Saturday, August 8, 2015

Esscom issues list of those wanted for kidnappings

From the Daily Express (Aug 8): Esscom issues list of those wanted for kidnappings

Kota Kinabalu: The Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom) has refreshed the list of names wanted for cross-border crimes and a series of kidnappings in the State.
The names include those of the notorious Muktadil brothers – Nelson @ Nikson, Braun @ Brown, Badong, Bocoi @ Black and Khadafi – as well as Salip Sosong @ Mohammad Apsa Abdulla, Ali@ Brown, and Manajan @ Marajan. They were released during a meeting with business operators in east coast Semporna on Thursday night. 

Esscom Commander Datuk Abdul Rashid Harun urged anyone who knows of the whereabouts of these people to immediately contact Esscom's operations room at 089-863181 or send a WhatsApp message to 013-5559410.    Earlier last year, Sabah Police Commissioner Datuk Jalaluddin Abdul Rahman had also issued a wanted list to facilitate in investigations pertaining to kidnappings and other crimes.

According to police, Nikson had lived in Kg Bangau-Bangau and was believed to have been involved in the April 2, 2014 Singgamata kidnapping of Chinese tourist, Gao Huayun, 29, and Filipino worker Marcy Darawan, 40.

Nikson and his brother Badong @ Adzmil Muktadir are believed to command over 40 men for their kidnap for ransom activities and they have four boats equipped with 40HP to 70HP outboard engines.

The brothers are also believed to be involved in four kidnapping incidents, with the last involving the shooting dead of a marine policeman and kidnapping of another policeman on July 12 last year.

Meanwhile, operators of tourism centres in the Eastern Sabah Security Zone (Esszone) have been advised to be cautious and always be ready to face cross-border criminal threats.

Abdul Rashid said this was because the cross-border criminals, said to be responsible for the kidnapping cases in Esszone, were believed to be still active and waiting for an opportunity to strike.

"That is why I am asking resort operators, especially in Semporna, to always be cautious, to not employ foreigners who do not possess valid documents...we do not want these workers to become the henchmen for the criminals.

"The kidnapping case at the Ocean King Restaurant in Sandakan should be a lesson to us all. Although there has been no kidnapping case in waters off Semporna, Kunak and Lahad Datu for a year we should not be complacent," he added.

Also present at the meeting were Semporna District Officer Dr Chaco Bullah, Esscom Deputy Commander Datuk Md Rahim Mohamad and Esscom Director (Sea Component) First Admiral M. Karunanithi.

China's 'great wall of sand' unifies allies in Pacific, says US naval chief

From the Sydney Morning Herald (Aug 8): China's 'great wall of sand' unifies allies in Pacific, says US naval chief 

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said China has a stake in the freedom of navigation in the South China Sea.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said China has a stake in the freedom of navigation in the South China Sea. Photo: AP

China's controversial construction of militarised artificial islands in the South China Sea – dubbed the "great wall of sand" – has been self-defeating, says the US Navy commander whose sailors would be on the front line of any serious conflict.

US Pacific Fleet Commander Admiral Scott Swift told Fairfax Media the "angst" China has generated has led East Asian nations from Australia to Japan to fortify their own defences and also to seek much deeper US military engagement.

But the Admiral dismissed speculation that either Australia or the US were seeking new "bases" or "infrastructure" in Darwin or Fremantle.

Admiral Scott Swift: The "angst" China has generated has led East Asian nations from Australia to Japan to fortify their own defences.

Admiral Scott Swift: The "angst" China has generated has led East Asian nations from Australia to Japan to fortify their own defences. Photo: John Garnaut

"As the Pacific Fleet commander I currently see no value of new bases," said Admiral Swift, saying they would be costly and unnecessary because so many countries were willing to open their facilities to his ships. "We don't need more infrastructure from a navy point of view."
Admiral Swift cited Australia's decision to build new Air Warfare Destroyers in Adelaide and its ongoing commitment to a new fleet of submarines.

Admiral Swift's Pacific Fleet is larger and more powerful than any national navy outside the US, comprising five aircraft carrier groups, 200 ships and submarines, 2000 aircraft and a quarter of a million sailors and marines. The fleet currently accounts for about half of all US naval assets, moving to 60 per cent. But he still pointed to the fact that demand for the Obama administration's "rebalancing" to Asia has far-outstripped what the world's most powerful navy can ever supply.

"If the entire US Navy was stationed in the East China Sea [and] South China Sea the question I would still get [is] 'when is the rebalance going to be real, what more can you send to the region'," said Admiral Swift, speaking on the sidelines of the Australia America Leadership Dialogue, which concluded in Melbourne on Saturday night.

Admiral Swift's picture of a collaborative regional response to Chinese provocations was supported this week by the 10 countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which broke with their usual diplomatic reticence to warn of an "erosion of trust and corrosion of confidence" in the South China Sea.

And China's island-building has also engendered a rare outbreak of foreign policy bipartisanship in Washington.

"It's totally unnecessarily to build a stationary aircraft carrier in the South China Sea right off the coast of nation states," said Devin Nunes, the Republican chair of the powerful US House of Representatives intelligence committee, suggesting that China's artificial islands were intimidating but not militarily effective.

"They've managed to take long-time complicated relationships from the US and make them into allies," said Mr Nunes, speaking also on the sidelines of the US Dialogue in Melbourne.

China has accused the US Pacific Command of "militarising" the South China Sea and endeavouring to "sow discord" between China and its maritime neighbours.

Admiral Swift's predecessor, Admiral Harry Harris, sounded the alarm about "the Great Wall of Sand" that China was building across busy sea lanes in the South China Sea, in a speech to the Australian War Memorial on March 31.

One of Admiral Swift's first acts as fleet commander was to personally inspect developments in the South China Sea from the window of a P-8 surveillance plane.

Admiral Swift said his own information, reflecting the vast US intelligence machine, was consistent with public reports that showed China has slowed its sand reclamation activities but was continuing to build military-capable infrastructure on top of the new islands.

He suggested it was not yet clear whether the recent slow-down amounted to a shift in direction, in response to regional condemnation, or merely a tactical pause ahead of President Xi Jinping's visit to the US in September.

Either way, China has recently echoed the "freedom" language of US and regional partners and adopted a more conciliatory tone.

"China also has a stake in the freedom of navigation in the South China Sea," said China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi, in a statement following the ASEAN summit in Kuala Lumpur.

Mr Wang said the situation was "stable" and there was "no possibility of major conflicts".

U.S. Marines show Philippine forces ‘the ropes’

From the US Marine Corps Website (Aug 5): U.S. Marines show Philippine forces ‘the ropes’

U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Brent Maholy supervises a group of Philippine airmen as they climb a 40-foot tower to begin fast roping during Air Assault Support Exercise 2015-2 on Basa Air Base in Pampanga, Philippines, July 15, 2015. The exercise is a bilateral training event focused on strengthening the alliance between the Philippines and the U.S. Maholy is a squad leader with 2nd Platoon, Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marines and is attached through the Unit Deployment Program to III Marine Expeditionary Force. The Philippine airmen are with Ground Special Operations Unit, 710th Special Operations Wing, Philippine Air Force.

