Thursday, October 15, 2015

Sailing in South China Sea not provocative, US says

From InterAksyon (Oct 15): Sailing in South China Sea not provocative, US says

US Defense Secretary Ash Carter, who earlier announced the US military would sail or fly wherever international law allowed delivers remarks at The Association of the United States Army (AUSA) 2015 Annual Meeting and Exposition in Washington on October 14, 2015. REUTERS

US naval vessels sailing through international waters in the South China Sea, including areas claimed by China, cannot be considered provocative, the US Navy's most senior uniformed officer said on Thursday, while a Chinese newspaper called for a firm response to any "unscrupulous" US behavior.

China has overlapping claims with Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei in the South China Sea, through which $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year.

Beijing has warned it will not stand for violations of its territorial waters in the name of freedom of navigation. The United States says international law prohibits claiming territory around artificial islands built on previously submerged reefs.

"It should not come as a surprise to anybody that we will exercise freedom of navigation wherever international law allows," John Richardson, the US chief of naval operations, told reporters in Tokyo.

"I don't see how this can be interpreted as provocative."

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying repeated that China has consistently respected and safeguarded freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea.

"But we resolutely oppose any country doing harm to another country's sovereignty and security in the name of freedom of navigation and overflight," she told reporters.

Not freedom, just hegemony

The Global Times, a widely read and influential tabloid, said in an editorial that these potential US patrols were not really about freedom of navigation, but a show of strength intended to emphasize US global hegemony.

"From this perspective, China absolutely must not permit the US side's warships and planes to behave unscrupulously near islands and reefs reclaimed by China and in skies overhead, and challenge China's bottom line," said the paper, which is published by the ruling Communist Party's official People's Daily.

"China's naval and air capacities must prepare, watch for US military provocations and respond accordingly with countermeasures," it added.

"If the US side openly and repeatedly enters the 12-nautical mile zone and its airspace, then there needs to be a firm counterattack."

Some analysts in Washington believe the United States has already decided to conduct freedom-of-navigation operations inside the 12-nautical-mile limits that China claims around islands built on reefs in the Spratly archipelago.

US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter said on Tuesday the US military would sail or fly wherever international law allowed.

Richardson, who was promoted to his post last month, is in Japan at the start of a 12-day trip around Asia and Europe. Starting in Japan, he said, showed the importance of the alliance between the two countries.

Police appeal for more time to find out identity of abductors

From the Mindanao Times (Oct 15): Police appeal for more time to find out identity of abductors
THE SPECIAL Investigation Task Group “Ocean view” is asking for more time to review the video clip uploaded on YouTube showing the four kidnap victims from Samal Island.

Regional police spokesperson, Supt. Antonio Rivera, said that for now, they still could not identity the group based on the clues on the video clip.

“They haven’t given us the results yet because there are so many details that need to be studied,” he said. “It’s likely that it will take some time.”

He said there are so many angles that needed to be considered before establishing the identity of the group. Previous theories alleged that the armed men who kidnapped the three foreigners and Filipina are allied with the Abu Sayyaf Group.

The clip, however, showed the obvious markings of the fundamentalist, ISIS.

The 2:22-minute clip was uploaded on the video sharing site on Tuesday, Oct. 13. The clip shows three foreigners and a Filipina held by armed men. There were eight fully armed men surrounding the victims with the recognizable black ISIS flag flying behind them.

“My name is Robert Hall,” the emaciated foreigner says to the camera. “To my family and friends, I’m okay but I’m in grave danger. I encourage you please to contact the Canadian government, ask them, plead with them to cooperate with the Philippine government to stop the bombings and operations that are going on here.”

”I know that there are people that can find a way to these,” he adds. “Please help us.”

“To the owner of Ocean View Marina please heed their demands or else we’ll be possibly dead,” Norweigian Kjartan Sekkingstad begs.

“My name is John Ridsdel, I confirm that we were taken captive from the Ocean View Marina in Davao. I would like to add and give a message from all of us …

“We urge the Canadian government to please, please help us and the Philippine government by stopping all of the operations that has been going on like bombs … military operations. Please stop so that the negotiations can start about their demands,” he says.

A masked man addresses the camera as he says, ”I deliver the message to the Canadian and Philippine government. We want your cooperation with us and to meet all the requirements.”

“Number one there must be no military operation and there must be no artillery attack … against us. Once you meet our requirements then we can talk about (the) negotiation and demand.”

Foreign ambassadors call for continued engagement in peace process

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 15): Foreign ambassadors call for continued engagement in peace process

Several foreign ambassadors made a unified call on Thursday to the Philippine government and Muslim rebels to remain engaged in the peace process despite setbacks on the full implementation of the 2014 peace accord.

