Friday, June 12, 2015

AFP: Jihadists in Mindanao

From the Manila Standard Today (Jun 13): AFP: Jihadists in Mindanao

AFTER months of official denial, the military admitted on Friday that at least five Malaysian jihadists, believed to be affiliated with the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq (ISIS), were seen accompanying Abu Sayyaf bandits in Mindanao.

Armed Forces of the Philippines Public Affairs Office chief Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc said the five Malaysians were seeon on two occasions in Tuburan, Basilan and Patikul, Sulu at the height of a military operation in the areas.

Cabunoc identified one of the five Malaysian jihadists as a certain Amin Bago who was with the ASG leader Isnilon Hapilon and Hatib Sawadjaan, another notorious bandit responsible for the killing of dozens of army soldiers in Sulu last year.

“We have monitored the presence of foreign jihadists in Basilan Island since last year,” Cabunoc said, reversing the military’s announced position last year that the ISIS did not have a presence in Mindanao.

One of the foreign jihadists is a a member of the Malaysian Special Forces who has gone absent without leave, similar to Malaysian terrorist Julkiflu Abdhir, who was slain in Mamasapano, Maguindanao last January.

Since 2013, Malaysian authorities have asked Philippine authorities to interdict the five terrorists linked to ISIS after they infiltrated the porous borders between Malaysia and the Philippines.

The five jihadists were identified by  Malaysian Home Minister Ahmad Hamidi as University of Malaya lecturer Dr. Mahmud Ahmad, stationary shop owner Mohamad Najib Husen, former Selayang Municipal Council employee Muhammad Joraimee Awang Raimee, Darul Islan Sabah members Mohamad Amin Baco and Jeknal Adil.

Hamidi said the five militants are associated with Daulah Islamiyah Asia Tenggara (Southeast Asia Islamiya Network) which has links to ISIS.

Last year, Hapilon and the late Basit Usman, the Filipino henchman of Malaysian terrorist Abdhir, pledged allegiance to ISIS in videos posted on YouTube, but Cabunoc claimed “their actual membership or affiliation is not establish as of today.”

Cabunoc also revealed that one of the Malaysian jihadists is training Abu Sayyaf bandits in bomb-making in an underground factory somewhere in the outskirts of Tuburan, Basilan, which was eventually seized by security forces from the Army’s Third Scout Ranger Battalion and the 18th Infantry Battalion last May.

“These bombs were trace to a group of foreign jihadists and there was one Malaysian who was identified with (the Abu Sayyaf) and they were able to escape but the bomb factory was seized,” Cabunoc said.

The Malaysian’s militants, Cabunoc said have also been engaged alongside with the Abu Sayyaf in a fight with the military in April that resulted to numerous injuries to the Abu Sayyaf.

“Some of them went to Sulu to join the fight with Radulan Sahiron. At least two or three of them went to Sulu [but] we are not sure if they came back in Basilan,” Cabunoc said.

Military watching foreign jihadists

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jun 13): Military watching foreign jihadists

The military is monitoring the presence of foreign jihadists in Basilan province suspected of having links to the extremist Islamic State (IS) group.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines said it had received reports about foreign jihadists since last year although the military has yet to ascertain their affiliations to the IS.

Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc, public affairs office chief, said at least three foreigners are believed to be coddled by the Abu Sayyaf group.

“We have yet to ascertain if they are with the Islamic State. But during an encounter in Basilan with the Abu Sayyaf, there was a black flag that sub leader Isnilon Hapilon used to declare allegiance to the Islamic State,” he said.

Cabunoc said the bandit group might be trying to project that a terror group exists locally so that they can get funding from an international organization.

Cabunoc said Abu Sayyaf group subleaders Hapilon and Furuji Indama were believed to be coddling the three foreign jihadists, suspected to be Malaysian nationals.

The foreigners are believed to be shuttling back and forth to Sulu and Basilan.

It may be recalled that Hapilon and the late Basit Usman declared their allegiance to the IS.
Cabunoc pointed out that their actual membership or affiliation had not yet been established.

He cited an encounter between the Scout Rangers and the Abu Sayyaf group last month, during which they recovered improvised bombs were traced to a group of foreign jihadists.

7 ASG men killed in Sulu clash

From Tempo (Jun 12): 7 ASG men killed in Sulu clash

Fighting broke out between Army troopers and suspected members of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) in Indanan town of Sulu, resulting in the death of at least seven suspected bandits who were reportedly among those keeping foreign and local kidnap victims.

Col. Allan Arrojado, commander of the Joint Task Force Sulu, said the clash that occurred at around 11 a.m. yesterday also resulted in the wounding of one soldier.

Arrojado said the clash started when elements of the 35th Infantry Battalion recovered two motorcycles in Indanan town. The motorbikes were believed to have been abandoned after seeing the Army troopers.

Almost three hours later, the troops led by Major Ibni Saddama chanced upon the same Abu Sayyaf men in Barangay Sawaki, triggering a running gun battle.

The clash resulted in the wounding of one soldier which Arrojado said was taken to the hospital for treatment.

“Our troops also recovered one body of the enemy,” said Arrojado. Another military official said six more bodies were seen being dragged away by the Abu Sayaf according to military assets near the area.

“There was a request for artillery fires while some military units were ordered to conduct blocking operations,” said Arrojado.

Army unsatisfied of rebel’s apology over girl’s killing

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 12): Army unsatisfied of rebel’s apology over girl’s killing

An army official in Samar said the late apology of the New People’s Army (NPA) over girl’s death is not enough to lessen the pain felt by the victim’s family.

“It’s good that they’ve asked an apology, but it is not enough to compensate the family,” said Lt. Col. Seigfried Tubalado, commander of the Army’s 43rd Infantry Battalion, reacting to the NPA apology for being responsible in the killing of two-year-old girl.

National Democratic Front Eastern Visayas spokesman Fr. Santiago Salas officially apologized on Tuesday and pledged to compensate the family of Disley Arandia, a two-year-old girl who was accidentally hit by bullets when NPA member chased a militiaman in Mahanud village of Matuginao, Samar.

The military condemned and criticized the NPA attack describing it as a crime against humanity. NPA is an armed wing of the NDF.

“Fr. Salas apology is not enough,” Col. Tubalado said. “Imagine you won’t see any more your child because she was killed. And one day, the person responsible for her death is identified, but he evades arrest simply by issuing an apology and even speaks of seeking reconciliation with you.”

