Saturday, June 25, 2016

DWDD: FAREWELL| Army honors five retiring generals

From DWDD AFP Civil Relations Service Radio Website (Jun 25): FAREWELL| Army honors five retiring generals


FORT BONIFACIO, Taguig City – The Philippine Army honors five senior officers who will compulsorily retire from the military service this July in a traditional testimonial review held at the ROTC Hunters Guerilla/Parade Ground, on Jun. 24.  
Brigadier Generals Apolinario Y. Aloba, Commander of the Joint Task Force National Capital Region (JTF NCR); Joel D. Celino, the Assistant Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel, OJ1; Librado B. Moog, Chief, Armed Forces of the Philippines Pension and Gratuity Management Center (AFPPGMC); Marcial O. Constante Jr., the AFP Provost Marshall General; and Frederick Evans L. Ramos, Chief, Office of the Legislative Affairs (OLA), AFP will all retire from the service upon reaching the mandatory retirement age of 56 in July.
Army Chief, Lt. Gen. Eduardo M. Año, together with his staff, other HPA-based officers, enlisted personnel and civilian employees, attended the said event to pay respect for the retirees’ faithful and honorable services to the nation.
Aloba, a member of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Class 1982 rendered 38 years and 2 months in the military service. Prior to his current designation, he was the Chief of Staff of the Army’s 1st Infantry Division (1ID) and later became the Commander of 101st Brigade, 1ID in Mindanao. As the JTF NCR Commander, he took charge the security aspect and orchestrated all security operations during the visit of Pope Francis in the Philippines and the recent national elections.
Celino and Moog are both members of the PMA Class 1983. They both rendered 37 years and 2 months in the military service.
Celino spent almost of his military career in the Army’s Special Operations Command (SOCOM), particularly in the Special Forces Regiment. He also became head of the Military History Center, AFP Command and General Staff College.
Moog, on the other hand, spent almost of his career in the intelligence service. He held various positions in the Intelligence Service, AFP. He also became Chief of Staff of the Army’s 7th Infantry Division before he was designated as Chief, AFPPGMC.
Meanwhile, Brig. Gens. Constante and Ramos are both members of the PMA Class 1984. They both rendered more than 36 years in the military service.
As the AFP Provost Marshall General, Constante facilitated the resolution of 395 cases including violations of anti-violence against women and children; abuse of authority; serious physical injuries; and violations of different articles of wars for grave misconduct in relation to attempted murder.
Ramos, on the other hand, is a recipient of foreign military awards, one of which is the Malaysian Military Valor Award. The award was given to him by the King of Malaysia for his outstanding efforts in preventing a major conflict between the Philippines and Malaysia after the invasion of Lahad Datu in Sabah by the Kiram Forces of Sulu. He also ensured the safety of the Filipino people affected by the said violent acts in Eastern Malaysian region of Sabah and Sarawak.
As Chief OLA, Ramos diligently coordinated and supervised the AFP’s legislative agenda in both the Congress and the Senate. He was facilitated the successful passing of the Joint Resolution Nr 5, regarding the increase of subsistence allowance for the uniformed personnel. Significantly, Ramos also ensured the confirmation of at least 231 Army Senior Officers by the Commission on Appointments.      
The retirees expressed their gratitude to the Philippine Army for the honors bestowed upon them.
In their speeches, they said that they are happy to be spending more time with their families after their retirement.
Pinahiram lang ako ng nanay ko sa Philippine Army for 36 years. Ngayon babalik na ako sa kanya,” said Brig. Gen. Constante, while rendering his last salute to the Army troopers who attended the event.
“I am looking forward to waking up late, no more stressful days and fatigue, and to be with my family seven days a week,” said Brig. Gen. Aloba.
They also shared anecdotes about their cadet lives in PMA, and how they were honed to be good soldiers; reminisced their years in the field as young lieutenants; and looked back on their colorful military careers.
“During my cadet life, I was molded to become loyal to my family and to our countrymen,” said Brig. Gen. Constante. “I also learned the importance of discipline in the military service”.
Meanwhile, Lt. Gen. Año bid adieu to the retirees who have made their own mark in their respective tour of duties.  
“It is, indeed, an honor to acknowledge the service of soldiers who have fought a good fight, whose legacy of service to the nation inspires us to strive, for the same brand of excellence in our respective duties and responsibilities,” said Año.
The Army commander also encouraged the men and women in uniform to continue to contribute in the transformation initiatives of the Army just as the honorees are.
“You are the major contributors to our goals and mission of realizing a long-lasting peace and in eliminating insurgency,” Año added.

Video: Zambales fisherfolk to become 'military militia'

ABS-CBN (Jun 25): Video: Zambales fisherfolk to become 'military militia'

A new taskforce on the West Philippine Sea may organize Zambales fisherfolk into a "maritime militia" to keep a closer watch over Scarborough Shoal. – ANC, The World Tonight, June 24, 2015

Marquez retires early as PNP chief

From Malaya Business Insight (Jun 24): Marquez retires early as PNP chief

PNP chief Ricardo Marquez has opted to retire from service on Tuesday next week, two months ahead of his mandatory retirement day on August 28 to give incoming PNP chief Ronald dela Rosa the chance to assume office immediately.

“Even before elections sinabi ko naman whoever wins I will retire earlier. Kung hindi ako magre-retire, the incoming chief will not be able to wear his four stars,” Marquez said yesterday as he bade goodbye to members of the PNP Press Corps.

Marquez said he will go on vacation for a few weeks before he accepts a job offer in the private sector.

Dela Rosa, the personal choice of President-elect Rodrigo Duterte to take over from Marquez, will assume as the new PNP chief on July 1. 

Marquez was picked by President Aquino to become PNP chief vice PNP officer-in-charge Leonardo Espina who retired July last year. Marquez became the permanent PNP head when its former chief, Alan Purisima, was facing several controversies until he was eventually ordered dismissed by the Ombudsman in June 2015.

Purisima and Espina were from the Philippine Military Academy Class of 1981, while Marquez is from PMA 1982.

Marquez, formerly the director for operations, was credited for the orderly and safe visit of Pope Francis in January 2015. When he became PNP chief, he also supervised the overall conduct of the Asean Summit in the country last November, aside from securing the May elections.

“I’d like to be remembered in this organization as somebody who has institutionalized patrolling and basic policing. A lot of our projects in the past have gone caput because walang backbone, where we put everything. So, it will run smoothly. So, now we have a backbone, the backbone of ‘Lambat Sibat,’” he said.

He added: “So, I’d like to be remembered as someone who institutionalized it, who was given the very special opportunity to serve our country in a very special capacity as commander of the Papal Task Force, the Apec Security Task Force. Minimalist ako so ‘yung dalawa na lang.”

Marquez also thanked members of the PNP Press Corps based in Camp Crame for their support during his incumbency, citing his smooth relationship with the media.

“A very big part of me would like to say thank you. Thank you for your support. Siyempre kahit anong galing ng PNP pag hindi naiko-communicate ang ginagawa namin, walang kuwenta. We recognize the very vital contribution of media in what we’re doing, in telling me na may mga pulis akong ganito, inform me that there are things that I should be doing and for all those things... From the bottom of my heart, maraming salamat,” Marquez said.

Deputy Director General Danilo Constantino, the deputy PNP chief for operations, will be given retirement honors today, nine days ahead of his mandatory retirement day on July 2. Constantino is the number three man in the PNP hierarchy.

