Tuesday, June 7, 2016

PH 'ignoring' proposal for regular talks on South China Sea - China

From InterAksyon (Jun 8): PH 'ignoring' proposal for regular talks on South China Sea - China

China said on Wednesday the Philippines has ignored a proposal for a regular talks mechanism over maritime issues, as it repeated that its door was always open to bilateral talks with Manila on the South China Sea.

China claims most of the waters, through which $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year. The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Brunei have overlapping claims, as well as close military ties with the United States.

The Philippines has brought a case at an international tribunal in The Hague contesting China's claims, a case rejected by China which wants to solve the issue bilaterally.

In a statement released in both Chinese and English, China's Foreign Ministry said the two countries had agreed in 1995 to settle disputes in the South China Sea "in a peaceful and friendly manner through consultations on the basis of equity and mutual respect."

China and the Philippines have held many rounds of talks on the proper management of maritime disputes, but have had no negotiations designed to settle the actual disputes in the South China Sea, the ministry said.

"China has on a number of occasions proposed with the Philippines the establishment of a China-Philippines regular consultation mechanism on maritime issues; however, to date, there has never been any response from the Philippine side."

A former Foreign Affairs secretary and a US security expert said on Tuesday President-elect Rodrigo Duterte should not hold unconditional bilateral talks with China to try to resolve their South China Sea dispute.

Duterte has said he would not go to war against China and may hold bilateral talks.
China's ministry repeated that it would not accept any dispute settlement being imposed on it, but the door of China-Philippines bilateral negotiations was always open.

"China urges the Philippines to immediately cease its wrongful conduct of pushing forward the arbitral proceedings, and return to the right path of settling the relevant disputes in the South China Sea through bilateral negotiation with China," it said.

The Philippines is contesting China's claim to an area shown on its maps as a nine-dash line stretching deep into the maritime heart of Southeast Asia, covering hundreds of disputed islands and reefs.

China told the United States on Tuesday it should play a constructive role in safeguarding peace in the South China Sea, as US Secretary of State John Kerry called for talks and a peaceful resolution.


Chinese fighter jet in another 'unsafe' intercept of US spy plane - Pacific Command

From InterAksyon (Jun 8): Chinese fighter jet in another 'unsafe' intercept of US spy plane - Pacific Command

An officer of China's People's Liberation Army Air Force next to a Jian-10 fighter. (Reuters)

A Chinese fighter jet carried out an "unsafe" intercept of a US spy plane on routine patrol on Tuesday in international airspace over the East China Sea, US Pacific Command said.

The intercept involved two Chinese J-10 fighter planes and a US Air Force RC-135 reconnaissance plane, it said in a statement.

"One of the intercepting Chinese jets had an unsafe excessive rate of closure on the RC-135 aircraft. Initial assessment is that this seems to be a case of improper airmanship, as no other provocative or unsafe maneuvers occurred," Pacific Command said. Its statement did not say how close the Chinese fighter came to the US plane.

"The Department of Defense is addressing the issue with China in appropriate diplomatic and military channels," the statement said.

China’s foreign and defense ministries did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In May, the Pentagon said two Chinese fighter jets flew within 50 feet of a US EP-3 aircraft over the South China Sea.

The Pentagon determined that the May incident violated an agreement the two governments signed last year.

Earlier this week, Secretary of State John Kerry said the United States would consider any Chinese establishment of an air defense zone over the South China Sea to be a "provocative and destabilizing act."

US officials have expressed concern that an international court ruling expected in coming weeks on a case brought by the Philippines against China over its South China Sea claims could prompt Beijing to declare an air defense identification zone, or ADIZ, as it did over the East China Sea in 2013.

China has claimed most of the South China Sea, through which $5 trillion in shipborne 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. Beijing, in turn, has criticized increased US naval patrols and exercises in Asia.

During a conference in Singapore last week, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said the US approach to the Asia-Pacific remained "one of commitment, strength and inclusion," but he warned China against provocative behavior in the South China Sea.


Peace advocates to US: step aside, give peace a chance in PH

From the often pro-Communist Party of the Philippines Online publication the Davao Today (Jun 8): Peace advocates to US: step aside, give peace a chance in PH

COMMUNITY SINGING. Somewhere in Agusan del Sur, NPA fighters sing the Internationale with the lumads Wednesday during the 44th anniversary of the re-establishment of the Communist Party of the Philippines. (davaotoday.com photo by Jayboy A. Urbina)

Members of the New People’s Army singing the Internationale somewhere in Agusan del Sur during the 44th anniversary of the re-establishment of the Communist Party of the Philippines. (davaotoday.com file photo)
Peace advocates in the country are telling the United States to “step aside” and give the Philippines a chance to peace.
Rev. Rex R.B. Reyes, Jr., convener of Pilgrims for Peace said the terrorist tag by the US on the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army “can impede the efforts to resume peace negotiations in the country”.

The Pilgrims for Peace, in a statement, said it believes that the US should “let the Philippines tread (its) own course in the pursuit of the peace we want.”

In its 2015 Country Reports on Terrorism, East Asia and the Pacific Overview mentioned the Communist Party of the Philippines and the NPA as among the US-designated-FTOs along with the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), Jemaah Islamiya (JI), and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).

The US government said “FTO designations play a critical role in our fight against terrorism and are an effective means of curtailing support for terrorist activities and pressuring groups to get out of the terrorism business.”

The NPA is the armed wing of the CPP and both are in designated in the list on August 9, 2002.

Resumption of peace talks under new President

Reyes said peace advocates have seen “encouraging” prospects for peace negotiations between the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front, the CPP’s political wing, with the interest of incoming President Rodrigo Duterte to  pursue peace talks with the Communists.

“In fact, Duterte’s negotiating panel chair, Secretary Silvestre Bello III, peace adviser Secretary Jesus Dureza and panel member Hernani Braganza are being sent to Oslo, Norway to engage in preliminary talks on June 16, 2016, even before our new president’s inauguration to office,” said Reyes.

He said the terror tag can “impede travel and make it dangerous for Professor Jose Maria Sison, founding chair of the CPP, to attend any activity related to the talks in the Philippines, as requested by our incoming president.”

Even before the elections on May 9, Duterte talked with his former teacher, Prof. Sison, via Skype about the prospects of resuming the peace negotiations. Duterte even offered four Cabinet posts to the CPP.

As of press time, Duterte has appointed three nominees from the list submitted by the National Democratic Front including Anakpawis Partylist Rep. Rafael Mariano, who will head the Department of Agrarian Reform; Prof. Judy Taguiwalo who will head the Department of Social Welfare and Development and another former Anakpawis Partylist Rep. Joel Maglunsod, who is also a labor leader under the progressive labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno to be the labor undersecretary.

US interests

Reyes said the terror US terror listings are “based on the US interests” in the Philippines.

