Saturday, June 11, 2016

US, Philippines, Malaysian navies hold exercises near Sulu

From ABS-CBN (Jun 11): US, Philippines, Malaysian navies hold exercises near Sulu

The United States held coordinated sea patrols with both the Philippine and Malaysian navies in the Sulu Sea, where a spate of ship hijackings by Islamist militants happened early this year, officials said on Friday.

U.S. Navy officials said the sea patrols last week were part of multilateral Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) drills following increased attacks by the Abu Sayyaf on shipping, raising fears the problem could reach levels seen off Somalia.

Rear Admiral Charles Williams, the commander of U.S. Navy Task Force 73, said that he felt the multilateral training taught them important lessons of relationships between the navies and nations.
The multilateral training tested the abilities of all three navies to coordinate maritime security operations in a geographically separated environment at sea.

Williams commented on the upcoming change of government with President-elect Rodrigo Duterte taking office on June 30 and his comment about not relying on the U.S. government to resolve disputes, particularly in the south China Sea.

"So from the U.S. side, I really quite honestly don't have any idea how, I don't have any insights on how the incoming president's policies will matter or will affect what I think is a long history of very successful operations between the Philippine navy and the U.S. Navy. We have not just 22 years, but more than 50 years of very cooperative and very professional engagement between the the two navies and the two countries," he said.

Williams also said there will be no changes in the relationship between the U.S. and the Philippines and the results of the arbitration case filed by the Philippines against China over disputed territories in the South China Sea.

"I think if I understood the question correctly, you were asking about what change and presence we would have. I would just offer to you that the United States has had a persistent and continuous presence in the Western Pacific, as a Pacific nation ourselves for over 70 years. That presence has never wavered, it has only been persistent and sustained, and I would expect it to be just that in the future," Williams said.

The Philippines has lodged a case in The Hague about its dispute with Beijing in the South China Sea, angering China which has pledged not to participate.
China claims most of the South China Sea, which was believed to be rich in natural gas and a valuable shipping lane. Taiwan, Malaysia, Vietnam, the Philippines and Brunei also have competing claims.

Second Maguindanao blast this week wounds one

From ABS-CBN (Jun 12): Second Maguindanao blast this week wounds one

SHARIFF AGUAK - A 50-year-old man was wounded in a roadside explosion here on Saturday in the second bomb attack in the strife-torn province of Maguindanao in five days.

The latest attack appeared to have been intended for the army, authorities said.

The victim, 50-year-old Basit Usman, said the explosion went off after an army truck passed by the motorcycle that he was driving with his son on the highway in Timbangan village Saturday morning.
Usman was wounded on his chest and legs.

On Tuesday, four soldiers on foot patrol were wounded after an explosion went off in Datu Unsay town.

Abu Sayyaf Group’s ‘Red Eye’ falls in Zamboanga

From GMA News (Jun 12): Abu Sayyaf Group’s ‘Red Eye’ falls in Zamboanga

Military and police operatives on Sunday arrested a suspected member of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) involved in several kidnapping cases in Mindanao.

Major Filemon Tan Jr, spokesperson of the Philippine Army, identified the suspected ASG member as Sehar Muloc also known as Abner Muloc and Commander Red Eye.

Muloc was arrested in a predawn operation of joint military and police operatives in Barangay Kaliantana, Naga, Zamboanga Sibugay.

Tan said Muloc had a direct link to ASG sub-leader Idang Susukan.

He is allegedly involved in the kidnapping of former Italian priest Rolando del Torchio.

Del Torchio was snatched from his restaurant in Dipolog City, Zamboanga del Sur in Oct. 7, 2015.

He was released April 2016 in Jolo, Sulu

PAF in the market for C-130 fabrication system spares

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 12): PAF in the market for C-130 fabrication system spares

The Philippine Air Force (PAF) has allocated the sum of PHP4,537,764 for the allocation of spares needed for the maintenance of the fabrication system of its Lockheed C-130B/H/T transport aircraft.

Pre-bid conference is on June 15, 9:00 a.m. at the PAF Procurement Center Conference Room, Villamor Air Base, Pasay City.

While submission and opening of bids is on July 7, 9:00 a.m. on the same venue, PAF bids and awards committee chair Brig. Gen. Nicolas Parilla said.

The PAF has four C-130 transport aircraft in its inventory. Another one is scheduled to be delivered later this year.

Acquisition of BRP Gregorio Velasquez highlights PHL gov't aim to modernize AFP

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 12): Acquisition of BRP Gregorio Velasquez highlights PHL gov't aim to modernize AFP

The decision to acquire BRP Gregorio Velasquez (AGR-702), the country's first survey ship, highlights the resolve of the national leadership to modernize and upgrade the capabilities of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

This was stressed by Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin's speech, read by defense undersecretary Honorio Azcueta, during the arrival and welcoming ceremonies for the ship last at Pier 13, Manila South Harbor last June 10.

"The Philippine Navy (PN)'s acquisition of the BRP Gregorio Velasquez, the former USNS Melville is a statement to the firm resolve and determination of our national leadership to modernize and upgrade the capabilities of our Armed Forces," he added.

BRP Gregorio Velasquez was one of the two US ships pledged by US President Barack Obama to the PN during the APEC Leaders' Summit in Manila last November.

The other vessel is the ex-USCGC Boutwell (WHEC-719) which is scheduled to be delivered later this year.

"We should thank the strong support of President Aquino to pursue the AFP Modernization and Capability Upgrade Program that since July 2010 to date has caused the release of PHP60.14 billion from the meager resources of our government to support the said program," Gazmin stressed.

The BRP Gregorio Velasquez will give the PN the capability for hydrographic and oceanographic survey.

"The ship will provide the PN the capability for hydrographic and oceanographic survey and will also become a platform for inter-agency collaboration partners from the academe and thus improve awareness of our sub-surface environment," PN spokesperson Capt. Lued Lincuna earlier said.

