Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Saudi Philanthropist Accused By Manila As Terrorist Is Killed


ZAMBOANGA CITY (Mindanao Examiner / 31 Jan) – A Saudi philanthropist accused by the Philippine authorities of channeling funds to Muslim rebels in the southern Philippines, has been killed inside his home in Madagascar, reports said Wednesday.
Jamal Khalifa, brother-in-law of al-Qaeda leader Usama bin Laden, was shot by gunmen who raided his home early on Wednesday in an apparent robbery, the al-Arabiya Arabic news network reported.
Khalifa helped established the International Islamic Relief Organization and the Al-Makdum University in Zamboanga City in the southern Philippines in the 1990s, but abandoned them after Filipino authorities linked him to the terror group Abu Sayyaf and the larger Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
He arrived in the Philippines in 1991, and by 1993 was listed at immigration as "financier of terrorists." Khalifa was also reported to have married a Filipino woman in Zamboanga City, but fled the country after the military linked him to the MILF and Abu Sayyaf.
He was reported hiding in the Middle East and Africa until the news of his killing broke out. Khalifa at one time even offered to help Manila negotiate with Filipino Muslim rebels and end the fighting in Mindanao.
The Philippine military said Khalifa’s relief organization and his university were used as a front to launder money and channel funds to terrorists in the southern island of Mindanao. Khalifa had previously denied all charges by the Philippine authorities.

Eid Kabalu, a spokesman for the MILF, admitted Wednesday that Khalifa, who mined and traded precious stones in Madagascar, came to Mindanao in the 1990s, not to finance the separatist Muslim rebel group or terrorists, but to build mosques and madrasah.

“I was shocked to hear that he was killed today. As far as I know, Jamal Khalifa was an Arab philanthropist, who helped built mosques and madrasah and health centers for poor Muslim community in Mindanao. He was a good man,” Kabalu told the Mindanao Examiner by phone from a rebel base in the Philippine south.
The rebel spokesman said Khalifa had visited the main MILF headquarters Camp Abubakar As-Siddique in Maguindanao province where he also helped finance the building of mosques and health centers.Khalifa was active in humanitarian missions in Mindanao, Kabalu said.
“What we knew about Jamal Khalifa was that he had helped thousands of Filipino Muslims and that even the Philippine government benefited from his being a philanthropist, from all those humanitarian projects” he said without further elaborating.
The rebel base was also home to thousands of Muslim supporters of the MILF until it was attacked and occupied by the Philippine military in April 2000 after peace talks with the Estrada administration failed.
Washington accused Bin Laden of masterminding the 9/11 attacks in the United States and listed the Abu Sayyaf as a foreign terrorist organization. (Mindanao Examiner)

Indie Film Making Seminar In Zamboanga


The Mindanao Examiner in association with the Moro Films will conduct a week-long seminar and workshop on film making on February 24.

The workshop is a special hands-on intensive course designed for people who wish to study the art and craft of film making in an intense schedule. This seminar will also help corporate media people engaged in video productions.

For those with little or no film making experience, this workshop offers strong foundation skills through carefully crafted modules aimed at focused learning, hands-on production.

Workshop participants are expected to learn story development, scriptwriting, directing, lighting, editing, sound recording and producing and the opportunity to make fully-realized short films which could be exhibited at film festivals.
The workshop is structured in a way that participants will be able to produce their own 5-minute films towards the end course. To achieve this end, only 25 participants will be accepted on a first-come-first-serve basis.

The film making workshop shall be conducted by Gutierrez Mangansakan II, an award-winning documentary filmmaker and writer. His first work ‘House under the Crescent Moon’ won Best Documentary at the 15th Gawad CCP para sa Alternatibong Pelikula at Video in 2001.

His documentaries have been screened in various international film festivals in Malaysia, Japan, Singapore, US and Europe.

The workshop is inclusive of seminar venue in hotel in Zamboanga City, lecture kits, workshop IDs, and certificates of training, meal and snacks, projector, white board, sound system, back draft and television.

For details and reservation, please contact the Mindanao Examiner or training coordinator Al Jacinto at telephone & fax 062-9925480 or mobile 0918-9180895 or e-mail us at mindanaoexaminer@gmail.com

Photo: Kevin Carter...


Ex-Philippine Police Chief Is New Defense Boss

MANILA (Mindanao Examiner / 31 Jan) – President Gloria Arroyo named Wednesday Public Works Secretary Hermogenes Ebdane as new Philippine Defense chief.

Ebdane, a former Philippine National Police (PNP) chief, replaced lawyer Avelino Cruz, who resigned last year after criticizing Arroyo’s political allies over a proposed change in the Constitution that could prolong the president's stay and her allies in power.

Arroyo’s spokesman, Ignacio Bunye, said the President has full confidence that Ebdane can implement the Defense Reform Program, which was strongly pursued in the past by former Philippine military chief Narciso Abaya.

Abaya, president of the government’s Bases Conversion Development Authority, was previously thought to head the Department of National Defense after the Philippine media reported that he would replace Cruz because of his clean and untainted records as a military man.

Ebdane’s Under Secretary Manuel Bonoan has been named as acting Public Works chief. Ebdane, a member of the Philippine Military Academy Class 1970, was PNP chief from 2002 to 2004.

Many soldiers and military officials were unhappy over Ebdane’s appointment as Defense chief because of his alleged links to poll cheating in the May 2004 Presidential elections that won Arroyo a new term.

“We don’t want him in the Defense (Department). We want somebody like Secretary (Avelino) Cruz or perhaps General (Narciso) Abaya, who is one of the most respected in the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) organization. We want somebody whose integrity is unquestionable,” an army sergeant, who asked not to be identified, told the Mindanao Examiner in Camp Aguinaldo, the main military headquarters.

There was no evidence or charges against Ebdane in connection with the allegations of poll cheating. (Mindanao Examiner)
OPINION: “Deportation Gag” by Juan Mercado

The Bureau of Immigration hasn’t explained, up to now, why it barred an Irish Catholic priest who co-authored a devastating report on the mining industry, from re-entering the Philippines early January.

“It’s the prerogative of a sovereign country to exclude aliens,” mumbled Immigration regulation chief Gary Mendoza after agents denied entry to 52-year old Father Frank Nally. The Justice Department didn’t reveal why it ordered Nally to fly out, he added. Anyway, government is not duty bound to explain to a person why he landed on the blacklist.

No? We have diplomatic relations with Dublin. And what about reciprocal treatment for Filipino overseas workers? They’re flooding into a country that’s among the top five in the European Union today. And we have diplomatic relations with Dublin.

Equally important is the arbitrariness. Filipino taxpayers ask: how does a Catholic scholar, who heads the prestigious Columban Justice and Faith group in Britain, end up, on the same list, as Al’Qaeda or Abu Sayyaf operatives?

And why?Because Father Nally co-authored “Mining in the Philippines: Concerns and Conflicts”. That’s why. This is a 61-page report on the July-August 2006 fact finding mission led by the former UK Secretary of State for Overseas Development Clare Short. Prepared in cooperation with National University of Ireland and Philippine Indigenous People’s Link, that study is rocking government with its findings. Mining has a shoddy historical track record.

The Philippines is among “the worst countries in the world with regard to tailings, dam failures,” UN Environmental Programme records show. It has a legacy of 800 abandoned mines.

The Catholic Bishops Conference, in January 2006, skewered mines in Albay, Palawan, Nueva Vizcaya, South Cotabato, Zamboanga del Norte and Marinduque for massive ecological damage.

“I have never seen anything so systematically destructive as the mining program in the Philippines,” begins Member of Parliament Clare Short. “The environmental effects are as catastrophic as are the effects on the people’s livelihoods.

Government and mining companies should be challenged to demonstrate that (they will) adhere to their own laws and international mining best practice.She flayed the World Bank and the EU for spurring destructive mining.

