Sunday, July 17, 2016

1FAB, DXPR ink MOU to strengthen partnership

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jul 14): 1FAB, DXPR ink MOU to strengthen partnership

The 1st Field Artillery Battalion (1FAB), Army Artillery Regiment, Philippine Army intensifies the implementation of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ Internal Peace and Security Plan (IPSP) “Bayanihan”  by actively engaging the participation of its stakeholders.

Over the weekend, the 1FAB represented by commanding officer Lt. Colonel Hubert Acierto and RMN DXPR radio station represented by Station Manager Melchor U. Coronel formally inked a memorandum of understanding (MOU) at Chandler Suites here to express the convergence of will between the two parties in the implementation of programs, activities, and projects designed to help the poor.

Acierto gave a detailed explanation why the MOU signing ceremony between the 1FAB and DXPR is being conducted.

He observed that some of the activities of 1FAB were similarly conducted by the management of DXPR in Pagadian City and in the municipalities of Labangan and Tukuran, respectively.

The unit conducted series of activities such as: medical and civic action program (MEDCAP), feeding program, and school supplies distribution, among others. It is also regularly extending support services to the Department of Education through the National School Maintenance Week (Brigada Eskwela), and Balik Eskwela Program in the adopted barangays of the above-mentioned municipalities.

“With this, we decided to partner with them in the conduct of activities to help the poor,” he added.

Meanwhile, Coronel said he was elated to partner with the 1FAB in providing basic social services to the poor and marginalized sector.

DXPR, he said is not only committed to continually provide news, information and entertainment to its listeners but the company is also committed to deliver social services as part of their corporate social responsibility.

Tukuran Mayor Francisvic Villamero, one of the witnesses of the MOU signing in his message said the partnership of 1FAB and DXPR is an effective approach to “win the hearts and minds” of the people saying that it is a part of the “Bayanihan” campaign implemented by the AFP in 2011.

Villamero said the approach will correct the negative impression of the people on our soldiers that they are bad especially during the Martial law years.

 “I am very much willing to support your programs and activities.  I can provide you supplies and men to facilitate the conduct of your activities,” Villamero volunteered.

“I hope that your endeavors will help President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration in solving the insurgency problem of the Philippines,” the mayor concluded.

US, Japan start mine countermeasures exercise

From Update.Ph (Jul 17): US, Japan start mine countermeasures exercise

USS Patriot (MCM 7). US Navy photo
USS Patriot (MCM 7). US Navy photo

The United States and Japan mine countermeasures (MCM) units start today, July 12 the 2016 Mine Countermeasures Exercise (MCMEX) 2JA. According to 7th Fleet, MCMEX 2JA is an annual bilateral exercise held between the US and Japan to strengthen interoperability and increase proficiencies in mine countermeasure operations.

US and Japanese mine countermeasures (MCM) units will practice unit-level mine countermeasures tactics to include sweeping, hunting, helicopter casting, and neutralization using remotely operated vehicles, sonar, and sweep gear.

Moreover, Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) personnel will conduct dive operations from Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force ships, US Navy ships and MH-60S helicopters in support of mine countermeasures efforts.

MCMEX 2JA will end in a combined phase in which US and JMSDF will coordinate and communicate to clear a route for ships through a simulated minefield in one of the designated exercise areas.

“We are looking forward to working again and learning from our Japanese counterparts,” said Capt. Jim Miller, commodore, Mine Countermeasures Squadron (MCMRON) 7. “Mine countermeasures remains a critical capability in this dynamic theater. And this exercise will pay dividends in increasing our ability to execute these types of missions.”

US units participating include Avenger-class mine countermeasures ship USS Patriot (MCM 7), Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit (EODMU) 5, Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadron (HM) 14, Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 25, and staff from Mine Countermeasures Squadron (MCMRON) 7.

Discord over South China Sea clouds Asia-Europe summit

From InterAksyon (Jul 17): Discord over South China Sea clouds Asia-Europe summit

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte (L) chats with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang during the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) summit just outside Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, July 16, 2016. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

A key summit between Asian and European leaders in Mongolia ended on Saturday without direct mention of the South China Sea dispute in its closing statement, with diplomats describing intense discord over the issue between Europe and Asia.

China has refused to recognize Tuesday's ruling by an arbitration court in The Hague invalidating its vast claims in the South China Sea and did not take part in the proceedings brought by the Philippines. It has reacted angrily to calls by Western countries and Japan for the decision to be adhered to.

China had flagged ahead of the Ulaanbaatar get-together that it did not want the South China Sea to be discussed, saying it was not an appropriate venue.

The closing statement said leaders reaffirmed a commitment to promote maritime security, safety and cooperation, freedom of navigation and overflight and to refrain from using threatening force.

It also said disputes should be resolved via international law, the United Nations charter and UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, or UNCLOS.