The ship can also perform search-and-retrieval operations and support to humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations.

BRP Gregorio Velasquez left Guam by June 2 and arrived in Manila Bay at 11:00 a.m. last June 8.

The ship arrived in Guam last May 28. She left San Diego, California last April 27 after being formally transferred to the PN.

The BRP Gregorio Velasquez is commanded by Cmdr. Edwin Nera. The ship is presently manned by 30 officers and enlisted personnel.

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.

Lincuna 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.

More ships coming for PN -- Gazmin

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 12): More ships coming for PN -- Gazmin
More ships are scheduled to be delivered to the Philippine Navy (PN) further boosting its capability to defend the country's territorial waters.

This was stressed by Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin's speech, read by defense undersecretary Honorio Azcueta, during the arrival and welcoming ceremonies for the BRP Gregorio Velasquez, the PN's first survey ship, last at Pier 13, Manila South Harbor last June 10.

"Of course, during your 118th anniversary, we had commissioned a new strategic sealift vessel, the BRP Tarlac (LD-601) along with three landing craft heavy; the Agta, Iwak and Waray into the service of the PN. We are likewise awaiting the arrival of two frigates, our second strategic sealift vessel, and our third weather high endurance cutter, the USCGC Boutwell (WHEC-719) from the United States," he added.

Arrival of these assets will boost the PN's capability to detect, monitor and defend the country's vast maritime possessions.

Air Force hopeful of Duterte's support

From CNN Philippines (Jun 10): Air Force hopeful of Duterte's support

[Video report]

The Philippine Air Force (PAF) wants to be ready for combat especially as tensions rise in the South China Sea.

But with its meager resources, it remains ill-equipped.

PAF officials hope president-elect Rodrigo Duterte's incoming administration will boost the country’s defense capabilities.

During the Air Force Symposium in Pasay City on Thursday, Air Force Spokesperson Col. Arf Musico said that PAF's "Flight Plan 2028" program must push through so that it could establish "minimum air defense posture" and protect Philippine territory.

Flight Plan 2028 is a 14-year program under the Aquino administration designed to "detect, intercept, and neutralize" any intrusions in the air defense zone and local waters in areas like the West Philippine Sea.

“The program has been laid out for the air force to follow. And of course, every plan needs the support of whoever the administration is. What his or her perspective is in ensuring that we have capabilities to defend our country,” Musico said.

He added that PAF would need a huge amount of funds to secure aircraft and equipment on its wish list:
  • 24 surface attack aircraft
  • 2 airborne early warning and control systems or flying radar stations
  • 4 electric counter-measures aircraft
  • 1 aerial refueling aircraft
  • 12 combat aircraft (multi-role FA-50 fighter jets)
Under the program, 12 combat aircraft or multi-role FA-50 fighter jets have already been purchased, two of these were delivered last November. The remaining 10 are expected to be delivered in 2017.

The flight plan also includes two more C-130 planes, which are expected to arrive this September, and three ground-based radars or early warning detectors of intrusion, which will arrive in batches until 2018.

The Air Force said one of the radars would be placed in the West Philippine Sea area.

Related: Better relations with China, better economic opportunities for PH - experts

The Aquino administration has allotted ₱56.79 billion for the modernization of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). That is 44 percent higher compared to the combined AFP modernization budget during the Ramos, Estrada and Arroyo administrations, which only totaled ₱31.75 billion.

Incoming AFP Chief Lt. General Ricardo Visaya vouched for Duterte's plans to strengthen the air force. According to Visaya, Duterte wants the country to be self-reliant in national security and not rely on other countries to protect its sovereign territory.

Para hindi tayo nagde-depend lagi sa ibang bansa. [So that we don’t have to always depend on other countries.]” Visaya said.

While the Philippines is still improving its air defense capability, both the United States and Japan Air Forces offered joint air defense operations, particularly in areas where freedom of navigation and flight must be ensured – like in disputed waters.

Photo: Traditional Ceremony

From Northbound Philippine News Online (Jun 11): Photo: Traditional Ceremony

The Philippine Navy on Friday tendered a traditional ceremony at Pier 13 South harbor Manila to its newly-acquired Auxiliary General Research (AGC) vessel, Barko ng Republika ng Pilipinas (BRP) Gregorio Velasquez (AGR 702). The vessel with 279 feet in length was formerly  R/V Melville, built in 1969 , owned by the Office of Naval Research of the United States of America and operated by Scripps Ocreanography under the University-National Oceanographic Laboratory System.DANNY PATA

The Philippine Navy on Friday tendered a traditional ceremony at Pier 13 South harbor Manila to its newly-acquired Auxiliary General Research (AGC) vessel, Barko ng Republika ng Pilipinas (BRP) Gregorio Velasquez (AGR 702). The vessel with 279 feet in length was formerly R/V Melville, built in 1969 , owned by the Office of Naval Research of the United States of America and operated by Scripps Ocreanography under the University-National Oceanographic Laboratory System. Danny Pata/

Army opens candidate soldier course in Tanay

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jun 10): Army opens candidate soldier course in Tanay

The Philippine Army 2nd Infantry Division welcomed 190 candidate soldiers at the opening ceremony of the Candidate Soldier Course (CSC) for classes 408 and 409 last June 2 at Camp Mateo Capinpin, Sampaloc, Tanay, Rizal.

Candidates composed of 172 men and 18 women ages 18-26 from different provinces will be trained for six months at the 2nd Division Training School.

Training includes Jungle Warfare and Mountain Operations Course (JWMOC) to instill both skill, stamina and other attributes required by aspiring soldiers to uphold internal peace and disaster response.

The army's 2nd Infantry Division is known as the premier military division in jungle warfare training.

Brigadier General Amador Tabuga, assistant division commander,  served as the keynote speaker during the program which included drills and exercises to test the candidates’ mettle.