“United States intelligence groups regularly label and tag those who do not capitulate to their agenda and primacy in the world; after the destruction of the World Trade Center in New York City, the US launched an intensified campaign of foreign domination under the guise of a “War on Terror”,” said Reyes.

Reyes said even after more than a century the Philippines continue to struggle to break free from being “colonial and neo-colonial subjects of US imperialism”.

He said the incoming President is sending a message that “the Philippine will be going our own way in prioritizing peace talks with the NDFP.”

“This so-called “terrorist” listing is nothing new and we must not let it influence our openness to the pursuit of a just and enduring peace in the Philippines,” said Reyes.

Real terrorists

Meanwhile, the militant Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) said that Duterte’s offer of Cabinet posts to the CPP “belies the terrorist claims of the US.”

“What should be underscored is that the US government has proven itself as the number one terrorist state that has launched wars of aggression throughout the globe, killing millions of civilians,” said Renato Reyes, Jr. secretary general of Bayan.

“The US carries out drone strikes in violation of international law just about anywhere it wishes. US government, not the revolutionary groups and liberation movements, is the real terrorist,” said Reyes.

He said the terror-tag should be rejected and that interventions in the peace talks should be opposed by the Filipino people who have been struggling for a just and lasting peace.


Four Sarawakians freed by Abu Sayyaf

From the Star Online (Jun 8): Four Sarawakians freed by Abu Sayyaf

The four sailors seen squatting with one of them holding a piece of paper with the name "Victor Troy” with a date April 8, 2016 written beneath.

The four sailors seen squatting with one of them holding a piece of paper with the name "Victor Troy” with a date April 8, 2016 written beneath.

The four Sarawakian sailors kidnapped off Pulau Ligitan in Sabah on April 1 have been freed by their Abu Sayyaf captors.

The four returned to Sandakan, Sabah, early Wednesday.

Reports from Jolo indicated that Malaysian and Filipino negotiators managed to secure the four’s release from the militant group after several rounds of negotiation.

Sabah Police Commissioner Datuk Abdul Rashid Harun when contacted declined to comment on the matter.

The four - brothers Wong Teck Kang, 31, and Wong Teck Chii, 29, their cousin, Johnny Lau Jung Hien, 21, and Wong Hung Sing, 34, who isn’t a relative – were crew of a tugboat returning to Sarawak from the Philippines when they were seized.
Their captors reportedly demanded an RM18mil ransom for their release.


4 Malaysians released by Abu Sayyaf: Report

From Channel News Asia (Jun 8): 4 Malaysians released by Abu Sayyaf: Report

Four Sarawakian crew members, who were kidnapped by Abu Sayyaf after their tugboat was seized in April, have been released by their captors, according to the Malaysian media.

Four Malaysian crew members who were kidnapped by the militant Abu Sayyaf group off Sabah in April have been released by their captors, according to The Star.

The four men from Sarawak returned to Sabah early on Wednesday (Jun 8), the newspaper reported.

The militants had demanded a ransom of RM30 million (S$10 million) for the release of the men – brothers Wong Teck Kang and Wong Teck Chii, their cousin, Johnny Lau Jung Hien and Wong Hung Sing – and negotiations were ongoing between Malaysian and Filipino officials.

The men were abducted on Apr 1 when they were returning on their tugboat to Sarawak from the Philippines by eight gunman in a speedboat.


Child, 3 killed as NPA, militiamen clash in Bukidnon

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jun 7): Child, 3 killed as NPA, militiamen clash in Bukidnon
bukidnon map

Four people, including a 7-year-old child, were killed when communist guerrillas clashed with paramilitary men in Bukidnon on Sunday.

Ka Ariel “Inda” Magbanwag, spokesperson of the New People’s Army-South Central Bukidnon Sub-regional Command, said in a statement that communist guerrillas chanced upon members of the Magahat-Alamara paramilitary group along a river in the remote village of Indalasa in Malaybalay City on Sunday.

A five-minute firefight ensued, resulting in the death of suspected paramilitary leaders Ricky “Mankolobi” Bocalas and his brother Jojo “Manlumakad” Bocalas.

Also killed in the firefight were Jojo’s wife Inay and their 7-year-old child, the communist leader admitted.

The rebels recovered a KG-9 submachine gun and a handgun.

Magbanwag said the Magahat was created by the military’s 8th Infantry Battalion and the 403rd Brigade in 2013.

He added that the Magahat group merged with the Alamara of Emboy Diwangan and the Delamance group in 2015 to create a strong paramilitary group covering areas from Bukidnon to Agusan del Sur.


The crimes allegedly committed by the group included the killing of lumad leader Arman Ampildon in Cabanglasan in Bukidnon in 2014.

In July 2015, the group allegedly killed Louie Handayan and his wife Daynon while they were working on their rice field in San Luis town, Agusan del Sur, the NPA leader claimed.

Magbanwag said the group also killed 16-year-old Alvin Olinan and 30-year-old Jun Pabiana while they on their way home from working in their farms in Malaybalay City in September 2015.

In October last year, the group allegedly opened fire on a group of residents harvesting durian in Malaybalay City, killing Mariano Mankombete and hurting two of his grandchildren. 


‘3 pacts will be signed in Oslo’

From The Standard (Jun 8): ‘3 pacts will be signed in Oslo’

CPP’s Sison expects immediate truce, prisoners freed

COMMUNIST Party of the Philippines founding chairman Jose Ma. Sison said he expects to conclude three agreements—including one paving the way for an immediate ceasefire—during the two-day exploratory talks in Oslo on  June 15 and 16  with incoming peace adviser Jesus Dureza and incoming government chief negotiator Silvestre Bello III.

“There will be agreements on the release of the political prisoners, an interim ceasefire and a plan to accelerate the peace negotiations,” Sison told The Standard in an interview from Utrecht.

“The interim ceasefire will take effect with the release of all political prisoners through a general amnesty until the successful conclusion of the peace negotiations. The formal peace talks will include a comprehensive and detailed agreement on the permanent end of hostilities,” he added.
Fearless forecasts. Communist Party of the Philippines founding chairman Jose Maria Sison holds a long-distance dialog using Skype about peace talks with the incoming Duterte administration at the offices of the Ibon Foundation in Quezon City recently. Lino Santos
Sison will be joined by National Democratic Front chief negotiator Luis Jalandoni and Fidel Agcaoili, while Dureza and Bello will bring with them incoming government peace panel member Hernani Braganza.

“We will discuss confidence-building measures during the exploratory meeting,” Bello said. “The ceasefire proposal from the CPP-NDF is already a major step forward.”

Bello said he will retain current government peace panel member Efren Moncupa for the negotiations with the communists.

Formal peace talks between the Aquino administration and the CPP-NDF-NPA bogged down in February 2011.

Talks could not resume because the communist group has been demanding the reactivation of the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (Jasig), which will give safe conduct passes to communist negotiators and political consultants.

The government earlier rejected the NDF’s proposal to draft a new Jasig list after the original one, stored in a very old floppy disk, got corrupted and could no longer be retrieved.

