Sunday, August 2, 2015

LOOK: Cops, soldiers take part in Davao counter-terror challenge

From GMA News (Jul 31): LOOK: Cops, soldiers take part in Davao counter-terror challenge

Police and soldiers in Davao City took part in a counter-terrorism challenge on Thursday to hone their skills against potential terrorist attacks.
Security agencies also took part in the first counter-terrorist challenge in the city, GMA Davao reported Friday.
The participants showcased their skills in anti-terrorism tactics and related skills such as target shooting.
GMA Davao's Real Sorroche posted photos of the activities in the counter-terrorism challenge.

 Real Sorroche added 3 new photos.
· July 30 at 2:27am · Edited ·
1st davao counter terrorist challenge...

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Members of Task Force Davao headed the two-day event.
Organizers said the exercise will be a major boost in thwarting possible terrorist attacks.
"After this, once you have completed this activity you are already successful because now we can see that the security forces here in Davao City [are] well-prepared. And we will be much prepared after this activity," said Task Force Davao commander Col. Macairog Alberto.

DND Undersecretary Batac resigns for health, personal reasons

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 2): DND Undersecretary Batac resigns for health, personal reasons

Department of National Defense (DND) Undersecretary for Civil, Veterans and Retirees Affairs Eduardo Batac has resigned for health and personal reasons.

This was disclosed on Sunday by DND Public Affairs Office chief Arsenio Andolong who said that prior to his resignation, Batac has been on leave.

Andolong added that the letter of resignation was already received by DND Secretary Voltaire Gazmin.

Batac's post will be handled temporarily by DND Undersecretary Honorio Azcueta.

Basilan explosion kills soldier

From Rappler (Aug 2): Basilan explosion kills soldier

The soldier is declared dead on arrival in a nearby city hospital

An explosion in Ungkaya Pukan, Basilan allegedly by the Abu Sayyaf group (ASG) on Sunday morning, August 2, killed a soldier, according to police reports.

The soldier was a member of the 64th Infantry Division "conducting route security for the security convoy of ARMM Governor Mujib Hataman and Congressman Jim Suliman-Hataman," said the initial report.

The explosion is "believed to be perpetrated by the ASG," the report read further.

The improvised explosive device left the soldier severely wounded. He was declared dead on arrival in a Lamitan city hospital, said a susbsequent report. Wounded personnel were taken to the same hospital.

The area was cleared and cordoned after the incident at around 10:30 am.

Ungkaya Pukan police are still investigating the incident as of posting.

Philippines to buy submarines and advanced missile systems for the first time

From the Gulf News (Aug 1): Philippines to buy submarines and advanced missile systems for the first time

This will ensure strength in the South China Sea

For the first time, the Philippines will buy electric and diesel-run submarines, including advanced missile systems, as listed in its $22.11 billion (998 billion pesos or Dh83.166 billion) modernisation plan that was approved in July, to ensure its strength against China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Brunei, and Malaysia which have overlapping claims in the South China Sea, sources said.

“The Philippine Navy will buy several submarines and missile systems in the next five years from private manufacturing firms either from South Korea or Japan,” a military source who requested anonymity told Gulf News. “The ambitious purchase was scheduled after the Philippine economy grew, received good ratings from rating agencies, and allowed borrowing for expensive war materials, but the Philippines could not yet match China’s 26 submarines,” said the same source. In 2013, the Philippine Navy bought two 1.400 tonne Incheon-class frigates (also called Future Frigate experimental or FFX), manufactured by South Korea’s Hyundai Heavy Industries and STX Offshore and Shipbuilding for $400 million (18 billion pesos or Dh1.5 billion); two strategic sealift vessels or floating command centres which can transport three helicopters per vessel, soldiers, and supplies at sea, from Indonesia’s PT PAL (Persero) for $85.7 million (3.86 billion pesos or Dh321.6 million). The new frigates and sealift vessels will arrive in the Philippines at the end of 2015 or early 2016, President Benigno Aquino announced recently. It is widely reported that the Philippine Navy is manned by three US-made refurbished frigates: BRP Tagbanua; BRP Gregorio del Pilar and BRP Ramon Alcaraz, but Japan’s defence ministry said the Philippine Navy has 80 warships; China, 892; Malaysia, 208; and Vietnam, 94. The Philippine Coast Guard also bought 10 40-metre-long multi-purpose response vessels (MRRV) from Japan in late 2013 for $184 million (8.09 billion pesos or Dh674.6 million), in a loan forged with Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) in 2014. They will augment the Coast Guard’s 19 rescue vessels, when they arrive in the Philippines at the end of 2015, sources said. The Coast Guard secured a $20 million (900 million pesos or Dh75 million) loan from the United States’ Defence Threat Reduction Agency (it has a maritime security project with the US’ Weapons for Mass Destruction Proliferation Prevention Programme) for three aerial surveillance radars, two surface sensors and three surveillance planes for the Philippine Coast Guard National Coast Watch Centre in northern Luzon and southwest Philippines. Recently, the Philippine Air Force bought 12 new FA-50 fighter-trainers made by Korea Aerospace Industries. six Close Air Support Aircraft; seven of 13 AW-109 helicopters; and six of eight Bell-412 combat utility helicopters made by Korea Aerospace Industries. The two fighters will arrive in December 2015 or early 2016, and the rest in 2017. Japan’s defence ministry said the Philippines has a total of 26 combat aircraft, compared with China’s 2,582 combat aircraft. The Philippine government also allotted $22 million (1 billion pesos or Dh83.33 million) for the development of three new naval bases that will protect its 36,000 kilometre coastline facing the South China Sea. In 1995, Congress approved an $8.08 billion (364 billion pesos or Dh30.3 billion) military modernisation plan for 15 years. But only 10 per cent of the approved budget was secured by a loan 15 years later, in 2010, the budget department said. China, Taiwan, and Vietnam claim the whole of the South China Sea and several parts of the oil-rich Spratly Archipelago. Brunei, Malaysia, and the Philippines claim their respective exclusive economic zones in the South China Sea and parts of the Spratly Archipelago.

Flight surgeon one of outstanding soldiers in PH

From the Sun Star-Cagayan de Oro (Aug 1): Flight surgeon one of outstanding soldiers in PH

“I’M JUST a simple person. Hindi ako sanay sa mga recognitions (I am not used to recognitions).”

This is how Major Jonna Dalida Dalaguit, M.D. describes herself; unassuming and low-key.

The length of her resume, however, is another matter.

With 22 military merit medals, 10 military commendation medals, and numerous letters of military commendations and certificates of appreciations from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and civilian organizations, it is a wonder that these proofs of her service to the country have not gone to her head.

And it doesn’t end there.

Major Dalaguit has been named as one of the “Ten Outstanding Philippine Soldiers (TOPS) for 2015” which Rotary Club of Makati Metro and the Metrobank Foundation, Inc. headed.

Born on November 4, 1965, Maj. Dalaguit grew up in the City of Roxas. She took her Doctor of Medicine at the Iloilo Doctors Hospital and her Paediatrics specialization at V. Luna AFP Medical Center.

Even if she comes from a military family, her grandfather being a member of the US Navy, she at first did not want to become a soldier but to be a dancer when she was still a child.

The call was strong however and she joined the Philippine Army.