The governments of Australia, Canada, Colombia, Denmark, France, Germany, Netherlands, Norway, Palau, Romania, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, United Kingdom, Czech Republic, European Union, Italy, Japan and the United States have issued a statement urging all stakeholders to the process to “give life” to the peace pact that has yet to be enforced until a law that will give wider autonomy to minority Muslims in Southern Philippines is enacted.

“We have a stake in the Philippines not just as committed friends and development partners but as investors and members of the community through our citizens,” said the envoys who have gathered in Makati City to read and sign their unity statement before members of the media.

“In a world of conflict and instability which has marred the lives of so many, we want to support the Philippines to emerge as a nation that is at peace within itself,” they added.

The Bansamoro Basic Law or BBL is a draft legislation that will create a new and more powerful autonomous region following the March 2014 signing of the peace deal between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Philippine government, which aimed to end more than four decades of Muslim rebellion that has killed at least 150,000 and displaced thousands. The BBL is currently pending before the Senate and House of Representatives.

Amid delays in the peace agreement, the envoys urged both sides to ensure that there will be “no return to violence and that long-established institutional safeguard measures remain in place to monitor and resolve disputes.”

“For the country as a whole, it is essential that setbacks are overcome and people of vision and faith come together to ensure that the momentum of peace continues,” the statement added.

Tanalgo named as AFP vice chief-of-staff

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 15): Tanalgo named as AFP vice chief-of-staff

Philippine Marine Corps commandant Major Gen. Romeo Tanalgo was appointed as the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) vice chief-of-staff replacing Lt. Gen. John S. Bonafos who will be retiring Monday after reaching the mandatory retirement age of 56.

Tanalgo, a member of the Philippine Military Academy Class of 1983, will assume Bonafos' position Friday.

The outgoing AFP vice chief-of-staff is a member of the PMA Class of 1982.

"Following the Commander-in-Chief's approval, the Armed Forces of the Philippines announces the appointment of Major Gen. Romeo Tanalgo as the incoming Vice Chief of Staff, AFP,"said AFP spokesman Col. Restituto Padilla.

"Major Gen. Tanalgo will also remain as the incumbent Commandant of the Philippine Marine Corps until such time that his replacement is named," he added.

Padilla said the new AFP vice chief-of-staff is a dedicated and seasoned Marine officer who has served with distinction in all his previous assignments.

Opinion: Manila is forever, Villamor Air Base is not

Opinion piece posted to the ABS-CBN blog site (Oct 15): Manila is forever, Villamor Air Base is not (by Buddy Gomez)

Lest I am misunderstood, I do not and never did put forward the idea and possibility of replacing Manila as the nation’s capital and its immediate environs, known as Metro Manila, abandoned as the National Capital Region. The seat and symbol of the Republic will and must remain in our "distinguished and ever loyal Manila.”

However, the disastrous burden of an uncontrollably teeming population in union with all the facilities that 21st Century advances in information and communications technology have made available now render many agencies and instrumentalities of national government an aberration and irrelevant as to their present locations.

Meaning, they can exist elsewhere, still ever relevant to their objectives and ultimately be of even greater service and beneficence to all. I happen to swear by the belief that decongesting Metro Manila will deliver the greatest good for the greatest many!

There are indeed a myriad of occupancies that no longer require a Metro Manila presence, both in government as well as in the private sector. These have been the focus of our advocacy that hopefully will lead to the programmed humane decongestion of Metro Manila and consequent intelligent population dispersal. This to be jumpstarted by the Armed Forces of the country as already posited and wished for.

READ: AFP faces 'Bayan o Sarili' moment: Saving Metro Manila

Let me then proceed some more with this continuing advocacy, with a plea that all caring souls regard the endeavor as truly a worthwhile apostolate. Pro Patria. It is also about time that this issue be elevated to the forthcoming national electoral debate, to be an inevitable discourse by individuals who proffer their services as the next Chief Executive. Who among the “Presidentiables” possess the fortitude to do battle with this hydra-headed malaise? For starters, they must accept and recognize that Metro Manila has already taken the contours of being our most acute national problem. Perhaps, the costliest to solve, but the most rewarding if addressed and subjugated.


As usual, only in the Philippines.

No other country in the world but the Philippines insists on having the General Headquarters of her Air Force, the Villamor Air Base, inhabit the very same limited area occupied by its international gateway, the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, sharing the same runways and taxiways, the same congested egresses and ingreses, to and from the vicinity.

Unceasing complaints daily accost the authorities about the gross inadequacies that punish arrivals and departures, domestic and international, silently admitting that there seems to be no recourse in sight! And always thinking of other locations. The authorities obviously appear helpless and in fact clueless, unaware that the very solution to the NAIA area congestion and tightness lies under their very noses!