EU’s “development interventions are failing in the Philippines to live up to (it’s declared) standards: protection of the rights of indigenous peoples and a strong commitment to sustainable development.

The investor community must behave more responsibly in their investment decisions in the Philippines.”

Would that qualify the Honorable Short for this blacklist too? Who draws up that list anyway? Who can scrub names from it? Is there an appeal or review process in what is basically a secret drill? “(We) recognize the external pressures on the Philippines as a deeply-indebted country to generate foreign investments,” the main report goes on to say. (But) the emphasis on export-driven mining” could diminish development prospects.

“Contrary to recommendations of the ‘Extractive Industries Review’, many of the proposed new mining sites are in areas of conflict, including Mindanao. Government should consider repealing the 1995 Mining Act, enact alternative legislation, as well as create a separate Department of Mines, Hydrocarbons and Geo-sciences.

The Philippines is one of 17 mega-biodiversity countries. But it is also a geo-hazard hotspot, whip lashed by typhoons, landslides, volcanoes, etc.It’s environmental stability is already under threat”, raising doubt whether it can meet the eight Millennium Development Goals by 2015.

“Government must therefore exercise extreme caution in authorizing large-scale mining projects.”

The books are relatively strong laws to protect indigenous peoples and communities. But these are honored more in breach than in practice. Mining in vital watersheds is approved. By law, indigenous people must give their free, prior, informed consent (FPIC) before any project starts within their ancestral lands.

But “this consent is often obtained through misinformation, misrepresentation, bribery and intimidation.”

Government agencies…are failing to fulfill their mandate to protect indigenous people’s rights. Many “view the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples as siding with mining companies”. Government should “end the contradictory practice of allowing mining companies to assert prior rights claims over ancestral land. And the Philippine Senate should ratify ILO Convention 169.

“Human rights abuses and misreporting are clearly associated with some current mining activities…” Companies should publish details of payments, taxes and royalties in accordance with the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative.

"Corruption is a serious problem. Plans for extensive mining operations in remote areas will make it worse. And those in government and international agencies seem to lack the capacity or inclination to challenge and end such misconduct.”

Consider setting up a Mining Ombudsman, the report suggests.The team doubts the benefits claimed, by mining companies, in exchange for incentives. “Once revenues are offset against costs – in particular, the environmental costs – the net gain will be far lower than that claimed, by companies and promoters of mining in government.”

In addition, “the country may be left with clean-up costs that run into billions of dollars.” In 1892, the Spanish colonial government sentenced Jose Rizal to destiero in Dapitan, to muzzle his truth-telling. That exile failed. And deporting, in 2007, a scholar who questioned this country’s mining industry, will flop. It will only embed abuses that sell Filipinos short. (Mindanao Examiner)

The Good News!

Asia Foundation Donates 25,000 Books To 500 Mindanao Schools

BUTUAN CITY (Mindanao Examiner / 31 Jan) – The Asia Foundation donated Wednesday over 25,000 books to some 500 schools in the southern Philippine province of Surigao del Norte.

The donation was part of the Books for Asia Program and benefited schools in Surigao City and those in Dinagat islands and from across Surigao del Norte, said Reynald Ocampo, assistant program officer for The Asia Foundation Philippines’ Books for Asia Program.

The U.S. Agency for International Development was also instrumental for the delivery of tons of books to the province.

Ky Johnson, Deputy Country Representative of The Asia Foundation graced the ceremony attended by school representatives and government officials at a gymnasium in Surigao City. (Mindanao Examiner)

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

RP Troops Hunt Rebels Who Raid Gold Mine Site

Gregorio Rosal, spokesman for the Communist Party of the Philippines, denounces military-imposed food blockade in southern Philippine province of Surigao near where New People's Army rebels raided a gold mining site in Mount Diwalwal. (CPP-NPA Photo/Caption Mindanao Examiner)

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (Mindanao Examiner / 30 Jan) – Security forces mounted a fresh operation to capture a band of communist insurgents who raided a gold mining site in the southern Philippines, officials said.

Officials said some 40 members of the New People’s Army stormed the site on Mount Diwalwal, a gold rush area near Monkayo town in Compostela Valley province.

The weekend attack left a chilling warning that despite an all-out government offensive against the NPA, rebel forces continue its own campaign.

The raiders destroyed a bulldozer and carted away several weapons owned by security guards. There were no reports of casualties, officials said.

Troops have been deployed in the town to pursue the rebels.

Last week, security forces sealed off the southern Philippine town of Tagbina near Surigao del Sur province where it said had a senior NPA leader, Jorge Madlos, trapped.

Troops also imposed a food blockade on the village of Santa Juana to flush out Madlos and his group, said Gregorio Rosal, spokesman of the outlawed Communist Party of the Philippines.


“The AFP even has the gall to openly boast of its imposition of a 'food restriction as it euphemiscally calls its food blockade," Rosal said.

He said Army Col. Jose Viscarra, commander of the 401st Infantry Brigade, prevented villagers from gathering and carrying with them any food as these might be given to Madlos.

Rosal said denounced the food blockade as "a cruel imposition on the local population and a blatant violation of international humanitarian laws which give premium to the welfare and protection of civilians amid war."

"Emboldened by Gloria Arroyo's all-out war, the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) tramples on the people's human rights with impunity and arrogance in complete disregard of the people's welfare and total contempt of international humanitarian law," Rosal said.

The NPA is the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, which is fighting the past three decades for the establishment of a Maoist state in the country.

The United States listed the CPP and NPA, including its political wing, the National Democratic Front as foreign terrorist organizations, on Manila’s prodding.
(Mindanao Examiner)

Photo: Abdul Basit Usman


The United States Embassy in Manila releases Tuesday 30 Jan 2007 a poster of Abdul Basit Usman, it says is behind the spate of bombings in Mindanao island in the southern Philippines. The U.S. also offered up to $50,000 bounty for Usman's capture. (Mindanao Examiner)

OPINION: “Burdens of Disease” by Juan Mercado

“Health is the second blessing we mortals are capable of,” Izaak Walton once wrote.

I can’t recall the first. But fear of falling ill haunts all, specially the poor. That concern stems from their experience with government’s inadequate health systems. At local drugstores, some medicines are priced 5 to 18 times more than in other countries.

Those lusting for election exploit this anxiety. Cebu City mayor Tomas Osmena, for example, gave PhilHealth cards, valid for a year, to 35,000 beneficiaries (aka voters). Could this be misconstrued as politicking? “It’s not misconstrued,” he scoffed. “It is what it is.”

It is, in fact, far more. Health cards lapse after the votes are tallied. But many candidates ignore a critical issue: The “epidemiological transition” that is sweeping through Asian countries.

Harvard University and World Health Organization report that patterns of illnesses and deaths are drastically changing in poor countries like the Philippines – and straining health systems.

Where maladies of the poor once dominated, ailments of the affluent are emerging with a vengeance, Harvard and WHO note in their study: “The Global Burden of Disease” Tuberculosis, diarrhea, pneumonia, measles, dengue, infant malnutrition are being rapidly overtaken by stroke, diabetes, obesity, etc.

Only the very poorest countries have not started this transition to Western type diseases, University of Sydney’s Dr Bruce Neal writes in “Far Eastern Economic Review”.

Large scale studies, for example, found: “One in eight of those aged over 30 had diabetes. And an equal number showed prediabetes”. Strokes were spiraling. “Obsolete” diseases still ravage slums and uplands, of the Philippines, Indonesia, Nepal or Sudan.

But in affluent and urbanized Singapore, Germany, Korea or Hong Kong, as well as the “gated enclaves” of the rich here, fat-saturated diets, sedentary life styles, obesity boost incidence of chronic diseases. Cheek-by-jowl, the overfed and ill-nourished suffer their differing ailments.