Tabuga encouraged the members of classes 408 and 409 to do well in their training in order to surpass the hardships of training and be servant leaders in the army.

Growing desertions as Islamic State loses ground: Experts

From Today (Singapore) (Jun 12): Growing desertions as Islamic State loses ground: Experts

Growing desertions as Islamic State loses ground: Experts

A Philippine soldier picks up the headband of a militant, adorned with the logo used by the Islamic State group, as they end their operation in Butig Town, Lanao Del Sur on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao on March 1, 2016. Photo: AFP

PARIS — Growing numbers of Western jihadists are deserting the Islamic State (IS) group and returning to countries like France, where security services are trying to sort genuine repenters from terror suspects, experts say.

IS, which is losing ground on several fronts in Syria and Iraq, is also battling to prevent some of the thousands of foreign volunteers who have joined its ranks since 2014 giving up the fight and going home.

“They sense that we have entered the final stage. Many are starting to send us messages to know how they can return,” France’s national intelligence coordinator, Mr Didier Le Bret, told AFP.
“Expanding the glorious caliphate is no longer on the agenda and we know that some have been killed while trying to flee,” he added.

Slipping past the Sunni extremists is no easy task, making Western security services wary of returning jihadists.

“We worry when we get someone back. How do you know whether he is sincere or on a mission?” Mr Le Bret said.

Mr Patrick Calvar, head of the domestic intelligence agency DGSI told the National Assembly, or lower house of parliament, in mid-May that 244 people had returned to France from Syria and Iraq.

“We’re seeing more and more (expressions) of intention to return home,” he told lawmakers.

But many of those who wanted to defect were “prevented by Daesh (IS) policy, which considers those who want to leave Syria as traitors to be immediately executed,” he said.

In January 2014, five months before IS proclaimed a caliphate in parts of Syria and Iraq, a study by the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation (ICSR) at King’s College London set up a database of returning jihadists, to try understand their motivations.

The list currently runs to 60 names.


The ICSR gave various reasons for the growing disenchantment among IS recruits.

“The defectors’ reasons for leaving may be as complex as the reasons they joined,” ICSR director Peter Neumann wrote in a report in September. “Not everyone has become a fervent supporter of liberal democracy. Some may have committed crimes.”

Mr Neumann said four main complaints emerged from the testimonies of the returnees: “‘IS is more interested in fighting fellow (Sunni) Muslims than the Assad government’, ‘IS is involved in brutality and atrocities against (Sunni) Muslims’, ‘IS is corrupt and un-Islamic’ and ‘life under IS is harsh and disappointing’.”

Ms Shiraz Maher, one of the researchers who interviewed the deserters, told AFP that “most” of the returning fighters insisted “I didn’t come (to Syria) for that”.

“I want to tell all the mujahideens not to come to Syria. This is not jihad. You will find yourself killing other Muslims,” she quoted them as saying.


The losses sustained by IS in Syria and Iraq in recent weeks may also spur the homeward movement. Scores of IS fighters have been killed on various fronts, according to monitors.

Life in Islamic State strongholds like the Syrian city of Raqqa is often a far cry from the utopian visions of a pure Islamic society that lured some foreign combatants.

Heady dreams of adventure, comradeship and glory on the battlefield founder on a daily diet of grinding hardship, wanton barbarity and constant fear — of IS itself, bombardments by its adversaries or both.

Ms Shiraz recalled: “One told me they think nothing of bringing down buildings with women and children inside, just to kill one person. It’s not revolutionary jihad, it’s just slaughter’.”

Some of the returnees also complain of discrimination by IS commanders on the basis of country of origin.

An Indian who went to fight was relegated to the most menial of tasks.

“They made me clean the toilets,” he said. AFP

Communist rebels suspected in latest Philippines attack

From Anadolu Agency (Jun 11): Communist rebels suspected in latest Philippines attack

Police suspect New People’s Army members behind killing of 2 soldiers despite peace overtures by incoming President Duterte

Philippine police revealed Saturday that communist insurgents are believed to be responsible for the latest fatal attack on troops despite peace overtures made by incoming President Rodrigo Duterte.
The Philippine Inquirer cited a report sent to the national police force as saying that two soldiers were killed Saturday afternoon by suspected New People’s Army (NPA) members in northern Luzon island.
Quoting the report from police in Pilar town in Sorsogon province, Police Sr. Insp. Maria Luisa Calubaquib said an investigation is ongoing to determine if the fatalities occurred during an ambush or an encounter believed to be staged by the group.
The incident came a day after three troops were killed in two separate attacks by suspected NPA rebels in troubled southern Mindanao island.
A soldier was killed and another wounded when an army headquarters in Agusan del Norte province was attacked, while two other soldiers were left dead after an ambush in Davao Oriental province Friday morning.
The incidents followed the arrests Thursday of four suspects believed to be high-ranking NPA members in Agusan del Norte.
After winning the May 9 election, Duterte made overtures toward the Communist Party of the Philippines -- of which the NPA is the armed wing -- and its political front, the National Democratic Front (NDF).
Preliminary talks between the NDF and the incoming Philippines administration have been scheduled in Oslo, Norway for next week, and incoming peace process adviser Jesus Dureza left the archipelago for Europe on Friday.
"We look forward to a fruitful meeting under the auspices of the Norwegian government in the sidelines of the 'Oslo Forum'," local media quoted Dureza saying in a statement.
Since March 1969, the NPA has been waging one of Asia’s longest running insurgencies in the country, which -- according to the military -- has claimed more than 3,000 lives over the past eight years.
The military estimates that the number of NPA members has dropped from a peak of 26,000 in the 1980s to less than 4,000.
Duterte is set to assume office June 30.

Wenceslao: End CPP rebellion in a snap?