Killings of innocent civilians especially children are highly sensitive issue in Samar and are the main cause of worsening situation of the province.

And people, according to Tubalado are tired of these things. “Apologies and condemnations are not healing any pain.”

The NDF, according to Tubalado, should be held the people responsible for the attack, be accountable and be presented to proper authorities and face trial.

Two months after Arandia was killed, clashes has killed three soldiers in an ambuscade of communist rebels in Lokilokon village in Paranas town and Calapi village in Motiong, Samar.

3rd ID committed to gains made by 'Bayanihan'

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 12): 3rd ID committed to gains made by 'Bayanihan'

The Capiz-based 3rd Infantry Division announced that it is committed in maintaining the gains made by "Bayanihan" as the nation celebrates its 117th Independence Day this Friday.

The latter is the military strategy where development projects in the countryside are used to combat rebel influence.

"The 3rd Infantry Division will remain steadfast and committed in sustaining the gains it has achieved and carry on with the implementation of the Internal Peace and Security Plan 'Bayanihan,' " 3rd Infantry Division spokesperson Major Ray Tiongson said.

He also said that the unit joins the whole nation in commemorating the 117th Philippine Independence Day.

The 3rd Infantry Division strongly supports this year’s theme, “Kalayaan 2015: Tagumpay Sa Pagbabagong Nasimulan, Abot Kamay Na Ng Bayan” as the unit continues to achieve substantial gains in advancing peace and development in Central, Negros Island and Western Visayas regions, and pursues reform initiatives through the Army Transformation Roadmap.

"The independence attained by our forefathers will remain in every soldier’s heart as we continue to emulate their courage and perseverance in the performance of our mission," Tiongson stressed.

303rd IB gets new commanding officer

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 12): 303rd IB gets new commanding officer

The Negros Occidental-based 303rd Infantry Brigade has appointed a new commanding officer in the person of Col. Francisco Delfin.

He replaces Brig. Gen. Jon Aying who was appointed as deputy chief-of-staff for plans and programs (J-5) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

Turnover ceremonies took place last June 10 at Camp Nelson Gerona, Barangay Minoyan, Murcia, Negros Occidental.

3rd Infantry Division commander Major Gen. Rey Leonardo Guerrero presided over turn-over of command which was also attended by Negros Occidental officials headed by Gov. Alfredo Marañon, Jr.

Delfin vowed to continue to support the initiatives of the local government units and closely collaborate with the stakeholders in line with the AFP Internal Peace and Security Plan “Bayanihan”.

“What has been achieved will be sustained and enhanced until winning the peace is fully achieved,” he added.

Delfin, a native of Capiz, served as the 3rd Infantry Division's inspector general prior to his appointment to the 303rd Infantry Brigade.

He is a member of Philippine Military Academy Class of 1985 and holds a degree of Master of Science in Defense and Strategic Studies from the University of Madras, India.

Delfin went up the ladder of the Philippine Army from being a company commander of the 56th Infantry Battalion in Mindanao to commanding officer of the 1st Infantry Battalion in Luzon.

He is a recipient of several medals which includes three Distinguished Service Stars, a Bronze Cross Medal, Military Merit Medals, Long Service Medal, Military Commendation Medals and various Campaign Medals and Ribbons.

Army, PNP hunt NPAs involved in North Cotabato ambush

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 12): Army, PNP hunt NPAs involved in North Cotabato ambush

Police and military authorities here have launched manhunt against suspected members of the New Peoples Army (NPA) who ambushed two unarmed soldiers Friday morning.

A statement from the 57th Infantry Battalion said joint operations were still on going in the hinterlands of Barangay Noa and nearby villages.

The two soldiers, Corporal Nuran Rajabuayan and Private First Class Wilfredo Ligsay of 57th IB "Charlie" company, were on board a motorbike heading back to the company base at past 10 a.m. when members of the NPA opened fire on them.

The 57th IB statement said the two soldiers in civilian clothes were both unarmed since they had just conducted a peace and development outreach program (PDOP) in the village of Noa.

The Army initiated PDOP aims to convince locals who may have been influenced by communist guerillas to support peace and development programs of the Philippines.

Both were rushed to a hospital in Kidapawan City Medical Specialist Center. Rajabuayan was hit on his legs and arms while Ligsay was in critical condition due to injuries on his lower back.

The Army statement condemning the attack said the soldiers were on peace mission when attacked, an indication the NPAs do not want peace and development.

“They were not bringing their firearms when they went to the community which clearly shows both were not in a war mode,” said the 57th IB statement.

It was the second NPA perpetrated violence this month in North Cotabato.

Last week, five NPAs who bragged they were peoples' military executed in public in President Roxas, North Cotabato a former comrade who returned to the folds of the law and lived normal lives since then.

US reiterates unwavering commitment to stand by PHL on its Independence Day

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 12): US reiterates unwavering commitment to stand by PHL on its Independence Day
The United States on Friday greeted the Philippines on its 117th anniversary of independence from Spain as it reiterated its unwavering commitment to stand by its long-standing treaty ally.

US Secretary of State John Kerry, in a statement issued on behalf of President Barack Obama and the people of the United States, sent “best wishes to the people of the Republic of the Philippines.”

“Today is a celebration of voices,” Kerry said. “These are the voices of those who died standing shoulder to shoulder with U.S troops in World War II protecting our global freedom, the voices of victims of Typhoon Yolanda, the voices of the thousands of dedicated, hardworking, and resilient Filipinos living overseas, and the voices of our youth.”

“These united voices, alongside our own, have created a proud history and an enduring alliance with the Philippines,” he said, adding the Philippines holds a “special place in my life,” having witnessed firsthand as a young senator “the strength of the Philippines’ democracy and the power of a single voice.”

Kerry also heaped praises on the efforts of President Benigno S. Aquino III in the fight against climate change, in raising awareness of the need for disaster preparation, and as host of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation this year, where President Obama and leaders from Japan, China, Australia, among others, will tackle economic issues at a summit.

The US also recognized the Philippines’ fight against violent extremism and efforts to strengthen further the two long-standing treaty allies’ economic ties.

“Our shared democratic values, growing trade and investment, and strong people-to-people ties will continue to unite our countries,” Kerry said.

America’s friendship, Kerry stressed, “continues due to our shared goals of spreading democracy and democratic values.”

“As you celebrate across the archipelago, the United States stands with you as an unwavering ally, partner and friend. May the Philippines continue to teach the world lessons in resilience, accountability, and democracy.”