Marquez’s early retirement and that of Constantino’s will leave the top three posts (PNP chief, deputy chief for administration, and the deputy chief PNP for operations) vacant.

The PNP leadership did not appoint the replacement of Deputy Director General Marcelo Garbo when he retired last March 2. Garbo was the deputy chief PNP for administration, the number two man in PNP hierarchy.

This will make Deputy Director General Francisco Uyami, the PNP chief of directorial staff, as the officer-in-charge for two days or until June 30.

Cotabato police in heightened alert after grenade attack

From the Mindanao Examiner (Jun 25): Cotabato police in heightened alert after grenade attack
Security forces have been alerted on Saturday in South Cotabato province following a grenade attack at a municipal station there.

Police said the explosion damaged the station in Tampakan town, but there had been no reports of casualties from the attack which occurred Friday evening. Police investigators have recovered fragments of an M79 rifle grenade used in the attack.

No individual or group claimed responsibility for the blast, but communist rebels and other armed groups are actively operating in the area.

Just recently, two policemen were shot and wounded when gunmen opened fired at them while serving search warrants on a house in Polomolok town suspected of keeping illegal weapons.

Five people had been arrested by the police in connection with the shooting and that a man managed to escape from the house. Those arrested have been identified as Hamidin, Benjamin, Binzon and Sandra – all surnamed Alab; and Aulen Olivarez.

Another man, Ben Alab, is being hunted down by police forces after he escaped from the house at the height of the shooting.  The wounded policemen – PO1 Gilbert Alferez, 32; and PO1 Edwardo Quintana, 28, – were rushed to hospital. They are members of the Special Action Force.

Police said it recovered a shot gun and a pistol and ammunition, including a rifle grenade in the house during the search. Those being held by the police were being investigated for possessing illegal weapons.

PH joining world’s biggest war games

From the Manila Bulletin (Jun 26): PH joining world’s biggest war games

The Philippines will participate in the world’s biggest maritime exercise – the United States-led and hosted Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) –  scheduled June 30 to August 4  in and around the Hawaiian islands and Southern California.
RIMPAC is a biennial exercise that provides for a unique training opportunity that helps participants foster and sustain cooperative relationships that are critical to ensuring the safety of sea lanes and security on the world’s oceans.
RIMPAC 2016, with the theme “Capable, Adaptive Partners” will bring together military forces from 26 nations. It will also involve 45 ships, five submarines, and more than 200 aircraft.
“The participating nations and forces will exercise a wide range of capabilities and demonstrate the inherent flexibility of maritime forces. These capabilities range from disaster relief and maritime security operations to sea control and complex war fighting,” said a statement from the US Pacific Fleet.
“The relevant, realistic training program includes amphibious operations, gunnery, missile, anti-submarine and air defense exercises, as well as counter-piracy, mine clearance operations, explosive ordnance disposal, and diving and salvage operations,” it added.
While only a small contingent from the Philippine Navy will take part in in RIMPAC 2016, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said that “it is very important that we participate in the biggest multinational military exercise of our time.”
“Learning to operate in this environment along with all the participating nations affords us the learning experience of knowing how we can work with a big number of nations in any particular scenario that may evolve in the future,” according to Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla, AFP spokesman.
“The learning we derived from the actions we took after super-typhoon Yolanda or Haiyan is a case in point. There were more than 20 nations that sent their military to help us. In this context, it is to the benefit of the Philippines to know and apply the most recent TTPs (tactics, techniques, and procedures) and other protocols that is necessary to ensure the efficient utilization of these forces in meeting the challenges that is present in that circumstance,” he added.
“Learning to work with a big number of military forces under any condition or scenario will always be beneficial to us,” Padilla further said.
The other participating countries in RIMPAC 2016 are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Denmark, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, People’s Republic of China, Peru, the Republic of Korea, Singapore, Thailand, Tonga, and the United Kingdom.

AFP confirms Abu Sayyaf’s kidnapping of 7 Indonesian sailors

From GMA News (Jun 26): AFP confirms Abu Sayyaf’s kidnapping of 7 Indonesian sailors

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Sunday finally confirmed the Abu Sayyaf Group's (ASG) kidnapping of seven Indonesian sailors in the Sulu Sea, two days after Indonesian authorities announced the incident.

The AFP's Western Mindanao Command (WesMinCom) said that armed men on board two motorized boats intercepted the Indonesian's tugboat while en route to Indonesia in the Sulu Sea around 11 a.m. last June 22.

The WesMinCom's report said that only seven of the 13 crewmen on board the Indonesia tugboat were taken by the bandits.

It said that the seven Indonesians have been turned over by the armed men, later identified as the Muktadil brothers -- Nickson, Brown, Badung and Dadis -- to Abu Sayyaf Group sub-leader Majal Adja alias Apo Mike based in Sulu.

The WesMinCom said among those kidnapped was the boat's captain, who had called his wife in Indonesia to relay that their kidnappers were asking 20 million Malaysian ringgit.

Indonesian authorities announced the kidnapping incident two days ago. Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi had said that based on the information they received, the kidnapping was carried out by two different armed groups.

"We absolutely do not tolerate this. The government will try all options to free the hostages," Marsudi said.

At least 17 other Indonesian sailors had been kidnapped in separate incidents in March and April of this year. All victims had been released by the bandits.

On Friday, the bandits also released Filipina hostage Marites Flor. Flor was kidnapped on Samal Island in September 2015 with three foreigners, Canadians Robert Hall and John Ridsdel and Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad.

The bandits had beheaded the two Canadians while Sekkingstad remains a captive.

PA adept in mitigating ill effects of climate change, calamities -- Gazmin

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 26): PA adept in mitigating ill effects of climate change, calamities -- Gazmin

Aside from conquering the battlefields, the Philippine Army (PA) has also proven itself adept in mitigating the ill effects of climate change, natural disasters and calamities.

This was stressed by outgoing Department of National Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin as he formally bade farewell to the officers and enlisted personnel of the 85,000-strong PA in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City last June 24.

He is scheduled to step down on Thursday.

"Even in peaceful times, our Army personnel are pre-occupied in addressing the ill effects of climate change, natural disasters and calamities, and in the rendition of humanitarian assistance and disaster response, to save thousands of lives in many disaster relief operations, during typhoons and other calamities in the various parts of our country," Gazmin stressed.

Aside from disaster response, the PA has also been a strong supporter of the government's national development plan as Army engineer brigades are actively engaged in the construction and repairs of roads, school buildings, water systems, electrification platforms, health centers and other infrastructure projects all over the country.

Gazmin earlier said he is leaving behind a more capable and effective PA.

"I assumed as Defense Secretary in July 2010 and involved myself in the task of contributing my modest share in the accomplishment of the DND mission," he said.

And during his stint and with the strong support of President Benigno S. Aquino III, Gazmin said significant progress has been made in the implementation of the AFP Capability Upgrade and Modernization Program where Php60.14 billion has been released from July 10, 2010 to April this year, for all three Major Services, which includes the Army, Navy and Air Force.

"Thus, the Philippine Army has now in its inventory newly-acquired 114 units of M-113A2 armored personnel carrirs from the US EDA (Excess Defense Articles Program), six units of armored personnel carriers and four units of armored recovery vehicles, all from Israel; 120 units of field ambulances; various types of mobility trucks, such as 1 and 1/4 ton trucks troop carriers, 2 1/2 ton trucks troop carriers, and five ton trucks prime movers; 63,286 units of M-4 assault rifles, that include the requirement of the Philippine Marine Corps; and various types of tactical radio equipment," he pointed out.