U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Brent Maholy supervises a group of Philippine airmen as they climb a 40-foot tower to begin fast roping during Air Assault Support Exercise 2015-2 on Basa Air Base in Pampanga, Philippines, July 15, 2015. The exercise is a bilateral training event focused on strengthening the alliance between the Philippines and the U.S. Maholy is a squad leader with 2nd Platoon, Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marines and is attached through the Unit Deployment Program to III Marine Expeditionary Force. The Philippine airmen are with Ground Special Operations Unit, 710th Special Operations Wing, Philippine Air Force.
BASA AIR BASE, PAMPANGA, Philippines -- Staring from the top of the tower, they experience an irrepressible surge of adrenaline. The surge becomes a cold rush as they grab the rope, spin 180 degrees, and slide toward the ground 40 feet below. Bracing for impact, they hit the deck and sprint out of the way before the next man lands.

United States and Philippine service members teamed up for preparatory rappelling and fast rope training here during Air Assault Support Exercise 2015-2, July 15, 2015. The next day, the team of U.S. Marines, Philippine Marines and Philippine airmen would repeat the exercise from a helicopter instead of a tower.
“We taught the Philippine Marines and airmen the prerequisites to fast rope out of a helicopter, which is tower training,” said 1st Lt. Oliver Noteware, the executive officer of Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment. “We had them all fast rope slick without gear, and with gear using the U.S. Marine Corps Helicopter Rope Suspension Techniques. We trained the Filipinos to the same standards as we did the Americans.”

The training has made Philippine forces more versatile, according to Noteware. They now have the ability to fast rope or rappel when there is no viable landing zone.

Second Battalion, 3rd Marines, which is attached to III Marine Expeditionary Force as part of the Corps’ Unit Deployment Program, gained insight into the Philippine troops’ unique tactics. Philippine forces have significant experience fighting internal enemies, who they call communist terrorists. Most clashes with the terrorists occur in the jungle, which is an unusual climate for the U.S. Marine battalion.

“We are learning from them how they operate,” said Sgt. Brent Maholy, a squad leader with 2nd Platoon, Fox Company. “They are not teaching us formal classes, but we have an appreciation of their skill-level.”

Whether rappelling, fast roping or bushwhacking through the jungle, U.S. and Philippine forces are forging a stronger relationship in the Pacific. Through bilateral training like Air Assault Support Exercise, the partner forces hope to gain a broader perspective of military tactics and become closer allies.

US warship docks in northern Luzon

From the Gulf News (Aug 9): US warship docks in northern Luzon

Escorts US Navy’s floating hospital engaged in cleft palate operation in Subic Bay

A warship of the United States’ Navy, USNS Millinocket, docked in northern Luzon while the US Navy’s floating hospital-ship, USNS Mercy, extended free operation to 100 children with cleft lip and palate on Subic Bay, central Luzon, sources said.

“It was the first time that USNS Millinocket, known for its rapid transport of troops and military equipment, and global fleet station operation support, sailed side by side with USNS Mercy, a 272-metre long floating hospital with 1,000 beds; four X-ray rooms, CAT scan unit; an angiography-dental-and physical therapy suite; optometry and lens lab; a blood bank; and two oxygen producing plants, said an observer who requested anonymity.

Operations on 100 patients with cleft lip and palate deformities at the USNS Mercy began in Saturday and will continue until Sunday at the Subic Bay, off Subic Freeport, the site of the former US Naval Base in Olongapo, Zambales until 1991.

Personnel of USNS Millinocket will also donate medical supplies upon docking at the surfing site in the South China Sea off San Juan, La Union; and off Baguio City, before sailing to Vietnam on Monday, said Philippine Navy Capt. Albert Mogol.

It is not known if USNS Mercy would leave Subic Bay on Monday, after its medical mission there. In a non-combatant mission, USNS Millinocket sailed from Solomon Islands, off east of Papua New Guinea, and docked off Poro Point, La Union which faces the South China Sea on Thursday, said Mogol. USNS Mercy sailed from Fiji and Papua New Guinea before holding medical missions in different parts of the Philippines, including southern Philippines, central Philippines; Manila; and Subic.

“We did not see any Chinese vessels (when we sailed from the Solomon Islands to La Union, northern Luzon),” US Task Force Forager Commander James Meyer said.

Political analysts said the presence of USNS Millinocket in the South China Sea, after escorting USNC Mercy, was meant to monitor the veracity of China’s statement during the recent meeting of Southeast and Asian foreign ministers in Kuala Lumpur, that its island-enhancement projects on seven reefs and shoals in the South China Sea has stopped.

But China also hinted that development projects to militarise the enhanced reefs and shoals would continue, the same analysts added.

The USNS Millinocket and USNS Mercy visited the Philippines for a 10-day joint Asia-Pacific humanitarian mission of US’ Pacific Partnership program, explained organisers.

US Navy’s Pacific Partnership is the largest annual multi-nation and multilateral humanitarian assistance and disaster relief preparedness mission in the Indo-Asia Pacific region, explained Capt. Christopher Engdahl USNS, Mission Commander of the Pacific Partnership 2015.

Pick culture, US troops told

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Aug 9): Pick culture, US troops told

American servicemen on a 10-day humanitarian mission in La Union had been told by their commander to visit cultural and tourist sites and avoid activities that may offend Filipino sensibilities during their free hours.

Capt. James Mayer, US Task Force Forager commander, made the suggestion to his men in Pacific Partnership 2015 with their Filipino counterparts, one of the biggest US military-sponsored humanitarian missions in the Indo-Pacific region.

“They should instead visit heritage and cultural sites in return for the hospitality of the host country,” Mayer said.

The guidance served to remind US servicemen of the case of Marine Lance Cpl. Joseph Scott Pemberton who is on trial in Olongapo City for the murder of Filipino transgender Jeffrey “Jennifer” Laude.

Pemberton allegedly picked up Laude in a bar during the US Marine’s furlough after taking part in the Balikatan joint military exercises with Filipino forces in October last year.

The US Navy warship USNS Millinocket docked at Poro Point in La Union on Tuesday at the start of its humanitarian mission.

Mayers said that instead of bar-hopping, his men must be back on the ship or their respective stations after conducting their daily humanitarian and medical activities in various places.

However, the US servicemen are free to visit heritage and tourist sites in the province so they could learn about the culture of the people.

He said the Philippine Military Academy has organized a group tour for US sailors, Marines, military engineers and medical personnel of the country’s premier military school in Baguio City.