At the start, she kept this a secret from her parents as they were not supportive of their children going into the service and, being the youngest of four, it became a little bit more difficult for her to ask their permission.

But after seeing that this was what she wanted to do and knowing that their daughter would be a great help to the country, they finally relented and gave their approval.

She met her husband, Dental Officer Major Eleodoro Dalaguit Jr., when she became a part of the 3rd Infantry Division, both their first assignments as members of the Army. Their union bore one son, Kim Ian Dalaguit.

Only flight surgeon in the ranks

Early in her career, Major Dalaguit demonstrated a deep sense of professionalism and has portrayed various roles in her 18 years of service; an accomplished military physician and currently the only Flight Surgeon in the ranks, an educator recognized in the field of medical research, and a counsellor trained in stress management and mental health.

She has not boxed herself within the confines of the hospital and has seen active duty in high alert areas not only locally but internationally as well.

She was deployed in a United Nations peacekeeping mission to the Golan Heights earning her a UN Medal. She has been active in educating rebel returnees and has helped in intensifying barangay health programs especially in teaching children the importance of personal hygiene.

Most importantly, she initiated Project CALL (Call And Live Longer) which aims to give combat operating troops direct 24/7 access to health experts whenever they need advice on health conditions or on the management of casualties during combat operations.

Since 2009, she has been the Executive Officer for the Camp Evangelista Station Hospital.

For Major Jonna Dalaguit, getting recognized as one of the Ten Outstanding Philippine Soldiers for 2015 is not just about the trophy or the cash prize.

For her, it is a form of testament to others of how genuine service can be appreciated and that it also brings credibility to her work.

For her, it is not even the greatest recognition that she received.

The simple thank you she gets from the servicemen and women that she served is what she treasures the most.

“One of the most unforgettable experiences I ever had as a soldier was when a mother entrusted her daughter's life to me in a morbid situation, while I was taking care of my dying mother. It was a test of who should I take care first - is it my mother or the daughter of a soldier? How can a soldier concentrate in doing combat operation if her daughter is not being well-taken care of? I had to give up one to care for the other, so I left my mother to take care of the soldier's daughter.”

The Ten Outstanding Philippine Soldiers is an annual award given out by the Rotary Club of Makati Metro and the Metrobank Foundation, Inc. with the purpose of giving recognition to the career contribution of soldiers in the country.

The TOPS conferment ceremony will be held at Metrobank Plaza Auditorium, Makati City, is on September 3, 2015.

AFP welcomes expanded joint military exercises

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Aug 2): AFP welcomes expanded joint military exercises

Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff Gen. Hernando Iriberri on Saturday welcomed the proposal of a top US Navy official to expand the joint military exercises between the Philippines and the United States, saying the proposal “jibes well with plans for increased multilateral military engagements within the Asia Pacific Region.”
Iriberri said the proposal of Adm. Scott Swift, commander of the US Pacific Fleet, would turn bilateral exercises into multilateral engagements, which would complement the AFP’s plans for more drills with counterpart armed forces in the Asia Pacific.

“In fact, we have been doing this to a certain extent and within the bounds allowed by existing laws and national policies,” he said.

The US Embassy in Manila said on Monday Swift was “very interested” in expanding the annual US Navy and AFP combat exercises into multilateral engagements with other partner-nations.

“It is important that the approach be a multilateral approach, not a bilateral one. These problems are common to many countries, not just one,” Swift said in a statement released by the embassy yesterday.

He cited the Philippines’ move to hold military readiness exercises not only with the United States but also with Japan, also a known US ally.

Swift was in Manila on July 16-19 to meet with senior AFP officers led by Iriberri and Philippine Navy Flag Officer in Command Vice Adm. Jesus Millan.

Aside from routine calls on his counterparts, Swift joined a routine P-8 observation flight over the West Philippine Sea.

Col. Noel Detoyato, AFP public affairs office chief, said the AFP had conducted multilateral exercises with Asean neighbors Indonesia, Malaysia and Australia, which focused on maritime security and joint border patrol.

“Currently, we are focused on enhancing interoperability on HADR (humanitarian assistance and disaster response) operations, especially after the devastation brought about by Supertyphoon Yolanda. Remember that several foreign militaries volunteered to help at the time,” Detoyato said.

AFP calls for 'united voice' vs. China

From ABS-CBN (Aug 2): AFP calls for 'united voice' vs. China

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) called on the international community for a "united voice" to stop China from pursuing the "might is right" strategy in the territorial dispute over the West Philippine Sea.

AFP spokesman Col. Restituto Padilla made the appeal after the New York Times, quoting think-tanks, detailed Chinese construction projects on several reefs in the disputed region.

"This increasing concern made by various think tank groups and the issues they presented are those which the Philippines has been raising all along," he said.

In June, China claimed that it was nearing the completion of the reclamation projects on the disputed waters and that it was preparing to put up facilities there.

The AFP cannot say if the Chinese have finished the reclamation.

"It only goes to show that what we have been saying is shared by many, and that all nations ought to speak out so that, hopefully with that one voice, China will listen and not use might versus what is right, as well as go by a rules-based approach that all peace-loving nations conform to," said Padilla.

Padilla said some countries, including those in Southeast Asia, are hesitant to speak out because of economic and other interests. He said only Philippines and Vietnam have spoken out against China's assertiveness.

"If they wish to resolve this (dispute) in this part of the region, a collective voice is much more stronger than a few… ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations) should have a solid voice," the official said.

Padilla said other countries need not fear economic backlash if they speak up against China, noting that China also needs other countries as trade partners to prosper.

Told that US, the G7 (US, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, and Japan) and European Union have already spoken against China, Padilla said: "Correct but ASEAN not yet. That is the challenge. We (in ASEAN) should have a one solid voice."

US Coast Guard conducts rescue swimmer training with Philippine counterparts during Pacific Partnership 2015

From DVIDS (Aug 1): US Coast Guard conducts rescue swimmer training with Philippine counterparts during Pacific Partnership 2015

ROXAS CITY, Philippines - Four U.S. Coast Guardsmen held a three-day water search and rescue (WASAR) seminar for Filipino emergency responders at the Villareal Stadium July 26-29 as part of Pacific Partnership 2015.

The training, which included classroom lectures and practical application, was intended to act as a refresher of previously learned WASAR skills, as well as an introduction to different techniques the U.S. Coast Guard uses.

“These approaches and releases are techniques used by our rescue swimmers,” said Coast Guard Cmdr. Charles Guerrero, from Charleston, South Carolina. “As you approach a survivor in the water, there are many things that can go wrong. This training is meant to help the rescue swimmers assess what to do in case things do go wrong.”

The classroom lessons included operational risk management, mass rescue operations, boat safety and search and rescue planning and execution. The practical application instruction included three different approaches, two releases and two escapes in a pool.

On the last day, the class conducted a final assessment of the techniques taught the previous two days in open water.

“We simulated that a boat sank and there were two survivors,” said U.S. Coast Guard Aviation Survival Technician 2nd Class Robyn Hamilton, from Ventura, Calif. “They had to handle a panicking survivor and a survivor who was unconscious in the water. We were gauging their ability to assess and control the situation and their ability to apply the techniques to get the survivors to shore safely.”