This is aside from projects that are now either in the contract implementation stage or procurement stage, Gazmin pointed out.

"I am likewise glad to note that the Philippine Army today is headed to state of professional modernity with its activation in 2011 of the Philippine Army Multi-Sector Advisory Board, or the PA MSAB. Accordingly, the PA MSAB has consistently guided the Philippine Army to evolve professionally and attain excellence in the years to come through the implementation of the Army Transformation Roadmap," the DND chief disclosed.

Gazmin, a member of Philippine Military Academy Class of 1968, was the 40th Commanding General of the Philippine Army. He held the position from July 13, 1999 to Oct. 22, 2000.

"I depart from our Defense Department on June 30, 2016 contented and pleased that I am leaving behind my endeared institution, the Philippine Army, the immortal monument of courage and patriotism in the defense of our citizenry and their treasured social and democratic ideals," he added.

AFP to give outgoing DND chief Gazmin testimonial parade, review

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 26): AFP to give outgoing DND chief Gazmin testimonial parade, review

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) will give outgoing Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Voltaire Gazmin a testimonial parade and review on Tuesday.

The event will be held 10:00 a.m. in front of the GHQ Grandstand in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

Gazmin is scheduled to step down on Thursday. He will be replaced by Delfin Lorenzana, a member of the Philippine Military Academy Class of 1973.

Gazmin, a member of Philippine Military Academy Class of 1968, is the DND's 34th head while Lorenzana is the 35th.

The latter served as the Special Presidential Representative and Head of the Office of Veteran Affairs at the Philippine Embassy in Washington DC, USA from 2004-2009 and 2010 up to present.

US submarine tender, USS Frank Cable, leaves Cebu

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 26): US submarine tender, USS Frank Cable, leaves Cebu

The USS Frank Cable (AS-40), a forward-deployed submarine tender, departed from Cebu, its second port call on Sunday.

The ship made its first port call on Puerto Princesa, Palawan last June 11.

The port visits allowed USS Frank Cable sailors and Military Sealift Command mariners to enjoy some rest and relaxation, experience Filipino culture and conduct community relations projects.

The USS Frank Cable team consisting of more than 500 Sailors and civilian mariners is currently on deployment to provide vital flexibility to the fleet commanders, extending the range and impact of US naval forces.

"This was a very successful visit to the Philippines," USS Frank Cable commanding officer Capt. Drew St. John said.

"I'm extremely grateful to our gracious hosts in both Puerto Princesa and Cebu. Our sailors and civilian mariners were great ambassadors while they were on liberty or participating in community relations projects. With the assistance of our hosts, we were able to provide a small amount of support for the needs of the SOS Children's Village in Cebu and the San Pedro Central School in Puerto Princesa," he added.

At the San Pedro Central School, sailors mentored and played games with around five hundred 5th and 6th graders; while at the SOS Children's Village, Sailors also played games with children and learned how one organization is making a difference in Cebu one child at a time.

The visits also allowed sailors to rest and relax while enjoying the local culture.

USS Frank Cable’s Morale, Welfare and Recreation department offered various tours, ranging from visiting the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, one of the great natural wonders of the world, to diving with whale sharks in the waters near Cebu.

USS Frank Cable is one of two forward-deployed submarine tenders and 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.

NOLCOM leads creation of Area Task Force North

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jun 24): NOLCOM leads creation of Area Task Force North

Northern Luzon Command (NOLCOM) led today the creation of the Area Task Force-North (ATF-North) that seeks to collaborate all efforts on matters pertaining to the West Philippine Sea issue.

“ATF-North is primarily the regional counterpart of the National Task Force for the West Philippine Sea that focuses on three primary maritime concerns within our Area of Responsibility namely Bajo de Masinloc, Batanes, and Benham Rise,” NOLCOM Commander Lt.Gen. Romeo Tanalgo said.

It members include the offices of the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA), Philippine Information Agency (PIA), Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), and National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) in Ilocos Region, Cagayan Valley, and Central Luzon.

Also, Department of the Interior and Local Government, Department of Education, Department of Agriculture, Department of Health, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Department of Science and Technology, Department of Energy, Department of Justice, Philippine National Police, Commission on Higher Education, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, and Office of Civil Defense.

NICA shall be the lead convenor on maritime domain awareness and intel, PIA on awareness and advocacy, DFA on diplomatic and legal, and NEDA on socio-economic.

“The cooperation of various agencies and sectors will greatly influence the success of the Armed Forces of the Philippines in securing our maritime sovereignty and protecting the wellbeing of the Filipino people and our national interest.  Rest assured that we will always observe the diplomatic approach in accordance with our policy that is aligned with the International Rule of Law,” Tanalgo stressed.

Cops foil bomb plot in Zambo capitol building

From the Philippine Star (Jun 24): Cops foil bomb plot in Zambo capitol building

Government security forces recovered an improvised bomb and foiled the bombing attempt Thursday night at the provincial capitol building of Zamboanga Sibugay, according to police.

Police Superintendent Rogelio Alabata, spokesman of Police Region Office 9 (PRO), said the improvised explosive device (IED) was discovered about 5:10 p.m. by a guard on duty who was roving the capitol building in Ipil town.
Alabata said the provincial security guard immediately alerted the Ipil Police Station.
The Explosive Ordnance and Disposal (EOD) unit and the K9 team of the Zamboanga Sibugay Police Provincial Office immediately conducted a clearing operation and found a bomb on the ground floor of the capital.
Alabata said the bomb experts secured the IED outside the building and defused it using water disruptor.
He said they are still trying to determine the type of bomb used in the foiled attack while investigation is ongoing.
The Zamboanga Sibugay police have yet to identify the culprits and their motive for the bomb plot.

Japan in Balikatan: observer this year, active player soon

From the periodically pro-CPP Bicol Today (Jun 25): Japan in Balikatan: observer this year, active player soon

First time in 15 years a Japanese submarine docked at Subic Bay. PHOTO from wikipedia

First time in 15 years a Japanese submarine docked at Subic Bay. PHOTO from Wikipedia
Recently, more than 50, 000 Japanese protesters rallied on the Japanese island of Okinawa, Japan against the heavy United States (US) military presence and violent crimes by its personnel that have angered residents for decades.“
As long as there are US military bases, incidents like rape and murder will continue to happen,” according to them.
However, U.S.-Japan Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security of 1960 authorized the U.S. military presence in Japan. As part of the US-Japan security alliance, there will be bilateral agreements on war planning, conduct of joint exercises and studies among others.

In Philippines, only US and Australia had a Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) as part of security alliance. Now that Japan engaged in the VFA and the Philippine-Japan Military Cooperation is rapidly growing, Japanese will not only suffer but more Filipinos will experience the dark side of military presence in the country.

Progressive groups have validated that even in the Philippines violent crimes like rape and murder will continue to happen if there are US military bases in the country.

People’s organizations in Philippine and Japan are expressing solidarity with each other and are organizing the common fightback against the US and Japan military maneuvers.

We oppose the developing US-JPN-PHL trilateral military collaboration, the growing Philippine-Japan military cooperation and the Japan’s own militarization,” stated in the joint statement of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan and Asia-Wide Campaign-Japan.

The statement added that they oppose any arms race in the region by the big imperialist powers as they aspire for a peaceful and diplomatic resolution of all outstanding maritime and territorial disputes.

Australia joined the war games called Balikatan exercises in the Philippines in 2014. For now, Japan served as observer but will be directly involved in the joint exercise next year.

