Nov 202016

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Malaysian authorities said Sunday that another two Indonesian fishermen have been abducted by armed men off eastern Sabah state on Borneo island, the second such case this month and the latest in a spate of sea attacks.

Wan Abdul Bari Wan Abdul Khalid, who heads Sabah’s security center, said five masked men armed with long rifles raided a fishing trawler late Saturday. He told local media Sunday that the men destroyed the boat’s communications system and stole hand phones and money before kidnapping the skipper and his assistant.

He said the attackers then fled in a speed boat heading toward international waters. Another 11 crew members were rescued by passing boats, he added without giving further details. Wan Abdul Bari and Sabah police couldn’t be immediately reached for comments.

Earlier this month, two Indonesian boat skippers were also abducted off Sabah.

Despite efforts by the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia to jointly shore up security along their busy sea border, Indonesians and Malaysians have been kidnapped from tugboats and fishing boats in recent months

Abu Sayyaf militants in the Philippines, which is near Sabah, and its allied gunmen are responsible for many attacks at sea. The Abu Sayyaf group, which is blacklisted in the U.S. and the Philippines as a terrorist organization, holds more than a dozen foreign and local hostages.

The kidnappings have continued despite one of the largest military offensives against Abu Sayyaf, mainly in Sulu and the nearby island province of Basilan, involving more than 6,000 troops, navy gunboats and rocket-firing air force aircraft.

Without a known foreign source of funds, Abu Sayyaf has survived mostly on ransom kidnappings, extortion and other acts of banditry.

A confidential Philippine government threat assessment report seen by The Associated Press said the militants pocketed at least 353 million pesos ($7.3 million) from ransom kidnappings in the first six months of the year and have turned to abductions of foreign tugboat crewmen as military offensives restricted their mobility.

TAGS: Abu Sayyaf, Indonesia, Kidnapping, Malaysia
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Nov 162016
Callamard to PH: Give us freedom of movement, access to sources

UN special rapporteur on summary executions Agnes Callamard. Photo from Agnes Callamard Twitter account The United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings Agnes Callamard wants the Philippine government to guarantee freedom of movement and unfettered access to detention facilities, witnesses and government officials, Sen. Paulo Benigno “Bam” Aquino IV bared Wednesday night. Speaking on behalf of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), Aquino made the disclosure under the interpellation of staunch human rights advocate Sen. Leila de Lima as he presented the agency’s proposed P16.59-billion budget for 2017. “The status is that the President actually issued an invitation to the UN special rapporteur to visit the Philippines. However, in the invitation letter there were some conditions set,” said Aquino, who sponsored the DFA budget at the Senate floor. “She has responded already with her own conditions, and now the interagency body has been created to discuss each of the parties’ conditions,” he told De Lima. De Lima, among those advocating for an independent UN investigation of the spate of deaths under President Duterte’s drug war, had inquired about the status of the government’s invitation to the UN rapporteur to come and see the situation in the Philippines. The invitation was the President’s response to the UN’s criticism of his approach to solving the drug problem, reproach that at one point had prompted the acerbic Mr. Duterte to threaten to leave the world body. The following are Callamard’s conditions, as read out by Aquino at the budget deliberations Wednesday night: that the Philippines also invite Read More …

Nov 162016
Duterte wants to be friends with Trump, Putin

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte gestures during his speech at Manila’s International Airport, Philippines on Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2016. Duterte, who has lashed out at Barack Obama for criticizing his deadly anti-drug crackdown, congratulated U.S. President-elect Donald Trump Wednesday and said he looks forward to working with the new American leader to further enhance the treaty allies’ relations. AP Photo/Aaron Favila The Philippine president, who has lashed out at President Barack Obama for criticizing his deadly crackdown on drugs, said his ties with the United States are likely to improve under Donald Trump, but that he is also excited to meet Russian leader Vladimir Putin at an upcoming Asia-Pacific summit. President Rodrigo Duterte made upbeat remarks about both the president-elect and Putin at a news conference late Tuesday in Manila. Asked whether his ties with America can improve under Trump, Duterte replied: “I’m sure, we have no quarrel. I can always be a friend to anybody, especially to a … president, chief executive of another country.” Duterte, who has been compared to Trump because of his irreverence toward rivals and critics, said he trusted the U.S. president-elect’s judgment and expected him to be fair in dealing with people living in the U.S. illegally. Filipinos are one of the largest expatriate groups in the United States. His friendly remarks were a departure from his comments on the campaign trail in March, when he took offense at being compared to Trump. “Donald Trump is a bigot, I am not,” Duterte told The Associated Read More …

