Thursday, May 19, 2016

MILF: ‘Duterte must pass BBL under his presidency’ – Atty. Marohomsalic

Posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front website (May 19): ‘Duterte must pass BBL under his presidency’ – Atty. Marohomsalic

Lawyer Nasser Marohomsalic, Convenor of the Philippine Council for Islam and Democracy (PCID) said in an interview on May 10 by ABS-CBN DZMM Radyo Patrol TeleRadyo that Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte who leads the Presidential partial unofficial results of the recently-concluded synchronized election ‘to be faithful to his words in supporting the passage of Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL)’.

“Kailangan makatotohanan sya sa suporta nya sa BBL, sinabi nya yan and so the Muslims went to him dahil doon,” said Atty. Marohomsalic.

In his (Duterte) campaign sorties, “Between majority Christians and minority Bangsamoro, he promised to pass the BBL at dapat maisakatuparan yun during his presidency”.

Marohomsalic explained that Muslims need both spiritual and material. He considers BBL as part of spiritual aspect of Bangsamoro Muslims.

“BBL is best formula for peace,” he stressed.

Marohomsalic further said that Duterte has not encountered opposition for BBL every time he mentioned it during his campaign as evidenced by majority of the Christians voted for him.  “Which means in the hearts of Christian majority nandon yung longing for peace,” he added.

However, he pointed out that during the BBL deliberations in Congress, lawmakers have capitalized on the Mamapasapano incident as well as the issue on Abu Sayyaf Group to derail the passage of BBL.

The PCID convenor also believes that the peace process must continue and no other negotiations shall be undertaken as the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) and the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) were already in place. “The BBL is there and what is left to do is to finalize the passage of Bangsamoro Law,” Marohomsalic said.

PNP, AFP step up drive vs NPAs, other lawless groups

From the Manila Bulletin (May 10): PNP, AFP step up drive vs NPAs, other lawless groups

The Philippine National Police (PNP) and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) yesterday directed all field unit commanders to step up operations against armed lawless group (ALG) in their respective areas of responsibility.

The command group of the Northeastern Mindanao Police Regional Office 13 (PRO 13) and its military counterpart, the Northeastern and Northern Mindanao Army’s Fourth Infantry (Diamond) Division (4th ID) also directed its field unit commanders to sustain patrols and avert any terroristic activities carried out by the New People’s Army (NPA), armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).

“Our main task in protecting the people did not stop even after election and we are duty – bound to thwart any terror group plans,” said a police officer who requested anonymity as he is not authorized to issue any statement to media.

Davao Norte, ComVal clashes

The directive came in the wake of a series of skirmishes between government forces and  New People’s Army (NPA) rebels last Wednesday which resulted in the killing of four persons, the 10th Infantry (Agila) Division of the Philippine Army reported.

Captain Rhyan Batchar, chief information officer of 10th ID said three rebels and an Army trooper belonging to 60th Infantry Battalion were killed during a series of armed encounters in Sitio Booy, Barangay Pinamuno, San Isidro town in Davao del Norte and in Sitio Tugpahan, Barangay Imelda, Laak, Compostela Valley province.
Peace talks backed

Meanwhile, majority of the field unit commanders of the AFP, when reached by phone by the Manila Bulletin yesterday said they are in favor of the resumption of stalled peace talks between the government and CPP-NPA, but insisted that the NPAs must first lay down their firearms.

In a related development, a certain ‘Ka Alan Juanito’, who claimed to be the spokesperson of the NPA’s Julito Tiro Command  claimed responsibility for the execution of  a former police officer in Gingoog City last Monday.

The supposed NPA spokesperson said former Senior Police Officer 4 Francisco R. Baguiz was executed for his alleged involvement in the killings of some tribal leaders and other alleged criminal a and ‘anti-revolutionary’ activities in the  highland communities in Gingoog City.

Dureza: there will be “wide consultations” on crafting Bangsamoro peace roadmap

From MindaNews (May 20): Dureza: there will be “wide consultations” on crafting Bangsamoro peace roadmap

“Wide consultations on how to craft the Bangsamoro peace roadmap” will be conducted when the Duterte administration takes over on June 30, lawyer Jesus Dureza, the returning Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (PAPP) said.

Dureza, who had served as PAPP (July 2005 to June 2008) under the Arroyo administration and was named to the same post by incoming President Rodrigo Duterte, issued this statement Thursday in reply to a query by MindaNews as media pronouncements of incoming Davao del Norte Representative Pantaleon Alvarez, Duterte’s candidate for House Speaker,  drew a lot of criticisms, especially from the Moro people.

Alvarez was quoted by the Philippine Daily Inquirer on Thursday as saying that the peace processes with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) are “back to square one” contrary to Duterte’s campaign promise that he would honor peace agreements and correct the historical injustices committed against the Bangsmaoro.

Davao CIty Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, the lone Mindanawon Presidentilal candidate, chants "Allahu Akbar" (Allah is Great) as he arrives at the venue of the Cotabato City rally on February 27. Duterte was warmly welcomed by the Moro people for whom he vowed his administration would "correct the historical injustice" done to them. MindaNews photo by KEITH BACONGCO

Davao CIty Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, the lone Mindanawon Presidentilal candidate (now incoming President), chants “Allahu Akbar” (God is the greatest) as he leaves the  Cotabato City plaza rally on February 27, 2016.  Duterte vowed his administration would “correct the historical injustice” done to the Moro people. MindaNews photo by KEITH BACONGCO

The Philippine government (GPH) under the outgoing Aquino administration signed on March 27, 2014 the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) with the MILF after 17 years of peace negotiations that started during the Ramos administration. In 1976,  the Marcos administration, signed with the MNLF the Tripoli Agreement of December 23, 1976 and the Ramos administration completed it with the signing on September 2, 1996 of the Final Peace Agreement (FPA).

The incoming Duterte administration has to deal with these two peace agreements, both of them on the implementation phase – the CAB two years after the signing and the last remaining issues of the FPA after 20 years.

The PDI also quoted Alvarez as saying “there’s no more need” for a Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) because “that’s moot already. There’s no point to it anymore” in view of the plan to amend the 1987 Constitution to shift to a federal system.

He said by midterm elections or by 2019, the proposed amendments should have been submitted to a referendum. “Before the end of his term, we should be in transition, and, hopefully when he (Duterte) steps down, we have a new form of government,” the PDI report quoted him as saying.

In his interview Thursday in Karen Davila’s Headstart over ABS-CBN News Channel (ANC), Alvarez said there is no need for a BBL because “it will be replaced by a federal form of government.”

