Monday, January 4, 2016

Senate sets reopening of Mamasapano probe on Jan. 25

From GMA News (Jan 5): Senate sets reopening of Mamasapano probe on Jan. 25

Exactly a year after bloody clash

The Senate will reopen its hearing on the Mamasapano incident on January 25, exactly a year after the bloody police operation which resulted in the deaths of over 60 people, including 44 elite police officers and at least 17 fighters of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

Sen. Grace Poe, head of the public order and dangerous drugs committee conducting the probe, said the hearing will be held at the Senate session hall at 10 in the morning.

The hearing will commence following the Senate Rules committee's decision to return the Mamasapano report to Poe's committee  upon the request of Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile.

“It's good that the Rules Committee gave a go signal that additional hearing/s can be called, in response to Minority Leader Enrile's request to call such, citing his personal information, and possibly new evidence,” Poe said in a statement.

“Let it be stated as I manifested before, the new hearing/s will not affect or void our earlier findings. Our Committee Report has been signed by 21 members. Lagi namang may puwang kung may bagong ebidensya,” she added.

The committee report stated that President Benigno Aquino III is responsible for the Mamasapano operation.

On Monday, Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano said the Rules committee, which he heads, sees no impediment in the reopening of the hearing.

At the height of the Senate hearings on deadly Jan. 25, 2015 Mamasapano clash, Enrile was on hospital arrest at the PNP General Hospital in Camp Crame over plunder and graft charges in connection with the alleged pork barrel scam.

Enrile, 91, returned to the Senate on August 24, nearly a week after the Supreme Court granted his petition to post bail due to poor health.

In his privilege speech in October, Enrile said the Mamasapano incident must not be taken lightly as he demanded for a full plenary debate. He later said that he wanted a reopening of the committee probe.

“Nothing is to be put under the rug. Everything must come out,” he said.

“If we want to really be open and transparent to the people, then we must do this. Otherwise, there will be suspicion that we are hiding something and I personally think that we are hiding something,” added Enrile.

OPAPP hits ground running in pushing for BBL passage

From the Manila Bulletin (Jan 5): OPAPP hits ground running in pushing for BBL passage

The Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) will continue pushing for the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) despite uncertainties and challenges as political lines are drawn with the looming 2016 national elections.

We should hit the ground running. This last six months are going to move … fast [during which] we will face challenges,” OPAPP Secretary Teresita Q. Deles said.
This January, we are looking forward, working hard and praying harder, that we will see the passage of [the] BBL when Congress resumes (sessions).”

Deles said passage of the BBL would ease discussions during the upcoming ministerial meeting this month in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on the Tripartite Review Process (TRP) on the implementation of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement between the Philippine government (GPH) and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).

The House leadership is hopeful that they will be able to muster a quorum and finish the process. This is a message that we should not give up hope and we need to keep pushing for the completion of the most important milestone on the peace table.”
As stipulated in the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) signed between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), two separate components will run through its implementation simultaneously; the political process that will lead to the establishment of the Bangsamoro political entity to replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) through the enactment of an enabling law which is the BBL, and the normalization process which seeks to restore communities affected by decades-long armed conflict to peaceful and civilian lives.
Once all provisions in the CAB have been implemented, both sides will sign an exit agreement.

In a statement, GPH peace panel chair Prof. Miriam Coronel-Ferrer said the government and MILF will remain steadfast in upholding the ceasefire in pursuit of lasting peace in the southern Philippines since both parties are committed to isolating groups that continue to foment violence in Mindanao.

The best thing about the peace process between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is that the two parties have not gone back to war,” she said. “We are gradually transforming the lives of the people on the ground, nurturing their hopes and dreams for a better future. And we are so close to putting firmly in place the needed institutional reforms to realize meaningful autonomy and democracy in the Bangsamoro.”

The government chief peace negotiator said both peace panels will continue to collaborate in strengthening the joint mechanisms, and building mutual trust and confidence among and between their respective organizations.

“In rising to the tasks before us, we have fortified our confidence in the process. We shall continue to carry on in order to get to our destination sooner than later,” Ferrer said.

Philippines tightens security at power plants

From Xinhua (Jan 4): Philippines tightens security at power plants

Government forces will be beefing up security patrols to curb incidence of bombing of towers of the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) in Central Mindanao, the Armed Forces disclosed on Monday.

The military statement came after the NGCP came out with a paid advertisement calling on the public cooperation to stop the bombing of their towers to ensure the continued delivery of electricity.

"We (military) will be stepping up patrols...It is the inherent duty of units to secure vital facilities," Armed Forces of Philippines (AFP) public affairs office chief Col. Noel Detoyato told a press briefing in Camp Aguinaldo.

"This will be added to the task of the units, Army units in the area," Detoyato also said, referring to the intensified security patrols, even as he admitted that securing these towers is not an easy job.

In the advertisement, the NGCP disclosed that 16 towers were bombed and toppled last year, causing widespread power outage in Mindanao.

It said bombing and destruction of towers is against the law and punishable under the Human Security Act. It asked the public to report suspicious activities near their towers through their hotline.

"Timely information leads to deterrence (of tower bombings)...We need monitoring by the civilians, concerned citizens to detect suspicious activities near these towers," the military official added.

The military has blamed the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and other extortionist groups as behind the attacks. The BIFF is composed of former leaders and members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

The latest NGCP tower to be bombed and toppled was in Lanao del Sur last Dec. 24. The NGCP said its Mindanao Power Grid is on "yellow alert" in the wake of the bombing.

BIFF not involved in attack on farming village in North Cotabato -- mayor

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jan 4): BIFF not involved in attack on farming village in North Cotabato -- mayor
KIDAPAWAN CITY, North Cotabato, Philippines — Mayor Joselito Piñol of Mlang town in North Cotabato has denied that members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) were behind the Dec. 27 attack on a farming village that left three people wounded.

Piñol said the hostilities in Barangay Tibao in Mlang resulted from a conflict over a 10-hectare land that has been claimed by Moro and non-Moro farmers.

“This is a feud between the two groups of farmers who both claimed ownership over a parcel of land in Barangay Tibao,” Piñol said as he denied reports that BIFF members harassed the farmers.

MILF: BBL should be passed now, not later

From the Business World (Jan 4): MILF: BBL should be passed now, not later

THE MORO Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) maintained its position that the proposed law on the Bangsamoro Region should be passed under the current administration of President Benigno S. C. Aquino III.

