Friday, July 17, 2015

US entry feared when Subic is military base

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jul 18): US entry feared when Subic is military base

The Department of National Defense (DND) stood by its decision to use Subic Bay as a military base, citing its strategic location in the disputed West Philippine Sea as well as its ideal airport.

While Subic was once one of the biggest US naval facilities in the world, it was never home to the Philippine military. The US naval base was shut after the Philippine Senate terminated the US bases agreement.

Objections have been raised that once Subic Bay becomes a military base, the US Navy will have unimpeded access under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement.

But DND spokesperson Peter Paul Galvez said the plan to reuse the port as a military base was mentioned in 2013 as part of the military’s modernization capability upgrade.

“Subic is really one of the most suited for the increased capability of our Philippine Air Force. There is no question about it,” Galvez said, referring to Subic Bay’s former airstrip, which is now an airport.

Officials have said the Philippines plans to station new fighter jets and two frigates at Subic Bay by next year. It will be the first time the former military installation will be used as a military base in 23 years.

The DND said it was surprised the issue was being rehashed, saying there was nothing new about it. It added that it would be more expensive to construct a new military base.

“It’s really an ideal airport. It’s one of those airports where jets can really land,” Galvez said.

He added that Subic’s location was very strategic to the West Philippine Sea, where the Philippines has a territorial dispute with China and several other countries.

“Its location is very strategic,’’ Galvez said. ‘’If we need to be in the West Philippine Sea, Subic Bay’s already there. The port is also a deep water port which can accommodate our new ships.”

Specific areas

Galvez said the West Philippine Sea factor was considered in the decision to reuse the old base.
“Those are obvious factors. These were discussed before but I was surprised because it seems the issue is being rehashed or sensationalized. But this has been discussed since 2013,” Galvez said.

He added that the military was identifying limited and specific areas in Subic Bay to be used as military facilities.

He said a memorandum of agreement was in the works to identify these areas.

Galvez also said it was possible that the assets to be procured under the military’s modernization program might be rotated at the Subic Bay facility and other military installations.

Expanded exercises

Also Friday, the new US commander of the Pacific Fleet assured allies that American forces were well-equipped and ready to respond to any contingency in the South China Sea, where long-seething territorial disputes have set off widespread uncertainties.

Adm. Scott Swift, who assumed command of the Pacific Fleet in May, said the US Navy might deploy more than the four littoral combat ships it had committed to the region.

Swift also disclosed that he was “very interested” in expanding annual combat exercises the US Navy holds with each of several allies into a multinational drill, possibly including Japan.

Next conflict

Asked how many resources the US military was ready to devote to the South China Sea, Swift told journalists in Manila that he understood the concerns of America’s allies.

“The reason that people continue to ask about the long-term commitment and intentions of the Pacific Fleet is reflective really of all the uncertainty that has generated in the theater now,” Swift said. “If we had the entire United States Navy here in the region, I think people would still be asking, ‘Can you bring more?”’

Territorial disputes involving China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei have flared on and off for years, sparking fears that the South China Sea could spark Asia’s next major armed conflict.

Tensions flared again last year when China launched massive island-building in at least seven reefs it controls in the Spratlys.

US ready to move

Addressing those concerns, Swift said he was “very satisfied with the resources that I have available to me as the Pacific Fleet commander,” adding “we are ready and prepared to respond to any contingency that the president may suggest would be necessary.”

The United States, Swift stressed, doesn’t take sides but would press ahead with operations to ensure freedom of navigation in disputed waters and elsewhere.

Swift cited the US military’s massive response to help the Philippines following Supertyphoon “Yolanda’s” (international name: Haiyan) devastation in 2013 as a demonstration of America’s commitment to help a troubled ally.

It remains unclear what China intends to do with the artificial islands but Swift said it was clear those areas remained disputed and added they would not hinder US military operations in the disputed region.

“I don’t feel any change from a military perspective about impacting any operations that the Pacific Fleet engages in,” he said.

Soldier killed in encounter

From the Sun Star-Davao (Jul 17): Soldier killed in encounter

A MEMBER of the Army's 68th Infantry Battalion was killed in an encounter with suspected communist rebels at Sitio Bagang, Barangay Palma Gil in Talaingod, Davao del Norte.

The slain soldier was identified as Second Lieutenant Fritzel Anthony D. Degracia, who died while undergoing surgery at the Metro Davao Medical and Research Center Inc.

Degracia, 24, died after a 30-minute firefight between the troops and members of the New People's Army's Guerilla Front 55 around 9 a.m. Wednesday, said the 10th Infantry Division in a statement.

Brigadier General Benjamin Madrigal Jr., assistant division commander of the 10th Infantry Division, said he was saddened by Degracia's death.

"Our troops are constantly risking their lives in order to protect our people. This is the reality of our job and we will continue to do our duty. The death of Second Lieutenant Degracia, along with our other soldier-heroes, will be our inspiration to continue to faithfully do our mandate to serve our people and secure our communities. Their sacrifices, definitely, will not be in vain," he said.

