Wednesday, June 3, 2015

19IB inaugurates camp facilities and launch the 1st commando summer shoot fest

From Samar News (May 13): 19IB inaugurates camp facilities and launch the 1st commando summer shoot fest

19IB camp facility inauguration

8ID commander MGen. Jet Velarmino with Mrs. Imelda Velarmino cutting the ribbon during the Inauguration of Facilities of 19th Infantry (Commando) Battalion at Brgy. Aguiting, Kananga, Leyte on May 9, 2015.

May 13, 2015

CAMP VICENTE LUKBAN, Catbalogan City – The 19th Infantry Battalion, Philippine Army based in Kananga, Leyte inaugurated its new camp facilities last May 10, 2015.

It can be recalled that the Headquarters 19IB was totally destroyed when typhoon Yolanda struck Eastern Visayas on November 8, 2013. The Commando Battalion troopers were visibly on high morale and proud as members of the unit during the inauguration because after more than a year, they now have a decent barracks to stay and rest.

The inauguration was graced by Maj. Gen. Jet B Velarmino AFP, Commander, 8ID together with his wife, Mrs. Imelda D. Velarmino. Also present during the occasion was Hon. Elmer C. Codilla, Mayor of Kananga, Leyte; Col Dinoh A. Dolina, Commander, 802nd Brigade; media personalities; YMCA Rifle and Pistol Club (YRPC) members led by Mr. Marlon Alajas; and other invited guests from Ormoc City and Kananga.

Captain Rey David G. Loyola, 8ID Chaplain officiated the blessings of the newly repaired camp facilities: Admin Building 1 and 2, Officers Quarters, and Supply Room, Bangon Transient Facility, Bangon Organic Livestock Facility, Headquarters Service Company building, and the unit Cooperative Store.

After the inauguration, Lt. Col. Nedy C. Espulgar, Commanding Officer of the 19th Infantry Battalion held a press conference where he presented to the media the five high-powered firearms recovered from the New People’s Army (NPA) during an encounter at Brgy Liberty, Ormoc City last May 3, 2015.

Immediately after the press conference, the 1st Commando Summer Shoot Fest was conducted, which was participated by Maj. Gen. Velarmino and 114 other gun enthusiasts.

Maj. Gen. Velarmino expressed his appreciation to the leadership of LtC Espulgar and his men for the newly repaired facilities, at the same time, congratulated the unit for the successful combat operation last May 3, 2015 that resulted to the recovery of five (5) high-powered firearms from the NPAs, thus giving more hope to our quest for a lasting peace in the whole island of Leyte.

Guns, bullets seized from rebel camp

From the Philippine Star (Jun 3): Guns, bullets seized from rebel camp

ILOILO CITY, Philippines – Army troopers discovered what is believed to be a former camp of the New People’s Army (NPA) and seized firearms and bullets in Igbaras, Iloilo Monday.

The camp can accommodate at least 50 persons according to Lt. Col. Enriqueto Deocadez Jr., chief of the Army’s 82nd Infantry Battalion.

Deocadez said the rebels might have abandoned the camp a month ago and left behind two submachine guns, a grenade, a handheld radio, bullets for different firearms, documents and personal belongings.     

The Army said the discovery indicates that the force of the rebel group is weakening.

In February, the troopers also found abandoned rebel camps in the towns of Miag-ao and Tubungan, both in Iloilo.

Local officials, soldiers team up in construction of new school building in Maguindanao

From the Philippine Star (Jun 3): Local officials, soldiers team up in construction of new school building in Maguindanao 

Members of the Army’s 6th Civil Military Operations Battalion and civilian volunteers repair chairs in a school in Datu Unsay, Maguindanao. John Unson

MAGUINDANAO, Philippines - Local officials in Datu Unsay on Wednesday assured to help expedite the construction of a new school building in a barangay ravaged by the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).

Datu Unsay town is located in the second district of Maguindanao, where the BIFF once ran a shadow government that enforced a ruthless Taliban-style justice system that also forcibly levied "revolutionary tax" on local folks.

The school building project in Barangay Meta northwest of Datu Unsay was launched Monday by Major Gen. Edmundo Pangilinan of the 6th Infantry Division, Gov. Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and Mayor Monawara Ampatuan.

Also present in the event were Lt. Col. Noman Alcovindas and his subordinates in the 6th Civil Military Operations (CMO) Battalion, which will the construct the school building in the campus of the Datu Unsay Elementary School (DUCES) in Barangay Meta.

“The local government unit of Datu Unsay shall do its best to help hasten the completion of this school building project and protect the soldiers constructing the building,” Ampatuan said.

Members of the municipal council said they will also extend support to the project via the traditional "bayanihan" tradition.

The 6th CMO Battalion had earlier refurbished, with the help of the United States embassy, the dilapidated classrooms in the same campus, which the BIFF pounded with shoulder-fire explosives in separate attacks in 2012 and in 2014.

BIFF bandits had also burned down one of the buildings in the same school almost two years ago.

Alcovindas said he is grateful to Pangilinan, who is 6th ID's commander since 2014, to Hataman and to the local government unit of Datu Unsay for supporting their operations meant to improve DUCES.

Hataman’s office will bankroll the construction of the new school building inside the DUCES campus with a P700,000 allocation from the ARMM's coffer.

Hataman said the money will be drawn from the special purpose fund of his office.

Hataman and Pangilinan also led on Monday the dispersal of bags and school supplies to more than 300 pupils in Timbangan Elementary School in Shariff Aguak town, the old capital of Maguindanao.

Monday’s turn over by Alcovindas and his men of the school buildings they have just rehabilitated and the symbolic start of the construction of another, which the ARMM government is to fund, were witnessed by senior provincial education officials and Maguindanao’s chief budget officer, Lynette Estandarte.