“BBL should be passed now, not later,” MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Q. Iqbal told BusinessWorld in a text message on Monday when sought for comment on a statement by Senator Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. calling for the continuation of the peace process even “if Congress fails to pass the proposed Basic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region.”

“We will see what we can do within our remaining session days but even if the [proposed law] fails to pass, I am confident the next administration will support efforts to find lasting peace in Muslim Mindanao because it is crucial for the development and progress of Mindanao and the entire country,” Mr. Marcos said in his statement.

Mr. Iqbal has repeatedly expressed optimism in interviews that the measure that will put in place an autonomous Bangsamoro Region on the watch of the MILF will be signed into law by Mr. Aquino. But doubts have also persisted on its realization, as also expressed by Mr. Marcos himself, the chairman of the Senate committee on local government.

Mr. Marcos said in his statement that if the proposed Bangsamoro Law fails to pass under the current administration, the time, effort, and resources spent on it will not be wasted since the next Congress can use the records of the deliberations to facilitate the passage of the bill.

The deliberations on the proposed law were effectively derailed by the Mamasapano encounter of Jan. 25 last year between members of the Philippine National Police-Special Action Force and of the MILF and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters.

Also sought for comment, Emmanuel C. Fontanilla, spokesperson of the Nur Misuari faction of the Moro National Liberation Front, said: “To us any avenue for peace is welcome but the same should be in accordance with international law. The Tripoli Agreement and the 1996 peace accord cannot be set aside because of the BBL. These are international agreements.”

Beng assures Zambo is alert, capable to repulse attackers

From the Zamboanga Today (Jan 5): Beng assures Zambo is alert, capable to repulse attackers

Mayor Beng Climaco flatly denied yesterday what she described as persistent rumors of another siege in Zamboanga as she assured that the city this time around is alert, ready and capable of repulsing any attackers.
Climaco issued the statement in the wake of a report that some residents in Sta. Catalina had abandoned their homes Sunday night following rumors that the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) members were sighted in their vicinity.
The Zamboanga City Police Office under Sr. Supt. Angelito Casimiro immediately dispatched the quick response team to Sta. Catalina and found out that the alleged ASG sighting was purely a rumor.
Just the same, the chief executive told the press briefing in City Hall that the authorities are not taking lightly any rumors involving security of the city.

She thanked the police, the barangay officials and other community leaders for responding to Sunday’s incident in Sta. Catalina.

“We ate alert, ready and capable,” Climaco said, and she added that the positive side of these persistent rumors is that “the people and the community whether Moslems, Christians, Lumads and indigenous peoples are (now) vigilant and strongly supportive of our efforts to ensure security.”

However, Climaco urged the people to stop spreading rumors that may cause undue panic and fear among residents of Zamboanga.
“I would like to commend the residents for being vigilant, the barangay officials for staying up even beyond midnight, as well as some leaders in the community,” the mayor said.

“We can never allow people once again to harm our families and our city. As the local chief executive, I will always protect the safety and interest of the people of Zamboanga, especially the children, whose lives are always at stake.”-(

Gov’t troops rescue 26 people seized by suspected ASG members

From the Manila Bulletin (Jan 5): Gov’t troops rescue 26 people seized by suspected ASG members

Government authorities rescued 26 passengers of a jeepney, six hours after they were seized by suspected members of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) Sunday in a remote sitio in the town of  Ungkaya Pukan, Basilan province.

A report reaching the city said military troops who responded to a report of abduction, recovered the victims six hours later at the border of Barangay Pipil in Ungkaya Pukan.

The victims were not harmed and the suspects fled to the inner forest areas of the village upon sensing the arrival of government troops, the police reported.

The   gunmen flagged down the passenger jeepney about 7:30 a.m. at the crossing of Barangay Pipil road in Ungkaya Pukan. According to Mambik Uyong, the driver of the jeepney, the gunmen immediately seized the jeepney and its 26 passengers.
According to police reports, the vehicle was also recovered by pursuing police and military authorities without firefight.

Military and police authorities, upon receipt of the report, immediately conducted pursuit operations against the group that led to the recovery of the victims and the jeepney at Barangay Pipil.

Chinese coast guard helicopter patrolling Kalayaan

From the Philippine Star (Jan 5): Chinese coast guard helicopter patrolling Kalayaan

“While at Pag-asa island, the seat of our Kalayaan municipality, everyday Chinese Coast Guard patrol ship with bow number 46708 patrolled the shores of our island inside the 12 nautical miles (of our) territorial waters,” a student volunteer said. STAR/File photo

A Chinese Coast Guard helicopter was hovering over waters off Kalayaan in Pag-asa Island, the most remote town of Palawan in the Spratlys.

That’s the eyewitness account of student volunteers of Kalayaan Atin Ito (KAI) upon their return to mainland Palawan the other day from their seven-day Freedom Voyage to Pag-asa.

“While at Pag-asa island, the seat of our Kalayaan municipality, everyday Chinese Coast Guard patrol ship with bow number 46708 patrolled the shores of our island inside the 12 nautical miles (of our) territorial waters,” a student volunteer said.

Leading the volunteers was former Marine captain Nicanor Faeldon.

However, Vice Adm. Alexander Lopez said the presence of the Chinese Coast Guard within the 12-nautical mile waters off Kalayaan town is a given, considering the Chinese  occupation of nearby Zamora (Subi) Reef, just 12 nautical miles from Pag-asa.

Lopez said the student-volunteers could have seen the Chinese white ships.

“It is not surprising to us,” he said. “We have been seeing and monitoring patrols by Chinese Coast Guard vessel and even in some incidences a Chinese Navy (warship) will suddenly appear,” he said.

However, Lopez said he has yet to receive an official report on  the KAI claim that China is now using a Coast Guard helicopter to patrol near Pag-asa Island.

The student volunteers said they will be presenting video recordings of a Chinese Coast Guard vessel and helicopter patrolling the island town’s maritime and territorial domain.

“Once we have been settled, we will present a more detailed report supported by pictures, videos and illustrations,” they said.

Pag-asa Island is just 12 nautical miles from the Chinese-occupied Zamora Reef, an obscure maritime feature that Beijing has transformed into an artificial island now teeming with infrastructure development.

The man-made island is host to one of the military airfields that China has constructed over several   artificial islands, including the one on Kagitingan (Fiery Cross) Reef.

“We are losing to China the heart of the Kalayaan Island Group through their triangle militarized zone from Kagitingan to Zamora and Panganiban (Mischief) reefs,” the Freedom Voyagers said in their post.