Oct 092016
Gov’t, NDFP forge agreement on draft of social, economic reforms

FILE- Phillipines Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza (R) and then- Chairman of the National Democratic Front of Philippines  Luis Jalandori (C) sign a joint declaration next to the Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs Boerge Brende (L) in which both parties undertake unilateral ceasefires without time constraints on August 26, 2016 in Oslo, Norway. AFP PHOTO Update OSLO – After a delay in the discussions, both the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines finally reached an agreement in crafting a common draft framework and outline for the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER). The parties decided to take a break just after a half day of discussion on Friday following a disagreement on the outline of CASER Julie De Lima, chairperson of the NDFP-Reciprocal Working Committee-SER, earlier said that the outline “should be based on addressing the roots of the armed conflict while the GRP wants an outcomes-based outline.” “We have exchanged with the GRP an outline of a comprehensive drafte on social and economic reforms that includes agrarian reform, national industrialization, environmental protection, rights of the working people, foreign economic and trade relations, and, monetary and fiscal policies,” De Lima said. The government prepared a 9-point outcome and proposed that it be included in the Part 1 or Declaration of Principles of the agreement. After a series of discussions and back channelling following the break, both parties were able to make concessions and craft the common draft. Instead of including it on Part 1, the points Read More …

Oct 072016
We’ll have Filipino fishermen returning to West PH Sea – Duterte

FILE: SEA DISPUTE In this photo taken on Sept. 23, 2015, a Chinese Coast Guard vessel fires its water cannon on Filipino fishermen in a confrontation off Scarborough Shoal in the West Philippine Sea. A UN court is expected to issue a ruling today on a complaint filed by the Philippines questioning China’s territorial claim over almost all of the sea, including its reefs, shoals and islets. AP President Rodrigo Duterte is hopeful that China would allow Filipino fishermen to fish in our traditional fishing grounds in the disputed West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) after his visit to the superpower nation. “I hope to report to you good news when I shall have visited Japan and China. I’m quite positive [about] China. We will have the Filipinos returning to the traditional fishing grounds,” Duterte said in a speech at the National Banana Congress in Davao City. The President is expected to visit China from October 19 to 21 and would visit Japan from October 25 to 27. On July 12, the Philippines won its protest at the United Nation’s International Tribunal against China. The historic decision said the Philippines has an exclusive sovereign rights over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) and that China’s “nine-dash line” was invalid. But despite the landmark ruling, China has rejected to honor the decision. In September, Filipino fishermen were reportedly harassed by Chinese Coast Guard in Scarborough Shoal. Early this month, reports said Filipino fishermen were driven away Chinese Coast Guard in Read More …

Oct 072016
EU envoy hails Duterte’s peace process on admin’s first 100 days

EU ambassador Franz Jessen/Yuji Gonzales, European Union ambassador to the Philippines Franz Jessen said moving the peace process with leftist rebels has been an important breakthrough of President Duterte in his first 100 days. Jessen, however, noted a lot of changes in terms of “new language” and many interpretations of statements. President Duterte had been thrown into fits of cussing and swearing at the EU as well as United Nations and US President Obama for their criticisms on summary killings of drug addicts that have reached more than 3,000. “One hundred days passed very fast, lots of changes, new policies, new language, and many interpretations of statements and developments,” said ambassador Jessen in his open letter posted on the Facebook website of EU in the Philippines. In his assessment of Duterte’s first 100 days, Jessen said “the ongoing peace process remains an area where President Duterte may have an early and very important breakthrough.” This week, he said talks between the Philippine government and rebels continue in Norway. “We all hope that an agreement will soon be reached between the different parties, so that needed peace and stability in Mindanao can be used as a basis for further developments in Mindanao and the Philippines.” He said the EU-Philippines strong cooperation continues with the successful hosting of the first EU-Philippines Business Summit that gathered 300 businessmen. Jessen said European businessmen remain keen on investing in the Philippines particularly in the area of energy. Times have been rough for the EU Read More …

Oct 072016
On his first 100 days, Duterte dares US: ‘Go ahead, oust me’

It’s the Duterte administration’s first 100 days on Friday, but the President was in no mood  to celebrate but he did not let the day pass without giving  the United States yet another tongue lashing. “Do not treat us like a doormat because you will be sorry for it,” President Duterte told the Philippines’ long-time ally Friday evening. Duterte again launched fresh tirades against the US for criticizing his administration’s war on illegal drugs and interfering in the country’s affairs. “Assess yourselves. Because if you don’t, you will lose the Philippines,” he said. Instead of making sweeping criticisms of the Philippines, Duterte said the US should instead ask its UN ambassador to make a complaint and investigate first. “You can ask your ambassador to the United Nations to make a complaint. Ask them and investigate and make a report and that is the time you call my attention,” he said. He mentioned the plans of the Central Intelligence Agency to oust him. “You want to oust me? You want to use the CIA? Go ahead. I said I put at stake my honor, my life, and the presidency. What happens to me is really a part of my destiny. If I am ousted, then that is part of my presidency,” he said. Throwback The President mentioned how the Philippines suffered during the US colonization in the Philippines.“We sacrificed for you. You stayed here. You are still doing business here. Nilunok ko na lang iyan. We suffered during the last Second Read More …