European Council President Donald Tusk told reporters he hoped the court's decision would create positive momentum in finding a solution to the dispute.

"Still, it's not so easy to agree with our Chinese partners when it comes to these issues but our talks were difficult, tough but also promising," he said.

On Friday, the European Union issued a statement noting China's legal defeat but avoided direct reference to Beijing, reflecting discord among EU governments over how strongly to respond to the court ruling.

While the European Union is neutral in China's dispute with its Asian neighbors in the South China Sea, Britain, France and Germany want to make clear that Beijing must uphold international law as it seeks a bigger global role.

But speaking with one European voice has become difficult as some smaller governments, including Hungary and Greece, rely on Chinese investment and are unwilling to criticize Beijing.

No bilateral meeting

The panel ruled Beijing's actions in the South China Sea, through which more than $5 trillion of trade moves annually, had interfered with the Philippines' sovereign rights.
Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims to the strategic waterway.
There was no bilateral meeting between the Chinese and Philippines foreign ministers, a Philippine diplomatic source told Reuters, though the Chinese initially requested a meeting at the beginning of the summit.

Chinese officials did not speak to foreign reporters during the summit. China's Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the summit and the South China Sea.

State news agency Xinhua quoted Chinese Premier Li Keqiang as saying on Saturday in Ulaanbaatar that the court's decision would have "no impact whatsoever" on Chinese sovereignty and maritime rights and interests in the South China Sea.

Li had told Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe the previous day that Japan should stop interfering in the issue.

[Read related story: China tells Japan to stop interfering in South China Sea]

Japan met with several countries including the Philippines and Vietnam and told them Japan would cooperate with them to enforce the decision, a foreign ministry spokesman said.

A diplomat from Russia, which has close ties with China and has supported its position over the arbitration case, said the West was hectoring.

"If you understand how the other side lives, you're more tolerant," he said. "The West always starts with teaching. Asians never do that."

A Mongolian diplomat said negotiations over the closing statement were "intense".
"The Europeans wanted lots on the South China Sea but the Asians didn't."

How to stop China from building military infrastructures on West PH Sea? Chinese Greenie has idea

From InterAksyon (Jul 16): How to stop China from building military infrastructures on West PH Sea? Chinese Greenie has idea

Chinese environmentalist Wen Bo, July 2016. PHOTO BY VERONICA UY

Experts, including Supreme Court Justice and principal proponent in the case Antonio Carpio, agree that the ruling of the international arbitral tribunal for the Philippines in its territorial dispute against China may not be enforceable. But a Chinese environmentalist has an idea on how to stop his country from building military infrastructures in the Spratlys: Use the Green card.

“I think we should approach [the dispute] from marine conservation because no government has the right to destroy the eco system, the endangered species, corals, sea turtles, tropical fish, and dolphins,” Wen Bo told at the sidelines of the Asia-Europe People’s Forum early July.

Click and watch video here.

Wen, who helped start the Greenpeace office in Beijing and who is now with the Global Greengrants Fund, said: “Those species need protection regardless of who the territory belongs to, or who claims sovereignty of the islands or marine territory.”

“It’s wrong to build things that will destroy this eco system. This could be a good argument to stop continuous construction on these islands,” he added.

Wen said that aside from China’s reclamation initiatives on the Spratlys, Chinese smugglers have been known to poach fish and other marine resources from both disputed and Philippine waters, in violation of local and international laws, particularly laws on maritime conservation.

“You know that the corals are from the Philippines. In 2003, I saw that when they reached the Chinese port in 2003, the corals were wrapped in Cebu newspapers…This has been going on for a long time. Law enforcement is loose,” he said.

Why are coral reefs important? According to environmentalists, coral reefs provide the following:
  • Habitat: Home to over 1 million diverse aquatic species, including thousands of fish species
  • Income: Billions of dollars and millions of jobs in over 100 countries around the world
  • Food: For people living near coral reefs, especially on small islands
  • Protection: A natural barrier protecting coastal cities, communities, and beaches
  • Medicine: The potential for treatments for many of the world's most prevalent and dangerous illnesses and diseases
Chinese military construction on Spratlys

In August 2015, Reuters cited a Pentagon report noting that China has been building a military airstrip on the Fiery Cross Reef off Palawan. Although the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam also have claims over the rock formations, China has control of the area.

Also known as Kagitingan Reef, Fiery Cross Reef has been occupied by China since 1988. But in December 2013, after the Scarborough standoff with the Philippines in April 2012, China started reclaiming the area, converting it into an artificial island of 1,170 hectares of land as of June 2015.

At the reclamation sites in the Spratlys, southwest of the Scarborough Shoal, China has excavated deep channels and constructed new berthing areas to allow access for larger ships, the same report said.

In connection with this, Chinese troops have been seen on the reef since late 2014, with more support troops coming in for the new airbase. An early warning radar system has also been reported set up on the reef.