Philippines and China in "video war" over South China Sea

From Reuters UK (Jun 11): Philippines and China in "video war" over South China Sea

A Chinese Coast Guard vessel (R) passes near the Chinese oil rig, Haiyang Shi You 981 (L) in the South China Sea, about 210 km (130 miles) from the coast of Vietnam June 13, 2014. REUTERS/Nguyen Minh

A Philippine Navy personnel mans a .50 caliber machine gun during the bilateral maritime exercise between the Philippine Navy and U.S. Navy dubbed as Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) in the South China Sea near waters claimed by Beijing June 29, 2014. REUTERS/Noel Celis/Pool

The Philippines will broadcast a three-part documentary to defend its position on the disputed South China Sea on Friday, countering a Chinese television series that laid out Beijing's so-called nine-dash line claims.

The documentary titled "Karapatan sa Dagat", or maritime rights, will be aired on state-run television as the country observes Independence Day.

"Our objective is to inform our people," Charles Jose, the foreign ministry spokesman, said adding they hoped to "rally support of our people behind our Philippine government's policy and action".

The Philippines has filed an arbitration case against China, which claims almost the entire South China Sea, believed to be rich in energy resources and where $5 trillion ship-borne trade passes every year. Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan also have claims on the sea.

In 2013, China's state-run CCTV network aired an eight-part documentary called "Journey on the South China Sea", a rare peak into how Beijing was trying to consolidate its claims in the disputed sea.

The "video war" comes as China rapidly expands its footprint in the South China Sea, constructing at least one airstrip and other military facilities on reclaimed land in the Spratly islands.

Jose said Manila was also planning to release a comic book to raise Filipinos' awareness.

5 Malaysian terrorists in Basilan suspected to be ISIS members

From GMA News(Jun 12): 5 Malaysian terrorists in Basilan suspected to be ISIS members

At least five Malaysian terrorists who are reportedly in Basilan are suspected to be members of the extremist jihadists Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
A report by Jun Veneracion aired on GMA News TV's News to Go, security analyst Professor Rommel Banlaoi said he has received information from his Malaysian intelligence contacts that the five terrorists are hiding in Mindanao after fighting in Syria and Iraq.
"[They were] trained by ISIS and fought in Syria and Iraq, and they are already hiding in Mindanao," he said. "The presence of the five Malaysians in the Philippines indicate that ISIS presence in the country is not imagined."
He added that the five arrived in the country in 2014.
The television report said the Armed Forces of the Philippines has confirmed the presence of the five Malaysian terrorists in Basilan.
However, it denied that the five are confirmed ISIS members.
The AFP said four of the terrorists are identified as Ustadz Ahmad, Hadji Jama, Ustadz Kadir, and Ustadz Kamal. They have yet to identify the fifth one.
An unnamed military intelligence officer said the five are called "local ISIS" by other terrorists in the area although there has been no confirmation that they are members of the international ISIS.
Meanwhile, the same report quoted AFP public affairs chief Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc as saying that they would be making an announcement once they confirm the presence of ISIS in the country.
"Natatanggap natin na may reports nga na diumano'y may ISIS na members dito, hindi natin maisantabi ang mga speculation na 'yon dahil sa presensya ng armed conflict dahil ginagamit ito ng ISIS," he said. "Ang armed conflict, uulitin ko, wala siyang proof as of now."

Abu Sayyaf 
Cabunoc, in a separate interview with reporters, said the five suspected ISIS members are being coddled by the Abu Sayyaf in Mindanao.
A military source, who refused to be named, said one of the five was a member of the Malaysian Special Forces.
"Nasa Basilan 'yung Malaysian Special Forces," the source added. 
In October 2014, a student in Zamboanga City said members of ISIS were recruiting students from a university there.
The student from Western Mindanao State University said ISIS has been recruiting students for two months, adding that each recruit would be given P70,000.
A spokesman for the BIFF said, however, that is is not sending fighters to Syria nor is it recruiting members for the ISIS, which is also called the Islamic State. 

Sulu cops verifying reports negotiations on for 2 Malaysians abducted by Abu Sayyaf

From GMA News (Jun 12): Sulu cops verifying reports negotiations on for 2 Malaysians abducted by Abu Sayyaf

Police in Sulu are verifying information that negotiations are ongoing for the release of two Malaysians abducted by the Abu Sayyaf in Sabah last May, and that an initial ransom may have already been paid.
Sulu police cited initial information that a negotiator said to be from Basilan had initiated negotiations for the release of the two hostages, GMA News correspondent Peewee Bacuño reported Friday.
According to raw information gathered by police, the Abu Sayyaf demanded P140 million in ransom, and that advance payment of P35 million had been already been given.
But while the Abu Sayyaf was counting the money and making sure it was not fake, it had to stop due to operations by the Philippine Army in the area.
One of the operations led to an encounter at Barangay Sawaki in Indanan, Sulu on Thursday.
Last May, Malaysian news site New Straits Times quoted Sabah police commissioner Datuk Jalaluddin Abdul Rahman as saying the abductors have so far made three phone calls to the victims' kin.
The police commissioner said the abductors also sought medicine for one of the hostages, Thien Nyuk Fun, who is suffering from diabetes.
On May 14, armed gunmen believed to be linked to the Abu Sayyaf abducted Thien and her customer Bernard Thed Ten Fen at a seafood restaurant in Sandakan.
Sulu police had said members of the Abu Sayyaf bandit group were behind the abduction, and that they may have brought their captives to Sulu.
Two of the four abductors were identified as Abu Sayyaf members Mindas Muktadil and his brother Kadafy Muktadil.

Govt video rallies support for PHL’s claims in West Philippine Sea

From GMA News (Jun 12): Govt video rallies support for PHL’s claims in West Philippine Sea

A Philippine government documentary on the South China Sea dispute aired on Friday and gave Filipinos a glimpse of how China’s massive claim threatens the nation’s sovereignty as Beijing makes a creeping invasion in Philippine waters crucial to country's security and economy.

Aired by state-run PTV 4, the documentary appears designed to foster nationalism among Filipinos and drive home the urgency of the importance of defending its off-shore territories in the waters wholly claimed by China.

Kalayaan or Freedom is a three-part series that tackles the economic, historical and legal aspects of the country’s claims over a part of the resource-rich waters it calls West Philippine Sea, but being claimed by China as its own.

Foreign Affairs spokesman Charles Jose, meanwhile, allayed concerns that the documentary would further antagonize China.