Bello said things will change under a Duterte administration, starting with the reconstitution of the Jasig.

“We will recommend to him [President-elect Rodrigo Duterte] that we honor the Jasig and other previously signed agreements,” Bello said.

Duterte has expressed his desire to end the nearly five-decade-long insurgency through a comprehensive peace agreement with the CPP-NDF-New People’s Army.

Known to be close to the left, Duterte even announced his choice of progressives to join his Cabinet, including Judy Taguiwalo to head the Department of Social Welfare and Development and Rafael Mariano to head the Department of Agrarian Reform.

Earlier, Sison said he will return to the Philippines as soon as a final peace pact is signed even as he acknowledged rumors that he will be assassinated once he arrives in the country.

“Assassination? I will not return to the Philippines without any guarantee on my personal security. And in case I am killed, Duterte will be responsible for that,” he added.


4 of the 6 abducted persons in Lanao Norte released

From the Sun Star-Cagayan de Oro (Jun 7): 4 of the 6 abducted persons in Lanao Norte released

FOUR of the six individuals abducted by still unidentified armed men in Iligan City Saturday night, June 4, were rescued by law enforcers in Lanao del Norte Monday night, authorities said on Tuesday, June 7.

Police said most of those kidnapped, who were taken against their will in Linamon town, Lanao de Norte, are either students or had been students of the Mindanao State University-Iligan Institute of Technology (MSU-IIT) based in Iligan.

Senior Superintendent Edgar Daniel, Iligan City police director, told reporters in an interview that the students were on board a vehicle en route to Pagadian city when flagged down by the suspects in Linamon.

In a press release issued by the MSU-IIT Office of Publication and Information (OPI), the University identified the abducted persons as Juhary Gubat, a freshman General Education student, Kevin Limpin, an IIT alumnus, Hannah Yurong, a former IIT student, Berzon Rey Paeste, a senior AB History student, from Pagadian City, Zamboanga del Sur, Cid Rick Jamias, 5th year BS Electronics and Communication from Tacurong City. Only Eloisa Lacson is non-IIT student.

Rescued were Gubat, Limpin, Yurong, and Lacson, police said.

The OPI said the students were hanging out at a gasoline station in Barangay Tibanga, Iligan City and were last seen on board a white van, allegedly driven by Gubat's cousin, with plate number KGJ-661.

A composite team composed of police from Iligan, Lanao del Norte, government soldiers and National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) agents conducted the rescue.

Authorities, however, did not divulge the details of the operation leading to the rescue of the abductees.

Daniel said the group was supposed to bring Paeste and other companions to their homes but was taken by armed men instead.

He said the victims were blindfolded and taken to a secluded area where they were asked about their parents’ jobs.

Daniel said NBI operatives had tracked down the location of the abductees through their cellphone signals.

He added the signal was traced to Bacolod, Lanao del Norte. It was also believed the victims were brought to Munai town, also in Lanao del Norte.

As of June 7, all the released persons are in hiding fearing for their lives.

Paeste and Jamias are still being held captive by the unidentified armed men.

Police Superintendent Surki Sereñas, Police Regional Office-Northern Mindanao spokesperson, said investigation on the case is still ongoing especially that two have remained captives.

"Accordingly, gikan daw sila sa Lanao del Norte area. Pero so far, wala pa ta kabalo unsay motibo ngano nga gi-kidnap allegedly ni sila. We are still investigating kung kidnapping ba gyud ang nahitabo ug unsa ka tinuod nga ang nabilin is for ransom na," Sereñas said.

He said the Iligan City Police are still waiting for the report of the victims' parents or relatives about the incident.

A close friend of missing Paeste who requested not to be named, said in an interview they were alarmed when Paeste failed to return their calls since Saturday night.

"I tried contacting him but he couldn’t be reached," he said.

The source said Paeste is friends with Jamias and Gubat.

Asked if Paeste is involved in any organization, the source said Paeste plays drums in a local band which doesn’t have any out-of-town gig for quite a while now.

Kabataan Partylist coordinator Vennel Chenfoo said the organization will monitor the case.

"Alarming nga naay ingani na mga butang gakahitabo nga mga cases nga dakong problem gyud sa mga kabatan-onan karon. Hinuon, amo gyud pirmi ginasulong nga ang kabatan-onan makigduyog sa nation-building pero usahay kini nga role kinahanglan pa mapasabot sa ila," he said.

Also a student of MSU-IIT, Chenfoo reminded students to be on guard on their safety and remain vigilant always.

MSU-IIT Chancellor Sukarno Tanggol assured that the school is working closely with the authorities to assure the safety of the students.

In Iligan City, Nida Yurong, Hanna’s mother, told Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro that her daughter narrated they were on their way to Maranding, Lala, Lanao del Norte.

But, they were flagged down by armed men and transferred to another vehicle.

“They were blindfolded and their mouths were plastered with duct tape. They were provided with ‘malong,’ food and later walked for about two hours to a place they don’t know where though they passed by at Panggao Elementary School which is in Munai town,” said Nida adding “palangga daw sila didto sa bukid.”

Nida said Hanna and the three others arrived in Yurong’s house at around 12:30 a.m. on June 7. “They were in trauma,” Nida said.

She further said Hanna and her friends were dropped at Linamon town and were given money for fare back to Iligan city.

Nida said they won’t file a complaint adding “what’s more important is that Hanna is home now.”


Terrorism Threat a ‘Gathering Storm’ Over Southeast Asia, Conference Told

From Benar News (Jun 6): Terrorism Threat a ‘Gathering Storm’ Over Southeast Asia, Conference Told


Malaysian Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein attends the plenary session of the 15th Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, June 4, 2016.

Southeast Asia is facing a “gathering storm” of terrorism as the Islamic State militant group has recruited sympathizers at a much faster pace than terror mastermind Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network, a regional security conference was warned at the weekend.

The warning from Singapore at the Shangri-La Dialogue, an annual regional security forum hosted by the island state, was followed by a call from Malaysia for a comprehensive plan to defeat IS involving greater cooperation of all parties, including but not limited to the military.

"Destroying it could very well be the greatest challenge of our generation," Malaysian Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein told the meeting – Asia's biggest security summit – attended by defense ministers and military chiefs from 28 Asia-Pacific countries.

Singapore's Defense Minister Ng Eng Hen told the conference that in the past three years alone, IS has recruited more sympathizers and operatives in Southeast Asia than al-Qaeda did in the last decade, with more than 1,000 fighters in Iraq and Syria.

“Terrorists have capitalized on existing smuggling routes to move people and arms in the region that include Southern Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. This gathering storm has the real potential to destabilize this region, if not tackled decisively and together,” he said.

Some of the militants transit through Singapore in the hope of eluding authorities by taking multiple hops to their final destinations in the Middle East, he said.

Just three months ago, he said Singapore caught four Indonesian travelers linked to IS while they were on the island and handed them back to Indonesia’s counter-terrorism police.