Evidently, it is beyond the imagination and ken of the relevant government authorities to think, to imagine beyond and out of the box. Imagineering, as we are wont to call it. Imagine what space will be opened and harnessed into productive socio-economic service, for new roadways, in the very least, and who knows, let me hazard a guess, even an additional runway if Villamor Air Base were to relocate.


Let me quote from a 1994 memorandum addressed to President Fidel V. Ramos: “B) Manila is the only metropolis in the world that is both surrounded by and has within its confines military camps and headquarters of all branches of service. It is an urban aberration. The country’s principal international and domestic airports even share vicinity and runways with the Air Force.” (quoted from a memorandum to the President proposing “THE NEED FOR A NATIONAL URBAN POLICY COVERING THE DECONGESTION AND DISPERSAL OF METRO MANILA: RATIONALE AND SAMPLES,” and suggesting the creation of a Presidential Urban Policy Study/Task Force.

Obviously, the very well-intentioned initiative never enjoyed the attention being cried out for as early as twenty years ago!) As we can all see, the malaise of Metro Manila was not unforeseen. Unfortunately, sadly unmet. Simply because of the absence of actionable foresight!



Let us apply a little utilitarian touch to this pretzel represented by Villamor Air Base. You know, that “greatest good for the greatest many” principle, never losing sight of the fact that the desired alternative use, being the expansion of NAIA through Villamor’s transfer and vacating their present location; and that NAIA is revenue generating while Villamor is not.

And, oh btw, Villamor has a 60-hectare, Par 72 18-hole golf course, whose entrance is by the Air Base’s frontage that opens to the South Express Way, just after Magallanes. I must not fail to mention that across the highway (SLEX) from Villamor’s golf course is another smaller golf course, this one belonging to the Philippine Navy. (I promise to say something about the Philippine Navy’s presence in Metro Manila, next time.) All these lands are part of our national patrimony. They belong to the nation. Therefore, for the good of the greatest many!

Throwing in these golf courses into a dreamed of NAIA expansion will partake absolutely of benefits to millions more against the worldly, selfish inconvenience of a mere several hundreds of golfing regulars, for whom farther golf courses can be designed anyway. (Bayan o Sarili? Or have we forgotten it so soon!))

In my fanciful imagineering, let me take an audacious stab. Removing the Philippine Air Force GHQ to a location away from Metro Manila, throwing in the two aforementioned golf courses into the mix of the newly available space, perhaps a new runway for NAIA can be designed and constructed, one that runs on top/across the SLEX to connect to the Navy and Army areas across the highway (towards the western edge of Bonifacio) from the rest of the expanded NAIA. Similar civilian aviation facilities are found both in the Dallas and Houston International Airports. That is, runways across and above, with the highway running underneath. In other words, the wheel need not be reinvented. The technology is a tested reality. An operating sample exists.

Hindsight is always 20-20. Anyway, please imagine that had Villamor not been held sancrosanct and had the Air Base been relocated elsewhere much earlier, maybe there would have been no need to erect all those skyways that cut above and across our airport area.

Imagine “the greatest good for the greatest many” that Villamor Air Base can gift Metro Manila and the Nation with by simply relocating and establishing a new Air Force town, a self-contained economic unit with people and payroll, business and social activities, employment and support services and others, new wealth creation ancillary to civil aviation. (I am not in the business of selling bridges but I have a couple of highly viable sites available for the new Villamor Airbase. Abangan!)

General, aide convicted for accepting bribe

From Rappler (Oct 15): General, aide convicted for accepting bribe

But former Major General Jose Barbieto is cleared of two other cases

For soliciting money from military recruits, a former general and his aide were convicted by the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan of direct bribery and fined for P60,000 ($1,308).

But the general was cleared in two other cases lodged against him.

In a 43-page decision on October 14, the court’s Third Division ruled against former Army Major General Jose T. Barbieto and his aide, Staff Sergeant Roseller A. Echipare, who allegedly accepted money in exchange for the enlistment of an applicant to the Philippine Army in January 2008.

“The recruitment of candidate soldiers applicants to the Philippine Army is not a “transaction” involving monetary consideration within the purview of Section 3(b) of Republic Act No. 3019 (The Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act). This pronouncement however does not completely absolve them from criminal liablity… (as) the allegations make out a case of direct bribery,” the court said.

Associate Justice Alex Quiroz penned the ruling concurred in by Presiding Justice Amparo Babotaje-Tang and Associate Justice Samuel Martires.

The two accused were sentenced to imprisonment of 3 years, 6 months and 5 days, and fined P60,000 equivalent to 3 times the amount received from complainant Staff Sergeant Allan Joel Timbal.