Over at Panganiban Reef, China is also building an airfield that will enhance its long-range plan to fully enforce a triangle defense zone over the entire Spratlys.

Local and foreign security observers have warned that China is planning to establish a triangle defense zone over the Spratlys through naval and air facilities out of the Kagitingan-Subi-Panganiban reefs.

Former national security adviser Roilo Golez said   China’s illegal reclamation activities in the West Philippine Sea form part of its first island defense chain to control the entire area in pursuit of its main objective of establishing a second island defense chain in the East China Sea toward the Pacific.

Diplomatic protest

The Philippines intends to file a diplomatic protest against China for making a test flight over Kagitingan Reef, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said yesterday.
Spokesman Charles Jose said Kagitingan Reef is part of the Kalayaan Island Group, which is Philippine territory.

“We intend to file a protest in due course,”  he said. “We will be handing them our diplomatic protest once finalized.”

The Philippines also accused China of raising tensions anew in the West Philippine Sea.

Vietnam said China’s action is a serious infringement on the sovereignty of Vietnam on the Spratlys and asked China not to repeat the flight.

Japan also expressed concern over China’s test flight on a newly built airfield on reclaimed land.

Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said such acts “don’t contribute to the peaceful settlement of the dispute” and “should be  avoided.”

Rejecting Vietnam’s protest, China said the area is part of its territory.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said the flight is to test whether the airfield facilities can meet civil aviation standards.

“China has indisputable sovereignty over the Nansha Islands and their adjacent waters,” Hua said. “China will not accept the unfounded accusation from the Vietnamese side.”

Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said the Philippine case had been brought before the Permanent Court of Arbitration and the arbitral tribunal was studying its merits after affirming jurisdiction.

“We are studying the ramifications of the most recent incident in Kagitingan Reef,” he said.

US opposes China's runway test on artificial island

From the Philippine star (Jan 5): US opposes China's runway test on artificial island

FILE - In this Sept. 17, 2015, file photo, Adm. Harry B. Harris, Jr., commander of U.S. Pacific Command, walks past a photograph showing an island that China is building on the Fiery Cross Reef in the South China Sea, as he prepares to testify on Capitol Hill in Washington before the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on maritime security strategy in the Asia-Pacific region. China’s campaign of island building in the South China Sea might soon quadruple the number of airstrips available to the People’s Liberation Army in the highly contested and strategically vital region. That could be bad news for other regional contenders, especially the U.S., the Philippines and Vietnam. AP/Cliff Owen, File

The United States said Monday that China's recent test of a newly completed runway on one of seven islands Beijing has constructed in the disputed South China Sea raises tensions and threatens regional stability.

State Department spokesman John Kirby reiterated a U.S. call for a halt to land reclamation and militarization of outposts in those waters, where China and five other Asian governments have competing territorial claims.

China's landing of an aircraft at Fiery Cross Reef has already drawn criticism from its neighbors. Vietnam protested last week, saying China's move violated Hanoi's sovereignty. It demanded that China stop such actions, but Beijing rejected Hanoi's protest. The Philippines, a U.S. ally, said Monday it was also considering a formal protest.

Tensions have risen in the last two years after China transformed disputed reefs in the Spratly Island chain into islands that rival claimants fear Beijing could use to project its military might far from the Chinese mainland and threaten their territories.

"To begin flight operations at this new airfield in a disputed area raises tensions and threatens regional stability," Kirby told reporters in Washington. He said claimants should instead focus on reaching agreement on acceptable behavior in disputed areas."We have made this case clear repeatedly, and we will continue to make it," he said

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Saturday that China deployed a "civil aircraft" on the island, which it calls Yongshu Jiao, to determine whether the new airfield in what she said was Chinese territory conformed to civil aviation standards.

The diplomatic tussle that China's action has sparked presages a continuation this year of tense exchanges, mainly among China, Vietnam and the Philippines, over long-disputed and potentially oil- or gas-rich offshore territories also claimed by Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei.

The South China Sea has also become a growing source of tension between Washington and Beijing. While the United States is not a claimant state, it says it has a national interest in the peaceful settlement of disputes in the South China Sea and in freedom of navigation in waters that are critical for world trade.

In October, the U.S. deployed a guided missile destroyer near a different reef to challenge Beijing's claim of sovereignty in the waters around the artificial islands. China blasted the U.S. action and warned Washington not to repeat the maneuver.

At least 200 Moro pupils stop schooling due to MILF-MNLF clash in Cotabato

From GMA News (Jan 5): At least 200 Moro pupils stop schooling due to MILF-MNLF clash in Cotabato

MATALAM, Cotabato - At least 200 pupils of Kidama Elementary School in Matalam, Cotabato who were displaced due to clashes between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) opted not to go to school due to lack of school supplies and clothes to wear, a school principal disclosed.

Mary Ann Balmonte, the school head, said these children who are mostly Moro are residents of Purok  5 and 6. They have left their homes and lost their personal belongings when alleged members of the MILF torched their communities.

Balmonte said these schoolchildren temporarily sought refuge at the barangay hall with their families and some 1,000 evacuees who also chose to stay there for their safety.

A mother with her six children stay at the evacuation site in Barangay Kidama, Matalam, Cotabato as tension between the MILF and MNLF remains high. At least 200 Moro pupils stopped schooling after they were displaced due to the tension. Williamor A. Magbanua 

“While we understand the plight of these children, we cannot afford to see them suffering and compromise their schooling,” Balmonte said.

Balmonte added that to help these pupils, teachers as well as some Good Samaritans pooled their contributions to purchase school supplies so the children can return to school.

The school principal also assured the parents that they need not worry about food since the Department of Education (DepEd) North Cotabato division has an on-going feeding program at Kidama Elementary School.

Balmonte however appealed to the public to donate clothes and food items for the children evacuees in order not to hamper their schooling.

“If you have more than enough, please share it to our less fortunate children who are suffering due to this conflict,” Balmonte said.

Felipe Maluenda, Kidama barangay chairman, also disclosed that there are children and elderly suffering from cough and flu due to the severe temperature at the evacuation center.

Maluenda said that aside from food, tarpaulin, personal hygiene kits and comfort rooms, the evacuees also need medicines.

“We cannot ascertain when these evacuees can return to their place since tension is still high in the area,” Maluenda said.

Mayor Oscar Valdevieso on the other hand gave food packs to the affected families as immediate assistance for at least a week at the evacuation site.