“The BBL will be absorbed by the federal form of government, kasi pareho ‘yun e. Yung concept ng BBL is the same dun sa federal form of government,” he said.

Alvarez said the Aquino administration “took the MILF for a ride with the unrealistic promise of passing the BBL as part of the peace process without charter change.”

“How can you implement the provisions of the BBL without amending the Constitution?” he asked, adding there are provisions in the BBL that are contrary to the 1987 Constitution and would have been struck down by the Supreme Court for unconstitutionality.

To rectify this, Alvarez said the 17th Congress under Duterte will amend the Constitution “to provide what is inside the agreement of the BBL,” he told Headstart.

BTC-OP draft BBL

The CAB provides for the passage of a BBL that would pave the way for the establishment of the Bangsamoro, the new autonomous political entity that would replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). The proposed Bangsamoro would take on a parliamentary form of government.

But the 16th Congress under the Aquino adminsitration junked the BBL drafted by the joint government-MILF Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) in May 2015 when the Ad Hoc Committee on the Bangsamoro Basic Law approved the removal of alleged unconstitutional provisions in what would become a watered down version referred to as the Basic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region (BLBAR).

The draft BBL that the BTC submitted to Congress on September 10, 2014 was vetted by the Office of the President (OP) and finalized with the approval of President Benigno Simeon Aquino III and MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim.

The Ad Hoc Committee started its committee hearings in late October 2014.

The Senate Committee on Local Governments chaired by Senator Ferdinand Marcos also junked the BTC-OP draft and made its own version of a law it also titled BLBAR.

The MILF, however, said both versions were unacceptable as they rendered the future Bangsamoro less autonomous than the ARMM that it seeks to replace.

Congress adjourned on February 3 without passing the BLBAR. Under the CAB, the passage of the BBL is tied up with the decommissioning of MILF weapons and combatants under the Normalization process.

The Transitional Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) in its report made public in launching rites in Cotabato City on March 15 and Manila on March 16 had noted that the Bangsamoro narrative of historical injustice is “based on an experience of grievances that extends over generations” and is a result of three interlocking phenomena: violence, impunity, and neglect.

The report said these interlocking phenomena are rooted in the imposition “by force” of a monolithic Filipino identity and Philippine State “on multiple ethnic groups in Mindanao and the Sulu archipelago that saw themselves as already pre-existing nations and nation-states.”

The report’s recommendations have yet to be implemented.

Alvarez’ stand or Duterte’s?

“Kanya (Alvarez) ba yan or kay Duterte?” Mohagher Iqbal, MILF peace panel chair asked.

In his campaign sorties, Duterte, the lone Mindanawon Presidential candidate would tell the crowd his grandmother was a Maranao and he has grandchildren who are Tausug. He would spend time to talk about Philippine history from the point of view of Mindanao and how the Moro people have been marginalized and minoritized and how important it is to “correct the historical injustice.”

Duterte visited Camp Darapanan on February 27 and was received by MILF 1st Vice Chair Ghazali Jaafar and the Central Committee.

Ghazali Jaafar, 1st Vice Chair of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (right) introduces the other members of the MILF Central Committee to presidential candidate and Davao City mayor Rodrigo Duterte during his visit in Camp Darapanan, Sultan Kudarat town in Maguindanao on February 27, 2016. MindaNews photo by TOTO LOZANO

Ghazali Jaafar, 1st Vice Chair of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (right) introduces the other members of the MILF Central Committee to presidential candidate and Davao City mayor Rodrigo Duterte during his visit in Camp Darapanan, Sultan Kudarat town in Maguindanao on February 27, 2016. MindaNews photo by TOTO LOZANO

Duterte told them that he would propose amendment of the Constitution to change the system of government into federalism but “if it takes time, and if only to defuse tension, in my government I will convince Congress to pass the BBL then make it as a template for federal states.”

At the Cotabato City plaza rally on the same day, Duterte stressed the need to correct the historical injustices committed against the Moro people and vowed that under his administration, “we will try to go federalism. Yang Bagsamoro sa mapa ngayon, wag nang galawin yan. Gawin na lang nating example na makopya sa lahat. Ang mangyayari nito, uunahin ko na lang pakiusapan ko ang Congress na we will pass the BBL (The Bangsamoro on the map now, let’s not touch that anymore. Let’s make it an example for the rest to copy. I will immediately ask Congress to pass the BBL).

He said he will also tell Nur Misuari “kopyahin na lang natin sila para sa Mindanao at buong Pilipinas” (let’s copy that in Mindanao and in the rest of the Philippines”).
Misuari, whom Duterte considers a friend, is founding chair of the MNLF with whom government signed a Final Peace Agreement in 1996 and whose implementation has yet to be fully completed.

In the last Presidential debate on April 24, Duterte said “nothing will appease the Moro people if you do not give them the BBL.” 

Bangsamoro lens

Amina Rasul, chair of the Philippine Center for Islam and Democracy (PCID) said federalism does not render the BBL moot.

“First, it will take time for federalism to be approved as the process for constitutional amendment cannot be rushed.  Second, federalism does not automatically grant the genuine autonomy that the Moro liberation fronts (MNLF and MILF) have fought for,” Rasul told MindaNews.

She also noted that Spain has a strong federal system with an autonomous region, Catalonia and that even with a federal system, “regional governments and Catalonia are critical of the federal system, particularly of government spending which does not give them  revenue-raising authority.”

Lawyer Naguib Sinarimbo of the Bangsamoro Study Group (BSG), a member of the GPH-MILF Joint Normalization Committee and part of the technical team of the MILF peace panel that negotiated the CAB, said “what needs to be understood clearly by the Moro people as well as some morons is that that the lens for Bangsamoro self- determination as espoused in the CAB and the BBL is correcting historical injustice and not merely decentralization as espoused in federalism.”

“It is an affirmation of the historical fact of a distinct identity for the Moros and the fact that they were independent states even before a Philippine state was ever conceived, that a historical injustice was committed by the Filipinos and the Philippine state by depriving the Moros both of their identity and freedom to chart their own destiny,” he said.

“The only way to address this, as correctly pointed out by Duterte in his campaign, is to correct this historical injustice,” Sinarimbo said.

Wrong signal

Robert Maulana Alonto, a member of the MILF peace panel and the BTC that drafted the BBL said Alvarez’ statement is “giving the wrong signal to the Moro people on the ground.”