In early August 2015, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Beijing had halted the land reclamation.

China had reclaimed 17 times more land in 20 months than the other claimants combined over the past 40 years, accounting for approximately 95 percent of all reclaimed land in the Spratlys, the Pentagon report said.

Challenges for marine ecology framework

Can China be convinced to stop building military facilities on the reefs it controls?
“Obviously there are challenges to persuade them,” Wen said. “But the thing is if they have higher awareness of the ecological value of these coral reefs, I think they could understand the logic behind why we need to protect these coral reefs.”

Wen said awareness raising about the need for conservation should not be confined to China and its officials, but throughout the southeast Asian region, including Filipinos and Philippine officials.

“Conserving the eco system will benefit everybody, including fishermen and the coastal community,” he said. “It would reduce the possibility of conflict because the conflict is over fishing rights.”

Wen noted that fish stocks have collapsed in many coastal states along China’s coast. “Chinese fishermen have to go farther and farther to catch fewer and fewer fish. There is a need to build peace in that area,” he said.

China claims most of the South China Sea, through which $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year. The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Brunei also have overlapping claims.

The territorial dispute intensified during the April 2012 standoff between China and the Philippines at the Scarborough Shoal, which is about 124 nautical miles off the main Philippine island of Luzon. China has since occupied the shoal, preventing Filipino fishermen from fishing In the area.

Later, China built on the coral reefs and islands at the disputed reefs in the West Philippine Sea southwest of Scarborough off Palawan, claiming sovereignty on the basis of the so-called nine-dash line.

Manila lodged a challenge under a UN Convention on the Law of the Seas (UNCLOS) in January 2013. The arbitral tribunal released its decision on July 12 this year, taking the side of the Philippines in the arguments over rights of maritime access.

Murad seeks clarification re Duterte’s ‘federalism first before BBL’ track

From MindaNews (Jul 16): Murad seeks clarification re Duterte’s ‘federalism first before BBL’ track

CAMP DARAPANAN, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao – The chair of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is seeking clarification on the peace policy of the new administration following President Rodrigo Duterte’s pronouncement on July 8 that he will push for the shift to a federal system of government first, incorporating the provisions of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), but move for the passage of the BBL if federalism is rejected by the Filipino people during the plebiscite on the proposed new Constitution.

Moro Islamic Liberation Front chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim talks about moving forward in the peace process with government in an interview in the garden fronting the MILF Central Committee Convention Hall in Camp Darapanan, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao on Thursday, July 14, 2016. Mindanews photo by KEITH BACONGCO
Moro Islamic Liberation Front chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim talks about moving forward in the peace process with government in an interview in the garden fronting the MILF Central Committee Convention Hall in Camp Darapanan, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao on Thursday, July 14, 2016. Mindanews photo by KEITH BACONGCO

We were surprised kasi hindi naman ganon ang dating sinasabing position nya” (because that was not his previous stand),” Murad told MindaNews Thursday afternoon in the garden fronting the MILF’s Central Committee Convention Hall.

Duterte visited this camp on February 27 and told the MILF Central Committee that he would work for the amendment of the 1987 Constitution to change the system of government from Presidential to federal but “if it takes time, and if only to defuse tension, in my government I will convince Congress to pass the BBL then make it as a template for federal states.”

At the Cotabato City plaza that afternoon, Duterte stressed the need to correct the historical injustices committed against the Moro people and vowed to shift to federalism. ”Yang Bagsamoro sa mapa ngayon, wag nang galawin yan. Gawin na lang nating example na makopya sa lahat. Ang mangyayari nito, uunahin ko na lang pakiusapan ko ang Congress na we will pass the BBL (The Bangsamoro on the map now, let’s not touch that anymore. Let’s make it an example for the rest to copy. I will immediately ask Congress to pass the BBL).

He said he will also tell Nur Misuari, founding chair of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and his personal friend, that“kopyahin na lang natin sila para sa Mindanao at buong Pilipinas” (let’s copy that in Mindanao and in the rest of the Philippines”).

Duterte, who introduced himself in his campaign sorties as having a Maranao grandmother, declared in the rally that if he wins the Presidency, “yung isang paa ng Moro ay nasa Malacanang na” (one foot of the Moro is already in Malacanang).

New admin’s peace policy 

Murad said that during his 20-minute “one-on-one” talk with Duterte in Hotel Elena in Davao City on June 17, “I emphasized to him importante mauna ang BBL” (It is important that the BBL comes first) because while federalism may address the entire problem of the nation, “it may not adequately address the Bangsamoro problem.”

Murad also said it the shift to federalism may take longer than what presumptive House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez envisions: by mid-term election of 2019.
He also cited Duterte’s campaign promise to make the Bangsamoro a template for federalism as the shift to federal might take long.

Murad said they are “trying to communicate with the President or the OPAPP (Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process)” to express their concern about the pronouncement, about “what is the real policy of the administration.”

The Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) had touched base with the MILF in a meeting in Davao City last July 12 on cooperation and coordination in the campaign against illegal drugs in “MILF-affected areas” but as of July 14, the OPAPP had yet to engage with the MILF on how to move forward in the peace process under the Duterte administration.

Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters stand on guard at a checkpoint along the road leading to its main headquarters, Camp Darapanan, in Sultan Kudarat town, Maguindanao on Thursday, July 14, 2016. Mindanews photo by KEITH BACONGCO
Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters stand on guard at a checkpoint along the road leading to its main headquarters, Camp Darapanan, in Sultan Kudarat town, Maguindanao on Thursday, July 14, 2016. Mindanews photo by KEITH BACONGCO

After Monday evening

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza told MindaNews on Thursday that he will be presenting the peace roadmap to Duterte on Monday evening (July 18).
He said they will engage with the MILF “pag ma-OK ni President ang roadmap Monday evening.”

Earlier, Muslimin Sema, MNLF secretary-general when it signed the 1996 Final Peace Agreement (FPA) and now chair of one of the factions of the MNLF, told MindaNews that their expectation of the Duterte administration was that it would implement first the peace agreements signed with the Moro fronts.

“That’s the reason we initiated with the MILF the convergence and harmonization of the peace tracks so it would be easy for the new administration to move on. The background and result of the peace agreement the Moro fronts signed with the government is far different from merely decentralizing administration. So implementing this agreement ahead of the federalization plan might be better part of wisdom rather than let it wait until federalization is decided,” Sema explained.

“So many people had been involved in finding peaceful solution to the century-old problem in Mindanao and we found it at last. The compromises accepted by the Moro fronts must be honored and respected,” he said.

Randolph Parcasio, spokesperson of MNLF founding chair Nur Misuari, said “ok sa federalism” but if it is rejected in the plebiscite, “asa na FPA?” (what about the FPA)?
Parcasio was referring to the Final Peace Agreement (FPA) the MNLF signed with government in 1996 which has not been fully implemented.

Murad told MindaNews on June 25 that the draft BBL submitted to Congress in 2014 will be “improved” through a convergence of the 2014 CAB (Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro) between the GPH and the MILF and the 1996 FPA between the GPH and the MNLF before it is presented to the 17th Congress.

He expects the “convergence” to be done through the Bangsamoro Coordination Forum (BCF) that the 57-nation Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) initiated in 2010 and which OIC Secretary General Iyad Ameen Madani strengthened during his visit in Davao City in April last year.

Ready to concede
Duterte, the country’s 16th President and the first Mindanawon to lead the nation, announced before hundreds of Moro religious and political leaders attending the Mindanao Hariraya Eid’l Fitr 2016 at the SMX Convention Center in Davao City on July 8 that he hopes to have his federalism framework in place by the end of the year, apparently with the proposal to incorporate the provisions of the proposed BBL into the new Constitution of a federal Philippines but vowed that if the Filipino nation rejects the shift to federalism during the plebiscite, “then I am ready to concede whatever is there in the (proposed) BBL.”

“We will see to it that it will pass,” he promised.

 Resolution of Both Houses No. 1 has been filed in the 17th Congress calling for a Constitutional Convention whose members shall be elected by January 2017.

He said if he succeeds in convincing the MILF and the MNLF to agree to federalism, “there will be a reconfiguration of the territory and most of them will occupy the regional or state positions.”

If federalism is rejected, he will push for the passage of the BBL and “what you give to the MI, must be given to MN kasi pareho lang eh” (because theyre the same.

He also said that in fairness to Nur (Misuari), “we might also configure his territory of the Tausug nation.”

“Then, we will have new boundaries and these boundaries do not really intend to separate our brother Moro from the Christian” but is intended only to “delineate territories” and “not keep us apart from being Mindanawons,” Duterte said, adding that most of the Christians in Mindanao “are supporting the federalism and the BBL.”

In a press release Friday, Alvarez said “once a federal system of government is in place, there would be no need for a Bangsamoro Basic Law because Muslim Mindanao will already have its own autonomous region co-existing with other autonomous regions.”

Vietnam detains activists after South China Sea ruling

From InterAksyon (Jul 17): Vietnam detains activists after South China Sea ruling

A poster on Phu Quoc Island in this Sept. 2014 file photo asserts Vietnam's sovereignty in what it calls the East Sea (South China Sea). Police in Hanoi swiftly arrested dozens of anti-China activists as authorities moved to tamp down expressions of public anger, fearful that allowing such protests might embolden criticism of their rule. REUTERS FILE PHOTO

Scores of activists were detained in Vietnam's capital Sunday as they gathered to protest against China after it rejected a recent international ruling that dismissed its claims to much of the South China Sea.
Anti-Chinese sentiment runs deep in communist Vietnam but the country's authoritarian rulers move swiftly to tamp down expressions of public anger, fearful that allowing such protests might embolden criticism of their rule.