Army troops acted on reports from civilian informants regarding the presence of suspected NPA rebels and their alleged extortion activities in Talaingod.

MILF: Editorial -- Sign of frustration?

Editorial posted to the MILF Website (Jul 18): Editorial -- Sign of frustration?

The use of the term “premature ejaculation” should be confined among adults only. The minors should be kept out of what the adults are doing in relation to the perpetuation of the race.

But nowadays sex is everywhere and access even by minors is no longer restricted. They are taught in schools through sex education. Pornography is almost unlimited and unhindered access in the internet. The truth is that minors are not only more obsessed with the internet than the adults but are also more literate in this field.

But why did a former senator used this term in his request to the Ethics Committee in the Lower House to investigate Representatives Lito Atienza and Jonathan dela Cruz for their premature filing of a case against peace-makers of the government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF)? We don’t think this is a sign of frustration. A man in the mold of Rene Saguisag, a veteran lawmaker and brilliant lawyer --- and a human rights defender too --- to be frustrated? Frustration is only for the feeble-minded; it is not fitting or most unlikely for those who know what they are doing and are principled.  Notwithstanding this, take note also of his use of highly charged or high impact terminologies such as “prosecutorial terrorism” and “mischief”. Any other way to explain this, say driving home a strong point?  

Perchance, the most we could concede on the possibility of frustration is to understand that a normal person by instinct reacts negatively to any remarkable childish and clownish antics of supposedly responsible personalities. Atienza and Dela Cruz are members already of Congress, which has been debating the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) since September 10, 2014. Why do they have to resort to “forum shopping”?  They can rally their peers in Congress to vote against the BBL on the plenary and not in the courts. Does this mean they have more faith in the judiciary than the legislature in making correct decisions? Lawmakers are in the business of crafting laws and policies, not in jailing people.

The second possible motive of the two legislators is that they want free news for Buhay and Abakada Partylists at the expense of the BBL since election is only already in the corner. Weird ways sometimes do not only register and click, but they are at times resorted to by highly ambitious people. Adolf Hitler used lies to consolidate his power and the effective strangulation of the German people.

Any chance of this case succeeding in court?  There is no way to say, yes or no, with certainty.  Any case filed against anyone, much of the sedition and treason nature, should not be taken lightly. The right attitude is to be serious in treating all cases. However, chance of this case losing steam is high. First, members of the court are selected on the basis of not just their competence but also for their integrity; and second, none of the peace-makers resorted to subversive methods to undermine the state and we are not in an active state of war.

MILF: “No MILF arms manufacturing facility in our area of jurisdiction”: Gen. Pangilinan

Posted to the MILF Website (Jul 17): “No MILF arms manufacturing facility in our area of jurisdiction”: Gen. Pangilinan

“No MILF arms manufacturing facility in our area of jurisdiction”: Gen. Pangilinan

Maj. Gen. Edmundo Pangilinan, Commander of the 6th Infantry Division based in Maguindanao, the province where the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has denied the existence of an MILF arms manufacturing in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and Central Mindanao.

He said that they have repeatedly verified reports about MILF arms factories and they have not found any proof of the claim.

“Our ground forces have already verified such claims. There is no truth to such allegations,” Pangilinan said.

Gen. Pangilinan’s statement came in the light of Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. claimed last week that some of the firearms the MILF turned over for decommissioning appeared to support reports the rebel group has been maintaining its own manufacturing facility.

“I don’t know, maybe Senator Marcos is receiving information from someone. But to me, my position on the manufacturing of weapons is simple practicality. If your (government) arsenal cannot produce the weapon, how can the MILF produce it?” Muntinlupa Rep. Rodolfo Biazon also said in a statement.

Biazon, a former Marine general, said the weapons turned over by the MILF were too sophisticated to have been locally produced. “They might be able to manufacture crude weapons but not sophisticated ones,” he said.

Pangilinan said past military actions against the MILF in Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur provinces must have long halted the operations of those facilities contained in a photo slides- cum-video documentary shown on national television by Retired Chief Supt. Rodolfo Mendoza,  President of the Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research (PIPVTR) that there  was an MILF secret gunsmith shop in Mt. Carao, Lanao Del Sur.

 “As far as the command is concerned, there are no weapons facilities that the MILF is maintaining in our area of jurisdiction,” Pangilinan said.

He said the last known MILF firearms factory was seized in 2000 by the military and there had been no report of a similar facility since.

GPH Chief Negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer said the information should be verified before being disseminated to the public.

“With regard the allegation that the MILF is manufacturing arms, we also do not want this to happen, so those with information should report to the AFP and the PNP or ceasefire committee so that we can take action,” she said.

Brig. Gen. Manolito Orense, chair of the government’s Ad hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG), said they were willing to validate reports on weapons manufacturing.

But he added that so far, they have not received any information that an MILF arms manufacturing facility has been operating despite the peace process.

MILF: Advocating BBL and Normalisation: Advocating Peace

Posted to the MILF Website (Jul 17): Advocating BBL and Normalisation: Advocating Peace

Advocating BBL and Normalisation: Advocating Peace

Despite the delay in the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) maintains its commitment to peace.

