Wednesday, June 24, 2015

MILF: Editorial -- Cheap and outright lies!

Editorial posted to the MILF Website (Jun 24): Editorial -- Cheap and outright lies!

Those who say the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), the Sultanate of Sulu, and the indigenous peoples (IPs) were not consulted are not telling the truth.

Their claim is cheap and outright lies. It is very unfortunate that there are so many so-called political leaders and religious personalities, who can lie heads high, as if they are telling the truth.

But what is fortunate is that most if not all those making these accusations have questionable records at one time or another, which were related to corrupt or bloodthirsty officials before. One was the one who read the declaration of martial law in 1972, another has been consistently linked with anti-government activities, the Sabah Siege, the Zamboanga City attack in 2013, and the recent attempt to oust President Aquino administration, and the third one, an erstwhile key personality in the Bishop-Ulama Conference of the Philippines, but who also received money from sin taxes during the time of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. The fourth one is a first cousin of Senator Bongbong Marcos, whose committee report on the BBL has been long overdue.

On the allegation of non-consultation, consider the following: The MNLF is made up of at least five factions namely, the mainstream MNLF chaired by Nur Misuari, the MNLF Committee of 15 led by Chairman Muslimin Sema, the MNLF faction chaired by Abulkhair Alonto, the MNLF-Islamic Command Council spearheaded by Mujahab Hashim, and another MNLF sub-group anchored by Alvarez Isnaji. Except for Nur Misuari, all of these leaders have direct lines of communications with the MILF leadership. More importantly, all these factions radiate with the MILF through the Bangsamoro Coordination Forum (BCF) organized by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). The last meeting which witnessed the fraternal bond and close coordination between and among these groups was on May 28, 2015 where MILF Chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim addressed the OIC Council of Foreign Ministers Conference. On top of these, the OIC has endorsed the BBL as solution to the Moro Question or Problem in Mindanao.

Before, the MILF had direct lines of communication with Chairman Nur Misuari but since the attack of Zamboanga City on September 9, 2013 they are seldom used or none at all except through his trusted lieutenants. Besides, Misuari has already reverted to the pursuit of independence, instead of autonomy. To consult him, therefore, does not hold water or is awkward.

Likewise, the Sultanate of Sulu has nine claimants, some of whom are supporting the peace process. Of these, only the faction led by the late Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III has been intense in their opposition to the BBL.

In spite of this, the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC), which crafted the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), held so many dialogues in Mindanao and other parts of the country. In the course of these consultations, the BTC had talked to several members of the sultanate; and therefore, it is not true that all of them are repugnant to the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) and the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) and the BBL. However, their common concern is the non-inclusion of the Sabah Claim in the agenda of the GPH-MILF peace negotiations. But the BTC and the MILF patiently explained that the claim is a foreign affairs matter that should be handled by the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs and their counterpart in Malaysia.

They are also concerned about the revival of the sultanate, which is not an issue also in the 17-year GPH-MILF peace negotiations. It was President Manuel L. Quezon who abolished the sultanate and datu systems. For the MILF, its policy is to preserve the sultanate as part of the rich and colorful Moro people’s tradition but we will not revive it, but for those who want it revived, the MILF will not stand on the way.

For the IPs, they are part of the negotiations and in crafting of the BBL. It has been the policy of the MILF that IPs are represented in the peace panel. The IPs have two representatives in the BTC (Commissioners Melanio Ulama and Froilyn Mendoza). Notwithstanding this, consultations with the IPs were so many, in all levels of engagements. As a matter of fact, the provisions on IPs in the BBL were crafted by IPs themselves.

For the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) and the so-called Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), they do not believe in the peace process. So, does it have sense to talk to them? However, on the part of the MILF, we are not remiss in spreading the message of peace to the mass supporters of these radical groups.

For those who want to talk peace with the ASG and BIFF, better themselves examined by psychiatrist. The truth is that one can only talk peace to those who believe in peace.

8ID conducts static display during the 117th Philippine Independence Day

Posted to Samar News (Jun 13): 8ID conducts static display during the 117th Philippine Independence Day


8ID static display at Robinson’s Mall

CAMP VICENTE LUKBAN, Catbalogan CityThe 8th Infantry (Stormtrooper) Division, Philippine Army launched the 117th Philippine Independence Day Celebration at Robinson’s Mall, Tacloban City, Leyte on June 12, 2015.

The said event was highlighted with a photo display featuring the command's accomplishment thru focused military operations, Bayanihan Team Activity (BTA), legal operations and stakeholder's engagement along with the static display of the Army squad organization, emergency response team, armor and field artillery assets display and a free concert conducted by the 8ID Combo.

The celebration was anchored on the theme, "Tagumpay sa Pagbabagong Nasimulan, Abot-kamay na ng Bayan" which gives emphasis on the importance of reminiscing our forefathers sacrifices so that our country will be free from tyranny. Gracing the event was the presence of Colonel Dinoh Dolina, 802nd Brigade Commander; Colonel Divino Rey C Pabayo JR., Chief of Staff 8ID, Lt. Col. Erwin A. Alea, Assistant Chief of Staff for Civil Military Operation and the media.

Col. Dolina in his message stressed that, we should cherish the freedom that our heroes entrusted to us, it is our responsibility to take good care of our country's future as we are going to entrust it also for the new generations to come.

Samar’s 3 island towns declared insurgency-free

From Samar News (Jun 15): Samar’s 3 island towns declared insurgency-free


insurgency-free towns in Samar

801st Bde commander Col Leoncio A. Cirunay and Mayor Vicente Limpiado of Tagapul-an, Samar during the reading of Joint Declaration and Signing of MOU as Insurgency Free Municipality at the Tagapul-an covered court together with Samar Board Member Allan Diomangay representing Gov. Sharee Ann Tan.

CAMP LUKBAN, Catbalogan CityThe three island municipalities of Samar were declared “Insurgency-Free” on June 12, 2015, during the Commemoration of 117th Philippine Independence Day at Municipal Covered Court Tagapul-an, Samar.

The joint declaration of Almagro, Sto Niño and Tagapul-an as insurgency free municipalities was formalized with the signing of a covenant between the AFP represented by Colonel Leoncio A. Cirunay and the Local Chief Executives namely; Hon. Kathleen S. Prudenciano, Municipal Mayor of Almagro; Hon. Lelia A. Coñejos, Mayor of Sto. Niño and Hon. Vicente F. Lumpiado Jr., Mayor of Tagapul-an and was witnessed by Hon. Allan B. Diomangay, Provincial board member as a representative of Governor Sharee Ann Tan.

The signing of declaration was based on the AFP-PNP Joint Letter Directive 3 which categorized the three island towns as “CLEARED” area that it qualifies to be declared as Insurgency-Free municipalities as stipulated on the five imperatives for declaring municipalities.

Further, the joint declaration of the three island municipalities will increase the influx of tourism in their locality. The populace of the said municipalities are enjoying peaceful environment away from extortion activities of the NPA.