Also in November last year, two other Indonesian men who planned to travel to Syria were held, he said.


Ng called for security forces, including militaries of individual countries, to combat terrorism "rigorously."

"The threat will grow if terrorist groups become more organized to mount sophisticated, large-scale attacks with deadlier weapons," he said. "Collectively, we must work closely together to build up joint responses, and strengthen intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance efforts."

About 30 terrorist groups in the region have publicly pledged allegiance to IS, including Abu Sayyaf in Southern Philippines and Jamaah Ansharud Daulah (JAD), which conducted the Jakarta bombing with IS funding.

In Malaysia, 14 suspected IS militants were recently arrested during a four-day operation across five states. Several personnel from the Malaysian Armed Forces, including two commandos, have also been found to have links with the group.

Hishammuddin cautioned that countries combating terrorism should realize that IS was not the usual terrorist group they had been used to dealing with.

"DAESH is not al-Qaeda," he said, using an Arabic acronym for IS. "They differ in their goals but are partly rooted in their histories."

Hishammuddin said that terror organizations like al-Qaeda had only hundreds of active cells, could not directly confront military forces, preyed on civilians and most importantly, did not claim control of territories.

"On the other hand, DAESH asserts control over vast amounts of oil-rich land which has allowed the group to build a self-sustaining financial model, unthinkable for most terrorist groups," he said.

At present, IS boasted more than 31,000 fighters with extensive military capabilities engaging in sophisticated operations while controlling lines of vital communication and commanding infrastructure, he said.

"This is why conventional counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency strategies have not and will never work against DAESH," the Malaysian minister said.

"We need to agree on a comprehensive plan to defeat DAESH – and the plan needs to involve greater cooperation of all parties including, but not limited to the military," he said. "Destroying it could very well be the greatest challenge of our generation."


In a report released at the conference, organized by British think tank the International Institute for Strategic Studies and the Singaporean government, IISS said there were growing fears of jihadist violence in Indonesia since IS's January 2016 deadly attack in Jakarta.

Analysts believe that further attacks could be driven by competition between pro-IS groups in the country or between Indonesian IS factions based in Syria, according to the “Asia-Pacific Regional Security Assessment 2016: Key Developments and Trends.”

"It is also possible that a rivalry will develop between jihadists in Indonesia and those in the southern Philippines, who may seek to curry favor with the central leadership in Syria and to showcase their territory as the potential site of an ISIS wilayat (province) in Southeast Asia," the report said.

It also raised the possibility of IS attacks in Malaysia.

"Activity by Malaysian jihadists has also increased steadily, resulting in speculation that they will soon stage an attack there," it said.

This concern, it said, prompted the Australian, New Zealand and British governments to issue travel warnings in February 2016, naming Kuala Lumpur and the east Malaysian state of Sabah as high-risk areas.


Umar Patek: There should be no jihad in Indonesia (Interview excerpts)

From Tempo.Co (Jun 7): Umar Patek: There should be no jihad in Indonesia

TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - With his flaming red hair and grinning face, Umar Patek greeted Tempo at Surabaya's maximum correctional facility in Porong, Sidoardjo, East Java, three weeks ago. He was allowed out of his cell in Block F to meet us at the visitors' room.

Convicted for crimes of terrorism, Umar, 49, who has many aliases, was prominently mentioned last May as having played a role in the release of 10 Indonesians held hostage by the Abu Sayyaf armed separatist group in the Philippines. Umar claimed to have offered his services in negotiating for the release of the hostages, crew members of the Brahma 12 tug boat. "I wanted to help because they were my fellow compatriots. Everything I did was above board, I asked no pre-conditions," said Umar Patek, whose real name is Hisyam bin Ali Zein.

Umar himself was once a fugitive, hunted by the governments of the United States and the Philippines. The US even offered a prize of US$1 million for his capture. He was eventually caught by the Pakistani authorities at Abbottabad on January 25, 2011 and extradited to Indonesia on August 11 of that year.

Umar was tried and sentenced to 20 years in prison after being found guilty of taking part in the first Bali bombing. He was the one who assembled the bomb used by Imam Samudra and his cohorts to destroy Paddy's Pub and the Sari Club at Kuta, on October 12, 2002.

He has served five years of his sentence, and claims not to have changed his views. He still believes that what he had done was the right thing, except for the first Bali bombing. "I became what I am through a long process, from lots of reading and taking part in jihads (struggle) overseas," said Umar.

During the interview with Tempo reporters Tika Primandari and Nur Hadi, he was accompanied by Prasetyo, the correctional facility's chief warden and some of his staff. He explained his involvement in the release of the hostages, why he embarked on the jihad road and shared his views on the ideology of the Islamic States of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

* * * *

Were you asked to mediate with the Abu Sayyaf group for the release of Indonesians they held hostage? 

No, I was not asked. I offered my services because I know and understand them. I wanted to mediate with them. I felt confident I could do it. I made the offer, and it was up to them (authorities) whether to accept or reject it.

Is it true that in exchange, you asked for a 10-year reduction on your sentence? 

Totally untrue, that's slander. I wanted to help because I was concerned about my fellow Indonesian citizens. Everything was above board, without any pre-conditions. The person who made those charges must not have come here with a number of the government's representatives, who came to to ask what I knew about the Abu Sayyaf group. But I understand how that slanderous came about (although he asked that his explanation not be published).

How close were you to the Abu Sayyaf group? 

I joined them when Al-Habsi Misaya (Abu Sayyaf leader) was still part of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF). One year later, he joined the Abu Sayyaf and he was actually my subordinate. There was also a prominent figure known as Jim Dragon, whom I got to know quite well. He is the most senior and was made the leader because most of his followers were young people. The other day, when the government representatives came here, I told them about how to get to them.

What do you mean?

Al-Habsi Misaya originally comes from Parang, the same village as the third wife of Nur Misuari (MNLF leader), so they're quite close. I advised the government people to use this channel, to approach Nur Misuari's third wife.

Was your advice taken?

When I read the chronology of the release, it seems that my advice was taken, because the location of their release was in Parang.

What is the Abu Sayyaf group like?

Their objective is to kidnap and demand ransom money. So they are unlikely to harm the hostages, except if any (hostage) tried to escape. Anyway, the hostages were afraid to flee because the area (where they were kept) is quite difficult. When I took my military training in the Philippines, I saw how members of the group treated hostages. They are not cruel people. In fact, they shared whatever they ate with the hostages. I have to admit that this group is really good at taking people hostage from the middle of the sea. I once saw them kidnap an American from Simpadan Island in Malaysia, and brought him back to Sulu, their base camp. The area over there is good for military training.

Why did you decide to train in the Philippines?

I wanted to help them in their struggle to regain their homeland, taken over by the Philippines. The historical background of (southern) Philippines is similar to that of Palestine. I've always wanted to fight in Palestine. I started in the Philippines in 1992, a year after I was in Afghanistan, where I met and fought with Abu Sayyaf mujahidin. Besides wanting to help my brothers, I also wanted to carry out the mandate of our 1945 Constitution. Its preamble clearly states that all forms of occupation on the face of the earth must be eliminated. That's the basic reason why I carry out my jihad.