This was the resounding message of the MILF negotiation panel chair and concurrent BTC-MILF chairperson Mohagher Iqbal during the two day BBL and Normalization advocacy campaign conducted by the Bangsamoro Leadership and Management institute for the members of the 104thBase Command at Camp Badruddin, Maguindanao. 

The activity aims to educate the BIAF members on the pertinent provisions of the BBL especially and more importantly, the agreement provisions relating to the normalization process. This initiative is part of the MILF’s social preparation for the combatants for them to be able to slowly revert back to mainstream society and become productive.

During the activity, one of the participants asked about the process of decommissioning. The Chair explained the decommissioning, that it is not surrendering the arms of the MILF but putting them beyond use which will be handled by the third and independent body (IDB), this will be implemented phase by phase that will correspond to the specific percentage of arms to be decommissioned. The ceremonial was composed of 75 firearms and 145 combatants, the second arms to be decommissioned is equivalent to 30 percent, then will be followed by another 35 percent and the last phase that corresponds with the signing of the Exit Agreement will be 35 percent.

These phases of decommissioning will complement along with the roadmap for the crafting of good and acceptable BBL, the establishment of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) and the last phase will correspond to the signing of the exit agreement or upon compliance of both parties to the peace processes. In other words, the process of decommissioning will be completed upon the signing of the Exit Agreement.

From a violent past to peaceful settlement, BLMI executive director Mahmoud S. Ahmad shared the perspective on “Mindset Change”. He started by reciting the verse from the Qur’an that says “God will never change the condition of the people or community unless they themselves change”. Change, he said, must come first from ourselves. He also emphasized the different aspects and forms of change persons need to undertake. These are the mindsets, behaviours, skills, processes and systems. He said, change is very easy to say but hard to do.

On the second day, the focus of the discussions were the topics on how to conduct effective advocacy campaigns as an active non-violence strategy, alliance building and community organizing.

This activity was made possible through the support of the European Union Delegation to the Philippines through the Building Public Participation in Governance project managed by Conciliation Resources.

MNLF: MNLF Chairman's Greetings on the Celebration of Eid'l Fitre 2015

Posted to the MNLF Website (Jul 17):   MNLF Chairman's Greetings on the Celebration of Eid'l Fitre 2015's%20EID-EL%20FITR%202015%20Greetings.htm

MAP: Islam in the Philippines

From Rappler (Jul 17): MAP: Islam in the Philippines

Islam is the Philippines' second largest religion. See its reach not only in Mindanao but also in other provinces.

STILL STANDING. A person with disability joins his Muslim brothers in a pre-Ramadan Friday prayer at the Pink Mosque in Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Maguindanao. File photo by Rappler

STILL STANDING. A person with disability joins his Muslim brothers in a pre-Ramadan Friday prayer at the Pink Mosque in Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Maguindanao. File photo by Rappler

Even before the arrival of Spanish colonizers and Roman Catholicism in the Philippines, Islam was already present in the country. Introduced by Muslim traders in southern Philippines in the 14th century, Islam's influence had once spread north to Manila.

Many centuries later, Islam continues to be an integral part of Philippine history and culture.

Islam is the Philippines' second largest religion, with followers of 5,127,084 as of 2010, according to the National Statistics Office (NSO). In a span of 10 years, it increased by close to one-third or 32.7%, from 3,862,409 in 2000.

Majority of Filipino Muslims live in the Mindanao island group, with at least 4,838,060 Muslims there, or 94% of the country's Islamic population.

Within Mindanao is the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), composed of the provinces of Basilan, Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi, but excluding Isabela City in Basilan and Cotabato City in Maguindanao. (READ: How different is ARMM from the Bangsamoro?)

The ARMM is home to at least 2,979,814 Muslims, or 58% of the country's Muslim population.

In Metro Manila, only at least 105,094 Muslims live there, making up only 2% of the country's Muslim population, and a miniscule 0.89% of the Metro's entire population. On the map below, Metro Manila has a faint yellow shade (zoom in to see it more clearly).

Click on the other provinces for more information on the Muslim population of each one. You may also change views by clicking on the legends above the map.


 % of total Muslim pop.
 % of province's pop.
Map DataMap data ©2015 AutoNavi, GBRMPA, Google, SK planet, ZENRIN
Map Data
Map data ©2015 AutoNavi, GBRMPA, Google, SK planet, ZENRIN
Map data ©2015 AutoNavi, GBRMPA, Google, SK planet, ZENRIN

200 km
Source: National Statistics Office (NSO) Census, 2010 and 2000
The 5 ARMM provinces figure at the top of the list of provinces with the most Islam adherents in the Philippines. (READ: Beautiful mosques in the Philippines)

Top 10 Provinces with the Largest Muslim Populations
ProvinceMuslim Population (2010)% of PH's Muslim Pop.
1. Maguindanao
(including Cotabato City*)
2. Lanao del Sur872,67817.02%
3. Sulu706,22913.77%
4. Tawi-Tawi353,8656.90%
5. Zamboanga del Sur336,8406.57%
6. Cotabato318,6026.21%
7. Basilan
(including Isabela City**)
8. Lanao del Norte285,8615.58%
9. Sultan Kudarat209,9174.09%
10. Metro Manila (not a province)105,0942.05%
Source: 2010 Census, NSO
* Cotabato City, part of Region XII, has a Muslim population of 200,370.
** Isabela City, part of Region IX, has a Muslim population of 56,632.