“Potentates goodly in girth” popularized fat-reducing Xenia. But chronic hunger stunts 32 out of every 100 kids, “Philippine Human Development Report 2006” points out. And 20 percent of infants are puny under weights. In Cebu, 28 out of every 100 lack access to safe potable water.

Scientists have crafted new “burden-of-disease” indicators to track this transition’s effects.
Used since the mid-1990s, this new gauge adds up “life years lost due to diseases” and early graves, i.e. years wasted by pre-mature deaths, explain University of Ulster’s S.R. Osmani and A. Bhargaya from Houston University.

The novel tape measure is known as “Dalys” --shorthand for “disability adjusted life-years per thousand of population”. Among other things, “Daly’s” found that : Every one thousand Filipinos – like the 3.6 billion men, women and children who live in Asia today – lose the equivalent of 259 years from illness-linked disabilities and premature deaths.

Total life years lost, on the other hand, amounted to 259 years per 1,000 populations. Losses of such magnitude can beggar a nation. But political trapos do not factor such issues into their agendas. Hence, they are blind to implications of the Asian Development Bank warning: The two phases of this “transition in this burden of disease” do not follow in sequence, In fact, they interlock.

As a result, richer and poorer countries “share a common predicament: that of an overlapping health transition,” Dab’s Review points out. Nations like the Philippines do not have the option of solving one crisis at a time.

Instead, “they must tackle simultaneously problems the western world had the privilege of tackling sequentially. Emerging Asia will not have this “luxury” But problems spill far beyond casting of the ballot. Health will be costlier in the future, as populations’ age, ADB cautions.

Articulate groups, in cities, will seek to skew limited budgets towards treatment of their chronic diseases. “This will perpetuate disadvantage to the poor.” Indeed, needy countries should not “emulate Western style physician-driven programs,” adds Dr. Bryce Neal.

“(They) provide a high-cost solution for the wealthy few”. We allocate the equivalent of $174 per capita for health, Ump’s Human Development Report notes. The comparative figure for Malaysians is $374 and $1,074 for Koreans.

Over-worked, under supplied and underpaid municipal health workers close the health gap for most Filipinos, on a daily basis, in 81 provinces and 117 cities. They tap into the rich trove of traditional medicinal plants: from lagundi for coughs to amplaya for diabetes.

It’s an uphill fight. As an Inquirer “Talk of the Town” feature asked: Were multinational drug lobbies, with a few susceptible doctors, behind downgrading of ampalaya (momordica charantia), long listed as a scientifically validated medicinal plant?

That move bankrupted thousands of small ampalaya farmers. And it stripped municipal health workers of a tool in their kits. Now, Health Secretary Francisco Toque has dusted off scientific studies on ampalaya that were shoved under the rug.

He could reinstate the plant – and turn attention to the next 10 medicinal plants that health workers could use.“San Carlos University studies, in Cebu’s mountains, over 200 found medicinal plants,” Dr Franz Siedenchwarz reported. “But only one has been commercially exploited – marijuana.”

U.S. Offers Bounty For Capture Of Filipino Terrorist Linked To Mindanao Bombings


Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters, armed with machine gun and B40 anti-tank rockets, guard a village in the southern Philippines. (Mindanao Examiner Photo)


MANILA (Mindanao Examiner / 30 Jan) – The United States on Tuesday offered up to $50,000 bounty for the capture of a Filipino terrorist implicated in the spate of bombings in the southern Philippines.

The bounty on the head of Abdul Basit Usman is part of the U.S. Government Rewards Program. Usman was linked to deadly bomb attacks in Mindanao in recent months.

Usman has been linked to the Jemaah Islamiyah and believed responsible for bombings in Mindanao in October 2006 that killed eight civilians and left 30 others wounded.

He was also implicated in a series of bomb attacks in January in the Mindanao cities of General Santos, Kidapawan and Cotabato that killed seven people and wounded 37 more.

Philippine authorities previously linked Usman to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the country’s largest Muslim separatist rebel group currently negotiating peace with Manila.

But the MILF has repeatedly denied the allegation and ordered rebel forces to hunt down Usman and bring him to justice.

A rebel spokesman Eid Kabalu said rebels were ordered to track down Usman and capture him dead or alive.

“Abdul Basit Usman is not a member of the MILF. Rebel forces were ordered to help Philippine authorities to hunt down and capture Abdul Basit Usman,” Kabalu said.

Kabalu said the bounty offered by Washington only proves that Usman is a dangerous man.
“This really proves that Usman is a very dangerous man. The bounty offered by the United States will add more credibility in its anti-terrorism campaign in the Philippines and Southeast Asia,” he said.

He said the MILF would continue to help Philippine authorities track down terrorists even without financial reward. “Money is not all important to us, but to bring peace and stability to Mindanao,” he said.

Police charged 10 MILF members, including Usman and a rebel leader Wahid Tundok for the January 5 and January 10 bombings in Cotabato City that killed one Muslim man.

“Usman and Tundok are both included in the charge sheet, along with eight other suspected bombers,” Cotabato City police spokesman Insp. Waves Kasuyo said.

The U.S. Embassy in Manila said the identity of any individuals providing information about Usman will remain strictly confidential.

“It is time to bring this despicable terrorist to justice. Anyone with information on Abdul Basit Usman, or any other terrorist, is encouraged to contact the Anti- Terrorist Task Force by calling 117, (02) 528-9832, (02) 928-5778, or contact the U.S. Embassy in Manila at (02) 526-9832/9833/9834 or send a text message to 0918-948-6412,” it said.

The MILF also denied that Tundok was involved in the bombings in the southern Philippines. “Our doors are open for any investigation. We have no links with any terrorist groups and are sincere with the peace talks,” Kabalu said.

The MILF is fighting for an independent Islamic state in Mindanao. (Mindanao Examiner)

Photo/Video: Mohager Iqbal, Chief Peace Negotiator, Of The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF)





Mohager Iqbal, chief peace negotiator, of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), speaks to the Mindanao Examiner about the peace talks with Manila. (Mindanao Examiner Photo)

Mindanao Refugees Get Help After Rebels, Troops Halt Fighting


Filipino soldiers in action during clashes with MILF forces Saturday 27 Jan 2007 in Midsayap town in North Cotabato province. The MILF accused troops of attacking rebel areas, which was strongly denied by the military. (Mindanao Examiner Photo/Mark Navales)





MAGUINDANAO (Mindanao Examiner / 30 Jan) – Aid workers began a grueling task Tuesday of helping thousands of mostly Muslim refugees who fled their homes after fighting broke out between separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front rebels and security forces in southern Philippines.
MILF rebels and security forces agreed to a halt in fighting in the province of North Cotabato and both sides returned to their bases, army officials said.
But tension remains high in Midsayap town where the fighting killed at least 2 people and wounded two more when Moro Islamic Liberation Front guerillas and troops traded gunfire.
“It is all silent now. The fighting finally stopped and we are helping refugees return to their homes.” The spokesman of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, Col. Julieto Ando, told the Mindanao Examiner.
Philippine military chief Gen. Hermogenes Esperon has ordered troops to halt attacks against MILF forces after fighting broke out Friday and continued sporadically over the weekend.
Thousands of civilians, afraid they would be caught in the cross fire, abandoned their homes in at least 5 villages. Red Cross and Red Crescent workers and volunteers arrived in the town, with them were medicines and food, but more are needed for tens of thousands of people now in temporary shelters.
The rebels are currently negotiating peace with Manila, but despite a cease-fire signed in 2001, clashes with troops occasionally occur.
Mohager Iqbal, the MILF chief peace negotiator, said the fighting broke out after armed militias and Christian landowners tried to drive away local Muslim villagers, some of them members of the MILF, who owned lands in the area.
Iqbal said the soldiers sided with the militias and attacked rebel forces, sparking sporadic, but fierce clashes.
Government planes, backed by combat helicopters and ground forces, assaulted Saturday rebel strongholds after accusing some MILF fighters of attacking Christian farmers and army-led militias in the province.
Iqbal accused the military of violating the fragile truce. Ando said MILF rebels attacked farmers and militias harvesting coconuts in Midsayap, triggering a firefight.
“It was the rebels who started this fight. They attacked people who were just harvesting coconuts. The MILF violated the truce and we will file a protest with the government peace panel,” Ando said. (Mindanao Examiner)