Balikatan 2016, that took place on April 4 to 16, marked the 32nd iteration of annual bilateral exercise between the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the U.S. military, which focuses on the Philippine-U.S. Partnership. This include Philippines’ military development and modernization with humanitarian assistance and disaster relief capabilities.

This year is the 70th anniversary of the U.S.and Philippine Mutual Defense relationship, which started in 1946 and was codified in the Mutual Defense Treaty of 1951. Supposedly, Australia and even Japan should not be involved in “shoulder-to-shoulder” military exercise between the AFP and the U.S. military.

According to Lt. Gen. Toolan, commander of  U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific and Balikatan 2016 U.S. exercise director, this year have a single scenario that focuses on training and enhancing the capabilities of AFP, U.S. and Australian armed forces to provide relief and assistance in the event of natural disasters and other crises that endanger public health and safety.

The BK16 – Joint Task Force Commander was Lieutenant General Lawrence D. Nicholson who is a Marine Forces Japan Commander. LtGen. Nicholson is also the Commanding General of III Marine Expeditionary Force when he assumed command on 11 September 2015.

This year’s military exercise took place as Manila and Washington prepare for the rotational deployment of U.S. forces at five Philippine military bases under the 2014 Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) coincidentally.

While Japan was not directly participating in the exercise, it was first time in 15 years a Japanese submarine docked at Philippines’ strategic port Subic Bay ahead of the actual military exercise.

Japanese Maritime Defense Force (JMSDF) also sent down two warships and agreed to sell short-range reconnaissance aircraft and partrol boats to the country.

The destroyers JS Ariake and JS Setogiri and the submarine JS Oyashio joined seven U.S. Navy vessels that were docked in the port for Balikatan but were invited to observe the exercise.

However, there was a report that US Defense Department announced that Washington is in talks with Tokyo about Japan participating in future Balikatan exercises.

On 5th of June 2015, President Benigno Aquino III reportedly said that Philippines will be initiating all the diplomatic requirements to come up with a Visiting Forces Agreement with Japan.

According to reports, Japanese ambassador to the Philippines Kazuhide Ishikawa and Philippine Defense Minister Voltaire Gazmin signed an agreement last February 29 that outlines joint military training and the donation of Japan’s used military equipment to the Philippines. It includes a new framework for the supply of military hardware and technology as well as provisions for joint research and development that will boost their defense cooperation.

In November 2015, Tokyo announced that it plans to transfer three used Beechcraft TC-90 King Air patrol planes in the Philippines this year. Both countries are also in talks over new P-3C Orions patrol aircraft.

The agreement comes right after the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Economic Leaders’ Meeting and just before the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

The country is the first Southeast Asian country to have such a defense deal with Tokyo, Japan while Japan only signed similar defense deals with Australia and US.

Japan is still a military colony of US. Allegedly the defense deal is not directed against any country but aims to address gaps in the underfunded Philippine military’s capabilities.

The Philippines has signed such visiting forces accords with the United States and Japan and vowed to intensify defense cooperation with possible agreement that will allow Japanese forces to hold larger exercises with AFP troops in the country.

Next to the US, Japan is a major source of maritime security assistance in the Philippines. Japan remains as the country’s top trading partner and provider of development aid since 2010.
Japan is now enhancing the role of its military by loosening post-World War II constraints and change the way it uses its military.

The Philippine government did not push its historical baggage with the Japan Government. Its priorities lie in upgrading bilateral security and economic cooperation with Japan.

Bayan and Asia-Wide Campaign-Japan demand Japanese government’s implementation of official apology and state compensation to all the victims of past Japanese war of aggression and colonization, including the victims of Japanese army’s sexual slavery in Philippines and other areas in Asia.

Misamis Oriental lumad evacuees return home 'hopeful'

From the Sun Star-Cagayan de Oro (Jun 24): Misamis Oriental lumad evacuees return home 'hopeful'

LUMAD evacuees from Lagonglong town in Misamis Oriental finally returned to their homes on Friday, June 24, amid the absence of the written deal they have been demanding from the military.

After the negotiation on Thursday and without achieving the written deal, the Higaonon tribe at Sitios Tapol and Camansi agreed to go home as they worried on their children who have not reported to their classes yet and the animals and crops left unattended in their community.

They first sought shelter at Lagonglong municipal gym after the Army’s 58th Infantry Battalion entered their community and setup an encampment as they go after the New People’s Army rebels.

On June 16, they moved to the Provincial Capitol grounds since they felt being harassed by the military after the 58IB also setup a tent near the gym. They also transferred to the Capitol to bring their complaints and demands closer to the Provincial Government since they have pregnant women, older people and the children who are vulnerable to health risks, the evacuees having only makeshift tents and relying on donated food from the province and religious groups.

Although the military gave no assurance that their demands, such as the pull-out of military troops in their area, the lumads said they can only hope for the better.

"Nagpasalamat ug nalipay mi nga makauli nami kay nabalaka nami sa among mga bata kay eskwela na pero nia pa sila diri," Tagtabolon secretary-general Nenita Hilogon said in an interview.

"Bisan wala pa kasigurohan ang among gipangayo na mahatag gyud, pero at least napaabot na namo didto sa ila kung unsa among hangyo," she added.

The lumad "bakwit" initially asked for a signed agreement with the military, but they were instead given an assurance that their pleas will reach to the military superiors.

Hilogon said what the lumads hold now is the 'promise' the military assured and the Provincial Government's commitment to continue supporting their plight.

"Paabuton gayud gihapon namo kung unsa ilang desisyon. Ang gobernador pud nagsaad man gayud pud nga mutabang siya sa proseso," she added.

It was agreed that the military can set up camp in the village, but that it should be a distance away from the residential area.

Before the military dialogue on Thursday, June 23, the lumads also met with officials of the regional Commission on Human Rights and National Commission on Indigenous Peoples to pressure the military to give in to their demands.

The lumad leader said the NCIP and CHR have vowed to help them through the conduct of investigation and fact-finding in their community and visit the evacuees to check their situation.

MILF: Editorial -- Commissioners exit, BTC stays

Editorial posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front Website (Jun 24): Editorial -- Commissioners exit, BTC stays

There has been various new views or proposals on how to translate into law called Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) that is provided for in a political agreement known as Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB).  This agreement, which contained the political solution to the Bangsamoro Question or Problem, had been signed by the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), in the presence of international personalities, including two heads of state, on March 27, 2014.

As of now, the original BBL crafted by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) is being archived. The 16th Congress did not pass it. For what reasons, we are aware of many of them but they are already in the dustbin of history. Only the hard lessons-learned therefrom are of use to us, the peace-makers.

With the advent of the new administration under President-elect Rodrigo Duterte, renewed interests as well as new ideas are growing up toward either refiling the original BBL immediately or a new version, not the BLBAR, of course, will be crafted. One such idea to do it is to hold an all-Bangsamoro convention. While such idea can help in a way, but if it seeks to replace or replicate what has been agreed by the Parties in negotiations contained in the CAB, then certainly it is not acceptable. But if it endorses or suggests ways to enhance or improve what has been agreed by the Parties, then it is in the right direction.

The body that rightly has this responsibility should be the BTC. Its term of office, as provided for in both the CAB and the two Executive Orders especially the second, Executive Order No. 187, s. 2015 amending Executive Order No. 120, s. 2012, shall cease upon the enactment of the BBL and its ratification by the people called for the purpose. The BBL was not passed, much more ratified by the people; hence the BTC, as a body, still exists. However, as of June 30, this year, all the BTC Commissioners are considered resigned. It is up to the next administration to reconstitute this body. The truth is that it is only through this body that the MILF, which is still a revolutionary organization, can engage all agencies of government especially Congress.