“Our objective is to inform our people,” Jose said, adding it is meant to “raise awareness” on the South China Sea issue and to “rally support of our people behind our Philippine government’s policy and action.”

The launch of the first episode, entitled Karapatan sa Karagatan or Maritime Right coincided with the country’s observance of its 117th Independence Day. The second and third episodes will be aired in late June and early July, respectively.

It was narrated in Filipino by local TV personality and host Lourd de Veyra, who accompanied a group of Philippine Navy personnel to the Manila-claimed Scarborough Shoal aboard an islander plane and held separate interviews with Filipino fishermen who were driven away and banned from fishing in the area by China after the shoal came under its control in 2012.

Although the documentary tackled a serious national concern, the producers laced the video with humor as it explained the issue to the masses.

China’s lone aircraft carrier conducts drills as sea disputes fester

Scarborough Shoal

From the plane, the video showed three Chinese Coast Guard vessels guarding the shoal – a U-shaped rock formation with a sprawling lagoon teeming with rich maritime resources.

Scarborough, located 124 nautical miles from Masinloc town in Zambales and 472 nautical miles from China’s nearest coastal province of Hainan, is called Huangyan Island by the Chinese.

Manila and Beijing figured in a dangerous standoff in the area in 2012, but China seized Scarborough when Philippine government ships withdrew due to bad weather.

Philippine fishing vessels were restricted from going inside the shoal as larger and more advanced Chinese fishing boats, escorted by China’s Coast Guard, were the only ones allowed to fish inside the lagoon teeming with lush marine life and species, such as giant clams and giant turtles.

Filipino fishermen recounted in the video that they were harassed on several occasions by armed Chinese Coast Guard vessels during their fishing expeditions at the shoal.

“Before we could get near, they surrounded us and pointed guns at us and asked us to leave the shoal. We were so scared so we had no choice but to leave,” one fisherman said in the documentary.

Another fisherman said in one incident, their small fishing boat was rammed by a bigger Chinese government ship.

Scarborough is a traditional fishing ground for Filipinos and has provided livelihoods to many coastal towns in Zambales and Pangasinan.

“We are an archipelagic state. We are surrounded by sea. Our resource is fish so we are called a quintessential coastal state. What does it mean? Many towns are less than 100 kilometers away from our coast and many people are dependent on marine resources,” Bensurto said.

Chinese fishermen’s activities likewise left deep scuffmarks on the reefs in Scarborough, an aerial footage showed.

“It will not return to its original form for a very long time and that’s what we fear,” said Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Chief Asis Perez.

“Coral Reefs has a major contribution to the marine ecosystem as the fish breed there and they live there,” he said.

Law of the Sea

Philippine officials maintained the shoal is within the country’s exclusive economic zone as allowed by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea or UNCLOS – an agreement signed by 163 nations, including China and the Philippines.

But China insists it owns the South China Sea - a major global shipping lane - nearly in its entirety, citing historical entitlements as the basis for its huge claim, which Manila calls “excessive and illegal.”

China’s claim is enclosed in a tongue-shaped map, represented by nine dashes it calls ‘nine-dash line.”

“Why nine-dash line? Because there are no coordinates, you have to guess. It’s like drawing a map and saying this is mine,” said Philippine Consul General to San Francis Henry Bensurto, who concurrently heads the Philippine legal team on the West Philippine Sea claim.

“The problem with the 9-dash line is that it’s so far from China’s nearest landmass of Hainan and extends more than 800 nautical miles, which is in contravention of the allowed 200-nautical mile claim mandated by the UNCLOS,” Bensurto said. “It encroaches on our legitimate rights under the UNCLOS.”

China’s nine-dash line claim, Bensurto said, covers 80 percent of the Philippines’ Exclusive Economic Zone, including parts of Malaysia and Vietnam, he said.

BBC journalist Bill Hayton, author of the ‘The South China Sea: The struggle for power in Asia,’ said China’s historical and huge claim has no legal basis.

“You claim resources of the sea based on the land. You don’t just say all of the sea belongs to us without measuring the distance,” he said.

Despite criticisms, China remains adamant, saying its claim is “indisputable” and to bolster its assertion, it recently constructed man-made islands in seven disputed features in the waters, prompting serious concerns from the United States, Japan, and other G-7 nations.

“Those historic rights are collective hallucinations,” Hayton said.

Bensurto said China’s nine-dash line claim began to take shape in the 1970s when it forcibly took a part of the South China Sea, called the Paracels, from the Vietnamese in 1974, yielding  53 deaths from Vietnam and 18 from China.

Another battle between the two neighbors ensued in the 1980s in the Fiery Cross Reef further down south in the Spratlys.

Mischief Reef

In both incidents, Bensurto admitted the Philippines as well as other nations did not intervene as they saw no imminent threat from the incident.

A decade later, China seized another feature in the Spratlys: Manila's Mischief Reef – a feature within the Philippines EEZ and located 124 nautical miles from Palawan.

Then in 2012, Manila lost Scarborough Shoal to the Chinese.

From Mischief Reef, China, Bensurto warned, is looking towards establishing a presence in gas-rich Reed Bank, just 84 nautical miles from Palawan.

Bensurto said China is capturing all strategic features in the South China Sea so that it can fully implement its nine-dash line clam.

“China is also imposing a fishing ban. They are doing this to enforce the nine-dash line,” he said.

With a weak military, the Philippines has no other option but to use diplomacy in handling its rifts with China. In 2013, Manila took a bold gamble and filed an arbitration case against Beijing, a move that Philippine officials say is an open, friendly, durable and rules-based dispute-settlement mechanism.

China refused to participate in the proceedings, saying Manila’s case is baseless and lacks legal merit.

The documentary warned of serious economic implications if China seizes control of all features in the West Philippine Sea, where natural gas deposits have been discovered.

“Energy,” Bensurto said, “is important for the progress of our nation.”

“We need energy to have electricity to run industries. We should protect our seas and preserve our maritime resources,” he said.

In closing, host De Veyra rallied Filipinos to defend what belongs to the Philippines.

“This our fight,” De Veyra said. “If we don’t get involved and act maybe there won’t be anything that we can bequeath to the next generation."

“The problem is you have a neighbor who sneaks in and out of your waters and takes away all the resources,” he said. “This is ours.”