According to Capt. Albert Mogol, Philippine Navy commander in Poro Point, the US servicemen were invited to visit the Baluerte Watch Tower in Luna town, a disintegrating Spanish-built citadel; Bacsil Bridge, where the retreating Japanese Imperial Army held last stand in San Fernando City; Kasay Marine Sanctuary, home of 100 of the 400 coral species in the country; Tomb of Unknown Soldier, located along the diversion leading to the Poro Point Special Economic Zone, and the Pindangan Ruins.

The province also boasts of beautiful beaches for swimming and surfing, in Bauang, San Juan, Agoo, Caba and the Urbiztondo Surfing area in San Juan.

Mogol said Filipino soldiers and policemen will provide security for the US servicemen who visit these sites.

When wounds start to heal: Teaching peace to kids

From Rappler (Aug 8): When wounds start to heal: Teaching peace to kids

'When will the next bullet hit me?' some children would ask

FUN AND LEARNING. The children at Haji Salik Elementary School learning the Go Peace Clap. All photos from TPBPM

FUN AND LEARNING. The children at Haji Salik Elementary School learning the Go Peace Clap. All photos from TPBPM

It was a gloomy day but the kids in Haji Salik Kalaing Elementary School had beaming smiles.

One of them was 15-year old Saad. His face glowed when we approached him. You would not have known that just 6 months ago, 3 bullets had wounded him.

The last time we saw Saad was in April 2015. The stitches on his body were still fresh. He was sullen.

Hindi na ako puwede magbuhat ng mabibigat. Hindi na ako puwede magsaka (I’m no longer allowed to do any heavy lifting. I’m not allowed to farm),” he said. But now you could look at him and see hope.

The Teach Peace Build Peace Movement (TPBPM) advocates for children like Saad who were victims of war and conflict. In the continuing fight for self-determination, many of the children in Mamasapano had to wake up in the morning with fears in their hearts. “When will the next bullet hit me?” They’d often ask themselves.

In the clash, innocent villagers were wounded; some even killed. Over two thousand families fled their homes, some walking long distances to makeshift evacuation camps with nothing but the clothes on their backs.

Peace as way of life

With the help of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the TPBPM team went to these affected areas in Mamasapano in April to assess their needs and to collect stories from the affected children. And because we felt the need to come back, we did.

Our team was headed yet again to another mission in July, with some others from our Cebu chapter. We conducted a Peace Mission to some 800 children, parents, and teachers in two elementary schools in Mamasapano – Haji Salik Kalaing Elementary School and Tatak Elementary School – through fun games, art, and music.

The children participated in “Peace Fun Day” activities, where they reflected and learned about how “peace is a way of life.” Through “Peace Flashcards,” we taught them that simple acts, like showing respect for their elders and keeping their surroundings clean, are already acts of peace.

TPBPM Arts for Peace Director AG Saño also launched “The Sketchpad Project” by conducting a drawing workshop. Select children also received Peace Art kits with sketchpads and coloring materials. Recognizing the power of art, the activity aimed to provide a healing and transformational space for children, allowing them to express what words cannot.

The sketchpads are not just mere art tools. They will serve as their new diary where they can draw their hopes and dreams, theirs to fill with colorful canvass – with no limits, no boundaries, no restrictions. When children were asked to draw and write their stories, many of them hoped for peace so they can return to school.

In a one-day workshop, Teach Peace trained 10 volunteer soldiers from the 6th Infantry Division and 7 members of the Humanitarian and Emergency Action Response Team (ARMM-HEART) to help facilitate the activities we prepared for the children.

After the activities, the volunteer soldiers were glad that they were able to change the way some of the children and parents see them. ARMM-HEART volunteers, who were already working with the communities beforehand, were happy to see progress in uplifting the spirit of the parents and their children.

We also painted “Peace Murals” on the walls of the two schools, using words in the Maguindanaoan language. Children, their parents, teachers, and other members of their communities helped paint the murals to show that peace is inclusive and that it knows no age, gender, or race.

Teaching peace

ARTS AND PEACE. AG Saño helping the children learn how to draw better

ARTS AND PEACE. AG Saño helping the children learn how to draw better
What better way to teach peace to these kids than to bring back their childhood.

As part of our Peace Gifts Project, we gave over 600 school kits and toys to the children in the schools we visited, including a village in Camp Darapanan, an area controlled by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. Each kit contained a special Peace Note from our Peace Hero volunteers, reminding each child that no matter what happens, we will continue advocating for peace until no child has to sacrifice their childhood anymore.

While the children had fun in the “Peace Fun Day” activities, teachers and parents from the two schools also shared with us their dreams for their children and their community in the “Kwentuhan Sessions.” Almost two hundred parents from Haji Salik Kalaing Elementary School and Tatak Elementary School joined the sessions.

TPBPM also reached out to college students in the nearby city, Cotabato, through one of its “Talks Series”. In the talk, Ate Honey shared how to become prime movers in advocating for peace to the students of Notre Dame University and the Cotabato City State Polytechnic College.

Through this Peace Mission and more in the future, we hope to instill hope in the hearts of the hopeless by showing them that when we remain together, wounds heal faster.

[Paul Dawnson Formaran is part of the Teach Peace Build Peace Movement. The TPBFM community aims to make every Filipino child and youth a Peace Builder. To know more about TPBPM and its initiatives, visit Facebook or its official website.]

4 tribal leaders snatched in Davao del Norte

From ABS-CBN (Aug 8): 4 tribal leaders snatched in Davao del Norte

Four tribal leaders from Barangay Dagohoy, Talaingod, Davao del Norte were abducted by alleged members of the New People's Army (NPA) last August 1, the Philippine Army said Saturday.

In a statement, Col. Eduardo Gubat, spokesperson of the Eastern Mindanao Command, said members of the Southern Mindanao Regional Committee of the NPA abducted Datu Danilo Angcomog, Datu Laris Landakay, Datu Jovanie Angcomog, and Datu Kalumpot Dalon.

The victims reporetedly went to the said barangay to settle a "maghat" or tribal case regarding a certain "Sapunan Baylohanon Case".

Gubat said the tribal leaders were also witnesses in a human trafficking incident involving legal front organizations of the Communist Party of the Philippines- New People's Army- National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF), which resulted in the death of Datu Lito "Lolong" Lundia inside the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) Haran compound in Davao City.

The victims were residents of San Fernando, Bukidnon.

Barangay Chairman Jose Baon and sitio leader Nanding Dungutan Angcomog already reported the incident to the municipal police station. Soldiers from the 68th Infantry Battalion are currently providing assistance to local officials.

The villagers condemned the kidnapping, saying they are already fed up with the abuses and harassment of the NPA in their area.

"Obviously, this is obstruction of justice. The lives of our witnesses are in danger as NPA kidnappers want to twist the facts to their favor," a tribal leader said.

The Indigenous Peoples Mandatory Representative (IPMR) and tribal chieftains of the said town held an emergency meeting for the safe release of the victims.

Lt. Col. Vicente Edgardo De Ocampo, commander of the 68th Infantry Battalion, said they will help local officials find the victims as well as in the filing of criminal charges against the kidnappers.

