Wednesday, June 8, 2016

BRP Gregorio Velasquez to arrive in Manila Wednesday

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 8): BRP Gregorio Velasquez to arrive in Manila Wednesday

The Philippine Navy (PN)'s first survey ship, the BRP Gregori Velasquez (AGR-702), is expected to arrive in Manila anytime Wednesday.

This was stressed by PN spokesperson Capt. Lued Lincuna in a message to the PNA.

"BRP Gregorio Velasquez departed from Guam last June 2 and is expected to arrive in Manila (anytime) June 8. She will then anchor at her designated area and her crew will undergo Customs Immigration and Quarantine before docking on Pier 13 on June 10," he added.

Shortly afterwards, the ship will be honored in an arrival ceremony.

The BRP Gregorio Velasquez arrived in Guam last May 28. She left San Diego, California last April 26 after being formally transferred to the PN.

Aside from helping map the country's vast maritime domains, the BRP Gregorio Velasquez (formerly the US research vessel Melville) will also help develop the PN's anti-submarine warfare (ASW) capability.

"Aside from its primary mission, AGR-702 would also be a valuable platform in reviewing our anti-submarine warfare capability," he said.

Lincuna did not give specifics on this but the PN is in the process of developing its ASW capability after signing a contract to acquire two AW-159 "Wildcat" anti-submarine helicopters with AgustaWestland last March.

The contract is worth PHP5.360 billion, lower than the stated PHP5.4 billion.

These helicopters are expected to be deployed among the PN's large ships which include the two Gregorio Del Pilar-class frigates and incoming two strategic sealift vessels, of which one is expected to be delivered this month, and the BRP Gregorio Velasquez.

Lincuna said the acquisition of the latter ship also aims to address the issues in terms of marine scientific researches/surveys and to gather marine scientific data beneficial to naval operations.

"Also, said vessel will enhance capacity and build capability to support the environmental protection efforts and exploration of the country for economic purpose," he added.

She is the country's first oceanographic research vessel.

The BRP Gregorio Velasquez is being manned by a crew of 50 Filipino officers and enlisted personnel who have undergone familiarization and orientation training on various systems of the ship since last March.

"Said vessel is one of the two ships pledged by the President of the United States of America, Barack H. Obama to donate to the Philippines during his visit in APEC Leader’s Summit last November 2015," Lincuna stressed.

He said the research vessel will not only provide the PN capability for hydrographic survey but platform for inter-agency collaboration for partners in the academe and thus improve awareness of the Philippine sub-surface environment.

Per policy, auxiliary research vessels are to be named after national scientists, hence her namesake, Dr. Gregorio Velasquez, a pioneer in Philippine physiology.

Velasquez was elected as academician on 1978 and conferred as National Scientist on 1982.

He was conferred with a Distinguished Science Medal and Diploma of Honor from the Republic of the Philippines (1956), the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship (1956-57), Men of Science, Division of Biological Sciences in1969, World's Who's Who in Sciences in 1970 and the Republic of the Philippines Cultural Heritage award in 1972.

PHL needs shipshape Coast Guard to secure maritime possessions

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 8): PHL needs shipshape Coast Guard to secure maritime possessions

The country needs a shipshape Coast Guard to fully secure its maritime possession in the West Philippine Sea.

This was stressed by Gregory B. Poling, Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative Center for Strategic and International Studies, during a chance interview Tuesday.

The latter was one of the speakers in the forum titled "Asia-Pacific Perspectives on Implementing the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement” and it was held at the National Defense College of the Philippines, Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

"Well the response has to be surface ships, Coast Guard vessels, law enforcement. Anything that happens out there is going to be at least a first a law enforcement issue. The Chinese aren't moving with military assets," Poling said.

This move is essential to prevent the situation from escalating.

"They're moving with fishing para-military troops and Coast Guard vessels. So the Philippines' top need right now is the development of a reliable Coast Guard," Poling said.

The maritime expert also stressed the need for the Philippines to build up its Navy for credible deterrence.

"The navy is a long-term investment. The Coast Guard is today's need," he added.

AFP to participate in 118th Independence Day celebrations

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 8): AFP to participate in 118th Independence Day celebrations

With the country's celebration of its 118th Independence Day on Sunday, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Wednesday announced the conduct of activities highlighting the bravery of all our heroes and commitment of the Filipino soldiers in preserving the country’s freedom.

