UP expert fears misuse of Benham

THE Philippines officially allowed Chinese scientists to survey ocean currents in the country’s northeastern seaboard—but it is also possible for data gathered from a scientific expedition to be used for military purposes, a maritime law expert said Wednesday.

Professor and director of the University of the Philippines Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea Jay Batongbacal warned that the climate-focused research findings can be used for “some kind of military strategic advantage.”

“The data about currents can really be beneficial because you can gain knowledge of the weather and better predict La Niña and El Niño and prepare for disasters,” he said in a mix of Filipino and English at a roundtable discussion Wednesday.

“On the other hand, it’s true also that you can use the same data, use other methodologies and gain some kind of military or strategic advantage,” he said.

Earlier, the Philippine govenrment announced that it has officially allowed Chinese scientists to conduct scientific research in the country’s territory, Benham Rise.

The government has been criticized for allowing China to explore the underwater plateau off the coast of Aurora province.

The research vessel Ke Xua Hao, which carries Chinese scientists and supposedly four Filipinos, arrived northeast of Palanan, Isabela on Jan. 23, one day before schedule, to carry out a survey of ocean currents that scientists believe drive climate phenomena.

The Institute of Oceanology Chinese Academy of Sciences was granted permission by the Department of Foreign Affairs to conduct the study, provided that its scientists are joined by Filipinos, among other requirements.

Batongbacal said that the DFA data on Benham Rise can also be “misleading.”

“It can be misleading because it gives you the wrong impression that there are so many researches going on in Benham Rise,” Batongbacal said.

The DFA last week released its data to the media where it lumped together the number of marine scientific rresearch requests from different countries for Benham Rise and Luzon Strait.

But Batongbacal said that lumping together the MSR of Benham Rise and Luzon Strait may not be proper because both are “totally different areas.”

He said that the government could not protect the Philippine interests if the present administration itself is not fully aware, does not pay attention, and does not understand these details.

Data from the DFA revealed that there are 13 MRS in the region.

The US, it stated, has been conducting research in Benham Rise since 2005 while China has been requesting an MSR in the region since 2004.

Also on Wednesday, the Philippine military said the presence of nine Chinese vessels in the disputed Scarborough or Panatag Shoal was nothing out of the ordinary

GMA-7 quoted Lt. Col. Isagani Nato, Norther Luzon Command spokesman, as saying an aerial survey showed four Chinese Coast Guard vessels, four unknown vessels from China, and a Chinese fishing boat in the area Two of the Chinese vessels were found inside the shoal.

He said there were also four Filipino fishing vessels in the area.


Tiamzons still being tracked down – military

By Francis T. Wakefield

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said Wednesday it is tracking down National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) consultants Benito and Wilma Tiamzon in an effort to re-arrest the couple.

“We are continuously monitoring their location. I just cannot tell you the updates about it. But what we can tell you is that we are going to abide by the orders of the court to implement the arrest order once again issued by the regional trial court,” AFP spokesman Edgard Arevalo  told a press briefing at Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

Last January 11 the Manila Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 32 ordered the re-arrest of the Tiamzon couple.

Arevalo said the military does not regret the decision of the government to temporarily free the couple so they could participate in peace negotiations with communist organizations.

“Well, first of all we should give peace a chance. That was the chance seen by our government in order to achieve lasting peace. And if it would require some members of the NPA whom we were able to arrest as we have seen and observed that they were given temporary liberty on account of that particular grant of pass as a consultant, then we understand and we will support that. But since it came to pass that we have to re-arrest them, then we will obey and abide by the orders of the court,” he said.

Arevalo also said it will take a national approach to defeat the New People’s Army (NPA), the military arm of the National Democratic Front (NDF).

“As we have seen (in the past) there are efforts being done and we do not intend to do this all by the AFP. It has to be a whole-nation approach,” Arevalo said.

Judge Thelma Bunyi Medina ordered the arrest of the Tiamzon couple and their co-accused Adelberto Silva, who are facing murder charges in relation to the mass grave found in Leyte in 2006.

The three were granted provisional liberty so they could participate in the peace negotiations between the government and the Communist Party of the Philippines-National Democratic Front-New People’s Army (CPP-NDF-NPA).

Last November 23, President Duterte signed Proclamation 360 terminating the peace talks.

“In view of the termination of peace negotiations with the NDF-CPP-NPA, the accused, who are merely granted provisional liberty for purposes of their supposed participation in said peace talks, should be recommitted to the courts,” Medina said.

Tiamzons still being tracked down – military

PH to back US fight against terror if interests coincide

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Wednesday said the Philippines would support the United States’ fight against terrorism – but only when the efforts of the two allies would coincide.

Lorenzana reacted guardedly to US President Donald Trump’s remarks on fighting terrorism in his first State of the Union address, even as President Rodrigo Duterte strengthened the military’s presence in Marawi City, which is rebuilding after its liberation from a five-month siege by terrorists.