Monday, January 29, 2007

Photo: Arrested MILF Rebels Freed by Military In South RP


Arrested members of Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) march during their release by the 1st Marine Brigade in Kampo Ranao in Marawi City. The rebels are led by Basman Tarusan Panundi, commander of the MILF's 7th Brigade, 103rd Base Command and Mac-Guiver Mamis, of 3rd Battalion, 307th Unit Command. The group was apprehended by troops under Col.Ramiro A. Alivio, at a military checkpoint in Kapai town in Lanao del Sur province last week for violation of the gun ban. (Mindanao Examiner Photo by Mark Navales)

Cagayan De Oro Chamber Lays Groundwork For Mindanao ICT Business Council

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (Mike Banos / 29 Jan) - The Cagayan de Oro Chamber of Commerce and Industry Foundation, Inc. (Oro Chamber) will host a strategic assessment workshop on Wednesday here to explore the viability for a Cagayan de Oro Business Council for Information and Communications Technology (ICT).

Heidi Grace P. Mendoza, Oro Chamber secretary-general, said the council will initially bring together existing ICT sector organizations to give them a stronger, united voice for the industry.

“Initially, we aim to create an ICT Conveners’ Group,” Mendoza said. “We envision a body to plan execute and coordinate ICT programs and projects on investment promotion, business matching, business development, human resource development, policy advocacy and capacity building.”

Expected to join the workshop are the Cagayan de Oro Computer Dealers Association, Cagayan de Oro Software Developers Association, Computer Animators Group, internet café operators association and the newly created Telecoms and Power Development Group of Cagayan de Oro.
“We have also invited ICT representatives from chambers in Zamboanga, General Santos, Davao and Iligan to sound them out on the prospects for a Mindanao-wide ICT business council in the future,” Mendoza said.

The Oro Chamber first started discussing the concept of a united voice for the ICT sector in June 2006 when it hosted the 1st Northern Mindanao Business Summit on ICT which sought to generate interest in opportunities which had opened to local investors as a result of new trends in ICT.

In September 2006, some 400 participants from all over Mindanao flocked to Cagayan de Oro for the 5th Mindanao ICT Congress. The two-day congress identified key players in the ICT sectors from business, academe and government who then established the Mindanao ICT Agenda.

Mendoza said the congress has also invited officers and representatives from the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and the American Chamber of Commerce, and others from key support industries and institutions in the private and public sectors involved in telecoms infrastructure, training and regulation.

Cagayan de Oro now leads the ICT industry in Mindanao with its nascent business process outsourcing (BPO) industry which includes three call centers with over 1,000 seats and more entrants expected this year, two medical transcription firms, and over a hundred other companies involved in software development, internet café operations, graphics animation, and telecommunications.

The ICT Profile provided by the DTI-Misamis Oriental office describes the ICT infrastructure in Cagayan de Oro as being traversed by two major backbones: PLDT’s 10 gigabytes per second (gbps) Digital Fiber Optic Backbone (DFOB) which is directly connected to five international submarine cable systems in the Asia Pacific and Southeast Asian region with onward connections to North America.

The Middle East and Western Europe, supported by an extensive Digital Microwave Backbone; and Telicphil’s 10 gbps National Digital Transmission Network, a 2,762 kms. fiber optic facility that originates from Cuyapo, Isabela in the north and terminates in Cagayan de Oro in the south.

“Connectivity is important in the call center industry,” said Engr. Teodoro Buenavista, NTC-X regional director and member of the Regional Information Technology and E-Commerce Committee of Region 10 (RITECC-10) e-cluster group.

Bautista stressed it is not only connectivity in hardware but between the local players that the local BPO industry needs to maintain an edge over the competition, hence the imperative need for an ICT business council.

“RITECC-X will continue to push public-private partnership in three areas of development: policy, implementation and advocacy,” Bautista said.

The Department of Trade and Industry says the Philippines is fast catching up with India as the “Call Center Capital of Asia” due to the increasing costs of doing business in G-7 countries.

A 2005 study conducted by research firm Frost and Sullivan, reveals that the Philippine call center industry now ranks ninth in the Asian region with $9.8-million invested in hardware and software as of 2005, trailing its English-speaking rivals: India ($21 million) and Singapore ($20.3 million).

From only a handful of call centers at the start of 2000, there is now an estimated 105 call center companies in the country, or double the figure from 2003. (Mindanao Examiner)

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Military Orders Halt In Fighting In South RP



Moro Islamic Liberation Front soldiers guard a village near a rebel base in the southern Philippines Sunday 28 Jan 2007. The MILF, Philippines' largest Muslim rebel group fighting for independence is currently negotiating peace with Manila. The MILF is helping Filipino authorities track down Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiya terrorists in the troubled region of Mindanao where rebels actively operate. (Mindanao Examiner Photos exclusive for The Australian)




MAGUINDANAO (Mindanao Examiner / 28 Jan) – Philippine military chief Gen. Hermogenes Esperon has ordered troops to halt attacks against Moro Islamic Liberation Front forces in the troubled southern region of Mindanao.
The fighting, which erupted Friday, left at least 2 people dead and two others injured and thousands of civilians also fled their homes in at least 5 villages in the farming town of Midsayap in North Cotabato province after rebels and soldiers clashed sporadically.
"I was told by the army that General Esperon ordered troops to halt the attacks against the MILF forces," Mohagher Iqbal, the MILF’s chief peace negotiator, told the Mindanao Examiner.
Government planes, backed by combat helicopters and ground forces, assaulted Saturday rebel strongholds after accusing some MILF fighters of attacking Christian farmers and army-led militias in the province.
Iqbal accused the military of violating a fragile, six-year old truce, a charge security officials denied.
He said the fighting broke out after armed militias and Christian landowners tried to drive away local Muslim villagers, some of them members of the MILF, who owned lands in the area.
Iqbal said the soldiers sided with the militias and attacked rebel forces, sparking sporadic, but fierce clashes.Iqbal said the MILF rebels in the area were in heightened alert.
“They were ordered to be in alert and defend themselves from these military attacks,” he said.Col. Julieto Ando, a spokesman for the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, said the rebel attack sparked firefight that killed one person and wounded one more.
“It was the rebels who started this fight. They attacked people who were just harvesting coconuts. The MILF violated the truce and we will file a protest with the government peace panel,” Ando said.
He said thousands of civilians have fled their homes in two villages for fear that they would be caught in the cross-fire or held hostage by rebels. “Many people have fled their homes and we are trying to protect the villages from the trebles,” he said.
Iqbal said at least 5 villages have been bombed by military forces. The MILF, the country’s largest Muslim rebel group, is currently negotiating peace with Manila, but despite a cease-fire accord signed in 2001, sporadic clashes still continue in many areas in the troubled region.(Mindanao Examiner)

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Dulmatin Still Holed Out In Jolo Jungle


A U.S. military convoy passes in a village in Maimbun town in Jolo island in the southern Philippines on Thursday 25 Jan 2007. Filipino security forces, assisted by U.S. troops, are pursuing two Jemaah Islamiya bombers, Dulmatin and Umar Patek, and Abu Sayyaf militants who are protecting the two men, tagged as behind the 2002 Bali bombinngs that killed 202 people, including 88 Australians. (Mindanao Examiner Photo exclusive for The Australian)