China’s lone aircraft carrier conducts drills as sea dispute heats up

From GMA News (Jun 12): China’s lone aircraft carrier conducts drills as sea dispute heats up

China's sole aircraft carrier conducted exercises on Friday, the navy said without specifying its location, amid escalating disputes over maritime territory with some of China's Asian neighbors.

The Liaoning conducted drills and tests in the "relevant sea" along with carrier-based fighter jets after setting sail from the coastal city of Qingdao, the Chinese navy said.
China wants to develop an ocean-going "blue water" navy capable of defending the growing interests of the world's second largest economy as it adopts a more assertive stance in territorial disputes with neighbours in the South China and East China seas.
China had worked to boost its pilots' skills with fighter jets, including the Shenyang J-15, in recent years, the statement added, saying the navy had tested the power, war-readiness and technological capabilities of its aircraft.
The Liaoning, a Soviet-era ship bought from Ukraine in 1998 and refitted in China, has long been a symbol of China's naval build-up.
Successfully operating the 60,000-tonne Liaoning is the first step in what state media and some military experts believe will be the deployment of domestically built carriers by 2020.
China claims most of the South China Sea, through which $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year. The Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam have overlapping claims. China also disputes sovereignty of islands in the East China Sea with Japan.

The Department of Foreign Affairs said it was looking into the report.

"We have to verify the report," DFA spokesman Assistant Secretary Charles Jose told GMA News Online when sought for comment.

The Department of National Defense, on the other hand, indicated China could conduct its exercises in international territory.

"All countries are free to conduct exercises in international aerospace," DND spokesman Peter Paul Galvez said.

GMA News Online sought Malacañang for comment but has yet to receive a reply as of posting time.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines withheld comment, with spokesman Brig. Gen. Joselito Kakilala referring the query to the DFA and the DND.

Respect for international law

With the Chinese ambassador in the audience, President Benigno Aquino III on Friday called for respect for international law, which has been his administration's tact in dealing with its dispute with China over the West Philippine Sea.

During the traditional Independence Day vin d'honneur in the provincial capitol here, Aquino urged diplomats to unite in dealing with current global problems.

"Join us, in this way, we can truly forge a global community in which each nation-state realizes that stability is hinged on their ability to work with others," Aquino said.

"This is the clearest path towards a world where there is mutual respect and we are all bound by international law," he added.

Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua was one of the diplomats who attended the event. Aquino shook hands and briefly spoke with the Chinese envoy before the vin d'honneur.

In an interview with GMA News after the event, the Chinese envoy maintained that China adheres to international laws.

"China has always upheld rule of law in the international arena, including the UNCLOS [United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea]. China is a party to the UNCLOS. China is going to observe the obligations we have as a party to international laws,” Zhao said.

Hands Off! Freedom Day rally protests China bullying

From ABS-CBN (Jun 12): Hands Off! Freedom Day rally protests China bullying

More than a thousand Filipinos celebrated Independence Day with a protest in front of the Chinese Embassy in the Makati central financial district, demanding that the Asian giant stop its "illegal occupation of an entire sea."

Former senator Rene Saguisag, convenor of the new alliance P1NAS, said the country should resist bullying by China and at the same time be wary of other superpowers out to manipulate the West Philippine Sea and other maritime disputes for their own interests.

P1NAS' main message, "Hands Off", is directed at both China and the United States.

"These two powerful countries are increasingly conniving and challenging each other in their quest for dominance in the Asia Pacific region, particularly the West Philippine Sea and surrounding waters. In such a situation, we need a vigilant, united and active citizenry to make sure we don't lose our territory nor bargain away our sovereignty," the group said in its statement, "Neither the claws of the Dragon nor the Eagle.

Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares, another P1NAS convenor, called the Chinese claim "absurd." "No country should be allowed to occupy and claim ownership of an entire sea," Colmenares said.

He said the Asian giant is not just manufacturing an island; it is also manufacturing evidence for its claim.

Protest artist Juana Change called the Chinese government "a thief," noting its government's efforts to protect poachers that threaten Philippine seas, known to be biodiversity centers in the world.

Salvador France of Pamalakaya said Chinese threats and harassment are depriving Filipino fishermen of their livelihood.

He said Chinese poachers have destroyed or stolen P4.5-billion worth of coral and sea life in the West Philippine Sea.

The protesters also accused Chinese state firms of engaging in corruption and illegal transactions in the Philippines.

Colmenares cited the NBN-ZTE contract that rocked the government of the former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, and the North Rail project.

Environmentalists, meanwhile, warned that corrupt Philippine officials were allowing the Chinese to destroy hundreds of kilometers of coastlines in Luzon and the Visayas because of black sand mining.

The alliance said it backs efforts to peacefully resolve the maritime dispute. But it vowed to seek internal support among people's of various countries and push global citizen diplomacy against Asia's bully.

A second group, led by former interior secretary Rafael Alunan would follow with a Martsa ng Kalayaan.

Army launches ‘Bayanihan sa Barangay’

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jun 10): Army launches ‘Bayanihan sa Barangay’

San Mariano, Isabela -- The 86th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army (PA) based here recently launched its ‘Bayanihan sa Barangay’ program in San Guillermo town.

Lt. Col. Jose Arn Real, commanding officer, said the program aimed to impose peace and order in all places under their area of operations.

He said the ‘Bayanihan sa Barangay’ is also a venue for residents to bring out their concerns to local government unit or proper government offices and to encourage the New People’s Army rebels to return to the folds of the law.

The program, he said also proves the commitment and dedication of the army soldiers to be of help and to serve their fellow Filipinos.

He also called on everyone to support their cause in curbing, if not totally eliminating, disputes in realizing peace and order throughout the country.

‘People must unite vs imperialist powers’ –Prof. Jose Maria Sison

Posted to the pro-CPP online publication Bulatlat (Jun 10): ‘People must unite vs imperialist powers’ –Prof. Jose Maria Sison

"We cannot allow China to do its own aggression against the Philippines and the Filipino people, just as we cannot allow the perpetuated aggression of the US against them.”

In the face of rising tension in the West Philippine Sea, Jose Maria Sison, the chairperson of the International League of Peoples’ Struggles (ILPS), called on the Filipino people to “unite to build national strength” to counter aggression by the two “imperialist powers,” China and the United States.

“The people and their revolutionary forces must rise up against the imperialist powers and their local reactionary agents,” Sison said, in a statement as head of the ILPS, a global body with 350 anti-imperialist member-organizations in 40 countries.

Calling China “a full-fledged imperialist power,” Sison said its reclamation of reefs and shoals in the West Philippine Sea within Philippine territory is “an act of piracy and aggression.”