He said the Bangsamoro people supported and overwhelmingly voted for Duterte “but some politicians who are now jockeying for positions under his administration are already reversing and/or nullifying the principles that (Duterte) has committed himself to vis-a-vis the resolution of the Bangsamoro Question.”

“We welcome the establishment of federalism as the best alternative to the status quo. There ought to be no argument here. But the politicians who now want to ingratiate themselves with Digong Duterte are doing so at the expense of the President-Elect’s commitment to the Bangsamoro people,” Alonto said.

“What sets apart the Bangsamoro people from the other nations comprising the Philippine State is that the Moros struggled, fought and bled to recover their right to self-determination,” he said.

He said they want Duterte to correct the historical injustice as he promised and the matter of which comes first — the BBL or federalism – “is not a chicken or egg issue” because the CAB-BBL is “a product of political negotiations; it is a product of a signed agreement between the MILF and the GPH.”

“As such, government is duty-bound to implement it. To make it ‘irrelevant’ as Alvarez claims because of federalism is to sidetrack, nay nullify, this political agreement,” and will not sit well with the Bangsamoro people and the Moro liberation movement,” he added.

Randolph Parcasio, spokesperson of the MNLF under founding chair Nur Misuari said “maybe he (Alvarez) needs to be thoroughly updated so give him time to digest more the ongoing peace process.”

“When the dust of euphoria settles down, we get down to business. The MNLF waited for two decades then it unconditionally supported Duterte because just like the majority among Moro and Mindanawon the MNLF sees hope at last…So gamayng pasinsya pa (a little more patience), Parcasio said.

Duterte can’t just scrap BBL, says MILF

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (May 20): Duterte can’t just scrap BBL, says MILF

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on Thursday said the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) cannot be unilaterally set aside by the government as the incoming Duterte administration pushes for a federal system of government.

“It will not happen,” MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal told the Inquirer by phone, referring to the statement of newly elected Davao del Norte Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez that the peace process with the Moro rebels would go back to square one.

“We will continue to insist on the implementation of the peace process,” Iqbal said.

Iqbal said it was important to clarify if Alvarez made a “personal point of view” when he claimed that the peace talks with the Moro rebels would be back to square one under presumptive President-elect Rodrigo Duterte or if this was really the incoming administration’s policy.

Alvarez is poised to be the next Speaker of the House of Representatives.

“My first question is, is this an official policy of the Duterte administration or his personal point of view because if it’s his personal opinion, it won’t hold any significance,” Iqbal said.

He said the Philippine government and the MILF signed in 2010 the Declaration of Continuity for Peace Negotiation, which cannot be abrogated.

Ironically, a day before Alvarez made the announcement, the MILF published on its website an appeal to the incoming administration to honor the declaration.

In a statement on their official website,, the MILF said the essence of the declaration is that “where the parties stopped, as consequence of major obstacles like all-out war or shortness of time of the administration in power like that of President Fidel V. Ramos, they will continue and start from they stopped or forced to discontinue.”

“Government cannot just set this aside. It is an obligation by both parties because it was an agreement we both signed,” Iqbal said.

Iqbal reminded the incoming administration that negotiations between the MILF and the government have been completed and both parties have already signed the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) and the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB).

The CAB is the essentially the peace agreement between the government and the MILF.

The Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) has also completed its tripartite review of its peace accord with the government.

“There are no more negotiations to speak of but the peace process is ongoing,” Iqbal said.

The 15th Congress was unable to pass the proposed BBL, which would have created a new Bangsamoro autonomous region as a compromise to the full independence the MILF has fought for decades.

The Mamasapano debacle in January last year threw a monkey wrench on the otherwise smooth sailing peace process between the MILF and the Aquino administration, with members of both houses of Congress casting doubt on the sincerity of the Moro rebels.

One of the leading dissenting voices to the proposed BBL is Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, running mate of Duterte. Cayetano has been promised a Cabinet position in the Duterte administration following a yearlong ban for losing candidates to be appointed in government posts.

Tawi-Tawi, Sulu may face crisis as trade border remains closed

From The Standard (May 20): Tawi-Tawi, Sulu may face crisis as trade border remains closed

Tawi-tawi and Sulu in Mindanao face an imminent humanitarian crisis as Sabah border remains closed to traders due to the kidnapping incidents where four Malaysian crewmen were kidnapped by the Abu Sayyaf, triggering short supply of food to more than 50,000 people in the two island provinces.

Department of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Assistant Secretary Charles Jose said this matter should be studied in depth by all Philippine government agencies concerned to find a viable solution to the situation.

Meanwhile, the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao government has sought the national government to intervene without delay to reopen the border for trading, as prices of basic commodities have soared, with 25 kilograms of rice selling now for P1,100 from P620.

ARMM’s Social Welfare Secretary Rahima Alba said around 25,000 households in Tawi-Tawi have been on survival mode because of the blockade.

“What we are doing is to immediately help those affected by the Malaysian government’s blockade,” Alba said in  a statement.

“The provinces of Tawi-Tawi, Sulu, including Basilan,   import a significant volume of prime commodities from Sabah, Malaysia,” Alba said, adding   that   with the blockade,   prices of rice, noodles, canned goods and other commodities   has doubled.

PH-Russia deal vs terror eyed

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (May 20): PH-Russia deal vs terror eyed

“Presumptive President-elect Rodrigo Duterte has agreed to  explore the idea of a military cooperation with Russia with the growing  threat of terrorism,” Russian Ambassador to the Philippines Igor  Anatolyevich Khovaev said.

Khovaev met Duterte here on Wednesday evening.

The Russian ambassador said that he and Duterte also agreed that there has  to be combined efforts against terrorism. He added that the Abu Sayyaf was  one terror group mentioned during the meeting.

“The struggle against terror and threats continues,” he told reporters  after emerging from the meeting with Duterte.

“All of us should combine all our efforts,” he added.

Khovaev said aside from “possible sharing of experiences as well as  information,” he and Duterte also talked about the possible purchase by the  Philippines of Russian military hardware.

But he admitted it was not discussed in details.

Last year, Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said Prime Minister  Dmitry Medvedev had been wanting to work closely with the Philippine  government for military and defense cooperation similar to their existing  agreements with adjacent states.

The Philippines also has an existing agreement with Russia on the war  against illegal drugs.

Coloma said Russia also wants to intensify bilateral ties at diplomatic,  business and entrepreneurial fronts.