Abu Sayyaf seizes IEDs left in Basilan village

From the Philippine Star (Jun 3): Abu Sayyaf seizes IEDs left in Basilan village

The Abu Sayyaf group seized back from the villagers in a remote town of Basilan the improvised explosive devices (IEDs) that were intended to target government troops, a local official said.

Ungkaya Pukan Vice Mayor Joel Maturan said at least eight IEDs were discovered on Sunday by the villagers in Barangay Bohe, an interior village of the town.

However, he said the Abu Sayyaf group reportedly seized backed the IEDs from the civilians at gunpoint.

“The villagers were forced to return the IEDs,” Maturan said.

Maturan believed that the bombs were intended for the government troops who have been utilizing the interior village in their security patrols.

Maturan said he also alerted their civilian volunteers and members of the government militia to stay alert to prevent the militants from planting the bombs and staging attack in the area.

NPA kidnaps soldier in Sarangani

From the Philippine Star (Jun 4): NPA kidnaps soldier in Sarangani

The New People’s Army (NPA) in Southern Mindanao yesterday said it is holding a soldier captive and treating him as a prisoner of war.

Pfc. Ken Suberre, 26, a resident of Davao City and member of the Army’s 27th Infantry Battalion based in Kiamba, Sarangani, was reported missing after a civic-military operation in T’boli, South Cotabato on April 12.

In a statement issued to a radio station here, members of the Mount Daguma sub-regional command of the NPA said they are investigating Suberre for participating in the military’s “Oplan Bayanihan.”

The NPA assured Suberre’s family that he would be accorded due process and fair treatment under international humanitarian laws.

AFP names new 303 IB commander

From the Visayan Daily Star (Jun 3): AFP names new 303 IB commander

Army Colonel Francisco Delfin is the incoming commander of the 303rd Infantry Brigade with headquarters in Brgy. Minoyan, Murcia, Negros Occidental.
Maj. Gen. Rey Leonardo Guerrero, 3rd Infantry Division commander, said yesterday that Delfin has been ordered to assume the 303rd Infantry Brigade command on June 10.
Delfin, a member of the Philippine Military Academy Class 1985, will replace Brig. Gen. Jon Aying, who has already been designated as the assistant AFP Deputy Chief of Staff for Plans (J5) last month.
Delfin is now the Inspector General of the 3rd Infantry Division with headquarters at Camp Macario Peralta in Jamindan, Capiz.
Military records show that Delfin, a Capiceño, holds the degree of Master of Science in Defense and Strategic Studies from the University of Madras in India. He used to be the commanding officer of the 1st Infantry Battalion in Luzon.
Delfin is the recipient of numerous medals, including the Distinguished Service Star.
Aying and his predecessor, Maj. Gen. Oscar Lactao, who is now the commanding general of the 4th Infantry Division, have been instrumental in the peace and development activities in the conflict-affected communities in Negros Occidental, also through the effort of Gov. Alfredo Marañon Jr.
The signing of Negros Occidental as peaceful and ready for further development is expected to be declared within this month by the Provincial Peace and Order Council, Planning Development Officer Ma. Lina Sanogal said.

Philippine Navy conducts outreach mission

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 3): Philippine Navy conducts outreach mission

The Philippine Navy in Cebu successfully conducted “Operation Tuli” in Negros Oriental particularly in Barangay Motong, Dumaguete City recently with a total of 40 children including a 75-year-old resident of Barangay Bagacay having benefited from the outreach mission.

Operation Tuli and share-a-meal program for more or less 300 children from different barangays were initiated by the employees union of Pilipino Cable Corporation Sky Cable Dumaguete City headed by Sandy Tinguha as part of its outreach programs in the barangays, this time in cooperation with Barangay Motong through village chief Dionie Amores.

Other services include free haircut where 90 children and adults have availed of the activity held at the covered court of the barangay.

According to Lt. Junior Grade Renante Villela, it is in Dumaguete that they encountered a 75-year-old undergoing circumcision, while the youngest was four years old.

He said this is a regular activity conducted by Philippine Navy central during summer vacation upon the invitation of different groups and organizations to help parents defray expenses incurred for the circumcision and haircut, among other services.

The PN’s medical team is headed by Dr. Amy Balunes.

On the other hand, barangay captain Amores said those who availed of the free circumcision are children of poor families who are not going to school this year, and the number could have been doubled if the first schedule was pushed through.

Barangay Motong is also regularly conducting a medical mission every quarter, the next schedule of which is on June 12, 2015.

Survey: Filipinos don’t trust ‘frenemy’ China

From the Manila Standard Today (Jun 3): Survey: Filipinos don’t trust ‘frenemy’ China

MOST Filipinos consider China as the Philippines’ top “frenemy” and its least-trusted neighbor following Beijing’s massive reclamation in the West Philippine Sea, the result of the first The Standard Poll showed.

China posted a net trust rating of -60 (eight percent “much” trust, 68 percent “little” trust) in the survey conducted by resident pollster Junie Laylo from May 8 to 18.

China was also the top of mind response of the Filipinos for the countries considered as “not real friends” of the Philippines, with an overwhelming 83 percent.

The poll, which had a sample size of 1,500 with 300 respondents each from the National Capital Region, North/Central Luzon, South Luzon/Bicol, the Visayas and Mindanao, saw the United States and Japan getting the highest net trust rating of +69 and +13, respectively.

The United States and Japan were also ranked as the top two “real friends” of the Philippines while Indonesia came in second after China among its “not real friends.”

Most of the Filipinos polled said the attempt of other countries to seize Philippine territory and resources was the number one threat that they were most concerned with.

The respondents were also most concerned with the possibility of other countries declaring war or annexing the Philippines and the threats of terror attacks.