JOLO ISLAND (Emma Kate Symons / 27 Jan) - ''THE Americans like to talk about the battle for hearts and minds. But you need to hold them by the balls. There has to be the threat of force.''
As the afternoon call to prayer echoes across the teeming port town of Jolo, the chain-smoking Filipino intelligence boss spits out his lewd warning to fugitive Bali bombers Dulmatin and Omar Patek.
The two Jemaah Islamiah leaders are holed up somewhere in the cloud-covered jungle only a few dozen kilometres from where we sit beneath the mango trees at Philippines army headquarters, shared with the assisting US special forces.
''We know where they are,'' the spy boss says of Dulmatin and Patek. ''But it's a matter of getting there in time. They could be inside Mount Dajo but to get there even with choppers, they would know we were coming and move on.''
From heavily fortified Camp Teodolfo Bautista, the American-backed local forces are waging an extraordinary, ''surgical'' military manhunt for some of the world's most wanted terrorists, believed to be hiding out on this 300sqkm volcanic island at the Philippines' southern tip.
It is an operation involving up to 8000 local troops and hundreds of US special forces and intelligence experts. Operation Ultimatum has ''liquidated'' a handful of ''high-value targets'' including Khadaffy Janjalani, the leader of local al-Qa'ida-linked Islamist terrorist outfit Abu Sayyaf, believed to now be under JI control.
But Dulmatin -- with his $US10 million ($12.9 million) US government bounty (double the reward offered for Janjalani), reputation for being the ''genius'' bomb technician behind the 2002 Bali attacks and responsible for a subsequent string of deadly attacks in the southern Philippines and possibly around Asia -- is enemy No1.
The wealthy Javanese was a protege of master JI bomb-maker Azahari bin Husin, who was killed in a shootout with police in Indonesia in late 2005. Azahari's death left three Bali bomb masterminds on the run -- Dulmatin, Patek and fellow Indonesian Noordin Mohammed Top, who has narrowly evaded capture on several occasions.
Dulmatin -- also known as Mutkamar, Amar Usman, Djoko Supriyanto and Joko Pitono -- came to the southern Philippines some time in 2003. The region has been home to a violent Muslim insurgency, led by the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which is now involved in official peace talks, for more than three decades.
Dulmatin's mission was to develop the southern Philippines chapter of JI and share bomb-making techniques with his Abu Sayyaf brothers, after he directed the 2002 Bali attacks that killed 202 people, including 88 Australians. Abu Sayyaf is a shadowy local kidnap-for-ransom group held responsible for killing hundreds through bombings, beheadings and abductions, targeting Christians and foreigners.
Now, after several years establishing bomb-training camps in central Mindanao funnelling technical expertise and al-Qa'ida-sourced money to their ideological brothers, Dulmatin and Patek are virtual prisoners on one of the world's most dangerous and isolated islands.
They are confined to Jolo, an autonomous 94 per cent Muslim region of Mindanao, where dense jungle and cloud cover can limit visibility to 1m.This week, as reported by The Australian, the military confirmed Dulmatin was wounded in a fierce gun battle that killed Abu Sayyaf spokesman Abu Solaiman.
Dulmatin escaped on foot, probably with Patek. Yet according to the top Philippines and US army commanders, the JI pair have been cornered.
In a series of exclusive interviews with The Weekend Australian, top Philippines and US commanders and intelligence officials offered unprecedented insight into their tactics, shared intelligence capabilities and conviction that on the frontline of the Southeast Asian war on terrorism, they are winning.
A group of deep penetration agents inside the Abu Sayyaf and JI cells on Jolo are funnelling prized intelligence about the location and activities of the Bali bombers and their 100 or so Abu Sayyaf cronies. The fugitives have been forced to change locations every six hours -- sometimes disguised by wigs and burqas -- in small groups to evade detection.
The army even knows that Dulmatin has hidden two of his sons away on nearby Basilan island, probably with the widow of Abu Sayyaf founder Abburajak Janjalani. ''This is a Philippines battle and the Philippines forces are winning,'' says US Colonel David Maxwell, the US commander of joint special forces operations in the southern Philippines.''
The Philippine navy has done a tremendous job with the ability for Dulmatin and Patek to move by water. They have really isolated Jolo so well and it is probably difficult for them to move off the island.''But where are they going to go? You look at what the armed forces of The Philippines is doing in central Mindanao. Are they going to go back after they were evicted by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front? Basilan (island) is very secure these days, they can't go back there.''
They will have to leave The Philippines and right now their best hope is to continue to remain here on Jolo because they've got a low level of basic support network that has allowed them to survive. But it's only a matter of time.
The armed forces of The Philippines are going to win over all the sanctuaries and they are going to win over all the people and eliminate the ability for them to survive on the island.''The fight on Jolo is being keenly watched by the Australian armed forces and their bosses in Canberra, who are negotiating a status of forces agreement with The Philippines.
On Monday, Australian ambassador to The Philippines Tony Hely and defence staff will be in Zamboanga City, the closest mainland Mindanao city to Jolo, to meet with local officials.For now, Australia is limited to providing intelligence support and training in bomb detection, hostage rescue and maritime security. But once the defence pact is signed later this year, Australian forces could conduct large joint training exercises and potentially send forces to assist in Jolo.
General Eugenio Cedo, commander of Philippines forces in Western Mindanao, said he would warmly welcome Australian military support in the south. But he and a handful of top military brass are surprised that Australia has not joined the US and Philippines in offering generous rewards for the capture of Dulmatin and Patek.
This week they urged Canberra to join in.The Philippines military admits there have been some missteps in its hunt for Dulmatin. In October, it arrested Dulmatin's wife on Jolo, with two of the bomber's children. She offered valuable intelligence, including listing at least seven JI operatives in the south, before being deported to Indonesia.
''We shouldn't have arrested the wife,'' says army Captain Abdurassad Sirajan. ''He was probably with her the same day. You put the wives under surveillance and monitor them, then you come much closer to capturing the high-value targets.''Maxwell agrees that Dulmatin and Patek ''must be captured or neutralised'', despite the difficulties presented by the complex jungle terrain.
''The Philippines forces are trying to win the hearts and minds of the local population. But sometimes it's like chasing ghosts,'' he says.''Also, the culture on Jolo is very complex. The Abu Sayyaf group has strong family ties, and strong tribal ties (to the local warrior Tausug tribe). Where there are blood relations and religious connections, those ties remain.''
As a palpable sign of the intense US interest in winning this battle against terrorism, the Hawaii-based commander of American special forces in the Pacific, Major General David Fridovich, US President George W. Bush's special state department adviser on ''reaching out to the Muslim world'' Karen Hughes and US ambassador to The Philippines Kristie Kenney, all came to Jolo island this week.
The Americans are waging a costly fight against poverty, exclusion and discrimination on the island, with a host of multi-million-dollar aid projects, ranging from internet-equipped schools and roads to medical centres, ambulances and hospitals.
It is their calculated battle for hearts and minds on Jolo, a desperately poor community of 600,000 where fresh water, electricity and basic healthcare are rarities.Yet for all the aid and work to shield civilians from becoming ''collateral damage'', Islamist ideology and hatred of Christians, foreigners and particularly Americans, the Philippines former colonial masters, are still powerful forces on Jolo.
Gesturing towards Jolo's grand mosque, a persistent stronghold of radical Muslim muftis preaching violent jihadism, Sirajan, a Muslim and Jolo-raised former Moro Islamic Liberation Front commander, says ruefully: ''Even if we have killed Janjalani and all the terrorist leaders like Dulmatin and Patek, there will still be terrorism here.''It is an ideology, it is ingrained religious extremism, it is a part of life here.'' (The Australian)

Photo: Soldier Looks At Wanted Poster Of Jemaah Islamiya, Sayyaf Militants; Karen Hughes In Jolo Island



A Filipino soldier in Jolo island in the southern Philippines looks at photos of wanted Jemaah Islamiya bombers Dulmatin and Umar Patek and Abu Sayyaf militants coddling the duo tagged as behind the 2002 Bali bombings that killed 2002 people, including 88 Australians. And Karen Hughes, Under Secretary for Diplomacy and Public Affairs in the U.S. State Department, center, poses with young Muslim well-wishers during her visit Thursday 25 Jan 2007 in Jolo. (Mindanao Examiner Photos exclusive for The Australian)

MILF Fighting Erupts In South RP

MAGUINDANAO (Mindanao Examiner / 27 Jan) – Government planes, backed by combat helicopters and ground forces, assaulted Saturday lairs of Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rebels suspected of attacking farmers and army-led militias in the southern Philippines.