Islam is the dominant religion in only the 5 ARMM provinces, with Sulu and Tawi-Tawi having the biggest percentage of Muslims composing their respective populations.

But Islam has a strong presence in ARMM's surrounding provinces as well.

Top 10 Provinces with the Highest Proportion of Muslims by Province
ProvinceMuslim Population (2010)% of Province's Pop.
1. Sulu706,22998.32%
2. Tawi-Tawi353,86596.83%
3. Lanao del Sur872,67894.00%
4. Maguindanao
(including Cotabato City*)
5. Basilan
(including Isabela City**)
6. Lanao del Norte285,86130.80%
7. Sultan Kudarat209,91728.13%
8. Cotabato318,60226.02%
9. Zamboanga del Sur336,84019.13%
10. Zamboanga Sibugay84,83514.53%
Source: 2010 Census, NSO
* Cotabato City, part of Region XII, has a Muslim population of 200,370.
** Isabela City, part of Region IX, has a Muslim population of 56,632.

NDF/NPA: Video -- (POW) Pfc. Adonis Jess Lupiba

CPP/NDF/NPA propaganda video posted to Ang Kalihukan (Jul 16): Video -- (POW) Pfc. Adonis Jess Lupiba

NPA uploads Lupiba video

From the Sun Star-Cagayan de Oro (Jul 17): NPA uploads Lupiba video

NEW People’s Army (NPA) guerrillas uploaded a video of Private First Class Adonis Jess Lupiba on video-sharing website YouTube last July 16.

Lupiba is the soldier captured by the NPA last July 12 in a raid in Barangay Alagatan, Gingoog City.

The video shows a lone Lupiba sitting in a mossy forest environment and does not appear hurt contrary to earlier reports that he was wounded just before his capture.

Spokesman of the New People’s Army-North Central Mindanao Region Command Ka Allan Juanito said the video is a clear proof that Lupiba is unharmed and is being treated decently.

Juanito said they uploaded the video to assure Lupiba’s family of his well-being.

“Wala koy samad natamo maliban lang sa galos kay lisud pud nga dalan pero dili lang mabalaka kay naa ko sa mga maayong kamot (I was not wounded except for some minor cuts because of the difficult trail. Do not worry because I am in good hands),” Lupiba said in the video.

He does not appear harassed or threatened in the shaky video.

The Army’s 4th Infantry Division (4ID) earlier said that Lupiba was wounded and accused the rebels of violating the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law signed by the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.

Search for Lupiba

The 4ID spokesperson Captain Jo Patrick Martinez said Army soldiers are still continuing their search to rescue Lupiba in the mountains of Misamis Oriental.

“Since we’ve seen that our soldier is in good condition, the NPA can actually leave him in any barangay that is accessible to any vehicle and he can go home on his own,” 4ID Chief Major General Oscar Lactao said in a text message.

Lactao said the arrangement would be more practical than the suspension of police and military operations previously asked by the NPA in exchange for Lupiba’s release.

PAO pleads PMA cadet’s case before High Court

From the Manila Times (Jul 17):  PAO pleads PMA cadet’s case before High Court
The Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) has asked for mercy and compassion from the Supreme Court (SC) in appealing the case of Philippine Military Academy Cadet 1st Class Aldrin Jeff Cudia, who is asking to allow him to graduate after he questioned his dismissal from the PMA in March last year.

In its 21-page Omnibus Motion dated June 22, 2015 that was obtained by the media just recently, PAO, acting as lawyer for Cudia, lodged its second motion for reconsideration with leave of court and plea for clarification in the case of Cudia before the High Court.

In the motion, the PMA cadet asked for reversal of the SC ruling made on April 14, 2015, and for the court to allow him to graduate and get his diploma in order for him to pursue his studies.

PAO said Cudia was unmistakably deprived of his right to due process when he was not allowed to graduate by the PMA.

“In the higher interest of justice, and on equitable and humanitarian considerations, this honorable court may compel the Philippine Military Academy to award Cadet Cudia with his diploma, a clean transcript of records and a Bachelor of Science Degree , as well as other documents which may facilitate his transfer to an institution of higher learning,” it pointed out.

Cudia, who recently passed entrance examinations for admission to the University of the Philippines College of Law, will not be given a chance to push with his studies because of the SC barrier.

In its February 2015 decision, the SC en banc, through Associate Justice Diosdado Peralta, said there was no grave abuse of discretion committed by Malacañang in upholding the ruling of the PMA in not allowing Cudia to graduate.

The cadet was not allowed to get his diploma after he was accused of lying and violating the Honor Code of the PMA.

The SC said the PMA did not violate Cudia’s right to due process since “minimum standards of fairness were met” in investigating and dismissing him.