By the way, to refresh ourselves, the BBL presented to Congress during a ceremony in Malacañang Palace on September 10, 2014 is rightly called the “agreed version”, because it had passed through four levels of engagements. The original version crafted and signed by all BTC Commissioners were heavily revised by the Office of the President (OP). Overwhelmed by the revisions, the BTC elevated the issue to the two peace panels for clarification, discussion, and resolution. Virtually touching only the surface, the OP and BTC-MILF peace panel took over the discussion, and they succeeded to settle all outstanding issues except seven which required the intervention of the two Parties’ principals.

The MILF is not unmindful of the tedious legislative process, its intricacies and dynamisms nor of the plenary power of Congress over legislation. This is the reason that in 2015 Chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim had written letters to both Senate President Franklin Drilon and House Speaker Sonny Belmonte apprising them that while the MILF is batting for the passage of the original BBL but it is open to enhancing or improving the proposed law. This is a way to show high respect to the two national leaders but at the same time to stress the need to uphold the sanctity of obligations contained in signed agreements.

The BBL is not an ordinary piece of legislation. It was and still is in the nature of a legislated agreement. Thus, it should conform to the letter and spirit of the CAB, which is an obligation of the Parties especially the government. When the GPH Peace Panel signed the CAB, it is signing in behalf of the Government of the Philippines (GPH); and therefore, it is government responsibility to deliver its share of the responsibility to enact a CAB-compliant BBL.  Only this kind of law will put the Bangsamoro Question or Problem to rest.

MILF: UNYPAD Chapters hold series of Ramadhan Symposia

Posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front Website (Jun 22): UNYPAD Chapters hold series of Ramadhan Symposia

Earlier this holy month of Ramadhan 2016, the UNYPAD-North Cotabato Cluster 2, Maguindanao Cluster 1 and 2 held several Islamic symposia in different municipal chapters in Cotabato and Maguindanao as a tradition of the organization since its inception in 2004.

“The month of Ramadhan is a great opportunity to observe on bringing back a balance and healthy lifestyle. Through fasting you will learn how to manage you’re eating habits and improve self-discipline,” said Ustadz Suharto Mamengkog of the Da’wah and Education Committee of UNYPAD National Chapter.

“UNYPAD records showed that the organization had been regularly holding activities every Ramadhan with about 40 symposia conducted by its chapters nationwide in the past”, Mamengkog said.

The Maguindanao-Cluster 1 and 2, Pikit Municipal Chapters of North Cotabato Cluster 2, and the National Women Affairs Committee (WAC) facilitated by the Office of Sub-Committee Office of Da’wah and Education had conducted ten (10) Islamic Symposia covering the areas of Parang, Matanog, Buldon, Barira, Datu Anggal Midtimbang, Datu Salibo, Guindulungan, and Datu Abdullah Sangki, Pikit, Cotabato City.

“These were all implemented in the first ten days of Ramadhan,” he added.

The Office of the Vice President for Internal Affairs, chaired by Tu Alid Alfonso said that while Ramadhan moves day by day, invitations for the provincial chapters to hold similar activities keep coming.

Alfonso is expecting that UNYPAD-National Capital Region, Davao Region, Island Provinces, SocSarGen and Bukidnon chapter will also hold activities during Ramadhan.

The Committee on Da’wah and Education, the Office of the Vice President and the Secretary General are keeping their line of communication open to be able to respond to request of the chapters for holding similar activity.

Ustadz Mamengkog, Ustadz Haris Abdulkarim, Thoe Bin Abdullah, Ustadz Mohamidin Solaiman, and Yusoph Lumambas are the designated fulltime speakers.
Meantime, Ustadz Abiden Tago, Chairman of the UNYPAD-Maguindanao Cluster 1 and Atty. Mahmod Tulino, Chairman of UNYPAD- Maguindanao Cluster 2, had closely monitored and supervised the programs of their chapters respectively.

Lumamabas disclosed that the important topics discussed were the Significance of Ramadhan and the current situation of the Bangsamoro people vis-à-vis the GPH, MILF, MNLF peace processes.

MILF: BDA-CenMin releases New Schedules of MBD for 3rd & 4th Quarters of 2016

Posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front Website (Jun 24): BDA-CenMin releases New Schedules of MBD for 3rd & 4th Quarters of 2016

With the aim in view of continuing the engagement on bloodletting, the Bangsamoro Development Agency-Central Mindanao (BDA-CenMin) released new schedules of Muslim Blood Donation (MBD) for the 3rd & 4th quarters of this year on June 22, 2016.

In a conversation with Carolyn Biruar-Piang, R.N., MBD Regional Coordinator, by BDA-CenMin Communication Group on June 23, 2016, she emphasized the importance of disseminating these schedules for information of everyone and other stakeholder/s that has direct concern to this noble engagement.  

“Also, disseminating these activities for information is also another form of advocacy in this regard, especially that BDA-Central Mindanao continues to conduct MBD without external support,” Biruar-Piang emphasized.

“In line with this, BDA-CenMin invites individuals, groups or organizations to be part of MBD in whatever form from July-December, 2016 in the different places across Central Mindanao Region with the theme ‘Be a Healthy Muslim, Share your Life, Donate Blood’”, Biruar-Piang said.

Amoth Pulalon, MBD Assistant Coordinator said, “Participation or support by anybody to become part of the MBD is of utmost importance because blood is highly needed to save lives.”

“In the office, we receive a minimum of 3 blood requests a day which proves the higher demand for blood than the average number of blood supplies accumulated by the agency on a daily basis,” said Pulalon.

“Indeed, it is really obvious that the demand for blood in our region is higher and the supply of blood decreases thus we need stronger support to meet the demand in this regard”, Pulalon added.

The following are the schedules of MBD for the remaining last 2 quarters of 2016:

1. July 10, 2016- Buldon, Maguindanao
2. July 11, 2016- Cotabato City State Polytechnic College
3. July 16, 2016- Al- Hamen, Nasapiyan, Carmen
4. July 17, 2016- Matanog, Maguindanao
5. July 23, 2016- Sitio Balas, Brgy. Tacupan, Carmen
6. July 24, 2016- Katibpuan, Datu Anggal
7. July 25, 2016- Kutawatu Darussalam College, Inc., Cotabato City
8. July 30, 2016- Dungguan, Mlang
9. July 31, 2016- Biniruan, Cotabato City
10. Aug 6, 2016- Darapanan, Sultan Kudarat (SWC National)
11. Aug 7, 2016- D. Saudi, Maguindanao
12. Aug 13, 2016- Datu Montawal, Magindanao
13. Aug 14, 2016- Macabiso, Sultan Kudarat
14. Aug 15, 2016- Ibn Taymiyyah, Simuay, Sultan Kudarat
15. Aug 20, 2016- Kayaga, Kabacan
16. Aug 21, 2016- Kudal, Pagalungan, Mag.
17. Aug 27, 2016- Bugawas, DOS
18. Aug 28, 2016- 23 Jasmin Street, Cotabato City
19. Sept 3, 2016- Pikit 1, N. Cotabato
20. Sept 4, 2016- N. Binangga, Talayan
21. Sept 17, 2016- Pagalungan, Maguindanao
22. Sept 18, 2016- Darapanan, Sultan Kudarat, Mag.
23. Sept 19, 2016- Jamiah, Bubong, Tamontaka 1
24. Sept 24, 2016- Parang, Maguindanao
25. Sept 25, 2016- SSB, Maguindanao
26. Oct 1, 2016- Manarapan,Carmen
27. Oct 2, 2016-  Kibayao, Carmen
28. Oct 8, 2016- Pikit 2, N. Cot.
29. Oct 9, 2016- Matanog, Maguindanao
30. Oct 15, 2016- Lanoon, Carmen
31. Oct 16, 2016- Katibpuan, D. Anggal
32. Oct 22, 2016- Lebak, Sultan Kudarat Prov.
33. Oct 23, 2016- Dungguan, Mlang
34. Oct 29, 2016- Biniruan, Cot. City
35. Oct 30, 2016- Kabuntalan, Maguindanao
36. Nov 5, 2016- D. Saudi, Maguindanao
37. Nov 6, 2016- Macabiso, Sultan Kudarat
38. Nov 12, 2016- Kayaga, Kabacan
39. Nov 13, 2016-  Sitio Balas, Brgy. Tacupan, Carmen
40. Nov. 14, 2016- Romongaob, Upi, Maguindanao
41. Nov. 19, 2016- Al Hamen, Nasapiyan, Carmen
42. Nov. 26, 2016- D. Saudi, Maguindanao
43. Nov. 27, 2016- 31st MBD- 23 Jasmin Street, Cotabato City
44. Dec. 3, 2016- Pikit 1, Maguindanao
45. Dec. 4, 2016- Lebak, Sultan Kudarat
46. Dec. 10, 2016- Tugunan,
47. Dec. 11, 2016- Darapanan, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao
48. Dec. 17, 2016- Parang, Maguindanao
49. Dec. 18, 2016- D. Montawal, Maguindanao
50. Dec. 19, 2016- Jamiah, Tamontaka I, Cotabato City

These schedules may change at any given time due to some unexpected circumstances.
Hence, for more updates and inquiries please text or call 09177008344, Carolyn B. Biruar-Piang R.N., MBD Coordinator or email at or view and befriend with account name Kadsadaqah sa Lugu.

MBD is a program of BDA-CenMin that aims to contribute in addressing the huge and continuing increase of blood demand in Central Mindanao and its neighboring places.

MILF: BTC submits final report to PNOY

Posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front Website (Jun 24): BTC submits final report to PNOY

Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) Chairman Mohagher Iqbal handed over on Wednesday (June 22) the Commission’s final narrative report to outgoing President Benigno Aquino III in Malacanan Palace.

The 238-page report enumerates all sessions, consultations and advocacy works done by the BTC since April 2013 up to the present, but the bulk of it contains the initial draft Bangsamoro Administrative Code and a draft bill on the Code of Parliamentary Procedures and
Practices of the Bangsamoro Parliament.

On August 20, 2015 President Aquino issued Executive Order No. 187 directing BTC to commence the drafting of the two above-cited codes as additional functions, both “for the consideration of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority.”

BTC’s main task was the drafting of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) which it has finished on April 20, 2014. The “agreed version” of the BBL was transmitted by Pres. Aquino on September 10 of that year to the Senate and House of Representatives but it was not enacted into law by the 16th Congress of the Philippines.

In the said meeting, Iqbal told the outgoing President that they are “unfazed” inspite of the non-passage of a CAB-compliant BBL and that they will still “pursue the path to peace because the commitment to do so lives on in each of us.” CAB is the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro and is the source of the contents of the BBL.

Pres. Aquino said he “shares the frustration” over the non-passage of the draft BBL but that he believes most of the difficulties have been overcome.

“None can afford to become a stumbling block in the absence of an alternative to the status quo,” the President said.

Iqbal conveyed their “best wishes” to Pres. Aquino and expressed that the latter would continue to contribute to their quest to bring just and lasting peace to Mindanao in whatever capacity or role Aquino takes on in the future.  

Iqbal was joined by 11 of the 12 remaining BTC commissioners, namely Ibrahim Ali, Said Sheik, Melanio Ulama, Hussein Muñoz, Abdulla Camlian, Raissa Jajurie, Akmad Sakkam, Asani Tammang, Talib Benito, Froilyn Mendoza and Pedrito Eisma. Comm. Robert Maulana Alonto was absent in the farewell visit to Pres. Aquino.

Of the 15 members originally comprising the BTC in 2013, two have already taken other positions in the government. They are Atty. Johaira Wahab and Comm. Fatmawati Salapuddin who are now in the Department of Foreign Affairs and NCMF, respectively. Both were government nominees in the BTC.

BTC status

Legally, the BTC continues to exist unless the executive orders that created it – EO 120 series of 2012 and EO 187 series of 2015 – would be repealed, revoked or amended.

Consistent with item 5, letter A, part II of the Annex on Transitional Arrangements and Modalities, EO 187 provides that the operation of BTC is until the ratification of the BBL in a plebiscite to be called for such purpose.

The BTC has a unique composition, with 8 commissioners including the Chairman selected and nominated by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and 7 by the Government of the Philippines (GPH).

But since the Chairman and Commissioners are co-terminous with Pres. Aquino, they are already preparing to vacate their posts come June 30.

BTC forms part of the transition mechanisms agreed by the GPH and MILF in the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) and further spelled out in the Annex on Transitional Arrangements and Modalities.

Malaysia to hold urgent meeting with Indonesia, Philippines on recent sea abductions

From the Malay Mail Online (Jun 25): Malaysia to hold urgent meeting with Indonesia, Philippines on recent sea abductions

KOTA KINABALU, June 25 — Malaysia’s foreign affairs ministry will hold an urgent meeting with Indonesia and the Philippines to discuss developments concerning the recent kidnapping of seven Indonesians in the Sulu Sea, said Foreign Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman.

Anifah said that the planned meeting with Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi and the Philippine new foreign secretary would take place pending the latter’s appointment soon.

 “The Indonesian foreign minister has confirmed that 10 Indonesians are currently being held hostage by Abu Sayyaf militants in southern Philippines. We hope to hold the meeting either in Malaysia or one of the two countries as soon as possible,” he said.

Anifah was speaking to reporters after a breaking-of-fast event today attended by Assistant Minsiter to the Chief Minister cum Membakut state assemblyman Datuk Mohd Arifin Mohd Arif and Bongawan state assemblyman, Datuk Mohamad Alamin.

Seven Indonesian crew of a tugboat were kidnapped by an armed group in southern Philippines four days ago.

Anifah, who is also Kimanis Member of Parliament, said he planned to meet with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte to discuss the kidnapping issue and to urge the Philippines to boost patrols in their waters.

 “The abduction cases have caused much concern for Malaysia and Indonesia; the Philippines must be accountable for their people’s actions.

 “A meeting held recently between the three countries’ defence ministers has not issued any reports yet on the proper actions needed to tackle the kidnapping issue due to abductions taking place in international waters,” he said.

Anifah said the three defence ministries had agreed to conduct their own patrols in their respective waters and exchange intelligence information and other forms of aid during their first meeting held in Yogyakarta over a month ago.

 “I hope the discussions between the defence ministers would result in something we can rely on and help overcome fear among the people as fear could affect Sabah’s tourism industry,” he added. — Bernama

Indonesians’ Abu captors identified

From the Manila Times (Jun 25): Indonesians’ Abu captors identified

THE seven Indonesians seized by armed men last week are in the hands of a notorious Abu Sayyaf leader who was also behind the abduction of several Malaysian and Indonesian sailors in the past, a police intelligence report showed.