Col Leoncio A. Cirunay, 801st Brigade Commander, said, “The joint declaration of the three island municipalities may attract investors especially that these islands are tourist destinations and that many investors will establish their businesses in a secured area which will greatly improve the town’s economic and financial status.”

8ID condemns NPA violation of CARHRIHL in Samar

Posted to Samar News (Jun 16): 8ID condemns NPA violation of CARHRIHL in Samar


CAMP LUKBAN, Catbalogan City The Army’s 8th Infantry (Stormtroopers) Division joins the local government officials, the clergy, the civil society organizations and the peace advocates in strongly condemning the violation of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) committed by the New People’s Army (NPA) here on June 13, 2015 at 3:30 A.M. when members of the NPA indiscriminately harassed the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) at Barangay Lagundi, Catbalogan City, Samar.

The Lagundi Jail was destroyed by the NPA through the use of Improvised Explosive Device (IED) that destroyed the wall of the facility that prompted a firefight which caused the instantaneous death of inmate Roy Yangzon while inflicted injury to three BJMP personnel.

It can be recalled that the NPA also ambushed an unarmed troops on board a motorcycle who went on marketing their food supplies from Catbalogan City while on their way to San Jose de Buan last month. It also killed a two year-old baby Dishley Arandia thru strafing last April in Matuguinao, Samar that prompted the LGU and the family to condemn the barbaric act of the NPA and that justice should be served for the loss of innocent lives.

These activities are gross violation of CARHRIHL by the CPP-NPA which the communist group is a signatory while their leadership just tolerate such act.

CARHRIHL states that parties involved in the agreement should affirm and apply the principles of international humanitarian law in order to protect the civilian population and individual civilians, as well as persons deprived of their liberty for reasons related to the armed conflict and also guarantees the right against economic and food blockades and indiscriminate bombings, shelling, strafing, gunfire and the use of landmines.

Under the Principle of Distinction which is the basis of international humanitarian law which applies in all armed conflicts, the principle obliges “Parties to a conflict” (i.e. the warring parties, whether states or non-state armed groups) to target only military objectives and not the civilian population or individual civilians or civilian objectives. Failing to make this distinction in military operations represents an indiscriminate attack and is a war crime.

Meanwhile, it was gathered that said atrocity is a punitive action for a depleted support from the people of Samar Province who wants just and lasting peace thru a concerted efforts between the 8ID and other stakeholders from different sectors of the society wherein on June 12, 2015 the three islands municipality of Samar namely; Almagro, Sto Niño, Tagapul-an was declared “Insurgency-Free” municipalities thru the support of the Local Chief executives and the Provincial Government of Samar.

The CPP-NPA has been desperate in attempting to counter the government’s efforts in bringing peace and development to the people through continuous disregard of the law to boast their effort in reviving those areas where they lost support from the masses.

Major General Jet B. Velarmino, Commander 8ID stressed by calling the Samar people of peace to help in convincing those who are deceived by the CPP-NPA to follow the path of peace and condemn those who advocate violence and use arms against civilians.

Further, the Army here in Eastern Visayas will continue to protect the citizenry especially the hapless civilians who have been victims by these lawless activities of the CPP-NPA.

Another NPA leader nabbed

From Tempo (Jun 24): Another NPA leader nabbed

Another ranking leader of the Communist Party of the Philippines – New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) fell into the hands of government security forces in Samar, the military said.

Maj. Amado C. Gutierrez, public affairs officer, 8th Infantry Division (8ID), Philippine Army, identified the arrested rebel leader as Erwin C. Lagucay, alias Eman, allegedly a commanding officer of the NPA’s Sentro de Gravidad “Botchoy” and head of the Jorge Bolito Command’s organizing department.

Gutierrez, citing a report from Col. Leoncio A. Cirunay, Army 801st Brigade commander, Gutierrez, said Lagucay was arrested by troops under the 801st Infantry Brigade and personnel from the Sta. Rita municipal police station before midnight on Sunday in Barangay Magsaysay, Sta. Rita town.

Prior to the arrest, a concerned civilian reported to the Army about a suspicious person roaming around their community. Acting on the information, Cirunay immediately ordered an entrapment operation that led to the apprehension of Lagucay who was found in possession of two improvised explosive devices (IED), one blasting cap, bladed weapon, and a mobile phone.

Ranking NPA leader nabbed in northern Palawan

From InterAksyon (Jun 24): Ranking NPA leader nabbed in northern Palawan

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY – A ranking leader of the communist New People’s Army (NPA) involved in the raid of a municipal police station and the ambush of troops from the Philippine Marines was arrested in northern Palawan recently.

The 64-year-old Saber Tingdan, alias Ka Kimbo, Ka Joab, Ka Mario, and Ka Saber, was arrested on June 18 and turned over to the Palawan provincial jail, said Colonel Dennis Hernandez, commanding officer of the Marine Battalion Landing Team 4 (MBLT4) on Wednesday.

Tingdan, who is said to be the second ranking leader of the NPA and the squad leader of the KSPN-North Pilipinas, was arrested at Sitio Maypa, Barangay Pancol in the northern town of Taytay by a joint team of policemen from the Taytay Municipal Police Station and troops from the 43rd Marine Company of MBLT 4.

Tingdan was arrested by virtue of two warrants of arrest issued by Branch 52 of the Palawan Regional Trial Court for the crimes of robbery and murder.

CHR to probe HR violations in Sta. Catalina encounters

From the Visayan Daily Star (Jun 25): CHR to probe HR violations in Sta. Catalina encounters

The Negros Oriental Commission on Human Rights chief, Jess Cañete, will investigate “motu proprio” (by his own initiative) the purported human rights violations in Sta. Catalina town, after an encounter between government troops and suspected New People's Army rebels about two weeks ago.

He said yesterday he will again visit Barangay Talalak in Sta. Catalina town this week to further investigate allegations of human rights (HR) violations allegedly committed by soldiers of the Army's 79 th Infantry Battalion.

He said that last week, he already started questioning some people there to determine if there were casualties after two days of sporadic clashes between soldiers and alleged rebels June 13 and 14 in Talalak.

In that incident, no casualties were reported on both sides, although the Army believes that some of the alleged rebels were wounded, based on the bloodstains found on their route of withdrawal.

Cañete said, so far, his office has not received any official complaints of human rights violations, even as the Promotion of Church People's Response of the Holy Family Parish in Lumbangan, Mabinay town in Negros Oriental, claimed a variety of supposed HR violations.

These include illegal search, harassment, destruction of properties, indiscriminate firing, psychological torture and theft, among others, which Cañete said he would also investigate.

He said Talalak Brgy. Captain Edmar Bigay called him yesterday morning to ask for advice on the planned visit of the PCPR and other militant groups to conduct fact-finding missions on the latest encounters.