Persida Rueda-Acosta, Public Attorney’s Office chief and legal counsel for Cudia, and the cadet’s father Renato questioned Malacañang’s decision last June 2014 that affirmed a decision of the PMA and its Cadet Review and Appeals Board not to allow his son to join the graduation of the PMA’s Siklab Diwa batch.

Time for Manila to end farce of arbitration on South China Sea—Xinhua

From the Daily Tribune (Jul 18): Time for Manila to end farce of arbitration on South China Sea—Xinhua

A Xinhua commentary said that Manila’s attempt to seek international arbitration over its territorial spats with China in the South China Sea is futile and doomed to fail as the case itself is untenable.

The Philippines filed an arbitration case at The Hague in early 2013 and the hearing on jurisdiction and admissibility was concluded on Monday.

However, the unilateral move employed by Manila as a clumsy tactic to encroach on the Chinese territory in the South China Sea, is no more than a pipe dream.

It is obvious that Manila has pinned its hope on the international and multilateral forces to woo sympathy for its groundless claim over the South China Sea.

While the stock-in-trade of the country is to portray itself as a victim and put pressure on China by hyping up the dispute at the international tribunal. This time, the Philippines sent a 35-man entourage to The Hague with only three of them needed to argue the case. Without any dissimulation, the authorities said that the huge delegation was a “show of force” to “impress the arbiters” that the nation is united behind the country’s case against China.

However, although they sent more people to The Hague in an attempt to sway the arbiters, Manila’s efforts will fail to produce any results as they expected.

As a matter of fact, China is the real victim of the South China Sea disputes as the Philippines has illegally occupied Chinese territories there since the 1970s. In order to safeguard regional peace and stability, China has remained highly restrained.

Regarding the territorial sovereignty, China has abundant historical and legal evidence to prove them, while its maritime rights to the waters enclosed within the nine-dash lines in the South China Sea are also upheld by history.

As for the arbitration, the essence of the subject-matter of the case is the territorial sovereignty over several maritime features in the South China Sea, which is beyond the scope of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea under which Manila initiated the arbitration.

Besides, any arbitration must be based on the principle of consent. In bilateral disputes, if one party does not accept or participate in the arbitration, the other party shall not institute the arbitration against its will.

China has reiterated that it will neither accept nor participate in the arbitration, and elaborates at length on the legal basis for its position that the arbitral tribunal does not have jurisdiction over this case.

Manila’s unilateral move will not help solve the disputes. Instead, it will poison its relationship with China.

Meanwhile, hyping the arbitration and spending big money on lobbying foreign arbiters will also stir domestic criticism back home.

Thus, it is time for the Philippines to stop the farce of arbitration on the South China Sea issue and return as soon as possible to the right track of bilateral talks for a final solution acceptable to both countries.

At the same itme, the Netherlands-based Permanent Court of Arbitration has vowed to hand down a decision on whether it will assume jurisdiction on the Philippines’ case against China in the West Philippine Sea “as soon as possible,” saying a ruling is expected before the year ends.

In a statement on Monday, the tribunal said it has already entered the deliberations phase upon the conclusion of the oral arguments from July 7 to 13 in The Hague, which was attended by a powerhouse Philippine government delegation, backed by its international lawyers and maritime law experts.

The tribunal “is conscious of its duty under the Rules of Procedure to conduct proceedings to avoid unnecessary delay and expense and to provide a fair and efficient process,” the statement said.

Should the court decide that it has jurisdiction over the case, it will then move on to the next phase, which is the hearing on the legal merits of the Philippines’ complaint.

Manila is asking the court to nullify China’s far-reaching claims in the waters, known internationally as the South China Sea, saying such assertion encroaches on Philippine sovereignty and rights under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLoS).

The court also asked the Philippines to submit “further written responses” until July 23 to questions raised by the five-member arbitration body.

China, which did not participate in the hearings, was also given an opportunity to comment in writing until Aug. 17, 2015 regarding the oral arguments.

A transcript of the entire proceedings was provided by the court to China to ensure transparency, even as it has declared several times that it does not accept Manila’s case.

“Before making its award, the arbitral tribunal must satisfy itself not only that it has jurisdiction over the dispute but also that the claim is well founded in fact and in law,” the PCA said.

In line with its duty under Article 5 of Annex VII to the UNCLoS, the court said it must “assure each party a full opportunity to be heard and to present its case.”

The Philippines brought its maritime disputes with China before international arbitration in January 2013 following a dangerous maritime standoff in the Scarborough Shoal, which lies 124 nautical miles from the Philippine province of Masinloc, Zambales and 472 nautical miles from China’s nearest land mass of Hainan province.

China, which objects to any third-party intervention on the sea disputes, said it will not recognize any decision that will arise from the Philippine case.

Scarborough, seized by China after the standoff in 2012, is known in the Philippines as Panatag or Bajo de Masinloc, but called Huangyan Island by the Chinese.

