Wednesday, June 29, 2016

NDFP comments on proposal to hold peace talks in UP

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jun 30): NDFP comments on proposal to hold peace talks in UP

The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) commented on the proposal of the Yes for Peace – Bayanihan para sa Kapayapaan, Kaunlaran at Kasaganahan to conduct peace negotiations with the government anywhere here in the country.

In an open letter to Professor Joma Sison, founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and adviser of the NDFP, Ernesto Angeles Alcanzare wrote, “You may want to seriously consider the University of the Philippines as a venue and as a mediating institution in the peace negotiations as resolved by the UP Board of Regents in 1992.”

Alcanzare was referring to a “Resolution Declaring all UP Campuses a Zone of Peace, Freedom and Neutrality” by its Board of Regents during its 1056th meeting held on 17 December 1992 which resolved further, “that UP shall offer its campus as a possible venue for open and multilateral peace talks between the government and all armed revolutionary groups, and serve as mediating institution in peace talks.”

The UP Board of Regents resolution defined a Zone of Peace, Freedom and Neutrality as: “A society whose constituents have agreed to:

1.   “Develop harmonious internal and external working relationships with each other and with their environment;

2.   “Respect and uphold each other’s right regardless of religious, political, and cultural beliefs in the spirit of openness;

3.     “Create and provide opportunities for satisfying the needs of all regardless of their respective socio-economic status; and

4.   “Serve as mediating parties and offer a venue for the immediate resolution of conflicts among antagonists who have opted to use violence in the pursuit of their respective causes.”

NDFP Political Consultant Dan Borjal, in a statement published online by the NDFP International Information Office objected to Alcanzare’s proposal, “Some rogue elements who do not wish the peace process to succeed can act as ‘spoilers’.”

“The NDFP has learned its lesson from its experience in 1987 when it agreed to hold peace negotiations in Manila. It was marred by the violent dispersal of peasants in front of Malacanang, which came to be known as the Mendiola Massacre. NDFP negotiators and their technical and security personnel were forced to hurriedly withdraw to their base in the countryside,” Borjal said.

 “Conducting peace negotiations in a foreign venue is not something out of the ordinary. Peace negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians had been held in Oslo, between the Americans and Vietnamese in Paris, between the Colombian government and FARC in Cuba, etc....,” he added.

A “Summary of the FARC-Government Ceasefire and Disarmament Accord” published online and dated 23 June 2016 stated that, “The accord agreed today, for ‘A Bilateral and Definitive Ceasefire, Cessation of Hostilities, and Laying Aside of Weapons,’ closes the fifth of five substantive items on the FARC-government negotiating agenda. It sets out a roadmap for disarming and demobilizing the FARC after a final peace accord is signed. It foresees a swift process: a full turnover of guerrilla weapons within six months.”

For his part, Lawyer Domingo Alidon, President of the 19,000-strong Department of Education National Employees’ Union and a known peace advocate accepted Borjal’s position and said, “His point may be valid and factual but the negotiations between the Americans and the Vietnamese and the Israelis and Palestinians were to resolve conflicts between different nations and therefore of different peoples and not between parties that both claim to represent the interests of the same people. In our case, the sovereign Filipino people!”

Meanwhile, Engr Mama S. Lalanto, al Haj, an Adviser of Yes for Peace, said, “If the peace negotiations between the government and the Communist Party of the Philippines - National Democratic Front of the Philippines - New People’s Army are continued to be held in accordance with what seems to be a hard line position of the NDFP of holding it abroad, can, we, the sovereign Filipino people for whom the armed struggle is waged expect an accord similar to that which was recently entered into by the Colombian government and the FARC?” 

Of course, Joma Sison’s security and safety as well as those of all peace negotiators and consultants of the NDFP will have to be guaranteed by the government for all these to happen,” Alidon added.

According to a high ranking military officer who asked not to be identified, “The AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) and the PNP (Philippine National Police) are directly under the command of and are responsible to the President and therefore strictly follow lawful orders. I assume that the NDFP have a very high level of trust and confidence in incoming President Rodrigo R. Duterte. Thus, the security and safety of Mr. Sison and his colleagues can easily be guaranteed.”

COA: 16,140 cops have no service handguns

From the Philippine Star (Jun 30): COA: 16,140 cops have no service handguns

A Commission on Audit report noted the country currently has 147,041 uniformed officers assigned to offices, units or regions, yet only 124,738 of them actually have handguns. PNP

Some 16,140 police officers representing 11 percent of the country’s policemen do not have handguns, a Commission on Audit (COA) report released yesterday revealed.

This means that as of Dec. 31, 2015, more than one out every 10 uniformed personnel of the Philippine National Police (PNP) is performing his or her duty fighting crime unarmed.

The COA report noted the country currently has 147,041 uniformed officers assigned to offices, units or regions, yet only 124,738 of them actually have handguns.

State auditors said 623 police officers do have short firearms but have acquired them either through loans or donations.

The COA report said the PNP should address the issue, considering that the National Police Commission (Napolcom), through a resolution, has required the 100 percent issuance of short firearms to policemen as early as April 1993.  

“As can be gleaned in the above detailed summary report, of the total reported personnel strength of 124,738 or 85 percent were issued with PNP short firearms and 16,140 or 11 percent of the personnel strength are not yet issued with short firearms,” state auditors said.
“There are short firearms loaned from other sources, which must be regulated in accordance with the provisions of PNP Memorandum Circular No. 2007-11 dated Oct. 4, 2007,” the audit team added.

The COA report faulted the PNP management for still falling short of providing its total uniformed personnel with the basic police equipment to enhance their capability for the prevention of crime and other illegal activities. 

“We recommend that management re-evaluate their procurement plan for short firearms in order to complete the procurement and achieve their goal of 100 percent issuance of short firearm to personnel strength under Napolcom Memorandum No. 93-08, approved April 6, 1993,” state auditors said.

In response to COA’s findings, the PNP’s director for logistics commented the PNP has been programming a total of 10,000 units of short firearms annually to attain the 100 percent fill-up to be issued to newly recruited personnel.

Why China Is Ready for Rodrigo Duterte

From The National Interest (Jun 29): Why China Is Ready for Rodrigo Duterte

Philippine president-elect Rodrigo Duterte. Wikimedia Commons/Ryan Lim

The Philippines’ new president may grasp China's vision of the South China Sea better than most American strategists.

A paradoxical mixture of glee and foreboding has taken hold among Western strategists as the world awaits the judgment of the Hague tribunal ruling on the South China Sea case brought by Manila against Beijing. Into this witch’s brew of obvious conflict precursors, including but not limited to escalating great-power rivalry, nationalism and resource competition, one must now factor in the Donald Trump of Asia-Pacific politics, Philippine president-elect Rodrigo Duterte, inaugurated at the end of June.

He has already turned more than a few heads in Washington, not only with his extreme statements about law and order and with his misgivings about alleged U.S. intelligence activities in the Philippines, but more particularly with respect to his suggestion that he would negotiate directly with Beijing on the difficult question of conflicting claims in the South China Sea. That would constitute a nearly 180-degree course correction from his predecessor’s confrontational approach toward China. Indeed, on May 16, Duterte held a friendly consultation in Davao with China’s ambassador to the Philippines, Zhao Jianhua.