Participants included Filipino first responders, the Capiz Emergency Response Team, firemen, policemen, Armed Forces of the Philippines and Philippine Coast Guard.

Philippine Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Mark Anthony Sumanoy, a rescue diver, said he was pleased with the training. He said he is a rescue diver instructor and the instruction was good for him to gain a different perspective on similar techniques.

The U.S. Coast Guardsmen intended the techniques they taught to be building blocks, basic techniques that are adaptable to a variety of situations.

Guerrero said he believes this training is an important part of Pacific Partnership 2015 because it builds water rescue capacity among the islands in the Southeast Asia region that are prone to natural disasters like typhoons or tsunamis.

Pacific Partnership is in its tenth iteration and is the largest annual multilateral humanitarian assistance and disaster relief preparedness mission conducted in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.

Additional information on the Pacific Partnership mission is available on the U.S. Pacific fleet Pacific Partnership website at

Gunmen kill MNLF chairman's supporter

From the Philippine Star (Aug 1): Gunmen kill MNLF chairman's supporter

COTABATO CITY, Philippines - Motorcycle-riding gunmen killed on Friday an erstwhile barangay chairman who was a staunch political supporter of the leader of the largest faction in the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).

Anwar Lucas, former chairman of Barangay Rosary Heights 10, was attacked from behind while driving a multi-cab vehicle at a busy section of Sinsuat Avenue, near a well-guarded government school campus.

Lucas, a known supporter of former Cotabato City Mayor Muslimin Sema, chairman of the biggest of three factions in the MNLF, died from gunshot wounds he sustained in the attack.

The city’s police director, Senior Superintendent Rex Anongos, said investigators are still trying to establish the identities of the gunmen and their motive for killing Lucas.

The incident was preceded by the ambush a week earlier of Anecito Rasalan, secretary to the mayor of Cotabato City, also along Sinsuat Avenue.

Rasalan, who was wounded in the shooting frenzy, is still undergoing medication at a hospital.

She was also attacked while driving at a busy portion of Sinsuat Avenue, which straddles through the center of the troubled Cotabato City.

The motorcycle-riding gunmen who shot and wounded Rasalan escaped even before responding policemen arrived at the scene.

Sema condemned the murder of Lucas and called on the city police to expedite its effort in identifying his killers.

NDF hits arrest of top NPA leader

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Aug 2): NDF hits arrest of top NPA leader

The chief negotiator for the Philippines' communist insurgents, Luis Jalandoni, speaks during a Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP) forum in Manila on September 3, 2011. Philippine communist rebels said September 3 they see stalled talks with Manila resuming with Norway's help, while suggesting a limited deal that they said would swiftly end the decades-long insurgency. The two sides held on-and-off talks for over 20 years but in a meeting brokered by Norway in February, both agreed to speed up negotiations in an attempt seal a peace accord by June 2012. AFP PHOTO / NOEL CELIS

The chief negotiator for the Philippines’ communist insurgents, Luis Jalandoni, speaks during a Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP) forum in Manila on September 3, 2011. Jalandoni hit the government over the arrest of ‘peace consultant’ Maria Concepcion Araneta-Bocala. AFP PHOTO FILE
The National Democratic Front (NDFP) of the Philippines on Sunday condemned the arrest of a top rebel leader on Panay Island, insisting that she is a consultant in the peace talks with the government.

The NDFP said the arrest of Maria Concepcion “Concha” Araneta-Bocala in Iloilo City on Saturday was illegal.

“She is a peace consultant of the NDFP for the Visayas. She has been issued Document of Identification No. ND978245 under assumed name Remi Estrella,” said Luis Jalandoni, chair of the NDFP negotiating panel, said in a statement emailed to the Inquirer.

Jalandoni added, “Her illegal arrest is another flagrant violation of the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG). The Aquino regime is answerable for this shameful disrespect for its solemn obligation to abide by a binding peace agreement.”

The NDFP, an umbrella organization of underground rebel groups including the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing New People’s Army, demanded the ‘immediate release” of Bocala, allegedly the secretary of the CPP’s Panay Regional Committee.

Jalandoni said Bocala was a “highly valued peace consultant,” citing her role in the peace talks with the Corazon Aquino administration in 1986 to 1987.

He downplayed the effect of Bocala’s arrest on the rebel movement.

“As experience has shown, the revolutionary movement is able to replace arrested leaders and comrades, and continue the revolutionary struggle. Those arrested have trained many others to take up the responsibilities of carrying forward the struggle for national and social revolution,” he said.

MILF: Iqbal urges congress to pass BBL without revisions

Posted to the MILF Website (Aug 2): Iqbal urges congress to pass BBL without revisions

Iqbal urges congress to pass BBL without revisions

Mohagher Iqbal, Chief Negotiator of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Chairman of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) urged congress on Wednesday, July 29 to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) without revisions before the term of President Benigno Aquino III ends on June 20, 2016.He stressed that there was transparency in drafting the proposed law.

“There is no reason for cynics to make what is for them is lack of openness in the peace talks, a reason to stop the BBL’s passage”, Iqbal said.

In his final State of the Nation Address (SONA) last Monday, President Aquino made his final pitch for the passage of the Bangsamoro Law.

President Aquino, who wants to make the BBL his main legacy before he steps down from office, had told senators and congressmen that time is running out for lasting peace in Mindanao.

“There is no truth to assertions that there was no transparency in the peace talks. Some of our sessions in Malaysia were attended by local officials from Mindanao, members of Congress and representatives from the national government and from civil society organizations,” Iqbal further said.

He said some of the engagements between peace brokers of the MILF and the national government even involved lawmakers.

Iqbal said the MILF wants a BBL according to its original draft which the BTC submitted to Congressional leaders in September last year at MalacaƱan Palace.

“The MILF wants a BBL based on the version agreed bilaterally by the government and the MILF. We cannot accept a weak BBL,” Iqbal said. Iqbal said they will reject a BBL different from the parameters of the October 15, 2013 Framework Agreement on Bangsamoro and the March 27, 2014 Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro.

Iqbal said skeptics and cynics ought to ponder too on why there are non-Muslim blocs and Christian religious leaders, among them Orlando Cardinal Quevedo, supporting the draft BBL.

Quevedo, a concurrent archbishop and a member of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate congregation, whose pontifical base is in Rome, has been vocal in his unrelenting endorsement of the draft BBL.
Quevedo called for support to the Mindanao process during last week’s Mindanao Media Forum in Cotabato City, which he presided over. Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, chair of the interim House committee handling the draft BBL, on Tuesday said President Aquino’s pitch for the proposed law via his SONA would hasten its passage.

“We will hit the ground running once floor discussions resume,” Rodriguez said. Rodriguez said the prospects for the BBL’s passage remain good.

CPP-NPA officer nabbed in Iloilo

From ABS-CBN (Aug 1): CPP-NPA officer nabbed in Iloilo

MOLO, Iloilo City - A high-ranking leader of the Communist Party of the Philippines - New People's Army (CPP-NPA) in Panay Island was arrested by joint police and military forces in Calumpang, Molo, Iloilo City early morning on Saturday.

Sixty-four-year-old Maria Concepcion Bocala, also known as Ka Concha, Ka Merly, and Ka Etang, is allegedly the CPP's secretary general for Komite Rehiyon Panay.