Activists had used social media to call for protests in Hanoi on Sunday in the wake of this week's ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague which found there was no legal basis for Beijing's claims to vast swathes of the South China Sea.

The case was brought by the Philippines but the ruling has been a boon for other regional countries like Vietnam who also have competing claims to the strategic sea.

Authorities in the capital Hanoi were ready for protests on Sunday.

Plainclothes security forces were out in force, blanketing much of the city centre and keeping a close eye on any crowds that might be gathering, an AFP reporter on the scene said.

Throughout the morning around 30 activists were swiftly bundled onto waiting buses and cars by security forces after they gathered to hold a protest near the city's famous Hoan Kiem Lake, a common spot for demonstrations.

Some chanted "Down with China invasion!" as they were led away to detention.

Beijing lays claim to virtually all of the South China Sea, putting it at odds with regional neighbours the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan, which also have partial claims.

China boycotted the PCA hearings, saying the court had no jurisdiction, and has reacted furiously, vowing to ignore the ruling and arguing it misinterprets international law.

Vietnam and China frequently trade diplomatic barbs over the disputed Paracel island chain and waters in the South China Sea.

China has encouraged patriotic citizens to visit the contested Paracels, which are known as Xisha in Chinese.

Such acts have deepened already simmering anti-Chinese sentiment in Vietnam while domestic critics accuse Hanoi of being too meek towards its giant northern neighbor.

At least three Chinese nationals were killed in 2014 when rioting broke out in Vietnam after Beijing sent an oil rig into contested waters.

8 BIFF killed in Maguindanao clash; Army braces for retaliatory attacks

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 16): 8 BIFF killed in Maguindanao clash; Army braces for retaliatory attacks

The military here said eight Moro bandits were killed and seven soldiers were hurt in a fire fight involving government forces and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters in Maguindanao.

The three-day fire fight which began on Wednesday dawn until Friday morning, also left a 15-year-old girl dead when she was hit by stray bullets.

The Army is now preparing for possible retaliatory attacks from the BIFF to avenge the death of its members, according to Army Capt. Joann Petinglay.

Petinglay, speaking for the Army division headquarters based in Datu Odin Sinsuat town in Maguindanao, said Army intelligence report showed the BIFF was planning to launch another offensive against the Army.

Local officials in the towns of Datu Unsay and Shariff Aguak, both in Maguindanao, claimed that eight bandits were killed since Wednesday. They were identified as Monib, a certain “Boy ISIS,” Odin, Bansil, Bohari, Nasif, Badrudin and an adolescent named Salik.

The BIFF which sparked the resumption of hostilities with an attack on Army trainees in Shariff Aguak had at least 10 injured followers.

Local officials identified them as Tuwah, Runi, Omar, Tanser, Kasim, Kamar, Kahirudin, Ibrahim, Moctar, and Odih.

The rebel initiated attacks also triggered military air and ground assaults on Wednesday morning.

This prompted the military to launch air strikes and ground offensive that forced the BIFF to flee deep into the Maguindanao marshland.

The fighting also hurt Army Privates 1st Class Dan Antiporta, Glen Villanueva, Jason Ojanola, Manolito Tero and Ronnie Angel and Corporals Mike Encarnacion and Kim Tablasan.

Evacuees told reporters the BIFF started the trouble before dawn Wednesday with an attack on elements of the Army’s 19th Infantry Battalion.

Petinglay said the 19th IB troopers were sent to conflict affected communities to study the culture and religious practices of villagers.

She explained why the trainees were sent to armed lawless elements-areas in Datu Unsay.

“It was never a tactical activity. It was purely an educational engagement parallel with the religious and cultural sensitivity policy of 6th ID,” Petinglay said, adding that the trainees' tour was coordinated with the local govenrment officials and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) which the government has a ceasefire accord.

EU calls for parties in disputed WPS to resolve issues in 'peaceful' means, in accordance with int'l laws

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 16): EU calls for parties in disputed WPS to resolve issues in 'peaceful' means, in accordance with int'l laws

The European Union (EU) is urging concerned parties in the disputed West Philippine Sea (WPS) (South China Sea) to resolve issues through "peaceful means and in accordance with internstional laws."

"The European Union and its Member States, as contracting parties to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), acknowledge the Award rendered by the Arbitral Tribunal, being committed to maintaining a legal order of the seas and oceans based upon the principles of international law, UNCLOS, and to the peaceful settlement of disputes," it said in its press statement.

The EU, however, noted that it "does not take a position on sovereignty aspects relating to claims," but it "expresses the need for the parties to the dispute to resolve it through peaceful means, to clarify their claims and pursue them in respect and in accordance with international law, including the work in the framework of UNCLOS."