Case records showed the cases were filed on June 17, 2010 alleging that Barbieto and Echipare asked Timbal to produce P20,000 in exchange for a favorable action on the application for enlistment of his brother-in-law Ronald Raut.

The offense allegedly took place when Barbieto was commanding general of the 4th Infantry Division assigned in Camp Edilberto Evangelista in Cagayan de Oro City.

Graft, malversation

Barbieto and Echipare were originally charged with two counts of graft and one count of malversation of public funds. However, they were both acquitted of the other charges on the basis of reasonable doubt.

The second graft case involved a similar scheme, this time concerning the application for enlistment of one Private Butch Ramos who was reportedly made to shell out P25,000 ($544).

In the malversation case, prosecutors accused Barbieto of pocketing P3 million ($66,000) which was part of the fund allocation for the Balik-Baril program of the government and the Armed Forces of the Philippines to encourage re-integration of armed insurgents.

In clearing the accused in the second graft charge, the court noted that a key element of the crime was left in doubt because the name of Ramos was not in the list of applicants who underwent physical examination by the medical team of the 4th ID and neither was he included in the list of candidates submitted approved by Barbieto for training.

On the P3 million Balik-Baril Funds, the court said that the prosecution filed an unfounded malversation charge noting that Barbieto was not the accountable officer for money but Captain Brigen Bitoy, who turned over the sum to her senior officer, Lt. Jeman Montealto, the unit's special disbursing officer.

In her testimony during trial, Bitoy admitted that Montealto later gave the P2.8 million balance back to her custody and she deposited the sum with the Philippine Army’s account at Land Bank of the Philippines.

She said that the amount of P322,000 ($7,000) have already been paid out to rebels who surrendered 31 firearms in early 2008.

“Although the prosecution attempted to establish and provide certain circumstances surrounding the Balik-Baril program that an ordinary prudent man may find suspicious, if an act is susceptible of two meanings, the court takes a firm stance that in the absence of proof beyond reasonable doubt, the scale of the balance shall always tilt in favor of the innocence of the accused,” the Sandiganbayan said.

Major General Tanalgo named new AFP vice chief of staff

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Oct 15): Major General Tanalgo named new AFP vice chief of staff

PESIDENT Benigno Aquino III on Thursday named Marines chief Major General Romeo Tanalgo as the next Vice Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Tanalgo will assume his new post on Friday, the day when current AFP Vice Chief. Lt. Gen. John Bonafos will retire, said AFP spokesperson Col. Restituto Padilla.

The incoming AFP vice chief belongs to the Philippine Military Academy’s “Matikas” Class of 1983.
Tanalgo was also previously designated as chief of the Western Command, which has jurisdiction of the Philippine claims in the West Philippine Sea.

“Mgen. Tanalgo will also remain as the incumbent commandant of the Philippine Marine Corps until such time that his replacement is named,” Padilla said.

“He is a dedicated and seasoned Marine officer who has serviced with distinction in all his previous assignments. He will definitely bring a lot to the General Headquarters owing to his varied experiences as a decorated commander and respected staff officer,” he also said.

Padilla said Tanalgo’s designation “will complete a truly joint posting of all the major services at the top three posts of the AFP with the AFP’s top honcho form the Philippine Army and the Deputy Chief of Staff and the Philippine Air Force.”

“All I want is justice for my husband,” says wife of late Datu Sulhayan

From the Philippine Information Agency (Oct 15): “All I want is justice for my husband,” says wife of late Datu Sulhayan

"I and my family are seeking justice for my husband's untimely death. He hasn’t harmed or has done anything wrong to anyone but the NPAs lost his life from us. He deserves justice!”

This was the statement of Maida Sulhayan, wife of the late Datu Ricardo Sulhayan, who was recently killed by the New People’s Army (NPA), during an interview on Thursday with the personnel of the Philippine Information Agency (PIA) and media partners in Barangay Camagong, Nasipit, Agusan del Norte.

Sulhayan believed that her husband was killed due to his refusal of giving revolutionary tax to NPA. “My husband didn’t want to give the amount demanded by the NPAs as revolutionary tax from the logging activities in our area, and that’s the only reason I can see which made them (NPAs) killed him,” she remarked.

She also asked the government to help her and give urgent response to the investigation of the case.

"I am appealing to the government - national and local to help me in this fight. All I want is justice for my husband who was killed by the NPAs. We are mourning for his death. They (NPAs) have no right to do that to my husband. I wish them to suffer the consequences of their wrongdoings," stressed Sulhayan.

Datu Sulhayan’s widow then hoped for the speedy investigation and arrest of the perpetrators by the law enforcement agencies.

Faction of MNLF is new BBL supporter

From the Business World (Oct 14): Faction of MNLF is new BBL supporter

A FACTION of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) signed on Tuesday a joint declaration with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) calling for the passage of the draft law on the Bangsamoro Region, despite Congress’ limited time as the election campaign for the 2016 general elections nears.