COMSAT and Inmarsat successfully support U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific, Balikatan 2016 exercise

From the Business Wire (May 19): COMSAT and Inmarsat successfully support U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific, Balikatan 2016 exercise

Global Xpress’ global mobility, ease-of-use and high-throughput support the mission during U.S. military - Philippine bilateral training exercise
COMSAT, Inc., a leading operator of customized and secure end-to-end satellite communication services to the U.S. government and Inmarsat (LSE:ISAT.L), the leading provider of global mobile satellite communication services, have been supporting U.S. and Republic of the Philippines forces in the Balikatan 2016 (BK16) exercise, which took place in the Philippines, April 4 to 16. COMSAT, a value-added reseller of Inmarsat’s Global Xpress services, worked with U.S. Marine Corps Forces Pacific (MARFORPAC), who organized and managed the exercise, to integrate Global Xpress into the scenarios for BK16. The Global Xpress service was provided via a Cobham 5075 terminal which was deployed with the U.S. Marine Corps.

Balikatan is an annual military exercise between U.S. joint forces and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) with multinational participants such as Australia. The BK16 exercise focused on a variety of missions to include humanitarian assistance, maritime law enforcement, and environmental protection. During this exercise, U.S. forces conducted humanitarian civil assistance projects with the AFP throughout the Philippine archipelago.
There were also combined operational events between U.S. forces, the three main branches of the AFP, and other major Philippine military camps to improve collaboration, increase partnership capabilities, and plan for follow-on operations.
“As part of this exercise, our intention was to support MARFORPAC in this exercise by bringing new and innovative cost-effective communication technologies that support mission success. Unlike competitive offerings, the service is readily available today and offers unmatched end-user benefits,” said Nancy Ho, Vice President, Business Development, U.S. Government / Military, COMSAT, Inc. “The ease of use and performance of the Global Xpress solution was able to deliver a reliable, core communications link during the exercise.”
The Global Xpress SATCOM as a Service end-to-end managed service capability allowed the Cobham 5075 terminal to be tested at COMSAT offices in Herndon, VA; shipped to the Philippines; and brought online within minutes -- a significant step-change compared to the traditional VSAT capability, which requires operator intervention to reconfigure a terminal to operate in a new geographic location.
Because of its global mobility, ease-of-use and high throughput, users were able to set up the Global Xpress terminal and acquire service in just minutes for their web browsing and email applications at Basa Air Base, the designated headquarters for all U.S. Marine Corps Forces involved in the exercise. Supported by the only commercial worldwide Ka-band constellation built for mobility available from a single operator, Global Xpress delivered BK16 exercise users with end-to-end, seamless ‘SATCOM as a Service’ capability – compatible with MILSATCOM systems and available on demand, no matter the environment or the geographic location.
“We have a proven track record of more than 35 years delivering mobile satellite communication capabilities to U.S. government users worldwide. Through collaborations with our skilled partners like COMSAT, we have successfully demonstrated that Global Xpress delivers a highly reliable Ka-band network to meet mobile, on-demand communication needs, worldwide,” said Kai Tang, Inmarsat’s Vice President of Market Development, U.S. Government. “We believe that the BK16 exercise users were able to see first-hand the benefits Global Xpress delivers – seamless, consistent wideband access from a single operator that supports mobile, interoperable communication needs, at an affordable price.”
Headquartered in Herndon, VA, is part of Satcom Direct (SD), the leading provider of satellite voice and broadband data solutions for flight deck and cabin communications serving business, military, government, and heads of state aircraft. With a direct lineage from the COMSAT organization that was created by the Communications Satellite Act of 1962, the company has played an important role in the SATCOM industry from its inception to present day. COMSAT offers a broad array of advanced solutions to meet U.S. military and commercial requirements, including fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft, homeland security systems, public safety communications, defense electronics and avionics, and threat detection. COMSAT’s key milestones include being a founding member of Intelsat; operating the Marisat fleet network, which provided the first mobile satellite communications services to the United States Navy; and founding the initial operating system of Inmarsat from the company’s two earth stations.
About Inmarsat
Inmarsat plc is the leading provider of global mobile satellite communications services. Since 1979, Inmarsat has been providing reliable voice and high-speed data communications to governments, enterprises and other organizations, with a range of services that can be used on land, at sea or in the air. Inmarsat employs around 1,600 staff in more than 60 locations around the world, with a presence in the major ports and centres of commerce on every continent. Inmarsat is listed on the London Stock Exchange (LSE:ISAT.L). For more information, please visit

Enrile cautions Duterte on dealing with CPP

From Malaya (May 20): Enrile cautions Duterte on dealing with CPP

INCOMING president Rodrigo Duterte should act with caution in dealing with the Communist Party of the Philippines, Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile yesterday said.

Enrile, a defense minister in the Marcos administration, said there could be security implications in sharing a bed with the communists.

“They better study that very well. There are security implications, (and) I’m sure the incoming president is aware of the problem of coalescing with CPP,” Enrile said.

Duterte is offering four Cabinet posts to the communist group and is considering a general amnesty for detained leftists.

Asked if it is hard to trust CPP, Enrile said, “We have to act with caution.”

Enrile was one of the architects of martial law that was declared in 1972, supposedly to thwart communist invasion of the country. Ironically, the communists grew steadily after the imposition of martial law.

Martial law was declared in September 1972 while the New People’s Army, the military arm of the CPP, was about to enter its third year of existence.

Enrile conceded he is not in a position to advise Duterte.

“He has good advisers… at this point all I can say is that every government must act with caution,” he said.

Earlier, re-electionist Sen. Panfilo Lacson said CPP leaders should first take an oath of allegiance to the government and vow to protect the Constitution before they are entrusted with Cabinet posts.

He said ending the five-decade-old communist insurgency through a peace process would start with good faith and goodwill, such as the release of all political prisoners.

“Nevertheless, we must look at this move with guarded optimism,” Lacson said.

He said there might be some legal nuances that have to be considered before granting amnesty to prisoners identified with CPP.

“For one, most of the cases involving the political prisoners are pending with the different courts and therefore, under the jurisdiction of a co-equal branch of government which is the judiciary,” he said.

No BBL under Duterte gov’t

From Malaya (May 20): No BBL under Duterte gov’t

There will be no need to pass a Bangsamoro Basic Law under the Duterte administration because it will be part of a shift to a federal form of government through Charter change, incoming Davao del Norte Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez said yesterday.

Alvarez said there will be no BBL in the Duterte administration because its concept is the same as federalism which aims to devolve the powers of the national government to the regions by forming states which will have their own sets of laws.