After five years of rehabilitation in prison, have you changed your mind about jihad

If it's the way I think about my beliefs, there's no change. I became what I am through a long process, of having read a lot and fought overseas, and I still believe that what I did was the right thing to do, except for the Bali bombing. I regret having been involved in that incident because so many of the victims were Hindus, Buddhists and even Muslims. When something like that happens, who should be accountable for in the hereafter? These days, I think a lot about how I will explain it later on.

You say you disapproved of the Bali bombing, yet you took part any way.

When I joined, 90 percent of the plan was already being completed. So, whether I was in or not, the plan would have gone ahead. I shared my concern with my associates, because I believe that suicide bombing is a cowardly act. The reason for the bombing was to avenge the killing of Muslims in Palestine. I told them that if they wanted revenge, they should go to Palestine and carry out the bombing there.

But your concerns were not heeded?

Yes. They went ahead with the plan, so like it or not, I went along because at that time, I respected Mukhlas and Dulmatin (the other Bali bombers). They were my seniors who had helped me a lot. I thought that it would be better to shoot directly at the targets, and in that way, prevented the spread of the loss of lives. That was my suggestion from the technical aspect, apart of whether I approved or not the plan. (*)

Read the full interview in this week's edition of Tempo English Magazine


Southeast Asia Takes ‘Mini-Lateral’ Approach to Maritime Security

From World Politics Review (Jun 7): Southeast Asia Takes ‘Mini-Lateral’ Approach to Maritime Security

Last month, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines agreed to begin coordinated patrols to improve maritime security after an increase in kidnappings at sea by the Filipino militant group Abu Sayyaf. In an email interview, Collin Koh, a research fellow at the Maritime Security Programme at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore, discussed maritime security cooperation in Southeast Asia.

WPR: How extensive is maritime security cooperation among Southeast Asian nations, and what efforts are underway to expand cooperation?

Collin Koh: Maritime security cooperation among Southeast Asian countries remains primarily bilateral, which makes sense since countries in the region have varying threat perceptions and resource capacities. In the past decade, countries have gravitated toward so-called mini-lateral frameworks—coalitions of a few neighbors coalescing around a particular, common maritime security problem that does not require a broader, multilateral level of participation. These coalitions are better focused and take into account the region’s unique geostrategic and geopolitical contexts.

The first such experiment is the Malacca Straits Patrols (MSP), which brings together Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand to fight piracy and robbery in the Straits of Malacca and Singapore. ASEAN governments are also expanding the scope of their cooperation beyond collective maritime actions. For example, Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam successfully conducted joint investigations following the hijacking of the tanker MT Orkim Harmony in June 2015. Countries in the region have also worked to improve information-sharing, a key reason behind the successful resolution of several recent ship hijackings. New initiatives have been proposed recently, including expanding the MSP to include more ASEAN members, and extending the patrols to the southern reaches of the South China Sea. But countries are considering these proposals cautiously given intra-regional political sensitivities.

Nonetheless, the recent declaration by Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines to undertake joint patrols in the Sulu Sea and Celebes Sea, which is also known as the Sulawesi Sea, after a spate of ship hijackings and crew kidnappings by armed militants shows that Southeast Asian governments are willing to unite and tackle common maritime security problems together.

WPR: What are the main maritime security threats in Southeast Asia, and how effective are current efforts to tackle these threats?

Koh: It is important to begin with the notion that Southeast Asia is a diverse region, where different countries possess varying perceptions of the multitude of maritime security threats. Indonesia would view illegal fishing as the primary maritime security concern, Malaysia smuggling, Singapore maritime terrorism, and the Philippines and Vietnam the South China Sea disputes. Nonetheless, because of the interconnectedness of Southeast Asia’s maritime geography and strong regional economic interdependence, certain transnational maritime security threats become common concerns for subregions within Southeast Asia.

Most recently, the threat of maritime terrorism has increased in Southeast Asia, in large part because of the rise of militancy that is now also attributed to the Islamic State, whose influence has expanded into the region. Some senior ASEAN naval officers have described this insidious threat as the most difficult to counter. In order to fight extremism, regional governments have demonstrated greater willingness to share intelligence and refine the level of interoperability between their security agencies—and taken steps to do so. The effectiveness of these efforts is yet to be proven, but more collective action between Southeast Asian countries does deter potential terrorists and reassures other stakeholders, especially the shipping industry.

WPR: What more needs to be done to address maritime security in Southeast Asia, and what can regional powers and international partners do to support current efforts?

Koh: ASEAN governments could adopt a more active, instead of reactive, posture in tackling ever-evolving maritime security threats. To this end, they can build on existing successful initiatives to expand intra-regional participation and pool resources more effectively and efficiently. The proposed expansion of MSP is a step in the right direction. Information-sharing, intelligence exchanges and joint training and exercises should continue, but they are currently insufficient.

But intra-regional political sensitivities will remain for the foreseeable future, and any new maritime security initiatives will need to be rolled out carefully. This means that ASEAN governments will not radically change how they formulate and implement maritime cooperation programs. As such, national-level initiatives to address maritime security issues will continue to dominate, putting the onus on national governments to improve their maritime security capacities. Training and technical assistance from regional powers and international partners is key to these capacity-building efforts. Not only do such forms of assistance allow international partners to avoid getting entangled in the geopolitical minefields of Southeast Asia, they also contribute to empowering ASEAN governments to better manage their internal and regional affairs.


Anticipate a Globalized Islamist Virtual Gangster Cult

From the Middle East Online (Jun 7): Anticipate a Globalized Islamist Virtual Gangster Cult