The declaration calls for the passage of the original version which was drafted by the Bangsamoro Transition Committee, the body formed by the Philippine government and the MILF.

MILF Chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim and Datu Muslimin Sema, leader of one MNLF faction, were signatories to the joint declaration at the MILF’s Camp Darapanan in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao.

“With the realities confronting the Bangsamoro people, it is therefore incumbent upon all of us, leaders of the Bangsamoro, to solidly unite just like we did in the past,” MILF vice-chairman Ghadzali Jaafar said in his speech during the event.

“With great joy, we have reached once again, a milestone in our struggle to agree on a common position and a common approach to the realization of the promises of peace,” Mr. Sema said in one part of his speech.

Sought for comment, Amina S. Rasul-Bernardo, president of the think tank Philippine Center for Islam and Democracy (PCID), said of the joint declaration: “[The] unity statement is a good move. But chair Sema does not represent [the] Misuari group. That’s the problem.”

There are at least three factions within the MNLF, including the group led by its founding chairman, Nur Misuari; the Central Committee led by Mr. Sema, and the Islamic Command Council led by Habib Mudjahab Hashim.

Also sought for comment, Emmanuel C. Fontanilla, spokesperson of the Misuari-led MNLF faction, distanced their group from the joint declaration.

“The MNLF there is [not the] Misuari group. We can’t agree with the [Bangsamoro Basic Law] because there is the 1996 agreement,” Mr. Fontanilla said in a text message, referring to the peace agreement at the time between Mr. Misuari and President Fidel V. Ramos.

“It has been repeatedly said that only [Mr.] Misuari represents the MNLF.... Only moron[s] will believe others who claim otherwise,” Mr. Fontanilla also said.

Ms. Rasul said the declaration could still prompt lawmakers to beat their December deadline.

Two soldiers captured in Comval still in rebel hands

From the Philippine Information Agency (Oct 15): Two soldiers captured in Comval still in rebel hands

Amid the heating political atmosphere due to the filing of certificates of candidacy, two soldiers still remain in the hands of the New People’s Army rebels after they were abducted two weeks ago in Barangay Casoon, Compostela Valley.

Captain Ryan Bachar, spokesperson of the 10th Infantry Division  said the military still conducts its rescue mission to free the victims Privates First Class Marjon Anover and Nino Alavaro, members of the peace and development team of the 25th Infantry Battalion.

He clarified that the soldiers were on their way for a furlough or  an administrative break when accosted by the rebels on a chokepoint on their way to Barangay Casoon in September 30.

Bachar said the incident happened following the killing of a militia nearby.

“They were not on combat operation.  In fact, they were travelling as individuals when they were abducted by the rebels,” Bachar said.

He narrated that one of the victims is the sole breadwinner of a family, responsible for sending children to school.

Bachar said the soldier’s parents already approach the military leadership since they merely rely on the meager salary of the victim just to send five siblings to school and livelihood for a younger sister.

He said the soldier carries his automated teller-machine card and failed to hand it over to his mother prior to the incident.

“We hope that through the aid of the civilians, they can provide precise information for the release of our two soldiers who are members of the 25th Infantry Battalion,” Bachar said.

The rebels in a communique confirmed that the two soldiers remain in their custody and will be tried in the revolutionary court if found guilty of abuse.

MNLF chairman to file COC for Cotabato mayor

From the Philippine Star (Oct 15): MNLF chairman to file COC for Cotabato mayor

MNLF leader Muslimin Sema (left) and Murad Ebrahim, figurehead of the MILF (right), emerge from the venue of their peace dialogue Tuesday in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao. Unson

The chairman of the largest of three factions in the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) will file on Thursday his certificate of candidacy (COC) for mayor of Cotabato City.

Muslimin Sema, who had served as mayor here for three consecutive terms, said he was almost to retire from politics but could not ignore the clamors for him to aspire for the city’s mayoral post again.

He said his supporters want him to address the peace and security concerns besetting Cotabato City.

Sema is chairman of the largest and most politically-active faction in the MNLF, which forged a peace pact with the national government on September 2, 1996.

Unlike the MNLF group under Nur Misuari, Sema and his men are not hostile to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Sema’s group is not opposed to the ongoing government-MILF peace initiative either.

Sema’s spouse, Sandra, who is incumbent congressional representative of Maguindanao, will also file a COC for a third term on Thursday. They both belong to the ruling Liberal Party.

The couple had said if elected together, they will push forward the completion of ongoing costly, high-impact congressional projects in Cotabato City’s 37 barangays which are inside the first district of Maguindanao.