"For over a century, our revolutionary forefathers showed great bravery, cooperation, and 'Bayanihan' to achieve the independence that we have today. The Armed Forces are encouraging more Filipinos to show patriotism to our country, and join the ranks of our brave and honorable men and women in uniform," AFP public affairs office chief Col. Noel Detoyato said.

Under the theme, “Kalayaan 2016: Pagkakaisa, Pag-aambagan, at Pagsulong” the celebration will feature the traditional Civic Military Parade at the Quirino Grandstand in Luneta Park, Manila.

The AFP Civil Relations Service will also have a MUSIKALAYAAN Concert at the Open Air Auditorium, Luneta Park on Saturday at 5:00 p.m.

While the Major Services Combo Bands together with bands from the Philippine National Police, Philippine Coast Guard, Bureau of Fire Protection and Bureau of Jail Management and Penology will be performing in this one-day concert.

The AFP Static and Kinetic Display will be at the Lapu-Lapu Area, Luneta Park on Sunday, 8:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.

The different capabilities of the AFP will be displayed in this event.

PHL should prioritize acquisition of more patrol planes

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 8): PHL should prioritize acquisition of more patrol planes

In order to fully secure its maritime possessions, the Philippine needs to acquire more patrol aircraft.

This was stressed by Gregory B. Poling, Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative Center for Strategic and International Studies, during a chance interview Tuesday.

"The number one need of the Philippines is maritime domain (awareness assets), the patrol craft are more important than combat aircraft at the moment," he added.

Poling said this is because the pressing need of Philippine military and defense officials is knowing what Chinese are doing.

"The immediate problem is not getting into air-to-air combat with the Chinese, it's knowing what the Chinese are doing. So (while) an FA-50 (a South Korean light interim jet aircraft) is not the world's best patrol craft, but the need is for the lowest dollar get the most coverage of the South China Sea then it's a fine start," he added.

The Philippines has two FA-50PHs at the moment and other 10 are scheduled to be delivered by 2016 to 2017

The FA-50PHs are capable of flying at Mach 1.5 and can be armed with air-to-air missiles for air defense missions.

It will be augmenting the SIAI-Marchetti S-211 jet trainers the Philippine Air Force is using as attack and surveillance planes.

Poling was one of the speakers in the forum titled "Asia-Pacific Perspectives on Implementing the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement” held at the National Defense College of the Philippines, Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

WESMINCOM confirms release of 4 Malaysian crewmen by ASG bandits

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 8): WESMINCOM confirms release of 4 Malaysian crewmen by ASG bandits

The Western Mindanao Command (WESMINCOM) confirmed that the four Malaysian tugboat crewmen, kidnapped by Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) bandits last April, were released by their captors early Wednesday morning.

"Malaysian kidnap victims Wong Teck Chii, Johnny Lau Jung Hien, Wong Teck Kang, and Wong Hung Sing were reportedly released by the ASG early this morning in Sulu," WESMINCOM spokesperson Major Filemon Tan said in a statement to the PNA.

He added the four Malaysian seafarers were freed in the shoreline of Barangay Lagasan Higat in Parang, Sulu at 12:30 a.m. and quickly boarded a speedboat en route to Sandakan, Sabah where they arrived safe and sound at 6:00 a.m.

"We have yet to confirm whether ransom money was paid in exchange for the safe release of the victims," Tan said.

The four were aboard T/B Massive 6 when it was boarded by bandits headed by ASG sub-leader Madjan Sahidjuan alias Apuh Mike last April 1.

The vessel was passing off Sempornah, Sabah when attacked.

Palace hails dismissal of sedition, treason charges vs. Deles, Ferrer et al

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 8): Palace hails dismissal of sedition, treason charges vs. Deles, Ferrer et al

Malacanang on Wednesday welcomed the Office of the Ombudsman’s decision to dismiss treason and inciting to sedition charges against people who signed the peace agreement between the state and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said they are elated with the Ombudsman’s decision to dismiss the charges against Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Secretary Teresita Quintos Deles, peace negotiators led by Miriam Coronel-Ferrer and Mohagher Iqbal, and members of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC).

”Yes, they were performing their duties in promoting the peace process,” he said.

Ombudsman Investigator Fatima Kristine Franco, in a resolution dated May 17, 2016 and approved by Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales, affirmed the referral resolution of the Manila City Prosecutor’s Office recommending the dismissal of the charges against the peace panel members.

The cases were filed by former Manila Mayor Joselito Atienza, Abakada Partylist Rep. Jonathan de la Cruz, and two others.