In April 2012, Manila and Beijing were locked in a standoff when Chinese vessels prevented Philippine authorities from arresting Chinese fishermen poaching in the shoal, situated well within the Philippine 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone as allowed by the UN treaty.

Even before the standoff, the Philippines has repeatedly accused China of intruding into its territorial waters, disrupting its oil exploration and harassing its fishermen.

Beijing also moved to cement its claim in the sea by rapidly reclaiming seven formerly submerged and contested reefs into man-made islands, defying protests from other claimants and countries like United States, Japan and those from the European Union.

China insists ownership of almost 90 percent of the South China Sea, including areas that overlap with the Philippines’ and other Asian nations’ territories.

Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also have overlapping claims to the waters– a major trading route teeming with rich marine life and vast oil and mineral deposits.

Chopper deal exposes kinks in AFP procurement process

From the Manila Times (Jul 17): Chopper deal exposes kinks in AFP procurement process

THE controversial P1.2-billion UH-1 helicopter project that a whistleblower exposed through The Manila Times and is now the subject of a Senate blue ribbon investigation was key in exposing infirmities in the procurement process of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), a senator said on Thursday.

According to Francis Escudero, the AFP procurement process is “too supplier-driven” and has relied heavily on suppliers rather than the demand or needs of the military in order to improve its performance.

He said the AFP lacked the technical expertise to determine the most sophisticated military vehicles and equipment on the market.

“The AFP has been relying more heavily on suppliers for everything they need and most of the time it is the one adjusting to the specifications of the suppliers,” the senator pointed out.

Escudero, chairman of the Senate finance committee, said flaws in the process are also the reason why improvements within the AFP are “hardly felt” despite the billions of pesos poured into the military modernization program over the past decade.

The senator noted that of the P68 billion spent for the costly AFP modernization program since 1999, much-needed and long-overdue upgrades of the country’s Armed Forces remain elusive.

“Is it just me, or does anyone else notice that the AFP has shown hardly any improvement since the ambitious AFP modernization program began in the 1990s?” Escudero asked, saying he cannot even see improvements in vehicles, uniforms and equipment used by soldiers.

It is for this reason, he said, why the Senate initiated a probe of implementation of the program aimed at upgrading the AFP, including the allegedly irregular acquisitions of military equipment and weapons system.

The Department of National Defense (DND), which exercises supervision and control over the AFP, came under fire for the purchase of 21 refurbished UH-1 helicopters worth P1.2 billion, which was revealed by the whistleblower, Rhodora Alvarez.

The Manila Times ran a series of articles about the controversial deal based on Alvarez’s revelation and documents she provided.

“There were allegations the choppers, said to be older than the incumbent senior military officers, cannot be used and have obsolete parts, and their purchase violated certain provisions of the country’s procurement law,” Escudero said.

The big-ticket project was also supposedly tailor-made for a particular supplier in exchange for kickbacks.

“The AFP procurement procedures have to be adjusted to give the end users much bigger role during the entire process.” He added.

Republic Act (RA) 7898 or the AFP Modernization Act was first enacte into law in 1995 under the leadership of then-President Fidel Ramos, a former Armed Forces chief of staff and Defense secretary, who aimed at modernizing all branches of the AFP.

The funding for the AFP modernization, however, was halted because of the Asian financial crisis in the late 1990s and was later neglected by succeeding administrations until the law expired in 2010.
Congress then amended RA 7898 in 2012 and extended it for another 15 years with an initial budget of P75 billion for the first five years.

Second Quarter 2015 Social Weather Survey: 43% see not much real improvement in the position of Muslims; 47% agree to trying to improve it by preferential treatment

From Social Weather Stations (Jul 17): Second Quarter 2015 Social Weather Survey:
43% see not much real improvement in the position of Muslims; 47% agree to trying to improve it by preferential treatment

43% of adult Filipinos believe that there hasn’t been much improvement in the position of Muslims in the country, according to the Second Quarter 2015 Social Weather Survey of June 5-8, 2015.