Lorenzana said it did not matter that Trump failed to mention US policy on the territorial disputes in the South China Sea, saying “that’s his call.”

“If our efforts against terrorists coincide, well and good, we cooperate,” he said. “But in reality, each country will be addressing its own security problems by any legal means at its disposal.”

The United States deployed surveillance aircraft to help Philippine forces quell the siege of Marawi by Islamic State sympathizers last year.

Mr. Duterte visited the war-torn city on Tuesday to inspect newly constructed temporary shelters for displaced residents and lead the groundbreaking for a new military camp in the Islamic City.

Shun terrorism

A Malacañang statement said Mr. Duterte called on Marawi residents to shun terrorism and embrace progress, as the city prepared to rebuild.

“Let us try to avoid terrorism. It is not the correct way to obey Islam,” the President said in a speech at a resettlement site in Barangay Sagonsongan.

Islam does not kill and destroy for no reason at all, he said, as he called on residents to turn away those who would try to sow terror in their city.

Helpless innocent

“We should not let them (terrorists) in. I beg of you not to allow them to enter because it will just cause massive destruction and the loss of lives, including the innocent ones who are really the helpless in case of war,” he said.

The residents should turn their focus on making Marawi a thriving city once more, he said, adding that they should welcome Christians as well.

“I’m appealing to you to maybe redirect your paradigm or mind-set and allow progress to take place. You will need the Christians as the Christians need the Muslim population,” he said.

Mr. Duterte also sought forgiveness for the city’s destruction, saying he did not wish for it.

“But, you know, there were some events that occurred that I, as President of this Republic, had to respond (to), otherwise I have been a derelict of duty and, of course, might have been ousted,” he said.

He promised assistance for Marawi’s needs, including new homes and livelihood programs for the residents.

More defensible

“We (will) try to build a new city. I will guarantee you for the remaining years that there will always be money for you, that you’ll be able to rehabilitate your business if you really want to,” the President said.

The government is drafting the master plan for a new Marawi City.

The new military camp will include the new city hall. The compound is expected to be more defensible in case of terrorist attacks in the future, Army officials said. —Reports from AP, Leila B. Salaverria, Jigger Jerusalem, Divina Suson and Richel Umel

PH to back US fight against terror if interests coincide


Japan-donated patrol aircraft deployed to monitor disputed shoal 

THE newly commissioned fixed-wing aircraft of the Philippine Navy has conducted its maiden Maritime Air Patrol over the disputed Scarborough Shoal (Panatag Shoal) in Masinloc, Zambales.

In a statement, the Northern Luzon Command (Nolcom) said the C90 plane with tail number 390 made its first flight around 9:45 a.m. Wednesday, January 31, for about 800 feet above sea level. The aircraft was donated by the Japanese government last year.

Nolcom said four Filipino fishing boats, five Chinese vessels and four Chinese Coast Guard vessels were sighted during the flight.

“The deployment of C90 plane to monitor the area in the famous shoal, located in the West Philippine Sea, will be its first military mission given by Nolcom,” it said.

“Its employment boosted the capability of the Navy to conduct limited airlift, reconnaissance and surveillance within the Area of Responsibility of Nolcom. It will also complement the efforts of the Philippine Air Force to monitor and watch over the three maritime areas in Northern and Central Luzon,” it added.

The Nolcom has vowed to protect the national territory including its northern maritime areas and assert the country’s sovereign rights over the maritime domain with the use of all their available assets.

Filipino fishers were reportedly harassed by the Chinese coast guard to keep them away from the Scarborough Shoal, which is within the Philippines’ 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea).

China has been insisting that it has exclusive rights over the said area despite a ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration that the Philippines has the “sovereign” right to fish and explore the Scarborough shoal. (Third Anne Peralta-Malonzo/SunStar Philippines)


Another military camp to rise in Marawi

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines  — President Duterte has confirmed plans to put up another military camp in Marawi.

The camp will be built on a 10-hectare lot in Barangay Kapantaran where the old city hall complex is located.

“I’m planning to set up a camp here, but I will pay you,” the President said during his visit to a temporary shelter for Marawi evacuees in Barangay Sagonsongan on Tuesday, referring to residents who would be displaced by the construction of the camp.

“Whatever it takes, we will pay para walang gulo (to avoid trouble),” Duterte said.

Camp Ranao, the home of the Army’s 103rd Infantry Brigade, a unit of the First Infantry Division, is the only camp in Marawi.

However, Maranao ethnic groups, such as Tindeg Rano and Moro consensus group, questioned the government’s plan to set up a second military camp in Marawi,  saying most of the lots in the military reservation had been awarded to them.

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Defense Secretary  Delfin Lorenzana said his office is reviewing the proposal of former vice president Jejomar Binay to distribute a portion of the military reservation to its occupants.


Surrender now, before it’s too late.

The answer for the call to surrender by the President Rodrigo Roa Duterte for the NPA’s has already gained grounds with the untiring efforts of the all stakeholders for peace in the nation.

