novel’ would be very much a misnomer for this; first of all, it’s not a novel. We do need more biographies; we don’t know our leaders well enough; every biography is a means for us to understand ourselves,” he raised in Silverio’s panel session.

Dalisay proposed to drop the notion of a graphic novel. “It would be better if it were an illustrated biography where images would be put in certain portions. The subgenre I am proposing for this is the sympathetic biography, as opposed to the critical, more scholarly form of biography. Biography is a very ill-developed form in this country, and so they usually get commissioned by institutions. And so presumably, those biographies will be sympathetic, either for money or for political propaganda,” he explained.
Graphic novel

Gabriela partylist reps Emmi de Jesus (front, left) and Luz Ilagan and MILF peace panel member Abdullah Camlian (wearing jacket) at the book launch
The term "graphic novel" itself has been a hot topic of debate and discussion amongst the international community in recent years. In Barry Kavanagh’s interview with Alan Moore, the creator of "Watchmen", "V for Vendetta" and "From Hell", said that the term "graphic novel" is a marketing term that he never had any sympathy with. He was comfortable with the term “comic book.” In some countries, the term can also include non-fiction and anthologized work. Whatever one chooses to call it, in the Philippines we have the works of Gerry Alanguilan, Arnold Arre, Carlo Vergara, and Tepai Pascual, among others. Wordless graphic novels like "Light" by Rob Cham and "14" by Manix Abrera also came out recently. Adam David partnered with Malonzo to produce "Ang Subersibo", a serialized comic based on Jose Rizal’s novels. Also, limited copies of Francisco V. Coching's graphic novel "Dumagit" will be sold at Free Comic Book Day on May 2. — BM, GMA News ["Louie Jalandoni: Revolutionary" will be available in IBON Bookstore, Popular Bookstore, and Solidaridad Bookstore.]

Urban search and rescue techniques stressed in Balikatan 2015

PNA article posted to InterAksyon (Apr 30): Urban search and rescue techniques stressed in Balikatan 2015

US soldier instructs Filipino counterparts during a joint military exercise. REUTERS FILE PHOTO

Soldiers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the US Hawaii Army National Guard (HIARNG) jointly conducted here a shoulder-to-shoulder training on how to move into collapsed buildings in case of real world urban search and rescue (USAR).

The training was conducted on April 24, where “54 Filipino participants from the AFP and the Palawan Bureau of Fire Protection (PBFP) practiced basic shoring techniques,” according to a news release of the Defense Media Activity-Hawaii News Bureau (DMA-HNB) written by Staff Sgt. Chris Hubenthal and posted on Defense Video and Imagery Distribution System (DVIDS).

Shoring is the method of “supporting a building, vessel, structure, or trench with props when they are in danger of collapse.”

US Army Staff Sgt. Jim Evangelista of HIARNG explained how the training should prepare the AFP to respond better to cases of natural or man-made disaster.

“Before the rescuer can enter a building they need to secure and stabilize the collapsed structure,” Evangelista said.

“What I taught them is that the first thing that you need to know as a rescuer is that you need to rescue yourself, your teammates, and then the victim. It doesn’t make sense if you’re going into a building that’s not stable.”

In the training, preparation for a USAR situation had the Filipino participants construct “t-spots, double t-spots, flying rakers, and split sole rakers” to thwart a damaged building from collapsing.

Philippine Army Sgt. Vanessa May Sumanga, 408th Palawan Community Defense Center (PCDC) criminologist, one of the participants, appreciated the experience and thought it has equipped her with knowledge to prepare her better to respond to such an incident.

“Staff Sgt. Evangelista taught me how to do basic shoring if there was ever a building collapse and how to rescue a victim,” the release, on the other hand, quoted Sumanga. “From my basic knowledge given by Sir Evangelista, I will be able to help rescue victims.”

US Army Corey Ito, also of HIARNG, hopes the training will assist the AFP in the future.

“Hopefully they can use the training because they are hit by a lot of typhoons and other real world events,” Ito said, adding “The Filipinos are very receptive, open to everything, and very eager to learn.”

This year marks the 31st iteration of the exercise, which is an annual Philippines-US bilateral military training exercise and humanitarian civic assistance engagement.

Number of rebels in EMC areas steadily decreasing

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 30): Number of rebels in EMC areas steadily decreasing

The number of rebel forces operating in Eastern Mindanao Command areas has steadily decreased.

This was disclosed by Capt. Alberto Caber, EMC public affairs office chief, in a message to the PNA.

"There's a significant decrease in number as to the manpower, firearms, guerilla fronts of NPA and affected barangays in Eastern Mindanao," he added.

During the first quarter of 2014, NPA strength in the EMC has been estimated to be at 2,049 fighters with 2,379 firearms.

Also recorded were 29 guerilla fronts which affect 550 barangays.

