Saturday, April 23, 2016

Addt'l integrated logistics support to be acquired for C-295M aircraft

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 24): Addt'l integrated logistics support to be acquired for C-295M aircraft

The Department of National Defense and the Armed Forces of the Philippines are allocating the sum of PHP40,200,000 for the acquisition of additional integrated logistics support for the brand-new C-295M transport aircraft.

This involves the procurement of 47 line items of aircraft ground support equipment as additional integrated logistics support for the C-295M.

The country currently has three C-295M aircraft in its air fleet.

Pre-bid conference is on Friday, 10:00 a.m. at the DND Bids and Awards Committee Conference Room, Basement, Right Wing, DND Building, Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

The guiding principles for this project shall be based on affordability and sustainability while conforming to the requirements of the Philippine Air Force in furtherance of accomplishing its mission.

Funding will be sourced from the AFP Modernization Act Trust Fund.

Delivery period is 60 calendar days from the contract effectivity. Bidders should have completed within five years before the date of submission and receipt of bids, at least two contracts similar to the project.

Duterte says he will become the country’s first left-leaning president

From Update.Ph (Apr 22): Duterte says he will become the country’s first left-leaning president

PDP-Laban Presidential candidate and survey frontrunner Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte said that if ever he wins this election he would be the first left-leaning president. This was reported by GMA News Online.

However, he said he is not a member of communist party or the New People’s Army (NPA) adding that he cannot join them because he is for democracy. NPA is the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines.

Mayor Duterte added that he was a member of Bayan.

He also said that he did not dare Australia and United States to sever ties with Philippines. “I didn’t say that,” he said as quoted by the Manila Bulletin.

He explained that he just aired his misgivings about the Australia and US’ ambassadors statements regarding the mayor’s controversial statement about an Australian rape-slay victim.

Meanwhile, Liberal Party presidential candidate Mar Roxas earlier hit Duterte’s support on revolutionary taxes and NPA’s charging of permits to campaign.

“We will use the full force of the law—the law, and not lethal force—so that we can protect our democracy. Here it is, Mayor Duterte, the communists, the NPA represent the ultimate challenge to our democratic system and way of life,” Roxas said.

“I will fight it because our democracy, our freedom, our economic system, is important and are giving a better life to millions upon millions of families. I do not say the system is perfect but it is one that can give a better life to our countrymen,” he added.

Davao cops held by NPA rebels appear in videos (Photos)

From the Mindanao Examiner (Apr 23): Davao cops held by NPA rebels appear in videos 

Screen pictures from videos released by the New People's Army to the Mindanao Examiner Regional Newspaper of the prisoners of war - Chief Inspector Leonardo V. Tarungoy, PO3 Rudolf Y. Pacetye, PO3 Rosenie L. Cabuenas, PO3 Abdul Azis A. Ali Jr. and PO2 Neil C. Arellano – are being held by the NPA’s 1st Pulang Bagani Command in Davao City in southern Philippines.



Screen pictures from videos released by the New People’s Army to the Mindanao Examiner Regional Newspaper of the prisoners of war – Chief Inspector Leonardo V. Tarungoy, PO3 Rudolf Y. Pacetye, PO3 Rosenie L. Cabuenas, PO3 Abdul Azis A. Ali Jr. and PO2 Neil C. Arellano – are being held by the NPA’s 1st Pulang Bagani Command in Davao City in southern Philippines.

DAVAO CITY – Five policemen taken prisoners by communist rebels have appealed for their lives following a massive military shelling on strongholds of the New People’s Army in southern Philippines.

Rigoberto Sanchez, a rebel spokesman, said the prisoners of war – Chief Inspector Leonardo V. Tarungoy, PO3 Rosenie L. Cabuenas, PO3 Rudolf Y. Pacete, PO3 Abdul Azis A. Ali Jr and PO2 Neil C. Arellano – are being held by the NPA’s 1st Pulang Bagani Command.

They were captured on April 16 in the village of Salapawan in Davao City’s Paquibato district where rebels attacked and overran an army post manned by 72nd Infantry Battalion.

The rebels also released videos of the prisoners – copies of it sent to the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner – and showed the policemen appealing to the government to halt the military shelling and suspension of police operations in Davao for fear they would be killed in the continuing assault.

The NPA branded the military assault and police operations as “lunatic and fruitless rescue offensives in Paquibato district.”

In his appeal, Tarungoy – commander of police station in Paquibato – said:  “Ako ay nanawagan sa akong pamilya nga dili lang mabalaka, sa akong mga anak, Baby, Didi, Leonard, ayaw mo og kabalaka kay ok kaayo ko diri, safety, maayo ang pagtratar nila sa akoa diri, sa amo, basta okay ang treatment nila sa amo.” (I am appealing for my family to not worry, to my children, Baby, Didi, Leonard, don’t worry for I am doing fine here. I am safe. They treat us well. They treat us as human beings.)

The others also made a similar appeal and called on the government to work for their safe release.

Sanchez also branded as propaganda the statement of police spokesman Wilben Mayor who said that the prisoners are being kept in “makeshift animal cages.”

“While the conditions of war necessitate that the NPA custodial force secure and neutralize the capability of POWs to inflict harm to revolutionary forces, the NPA abides with war protocols even in the face of relentless military pursuit. Humane and lenient treatment of POWs is a hallmark of NPA’s custody of its captives,” he said.

“The police officers are legitimate targets of war when they acted in counter-insurgency and functioned as an integral part of the war machinery of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. They are being subjected to the legal and judicial process of the People’s Democratic Government, including validating the claims made by the police hierarchy that the five police officers have not committed any war crime,” he added.

The NPA has been waging war for many decades now in an effort to establish a Maoist state in the country.

New air contingent in Philippines will bolster relations but could aggravate China

From the Air Force Times (Apr 23): New air contingent in Philippines will bolster relations but could aggravate China

A U.S. Air Force A-10C Thunderbolt II with the 51st Fighter Wing, Osan Air Base, South Korea, sits on the flight line of Clark Air Base, Philippines, on April 16. The Air Force said the air contingent is there to support cooperation with Philippine forces, but experts say it's likely a move designed to counter China's territorial ambitions in the South China Sea as well.(Photo: SSgt. Benjamin Stratton/Air Force)
Amid heightened tensions with China over its territorial claims in the South China Sea, the Air Force sent an air contingent to Clark Air Base in the Philippines April 16.