Cañete said he has advised Bigay not to stop these people from entering the barangay, although he hoped that there would be coordination with local officials and law enforcement agencies, such as the Philippine National Police, as embodied in Provincial Ordinance No. 5.

The ordinance, Cañete said, is flawed and needs amendment even though its primary objective is to allow for proper coordination among civil society groups and other similarly-natured organizations, such as outreach missions, local government officials and law enforcement agencies for security and safety purposes.

Cañete is calling on the PCPR and complainants to appear before his office so he can further investigate the alleged HR violations purportedly carried out by soldiers.

He added the 79 th IB will also be subpoenaed as part of the probe and they will be made to answer the allegations leveled against them.

Policemen arrest NPA rebel

From the Sun Star-Zamboanga (Jun 24): Policemen arrest NPA rebel

POLICE have arrested a suspected New People's Army (NPA) rebel for murder in the province of Zamboanga del Sur.

Senior Superintendent Sofronio Ecaldre, Zamboanga del Sur police director, said Roger Najini, a resident of Pugwan village, Mahayag town, was nabbed around 9:30 a.m. Tuesday at Purok 1 in the village of Pugwan by operatives of the Provincial Intelligence Branch and Mahayag policemen.

He said Najini has a standing warrant of arrest for murder issued by the court of Sindangan, Zamboanga del Norte.

Najini was positively identified as member of the Natarang Guirella ng Kara of the NPA's Western Mindanao Regional Party Committee, he added.

Human rights advocate slams Soliman for comments on IP kids at rallies

From GMA News (Jun 23): Human rights advocate slams Soliman for comments on IP kids at rallies

A human rights advocate slammed Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Secretary Dinky Soliman for condemning non-government organizations and faith-based groups for bringing indigenous children to rallies in front of Department of Education office in Davao Region.

"DSWD Sec. Dinky Soliman should think and study first the context why the indigenous children joined the rallies and camp-out in front of DepEd Davao," human rights group Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay told GMA News Online on Tuesday.  

In a statement sent to the media Tuesday, Soliman said that although groups have the right to protest, it should not be at the expense of the children's welfare and rights.

"Ang kampo nila ay nasa harap ng DepEd, nauulanan, hindi kumakain. Dapat nasa eskwela iyang mga bata na iyan. Hindi ninyo dapat dalhin sa mga ganyang rally," she said.

Soliman also said that she will ask the Commission on Human Rights to look into the condition of the children and the groups' practices.

However, Palabay stressed that the children who were in the rallies have a "stake" in what the groups are fighting for. She said that DepEd ordered the closing of Lumad community schools in remote Talaingod, Davao del Norte because of counter-insurgency accusations.

She pointed out that if the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) believes that the schools are part of counter-insurgency efforts, then the military should charge them in court instead of "hovering around" the schools.

Palabay added that many schools are "operating in fear."

"In the first place, the AFP and DepEd, as DSWD's collaborators in conducting counter-insurgency programs such as Oplan Bayanihan, are those who drove these children and their teachers out from schools when they made these institutions their camps and barracks...So it is perfectly understandable that the Lumad children join the rallies for their schools and their well-being, which Dinky totally is oblivious of," she said.

In a text message to GMA News Online, AFP Public Affairs Office chief Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc said it is "black propaganda" to discredit AFP's "expanded and well-accepted Internal Peace and Security Plan (IPSP) Bayanihan activities in the countryside."

"Karapatan should partner with us in fighting for the rights of the victims of the [New People's Army] NPA's rampant kidnapping, extortion and bombing attacks that claimed the lives of innocent people," he said.

Limay zone draws weapons firms

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jun 24): Limay zone draws weapons firms

The Government Arsenal (GA) in Limay town is set to be converted into an economic zone that is being eyed to become a production hub in Southeast Asia for military and police equipment, according to Bataan Governor Albert S. Garcia.

Separately, the GA said in a statement issued by the Investor Relations Office (IRO) late Monday that “manufacturers of weapons, ammunition, force protection equipment and even military vehicle parts from Canada, United States of America, South Korea and South Africa have already expressed interest in setting up operations within GA’s property soon after it is declared an economic zone.”

On the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation senior finance officials’ meetings and workshops held recently in Bagac, Bataan, Garcia told reporters the 340-hectare GA currently under the Department of National Defense is poised to be the first defense economic zone in Southeast Asia. At present, the facility churns out the basic weaponry and ammunition needs of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) as well as the Philippine National Police (PNP).

The governor explained that during his last term as a Bataan representative in the Lower House, he was able to push for the enactment of a law to modernize the GA in line with ongoing AFP modernization initiatives.

“There is a provision that allows the government arsenal to become a defense economic zone,” Garcia said.

According to Garcia, a presidential proclamation is expected to be issued by August to facilitate the grant of fiscal and non-fiscal incentives to investors under the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (Peza).

Once converted into an economic zone, it will be called the GA Defense Industrial Estate or Gadie.

“It’s going to be the first special economic zone intended only for defense, particularly for the manufacture of weapons and ammunitions. The master development plan for the Gadie has already been approved by the Secretary of National Defense in principle and we’re just awaiting our accreditation from Peza,” AFP retired major general Jonathan Martir, who currently serves as GA’s director, was quoted by the IRO as saying.

Soldier suspected of faking NPA captivity

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jun 24): Soldier suspected of faking NPA captivity

A soldier recently released from captivity by communist guerrillas is feeling the heat of having a relationship with an activist as the military is investigating if his love life is in any way connected to suspicions that his capture by the guerrillas was “staged.”

Pfc Khen Subere had been released from captivity by the New People’s Army (NPA) after spending nearly three months in a guerrilla camp somewhere in Sarangani province.

Maj. Gen. Eduardo Año, head of the 10th Infantry Division based in Compostela Valley province, said the military suspicion that Subere’s capture by the NPA was staged is based on Subere having a girlfriend who is a member of a militant organization.

Año did not identify the woman, but said she is “active” in militant organizations.

The possibility that the capture of Subere was “orchestrated and that he had links with the NPA is being investigated,” Año said.

“It’s a possibility,” said the general, pressed by reporters if he really believed Subere’s capture and captivity had been staged.

Subere, who is assigned to the 27th Infantry Battalion in Kiamba, Sarangani, was visiting his relatives in Barangay (village) New Dumangas in T’boli, South Cotabato when abducted by guerrillas on April 12.

Just a few days after his disappearance, the NPA issued a statement saying they had him in custody and was being investigated for his supposed involvement in psychological warfare under the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ Oplan Bayanihan.

On June 13, the NPA handed him to Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte in a remote area of Sarangani province.

Duterte said he had asked the rebels to free Subere based on the appeal of the parents.

Año said the military would start its investigation into Subere’s Awol (absences without leave).

Capt. Alberto Caber, spokesperson of the Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom), said Subere went Awol on April 11, a day before he was taken captive by the NPA. He said following the military’s rule on absenteeism, Subere was dismissed from service on June 2.