Needless to say, Beijing is studying the evolution of the political climate in Washington and also Manila with some degree of optimism. In fact, Chinese scholarship has been working meticulously and with the utmost seriousness to fully divine the nature of the long love-hate relationship that constitutes U.S.-Philippine relations. For example, as I discuss in my 2015 book, myriad studies have been published in the last decade in the Chinese language that examine the details of America’s colonial administration of the Philippines. Not surprisingly, the Chinese military has also taken more than a passing interest in this relationship and this edition of Dragon Eye will summarize the findings of two Chinese military scholars from the Marine Academy (海军陆战学院) in Guangzhou.

Vietnam’s ‘Soft Diplomacy’ in the South China Sea

From The Diplomat (Jun 29): Vietnam’s ‘Soft Diplomacy’ in the South China Sea (By James Borton)

Ly Son Island is a living museum documenting Vietnam’s claims to the Paracels and Spratlys.

The sea breeze found us on a fast boat bound for Ly Son Island, located about 15 nautical miles off Vietnam’s Central Coast. For centuries, the island has served as a base for their fishermen to venture into the dangerous Paracels Archipelago.

On board, marine scientist Dr. Chu Manh Trinh described to me the urgent need for a clarion call to all South China Sea claimants to join forces in tackling environmental offshore degradation and the depletion of natural resources through ecological science and cooperation.

“The healthy coral reefs in Cu Lao Cham are protected and are key centers in distributing nutrition into the sea and act as breeding grounds for fish species, and we need more marine protected areas,” he said.

A Fulbright scholar, Trinh intends to adopt the same conservation model in Ly Son. He plans on working in partnership with the private sector in creating a geopark that encompasses a marine protected area. Since the island’s bedrock represents many changes in the Earth’s crust, including basalt layers formed from a 10-million-year-old volcano, there’s hope that that it may be recognized as a global geopark by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

The Quang Ngai authorities assigned the Doan Anh Duong company to survey the Ly Son area. The chairman, Mr. Doan Sung, presents himself as a cultural environmentalist, who strongly supports “the protection of the environment and to build upon the cultural heritage of the area after his company had earlier salvaged shipwrecks.”

The geopark’s aim is to protect the marine environment, shipwrecks, and cultural heritage. Over the past several years, archaeologists have discovered fragments of 18th century ceramic ware and stone statuary about 3 kilometers from Ly Son.

Due to China’s repeated confiscation of Ly Sơn’s fishing vessels and harassment of their nearly 3,000 fishermen, this volcanic island has become an historic symbol for “defending the nation’s sovereignty” and a destination for local (Vietnamese) tourists eager to show their solidarity with the islanders who bore the brunt of the defense of the nation’s historic sovereignty battles.

China’s unilateral sovereignty claims on more than 80 percent of the international sea and massive military build-up on artificial islands over the past two years has sparked a sea change in Vietnam’s identity, from a Red River delta rice producing culture to a maritime nation. These shifts in the nation’s narrative are now marked by stories about Vietnam’s ancestral fishing grounds and its identity as a sea-oriented country.

Vietnam’s S-shaped long coral reef surrounded coastline runs along the eastern border down to the south, stretching more than 3,500 kilometers. About 80 percent of the population lives by the shore.

Out at sea, thousands of coral reefs, sea grass beds, and other shallow-water ecosystems are rapidly being destroyed and buried as China rushes to stake claim to the region. Beijing’s land reclamation project is undermining the ecological connection between the Spratly Islands and the South China Sea, choking off the supply of nutrients upon which these ecosystems depend.

In a recent interview in Hanoi with Dr. Nguyen Linh Ngoc, deputy minister of natural resources and environment, we discussed the importance of enhancing cooperation for sustainable development, especially in climate change adaptation, food security, energy security, and water resources security. These are both urgent demands and generators of significant momentum for sustainable development in every country and throughout the region.

“The coral reefs in Truong Sa (Spratlys) archipelagos play a very important role in maintaining biodiversity and marine fishery sources. It’s disappointing that the ongoing dredging and construction activities by China have been destroying the most important marine habitats of the sea, accelerating the environmental degradation of the area,” says Ngoc.

What is clear is that the deeply rooted history of Ly Son is not entirely about the more prominently argued issues of atolls, exclusive economic zones (EEZs), freedom of navigation, military surveillance, or unexplored vast oil and gas reserves. It may actually be more about accessing fishing grounds, restating cultural heritage, and memorializing history and sacrifice in the Paracels.

In the context of tensions with Beijing and their competing claims over the potentially energy-rich South China Sea, through which $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year, the Vietnamese are asserting their so-called “historic rights” to maritime resources through the stories of their sailors of the Hoang Sa and Truong Sa navies, who had sacrificed their lives at sea.

The 20,000 residents on Ly Son Island have two main occupations, fishing and garlic cultivation. Ly Son has a long tradition of fishing. The island’s harbor floats close to 400 fishing boats many with a large capacity for offshore fishing. Each day these fishermen know that their livelihood is under attack. It’s no wonder that families with increasing regularity visit the island’s Hoang Sa Kiem Bac Hai flotilla memorial, since their husbands, fathers, and sons’ traditional wooden trawlers are rammed and sunk by Chinese naval or coast guard vessels.

Fourth generation fisherman Pham Quang Tinh faces down the threats each time he leaves his protected harbor. However, he believes the sea is for all and that the Paracels have been part of his ancestral fishing grounds.

Not long after the founding of the Nguyen Dynasty, the feudal rulers made every effort from the 17th century to consolidate Vietnam’s sovereignty over the Paracels and the Spratly islands. More recently, Vietnam has chosen to frame its sovereignty claims by citing historical documents, poems, and colorful stories of patriotic Vietnamese sailors who sacrificed their lives defending the islands.

This story is commemorated through the annual Hoang Sa (Paracels) flotilla, established with 70 sailors selected from An Vinh commune (Ly Son). In the third month of every year, they sailed for about three days to the Paracels, where they collected goods, measured sea routes, and affirmed Vietnam’s sovereignty.

Poet, scholar, and national treasure Vo Hien Dat, now 86 years old, has meticulously studied details about Ly Son’s maritime history and territorial claims on the Paracels and Spratlys. Dat, writes, “the merit of the ancestors of Ly Son islanders is boundless/ The progeny needs to continue sailing.”

Ly Son Island is considered a living museum for Hoang Sa artifacts. The museum displays more than 1,000 documents, photos, and artifacts associated with the heroic Hoang Sa and Truong Sa troops.

The museum’s youthful director, Minh Tuan Vo, believes that the present conflict with China over the South China Sea evokes strong emotions in Vietnam. Increasing numbers of Vietnamese assert their affection for the nation’s ancestral fishing grounds at the largely uninhabited islands of the Paracels and Spratlys.

Vietnam exercises its soft diplomacy by incorporating documents and narratives to demonstrate their historical footprint in the Paracels. In many conversations with Ly Son residents, they proudly reveal their ancestors’ adventurous explorations in the Paracel Islands, dating back as far back as the 18th century.

The conflicts over fishing rights to the Paracels accelerated in 2001, when China first denied Ly Son fishermen access to what they regard as their own ancestral fishing grounds and imposed a seasonal fishing ban.

Professor Edyta Roszko, an anthropologist from Durham University who has researched the island, writes, “In Ly Son people’s highly localized perception of the nation’s territory, the modern border line shifted from the island to the Paracels and Spratlys, expanding and making Ly Son a virtual center of Vietnam’s territory, now comprised of both land and sea.”

Her scholarship begs for more answers about how these islanders deal with coastal and environmental damage of marine areas and the growing impact of competition associated with overfishing and other unsustainable forms of development. What’s clear is that declining marine resources translate as natural capital. China and Vietnam both consider the sea as a national interest.