MILF: Malaysian Ambassador visits MILF’s Camp Darapanan

Posted to the MILF Website (Aug 8): Malaysian Ambassador visits MILF’s Camp Darapanan

Malaysian Ambassador visits MILF’s Camp Darapanan

Malaysian Ambassador to the Philippines His Excellency Dato Mohammad Zamri Mohammad Kassim, Malaysian Consul Zawawi Tahir and MGeneral Sheikh Mohksin, Head of International Monitoring Team (IMT) Mission-10 and their delegation visited the main camp of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in Darapanan, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao on August 6 and conferred with MILF Chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim in his office.

Also present during the meeting were MILF 1st Vice Chairman Ghazali Jaafar and other members of the MILF Central Committee.

Chairman Al Haj Murad warmly welcome the Malaysian delegation and expressed appreciation for their coming to Mindanao and at Camp Darapanan.

In the course of their conversation, the Malaysian Ambassador reiterated his government’s strong commitment and support to the peace process; to continue acting as peace process facilitator and head of the IMT as long as both parties need it; to continue extending to the Bangsamoro and Filipino People in general their assistance in the field of education and human resource development (HRD) through their institutions and programs like the MTCP,  GIATMARA and others; to assist in developing the economy through inviting and encouraging private investors to invest in the Bangsamoro and other parts of the country; expressed hope and prayers for the early passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law(BBL) that is acceptable to all parties and the Bangsamoro people; and to continue to monitor the situation and progress of the peace process.

Chairman Al Haj Murad expressed the Moro Front’s and the Moro peoples’ gratitude to the active participation of the Malaysian Government in the peace process vis a vis, facilitating the peace talks; heading the IMT as well as extending educational and human resource development training to selected Moro individuals particularly on capacity building, etc.

These capacity building programs being extended to Moro participants in Malaysia are in preparation for the upcoming establishment of the Bangsamoro new political entity once the BBL is passed by congress and ratified by the people in proposed areas of Bangsamoro in a plebiscite.

The two Chambers of Congress are yet to come up with a final version of the Bangsamoro Law seen to resolve the decades-old Bangsamoro Problem/ and or question.

The proposed law is still pending in congress with no clear timetable for its passage. The MILF, the GPH Peace panel, as well as prominent individuals including influential Cotabato Archbishop Orlando Cardinal Quevedo, CSO’s and NGO’s supportive of the peace process; and the Bangsamoro people have urged congress to pass the original version of the proposed law agreed between President Benigno Aquino II and the MILF submitted to congress on September 10, 2014, based on the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) and the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB).

MILF: TPMT makes assessment of the GPH-MILF Peace process

Posted to the MILF Website (Aug 8): TPMT makes assessment of the GPH-MILF Peace process

TPMT makes assessment of the GPH-MILF Peace process

Visiting the Island province of Basilan, the Third Party Monitoring Team (TPMT) made an assessment of the peace process between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in Basilan on August 6, 2015 held at the Basilan Ulama Supreme Council Office in Mabarakat Village, Aguada Isabela City.

The delegation was headed by TPMT Chairman Mr. Alistair Macdonald and members, Mr. Steven Rood of The Asia Foundation (TAF), Mr. Huseyin Oruc of IHH, Ust. Rahib Kudto of UNYPAD & Ms. Karen Tanada.

Mr. Macdonald said “The Role of the TPMT as an independent body is to report to both peace panels and the public as well their observations and findings on how the peace process is being carried out by both parties”.

“We came here to make an assessment of the MILF-GPH Peace Process for the people of Basilan to look forward for its success”, Macdonald said.

In the open forum, Eng’r. Nasser Barahama asked, “What we noticed over the TV regarding the attitudes of some senators like Ferdinand Marcos Jr. pertaining to the BBL that is so discouraging as if they are against the draft BBL crafted by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC).  How sure we are that the BBL is approved by congress”?

Mr. Macdonald said that based on the statement of Senate President Franklin Drilon & Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, Jr., they assured that BBL would be adopted by September but realistically, maybe in October.

 Macdonald asked “What are your preparations when it is just few away from now”.

Ustadz Yusoph Alano, a member of the Basilan Provincial Board asked about allotting slots in the Bangsamoro Parliament for the ulama (Islamic preachers) in the BBL claiming they are more knowledgeable on Shari’ah Law.

Mr. Macdonald cited the example of Irish Republic were some religious sectors can join in the parliament but they have to create their own party so that they participate in the elections.

The president and the vice president of the Basilan Ulama Supreme Council were not present due to their prior commitments but entrusted their position paper to Ustadz Ibrahim Haruddain, a member of Shari’ah, one of the agencies of the MILF.

He read it before the TPMT Chairman & members which contained that BUSC support for the passage of BBL drafted by the BTC because they believe that its passage can resolve the decades-old Moro problem/ question in Mindanao.

MILF: BTC supports passage of BBL by Congress ‘in its original form’

Posted to the MILF Website (Aug 6): BTC supports passage of BBL by Congress ‘in its original form’

BTC supports passage of BBL by Congress ‘in its original form’

In a Resolution No. 005, Series of 2015, the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) has expressed support for the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) by Congress in its original form and asked for the restoration of at least 28 provisions in the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) that the House of Representatives’ ad hoc committee deleted prior to presenting the draft measure for plenary debates.

In a letter to Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. dated July 29, 2015, BTC Chairman Mohagher Iqbal said he is furnishing the House a copy of the commission’s resolution supporting the passage in Congress of the BBL “in its original form.”

“The BTC implores the better judgment of the leadership of both houses of Congress to pass the BBL in its original form and to henceforth act according to the terms of the peace agreements,” the resolution stated.

The resolution stated the BBL was consistent with the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) and the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) entered into by the government with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) last year.

“The BTC stands firm that the proposed BBL in its original form is the most appropriate version based on the FAB and CAB, and considering that it is the one that underwent the legitimate process of consultation with the people and engagement with the Office of the President,” it stated.

The House is set to resume next week plenary deliberations on the BBL, which seeks to create a new autonomous region in Mindanao, while Sen. Marcos slated to present to his colleagues at the Senate the substitute bill for the BBL on August 10.

Belmonte said the target was to approve the measure by September or before the chamber gets busy discussing the proposed P3.002-trillion national budget for 2016.

Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, Chairman of the House’ Ad hoc Committee said the provisions removed by the ad hoc panel were considered to be unconstitutional.

Among the controversial provisions the BTC wants restored are certain powers supposedly exclusive to the national government; allowing contiguous areas to join the Bangsamoro region upon the petition of 10 percent of its residents; making internal security a concurrent power with the Bangsamoro government; and creating a Bangsamoro Police.

Sitti Amirah Pendatun, a member of the government peace panel legal team reiterated the decommissioning of the arms and forces of the MILF do not need to be included in the BBL.

“We have explained many times before that decommissioning as well as the broader normalization process need not be in the BBL,” said Pendatun.