“Dates are important in the investigation because when a soldier goes on Awol and fails to return after 10 days, his name will be dropped from the list of the Army,” Caber said.

The NPA has taken soldiers in captivity several times in the past, mostly following clashes with the Army.

Many had been freed after they were found innocent of so-called crimes against the people by tribunals formed by the guerrillas.

Clashes spark mass evacuation in remote Samar town

Sun Star-Tacloban (Jun 23): Clashes spark mass evacuation in remote Samar town

MATUGINAO, Samar -- The frequent encounter between military and communist rebels has sparked mass evacuation of families in two remote farming villages in this town.

As of Saturday, June 20, about 100 families in Mahayag and Libertad villages left their homes and fled to the town center for fear of their lives.

Matuginao, an interior town of Samar, has been tensed in the past three weeks when fighting broke out between members of the New People’s Army (NPA) and soldiers belonging to the 43rd Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army.

Farmers expressed fears that the ongoing conflict poses a threat to their security. Men and women tell horrors of war in their villages. They have lost loved ones in massacres, strafing and shooting between armed men.

Teresita Suarino, a village chief of Libertad, recalled that even the slightest strange noise drives her family to bushes, where they took cover for safety.

“We heard gunfire ringing out even at broad day light and the military returned fire,” Suarino said.
She and the rest of the villagers are too frightened to return home.

Perlita Diaz, village chief of Mahayag, said they have no idea where they will be going.

“It was just like an exodus, a sudden and caught up in the conflict in another village,” Diaz said.

She recalled how her family had withstood a number of attacks, but said that this time, it is much different. The attack was made by the NPA against the military stationed within their villages.

“Such situation in our neighboring villages poses a serious danger to the safety of many civilians, including us in Mahayag,” Diaz added.

Conflict in Matuginao had a negative impact on its agricultural trade and residents fear that this may contribute to possible shortfall of food supplies to the town center.

Farmers said they are afraid and helpless. They do not feel motivated to plant long-term crops because they fear that they have to move to other places if the armed conflict is not solved.

Some go back to their villages to collect their crops by day, but then leave the village and hike for hours to the town center before dark.

The army has deployed reinforcement troops along the Matuginao-Gandara border “to prevent any possible spill-over of hostilities into other areas.”

“Security situation has been improving, but people are still scared,” said Lieutenant Colonel Seigfred Tubalado, commander of the Army’s 43rd IB.

Mayor Melissa Dela Cruz said the people took a neutral stand in the conflict in Samar. “We maintain a neutral stance to the conflict between the military and the NPA rebels in Samar and we are appealing for restraint from the parties involved.”

“We recommend a negotiated resolution to the ongoing conflict in Matuginao. We do hope that the conflict will be resolved quickly in the interest of peace and stability not only in our town but of the whole region,” she added.

Meanwhile, the battalion commander of the Civil Military Operations in Eastern Visayas admitted that there have been military abuses in the past, but the military is now very conscious about human rights, said Lieutenant Colonel Rodrigo Ilustrisimo.

They are now into projecting good public image and more eager to win the trust and respect of the public, he added.

At present, the local government unit of Matuginao, the Provincial Government of Samar and the Army provided food, water and medicines in order to mitigate the situation of the displaced families who took shelter in government facilities and in houses of their relatives.

Matuguinao, with a population of more than 6,000 is about 100 kilometers north of Tacloban City. In the past, the town can only be accessed through four hours boat ride from nearby Gandara town. The government has ongoing Gandara-Matuguinao road project that aims to reduce travel time to less than an hour.

AFP: No monetary reward for arrest of Silva

From InterAksyon (Jun 23): AFP: No monetary reward for arrest of Silva

AFP Spokesman Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc. Screen grab from News5

Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc, Public Affairs Office (PAO) chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), on Tuesday lambasted the allegation of an arrested communist leader that the military and police were only after a cash reward that the government allotted for his arrest.

"Let's set the record straight. There is no cash reward for the arrest of Adelberto Silva, who replaced the detained Wilma Tiamzon as acting secretary general of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army-National Democratic Front," Cabunoc retorted.

Cabunoc said the same also applied in the case of NPA commander Ruben Saluta, alias Hugo, who was arrested in March together with fellow commander Emmanuel Bacarra at their safe house in Caloocan City.

Silva, on the other hand, was arrested at his safe house on June 1 in Bacoor, Cavite.

Also arrested was his wife, Rosanna Cabusao, former officer of the progressive Gabriela partylist and currently working as consultant of the Crispin B. Beltran Resource Center, and their driver identified as Isidro de Lima.

Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay claimed that Silva is an NDF peace consultant and holder of the Joint Agreement on Security and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG).

Cabunoc reiterated, though, that Silva and Saluta, just like many other communist leaders who fell into the hands of the government security forces, were not associated with cash rewards offered by the government.

"They have standing warrants of arrest because of their crimes against the people," he said.

Cabunoc also lambasted Silva and Palabay for using the cash reward system of the AFP as "black propaganda just to impress the public that some military and police officials are taking advantage of the reward system.

"More CPP-NPA-NDF leaders will be arrested one by one," Cabunoc said.

According to Palabay, Silva is just one among 16 arrested NDF peace consultants and who remained detained as the government continues to violate the JASIG.

She added that there are 527 political prisoners languishing in jail.

Palabay has regarded the AFP-PNP reward systems as an "organized racket" of some unscrupulous officers.

She cited the case of security guard Rolly Panesa, who was arrested in October 2012 and tortured into admitting that he was the communist leader "Benjamin Mendoza".

The Court of Appeals later ruled Panesa's case was a "mistaken identity" and ordered the police to release him from jail in September 2013.

Months before then AFP chief retired Gen. Emmanuel Bautista retired from service, he personally handed the P5.6 million cash reward to a hooded informer who led the military in the arrest of Panesa.

Until now, the military has stood pat on its position that Panesa is the same person as Benjamin Mendoza despite the court ruling.

Bomb blast hits Basilan

From the Philippine Star (Jun 25): Bomb blast hits Basilan

A bomb explosion rocked Lamitan City in Basilan Tuesday night, security officials said yesterday.

Navy Capt. Roy Vincent Tinidad, chief of staff of Naval Forces Western Mindanao and Task Force Zambasulta, said there was no reported casualty in the blast that occurred around 11 p.m.

Trinidad said an improvised explosive device was placed in front of a remittance center, which was damaged in the blast.

Authorities are eyeing extortion as the motive for the attack believed to be staged by Abu Sayyaf bandits.

PNP to transfer rebel leader from Crame to Bagong Diwa

From the Philippine Star (Jun 25): PNP to transfer rebel leader from Crame to Bagong Diwa

High profile inmates, such as Abu Sayyaf chief and rebel leaders, are detained at Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City.

The Philippine National Police (PNP) is set to transfer the alleged ranking official of a communist rebel movement from Camp Crame in Quezon City to the detention facility in Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City.