A plurality of those polled said they were satisfied with the performance of the Aquino administration in protecting the country from any possible threats from China (45 percent satisfied, 22 percent dissatisfied).

The opinion, however, on the correct track that should be taken by Manila in resolving the territorial row with Beijing was divided, with 47 percent going for the arbitration case before the United Nations and 53 percent saying the issue should be resolved diplomatically.

The majority of the respondents (64 percent) expressed confidence that the United States would help the Philippines should the country get embroiled in an armed confrontation with China.

They also said it was important for the country to boost its strategic partnership with Japan, which is also embroiled in a maritime dispute with China over the Senkaku Islands.

At least 55 percent of the Filipinos polled also thought that Japan should be allowed to strengthen its military capabilities for defense purposes amid the tensions in the region.

Those surveyed also supported the government’s pronouncement that it will pursue a strategic partnership with Vietnam—another claimant to the disputed territories in the West Philippine Sea—with 52 percent of the respondents saying that would help secure freedom of navigation in the area while protecting our own territorial claims.

On the other hand, 51 percent of the respondents rejected the possibility of entering into a joint exploration agreement in the Spratlys with other claimant-countries.

When asked specifically if the Philippines should partner with China in exploring the Spratlys, 53 percent of the respondents said that should not be pursued.

The Department of Foreign Affairs earlier said that China’s massive reclamation in the West Philippine Sea had resulted in the destruction of 121 hectares of coral reef, which was equivalent to $100 million in economic losses to the coastal areas.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario had said China is alone in its nine-dash line territorial claim.

“No country in the world recognizes that the 9-dash line is a valid claim on the part of China,” Del Rosario said.

But Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi has downplayed the criticisms over the reclamation projects, claiming these were being done in the areas that were well within China’s jurisdiction.

China claims 90 percent of the West Philippine Sea, which is believed to be rich in oil and gas.
Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan have also claimed parts of the disputed areas.

The Standard Poll had error margins of +/- 2.6 percent for the national result and +/- 6 percent for the regional results.

All regions were represented in the survey.

Laylo, The Standard’s in-house pollster, has 25 years of experience in political polling and strategic research.

AAR conducting 5th Field Artillery Howitzer Challenge

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 3): AAR conducting 5th Field Artillery Howitzer Challenge

With the Army Artillery Regiment poised to celebrate its 5th founding anniversary on June 16, the AAR announced that it will be conducting its 5th Field Artillery Howitzer Challenge in Fort Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija.

The event, which was formally launched on May 26 this year, will run for two-weeks.

It is part of the AAR's foundation celebrations.

It is participated by different artillery units nationwide with a total of nine howitzer sections, officer-led, randomly selected with 10 personnel each.

The teams are expected to undergo the following challenges:

The Disaster Rescue and Retrieval Operations which will test the preparedness of the personnel in times of calamities. They will be given scenarios in order to execute water and land emergency rescue transfer and basic life support.

The Howitzer Challenge which will determine the technical proficiency of the section leaders and its members in the performance of their duties and to assess their collective competency and cohesiveness as members of the howitzer section through the weapons assembly and disassembly, land navigation, signal/radio communications, platoon run, endurance firing and the gunnery drill using indirect fire weapons (60mm mortar and 105mm howitzer cannon).

Brig. Gen. Leandro A. Loyao III, AAR commander said the howitzer section is the smallest unit of the artillery and they are called “the cutting edge” since they are the ones who are supporting the ground troops in the frontlines in order to accomplish the mission.

Loyao added that the result in this year’s challenge will also determine the possible ranking of the carrying units in their Performance-Base-Bonus (PBB).

“As a highly technical unit, I want that this competition will be taken seriously that is why I included the competition result as one of the criteria for the PBB,” he added.

“Speed and accuracy are among which we wanted to emphasize here. Since we can’t afford to lose lives in the real battle due to inaccuracies, the teams can only win if they have trained and prepared so well for this,” Loyao stressed.

The winning unit contingent in this year’s challenge will be recognized on June 16.

PNoy: PHL can assert its territorial claim more once EDCA issues are settled

From GMA News (Jun 3): PNoy: PHL can assert its territorial claim more once EDCA issues are settled

President Benigno Aquino III sees the Philippines asserting its claim more on disputed territories in the South China Sea once legal issues on a defense agreement the country entered into with the United States have been settled.
In a briefing with Japanese reporters on Wednesday as part of his state visit to Japan, Aquino indicated that petitions against the US-Philippine Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) are hindering the Philippines staking its claim on the contested areas.
“Once everything has been ironed out—there’s a challenge before our Supreme Court with regards to this agreement—then perhaps we can also pull our weight and do our share towards enhancing security and stability within the region,” Aquino said.
Before US President Barack Obama's state visit to the Philippines last year, Philippine and American officials signed the EDCA, which will allow an enlarged rotational presence of American troops in the country. The new defense pact is effective for 10 years. 
Under the EDCA, the Philippines authorizes US forces to train, refuel aircrafts and preposition their supplies within Philippine territory, which has yet to be agreed upon by both parties. 
Critics, however, have questioned the constitutionality of EDCA, saying the pact will trample on the Philippines’ sovereignty.
‘Adhere to international law’
Meanwhile, the President also reminded China “to adhere to international law and to perhaps re-examine its objectives relative to its maintaining the goodwill of the rest of the world.”
“We have to be scrupulous in adhering to the tenets of international law, so that once again we achieve stability, we defuse tensions and we can concentrate on making our people prosperous,” Aquino said.
The Philippines, which calls the disputed areas the “West Philippine Sea,” has already sought international arbitration before a Netherlands-based tribunal to nullify China’s massive claims over South China Sea. 
Beijing, however, has refused to participate in the arbitration proceedings, insisting instead on bilateral talks to settle the dispute.
China uses the so-called “nine-dash line” to assert ownership of almost the entire South China Sea, while the Philippines uses the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea as basis for its claim.