The intelligence report, seen by The Manila Times, showed that the Indonesian sailors are being held by the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) under sub-leader Majal Adja alias “Apo Mike” who is based in Sulu province. The report said Apo Mike and his group are “highly mobile” because they are being pursued by government troops.

The victims, crew of Tugboat Charles 00, were abducted on June 22 off Sulu while en route to Indonesia. A group of armed men boarded the tugboat at 11 a.m. as it neared the Indonesian border.

The armed men forcibly took seven of the 13 crew members and then sped off toward Tawi-Tawi.

The police report identified some of the kidnappers as the Muktadil brothers namely Nickson, Brown and Badung Muktadil and a certain Dadis. The others have yet to be identified.

Shortly after the abduction, the boat captain called his wife and told her that they have been kidnapped. The rebels demanded a ransom of 20 million Ringit.

The intelligence report said the kidnappers and the victims arrived on board two boats at Barangay Lagasan in Parang town in Sulu province at dawn on Thursday.

The Indonesians were then forced to board a red triple-engine “Junkong” type vessel.

Since then, the Abu Sayyaf rebels and their captors have been on the run as the military intensified its operations against the bandit group.

The group of Apo Mike was also behind the abduction of four Malaysian sailors in April.

The victims—brothers Wong Teck Kang, 31, and Wong Teck Chii, 29, their cousin, Johnny Lau Jung Hien, 21, and Wong Hung Sing, 34 – were released on June 7 in Patikul, Sulu.

Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said the families and friends of the victims raised P130 million (RM12 million) for the release of the captives.

However, reports said the Abu Sayyaf only received P100 million, fueling suspicion that the rest of the money may have been shared by local officials who are in cahoots with the bandits.

No confirmation

 Malacañang on Saturday however said the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) have yet to come out with specific information on the abduction of the Indonesian sailors.

Citing information from the military, Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said government forces are verifying the reported abduction.

“As of late yesterday, we still have no direct and solid confirmation of the report. What we have are reports from Indonesia and an advisory from their military command,” Coloma said, quoting military spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla.

“The AFP Western Mindanao Command and Philippine Navy are still trying their best to confirm and validate this report,” he added.

His statement came after the Indonesian government confirmed that seven Indonesian sailors were kidnapped at gunpoint earlier this week, and that they were being held hostage by an unknown group.

On Friday, Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said that the abducted sailors were towing a coal barge through the Sulu Sea when their tugboat was attacked by gunmen.

“The government will do everything possible to free these hostages,” Marsudi told reporters.

It’s the third time this year that Indonesian sailors have been abducted in the Sulu sea, a vital waterway that’s seen a spike in seaborne crime like armed robberies and kidnappings.

Last month, Indonesia, the Philippines and Malaysia agreed to launch a coordinated sea patrols to stem the surge of kidnappings.

Hopes of peace for communist insurgents in Philippines

From Deutsche Welle (Jun 25): Hopes of peace for communist insurgents in Philippines

The Philippine government and Maoist rebels are confident that talks will end a half-century conflict that has killed 40,000 people. The optimism is reinforced by established trust between the president-elect and rebels.

Philippinen New People's Army

Expectations are high that the Philippines will be able to resolve one of Asia's longest-running insurgencies.

The incoming administration of President-elect Rodrigo Duterte has not wasted time engaging with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), an umbrella group of 18 outlawed organizations, including the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing, the New People's Army (NPA).

Government representatives and the Netherlands-based exiled NDFP have agreed to restart nearly three decades of on-and-off peace negotiations at the end of July. The previous round stalled in 2013, when President Benigno Aquino, who is scheduled to step down on June 30, halted negotiations and refused to release political prisoners.

Blueprint for talks

Mediated by Norway, talks between the NDFP and the incoming administration led to an agreement on several major sticking points in mid-June. The two sides agreed to discuss amnesty for political prisoners, an interim ceasefire and a timeline for further talks. Details of social and economic reforms will be discussed during peace negotiations, which the government hopes to complete within nine to 12 months.

The sides also reaffirmed all agreements made during previous negotiations, and, importantly, the reconstitution of the 1995 Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees, or JASIG.

Dureza: Formal peace talks with NDFP to resume 3rd week of July (photo c/o Dureza) | via @IanEsguerra
A cozy history

Speaking to DW by phone from the Netherlands, Luis Jalandoni, the NDFP's chief negotiator, said the agreement inked in Oslo constituted an important first step - one of many that will be needed to reach lasting peace in the Philippines.

"We have high expectations the talks will move forward," Jalandoni said, "because the incoming Duterte government has said it wants to end conflict and cooperate."

Though peace talks anywhere face a number of hurdles, negotiations to end the conflict in the Philippines are underpinned by a unique set of circumstances based on a long history of contact between Duterte and the communists.

During more than a quarter of a century as mayor of Davao, the country's second largest city, the left-leaning Duterte kept a line open to the communists on Mindanao island - and even cooperated with them from time to time. At one point in the 1960s, he was a student of Jose Sison, the founder of the CPP.

Jalandoni said there were "high expectations" ahead of talks
"In any negotiation a very important aspect is mutual trust between the negotiating personalities," Silvestre Bello, the incoming labor secretary and chief government negotiator, told DW. "The president is giving his full trust and confidence in the NDFP leadership, and also the NDFP leadership having strong confidence in our president the prospect of reaching peace is very good."

Duterte's closeness to the NDFP/CPP is underscored by Duterte's penchant for visiting communist-controlled villages and even negotiating personally with NPA guerrillas for the release of kidnapped police.

"We have been dealing with Duterte in different ways of cooperation for more than 25 years," Jalandoni said, adding that Duterte remains "very influential in Mindanao and has shown concrete progress" in Davao City.

"The cooperation that we are working on now has a basis historically since the 1980s," Jalandoni said, noting that he has had dinner with Duterte on a number of occasions. "Duterte has shown a lot of moves and interests in reaching a solution," he added.

Philippinen Präsidentschaftskandidat Rodrigo Duterte
Duterte has vowed to end all insurgencies in the country
As mayor, Duterte built a reputation for being hard on crime, a policy that earned him criticism for rights abuses but also praise for turning Davao into a safe city with better services. He was also known for providing services and representing ethnic and religious groups, as well as promoting women's rights. These are all policies that earned him the trust of communists, while, as the first president from Mindanao, Duterte is also viewed as somewhat of a Manila outsider.

An olive branch

As a first goodwill measure, Duterte has announced the appointment of two ministers to his cabinet who were proposed by the NDFP. Rafael Mariano, a militant peasant leader, will head up the Department of Agrarian Reform, while the Department of Social Welfare will be led by the professor Judy Taguiwalo.

The cabinet positions are key priority areas for the communists, who would like to break up large landholdings, end feudal relationships and distribute land to people who have been excluded by the current system.

The New People's Army's "foot soldiers understand they and their families will benefit from land reform," Jalandoni said. According to the military, the NPA has about 4,000 guerillas today, but Jalandoni put the number at 10,000 plus thousands of "people's militia" across a majority of the Philippines' provinces.

Duterte has also appointed an anti-mining advocate to head the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. The communists are opposed to foreign mining and resource extraction, which they have targeted. Meanwhile, Bello, the peace negotiator, will lead the Department of Labor.
These four departments will be responsible for implementing policies as part of the "social and economic" reform that comes with the peace process, Bello said.