Mohagher Iqbal, the MILF’s chief peace negotiator, said one rebel was killed and another wounded in the attacks which started on Friday on a village in Midsayap town in North Cotabato province.

“The bombings killed one rebel and wounded another fighter. This is blatant violation of the cease-fire. We are protesting the military attacks,” Iqbal told the Mindanao Examiner.

He said the fighting erupted after armed militias and Christian landowners tried to drive away local Muslim villagers, some of them members of the MILF. He said the soldiers sided with the militias and attacked rebel forces, sparking sporadic, but fierce clashes.

Iqbal said the MILF rebels in the area were in heightened alert. “They were ordered to be in alert and defend themselves from these military attacks,” he said.

Col. Julieto Ando, a spokesman for the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, denied the accusations and said the rebels attacked farmers and militias, triggering a firefight that killed one person and wounded one more.

“It was the rebels who started this fight. They attacked people who were just harvesting coconuts. The MILF violated the truce and we will file a protest with the government peace panel,” Ando said in a separate interview.

He said thousands of civilians have fled their homes in two villages for fear that they would be caught in the cross-fire or held hostage by rebels. “Many people have fled their homes and we are trying to protect the villages from the trebles,” he said.

Iqbal said at least 5 villages have been bombed by military forces. The MILF, the country’s largest Muslim rebel group, is currently negotiating peace with Manila, but despite a cease-fire accord signed in 2001, sporadic clashes still continue in many areas in the troubled region. (Mindanao Examiner)

Friday, January 26, 2007

Dulmatin Wounded In Clash In Southern RP




A Philippine Air Force C130 plane transporting troops flies past a U.S. Army convoy on Thursday 25 Jan 2007 in the southern island of Jolo, where security forces are pursuing two Jemaah Islamiya bombers, Dulmatin and Umar Patek, and Abu Sayyaf militants who are protecting the two men, tagged as behind the 2002 Bali bombinngs that killed 202 people, including 88 Australians. Muslim children in Jolo island in the southern Philippines look at photos Thursday 25 Jan 2007 of wanted Jemaah Islamiya bombers Dulmatin and Umar Patek and Abu Sayyaf militants coddling the duo tagged as behind the 2002 Bali bombings that killed 2002 people, including 88 Australians.exclusio(Mindanao Examiner Photos exclusive for The Australian)




JOLO ISLAND (Mindanao Examiner / 25 Jan) – One of two Jemaah Islamiya bombers hiding in the southern island of Jolo has been shot and wounded in a clash in Mount Dajo in Patikul town, Philippine military officials told the Mindanao Examiner.

Captain Abdurassad Sirajan, of the Army’s 104th Infantry Brigade, said Indonesian electronics expert Dulmatin was injured after Special Forces soldiers shot him January 16 during a raid on an Abu Sayyaf hideout.

In the raid, Sirajan said, a senior Abu Sayyaf leader, Jainal Antel Sali, Jr., was killed by soldiers. His body had been recovered and identified by relatives, he said.

“Dulmatin is wounded in that clash and we will get him sooner or later, all of them, they will suffer the same fate,” he told the Mindanao Examiner.

Southern Philippines military chief Lt. Gen. Eugenio Cedo said troops were pursuing not only Dulmatin, but another Jemaah Islamiya bomber, Umar Patek and Abu Sayyaf leaders Radulan Sahiron and Isnilon Hapilon, the most senior of about a dozen remaining commanders of the group blamed for the spate of bombings and kidnappings of foreigners in the troubled southern Philippine region.

“Escaping from the operation is difficult at this time because we have thousands of troops pursuing the terrorists and they are on the run for their lives. It is just a matter of time before we get Dulmatin and Patek and the others,” Cedo said in a separate interview.

About 6,000 Filipino soldiers, backed by U.S. military intelligence, are combing the thick jungle of Jolo island, about 950 km south of Manila. But rugged terrain and thick jungle canopy are threatening the soldiers. “The terrain is grueling and treacherous and is slowing down the offensive, but we will not stop. The terrorists must be eliminated,” Cedo said.

Some 150 U.S. Special Forces and Marines are deployed in Jolo island since last year and have been helping the local military track down the Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiya militants.

On Thursday, Karen Hughes, Under Secretary for Diplomacy and Public Affairs in the U.S. State Department, inspected American soldiers and was briefed about the security situation on the island and the progress of the hunt for terrorists.

Hughes, accompanied by U.S. Ambassador Kristie Kenney and Maj. Gen. David Fridovich, commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command Pacific, and Col. David Maxwell, commander of the U.S. forces in the southern Philippines, also inspected U.S.-funded infrastructure projects in Maimbung town under tight security.

The U.S. offered $10 million bounty for Dulmatin’s capture and another $2 million for Patek. Both the Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiya are on the U.S. list of foreign terrorist organizations. (Mindanao Examiner)

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

US Diplomacy Expert To Visit Jolo Island


JOLO ISLAND (Mindanao Examiner / 23 Jan) – A top U.S. government official is expected to visit the southern Philippine island of Jolo, where American troops are currently undertaking humanitarian missions with Filipino soldiers.
A former television news reporter, Karen Parfitt Hughes is currently the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs in the U.S. Department of State. She is expected to arrive on Thursday, along with senior officials from the American Embassy in Manila and top military commanders.
Security would be tight during her brief visit to Jolo, where thousands of Filipino soldiers are battling Abu Sayyaf militants tied to al-Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiya terror network.
Philippine government sources earlier said that Condoleezza Rice is coming to Jolo. It would be the first time that Hughes is visiting the island.
Hughes was born in Paris, France. She is the daughter Harold Parfitt, the last U.S. governor of the Panama Canal Zone.
She received her bachelor's degree from Southern Methodist University in 1977 where was a member of the Alpha Delta Pi sorority. Hughes worked as a television news reporter from 1977 to 1984.
As a reporter, Hughes followed the presidential campaign in 1980. In 1984, she switched from covering politics to practicing politics, going to work as the Texas press coordinator for the Reagan-Bush campaign.
Since the 1990s, Hughes has worked with George W. Bush: first as director of communications while he was governor of Texas, from 1995 to 2000, and then as counselor to the president from 2001 to 2002.
In 2002, Hughes was a member of the White House Iraq Group. In August 2004, Hughes returned to full-time service with the Bush campaign, setting up office on Air Force One, from where she planned the 2004 Republican National Convention and the late stages of the 2002 election.
She has been described by The Dallas Morning News as "the most powerful woman ever to serve in the “White House", and by ABD NEWS as Bush's "most essential advisor," and remains one of the major voices of the Bush campaign.
On March 14, 2005, Bush announced his intention to nominate Hughes for the undersecretary of state for public diplomacy with the rank of ambassador — a job focused on changing foreigners' perceptions about America. The Senate confirmed her nomination in July of 2005. She was officially sworn in on September 9, 2005.
In her new capacity, Hughes has spoken of improving the world's perception of the United States via creation of a "rapid-response unit" and a plan to "forward-deploy regional SWAT teams". (Other information from Wikipedia)

RP-US War Games To Start In Jolo Island

ZAMBOANGA CITY (Mindanao Examiner / 23 Jan) – Philippine and American soldiers are to start a large-scale joint military exercises on the strife-torn island of Jolo, south of Manila, where Filipino security forces are battling members of the al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf group and Jemaah Islamiya.