Suspected NPA rebel killed in army detachment attack

From ABS-CBN (Jun 3): Suspected NPA rebel killed in army detachment attack

An alleged member of the New People's Army (NPA) was killed in a clash outside an army detachment in Lupi, Camarines Sur, police said.

The victim was identified as Jolan Ibias Samaniego, 23 years old and a resident of Barangay Matacong, San Lorenzo in Camarines Norte.

Authorities believe Samaniego was a member of the NPA and was one of the 80 rebels who attacked the army detachment in Lupi early Tuesday morning. The firefight lasted for almost an hour.

Recovered from the victim were a rifle grenade, eight improvised explosive devices (IEDs), five Molotov bombs and several ammunition.

No one was reported injured from the side of the military.

2 Bell 412EP airframes now in PHL

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 3): 2 Bell 412EP airframes now in PHL

Two out of the eight brandnew airframes of the Bell 412EP, ordered from the Canadian government, have arrived in the Philippines and are now undergoing assembly and testing in a secure facility.

The Philippines, in March 2014, signed a Php4.8 billion contract with the Canadian government for the delivery of eight Bell 412EP helicopters.

The remaining six are expected to be delivered within this year and the next.

"Three of these eight helicopters will be configured as VIP helicopters for the coming APEC meet in September," Defense undersecretary for finance, modernization and materiel Fernando Manalo earlier said.

The remaining five will be used for combat utility purposes by the Philippine Air Force (PAF).

The arrival of these aircraft is expected to beef up the transportation and lift capability of the PAF.

The Bell 412EP is capable of carrying 14 passengers and is capable of flying at a maximum speed of 140 knots (around 259 kilometers), cruise speed of 122 knots (226 kilometers per hour) and a range of 402 nautical miles (745 kilometers).

It is powered with an enhanced Pratt and Whitney PT6T-3D Twin Pac.

The helicopters will be acquired government-to-government through Candian Commercial Corporation.

Soldiers to the rescue: Yolanda kids get free school supplies

From Rappler (Jun 3): Soldiers to the rescue: Yolanda kids get free school supplies

'I was not certain if I could have a bag and notebook, but I go to school because I want to study,' says a 10-year-old who got gel from the Army in Leyte

ON MISSION. Members of the Army's 19th Infantry Battalion distribute free bags and school supplies to children at the Daro Elementary School in Jaro, Leyte. Photo by Jazmin Bonifacio/Rappler

ON MISSION. Members of the Army's 19th Infantry Battalion distribute free bags and school supplies to children at the Daro Elementary School in Jaro, Leyte. Photo by Jazmin Bonifacio/Rappler

When public schools opened this week, soldiers once more came to the rescue of children in villages devastated by Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) in 2013.

Members of the Philippine Army's 19th Infantry Battalion distributed free bags and school supplies to 706 school children in the remote and still-devastated villages of Daro, Likod, Mag-Aso, and Burabod in Jaro town, this province.

"We are always there for the most vulnerable children, helping them to have a better education and the opportunity to smile and live better," said Lieutenant Prolen Bonacua, executive officer of the battalion's Alfa Company.

He said he was touched by the determination of 10-year-old John Michael Olgasan, a Grade 5 pupil at Daro Elementary School, to go to school even without the basic supplies.

The boy was among the recipients of the school supplies on Tuesday, June 2.

"I was not certain if I could have a bag and notebook for the entire school year, but I go to school because I want to study,” Olgasan said in the vernacular.

The boy's grandmother, 68-year-old Paulita Olgasan, said life had been more difficult for them since Yolanda, and it was "a blessing from God to have people like you who cares a lot for us who are in need."

Liza Borja, a Grade 2 teacher at the Daro Elementary School, said some of her students didn’t feel like attending classes most of the time because they didn't have the materials needed for their studies.

"Words cannot describe our deep gratitude to your group. You brought hope into a hopeless situation of people from our village," Borja said.

Major Arturo Dumalagan, executive officer of the 19th Infantry Battalion, said they wanted to help the children escape the cycle of poverty by contributing to their education this way.

Rolando Suyom Jr of the Office of the Presidential Assistant for Rehabilitation and Recovery in Tacloban City believed so too: "We believe that access to educational supplies is essential to the fulfillment of children’s right to education. We want to motivate village children in Jaro, Leyte, to continue their schooling in a meaningful way."

PH confirms standoff with Taiwan off Batanes

From Rapper (Jun 3): PH confirms standoff with Taiwan off Batanes

The Philippines urges the signing of a landmark fisheries agreement to 'prevent the occurrence of similar incidents'

TAIWANESE IN BATANES. Batanes residents regularly spot Taiwanese boats entering Batanes, a group of islands in northern Philippines. Photo courtesy of Byron Peralta

TAIWANESE IN BATANES. Batanes residents regularly spot Taiwanese boats entering Batanes, a group of islands in northern Philippines. Photo courtesy of Byron Peralta

The Philippines on Wednesday, June 3, confirmed a recent standoff between Philippine and Taiwanese coast guard vessels off Batanes, a group of islands in northern Philippines, as the two countries seal a landmark fisheries deal.

"The incident highlights the need for an early conclusion of the agreement that would formalize how to resolve fishing disputes, including procedures on the detention and release of any fishing vessels or fishermen," Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman Charles Jose said in a statement.

He said this fisheries agreement will also "prevent the occurrence of similar incidents in the future."

He also clarified that the standoff didn't take place in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), waters also contested by the Philippines and Taiwan. (READ: Taiwan hits China fishing law, dismisses PH claim)

It happened, however, near the site of a shooting incident in May 2013 that involved the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) left a Taiwanese fisherman dead. (READ: SC transfers Balintang shooting case to Manila court)

Jose released this statement after the PCG confirmed the standoff between their personnel and their Taiwanese counterparts.