Opinion piece in the Sun Star-Cebu (Jun 10): Wenceslao: End CPP rebellion in a snap? ( By Bong O. Wenceslao)

I WON'T blame the incoming administration of Rodrigo Duterte if it is agog about almost anything in the sun. Being outsiders still at this stage, it hasn’t seen the magnitude of the country’s problems. That’s why even before the president-elect could take his oath of office on June 30, he and his camp are already talking like there is no problem that they couldn’t solve. The latest is the appointed peace adviser Jesus Dureza talking about ending the decades-old rebellion led by the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) “as soon as possible.”

Talks between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP or NDF), which is representing the CPP-led rebellion in the peace negotiations, have stalled for the duration of the term of President Noynoy Aquino. This is not surprising because the NDF has issues against the Aquinos, starting from when PNoy’s mother Cory was president. But the peace negotiations have actually never taken flight for decades.

To say that the communist-led rebellion can be ended easily and in a snap via peace negotiations is to underplay the root causes of that rebellion and mistakenly view the CPP as an ordinary political organization. The rebellion’s goals transcends whatever kind of friendship Duterte has with CPP founder Jose Ma. Sison or whatever links he forged with the revolutionary forces in Mindanao. Also, Duterte and Sison are mere representatives of two entities, the GPH and the CPP, and are not the said entities themselves. They still need the approval from the entities they are representing to make the peace negotiations work.

I know how difficult it is to talk peace because I saw unfurl the negotiation at the local level that was initiated by the Cory government and the previous CPP leadership. In those talks, which opened in December 1986, the NDF was represented by a priest, Fr. Rustico Tan; a former seminarian, the late Jovito Plaza; and spokesperson Ruth Mercado. I think then Board Member Ferdinand Jakosalem was among the Cebu Provincial Government representatives to the talks.

At that time, even the attempt to settle down for the negotiation failed because of many outside forces dipping their fingers into the activity. Sadly, many of these outside forces didn’t want the talks to succeed. So they tried to derail the process at every turn. By January, it became obvious to the rebels that the talks weren’t going anywhere and that instead the security of their organization was compromised. The negotiators pulled out and the local peace talks broke down.

That was one of the reasons why when the talks reopened, only GPH and NDF representatives at the national level were involved. The other reason was about substance. The goal is not only to address everyday concerns, some of the at the local level, but to effect a change in the system where the root causes of the country’s problems are embedded. Meaning that the peace negotiation is mainly a national and not a local concern.

I don’t think that just because Duterte is the president the CPP and the NDF, would loosen up on its pursuit of its national and democratic goals. And how big is the concession that the government is willing to give to the rebels?

In this sense, peace negotiations between the GPH and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) are far easier to consummate than talks between the GPH and NDF. With the NDF, the issues to be resolved are far more complicated. That is precisely why the government was on the verge of resolving the MILF problem last year via the failed Bangsamoro Basic Law while its talks with the NDF are still on square one.

Opinion: PEACETALK: Complicated Peace Infrastructure

Opinion piece in the Mindaviews section of MindaNews (Jun 10): PEACETALK: Complicated Peace Infrastructure

The peace infrastructure between the Government of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is complicated and unstable. We need to make it simple and stable.

Not the parties’ fault. That the peace infrastructure is complicated and unstable is not the parties fault. This is because the architecture, as it were, grew in response to specific challenges and problems they encountered through the years. In local parlance, nanganak nang nanganak. The present architecture is the product of the parties responding to events as they happened and therefore, resulting in a complicated, unstable and less than effective architecture. Most of these bodies in the architecture are contained in signed agreements which makes it more difficult to change.

Courtesy of Bong Montesa                                                                         Illustration courtesy of Bong Montesa

We have more knowledge and wisdom now. But now the parties have the advantage of hindsight. They know what works and what did not work. When they signed the agreements and created bits of the architecture here and there they had little knowledge and experience. But now they have more knowledge and more experience. They can improve on things. It would be a pity if the parties would let the decisions they made when they had less knowledge and experience in the past determine and tie the success of the future. Decisions made with less information must give way to designs made with more information. A balanced fidelity to signed agreements and goal-centered effectiveness is required.

The fear, of course, is that to allow changes in architecture which are contained in signed agreements, even to make it more effective, opens the flood gates of possible changes in the substantive elements of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB). For some parties in peace negotiations, especially the weaker ones, a signed agreement is an insurance policy, a form of security. It is also a clear win, a gain. It is a prized possession. This is especially true if the trust level is low.  It is this fear and distrust,  I suspect, that will make the next few months a hard and tough time for the parties.

Right for negotiations phase but not anymore sufficient for implementation. The present architecture was good for the negotiations phase and the fruit of the pudding is the CAB. The architecture enabled and buoyed the parties to come up with the peace accord. But I think that architecture needs to be fine tuned and simplified it were to achieve the goals of the new phase – implementation of the CAB. What is good for negotiations might not be effective for implementation. The good thing about this is that both the Government and the MILF agree that the era of negotiations is over and that they are now in the implementation phase.

Challenge. How to simplify a complex negotiations infrastructure into a simple yet effective implementation infrastructure? This is really the challenge. If you take look at the diagram above, you will see that the current infrastructure is unstable and will collapse if the wrong decision or move is made. A lot of thinking and calculations must be made on the part of government and the MILF. Some strategic questions to ponder are:
  1. What will be the role of the third party facilitator in the implementation phase?
  2. What kind of structure will be put in place to make sure that the partnership and close coordination of the GPH and MILF continues?
  3. What will happen to the negotiation panels?
  4. If there are no negotiation panels, how will the parties collaborate with each other?
  5. What will be the roles of international community in the implementation?
  6. What will happen to the International Contact Group?
  7. Will the International Monitoring Team (IMT) continue on the ground?
  8. What will be the role of the Third Party Monitoring Team (TPMT)?
  9. How will this implementation be funded? Government funds? Foreign donor funds? Who will contribute? Who will manage?
  10. What parts of the architecture to keep? What not to keep?
(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Camilo “Bong” Montesa, a Mindanawon, is Country Manager of the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue)

Don't expect instant gratification if PHL wins arbitration case — Carpio

From GMA News (Jun 10): Don't expect instant gratification if PHL wins arbitration case — Carpio

China will not easily give in to international pressure if the Philippines wins in the closely watched arbitration case regarding the maritime dispute in the South China Sea, Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio said on Thursday.