“There will be none, (BBL under the Duterte administration) because it (BBL) will be replaced by federal form of government. It’s the same,” he told the TV program Headstart.
Alvarez, secretary general of PDP-Laban, is Duterte’s personal choice for Speaker in the incoming 17th Congress where he will be pitted against incumbent Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr.

“This (federalism) is the lasting solution and a solution for everybody,” he said. “If we study the concept of BBL and federalism, it’s the same. Only the names are different. Federalism is even more comprehensive.”

While enacting the BBL is one of Duterte’s many campaign promises, Alvarez said the shift to federalism will provide the long-term solution. 

The BBL is being offered by the Aquino administration as the primary solution to the decades of armed conflict between government and secessionist rebels in Mindanao led by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

“Well of course, there’ll be short-term solutions (like BBL) for those problems (the MILF’s call for autonomy) but the long-term solution, which we have long been looking for in Mindanao is the (shift to a) federal form of government,” Alvarez said.

The 16th Congress failed to pass the proposed BBL which is among President Aquino’s legislative priorities, because of stiff opposition to the bill as manifested by the lack of warm bodies on the floor.

The proposed BBL seeks to abolish the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao by creating a new Bangsamoro region which will be given additional autonomy.

Among the bill’s provisions, congressmen are mostly against the “opt-in” provision which allows neighboring territories to propose their inclusion in the proposed autonomous region through a petition of at least 10 percent of the residents and approval by a majority of qualified voters in the city or province in a separate plebiscite.

The measure would have given flesh to the government’s comprehensive agreement on the Bangsamoro with the MILF.

A lawyer, Alvarez said the MILF was clearly “taken for a ride” by the Aquino administration when it promised to them the BBL.

He said it would have been impossible for the measure to stand constitutional test in the Supreme Court because its provisions cannot be implemented without changes in the Constitution.“How can you implement the provisions of the BBL without amending the Constitution? You cannot do it because there are provisions in the BBL that run contrary to the provisions of the Constitution,” he said.

Alvarez said constitutional amendments should have been undertaken “to provide what’s inside the provisions of BBL.”

Alvarez said the Duterte administration is pushing for a shift to a unicameral parliamentary-federal form of government and would leave it to the framers of the Constitution which model to adopt.

“There are a lot of models. One is federal-parliamentary and another is federal-parliamentary and yet you have a president directly elected by the people,” he explained.

Under the current unitary form of government, Alvarez lamented that “all incomes of provinces or regions are remitted to the central government which is Manila.”

“And central government will allocate funds in favor of respective provinces so it’s the central government that determines the happiness and misery of the regions,” he said.

Under a federal system, Alvarez said, provinces and regions will be allowed to keep 75 to 80 percent of their incomes and remit just about 25 percent to the central federal government “for its upkeep.”

“That’s how it’s going to be because the national government retains  national defense and foreign affairs,” said Alvarez.

In the current system, taxes collected from regions go to the national government which allocates the funds through Congress. The local government units receive their share of internal revenue allocation.

Alvarez said that in the proposed federal setup, a state   shall be composed of provinces.

“For example, (the) Davao region (becomes a state). Davao region is a very rich region so it can subsidize the operations of its provinces. Now the neighboring regions that are poor, it can be absorbed by Davao and subsidized,” he said.

Phil. Army's 7ID receives new trooper trucks, military ambulances

From the Philippine News Agency (May 19): Phil. Army's 7ID receives new trooper trucks, military ambulances

Thirty six new trooper trucks and four military ambulances were received by the Philippine Army’s 7th Infantry Division based here in simple rites Wednesday at the command headquarters in this sprawling military camp.

Major Gen. Angelito de Leon, 7ID commander, said the new equipment are big boost to their capabilities, being part of the Modernization Program and Transformation Roadmap of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

In his message, De Leon said the trucks and ambulances were just part of the program, saying that the command has earlier received firepowers such as R4s which are more sophisticated than the M16 Armalite rifles.

But, it is not only the Army now being modernized, he said.

The Philippine Navy, he said, has also received the first ever strategic vessel that can be used as an alternate command and control vessel while the Philippine Air Force got two FA 50 Led-in Fighter Jets.

De Leon said these combat equipment are proof of how the government cares for national security and the Filipino soldiers.

US gov’t turns over USD214-M road upgrading project in Samar

From the Philippine News Agency (May 19): US gov’t turns over USD214-M road upgrading project in Samar

The US-funded USD 214 million road upgrading project that links impoverished towns in Samar provinces is now complete after 44 “challenging months” of construction.

On Thursday, US government officials, headed by Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg, led the turnover of the project to the Department of Public Works and Highways, Road Board, Department of Social Welfare and Development, and people’s organization for the maintenance of the roads and bridges.

“US-Philippines partnership brings opportunity, connection and livelihood to Samar. The MCC (Millennium Challenge Corporation) completes 222 kilometers of road. Great news!,” Goldberg said in his twitter post.

Millennium Challenge Account – Philippines (MCA-P) Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer Maria Victoria E. Añonuevo said in a mobile phone interview that all components of the road project were now 100 percent complete.

“We are happy to know that partner government agencies, local government units and people’s organization are committed to help maintain the road project,” Añonuevo said in a mobile phone interview.

Key officials from the DPWH, DSWD, local government units and people’s organization witnessed the turnover ceremony at the Eastern Samar provincial capitol gymnasium in Borongan City, Eastern Samar’s capital.

“The community-managed road maintenance program is an opportunity for our people to demonstrate their sense of responsibility and participation in nation building,” said DPWH Secretary Rogelio Singson in a statement.

“With the concerted efforts of government and the people in the locality, there is no doubt that we can preserve this legacy road project to enjoy the fruits of our cooperation for years to come,” he added.

The DSWD has tapped beneficiaries of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program in maintenance works through funding from the Road Board.

The USD214-million grant from the US government covers road widening, rehabilitation, drainage and other safety measures, bridge construction and engineering interventions on road slips and landslides. The project, which has four contract packages, was awarded to seven contractors.

Of the 222 kilometers, 112 are asphalt and 110 are concrete. The road network has 62 bridges, 60 of which were constructed by the Secondary National Road Development Project and two by the DPWH.

The Samar rehabilitation project, which started in 2012, is a major component of the USD434-million grant from US government to address poverty.

The road traverses the town of Paranas in Samar, Taft, Sulat, San Julian, Borongan, Maydolong, Llorente, Hernani, Gen. Macarthur, Quinapondan, Salcedo, Mercedes and Guiuan in Eastern Samar.