A popular incumbent city councilor, Bruce Matabalao, who was a former broadcast journalist, is also seeking reelection under the slate of Sema, whose running mate is vice mayoral candidate Mohammad Pasigan.

Matabalao is known for his being supportive of the Mindanao peace process.

The Semas are among few Moro leaders in Central Mindanao openly campaigning for public support to President Benigno Aquino III’s Mindanao peace process.

Just last Tuesday, Sema held a peace dialogue with MILF’s figurehead, Murad Ebrahim, at Camp Darapanan in Sultan Kudarat town in Maguindanao.

Army set to go after remaining communist rebels in Bicol

From the Business Mirror (Oct 14): Army set to go after remaining communist rebels in Bicol

The Army here on Wednesday said it will intensify operations to get the 11 communist cadres and 39 New People’s Army (NPA) rebels who operate in Albay and Catanduanes.

Maj. Gen. Yerson Depayso, commander of the Ninth Infantry “Spear” Division, earlier ordered Col. Claudio Yucot, the new 901st Infantry Brigade (IB) commander, to go after the remnants of the communist movement in the two provinces to support their tourism industry and ensure peaceful local elections next year.

It was learned that the Bicol Regional Party Committee of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) has still 11 members, while the NPA still has 39 guerrillas in Albay and Catanduanes.

Yucot took over command of the 901IB from Col. Raul Farnacio, who was reassigned to the Army headquarters in Fort Andres Bonifacio in Taguig City.

The turnover of command was held at the 901IB headquarters in Barangay Villahermosa, Daraga, Albay.

Albay was formally declared a manageable conflict area (MCA) on April 23 by the 9ID, while Catanduanes was declared MCA in December 2014.

A province is said to be an MCA when any possible rebel atrocities can be immediately contained or prevented from escalating to the point of causing major disturbance to peace and social development.

But there are still eight CPP cadres and 29 NPA rebels in Albay, as well as another three CPP cadres and 10 NPA rebels in Catanduanes, based on the second quarter intelligence assessment this year.

Depayso thanked Farnacio and the men of the 901IB for their contribution in making the 9ID as one of the three best units in the Army during the recent Army Day celebration. These are the 9ID, the Third Infantry “Spear” Division and the Signal Group.

He also received the brigade’s accomplishment report, which features its various support for Team Albay.

Depayso said he wants a further reduction in the firearms and enemy strength of the NPA operating in Albay and Catanduanes through the military’s Internal Peace and Security Plan Bayanihan.

He said the Army’s core competence is to eliminate communist insurgency and to achieve this, it is necessary to eliminate the armed insurgents which hinder other government agencies to deliver their services in far-flung areas.

“Not known to every Bicolano, who sleeps well at night, is the stress being experienced by every soldier assigned here in Bicol. While you are sleeping well at night, our troops are there in the mountains patrolling and seeing to it that no armed groups are roaming around, and that goes true with the commander, who has to pray hard that nothing bad happens to his men,” he said.

Depayso added that there was a lot of improvement over the years in achieving peace and order in Bicol.

He recalled that on May 11, 1982, he was a member of a battalion conducting an operation in Labo, Camarines Norte, and Lup and Ragay, Camarines Sur.

“It was the start of the communist insurgency in Bicol. The fighting occurred, even along the highway, after our troops were ambushed in Basud, while the Constabulary had a firefight at the Bitukang Manok area and in Albay.

The son of General [Felix] Brawner [then-Armed Forces deputy chief of staff for operations] was killed after his vehicle hit a land mine. That was how fighting between government forces and NPA rebels in Bicol started,” he said.

But over the years, with the contribution of all—including the Army and other units of the Armed Forces, as well as civil agencies, the Constabulary before, and now the National Police—we have achieved a huge improvement in the overall peace and order situation.

He said today, there are no ambushes on the national highway and travel is now safe.
“We have driven them [the guerrillas] to the countryside, and that is what we are continuing to do now,” he said.

The tourism industry in Catanduanes has benefited from Albay Gov. Joey Salceda’s aggressive tourism promotion of Albay-Masbate-Sorsogon growth corridor.

Raps filed vs kidnappers of Italian ex-missionary

From the Philippine Star (Oct 15): Raps filed vs kidnappers of Italian ex-missionary

Police have filed charges against the leader of a syndicate and three others tagged in the kidnapping of a former Italian missionary in Dipolog, Zamboanga del Norte, a security official said yesterday.

Sehar Muloc, alias Commander Red Eye, was among those charged for the kidnapping of Rolando del Torchio in Barangay Miputak last week, said Chief Superintendent Miguel Antonio, director of Police Regional Office 9.

The suspects were identified through video footage taken by surveillance cameras in a restaurant owned by the victim.

“We filed the case against a father and son and the owner of the getaway car and another one,” Antonio said.