North Cotabato Governor Emmylou Talino-Mendoza also sent food packs for the evacuees.

But Valdevieso said they are now fast-tracking the return of the evacuees or "bakwits" to their communities so they can go back to normal life and till their farms to sustain their daily needs.

The mayor also said he will send a representative in the affected barangays to validate the number of shanties burned by the armed men for immediate assistance.

He said the LGU will shoulder the restoration of the burned houses in Barangay Kidama.

“We will also give additional food packs to returning evacuees,” Valdevieso said.

To ensure the security of returning evacuees, the 7th Infantry Battalion set up checkpoints and deployed additional troops within the boundaries of Barangay Kidama and Marbel where the conflicted parcel of land is being contested.

Valdevieso also urged the national government to intervene in order to end the longtime land conflict in Matalam. On New Year's Eve, three MNLF gunmen were killed in a firefight with MILF soldiers in Matalam.

Korea-made jets armed

From The Standard (Jan 5): Korea-made jets armed

The Department of National Defense has allocated  P106.13 million for the acquisition of 93,600 rounds of ammunition for two fighter jets acquired recently from South Korea.

The money will be sourced from the Armed Forces of the Philippines  Modernization Act Trust Fund, according to the bid bulletin from the Philippine Government Electronic Procurement System.

The ammunition  will be used to arm the FA-50PH’s modified A50 gun system.

The weapon will be utilized in close-quarter fighting and strafing missions.

But military spokesman Col. Restituto Padilla criticized the report filed by a state-run press agency as a “regrettable publicity.” 

“It should not have been reported at all. The  publicity  made it easier for the enemy to  monitor developments in the military,”  Padilla said in Filipino. 

Pre-bid conference is set on Jan. 6 at 11 a.m. at the DND Bidding and Awards Committee Conference Room, DND Building, Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City, according to the Philippine News Agency.

Winning bidders are required to deliver the items within 360 calendar days.

Two of the country’s first FA-50PH jet aircraft arrived at Clark Air Base, Angeles City, Pampanga last Nov. 28.

The two aircraft  form part of the 12-plane order from the Korea Aerospace Industries in a deal valued at  P18.9 billion.

The F/A-50 (the other designation for the FA-50PH) is capable of being fitted with air-to-air missiles, including the AIM-9 “Sidewinder” air-to-air and heat-seeking and radar-guided missiles,  according to  PNA.

It will act as the country’s interim fighter until the Philippines gets enough experience to operate fast jet assets and money to fund the acquisition of more capable fighter aircraft.

Incidentally, the F/A-50 design is largely derived from the F-16 and they have many similarities: use of a single engine, speed, size, cost, and the range of weapons.

KAI’s previous engineering experience in license-producing the KF-16 was a starting point for the development of the F/A-50.

The aircraft can carry two pilots seated in tandem. The high-mounted canopy developed by Hankuk Fiber is applied with stretched acrylic, providing the pilots with good visibility, and has been tested to offer the canopy with ballistic protection against four-pound objects impacting at 400 knots.

The altitude limit is 14,600 meters (48,000 feet), and airframe is designed to last 8,000 hours of service.

There are seven internal fuel tanks with capacity of 2,655 liters (701 US gallons), five in the fuselage and two in the wings.

An additional 1,710 liters (452 US gallons) of fuel can be carried in the three external fuel tanks.

PH slams Chinese ‘escalation’

From The Standard (Jan 5): PH slams Chinese ‘escalation’

THE Philippines on Monday accused China of raising tensions again in the West Philippine Sea by  conducting a test flight over a reef claimed by Manila.

“We will file [a protest] in due course. Fiery Cross or Kagitingan Reef is part of our Kalayaan Island Group,” Foreign Affairs spokesman Charles Jose said.

China defended its move, saying the flight test was conducted to ensure that the reef it now occupies and transformed into an artificial island with a runway, adheres to safety aviation standards.

China has asserted its claim over nearly the entire South China Sea and has built man-made islands on seven reefs, including Fiery Cross, in a move that has triggered concerns among several nations, such as the Philippines, Vietnam, Unites States and Japan.

Go away! This photo taken on Feb. 4 shows a protest sign driving the Chinese away from Pagasa Island on the Facebook page of Kalayaan Atin Ito.

“The test flight of China in Kagitingan has definitely raised tensions in the region,” Jose said. “That’s the fear, that China will be able to take control of the South China Sea, and it will affect the freedom of navigation and freedom of overflight [and the] unimpeded flow of commerce.”

Vietnam, which also claims the reef, earlier lodged a protest against China’s test flight. Hanoi’s protest was rejected by Beijing, which insisted that its actions are within its sovereign rights.

South China Sea is home to vast oil and mineral deposits and to a cluster of contested islands, reefs and atolls further south, called the Spratlys.

The Philippines has adopted the name West Philippine Sea for parts of the waters that fall under its exclusive economic zone as allowed by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also have overlapping claims to the waters.

All claimants, except for Brunei, have stationed military troops in their territories in the vast sea, said to be sitting atop huge oil and gas deposits.

The Palace said Monday it was studying the ramifications of China’s latest act.

The Japanese government expressed its “grave concern” Monday over China’s landing of a plane on an airstrip it constructed in a contested part of the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea.

“Japan is gravely concerned about China’s act, which is a unilateral change of the status quo” in the region and an attempt to make Beijing’s massive and fast-paced land reclamation work in the disputed seas “a fait accompli,” Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida told a press conference.

Japan “cannot accept [the act] which is escalating tensions [in the region] and is a concern shared by the international community,” Kishida said. “Japan will continue to cooperate with other countries concerned to protect the freedom of the seas.”

Jose, meanwhile, said Manila is awaiting the final decision of the case the Philippines has filed against China with the arbitral tribunal of the United Nations Convention on the Law of Sea. China has refused to participate in the hearings and proposes bilateral talks instead.

But the Foreign Affairs Department said Monday that China had violated Unclos “by damaging the regional marine environment when it illegally transformed reefs into an artificial island and an airstrip.”

Families displaced by BIFF atrocities returned home

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 5): Families displaced by BIFF atrocities returned home

Families displaced by hostilities due to attacks by outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in Ampatuan, Maguindanao have already returned home, disaster officials said.

However, another 1,000 families in another Maguindanao municipality remained in evacuation centers due to infighting involving Moro armed groups.

The Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao-Humanitarian Emergency Action Response Team (ARMM-HEART) Tuesday reported that families in several sub-villages of Kauran, Ampatuan Maguindanao have returned home as of Monday, January 4.

Capt. Joan Petinglay, spokesperson of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, said police and soldiers have been deployed in Barangay Kauran, the predominantly Christian dominated community of farmers.

ARMM-HEART is an inter-agency tasked to carry out emergency response in time of man-made and natural calamities in the region.

On Monday, it also distributed relief goods and food packs to some 820 families in nearby Datu Abdulla Sangki which the BIFF also attacked after wreaking havoc in adjacent Barangay Kauran on the eve of Christmas last year.

Myrna Jo Henry, speaking for ARMM-HEART, said about 700 families were also displaced by infighting involving Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) guerrillas in Sultan sa Barongis, also in Maguindanao, about 10 kilometers away from Ampatuan town.

Maguindanao provincial board member Bobby Katambak said the fighting in Sultan sa Barogis has displaced 650 people or about 95 families. They are now housed at the evacuation center in the Poblacion.

Gov. Esmael Toto Mangudadatu also led separate relief operations to families affected by the MILF clashes and urged the government and MILF ceasefire panels to mediate so normalcy is restored in affected communities.

In North Cotabato, some 1,000 families are still in evacuation sites in Barangay Kidama, Matalam, North Cotabato, refusing to return home for fear armed confrontation between MILF and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) will erupt anytime.

North Cotabato Gov. Emmylou Mendoza has led the distribution of food packs and other provisions to affected families, many of whom were Muslim residents and relatives of warring clans.

Military and police officials said the conflict was triggered by a long standing family feud over land ownership.

Senior Insp. Sunny Leoncito, Matalam town police chief, said the fire fight involving MNLF and rival Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) occurred at about 7 p.m. on December 31.

Leoncito told the Philippine News Agency (PNA) that the clan war involved MNLF under Kamid Mangadta alias Commander Dragon and MILF 108th base commander leader Kepig Imbong who was a village council member of Barangay Kidama.

Sayyaf dedbol sa labanan

From the Mindanao Examiner (Jan 4): Sayyaf dedbol sa labanan

Napatay diumano ng militar ang isang Abu Sayyaf sa panibagong sagupaan ngayon Lunes sa bayan ng Patikul sa lalawigan ng Sulu na kung saan ay patuloy ang opensiba ng pamahalaan kontra rebeldeng grupo.

Nabawi rin sa labanan ang tatlong automatic rifles at mga bala, kabilang ang dalawang motorsiklo, na naiwan ng mga rebelde sa kanilang pagtakas mula Barangay Liang. Walang inulat na sugatan sa panig ng militar.

Nabatid na naglunsad ng operasyon ang Marine Battalion Landing Team 8 sa nasabing bayan ng makasagupa ang isang grupo ng mga rebelde. Kamakailan lamang ay nakasagupa rin ng mga tropa ang maraming Abu Sayyaf sa naturang lugar at isang tinyente ng army ang nasawi sa labanan.

Tatlong bata rin ang tinamaan ng ligaw na bala sa bayan na kilalang kuta ng Abu Sayyaf. Hindi nagbibigay ng anumang pahayag sa media ang alkalde ng Patikul sa mga nagaganap sa kanyang lugar.

AFP regrets unsavory FA50 munitions reports

From InterAksyon (Jan 4): AFP regrets unsavory FA50 munitions reports

File photo of two FA50 Golden Eagles of the Philippine Air Force flying in formation by Joey Razon, PNA.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesman Col. Restituto Padilla on Monday described as "regrettable" recent less-than-patronizing reports about the procurement of munitions for the newly purchased supersonic FA50 "Golden Eagle" lead-in jet fighters from South Korea.

Some quarters expressed misgivings that the armaments procurement did not benefit from publicity, to which Padilla remarked that doing so would have played easily to the hands of the intelligence gathering effort of the country's military adversaries.

"Walang kahirap-hirap ang kalaban sa intelligence kung ganyan (The enemy wouldn't have to break a sweat)," he said in a telephone interview.

Padilla lamented a report posted online by a local news web site that is affiliated with a TV network citing him as saying that the allotted P106.13 million to buy for 9,600 rounds of 20mm ammunition is to be sourced from the Modernization Trust Fund of the AFP.

"No, I didn't say that the funds will be sourced from the AFP Modernization Trust Fund. I want to clarify that," he reacted.

He said the budget is part and parcel of the approved Revised Modernization Program of the AFP.

Interviewed over radio station dzBB of GMA Channel 7, Padilla confirmed the procurement of the 20mm cannon ammunition as posted on the government's Philippine Government Electronic Procurement System (Philgeps) web site (, but said only without further elaboration that the purchase "is part of the arms acquisition package for our aircrafts."

"Ayoko munang magcomment sa arms kasi may proseso pa 'yan e (I declined to comment for now because there is a process that the arms procurement has to go through)," Padilla just said.

In the list of the Defense Acquisition System (DAS) of the Department of National Defense (DND), the acquired aircraft from the Korean Aerospace (KAI) were bought for P18.9 billion.

The FA50 is described as Fighter Attack Aircraft/LIFT (Surface Attack Aircraft/LIFT). This type of trainer jet is capable of carrying short range air-to-air missiles, air-to-surface missiles with countermeasures such as chaffs and IR Flares (PB) and also armed with 20mm machine guns.

The first batch of two jets were delivered in November last year but were not combat-ready as their munitions have yet to undergo a separate procurement process. It could take two to three years more before the jets can be completely armed.

The government is eyeing an Israeli firm to supply the jets' munitions requirements.

The aircraft will also be armed with short-range air-to-air and air-to-surface missiles. The missile procurement has a combined initial budget of P4,375,170,862, excluding the counter measure requirements with a budget of P33,702,286.

The jet procurement comprised of 12 jets is one of the flagship projects of the Philippine Air Force (PAF). The aircraft will be stationed in three air bases fronting the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

Militiaman arrested in Zambo for carrying undocumented gun

From the Sun Star-Zamboanga (Jan 4): Militiaman arrested in Zambo for carrying undocumented gun

A MILITIAMAN was arrested for illegal possession of handgun while on duty in Zamboanga City, the police reported Sunday.

Superintendent Ariel Huesca, Zamboanga City Public Safety Company commander, identified the arrested militiaman as Han Albani, 49, a resident of Recodo village.