She is facing murder and rebellion charges, and has a P7.8-million bounty on her head.

During her arrest in Juntado Subdivison, authorities also seized a fragmentation grenade, .45-caliber and .22-caliber pistols, ammunition, cell phones, a laptop, and an external hard drive.

In a press conference, Philippine National Police (PNP) regional director Chief. Supt. Bernardo Diaz said Bocala has been the subject of a decade-long manhunt in Panay.

"Yung hustisya has been served kasi meron siyang kaso. Kung sino man ang naulila, palagay ko masasabi natin na yung hustisya nai-serve na," Diaz said.

Bocala's nephew, Joseph Cariaga, and helper, Anniely Soldevilla, were also taken into custody for further investigation and medical treatment.

Bocala's lawyer, for her part, asserted that her client is a holder of the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG).

Therefore, she cannot be arrested nor prosecuted, lawyer Janne Baterna said.

"She is exempted for detention, arrest and prosecution, at kung anumang charges against sa kaniya because she is an NDF (National Democratic Front) consultant," she said.

PH must secure gas-rich Recto Bank 'at all costs', allow Philex to explore disputed seamount - Ty

From InterAksyon (Aug 2): PH must secure gas-rich Recto Bank 'at all costs', allow Philex to explore disputed seamount - Ty

The Philippines should protect the oil- and gas-rich Recto Bank, which holds the key to the country’s energy independence, “at all costs,” the Liquefied Petroleum Gas Marketers’ Association (LPG-MA) said Sunday.

“We must secure and defend Recto Bank at all costs. We should assume jurisdiction over the conservation, exploration,  and exploitation of the seamount’s vast hydrocarbon deposits for the benefit of future Filipino generations,” said House Deputy Minority Leader and LPG-MA Rep. Arnel Ty.

In a news release to media outfits, Ty called on the Department of Energy (DOE) to lift a force majeure that has shut down oil and gas drilling activities in Recto Bank, which lies just 80 nautical miles northwest off the Palawan coast.

“We should not allow China’s protests and pestering to disrupt our efforts to harness Recto Bank’s oil and gas assets,” Ty, who speaks for the minority in the House energy committee, said.

“The consortium that runs the Recto Bank petroleum service contract should be permitted to resume its search for oil and gas supplies,” he added.

Also called Reed Bank, Recto is a large underwater mount that rises just nine to 45 meters short of the sea level.

While the bank is well within the Philippines’ 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone, it is the subject of a territorial row with China.

China has been raring to seize and occupy Recto Bank, according to former National Security Adviser Roilo Golez.

5.4 billion barrels of oil, 55.1 trillion cubic feet of natural gas

Citing geological surveys, the US Energy Information Administration estimates that the West Philippine Sea may contain up to 5.4 billion barrels of oil and 55.1 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, “with the bulk of the resources likely located in the contested Reed Bank at the northeast end of the Spratlys.”

“Actually, studies of extensive seismic data indicate that Recto Bank’s Sampaguita gas field alone has up to 4.6 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and 115 million barrels of oil,” Ty said.

“To put this in perspective, the fully operational Malampaya gas field contains only up to 2.7 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and 85 million barrels of condensate,” he pointed out.

The largest hydrocarbon deposit ever discovered in the Philippines, Malampaya now produces 146 billion cubic feet of gas every year, and the fuel drives three of Luzon’s largest power plants that are based in Batangas.

Forum Energy Plc, the private operator of Service Contract 72, was originally set to drill two exploratory wells in Recto Bank this month.

Exploration work stopped due to force majeure

However, in March, the DOE granted a force majeure on SC 72, citing the territorial dispute with China and the ongoing United Nations arbitration proceedings.

Owing to the force majeure, Forum had to abandon all exploration work “until further notice from the DOE.”

Forum has a 70 percent interest in SC 72, with the remaining 30 percent held by Monte Oro Resources and Energy Inc.

Forum is majority owned by Philex Petroleum Corp., a Philippine Stock Exchange-listed entity run by businessman Manuel Pangilinan.

Tidemark Holdings Ltd., controlled by former Trade Minister Roberto Ongpin, also has a minority stake in Forum.

Meanwhile, an Australian-Filipino consortium over the weekend began drilling a deepwater exploratory well in the West Philippine Sea, hoping for an oil strike.

The group led by Otto Energy Investments Ltd. intends to drill 1,000 meters below the sea bed and hopes to hit the top of a promising hydrocarbon reservoir in Service Contract 55, a deepwater block in the southwest Palawan Basin that is not in disputed territory.

Using the 60,000-ton ultra-deepwater drillship Maersk Venturer, Otto expects to complete the digging of the Hawkeye-1 well in 23 days at a cost of $24.5 million (P1.1 billion).

China following US capitalist footsteps and its various implications (Part 3 of 4)

From InterAksyon (Aug 2): China following US capitalist footsteps and its various implications (Part 3 of 4)

Chinese President Xi Jinping (right) and President Aquino at APEC Leaders' meeting, 11 November 2014. MALACANANG PHOTO BUREAU

(Editor’s note: In view of the presentations made by the Philippines before the UN arbitral tribunal on the country’s suit against China regarding the West Philippine Sea territorial dispute, key aspects of China’s history can help produce insights into the dynamics of the rising superpower’s possible future relations with its neighbors, specifically the Philippines. Author Cesar Polvorosa Jr. is a business school professor of economics, world geography, and international business management in Canada. He is also a published writer in economics, business, and literature.)

Read Part 1 of 4, ‘21st Century will be the Pacific Century’ here. 

Read Part 2 of 4, ‘Shock & Awe in the 15th Century: China's 27,000 sailors, 300 ships, 7 voyages’ here. 

As China’s economy propelled its meteoric rise in the current era the debates among historians, economists, and China watchers had been: What kind of superpower would China be? Would it be benevolent or would it be an aggressive authoritarian state? Even Chinese officials were sensitive to the implications of the phrase, “peaceful rise” and preferred the term “peaceful development.” (China's Peaceful Rise in the 21st Century: Domestic and International Conditions, Edited by Sujian Guo, August 2006)

The concerns are real for a resurgent China with its 1.4 billion people has the potential to dominate the world. Some argued, particularly the hawks of the US foreign policy circles, that it would be best to contain the rise of China. The mainstream view that evolved is that to guarantee a benevolent China it is best is to let it fully participate and benefit from a free market global economy. Surely, China will not do anything to imperil free trade from which it has prospered?

Representative of this highly optimistic view of China’s benign rise is the recent interview given by China expert Jacques Martin, who did not even consider the ongoing reclamation activities in the disputed territories in declaring the peaceful rise of China.

The agenda of mostly US businesses with their narrow vested interests and profit motives prevailed. Their companies would become more competitive with access to a huge market as well as slash their costs by using China as their production platform. This parochial motive is simply the logic of capitalism. The risks are the transfer of technology and that gradually, they are strengthening a potential superpower rival - but what is that to individual companies concerned with time bounded bottom lines? Free trade that can engender potential future competitors is the essence of capitalism.