During its construction phase, the project overcame challenges on road right of way acquisition, protected area restrictions, political interference, logistical hurdles, and impacts of super typhoon Yolanda that battered the province in 2013.

With the new road, the MCC expects that farmers will be able to transport their produce in less time to the urban markets, people from the rural areas will have more opportunity for employment and education in the urban center, and people living in rural areas will have faster and better access to health care, especially in cases of emergency.

Four dead in fresh clashes in Davao Region

From the Philippine News Agency (May 19): Four dead in fresh clashes in Davao Region

Series of armed confrontation between government troopers and the communists New People’s Army (NPA) rebels resulted in the killing of four persons, the 10th Infantry (Agila) Division of the Philippine Army reported.

Captain Rhyan Batchar, chief information officer of 10th ID, said three rebels and an army trooper belonging to 60th Infantry Battalion were killed during a series of armed encounters on Wednesday, May 18 in Sitio Booy, Barangay Pinamuno, San Isidro town in Davao del Norte and in Sitio Tugpahan, Barangay Imelda, Laak, Compostela Valley province.

The first encounter in Sitio Booy resulted in the death of two rebels and a government trooper, Batchar said.

The army was able to recover from the encounter site two unexploded improvised explosive devices (IEDs); a 200-meter detonating chord and blasting caps; subversive documents; a cell phone; and personal belongings, he added.

“The name of the soldier killed during the encounter is still being withheld pending the notification of his next of kin,” Batchar pointed out.

The second encounter on that day in Sitio Tugpahan, at around 2:50 p.m. Wednesday resulted in the confiscation of three M-16 rifles that were left behind by the NPA rebels after abandoning their position. No government trooper was hurt on the second encounter, Batchar said.

The third armed confrontation on Wednesday also took place in Sitio Booy during the clearing operations conducted by the army at around Tugpahan 5:50 p.m.

Batchar said the soldiers were able to recover a dead body of a still unidentified NPA rebel and one AK-47 rifle in the encounter site.

Lt. Col. Emmanuel A. Canilla, commander of 60th IB, expressed his sympathy to the families of the soldier killed-in-action and of the rebels who died during the incident.

Canilla added that the 60th IB was always prepared and ready to use legitimate force against the lawless NPA rebels who threatened the safety and well-being of the people and community.

Incoming PNP Chief to conduct thorough 'cleansing' of personnel once he assumes post

From the Philippine News Agency (May 19): Incoming PNP Chief to conduct thorough 'cleansing' of personnel once he assumes post

Chief Superintendent Ronald Marapon de la Rosa, the incoming Philippine National Police (PNP) chief, on Thursday said his leadership will be conducting its own internal cleansing campaign among the 160,000-strong PNP personnel with the policy on transparency and anti-corruption campaign.

Dela Rosa said as soon as he assumes the PNP chief post he will make sure to clean within his ranks first before working on another organization so that they can work in order.

“That is why the internal cleansing in the ranks of our policemen is a must,” he said.

“We already have the list of the officials who are involved in illegal drugs and we are going to start right away when I become the PNP chief,” he added.

Dela Rosa reminded his fellow policemen that he will be a strict father figure to those under his supervision and will discipline officials who are involved in illegal acts especially those involved in drugs.

“I encourage the policemen involved in illegal drugs to resign. The government is paying you to arrest drug personalities and now you are receiving money from drug lords,” he noted.

He admitted that a lot of officials will be under investigation once he assumes post.

“We cannot say there are no official involved when the people know about it. This is not the time for cover ups. This is the time to punish these officials,” Dela Rosa stated.

He added that they are serious in PNP anti-crime efforts, even if there are fellow policemen involved in crime they will arrest and file case against them.

Prior to being handpicked by the presumptive President-elect Rodrigo Duterte, Dela Rosa was one of the three top choices for the said position.

Duterte’s other contenders for PNP Chief were Supt. Ramon Apolinario, officer-in-charge of the Mimaropa Region, and Sr. Supt. Rene Aspera, the chief of staff of the PNP-Anti-Kidnapping Group.

Dela Rosa assured that the two officials will be given different positions once he assumed the new PNP chief post.

“Supt. Ramon Apolinario and Sr. Supt. Rene Aspera already have their designated position. We have already talked about the new positions to be given to them,” he said.

Meanwhile, PNP spokesperson Chief Supt. Wilben Mayor assured there would be no demoralization on their part following the entry of a new leadership under Dela Rosa.

With the appointment of Dela Rosa who is a product of Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Class 1986, three batches had been surpassed particularly class '84 and '85.

Under Republic Act 6975 or the law establishing the PNP, any police official with the rank of Chief Superintendent or higher may qualify for appointment as PNP chief.

Mayor said it is the prerogative of the President to choose his PNP chief, adding that the organization looks at the procedure professionally and objectively.

He assured that there is no class barrier among them and the appointment on Dela Rosa should not be an issue.

Mayor stressed that the PNP is a professional organization and that demoralization has no place at the institution.

Earlier, as soon as President-elect Duterte begins his administration, the current chief PNP, Director General Ricardo Marquez, who is a member of PMA Class 1982, will hand over his courtesy resignation letter to the new commander-in-chief.

Marquez pointed out that the submission of resignation is just normal specially that a new administration will come.

He added that any government official including the PNP chief serves at the pleasure, trust and confidence of the commander in chief.

Marquez said that it would all be up to the next chief executive if it would accept his resignation or will be told to finish his tenure at the PNP set on August as his retirement date simultaneous to the advent of his 56th birthday, the mandatory retirement age both for police and military.

11 new officers join 8th ID

From the Philippine News Agency (May 19): 11 new officers join 8th ID

Eleven newly-graduated 2nd lieutenants formally joined the roster of the Catbalogan City-based 8th Infantry Division.

Capt. Ian Andres Fabellon, 8th Infantry Division public affairs office chief, said these officers came from the Philippine Military Academy Class of 2016, Officer Preparatory Course of Classes 62 and 64–2016 and Officer Candidate Course Classes 44 and 45-2016.

Prior deployment, these officers will undergo the Platoon Leaders Course, in order for them to develop and enhance their military skills.

Trooper awarded after being wounded in poll-related ambush

From the Philippine News Agency (May 19): Trooper awarded after being wounded in poll-related ambush

A trooper of the 20th Infantry Battalion, wounded during the course of election duty in Northern Samar, was awarded the Wounded Personnel Medal (WPM) last Monday.

This was revealed by 8th Infantry Division spokesperson Capt. Ian Andres Fabellon in a statement Thursday.