Pendatun made the statement in reaction to the pronouncements of Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. that one reason for the delay in the submission of his committee report on the BBL is the difficulty in incorporating provisions on the decommissioning of MILF weapons and combatants.

Pendatun said the primary reason decommissioning and the normalization process are not in the proposed BBL is because the Constitution prohibits the creation of a bill with more than one subject.

7ID, nagdiwang ng ika-27 taong anibersaryo

From the Philippine Information Agency (Aug 5): 7ID, nagdiwang ng ika-27 taong anibersaryo

FORT RAMON MAGSAYSAY, Nueva Ecija -- Ipinagdiwang kamakailan ng Army 7th Infantry Division o 7ID ang ika-27 anibersaryo nito sa pamamagitan ng mga aktibidad na layong maipamalas ang ugnayan ng unipormadong hanay at mga mamamayan.

Sinabi ni Division Commander Major General Glorioso Miranda na kaakibat ng temang “7ID @ 27: Kaugnay Troopers Kaagapay at Kaisa ng Sambayanan sa Kapayapaan at Kaunlaran,” ay isinagawa ang pagtatanim ng nasa 1,700 punong kahoy sa sitio Pinaltakan, barangay Caballero sa lungsod ng Palayan.

Nagkaroon din ng fun shoot, DRO Squad Challenge, triathlon, battle of the bands at sports fest.

Hindi naman mawawala ang paghahatid ng serbisyo sa mga nangangailangang kababayan gaya ang libreng cataract operation sa pangunguna ng Fort Magsaysay Army Station Hospital.

Nagsilbing highlight ng pagdiriwang ang pagkilala ng mga natatanging kawani ng dibisyon na pinangunahan ni dating Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff at Cabinet Cluster on Security, Justice and Peace Executive Director Undersecretary Emmanuel Bautista.

7ID, kinilala ang mga natatanging tauhan, yunit

From the Philippine Information Agency (Aug 5): 7ID, kinilala ang mga natatanging tauhan, yunit

FORT RAMON MAGSAYSAY, Nueva Ecija -- Kinilala kamakailan ng Army 7th Infantry Division o 7ID ang mga natatanging tauhan at yunit nito sa okasyon ng ika-27 anibersaryo.

Pinangunahan ni dating Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff at Cabinet Cluster on Security, Justice and Peace Executive Director Undersecretary Emmanuel Bautista ang paggawad ng parangal kina Lieutenant Jayrald Ternio bilang Best Officer, Corporal Orlando Duton Jr. bilang Best Enlisted Personnel, Rosalie Tolentino bilang Model Civilian Employee, at Norlito Feralija bilang Best Civilian Armed Auxiliary.

Kinilala rin ang 701st Infantry (Kagitingan) Brigade at ng 56th Infantry (Tatag) Battalion dahil sa pagpapakita ng kabihasaan at kagalingan at maging ang 3rd, 24th, 48th, 56th, 69th, 70th, 71st, 81st, at 84th Infantry Battalion dahil sa patuloy na pagpapahalaga sa isinusulong na Army Transformation Roadmap.

Sinabi ni Division Commander Major General Glorioso Miranda na  maliban sa mga tauhan at yunit nila ay pinarangalan rin ang mga civilian stakeholder na naging katuwang sa maraming serbisyong inilaan para sa mga nasasakupang pamayanan tulad nina Dona Remedios Trinidad, Bulacan Municipal Health Officer Rhodelia Vardeleon at Nueva Ecija Royal Lions Club President Clarence Luther Bulanadi.

Gayundin ay kinilala ang tanggapan ng Davao Oriental Happy Home na nagtatag ng kauna-unahang processing center para umalalay sa pagbabago ng mga sumukong rebelde.

Zambo Sur to be declared as peaceful, ready for further development province

From the Philippine Information Agency (Aug 8): Zambo Sur to be declared as peaceful, ready for further development province

The province of Zamboanga del Sur will be declared as a peaceful and ready for further development (PRFD) province on August 12, 9:00am at the Amusement and Events Center, Capitol Complex here.

Governor Antonio H. Cerilles in his letter said the declaration is a manifestation that the peace and order situation of the province has significantly improved and that the peace and order council (POC) and the respective security measures are functioning effectively.

With the declaration, Cerilles said that people have become aware and resilient in accepting their shared responsibility against threats and risks to public order and safety, and the armed threats and rebellion are too weak to influence its citizens and their way of life.

The governor issued Memorandum Circular No. 2, dated July 9, 2015  directing all mayors, municipal local government operations officers, chiefs of police, provincial heads of local government agencies and national government offices, Zamboanga del Sur-Pagadian City Press Club, Inc.,  parish priests, business clubs, people’s organizations and non-government organizations, to attend this momentous event.

Two banana plantation workers hurt in NPA attack in North Cotabato

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 8): Two banana plantation workers hurt in NPA attack in North Cotabato

Police and military have launched manhunt against suspected New Peoples Army (NPA) in North Cotabato believed to be responsible in the attack on a bunk house of banana plantation workers in a remote village of Kidapawan City Friday night.

A report received by the 6th Infantry Division, which is based here, said two banana plantation laborers were seriously wounded when gunmen strafed a makeshift in Barangay Kalasuyan at past midnight.

Capt. Joan Petinglay, speaking for the 6th ID, said a report from the 57th Infantry Battalion showed the victims were identified as Ryman Monteverde Polines, 20, of Purok-7, Barangay Lumbay in Tulunan town and John Rommel Arena Sasi, 24, of Barangay Malibatuan in Arakan, both in North Cotabato.

The victims were past asleep when the suspects, armed with assault rifles strafed the house. After the shooting the suspects fled aboard motorbikes.

Barangay Kalasuyan chairman Fernando Ajero told reporters that responding village watchmen rushed the victims to the hospital. They both sustained multiple gunshot wounds in various parts of the body.

Residents nearby reported that after the victims were rushed to the hospital, the attackers returned and set the house on fire.

The hut is owned by banana plantation owner Pabling Omega who reside in Antipas, North Cotabato but also owns a plantation in Kidapawan City.

Police said the banana plantation operators had been receiving extortion demand from the communist rebels asking for "protection money."

The owner rejected the demand.

Elements of the 57th IB are helping the local police locate the suspects who also reside in the Kidapawan City.

UP journalism student rewrites life to lead rebellion in Panay

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Aug 8):  UP journalism student rewrites life to lead rebellion in Panay

COMMUNIST guerrilla leader Maria Concepcion Araneta-Bocala, aka “Concha,” in the hinterlands of Panay Island while taping an audio-video statement CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

COMMUNIST guerrilla leader Maria Concepcion Araneta-Bocala, aka “Concha,” in the hinterlands of Panay Island while taping an audio-video statement. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

MARIA Concepcion “Concha” Araneta wanted to be a journalist, so she took up mass communications at the University of the Philippines (UP) in Diliman, Quezon City, in the late 1960s, but contemplated whether to go into broadcast or print media.