At least seven reefs in the Kalayaan (Spratlys) group of islands, within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ) had undergone reclamation by China: the Panganiban (Mischief), Mabini (Johnson South), Gavin (Gaven), Calderon (Cuarteron), Hughes (Kennan), Malvar (Eldad) and Kagitingan (Fiery Cross) Reefs.

The maritime dispute should be resolved within the framework of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), Sison said.

The US and the Aquino administration had engaged China in a verbal tussle, with US President Barack Obama expressing “concern” over the issue. The US Navy had also been patrolling the international waters in the West Philippine Sea.

Sison, however, said the US only watches over its own “interests,” mostly in China.

“The US has expressed neutrality and interest, only in its freedom of navigation. It has overlooked China’s violations of the UNCLOS and has, in fact, shown partiality to its larger interests in relations with China than in those with the Philippines,” he said.

Sison added that the US pivot to Asia mainly favors “the pro-US big bourgeoisie in China.”

Sison said the US has taken advantage of the issue and has entrenched itself militarily in the country, as it is set to re-establish its military bases under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).

“It is clear that the US and China are conniving by a significant measure to dominate and divide the Philippines, very much like the time when China was divided into spheres of influence and Anglo-American and Japanese imperialists at certain times competed and collaborated in dividing and dominating China,” Sison said.

Sison also criticized the Philippine leadership, past and present, which had “pretended” to oppose China and defend Philippine sovereignty and territorial integrity.

“But they have in fact allowed the Chinese state and private enterprises to plunder the natural and human resources and to exploit a wide range of business opportunities at the expense of the Filipino people and Filipino entrepreneurs who uphold political and economic sovereignty and desire national industrialization,” Sison said.

“We cannot allow China to do its own aggression against the Philippines and the Filipino people, just as we cannot allow the perpetuated aggression of the US against them,” Sison said.

Sison, who lives in exile in The Netherlands, is also political consultant to the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, and founding chairperson of the Communist Party of the Philippines.

“The anti-imperialist and democratic forces in the Philippines should unite to build national strength and develop relations with friendly countries that are truly helpful and are not hostile to the Filipino people’s aspirations for full national sovereignty, people’s democracy, industrial development, social justice, scientific and cultural progress and peace,” he said.

Delfin Independence Day speaker

From the Visayan Daily Star (Jun 12): Delfin Independence Day speaker

Col. Francisco Delfin, the newly-installed 303rd Infantry Brigade commander of the Philippine Army in Negros Occidental, will be the guest of honor at the celebration of the 117th Philippine Independence Day in Bacolod City today.
Delfin, a recipient of numerous medals, including the Distinguished Service Star, was installed as 303rd IB chief Wednesday replacing Brig. Gen. Jon Aying.
“We are giving tribute to our modern fighters, our military. They are like our heroes of the past, who gave us our freedom,” Bacolod Councilor Ana Marie Palermo, the 117 th Philippine Independence overall chairman, said yesterday
Palermo is encouraging the public to take part in the celebration of the 117 th Philippine Independence Day that will start at 7:30 a.m. with ecumenical prayers at the Bacolod Public Plaza and the dramatization of the declaration of the Philippine Independence by the MassKara Theatre Ensemble.
A simultaneous flag-raising ceremony and wreath-laying at the Monument of the Unknown Soldier will follow at 8 a.m. led by Vice Mayor Greg Gasataya and Sanguniang Panlungsod officials.
At 9 a.m., a program will be held at the BAYS Center where Delfin will deliver the keynote speech.
Gasataya will deliver an inspirational message in behalf of Mayor Monico Puentevella who is currently in the United States.
Councilor El Cid Familiaran, parade coordinator, said parade contingents will assemble at noon at 10 assembly areas: Lacson-Rizal, Lacson-Galo, Lacson-Burgos, Lacson-Cottage Road, Lacson-South Capitol Road, South Capitol Road, Gatuslao-South Capitol Road, Gastuslao-North Capitol Road, Lacson-North Capitol Road and in Lacson-13 th Street.
Familiaran said the civic military parade will start at 1 p.m. and will end at SM City at about 4 p.m.
About 5,000 to 6,000 participants are expected, Familiaran added.

Young officers join the ranks of 8ID

From Samar News (May 25): Young officers join the ranks of 8ID

new 8ID 2nd Lieutenants

The newly assigned 2nd Lieutenants as they were presented to the 8th Infantry (Stormtrooper) Division family during the flag-raising ceremony conducted last May 25 at Camp Lukban, Brgy. Maulong, Catbalogan City.


CAMP LUKBAN, Catbalogan City, SamarTwelve new 2nd Lieutenants who recently graduated from the Philippine Military Academy and from the Officer Candidate School were assigned with the 8th Infantry (Stormtrooper) Division, Philippine Army and were formally welcomed during the flag raising ceremony at Camp Lukban, Catbalogan City on May 25, 2015.

As part of the Army Command’s tradition, the young officers were presented during the flag-raising ceremony and individually, they introduced themselves to the officers, enlisted personnel and civilian employees of the Army Command.

Five of the newly reported young officers are members of PMA “SINAGLAHI” Class of 2015, while seven are members of Officer Preparatory Course “MANDALAPI” Class 62- 2014. Eleven of them are from Luzon, while one is from Mindanao.

The new 2nd Lieutenants are: 2Lt. Rocky Johnson A. Abut, 2Lt. Arjay P. Regidor, 2Lt. Jean C. Buenaventura, 2Lt. Daniel G. Olivas, 2Lt. Ian Daniel C.Robianes, 2Lt. Christian B. Baclig, 2Lt. Jullane A. Biniahan, 2Lt. Russel U. Borres, 2Lt. Benjamin T. Cabading, 2Lt. Alvin P. Garcia, 2Lt Ana Fe G. Ipas, 2Lt. Clarence M. Locero, 2Lt. Alvin R. Mendoza.

Currently, the new officers are undergoing the Platoon Leader’s Course to refresh them of the military knowledge and skills they acquired from the respective military schools they were honed as military officers.

Major General Jet B. Velarmino AFP, Commander of the Army in Eastern Visayas stressed in his message to the new officers the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ Core Values, of Honor, Patriotism and Duty. He said, “Cling on to these values and you will never go astray from the narrow path towards becoming an ideal soldier in the mold of our brave and noble military heroes.”