The Criminal Investigation and Detection Group -National Capital Region (CIDG-NCR) said it has already returned the warrant of arrest against Adelberto Silva to the Bacoor City Regional Trial Court in Cavite.

The CIDG-NCR also requested the court that Silva, allegedly the secretary general of the Communist Party of the Philippines, be committed to the Special Intensive Care Area inside Camp Bagong Diwa.

Silva's wife Sharon Cabusao and Isidro de Lima will remain at the CIDG-NCR detention facility for now as the court has not issued a warrant of arrest against the two.

Authorities will eventually transfer Cabusao and De Lima to Bacoor City Jail.

Police operatives arrested the three inside their home in Cavite on June 1 during a raid, where authorities seized reportedly explosives and ammunition for a grenade launchers.

Meanwhile, members of the women's rights group Gabriela are will picket outside Camp Crame to oppose the transfer of the three from the CIDG-NCR holding facility.

The group insisted that the Silva is a peace consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines and a holder of a JASIG document, a pass which makes him immune from arrest.

"The possibility that the three political prisoners will be transferred to jail facilities which are more overcrowded and repressive is deeply disturbing, especially since all of them have illnesses and health conditions which could be aggravated by their dire situation while in detention," the group said in a statement.

Cabusao is suffering from Chronic B12 Deficiency Anemia, while 68-year-old Silva has already undergone angioplasty. De Lima, 66, has high blood pressure, the group added.

Gabriela also called on authorities to at least transfer the three to the PNP Custodial Center where other political prisoners are detained.

4 soldiers killed in separate terrorist attacks in Mindanao

From the Daily Tribune (Jun 24): 4 soldiers killed in separate terrorist attacks in Mindanao

Two Army soldiers were killed after being ambushed by members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) near a military camp in Maguindanao province on Monday, a military spokesman said yesterday.

Capt. Jo-Ann Petinglay, public information officer of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division (ID), said that the two soldiers, both members of the 34th Infantry Battalion (IB), were unarmed during the ambush.

“They were unarmed and wearing athletic uniform,” said Petinglay of the two fatalities whose identities were not made available.

The two soldiers were rushed to a local hospital by their comrades but were declared dead upon arrival.

According to Petinglay, the two Army men were aboard a motorcycle at around 3 p.m. en route to get some tools at the Old Capitol Building in Shariff Aguak town when they were fired upon by the BIFF men.

The victims’ motorcycle was taken by the suspects.

The incident happened about 50 meters away from the Old Capitol Building which is now being used as military camp.

Petinglay said that the two soldiers were involved in the rehabilitation project of Meta Elementary School in Datu Unsay town.

“The incident clearly manifest that the BIFF members are treacherous and will eventually strike at soldiers who are not involved in actual combat operation if given the opportunity,” Petinglay said.

“This only further proves that the group does not care for the welfare and the future of the children within their communities,” she added.

Tagged as peace spoiler by the government, the BIFF is a breakaway faction of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) which is in the final stages of striking a peace agreement with the Aquino administration.

Meanwhile in Basilan, two soldiers were killed while three others were wounded in two separate bombings staged by the terrorist Abu Sayyaf Group in Basilan province yesterday.

Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc, military Public Affairs Office chief, said that the first explosion hit elements of the 64th Infantry Battalion (IB) at around 8:30 a.m. while patrolling along Sapah Bulak in Sumisip town.

Two soldiers were killed during the explosion while another was wounded but on stable condition.

At around 10:10 a.m., a roadside bomb was hit by patrolling elements of the 18th IB along Unkaya Pukan in Tipo-Tipo, wounding one soldier. Another soldier was wounded during the ensuing running gunbattle.

Cabunoc said that additional forces were deployed in the area to conduct pursuit operations against the Abu Sayyaf bands responsible in the twin bombings.

Cabunoc pointed to the group of ASG leader Furuji Indama as responsible in the attacks against the Army troops.

“Presently, pursuit operations are being conducted by the 18th and 64th IB, including the 3rd Scout Ranger Battalion,” Cabunoc said.

Relatedly, a wanted Abu Sayyaf man identified as Abdullah, alias Alcobar, was arrested by combined military and police forces in Lantawan.

Cabunoc said that Abdullah did not resist when he was accosted by elements of the Marines, Navy Special Operations Group and local police.

Outgoing AFP chief bids farewell to Southern Luzon Command

From the Daily Tribune (Jun 25): Outgoing AFP chief bids farewell to Southern Luzon Command

Outgoing Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief-of-staff Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang bid goodbye to the officers, enlisted personnel, and civilian employees of the Lucena-based Southern Luzon Command Wednesday.

Catapang is scheduled to step down on July 11, his 56th birthday.

He served the AFP for 38 years since his graduation from the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) in 1981.

The Southern Luzon Command was the first among six unified commands of the AFP Catapang visited as part of his farewell visit to military units.

The AFP chief also expressed confidence that the military will be victorious in various battles due to professionalism which will be highlighted by the AFP through the AFP Transformation Roadmap.

He proudly mentioned also about the water, air and land assets the AFP will commission in the coming months.

“In next year’s Independence Day, two F-50 fighter jets will be flying over our airspace,” he said.

“Indeed our Armed Forces is moving on the right direction, the AFP has a bright future,” Catapang stressed.

Turkey keen on learning PHL’s ‘architecture of peace process’

From the Business Mirror (Jun 24): Turkey keen on learning PHL’s ‘architecture of peace process’

A high-level delegation from Turkey is in the country to learn the “architecture of a peace process” that it said would have “a very substantial impact” with its revived peace negotiations with its Kurdish minority.

The Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (Opapp) said the delegates would meet and talk to Philippine officials “and learn from the successful peace talks of the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.”
The delegation includes high-level members of parliament from Turkey’s main political parties, according to the Opapp.
The Opapp quoted Kerim Yildiz, director of the nonprofit group Democratic Progress Institute (DPI), as saying that “the Turks are at a very important stage in the process with the Kurds that has recently started.”
The Opapp said Yildiz emphasized that the assistance of Philippine peace officials in conducting the briefing, among other activities, “would have a very substantial impact.”
Philippine peace panel officials who met with the delegation were former Agriculture Secretary Senen Bacani and peace panel legal team head lawyer Anna Basman.
Yildiz was quoted in a statement as saying that the delegates “are interested in discussing the architecture of a peace process, including the negotiations and cessation of hostilities; the role of the media; the role of civil society in mobilizing a peace process; and the role of third parties in a peace process.”
The delegates said they were interested “in the challenges that the Bangsamoro peace process is facing, especially in terms of the implementation of peace agreements.”
Bacani said “prejudices and biases against Filipino Muslims is a bigger challenge to the peace process compared to the implementation of agreements.”
“The harder challenge is the change in mind-set, in terms of a new way of thinking, eliminating the prejudices and biases of the past. That’s the harder one,” Bacani said.
Bacani thanked Turkey for contributing to the Bangsamoro peace process.
“I’d like to thank the government of Turkey and the people of Turkey for their very active involvement in the peace process with regard to our talks with the MILF,” Bacani said.
“Turkey is represented in the International Contact Group [ICG] together with the United Kingdom, Japan and Saudi Arabia—these are four countries represented—and four international non-governmental organizations,” Bacani noted. The ICG observes the conduct of the peace negotiations between the government and MILF. “It’s second involvement is in the Third Party Monitoring Team, there is an international NGO from Turkey that is represented in the Third Party Monitoring Team [TPMT],” he added. The TPMT is tasked to monitor compliance of the government and MILF to all signed agreements.
“Turkey is also represented in the Independent Decommissioning Body [IDB], which is chaired by the former ambassador of Turkey to Nato [North Atlantic Treaty Organization], Ambassador Haydar Berk,” he added.
The IDB is tasked to oversee the decommissioning of MILF forces and weapons.