Huesca said Albani, who was assigned at Dacon Container Van Post, was arrested around 1 a.m. Sunday while the ZCPSC policemen were conducting patrol in the village of Recodo.

He said Albani was arrested after he failed to present pertinent documents. Confiscated from him was a caliber .45 pistol with ammunition.

Mother, daughter injured in Zambo Norte gun attack

From the Sun Star-Zamboanga (Jan 4): Mother, daughter injured in Zambo Norte gun attack

TWO people, mother and daughter, were wounded in a gun attack by motorcycle-riding gunmen in the province of Zamboanga del Norte, the police reported Monday.

Chief Inspector Rogelio Alabata, Zamboanga Peninsula Police Regional Office information officer, said the incident took place around 8:30 p.m. Sunday in the village of San Antonio, Katipunan, Zamboanga del Norte.

Alabata identified the victims as Luzviminda Tanjay, 55 and her daughter, Grace, 19. They were rushed to the hospital.

The investigation showed the elder Tanjay was having a phone conversation with her husband, Danilo, who is working in Bacolod City when two men riding tandem in a motorcycle arrived.

Alabata said one of the two men pulled a caliber .45 pistol and shot Luzviminda thrice. The suspects immediately sped off.

He said one of the slugs pierced through and hit Grace in the right leg.

Authorities recovered two empty shells and two slugs of caliber .45 pistol from the crime scene.

EastMinCom says holidays peaceful

From MindaNews (Jan 4): EastMinCom says holidays peaceful
The Christmas and New Year celebrations in Eastern Mindanao were peaceful except for a few attacks by the New People’s Army on detachments of the Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit in Bukidnon and the Davao region, the Eastern Mindanao Command of the Armed Forces said Monday.

Speaking in Monday’s Kapehan sa Dabaw at SM City, EastMinCom spokesperson Capt. Alberto Caber said the attacks violated the NPA’s unilateral declaration of a 12-day ceasefire that took effect from Dec. 23, 2015 to Jan. 3, 2016.

The government likewise issued its own unilateral ceasefire declaration covering the same period.

Caber claimed 2015 was a remarkable year for the EastMinCom, as they managed to reduce rebel forces in their area of responsibility.

He asked journalists to provide information on the location of the Magahat-Bagani group, the group that threatened to attack media workers who would cover the 47th anniversary celebration of the Communist Party of the Philippines.

“We will not let the media be harmed by the lawless groups,” he said, as he encouraged journalists to report to the military any work-related threats against them.

“Kailangan ang information coming from the media because the bandits are hiding. Help us provide information,” he added.

Last year, the Magahat-Bagani group was tagged in the killing of Lumad leaders in Lianga, Surigao del Sur and in other acts of violence against Lumad communities in the province.

The military has been accused of arming the group for counterinsurgency, an allegation that Army officials denied.

Caber added that candidates in the 2016 elections should not give in to the demand by the rebels for a “permit-to-campaign” fee as this violates their constitutional rights to campaign and will not help put a stop to the insurgency.

In an earlier statement, the military official said Mindanao lost at least P246.12 million worth of properties and vehicles to rebel attacks.

Most of these were recorded in the third quarter with P92.72 million, followed by fourth quarter with P83.11 million, first quarter with P34.71 million, and second quarter with P34.58 million.

“In light of these atrocities, the Eastern Mindanao Command has directed its forces to institute measures that would enhance the security of vital industries, projects and businesses in its area of operations. The troops were also directed to coordinate with the local PNP; LGU officials; and the security officers of the said entities to harden the security of their respective establishments and prevent any untoward incidents from happening in their communities,” Caber said.

2016 opener: EMC chief urges gov’t workers to lead change on society

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 4): 2016 opener: EMC chief urges gov’t workers to lead change on society

The commanding general of the Eastern Mindanao Command (EMC) on Monday urged government workers to take the lead in realizing change in society by enthusiastically serving the people.

Speaking in the first flag-ceremony of the Association of Regional Executives of National Agencies (ARENA) 11, EMC chief Major General Leonardo Guerrero lauded the presence of everyone, saying it only showed honor and allegiance to flag and country.

“It is also symbolic of our desire to bring about peace to our country through a renewed commitment to faithfully serve our countrymen,” Guerrero said.

He expressed hope that ARENA, which has come a long way in public service, would continue to act as a catalyst of change by way of actively delivering the basic services on the depressed communities.

Guerrero underscored that the ARENA’s Serbisyo Caravan Program, a venue for consultation between government agencies and the people, had been a government model in providing socio-economic interventions in conflict-affected areas.

“I therefore urged members of the ARENA to continue to foster the spirit of camaraderie and fellowship among its members and use this to sustain the condition of peace and development that is shared not only by the security forces but also by society in general,” he said.

Guerrero urged the ARENA to continue to provide effective leadership and to promote good governance and the delivery of services needed by the people and to continue to win the peace in Davao Region.

He also assured that the military under the Eastern Mindanao Command would continue to engage all stakeholders for convergence and collaboration in order for the attainment of a lasting peace and sustainable development.

The first flag-raising ceremony in 2016 was sponsored by the Department of Social Welfare and Development 11 under director Prescilla Razon.

Gov't extends aid to families displaced by MNLF-MILF conflict

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 4): Gov't extends aid to families displaced by MNLF-MILF conflict

MATALAM, North Cotabato – On the first working day of 2016, the provincial government of North Cotabato have buckled down to work and extended assistance to about 186 families displaced by armed conflict involving two Moro armed group in a remote village on New Year’s Eve.

North Cotabato Gov. Emmylou Mendoza ordered the distribution of relief goods to 186 families displaced by skirmishes involving Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).

The displaced families, now staying at village hall of Barangay Kidama. Many of whom refused to return home as long as armed MILF and MNLF remain in the village.

They also sought the help of local leaders to mediate so normalcy will return to the affected village.

Three MNLF members were killed when the group of Commander Ambalatan of the MILF attacked the community where followers and families of MNLF Commander Mangadta reside.

Engr. Marilyn Samson, Matalam Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Officer, said three sub-villages have been deserted by villagers of Barangay Kidama.

Some Muslim residents said they expected retaliatory attacks from the aggrieved party since they lost three relatives and they do not want to endanger their lives.

Samson said the town disaster unit is still awaiting green light from the local police or the military when to allow return of displaced families.

Capt. Joan Petinglay, speaking for the 6th Infantry Division, said the conflict was more of a personal grudge due to land dispute involving two Moro families who happened to be identified with the Moro fronts.