The standoff happened on May 25, and lasted for 4 hours.

In a statement, PCG spokesman Commander Armand Balilo said it started after PCG personnel apprehended Taiwanese fishing boat Min Jiang Tsai 6, at around 6:25 pm local time on May 25.

Fisheries deal under way

The PCG "was towing the fishing boat" when a Taiwanese coast guard cutter "appeared and blocked" the vessel of the Philippine Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR). The Taiwanese coast guard reported "asked for the release of the fishing boat."

PCG operatives released the Taiwanese fishing boat as instructed by BFAR officers.

The standoff came as the Philippines and Taiwan reportedly plan to "start follow-up discussion" on a key fisheries agreement next week, the Taipei Times reported.

The deal covers "cooperative law enforcement" in the two countries' overlapping waters, a Taiwanese foreign ministry official said, as quoted by the Taipei Times.

The standoff in Batanes is the latest heated incident at sea between the Philippines and Taiwan.

In May 2013, a shooting incident in Balintang Channel in Batanes, which involved the PCG, left a Taiwanese fisherman dead. Eight PCG officers face a homicide case because of the Balintang incident.

The Balintang incident strained relations between the Philippines and Taiwan, and left up to 16,000 Filipinos temporarily jobless in 2013. (READ: Standing firm against Taiwan's strong-arm tactics)

The backlash of the Balintang incident emboldened Taiwanese fishermen to enter Philippine waters, observers said in 2013.

Aquino repeats 'Nazi' remark vs China

From Rappler (Jun 3): Aquino repeats 'Nazi' remark vs China

Referring to China, Aquino also says, 'How does fomenting tension help us achieve the primary goal of bettering the lives of our people?'

AQUINO IN JAPAN. President Benigno Aquino III with Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko
during the welcoming ceremony at the Grand Hall of the Imperial Palace for his state visit in Japan on June 3, 2015. Photo by Robert Vinas/Malacañang Photo Bureau

AQUINO IN JAPAN. President Benigno Aquino III with Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko during the welcoming ceremony at the Grand Hall of the Imperial Palace for his state visit in Japan on June 3, 2015. Photo by Robert Vinas/Malacañang Photo Bureau

Repeating a comment that is expected to again anger Bejing, Philippine President Benigno Aquino III drew a parallel Wednesday, June 3, between present-day China and Nazi Germany during a speech in Japan.

Aquino also hinted that the world cannot continue to appease Beijing as it claims even more territory in the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea).

The comments come as disquiet grows over the quickening pace of China's land reclamation program in international waters, including its construction of a runway long enough for large military planes.

"If there was a vacuum, if the United States, which is the superpower, says 'We are not interested,' perhaps there is no brake to ambitions of other countries," Aquino told an audience of business leaders in Tokyo when asked about China's rising might, and the role of the US in checking it.

"I'm an amateur student of history and I'm reminded Germany was testing the waters and what the response was by various other European powers," he said, referring to the Nazis' territorial conquests in the months before the outbreak of World War II.

"They tested the waters and they were ready to back down if for instance in that aspect, France said (to back down).

"But unfortunately, up to the annexation of the Sudetenland, Czechoslovakia, the annexation of the entire country of Czechoslovakia, nobody said stop.

"If somebody said stop to (Adolf) Hitler at that point in time, or to Germany at that time, would we have avoided World War II?"

Aquino made similar comments about China in an interview with the New York Times published in February 2014.

'Fomenting tension'

Responding to Aquino's remarks, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said comparing China's actions to those of Hitler was "inconceivable and unreasonable." (READ: Chinese insults show Philippines is right: Aquino)

In another speech before the National Diet of Japan on Wednesday, Aquino referred to "a country that we both have had difficulties with" – apparently referring to China, which is also at odds with Japan over a territorial dispute.

Aquino said: "Perhaps I may share with you a question that I posed to a country that we both have had difficulties with: If all governments are there to serve the people from whom they derive their power, is it not incumbent upon all to maintain stability, which is a necessary prerequisite for prosperity? How does fomenting tension help us achieve the primary goal of bettering the lives of our people?"

Aquino's comments come after US President Barack Obama on Monday, June 1, weighed in on the growing tensions in the South China Sea, urging regional powers – particularly China – to respect the law and stop "throwing elbows."

China has rejected US demands to stop all reclamation works in the South China Sea, saying it was exercising its sovereignty and using the outposts to fulfil international responsibilities.

Beijing insists it owns nearly all of the South China Sea, a major global shipping route believed to be home to oil and gas reserves, but rival claimants accuse it of expansionism.

Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, and Taiwan also have varied claims over islets and reefs in the area.

Washington and its Asian allies, including Tokyo, which has a separate territorial dispute with Beijing in the East China Sea, has warned that ignoring international laws could threaten "the freedom of navigation."

Return of missing SAF weapons, MILF's next 'sincerity test'

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jun 3): Return of missing SAF weapons, MILF's next 'sincerity test'

While mindful of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front assistance which resulted in the neutralization of Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighter (BIFF) head Basit Usman last May 3, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) hopes that the MILF will go a bit further by returning the remaining firearms of the fallen Special Action Force (SAF) members.

AFP public affairs office chief Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc said that this is the next "sincerity test" for the MILF.

About 60 SAF weapons are believed to be in the hands of the MILF.

Earlier, the MILF returned 17 firearms to the government.

The firearms were lost during the Jan. 25 mission in Mamasapano, Maguindanao which resulted in the death of 44 SAF men and Malaysian bomber and terrorist Zulkipli Bin Hir alias "Marwan".