The complainants alleged that members of the government’s and the MILF’s negotiating panel as well as several others committed treason and inciting to sedition when they pushed for the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) in March 2014 as well as the passage of a measure for the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

However, the Ombudsman, after conducting its own investigation, upheld the findings of the Manila City Prosecutors’ Office, which failed to find merit on the case.

The resolution explained that “the mere act of proposing a draft of the BBL, which was introduced as a bill - but failed to pass the deliberation - before the Congress of the Philippines, is not within the ambit of the mentioned acts.”

“Complainants failed to present evidence showing that an act of sedition exists. Since there is no sedition, it follows that respondents could not have taken part in such activity. No proof was likewise presented showing that respondents had uttered, written, or held any program, which instigated the public to rise against the government,” it said.

“This Office likewise upholds the dismissal of the charge of treason. The act of respondents in drafting and proposing the BBL does not amount to ‘levying war’ against the Republic of the Philippines, or adhering to her enemies; at any rate, treason is a war crime and cannot be committed in time of peace, as in the present case,” it added.

Publication on Bangsamoro peace process under Aquino to be launched

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 8): Publication on Bangsamoro peace process under Aquino to be launched

A publication containing a collection of selected speeches and statements made in the course of the peace process between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) will be launched on Thursday in celebration of the achievements of the administration of President Benigno S. Aquino III in advancing peace in Mindanao.

Entitled "Junctures: Selected Speeches and Statements," the book features the speeches made by the President in key junctures of the process, and those delivered by GPH chief negotiator Professor Miriam Coronel-Ferrer and MILF panel chair Mohagher Iqbal in several forums and discussions on the Bangsamoro peace negotiations held under the Aquino administration.

Produced by the Government Peace Panel Secretariat, the book is published by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process.

Also included are speeches delivered by Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Secretary Teresita Quintos Deles, MILF Chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, GPH peace panel member Senen Bacani, MILF panel member Professor Abhoud Syed Lingga, and National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) Secretary Yasmin Busran-Lao in landmark events.

Major statements issued during the same period make up the second part of the book.

"The book is a tangible record of the thinking and sentiments of the main actors in the negotiations for and implementation of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) through the good times and the bad.

"Junctures will provide readers with an insider’s look of our journey the past few years from the signing of the Framework Agreement that preceded the CAB in October 2013 up to May 2016, with the signing of the Declaration of Continuity of the partnership between the government and the MILF,” said Ferrer of the publication.

Ferrer underscored the important role played by the President and the Executive Secretary in steering the direction of the peace negotiations.

"Kaya naging matagumpay ang peace process natin sa ilalim ni President Aquino ay dahil naging bukas ang linya sa pagitan niya't ng kanyang opisina at ng MILF, at maraming napag-usapang tuwiran at diretso na may tiwala sa isa’t isa (The peace process succeeded under President Aquino because of the openness between him and his office and the MILF, which allowed matters to be discussed directly, with trust in each other),” she said.

Thousands of displaced indigenous peoples in Mindanano still in evacuation centers

From InterAksyon (Jun 6): Thousands of displaced indigenous peoples in Mindanano still in evacuation centers

Chancellor Michael Tan of University of the Philippines Diliman visited the United Church of Christ in the Philippines-Haran in Davao City last March, he saw a welcome sight.

The Manobo children, who had fled their homes in Davao del Norte and Bukidnon last year after soldiers and paramilitary groups occupied their communities and tribal schools, were studying.

They were learning science, solving math problems, and practicing their writing. Their education did not stop, even though they were in situations that were far from ideal.
Unfortunately, they lacked books, school supplies, and audiovisual materials.

"I never forgot: There was an Encyclopedia Britannica, letter V to X,” he told reporters at a news conference at UP Diliman on Monday (June 6). "What will the kids do with Encyclopedia Britannica?"

He had made an appeal to his network for donations. So far, he had received some children’s books. He was still looking forward to seeing more people, as well as other universities, responding to the students’ needs.

As for UP, the community was looking for ways to support the children’s education and their life in the evacuation centers.

Still in evacuation centers

"It’s painful to see those children having such a difficult time," Tan said. "And of course, we also need to make a stand, we need to protect them as they stay in the evacuation centers. Shortly after I visited them, there was a fire, and the children were affected by this. The story was – and I saw this myself – there were people guarding them outside. In many ways, they are imprisoned in the evacuation centers. It’s hard for them to leave because there are security problems."