Thus, in many areas, China is moving up the technology value chain. There is now an Airbus finishing plant in China. While it guarantees huge orders by Chinese airlines, both Boeing and Airbus concede that China will become a competing producer of wide body planes in about a decade. Apple for a time debated about whether to manufacture its products in China as they said they wanted to retain the jobs in the US. Eventually, they concluded that they have to locate their production platform to China in order to compete in international markets. The challenge is that especially in electronics, the technology has become so easy to download that the competitive advantage of a company (and a country) is now so fleeting.

China launched its “charm offensive” or soft power in winning influence throughout the world. Now that the country has gained sufficient power and prestige, the “hawks” in the power hierarchy are ascendant. The Chinese velvet gloves had been removed that revealed the iron hand inside.

In the late 1970s, there was a seismic shift from the inward looking self reliant strategy of Mao to the pragmatic, outward looking policies of Deng (“It does not matter if the cat is black or white as long as it catches the mice”). In this sense it mirrored some of the earlier similar power struggles in China that were to dictate a radical change in its trajectory - the era of Zheng He, the late 19th century and early and mid-20th century. This is one consequence of a tradition of authoritarianism - the policy stance frequently reflects the personal caprice and agenda of the authoritarian leader and his/her clique and faction.

In this era, China is using the fruits of capitalism to build a powerful war machine and as its history indicated, it will not hesitate to use it against other countries in pursuit of its foreign policy objectives. China is using its new wealth to flex its muscles that thus far, appears sustainable.

In contrast, from the 1950s to the 1980s the Soviet Union engaged the US in an arms race and eventually imploded because it had a weak and inefficient centrally planned economy. It was a case of “imperial overstretch” which validated Paul Kennedy’s (The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers) forecast of the decline of the Soviet Union.

The US forgets the lesson from its own historical experience: It was able to build up the world’s biggest military in the decades after it became the world’s biggest economy at the advent of the 20th century. It was able to influence the international financial structure and governance (World Bank and IMF) as it emerged as the only superpower after World War 2. Why should China be different as it rises to stellar heights?
Implications to the Philippines and the Region

An emerging hegemon and one that is especially in an aggrandizing strategy forces its smaller neighbors to ally with each other and seek the help of the superpower from outside the region, the United States as they seek to maintain the balance of power. A brave new world is now taking shape in the region and will have the following specific impacts:

1. Resurgence of Japan military. One vital plank of post war East Asia security is a restriction on Japan’s military spending to 1% of GDP for many years. Likewise, there was an explicit renouncement of war as an instrument of national policy as well as nuclear weapons. The external security threats emanating from the Soviet Union and North Korea would be addressed by the US. In actuality, Japan still had a powerful military because of the enormous size of the economy but a clear pacifist sentiment have taken hold such as restrictions on Japan military equipment exports. That is now rapidly changing because of the tensions with China over disputed territories. Japan is expanding its military cooperation with the Philippines and has indicated that it will provide the P3 Orion surveillance plane as well as 10 new patrol boats.

At the same time Japan is also on a soft power counter offensive with its new multi-billion dollar aid package to the Mekong region.

2. The Return of the US. The historical wariness of US imperialism has given way to the fear of Chinese military assertiveness and outright occupation of the disputed territories. The huge Chinese military advantage in the region had given an opening for a US Asian pivot. This comes after decades of nationalist posturing in the region which culminated in the American bases being kicked out of the Philippines. The US-Philippines Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) would not happen under a normal political environment in the region. The country should be wary though as the issue of Chinese actions in the region is just one aspect of the overall superpower relations between the US and China. There will be horse-trading as part of the great power calculus. What if China promises the US that they will be an active supporter of the coalition against ISIS provided that the US will cut them some slack in the South China Sea how will the US respond?

3. Philippine Determination and Building up of external defense. For decades the Philippines had the weakest external defense force among the major ASEAN countries as it concentrated on containing a domestic insurgency problem and relied on the US for the external defense. In 2005 the country retired the last of its F5s leaving the country without any fighter aircraft. But now there is a sense of urgency because of the aggressive actions of China. The country would be getting a dozen examples of South Korea’s FA-50 - a deal which would have been paralyzed in debates in “ordinary times.” The Philippine Navy is on a shopping list as well. Chinese belligerence has triggered an arms race in the region.

4. Alliances and the Possible Revival of SEATO. As the countries in the region, principally the Philippines and Vietnam, try to counter Chinese assertiveness they will increasingly discover the need for a stronger collective voice that simply cannot be articulated through ASEAN. It is primarily an economic and political organization which has members that may not wish to take active part in countering the moves of China in the region such as Thailand, Cambodia, and Malaysia and at the same time involve the active participation of non ASEAN members like US and Australia. Thus, it’s possible that there may be a revival of the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) which was founded in the cold war days of 1954 and became defunct in 1977 and whose purpose was the collective defense of Southeast Asia principally against communism. Likewise, if India felt threatened in the Indian Ocean there will be an impetus to join in a prospective revived SEATO. It will take though a lot of provocation from China for this institution to be revived as it will be a very forceful response.

5. Threat to free trade. A shooting war will have a devastating impact on trade in the region. As well known geopolitical analyst Robert D. Kaplan (Asia’s Cauldron, 2014) have noted that the South China Sea functions as the throat of the Western Pacific and Indian oceans - the mass of connective economic tissue where global sea routes coalesce. More than half of the world’s annual merchant fleet tonnage passes through these choke points and a third of all maritime traffic worldwide. This is not even considering the possible consequences of the discovery of massive amounts of oil as suspected by geologists. Thus, there is major strategic importance to control of the territories - and one therefore that involves not only regional claimants but likewise, the US as the superpower with a lot of stake in the unimpeded flow of trade.

6. AIIB and Growing Trade. Following the general pattern of bilateral trade relations worldwide, China is now an important trade partner of the Philippines. China is #3 export market of the country (after Japan and US) buying $8.03 billion of Philippine goods in 2014 (DTI). Meanwhile, Philippine merchandise imports from China in 2014 amounted to $9.69 billion.

Recently, there had been attempts to boycott Chinese goods to protest the belligerent actions of China in the West Philippine Sea. Refraining from patronizing Chinese goods is a form of symbolic protest that can be articulated eloquently to the world but let there be no illusion about its direct effectiveness. Philippine imports from China in 2014 accounted for 15% of the country’s total imports but only a minuscule 0.41% of total Chinese exports. It’s not going to hurt China not counting imports that are used as production inputs which can adversely affect Philippine industries. What if China retaliates by refraining from buying Philippine merchandise? At 13% of total Philippine exports, any Chinese move to stop buying Philippine goods will derail the Philippine economy. It escalates the bilateral conflict without accomplishing its objectives.

China has shown willingness of using its economic clout when it deems it necessary. For example, in 2010 China embargoed the exports of rare earth metals to Japan after a Chinese ship captain was captured by Japanese authorities in disputed territories.

Thus, there is apprehension in the Philippines about joining the AIIB which is being established mainly with Chinese capital. While the Philippines is badly in need of funding for infrastructure projects, the concern is that China will use its dominant position in the AIIB to influence the approval of loans and their conditionalities subject also to Beijing’s broader geopolitical agenda. There is precedence of course in the US and the complex discourse on the World Bank and human rights and other governance issues. Dangling a carrot is a powerful incentive but what about the strings attached?