Oct 052016
Duterte legal team reviewing Edca

JUNK EDCA / JANUARY 14, 2016Militant activist protests the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) infront of the Supreme Court in Manila on Thursday, January 14, 2016, after the Supreme Court declated valid a bilateral defense agreement between Washington and Manila.INQUIRER PHOTO / GRIG C. MONTEGRANDE THE presidential legal team is reviewing the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (Edca) days after President Rodrigo Duterte has threatened to cancel the accord, a Palace official said on Wednesday. On Sunday, Duterte said the Edca was just an executive agreement not even signed by former president Benigno Aquino III, but only by former defense secretary Voltaire Gazmin. “Regarding the EDCA needing a President’s signature, I just like to say that the President’s legal team is currently addressing the matter,” Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said in a press briefing. During his official visit to Vietnam in September, President Duterte said this year’s war games between the Philippines and the United States military troops would be the last. “You are scheduled to hold war games, which China does not want. I will serve notice to you now that this will be the last military exercise,” he said. The President has publicly said that he wanted to forge new alliance with China and Russia. On Tuesday, the Philippines and US held its last war games for the this year amid uncertainties following Duterte’s pronouncements. Latest BOC imports lack clearance to play in V-League Why Duterte likes to insult Duterte sure it’s De Lima in video – Palace New FBI head in Read More …

Sep 182016
Norwegian says his kidnapping was ‘devastating’

INDANAN, Philippines — A Norwegian man freed by militants after a year of jungle captivity in the southern Philippines described the ordeal Sunday as “devastating,” carrying a backpack with a bullet hole as a reminder of a near-death experience that included the beheadings of the two Canadians kidnapped with him. Kjartan Sekkingstad was released Saturday to rebels from the larger Moro National Liberation Front, which has signed a peace deal with the government and helped negotiate his release. On Sunday, he was handed over to Philippine authorities, along with three Indonesian fishermen freed separately by the Abu Sayyaf militants. Aside from the horror of constantly being warned he would be the next to be beheaded by the brutal extremists, Sekkingstad said he survived more than a dozen clashes between Philippine forces and his captors in the lush jungles of Sulu province. In one intense battle, in which Philippine forces opened fire from assault helicopters and from the ground, he said he felt a thud in his back and thought he was hit by gunfire. After the fighting eased, he discovered that he wasn’t hit, and that his green, army-style backpack had been pierced by the gunfire instead. The heavily bearded Sekkingstad was carrying the damaged backback when he walked to freedom Saturday somewhere in the thick jungle off Sulu’s mountainous Patikul town. “Devastating, devastating,” Sekkingstad, clad in a rebel camouflage uniform and muddy combat boots, said when asked how he would describe the horrific experience. Philippine presidential adviser Jesus Dureza, Read More …

Dec 152015
Australia conducts air patrol in South China Sea, says it is ‘routine’ By: Frances Mangosing, December 15th, 2015 07:26 PM AUSTRALIA has been conducting “freedom navigation” patrols in the South China Sea and an audio recording of one of the flights has been published by an international media network. BBC’s Rupert Wingfield-Hayes was flying above the disputed South China Sea using a Philippine single engine Cessna 206 which took off from Palawan, when he intercepted an Australian Air Force radioing the Chinese Navy. “China navy, China navy. We are an Australian aircraft exercising international freedom of navigation rights, in international airspace in accordance with the international civil aviation convention, and the United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea, over,” Australia’s audio message said. The BBC report said the recording was obtained from a Royal Australian Air Force AP-3C Orion surveillance plane on November 25. The Chinese was given the message several times by the Australian pilot but they did respond. Australia’s Department of Defense confirmed the flight to BBC but played it down by saying it was part of a “routine maritime patrol in the region.” Australia has expressed strong support for freedom of navigation in the resource-rich sea, but it was the first time it acknowledged that it has been conducting patrols there. Hayes was on assignment to observe China’s reclamation activities in the South China Sea. Its sweeping claims and aggressive construction activities have sparked outrage from its neighbors and powerful countries like the US, Japan and Australia. The Philippines is one of the claimants of the Read More …