"I would say it's an inter-generational struggle and we should not expect instant gratification here once the ruling comes out. This is a long struggle," Carpio told reporters on the sidelines of the Air Force Symposium at a hotel in Pasay City where he gave a keynote speech on the South China Sea dispute.

"The Chinese have been taught from kindergarten to college that they own the South China Sea so it's difficult for their government to just say that, "We don't own the South China Sea."

"They have to convince their people first and that will take time. And we know that, that's why we went to court that's authorized to make this ruling," he added.

The Netherlands-based Permanent Court of Arbitration is expected to release a decision anytime this year, which Carpio believes would be favorable to the Philippines.

But the UN tribunal has no power to enforce its ruling, leaving the Philippines with no choice but to drum up international support especially from major powers like the United States, European Union and Japan, which also has overlapping claims with China in the East China Sea.

The Philippines may also use the decision as leverage against China should the two countries agree to hold bilateral talks to resolve the issue, according to Carpio.

"If China keeps on insisting that it owns the South China Sea, even if there's a ruling already, there are countries around the South China Sea that will not follow China but will follow the ruling," he said.

Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also have claims to the waters, where undersea natural gas, oil and mineral deposits have been discovered in several areas and trillions of dollars worth of global trade pass through each year.

"China said that they will ignore the ruling. We know that but the world will be behind us because the world has a stake. All the other naval powers have a stake in this dispute. I think eventually China will comply. It will take time, maybe not in our generation," he said during the forum.

While waiting for the court's decision, Carpio said it is important for the Philippines to continuously beef up its external defense capabilities by increasing spending on military hardware, technology and strengthening alliances with other nations.

"We need to have a credible self-defense. All nations that forgot to maintain a credible self-defense were erased from the map," he said.

Carpio cited the case of Ukraine, which lost Crimea to neighboring Russia two years ago.

"So you must maintain a credible self defense no matter what especially if you have a big neighbor and if you want to be an independent and sovereign state," he said.

Last March, President Benigno Aquino III said his government has already spent P58.43 billion for the Armed Forces of the Philippines Modernization and Capability Upgrade Program, surpassing the P31.75 billion combined defense spending of the past three administrations.

As a result, the Philippine Air Force already has two new FA-50 jet fighters, three C-130 aircraft, three C-295 medium-lift aircraft, 18 SF-260TP aircraft, eight Bell-412 combat utility helicopters and eight AW-109E attack helicopters.

Japan's government will also be leasing five of its retired training aircraft to the Philippine Navy for patrolling missions in contested territories in the South China Sea.

US terror tag spoiling Joma Sison’s homecoming plan

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jun 11): US terror tag spoiling Joma Sison’s homecoming plan

The United States’ tag on Philippine communist rebels as terrorists has jeopardized plans by communist party founder Jose Ma. Sison to come home for peace talks with the incoming Duterte administration, according to a member of the rebels’ peace negotiating panel.

Fidel Agcaoili, also spokesperson of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), said Sison, who has been in exile in The Netherlands for 30 years now, might be unable to return to the Philippines for the talks as a result of a recent US State Department report that classified the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and CPP’s armed wing, New People’s Army (NPA), as terrorist organizations.

“Joma (Sison) coming home is now a ticklish issue,” said Agcaoili. The terror classification of CPP and NPA by the US government, he said, “poses a problem.”
 No direct flight

Agcaoili said there was no direct flight between The Netherlands and Manila so it was possible that the United States could have Sison arrested as a terrorist in airports where connecting flights between The Netherlands and Manila landed.

Should Sison take a KLM (The Netherlands’ flag carrier) flight, Agcaoili said the communist leader “has to pass by Taipei (capital of Taiwan).”

“If the US intercedes through the Interpol (International Police), then they might present a warrant of arrest against him (Sison) in Taipei,” said Agcaoili. “So everything goes kaput.”

Jose Ma. Sison
Jose Ma. Sison

Sison’s homecoming, said Agcaoili, was “an issue that should be discussed seriously.”

“What if he’s (Sison) taken in Taipei and brought straight to Guantanamo (a US camp in Cuba used as jail for terrorists)?” Agcaoili said.

Agcaoili said there had to be a guarantee from the Dutch government, the Norwegian government and the US government to respect Sison’s right to travel.

“But I don’t know if the US will agree to that,” said Agcaoili. “It has always been a bully.”

At the height of the presidential campaign, President-elect Rodrigo Duterte invited Sison to come home for peace talks.

Duterte was Sison’s student at the Lyceum and the incoming President admitted becoming a member of the leftist underground youth group Kabataang Makabayan during martial law.

Revolutionary taxes

During his interview with reporters after meeting with Duterte, Agcaoili also defended the NPA practice of collecting so-called revolutionary taxes.

Taxation, he said, was a component of the revolutionary movement.

“You have to understand that the revolutionary movement has its revolutionary organs,” he said.
“Any state has the right to enforce tax,” he added.

Taxes collected by rebels, said Agcaoili, went directly to communities.

“It does not go to the pockets of a few people, like in government,” he said. “It is used in establishing schools, cooperatives and (bringing) medical services.”

Asean mulling joint statement on South China Sea

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jun 10): Asean mulling joint statement on South China Sea

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations is likely to issue a joint statement on the South China Sea in response to an upcoming verdict on the Philippines’ arbitration case against China on the disputed territories, an official said on Thursday.