The move came just two days after Secretary of Defense Ash Carter and Philippine Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin announced an "enhanced military alliance" between the two countries in Manila.

The rotational force includes five A-10C Thunderbolt IIs from the 51st Fighter Wing at Osan Air Base, South Korea, and three HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters with the 18th Air Wing out of Kadena Air Base, Japan, and more than 200 airmen from various Pacific Air Forces units. They include aircrew, maintainers, logisticians and support personnel.

About 175 airmen stayed in the Philippines to stand up the contingent following the annual Balikatan exercise, April 4-16, that involved more than 8,000 service members from the U.S, Philippines and Australia. Another 30 airmen will arrive from PACAF headquarters at Joint Base Pearl-Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, as well as several other PACAF bases.

It is not yet clear how long the aircraft and airmen will remain at Clark, but future rotations are planned. The composition of those units has yet to be determined.
The Warthogs, Pave Hawks, and airmen will remain at Clark “as long as both the Philippines and the United States deem necessary,” Lt. Col. Damien Pickart, a PACAF spokesman, told Air Force Times.

“There are many other U.S. military and international assets that provide unique capabilities, and which may be considered to support the air contingent,” Pickart said. “At this time, it is too early to speculate what other type of aircraft may support this detachment, but we are not limiting our options to any one type.”

The Air Force group will be joining Navy P-8 Poseidon aircraft already at Clark, a hub of U.S. military air power until it was closed in 1991. It was reopened to U.S. forces in June 2012.

The service will carry out joint missions with the Philippine air forces focused on “maritime domain awareness, personnel recovery, combating piracy, and assuring access to the air and maritime domains in accordance with international law.”

As for the presence of the venerable Warthog, Pickart said the “A-10C was the right choice for this mission as it is capable of loitering close to the surface for extended periods to allow for excellent visibility over land and sea domains.”

The Air Force insists the move to set up a new air contingent is “not directed at any particular nation or military.”

“The Philippine and U.S. governments consult regularly on matters of mutual defense and military cooperation, and the status and activities of the air contingent will now be among those topics discussed,” Pickart said.

“The standup of this air contingent and the presence of our aircraft and personnel underscore the U.S. commitment to the Indo-Asia-Pacific region in an unpredictable and uncertain environment,” he continued.

But the move is likely to exacerbate tensions with the Chinese government, which has laid claim to the South China Sea, a large expanse of the Pacific Ocean encircled by the Chinese mainland, Taiwan, the Philippines, Malaysia and Vietnam.

China has constructed military bases and landing strips on artificially created reefs in the Spratly Islands, an area roughly 230 miles off the Philippine coast.

The U.S. has responded by sending Navy ships within 12 miles of these new islands, China's self-proclaimed territory, to reinforce its position that these are international waters and open to shipping. And the Air Force has started sending forces to the Philippines as well.

“If the Chinese show up and do something aggressive off the [Philippine] coast, we need something closer than Guam or Okinawa,” said Gregory Poling, an expert with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington, D.C., think-tank.

“You need to have them on forward position on the site of the conflict,” Poling told Air Force Times. “We need to have air assets forward deployed to respond to any crisis there. Taking off from Okinawa and refueling is not the ideal way to do that, and we can’t always have an aircraft carrier right next door.”

The 2014 Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement between the U.S. and the Philippines, allows the U.S. military to rotate troops into the island nation and build structures to support military operations.

“It is clearly there so that the U.S. can invest in infrastructure,” said Poling, director of CSIS’s Asian Maritime Transparency Initiative. "That’s all about boosting Philippine maritime awareness capabilities and our own [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance] capabilities.,” said Poling, the director of CSIS’s Asian Maritime Transparency Initiative.

The presence of U.S. troops and aircraft is likely to be viewed positively by other Southeast Asia nations.

“Other than the Chinese, I think everyone else is on the same page more or less,” he said. “The Philippines’ neighbors — Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia — they’re all facing a very aggressive China in the South China Sea. They’re happy to see an American presence. They might not want to host [troops] themselves, but they’re glad to see them in the region.:

Despite serving in part as a deterrent to Chinese moves in the region, Poling said the air contingent at Clark — and U.S. forces at other Philippine bases — will have a wide range of other missions.

In 2013, Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines, killing an estimated 6,300 people. U.S. military personnel were among the first to respond to the disaster and were critical in providing supplies and medical aid, Poling said. Having more U.S. forces in the Philippines will allow the U.S. to respond to such events even more quickly.

Leaders in the Philippines are also worried about potential terrorists in their nation and support for the Islamic State group.

“They’re getting increasingly concerned,” Poling said. “They’re still not as concerned as, say, the Indonesians are, given the Jakarta attack” in January that killed four and injured more than 20.

Abu Sayyaf militants were responsible for a 2004 terrorist attack in the Philippines that killed more than 100 people. The U.S. and Philippines worked together to target the group, and had “remarkable success” is dismantling most of their operations, Poling said, adding that the group has since devolved into more of a criminal organization focused on kidnapping for ransom.

However, at least one of the group’s leaders has declared allegiance to the Islamic State terrorists, raising the specter of future attacks.

“Neither country — the U.S. or the Philippines — has any interest in seeing them return to the kind of threat they were 10 or 15 years ago,” Poling said.

Indonesian Crewmembers Rescued by Malaysia Arrive in N. Kalimantan

From the Jakarta Globe (Apr 23): Indonesian Crewmembers Rescued by Malaysia Arrive in N. Kalimantan

The five Indonesians, rescued by Malaysian authorities following last week's kidnapping attempt by Abu Sayyaf militants, have safely arrived at Tarakan, North Kalimantan, on Saturday (23/04), a navy official said.

The five were part of a group of 10 Indonesian crewmembers of a tugboat that was hijacked by the militant group in the waters between Malaysia and the Philippines, while heading back from Cebu to Tarakan.

Another Indonesian crewmember, who was wounded during a shootout between Malaysian authorities and the militants, is still undergoing intensive medical treatment at a hospital in Sabah, Malaysia, while four others were taken hostage by the group.