7. Others. The rhetoric over the political dispute of the Philippines with China has stoked some tensions within the influential Filipino-Chinese community on questions about divided loyalties. While this is still a nascent issue there is a potential for this to escalate if in the future, Philippine-China relations continues to deteriorate. Thus, the taipans may be called upon to issue statements of support for the Philippines. Chinese reclamation activities in the region have also contributed to pollution especially critical in a fragile ecosystem.  

There are naturally important distinctions but broadly, the resurgence of China echoes the historical trajectory of the US a century back: the build-up and rise to global prominence of a country through capitalism based on abundant human and physical factors. Then as now, a massive economic base enables the creation of huge and modern armed forces. Then the possession of bountiful resources enables the preeminent power, the United States to be instrumental in the creation and control of the World Bank. Now, the presumptive power China is doing the same with the creation of the Asian Infrastructure Bank (AIIB).

He who has the gold can buy the guns, lend money, and make the rules.

Read Part 4 of 4, ‘Internal conflicts that pull Chinese actions in many directions’, on Thursday, August 6.

Shock & Awe in the 15th Century: China's 27,000 sailors, 300 ships, 7 voyages (Part 2 of 4)

From InterAksyon (Jul 29): Shock & Awe in the 15th Century: China's 27,000 sailors, 300 ships, 7 voyages (Part 2 of 4)

China coast guard blocks Philippine supply ship, 30 March 2014. AFP FILE PHOTO

(Editor’s note: In view of the presentations made by the Philippines before the UN arbitral tribunal on the country’s suit against China regarding the West Philippine Sea territorial dispute, key aspects of China’s history can help produce insights into the dynamics of the rising superpower’s possible future relations with its neighbors, specifically the Philippines. Author Cesar Polvorosa Jr. is a business school professor of economics, world geography, and international business management in Canada. He is also a published writer in economics, business, and literature.)
Read Part 1 of 4, ‘21st Century will be the Pacific Century’ here. 

An integral myth on China is the supposed moral exceptionalism of the country among the great powers. China was after all Chung Kuo the Middle Kingdom and historical China was “a shining civilization in the center of All-under-Heaven radiating a splendid and peace-loving culture” (Yuan-kang Wang, The Myth of Chinese Exceptionalism, Foreign Policy, March 6, 2012). China is a benevolent power as it did not acquire overseas colonies as the Europeans, the Americans, and the Japanese did - in fact, at critical periods, they subjected the country to unequal treaties. The century before the 1949 Communist takeover was known as the “Century of Humiliation.” The worldview of this oppression of the Chinese especially in modern times by the Japanese and Westerners is for instance, a common theme in kung fu movies.

Indeed, in the past few centuries as Western imperialism subjugated entire continents China was largely a “benevolent” power that did not actively interfere with its neighboring countries such as the Philippines. Is it from a state policy of peaceful coexistence with its neighboring countries? So why didn’t China create an overseas empire in the European fashion?

Conquest of Asian mainland is part of ancient history

China is primarily an Asian continental power. It expanded from its core region of the Huang He or Yellow River which was the ”Cradle of Chinese Civilization” and one of the original cultural hearths of the world. As it expanded it conquered non-Han nations (i.e. non-Chinese) but this was so ancient that it has drifted to present irrelevancy and oblivion. This is unlike the US whose westward expansion and conquest of native tribes was relatively recent that it was well documented and continues to be polemical. European powers by the time of the Renaissance had no viable frontiers except to venture out into the Atlantic. Just the same, the ramifications of Chinese empire building in mainland Asia continue to reverberate to the present day.

Tibet had been independent for centuries but by the 1700s was controlled by Qing China, and incorporated by the People’s Republic in 1950. The Dalai Lama fled to India during the 1959 Tibetan rebellion. Thus, there are active Tibetan groups opposed to the present Chinese rule.

Xinjiang is the huge, mountainous, and desert region in the northwest frontier of China. The region’s population of Uyghurs and Kazakhs have cultural affinity with Central Asia rather than with Han Chinese. Some Uyghurs are struggling for independence which has caused tension and ethnic strife in Xinjiang.

Vietnam was a Chinese province for over a millennium. The Vietnamese gained independence after defeating Imperial China in a decisive battle. Thus, the struggle against China was also instrumental in forming Vietnamese national identity and provides context to their strident opposition to the Chinese saber rattling in the region.

Taiwan came under Chinese rule in the 1600s. The Spaniards were apprehensive that Chinese General Koxinga would invade the Philippines; this was only averted by his death. The expansion trajectory of China suggests that if the Philippines was not a Spanish colony, the Chinese would next gradually colonize Luzon. Then China lost the 1894 war to a rapidly modernizing Japan and the latter consequently occupied Taiwan.

Chinese settlements of course are found in various sites in Southeast Asia (e.g. Sangley Point) but as the country gradually declined after the 1600s, their expansion were constrained by the European colonizers. National weakness and the presence of European colonizers  prevented  China from further expansion and possible colonization of maritime Asia.

As a continental power, ancient China alternated between expanding to its natural frontiers and defending against mostly nomadic tribes especially against the Mongols of Genghis Khan in the early 1200s. The Mongols established the Yuan dynasty and China under the reign of Kublai Khan would invade Japan twice. The failures of the invasions profoundly influence Japanese history and beliefs though the burning issue had been on the Japanese invasion of China because it was more recent. The Manchus then invaded China and established the last imperial dynasty, the Qing Dynasty (1644- 1912).

With their concentration on the Asian mainland, Chinese naval and maritime technology relatively lagged behind until after the millennium. Then it would flourish and lead the world and for a brief interlude during the voyages of Admiral Zheng He, Chinese imperialism would be on full display when it had the resources and opportunity to do so.

Admiral Zheng He’s gunboat diplomacy preceded the Europeans by centuries

A century before Magellan and the European Age of Exploration, China assembled an impressive fleet of more than 300 treasure ships, battle junks, and supply ships manned by 27,000 sailors, soldiers, and crew led by Admiral Zheng He. By all accounts, the Chinese treasure ships were more technologically sophisticated and several times bigger than the Spanish galleons that were to sail a century after.

This was 15th century shock and awe: The massive fleet projected stunning Chinese might into the coastal regions of Southeast Asia, Bay of Bengal, Indian Ocean (Ceylon and the Malabar Coast of India), Saudi Arabian peninsula (Yemen), and East Africa. This would be the modern day equivalent of Nimitz class super carriers (or the newest Gerald R. Ford class) accompanied by Zumwalt destroyers, littoral combat ships, amphibious assault ships, and numerous supply cargo ships making port calls.

While there is a debate among scholars ranging from the “proto scientific” argument of Joseph Needham that the voyages’ main purpose was to collect rare materials and scientific knowledge, the evidence is more supportive of Robert Finlay’s (and Yuan-kang Wang’s) argument that Admiral Zheng He implemented the militarist ambitions of the Yongle emperor (The Voyages of Zheng He, The Journal of the Historical Society, Sept. 2008). The fleet’s seven voyages were not primarily for exploration as they traversed mostly old trading routes. This was intelligence gathering and a demonstration of China’s strength. It sought to establish trading posts along the sea routes which as the Europeans would manifest centuries later became the prelude to invasion and colonization.
In the course of the voyages, Zheng He’s naval force invaded and defeated Alekaswara’s Kotte Kingdom of Ceylon (Sri Lanka) in 1411. The fleet routed Chen Zuyi's pirate fleet and Sekandar's forces both in Sumatra bringing security and stability to the region through Chinese control. Although the Chinese intervention was supposedly welcomed in official accounts, these engagements were unequivocal demonstrations of the formidable military power of Ming China to the countries of Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean.