The annual war games, dubbed as Balikatan 2007, which means “shoulder-to-shoulder,” will begin on February 18 until March 4, the U.S. Embassy said on Tuesday.

Last week, Filipino troops, guided by U.S. military intelligence, raided an Abu Sayyaf hideout on Bud Dajo (also called Mount Daho) in Jolo’s Talipao town and killed a senior militant leader, Jainal Antel Sali, Jr. alias Abu Solaiman.

Both the Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiya are included in the U.S. list of international terrorist organizations, blamed for the kidnappings of foreigners and spate of bombings in the Philippines and Indonesia.

The exercise will also focus on humanitarian projects in Mindanao, especially on Jolo.
U.S. Navy ship visits and a joint or combined exchange training exercise will also take place in several locations in the Philippines during Balikatan 2007.


Philippine and U.S. military officials did not how many soldiers or vessels or aircrafts would be involved in the war games. Several hundreds U.S. troops are deployed in Filipino military bases the Zamboanga Peninsula, the Sulu Archipelago and the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao where they advice and assist local troops in fighting terrorism.

The Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiya are both in the U.S. list of international terrorist organizations, blamed for the kidnappings of foreigners and spate of bombings in the Philippines and Indonesia.

Southern Philippines military commander Lt. Gen. Eugenio Cedo said two Jemaah Islamiya bombers, Dulmatin and Umar Patek, are hiding in Jolo and being protected by the Abu Sayyaf, whose chieftain Khadaffy Janjalani was killed in a clash with troops in September. (Mindanao Examiner)

2007's Peace Omens by Peace Advocates Zamboanga

NEXT month of February, the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) is scheduled to host a meeting between the Philippine Government and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) to mediate knotty differences between the latter two over the implementation of their 1996 peace agreement.
The OIC had earlier expressed its own doubts toward the government's assertion that it had fulfilled its obligations in the pact. Nonetheless, if the government will let detained MNLF Chairman Nur Misuari attend the meeting, as the OIC demands, that will be reason enough for the Islamic union to afterwards issue a diplomatic and glowing report about the projected conference along newfound satisfaction over the progress of the 1996 accord.
If and when that happens, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) will find itself under new and stronger pressure to sign a final – or, if not, an interim but comprehensive – peace agreement with the government, effectively breaking the months-old impasse in their negotiations. Other but almost subtle developments have been happening to lend hope that such a GRP-MILF settlement is likely this year.
Death in the hands of the Armed Forces of some top Abu Sayyaf terrorists and the capture of their comrades is one such sign. The degradation of the terrorist band, which has often been linked to the MILF, undermines very substantially the latter's strength or its capability to tie up the military in diversionary terrorist tactics in case another "all-out war" would occur.
During the ASEAN meeting in Cebu, the member countries signed a tough anti-terrorism treaty, even as President Arroyo was hailing her government's Mindanao peace program as a "model" for the increasingly terror-prone supra-region.
The local elections in May may also spur the President to conclude – successfully – the GRP-MILF talks to boost the chances of her administration's senatorial and congressional bets.
The threats of presidential impeachment and the unfinished Cha-cha will continue to confront her in the remaining balance of her term. Hence, she needs to maintain a majority in both parliaments.
On the other hand, with their war in Iraq going daily from bad to worse, the Americans may be anxious to balance that fiasco with more optimistic developments from their military interventions in the Southeast Asian theater, particularly the Balikatan in the Philippines, wherein they likewise wage a "global war" against terrorism.
Furthermore, the MILF has been recently dutifully issuing statements re-affirming their own optimism that an agreement is in the offing, or is not far-fetched despite the deadlock. It has been urging the government panel to hurry up with a more acceptable proposal, betraying an eagerness and flexibility that has been noted in an increasingly moderate MILF leadership.
Part of the credit for this positive outlook belongs to the vigorous peace-building efforts of Mindanao's as well as other places' civil society groups. Last year especially, our fellow NGOs were quite relentless in keeping peace issues and stories on top of the news and public agenda.
Women peace advocates made headlines by telling American soldiers to watch it and tread softly the sacred ground of Sulu, or else. Books about the Mindanao problem and the peace process flew thick and fast. Ceasefire watchdogs patrolled the boondocks to keep the guns silent.
Many foreign foundations and religious and other cause-oriented organizations gave – and continue to give - money to support these advocacies and initiatives. Their investments are beginning to produce the hoped for results.
Let's hope 2007 will be a jubilee year for the Big P (that' s peace). (Peace Advocates Zamboanga in an NGO based in Zamboanga City.Ed)

Monday, January 22, 2007

Conjoined Filipino Twins Need Help

The names of the twins are Rezzia and Rezzie. They are both eight months old conjoined twins (thoraco-omphalopagus twins) who are joined in the chest and abdomen.
They are left by their 13 year old mother to the governments care, DSWD, since they were born at the Velez Hospital in Cebu City. Their mother was 12 years old when she was raped by a relative in Mindanao.
The smaller of the twins, Rezzie has a congenital heart defect and hydrocephalus. She required round the clock oxygen and heart medication.
A shunt (VPS) insertion is needed, This is a procedure to correct the hydrocephalus condition.
It might cost P100,000. Any small amount can go a long way in helping the twins.
Sponsors for an operation and adoption would help a lot to this kids.
How will we course the donations? Course it through te Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and look for Ms. Leah Colis. Phone Number (+63 32) 2330261.
Click here for more photos. (copy and paste it to the browser the link below)http://cebuonline.net/index.php?option=com_joomlaboard&Itemid=29&func=view&catid=19&id=44#44

Ref:http://www.writingup.com/jhexph/cebu_conjoined_twins_needs_help (This is a repost, please verify authenticity of report.Ed)

Pinay Mom Wins $1 Million In Qatar Raffle Promo

MANILA (Mindanao Examiner / 22 Jan) – A Filipino mother has won $1 million from a raffle promotion by the Qatar Duty Free Shop, a subsidiary of Qatar Airways, the Arab News reported on Monday.

It said Otessa Carbonell Schiapparelli, a mother of an 11-year-old girl and a resident of the southwestern Philippine province of Palawan, was declared the lucky winner of the draw last month, but she flew to the Qatari capital of Doha only last week to claim her check.

Schiapparelli was ecstatic as she received the check from Krishna Kumari, Qatar Duty Free deputy general manager, in a special ceremony.

She said she bought her winning ticket before boarding Qatar Airways’ Flight QR644 from Doha to Manila last year.

Thousands of Filipino passengers pass through Doha International Airport every week, including the passengers of Qatar Airways flights connecting Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam in Saudi Arabia to Manila and Cebu in the Philippines.

It was unknown whether Schiapparelli was a contract worker or tourist just passing through Doha.

Just before Christmas last month, she received a telephone call from Kumari after the draw at the Doha International Airport and could not believe what she heard. “I was in total shock, it was just amazing to receive such wonderful news,” she said.

The US Dollar Millionaire raffle draw was launched in summer to replace the highly successful three-year old 1 million Qatari riyals ($280,000) raffle draw promotion.

Akbar Al Baker, Duty Free and Qatar Airways Chief Executive Officer, said the new millionaire raffle promotion gives contestants high winning chances since each draw is done after 5,000 tickets are sold.

Departing and transiting passengers at Doha International Airport can purchase raffle tickets.
Al Baker said the raffle draw has become a “huge success” because it gives participants a big chance to become instant millionaires. “Congratulations go out to Otessa for being our very first dollar millionaire,” said Al Baker. (With a report from the Arab News, Qatari News Agency)

Sunday, January 21, 2007

MNLF Rebels Ambush Military Convoy In Jolo, 1 Killed, 7 Wounded

ZAMBOANGA CITY (Mindanao Examiner / 18 Jan) – Moro rebels ambushed a military convoy, killing one soldier and wounding seven more on the island of Jolo, south of the Philippines, where security forces are battling Abu Sayyaf militants, a regional army spokesman said on Sunday.