The five rescued crewmembers were escorted by two warships to the border between Malaysia and Indonesia, First Adm. Wahyudi H. Dwiyono said.

"They will undergo medical checkups on a warship before being reunited with their families," Wahyudi said, as quoted by

The Indonesian government has been pushing efforts to prevent frequent hijackings in the area, including cooperating with neighboring countries to step up security and maritime patrols.


From DWDD AFP Civil Relations Service Radio Website (Apr 19): SUSTAINED OPERATIONS II 3RD ASG Camp Falls in Basilan


MANILA (DWDD) – Troops from the 3rd Scout Ranger Battalion commanded by Lt. Col. Elmer Suderio successfully captured another camp of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) and recovered components in making Improvised Explosive Device (IED) in operation conducted in Tipo-Tipo, Basilan early Sunday.

According to Major Filemon Tan, spokesperson for the AFP Western Mindanao Command, this is the third ASG camp that fell to military forces after the April 9 clash incident that led to the death of 18 soldiers and wounding of 53 others.

The troops “were conducting combat operations in Barangay Baguidan of Tipo-Tipo town when they chanced upon the ASG camp, where aside they recovered IED components; five liters of gasoline; assorted medical paraphernalia; three sacks of rice; and five laminated sacks.

As of the moment, the government campaign has led to the neutralization of 38 bandits with three bodies recovered, including that Moroccan terrorist and bomber Mohammad Khattab, who is said to be acting as a conduit between a “Middle East terrorist organization” and the wounding of ASG sub-leader.

DWDD: VOICE OF AIRFORCE II PAF appoints new spokesperson

From DWDD AFP Civil Relations Service Radio Website (Apr 19): VOICE OF AIRFORCE II PAF appoints new spokesperson

Col Musico during his interview at DWDD

DWDD — Col. Araus Robert Musico faced a new responsibility in his life when he was appointed as the new spokesperson of the Philippine Air Force.

Col. Musico took up Engineering at UP Diliman and then proceeded to Philippine Military Academy where he graduated in 1990. On his first year at PMA, he got an offer to study at the US Air Force Academy.

He also went to the Air Force Flying School and Air University at Alabama, USA.
His previous works with the Philippine Air Force allowed him to learn more about civil military operations and leadership.

The officer  enumerated his responsibilities as a spokesperson – articulate and command policy, announce programs, and talk about PAF-related activities and news.

Col. Musico also said that PAF’s Flight Plan 2028 will broaden and strengthen the capability and credibility to ensure the national’s territorial airspace and waters.

DWDD: Members of AFPRSBS will get their Separation Package/Plan--Legasapi

From DWDD AFP Civil Relations Service Radio Website (Apr 19): Members of AFPRSBS will get their Separation Package/Plan--Legasapi

Col Norman Legaspi (RET) - President AFPRSBS

Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City, DWDD — Last April 8, 2016, the Office of the President issued Memorandum Order 90 directing the abolition of the AFP Retirement and Separation Benefits System (AFPRSBS).

The said memorandum order is in relation to Executive Order 590 and 590A dated December 15, 2006 and January 31, 2007, respectively. Memorandum Order 90 will pave way for the AFPRSBS to wind down its operations in an efficient and orderly manner, and to refund all of its members’ contributions and accrued interests as they fall due.

Based on Presidential Decree 361, the law which created AFPRSBS, members of the AFP will contribute 5% of their monthly base pay to AFPBSPS. The said contribution will then be refunded to them when they retire or separate from service. Their contributions will earn 6% interest per annum. The said memorandum order directed the AFPBSPS to stop its collection of soldiers’ contributions, and the accrual of interests on members’ contributions effective April 8, 2016. AFPRSBS has already stopped collecting last March.

In a press conference held on April 19 at the AFP RSBS building, Camp Aguinaldo, Hon. Norman Legaspi, President and CEO of AFPRSBS, said that there is no need for their soldier members to panic because they will be able to refund their contributions with its accrued interest as soon as they retire or separate from military service.
Soldiers’ pension benefits cannot be terminated since it is funded from the General Appropriations Act.

Furthermore, Legaspi said that AFPBSPS has a book value of almost 17 billion worth of assets. AFPRSBS will be returning around 15 billion pesos to its members. Thus, they can guarantee its members that they will be getting what is due to them. Whatever will be left after they pay-off all their members will then be turned over to the national government.

Minimum manpower complement will be maintained to attend to the remaining corporate affairs of AFPRSBS until its full liquidation of its assets, or turnover to a new entity.

At least 103 employees of AFPRSBS, both casual and contractual, will be affected by the said abolition. But Legaspi added that the employees who will be affected may be absorbed by other government entities since they are all civil service eligible. (Cherrymae V. Sta. Ana/LMC)

DWDD: GOODWILL VISIT II Japanese Ship is set to dock at Alava Pier in Subic

From DWDD AFP Civil Relations Service Radio Website (Apr 22): GOODWILL VISIT II Japanese Ship is set to dock at Alava Pier in Subic


The JS Ise (DD-182), one of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense’s most modern ships, will be docking at Alava Pier, Subic Bay Freeport Zone, Olongapo City this coming April 26 for a three-day goodwill visit.

JS Ise’s visit to the country will end on the April 29. This marks the third time a Japanese naval vessel will dock at the Philippines.

The former is designated a destroyer/helicopter carrier having the capacity to carry and house four rotary-winged aircraft.

JS Ise is commanded by Capt. Masaki Takada.

Philippine Navy spokesperson Lt. Cmdr. Marineth Domingo said they will render the customary welcome ceremony upon the arrival of the vessel to be followed by a port briefing aboard ship.

Takada, will also hold a press briefing at the port.

During the visit, JMSDF delegates will visit the San Antonio, Zambales-based Naval Education and Training Command (NETC) which is commanded by Rear Admiral Renan C. Suarez.

Visiting navy personnel will engage with their Filipino counterparts, particularly those assigned at NETC through shipboard tour on the Japanese ship and visit at NETC facilities.

JS Ise is a Hyuga-class helicopter destroyer. It is the second ship to be named Ise, the first being the Imperial Japanese Navy World War II-era battleship Ise.

The ship was built by IHI Marine United and commissioned into service on March 16, 2011.