“The Country and the Filipino people expect much of you. Good luck and contribute as much as you can to the achievement of peaceful and development-ready Eastern Visayas,” he added.

Roxas: Patrol jeeps will help address insurgency issues in Samar towns

From the Samar News (May 29): Roxas: Patrol jeeps will help address insurgency issues in Samar towns

Roxas patrol jeeps turnover

"Kabahagi tayong lahat ng isang lipunan, republika, at pamahalaan." - Secretary Roxas at the turn-over of the 23 new PNP patrol jeeps in Catbalogan.

Secretary of the Interior and Local Government Mar Roxas is certain that the 23 brand new patrol jeeps turned over to all municipalities in Samar on Thursday (May 28) will not just help the province in times of disaster, but will definitely reinforce the counter-insurgency operations of the Philippine National Police (PNP) in the area.

"Matindi ang pangangailangan ng internal security operations dito. Maraming insidente kasama ang NPA (New People's Army) sa buong island ng Samar. Tinutugunan natin ito para makapagresponde, para makapagpatrolya, at sakaling mangyari man ay mahahanap at mahahabol nila ang mga salarin na ito," Roxas stressed during the turn-over of vehicle units in Catbalogan, Samar on Thursday.

With the new patrol jeep units, Roxas assured Samar residents that the PNP can deliver support to troops from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the frontliners who are tasked to neutralize internal security threats.

The peace and security situation of the province in Samar also urged Roxas to discuss operative solutions with Samar Governor Sharee Ann Tan, Police Regional Director Asher Dolina, 8th Infantry Division Commander Gen. Jet Velarmino, Calbayog City Mayor Ronaldo Aquino, and Catbalogan City Mayor Stephanie Tan.

Roxas also told local government and police officials that the new patrol jeeps are results of inclusive growth and that the government has never left their side.

"Tignan natin ito hindi lang bilang patrol jeep pero bilang isang simbolo na kabahagi tayong lahat ng isang lipunan, republika, at pamahalaan na hindi kayo kinakalimutan," Roxas said.

Samar is the first province to receive brand new multi-role patrol vehicle units in Eastern Visayas, as a complementary part of OPLAN Lambat-Sibat, an intensified anti-crime campaign that employs a deliberate, programmatic, and sustained approach initiated by Roxas.

He reiterated the importance of addressing issues in peace and order, not only for society in general, but more importantly, for the individual.

"Sinisiguro natin ang kaligtasan ng mga kababayan natin. Napakapersonal ng krimen para sa mga biktima nito at inaasahan talaga nila ang kanilang pamahalaan. Wala naman silang matatakbuhang iba," Roxas stressed.

Engineers fix water system Abu Sayyaf destroyed

From the Philippine Star (Jun 11): Engineers fix water system Abu Sayyaf destroyed

Engineers have fixed the multi-million water system in Maluso town in Basilan Abu Sayyaf bandits destroyed last week.

Local folks are, however, still apprehensive the culprits can return anytime without a police or Army detachment to guard the facility.

The destruction of the water system, which siphons clean water from a source in Mahayahay area west of Maluso, affected more than 20,000 Muslim and Christian residents in the municipality.

Gov. Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) on Thursday said the supply of water to the town proper of Maluso was restored a week after the attack through the efforts of municipal officials and workers of the local water utility, the Maluso Water District.

Hataman, chair of the region’s inter-agency peace and order council, said he ordered the ARMM’s police director, Chief Superintendent Ronald Estilles, to formulate a security plan to avoid a repeat of the incident.

“These security efforts shall be coordinated with the Western Mindanao Command of the Armed Forces, which has jurisdiction over military units in Basilan,” Hataman told The STAR via mobile phone Thursday, while in Maluso for a dialogue with local officials.

Abu Sayyaf bandits first killed and beheaded a militiamen guarding the facility before setting off explosives and perforating with bullets the conduit pipes supplying potable water from Mahayahay to residential areas in the center of Maluso.

Hataman said he also instructed his public works secretary, Engineer Don Loong, and the district engineer of Basilan to study possible improvements of the water system.

“My office will provide funds for the expansion of the facility,” he said.

Military deploys more troops in captured BIFF lair

From the Philippine Star (Jun 11): Military deploys more troops in captured BIFF lair

The military on Wednesday deployed more combatants in a newly established lair of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) which it overran on Sunday after three hours of skirmishes.

Soldiers learned of the presence of the new BIFF camp in Barangay Macalag in Datu Unsay town in the second district of Maguindanao from farmers in the area.

Combined combatants of the 601st Brigade and the 10th Scout Ranger Company managed to drive away the occupants of the camp on Sunday after staging attacks from different directions.

Local officials said four BIFF members were wounded in ensuing encounters.

Captain Jo-Ann Petinglay, spokesperson of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, said soldiers recovered from the abandoned BIFF camp a rifle, combat uniforms and ammunition for assorted firearms.

Petinglay said soldiers will now guard Barangay Macalag tightly to prevent the BIFF bandits from coming back.

4 killed in Sultan Kudarat attack

From the Philippine Star (Jun 12): 4 killed in Sultan Kudarat attack

KORONADAL CITY, Philippines  – Four persons were killed in an attack by unidentified assailants in President Quirino in Sultan Kudarat Wednesday.

Marvin Davi, Mohammad Bernan and Boyet Maranao died at the scene while Julius Baybayan died while being taken to a hospital by neighbors.

Residents of Barangay Tual said they heard gunshots at past 5 p.m.

Police have yet to determine the motive for the killing and identify the suspects.

Sources: Lanao town killings meant to destroy Muslim-Christian relations

From the Philippine Star (Jun 12): Sources: Lanao town killings meant to destroy Muslim-Christian relations

LANAO DEL SUR, Philippines - Maranaw peasant Pangalian Sumayan had refused to accept any cash assistance for the deaths of his two daughters killed last month in a spate of related attacks in Wao town in Lanao del Sur that left six dead and eight others wounded.

Sumayan is undoubtedly apprehensive that he can be construed as having agreed to a payoff, in exchange for the elusive justice he wants for his slain children, one of them pregnant, if he would receive  traditional "sadakah" from local officials and from the office of Gov. Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

The term sadakah is Arabic for traditional Islamic charity, which can be in form of cash, or food, or good deeds.

Maranaw and Visayan residents here want Justice Secretary Leila De Lima to investigate on the killings last month, which they believe involved people personally known to Wao Mayor Elvino Balicao Jr.