In their efforts to whip up nationwide support for sovereignty claims, Hanoi has also promulgated a patriotic campaign among the population about protecting their “ancestral lands” in the East Sea. For that matter, in 2014, the Vietnamese Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism selected Ly Son Island to host the national exhibition of Vietnam and China’s historical maps, under the slogan, “Paracel and Spratly Islands belong to Vietnam — legal and historical evidence.”

Over the past two years, Vietnam has especially introduced its own sovereignty campaign, complete with slogans: “Vietnam is a maritime country,” “The island is a home, and the sea is a homeland,” “Stay strong. Keep safe the rights of the oceans and islands of Vietnam,” and “Each Vietnamese citizen is a citizen of the sea.”

In conversations with young Vietnamese, many claimed that they are seeing more of these slogans, with the government invoking the term “bien dao,” the Vietnamese expression for “oceans and islands.”

According to Ly Son’s museum historian Vo, the citizens believe that they are a maritime nation with a long history in the Paracels and Spratlys. “That’s why we use the slogans to raise awareness among our population on our rights in the East Sea,” says Vo.

Meanwhile, Hanoi’s Center for Environment Training and Propaganda has also just announced their 6th National Contest on Environmental Films. The competition honors organizations and individuals, who have produced valuable and qualified environmental films that educate and encourage citizens in environmental protection.

All this attention on conservation and protection of the environment is particularly telling since around 85 percent of the world’s fishers are concentrated in Asia, particularly in the South China Sea, a rise from 77 percent in 1970, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. China has the largest number of fishermen, followed by Vietnam, Indonesia, and the Philippines. In total, at least 31 million people are engaged in the fisheries and aquaculture sector and related industries in the region.

Furthermore, nearly one billion people rely on the world’s oceans as their primary source of animal protein. What we are witnessing is a systematic depletion of fish stocks. According to Johan Bergenas, a senior associate at the Stimson Center, in his recent ocean study, “Secure Oceans: Collaborative Policy and Technology Recommendations for the World’s Largest Crime Scene,” recent estimates indicate that local and commercial populations have been cut in half since 1970, and countries like China worry that a shortage of available fish could trigger instability among its growing population.

Ancient history, books, documents, maps and slogans may all point to some evidence that Vietnam has legitimate sovereignty claims in the East Sea, but what’s clear is that the Vietnamese turn to the sea (cả nuoc Việt Nam hướng về biển Dong) for life, especially on Ly Son Island.

Those life-sustaining resources are under threat. Vu Thanh Ca from the Vietnam Institute for Sea and Island Research confirms that the environment is seriously degraded due to unregulated use and exploitation of natural resources. “Territorial disputes also worsen the problem and China’s U-shaped [line] also cause[s] more fishing competition for a declining number of marine resources,” he says.

Marine scientists, including those from Taiwan, believe that a carefully managed marine park will safeguard the declining number of fish species protect valuable coral reefs and reduce the deepening ecological shadow.

Dr. John McManus, along with Dr. Kwang-Tsaou Shao and Dr. Szu-Yin Lin of the Biodiversity Research Center from Academia Sinica, Taiwan, co-authored a 2010 paper advocating the establishment of an international peace park in the South China Sea, which would “manage the area’s natural resources and alleviate regional tensions via a freeze on claims and supportive actions.”

Environmental scientists say the dangers are increasing as the conflicting sovereignty claims heat up between China and other Asian nations bordering one of the world’s most strategic maritime routes, which boasts an irreplaceable ecological harvest of atolls, submerged banks, islands, reefs, rock formations, and 3,000 species of fish.

The protection of the marine ecological environment is a global issue. The ocean’s sustainability is vital for all life. The challenges in this fragile and interconnected marine web are profound, including climate change, destruction and damage to marine ecosystems, loss of biodiversity, and the degradation of the natural environment through overfishing.

[James Borton is an ocean steward and a Faculty Associate at the Walker Institute at the University of South Carolina. He edited "The South China Sea: Challenges and Promises."]

Beijing to reject Hague ruling on South China Sea case

From ABS-CBN (Jun): Beijing to reject Hague ruling on South China Sea case


The runway at the Fiery Cross Reef, one of three China was constructing on artificial islands built up from seven reefs and atolls in the Spratlys archipelago, is shown in this IHS Jane's Satellite Imagery Analysis handout image released on January 4, 2016. Reuters

Beijing will reject any ruling by an international tribunal in a contentious case brought by the Philippines over the South China Sea, the foreign ministry said, as tensions mount over the disputed waters.

The United Nations-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) said Wednesday it will rule on July 12 in a closely watched case challenging China's claims to much of the strategic waterway.

Beijing has consistently rejected the tribunal's right to hear the case and has taken no part in the proceedings, mounting a diplomatic and propaganda drive to try to undermine its authority.

"With regard to territorial issues and maritime delimitation disputes, China does not accept any means of third party dispute settlement or any solution imposed on China," foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said in a statement on its website.

The tribunal was "established on the basis of illegal conduct and claims of the Philippines" and "has no jurisdiction over the relevant matters", he said.
Manila lodged the suit against Beijing in early 2013, saying that after 17 years of negotiations it had exhausted all political and diplomatic avenues to settle the dispute.

Spanning more than three years, two hearings and nearly 4,000 pages of evidence, the arbitration case in The Hague is extremely complex.

China claims most of the sea, even waters approaching neighboring countries, based on a vaguely defined "nine-dash" Chinese map dating back to the 1940s.

In recent years has rapidly built up reefs and outcrops into artificial islands with facilities capable of military use.

As well as the Philippines, several other littoral states have competing claims, and the dispute has also embroiled the United States, which has defence treaties with allies in the region.

"I hereby once again emphasise that the Arbitral Tribunal has no jurisdiction over the case and the relevant subject matter, and that it should not have heard the case," Hong said in the statement, released late Wednesday.

Losing bidders buck P18-b Navy deal

From The Standard (Jun 30): Losing bidders buck P18-b Navy deal 

Participants in  the bidding  for the  P18-billion acquisition of two Navy frigates for the Armed Forces’ modernization program have asked the Department of National Defense  to defer awarding the  deal until President-elect Rodrigo Duterte has  assumed office.

The four bidders were Garden Reach Shipbuilders & Engineers Ltd., (GRSE), STX France SA, Thyssenkrupp Marine System and Hyundai Heavy Industries Inc. (HHI).

The first three bidders were disqualified during the first phase due to alleged deficiencies in the documents they submitted.

Issues were raised on the net financial contracting capacity of GRSE and STX France and the list of completed contracts submitted by Thyssenkrupp Marine.

The DND stipulates that the winning bid would go to the one who could offer the lowest price.

The BAC disqualified GRSE allegedly due to insufficient capitalization, although during the bid preparation, the latter submitted a letter asking for time saying their latest Financial Statement was not yet available. The BAC issued a post-disqualification notice to GRSE which submitted a motion for reconsideration.

The three firms have asked the DND bids and awards committee  to overturn their disqualification.

GRSE’s offer was P900 million  cheaper than HHI’s bid.

When BAC conducted a post evaluation of the 2nd bidder, HHI was  declared as having  passed the post qualification stage.

In asking for a review, bidders  want to know why the BAC has approve a more expensive offer of a yet to be tested model in the guise of fast-tracking the upgrade of the country’s territorial defense capabilities.