He identified the wounded soldier as Pfc. Michael P. Cagata.

The latter was formally awarded the WPM by 8th Infantry Division commander Major Gen. Jet B. Velarmino at the Camp Lukban Station Hospital, Catbalogan, Samar.

Cagata was wounded after he and his companions, who were on election-duty, were ambushed by an estimated 30 New People's Army (NPA) rebels at the Cory Aquino Highway, Barangay Anito, Gamay, Northern Samar last week.

The entire military was deputized by the Commission on Elections along with the Philippine National Police to ensure the safe and orderly conduct of the May 9 elections.

Obama nominates next US envoy to the Philippines

From Rappler (May 19): Obama nominates next US envoy to the Philippines

Sung Kim is the US Special Representative for North Korea Policy and Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of East Asia and Pacific Affairs at the Department of State

PH-BOUND. Sung Kim, US special representative for North Korea policy, is set to be the next US envoy to the Philippines. Photo by Wu Hong/EPA

PH-BOUND. Sung Kim, US special representative for North Korea policy, is set to be the next US envoy to the Philippines. Photo by Wu Hong/EPA

US President Barack Obama has nominated US Special Representative to North Korea as the next ambassador to the Philippines, the White House said in a statement on Thursday, May 19.

The White House said Obama expressed his intent to nominate Sung Kim as ambassador to the Philippines. He will replace Ambassador Philip Goldberg, the US envoy to the country since 2013.

“I am pleased to announce that these experienced and committed individuals have decided to serve our country. I look forward to working with them,” Obama said in his announcement of nominees to key administration posts.

The White House said that Kim, a career member of the Foreign Service, is the US Special Representative for North Korea Policy and Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of East Asia and Pacific Affairs at the Department of State. He has held these positions since 2014.

He had served as ambassador to the Republic of Korea from 2011 to 2014, Special Envoy for the Six Party Talks from 2008 to 2011, and Director of the Office of Korean Affairs in the Bureau of East Asia and Pacific Affairs from 2006 to 2008.

Kim was Political-Military Chief at the US Embassy in Seoul, Korea from 2002 to 2006.

Since joining the Foreign Service in 1988, Kim has also held positions at posts in Hong Kong, Japan, and Malaysia.

Before be joined the foreign service, he was a Deputy District Attorney in the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.

Kidnap victim released in Zamboanga City

From InterAksyon (May 19): Kidnap victim released in Zamboanga City

Reports reaching Manila indicated that a 21-year-old kidnap victim released Tuesday by his kidnappers reunited with his family the next day in Zamboanga City.

According to a military official who spoke on condition of anonymity, the victim was identified as Rian Tan Nunez.

"The victim's family requested for privacy. They asked that the release not be publicized because his grandfather is still held captive" the official said.

It was not clear if ransom was paid to the kidnappers.

The younger Nuñez was released at around 6 p.m. Tuesday, in the vicinity of Cawa-Cawa Boulevard, and reunited with his family Wednesday night in Barangay Lapuyan.

He and his grandfather, who, the military official did not identify, were brought to Sulu after they were abducted.

"They were kept in the lair of Abu Sayyaf Group sub-leader Alhabsy Misaya in Sulu. The elder Tan was separated by their captors from his grandson, and they never saw each other again," the military official said.

4 killed in AFP-NPA Davao clashes

From InterAksyon (May 19): 4 killed in AFP-NPA Davao clashes

Reports reaching Manila indicated that four combatants – 3 rebels and a soldier – were among the latest casualties in the government's anti-insurgency campaign against the government even as peace talks preparations are already underway between the camp of President-elect Rodrigo Duterte and the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) in Davao City.

According to Captain Rhyan Batchar, public affairs chief of the 10th Infantry Division, the casualties were from a series of encounters Wednesday between soldiers of the 60th Infantry Battalion and suspected NPA rebels in Sitio Booy, Barangay Pinamuno, San Isidro, Davao del Norte and in Sitio Tugpahan, Barangay Imelda, Laak, Compostela Valley.

The first encounter in Booy, at around 11:45 a.m. lasted for two hours that killed two rebels, and resulted in the recovery of two improvised explosive devices (IEDs), 200-meter detonating cord, blasting caps, subversive documents, a cell phone, and some personal belongings.

The encounter also left one soldier dead.

The second clash in Tugpahan at around 2:50 p.m. led to the recovery 3 M16 rifles and another IED. In the third encounter at around 5:50 p.m. happened during clearing operations in Booy that killed another rebel and recovery of an AK-47 rifle.

SOUTH CHINA SEA | China demands end to US surveillance after spy plane intercept

From InterAksyon (May 20): SOUTH CHINA SEA | China demands end to US surveillance after spy plane intercept

Beijing demanded an end to US surveillance near China on Thursday after two of its fighter jets carried out what the Pentagon said was an "unsafe" intercept of a US military reconnaissance aircraft over the South China Sea.

The incident, likely to increase tension in and around the contested waterway, took place in international airspace on Tuesday as the plane carried out "a routine US patrol," a Pentagon statement said.

A US Defense official said two Chinese J-11 fighter jets flew within 50 feet (15 meters) of the US EP-3 aircraft. The official said the incident took place east of Hainan island.

"Initial reports characterized the incident as unsafe," the Pentagon statement said.

"It must be pointed out that US military planes frequently carry out reconnaissance in Chinese coastal waters, seriously endangering Chinese maritime security," China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei Hong told reporters.

"We demand that the United States immediately cease this type of close reconnaissance activity to avoid having this sort of incident happening again," Hong said.

Speaking at a regular press briefing, he described the Pentagon statement as "not true" and said the actions of the Chinese aircraft were "completely in keeping with safety and professional standards."

"They maintained safe behavior and did not engage in any dangerous action," Hong said.

The encounter comes a week after China scrambled fighter jets as a US Navy ship sailed close to a disputed reef in the South China Sea.

Another Chinese intercept took place in 2014 when a Chinese fighter pilot flew acrobatic maneuvers around a US spy plane.

The intercept occurred days before President Barack Obama travels to parts of Asia from May 21-28, including a Group of Seven summit in Japan and his first trip to Vietnam.

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

Washington has accused Beijing of militarizing the South China Sea after creating artificial islands, while Beijing, in turn, has criticized increased US naval patrols and exercises in Asia.

The Pentagon statement said the Department of Defense was addressing the issue through military and diplomatic channels.

China's Defense Ministry said in a fax that it was looking into reports on the incident.