She weighs 13,950 tons and can cruise at speed faster than 30 knots.

JS Ise assisted in post-typhoon Haiyan disaster relief efforts in the Philippines as part of the Japan Self Defense Force’s Operation Sankai.

DWDD: NEW LEADERSHIP II Miranda replaces Iriberri on military’s top post

From DWDD AFP Civil Relations Service Radio Website (Apr 22): NEW LEADERSHIP II Miranda replaces Iriberri on military’s top post


Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City, DWDD — On April 22, 2016, General Hernando DCA Iriberri, Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff, has formally retired from military service in a Change of Command and Retirement Ceremonies at Camp General Emilio Aguinaldo on the same day of his 56th birthday. The said ceremony was attended by President Benigno S. Aquino III, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, and DILG Secretary Senen Sarmiento and othey key officials in the government.

Iriberri relinquished his post after serving for about nine months since his assumption in July 10, 2015.

In the said ceremony, President Aquino, commander-in-chief, appointed Lieutenant General Glorioso Miranda, former AFP Vice Chief of Staff, as the new AFP Chief of Staff. His acting capacity is because Iriberri’s mandatory retirement came at a time when appointments are banned due to elections.

Prior to his position, Miranda served as the 26th Commander of the Northern Luzon Command of the AFP (NOLCOM) and Commander of the 25th Infantry Battalion during the Army’s all-out war against the southern secessionists. He was also a Dean of Academics of the AFP Command and General Staff College and later on the General Headquarters and Headquarters Service Command at Camp Aguinaldo.

 Miranda also served as a Scout Ranger, a Paratrooper, and an Infantry and Intelligence officer with commando training in the United Kingdom.

During the turnover ceremony, Lt. Gen Miranda said that the military will assure that the May 9 elections will be peaceful and orderly.

He also vowed to continue to pursue undesirable elements that disturb the balance and sow terrorism in the country.

Miranda also added that the AFP, under his watch, will continue to fight for peace. “Peace is not a destination, but a continuing journey.”, the new acting Chief of Staff said on Friday.

In his valedictory speech, outgoing AFP Chief Iriberri expressed his gratitude to the people who has helped him through the years of his military service including Pres. Aquino, , and most especially the members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Iriberri also expressed his sadness over the death of the 18 soldiers during the Basilan Encounter last April 9. He also said that he salutes their sacrifice in name of service to the country.

He mentioned that throughout his military service, he only applied one leadership principle, and that is in order to be a good leader, one must learn to understand the people and the situation.

Before the ceremony ended, Pres. Aquino, in his closing address, proudly stated the improvement of the Armed Forces of the Philippines under his term such as augmentation in the soldiers’ allowance, additional housing units for the soldiers, and the overall modernization of the AFP.

The President ended his speech by saying, “The Filipino is definitely worth dying for.”
Both Iriberri and Miranda are members of Philippine Military Academy “Matikas” Class of 1983.  (LMC/CSA/ALS)

MILF: KPI holds Focus Groups Discussion on Bangsamoro’s RSD

Posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front Website (Apr 23): KPI holds Focus Groups Discussion on Bangsamoro’s RSD

DATU IBRAHIM PAGLAS MEMORIAL COLLEGE (April 22, 2016)- As a way of strengthening the participation of the youth in the current democratic struggle of the Bangsamoro people, the Kalilintad  Peacebuilding Institute (KPI) held a focus group discussion on issues and concerns to sustain Bangsamoro’s  struggle for right to self-determination (RSD).

Ustadz Abusama Abad, Head of Secondary Department of Datu Ibrahim Paglas Memorial College and member of KPI Board of Trustees, emphasized the role of the youth in participating in a democratic struggle.

“The youth play a big role in asserting the rights of the Bangsamoro in pursuing their struggle towards right to-self-determination. It is the youth who can help change the status and  advocate for the establishment of a Bangsamoro Region”, Abad said.

Abdulaziz Talib, Administrative Officer of Eastern Kutawato Islamic Institute Inc., said that, “The youth are the vanguard of Bangsamoro’s political struggle for justice, peace and development to prevail in Moro ancestral homeland.

“Your participation in the political struggle is the key towards good governance, because you compose the majority in the community”, he added.

Mudricka Haron, Chairman of Youth Religious Sector told the youth that they must join hand-in-hand to establish peaceful communities.

“As youth, you must struggle for peaceful and better community by joining the Bangsamoro struggle for right to self-determination”, he said.

Mujahid Bazuned, a youth leader said, “The news that says that it was not only Philippine lawmakers who opposed the non-passage of BBL, but also some ARMM legislators and provincial leaders.  

Esmael A. Abdula, Executive Director of Kalilintad Peacebuilding Institute Inc. (KPI) and BLMI Steering Committee Member, explained briefly “Path to Peace: “ The stages of Bangsamoro political struggle for right to self-determination since 1946 up to the present.

“Bangsamoro political struggle is based on the legitimate grievances of the Bangsamoro for the injustices committed against them. Our brighter future as Bangsamoro lies on the success of our struggle”, Abdula said.

“As you have learned, the BBL failed to pass in Congress due to various reasons such as biases and prejudices, vested political interest and perhaps religious reason. Your need to choose a political leader who has the will, courage and determination to provide brighter future for Bangsamoro youth”, Abdula added.

He emphasized that the youth should maximize their efforts in upholding Bangsamoro rights to gain back their long lost freedom.

In response, youth leader emotionally said that they would not elect candidates who are opposed to the passage of proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

“We categorically say that we will elect candidates who can help us pursue the struggle of the Bangsamoro”, a youth leader said.

About fifty youth leaders from different organizations attended the focus group discussion.

Protest of hungry farmers escalates to different areas in Mindanao

From the often pro-Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) Davao Today (Apr 22): Protest of hungry farmers escalates to different areas in Mindanao

SOLIDARITY PROTEST. Farmers and Support groups from southern mindanao assembled at the Department of Agriculture region XI callingfor food and justice for the Kidapawan incident victims.