Police said Muloc, whose group is based in Salug town, was arrested in 2014 in connection with another kidnapping case, but was freed on bail.

Military and police forces continue to comb all suspected areas where Torchio could have been taken.

Aseniero Lorenzo, spokesman for the provincial crisis management of Zamboanga del Norte, said Dipolog Mayor Evelyn Uy requested journalists to be circumspect in reporting about the rescue operations.

Lorenzo said Torchio’s family raised fears for the safety of the victim.

Military to deploy more troops to Mindoro

From The Standard (Oct 12): Military to deploy more troops to Mindoro

The Armed Forces of the Philippines will deploy more government troops to this island to end, by December 2016, the threat of the long-running insurgency war in Mindoro’s two provinces, even as some sectors are concerned this would not send the right message given the proximity of the 2016 elections.

The Oriental Mindoro provincial government and the military have agreed, through a Memorandum of Understanding, to end the “capabilities and violent activities” of the Communist Party of the Philippines, the National Democratic Front, and the New People’s Army by next year to “pave the way for further development,” military and civilian officials said.

Completed and ongoing development projects in agriculture, infrastructure and social services, are often hampered by the on-and-off fighting between government forces and remnants of the rebel group.

Thus, “we have to put an end to this,” Oriental Mindoro Gov. Alfonso V. Umali Jr. said.

“There are still remaining elements of rebel armed groups which need to be addressed by the government. That is the main reason why the AFP will bring in more troops to this island,” Solcom commander, Lt. Gen. Ricardo R. Visaya, said.

The deployment of more government combatants to the two Mindoro provinces, however, does not sit well with concerned groups, saying that “why it coincides with the start of the election period and the 2016 local and national elections.”

General Visaya made it clear, however, that the deployment of augmentation forces to Mindoro is to “contain the remaining communist rebels still holding out in this island’s boondocks and not for anything else.”

“It has nothing to do with the coming election.”

The AFP is determined to “make it a peaceful election as we encourage local politicians to submit their plans. We’re talking to candidates not to give in to the financial demands of armed groups,” he said.

The Army augmentation force that will come from Camp Capinpin, in Tanay, Rizal, will beef up elements of the 203rd Infantry Brigade, of the Philippine Army, presently based here in Oriental Mindoro. The brigade’s area of operation also covers its sister province of Occidental Mindoro.

Oriental Mindoro has been declared, through a Sanggguniang Panlalawigan resolution, as a “conflict manageable area and ready for development,” meaning that the major threat of insurgency has been reduced,    Umali said.

The agreement calls on the provincial government to “take the lead role in the implementation of socio-economic programs” while the AFP and the Philippine National Police, on the other hand,    will “ensure the safety and well-being of their constituents and to further address the root causes of internal security threats.”

Included in the duty of the AFP and the PNP is “securing vital installation and flagship projects” completed and being undertaken by local and national governments.

China tells Australia, US not to play up issue in West Philippine Sea

From Ang Malaya (Oct 15): China tells Australia, US not to play up issue in West Philippine Sea

The Chinese government told United States and Australia not to play up the issue in West Philippine Sea. This is after US and Australian defense, state and foreign affairs secretaries said that China should live up with its commitment of not militarizing the Spratly Islands and defuse tensions associated with its land reclamation program.

Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying said China hopes “that relevant countries could stop playing up the issue of South China Sea, make good on their commitment of not taking sides on issues concerning territorial sovereignty.”

She added that countries should “be discreet with words and deeds, respect efforts by China and relevant regional countries in safeguarding peace and stability in the South China Sea, and play a constructive role to that end.”

China: Chinese military facilities in Spratly necessary for defense

From Ang Malaya (Oct 15): China: Chinese military facilities in Spratly necessary for defense

China said that there are military facilities in fake islands it built in Spratly Islands which are necessary for defense. “There certainly are a limited amount of necessary military facilities for defense purposes only,” Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying said reacting to Australia and US’ statement that China should follow through on its commitment not to militarize the Spratly Islands.

The Chinese spokesperson added that there have been military muscle flexing in West Philippine Sea being done by certain countries.

“It should be pointed out that certain countries have been flexing military muscles in the South China Sea over recent period of times. That is the biggest cause of “militarization” in the South China Sea,” she said.

“There have been high-profile display of military strength and frequent and large-scale military drills by certain countries and their allies in the South China Sea, which makes it completely understandable for the Chinese side to have a limited amount of necessary military facilities for defense purposes only,” she explained.

She also reiterated China’s sovereignty claim over Spratly Islands. “Construction carried out by the Chinese side on relevant islands and reefs of the Nansha (Spratly) Islands is mainly to satisfy civilian needs, better fulfill China’s international responsibility and obligation, and provide more public goods and services to the region and the international community,” she said.