“I thought that kind of work would entail me to go out in the field,” she said.

But like many students then, Araneta saw her life taking a sharp turn amid the turbulent political and economic crisis, and growing authoritarian rule of Ferdinand Marcos. She joined the Samahan ng Demokratikong Kabataan and was among those who went underground and joined the communist New People’s Army (NPA) shortly after Marcos declared martial law on Sept. 21, 1972.
She would marry a comrade Pablito Araneta, who would later become a provincial board member, and later, another comrade, Reynaldo Bocala.

Forty-five years later, on Aug. 1, Concha Araneta-Bocala was captured by police and military intelligence agents in a raid on a rented house in Molo District, Iloilo City.

She has been tagged as a top leader of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and head of the CPP’s Panay regional committee, with a bounty of P7.8 million for her arrest.

Bocala, who will turn 65 on Aug. 26, has been charged with illegal possession of firearms and explosives, aside from pending murder and rebellion charges in courts in Antique and Aklan provinces.

Peace talks

She has refuted the accusations and called her arrest illegal, insisting that she is a consultant for the Visayas in the peace negotiations between the government and the National Democratic Front (NDF), an umbrella of underground organizations including the CPP and NPA.

The government peace panel has dismissed her claim. As head of the CPP and NPA in Panay, the military says Bocala is responsible for rebel attacks that killed soldiers, policemen and militiamen, as well as destroyed public and private property.

“This is a victory for the people of Panay who desire for a just and lasting peace. The victims of CPP-NPA atrocities are expecting that justice will be served with the arrest of Bocala,” said Col. Eric Uchida, commander of Army’s 301st Brigade, which is responsible for internal security operations in Panay.

To her friends and colleagues, however, Bocala is a revolutionary who left a life of comfort and affluence to fight against what she believes are the ills of society.
NOW BEHIND bars in an Iloilo City jail, Maria Concepcion Araneta-Bocala  looks back at her days in school and her role in the guerrilla movement.NESTOR P. BURGOS JR/INQUIRER VISAYAS

NOW BEHIND bars in an Iloilo City jail, Maria Concepcion Araneta-Bocala looks back at her days in school and her role in the guerrilla movement.NESTOR P. BURGOS JR/INQUIRER VISAYAS

Landed clan

The fifth of 10 siblings, Bocala belongs to the landed Araneta clan in Negros Occidental province, which includes Judy Araneta-Roxas, the mother of Interior Secretary and presidential aspirant Manuel “Mar” Roxas II.

“She is very intelligent and good-natured, and went to Mass every Sunday,” said a former classmate at the then Assumption Convent in Iloilo City, where the rebel finished her elementary education and graduated valedictorian in high school in 1967.

It was at Assumption where she entertained thoughts of becoming a journalist. She topped the editorial examination for the school publication when she was in third year high school, but the post was given to a senior who had more experience.

“I had no idea what a school publication was, much less how to run one. Besides, I was busy socializing, attending jam sessions then,” Bocala told the Inquirer from her cell at the heavily guarded Molo District police station.

Fourth arrest

Bocala is no stranger to detention. Her arrest was her fourth since 1972. She was first held in Manila on Sept. 16, 1972, five days before martial law was declared and freed on bail after three days.

In 1979, she was arrested in Talisay town in Negros Occidental, a few days after she had given birth. She said she was subjected to sleep and food deprivation despite her condition.

On Sept 10, 1980, a day before the birthday of Marcos, Bocala and seven other political detainees escaped from Camp Martin Delgado in Iloilo City, by climbing through the ceiling of their stockade.

She rejoined the underground and surfaced in 1986 as one of the leaders of the NDF in Panay during the ceasefire period after the Edsa I People Power revolt that ousted Marcos. She met with then President Corazon “Cory” Aquino at Assumption Iloilo.
After the collapse of the peace talks, Bocala again went underground but was captured in April 1987 while visiting her parents’ house in Jaro District in Iloilo City.

Personal challenge

While in the underground, she said her greatest personal challenge was her separation from her children—one with Araneta and four with Bocala, an alleged regional CPP-NPA leader. “I constantly longed for them and I tried to compensate with letters. If there was an opportunity, I tried to be with them,” she said.

Decades as a rebel staying mostly in the mountains have taken its physical toll on her. Bocala has been taking medicines for hypertension and severe anemia, and has a history of pneumonia. She is also hypoglycemic and suffering from scoliosis, worsened by repeated falls in the mountains.

Retirement is farthest from her mind, however. “Our participation in the revolutionary struggle cannot be measured by just physical contribution but by what you can contribute even when you age,” she said.

She acknowledged that her capture would have a “temporary” impact on the rebel movement. “But nobody is indispensable and there will always be leaders to take over our work. At the same time, I will continue to contribute while I’m detained and if I’m released,” she said.

MARIA Concepcion Araneta-Bocala receives first honor award during her high school graduation at Assumption Iloilo in 1967. PHOTO from Assumption Iloilo yearbook Tidings

MARIA Concepcion Araneta-Bocala receives first honor award during her high school graduation at Assumption Iloilo in 1967. PHOTO from Assumption Iloilo yearbook Tidings

Flatfooted guerrilla

Former UP faculty regent Judy Taguiwalo, a political detainee during the Marcos dictatorship, recalled the first time she and Bocala went up the Madya-as mountain ranges in Panay in the early 1970s.

“An old farmer observed (that Bocala) was flatfooted and told her she would not be able to last as a guerrilla. She, of course, proved him wrong!” Taguiwalo said.

 “Definitely, Concha has walked the path of armed revolution with courage and with boundless love for the people she pledged to serve,” she added.

Bocala has no regrets on the path she has taken. “I’m very much into mass communications,” she said. She then smiled at this reporter.

Duterte asks Joma to abandon armed struggle

From the Manila Times (Aug 8): Duterte asks Joma to abandon armed struggle

PRESIDENTIAL prospect and Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday night asked communist leader Jose Maria “Joma” Sison to abandon the “armed struggle” waged by the New People’s Army (NPA) for over 40 years now and participate in democratic processes to achieve change in the country.

The mayor, one of the probable presidential candidates in next year’s elections, made the appeal to the self-exiled communist leader during an overseas call made by Sison to Duterte.

The communist leader has been living and working for many years in The Netherlands. Duterte took Sison’s call while he was in the middle of a dinner with top Armed Forces officers who have just been assigned to the Davao region.

“Armed struggle as a means to achieve change is passé in the modern world we are living in today,” the mayor said.

“Over 40 years of armed struggle and thousands of lives lost is too much to bear,” added the 70-year-old local executive who is known to have a direct communication line with rebel groups and has facilitated the release of government men held captive by communist rebels.

“In the modern world we live in today, you would look ridiculous carrying guns and hope to effect change in society through violence,” Duterte said.

“The armed struggle is simply misplaced idealism,” he added.