Proponents asked whether HHI was chosen because the frigate it offered was similar to the Incheon Class, a proven design or a prototype of the Incheon Class, which has yet to prove its capabilities.

Proponents said the offer must be carefully evaluated before awarding the project to HHI, otherwise the DND could be accused of a midnight deal, done on the day that President Rodrigo Duterte was being sworn into office.

Garden Reach Shipbuilders & Engineers Ltd is one of India’s leading shipyards. It builds and repairs commercial and naval vessels. Founded in 1884, GRSE has also started ships for export to expand its business.

The company is owned by the Indian government and was awarded the Miniratna status, with accompanying financial and operational autonomy in September 2006.

Isabela councilor killed NPA claims responsibility

From the Visayan Daily Star (Jun 30): Isabela councilor killed NPA claims responsibility
Suspected New People's Army assassins yesterday shot and killed in broad daylight a re-elected municipal councilor of Isabela, Negros Occidental.

This took place a year after Board Member Renato Malabor was also gunned down in the town.

Isabela Councilor Crispin Posadas succumbed to multiple gunshot wounds, including fatal injuries in the head. He died on the spot, Chief Inspector Anthony Grande, Isabela police chief, said last night.

Ka Ann Jacinto, spokesperson of the Leonardo Panaligan Command, in a text message sent to the Visayan DAILY STAR, immediately claimed responsibility for the death of Posadas.

“Ginpatigayon sg npa ang pagsilot sg kamatayon ka isabela sp Dodoy Posadas (The NPA imposed the death penalty on Isabela Councilor Dodoy Posadas)”, Ka Ann Jacinto said in her text message.

Investigations by the Isabela police showed that Posadas was about to board his motorcycle at past 5 p.m. yesterday, when he was approached and shot by three suspects, armed with .45 caliber and 9mm pistols, at close range, within the vicinity of the public market at Magallanes Street in the town.

Grande said Posadas sustained fatal gunshot wounds in the forehead, left ear and neck.
The suspects also fired their guns while fleeing on board a tricycle towards Brgy. Sikatuna, he added.

The tricycle abandoned by the fleeing suspects was recovered later by the police, about two kilometers from the crime scene.

Seven empty shells of .45 caliber and 9mm pistols were recovered by police probers at the scene.

The Army's 303rd Infantry Brigade condemned anew the killing of innocent civilians.

“Let us not allow more of this senseless attacks and loss of lives to continue”, Col. Francisco Delfin, 303rd Infantry Brigade commander, said last night.

“We call on the NPA to stop killings and spare innocent civilians, as they are not combatants,” Delfin added.

Posadas, a third-termer councilor of Isabela, took his oath of office on Monday, with six other councilors and Mayor Enrique Montilla after the traditional flag-raising ceremony on June 27 at the municipal hall.

A year ago, Malabor and his bodyguard, Leody Jomilla, were also shot and killed in Brgy. Guintubhan, Isabela.

Before the May 9 elections, two barangay captains of Isabela, who are supporters of Montilla, were also harassed and warned by the NPA, not to return to their barangays.

US Marines to deploy amphibious battle group to South China Sea

From Update.Ph (Jun 30): US Marines to deploy amphibious battle group to South China Sea

The US Marine Corps will move one of its amphibious expeditionary groups from the west coast of the United States to the Asia Pacific as early as 2019, according to reports on Wednesday.

There will be “additional amphibious capability on multiple 90-day patrols in and around the Asia Pacific,” Marine Corps Forces Command commander Lt. Gen. John Wissler was quoted as saying by DOD—BUZZ.

Portions of the South China Sea are contested by China, the Philippines, Japan and Vietnam, each making overlapping claims on island chains and navigation rights.

China has been constructing artificial islands on top of the coral reef habitats of the Spratly Islands, a group of more than 750 islands and reefs, over the past year. Beijing claimed sovereignty over the land and the 12 nautical mile zone surrounding the islands.

The United States has repeatedly warned it does not recognize the Chinese claims of sovereignty over the man-made islands, and has engaged of freedom of navigation exercises in the region. The US Navy has positioned two aircraft carrier strike groups — the Stennis and Reagan — in the Pacific in a show of force.

The 31st Marine Expeditionary Force stationed in Japan is responsible for conducting 90-day patrols in the Asia Pacific region. The additional amphibious group will provide the US Marines and Navy greater reach. US Marines based in Australia and Okinawa may join the new battle group, according to the report.

Indian shipbuilder disqualified from frigate acquisition program

From Update.Ph (Jun 30): Indian shipbuilder disqualified from frigate acquisition program

The Department of National Defense has announced that the Indian shipbuilder Garden Reach Shipbuilders & Engineers Ltd. was not able to meet requirements set for the acquisition of two Philippine Navy frigates.

“The firm from India was post disqualified,” Defense Undersecretary Fernando Manalo told The STAR Wednesday.

He said that the shipbuilder “is not capable financially as per computation of its net financing contracting capacity.”

The disqualification of the Indian shipbuilder, lowest bidder, was confirmed after Western Command chief and head of the Philippine Navy (PN) technical working group Rear Admiral Roland Joseph Mercado announced that representatives from the Navy have visited and conducted post-qualification inspections on South Korea’s Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI), one of the proponents in the country’s missile-capable frigate project.

The South Korean builder is the second lowest bidder in the frigate acquisition program.

Rear Admiral Mercado added that post-qualification inspection on HHI is “very favorable” and said Navy representatives focused on the proponent’s capability to meet the project’s “technical proposals and technical requirements”.

Army division chief extends 'hands of peace', hosts 'Iftar' with Muslim political leaders

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 30): Army division chief extends 'hands of peace', hosts 'Iftar' with Muslim political leaders

The Commander of 6th Infantry (Kampilan) Divison, Major General Edmundo R. Pangilinan, on Wednesday night extended his hands of peace and hosted “Iftar” for the Muslim brothers and sisters inside the military camp.

The gathering held at 6th ID’s Eco Recreational Park was also attended by officers and men of the 6th ID.

“Iftar” or “Buka Puasa” is an evening meal when Muslim ends their daily fasting during Ramadhan at sunset.

As host, Pangilinan warmly welcomed the guests from the local government units, local government agencies, and other key stakeholders in Central Mindanao that took time to visit and share their celebration with the officers and personnel of the Kampilan Division.

“As the commander of 6ID, I have a firm understanding on the sensitivities, the practices, and the cultures that our Muslim brothers and sisters are observing and the Command has always been very supportive of your religious endeavors,” Pangilinan said.

After the short program, the guests were served and treated with sumptuous Halal meals.

Capt. Joann Petinglay, speaking for the 6th ID, said the occasion was inspiring as it provided a venue for social interaction and commitment to uphold the camaraderie and good relationships that 6ID had established.

Present during the dinner were: Rep. Bai Sandra Sema of 1st District of Maguindanao and Cotabato City; Vice-Mayor Cynthia Guiani-Sayadi of Cotabato City, 6ID Multi-Sector Advisory Board President Dr. Susan Anayatin; Mayor Sumulong Sultan of Pikit, North Cotabato; Maguindanao Mayors Zamzamin Amaptuan of Rajah Buayan, Datu Razul Sangki of Ampatuan, Salaban Diocolano of Mother Kabuntalan, Midpantao Midtimbang Jr. of Guindulungan, Norodin Salasal of Datu Salibo, Genuine Kamaong Sr of Datu Piang, Tungkang Midtimbang of Talayan, Marshall Sinsuat of Datu Blah Sinsuat, Ramdatu Angas of Sultan Sa Barongis, Ibrahim Ibay of Parang, Abolais Manalao of Buldon, and Mary Jane Bayam of North Kabuntalan; and Dr. Kadil Sinolinding of Department of Health in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

Suspected NPA leader with PHP5-M bounty nabbed in Compostela Valley

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 30): Suspected NPA leader with PHP5-M bounty nabbed in Compostela Valley

A suspected ranking New People's Army (NPA) leader with a PHP5 million bounty was arrested by government forces in Panutukan, Compostela Valley province Wednesday morning.