​FOOD. Farmers and supporters from many areas of Davao Region picket outside the regional office of the Department of Agriculture , Thursday, to demand rice assistance and justice for the Kidapawan farmers. (Earl O. Condeza/

Farmers​ protests have escalated ​in different areas in Mindanao ​to demand ​the release of rice subsidy in the middle of the El Nino dry spell.​

Earlier today, more than 3,000 farmers from South Cotabato protested at ​the Department of Agriculture Region 12 Office, 2,000 farmers from Cagayan de Oro and 5,000 from Bukidnon joined the protest action in Northern Mindanao.

Since yesterday up to Friday, April 22 farmers from Southern Mindanao camped out at the Region XI office of the Department of Agriculture office here calling for ​f​ood and ​j​ustice for the farmer victims of drought and to the victims of Kidapawan incident.

In a statement, farmers group, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas hailed the Mindanao farmers for “its island-wide protes against hunger​”​.

According to KMP, the hungry farmers who are now protesting suffered from famine, which does not only happening in Mindanao but also to farmers in Luzon.

“Anti-drought and hunger peasants protests are also happening today in Calamaniugan in Cagayan province, Cordon in Isabela, and Bayombong in Nueva Vizcaya,” Mariano said.

Bayan Muna Partylist Representative Carlos Zarate said that last December, President Aquino approved P19 billion to implement the Roadmap to Address the Impact of El Niño, or RAIN.

“Yet, vast tracts of farmland are now arid or scorched-dry from the drought. Where is that billions now?” Rep. Zarate asked.

On November 2014, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa), has already released dry condition advisory.

“The RAIN fund is on top of other funds to mitigate the effects of climate change, but it is generally known to be another source of corruption,” Zarate said.

Zarate added that the climate crisis has gone so bad that farmers have gone hungry, protesting and demanding for rice aid and gunned down.

“It is outrageous, because there are billions of taxpayer money set aside to prevent such a catastrophe. The Aquino government has a lot to answer for what happened in Kidapawan, its aftermath and the still ongoing hunger in other parts of the country,” Zarate said.

According to Ibon Foundation, an independent think tank, there are P39 billion funds allocated to the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Fund (NDRRMF) for 2016.

Protests grow vs lack of drought aid

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Apr 23): Protests grow vs lack of drought aid

KORONADAL CITY—Protests are growing over what farmers said was government failure to act on their demand for food aid that would tide them over the ongoing drought, which has destroyed crops and is pushing them and their families to desperation.

The farmers are not just in search of aid, though. They also want to know why no aid is  coming despite official pronouncements that funds are available.

In Koronadal, at least 2,000 farmers pushed back some 30 antiriot policemen who tried to disperse their rally. The law enforcers had to retreat to the Department of Agriculture office (DA) there.

The farmers padlocked the front doors of the DA building in Koronadal. The trapped policemen had to get out through the backdoor.

Ryan Lariba, a leader of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan,  which is supporting the farmers, said the 2,000 farmers gathered at the DA office in Koronadal  to condemn what they said was government’s failure to address the plight of farmers stricken by the drought and its failure to provide immediate aid.

Antiriot policemen, though outnumbered, tried to push the protesters back and used truncheons but the farmers stood their ground and were able to overpower the law enforcers.

Lariba said the farmers were able to push the policemen into the DA office and lock the office doors from the outside.

“The cops are locked inside the building,” said Lariba. But the situation did not last as the policemen found a way out through a door at the back.

Lariba said the farmers who held the protest action in Koronadal came from the rural communities of South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, General Santos City and Sarangani province.

He said while the government sent negotiators, including church leaders and officials of the Department of the Interior and Local Government, “no one from the DA came to talk to the farmers.”

A similar protest action was held by farmers in Malaybalay City in Bukidnon.

At least 100 protesters have also been holding a picket outside the DA’s regional office in Davao City since Wednesday.

Domingo Azures, regional chair of the party-list group Anakpawis, said the protest action in Koronadal would be peaceful unlike the one in Kidapawan City, where two protesters and a bystander were killed when police opened fire on a farmers’ barricade to clear a road being blocked by the protesters.

The rally in Malaybalay ended peacefully Friday after the governor vowed to help the farmers.

Jun Benemerito, secretary general of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas-Bukidnon, said at least 4,000 farmers from different towns in the province gathered early this week in Malaybalay City to demand aid.

Benemerito said farmers resorted to milling their seeds, which are supposed to be for the next cropping season, and turn them into food for their families.

“It is a sign of desperation. We really need help,” Benemerito said.

In Koronadal City, Azures said farmers would continue the protest action until Monday.

South Cotabato Gov. Daisy Avance-Fuentes appealed to the protesters to keep calm. She said, however, that “90 percent of the protesters are not from South Cotabato.”

Fuentes said rice would be distributed to farmers starting Monday.

In Davao City, at least 100 protesters gathered outside the DA regional office.

On Thursday, at least 500 farmers staged a rally outside the municipal hall of Alabel in Sarangani.

5 Chinese coast guard ships spotted in Scarborough shoal

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Apr 23): 5 Chinese coast guard ships spotted in Scarborough shoal
The Chinese Coast Guard has increased its presence in the West Philippine Sea by deploying five ships to patrol the Scarborough Shoal, making local fishermen more fearful about venturing back to the disputed isle.

Carlos Montehermozo, a crew member of FB Joenel 3 based here, said he was surprised when they traveled to the shoal last month because the Chinese only had two coast guard vessels during previous encounters.

But the Department of National Defense (DND) on Friday said it had yet to receive reports on the presence of five Chinese Coast Guard vessels at Scarborough Shoal.

‘More than usual’

Defense spokesperson Peter Galvez told the Inquirer by phone that five coast guard vessels simultaneously in the area were “more than the usual.”

The Chinese ships had driven Joenel 3 away from the area twice, Montehermozo said, but local fishermen have been prepared for the foreign intrusions.

“When we heard the siren rang out from one of the ships and a [Chinese] rubber boat was deployed, we immediately left the shoal,” recounted Montehermozo, whose boat docked at Barangay Cato here on Wednesday.

He said they had been subjected to water cannon bombardments before, so sailing away from the shoal was their best option to avoid provoking the Chinese coast guards.

He said he had seen Chinese coast guards ram the fishing boats’ outriggers or cut their anchors’ ropes when they refused to heed orders to leave the shoal.
Midsea refuge

In March, the skipper of a fishing boat from Sta. Cruz town in Zambales province hurled rocks and bottles at a Chinese Coast Guard vessel that was driving his boat away.