Military confirms 3 people held by ASG in Zamboanga del Sur

From the Business Mirror (Jun 24): Military confirms 3 people held by ASG in Zamboanga del Sur

THE military confirmed on Wednesday the kidnapping of a village chief and two Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) personnel and the demand by the local terrorist group Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) for a ransom for the release of the victims in Zamboanga del Sur.
The confirmation was made by the Armed Forces after the three victims, particularly the PCG personnel, appealed to President Aquino and other government officials to work for their release, fearing they would be beheaded by their captors.
A video, obviously taken and released by the terrorists, showed the PCG staff, one of them identified as Gringo Villaluz, making repeated pleadings to Mr. Aquino and Coast Guard commandant Adm. Rodolfo Isorena to pay their kidnappers.
The video also showed a handful of youth-looking and fully armed ASG members on the background and another terrorist holding a machete pressed against the neck of one of the PCG personnel. The image is a subtle warning victims would be beheaded if their pleas were unheeded.
Aside From Villaluz, the two other victims are SN2 Allan Pagaling and Barangay Chairman Robert Bulagao. The three were snatched aboard a banca in the waters of f Dapitan City, Zamboanga del Sur, on May 11.
A source from the military said the kidnappers have demanded P1 million each as a ransom for the two PCG personnel. He said the victims were taken to Sulu by their kidnappers and were currently being guarded by the group of Commander Yasser Igasan, the second highest commander of the ASG in the province after Radulan Sahiron.
Igasan is the spiritual leader of the ASG. “They are being kept by the group of Yasser Igasan and they were being moved around,” the source said.
He said they have confirmed the ransom demand, even from officials of the Coast Guard whom they talked to on Tuesday.
“They [kidnappers] were asking for a ransom of P1 million each for the Coast Guard personnel,” he said. 

LOOK: Filipino troops train with fake guns

From ABS-CBN (Jun 24): LOOK: Filipino troops train with fake guns


 LOOK: Filipino troops train with fake guns

Perhaps there is logic in making Filipino soldiers train with toy guns alongside one's high-powered weapons. I'll be sure to ask the organizers tomorrow, and share their answers with you. But the imagery yesterday's exercise conveyed did not sit well with some observers. #CARAT
36 likes      11 comments        Instagram
Philippine Navy troops train with fake guns, while their American counterparts are armed with real assault rifles during their ongoing Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) Exercises in Palawan.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has yet to comment on the use of the fake guns by Filipino troops.

NPA member surrenders, hits rebels for failed promises

From ABS-CBN (Jun 24): NPA member surrenders, hits rebels for failed promises

A member of the Pulang Bagani Command 2 of the New People's Army (NPA) operating in Magpet, North Cotabato and Davao areas has surrendered to the military, an official said.

According to 57th Infantry Battalion commander Ltc. Jose Ambrosio Rustia, the NPA member surrendered to a company commander of the battalion while soldiers were conducting a peace and development outreach program in Barangay Tagbac, Magpet.

The rebel returnee, according to Rustia, said in his statement that he was just fooled by NPA leaders, who promised him social benefits when he joined the revolutionary group.

None of these supposed benefits was realized, he said.

"Allegedly yung promise sa kanya is pagaaralin yung mga anak niya, bibigyan siya ng bigas saka ng pera, kaya natuluyan na siyang sumumpa," said Rustia.

"Ang alam niya na pag ang NPA nag-surrender sa sundalo, bubugbugin sila, pahihirapan sila. Tinatakot sila ng ganito ng mga kasama nila," he added.

Since April this year, eight rebels under the NPA's Pulang Bagani Command 2 have surrendered to the military.

An M-16 rifle was also turned over to the government by one of the returnees.

Five of the returnees are currently under the custody of the municipal social welfare and development office of Magpet.

DND eyes Japan's P-3C Orion spy plane

From GMA News (Jun 25): DND eyes Japan's P-3C Orion spy plane

2 Japanese military planes arrive in Palawan for CARAT 2015

Two P3 Orion reconnaissance planes of the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force arrive at the Antonio Bautista Airbase in Palawan on Tuesday, June 23, to conduct aerial search and rescue training over the West Philippine Sea with their Filipinpo counterparts. The PHL is conducting separate training exercises with the US Navy and the JMSDF as part of CARAT 2015

The Department of National Defense is interested in acquiring Japan's P-3C Orion surveillance plane as soon it gets replaced with the more advanced P-8 Poseidon, DND Undersecretary Peter Galvez said on Wedmesday.
Galvez, the DND spokesman, said the acquisition of the spy plane, a unit of which has had two flights over parts of the West Philippine Sea, was discussed in the bilateral talks with Japan.
Acquiring the P-3C Orion, Galvez said, could be done via an Excess Defense Articles (EDA) deal.
Philippine Navy officers have been working with Japanese counterparts in surveillance flights of the Orion and the Philippine Navy's Islander.
The Orion can fly up to ten hours on a mission while the Islander's range is five hours max.
The Orion can also detect submarines.
Japan and the Philippines' five days of military training exercises conclude Thursday.

Funds for AFP modernization assured

From the Standard (Jun 24): Funds for AFP modernization assured

THE modernization of the Armed Forces will continue as the government will continue acquiring equipment to provide the needs of its soldiers, Malacañang said Tuesday.

“The AFP has a modernization plan and the Aquino administration has consistently made sure that it is funded,” deputy presidential spokeswoman said in a text message to reporters.

“We continue to acquire equipment that will serve the needs of our soldiers as well as engage with other countries to continue training and learning best practices.”

Valte made her comments after she was asked about the AFP’s capability to defend the South China Sea, where China has been building islands.

The AFP recently said one of its problems was  its “limited equipment and facilities” to defend Philippine territory against China’s creeping expansion in the South China Sea.

A report says the Philippine Air Force has also acknowledged its weaknesses in territorial defense in its strategic plan called Flight Plan 2028.