"For the first quarter of 2015, NPA manpower has been placed at 1,866 with 2,300 firearms. Affected barangays are now at 496 with 26 guerilla fronts," Caber stressed.

The reduction is attributable to the high number of arrested and neutralized NPA members during encounters; and rebels who have surrendered with high-powered and low-powered firearms," he added.

"The arrest were undertaken jointly with the PNP. In the spirit of Bayanihan, we are hoping another remarkable accomplishment this second quarter of 2015," Caber concluded.

PAF allocates Php4-M for procurement of weapons systems, other weapons equipment

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 30): PAF allocates Php4-M for procurement of weapons systems, other weapons equipment

The Philippine Air Force (PAF) announced that it has allocated the sum of Php4,701,449.68 for the procurement of weapon systems and other weapon equipment.

Submission and opening of bids is scheduled on May 12 at 9 a.m. at the PAF Procurement Center Conference Room, Villamor Air Base, Pasay City.

However, for security reasons, the PAF did not disclose the type of weapon systems to be acquired.

Sources said that these could be air-to-air weapons and air-to-ground platforms which will be fitted to the incoming PAF aircraft.

The Air Force is scheduled to commission eight brand-new AW-109 attack helicopters this year along with two F/A-50 jet fighters.

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

DFA-PHL: We’re not building airports

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 30): DFA-PHL: We’re not building airports

Denying China’s accusations of building airports in the disputed Spratly Islands, Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) spokesperson Charles Jose on Thursday said the Philippines is not undertaking any construction activity in the South China Sea.

Jose cleared the issue saying the Philippines already has an airport in the Pag-asa Islands and is doing maintenance contrary to Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hong Lei’s statement during a press conference last Tuesday.

“They said ‘building.’ We’re not even doing something with our airports here, what more in the Spratlys?” Jose said in an interview with ANC in response to Lei’s allegations.

“For a long time, the Philippines, Vietnam and other countries have been carrying out reclamations on the Chinese islands. They are illegally occupying in the Nansha Islands, building airports and other fixed infrastructure, even deploying missiles and other military equipment,” Lei said.

The construction of the airport in Pag-asa Islands according to DFA was prior to the 2002 Declaration of Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea.

Hong also accused other claimant countries of building airports, illegally occupying islands within Chinese territories, and deploying missiles.

He asked the Philippines and Vietnam to stop all illegal action on Chinese territories.

DFA on the other hand said that China’s reclamation is a direct violation to the ASEAN-China agreement and 2002 and that the Asian economic giant is avoiding allegations by pointing fingers at other territorial claimants. China defended their claims saying constructions held by the country on Nansha Islands or Spratly islands are within China’s sovereignty.

US allocates USD20-M for NCWC

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 30): US allocates USD20-M for NCWC

Demonstrating commitment to Philippine efforts to improve its maritime security, the US Embassy in Manila announced that the American Government has provided USD20-million for the National Coast Watch Center (NCWC).

This is equivalent to Php880-million. It is located near the Manila South Harbor.

The NCWC is the center that provides critical information fusion and 24 hour operations to support enhanced awareness of the country's maritime domain.

Future incremental improvements are planned to fully realize the potential of the center.

US Ambassador to the Philippines Philip S. Goldberg cut the ribbon inaugurating the NCWC last Tuesday.

The NCWC is a multi-year partnership funded by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency as part of the WMD Proliferation Prevention Program’s Maritime Security project.

The project, when complete, will tie together more than a dozen stations and sensors, as well as ships of the Coast Guard, to provide a more comprehensive picture of ships and vessels operating in or near Philippine waters.

Maritime domain awareness is crucial for the Philippines as it increases its abilities to thwart smuggling, illegal fishing, other criminal activities as well as improving defense capacity.

AFP, NCMF inks accord to push peace in Mindanao

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 30): AFP, NCMF inks accord to push peace in Mindanao

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) signed a Memorandum of Agreement providing joint programs, projects and activities between the two institutions with the endgoal of promoting sustainable peace in Mindanao as lawmakers in Congress deliberate the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law.

AFP Chief of Staff General Gregorio Pio P Catapang Jr., signed in behalf of the entire armed forces while NCMF Secretary and member of the President Aquino’s peace negotiating team Bai Yasmin Busran-Lao represented the Commission.

The NCMF, an institution directly under the Office of the President, is the government agency that replaced the former Office on Muslim Affairs and currently has expanded powers, functions and mandate as provided by Republic Act No. 9997, otherwise known as the law creating the NCMF.

Muslim leaders view the the signing of the Memorandum of Agreement between the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) as a milestone in building national unity, peace, prosperity and progress for the Muslim Filipinos.