It said it recalls that the dispute settlement mechanisms as provided under UNCLOS "contribute to the maintenance and furthering of the international order based upon the Rule of Law and are essential to settle disputes."

The EU also underlines the fundamental importance of upholding the freedoms, rights and duties established in UNCLOS, particularly the freedoms of navigation and overflight.

As such, it supports the "swift conclusion of talks aiming at an effective Code of Conduct between ASEAN and China implementing the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea."

In recalling its statement of March 11, 2016, the EU said it calls upon the parties concerned "to address remaining and further related issues through negotiations and other peaceful means and refrain from activities likely to raise tensions."

As a member of the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) and as a High Contracting Party to the 1976 Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in South East Asia, the EU also wishes to "foster cooperation in the furtherance of the cause of peace, harmony, and stability in the region."

The EU, therefore, said it stands ready to facilitate activities which help to build confidence between the parties concerned.

While underlining the importance of all States working together to protect the marine ecosystem already endangered by the intensification of maritime traffic and dredging, "the EU and its Member States will continue to organise High Level Dialogues on Maritime Security Cooperation and the exchange of best practices on joint management and development of shared resources, such as fisheries, as well as on capacity-building measures," it said.

Muslim students newest beneficiaries of PA's Project Shoebox

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 16): Muslim students newest beneficiaries of PA's Project Shoebox

Hundreds of students from the Dar Amanah Children's Village Foundation, Inc. (DACVFI) in Silang, Cavite became the latest recipients of the Philippine Army (PA)'s Project Shoebox Friday.

The initiative, which is being handled by the PA Civil-Military Operations Group, is now on its fifth year of implementation since being started by then Col. Thomas R. Sedano in 2011.

Project Shoebox is a humanitarian endeavor of the Philippine Army.

To date, about 300,000 shoeboxes have been distributed to poor students from public elementary schools located in conflict-affected areas and those areas affected by typhoons or calamities.

Contained in each shoebox are school supplies like notebooks, crayons, pencil, eraser, pad, paper and other school items.

Likewise, it also contains personal care item like toothpaste, toothbrush, bath soap, face towel, shampoo and others.

DACVFI caters to the needs of poor Muslim orphaned and disadvantaged children’s and equip them there with skills, knowledge and self-assertiveness required for them to live independently worthy of becoming a good contributor to the Filipino society.

House to probe alleged substandard housing units for AFP and PNP

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 16): House to probe alleged substandard housing units for AFP and PNP

A Party-list lawmaker is calling for a congressional probe into the alleged substandard housing units for policemen and members of the military.

“All socialized housing projects of the Government must conform to the highest standards to ensure the quality and sustainability of the housing units,” Magdalo Party-list Rep. Gary C. Alejano declared.

Alejano has filed a resolution (still unnumbered) “directing the appropriate House Committee to investigate, in aid of legislation, the substandard housing units constructed by the National Housing Authority (NHA) for the members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP).”

As basis for the probe, Alejano cited Section 9, Article XIII of the Philippine Constitution which states that “The State shall, by law, and for the common good, undertake, in cooperation with the private sector, a continuing program of urban land reform and housing which will make available affordable cost, decent housing and basic services.”

Relative to this, he added that the NHA was mandated to implement the AFP/PNP Housing Program, a flagship program of former President Benigno S. Aquino III that seeks to provide permanent housing and security of tenure to low-salaried military and police whose need for housing must be addressed immediately.

However, in a site inspection personally conducted in Baras, Rizal and Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon, the inspecting group which included a member of Congress easily observed the inhumane housing environment for the soldiers and policemen, Alejano said.

He also added that the units were “notoriously dubbed as ‘Bahay Kalapati’ due to its uninhabitable condition and substandard construction.”

“The substandard housing units suffer from glaring inadequacies such as unavailability of water and electricity sources as well as inaccessibility to social services leading to a burdensome life and a hellish residential environment for our soldiers, policemen, and for their respective families,” Alejano deplored.

He also revealed that the units have walls, doors and window panes that are easily breakable, roofs that are easily blown away by strong winds, the hollow blocks used for the foundation and walls were not completely filled in with cement.

Likewise, the septic tanks were in very sad condition because of the very thin concrete cover and other pertinent issues related to poor construction, he added.

The substandard housing units “bastardize the sacrifices rendered by our gallant soldiers and policemen, and as guardians of peace and protectors of democracy, the provision of decent housing is a small price to pay for the freedom were currently enjoy,” Alejano, a former military officer himself, lamented.

“The Filipino people, through their elected Representatives, would like to condemn these inhumane shelter system being provided our soldiers and policemen who have worked hard to defend the Filipino people,” the declared.

First batch of USGC Boutwell sailing crew now awaiting deployment

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 17): First batch of USGC Boutwell sailing crew now awaiting deployment

The first batch of the sailing crew for the USGC Boutwell, the third Hamilton-class cutter donated by the Americans to the Philippines, is now awaiting deployment to the United States.