Six of the attackers, who are members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), had been captured by soldiers after a firefight that left one soldier dead, said Major Eugene Batara.

“Seven of our soldiers are wounded in the ambush perpetrated by the MNLF rebels in Parang town. The attack sparked fierce clashes that left one soldier dead. Six more rebels have been captured and are undergoing interrogation,” Batara told the Mindanao Examiner in Zanmboanga City.

He said the soldiers were onboard three military trucks on their way to replace troops pursuing the Abu Sayyaf when the rebels ambushed them on Saturday in the village of Langpas Saldang in Parang town.

Batara said the motive of the attack was unknown. Other reports said the rebels ambushed the convoy in retaliation to the Thursday killing of 10 gunmen, mistaken as Abu Sayyaf militants, in Timpook village in Patikul town by marine soldiers. Two gunmen were also captured by soldiers.

The military earlier said those killed were members of the Abu Sayyaf group tied to al-Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiya. Three soldiers were also slain in the fighting. Officials claimed the fighting broke out after soldiers caught up with a band of Abu Sayyaf gunmen in the village.

Batara said they were checking the reports with the Philippine Marines.

More troops had been sent to the troubled island to help security forces fighting the Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiya militants. Security officials previously said that as many as six Indonesian militants are hiding in Jolo, including Dulmatin and Umar Patek, who were both suspected of playing a role in the 2002 Bali bombings that killed 202 mostly foreigners.

But Jolo island is also a stronghold of the MNLF, which signed a peace accord with Manila in September 1996, however, many rebels were dissatisfied with the agreement because of the government’s failure to uplift their living standards.

Many MNLF rebels joined the Abu Sayyaf and the larger separatist group, Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which is fighting for an independent Islamic state in the south.

Fighting had previously erupted between security and MNLF forces that left dozens of soldiers and dead the past years.

Last week, Filipino troops, guided by U.S. military intelligence, raided an Abu Sayyaf hideout on Bud Dajo (also called Mount Daho) in Jolo’s Talipao town, south of Patikul, and killed a senior militant leader, Jainal Antel Sali, Jr. alias Abu Solaiman.

Both the Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiya are included in the U.S. list of international terrorist organizations, blamed for the kidnappings of foreigners and spate of bombings in the Philippines and Indonesia. (Mindanao Examiner)

Soldiers Alerted For Car Bombs In Southern Philippines

COTABATO CITY (Mindanao Examiner / 21 Jan) – Security forces were in heightened alert following the recovery of a car laden with explosives on a village in Maguindanao province, south of the Philippines.

The car was discovered abandoned in Pagatin village in Datu Saudi Ampatuan town on Friday. “Civilians, alarmed by a possible terror attack, informed patrolling soldiers about the suspicious car,” Lt. Col. Julieto Ando, spokesman of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, told the Mindanao Examiner.

He said troops put up additional road blocks and checkpoints on highways around Maguindanao to prevent the entry of explosives. "The car may have been abandoned because of strict security on the road," he said.

No group claimed ownership of the car, but the province is a known stronghold of Moro rebels and had been used by the Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiya as a springboard for terror attacks. Aside from rebels and terrorists, private armies of politicians also operate in the area.

Ando did not give details about the explosives recovered from the car, but the Philippine News Agency, quoted the official as saying that troops recovered as many as six 81mm and 60mm mortar bombs and a 90mm anti-tank rocket, including 220 pounds of metal shards contiguous to the main bomb mechanism.

Just this month, a series of bomb explosions killed at least 7 people and wounded more than 40 others in the southern cities of General Santos, Cotabato and Kidapawan, which police and military blamed to rouge leaders of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiya.

The Abu Sayyaf previously used motorcycles, cars and bicycles laden with explosives to attack civilian targets in the volatile region.
(Mindanao Examiner)

Saturday, January 20, 2007

A Big Week in Jolo By Zachary Abuza

The US-Assisted Armed Forces of the Philippines had a morale boosting week. Today, the Philippine Government announced that US investigators had positively matched Khadaffy Janjalani’s DNA. The AFP had been certain that Janjalani, the leader of the Abu Sayyaf, had been wounded in a firefight on 4 September 2006.

Two ASG captives led them to an unmarked grave and investigators took a sample of DNA. In the night of 16 January, Philippine Special Forces killed Jainal Antel Sali, jr. @Abu Solaiman, the top military planner.

Sali was implicated in the kidnapping of US citizen Jeffrey Craig Schilling in 2000 on Jolo island; kidnapping 20 hostages including three Americans from the Dos Palmas resort in Palawan in 2001, one of whom, Guillermo Sobero he decapitated.

Of particular gratification to the US military advisors, Sali was responsible for a string of bombings in Zamboanga City in October 2002, one of which killed a US Special Forces personnel, one of the few casualties the Americans have sustained.

Both men carried $5 million bounties.

The training of AFP personnel is continuing. Though it has been a slow 4 years, they are really beginning to show progress. Right now the ASG is led by Radullan Sahiron @ Commander Putol, who has roughly 100-120 men under his control.

The other top leader is Isnilon Totoni Hapilon @ Salahuddin @ Abu Musab, who may be trying to draw recruits and regain a foothold in neighboring Basilan Island, which had been largely pacified since 2003.

Today the Philippine Marines announced they were sending a Brigade – roughly 1,500 men to Basilan. Hapilon has around 50-60 men under him. Other leaders include:• Osman @ Usman @ Rizal• Umbra Abu Jumdail @ Dr. Abu Pula• Albader Parad• Wahab Opao @ Abu Fatima• Ustadz Hatta Haipe• Julabi • Suhod Tanadjalan @ Commander Suhod

There are also approximately 5-6 members of JI with them.

But clearly the ASG is on the run, and less able to take the offensive and plan more sophisticated bombing attacks. The terrain is rugged and they are lightly armed, but the tide has decidedly turned against them.

Yet there have been a few setbacks such as the emergence of urban terrorist groups in Jolo City and Isabella, the capital of Basilan. While not all are tied to ASG, some are. AFP officials believe that the success of their operations have ironically driven ASG from the jungles to the cities. There have been a few bombings, but mainly motorcycle pillon shootings, such as the 17 January shooting of a police in Isabella.

January 20, 2007 07:16 AM Print

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Operation Goodwill Delivery Benefits Poor Filipinos


A U.S. combat chopper flies near a U.S. C130 cargo plane Saturday, Jan. 20, 2007 in Zamboanga City in the southern Philippines. The cargo plane came from Okinawa in Japan to bring tons of goodwill items donated by U.S. Marines and their families in Okinawa as part of the Operation Goodwill and will be distributed to poor communities in the Philippines. (Mindanao Examiner Photo)



ZAMBOANGA CITY (Mindanao Examiner / 20 Jan) – A U.S. C130 transport plane arrived in the southern Philippine port city of Zamboanga, bringing tons of goodwill items from Okinawa, Japan.
A U.S. military spokesman Major John Redfield said the cargoes include clothes, food, health care items and sporting goods were donated by the Okinawa-based U.S. Marines and their families as part of the four-year old “Operation Goodwill Delivery”.
“Operation Goodwill Delivery is an annual mission by U.S. Marines and their families in Okinawa designed to say thank you to the people of the Philippines for welcoming the Marines during bilateral exercises,” Redfield told the Mindanao Examiner.
He said the U.S. Marine Corps, Armed Forces of the Philippines, and Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines teamed up in Zamboanga City to as part of Operation Goodwill Delivery in which goods will be donated to the Pasobolong Elementary School and the Reception and Study Center for Children in Talon-Talon village.
He said the cargoes were the second portion of Operation Goodwill Delivery. Last month, U.S. Marines made several deliveries in the northern Philippines. They brought about 22,000 pounds of toys, clothes, sporting goods, health care items, and donated P400,000 to organizations and communities in northern Luzon, Manila, and Palawan. (Mindanao Examiner)