“The accord is timely as Congress is studying the BBL since the Commission, in partnership with the AFP, can conduct grassroots programs in Muslim communities and at the same time inform the general public about the different provisions of the BBL,” NCMF Commissioner Salem Demuna said.

Secretary Lao identified the religious leaders, traditional leaders, the AFP and the Commission as the main key stakeholders that can work together in delivering services to the Muslim communities, including those that are outside the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

The engagement with AFP came just after Secretary Lao partnered with the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) and the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) in the nationwide conduct of mid-decade census in August this year.

The PSA and the NCMF signed earlier a memorandum of agreement making the NCMF a major participant in the mid-decade census under the auspices and supervision of the NEDA.

The AFP-NCMF accord shows that the AFP is firm in “winning the peace” in Mindanao and strengthens inter-agency partnership in addressing Muslim concerns, especially those that affects national agenda for peace and development.

The accord centers on the following concerns: (1) Peace and Development such as in the areas of building culture of peace, reconciliation, peaceful co-existence, mutual respect and understanding; (2) Inclusion of Peace Education in Madrasah (Islamic) Institutions; (3) Youth Peace Leaders Development Program; (4) Human Rights; and (5) Inclusion of the programs in both agencies annual plans, programs and projects to ensure sustainability, success and impact.

The agreement will institutionalize approaches and mechanisms in addressing issues and concerns that affects the Muslim communities and provide the NCMF an able partner such as the AFP in implementing its mandate in serving the Commission’s Muslim constituents.

Balikatan 2015 beefs up professional skills of Filipino, American soldiers

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 30): Balikatan 2015 beefs up professional skills of Filipino, American soldiers

With Balikatan 2015 officially concluded Thursday, ranking Filipino defense officials have expressed that the two-week training exercises have improved the professional skills of both Philippine and American militaries.

This was stressed by Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin's closing message, which was read by Undersecretary Pio Lorenzo Batino, at Clark Air Force Base, Pampanga.

"Let me also congratulate all the officers and men from both our armed forces for their participation in this exercise, I am certain that this training program has improved our professional skills in various aspects and facets of our combined and joint military operational endeavors," he stressed.

In the same vein, he also conveyed his congratulations to the exercise directors of Balikatan 2015, Lt. Gen. John Toolan for the United States and Vice Admiral Alexander Lopez for the Philippines for ably leading the successful conduct of this combined military exercise and for the attainment of the operational goals of both armed forces.

Around 11,600 Filipino and American personnel participated in the annual Balikatan exercises which started last April 20.

"I am confident that you have enjoyed training together under the spirit of mutual friendship, camaraderie, and cooperation, i have no doubt that true to the meaning of Balikatan you now carry with you the rare professional experience of training and working shoulder to shoulder with friends and allies, the real experience and professional knowledge that you have derived from this training activity will surely rebound to the enhancement of your expertise in combined planning, combat readiness and interoperability, but beyond the enhancement of capacities," Gazmin concluded.

PH not reclaiming in South China Sea: ‘Let photos speak’

From Rappler (Apr 30): PH not reclaiming in South China Sea: ‘Let photos speak’

The Philippine military dismisses Beijing’s attempt to weaken Manila's arbitration case

File photo of Pag-Asa Island

File photo of Pag-Asa Island

The Philippine military denied new allegations it also has reclamation activities in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), dismissing it as Beijing's attempt to weaken Manila's arbitration case.

"We are not doing anything inside the areas that we control. We could easily repair our runway, but the instruction is to await for the decision of the ITLOS (International Tribunal of the Law of the Sea) before we can decide our next moves," said Armed Forces chief General Gregorio Catapang Jr on Thursday, April 30.

The photographs will tell the true story, added Vice Admiral Alexander Lopez. He is the commanding officer of Palawan-based Western Command (Wescom), the military unit responsible for the country's territorial defense.

"We are not doing any reclamation activities.... Let pictures speak of what they're doing against ours," Lopez said.

"As far as we are concerned, we are supporting the national policy. We’re not doing anything that would weaken our arbitraiton case. We’re sticking to that game plan," Lopez added.

Facing international criticism over its massive reclamation activites in the disputed areas, China, through its Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Le, in a new statement accused the Philippines of reclamation activities in Pag-Asa (Tithu) Island to build an airport and expand a wharf, according to a Reuters report.

Pag-Asa Island is the second biggest island in the West Philippine Sea and is inhabited by a small community of Filipinos. It has an operational runway but is in dire need of repairs.

The Philippines has repeatedly delayed plans to fix the runway in Pag-Asa as it awaits the ruling of the arbitration court that is expected in 2016.

China, on the other hand, has reclaimed 7 reefs in the South China Sea and turned them into artifical islands. (IN PHOTOS: China's reclamation in West PH Sea as of April 2015)

The Philippine military expressed fears that its access to its controlled areas will be cut off once China completes is reclamation activities.