Montehermozo said they returned to the shoal to continue to fish, after they were asked to leave the shoal.

“It’s only in the Scarborough Shoal where we can have a good catch and recoup our expenses,” he said.

The Scarborough Shoal, also known as Panatag Shoal and Bajode Masinloc, is about 260 kilometers from this town. The shoal also serves as a midsea refuge for fishing boats during stormy weather at sea. It used to be a free zone for local fishermen until the Chinese began patrolling the area in 2012.

Because of the territorial dispute with China and other Asian countries and the Chinese presence at the shoal, Montehermozo said their catch had gone down by more than 50 percent since 2012.

AFP mum on US air patrol over Scarborough

From the Philippine Star (Apr 23): AFP mum on US air patrol over Scarborough

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) remains tight-lipped over the recent flying mission conducted by the US air contingent in the vicinity of Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal.

A number of senior military officials who attended yesterday’s AFP change of command at Camp Aguinaldo all declined to comment on the recent US air sortie.

“We don’t have any knowledge about it,” said two of the senior officials, whose respective units have air and maritime jurisdictions over the entire West Philippine Sea and South China Sea.

Northern Luzon Command (Nolcom) commander Lt. Gen. Romeo Tanalgo also declined to comment on the recent US air patrol near Panatag Shoal.

Tanalgo’s unit has overall command of the entire military in the country’s northern front.

On the other hand, Undersecretary and former AFP chief Emmanuel Bautista was seen at Camp Aguinaldo discussing things with an unnamed Chinese military defense attaché.

The two were standing near the AFP Public Affairs Office and seen talking to each other after attending the AFP command turnover, an event presided over by President Aquino.

On Tuesday, the US Air Force said it has dispatched an attack aircraft, along with its primary combat search and rescue helicopters, for an air mission in international airspace but within the vicinity of Panatag Shoal.

S/Sgt. Benjamin Stratton of the Pacific Air Forces Public Affairs (PAFPA) said USPACOM’s Air Contingent operations at Clark Air Base involved four A-10Cs Thunderbolts and two HH-60G Pave Hawks.

“The A-10s and HH-60s conducted a flying mission through international airspace in the vicinity of Panatag Shoal west of the Philippines providing air and maritime situational awareness. These missions promote transparency and safety of movement in international waters and airspace,” Stratton said in a statement yesterday.

He said the aircraft are part of the “Air Contingent in the Philippines” specifically to conduct operations ranging from air and maritime domain awareness, personally recovery, combating piracy and to assure all nations have access to air and sea domains throughout the region in accordance with international law.

Palace backs call for joint patrols vs piracy

From the Philippine Star (Apr 24): Palace backs call for joint patrols vs piracy

The foreign ministers of Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines will meet in Jakarta to discuss the possibility of joint patrols. file

Malacañang supports Indonesia’s call for joint patrols against piracy and kidnapping on a shipping route along its sea border with the Philippines.

The foreign ministers of Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines will meet in Jakarta to discuss the possibility of joint patrols.

Indonesian chief security minister Luhut Pandjaitan said the armed forces chiefs of the three countries would also hold talks in Jakarta on May 3.

Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office Undersecretary Manuel Quezon III said “there is the intention for the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia to meet together to find ways to work together because dangers to the security of any sailor, Filipino, Indonesian, Malaysian or anyone, is a common threat to us all.”

“This is a sign that there’s a serious issue. But it is a challenge for all three governments and their respective citizens to work together to stamp out this crime,” he said over dzRB yesterday.

The Palace official explained the Philippines is open to joint patrols for this is in accordance with the principle adhered to by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) that there must be free and open navigation in the region.

Up to 18 Indonesians and Malaysians were kidnapped in three attacks on tugboats in Philippine waters by groups suspected of ties to the Abu Sayyaf rebel network.

The Abu Sayyaf, posting videos on social media pledging allegiance to Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, has demanded P50 million or $1.1 million to free the Indonesian crew.

“We don’t want to see this become a new Somalia,” Pandjaitan said, referring to the Sulu Sea.

Analysts say the route to the Sulu Sea carries $40 billion worth of cargo each year. It is taken by fully laden supertankers from the Indian Ocean that cannot use the crowded Malacca Strait.

Concerns over maritime attacks by suspected Islamist militants are disrupting the coal trade, with at least two Indonesian coal ports suspending shipments to the Philippines.

Piracy near Somalia’s coast has subsided in the last few years mainly due to shipping firms’ hiring private security details and the presence of international warships.

The Indonesian Navy has instructed all commercial vessels “to avoid piracy-prone waters around the southern Philippines.”

The Kuala Lumpur-based Piracy Reporting Center has also warned ships sailing in the Celebes Sea and northeast of the Malaysian state of Sabah on the island of Borneo to stay clear of suspicious small vessels.

Acting AFP chief visits Zamboanga

From the Philippine Star (Apr 24): Acting AFP chief visits Zamboanga

Miranda had a closed door briefing with senior ground military commanders led by Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) chief Lt. Gen. Mayoralgo dela Cruz to assess the ongoing operation. Jerome Paunan/PIA-NCR

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines – A day after his appointment, acting Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Lt. Gen. Glorioso Miranda flew here to oversee the ongoing military operation against the Abu Sayyaf.

Miranda had a closed door briefing with senior ground military commanders led by Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) chief Lt. Gen. Mayoralgo dela Cruz to assess the ongoing operation.

It was his first out of town visit after he was appointed acting AFP chief upon the retirement of Gen. Hernando Iriberri on Friday.

Miranda made the visit as the deadline imposed by the Abu Sayyaf on its four hostages will lapse on Monday.

The Abu Sayyaf posted a video of its captives and demanded P300-million ransom each for Canadians John Ridsdel and Robert Hall, Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad and Filipino woman Marites Flor.

The gunmen set the deadline for payment on Monday, threatening to execute the four hostages.

Government troops encountered the Abu Sayyaf on Friday at Mount Tugas, Patikul town, leaving seven troops under the Special Operations Command (SOC) 10 and 62nd Marine Company wounded during the one-hour firefight.

There was no immediate report if the group the government troops encountered were holding the four hostages.