This was disclosed by Philippine Navy (PN) spokesperson Capt. Lued Lincuna in a message to the PNA.

"They (first batch of sailing crew) are still in the country and waiting deployment for the US," he said in Filipino.

While mum on the exact date, Lincuna said USGC Boutwell's arrival will help the PN to secure the country's vast maritime domains.

The latter is the sister ship of BRP Gregorio Del Pilar (formerly the USCGC Hamilton) and BRP Ramon Alcaraz (ex-USCGC Dallar) which were decommissioned in 2011 and 2012, respectively.

The USCGC Boutwell was decommissioned from US Coast Guard service last March 16 in San Diego, California after 48 years of service.

"We are expecting the delivery of this ship this year. (It will be an) additional asset for the PN and will be a big boost to our capabilities once it enters our inventory," he added.

The USCGC Boutwell is the seventh high endurance cutter to be decommissioned, with five remaining in service across the Pacific.

The US Coast Guard is now working with the State Department to transfer the ship to the PN as part of a Foreign Military Sale Program through the Foreign Assistance Act.

Hamilton-class cutters have a gross tonnage of 3,250 tons, has a length of 378 feet, beam of 43 feet, and draft of 15 feet.

Its propulsion systems consist of two diesel engines and two gas turbine engines, giving it a top speed of 29 knots.

The ship has cruising range of 14,000 miles and has a sea and loiter time of 45 days.

It has a complement of 167 officers and men.

US President Barack Obama earlier announced they are donating the USCGC Boutwell to the PN along with the research vessel, R/V Melville during his visit to the Philippines last Nov. 17, the height of the APEC Leaders' Summit in Manila.

DND-GA in the market for PHP7.5-M worth of 5.56mm finished cases

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 17): DND-GA in the market for PHP7.5-M worth of 5.56mm finished cases

The Department of National Defense-Government Arsenal is allocating PHP7,575,770 worth of 5.56mm finished cases.

The latter is used by the M-16 automatic rifle and R-4 carbines in Armed Forces of the Philippines service.

Pre-bid conference is on Friday, 2:30 p.m. at the Government Arsenal Metro Manila Liaison Office in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

Winning bidders are required to deliver the items within 180 calendar days.

AFP modernization remains a priority of new DND leadership

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 17): AFP modernization remains a priority of new DND leadership

The AFP Modernization Program remains a priority of the new defense leadership.

This was stressed by Department of National Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana as the program jives with the Duterte administration's plan of having a credible deterrence to secure Philippine territory especially the maritime ones.

"In the long run we will still follow our modernization because you know it jibes with what our long term plans (of) having credible deterence to secure our territory (especially the) maritime plan," he added.

While some projects may be fast-tracked to address criminality, terrorism, and insurgency threats in the southern Philippines, Lorenzana said they will follow the plans laid for the AFP Modernization Program.

"The 15-year modernization program of the AFP will continue as scheduled," he earlier stated.

Some of the equipment acquired in this period include the two Hamilton-class cutters, six multi-purpose assault craft, 114 armored personnel carriers, three brand-new C-295 medium lift aircraft, two C-130 heavy transports, two FA-50PH light-interim fighter aircraft, five utility versions of the AgustaWestland AW-109 helicopters, eight of its attack versions, five landing craft heavies, three multi-purpose attack craft, and two strategic sealift vessels to name a few.

Lorenzana said the DND will continue to honor contracts, especially those in the pipeline.

"We study it for while and if there are no problems, then we will approve it," he added.

Lumad leaders shot; one killed, village chief in critical condition

From MindaNews (Jul 16): Lumad leaders shot; one killed, village chief in critical condition

Armed men riding a motorcycle in tandem fired at Lumad leaders who were also riding in tandem at around 2 p.m. Friday, killing one while the village chief, son of a Datu killed in 2008, is still fighting for his life in a hospital here.

Jay Apiag, spokesperson of the human rights group Karapatan-Southern Mindanao told MindaNews that Danny Diarog, vice chair of the Kahugpungan sa mga Lumad (KSL) and tribal chieftain of Sitio Kahusayan in Barangay Manuel Guianga, underwent surgery for bullet wounds in various parts of his body while his companion, Hermie Alegre, president of the Parent-Teacher Community Association (PTCA) of Salugpungan School, died before reaching the hospital.

“Tinadtad ng bala” (He was peppered with bullets), Apiag told MindaNews late Friday evening.

Apiag said Diarog and Alegre, both members of the Bagobo-Klata tribe, had just attended a meeting called for by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) in Barangay Tagakpan in Tugbok District and were on their way home, with Diarog driving the motorcycle and Alegre behind him, when fired upon some two kilometers away from their barangay.

He said Alegre was not supposed to attend the meeting but was sent by Marcelo Gillego who could not make it.