According to him, the  self-exiled leader of the National Democratic Front, the umbrella organization of the Left in the Philippines, called him  to ask if the Davao City mayor would find time to travel to Europe before the elections of 2016.

“He said he would like to talk to me and ask me about my plans for 2016,” Duterte told the military officers about his conversation with Sison.

He said he also told Sison that he had no travel plans to Europe and that the presidency was not being considered because of the difficult situation in the country today.

“The presidency is not an easy job. You have the secessionists in  southern Philippines and you have the NPA  all over the country,” Duterte noted.

“[But if the rebels say they are] willing [to] give up armed struggle under my watch, I might consider,” he said.

Duterte, who admits publicly that he is ideologically Left-leaning, also told the Army generals and colonels who shared a dinner table with him in a Davao City restaurant on Wednesday night that the country should unite and address external problems.

The mayor was obviously referring to China’s annexation of atolls and islets in the Kalayaan Island Group in the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea) and the still unresolved Sabah issue with Malaysia.

Duterte’s call on the communists to give up their armed struggle and participate in the democratic processes to achieve change was received positively by the military officers, many of whom have seen action against the communists.

Many of them have also lost foot soldiers and even young officers in the 40-year communist insurgency, which is considered the “longest communist revolution” in the world.

“I believe that they [the NPA rebels] are fighting for a cause but armed struggle is not the way,” Duterte said.

Sison  previously issued a statement that Duterte is a presidential prospect who is more acceptable to the Left because he has an “open mind” on the issues behind their struggle.

 The mayor is known to have open lines with the NPA, enabling  him to secure the release of soldiers and policemen who were captured and held captive by the rebels.

My Way is the Right Way: China Stands its Ground in South China Sea Dispute

From Sputnik International (Aug 7): My Way is the Right Way: China Stands its Ground in South China Sea Dispute

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi rejected the claims of the Philippines, Japan and the United States regarding the issue of the South China Sea, Xinhua reported.
"First of all, the general situation in the South China Sea is stable, and the possibility of a major conflict simply doesn't exist. Therefore, China is against any unconstructive words and deeds that exaggerate differences and stand-off, and create tensions. They don't comply with facts at all," Wang said, speaking at the ASEAN Regional Forum, as cited by Xinhua.
The South China Sea dispute concerns the fate of the Spratly Islands, a group of more than 750 islands and reefs. China has been constructing artificial islands on its coral reefs over the past few months; some feature defense facilities. China, along with the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, and Vietnam, claim various parts of the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. The disputed territories potentially hold large reserves of oil and gas.

The Chinese government has repeatedly stated that it has every right to construct whatever it wants within its own territory, and stressed that the islands will only be used for humanitarian purposes.

This has been worrying China's neighbors, who also have their own territorial claims within the South China Sea.

On Thursday, Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and US Secretary of State John Kerry held a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the ASEAN forum. Amusingly, neither Washington nor Tokyo have territorial claims in the South China Sea. Despite this, the United States keeps provoking China by constantly holding joint military drills with its Asian allies in the region. Understandably, this irritates the Chinese government.

When it comes to making China mad, Japan isn't lagging far behind the United States. Earlier this week, it was reported that Japan is considering the idea of sending reconnaissance aircraft to the Philippines, so it could conduct regular patrols over the South China Sea.

DFA: PHL, Japan see South China Sea issue ‘the same way’

From GMA News (Aug 7): DFA: PHL, Japan see South China Sea issue ‘the same way’

The Philippines and Japan share the same views on the developments concerning South China Sea, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Friday after China accused the two countries of joining forces regarding the disputed area.
In a text message to GMA News Online, DFA spokesman Charles Jose said: "Philippines and Japan see what's happening in the South China Sea the same way and openly speak about them."
A Reuters report earlier said China's Foreign Ministry issued the statement early Friday, saying Foreign Affairs Sec. Albert del Rosario "attacked" China's South China Sea policy, and received support from his Japanese counterpart.
Meanwhile, a separate Reuters report on Thursday quoted sources as saying Japan may give planes to the Philippines that could be used for patrolling over the South China Sea. 

PHL 'spoke strongly' at ASEAN meetings
Meanwhile, Jose said the Philippines has been taking a firm stand against reclamation work over the South China Sea (parts of which the Philippines refers to as West Philippine Sea) during meetings with members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
"[The Philippines] spoke strongly at the ASEAN meetings versus land reclamation in South China Sea," he said.
The Philippines took part in the meeting of Southeast Asian foreign ministers and secretaries, where concern over China's massive reclamation work was largely discussed.
In its joint statement issued "only at the eleventh hour," ASEAN's foreign ministers were said to have taken "note of serious concerns... on the land reclamations... which have eroded trust and confidence, increased tensions and may undermine peace" in the waterway.
A report on The Strait Times said this "falls short of calls by the Philippines for all claimants to adopt the US' proposal for 'three halts' -- of reclamation, construction, and militarization, of land features in the sea."

PHL disputes claim China not restricting freedom of navigation

From GMA News (Aug 8): PHL disputes claim China not restricting freedom of navigation

Malacañang on Saturday belied China's claim that it was not impeding freedom of navigation in the disputed South China Sea.
In an interview on state-run dzRB radio, Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma said China's claim contradicts its actions in the disputed waters.
"Malinaw naman po ‘yung nasasaksihan ng daigdig na doon sa kanilang pagsasagawa ng reclamation ay inumpisahan na o kung hindi man naumpisahan ay pinaghahandaang umpisahan ang iba pang mga construction activities at ang mga aksyon na katulad ng ating tinukoy, kasama na rin ‘yung kanilang mga pahayag hinggil sa sitwasyon sa rehiyon," he said.
Coloma said China's reclamation and construction activities in disputed waters raises tension in the area.
"Kaya nga ang panawagan natin sa kanila na binanggit ni [Foreign Affairs] Secretary Albert del Rosario ay itigil ‘yung tatlong bagay: una, ‘yung reklamasyon; pangalawa, ‘yung construction project; at ikatlo, ‘yung pag-escalate ng tensyon sa ating rehiyon," he said.
"Dapat po ay maging komprehensibo ‘yung aksyon at ang panawagan na ‘yan na ating ipinahayag ay ‘yan po ang umaani ng suporta dahil nakikita naman na ito ay makatuwiran ng mga bansang naniniwala sa rule of law," he added.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi have assured the East Asia Summit on Thursday that Beijing was not impeding freedom of navigation in the contested waterway.
The Chinese Foreign Minister also said Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario "attacked" China's South China Sea policy, when he outlined in detail a legal case that Manila filed against Beijing at an international court in The Hague.
In his statement before the Permanent Court of Arbitration on July 7, Del Rosario said China had "irreversibly" damaged the regional marine environment through its "destructive and hazardous fishing practices and by its harvesting of endangered species."
The Philippine official's statement has received support from his Japanese counterpart, which resulted to Wang's accusing Japan and the Philippines of joining forces against China.
Coloma said Japan and the Philippines have long been strategic partners.
"Mayroon po tayong kasunduan sa kanila sa larangan ng kabuhayan, sa larangan ng seguridad, at sila po ay strategic partner nga po ng ating bansa," he said.
"Noong nakaraang pagdaos ng state visit ni Pangulong Aquino sa Japan ay muli silang nagpulong ni Prime Minister Shinzo Abe upang talakayin kung paano pa higit na patatatagin ang ating pagiging strategic partner sa bansang Japan, at kasama po doon ‘yung mahalagang pagtataguyod na manatiling bukas at mapayapa ang mga karagatan, kabilang na ‘yung South China Sea o West Philippine Sea," he added.