She said in a radio interview that soldiers from the 602nd Infantry Brigade have been deployed as peacekeepers while the government and MILF coordinating committee on the cessation of hostilities have sent emissaries to mediate.

Senior Inspector Sunny Leoncito, Matalam town police chief, identified the MNLF fatalities as Taya Akmad, Badrudin Ingkeg and a certain Marcial.

Police investigators are yet to determine what really triggered the conflict since amicable settlement of territorial dispute had been done in the past.

Police also reported six houses in the village were torched by attacking gunmen.

AFP to step-up patrols near NGCP towers

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 4): AFP to step-up patrols near NGCP towers

To prevent lawless elements like the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters from bombing and toppling National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) towers in Central Mindanao, the Armed Forces of the Philippines announced Monday that it will step-up patrols in areas where these vital installations are located.

Around 16 NGCP towers were attacked by the BIFF and other lawless elements last year, resulting to power loss in the region.

Patrol operations will be conducted by military units in the area, said AFP public affairs office chief Col. Noel Detoyato.

In the same vein, he also urged residents to report suspicious-looking activities or individuals near NGCP towers.

Extortion attempts are the primary reason for the attack against the NGCP installations.

Trillanes appeals to President Aquino to include AFP-PNP retirees in SSL4

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 4): Trillanes appeals to President Aquino to include AFP-PNP retirees in SSL4

Senator Antonio Trillanes IV appealed to President Benigno S. Aquino III on Monday to include the retired members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Philippine National Police (PNP) and other uniformed services in the proposed Salary Standardization Law 4.

Trillanes, principal author and sponsor of Senate Bill No. 2671 or the proposed SSL4, said that under his original bill sponsored in the Senate, the pension levels of the retirees will also increase along with the increase in the salaries of other government workers, consistent with Presidential Decree No. 1638 and Republic Act No. 8551.

However, under the proposed Malacañang version, this provision, known as the indexation of military pension, was suspended due to severe budgetary constraints according to the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).

The Congress failed to approve the SSL4 before its session adjourned last December because the Senate version included the pensioners in the planned salary adjustment while the House of Representatives decided to adopt the Malacañang version excluding them.

Trillanes is expecting that Malacañang will oppose the inclusion of the indexation provision in the SSL4, which could delay the law’s implementation and would affect other government employees, the reason for Trillanes’ appeal to the President.

"We believe that the retirees of the AFP, PNP, and other uniformed services have earned it. They have risked their lives just to keep us safe, and to let us enjoy the fruits and blessings of democracy. So we believe that they deserve this indexation,” Trillanes explained.

Under the PhP3.002-trillion national budget for 2016, PhP57.9 billion was included for the implementation of the first tranche of the SSL4. An additional PhP9 billion would be needed for the indexation of military and police retirees in the first year of the implementation.

Trillanes added, “These military and police retirees are now in the twilight of their lives. The government should show a little compassion, if not gratitude owing to the sacrifices they and their families have given over the years. I hope that Malacañang could see this issue in this light because the lives and welfare of our retirees are beyond any alleged budgetary constraint."

Troops arrest ASG member in Sulu

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 4): Troops arrest ASG member in Sulu

Combined military and police operatives have arrested an Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) member in Patikul, Sulu, a top military official announced Monday.

Brig. Gen. Alan Arrojado, Joint Task Group Sulu commander, identified the arrested ASG member as Junni Jumala of Barangay Umangay, Patikul.

Arrojado said Jumala was arrested in a law enforcement operation around 1:30 p.m. Monday in Barangay Umangay, Patikul.

Arrojado said Jumala's arrest came after the residence tipped off about his presence to the authorities.

He said the arresting team confiscated from the possession of Jumala a caliber .38 revolver with 18 rounds of ammunition.

He said Jumala was involved in series of killings in Patikul and Jolo towns.

He said Jumala was also involved in the ambush of Patikul Vice Mayor Jun Tarsum in December 2015.

Gunmen seize jeep filled with passengers in Basilan

From the Philippine Star (Jan 4): Gunmen seize jeep filled with passengers in Basilan

The vehicle was recovered by the pursuing police six hours later without firefight as the suspects immediately escaped.

Unidentified gunmen flagged down and seized a public utility jeepney on Sunday along with its 26 passengers in a village of Ungkaya Pukan town, Basilan, security authorities reported.

The jeepney with plate number JCM-930 driven by Mambik Uyong was flagged down about 7:30 a.m. at the crossing of Barangay Pipil road.

The police said the unidentified gunmen commandeered the jeepney with 26 of its passengers and fled toward the remote place of the same village.

The police and military forces immediately conducted pursuit after they were alerted of the incident and recovered the vehicle in the border of Barangay Pipil.

The vehicle was recovered by the pursuing police six hours later without firefight as the suspects immediately escaped.

The Basilan Provincial Police Office (BPPO) reported that no one was harmed by the gunmen. The passengers were reportedly placed under questioning before releasing them.

The police was investigating the motive behind the incident.

Plan B on BBL sought

From the Philippine Star (Jan 4): Plan B on BBL sought

The Third Party Monitoring Team (TPMT), the independent body that tracks the implementation of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) signed by the government and the MILF, cited the “ongoing, indeed increasing, uncertainties regarding the possible outcome of the legislative process” concerning the BBL at the Senate and the House of Representatives.

The government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) should come up with a “Plan B” should Congress fail to pass the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

The Third Party Monitoring Team (TPMT), the independent body that tracks the implementation of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) signed by the government and the MILF, cited the “ongoing, indeed increasing, uncertainties regarding the possible outcome of the legislative process” concerning the BBL at the Senate and the House of Representatives.

The monitoring team urged the government and MILF panels to intensify efforts to promote the passage of the BBL in compliance with the CAB, as well as manage public expectations in the event Congress fails to complete its work on the proposed law.

The TPMT was jointly set up by the government and MILF to monitor implementation of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro, which was signed on Oct. 15,  2012.
The panel is composed of five members, two nominated by the government, two by the MILF, and a jointly nominated chairman, Huseyin Oruç of the Turkish non-government organization IHH.

The members include Karen Tañada of the Gaston Z. Ortigas Peace Institute, Rahib Kudto of Unypad, Steven Rood of the Asia Foundation and Alistair MacDonald, former EU ambassador who has been nominated to chair the TMPT.