Capt. Rhyan Batchar, 10th Infantry Division public affairs office chief, identified the nabbed rebel as Eddie Genelsa, reportedly the head of the Pulang Bagani Company (PBC) 3 of the Southern Mindanao Regional Committee.

He was arrested in Barangay Bongabong, Pantukan town by security forces on the virtue of the arrest warrants issued by Regional Trial Court Branch 3, 11th Judicial Region in Nabunturan, Compostela Valley for multiple counts of arson, murder, frustrated murder, and robbery.

Genelsa has an existing PHP5 million reward for his capture, making him at par with Leoncio Pitao, the leader of PBC 1, who was killed in an encounter with government troops last year.

Col. Macairog Alberto, 1001st Infantry Brigade commander, encouraged other NPA members to return to the folds of law, live peacefully and become productive members of the community.

Sundalo itinumba sa basketbolan sa Sorsogon

From Abante (Jun 30): Sundalo itinumba sa basketbolan sa Sorsogon (Soldier shot dead on a basketball court in Sorsogon)

Patay ang isang mi­yembro ng Philippine Army (PA) matapos itong malapitang pagbabarilin ng dalawang hindi pa kila­lang kabataang lalaki habang nanonood ng basketball kamakalawa ng hapon sa Matnog, Sorsogon.
Dead on the spot sanhi ng tinamong pitong tama ng bala ng kalibre .45 baril ang biktimang nakilalang si Tsgy. Jerry Genavia Gali­leo, 55, miyembro ng PA na nakadestino sa Radar station sa Barangay Pangi ng nabatid na bayan.
Samantala parang wa­lang anumang naglakad palayo ng lugar ng insidente ang dalawang lala­king suspek na tinata­yang nasa edad 18 hanggang 23-anyos matapos masigurong wala ng buhay ang biktima.
Sa ulat ng Sorsogon Police Provincial Office (PPO), naganap ang insidente dakong alas-singko ng hapon habang nasa kasarapan ng panonood ng laro ng basketball ang biktima sa basketball court sa Barangay Pangi ng lapitan ito ng mga suspek.

US ship sails to Albay for humanitarian work

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jun 30): US ship sails to Albay for humanitarian work

THE USNS Mercy docks in Albay Gulf for a two-week medical and community assistance mission in Albay province. MARK ALVIC ESPLANA

THE USNS Mercy docks in Albay Gulf for a two-week medical and community assistance mission in Albay province. MARK ALVIC ESPLANA

The sight of a huge, white ship marked with red crosses in the Albay Gulf and with Mayon Volcano as backdrop greeted residents of Albay province on Monday.

The USNS Mercy, a floating hospital that has come to the aid of countries, especially in times of disaster, has reached Legazpi City, the provincial capital, for a two-week humanitarian and disaster relief preparedness mission.

With at least 1,000 US Navy personnel on board, it docked in the gulf 5 kilometers from the city port.

The mission, dubbed the Pacific Partnership 2016 and hosted this year by the provincial government, aims to bring the United States’ partner nations, like the Philippines, “shoulder to shoulder” so they can prepare to face natural disasters and respond when crisis happens, said Lt. Cmdr. Kris Hooper, its public affairs officer.

The 272.49-meter (894-foot) Mercy, whose home port is in San Diego, California, provides mobile surgical and medical services in disaster-stricken areas and is involved in humanitarian relief efforts. It has a team of medical professionals, including nine doctors, nurses, medical technicians and support staff, which offers surgery, internal medicine, radiology, dental and eye health services.

Since Tuesday, the Pacific Partnership has been holding medical and dental services in Albay. Its crew will also help in the construction and repair of school buildings in poor villages in Camalig and Daraga towns, and in the cities of Legazpi, Tabaco and Ligao.

 On-board treatment

The mission, which will culminate on July 11, is expected to treat at least 4,000 patients on board and in designated areas in the province, said Cmdr. Miguel Gutierrez, director of medical operations and planning for Pacific Partnership 2016.

At least 250 people have been lined up to undergo surgical services on the ship. These include general surgery, hernia, bone realignment, cataract removal and cleft palate operations, and neurological and pediatric examinations.

The ship can accommodate 10 to 15 dental patients a day.

Gutierrez said five doctors from the Department of Health, the provincial health office and the city health office would assist the US Navy doctors.

Symposiums on nursing care, blood banking and transfusion procedures, medicine administration and practices would be held during the two-week mission. The US Navy crew will hand over the remaining medical supplies to the local government health units.

A CREW member of the USNS Mercy shows reporters one of the features of the hospital ship.  MARK ALVIC ESPLANA

A CREW member of the USNS Mercy shows reporters one of the features of the hospital ship. MARK ALVIC ESPLANA
New school buildings

Lt. Col. Baylon Aler of the Philippine Army Engineering Brigade said the mission’s team of engineers had started construction of two-classroom school buildings, equipped with toilets, and repair of other classrooms in the villages of Cotmon in Camalig and Kinawitan in Daraga.

The engineers and their crew also began building a water tank and lavatory at Mabini Elementary School in Barangay Mabini in Daraga.

Hooper said the joint Philippine-US Navy Service humanitarian mission would be a sharing-and-learning exercise between the two countries in handling disaster and building communities.

It aims to strengthen the relationship between the US and the Philippines by having their respective troops work together, Rear Admiral Bruce Gillingham of the US Armed Forces said. “We are committed then, as we are now, to enhance our multilateral relationship to improve security and stability through partnership,” he said.

The Pacific Partnership took off in response to the 2004 tsunami that devastated parts of Southeast Asia. Along with other nations, the United States deployed its Navy assets, including the Mercy, which later returned to the region in 2006.

Outgoing Albay Gov. Joey Salceda and Legazpi Mayor Noel Rosal welcomed the mission members to the province.

Albay has hosted at least six humanitarian exercises, including the US Air Force’s Pacific engagements, two Philippine-US Balikatan military exercises, and a five-day humanitarian mission in 2008, which involved two US Navy warships—the USS Comstock and the USS Peleliu.

15 activists ordered arrested

From the often pro-Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) online publication the Davao Today (Jun 29): 15 activists ordered arrested

PROTEST.More or less 1000 activist trooped infront of the Hall of Justice, Wednesday to protest the issued warrant of arrest on the 15 militant leaders accused for kidnapping and illegal detention on Lumad evacues in UCCP haran.(Ace R. Morandante/

PROTEST.More or less 1000 activist trooped infront of the Hall of Justice, Wednesday to protest the issued warrant of arrest on the 15 militant leaders accused for kidnapping and illegal detention on Lumad evacues in UCCP haran.(Ace R. Morandante/
If not for a reporter who showed him a copy of the warrant of arrest, a church leader who was among those accused of kidnapping and serious illegal detention of indigenous peoples evacuees here, would not know about his pending arrest by police authorities.
Reverend Jurie Jaime, a pastor of the United Church of Christ of the Philippines and a convener of the Exodus for Justice and Peace was among those named on an arrest warrant signed a month ago.