‘Dangerous intercepts’

In 2015, the United States and China announced agreements on a military hotline and rules of behavior to govern air-to-air encounters called the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea.

"This is exactly the type of irresponsible and dangerous intercepts that the air-to-air annex to CUES is supposed to prevent," said Greg Poling, director of the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative at Washington's Center for Strategic and International Studies think-tank.

Poling said either some part of China's air force "hadn't gotten the message," or it was meant as a signal of displeasure with recent US freedom of navigation actions in the South China Sea.

"If the latter, it would be very disappointing to find China sacrificing the CUES annex for political gamesmanship."

Zhang Baohui, a security expert at Hong Kong's Lingnan University, said he believed the encounter highlighted the limitation of CUES, and shows that Chinese pilots would still fly close to US surveillance planes if needed.

"Frankly, we're always going to see these kinds of incidents as China will always put the priority on national security over something like CUES whenever it feels its interests are directly threatened," he said.

The encounter took place in international airspace about 100 nautical miles south of mainland China and about 50 nautical miles east of Hainan island, a Pentagon spokesman said in a statement issued later on Thursday.

Regional military attaches and experts say the southern Chinese coast is a military area of increasing sensitivity for Beijing.

Its submarine bases on Hainan are home to an expanding fleet of nuclear-armed submarines and a big target for on-going Western surveillance operations.

The Guangdong coast is also believed to be home to some of China's most advanced missiles, including the DF-21D anti-ship weapon.

The Pentagon last month called on China to reaffirm it has no plans to deploy military aircraft in the Spratly Islands after China used a military plane to evacuate sick workers from Fiery Cross Reef, where it has built a 9,800-foot (3,000-meter) runway.

In April 2001, an intercept of a US spy plane by a Chinese fighter jet resulted in a collision that killed the Chinese pilot and forced the American plane to make an emergency landing at a base on Hainan.

The 24 US air crew members were held for 11 days until Washington apologized for the incident. That encounter soured US-Chinese relations in the early days of President George W. Bush's first administration.

Last month, the Pentagon said that Russia had intercepted a US Air Force aircraft over the Baltic Sea in an "unsafe and unprofessional" way.

China rejects US claim of 'unsafe' spy plane intercept

From InterAksyon (May 19): China rejects US claim of 'unsafe' spy plane intercept

 US Navy EP-3A Orion on reconnaisance mission, underside bristling with electronics aerials (above), and missile-equipped Chinese J11 Flanker interceptor. Both aircraft not depicted to true scale. InterAksyon.Com files.

Beijing on Thursday rejected Pentagon accusations that a Chinese aircraft made an "unsafe" intercept of a spy plane in international air space, as tensions rise in the strategically vital South China Sea.

Rivalry between China and the United States is mounting in the disputed waterway, an important shipping route thought to be home to vast energy deposits, and which Beijing claims almost in its entirety.

The US Department of Defense (DoD) told reporters Wednesday that two Chinese tactical aircraft intercepted an American reconnaissance plane in an "unsafe" manner, without giving details.

[Read related story: 2 Chinese jets conduct 'unsafe' intercept of US spy plane over South China Sea: Pentagon]

China's foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said Thursday the description was "untrue".

Two Chinese aircraft tailed a US EP-3 reconnaissance plan as it "flew close" to the island province of Hainan, he said, but kept "a safe distance" and did not make "dangerous moves".

Such US flights were a "severe threat" to Chinese security, he added, calling for Washington to stop them immediately. 

The incident comes more than a decade after a collision between a Chinese fighter jet and a US Navy EP-3 which killed the Chinese pilot and forced the US aircraft to make an emergency landing on Hainan.

A 11-day standoff ensued as Beijing interrogated the 24 US crew, seriously straining relations between the countries, and China went on to hold the plane for several months.

The two have traded accusations and warnings over such surveillance flights in subsequent years.

Rival claims

Beijing has been building islets in the South China Sea into artificial islands with military facilities including radar systems and airstrips.

Regional neighbors such as Vietnam and the Philippines have rival claims and the United States says China's assertions have no basis in law.

Washington -- which has embarked on a foreign policy "pivot" towards Asia -- fears Beijing is seeking to impose military controls over the entire area.

Much to Beijing's annoyance, the US military has conducted several "freedom of navigation" operations, in which planes or ships pass within a 12-nautical-mile buffer around the Chinese installations.

The latest intercept came after the Pentagon and China had worked to reduce the risk of mishaps "by improved dialogue at multiple levels".

"Over the past year, DoD has seen improvements in PRC actions, flying in a safe and professional manner," the Pentagon spokesman said Wednesday, adding that the Department of Defense was "addressing the (intercept) through the appropriate diplomatic and military channels".

The encounter also came days after China accused the US of distorting facts in a report on the Asian giant's defense policy and warned Washington it had "severely damaged" trust between the superpowers. 

[Read related story: Beijing: Pentagon report on China militarizing artificial islands in SCS damages trust]

In the annual report to Congress the Pentagon said Beijing had been using "coercive tactics" to assert its claims in the South China Sea.

The Pentagon report estimated China has reclaimed 3,200 acres (1,300 hectares) of land in the Spratly Islands, also claimed by the Philippines, over the past two years.
Beijing has been angered by the growing US attention on Asia and American forays into the Sea, including sailing warships close to reclaimed islands.

"It is the United States that has been flexing military muscles by frequently sending military aircraft and warships to the region," a Chinese defense ministry spokesman told state media following the report.

Kidnappers free man, hold on to grandpa in Zamboanga

From the Mindanao Examiner (May 18): Kidnappers free man, hold on to grandpa in Zamboanga

Kidnappers have freed a 21-year old man they kidnapped along with his grandfather in the southern Philippine province of Zamboanga del Sur, military sources said.

It said Ryan Tan had been brought Tuesday by his captors in Zamboanga City where family was waiting. Police were unaware of the Tan’s release and the military learned about this a day later after the man’s family confirmed this.

The fate of his 70-year old grandfather, Antonio, remains unknown. The duo was kidnapped from their home in Maruing village in Lapuyan town on the night of March 23 and fled by boat towards Malangas town, also in Zamboanga del Sur.

No other details were made available by the military about the release of Tan and who were behind their kidnappings, but authorities had previously linked former members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and other gangs allied with the notorious Abu Sayyaf group in many ransom kidnappings in the Zamboanga Peninsula.

It was unknown if Tan’s family had paid ransom for Tan’s safe release. No individual or group claimed responsibility for the kidnappings.