"Our next sincerity test to them is for the return of the remaining firearms they took from the SAF 44, they helped us in the neutralization of Basit Usman and our next challenge to them, if they are sincere in the peace process, is to turnover the remaining firearms of the SAF 44," the AFP public affairs office chief said.

He added that the return of the SAF weapons will demonstrate the MILF's strong desire for peace.

"(The return of the weapons) is a significant step towards peace," he said.

Back from Hospital

Back home after five days in hospital. Life is good.

Government, MILF create decommissioning task force

From the Philippine Star (Jun 3): Government, MILF create decommissioning task force

Government peace panel chairman Miriam Coronel-Ferrer said the creation of the task force is part of government and MILF efforts to hasten the return to civilian life of MILF combatants. File photo

The government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) have signed an agreement creating a task force for decommissioned combatants and their communities.

Government peace panel chairman Miriam Coronel-Ferrer said the creation of the task force is part of government and MILF efforts to hasten the return to civilian life of MILF combatants.

Ferrer said the new task force is mandated to “undertake all efforts related to socio-economic and development programs” and “assist the panels identify and implement socio-economic priorities and development projects” for decommissioned MILF combatants and their communities.

She said the agreement is in line with the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) as well as by the terms of reference of the joint normalization committee.

Under the CAB, MILF forces would undertake a gradual decommissioning program wherein their weapons would be put beyond use and combatants return to normal, productive civilian lives.

The decommissioning process should be commensurate to the process of instituting the Bangsamoro government, addressing other security concerns such as private armed groups and transforming MILF camps acknowledged by the government in 1998 into productive, civilian communities.

The government and MILF panels also agreed to renew the mandate of the civilian protection component (CPC) of the International Monitoring Team (IMT) as well as the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG) for two years and nine months, respectively.

The IMT is mandated to monitor the implementation of the ceasefire agreement between the government and the MILF.

The CPC monitors, verifies and reports non-compliance of the two parties to their basic undertaking to protect civilians and communities.

The AHJAG functions as a coordinating body prior to the conduct of law enforcement operations by government forces.

“So much work remains to be done to build peace on the ground. We cannot afford to lose more time and resources before the peace dividends are felt in the communities,” Ferrer said.

The new task force will also undertake special socio-economic and development programs for the decommissioned women auxiliary forces of the MILF.

It will coordinate with government agencies, development partners, the private sector and other stakeholders in monitoring and supporting the transition of the decommissioned combatants and programs for their communities, the internally displaced and other vulnerable sectors.

Pentagon Acknowledges Weapons on China's Artificial Islands

From (Jun 2): Pentagon Acknowledges Weapons on China's Artificial Islands

 The Ticonderoga-class cruiser USS Mobile Bay (CG 53) leads the Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigate USS Curtis (FFG 38) and the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Russell (DDG 59) in formation off the coast of Southern California (U.S. Navy photo)

Senior Pentagon officials acknowledged for the first time that China is placing weapons on artificially constructed islands in the South China Sea in an apparent attempt to assert more control and claim more territory in the region.

"We can confirm that we have identified some weapons on one of these reclaimed Chinese islands," a Pentagon official said Tuesday.

The admission comes as Defense Secretary Carter announces a new Southeast Asia Maritime Security Initiative designed to support a Senate Armed Services Committee proposal to arm and equip U.S. allies in the Asia Pacific.

"Thanks to the leadership of the Senators here today and others, Congress has taken steps to authorize up to $425 million dollars for these maritime capacity-building efforts," Carter said Saturday in a speech in Singapore.

Carter was referring to new language, inserted into the 2016 defense bill by SASC Chairman Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., that seeks to provide funds to train and equip allied countries in the Pacific such as Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.

The new funding for U.S. allies in the Pacific appears to be a deliberate effort to counter, mitigate or deter Chinese activities in the region. Carter's new initiative is taking place within the context of China's continued effort to build artificial land areas in the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea.

The Spratly Islands includes an area of more than 750 reefs, small islands and atolls in the South China Sea off the coasts of the Philippines, Malaysia and Vietnam. Highly disputed for centuries, the area is rich in oil and natural gas. Countries claiming rights to territory in the Spratly Islands include China, Malaysia, Vietnam, Philippines, Taiwan, and Brunei.

The South China Sea includes strategically vital waterways, important to international trade. In a recent speech in Hawaii, as part of a trip through the Asia Pacific region, Carter criticized China's artificial island-building and said the U.S. would not be deterred by China's moves.

In his recent speech in Singapore, Carter said China's actions to build artificial land areas is out of sync with established international rules and therefore holds no legitimacy.

"With its actions in the South China Sea, China is out of step with both the international rules and norms that underscore the Asia-Pacific's security architecture, and the regional consensus that favors diplomacy and opposes coercion. These actions are spurring nations to respond together in new ways," Carter added.

Carter said the China has reclaimed over 2,000 acres of area over the last 18 months, more than all other claimants in the region combined.

What is an island?

Preferring to call them "artificial features" rather than "islands" or "territories," Pentagon officials say China's attempted island and outpost building does not bolster any legitimate territorial claims in the region -- according to established international conventions.

Under the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, negotiated in the 1980s and updated in the 1990s, an island is defined as a "naturally formed area of land above the water at high tide." Also, article 60 of the U.N. Convention says "artificial islands are not entitled to territorial seas."

According to the U.N. treaty, there are no provisions granting rights to waters without regard to land-based sovereign rights. The U.N. treaty specifies that territorial waters extend for 12 miles off of the coast of sovereign territory. This means that, while other countries have a right to peaceful innocent passage within the 12 miles, the waters are regarded as an extension of the territory of the country, a Pentagon official explained.

However, according to the U.N. treaty, 12 miles water off the shore of an artificial structure - something which does not meet the definition of an island-- would not be regarded as an extension of a country's territory, Pentagon officials explained.