“As the leading organization in the region, with interests in the South China Sea, it would be strange if Asean didn’t have a viewpoint,” Indonesia Foreign Ministry’s Asean dialogue partner and inter-regional cooperation director, Derry Aman, told journalists on Thursday.

However, the regional organization’s mechanism requires that all 10 member countries reach consensus before declaring a unified stance on the issue, he added.
Several Asean countries are involved in territorial disputes in the South China Sea. Indonesia is not a claimant to the surrounding waters of the resource-rich Natuna Islands.

READ: China reclamation violates Asean code, says DND

The regional organization will conduct a special ministerial meeting with China between June 13 to 14, ahead of the upcoming verdict on the Philippines’ South China Sea case against China at the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague.

When asked if the joint statement would be raised with China next week, Derry said that as consensus had not yet been reached, talks would remain between Asean member nations at this point.

“The process to reach a common understanding on a possible statement is still ongoing,” he said.
China, for its part has already said it would ignore the PCA ruling.

READ: Carpio: 3 possible scenarios in South China Sea arbitration ruling

As a non-claimant country, Indonesia has continued to stress the importance of restraint from all parties involved in order to maintain peace and security.  Any drastic reaction could raise suspicions and pressure others to also take action in response, Deryy said.

“Dispute settlement must be conducted peacefully, without show of force and in full respect of diplomatic and legal processes,” he added.

Indonesia has continued to push for the full and effective implementation of the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC), which includes an ongoing draft code of conduct that Indonesia was prioritizing, he further said.

New US program reunites Pinoy war vets with families

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jun 11): New US program reunites Pinoy war vets with families

Rudolpho “Rudy” Panaglima was just 13 when he joined his father in a Filipino guerrilla unit that worked in secret with the US Army during World War II.

His youth helped Panaglima sneak past Japanese forces as a courier and scout, bringing back information, food and medicine to US soldiers in the mountains of the Philippines, near his home in Cagayan.

Panaglima was among more than 250,000 Filipinos who fought with the United States during World War II, including at least 60,000 who were killed. After the war ended, President Harry Truman signed laws that stripped away promises of benefits and citizenship for Panaglima and other Filipino veterans.

Now 70 years later, Panaglima and other veterans are winning some of their benefits back. The veterans received lump-sum payments as part of the 2009 economic stimulus law, and as this week are eligible to be reunited in the United States with relatives living in the Philippines.

Panaglima, now 86, says two of his four grown children have been waiting to come to the U.S. since 1995. Under a program authorized by President Barack Obama, two sons living in the Philippines will soon move to suburban Washington to care for Panaglima and his wife, Pura, 83.

“That is what I am dreaming because of our age now,” said Panaglima, who was the featured speaker on Thursday at a Capitol ceremony marking the Filipino World War II Veterans Parole program. The program will allow an estimated 2,000 to 6,000 Filipino-American World War II veterans living in the United States to be reunited with family members who live outside the United States, mostly in the Philippines.

“Filipino World War II veterans have been waiting patiently for decades to be reunited with their families,” said Sen. Mazie Hirono, a Democrat from Hawaii, who worked with the Obama administration to create the program, which took effect Wednesday.

The veterans and their spouses—most of whom are in their eighties or nineties—“will finally be able to apply to bring their adult children to the United States,” Hirono said.

Right a wrong

Retired Maj. Gen. Tony Taguba, a Philippines-native who served in the US Army for 34 years, said the reunification program begins to right a wrong “deeply rooted in American history.”

“Slowly but surely our country has taken leadership to correct this injustice,” Taguba said Thursday, noting that Filipino veterans who helped win World War II “paid a huge price.”

For those who survived, “the humiliation and indignation they suffered still resonate,” Taguba said.

Under the new program, US Citizenship and Immigration Services will allow Filipino veterans and their spouses to apply for a grant of parole that allows family members to come to the United States as they wait for immigrant visas to be approved. In limited cases, some relatives will be able to seek parole on their own behalf if the World War II veteran or spouse is deceased.

2 soldiers killed in Sorsogon attack

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jun 11): 2 soldiers killed in Sorsogon attack

Suspected New People’s Army (NPA) rebels shot to death two Philippine Army soldiers at a remote village in Pilar town in Sorsogon province on Saturday afternoon, a report reaching the Philippine National Police (PNP) in Bicol said.

Slain victims were identified as Staff Sgt. Epifanio Millaes and Sgt. Zaldy Cristobal, both members of the Philippine Army operating in Sorsogon, the report from Pilar police said.

Police Senior Insp. Maria Luisa Calubaquib, quoting the report, said the attack took place at about 2 p.m. at Barangay (village) Cabiguan.

She said investigators were yet to determine whether the incident was an ambush or an encounter staged by suspected communist rebels.

US submarine tender arrives in Palawan

From Rappler (Jun 11): US submarine tender arrives in Palawan

More than 500 American sailors and mariners, among them Filipino-Americans, will 'relax' in the island and spend time doing community service projects

PORT VISIT. Sailors and mariners manning the US submarine tender USS Frank Cable will spend time with communities in Palawan. File photo from US Navy web site

PORT VISIT. Sailors and mariners manning the US submarine tender USS Frank Cable will spend time with communities in Palawan. File photo from US Navy web site

US submarine tender USS Frank Cable (AS 40) arrived in Puerto Princesa City in Palawan on Saturday, June 11, for a "scheduled port visit," according to the US embassy in Manila.