A supply officer, three squad leaders and a medical officer of the New People’s Army (NPA) surrendered to the Army’s 25th Infantry (Fireball) Battallion (25th IB) during their weeklong peace and development activities in their areas of responsibility (AOR) in the provincial boarder of Agusan del Sur and Compostela Valley (ComVal), said 25th IB Civil Military Operations (CMO) officer Capt. Alan Bapara, on Monday January 29, 2018.

The five NPA officers who yielded to their unit belonged to the Pulang Bagani Command 8-SRC 1, SDG Section 3-SRC 4 guerilla-Front Committee 15 of the CPP-NPA Southern Mindanao Regional Committee (SMRC).

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54 Maute kinasuhan ng DOJ

Sa kasong pagdukot noong 2016

MANILA, Philippines — Sinampahan na ng kaso sa korte ng Department of Justice (DOJ) ang 54 hinihinalang miyembro ng Maute kabilang na ang isang doktor dahil sa nangyaring pagdukot sa anim na manggagawa ng isang sawmill sa Lanao Del Sur noong 2016 kung saan dalawa sa mga biktima ay pinugutan pa.

Sa 20-pahinang resolusyon, pinatawan ng DOJ ng apat na ulit na reklamong kidnapping at serious illegal detention at dalawang ulit na reklamong kidnapping at serious illegal detention with murder ang mga respondent na kinabibilangan ang isang doktor na si Dr. Russel Langi Salic.

Ang kaso ay inihain sa Malabang, Lanao del Sur Regional Trial Court.

Si Salic na isang orthopedic surgeon ay suspek din sa planong paglulunsad umano ng teroristang pag-atake sa New York City sa Amerika sa pamamagitan ng pagpapadala ng pera.

Mayroong nakabinbing extradition request ang Estados Unidos para kay Salic na nakakulong sa National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) detention center.

Bukod kay Salic, naaresto na rin ng mga otoridad ang tatlong iba pang respondent sa nangyaring pagdukot noong 2016 sa Butig, Lanao del Sur na sina TJ Tagadaya Macabalang, Wendell Apostol Facturan, at Musalli Musta na nakakulong naman sa Davao City Jail.


Gun slays up in Zamboanga City despite martial law

ZAMBOANGA CITY — The declaration of martial law in Mindanao after terrorists laid siege to Marawi City last year has failed to stop gun-related attacks in this city, prompting Mayor Maria Isabelle Climaco-Salazar to order the police to probe deeper into the motives behind each murder reported here.

“My directive is [for the police to] also look deeper into the data of every shooting incident,” Salazar told the Inquirer. “They [police] must look into the motives to [solve] the case. They must know [the] background of all victims. What were the reasons why they were shot and killed?”

Cop, girl slain

Police reported that at least 10 people, including a policeman and a teenage girl, were killed by unidentified men in the first three weeks of January.

Although the carrying of firearms among civilians is banned under martial law, armed men managed to evade government inspections and continued to prowl the city, at times attacking residents inside their homes, police said.

Senior Insp. Sheila Tubo-Chang, spokesperson for the Zamboanga City police, said among the latest victims were a couple in the village of Upper Calarian, who were shot inside their house on the night of Jan. 18.

Three days earlier, Erwin Agustin, 42, an employee of the Zamboanga City Water District, was attacked by unidentified gunmen while passing by Estrada Drive at Barangay San Roque here on his way to work.

“This is very disturbing because we, [licensed] gun holders, are [strictly observing] the policies of the government [on carrying of firearms],” said Marlon Simbajon, a local radio reporter.

Simbajon lamented that while licensed gun holders followed the government’s licensing process, some people could just keep firearms, shoot at anybody and easily get away with crime.

“There are a lot of loose firearms in Zamboanga City and we cannot feel that there is martial law here. We cannot feel that [authorities] are serious in running after unlicensed gun owners,” Simbajon said.

Chang said police could not address all issues pertaining to criminality in the city, even with martial law imposed in Mindanao.


Gun-wielding suspects, she said, had become bold.

She cited the case involving PO1 Alden Ibno Sahiron, who, along with another man, went to the house of Bernard Ybañez in Barangay Tetuan on Jan. 11 and shot the latter. Ybañez survived the attack but his companion, Lindy Abbuh, was killed.

Other victims of gun attacks this month included tricycle driver Basir Masihul, 34, who was shot dead in Barangay Recodo on Jan. 1; Sadikal Sarail Apostol, 30, an overseas worker who was attacked and killed in Barangay Sta. Catalina on Jan. 4; Angelica Arquiza, 18, a Grade 12 student who was shot dead while sleeping inside the family’s house in Barangay Bunguiao on Jan. 4; PO3 Michael Sacandal Tan, 39, who was attacked while on his way home to Barangay Zone 4 after serving a warrant on Jan. 8; and Sattar Jaman Jaji, 56, who was killed while buying medicine in Barangay Sta. Barbara on Jan. 11. —Julie Alipala

Gun slays up in Zamboanga City despite martial law