To the statement, “In the past few years there hasn’t been much real improvement in the position of Muslims in this country [Sa mga nakaraang taon, wala naman masyadong pagbuti sa kalagayan ng mga Muslim sa bansa]”, 43% agreed and 25% disagreed, for a moderate net agreement of +18 (% agree minus % disagree), while 30% were undecided about the matter [Chart 1].
47% agree to trying to improve the position of Muslims, even if it means giving them preferential treatment.
To the statement, “We should make every possible effort to improve the position of Muslims even if it means giving them preferential treatment [Dapat nating gawin ang lahat ng posibleng pagsisikap para mapabuti ang kalagayan ng mga Muslim, kahit na mangahulugan itong mas binibigyang-pabor ang pagtrato sa kanila]”, 47% agreed and 28% disagreed, for a moderate net agreement of +18, while 24% were undecided about the matter [Chart 2].
The SWS probe on making every effort to improve the position of Muslims was done once before, in March 2014. Net agreement was a moderate +21 (48% agree, 27% disagree) in March 2014.
Feeling that there hasn’t been much improvement in the position of Muslims is strongest in Balance Luzon and Metro Manila
Net agreement with the statement, “In the past few years there hasn’t been much real improvement in the position of Muslims in this country,” was moderate across areas. It was highest in Balance Luzon at +20 (43% agree, 23% disagree) and Metro Manila at +20 (45% agree, 25% disagree), followed by Visayas at +17 (43% agree, 26% disagree), and Mindanao at +14 (44% agree, 29% disagree).
Belief in trying to improve the position of Muslims, even if it means giving them preferential treatment, is strongest in Balance Luzon and weakest in Visayas
Net agreement with the statement, “We should make every possible effort to improve the position of Muslims even if it means giving them preferential treatment,” was moderate in Balance Luzon, Metro Manila and Mindanao, and neutral in Visayas. It was highest in Balance Luzon at +23 (48% agree, 25% disagree), followed by Metro Manila at +19 (46% agree, 27% disagree), Mindanao at +17 (48% agree, 31% disagree), and Visayas at +8 (43% agree, 35% disagree).
Compared to March 2014, net agreement rose in Metro Manila and Mindanao, but fell in Visayas and Balance Luzon. It rose by 9 points from +10 in Metro Manila, and by 8 points from +9 in Mindanao, but fell by 5 points from +13 in Visayas, and by 10 points from +33 in Balance Luzon.
Muslims are more disappointed in their position in the country
By religion, net agreement with “In the past few years there hasn’t been much real improvement in the position of Muslims in this country” was higher among Muslims at a very strong +51 (64% agree, 13% disagree), followed by other Christians at a strong +31 (50% agree, 19% disagree), Catholics at a moderate +16 (42% agree, 26% disagree), and Iglesia Ni Cristos at a poor -20 (24% agree, 44% disagree) [Chart 3].
Muslims are also pressing more for preferential treatment
By religion, net agreement with “We should make every possible effort to improve the position of Muslims even if it means giving them preferential treatment” was very strong among Muslims, and moderate among other Christians, Catholics, and Iglesia Ni Cristos. It was higher among Muslims at +82 (86% agree, 5% disagree), followed distantly by other Christians at +17 (47% agree, 30% disagree), Catholics at +15 (44% agree, 29% disagree), and Iglesia Ni Cristos at +10 (43% agree, 33% disagree) [Chart 4].
Compared to March 2014, net agreement rose among Muslims, but fell among other Christians, Catholics, and Iglesia Ni Cristos. It rose by 21 points from +61 among Muslims, but fell by 2 points from +19 among other Christians, by 3 points from +18 among Catholics, and by 20 points from +30 among Iglesia Ni Cristos.
Those disappointed with the position of Muslims are pressing more for preferential treatment
Net agreement with “We should make every possible effort to improve the position of Muslims even if it means giving them preferential treatment” was very strong among those who agree with “In the past few years there hasn’t been much real improvement in the position of Muslims in this country,” neutral among those who are undecided, and weak among those who disagree. It was higher among those who agree at +55 (73% agree, 18% disagree), followed distantly by the undecided at +6 (24% agree, 18% disagree), and those who disagree -30 (30% agree, 60% disagree) [Chart 5].
Survey Background
The June 2015 Social Weather Survey was conducted from June 5-8, 2015 using face-to-face interviews of 1,200 adults nationwide, 300 each in Metro Manila, Balance of Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao (sampling error margins of 3% for national percentages, and 6% each for Metro Manila, Balance of Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao).
The area estimates were weighted by National Statistics Office medium-population projections for 2015 to obtain the national estimates.
The Social Weather Survey items on improvement in the position of Muslims and trying to improve their position by preferential treatment are non-commissioned. These items were included on SWS's own initiative and released as a public service.
SWS employs its own staff for questionnaire design, sampling, fieldwork, data-processing, and analysis, and does not outsource any of its survey operations.
[The SWS terminology for net agreement: +50 and above, “very strong”; +30 to +49, “strong”; +10 to +29, “moderate”, +9 to -9, “neutral”; -10 to -29, “poor”; -30 to -49, “weak”; -50 and below, “very weak”.]

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SWS: 43% don’t see real improvement in Muslims’ situation

From the Manila Times (Jul 17): SWS: 43% don’t see real improvement in Muslims’ situation

About two in five Filipinos or 43 percent of those surveyed by the Social Weather Stations (SWS) do not see a “real” improvement in the situation of Muslims in the country.

Majority of the respondents or 64 percent who are Muslims agreed with the sentiment.

The survey was conducted from June 5 to 8 through face-to-face interviews with 1,200 adults nationwide.

The respondents were equally picked at 300 each from Metro Manila, the rest of Luzon, the Visayas and Mindanao.

The survey, which was non-commissioned, had a margin of error of 3 percent for national percentages, and 6 percent each for Metro Manila, rest of Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.

The results were posted on the SWS website on Friday, the day Muslims mark Eid’l Fitr or the end of Ramadan.

Nearly half of the respondents or 47 percent are open to improving their situation with so-called “preferential treatment.”

Word war erupts over peace talks

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jul 17): Word war erupts over peace talks

The outlook is bleak for the resumption of the stalled peace negotiations between the government and the communist insurgents after the latest heated exchange from both parties.