Jaime said he was surprised after a TV reporter approached him and handed him a copy the arrest warrant, which was signed last May 13 with no bail recommended by the Regional Trial Court 10 presiding judge Retrina E. Fuentes.

“The case was already dismissed,” Jaime said.

“We were surprised because it was the same case, the same people, but this time there is a warrant of arrest,” he said.

The warrant of arrest includes Hanimay Suazo, Ryan Lariba, Tony Salubre, Jimboy Marciano, Mary Ann Sapar, Jaja Necosia, Pedro Arnado, Kerlan Fanagel, Sr. Stella Matutina, Sr. Restita Miles, Isidro Indao, Kharlo Manano, Rius Valle, and other John Does.

On July 11, 2015, cases were filed against the 15 individuals who were charged with kidnapping, serious illegal detention, and violations of Anti-trafficking in Persons Act.

Read: Cases against activists lodged after IP’s mass evacuation

The case was filed by members of the Matigsalug-Manobo tribe of Sitio Inayaman, Barangay San Jose, San Fernando Bukidnon namely Datu Kalumpot Dalon, Datu Larie Landahay, Libara Angkomog, Toto Angkomog, Juvnie Angkomog, Limar Mangomoy-at and Tata Angkomog-Lundia.

The complainants said the 15 activists kidnapped and detained Lumad evacuees staying inside the UCCP-owned Haran compound, a sanctuary for indigenous people’s since 1993.

Read: Twenty years later: Ata-Manobos again, flee from military operations on foot

But, two months later the case was dismissed with the resolution dated September 8 saying that the case filed by the tribal leaders against the activists lack sufficient evidence.

The resolution was signed by Prosecutor II Samuel Alencia and approved by City Prosecutor Nestor Ledesma.

Read: Kidnapping case Vs activists dismissed

Form of harassment

For Jaime, the warrant only serves as “another form of harassment against activists.” “For us, this is really a form of trumped up case,” he said.

“Illegal detention and kidnapping? And the ones kidnapped are evacuees? And they are in hundreds, almost 700 individuals. Can I detain them? Inside our own church compound?” he said.

Jaime said that they are not the only victims of trumped up charges, but many other activists all over the country.

He said that they saw this as they are being targeted by the President Aquino’s counter-insurgency program Oplan Bayanihan.

‘Hold PNoy accountable’

Earlier today, thousands of protesters marched from the Davao City Recreation Center (Almendras Gym) to the Hall of Justice in Ecoland to condemn the issuance of the warrant of arrest.

Bai Ali Indayla, Gabriela Women’s Party’s spokesperson in Mindanao said that the court “should serve the warrant of arrest to President Aquino who ordered to kill the Lumads in the countryside under Oplan Bayanihan.”

“Even the judiciary system in our country shows that it does not favor the people who are the victims of this human rights violations,” Indayla said.

The accused are now consulting with their legal counsels for possible actions, Indayla said.

Jaime said they are hopeful that their case will be resolved immediately.

“This has a political bearing because there is an existing armed conflict, civilians are caught in between. We help them, but we are being persecuted for what we do,” he said.

Top NPA leader nabbed in Compostela

From the often pro-Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) online publication the Davao Today (Jun 29): Top NPA leader nabbed in Compostela

The Army and police arrested an alleged top-ranking leader of the New People’s Army in Pantukan, Compostela Valley Province on Wednesday morning, June 29.

In a statement, the Army said Eddie Genelsa alias Lando, was arrested in Barangay Bongabong, Pantukan by virtue of warrants of arrest issued by Regional Trial Court Branch 3, 11th Judicial Region based in Nabunturan town, Compostela Valley Province.

The Army said Genelsa is the Philippines 19th most wanted person.

Genelsa is facing charges of arson, murder, frustrated murder and robbery.

The Army said Genelsa is the commanding officer of the NPA’s Pulang Bagani Company 3 of the Southern Mindanao Regional Committee.

A joint order issued by the Department of National Defense and the Department of Interior and Local Government in 2012 provides for a P5 million bounty for Genelsa’s capture, “making him at par with Leoncio Pitao alias Parago,” the Army said.

Parago is an NPA commander killed in an Army raid in Paquibato district here on June 28 last year.

Army Major General Rafael Valencia, commander of the 10th Infantry Division lauded the arresting Army and police personnel for their accomplishment.

He said “while the AFP continue to enforce its mandate, the military organization is fully behind and wholeheartedly supports the peace initiative of the new administration.”

JICA completes development plan for Philippines’ Bangsamoro region

From The Japan Times (Jun 29): JICA completes development plan for Philippines’ Bangsamoro region

A development plan for the proposed Bangsamoro region in the Philippines’ southern island of Mindanao has been completed despite a setback in the government’s peace process with the country’s largest Muslim rebel group, the Japan International Cooperation Agency said Wednesday.

JICA’s Philippine office said the final report of Bangsamoro Development Plan 2, the crafting of which it led starting in 2013, was turned over Saturday to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and its development arm, the Bangsamoro Development Agency, at the rebel group’s main stronghold, Camp Darapanan, in Maguindanao province.

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front forged a Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro with the Philippine government in March 2014 after 17 years of negotiations for a peaceful settlement of the political and armed conflict that has stunted economic growth and affected people’s lives.

But the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law for authorizing the creation of the Muslim-dominated region with a more autonomous government was not passed by the outgoing congress after some legislators questioned the rebel group’s sincerity following a deadly clash between government forces and armed fighters in January 2015.

The same piece of legislation is expected to be tackled by the new members of congress set to convene next month.

“We are optimistic that the peace process in Mindanao will be sustained despite the challenges,” Susumu Ito, JICA’s chief representative in the Philippines, said in a statement.

The Bangsamoro Development Plan 2 “will be useful for integrated development planning for the whole Mindanao and outlines strategies for future development assistance that the region will need to achieve inclusive growth,” he added.

The plan is a result of JICA’s Comprehensive Development Project for the Bangsamoro in partnership with the Bangsamoro Development Agency.

It covers medium- to long-term goals through 2022 and 2028, respectively, and identifies 27 key projects that may be funded by any interested agencies, including government and development partners.

The proposed projects, which are mainly for agriculture, agro-industry, fishery, logistics infrastructure, power supply, river basin management and flood control, may be implemented even as the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law is being awaited.

Another 54 proposed projects under the plan are expected to help boost the economy of the entire Mindanao, JICA said.

If implemented, the plan can create 550,000 additional jobs in the region and pump the average regional gross domestic product to 7.4 percent annually.

“When carried out, the (Bangsamoro Development Plan) will help bridge the poverty gap and enhance the connectivity of Mindanao with other regions,” Ito said.

Citing data from the Philippine Statistics Authority, JICA noted that poverty incidence in that region was at 59 percent during the first half of 2015, way higher than the national average of 26.3 percent.

“JICA shares the Philippines’ collective vision for just and lasting peace and inclusive development in Mindanao,” Ito said.

Mohagher Iqbal, the rebel group’s lead negotiator with the government who now heads the Bangsamoro Transition Commission, was quoted in the JICA statement as saying that the development plan “is not only historic but also an indispensable part of nation building.”

Moro Islamic Liberation Front Chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, for his part, was quoted as saying, “Despite the non-passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law, the MILF is supporting the implementation of selected projects under the (Bangsamoro Development Plan) in core territories hardest hit by poverty.”