"The United States is deeply concerned about the pace and scope of land reclamation in the South China Sea, the prospect of further militarization, as well as the potential for these activities…to increase the risk of miscalculation or conflict among claimant states," Carter said.

Carter also acknowledged that many countries in region have claimed or developed outposts in the South China Sea but stressed that China's actions differ substantially in scope and degree.

"In the Spratly Islands, Vietnam has 48 outposts; the Philippines, eight; Malaysia, five; and Taiwan, one. Yet, one country has gone much further and much faster than any other. And that's China," Carter said.

The U.N. treaty also specifies that up to 200 miles off the coast of a country is considered part of an economic exclusive zone, or EEZ. This means the host country has exclusive first rights to resources and any economic related activities.

This means countries cannot, for instance, fish in the waters of an EEZ or set up an oil-drilling effort without securing the permission of the host country. However, activities within an EEZ that do not relate to economic issues are allowed as part of the freedoms associated with the high seas, Pentagon officials explained.

Brigada Eskwela kicks off in MILF-based areas

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jun 3): Brigada Eskwela kicks off in MILF-based areas

The Government of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) started its series of Brigada Eskwela activities in 18 public schools located in areas where MILF base commands operate.

The schools are situated in the interior of the provinces of Maguindanao, North Cotabato, Lanao del Sur and Lanao del Norte. 

Several services such as repair of school buildings and facilities, provision of school supplies, and dental missions for the children, will be conducted and facilitated by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the Department of Education (DepEd), Department of Health (DOH), local government units (LGUs) and line agencies in the said provinces.

Other services include free hair-cut and general cleaning of school rooms, in which members of the MILF's Women Auxiliary Brigade and local commands will join the service personnel. 

Parents in respective schools have been advised to bring brooms, rakes and other cleaning tools.

Top government officials from the three provinces and covered municipalities, dignitaries, including officials of government line agencies and the government peace panel will also join the Brigada Eskwela series that will run until next week. (OPAPP)

NDF chief negotiator subpoenaed on kidnap raps; Sison calls complaint 'harassment'

From InterAksyon (Jun 3): NDF chief negotiator subpoenaed on kidnap raps; Sison calls complaint 'harassment'

NDF chief negotiator Luis Jalandoni and his wife Coni Ledesma during a forum in Quezon City earlier this year. ( file by Tricia Aquino)

The chief peace negotiator of communist rebels has been subpoenaed and ordered to respond to a criminal complaint filed against him over the capture of four policemen in Mindanao last year.

The complaint and subpoena against NDF peace panel chairman Luis Jalandoni immediately drew accusations of “harassment” from Jose Ma. Sison, Communist Party of the Philippines founder and chief political consultant of the NDF panel and a demand that “the Aquino regime should respect the JASIG (Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees) and allow the safe passage of Jalandoni to his negotiating post and office in The Netherlands."

Jalandoni is a naturalized Dutch citizen and lives in Utrecht, where the NDF international office is based and where Sison also lives in exile.

The JASIG is supposed to ensure mutual protection from arrest and prosecution for negotiators, seurity details and peace panel staff of both parties. It has become a major bone of contention in the stalled peace talks after the NDF accused the government of arresting and detaining several "peace consultants" it insists are covered by the agreement but who authorities maintain are rebel leaders and personalities who are legitimate targets of operations. 

The subpoena, a copy of which was obtained by, against Jalandoni, Jorge Madlos, Mindanao spokesman of the NDF and 32 others, several identified only through aliases and 15 others only as “John Doe,” was issued January 28 by Surigao del Norte assistant provincial prosecutor Irwin Ariel D. Miel after the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group in the province filed a complaint for kidnapping with serious illegal detention, and violation of Republic Act 9851, which criminalizes violations of international humanitarian law and “other crimes against humanity.”

The complaint stems from the capture on July 10, 2014 of Police Officer 3 Vic Calubag, PO1s Rey O’Niel Morales, Edito Roquino Jr. and Joen Zabala by the New People’s Army during a rebel raid on the police station of Alegria town.

The four were released and subsequently turned over to Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II on July 29.

Sources close to the Jalandoni family confirmed that the subpoena had been dropped in the mailbox of the home of a relative in Bel-Air, Makati City, with “no envelope” and “not registered mail.”

A copy of the letter to Miel from Chief Inspector Napoleon Pablo Duquez, commander of Special Investigation Task Group Alegria, claimed the rebels who captured the policemen “take direct orders from Luis G. Jalandoni and Jorge Madlos.”

Sison, in a statement issued Wednesday, noted that as chief NDF negotiator, Jalandoni has helped facilitate “the safe and orderly release of personnel of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police in the custody of the NPA as prisoners of war,” including the four policemen.

 “The Aquino regime is the most malicious of all regimes by using its representatives (like DILG Secretary Mar Roxas and Nani Braganza) to seek the release of the aforesaid policemen with the help of Jalandoni on humanitarian grounds and now hurling against him false charges of common crimes as aforementioned,” Sison said.

In fact, he added, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and presidential peace adviser Teresita Deles were with Roxas during the release of the four policemen.

“It is reprehensible that the Aquino regime is acting viciously and maliciously by violating the safety and immunity guarantees that protect Luis Jalandoni and by misrepresenting as a crime the facilitation done by Jalandoni to help realize the humanitarian act and goodwill measure of the NDFP in causing the release of the four policemen and seeking to improve the atmosphere for the resumption of formal talks in the GPH-NDFP peace negotiations,” Sison said.

He also called it “unfortunate that the Aquino regime is making a vicious and malicious attack on the NDFP and the person of Jalandoni exactly at a time that he and I have just recommended to the NDFP Executive Committee to give permission to the NDFP Negotiating Panel to undertake exploratory talks prior to formal talks, despite the recent outburst of Aquino against the NDFP and the undersigned.”