The expeditions showed that if China had the military capability, it will not hesitate to use them even in the distant Indian Ocean. How much more then will China not hesitate to use its military force in its own backyard, in the West Philippine Sea in disputed territory that it explicitly claims as its own and with 21st century naval and military technology and firepower? How different is this from US military intervention during the past century in many small countries including the Philippines?
Zheng He’s expeditions were a remarkable achievement but they also constituted an early use of gunboat diplomacy, which is the pursuit of foreign policy objectives with the aid of conspicuous displays of naval power - implying or explicitly becoming a direct threat of military force should terms not be agreeable to the superior force (Cable, James, Gunboat Diplomacy, Institute of Strategic Studies). As historians observe, Zheng He’s massive and powerful fleet would have been a terrifying sight as it appeared on a country’s shore. This was centuries before the Europeans would use gunboat diplomacy as an instrument of foreign policy.

After the death of Admiral Zheng He in 1433/1435 the treasure ships voyages ceased. The Mongols threatened once more China’s stability. But even after the Mongols passed on to historical obscurity, the Chinese never ventured out again to explore the oceans in such strength. Apparently, the conservative Confucian scholars who disdained the pursuit of commerce won over the innovative, forward-looking eunuch faction (Zheng He was a eunuch) in a power struggle.

Internal conflict

This battle for supremacy over the policy course of China represented wild swings of the pendulum between modernity and tradition, openness and insularity, soft power vs. hard power, and would periodically plague China in the centuries to follow including the present generating disruptions and discontinuities.

Alternative scenarios of historians and economists speculated on the consequences on the world had China not pursued an isolationist policy after the era of Zheng He. Ming China to early Qing marked the zenith of Chinese civilization before the country would rise again in the present era.

If China's massive fleets continued their explorations they, instead of the Europeans, would have colonized the Americas. China would have dominated the world for the past half millennium. Instead, China turned inward and gradually became decrepit that accelerated in the tumultuous 19th century.

Meanwhile, the western powers rapidly industrialized and modernized. In its own vulnerable moment, China became easy prey for the Western powers especially from the mid 19th century.
China was humiliated by the western Gunboat Diplomacy where it was forced to open more areas of the country to foreigners in unequal port treaties. Thus, with Chinese defeat in the Opium War, Hong Kong became a British colony.

Japan also would succumb to the Gunboat Diplomacy of the West when it ended its isolation after Commodore Perry (not Dewey, as earlier posted) forced open the country in 1853-1854. Unlike China, which was locked in prolonged power struggles between the conservatives and the progressives, the Japanese quickly realized the advantages of Western technologies and adopted them to modernize the army and navy. By 1894, Japan would defeat China and become like the other Western powers participating in the division of the “Chinese melon.”

Read Part 3 of 4, ‘China following US capitalist footsteps and its various implications’, on Sunday, August 2.

Read Part 4 of 4, ‘Internal conflicts that pull Chinese actions in many directions’, on Wednesday, August 5.

MOVING FORWARD | ASEAN, China to negotiate Code of Conduct on South China Sea - Malaysia

From InterAksyon (Aug 2): MOVING FORWARD | ASEAN, China to negotiate Code of Conduct on South China Sea - Malaysia

ASEAN and China have agreed to proceed to the next stage of negotiations toward the establishment of the Code of Conduct (CoC) of Parties on the South China Sea.

Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman said ASEAN and China's senior officials who met recently had also agreed to negotiate on the framework, structure, and elements of the document, as well as address difficult and complicated issues relating to the CoC.

"This is an important progress with regard to the CoC," he told reporters at the 48th ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting (AMM) media briefing at the Putra World Trade Center in Kuala Lumpur on Friday.

He said the meeting had also considered several proposals to address rising tensions among claimant countries, and the need to operationalize relevant paragraphs of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DoC).

Raised tension, eroded trust

Anifah said: "While we proceed with the implementation of the DoC and work expeditiously toward the establishment of the CoC, recent developments have raised tension and eroded trust and confidence among parties.”

These developments, he said, must be addressed to ensure that peace, stability and security in the South China Sea were not adversely affected.

He alluded to a particular paragraph in the DoC which calls for self-restraint in the conduct of activities that may complicate or escalate tensions.

Other proposals put forward at the meeting held in Tianjin, China on July 29 included reciprocal freezing of all provocative activities and clarification of claims in accordance with international law, he added.

"In this connection, I would like to say that it's imperative that all parties handle their differences peacefully and constructively.”

"At the end of the day, what we want is a lasting peace, stability, and security in the South China Sea," he noted.

Anifah stressed that it was important that the South China Sea remained a sea of peace and prosperity, while any developments toward the possibility of increasing militarization must be avoided.

On the 48th AMM, Anifah said a total of 27 countries would be involved in the series of meetings from tomorrow until August 6.

Other meetings

Apart from the AMM, other meetings scheduled to take place at PWTC are the Post Ministerial Conference Session (PMC) with ASEAN dialogue partners, 16th ASEAN Plus Three Foreign Ministers Meeting, 5th East Asia Summit Foreign Ministers' Meeting, and the 22nd ASEAN Regional Forum.

"During the 48th AMM's plenary session, the ministers will discuss mainly the establishment of the ASEAN Community and progress on ASEAN Community's Post-2015 Vision.

"During the retreat, the ministers will exchange views on regional and international issues of mutual concern, including regional architecture and ASEAN's external relations," he said.

He said the PMC would discuss mainly the current status of the dialogue relations and its future direction as well as international and regional issues.

On the 16th ASEAN Plus Three Foreign Ministers Meeting with China, Japan, and South Korea, Anifah said focus would be on various areas of cooperation between the 13 countries, including progress toward the conclusion of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership agreement and the collaboration on projects under the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity.

He added that this year's 5th East Asia Summit (EAS) Foreign Ministers' Meeting, would see the full participation of the foreign ministers of all 18 countries involved.

This year, he said, marked the 10th anniversary of the EAS that was established at Malaysia's behest during our chairmanship in 2005.

"Taking advantage of the occasion, Malaysia is spearheading discussions on strengthening the EAS and making it even more effective going forward," he said.

Aside from the meetings, the ASEAN foreign ministers are scheduled to call on Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak on August 4.

The 48th AMM will be preceded by the ASEAN Senior Officials' Meeting (ASEAN SOM) and the meeting of the Committee of Permanent Representatives to ASEAN (ASEAN CPR).

A joint communique would be issued at the end of the 48th AMM, Anifah said, adding that the foreign ministers of Norway and Turkey had been invited to attend the opening and closing sessions of the AMM as guests of Malaysia, the current chair of ASEAN.

Police disrupt suspicious baggage in Zamboanga

From the Mindanao Examiner (Aug 2): Police disrupt suspicious baggage in Zamboanga

ZAMBOANGA CITY – Police bomb experts disrupted late Saturday two abandoned baggage in Zamboanga City in southern Philippines on suspicion it contained an explosive, officials said.