The governor of Lanao del Sur, Mamintal "Bombit" Adiong Jr., a staunch political ally of Balicao, has surprisingly been so silent on the issue. The mayor is a known political protege of Adiong.

Sumayan’s two children were among six people killed in two seemingly related killings on April 24 and 25 in a hinterland barangay in this agricultural town. The incident sparked tension between local Maranaw and non-Muslim communities.

Sumayan resides in a predominantly Moro village in Magampong area in Barangay Park here, which suspected members of the municipal forest protection group, armed with assault rifles and shoulder-fire grenade launchers, attacked on April 25.

The carnage left four Maranaw villagers dead and eight others wounded.

Hataman helped pay for the medication of the injured Maranaws through his deputy, ARMM Vice Gov. Haroun Al-Rashid Lucman, and the regional government’s Humanitarian Emergency Assistance and Response Team.

The atrocity was preceded by the murder of two Visayan children in Sitio Campo Dos in the same barangay on April 24 while watching over family-owned water buffaloes grazing in a communal pasture.

The attack at Magampong, by immediate interpretation, would mean retaliation for the deaths of the two Visayan children.

Maranaw and Visayan folks here are certain forest rangers employed by the municipal government were behind the attack on the Moro enclave at Magampong, whose community leaders are openly supporting the enactment into law of the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

The bill, which is the enabling measure for the replacement of ARMM with a new Bangsamoro political entity and premised on a peace compact between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), is pending in Congress.

Muslim and Christian community elders confirmed that the families of the two slain Visayan children and the Maranaws in Magampong were not locked in any kind of conflict at all.

“There was no reason for the Maranaws to kill the two children, whose families do not have high-powered firearms like what were used to kill innocent Maranaw villagers the next day,” a Christian barangay leader said.

Witnesses, who asked not to be identified for security reasons, said the suspects in the brutal killing of the Visayan children wore the same kind of bonnets that concealed the faces of the armed men that killed the Maranaws in Magampong.

The suspects first surrounded the village and opened fire with M-16 and M-14 assault rifles. They also shot houses with 40 millimeter explosive projectiles using a shoulder-fire launcher.

“We firmly believe it was an attempt to drive a wedge among the Christians and the Muslims in Wao,” said a Maranaw Imam (cleric) who spoke on condition of anonymity.

There are talks spreading around purporting that the two incidents could be related to the strong opposition of most local officials and their Visayan supporters to the inclusion of Wao in the proposed core territory of the envisioned Bangsamoro political entity.

The rabid opposition by local Visayan leaders to the draft BBL even hogged the news when the municipal council, on Balicao’s instigation, authored a resolution stating that local residents are against Wao's inclusion into the proposed contiguous Moro homeland.

The move prompted the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process and the government’s peace panel, chaired by Miriam Coronel Ferrer, to convince signatories to the document to support the GPH-MILF peace efforts and help pitch for the BBL's enactment into law.

“Most of the local officials against the BBL assured OPAPP to do a turnaround from their position, but after the government representatives that talked to them had left, they again showed opposition to the BBL and, eventually, the April 24 and 25 killings happened,” said a Christian public school teacher.

Soldiers help fix schools in MILF camp

From Rappler (Jun 12): Soldiers help fix schools in MILF camp

The durability of peace in the conflict areas in Mindanao is being tested in Congress, where the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law is being discussed.

[Video report]

LANAO DEL NORTE, Philippines – The durability of peace in the conflict areas in Mindanao is being tested in Congress, where the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law is being discussed. But in a stronghold of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in Lanao del Norte, soldiers and rebels join hands to help sustain peace in a community.

Voltaire Tupaz reports.

This rarely happens in Philippine history. For a day, government forces and members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front set aside their firearms.

They troop to schools and lend a hand to teachers and children in Munai town, a stronghold of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in Lanao del Norte.

ABDUL BASHIT MANISAN, MILF MEMBER: Malaking opportunity namin ito para maipakita sa mga tao, sa lahat ng mga tao rito sa Pilipinas na nagtutulungan yung AFP at Bangsamoro…para maipakita namin yung mga kakayanan namin, yung matutulong namin sa mga bata, sa lahat, para dito na magsimula ang kapayapaan.

(This is an opportunity for us to show the people in the Philippines that the AFP and the BIAF (Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces) are joining hands to show that we can help the children. This could be beginning of peace.)

In MILF’s Camp Bilal, they build school fences, provide health services, and take pictures with children. Their message: create new memories of a lasting peace for the kids.

MIRIAM FERRER, GOVERNMENT CHIEF PEACE NEGOTIATOR: Dito, ang natatatandaan nila ay yung gyera nung 2000, yung gera nung 2008. 'Yun yung alaala ng mga teacher dito na nakausap natin, sila mismo na naapektuahn ng bahay-bahay na pambobomba at iba pang kaguluhan na nangyari nung panahon na 'yun. At dahil nagkaroon naman tayo ng tuloy-tuloy na ceasefire nung 2010, under this administration, nakita nila, this is what ceasefire can bring.

(Here, they remember the wars of 2000 and 2008. That’s what we’re told by the teachers and those who were affected by the bombings and disorder during that period. But because we’ve had a continuing ceasefire since 2010 under the Aquino administration, they saw what ceasefire can bring.)

Far from the word war between pro and anti BBL legislators, soldiers and rebels show a gesture of unity - helping fix schools in villages inside the MILF’s Camp Bilal.

For them, the education of their children is a weapon to fight poverty and war.

For MILF leader Commander Bravo’s daughter, Aisah, the new generation of Muslims pin their hopes on the success of the peace process.

AISAH SANGGACALA, HEAD TEACHER: Makuha siguro kung ano ang nararapat sa mga katulad naming mga Muslim, kung pinagkaitan po kami ng ano, tulad po nito, i-compare po natin sa mga urban po na area, ‘di ba? Parang kami po ay salat na salat na sa mga development, hindi po ba? So siguro ganoon din po sana kaya nga po, tinutulungan po namin yung mga kabataan. Baka po sila ang maging good shot po ng pagbabago sa aming lugar.

(To get what’s due us Muslims. Compared to urban areas, we have been deprived of development, weren’t we? It seems like development is lacking here. That’s why we’re helping the children. They might be our chance for change.)

The durability of peace in the South is being tested in Congress, where the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law is being discussed. The bill seeks to implement the peace deal between the government and MILF signed in March 2014 after 17 years of negotiations.

It's an imperfect peace, but a chance that may not come again to this land of conflict.