Along with officials of UP Diliman, which housed the lumad last year when they went to Manila to create awareness about their situation and persuade the government to bring them back home, the Save our Schools (SOS) Network, Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (Katribu), and Salinlahi Alliance for Children’s Concerns are calling on the government once again to help bring the indigenous people back to their communities so that their children can return to school – "Balik komunidad, balik eskwela."

According to SOS Network national spokesperson Reina Requioma, over 5,000 indigenous students and 372 teachers have been displaced from their communities and will start the school year in evacuation centers.

"The term [of President Benigno Aquino III] is about to end," Salinlahi Secretary-General Kharlo Manano said. "But our lumad brothers and sisters remain in the evacuation centers."

He noted that another news conference was also ongoing at UCCP-Haran to draw attention to the 400 lumad kids who would be starting the school year in the evacuation center, and a motorcade was also held in Caraga to point out that 600 lumad kids would be starting the school year in the Tandag Sports Complex in Surigao del Sur.

Some 4,000 lumads in Surigao del Sur took refuge in the Tandag Sports Complex following the September 2015 murders in Lianga town of school administrator Emerito Samarca and Manobo leaders Dionel Campos and Datu Bello Sinzo, allegedly by the Magahat militia.

According to Manano, seven schools of the Tribal Filipino Program of Surigao del Sur and two Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development high schools were still closed.

Education is important

Katribu council member Kakay Tolentino said that the government had long neglected the education of indigenous people. This was why since the 1980s, they had been establishing small schools with the help of nuns, priests, and other individuals to teach literacy, numeracy, and their own culture.

Education is especially important for the indigenous people so they can fight for their right to self-determination and their right to their ancestral domain.

Tolentino said there was big potential in their form of education, which was patriotic, scientific, and humane.

"Education is a right of every Filipino citizen, including indigenous peoples of the Philippines," added UP Diliman Vice Chancellor for Community Affairs Nestor Castro.

He called on the government to stop the militarization in the lumad communities, help the lumads return home, and continue the alternative learning systems which are suited for the culture of indigenous Filipinos.

"We call on incoming President Rodrigo Duterte to push through with his strong support for initiatives of indigenous people to develop education in their own communities, and to uphold the initiatives of indigenous people to put up their own schools," Tolentino said.

Mining firms should shape up

Tan said he expected Duterte to do something about the problems the lumads face, especially since at the root of it were the mining activities being implemented in these communities.

Tan added that Duterte’s statements regarding mining were "encouraging,' and that the Davao City Mayor was reportedly sympathetic to the cause of the indigenous people.
During a thanksgiving party for his supporters on Saturday, Duterte said that "mining people" should "shape up."

"Karamihan ng ginagawa ninyo ngayon, especially Surigao, puro butas-butas na (most of what you do now, especially in Surigao, is bore holes)," Duterte said. "They have to stop. They are spoiling the land, they are destroying Mindanao. Iilan lang sila. Mga taga-Manila na nananalo. Kahit mga Moro, silang mga nauna dito, nawala sila (They are only a few. Mostly Manilans win the concessions. Even the Moros, who came here first, are out of the picture). They are among the marginal side of business endeavors here in Mindanao."

"Mauna muna ang mga taga-Mindanao na mahirap," he added. "Lahat ng malaking minero na sumira, they will have to stop. Mangita muna sila ng laing negosyo (Poor Mindanaoans will have to come first. Big miners that destroyed it will have to stop.
They have to look for another business). That has to change, para sa akin, galing dito, and I would like it to be a cooperative of all Filipinos na nakotkot diha (that dig there). We will just support them and give instructions on how not to end up spoiling the land we have here."

UP Professor Gerry Lanuza, SOS-UP Diliman convenor, said he was "very hopeful" that the incoming president would do good by the lumads.

"First of all, he’s from Davao," Lanuza said. "In addition to that, he has a good track record as far as the lumads are concerned. In fact, he was the one who intervened with Catamco.

"Last year, North Cotabato Rep. Nancy Catamco told the lumads at UCCP-Haran to return to their communities. Later on, she was accused of instigating the violent attempt to "rescue" the refugees, whom she and the military described as "manipulated" by leftist groups, and truck them back to their villages.

Lanuza added that Duterte also "interfered" in the bloody dispersal of protesting farmers in Kidapawan City in April.According to reports, he urged his supporters to donate sacks of rice to the El NiƱo-affected farmers, and pledged that the Davao City government would do the same.

"And he is close to the left of Davao, so we expect that when he assumes the presidency on June 30, he will really pull (those soldiers) out (of the communities). And mining, that is what it all boils down to. (The lumad) are being forced out so that (mining) can come in," Lanuza said.