More than 500 US sailors and mariners, among them Filipino-Americans, will "relax" in the island and spend time doing community service projects.
Palawan is the Philippine province closest to the disputed West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) and is a jumping-off point for military operations in the area. Movements of military assets there are closely watched because of the tension in the region.
A submarine tender supplies and supports submarines, carrying food and fuel among other maintenance equipment. It departed Guam on June 6, for its "first deployment in more than 14 years in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region."
"Frank Cable is on a scheduled deployment in the US 7th Fleet area of operations to conduct maintenance and support deployed US naval force submarines and surface vessels in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region," according to a separate US Navy statement.
"It has been truly a blessing going back to my homeland," the US embassy statement quoted Filipino-American Machinery Repairman Fireman Carl Paguirigan.
"The last time I was here was December 2014 when I spent Christmas with my family. I plan on surprising my mother; she's dying to know when I'll be coming back. I cannot wait to taste my mother's home cooking again," Paguirigan added.
Increased US military presence is expected in the Philippines as the two countries implement the military-to-military agreement, Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, that allows the US to build facilities and preposition assets inside military bases of its former colony.

PCGA-Boracay holds turnover of command

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 11): PCGA-Boracay holds turnover of command

The Philippine Coast Guard Auxiliary in Boracay Island has a new commander.

Newly-designated Coast Guard Auxiliary (CGA) 609th Squadron Commander Captain Peter Tay officially replaced outgoing Captain Jose Villaroman in a turnover of leadership and management ceremony held June 8.

Tay, a native of Singapore but now a naturalized Filipino, will serve as the squadron commander in the island for the next two years.

The turnover was officiated by Commodore Leopoldo Laroya, Philippine Coast Guard Commander for Western Visayas.

During the event, the 609th CGA Squadron was also commended for its accomplishment in the past two years.

The group received medal and ribbons for its campaign for international cleanup, disaster relief and rehabilitation and anti-marine pollution. The recognition was given by PCG in Western Visayas.

Captain Jose Villaroman was meanwhile awarded with the Distinguished Service medal and ribbon by the PCG-national headquarters.

In his message, Tay vowed to get additional PCGA volunteers.

“We will have 200 active volunteers by the end of 2017,” he said.

At present, the 609th CGA Squadron has 50 active volunteers.

As a seasoned diver, Tay also vowed to create an underwater search and rescue team in the island.

Tay also said aside from assisting PCG on securing the maritime security in the island, the squadron will also conduct more medical and dental missions to serve the community further.

Also present during the occasion were Commodore Leonard Tirol, Commodore Mike Labatiao; and Captain Luz Escarilla, PCG-Coast Guard District Auxiliary Western Visayas.

Peace negotiator bucks negotiation with terror groups

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 11): Peace negotiator bucks negotiation with terror groups

Incoming peace negotiator Jesus Dureza on Friday denied that he welcomed a negotiation with the alleged Moslem terrorist groups in Mindanao.

Dureza said that he had personally talked to members of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) for the freedom of a kidnapped friend, but maintained that it was not the policy of the government to negotiate with terror groups engaged in criminal activities.

He said that he negotiated with the ASG for the release of his friend John Ridel, who was, nevertheless, beheaded for the failure of the family to raise the ransom money.

He said that “negotiating with the ASG in the context of what the government is doing with the Bangsamoro and the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) is definitely not the way forward.”

Dureza, together with Silvestre Bello III, and Rep. Hernani Braganza flew to Norway to meet CPP founder Jose Maria Sison to hammer a new round of peace talks with the CPP.

“We look forward to a fruitful meeting under the auspices of the Norwegian government in the sidelines of the ‘Oslo Forum,’” he said.

Dureza has expressed optimism that the peace talks with the rebels would push through, citing “renewed enthusiasm” from both sides to bring it back to the negotiating table.

The Maoist inspired communist insurgency in the Philippines is the longest running armed insurgency movement in Southeast Asia that spanned to five decades since 1969.

Mindanao Army Special Forces chief to join Duterte's PSG; 6th ID reshuffles commanders

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 11): Mindanao Army Special Forces chief to join Duterte's PSG; 6th ID reshuffles commanders

An Army Special Forces Battalion stationed here will form part of a special security group that will secure incoming President Rodrigo Duterte, military officials said.

Capt. Joann Petinglay, 6th Infantry Division spokesperson, said Colonel Ranulfo Sevilla, 5th Army Special Forces Battalion commander, has been replaced by Lt. Colonel Nazzer Lidasan, currently assigned with the Civil Military Operation of the 6th ID.

Petinglay said the 6th ID was honored to have someone under its administrative and operational control joining the elite Presidential Security Group that will secure the country's most powerful man.

Meanwhile, Brig. Gen. Noel Clement, 602nd brigade commander based in Carmen, North Cotabato has been replaced by Colonel Manolo Samarita. Clement was named Philippine Military Academy (PMA) commandant.

Lt. Colonel Orlando Edralin, 7th Infantry Battalion commander, has bade farewell to his unit which has been facing North Cotabato's lawless elements and outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).

Maj. Gen. Edmundo Pangilinan, 6th ID chief, administered Saturday's turn over of command from Edralin to Lt. Colonel Ciriaco Lomas-e.

After almost two years commanding the 7th Infantry "Tapat" Battalion, Edralin declared that he was leaving a battalion composed of well equipped, well disciplined, well trained, combat ready and human rights defenders.

The turnover rites were held at the battalion headquarters in Barangay Lower Paatan, Kabacan, North Cotabato.

Pangilinan lauded the outgoing commander for successfully steering the "Tapat Battalion" to greatness after it accomplished operations which have contributed immensely for 6ID to be adjudged as the "Best Division" of the Philippine Army last year (2015).

"Col Edralin have finished the race because he has kept the fate," Pangilinan said.

"It is my challenge to the new commander, Lt. Colonel Lomas-e to make sure that if he cannot perform at par with Col Edralin, then he has to surpass his predecessor's accomplishments," he added, addressing the newly installed battalion commander.

The Kampilan Division Commander also expressed his gratitude to all local chief executives who had continuously supported the battalion in its quest for peace within their area.

He urged them to continue extending their assistance to the new commander.