US gives PH $1.38M from seized assets of ex-AFP comptroller Garcia - Ombudsman

From InterAksyon (Jun 3): US gives PH $1.38M from seized assets of ex-AFP comptroller Garcia - Ombudsman

Former AFP comptroller Carlos Garcia (file)

The United States has turned over to the Philippines $1,384,940.28, the second tranche of the proceeds from forfeited assets of former Armed Forces of the Philippines comptroller Carlos Garcia, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales said Wednesday.

Morales said US Ambassador Philip Goldberg handed over a US Treasury check for the amount at her office in Quezon City.

The amount represents the net proceeds from the sale of a condominium unit at The Trump Tower on Park Avenue in Manhattan and funds from two accounts maintained in Citibank, New York, which were confirmed by investigators of the US Department of Homeland Security to be part of government funds laundered by Garcia.

In a statement, Goldberg said:  “Battling public corruption is a challenge that all countries face, including the United States.  Meeting that challenge is vitally important to ensure public confidence in the honesty and integrity of public servants.

In January 2012, the US, through then Ambassador to the Philippines Harry Thomas Jr., turned over to the Office of the Ombudsman an initial $100,000, the amount seized by US Customs from Garcia’s two sons when they arrived in California in December 2003.

The seizure led to the investigation and subsequent discovery of how much Garcia stole from the government’s coffers while he served as AFP comptroller.

However, Garcia entered into a controversial plea bargain, admitting to indirect bribery and facilitating money laundering to avoid prosecution for the capital offense of plunder. He was also convicted for perjury.

The plea bargain is still being reviewed by the Supreme Court while forfeiture proceedings are still pending at the Sandiganbayan.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines welcomed the return of the money.

“The return of the money that was taken illegally (by Garcia) from the government coffers is a positive development. This will serve the interest of the Filipino people as a whole,” Lieutenant Colonel Harold Cabunoc, AFP public affairs office chief, said.

Top Red arrested

From the Manila Standard Today (Jun 3): Top Red arrested

Communist leader,  Adelberto Silva, was arrested by a joint team of military and police in Cavite, a military spokesman said on Tuesday.

Silva, the alleged replacement for detained communist leader Wilma Tiamzon as secretary general of the rebel group,  was cornered on the strength of a warrant of arrest for  murder at his safe house in Bacoor, Cavite.

Lieutenant Colonel Harold Cabunoc, public affairs chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), said  Silva was facing 15 counts of murder before the Regional Trial Court Branch 18 of Hilangos, Leyte.

Allegedly recovered from him were 3 rifle grenades, subversive documents, improvised bomb components and several electronic devices.

“Silva is the current head of National Organization Department of Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) Central Committee. He is said to be the replacement of Wilma Tiamzon,” Cabunoc said.

In March 2014, elements of the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines arrested Wilma Tiamzon and her husband, the head of the CPP Politburo, together with 5 other ranking rebel leaders in Cebu.

The rebel leaders are detained at the Custodial Center of the Philippine National Police at Camp Crame in Quezon City.

Arrest of top rebel leader will not affect peace talks

From the Gulf News (Jun 3): Philippines: Arrest of top rebel leader will not affect peace talks

Leftist negotiators are expected to complain and call for the release of Adelberto Silva

The arrest of a top communist leader will not affect the plans of the government to continue calling for the resumption of stalled peace talks with the 47-year-old Communist Party of the Philippines and its military arm, the New People’s Army (NPA), government and rebel sources said.

The Philippine government has not officially ended its 23-year-old on-and-off peace talks with the National Democratic Front (NDF), a peace negotiator of the CPP-NPA, who requested anonymity, said prompting an observer to say the government is always “willing to rekindle” peace talks with the NDF before elections, one of which will be held mid-2016.

Leftist negotiators are also expected to complain and call for the release of Adelberto Silva, 60, identified as secretary-general of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and head of CPP’s National Organisation Department, who was arrested in his home on Hernandez Street, in Molino village, Baccor City at 11pm on Monday, for his alleged responsibility in the mass murder of 15 people in Leyte, central Philippines, in 1985.

Silva’s wife Sharon Ronquillo Cabusao and CPP member Isidro de Lima were also arrested because ammunition, explosives, electronic devices, grenade launchers, identification cards, and subversive materials were seized from them during the joint military and police raid that was backed by months of surveillance, said Col. Harold Cabunoc, head of the public affairs of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Silva, also known as Renato Dimacali, Percival Rojo, and Greg Santos, allegedly succeeded Wilma Tiamzon, former CCP’s secretary general before her arrest in Cebu, Central Philippines, last March 14. Her husband Benito Tiamzon, CPP and NPA head, was also arrested at that time.

Last April, during the celebration of the founding of the NDF, head Luis Jalandoni said the Philippine government-NDF peace talks could resume anytime as long as the government releases 16 NDF peace consultants, the Tiamzon couple, and hundreds more of leftist political prisoners held by the police and the military nationwide.

Identifying the political prisoners who should be released immediately, Jalandoni had said, “Those who are sick, elderly, and imprisoned for four years or more.” The two parties forged an initial agreement in 1995 to grant leftist peace negotiators immunity from arrest.

“What is important in the peace talks is that it does not result in the capitulation [of the 47-year-old CPP],” explained Jalandoni, in response to the government’s earlier demand of forging of ceasefire agreement between the NPA fighters and government security forces.

CCP founding chairman Jose Maria Sison, who has been living in exile in the Netherlands, also said: “The NDF continues to be ready to resume negotiations.”

The CPP-NPA peaked with 25,000 armed members in the seventies, but this weakened to 5,000 with the expulsion of Ferdinand Marcos in 1986. Despite this, it has remained in control of majority of far-flung villages and municipalities that do not receive government services.