The Air Force cited limited equipment, bases and facilities for territorial defense as well as inadequate training and the absence of established doctrines for territorial defense.

It also admitted in a report in April that it is not configured for territorial defense.

The Philippine military has been trying to build a minimum credible defense amid China’s expansion in the South China Sea.

The report says the Air Force’s breakthrough goal is to “build capability to detect, identify, intercept and neutralize intrusions in the Philippine Air Defense Identification Zone and West Philippine Sea by 2022 and the entire Philippines by 2028.”

The Air Force aims to have Area Readiness 3 to Area Readiness 1.

The report says the ability to neutralize incursions refers to 51 to 74 percent of Philippine territory while Area Readiness 1 means 100 percent of the country’s territory, which is estimated to be 40,000 square nautical miles.

On the other hand, Jane’s Defense Magazine in 2012 said the Philippines has no fighter aircraft compared to China’s 1,082 with radars, missile defense, ballistic missile and nuclear arms.

Vietnam, one of the claimants in the South China Sea, has 208 fighter aircraft, Thailand has 55, Indonesia 48 and Malaysia 42.

Maiden flight of first Philippine FA-50 a success

From Ang Malaya (Jun 24): Maiden flight of first Philippine FA-50 a success

The Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) announced that first flight of FA-50 for Philippines was a success. “FA-50PH’s maiden flight took place on 19 June after the Philippines has signed a contract for 12 KAI FA-50 fighter aircraft in March last year,” KAI said in its social networking page.

“We will [do] our best to deliver initial 2 aircraft by the end of this year,” the Korean company said.

Philippine Air Force pilots high timers were chosen to train for the FA-50 in South Korea. “The operative term there is train the trainors, they will soon become the instructor pilots,” said Col. Miguel Okol from Air Defense Wing.

FA-50 can load up to 4.5 tons of weapons and has a wide-range of armament system. It has a 20 mm three-barrel gun that can fire at extremely high rate internally installed.

It can be fitted with AIM-9 Sidewinder, a short-range air-to-air missile; AGM-65, an air-to-surface missile designed for close-air support missions; cluster bombs and rocket launchers.

The Fighting Eagle is equipped with Multimode Airborne Fire Control Radar system designed to accomplish air-to-air and airstrike missions.

Filipino, American forces hone skills in capturing enemy vessels

From Ang Malaya (Jun 24): Filipino, American forces hone skills in capturing enemy vessels

Forces from Philippine Navy and United States Navy conducted Visit, Board, Search and Seizure drills in Puerto Princesa, Palawan on June 22 as part of Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) Philippines 2015.

“Sailors assigned to Surface Warfare Mission Package, Detachment 4, currently embarked aboard the littoral combat ship USS Fort Worth (LCS 3), practice Visit, Board, Search and Seizure drills with Philippine Navy Sailors as part of Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) Philippines 2015,” the US Navy said.

Visit, board, search, and seizure (VBSS) is the term used by the United States military and law enforcement agencies for maritime boarding actions and tactics, designed to capture enemy vessels, to combat terrorism, piracy and smuggling, and to conduct customs, safety and other inspections.

CARAT Philippines 2015 started June 18 and will run until June 30.

Filipino and American sailors are taking part in joint gunnery exercises, helicopter crash and salvage drills, deck-landing qualifications, visit, board, search-and-seizure and weapon system training.

Japanese spy planes soon in Philippine military inventory

From Ang Malaya (Jun 24): Japanese spy planes soon in Philippine military inventory

“The matter of sharing defense equipment and technology with other countries was something unthinkable for Japan previously,” Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said in a state news report. However, with the recent change in Japan’s defense policy, other countries like the Philippines may now acquire military hardware and equipment from Japan.

“But recently, the Japanese have become more open to such a possibility, something which dovetails quite well with our own thrust to have access to equipment and technology available in our neighbors,” the defense chief further said.

Reports say that Philippines is set to receive four Japanese P-3C “Orion” surveillance and maritime patrol aircraft in a span of one year.

Sevretary Gazmin said “Japan’s defense policy for the region including vis-avis its neighbors have taken a new shape as it embodied in its new security policy where Japan intends to make a proactive contribution to international peace and stability, its re-conceptualization of collective defense equipment to its neighbors to help them develop their respective defense capabilities.”

MOA allows historic PH-Japan maritime exercises

From Rappler (Jun 24): MOA allows historic PH-Japan maritime exercises

21 officers from the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force and 15 from the Philippine Navy hold a joint search and rescue operation off Palawan

HISTORIC FLIGHT. Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force and Philippine Navy conduct first flight together over the South China Sea

HISTORIC FLIGHT. Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force and Philippine Navy conduct first flight together over the South China Sea

Pending a new Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), the Philippines and Japan are using a newly signed executive agreement to provide legal cover for the historic joint training exercises of its navies in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

A small group of 21 officers fom the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) and 15 officers from the Philippine Navy (PN) simulated on Tuesday, June 23, a joint search and rescue operation off the coast of Palawan, the Philippine island closest to the disputed area.

It marked the first time for the former World War II enemies to fly together.

Responding to questions, Philippine Navy spokesperson Colonel Edgar Arevalo cited the Memorandum on Defense Cooperation and Exchanges (MDCE), an executive agreement signed only in January by Japan's Minister of Defense and the Philippines' Secretary of Defense.

"Paragraph 1 [of the agreement] provides for a framework of cooperation and exchanges between the participants in the field of defense on the basis of reciprocity and mutual benefit," Arevalo told Rappler when asked for the legal basis of the training exercise.

3rd PH VFA
During his state visit to Japan in early June, Philippine President Benigno Aquino III announced that the two countries have agreed to start talks on a VFA that will allow Japan's access to Philippine military bases at a time when both countries are fighting China's aggression in the South China Sea.

Japan has territorial disputes with China over Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, while the Philippines is protesting China's virtual occupation of shoals and construction of artificial islands in the West Philippine Sea.

The Philippines already has two VFAs, with the United States and Australia, that allow regular bilateral and multilateral training exercises. (WATCH: Biggest PH-US war games a display of what 'bullies' may face)

MUTUAL BENEFIT. Philippines and Japan defense chiefs sign an executive agreement on defense cooperation. AFP file photo

MUTUAL BENEFIT. Philippines and Japan defense chiefs sign an executive agreement on defense cooperation. AFP file photo

Aquino had said that the VFA with Japan will go through the Philippine Senate, which the Philippine Constitution vests with the exclusive power to forge treaties.

He took a different track from the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) with the US, which Malacañang insists is only an executive agreement that doesn't require Senate ratification. (READ: A year later, SC still sitting on EDCA)

EDCA seeks to increase US military presence in the Philippines by allowing it to construct facilities and preposition assets inside Philippine military bases, which critics call "de-facto basing." It is pending before the Supreme Court.