The challenge of identifying and containing Islamic State members in Europe or elsewhere who may be planning terror attacks is much more difficult today than was the (ongoing) counter-terrorism fight against Al-Qaeda, notes Rami G. Khouri.
BEIRUT — Ever since the “Islamic State” (IS, or Daesh) proclaimed itself two years ago in Raqqa and Mosul as the nucleus of a modern Islamic caliphate, it has told its followers that it will endure and expand. I have always seen the IS territorial phenomenon, to the contrary, as transient and temporary. It would only last until its many enemies coordinated military attacks against it, as has now begun with multiple military attacks on IS in Syria, Iraq, and Libya. The “state” in “Islamic State” will collapse — but IS will not disappear. 
This is because territory might not be the most profound dimension of IS in the long term, as it has been in its inaugural past two years; rather, it might be the power of identity and the related issue of geographically dispersed political allegiance. In other words, what matters to IS and will allow it to persist for some time is the shared mindset of a large number of people around the world — from hundreds of thousands to perhaps a few million — who have lost confidence in their existing political, religious, and socio-economic institutions, and find in IS the alternative that gives meaning to their lives now and in the ever after. 
IS came into being in several different forms and names during the past ten years. Henceforth, it might persist in the form of many diverse and dispersed followers who operate in a highly personalized and decentralized manner around the world. No longer a formal caliphate with state institutions, IS may soon operate as the world’s largest Islamist virtual fringe gangster cult. 
Troubling signs keep emerging around the world of how IS is decentralizing and anchoring itself in small groups that operate locally, often with little or no knowledge of each other, as we learned in Europe recently. A new NBC television news report quoted a senior Belgian official saying that around 100 IS fighters have returned to Belgium after battlefield experience and training in Syria, and they may be planning new terror attacks. 
A parallel sign of concerns in Europe was this week’s news that 82 workers hired to strengthen security systems for the Euro 2016 football championships this month reportedly were found to be listed on French terror watch lists. If this is true, and even just a few of those on watch lists are activists with IS or other violent groups, this spells trouble ahead. The European Union’s top police officer, Europol director Rob Wainwright, anticipates a “high threat” of an IS terror attack at Euro 2016. 
The challenge of identifying and containing IS members in Europe or elsewhere who may be planning terror attacks is much more difficult today than was the (ongoing) counter-terrorism fight against Al-Qaeda during the past quarter century, for two main reasons. Deteriorating economic and political conditions in dozens of countries expands the pool of recruits, and, thousands of European recruits who have been thoroughly trained, indoctrinated, and given battlefield experience in the “Islamic State” return home with greater capabilities than earlier waves of terrorists. 
One operational key for them is to operate in small groups that are not necessarily linked to larger networks, it seems. In Lebanon last week it was revealed that three small groups of IS operatives were detained in three different parts of the country before they could carry out planned attacks. Each cell reportedly did not know of the existence of the others, which means other cells probably remain in place. The good news is that Lebanese and international intelligence and police surveillance systems are becoming increasingly efficient. 
This is a global problem. The Singapore Defence Minister said this week that in the past three years IS has recruited more militants in the member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) than Al-Qaeda did in the previous decade. He estimated that over 1000 fighters from ASEAN have been to Iraq and Syria, and many who return home maintain ideological links with IS. 
Radical local groups like Abu Sayyaf have operated in ASEAN lands for decades, and reports from the Philippines talk of the likelihood of another IS “emirate” being declared there soon. IS affiliates operate across parts of central and north Africa. How will thousands of members of such groups in vulnerable regions of the world react when IS’s heartland in Syria-Iraq is dismantled soon? Will they emulate Al-Qaeda’s ability, after its bases were shattered in Afghanistan, to persist and occasionally expand in propitious local conditions of chaos and warfare? 
This long war will not be won through military defeats of the enemy. It will be won when we give hundreds of millions of people an opportunity to live a decent life in their home communities, without corrupt domestic dictators, neighboring colonizers, or foreign armies attacking them. No appreciable progress has been made on this critical front of the real war on terror, which attacks and removes terrorism’s roots, rather than smashing its symptoms to only scatter them around the world where they sprout again in fertile lands, watered by dictators, colonizers, and invading foreign armies.
Rami G. Khouri is published twice weekly in the Daily Star. He was founding director and now senior policy fellow of the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs at the American University of Beirut. Follow him on Twitter @ramikhouri.


PMA cadet dies of heat exhaustion

From Tempo (Jun 7): PMA cadet dies of heat exhaustion

A 19-year-old Philippine Military Academy (PMA) cadet died of heat exhaustion while on road run inside Marine Base Gregorio Lim in Ternate, Cavite last week, the military said Monday.

A military statement identified the victim as Cadet Fourth Class John Benedict C. Margin, from Binangonan, Rizal.

Members of the Cadet Corps of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (CCAFP) were at the Marine Base Gregorio Lim for the annual Joint Field Training Exercise (JFTX) as a culmination of their military summer class that started May 29 until June 6.

On May 30, members of the Cadet Corps who went on road run were already heading back to their bivouac area when Margin collapsed at around 4:45 p.m., the military statement said.

“He was immediately attended to by the medical team following the road run and was brought to the medical dispensary of the Marine base,” it added.


DVIDS: Engineers renovate schools during Balikatan

From DVIDS (Jun 6): Engineers renovate schools during Balikatan

Engineers renovate schools during Balikatan

PHILIPPINES - Soldiers from the 643rd Engineer Company, 84th Engineer Battalion, 130th Engineer Brigade, 8th Theater Sustainment Command, spent March and April participating in the Balikatan 2016 exercise alongside the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). The 30 engineers worked on the islands of Palawan and Panay as part of the Engineer Civil Action Project (ENCAP) portion of the exercise, working to renovate local school buildings and build a new pavilion.

Soldiers from the 643rd Engineer Company, 84th Engineer Battalion, 130th Engineer Brigade, 8th Theater Sustainment Command, spent March and April participating in the Balikatan 2016 exercise alongside the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

The 30 engineers worked on the islands of Palawan and Panay as part of the Engineer Civil Action Project (ENCAP) portion of the exercise, working to renovate local school buildings and build a new pavilion.

Balikatan is an annual military exercise between the AFP and the United States, now in its 32nd year and including all four U.S. services conducting tactical training and humanitarian civic assistance projects in order to continue to build upon the strong relationship between the two

 The engineers split into two teams with 20 going to work in Puerto Princesa on the island of Palawan. There the team worked alongside 15 Filipino Seabees at the Matahimik Bucana Elementary School to build a concrete pavilion. The school serves 350 students in a rural area outside Puerto Princesa and experiences serious flooding in the recess area during the rainy season.

“The AFP Seabees were very knowledgeable about construction and getting more done with less” said Pfc. Austin Vangordon.

The other 10 Engineers worked on the island of Panay alongside Filipino Seabees, Australian Soldiers, and U.S. Seabees, Marines and Airmen to renovate two existing school buildings.

“We were able to connect with the students and teachers of Matanghron Elementary School and put a new roof on one of their buildings. We also built showers and fixed up their plumbing to help improve the sanitation at the school,” said Sgt. David Horton, the Army NCOIC on the Matanghron site.

“The Marines, Airmen, and Seabees were very professional and I enjoyed working with them,” said Spc. Kevin Reyes. “It was a good experience seeing engineers from across the services in action working together as one big team.”

The mission wouldn’t have been complete without involvement from the community. On Palawan, teachers and parents from the school volunteered their time to help paint the pavilion. Over a dozen people came to help and ensured the mission would be an experience the Soldiers would never forget.

“This was my first time traveling outside the U.S. and it was an amazing experience working alongside the AFP to help the students, teachers and parents of the Matahimik Bucana Elementary School. I’d jump at the chance to do it again and recommend other Soldiers look for opportunities like this,” said Pfc. Casey Nelson.