"Tapat Battalion" is one of the organic units of the division whose battalion headquarters was formerly stationed at Poblacion Pikit, North Cotabato prior to its transfer to Kabacan, also in North Cotabato.

Chinese envoy says there's no dispute we can't resolve

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 10): Chinese envoy says there's no dispute we can't resolve

"As long as we treat each other with sincerity, follow the spirit of seeking common ground while shelving differences, there is no obstacle that we cannot surmount, nor dispute that we cannot resolve."

Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua highlighted this during the 41st anniversary of the establishment of China-Philippines Diplomatic Relations and the 15th Filipino-Chinese Friendship Day.

Zhao said the Chinese government hoped that the incoming Duterte administration could work with them towards the same direction, deal with relevant issues, put differences under control, and bring the bilateral relations back to a sound and comprehensive development.

He said China recognized the significance of preserving regional peace and stability. "China has never lost sight of the larger picture and has been dealing with the South China Sea issue in a constructive and responsible way," he emphasized, adding that the door for negotiation and consultation is always open.

The Chinese enjoy cited as an example, China and Vietnam being able to clarify the maritime boundary of Beibu Bay through negotiation and consultation.

"China is committed to peaceful development, and pursues a neighborhood diplomacy that treats neighbors as friends and partners," he said.

Noting that the Philippines and China are close neighbors separated by sea, Zhao said it was natural for the two to develop amicable and cooperative relations.

Strong ties

Zhao said the friendship between China and the Philippines had started back in the ancient times.

He told a story about Zheng He, a Muslim diplomat and a fleet admiral during the early Ming Dynasty.

According to him, Zheng's fleets have reached Mindanao, Brunei, Thailand, Southeast Asia, among others. Zheng had established a good relationship with the sultan of Sulu during his stopover in Mindanao.

The sultan led a delegation of around 300 people to visit China in 1417, and Zhao said they were well received by the Ming Emperor Yongle.

On his way back to the Philippines, the sultan got sick and died. He was buried in China's Shandong Province. "His tomb is still well protected by the Chinese government and the local people," Zhao said.

"These are vivid illustrations of the traditional friendship between Chinese and Filipinos," he continued.

Youth group expresses high hopes for resumption of peace talks in Oslo

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 11): Youth group expresses high hopes for resumption of peace talks in Oslo

Youth group Anakbayan over the weekend expressed optimism over the preliminary talks between the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front (NDF) slated to begin on Tuesday in Oslo.

Both parties are set to negotiate on three preliminary agreements, which include the honoring of all previous GPH-NDF agreements, the release of all political prisoners, and the possibility of a joint ceasefire in the duration of the formal peace negotiations.

“The youth has high hopes for the resumption of the peace negotiation between the Philippine government and the NDF. In the same breath, we laud incoming President Rodrigo Duterte for firmly believing that the pursuit of peace is never an exercise in futility,” said Anakbayan Secretary General Einstein Recedes.

The youth leader said that the negotiations should focus on addressing the factors contributing to internal armed conflicts in the country.

“There is no better path forward than to continue negotiations with the NDF. We support the call to honor previous agreements with the NDF including the Comprehensive Agreement on Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CAHRIHL) and the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) – which were hard-earned fruits of past negotiations,” Recedes said.

The youth leader added that the peace negotiations will also prove to be an avenue for the people to rightly demand for far-reaching socio-economic reforms.

“On the part of the youth, we encourage both sides to include in the peace negotiations concrete efforts to end the neoliberal attacks on education and achieving free public education for all levels,” Recedes said.

US submarine tender now in Puerto Princesa, Palawan

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 11): US submarine tender now in Puerto Princesa, Palawan

US submarine tender USS Frank Cable (AS-40) arrived Saturday in Puerto Princesa, Palawan for a scheduled port visit.

This will allow personnel aboard to enjoy some rest and relaxation and provide an excellent opportunity for them to experience the Philippine culture.

USS Frank Cable skipper Capt. Drew St. John said these opportunities to enjoy liberty in a country with a close and historic relationship with the US are important to the mission of the United States Navy and his ship.

"Our two countries have strong ties we trace back to the shared sacrifices of World War II," St. John said.

"This visit is special to my crew, including many who have close personal ties to the Philippines. Our Sailors act as diplomats for the United States every day, and through their varied interactions with the local population they strengthen the bonds of friendship and cooperation between our two countries," he added.

One way American sailors can interact with the local community is through various community service projects, sponsored by the ship’s religious ministries.

USS Frank Cable is on a scheduled deployment in the US 7th Fleet area of operations to conduct maintenance and support deployed U.S. naval force submarines and surface vessels in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.

3rd ID hails past and present Filipino soldiers as PHL celebrates 118th Independence Day

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 11): 3rd ID hails past and present Filipino soldiers as PHL celebrates 118th Independence Day

With the Philippines slated to celebrate its 118th Independence Day Sunday, the Capiz-based 3rd Infantry Division took time to hail the heroism of all Filipino soldiers, both the living and those who have gone ahead.

Lt. Col. Ray Tiongson, 3rd Infantry Division public affairs office chief, said this was in-line with this year's theme, “Kalayaan 2016: Pagkakaisa, Pag-aambagan, Pagsulong,” as the unit intensified collaboration and cooperation with the stakeholders in securing and advancing peace and development in Central and Western Visayas, and pursued reform initiatives in the organization through the Army Transformation Roadmap.

“In the face of any challenge and adversity, your Army here in Central and Western Visayas remains committed to exercise its sworn duties to serve the Visayan people and secure the land. We are likewise fully optimistic that by working together in the spirit of 'Bayanihan', we will be triumphant in attaining just and lasting peace in the region," 3rd Infantry Division commander Brig. Gen. Harold Cabreros said.

“The independence attained by our forefathers will remain in every soldier’s heart as we continue to emulate their courage and perseverance in the performance of our mission,” he added.