Officials said a baggage was discovered at dusk on Saturday at the vicinity of Universidad de Zamboanga near Plaza Pershing and immediately disrupted it.

Mayor Beng Climaco said the disruption caused a “mild explosion.” “The mild explosion at the vicinity of Universidad de Zamboanga near Plaza Pershing late Saturday afternoon was a result of disruption executed by police authorities due to a report on unattended baggage that included a one gallon container.”

She said members of the bomb squad also disrupted an abandoned baggage at a lottery outlet in Labuan village later in the night.

“The disruption was part of the procedure in handling unattended baggage. The public is constantly advised to remain watchful, but calm and to immediately report to authorities the presence of suspicious persons, items or baggage, including suspicious activities happening in the surroundings as well as abandoned vehicles for (police) verification,” she said.

Disruptors utilize a water projectile shaped charge (an omni-directional format more commonly referred to as a “bottler”) to destroy improvised explosives by severing any detonation cord inside the device, rendering it futile.

Climaco did not say if there were explosives found in the baggage, but it came following a recent bombing of the Manly Massage Parlor in Zamboanga that killed one person and left several others injured.

Authorities said the Abu Sayyaf was likely behind the blast, the third of a series of attacks on massage parlors here.

Late last year, an abandoned bag containing five 40 millimeter grenades, three fragmentation grenades and a handheld radio transceiver, including ammunition and a pair of short pants, was also found in the village of Malagutay.

Soldiers and policemen cordoned off the area while bomb experts used projected water disruptor to destroy whatever explosives in the bag.

In October, army and police bomb experts also disrupted an improvised explosive abandoned at the Plaza Pershing.  The explosive was hidden in a thermos that contained nails and ammonium nitrate, a banned chemical fertilizer widely used by rebels in the manufacture of homemade bombs.

The Abu Sayyaf, blamed by authorities to the spate of bombings and killings in the southern Philippines, has recently pledged allegiance to the jihadist group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

CSWD, 1st CAV extend relief goods to fire victims

From the Philippine Information Agency (Aug 2): CSWD, 1st CAV extend relief goods to fire victims

PAGADIAN CITY–The City Social Welfare and Development Office (CSWDO) in partnership with the 1st Cavalry (Tagapanguna) Squadron, Mechanized Infantry Division, Philippine Army recently distributed relief goods to fire victims who are temporarily housed at San Pedro Elementary School here.

Social Welfare Officer Robino Avila said the activity was a continuation of the city government’s assistance to the victims of the June 1, 2015 fire in Barangay San Pedro in this city.

Avila said the 1st Cavalry Squadron under the leadership of Lt. Col. Charlemagne Batayola Jr. had agreed to “extend assistance to the victims to help them recover from their losses.”  

“The CSWD gives relief goods to 45 families, such as: sleeping mats, mosquito nets, and cookware, while the 1st CAV donated sardines, noodles and rice,” Avila reported.

Conchita Lacsado, Remedios Montellano, and Adelfa Bayta were among the fire victims who patiently waited for the relief goods from CSWD and 1st Cavalry Squadron.

“Daghang salamat sa mga donors ning mga relief goods.  Wala koy mga kasangkapan sa kusina nga magamit sa akong pagdung-ag tungod kay nahurot kasunog akong balay. Nanghulam na lang ko kaldero sa akong manghod aron magamit sa akong paglung-ag,” Lacsado said. (Thank you to the donors of these relief goods. I don’t have kitchen utensils to use in cooking because my home was razed by fire. I even borrowed cooking pot from my younger sister to cook my food.)

Remedios Montellano, 48, of Purok Masanagon also expressed his gratitude to the government for attending to them.

However, some of the fire victims have yet to receive their P30 thousand assistance from the Department of Social and Welfare and Development.

Phil. Army’s 7ID cites units, individuals

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 1): Phil. Army’s 7ID cites units, individuals

FORT RAMON MAGSAYSAY, Nueva Ecija -- The Philippine Army's 7th Infantry Division (7ID) recognized several units and individuals for their respective exemplary performance, highlighting its 27th anniversary celebration here Friday.

Undersecretary Emmanuel Bautista, executive director of the Cabinet Cluster on Security, Justice and Peace, graced the celebration themed "Kaugnay Troopers: Kaagapay at Kaisa ng Sambayanan sa Kapayapaan at Kaunlaran," that was led by Major Gen. Glorioso Miranda, 7ID commanding general.

Captain Mark Ruelos, command's information head, said that among those rewarded for their outstanding service and accomplishments during the ceremony were Best Officer: First Lieutenant Jayrald B Ternio, commanding officer, Alpha Company, 71st Infantry Battalion; Best Enlisted Personnel: Corporal Orlando C Duton Jr., squad leader, Bravo Company, 69th Infantry Battalion; Best CAFGU Active Auxilliary: CAA Norlito I Feralija, CAA squad leader, Charlie Company, 70th Infantry Battalion; Best Civilian Employee: Rosalie L. Tolentino, radiologic technologist, Fort Magsaysay Hospital.

Also, part of the 27th founding anniversary of the command is the selection of the best Infantry Brigade and best Infantry Battalion.

Ruelos said the selection for the best brigade and battalion for this year is based the operational evaluation (OPREVAL) set forth by higher headquarters with the following key measurement areas as criteria: personnel, training, equipment, maintenance and facility.

The Best Infantry Brigade was awarded to the 701st Infantry (Kagitingan) Brigade with a total average of 78% and Best Infantry Battalion was awarded to 56th Infantry (Tatag) Battalion with a total average of 76.1%.

The month-long founding anniversary celebration was composed of different activities that is focused to test the ability and preparedness of the soldiers in the conduct of disaster response and to test the speed, accuracy, and teamwork and esprit de corps of the soldiers in the conduct of focused military operation.

This is being conducted regularly as part of the division anniversary celebration.

”This is also a time to commemorate the gallantry and heroism of our fallen comrades who have made the ultimate sacrifice in protecting and preserving our democracy and our land,” he added.

Intel officer critically wounded in Masbate ambush

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 1): Intel officer critically wounded in Masbate ambush

An intelligence officer of the San Pascual Municipal Police Station was critically wounded in an ambush staged by New People's Army (NPA) rebels at Barangay Mabini, San Pascual, Masbate on Friday afternoon.

PO2 Jim Velasco, 44, married and resident of Barangay Bulod in the same town, was rushed to the St.John Hospital in Naga City for treatment.

A report reaching Chief Supt. Victor P. Deona, Philippine National Police (PNP) Bicol regional director, said Velasco was on board his motorcycle at about 5 p.m. when the rebels, armed with M-16 and M-14 armalite rifles, fired at him.

Although hit, the intelligence officer returned fire, alarming his fellow officers who were about 500 meters away.Velasco's companions immediately responded and also exchanged gunfire with the NPA members.

Deona said Velasco had earlier received an information on the presence of armed rebels in the area, which prompted him to go there to conduct surveillance operation.

The insurgents, however, were already in an ambush position when he arrived in the area and fired at him.

They immediately withdrew towards Sitio Bagong Sirang, Barangay San Pedro, same town, when the reinforcing police officers arrived.