Timeline of the Abu Sayyaf in the Philippines

From ABS-CBN (Apr 9): Timeline of the Abu Sayyaf in the Philippines

The Abu Sayyaf Islamic militant group has terrorised the southern Philippines and nearby areas with a trail of bombings, kidnappings and beheadings since the 1990s.

Retired Italian Catholic priest Rolando Del Torchio, believed to have been kidnapped by the Abu Sayyaf six months ago, was released on Friday on a remote island infamous as a stronghold of the group.

The following is a timeline of the Abu Sayyaf's rise and rampage:

-- Early 1990s: Libya-trained preacher Abdurajak Janjalani forms the Abu Sayyaf (Bearer of the Sword) with young Muslims disaffected by an older generation of guerrillas.

The new group is backed by seed money from a local charity run by Mohammad Jamal Khalifa, a brother-in-law of Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden.

-- April 4, 1995: Hundreds of its gunmen sack the southern town of Ipil, leaving more than 50 people dead.

-- December 18, 1998: Janjalani is killed in a clash with security forces on the island of Basilan and is replaced by younger brother, Khadaffy Janjalani. He is killed in September 2006.

-- April 23, 2000: The group makes its first known foreign sortie, snatching 10 Western tourists and 11 Asians from the Sipadan island resort, off Malaysian Borneo.
The hostages are freed in August 2001, with the westerners flown to Tripoli aboard a jet sent by then Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi, who is said to have paid millions of dollars in ransom.

-- May 27, 2001: Three Americans are among 20 people snatched from a western Philippine island resort. One of them, tourist Guillermo Sobero, is beheaded 13 months later. Most of the local hostages are ransomed off.

One of the other Americans, Christian missionary Martin Burnham, and a Filipina hostage are killed in a military operation in June 2002. But Burnham's wife is rescued.

-- February 27, 2004: The Abu Sayyaf firebombs a ferry on Manila Bay, killing 116 people in the country's deadliest terrorist attack.

-- March 15, 2005: Philippine police crush a violent overnight riot at a Manila prison, killing 17 Abu Sayyaf men including four leaders standing trial for the Sipadan kidnappings and the ferry bombing.

-- July 10, 2007: The Abu Sayyaf and fighters from the mainstream guerrilla group Moro Islamic Liberation Front kill 14 Filipino marines on Basilan, beheading 10 of them.

-- December 5, 2011: The Abu Sayyaf abducts Australian ex-soldier Warren Rodwell at his southern Philippine home. He is freed unharmed in March 2013 after a reported ransom of nearly $100,000 is paid.

-- February 1, 2012: Two bird watchers, a Dutchman and a Swiss, are abducted in the Tawi-Tawi island group. The Swiss escapes from the Abu Sayyaf in December 2014.

-- April 25, 2014: German couple Stefan Okonek and Henrike Dielen are abducted while aboard a yacht sailing off the western island of Palawan. The couple are ransomed off six months later.

-- Sometime in mid-2014: Isnilon Hapilon, who has a $5-million bounty on his head by the US government, becomes the first of several senior Abu Sayyaf leader to pledge allegiance to Islamic State jihadists fighting in Iraq and Syria.

-- May 14, 2015: Malaysian tourist Bernard Then and restaurant manager Thien Nyuk Fun are seized in the Malaysian port of Sandakan.

The woman is released in November, reportedly after a ransom was paid. But the Abu Sayyaf beheaded the man as Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak was in the Philippines attending a regional summit.

-- September 21, 2015: Canadian tourists John Ridsdel and Robert Hall, Norwegian resort manager Kjartan Sekkingstad, and Hall's Filipina girlfriend are seized from yachts docked at a resort on Samal island, hundreds of kilometres from the Abu Sayyaf strongholds.

Last month the kidnappers set an April 8 ransom deadline, threatening to behead the hostages. The deadline passes with no word about their fate.

-- October 7, 2015: Del Torchio is kidnapped at his pizza restaurant on the southern city of Dipolog, also far from the Abu Sayyaf strongholds. Though no group claimed responsibility, security analysts say the Abu Sayyaf is likely responsible.

-- March 26, 2016: Ten Indonesian sailors are seized as their tugboat pulls a barge carrying coal off Malaysian Borneo. The vessel's owners say the Abu Sayyaf has demanded a ransom.

April 1, 2016 -- Gunmen on speedboats seize four Malaysians from the east coast of Sabah state. The Malaysian authorities describe the gunmen as Filipino.

Indonesian Army officer seeks Misuari's help in rescue efforts

From ABS-CBN (Apr 23): Indonesian Army officer seeks Misuari's help in rescue efforts

An Indonesian military official sought the help of Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) founding chairman Nur Misuari in a bid to rescue 14 Indonesian nationals abducted in Mindanao, a top MNLF official claimed Friday.

The hostages were on board a tugboat when they were kidnapped by alleged members of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) in two separate incidents on April 15 and last March.

Habib Mudjahab Hashim, chairman of the MNLF Islamic Command Council, said the foreign military official personally met with Misuari in the latter's hideout in Sulu to ask for his help.

Hashim said the meeting occurred four or five days ago, and was facilitated by local officials of Sulu.

He said Misuari responded positively to the request of the military official.

Hashim added that Misuari might be able to persuade the ASG to release some of their hostages, out of respect for him.

He pointed out that Alhabsy Misaya, an ASG leader tagged in the kidnapping, was a former MNLF commander.

Misaya is also allegedly responsible in a series of kidnappings and beheading of some of the foreign captives.

READ: Timeline of the Abu Sayyaf in the Philippines

Hashim also said that Misuari has high respect for Indonesia, which hosted the 1996 peace agreement between the MNLF and Philippine government in Jakarta.

The MNLF official said, the Indonesian government still recognizes Misuari's leadership, even after the latter led hundreds of rebels who laid siege to Zamboanga City in 2013.

A local court has issued an arrest warrant against Misuari and his followers who joined the coordinated attacks that lasted for almost a month and left hundreds dead.

Misuari has been hiding in one of the camps of MNLF in Sulu since then, and even conducted a number of assemblies with his followers.