In Beijing, John Kerry Calls For Peaceful South China Sea Resolution

From Forbes (Jun 7): In Beijing, John Kerry Calls For Peaceful South China Sea Resolution

On Monday, more Sino-U.S. relations rhetoric hit the news cycle, but much of it is the same that we’ve heard before. At the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue in Beijing, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry pressed China over its recent actions in the South China Sea, while U.S. Trade Secretary Jack Lew urged China to stop dumping foreign markets with excess steel.

“The United States will make it clear that we are looking for a peaceful resolution to …  the disputes of the South China Sea,” Kerry said in opening remarks. “Let’s not resolve this by unilateral action; let’s resolve this through rule of law, through diplomacy, through negotiation. And we urge all nations to find a diplomatic solution, rooted in international standards and rule of law,” he said.

US Secretary of State John Kerry attends the US – China High Level Consultation on People to People Exchange at the National Museum in Beijing, June 7, 2016. (Photo credit SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
Kerry’s remarks come as tensions in the South China Sea continue to escalate amid Beijing’s land reclamation activities and artificial island building on disputed reefs, islets, shoals and structures in the troubled body of water. China, which claims more than 80% of the South China Sea, based in large part on historical ownership, plays its hand cleverly against a national sovereignty narrative that appeals to growing Chinese nationalism.
Vietnam, however, recently discovered maps to cast even more doubt over Beijing’s South China Sea claims. The Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam have competing claims in the Sea, which encompasses vital global shipping routes and is believed to have significant oil and gas deposits. More than $5 trillion in trade (including vital oil and liquefied natural gas (LNG) to Japan, South Korea and Taiwan) passes through the South China Sea each year.

The U.S. for its part, though not a claimant in the South China Sea and arguing that it does not take sides in its disputes, has a long-standing mutual defense treaty with former U.S. Commonwealth the Philippines, which lost effective control over Scarborough Shoal, just 140 nautical miles from Manila and well within its U.N. mandated 200-nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), in 2012 after a two month standoff between a Philippine naval vessel and Chinese maritime vessels.

Though this wasn’t addressed at the meeting on Monday, U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash carter did bring it up on Saturday at a security summit in Shanghai: What would the U.S. do if China starts land reclamation activities on Scarborough Shoal?

“I hope that this development doesn’t occur because it will result in actions being taken both by the United States, and actions being taken by others in the region that will have the effect of not only increasing tensions but isolating China,” Carter said when asked about Scarborough Shoal in a forum also attended by senior Chinese military officials.

Though Carter declined to mention what steps the U.S. would take, in a recent article I proposed that the U.S. help the Philippines and even Vietnam with its own land reclamation activities in the South China Sea to counter China’s obvious goal of controlling most of the body of water. Though this would be off the table for the Obama Administration with just a few months left in office, a new more robust president coming into office might be inclined to consider such a proposal.

Interestingly, in April the Navy Times reported that the U.S. military’s top commander in the Pacific, Adm. Harry Harris, has been arguing behind closed doors for a more confrontational approach to counter and reverse China’s strategic gains in the South China Sea. The report added that his appeals have met resistance from the White House at nearly every turn. Either, Clinton or Trump might actually consider the Admiral’s advice.

Adm. Harry Harris, commander of United States Pacific Command attends during a change-of-command ceremony at the Yonsan U.S. army base on April 30, 2016 in Seoul, South Korea. Brooks will succeed Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, who had led 28,500 U.S. troops stationed in South Korea. (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)

Hague ruling coming in weeks

Also, the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague is expected to rule on the Philippines’ South China Sea case brought against China in the next few weeks.
This is when things will get interesting. China has already stated that it will not abide by a negative ruling issued by The Hague. Of course, in the court of world public opinion Beijing is already losing and a negative ruling against its dubious claims will take even more damage control than Beijing has had to muster so far to justify its aggressive land grabbing actions.

However, Beijing also surely recognizes that the next president, whether it be a President Hillary Clinton or a President Donald J. Trump, will take a harder line over its South China Sea actions.

Also, on Monday Taiwan’s Defense Minister Feng Shih-kuan said that Taiwan would not recognize any air-defense identification zone (ADIZ) set up by Beijing over the South China Sea. Though Beijing hasn’t said that it would declare such a zone, some believe that Beijing may be provoked to do so if The Hague rules in favor of the Philippines. ”We will not recognize any ADIZ by China,” Taiwan Defense Minister Feng Shih-kuan told lawmakers in parliament.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Sunday the U.S. would consider a Chinese air defense zone over the South China Sea “provocative and destabilizing.”

However, provocative or destabilizing behavior hasn’t deterred China so far. In 2013, Beijing declared an ADIZ over the East China Sea. China and Japan have disputed claims in the East China Sea.

Whatever course of action Beijing takes will likely meet with backlash from the U.S., rival South China Sea claimants and most of the international community. Yet, Beijing may also push the envelope as much as it can in the next few months in anticipation of a stronger incoming U.S. president in January.

If Beijing does indeed start land reclamation activities at Scarborough Shoal and does enact an ADIZ over the South China Sea, it will have upped the ante once again in the troubled body of water, and it will be mostly up to the U.S. to call Beijing’s bluff.


Editorial: In search of peace with CPP, NPA, NDFP

Editorial from Tempo (Jun 7): Editorial: In search of peace with CPP, NPA, NDFP

AMONG the changes the nation is looking forward to as the Duterte administration begins its term is an end to the decades-long rebellion of the New People’s Army (NPA). The outgoing Aquino administration sought to end the Moro conflict in Mindanao with peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) but made no effort to reach out to the NPA. Incoming President Rodrigo Duterte has now made peace with the NPA part of his program of action.
President-elect Duterte offered cabinet positions to the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its fighting arm the NPA and its political front the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), including the Department of Labor and Employment, the Department of Social Welfare and Development, the Department of Agrarian Reform, and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. CPP founder Jose Ma. Sison, now living in exile in Utrecht, Netherlands, said they would make recommendations for the positions.
In an interview the other day, Sison spoke out on one issue that has come up as the June 30 inauguration of President Duterte nears. He said he would not mind having former President Ferdinand Marcos buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani, as anyway there are many already buried there who are not heroes or bayani. Duterte had earlier said Marcos, whose remains are now preserved in Ilocos Norte, may finally be buried at the Libingan as he was a soldier who served his country.
There are, however, other, more serious issues that stand between the CPP and the Philippine government that will not be so easily resolved. Last week, the new government’s incoming peace negotiator Silvestre Bello III noted a statement issued by NDF chief negotiator Fidel Agcaoili that the NDF will insist that the Philippine government junk the country’s military treaties with the United States – in particular the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).
While the Senate in 1991 voted against the continued stay of US bases in the country, the Philippine government has allowed US troops to come under the Visiting Forces Agreement for joint exercises as well as humanitarian projects.
Under EDCA, the most recent agreement last March, US forces were granted access to five Philippine bases. In these bases, the US may erect structures in which to store equipment and supplies for use in joint training exercises, jungle survival, and guerrilla warfare, and to station civilian and military personnel and defense contractors.
Agcaoili said the demand is “non-negotiable,” to which Bello responded, “We will see if we can find a new track of negotiation in which key issues would be discussed….” Duterte himself commented that the Philippines will not rely on the US in dealing with China on their South China Sea dispute, but the Philippines, he said, will remain “an ally of the West.”
Perhaps Sison, who is coming within the next three months, can help find this new track of negotiation and add his voice to all those seeking peace, without taking immovable non-negotiable positions, and willing to explore new areas for possible compromise and eventual agreement.