'Customary events'

Arevalo argued that the training exercises with Japanese troops – two activities so far – are "customary navy-to-navy events we accord to visiting navies." (READ: Philippines, Japan hold historic naval drills in flashpoint waters)

"With respect to the JMSDF, it is not in the training in the magnitude and duration as that of the USA pursuant with the VFA," he said.

The Filipino navy officers joined a flight of the Japanese P3-C Orion, a spy plane, just outside the country's 12-nautical mile territorial waters, while a Philippine Navy Islander served as the link between the Japanese forces onboard and officers at the Philippine Navy headquarters.

"This is an opportune time for us to learn so that in the event that other countries may need our help, the standards are all there and we can communicate, we can fly, we can learn, we can work with other nations without any challenges at all," said Colonel Jonas Lumawag, Philippine Naval Air Group commander who led the Philippine team in the exercise.
[Video report: Japan, PH navies fly together for the first time
This is also the first time that the Japanese navy is flying over the West Philippine Sea]

JMSDF Commander Hiromi Hamano said they also got to familiarize themselves with the airport in Puerto Princesa, which happens to be one of the sites offered to the US under the EDCA.
The P3-C Orion is a US-made anti-submarine, anti-surface warfare, surveillance, and reconnaissance aircraft capable of conducting up to 10-hour long range patrols. The Philippine Navy is only capable of up to 5-hour patrols.

Japan, PH navies fly together for the first time

From Rappler (Jun 24): Japan, PH navies fly together for the first time

They say it is only a simulation of a search and rescue operation but this is also the first time that the Japanese navy is flying over the West Philippine Sea

[Video report: Japan, PH navies fly together for the first time
This is also the first time that the Japanese navy is flying over the West Philippine Sea]

A P3-C Orion surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft of the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force is in the Philippines is in Palawan province in the Philippines for a historic flight with the Philippine Navy.
Rappler Carmela Fonbuena filed this report.
SPY PLANES: Two P3-C Orion spy planes are in Palawan this week for maritime training exercises. Rappler photo
SPY PLANES: Two P3-C Orion spy planes are in Palawan this week for maritime training exercises. Rappler photo
Two foreign P3 orion spy planes are here in Palawan, the Philippine island closest to the disputed areas in the South China Sea. One is owned by the US navy and the other by the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force.
They’re here doing exercises with their Filipino counterparts as China is reportedly completing construction of artificial islands in the disputed seas.
Exercises with old treaty ally United States are all too common. But with Japan, a World War II enemy turned ally, this is the first time that they’re flying together.
They say it is only a simulation of a search and rescue operation but this is also the first time that the Japanese navy is flying over the West Philippine Sea.
More than the task, the training is focused on synchronizing communications and techniques so the two navies learn how to operate together.
COMMANDER HIROMI HAMANO, Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force: After take off, we conduct a search and rescue training. We search any ships or fish boat or missing aircraft. We report to Philippine Navy that information of the ship so we have a very good training. After training, we have, three times , touch and go, to familiarize with the Puerto Princesa airport.
COLONEL JONAS LUMAWAG, commander of the Philippine Naval Air Group: What we are trying to to do now is we’re trying to align ourselves with the capabilities of other nations so that the standard would be the same.
The training exercise happens after President Aquino’s state visit to Japan.
The two countries with territorial rows with China agreed to begin talks on a visiting forces agreement that will also give Japan access to Philippine bases.
Aquino says this game-changing agreement will go through the Senate, which has exclusive power under the Philippine constitution to forge treaties.
But this training exercise shows the navies won’t wait.
Rappler asked high ranking Philippine navy officials for the legal basis that allows this training exercise. They cite the Memorandum of Defense Cooperation and Exchanges, an executive agreement signed in January between Japan’s ministry of defense and the Philippine Department of National Defense.
The Senate deliberation is expected to be tedious but security officers say the threat of China’s islands is here and now and these training exercises must start.

PH: Naval drills with Japan OK despite no VFA

From Rappler (Jun 24): PH: Naval drills with Japan OK despite no VFA

The Philippine government doesn't expect to ratify a Visiting Forces Agreement with Japan before President Benigno Aquino III steps down from office

 PHILIPPINES' ALLIES. Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force personnel walk next to P3C patrol planes at the Puerto Princesa airport on the island of Palawan, western Philippines, on June 23, 2015. Photo by Francis Malasig/EPA

PHILIPPINES' ALLIES. Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force personnel walk next to P3C patrol planes at the Puerto Princesa airport on the island of Palawan, western Philippines, on June 23, 2015. Photo by Francis Malasig/EPA

The Philippines on Wednesday, June 24, justified its joint naval drills with Japan despite the absence of a Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the two countries.
"The ongoing exercise with Japan is done outside the Philippine territory. It's over the territorial waters. So it is not covered by the agreement," Philippine Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said in a forum on the proposed VFA with Japan.
Gazmin did not elaborate.
Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, the territorial waters cover up to 12 nautical miles from a coastal state's baselines or edges.
A coastal state exercises sovereignty over its territorial sea.
[Video report: PH defends drills with Japan without VFA
Philippine Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin justifies his country's naval drills with Japan in the absence of a Visiting Forces Agreement.]
Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte, for her part, explained that the Philippines "has had these exercises before with our strategic partners," Japan and the United States.
"It should not be taken as an affront to any other, and is an expression of cooperation and learning from all those involved," Valte said.
Philippine Navy spokesman Colonel Edgar Arevalo also described the training exercises with Japanese troops – two activities so far – as "customary navy-to-navy events we accord to visiting navies."
Philippine officials issued these statements as the Philippines and Japan, former World War II enemies, conduct their first bilateral naval exercises.
The Philippines and Japan use a newly signed executive agreement to provide legal cover for these historic drills in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
'No VFA with Japan under Aquino'
At the same time, the two countries plan to draft a VFA that will strengthen their ties in the face of an aggressive China in the East China Sea and the West Philippine Sea.
On Wednesday, Gazmin defended the proposed VFA between Manila and Tokyo as critics fear a repeat of US troops' alleged abuses under a similar arrangement.
He also quelled concerns about signing a VFA with Japan, which invaded the Philippines during World War II and committed various atrocities against Filipinos. (READ: Aquino orders report on WWII 'comfort women')
Gazmin said: "Some may also ask, 'Why Japan? Have we forgotten what Japan did in the Philippines and to Filipino people during the Second World War?'"
"To this, I say: 'We have not. And we will not forget what took place then, which is now a part of our collective experience and national psyche as Flipinos. But that does not mean that we should remain stuck in the past. Indeed we should take stock of what has transpired but we should be ready to move forward and beyond.'"
Gazmin, however, said the Philippine government does not expect to finish the VFA before President Benigno Aquino III steps down from office in June 2016.
[Video report: PH: Proposed VFA with Japan 'will take some time'   
Philippine Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin says talks have not begun for the proposed Visiting Forces Agreement with Japan.]
He pointed out that the VFA between the Philippines and Australia, in fact, took 7 years to complete.
"It will take some time before the VFA will be signed," Gazmin said.