Luis Jalandoni, chief peace negotiator of National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), on Wednesday assailed Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Deles for her alleged “malicious kind of preconditioning” to the revived peace talks.

“It is Secretary Deles who is engaged in an extremely malicious kind of preconditioning. She is setting such a foolish precondition to formal peace talks as getting rid of existing agreements like The Hague Joint Declaration, the Jasig (Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees) and Carhrihl (Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law),” Jalandoni said in a statement e-mailed to the Inquirer.

“By such preconditioning, Secretary Deles obstructs the efforts to achieve an agreement on social and economic reforms and a possible truce and cooperation before the end of the current Aquino administration,” he said.

The NDFP is the political arm of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) that has been engaged in a protracted peace negotiation with the government for the past 27 years.

Hope for the resumption of the peace talks were rekindled following last week’s dinner meeting in Amsterdam between Speaker Feliciano Belmonte and other government officials, CPP founder Jose Ma. Sison, Jalandoni and other key NDFP members.

Both parties described the meeting as “bridge building” and “good start” toward the possible resumption of the aborted peace talks.

But Jalandoni made it clear that their return to the negotiating table still depended on the release of more than 500 political prisoners and 17 NDFP consultants languishing in jails across the country on various criminal charges.

On Monday, Deles hit the NDFP demands for the release of political prisoners, arguing that it would be difficult to resume the negotiations with rebels’ preconditions.

Hold on to peace, Murad tells supporters

From Rappler (Jul 17): Hold on to peace, Murad tells supporters

MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ibrahim tells supporters to “hold on to the peace process” at Eid’l Fitr celebration

CELEBRATION. Hundreds of faithful troop to the Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Masjid, named after the Sultan of Brunei who funded the construction of the biggest mosque in the Philippines, to celebrate Eid'l Fitr in Cotabato City. Photo by Edwin Espejo / Rappler

CELEBRATION. Hundreds of faithful troop to the Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Masjid, named after the Sultan of Brunei who funded the construction of the biggest mosque in the Philippines, to celebrate Eid'l Fitr in Cotabato City. Photo by Edwin Espejo / Rappler

SULTAN KUDARAT, Maguindano - Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chair Al Haj Murad Ibrahim told supporters Friday, June 17 to “hold on to the peace process.” The chairman said this after the group faced difficulties in the implementation of the peace agreement signed with the government last year.

“We have already traveled a long way and invested many efforts to attain our objective and to return to violence and hostility should be our last option when every other peaceful means is exhausted,” Murad said in his Eid'l Fitr message in the rebel stronghold at Camp Darapanan.

Muslims throughout the country celebrated Eid’l Fitr, ending 29 days of Ramadan.

MILF supporters waving flags joined the "takbir" Thursday evening, when locals parade around the city blowing horns and chanting "allahu akbar" (Allah is great). Revelers, some of them naked from the waist up as well as motorists flooded the streets of Cotabato City.

The takbir is held every Eid’l Fitr eve, when the Muslim "mufti" – Islamic scholar and interpreter of religious laws – announces the sighting of the moon to end the month of Ramadan. The takbir is reportedly held only in Cotabato City.

Sheik Abuhurayra Udasan wished for lasting peace to prevail in the Bangsamoro homeland, but added that peace must be based on justice and equality.

Decomissioning contingent on BBL

Murad said he is still optimistic congress will be able to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) before President Benigno Aquino III steps down from office on June 30 next year.

He was evasive when pressed if the MILF will go back to war if congress fails to enact the BBL.

“We will continue to persist on passage on the implementation of the Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro,” he insisted.

Murad also warned that the MILF will not proceed with the decommissioning of forces and firearms if Congress fails to pass the BBL.

“The second phase which entails the decommissioning of 30 percent of the MILF forces will not proceed,” Murad warned.

The MILF has not publicly disclosed its strength or the number of firearms it has in its arsenal. They have once claimed to have over 50,000 armed regulars.

The House of Representatives failed to pass its version of the BBL before it went into recess on June 11. It will resume session later this month in time for President Aquino’s state of the nation address (SONA).

In the senate, Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr said he will introduce a new version of the bill instead of sending the Palace-backed BBL, virtually guaranteeing further delay in the creation of a Bangsamoro autonomous region.

Peaceful celebration

Thousands flocked to the Grand Mosque for the Eid’l Fitr while hundreds more trooped to other mosques throughout Maguindanao province.

A family from Rajah Buayan town arrived at the mosque as early as 3am for the 7am Eid’l Fitr prayers, saying they wanted to make sure they were well-positioned during prayers.

The Grand Mosque, also known as Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Masjid, is named after the Sultan of Brunei who funded the construction of the biggest mosque in the Philippines. The mosque can accommodate more than 2,000 inside the prayer room and was completed in 2012.

In Datu Saudi town, also in Maguindanao, hundreds flocked to the Pink Mosque named after its color motif. The town hall is also painted pink.

There were no immediate reports of untoward incidents or rebel activities from the outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters which broke away from the MILF to oppose the peace process.