DWDD: CARAT | RP and US Navies train together to address shared maritime concern

From DWDD AFP Civil Relations Service Radio Website (Jun 7): CARAT | RP and US Navies train together to address shared maritime concern

SULU SEA (June 5, 2016) – The forward-deployed Whidbey Island Class dock landing ship USS Ashland (LSD 48) cruises the Sulu Sea while conducting a formation exercise with USS Stethem (DDG 63) and BRP Gregorio Del Pilar (PF 15) in support of exercise Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training. CARAT is a series of annual, bilateral maritime exercises between the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and the armed forces of nine partner nations to include Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, Thailand and Timor-Leste. The Ashland is assigned to the U.S. 7th Fleet. (U.S. Navy photo by Lance Cpl. Carl King Jr/. Released)

SULU SEA (June 5, 2016) – The forward-deployed Whidbey Island Class dock landing ship USS Ashland (LSD 48) cruises the Sulu Sea while conducting a formation exercise with USS Stethem (DDG 63) and BRP Gregorio Del Pilar (PF 15) in support of exercise Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training. CARAT is a series of annual, bilateral maritime exercises between the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and the armed forces of nine partner nations to include Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, Thailand and Timor-Leste. The Ashland is assigned to the U.S. 7th Fleet.  (U.S. Navy photo by Lance Cpl. Carl King Jr/. Released)

An annual bilateral maritime exercise between the Philippine Navy (PN) and the United States Navy (USN) starts today, June 6 until June 10, 2016, in various areas of Olongapo City, Palawan and in the vicinity of Luzon and Sulu Sea.
Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) 2016 aims to conduct combined naval operations in order to enhance interoperability between the PN and USN forces.
Furthermore, it will strengthen both navies’ combined capabilities in surface and modern naval warfare, amphibious operations, and special operations; enhance situational awareness and information sharing, and will promote partnership and goodwill.
“CARAT strengthens the strong and enduring relationships between the U.S. and Philippine navies,” said Rear Adm. Ronald Joseph S. Mercado AFP, commander, Philippine Fleet.  “We’re looking forward to working along-side our U.S. Navy partners during CARAT 2016,” he added.
The exercise will involve at-sea and in-port events designed for subject matter exchange, individual and unit training, and engagement with the local community.
 PN and USN will exchange best practices and share information during multiple professional exchanges and seminars ashore.  They will also conduct civic action projects, community service events and joint band concerts to allow our forces to interact with the local community.
In-port activities will take place in different areas of Olongapo City and Zambales while at sea events will be in the waters and airspace of the Sulu and Luzon Sea.
“CARAT enables us to develop strong relationships with our Philippine Navy and Marine partners,” said Rear Adm. Charles Williams, Commander, Task Force 73.  “Through persistent presence and relationships, we continue to make steady progress in increasing the complexity of our training and enhancing cooperation between our navies.”
Participating forces from the PN include the Minesweeper Frigate BRP Rizal (PS74), the Del Pilar Class Frigate BRP Gregorio Del Pilar (PF-15), a Landing Craft Heavy vessel, an AW109 helicopter, an Islander aircraft, an EOD Team, a Diving Team, one mobile Construction Team, a Marine Company and the Seabees Combo.
Meanwhile, U.S. participating units and platforms include the guided-missile destroyer USS Stethem (DDG 63), the landing dock ship USS Ashland (LSD 48), and the diving and salvage ship USNS Salvor (T-ARS-52), along with a P-8 Poseidon aircraft, Navy expeditionary forces, Marines assigned to the III Marine Expeditionary Force – 3rd Marine Division, a platoon from Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit (EODMU) 5, staff from Commander, Task Force 73 (CTF 73) and Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 7, and the 7th Fleet Band Orient Express.
 CARAT helps our navies respond efficiently and effectively to natural and manmade disasters, which occur frequently in this region and are often beyond the resources of any single nation.

PH urged to build 'int'l consensus' amid China defiance

From Rappler (Jun 6): PH urged to build 'int'l consensus' amid China defiance

China should understand 'that not acknowledging the rule of law is against its own national security and national economic interests,' an analyst says

PROTEST VS CHINA. Filipino students on March 3, 2016, stage a protest in Manila, Philippines, against China's aggression in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea). File photo by Mark Cristino/EPA

PROTEST VS CHINA. Filipino students on March 3, 2016, stage a protest in Manila, Philippines, against China's aggression in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea). File photo by Mark Cristino/EPA

The Philippines should build "international consensus" to pressure China to abide by a possible ruling in favor of Manila in a historic case over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

Ernest Bower, senior adviser at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), made this recommendation when sought for comment on Monday, June 6.
"I think the Filipinos should try to do that and try to build an international consensus for China to abide by the ruling," Bower said on the sidelines of a forum organized by the University of the Philippines Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea.
Bower was responding to a question on possible scenarios if an arbitral tribunal based in The Hague, Netherlands, soon issues a ruling that favors the Philippines.
He said that in case of a favorable ruling, Filipinos should mount "an international effort to immediately respond and support the ruling and the rule of law in the South China Sea."
If needed, he said the Philippines "should then take the case" to the United Nations (UN) General Assembly.
Bower cited the example of Nicaragua, which defeated the US in a landmark case before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in June 1986.
Back then, the US refused to heed the ICJ ruling. In reaction, Nicaragua petitioned the UN to force the US to follow the ICJ.
'China might change'
The UN acted in favor of Nicaragua. In November 1986, the UN General Assembly made an urgent call for the "full and immediate compliance" with the ICJ ruling.
Incidentally, Nicaragua's lawyer in this case was Paul Reichler, the Philippines' lead counsel against China in its pending case over the West Philippine Sea.
Bower said the Philippines can follow Nicaragua's lead in bringing the case to the UN if China snubs the Hague tribunal's ruling.
In any case, he said, China should understand "that not acknowledging the rule of law is against its own national security and national economic interests."
"And when China believes that, because the rest of the world is supporting the decision and is pressuring China to abide by the law, then China might change," Bower said.
China, however, has repeatedly rejected the arbitration proceedings at The Hague. The Asian giant has said it prefers bilateral or one-on-one talks with the Philippines.
Philippine President-elect Rodrigo Duterte has said he is open to bilateral talks with China, but only after having explored a multilateral set-up, which involves a 3rd party, in 3 or 4 years.
China has resisted 3rd-party involvement in the dispute, saying the issue should be resolved only by the parties directly involved.