Saturday, 25 May 2013 08:00 Published in Headlines
More than 8,000 individuals have been affected by fighting between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in North Cotabato province, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) yesterday reported.
A total of 1,421 families composed of 7,105 individuals have been affected by the fighting in Matalam town, while 113 families or 565 persons were displaced in nearby municipality of Kabacan, the agency added.
It added 386 families or 1,930 people, who were also affected by the fighting, stayed in the conflict area but were served with government relief operations.
Among the affected barangays in Matalam were Marbel, Ilian, Kilada, Kidama, Estado and Natutungan, while in Kabacan were the villages of Dagupan, Kayaga, Malanduage, Poblacion, Aringay, Salupungan and Katidtuan.
Reports said fighting has already subsided between the groups of MNLF commander Toto Manial and MILF commanders Kagui Mansor and Marumsar as local leaders of two warring Moro rebel groups agreed to end their “rido” in order to facilitate the safe return of the evacuees to their homes.
On Thursday, leaders of the 108th Base Command of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF) of the MILF and the Sebangan Kutawato State Revolutionary Committee (SKSRC) of the MNLF inked a memorandum of agreement (MoA) after series of consultations and dialogs spearheaded by the Local Monitoring Team (LMT) of the Joint Committee of the Cessation of Hostilities of the Philippine government and the MILF.
The MILF and the MNLF also agreed to pull out their troops from Barangay Marbel in Matalam, site of the recent armed skirmishes.
Data from the LMT showed there are at least 400 armed Moro rebels positioned in the area and in nearby villages.
The NDRRMC said that local officials have asked the government and MILF Joint Coordinating Committee on Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH) to ease the conflict between the warring factions.
The fighting has so far resulted in the wounding of two MILF members identified as Dong Ambalatan and Bimbo Naga.
The conflict between the MNLF and MILF forces erupted last May 5. The last reported fighting was last May 19.
There had been no more reported fighting during the past days but some of the remained in evacuation centers. With PNA
Saturday, 25 May 2013 08:00 Published in Metro
The Army leadership yesterday vowed not to condone any wrongdoing of the two soldiers, assigned to the elite Presidential Security Group (PSG), who were accused of being involved in a robbery incident in Quezon City last Wednesday night.
Lt. Col. Randolph Cabangbang, spokesman for the Army, said the military’s biggest command is fully supportive of the ongoing investigation by the police against Sgt. Marvin Gaton and Cpl. Bobby Atis, both members of the Army and detailed with the PSG.
“If ever they committed any crime, it is up to the PNP (Philipppine National Police) to investigate and we will support them…the Army will support the investigation more so because the allegations against the soldiers are very serious,” Cabangbang said.
“If they did any stupidity, we do not support that kind of activity,” Cabangbang added.
Gaton and Atis were arrested by Quezon City policemen last Wednesday night following a robbery incident at an auto parts store along Mindanao Avenue Extension.
At the time of the robbery, the two Army men were reportedly having a good time at a beerhouse near the auto parts shop when apprehended.
The two denied any involvement in the robbery but there were reports saying a security guard tagged them as among the suspects who robbed the auto parts shop.
“What happened was that a holdup incident happened in the vicinity and they were arrested in the vicinity when apparently a security guard pointed to them as among those involved in the robbery,” Cabangbang said.
The two yielded two .45 caliber pistols and a rifle.
Cabangbang noted the two soldiers carrying of firearms at a public place is a clear violation of the gun ban being imposed in connection with the election last May 13.
“I don’t know if they applied for exemption but be that as it may, even if they have exemption, it is not allowed to bring them (firearms) to place frequented by people,” Cabangbang said.
Cabangbang, however, stressed Gaton and Atis have clean service records as members of the Army. “They are also bemedalled soldiers…they have combat medals,” he said.
Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin yesterday vowed that the military is ready to fight “for what is ours” up to the last man standing as he stressed there will be no pullout of the Navy troops from Ayungin Shoal where there is now a heavy presence of Chinese vessels, including a frigate.
In an interview by Camp Aguinaldo reporters, Gazmin stressed that the presence of Chinese vessels, composed of a frigate, two maritime surveillance ships and more than 10 small fishing boats or dinghies, in Ayungin Shoal is a clear intrusion into the country’s territorial waters and a clear violation of international laws.