Stumbling blocks

Patricio Abinales, a professor at the University of Hawaii at Manoa who grew up on Mindanao, told DW that, despite the optimism about the peace process, a number of potential stumbling blocks remain.

For one, Abinales said, the communists have not renounced their goal of seizing the state and setting up a "dictatorship of the proletariat" - nor have they shown any intention to demobilize the NPA.

"I doubt if the Armed Forces of the Philippines will totally agree to this arrangement where the NPA does not demobilize or that CPP not renounce armed struggle," Abinales said, adding that the legislature may not go along with all of Duterte's plans.

"Duterte may have a majority in both the House of Representatives and the Senate," Abinales said, "but I am not sure if they also could easily pass a law legitimizing whatever agreement both sides sign."

As happens when any rebel group transitions to a governance role, there is always a difference between fighting and ruling. So, though pro-NDFP ministers may run two departments, there will also be pressure for them to function.

"This is a party that is not used to responding to different interests, including those social forces that it may strongly disagree with," Abinales said.

Agrarian reform, for example, will involve negotiating and compromising with landed elites, local politicians and even international multilateral aid agencies, he said.

Jalandoni said the communists would be "vigilant" against landlords, mining companies and established business interests - all of which he described as being against peace negotiations.

According to Stanford University's Mapping Militant Organizations project, peace talks in the past were hampered by divisions between the NDFP in the Netherlands and the CPP-NPA leadership in the Philippines. This brings up questions about whether the armed communist forces on the ground would sign up to an agreement reached between the exiles and the government.

Abinales said there would be constant tensions in the NDFP between those "working inside government versus those trying to overthrow that same government."

Bello recognized divisions between the exiles and leadership on the ground has traditionally been an issue, but said it would not impact the talks.

"Our military intelligence has determined that the people we are talking to have almost complete control over forces in the Philippines," he said. "There may be some feud between personalities, but by and large the group of (CPP founder) Sison and Jalandoni have control over their forces."

DND: AFP capability upgrade cost P60b

From The Standard (Jun 25): DND: AFP capability upgrade cost P60b

Outgoing Department of National Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said on Friday that the six-year administration of outgoing President Benigno Aquino III has spent at least P60.14 billion to buy equipment under the capability upgrade and modernization program of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

“I am happy to say that through the strong support of President Aquino, we have gained significant progress in the implementation of the AFP capability upgrade and modernization program with the release of P60.14 billion pesos from July 2010 to April 2016 and extended to the Philippine Army its modest share of the implementation of the said program,” Gazmin said in his speech during a testimonial review given to him by the Philippine Army at Fort Bonifacio.

“I depart from our Defense department on June 30, 2016 contented and pleased that I am leaving behind my endeared institution, the Philippine Army, the immortal monument of courage and patriotism in the defense of our citizenry and their treasured social and democratic ideals,” he added.

Gazmin, a former Army chief and a member of the Philippine Military Academy Class 1968, has served six years as the alter-ego of Aquino in the defense department.

Aquino had earmarked after his assumption to power a total of P75 billion to modernize the AFP to at least achieve a “minimum credible territorial defense.”

Such a promise, however, was not fulfilled because of corruption and other issues that beset the Defense department, such as the controversial P1.2-billion helicopter deal with an American-based company.

Gazmin together with some co-terminus defense officials, military officers and private individuals are facing plunder charges filed before the Office of the Ombudsman by whistleblower Rhodora Alvarez, a director of the Bureau of Internal Revenue, in connection with the botched chopper contract.

Opinion: What happened to our military?

From the On Target column by Ramon Tulfo in the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jun 25): What happened to our military?

A front-page photo in the Inquirer yesterday showed Indonesian President Joko Widodo standing beside a gun turret on the deck of an Indonesian Navy ship.

That photo, released by Reuters, was intended to show China that Indonesia was ready to do battle with the military giant in order to protect its sovereignty.

The Indonesian Navy ship looked new and spick-and-span the way a Navy ship should look.

As somebody who grew up in a military environment from the 1950s till the late ’60s, I could only shake my head in disappointment as I compared our Philippine Navy (PN) to the other navies in Southeast Asia.

We now have a puny Navy and Air Force.

In fact, we practically have a Navy with no ships and an air force with no planes.
But back in the ’50s and ’60s, we had plenty of naval ships.

We had the best Navy and Air Force in Asia, second to Japan.

Although PN ships were hand-me-downs from the United States they were relatively new as World War II had ended only a decade or two earlier.

PN ships patrolled our seas unchallenged. Philippine Air Force (PAF) jets and propeller-driven planes proudly flew our skies.

PAF C-47 (cargo) planes shuttled between Nichols (now Villamor) Air Base and different bases in the country, transporting soldiers and even their dependents.

PAF’s giant Hercules aircraft, which were very new in the 1960s, were used mainly for transporting troops and equipment.

The Philippines had so many Air Force planes and helicopters and Navy warships and patrol craft that they were hard to count with one’s finger; no exaggeration.

PAF’s Blue Diamond squadron was the envy of our Asian neighbors.

During a turbulent period in an African nation in the early ‘60s, PAF fighter pilots were sent to augment the United Nations peacekeeping force there.

What happened?

Why is the Armed Forces of the Philippines the most under-equipped military force in the Asian region?

Aside from being corrupt, our past leaders didn’t have foresight.

Our past leaders didn’t think of buying modern arms because the country was too dependent on the US which had two military bases—Clark and Subic—in the country then.

The budget for arms went into the pockets of officials in the past administrations because, anyway, there were second-hand military equipment from Clark and Subic.

If corruption is eliminated or at least minimized in the incoming administration of Digong Duterte, as he has promised, then the country will be able to buy all the military arms and equipment we need.

Perhaps PN ships and Air Force planes will be able to proudly patrol our seas and skies.

And, if our warships and aircraft are challenged within our territory, we will be able to answer the challenge....

AFP forms task force to guard Scarborough Shoal

From CNN Philippines (Jun 25): AFP forms task force to guard Scarborough Shoal

Scarborough or Panatag Shoal

Fishermen are the ones bearing the brunt of the maritime dispute in the West Philippine Sea.

Particularly those who used to fish in the Spratly Islands (Kalayaan Group of Islands) and in the Scarborough Shoal (Panatag Shoal).

The shoal is a 12-hour sail away from the town of Masinloc in Zambales.

Related: Pres. Aquino: Scarborough Shoal is ours

The local Fisheries bureau said on Thursday that the industry declined by roughly 40 percent since China kicked Filipino fishermen out of the shoal in 2012.

Part of the problem is that the Armed Forces is unable to match China's military strength.

So the fishermen of Masinloc are left to fend for themselves — with no navy or coast guard watching their back.

However, the AFP Northern Luzon Command (Nolcom) is leading the newly formed 'Area Task Force North' on the West Philippine Sea.

The goal is to assert the coutry's maritime rights in the waters off Bataan, Zambales — and the Benham Rise east of Aurora.

Joining the group are the Philippine National Police (PNP), the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) fisheries bureau and other agencies involved in managing the effects of the maritime dispute.

Nolcom commander Lt. Gen. Romeo Tanalgo said on Friday that the task force would synchronize efforts of various agencies in asserting maritime rights.

That's if the United Nations Permanent Court of Arbitration rules in favor of the Philippines in its maritime case against China.

Tanalgo added that the military remained ready to defend any Filipino against any foreign aggressor.