Chinese media warn against US South China Sea move

From Rappler (Oct 15): Chinese media warn against US South China Sea move

Tensions have been mounting since China transformed reefs in the area into small islands capable of supporting military facilities, a move that the US says threatens freedom of navigation

MISCHIEF REEF. An aerial photo taken though a glass window inside a military plane of the alleged on-going reclamation by China into Mischief reef in the Spratly group of islands in the South China Sea, west of Palawan, Philippines, 11 May 2015. File Photo by Ritchie B. Tongo/EPA

MISCHIEF REEF. An aerial photo taken though a glass window inside a military plane of the alleged on-going reclamation by China into Mischief reef in the Spratly group of islands in the South China Sea, west of Palawan, Philippines, 11 May 2015. File Photo by Ritchie B. Tongo/EPA

Chinese media slammed the US Thursday, October 15. for "ceaseless provocations" in the South China Sea, with Washington expected to soon send warships close to artificial islands Beijing has built in disputed waters.

Tensions have mounted since China transformed reefs in the area – also claimed by several neighbouring countries – into small islands capable of supporting military facilities, a move that the US says threatens freedom of navigation.

Following a meeting of American and Australian officials Tuesday, US Defense Secretary Ash Carter warned Beijing that Washington will continue to send its military where international law allows, including the South China Sea.

The remarks were backed by Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, who said the two countries are "on the same page."

An editorial in The Global Times, which is close to China's ruling Communist party, condemned Washington's "ceaseless provocations and coercion."

"China mustn't tolerate rampant US violations of China's adjacent waters and the skies over those expanding islands," it said, adding that its military should "be ready to launch countermeasures according to Washington's level of provocation," it added.

Senior officials in Washington have indicated that the US military could sail by these islands in the coming days or weeks.

The warship or ships would pass within the 12-mile territorial limit China claims around the structures to demonstrate that US commanders do not recognise it.

Such a move, the Global Times suggested, could be a "breach of China's bottom line".

"If the US encroaches on China's core interests, the Chinese military will stand up and use force to stop it," the paper warned.

The editorial came after China's foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters that "certain countries have been flexing military muscles in the South China Sea over recent period of times".

"That is the biggest cause of 'militarisation' in the South China Sea,” she added at a regular briefing Wednesday.

On Saturday, China said work had finished on two lighthouses in the disputed area and pledged to build more facilities, which it says are intended to serve civilian as well as military purposes.

Satellite images of the islands published by a Washington-based think tank show runways that could be used by air force jets.

Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam – members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) – claim parts of the sea. Taiwan is a sixth claimant.
China has invited ASEAN defense ministers for a two-day informal summit in Beijing starting Thursday, according to the country's defense ministry.

Kalahi-CIDSS to operate in 11 towns in Davao Region

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 14): Kalahi-CIDSS to operate in 11 towns in Davao Region

Eleven municipalities in Davao Region recently concurred to implement Kalahi-CIDSS or Kapit-Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

The latest batch of Kalahi-CIDSS areas in the region comprises Baganga, Braulio E. Dujali, Lupon, Kiblawan, Jose Abad Santos, Malalag, Sta. Maria, Don Marcelino, Montevista, Sarangani and San Isidro (Davao del Norte).

Kalahi-CIDSS is a community-driven development program of the Philippine Government aiming to empower people through sustainable development, enhanced participation in local governance, and management of poverty alleviation projects.

Separate municipal orientations were attended by local government officials, program beneficiaries, and DSWD officers.

The municipal orientation, one of the components in the social preparation stage of Kalahi-CIDSS Community Empowerment Activity Cycle (CEAC), marks the official launch of the program in the municipalities.

DSWD XI Regional Director Priscilla Razon said, “The Municipal Orientation is very important because it generates awareness and acceptance of the program.”

It provides forums where the technical and administrative requirements of implementation are officially agreed upon by the community, she said.

Also discussed were conditionalities for local government unit enrollment and size of block grants to be downloaded.

Following the orientation was the signing of memorandum of agreement then the Administration of Panaad sa Pagsuporta (Manifesto of Support), a symbolic rite sealing the partnership and commitment between the local government unit and DSWD.

“The 11 targeted areas will have an aggregate municipal grant allocation of P173,980,750.00 for this year,” said Kalahi-CIDSS Deputy Regional Program Manager Ma. Annabelle Jabla.

Davao del Norte Governor Rodolfo Del Rosario urged his constituents to participate in Kalahi-CIDSS since it has really improved the lives of community volunteers.

“Among other anti-poverty programs of the National Government, it is through Kalahi-CIDSS that we can provide development services and capacity building, and mobilize people’s participation in governance. I firmly believe through this program, we can truly fight poverty,” he explained.