US jets, choppers patrol PH waters

From The Standard (Apr 23): US jets, choppers patrol PH waters

FOUR US A-10C “Thunderbolt” II and two HH-60G “Pave Hawk” aircraft flew out of the former American air base in Clark, Pampanga on April 19 on what the US Embassy in Manila called their first “maritime situational awareness flight.”

The aircraft, part of the US Pacific Command’s Air Contingent deployed to Clark, stayed behind in the Philippines after participating in this year’s Balikatan joint military exercises.

Their mission will include conducting operations such as air and maritime domain awareness, personnel recovery, combating piracy, and helping to assure that all nations have access to air and sea domains throughout the region in accordance with international law, the US Embassy said  Friday.

The operation took the aircraft through international airspace to the west of Luzon to promote transparency and safety of movement in international waters and airspace, and showcase US commitment to allies and partners as well as to the region’s continued stability, it added.

The embassy did not specifically mention the West Philippine Sea, however, which is the focus of a simmering territorial dispute between China and the Philippines.

“Inter-operability with the Philippine military is at the forefront of our mission,” Air Contingent head Col. Larry Card said. “The standup of the Air Contingent promotes this collective focus as we build upon our already strong alliance, and reaffirm our commitment to the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.”

All personnel in this deployment are airmen assigned to various Pacific Air Forces bases, and include aircrew, maintainers, logistics and support personnel, the embassy said.

The announcement came as China defended as “normal” its test firing of an intercontinental ballistic missile  Thursday.

The US media site Washington Free Beacon, citing unidentified Pentagon officials, reported that China had carried out a test of its DF-41 long-range missile on April 12.

The report linked the tests to tensions between Washington and Beijing over the South China Sea, noting that it came three days before a visit by US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter.

The DF-41 missile has a range of some 14,000 kilometers and could, according to some experts, carry up to 10 nuclear warheads.

In a brief response, China’s defense ministry did not deny a test had been carried out, but dismissed media reports of a specific location as “pure speculation.”

“It is normal for us to carry out scientific research tests in our own territory, according to our plans, and they are not aimed at any specific nations or targets,” said a statement on its website.

China claims nearly all of the South China Sea, which is home to some of the world’s most important shipping lanes and is believed to contain vast oil reserves.

But many of its Southeast Asian neighbours have overlapping claims, and tensions have risen over China’s construction of artificial reefs in the disputed waters.

On Monday, China’s defense ministry gave its first confirmation that Beijing had landed a military flight on the Fiery Cross reef in the Spratlys archipelago, also claimed by the Philippines.

On the day of Carter’s trip, Beijing said that one of its top military officials had visited a South China Sea island.

Troops, ASG clash in Sulu; 7 wounded

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 23): Troops, ASG clash in Sulu; 7 wounded

Government forces are tracking down a group of suspected Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) brigands that figured in a fire fight with soldiers on Friday in Sulu.
Maj. Felimon Tan Jr., Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) information officer, disclosed the fire fight took place around 11 a.m. Friday in Barangay Tugas, Patikul, Sulu.

Tan said seven troops, who belong to the 2nd Marine Brigade, were wounded in the fire fight that lasted for about an hour.

Tan said the troops were on security patrol when they clashed with the group of gunmen headed by Hairullah Asbang.

He said Asbang’s group fled towards northwest direction following an hour fire fight.

Farmers: "We were promised P20K livelihood aid, rice"

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 23): Farmers: "We were promised P20K livelihood aid, rice"

More than 200 of the farmers who trooped here on Thursday night were duped by organizers they will receive one sack of rice from the local government, officials said Saturday.

Roberto Bagong, municipal disaster risk reduction and management council (MDRRMC) officer of Lake Sebu, South Cotabato, said the farmers from his town were not informed about the protest action at the SOCCSKSARGEN regional center where about 2,000 farmers from other parts of Region 12 converged to demand for rice from the Department of Agriculture (DA-12) here.

"They were told that if they want to receive one sack of rice from the government and a Php 20,000 livelihood assistance, they should board the hauler truck from Lake Sebu town to nearby Surallah where the distribution will take place," Bagong said in Filipino.

"Upon reaching Surallah town, they were told not to disembark from the truck and wait for further instruction," he added. "Later in the afternoon of Thursday, they were told that rice distribution will take place in Koronadal City, so they agreed to go here and stayed overnight along the national highway," Bagong said.

On Friday morning, they were hauled again to the regional center located in Barangay Carpenter Hills where tents were put up and told to wait for rice distribution.

"After we were told, the local government 'rescued' them, all those from Lake Sebu, and brought back to town where rice distribution will take place Monday," Bagong said, adding that the only authorized to distribute rice for drought victims is the Philippine National Red Cross as provided for under Omnibus Election Code.

South Cotabato has been placed under state of calamity due to long dry spell.

Bagong said the farmers belonging to the Indigenous Peoples sector were from the villages of Tasiman, Lamfugon and Ned, in Lake Sebu.

After they were given breakfast by the Lake Sebu MDRRMC, they were sent back home.

"Akala namin may bigas at livelihood assistance, pagdating namin dito rally pala, ayaw namin ganito mabuti kinuha kami ng LGU namin," said Jerome Blasan, one of the farmers from Barangay Tasiman, Lake Sebu.

"We were told by organizers whom we do not know personally, to bring extra clothes because the distribution of livelihood assistance my take some time," he added.

Another farmer from Saranggani province, Sonia Bastida, 45, said the organizers told them to join the rally so they can receive Php 20,000 livelihood assistance and one sack of rice.

"That is why we boarded the truck to join the protest because life back home was really hard (due to drought)," Bastida, a corn farmers, told reporters.

Supt. Barney Condes, Koronadal City police chief, said the local police were exercising maximum tolerance to prevent violence.

"So far the protest action is peaceful and no untoward incident have occurred," Condes said. "We remained on alert following reports of possible communist infiltration."

Rally organizers said they would only leave the regional center if South Cotabato Gov. Daisy Fuentes would come and talk to them.

But Fuentes said she could not talk to farmers outside her province. She said only 10 percent of the more than 2,000 protesters were from South Cotabato.

The rest were from Saranggani, North Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat and as far as Bukidnon.

Region 12 or known as SOCCSKSARGEN region is composed of the provinces of South and North Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Saranggani and the cities of Cotabato, Kidapawan, Tacurong, Koronadal and Gen. Santos.