“Ayungin Shoal is clearly within our (territory), it is part of our continental shelf. It’s only about 120 nautical miles from Rizal, Palawan,” he said.
“So, as far as we are concerned, that (Ayungin Shoal) is not disputed, it is ours,” Gazmin added.
Asked if he could say that the Chinese are trying to threaten the Philippines, the Defense chief replied “their message could be like that, for our part, up to the last soldier standing, we will fight for what is ours.”
Gazmin noted that the presence of a Chinese frigate is a clear violation of international rules.
“This is a clear intrusion, a violation because it’s not civilian ship only, the violation is too much…it already entered our territory,” he said.
In fact, there are Navy forces stationed in Ayungin Shoal and a Navy ship remained grounded in the area which is part of the Kalayaan Islands Group (KIGs) in the disputed South China Sea (West Philippine Sea).
Gazmin said there is no intention to pull out the troops from the shoal.
According to him, they are now due for rotation and there is upcoming supply replenishment.
“No,” replied Gazmin when asked if the troops will be pulled out from the area, adding “that (Ayungin Shoal) is ours, it is part of our continental shelf, why should we leave?”
The defense chief maintained that so far there has been no problem being reported by the troops.
“We don’t have any problem, meaning we still have no problem so far. We are due for replenishment and rotation of troops. We will do that, we have been doing that before because it is routinary, and the Navy ship doing that is unarmed, it’s a logistic vessel. So, I don’t think there’s anything with that,” said Gazmin.
The Defense chief said the latest Chinese incursion could also serve as evidence against Beijing in the complaint filed by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) over the disputed South China Sea.
“Right now, we have a case filed…this is another evidence of a violation of our territory,” Gazmin added.
The Philippine government this week protested the “provocative and illegal presence” of the warship near Ayungin Shoal, but China brushed off the complaint with an insistence that the area was part of its territory.
Foreign Affairs spokesman Raul Hernandez also yesterday the warship, along with two patrol vessels and a fleet of Chinese fishing boats, remained near the shoal.
“They should not be there. They do not have the right to be there... no one should doubt the resolve of the Filipino people to defend what is ours in that area,” Hernandez said in a text message to Agence France Presse.
“Our Navy and our Coast Guard are mandated to enforce the laws of the (Philippine) republic.”
China claims nearly all of the South China Sea, even waters far away from its main landmass and approaching the coasts of Southeast Asian countries.
The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also claim parts of the sea, and the area has for decades been regarded as a potential trigger for major military conflict in the region.
Ayungin Shoal is a tiny group of islets and reefs in the Spratly Islands chain, about 200 kilometers northwest of Palawan, the nearest major landmass.
All claimants, except Brunei, have troops stationed on various islands and atolls in the Spratlys to assert their claims.
Ayungin Shoal is guarded by a handful of Philippine Marines aboard a World War II-era ship that was deliberately grounded there in the late 1990s to serve as a base.
It is about 41 kilometers east of Mischief Reef, a Philippine-claimed outcrop that China occupied in 1995.
Ayungin Shoal and Mischief Reef are within the Philippines’ internationally recognized exclusive economic zone, and surrounding waters are rich fishing grounds.
Last year China took control of Scarborough Shoal, another bountiful fishing area far closer to Filipino landmass than Chinese, after a similar stand-off ended with the Philippines retreating.
China’s announced defense budget of $115 billion this year is nearly 100 times more than the Philippines’.
President Aquino this week announced a planned $1.8-billion military upgrade to defend the country’s maritime territory against “bullies.”
Relatedly, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario warned that territorial rows in Asia are “causing considerable tension that could lead to conflict” as several countries face off with China over island claims.
Del Rosario, speaking at a Tokyo business conference, said China’s “nine-dash line claim encompassing almost the entire South China Sea” is “excessive.”
“In addition to the South China Sea, we have in Northeast Asia, home to Asia’s biggest economic powerhouses, several disputes that have adversely affected relations between and among Japan, China and the Republic of Korea.
“The competing territorial and maritime disputes are causing considerable tension that could lead to conflict,” he warned.
China is believed to be boosting its naval capability in the Pacific and has been criticized by neighbors for what is seen as an increasingly aggressive stance in the region, particularly in its multiple territorial disputes. AFP
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