More than 3 million people are estimated to be in the Bangsamoro region, which covers nearly 1.5 million hectares in land area, mainly in central to western Mindanao.

The armed conflict in Mindanao, spanning over four decades because of the Muslim rebel groups’ desire for independence or autonomy, has claimed the lives of some 120,000 people and displaced millions of others.

It is also causing 20 billion pesos (about $425 million) in annual economic losses in terms of damages to businesses and properties, as well as potential investments that turn away due to the unstable security environment.

2 explosions rock east coast of Zamboanga City; no one hurt

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jun 29): 2 explosions rock east coast of Zamboanga City; no one hurt

Two explosions rocked the east coast of the city on Wednesday but there had been no reports of injuries, the military said.

Colonel Juvymax Uy, commander of the Task Force Zamboanga, said the explosion came minutes apart and took place in Barangay Muti between 11:30 a.m. and 11:40 a.m.

The explosions occurred along the highway, he said.

Inspector Dahlan Samuddin of the local police said the two blasts took place near Army detachments in the village.

“No one was hurt or wounded in the two explosions and these explosions took place about 60 kilometers away from the city proper,” Uy said.

He said that in one of the blast sites, fragments of suspected mortar shell and a cellular phone had been recovered, indicating that it had been remotely detonated.

Superintendent Luisito Magnaye, the city police director, said they were still conducting further investigation as of Wednesdayafternoon.

Uy said the identities and motives of those who planted the improvised explosive devices remained unknown as of posting time.

Twin roadside bombings injure 1 in south Philippines

Anadolu Agency (Jun 29): Twin roadside bombings injure 1 in south Philippines

One person was injured after two roadside bombs exploded minutes apart Wednesday in the troubled southern Philippines.
The Mindanews website reported that a man riding a motorcycle was hit by shrapnel from one of the blasts on a highway near a military post in the village of Muti on the outskirts of Zamboanga City.
Colonel Juvymax Uy, Task Force Zamboanga commander, was quoted by the Philippine Inquirer news website as saying “these explosions took place about 60 kilometers (37 miles) away from the city proper.”
Security forces reportedly also discovered and detonated a third explosive near the highway.
No group has claimed responsibility for the explosions, which came a day before the inauguration of President-elect Rodrigo Duterte.
Several armed Muslim groups and a communist insurgency operate in conflict-ridden southern Mindanao island.
After the blasts, security forces cordoned off the highway and temporarily cut cell phone service to the area to prevent detonations of any other explosives.

Hijacked boat defied government’s travel ban on Sulu Sea: Minister

From the Jakarta Post (Jun 29): Hijacked boat defied government’s travel ban on Sulu Sea: Minister

Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu attends a hearing at the House of Representatives.(

The Indonesia-flagged boat that had seven of its 13 crewmen abducted by armed militants in the waters of southern Philippines did not adhere to the government's ban on sailing through the Sulu Sea, which is rife with pirates, a minister has said.

"There actually had been a ban in place. They were just being defiant," Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu said on Wednesday as quoted by

Ryamizard said he did not know why the shipping company dismissed the government-issued ban to traverse through the waters in the southern Philippines despite the numerous kidnappings in the area in the past few months. The tugboat Charles and its barge Robby were sailing back to Samarinda, East Kalimantan, from Tagoloan, Philippines when it was attacked twice in less than two hours.

The minister said he, along with Transportation Minister Ignasius Jonan, would summons in the near future the owners of the boats that ignored the ban. Ryamizard said he would give a strong warning and direct them to take safer routes.

"Because it would be pointless if they continued to ignore it. We have instructed to go through safe lanes, yet they still chose unsafe ones, so it happened again," he said in reference to the kidnappings, which have occurred in the same area three previous times.

Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia work to secure sea borders

From the Philippine Star (Jun 30): Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia work to secure sea borders

Defense officials from the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia are working out an arrangement for the deployment in the Sulu Sea of a combined force of sea marshals to deter kidnapping for ransom by the Abu Sayyaf and other cross-border crimes like piracy, according to outgoing Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin. DND

Defense officials from the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia are working out an arrangement for the deployment in the Sulu Sea of a combined force of sea marshals to deter kidnapping for ransom by the Abu Sayyaf and other cross-border crimes like piracy.

This was bared yesterday by outgoing Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, who also revealed the plan was raised at a recent trilateral defense meeting held at Camp Aguinaldo between him and his Malaysian and Indonesian counterparts.

“We have to resolve it… it has become a big issue that destroys our image in the international community… They (Indonesian and Malaysian) also need to be part of the arrangement because they are the victims,” Gazmin said.

Earlier, a senior security official said that the Abu Sayyaf kidnapping menace has become an international security concern, as the bandits are now operating in international waters.

Only last week, the bandits on two motorboats intercepted an Indonesian tugboat and abducted seven of the boat’s 13 crewmembers in the waters off the coast of Tawi-Tawi.

The kidnappers later handed over their captives to the Abu Sayyaf in Sulu. The bandits are demanding 20 million ringgit for the freedom of the hostages.
“They have become so systematic,” Gazmin said of the terrorists.

He said he and Indonesia’s defense minister, in a meeting last Saturday at Camp Aguinaldo, agreed to make use the 1975 cross border agreement.

The 1975 agreement allows Indonesian and Philippine security forces to conduct pursuit operations against the bandits within each other’s maritime zones.

But he stressed every operation should be coordinated between countries involved.“They should coordinate with us all their actions, in the way that we will also coordinate with them  our own actions inside their maritime domain,” Gazmin said.

He stressed that foreign troops are not allowed to operate inland. However, under extraordinary circumstances, Indonesians and Malaysians – provided they are unarmed – can be allowed to work together with Filipino troops to serve as interpreters or to provide needed information.

Gazmin: Giving Duterte emergency powers can decimate ASG

From InterAksyon (Jun 29): Gazmin: Giving Duterte emergency powers can decimate ASG

Outgoing Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin believes that it is possible to eliminate the terroristic activities being waged by a handful of Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) bandits in the provinces of Basilan and Sulu by giving President-elect Rodrigo Duterte emergency powers.

“Ang pinakamagandang solusyon dito is ‘yung sinasabi ngang mga emergency powers. Probably, we can be allowed to search the houses even without search warrants. You can control the movement of people and the movement of food supplies. Kumbaga parang martial law but (with) limited powers for a limited time lang,” Gazmin said.

Based on earlier reports, Duterte had already in mind the declaration of martial law in the two provinces – a proposal that was supported by incoming Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Ricardo Visaya.

Duterte gave two options to the ASG: talk or fight. Visaya is poised to implement a comprehensive plan to eliminate the terrorists.

But the only hurdle to the military action against the ASG was the civilian support enjoyed by the armed bandits who have family members or relatives in the communities where they operate.

Gazmin also supports the imposition of punishment to civilians and government officials who coddle the terror group.

“Impose punishment or penalty to local government officials who are cooperating or siding with them (ASG),” he said.

He said the kidnap-for-ransom activities of the ASG have emboldened their coddlers to tolerate them because it is a lucrative business.

The kidnappings perpetrated by the ASG, which had beheaded some of their victims if ransom was not paid, has tarnished the image of the country in the international community.

Recently, the ASG in Sulu beheaded Canadian nationals John Ridsdel and Robert Hall after a P300-million ransom demand for each of the victims was not delivered.

Still in the hands of the bandits are Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad. The four victims were abducted by gunmen in September 2015 at a resort in the Island Garden City of Samal and brought to Sulu.