2 troopers killed, 4 wounded in Basilan, Albay encounters

From the Daily Tribune (Aug 8): 2 troopers killed, 4 wounded in Basilan, Albay encounters

Two soldiers from the 64th Infantry Battalion were killed after a suspected Abu Sayaf Group (ASG) detonated an improvised explosive device (IED) on government troopers conducting routine patrols in Basilan yesterday afternoon.

Ensign Chester Ramos, Joint Task Group Zambasulta (Zamboanga, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi) spokesperson, said the incident took place at 1 p.m. at the boundaries of Lagayas, Tipo-Tipo, Cabangalan and Unkaya Pukan towns, Basilan.

He said that the soldiers were conducting routine security patrols when suspected ASG members detonated an IED, spraying the patrolling troopers with shrapnel and killing two in the process.

Government troops are still conducting pursuit operation as of this posting.

In Albay, four troopers from the 2nd Infantry Battalion were wounded during an encounter with New People’s Army (NPA) bandits which was preceded by an improvised explosive device (IED) attack in Barangay Rawis, Pioduran town yesterday morning.

The incident took place at 5:45 a.m., 9th Infantry Division public affairs office chief Capt. Mardjorie Painesa said.

She added that the soldiers were conducting routine security operations when they spotted an enemy outpost manned by five rebels.

At this point, the NPAs detonated an IED which wounded four soldiers.

This resulted in a one-minute firefight which ended with the rebels retreating towards the direction of Barangay Mamlad, Jovellar.

Pursuit operations are still ongoing as of this posting. 

'PH lost Panatag Shoal to Chinese not once but twice'

From the Philippine Star posted to ABS-CBN (Aug 8): 'PH lost Panatag Shoal to Chinese not once but twice'

Long before the Chinese grabbed Panatag Shoal (Scarborough) in 2012, the Philippines had already relaxed its hold on the territory with its removal in the 1990s of a grounded warship – reportedly at Beijing’s bidding.

“We had an old warship already grounded on that shoal in the middle of 1990s as symbol of our territorial integrity and maritime sovereignty over the area,” one security official said.

The ship was positioned in the area almost at the same time the BRP Sierra Madre was deliberately grounded on Ayungin Shoal for the same purpose.

The official, who declined to be named, said Beijing prevailed upon the Philippine government to remove the grounded Philippine Navy’s Landing Tank Ship-504 (LST-504) from the shoal.

“We have not lost Panatag Shoal not only once but twice to China. First, we lost it when the government agreed to remove our grounded ship from the area, and second time that we lost it was when we agreed to pull out our ships from shoal during a standoff in April 2012,” another security official said.

The Chinese established permanent presence at Panatag after preventing Filipino naval personnel from arresting Chinese poachers in the area.

Located 120 nautical miles from the mainland Zambales, Panatag Shoal has been a traditional fishing ground for Filipinos for a long time.

The area is converging point of fishermen from other countries like Vietnam, Taiwan and those from mainland China.

China is now demanding the removal of BRP Sierra Madre from Ayungin. Beijing has been aggressively staking its claim to almost the entire South China Sea and West Philippine Sea. It has recently completed building artificial islands over shoals and reefs in disputed waters.

The BRP Sierra Madre is manned on rotation basis by a handful of Marines. Vessels delivering supplies and provisions to the detachment usually engage Chinese vessels in cat and mouse chase.

2 soldiers killed in Basilan blast

From ABS-CBN (Aug 7): 2 soldiers killed in Basilan blast

BASILAN (UPDATED) -- Two soldiers of the 64th Infantry Battalion were killed after an improvised explosive device (IED) exploded at the boundary of Tipo-Tipo and Ungkaya Pukan in Basilan around 1 p.m. Friday.

According to First Lieutenant Christine Prima of the 104th Brigade, the two soldiers were directly hit by bomb shrapnel, as they were closest to where it was planted.

They were immediately brought to the hospital for treatment, but both did not survive.

Prima said the area where the bomb was planted is a known stronghold of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) in Basilan.

Last June 23, a similar incident also happened in Sumisip municipality in Basilan.

Two soldiers of 64th Infantry Battalion were killed after a land mine went off in Barangay Sapah Bulak.

The Joint Task Force Zambasulta (Zamboanga-Basilan-Sulu-Tawi-Tawi) said the ASG in Basilan has been conducting continuous training on bomb making, with the support of some foreign bomb experts.

In May this year, a bomb factory was discovered in Mohammad Ajul town, where several bomb components and materials were recovered.

A Malaysia-based terrorist, identified as Moho Najib bin Husen was sighted in the area and has been allegedly helping the ASG in bomb making.

Video: US Navy ship docks in La Union for disaster preparedness training

From ANC/ABS-CBN (Aug 8): Video: US Navy ship docks in La Union for disaster preparedness training

[Video report: USNS Millinocket trains locals on first response during disasters]

A US Navy vessel has docked in San Fernando City, La Union with a mission to train local officials on disaster preparedness.

Army soldier killed as fresh fighting erupts anew in Bukidnon

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 7): Army soldier killed as fresh fighting erupts anew in Bukidnon

A government soldier died as fresh fighting between communist guerillas erupted anew in the outskirts of Malaybalay City in Bukidnon, a military report said Friday.

Capt. Norman Tagros, spokesperson of the Army’s 8th Infantry Battalion, said that two separate armed encounters occurred in the outskirts of Malaybalay City on Wednesday morning and in the afternoon.

Tagros identified the lone fatality as Private First Class Randy G. Hulleza of the Army’s 8IB based here.

He said that the military deployed a combat team to the outskirts of the village of Lupok-lupok in Indalasa, Malaybalay, after residents complained of alleged extortion by armed groups in the area.

Tagros said the government troops could not determine if the communist rebels of the New People’s Army (NPA) suffered casualties in the two separate encounters.

He said that the combat operatives have reported of bloodstains along the withdrawal routes of the NPA rebels but failed to recover bodies.

According to Tagros, aside from responding to complaints about the presence of large armed communist groups in the area, the military also conducts regular combat patrols.

The combat patrols are necessary to preempt possible attacks by the NPA rebels on government installations and military outposts in Bukidnon, he said.