MacDonald, for his part, sent letters to peace panel chairs Miriam Coronel-Ferrer of the government and Mohagher Iqbal of the MILF, noting the stakeholders’ concerns about the delays in the approval of the BBL.

MacDonald pointed out the “content of any BBL which might be adopted by Congress” as well as about the “continuity of the process, if indeed a BBL cannot be passed under this administration.”

MacDonald said the observations of the TPMT came from its meetings with MILF members led by chairman Murad Ebrahim last month.

The meeting was also attended by members of the MILF Central Committee, peace panel and mechanisms; the multinational International Monitoring Team and Independent Decommissioning Body; the Bangsamoro Development Authority and civil society representatives.

On the side of government, the peace monitors also met with the government panel, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Secretary Teresita Quintos-Deles, and members of the House of Representatives and the Bangsamoro Transition Commission.

The TPMT also held meetings with the chair of the Transitional Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC), members of the International Contact Group and the people behind Fastrac, a joint initiative of the United Nations and the World Bank providing support to the Bangsamoro peace process.

MacDonald described the meeting called by President Aquino with congressmen last Dec. 8 as “encouraging.”

Aquino called a meeting with House members in Malacañang to convince the lawmakers to fast-track approval of the BBL.

The House was able to at least close the period of interpellation in the final days of its December session despite its inability to establish a quorum over the past several months, MacDonald noted.

However, there has been no significant progress in the Senate, he said.  

“It is difficult to look forward, at a time when there are so many uncertainties as to whether a BBL will be passed, whether if passed the BBL will be compliant with the CAB, and whether if not passed the next administration will be committed to carry forward the process,” MacDonald said.

Despite delays on the passage of the BBL, MacDonald said the TPMT lauded the progress in the normalization aspect of the CAB.

“The BBL is only one element, though a crucial element, in the peace process, and developments in the area of normalization should not be overlooked,” he said.

MacDonald pointed out some positive developments, including the ongoing implementation of large-scale Joint Peace and Security Team training, the work of the Joint Task Force for the Decommissioned Combatants and their Communities and Task Force Camps Transformation, the completion of the Department of Social Welfare and Development-MILF profiling of the 145 former combatants, and the strengthening of the organizational coherence and footprint on the ground of the International Decommissioning Body.

He also identified the submission of the TJRC report as “an important contribution to drawing public and political attention to the issues underlying the peace process.”

MacDonald also noted the progress being made in promoting a coming together of the different stakeholder groups in the Bangsamoro.

He cited the fact that apart from the “Unified Declaration” of the MILF and the faction of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) led by Muslimin Sema in October, further efforts have been made to confirm support of the BBL from other factions of the MNLF, led by Abdulkhayr Alonto and Nur Misuari.

Misuari, founder of the MNLF, has openly opposed the government peace agreement with the MILF, saying it was a violation of the 1996 final peace agreement with the MNLF.

Big-ticket items for AFP modernization await implementation

From the Philippine Star (Jan 4): Big-ticket items for AFP modernization await implementation

President Aquino checks a newly acquired air asset during the celebration of the 68th founding anniversary of the Philippine Air Force at Air Force City in Clark Air Base, Pampanga. File photo

Four big-ticket items of the military’s modernization program, including radars for territorial defense and drones for combat operations, are awaiting the issuance of notices of award by the Defense Department.

A notice of award is issued when a project already has a winning bidder. The issuance paves way to the actual implementation of the project.

Data obtained by The STAR showed that the military projects waiting the issuance of notices of award are the air surveillance radars worth P2.68 bilion, Marine Forces Imagery and Targeting Support System Acquisition Project or drones worth P684 million, eight amphibious assault vehicles worth P2.5-billion, and Air Force full motion flight simulators worth P246 million.

The suppliers of all the projects have satisfied the requirements of the post-qualification phase. The post-qualification phase allows the government to check if the equipment or supplies being offered suits the needs of the military unit that will use them.

The procurement process of the four projects moved forward after President Aquino approved the shopping list of the Revised Armed Forces of the Philippines Modernization Program last July.

Before the president’s approval, the projects were put on hold because their budget could not be released.

The air surveillance radars will be supplied by Elta System Ltd., a subsidiary of Israel Aerospace Industries Ltd.

Last year, The STAR reported that the Philippines would buy three air search radars from Israel to strengthen its monitoring activities in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea). Defense officials signed an implementation arrangement that would pave way to the purchase in February 2014.

The Philippines is boosting its external defense capabilities to protect its territorial interests amid China’s aggressive expansion in the South China Sea, where more than $5 trillion worth of trade passes through every year.

The supplier of the drones under the Marine Forces Imagery and Targeting Support System Acquisition Project will be Triton Communication Corp.

The project involves the acquisition of six sets of drones or small unmanned aerial vehicle sub-system, nine sets of target acquisition device sub-systems, 12 kits of tactical sensor integration sub-systems, and an integrated logistics support package.

According to the bid bulletin of the project, the equipment will be used by the three Marine brigades in Sulu, Central Mindanao and Palawan.

The eight amphibious assault vehicles, which will enable Marine troops to move from sea to shore, will be supplied by South Korean firm Hanwha Techwin. The project is one of the big-ticket items in the military’s upgrade efforts.

The full motion flight simulators will be provided by Pennsylvania-based firm Environmental Tectonics Corp. The equipment seeks to enhance the training and skills of military pilots.

Other big-ticket items approved by the president include two Navy frigates worth P18-billion; six close air support aircraft worth P4.97 billion; two units of long range patrol aircraft worth P5.98 billion; multi-purpose attack craft project worth P864.32 million; night fighting system worth P1.116 billion; two C-130 aircraft worth P1.6 billion; two naval helicopters worth P5.4 billion; and lead-in fighter trainer jets ammunition worth P4.47 billion.

The shopping list also includes four basing support system and logistics projects with a total budget of P2.15 billion. These projects are in various stages of procurement.

The military modernization shopping list submitted to the president require more than P60 billion.

AFP to buy ammunition for jets

Meanwhile, the military will spend P106 million to buy ammunition and explosives for the lead-in fighter trainer jets it acquired from South Korea.

The project involves the purchase of 93,600 rounds of 20mm ammunition for the modified A50 gun system of the jets, a bid bulletin published on the Philippine Government Electronic Procurement System showed. The opening of bids is expected to be held this month.

The military has purchased 12 jets from South Korea’s Korea Aerospace Industries for P18.9 billion to strengthen its external defense capabilities. Two of the 12 jets were delivered to the Air Force last November 28.