Just recently, seven Indonesians were abducted by the ASG and brought to Sulu for ransom negotiation.

New Defense chief vows to fight terrorism, drugs

From CNN Philippines (Jun 30): New Defense chief vows to fight terrorism, drugs

Announcements have yet to be made. But incoming Defense chief Delfin Lorenzana gives a preview on who will hold key positions at his department.
Among those he acknowledged during Wednesday's transition ceremony, were a number of retired military officers like him.

They included former Immigration officer Ricardo David, Eduardo Oban of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) commission and Eduardo del Rosario of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC).

Aside from drafting policies crucial to national security, the DND regularly bids out big-ticket defense items, some worth multi-million pesos.

In a chance interview after the ceremony, Lorenzana spelled out his priorities. "Ang uunahin natin ay ang Abu Sayyaf, kasi yan ang utos ng bagong presidente," he said. [Translation: "We will deal first with the Abu Sayyaf, as per order of the new President."]

The recent kidnapping of Indonesian sailors prompted Indonesia to reduce coal shipment to the country.

There are fears this could eventually affect the country's power supply and economy.
Plus, the possibility of local bandits forming alliances with international radical terror groups, such as ISIS, could pose a bigger worry.

Lorenzana said this was the reason why the terrorist problem should be resolved right away to avoid such scenario.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) will also support the police in its anti-criminality campaign, especially against drugs.

Outgoing Defense chief Voltaire Gazmin jokingly warned Lorenzana of long working hours and stressful deadlines.

Related: Gazmin bids farewell to AFP; incoming AFP chief eyes 24/7 ops vs. Abu Sayyaf

In an interview with Defense reporters, Gazmin looked back at the challenges in the Aquino government.

He said the West Philippine Sea issue was among the toughest he had to handle.

Gazmin and Lorenza worked together at the Presidential Security Group during the term of the late President Cory Aquino.

Gazmin added he was confident his former junior officer would do well, given Lorenzana's extensive service as defense attaché in Washington D.C.

‘Limited martial law’ best solution vs Abus–Gazmin

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jun 30): ‘Limited martial law’ best solution vs Abus–Gazmin

Voltaire Gazmin

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO / NINO JESUS ORBETA

Troops should be granted “emergency powers” to effectively eradicate the Abu Sayyaf group, which is currently holding a number of foreign hostages, outgoing Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said on Wednesday.

Speaking at his last sit-down interview in Camp Aguinaldo, Gazmin stressed that imposing limited martial law was the best solution to crush the Abu Sayyaf, a small gang of self-styled militants wanted for a spate of kidnappings and other atrocities in the country.

“The best solution here is what they call ‘emergency powers,’” Gazmin told reporters. “Probably we can be allowed to search the houses even without search warrants. You control the movement of people, you control the movement of food supplies. It’s like martial law, but [only with] limited power for just a limited time.”

His statement follows President Aquino’s recent admission that he had thought of declaring martial law in Sulu province, weeks before the June 13 ransom deadline the Abu Sayyaf group set for abducted Canadian national Robert Hall. Hall was eventually executed by the Abu Sayyaf, two months after the execution of fellow Canadian victim John Ridsdel.

7 new captives

The two were abducted in September along with Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad and Filipino Marites Flor. Flor was recently released but Sekkingstad remains in captivity, and his health is said to be failing. The Abu Sayyaf is also believed to be holding captive seven Indonesians they seized last week off Sulu.

Gazmin confirmed talks were ongoing to allow Indonesian troops to escort vessels sailing into Philippine waters to prevent similar attacks in the future. He said Malaysia was also involved in the discussions.

However, he clarified that foreign troops would not be allowed to help in rescue operations in Philippine territories, without prior coordination with Manila or if not in pursuit operations across borders.
 ‘They can’t just come in’

“For this particular incident, they can’t just come in. We can ask for help in terms of exchange of information… but for for them to come and help in the rescue, that’s not allowed,” Gazmin said.

Gazmin also discouraged governments from paying ransom, because the money fuels the trade all the more. He said a group is paid by the Abu Sayyaf to act as “spotters” for possible victims. Once seized, the victims are then taken to a shelter where another group negotiates ransom.

“We need to solve this. It’s a big issue that destroys our image in the international community. And they [other countries] need to be part of the arrangements because they are also victimized,” Gazmin said.

Lorenzana a good choice for DND post — Gazmin

From Update.Ph (Jun 29): Lorenzana a good choice for DND post — Gazmin

Outgoing Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said his successor, Delfin Lorenzana, is a good choice for the agency’s top position.

“He is a very capable officer, he was my junior officer when we were in (the) Presidential Security Group, he was (my) G-3 (operations officer),” he added.

Lorenzana, a member of Philippine Military Academy Class of 1973 and a retired major general, also served as the Special Presidential Representative and Head of the Office of Veteran Affairs (OVA) at the Philippine Embassy in Washington DC, USA from 2004-2009 and 2010 until his selection by President-elect Rodrigo Duterte as next DND head.

He is responsible for developing and implementing the Philippine lobby effort to secure veterans benefits for Filipino soldiers who served under the US Army during World War II, which includes the grant of the Filipino Veterans Equity Compensation (FVEC) and the equipment grant to the Veterans Memorial Medical Center.

“He (Lorenzana) knew that the DND is in good hands, it is up to him to make the DND much better,” Gazmin stressed.

He added that when the incoming DND chief made his first visit, all relevant documents and books were presented for the latter’s inspection.

Gazmin is hopeful Lorenzana will continue with all the reforms, including the military modernization, started during his term.

“I am sure he will implement all these things for the good of the department, for the government and for everyone,” the outgoing DND chief disclosed.

Prior to his post as OVA Head, Lorenzana served as the Defense Attaché in Washington from 2002-2004, during which he helped craft the Terms of Reference for the Balikatan Exercise in Basilan between the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the US Pacific Command.

Attack AW-109 helicopters now being used in Mindanao

From Update.Ph (Jun 29): Attack AW-109 helicopters now being used in Mindanao

Outgoing Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Voltaire Gazmin expressed confidence that the incoming Duterte administration will continue with the AFP Modernization Program.

In regards to claims that money is wasted in the acquisition of South Korean-made FA-50PH light-interim fighter aircraft when the pressing need for the AFP is more helicopters with night-vision capability to counter the insurgency and terrorist threats, the outgoing DND chief said that ample provision has been made for these equipment as exemplified by the acquisition of eight brand-new AW-109 “Power” helicopters for the Air Force.

As of this posting, these helicopters are now being used for close-support missions in Mindanao, augmenting the firepower of the older MG-520 gunships.

He made this statement after noting that most of Horizon 1 items of the project has already been delivered or in the process of being delivered.

Some of the equipment acquired in this period include the Hamilton-class cutters, multi-purpose assault craft, armored personnel carriers, brand-new C-295 medium lift aircraft, C-130 heavy transports, FA-50PH light-interim fighter aircraft, utility and attack versions of the AgustaWestland AW-109 helicopters, landing craft heavies, multi-purpose attack craft, and strategic sealift vessels to name a few.

While Horizon 2, which is the phase where the AFP will begin the acquisition of multi-role fighters, missile batteries and other advanced weaponry, could still be realized once the Duterte administration starts looking into the Defense System of Management (DSOM) or guidelines in the procurement of military equipment.

“Once they look into the DSOM, they will see the need for the continuation of the program and priorities needed to be address by the acquisition,” Gazmin said in Filipino.