Diarog’s father, Datu Dominador, then 47, was killed on April 29, 2008 in Sitio Kahusayan. Armed men indiscriminately fired at their house on a hill near midnight, killing the Datu. His wife and two of his nine children were wounded.

The Datu refused to sell what was left of their ancestral domain to Pastor Apollo Quiboloy’s Kingdom of Jesus Christ The Name Above Every Name, which was then building a prayer mountain. A series of harassments reportedly followed.

In a statement issued after he was implicated in the Datu’s death, Quiboloy, spiritual adviser of then mayor Rodrigo Duterte, said they “do not wish to dignify the initial reports linking our congregation to the unfortunate incident that happened in a nearby barangay adjacent to the covenant mountain and prayer center in Tamayong,” claiming these are “totally false and baseless, if not ridiculous.”

“Mayor Rodrigo R. Duterte as the ‘Father of Davao City,’ who has direct control over the political jurisdiction of the city, has spoken, dismissing the rumors as untrue,” the statement of Quiboloy read.

Duterte told his Sunday television program, “Gikan Sa Masa, Para sa Masa (From the Masses, for the Masses), that he has known Quiboloy “for the longest time,” even before he was mayor, saw him rise from pastor of a kapilya (chapel) to his flock now, seen his property outside the country but more than that, the Pastor is “a gentle person.”

“Dili ko mutuo nga si pastor who has by this time billions” (I cannot believe that the Pastor who has by this time billions), would sacrifice his honor for a “measly two hectares.”

But Duterte warned against being misconstrued. If there is evidence against the Pastor, he said, addressing Quiboloy, “You do not cease to be my friend. I will still be your friend until kingdom come… but you answer for this.”

Open letter

In a “sulat pamahayag” (open letter) dated May 28, 2015, Diarog, then KSL Secretatry-General, said their rights have long been trampled upon by influential persons who disturbed their peace with the continued “pagpangilog” (grabbing) of their ancestral domain.

The open letter said they are still waiting for justice for Datu Dominador Diarog who was slain in 2008, that their community continues to suffer from threats and harassments, allegedly from armed men connected to the religious leader, a claim Quiboloy denies.

“Nabalaka kami niini nga kahimtang nga moabot ang panahon nga wala na kami ikabilin sa among kaliwatan” (We are afraid that time will come when our tribe will be gone forever),” the letter said.

The letter also cited what happened on January 23, 2014 when 40 families were forced out of Sitio Diolo, through threats and intimidation.

They urged all agencies in government and other organizations to help them return to their communities.

The letter demanded that the NCIP and Davao City Council and other government agencies investigate the “padayong pag-ilog sa among yutang kabilin ug komunidad diha sa sitio Diolo” (continued takeover of our ancestral domain and community in Sitio Diolo); to investigate and disarm the armed group that has been sowing terror in the Lumad communities and to get them out of there; that the damages from the burning of their things and their crops be paid; that the planting of pine trees in their ancestral domain be stopped; that their community be returned to them; and that the threats and intimidation against the Lumads be stopped.

Hundreds displaced as AFP continues to engage BIFF bandits

From the Manila Bulletin (Jul 16): Hundreds displaced as AFP continues to engage BIFF bandits

The ongoing conflict between government troops and members of the Bangsomoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) has already displaced close to 300 families in Maguindanao province.

Reports reaching the Office of the Civil Defense (OCD) headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City, said about 296 families or 1,480 individuals, have been displaced due to the armed conflict between Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) troops and BIFF forces within the boundaries of Datu Unsay and Shariff Aguak, in Maguindanao.

The military said the fighting took place at around 5:30 p.m. Tuesday and resulted in the death of 11 BIFF fighters and a 15-year-old female teenager, who was hit in the crossfire.

Undersecretary Ricardo B. Jalad, OCD Administrator and National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council (NDRRMC) Executive Director, said those who were displaced came from Brgy. Meta, Datu Unsay, Maguindanao.

The displaced families, according to Jalad, are temporarily staying in Brgy. Malangog, Datu Unsay Terminal, and Sittio Star Apple.

“The families have built make-shift tents at Brgy. Malangog and Sittio Star Apple while other families seek shelter at the Datu Unsay terminal,” he said.

Jalad said that, as of 4 p.m. Thursday, the Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council (MDRRMC) Datu Unsay has already distributed 158 food packs which include rice, noodles and sardines.

The PDRRMC in Maguindanao, meanwhile, distributed 180 food packs to the affected residents.

Meanwhile, the office of Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu has given an undisclosed amount of cash assistance to the parents of 15-year old Fatima Ilian, the girl killed in the crossfire when BIFF and military forces.

The AFP said that at least 11 members of the BIFF were killed while 19 others were wounded following intense firefight with government soldiers in Datu Unsay, Maguindanao, on Tuesday and Wednesday.